Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

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pintere
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Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by pintere » 12 Feb 2021 19:30

After reading Robert Forczyk's "Leningrad 1941-44" I was particularly interested in some of the theoreticals of a concerted German effort to capture Leningrad before the relief of the city in early 1943. Most of the these alternate history scenarios have focused on either attempts in the summer of 1941 or 1942, with the consensus being that such an effort would have been very challenging in the vast majority of circumstances. An attack towards Leningrad in July 1941 by the lead elements of Panzergruppe 4 would run a huge risk of being cut off from the rear, whilst those divisions that were earmarked to take part in the proposed Operation Nordlicht were themselves tied down by Soviet offensives to relieve the city in 1942. With all this being taken into account, one question I have not yet seen discussed in great detail would be the potential of an alternative German plan in late 1941 to seal the fate of Leningrad via a much more cautious approach than was taken historically.

In October-November 1941 the Germans sought to critically magnify the supply issues in Stalingrad by cutting the railway links to Lake Ladoga, which manifested in their attempt to take and hold Tikhvin. Though the Germans did manage to reach the city, they were eventually driven back by Soviet reinforcements and the railway line was reopened. But what if the Germans decided on a different approach that left less to chance?

The operational concept of Nordlicht (1942) was similar to the German attack against Tikhvin, namely to cut off supplies to the city of Leningrad rather than capture the city via direct assault. However by this time the Soviet strength east of the Volkhov line was too great and the distances too vast to attempt this by cutting the railway line to Lake Ladoga. Instead, the Germans planned to advance north along the western bank of Lake Ladoga and capture the city of Osinovets, the port city through which supplies were transferred to Leningrad itself. Forczyk's book includes a helpful overview of the plan.
IMG_8698-min.JPG
In October 1941 the Germans attacked towards Tikhvin with XXXIX. AK (mot) and I. AK. However, in this alternate history we posit that the Germans might decide that stretching the available reserves so thinly by attacking east towards Tikhvin would not guarantee the sought-after success. So instead, leaving the I. AK. to defend the Volkhov line, the Germans decide to use the 4-division strong XXXIX. AK (mot) to cross the Neva river and advance towards Osinovets. Historically the Korps possessed the 8. and 12. Panzer-Divisionen as well as the 18. and 20. Infanterie-Divisionen (mot.) for its advance on Tikhvin, so for this scenario it might either have the same order of battle or a different one that swaps out 1-2 of the Panzer divisions for stronger Infanterie divisions that would otherwise be guarding the Volkhov line.

For supporting this attack the Germans might leave 2 divisions of the XXVI. AK. to guard the Oranienbaum salient, whilst the 6 divisions that would historically have been occupying the ring around Leningrad (58., 269., 121., 122. and 96. IDs along with SS-Polizei according to the 16.10.1941 OKH situation map) could support the attack further to the west, keeping pressure on the Soviet defenders and preventing them from diverting all their strength to defeat the main drive along Lake Ladoga. To this overall force could also be added 5 Fallschirmjäger battalions as well as the Führer-Begleit battalion, which were also all in the area at the time of the Tikhvin operation's commencement.

While there can never be true certainty in assessing historical what-ifs, there are a few factors that suggest such an operation might have succeeded. The main drive would have avoided the bulk of Leningrad's defenses (such as the city's AA defenses and the Soviet naval gunfire). The (initially successful) German drive to Tikhvin covered 120 km within 23 days, whilst the straight-line distance from Shlissel'burg to Osinovets was only around 20 km. The Soviet supply situation in Leningrad was also not particularly good in Leningrad at this time, and since this offensive would fall before ice travel was possible over Lake Ladoga it's quite possible that the Soviets would be at a disadvantage in a prolonged engagement. The roughly 20 Soviet divisions were also low on fighting strength (each had about 2000-3000 troops on hand according to Forczyk), and the attacking German forces would still hold a tactical advantage over the relatively inexperienced Soviet troops. The operation could probably also have been completed within the same timeframe that Tikhvin was captured historically, thereby enabling the Germans to redeploy their forces elsewhere if needed after the offensive phase of the battle was over.

If such an operation did succeed in taking Osinovets prior to mid-November 1941, then the remaining Soviet defenders would probably be in a very precarious position. With 95% of supplies being cut off and the majority of the civilian population still being in the city, the resulting food shortage would surely have had major implications for the ability to keep even the remaining Soviet troops (let alone the civilians) in the city adequately fed. Whether that would have been enough to weaken the city enough for the Germans to attempt an assault in the winter of 1941 is questionable, however those Soviet forces still in the encirclement ring would probably not be in any position to mount serious counterattacks of their own either.

With all this said, I'm curious to hear opinions regarding the feasibility of such an operation. Of particular interest would be the relative strengths of the involved German divisions at this time as well as how much air and artillery firepower they could reasonably count on. Another big what-if regarding the scenario would be how catastrophic the effect would be on the Soviet defenders, and whether they could've been able to reestablish and hold a viable supply line through the narrow strip of terrain between Osinovets and the Finnish border. Without such a thing happening it is unlikely that the Soviet defenders in Leningrad could have resisted a serious German offensive in 1942.
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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by Lars » 13 Feb 2021 21:57

Mannerheim had set a wide encirclement of Leningrad as a precondition for Finnish participation in the attack on Leningrad. That is why the Germans went for a wide encirclement. A 1941 "Nordlicht" would of course be better, but the Finns pressed for an ambitious solution.

The Finns might just have asked for the wide encirclement to drag their heels on an attack on Leningrad and buy time though.

The Finns fought a limited war against Russia. The Germans fought a total war.

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by History Learner » 16 Feb 2021 22:31

David Glantz is pretty firm in terms of what cutting off the rail connections means:

Image

Come 1942, Army Group North will have much better logistics with the Soviet fleet removed and the port of Leningrad restored, enabling greater logistics as well as the obvious diversion of troops to Army Group South for Fall Blau. First, however, Operation Lachsfang will be conducted with the Finns, neutralizing the Murmansk Railway and thus shutting down much of the Northern Lend Lease route. Manstein's 11th AOK will be kept South without the need for Operation Nordlicht, which means the Germans can clear and secure their Don flanks from the Soviet bridgeheads over them. Operation Little Saturn is thus no longer possible, meaning the Soviets are probably starved into submission in 1943.

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by Futurist » 16 Feb 2021 23:29

History Learner wrote:
16 Feb 2021 22:31
David Glantz is pretty firm in terms of what cutting off the rail connections means:

Image

Come 1942, Army Group North will have much better logistics with the Soviet fleet removed and the port of Leningrad restored, enabling greater logistics as well as the obvious diversion of troops to Army Group South for Fall Blau. First, however, Operation Lachsfang will be conducted with the Finns, neutralizing the Murmansk Railway and thus shutting down much of the Northern Lend Lease route. Manstein's 11th AOK will be kept South without the need for Operation Nordlicht, which means the Germans can clear and secure their Don flanks from the Soviet bridgeheads over them. Operation Little Saturn is thus no longer possible, meaning the Soviets are probably starved into submission in 1943.
Operation Little Saturn was crucial to prevent the Soviet Union from starving? In other words, the Western Allies could not have increased the amount of Lend-Lease food aid that they would have sent to Russia had the agricultural Kuban remained in German hands in 1943, correct?

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by History Learner » 17 Feb 2021 00:03

Futurist wrote:
16 Feb 2021 23:29
History Learner wrote:
16 Feb 2021 22:31
David Glantz is pretty firm in terms of what cutting off the rail connections means:

Image

Come 1942, Army Group North will have much better logistics with the Soviet fleet removed and the port of Leningrad restored, enabling greater logistics as well as the obvious diversion of troops to Army Group South for Fall Blau. First, however, Operation Lachsfang will be conducted with the Finns, neutralizing the Murmansk Railway and thus shutting down much of the Northern Lend Lease route. Manstein's 11th AOK will be kept South without the need for Operation Nordlicht, which means the Germans can clear and secure their Don flanks from the Soviet bridgeheads over them. Operation Little Saturn is thus no longer possible, meaning the Soviets are probably starved into submission in 1943.
Operation Little Saturn was crucial to prevent the Soviet Union from starving? In other words, the Western Allies could not have increased the amount of Lend-Lease food aid that they would have sent to Russia had the agricultural Kuban remained in German hands in 1943, correct?
Yes, the recovery of the Kuban as well as East Ukraine was critical in 1943.

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by Futurist » 17 Feb 2021 00:29

History Learner wrote:
17 Feb 2021 00:03
Futurist wrote:
16 Feb 2021 23:29
History Learner wrote:
16 Feb 2021 22:31
David Glantz is pretty firm in terms of what cutting off the rail connections means:

Image

Come 1942, Army Group North will have much better logistics with the Soviet fleet removed and the port of Leningrad restored, enabling greater logistics as well as the obvious diversion of troops to Army Group South for Fall Blau. First, however, Operation Lachsfang will be conducted with the Finns, neutralizing the Murmansk Railway and thus shutting down much of the Northern Lend Lease route. Manstein's 11th AOK will be kept South without the need for Operation Nordlicht, which means the Germans can clear and secure their Don flanks from the Soviet bridgeheads over them. Operation Little Saturn is thus no longer possible, meaning the Soviets are probably starved into submission in 1943.
Operation Little Saturn was crucial to prevent the Soviet Union from starving? In other words, the Western Allies could not have increased the amount of Lend-Lease food aid that they would have sent to Russia had the agricultural Kuban remained in German hands in 1943, correct?
Yes, the recovery of the Kuban as well as East Ukraine was critical in 1943.
Only in terms of food or also in terms of manpower?

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by Lars » 17 Feb 2021 11:40

Taking Volkhov was enough to cut the railroad to Leningrad. Leningrad would be out of supply. The city would fall during the winter 1941/42. Volkhov was doable.

The Finns pressed for the attack on Tikvin and a wide encirclement of Leningrad with a link up at the Svir River. This was not doable. Volkhovs position on the map below.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... 960%29.jpg

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by AnchorSteam » 17 Feb 2021 19:30

Looking at the map this sure looks like the better option, but the question on my mind is; "mit vas?" will the attack be made with, and when?

One Panzer Division is shown being available, but until when?
Making this move still means you will have to defend your eastern flank, when the lake is frozen. One advantage of the plan is that it won't be necessary to waste any bombs of shells on Leningrad itself, now those can be used to brak up the ice when an attack looks likely.
The down-side is the city will be a stinking miasma of disease and filth by Summer, all those dead bodies will be a serious problem when they thaw out. For that reason alone, the utility of Leningrad as a base of supply looks problematic to me.

As for what the Finns want, who cares about doing what they want until they go all-in and get serious about destroying the USSR?

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by historygeek2021 » 18 Feb 2021 02:13

History Learner wrote:
17 Feb 2021 00:03

Yes, the recovery of the Kuban as well as East Ukraine was critical in 1943.
The Germans held the Kuban until October 1943. The USSR would have been starved into submission if the Germans had held the Kuban through December?

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by Lars » 18 Feb 2021 17:04

AnchorSteam wrote:
17 Feb 2021 19:30
Looking at the map this sure looks like the better option, but the question on my mind is; "mit vas?" will the attack be made with, and when?

One Panzer Division is shown being available, but until when?
Making this move still means you will have to defend your eastern flank, when the lake is frozen. One advantage of the plan is that it won't be necessary to waste any bombs of shells on Leningrad itself, now those can be used to brak up the ice when an attack looks likely.
The down-side is the city will be a stinking miasma of disease and filth by Summer, all those dead bodies will be a serious problem when they thaw out. For that reason alone, the utility of Leningrad as a base of supply looks problematic to me.

As for what the Finns want, who cares about doing what they want until they go all-in and get serious about destroying the USSR?
It would have been much easier to just go to Volkhov and place a defensive line along the Volkhov River than going to Tikvin. The Germans saw a link up on the Svir river as a precondition for a Finnish participation in the conquest of Leningrad, because the Finns said so. Maybe the Finns were just dragging their feet, and only placed demands on the Germans they knew the Germans couldn't fulfill because they didn't want total war with the Soviets anyway.

What do I think? I think Mannerheim was just dragging his feet, and that the Germans should have stopped at Volkhov and the Volkhov River. It would have been enough to starve out Leningrad.

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by History Learner » 18 Feb 2021 20:30

historygeek2021 wrote:
18 Feb 2021 02:13
History Learner wrote:
17 Feb 2021 00:03

Yes, the recovery of the Kuban as well as East Ukraine was critical in 1943.
The Germans held the Kuban until October 1943. The USSR would have been starved into submission if the Germans had held the Kuban through December?
The Soviets reclaimed the Kuban in their winter-offensives of 1942-1943, as well as East Ukraine. I'm assuming you've confused Taman/Kerch straights for the region as a whole?

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by Futurist » 18 Feb 2021 20:35

History Learner wrote:
18 Feb 2021 20:30
historygeek2021 wrote:
18 Feb 2021 02:13
History Learner wrote:
17 Feb 2021 00:03

Yes, the recovery of the Kuban as well as East Ukraine was critical in 1943.
The Germans held the Kuban until October 1943. The USSR would have been starved into submission if the Germans had held the Kuban through December?
The Soviets reclaimed the Kuban in their winter-offensives of 1942-1943, as well as East Ukraine. I'm assuming you've confused Taman/Kerch straights for the region as a whole?
*Straits

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by historygeek2021 » 18 Feb 2021 21:40

History Learner wrote:
18 Feb 2021 20:30
historygeek2021 wrote:
18 Feb 2021 02:13
History Learner wrote:
17 Feb 2021 00:03

Yes, the recovery of the Kuban as well as East Ukraine was critical in 1943.
The Germans held the Kuban until October 1943. The USSR would have been starved into submission if the Germans had held the Kuban through December?
The Soviets reclaimed the Kuban in their winter-offensives of 1942-1943, as well as East Ukraine. I'm assuming you've confused Taman/Kerch straights for the region as a whole?
They held on to a lot more than just the straits.
Kuban 1943.png
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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by Lars » 19 Feb 2021 08:58

Much of the toehold on Kuban was swamp especially the Northern part. That becomes clear when one reads about the 1943-battles there. I agree that agricultural products from Kuban (-the Axis toehold) were very important for the Soviets in 1943. Presumably "Kuban" in an agricultural sense is much lager than just the Axis occupied strait area.

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Re: Leningrad 1941: Germans Attack Osinovets Instead of Tikhvin

Post by History Learner » 19 Feb 2021 19:48

historygeek2021 wrote:
18 Feb 2021 21:40
History Learner wrote:
18 Feb 2021 20:30
historygeek2021 wrote:
18 Feb 2021 02:13
History Learner wrote:
17 Feb 2021 00:03

Yes, the recovery of the Kuban as well as East Ukraine was critical in 1943.
The Germans held the Kuban until October 1943. The USSR would have been starved into submission if the Germans had held the Kuban through December?
The Soviets reclaimed the Kuban in their winter-offensives of 1942-1943, as well as East Ukraine. I'm assuming you've confused Taman/Kerch straights for the region as a whole?
They held on to a lot more than just the straits.

Kuban 1943.png
Okay, not sure what you're arguing because even this map shows they were reduced to a toehold by late February of 1943, not October either?

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