Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

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EKB
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Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by EKB » 09 Aug 2019 08:24

The Red Army rallies from initial setbacks sooner than expected. Within three months the German army is thrown into panic and retreats to the start line. In the face of growing bad publicity in Germany, Hitler claims that he acted too early in his plans to conquer Eastern Europe but tries to sell the invasion of Russia as a moral victory.

How does this change the world?

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Aug 2019 08:59

Why was the Red Army able to win this battle? If because of some sort of pre war improvement then Stalin may think it ready to continue and invade German territory.

If it were just through luck & the Red Army is still relatively weak, then Stalin may seek time to improve the army, Perhaps a request for peace, or at least going over to the defense.

With the crisis averted there is far less incentive for the Brits and US to lend aid to the USSR. Some assistance would be had, but at a cost. One interesting item is that in February 1941 the Brits inquired about purchasing Soviet made tanks for use in the Middle East. With out a emergency the ISSR might return to the idea and sell some tanks or other equipment. T34 tanks at El Alemein?

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 12 Aug 2019 07:21

This isn't that far fetched. The Germans completely underestimated the size and disposition of the Soviet forces and reserves. The Germans had no idea there was a massive in-depth armored formation waiting to smash them in the Ukraine, and the Russians had defense in depth in the north too. One German division actually was surrounded by the Russians at Brody. And even in Army Group Center the lead panzer divisions were wandering around hundreds of km ahead of the infantry, often not sure where they were or where other German units were.

It would not be a drastic re-write of the OTL to have the lead panzer divisions in each group get cut off and destroyed, leaving Germany in an even deeper hole than it already was.

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 12 Aug 2019 22:28

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:It would not be a drastic re-write of the OTL to have the lead panzer divisions in each group get cut off and destroyed, leaving Germany in an even deeper hole than it already was.
IMO this would be a pretty dramatic rewrite of history unless you change something else beforehand. The Red Army simply lacked the command and control to execute optimal operational moves in 1941, so even had the generals/Stalin adopted the right response (cut off penetrations and/or withdraw where necessary), they wouldn't have been able to carry them out unless something dramatic changes. Maybe Stalin doesn't purge his officers before the war, leaving a more sophisticated leadership whose operational art can counter Barbarossa?

The other possible cause of a disastrous Barbarossa is Soviet mobilization in, say, early 1941. Suppose Stalin believes the intelligence reports that Germany is going to attack, has ~twice the forces on the border as OTL, and German intelligence misses this mobilization (not too far-fetched actually, given how bad was pre-war German intel on the SU).

With greater forces on the border, AG's North and South hit a wall of firepower and don't advance much, while taking ~twice the casualties.
AGC's panzergroups might still penetrate but they could be overwhelmed by counterattacks against the inner and outer rings of the Minsk encirclement, assuming they even get so far. Even if Stalin loses ~500k instead of ~300k at Minsk, AGC likely can't achieve another encirclement after being savaged in Belarus and facing a stronger-than-OTL Western Front. So the Ostheer probably doesn't reach the D-D line and starts to move backwards during 1941. By 1942, an SU that hasn't lost half its industrial base and a third of its population is ~50% stronger than OTL, while the Ostheer is ~10% weaker due to greater casualties. SU probably can take Warsaw and Ploesti during 1942, which is death to the Wehrmacht. SU might be in Berlin during 1943. Western allies have to scramble to save Brussels, Amsterdam, and Paris from Stalin.

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 12 Aug 2019 22:54

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
12 Aug 2019 22:28
HistoryGeek2019 wrote:It would not be a drastic re-write of the OTL to have the lead panzer divisions in each group get cut off and destroyed, leaving Germany in an even deeper hole than it already was.
IMO this would be a pretty dramatic rewrite of history unless you change something else beforehand. The Red Army simply lacked the command and control to execute optimal operational moves in 1941, so even had the generals/Stalin adopted the right response (cut off penetrations and/or withdraw where necessary), they wouldn't have been able to carry them out unless something dramatic changes. Maybe Stalin doesn't purge his officers before the war, leaving a more sophisticated leadership whose operational art can counter Barbarossa?
As far as rewrites of history go, better command and control has to be one of the least dramatic. :p

Especially for the Southwestern Front, which basically prepared for exactly what happened. Better decision making and communications among its leadership and it comes very cost to annihilating Panzer Group Kleist. If that happens, Army Group South becomes a defensive formation to prevent the Soviets from swinging into southern Poland behind Army Group Center. There is never any encirclement of Southwestern Front at Kiev, and Army Group Center gets hit with an unending stream of reinforcements from Russia's 14 million strong reserve pool. Meanwhile the Southern Front can hold against Romania with its northern flank secure, and eventually it becomes a threat to the Ploesti oil fields.

Given Hitler's obsession with the Ukraine, he probably orders Army Group North and Center to switch over to the defensive and reallocates all the offensive units to Army Group South for another frontal assault on the Ukraine. Even if that works, without the mass encirclements at Kiev and Vyazma-Bryansk in 1941, the Soviets have an overwhelming manpower advantage on all fronts by Summer 1942, and the war probably ends a year earlier.

Also, the Soviets did start mobilizing in early 1941 when it became obvious that Hitler was going to attack. This is partially why the Soviets were able to form new divisions so rapidly after old ones kept getting encircled.

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 12 Aug 2019 23:38

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:As far as rewrites of history go, better command and control has to be one of the least dramatic. :p
Using the conventional understanding of dramatic, I have to agree. The average History Channel viewer would fall asleep. :)

But in my sense of hinging alternative history on contingencies like the foibles of individual leaders, large-scale change in the culture and competence of Red Army leadership is Real Housewives-level drama.
HistoryGeek2019 wrote:Also, the Soviets did start mobilizing in early 1941 when it became obvious that Hitler was going to attack. This is partially why the Soviets were able to form new divisions so rapidly after old ones kept getting encircled.
True enough but not to the extent of a full mobilization. I forget Stalin's term for it - "creeping mobilization"? Soviet force generation in the first half of 1941 was a few million; Red Army called up 5mil in June 1941 alone.
Earlier/faster mobilization risks provoking Hitler but a premature Barbarossa wouldn't go so well either. Make it early enough and Hitler's flank in the Balkans is wide open when the shooting starts in the East, requiring a significant diversion to Greece/Yugoslavia in the midst of battling a stronger RKKA.

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by Stiltzkin » 13 Aug 2019 00:30

The Red Army rallies from initial setbacks sooner than expected. Within three months the German army is thrown into panic and retreats to the start line. In the face of growing bad publicity in Germany, Hitler claims that he acted too early in his plans to conquer Eastern Europe but tries to sell the invasion of Russia as a moral victory.
You need to define what you call a "defeat". If it is total annihilation then Central Europe falls to the Communists, as it was envisaged by Lenin decades earlier. The other European nations would be forced to form a defensive Alliance supplemented by American, Australian and Canadian aid. However the RKKA was incapable of stopping the Axis onlsaught in the Western districts. The Red Army cannot rally if it is dying faster than it can rally. :D
To stop the Wehrmacht you need to drag it deeper and grind it down in a protracted conflict. There was never a prospect for an early Soviet victory.
True enough but not to the extent of a full mobilization
Really? There was not that much leeway there (Askey Barbarossa, Vol.II B).
Askey Barbarossa proportions of resources.png
Stalin signed the decree for preparedness in early June (6th) 1941 with further expansions set for possible contingencies for the 1st of July. Factories were prepped for possible evacuation, while the backup facilities in the East already took up 18-20% of the total share of defense industry enterprises. Military expenditures in 1940 were 56,000,000,000 roubles (31%) and 71,000,000,000 roubles in 1941 (33%) respectively (Samuelson). Capacity increased (RGAE, 4372/91/3222, 197, third five-year plan). The war with Finland was just a few months on hold and the threat of Japan in the East was still present.
To stop them you need better strategists, if you have the strategists, your troops must be fluent in the operational art to translate it on to the battlefield. The Soviets prepared for expansionistic campaigns, they were the aggressor, that also pacted with another aggressor, before the conflict broke out. They matched Nazi militarization levels, but could not match the quality of their institutions and technical standards. A German Division had on average 250% the effectiveness of a Soviet Division and 600-800% the casualty infliction potential. In the early phase of the war, the Soviets were dying faster than they could replace men. The threshold is the most relevant value. This happened in the summer and again in fall 1941 (Typhoon), before the German attack gradually ran out of steam. Everytime the Germans launched their attack at adequate strength, the Soviets could only see their forces die. This myth of "unpreparedness" is fostered by subpar literature. Neither did the Germans enjoy numerical superiority (overall). That the range of attacks were less favourable or insufficient, was only a demonstration of the RKKA's poor skill in concentrating their forces and that after multiple simulated offensives in the 30s (!), something Germany could not attempt in the shadows of the treaties of Versailles, I guess only with the exception enabled by their mutual pact, -> Kazan.
People should really stop perpetuating Soviet propaganda, it is 2019. To field even more forces in 1941, they would need more help from outside.
One interesting item is that in February 1941 the Brits inquired about purchasing Soviet made tanks for use in the Middle East.
I actually contacted Bovington about this. They say they did not find any primary source explicitly stating that they wanted T-34s for the Middle East. Can you give me a primary source for this?
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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 14 Aug 2019 06:31

Stiltzkin wrote:There was not that much leeway there (Askey Barbarossa, Vol.II B).
Interesting, thanks for the source. I bought volume I of Askey's Barbarossa on Kindle but it seemed to relate to wargaming and I didn't follow . It was only $10 or so; I didn't devote much time to it before thinking it wasn't in the vein of my interests.

So do you think - does Askey imply or argue - that Stalin could not have had significantly stronger forces in the border zone on June 22, 1941?

This isn't an area I've explored deeply; the most interesting thing to me about WW2 is more "how close were we to the ultimate nightmare" and "how could we have avoided the actual nightmare" than other "what if" scenarios.

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by Aida1 » 26 Oct 2019 18:07

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
12 Aug 2019 07:21
This isn't that far fetched. The Germans completely underestimated the size and disposition of the Soviet forces and reserves. The Germans had no idea there was a massive in-depth armored formation waiting to smash them in the Ukraine, and the Russians had defense in depth in the north too. One German division actually was surrounded by the Russians at Brody. And even in Army Group Center the lead panzer divisions were wandering around hundreds of km ahead of the infantry, often not sure where they were or where other German units were.

It would not be a drastic re-write of the OTL to have the lead panzer divisions in each group get cut off and destroyed, leaving Germany in an even deeper hole than it already was.
I think you are underestimating the abilities of German mobile divisions here.

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by Stiltzkin » 27 Oct 2019 06:08

Interesting, thanks for the source. I bought volume I of Askey's Barbarossa on Kindle but it seemed to relate to wargaming and I didn't follow . It was only $10 or so; I didn't devote much time to it before thinking it wasn't in the vein of my interests.

So do you think - does Askey imply or argue - that Stalin could not have had significantly stronger forces in the border zone on June 22, 1941?
They did, the threads premise is unfirm. They pumped most of their troops into the operation and had to forward reserves, while shifting towards backup facilities. If anything, the number of forces in the Western district were probably a sign of overconfidence and an overestimation of the RKKA's abilities. Stalin obviously speculated on the fact that they would suffice to stop the Wehrmacht, but there are more bottlenecks than the industry or logistics.
What matters here besides the commitment, is the intrinsic rate of growth, i.e. had there been no fighting at all (or delayed action), then an expansion would have occured naturally. In fact it did, so an increase to 1942 levels, yes. 1944 levels? Most likely not.
Remember: The Federation perpetuates the narrative of the underprepared and undermilitarized USSR (and foreign aid was helpful but insignificant), which would be a total misunderstanding, so one should not get fooled by the listed strengths (independent of the different categories), or the tales of "restructure", which were rather incidental. Of relevance are the troops which were fed into the campaign between June and December and military preparations before the onset of the war.

The initial stage unfolded in such a way, because of the following reasons:
a) Strategic mistakes, attributable to either the STAVKA or central committee.
b) The disparity. The attrition rate was beyond levels of anticipation, resulting in a quick loss of territory, but when the German offensive ran out of steam, Soviet levels grew. Ultimately their problems were not a byproduct of "unpreparedness" (in fact, their preparation was one of the most extensive and indepth in the world at that time, every square centimeter was militarized), but because they were simply dying too fast, creating a dire situation.

The price for Barbarossa to be plugged were 4,308,094 casualties in 166 days or 700,000 monthly, 18,000-25,000 daily @~0.37-0.45 effectiveness. For the Wehrmacht: 950 km advance in 160 days (~6 km/day) taking 847,640 losses. What differed between the campaigns in the West? The scale (dt, ds, A).
The threshold is defined by the manpower replacement/attrition to territory ratio. If it changed, then the Soviets massed forces that pushed the Axis troops back (factoring out the overextension in 42 for now). If the Wehrmacht launched an offensive, their initial advances were swift, before a stagnation occured. The RKKA profited to a greater degree from build up phases (e.g. after the winter offensives of 41, Stalingrad 42/43 to Kursk in 43).

Of course, should any doubts still exist, one can formulate a counter question: When was the RKKA prepared? 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945???
You see, the Wehrmacht's crisis began in the Winter of 1941, the war was not over before 1945. This was the product of the action and events that unfolded during these years.
From the moment of stabilization in 43, it took the Soviets over 660 days to reach Berlin (~2km/day), taking further 13,363,336 casualties in the process. 160 days between the destruction of AGC and the capitulation, 5 times longer than the Battle of France, under the impact of three fronts.
Thus, I cannot see any realistic scenario that would incorporate an "early defeat" over either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union (at least not without a substitution of variables, e.g. creating a scenario in which Germany ends up in a two front war in 1941), the results were forced and shaped by repetition and not a sudden change of plans or any introduction of reforms.
This isn't an area I've explored deeply; the most interesting thing to me about WW2 is more "how close were we to the ultimate nightmare" and "how could we have avoided the actual nightmare" than other "what if" scenarios
Depends on what you consider "the ultimate nightmare".
Make it early enough and Hitler's flank in the Balkans is wide open when the shooting starts in the East, requiring a significant diversion to Greece/Yugoslavia in the midst of battling a stronger RKKA.
That would be quite the overextension, provoking another cut-off.

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by maltesefalcon » 27 Oct 2019 16:16

This is not entirely out of tbe realm of possibility. IMHO the timeline would need to diverge shortly after the battle of Minsk.
No way the Soviets could reverse the situation that quickly if the battles of Kiev and Smolensk generated the casualties as IRL.

Perhaps an extended bout of rainy weather in July/August leading to muddied roads and slow advance of the invaders? This bad weather could also hamper air operations. The ensuing delays would give Soviet forces time to regroup and reorganize.

Who knows?

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by Stiltzkin » 27 Oct 2019 19:25

Perhaps an extended bout of rainy weather in July/August leading to muddied roads and slow advance of the invaders? This bad weather could also hamper air operations. The ensuing delays would give Soviet forces time to regroup and reorganize.
September is your next best example, Typhoon over Brjansk, not resulting in an early defeat either. The initiative did not pass over before December.
Who knows?
Nothing is impossible, we have to work with chances. Running 100 simulations and observing the success to failure ratio, adjusted to what we know and how much information we may extract.

Most of these scenarios seem to ignore the following: If three men with equal effectiveness scout through uncharted territory and are ambushed, e.g. either killed or wounded by a sniper, was the 4th man superior (or either prepared) to the soldier (or even the sniper) who had to go in first, after evading or determining the sniper's position?

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 31 Oct 2019 08:34

Stiltzkin wrote:Depends on what you consider "the ultimate nightmare".
Nazi victory in any sense, including durable Nazi control over Central/Eastern Europe after a settlement with the West.
I have basically zero interest in Nazi victory defined as swastikas over Chicago or even London - too far-fetched.

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Re: Germany suffers early defeat in Operation Barbarossa

Post by Stiltzkin » 31 Oct 2019 21:57

Nazi victory in any sense, including durable Nazi control over Central/Eastern Europe after a settlement with the West.
There is no such thing as a positive outcome when Nazis or Soviets are involved. The Communists filled the power vacuum and were responsible for more than 100million deaths.
I have basically zero interest in Nazi victory defined as swastikas over Chicago or even London - too far-fetched.
Netflix has this target audience covered, but probably more credible than the existence of 300 American Divisions in 1941, withstanding an offensive on the scale of Barbarossa.

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