Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

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Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 15 Apr 2021 20:01

The eternal debate – here’s maybe a new take.

I’m agnostic on the Kiev/Moscow debate as articulated so far, leaning towards “no purely strategic/operational choice would have been decisive in August 1941.” In particular, I find Stolfi’s book half-baked. Askey is making a better case and I’m interested to see its full articulation while respectfully skeptical.

My fundamental reservations are that:
  • (1) merely trading Kiev+Taifun for an earlier Vyzma+Moscow doesn’t change force ratios decisively from the OTL case,
  • (2) Likewise, trading Moscow for Donbas probably doesn’t decisively change the economic picture, such that 1942 goes decisively differently.
  • (3) Given similar force ratios, holding Moscow in winter is dubious as it would be a magnet for Soviet counteroffensives. It would conceivably force Stalin to mount a concentrated effort that traps AGC in an earlier and worse Stalingrad, rather than dissipating forces front-wide as in OTL.
By enabling a “Kiev-lite” in AGS’s sector simultaneously with an earlier Vyazma, this ATL may address the above considerations:
  • (1) A “Kiev-lite,” combined with an earlier Vyazma, would feasibly destroy more RKKA in September than OTL.
  • (2)Greater force destruction in ATL September allows Ostheer to advance and destroy on both the Ukraine and Moscow axes in October, removing the typical “either/or” strategic/economic quandary.
  • (3)Greater force destruction in both ATL September and October, combined with assuming rational winter defensive lines after taking Moscow, could feasibly enable holding Moscow against even a concentrated Soviet winter offensive, while also holding more in the South. This might decisively change the 1942 picture and the war’s outcome.
In the rest of the post (or thread) I’ll describe (I) that SW Front would have been defeated absent Guderian, (II) how my ATL’s Gornostaipol option adds likely encirclement in a slightly-smaller Kiev kessel to SWF’s fate, (III) discuss the viability and timing of an earlier Vyazma, (IV) discuss the feasible course from October after the foregoing ATL events.

I. SWF’s defeat was imminent by September 1941 even absent Guderian.

On this I’ve changed my mind recently. I’m going to justify this judgement at some length because AHF members and certain authors often state “SWF was doomed anyway” but without sufficient argumentation. Understanding SWF’s true situation will go a long way to explaining my ATL.

6th Army (LI AK) was over the Dniepr north of Kiev (at Gornostaipol) by August 24th. From August 27th, however, SWF counterattacks pushed 111 ID back from breaching the Desna. SWF then contained the Gornostaipol bridgehead for 10 days, with LI AK crossing the Desna on September 6. Thereafter, LI AK broke out from its Desna bridgehead (around Oster) by September 10th, later linking up with XXIV AK on September 17 (might have been the 18th technically).

The infantry therefore achieved on their own a large portion of “the” Kiev kessel (really multiple kessels).

What was AGS’s armor doing at this time? Well we’ve seen that 11th panzer seized the Gornostaipol bridgehead on August 23rd/24th but by August 27th it was withdrawn to Korosten and would not see combat again until Operation Taifun. The bulk of PzGr1 was resting in the Dniepr bend by August 29th and wouldn’t begin crossing the Dniepr until September 11th . AGS’s infantry therefore achieved an encircling position without September help from PzGr1.

So consider the subsidiary ATL in which the only PoD is Guderian has attacked towards Moscow in late August: 6th/17th armies probably still close the inner ring of encirclement around Kiev if SWF holds firm as in OTL. One could argue that Guderian’s absence frees up forces to block the infantry armies but Guderian was mostly fighting Bryansk/Central fronts and they’ll have to deal with his thrust on Moscow in this ATL – by moving some of Bryansk Front’s forces towards Moscow and by attacking AGC’s flanks.

Simultaneously, one might argue that PzGr1 could have met up with 2nd Army to form the outer ring of encirclement. It would be a less-powerful, probably more-leaky ring but OTL shows that the Soviets posed little threat from outside the kessel, while ATL an earlier Moscow drive would have made the Soviet resources no stronger. A few mentions from AGS’s war diary:

T311 R258 Frame 570 – AGS report on Kiev kesselschlacht, September 16 1941:
A threat to the eastern flank of the PG1 and 2 by the enemy in the area of the HG is not recognizable even today.
T311 R258 Frame 583 – AGS report on Kiev kesselschlacht, September 17 1941
The enemy neither threatened the encirclement operation from the east, nor did he undertake any major attempts to break through the encircled areas.
T311 R258 Frame 605 – AGS report on Kiev kesselschlacht, September 18 1941
The enemy made no major breakthrough attempts or escape attempts from the east.
…these are the critical days after the September 15th linkup of PzGr’s 1&2 yet no sign of Soviet break-in attempts from outside the mega-pocket. No mention of them on subsequent days either.

To me, the above suggests that Guderian might not have been needed to achieve the bulk of Kiev’s outcome: he mostly fought forces (Bryansk Front) that were only in the battle because of his presence. PzGr1 might have linked up with Second Army on its own and could conceivably have held the outer ring of encirclement against weak/non-existent counterattacks. (I will nuance this view below)

AGS’s record of PoW hauls provides further evidence:

Image

The document breaks up the Kiev battle into Kessel (from Sept. 8) and pre-Kessel periods. AGC bagged only 39,342 of the Kessel PoW’s (AGC’s tally of its Kiev PoW’s – Kessel or not – is within ~2% of AGS’s, btw). We’ve already established Guderian’s seeming superfluity against break-ins; these stats show him as a minor factor in reducing the pocket along its inner lines as well (especially considering 2nd Army probably took most of AGC’s Kessel PoW’s).

Now for some nuance/caveat: It is true that 2nd Army’s advance southwards is a big part of the picture and that this advance was assisted by Guderian operating on its left flank. How far 2nd Army would have gone on its own I will leave to further discussion; Guderian could have moved south with it until mid-August before stopping for rest and then early Vyazma. The ATL proposes an alternative solution.

….so with all that setup we’re finally at the Gornostaipol option.

II. The Gornostaipol Option

OKH commits its reserve mechanized divisions (2 panzer, 1 motorized infantry) to AGS’s left wing, where they push Soviet 5th Army back over Dniepr – as in OTL – but now 6th Army is strong enough to develop its foothold into Kiev’s rear.

As we have seen, AGS seized the Gornostaipol bridgehead by August 24 (11th Panzer) and reached the Desna the next day. Then SWF counterattacked, checking LI Corps in the ~15 miles between the Dniepr and Desna until it crossed the latter on September 6.

In this ATL, the extra divisions consolidate Ostheer’s hold on the Dniepr-Desna gap rather than being forced back on August 27. Elements of 11th Panzer are also retained in the bridgehead instead of resting for Taifun (with appropriate compensation later). Here’s a crude illustration using OKH’s August 25 map:

Image

The 3.5 mechanized divisions plus LI AK’s ID’s are forcing the Desna and rolling up Soviet forces on their left flank in the Dniepr-Desna gap. The latter move threatens the rear of forces opposing 2nd Army (XIII AK), compelling their retreat. As its opponents fall back to the Desna, 2nd Army can strengthen its left wing over OTL to compensate for Guderian’s absence.

In OTL, 6th Army’s breakout from the Gornostaipol-Oster bridgeheads axis didn’t occur until around September 10th, when 2nd Army had also crossed the Desna and was threatening the forces containing 6th Army in their rear. With 3.5 extra mechanized divisions, and having had time to consolidate its Dniepr-Desna gap communications and move forward its ID’s, the ATL 6th Army-Plus should be able to break out from the Desna on its own.

What then? Let’s schedule the breakout from the Gornostaipol-Oster axis, as in OTL, on September 10-11 (with the intervening time spent unshackling 2nd Army from its right-flank foes and consolidating the Oster bridgehead over the Desna). This timeline allows PzGr1 its OTL rest period before crossing the Dniepr around Kremenchug. Using OKH’s September 11 map and crude drawing, I see the following general course of battle:

Image

The green lines represent the infantry army thrusts and are basically as in OTL: LI AK driving S-SE from Oster and XXIV AK north from Rzhishchevy to form the inner kessel around Kiev. The blue lines represent the 3.5 ATL mechanized divisions, which meet with PzGr1 to form an outer pocket roughly congruous with the main outer OTL pocket around what AGS calls “Raum Pirjatin-Solotonoscha.”. I’ve crossed out PzGr2 units in red… As mentioned, AOK 2 would have pivoted units into this space (though not as far south) by virtue of the added ATL units freeing its left flank in late-August and early September.

We are missing another pocket northeast of the Pirjatin-Solotonoscha grouping, but the primary documents imply that these pockets – formed primarily by AGC units – yielded only ~7% of the greater Kiev campaign’s PoW haul.

And while PzGr1 doesn’t have Guderian manning the outer ring of encirclement, our primary documents indicate that there was no outer threat OTL. ATL the earlier drive on Moscow will have sucked Bryansk Front and reserves towards it.

If we forego only 7% of OTL Kiev’s PoW haul, this “Kiev-lite” is not so lite. Even if it’s 15% foregone (i.e. 100k PoW), that’s a massive haul of ~560k. Combined with an early Vyazma that should bag near the same as OTL’s ~515k, Ostheer takes >400k more PoW in ATL September than OTL. That’s ~15% of RKKA’s German-facing front strength in OTL.


After Kiev, what next for AGS?

First, observe that the Gornostaipol Option has committed at least 4 of OTL Taifun’s mechanized divisions – the three reserve plus 11Pz – to AGS until at least late September. So they’re not joining the Moscow campaign for a while, if at all. I suspect this is why it wasn’t considered – OKH was too focused on radical concentration against Moscow after Kiev to notice a possible compromise.

In addition, it doesn’t make sense to transfer XXXXVIII Motorized Corps to PzGr2 (with 9PzDiv. and 16th Mot.) absent PzGr2’s jump-off towards Moscow being nearby.

So AGS has 6 more mechanized divisions, AGC 6 fewer. But recall that RKKA is ~15% weaker. Having 16.5 mech divs. (instead of 22.5) probably forces AGC to attack Moscow on a narrow front after Vyazma, which would be a good thing compared to OTL’s wide-sweeping approach. Ideally they’d take small, Roslavl-size bites out of the defenders, including on the flanks, as AGC approached Moscow.

Meanwhile, AGS has, functionally, another panzer group. Using OKH’s September 24th map, I’d envision something like this for October-November:

Image

The green arrows roughly trace PzGr1’s OTL path (Azov Sea battle then Rostov). The first blue arrow adds a second pincer to 17th Army’s push on Kharkov. There’s not much to be encircled on 17A’s left flank but by cutting off Kharkov Ostheer would gain the city cheaply (and possibly with unevacuated equipment) or, if 17A’s OTL opponents stand firm, will take another big PoW haul. Then the second set of blue-green arrows represent a second pincer added to PzGr1’s OTL push along the Sea of Azov, meeting around Voroshilovgrad (Luhansk) – a big economic target that Ostheer didn’t take until July 1942.

Caveat is logistics: AGS lacked rail connections east of the Dniepr in fall ‘41; the second blue arrow is viable only if South/SW Fronts are very weak – i.e. if the additional ATL September losses, the ATL Kharkov battle, and/or the threat to Moscow preclude strongly defending Ukraine. Absent that situation, the “extra” panzer group drives north from Kharkov towards Kursk-Voronezh. Or it drives towards Bryansk after Kiev, seeking to replicate the Bryansk kessel in conjunction with 2nd Army as in OTL (but later). It would thereby return to AGC’s logistical burden.


III/IV. The Broader Picture.

Now let’s return to the broad picture:
  • HGM has 16.5 mechanized divisions (if PzGr4 deploys as in OTL), 4 more than committed historically for Vyazma. Its ATL August/September opponent is no stronger than its ATL October opponent so there's sufficient forces for a Vyazma kessel.
  • Missing the Bryansk element of Taifun could allow Bryansk Front (or its constituent forces) to counterattack the incipient Vyazma kessel but that seems unlikely to work given Efremov’s historical results.
  • As in OTL October, RKKA's strength was concentrated along the Smolensk highway axis in August. So as in OTL October, I'd expect ~500k PoW's from the Vyazma pocket.
AGC would ideally clean up its flanks after early Vyazma, resulting in Roslavl-like kessels. It would then attack Moscow on a narrower front between Oka and Volga in October. As RKKA is weaker than OTL October, it can’t defend Moscow adequately – if at all - without stripping Ukraine/Leningrad (see above post-Kiev ATL scenarios). If it does strip Ukraine and/or Leningrad, then worst case scenario is Ostheer destroys RKKA in detail north and south, leaving Moscow for ’42.

-------------------------------------------------

Caveats:
  • This is a rough sketch that involves earlier Vyazma and Kiev-lite. The purpose is to illustrate possibilities for further consideration rather than to support strongly a certain outcome.
  • Essential to this scenario, IMO, is the earlier Vyazma being a shallow encirclement like OTL Vyazma, rather than a “one-step” lunge for Moscow. IMO the latter would fail and/or have attrition results like OTL Smolensk, which makes holding Moscow unlikely. While Ostheer was sufficiently humbled in OTL October to go shallow (Bock still leaned delusional), I am not at all confident that AGC would have been humble in ATL late-August. OKH believed RKKA had only ~95 divisions of effective strength left (GSWW v.4, p. 581).
  • Ideal ATL strategy would involve willingness to target defeat-in-detail of weakened RKKA forces, even if this precluded a mega-Kessel around Moscow.
These points bring me back to my overarching Eastern Front analysis: The Germans lost because they didn’t take the SU seriously; German planning for early Vyazma probably would have reflected their delusions about imminent Soviet collapse and drained Soviet reserves. Delusional arrogance must be considered when analyzing alternate German actions in late summer 1941.

None of these Moscow/Ukraine debates should have happened; the Germans should have started with a stronger army that would actually meet its goals on more one than axis (i.e. they needed one more panzer group, could have been even stronger than that).
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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by historygeek2021 » 18 Apr 2021 04:21

Interesting ATL.

I think you need to flesh out the details in August regarding the whereabouts of Panzer Group 2. Use the OTL timeline as a frame of reference:

July 30: Fuhrer Directive No. 30 directs Guderian to clear AGC's southern flank (Roslavl and Gomel)

August 3: Roslavl encircled

August 8: Guderian begins southern drive to help Weichs' 2nd Army capture Gomel

August 19: Gomel falls

August 21: Hitler orders Panzer Group 2 to drive south and link up with Panzer Group 1 to encircle Kiev

What would be your point of departure from the OTL in terms of the timing and location of Panzer Group 2? I would ask the same about Panzer Groups 3 and 4.

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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 18 Apr 2021 06:43

HistoryGeek2021 wrote:I think you need to flesh out the details in August regarding the whereabouts of Panzer Group 2.
Yep. As in OP, what 2nd Army can do with less Guderian is the nub. If we think 2nd Army can do enough with little Guderian, then early Vyazma is more viable. If not, it'll be hard to schedule adequate rest and repositioning for early Vyazma.

TBH I won't spend as much time on this ATL as I have on others; it doesn't directly relate to my current research agenda... I'd be happy to help others make or destroy the case because I'm not firmly committed to the ATL's viability.

Let's look at targeting a Sept 1 Vyazma.
HistoryGeek2021 wrote:August 19: Gomel falls
Here's a map of 19.8 poorly stitched together from pieces:

Image

Gomel falls but a decent-size pocket battle continues until August 22 on Kritschew end of this battle, with 10 Mot. and 3rd Panzer heavily involved. That's probably the latest we can keep something like the ATL timeline for AGC prior to Sept 1 Vyazma.

ATL 2nd Army will have shifted some of its resting/reserve forces (52, 255, 267 ID) eastwards to cover a disengaging Guderian. It also could have shifted some of its left flank attacking forces, anticipating that AGS's breakthrough in the south will force them to fall back - so need to push as hard. So AGC's front around Kritschew is maybe slightly further west.

There's also no good reason not to have committed the mechanized reserves to 6th Army's front by mid-August - the need for, and difficulty of, clearing the AGS's Pripyat flank was discussed extensively in pre-Barbarossa planning up to Halder level (IIRC good discussion in GSWW v.4). If they've committed them earlier, then Gornostaipol bridgehead (or similar) can be seized earlier. In that case, Gomel may fall earlier as well.

That's the basic outline: Use a stronger 6th Army to shorten 2nd Army's right flank and/or weaken its opponents, shift the freed forces eastwards to replace Guderian as AGC's southeast bulwark (but not as far Southeast nor advancing). If Efremov or similar forces hit the ID's, it's probably a losing battle for him (German ID's stood up to Soviet tank attacks quite well at this time) and AGC can afford to give room there anyway.

Hitler was right that AGC's flanks needed attention but they were probably the nail that got a sledgehammer.

---------------------------------

The other question would be AGN's sector. It's not feasible to send XXXIX Mot. Corps as far north but that should be good: a more concentrated effort south of Lake Ilmen should more successfully bag Soviets there. AGN never achieved its big Leningrad Kessel anyway so we're not losing much force destruction around Leningrad (even if Schlusselberg not taken) and should get more around Toropets.

Again this assumes a level of humility by Hitler/Halder regarding their ends and means that is basically ahistorical.

At least regarding Hitler, it needn't have been so: His post-June 22 underestimation of SU was path dependence from his pre-Barbarossa misjudgment. He took other Slavs very seriously (Poland, Yugoslavia) as military foes.
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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by historygeek2021 » 18 Apr 2021 21:57

So basically, after Gomel is wrapped up, have Panzer Group 2 prepare to strike east toward Moscow, while 2nd Army screens between 6th Army and Panzer Group 2. 6th Army is strong enough to break through north of Kiev, and Panzer Group 1 can break through to the southeast of Kiev as in the OTL, resulting in a smaller but still valuable encirclement that will weaken Southwestern Front sufficiently for AGS to take Kharkov and reach the Mius River by the fall muddy season. 11th Army will still be able to take the Crimea before winter.

What about Panzer Group 4? Does it still drive for Schlusselberg, or does it shift to the Velikyi Luki area to provide northern flank cover for AGC? Consider the additional economic/manpower contributions Leningrad could make to the USSR in this scenario comparerd to the OTL.

It seems like a September 1 launch date for Typhoon in this scenario would likely result in the fall of Moscow, probably just before the October muddy season. That would give AGC 1-2 months to consolidate its hold on the Moscow area, or more likely, for Hitler and Halder to overstretch it still further. Hitler wanted to take Voronezh OTL, and Halder wanted to take Yaroslavl, so it's almost certain, absent a change in senior leadership, that AGC would find itself overextended to the north and south come December even moreso than in the OTL, and there is no way Hitler would allow AGC to retreat from Moscow, so it has the potential to result in a Stalingrad level encirclement in December 1941 or January 1942.

Even if the OstHeer manages to hold Moscow, it doesn't seem like the Soviet Union will be that much weaker come spring 1942 than it was in the OTL (roughly 10 million in the military overall, 5 million at the front). With the Soviet Union still refusing to give up, Hitler likely orders a drive on the Caucasus, and the rest of 1942 and the whole war goes basically the same as the OTL.

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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by History Learner » 18 Apr 2021 23:38

historygeek2021 wrote:
18 Apr 2021 21:57
Even if the OstHeer manages to hold Moscow, it doesn't seem like the Soviet Union will be that much weaker come spring 1942 than it was in the OTL (roughly 10 million in the military overall, 5 million at the front). With the Soviet Union still refusing to give up, Hitler likely orders a drive on the Caucasus, and the rest of 1942 and the whole war goes basically the same as the OTL.
With what troops and equipment?

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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Apr 2021 00:38

HistoryGeek2021 wrote:Even if the OstHeer manages to hold Moscow, it doesn't seem like the Soviet Union will be that much weaker come spring 1942 than it was in the OTL (roughly 10 million in the military overall, 5 million at the front). With the Soviet Union still refusing to give up, Hitler likely orders a drive on the Caucasus, and the rest of 1942 and the whole war goes basically the same as the OTL.
Whoa there, tiger. We haven't even finished September '41 and you've jumped to storming the Reichstag. There are several other items to analyze before we even decide on issues like OTL v. ATL force destruction during the German offensive phase, the extent of that phase, casualty ratios OTL v. ATL in a Soviet counterattack, and many more.

Just as you'd surely have a few more points to make about the road to Reichstag, I'd have some points to make along that road as well. We can't do justice to each others ideas except in digestible steps that give each move and counter fair discussion. Doing otherwise causes a whirling fray where the best one can do is track one's own ideas and how they're being ignored (surely intentionally! :x ), while losing track of the other's points.

Just a few of my points that are within reach of the front at this juncture:
  • Even a small force ratio delta to OTL December 1941 (say 10%), when combined with Ostheer assuming a rational defensive posture after Moscow, might enable Ostheer to stop the Soviet winter offensives cold and/or (more importantly) capture 100k's of Soviets in counter-Kessels.
  • Combined with greater losses in ATL Sept-Nov, the foregoing could mean 2mil more permanent losses for RKKA. That's ~40% of OTL RKKA front strength by May '42.
  • RKKA has manpower reserves but they're mostly in deferred occupations. As I've discussed elsewhere, RKKA's drafts in fall '41 were already coming from essential industries; a 2mil replacement draft would take ~20% of the basic industries workforce if done by OTL distribution of OTL drafts. viewtopic.php?f=66&t=257046
  • We need to discuss what happens North and South - can RKKA hold Leningrad if AGN keeps all of PG4 and troops are taken to defend Moscow? Same question re Eastern Ukraine everything west of the Don, loss of which further degrades Soviet regenerative ability for the '42 battles.
  • Germany builds a causeway to England and Reich endures for a 1,000 years. ;)
There are good counters:
  • How much farther than OTL can Germany get in the South with their terrible trans-Dniepr logistics? (depends on RKKA force ratios, IMO)
  • How does a weaker AGC actually get through the Moscow defensive lines ATL, especially between Oka and Moscow. Were these already strong enough in September? Maybe not, maybe so...
Upthread I said I'm not committed to the "viability" of this ATL - what I really meant is I'm not committed to its decisiveness. Happy to discuss but let's try to do it in a rational, digestible manner that doesn't turn into a furball.
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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by historygeek2021 » 19 Apr 2021 01:21

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Apr 2021 00:38

Even a small force ratio delta to OTL December 1941 (say 10%), when combined with Ostheer assuming a rational defensive posture after Moscow, might enable Ostheer to stop the Soviet winter offensives cold and/or (more importantly) capture 100k's of Soviets in counter-Kessels.
I agree your ATL has the potential to result in a better force ratio come December 1941, by achieving more encirclements in the sectors of AGC and AGS simultaneously rather than consecutively. I don't think a rational defensive posture after Moscow is plausible given the ambitions of Hitler and Halder. The successful capture of Moscow by late September/early October would only embolden them further to overextend AGC and AGS (and probably also AGN). I don't see how counter-kessels during the winter of 41-42 are plausible. The OstHeer wasn't able to achieve any in the OTL, and was itself the victim of kessels at Demyansk and in the Tula/Orel sector. The main reason why the OstHeer wouldn't be able to achieve counter-kessels wouldn't be the overall force ratio (which was still favorable/even in the OTL), but overstretched logistics, lack of mobility and localized force ratios. With AGC and AGS spread out, isolated OstHeer units would be meeting full strength Red Army reinforcements head on, and would be forced to either retreat or be surrounded, as in the OTL.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Apr 2021 00:38
Combined with greater losses in ATL Sept-Nov, the foregoing could mean 2mil more permanent losses for RKKA. That's ~40% of OTL RKKA front strength by May '42.
I would expect to see greater Red Army losses during the September/October period of your ATL compared to the same period of the OTL, but I can't imagine the difference being as great as 2 million. For the reasons I stated above, I don't see any OstHeer counter-kessels in the winter, and thus the Red Army's losses in winter are likely to be comparable to the OTL (and the OstHeer's losses could be disastrous if Hitler refuses to abandon Moscow and a good chunk of AGC gets encircled there).

2 million additional permanent losses is excessively high based on the actual losses that took place in the OTL - see Table P in Glantz's When Titans Clashed:
Glantz Table P.png
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Apr 2021 00:38
[*]RKKA has manpower reserves but they're mostly in deferred occupations. As I've discussed elsewhere, RKKA's drafts in fall '41 were already coming from essential industries; a 2mil replacement draft would take ~20% of the basic industries workforce if done by OTL distribution of OTL drafts. viewtopic.php?f=66&t=257046
Your link says that in the fall of 1941 the RKKA drafted 625,000 soldiers from deferrals in essential industries. I don't think this proves your claim that RKKA's manpower reserves were mostly in deferred occupations. It's just one example of where draftees came from at one moment in time. You also need to factor in that the Soviet Union had a far younger population than Germany. To quote your favorite author:
The average age of the Soviet population was far lower than in Germany, with 45 per cent of the population under the age of twenty in 1941 (as opposed to only one-third in Germany). This combination of a younger and considerably larger Soviet population meant the annual number of recruits reaching military age each year was decidedly in favour of the Soviets. The class of 1923 (the birth year of men reaching eighteen in 1941) numbered 3 million, which, despite the extensive German occupation of Soviet territory, still amounted to some 2 million Red Army recruits annually between 1941 and 1943.96

Stahel, David. Kiev 1941 (pp. 35-36). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Apr 2021 00:38
We need to discuss what happens North and South - can RKKA hold Leningrad if AGN keeps all of PG4 and troops are taken to defend Moscow? Same question re Eastern Ukraine everything west of the Don, loss of which further degrades Soviet regenerative ability for the '42 battles.
AGN borrowed a corps from Panzer Group 3 and had help from Panzer Group 3 at Velikiye Luki in the OTL. The Soviets mobilized significant reserve armies to defend Leningrad in response. See Map 2 in Glantz's Barbarossa:
Glantz Map 2.png
Nevertheless, given the overall accomplishments of the OstHeer in the OTL, it seems likely that Panzer Group 4 on its own would probably have been able to encircle Leningrad, even if all of Panzer Group 3 had been sent to attack Moscow on September 1. Leningrad will still be supplied from Yaroslavl and Vologda, as you pointed out in another thread. Given the massive number of Soviet reserve armies mobilized as shown on Glantz's Map 2, I have a hard time seeing AGN and AGS accomplishing much more than they did in the OTL.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Apr 2021 00:38
[*]How does a weaker AGC actually get through the Moscow defensive lines ATL, especially between Oka and Moscow. Were these already strong enough in September? Maybe not, maybe so...
Is this the same as the Mozhaisk line? AGC was able to break this line in the OTL in late October, even with terrible logistics in the mud. I guess logistics will still be a big problem even without the mud.
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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by History Learner » 19 Apr 2021 02:11

It's a point I've made elsewhere, but defensive construction before Moscow started in September and that same month was a low point for Soviet force regeneration while withdraws from the Far East were already in motion and thus could not be expediated. Sans denying any reinforcements to the North or South, once AGC achieves the V-B encirclement there is literally nothing-sans throwing militia with all that implies-to stop the Germans.

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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by stg 44 » 19 Apr 2021 02:45

historygeek2021 wrote:
19 Apr 2021 01:21
2 million additional permanent losses is excessively high based on the actual losses that took place in the OTL - see Table P in Glantz's When Titans Clashed:

Glantz Table P.png
Those are Krivosheev's numbers, which are excessively low. Even Glantz didn't accept them, but reproduced them since they are the only official Russian numbers. Glantz's own estimates are about 2.4 million higher at a minimum. 1941 in particular are undercounted as the military reporting system broke down with the collapse of multiple Fronts. Likely it is 1 million too low and I have some sources beyond the one listed below to back that up. Krivosheev's numbers also has some strange accounting around NKVD and other paramilitary organizations and POW casualties:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War ... Krivosheev

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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by historygeek2021 » 19 Apr 2021 03:04

stg 44 wrote:
19 Apr 2021 02:45

Those are Krivosheev's numbers, which are excessively low. Even Glantz didn't accept them, but reproduced them since they are the only official Russian numbers. Glantz's own estimates are about 2.4 million higher at a minimum. 1941 in particular are undercounted as the military reporting system broke down with the collapse of multiple Fronts. Likely it is 1 million too low and I have some sources beyond the one listed below to back that up. Krivosheev's numbers also has some strange accounting around NKVD and other paramilitary organizations and POW casualties:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War ... Krivosheev
Yes, Glantz says this in a note:
The loss calculations in Krivosheev’s book include only the losses reported by operating fronts and separate armies and do not include losses suffered by replacements deployed to the front in march battalions and companies. According to L. N. Lovpukhovsky and B. K. Kavalarchik, “Kogda my uznaem real’nuiu tsenu razgroma gitlerovskoi germanii?” [When will we know the real cost of the defeat of Hitlerite Germany?], in “Umylis’ krov’iu”? Lozh’ i pravda o poteriakh v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine [“Washed with blood”? The falsehood and the truth about losses in the Great Patriotic War] (Moscow: “Iauza” “Eksmo,” 2012), the total irrevocable losses of the Soviet Armed Forces, including march units, were calculated at 14.6 million. S. A. Il’enkov, “Concerning the Registration of Soviet Armed Forces Wartime Irrevocable Losses, 1941–1954,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 9, no. 2 (June 1996): 440–442, tangentially endorses this view.

Glantz, David M.; House, Jonathan M.. When Titans Clashed (Modern War Studies) (p. 400). University Press of Kansas. Kindle Edition.
Nevertheless, the claim of an additional 2 million additional Soviet permanent losses over the OTL prior to Spring 1942 as a result of this ATL seems excessive.

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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Apr 2021 03:45

HistoryGeek2021 wrote:the claim of an additional 2 million additional Soviet permanent losses over the OTL prior to Spring 1942 as a result of this ATL seems excessive.
Maybe. Let me explain the whole context, then I'll get back to your other points later.

2mil is an upside case. It's based on the following conditions:
  • September delta to PoW: ~500k
  • October being slightly higher than OTL PoW in AGC sector, based on a large Kessel at Moscow. 650k there would keep us even with OTL October's Vyazma.
  • In AGS's sector, the "additional panzer group" adding another delta in a pocket such as the Kharkov Kessel sketched in the ATL. 200k delta?
  • In AGN's sector: Leningrad and Volkhov fronts suffer less damage in September (no XXXIX MC) but what about October-November? If the foregoing disasters have befallen RKKA, those fronts are surely weaker with ~700k more prisoners taken front-wide. RKKA's front strength in OTL November as 2.2mil: ATL it's ~30% weaker. In that condition, I can't see Volkhov Front stopping AGN from reaching the Svir (especially if all PzGr4 stays with it), which would mean losing Volhov and Leningrad fronts, with the latter starving out at some point that winter. Together that's at least another 700k permanent losses. Now we're at 1.4mil more permanent losses.
  • Then there's the prospect of slow German pushes during the winter - think extending the November advances, probably after a rest/refit interlude (so February/March). During OTL November, Ostheer was capturing ~3 PoW daily for every 1,000 RKKA front strength. Once Ostheer was on the back foot, a few % of that. An Ostheer "slow push" winter offensive against ~3mil RKKA in January/February would, on OTL November trends, bag >500k PoW/day absent any Kessels. Even prior to November, the rate was ~2/day per 1,000 RKKA. I have not seen the literature properly account for the abnormal rate of Soviet "tactical" surrenders when Ostheer was advancing but the evidence is indisputable.
Adding up all the foregoing gives something like 2mil more PoW - assuming L'grad and Moscow fall.

This a non-linear process: Winning more in September makes winning more in October more likely, which makes winning in November...

It's the same logic as I applied to your Kiev evacuation scenario where RKKA is in Berlin two years earlier than OTL.
HistoryGeek2021 wrote:The class of 1923 (the birth year of men reaching eighteen in 1941) numbered 3 million, which, despite the extensive German occupation of Soviet territory, still amounted to some 2 million Red Army recruits annually between 1941 and 1943.96
The issue is marginal recruits, ATL over OTL. SU drafted its young age classes anyway, in the ATL (my upside case at least) they need 2mil marginal soldiers beyond them if they want get back to OTL field numbers.

Like all fully-mobilized combatants, SU did not have 2mil men standing around picking their noses. Extra soldiers would have come from somewhere, GKO 675 tells from where they came when Stalin wanted 625k men beyond the normal age-class induction process operating in the background (and that, again, would be operating in the background of this ATL anyway).
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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Apr 2021 04:24

HistoryGeek2021 wrote:The main reason why the OstHeer wouldn't be able to achieve counter-kessels wouldn't be the overall force ratio (which was still favorable/even in the OTL), but overstretched logistics, lack of mobility and localized force ratios.
I don't understand why overall force ratio wouldn't be correlated with localized, unless Ostheer suddenly unlearned the schwerpunkt concept while RKKA became amazingly mobile.

Re logistics - why exactly? You can't just say "logistics!"

Re lack of mobility - whose? German (suffering problems OTL) or Soviet (dreadful).
HistoryGeek2021 wrote:Is this the same as the Mozhaisk line? AGC was able to break this line in the OTL in late October, even with terrible logistics in the mud. I guess logistics will still be a big problem even without the mud.
Do we have a thread expert on Moscow defensive lines? History Learner? Can you say more on this topic?

Re logistics - again what's the ATL:OTL marginal impact. Yes, Ostheer had logistical problems OTL. I'm giving that a lot of attention in other threads (e.g. the railways thread in Economy). But the issue is the fighting power ATL vs. OTL - specifically how logistics would impact it, more specifically how ATL logistics would more or less impact it vs. OTL. RKKA didn't stop Ostheer completely in OTL November despite Ostheer's logistics; ATL RKKA is >30% weaker as November opens.

For Ostheer advancing farther east, this is a matter of rail logistics as the railheads would advance (they always did) and the trucks/horses would move from the railheads. While going farther east makes a longer rail haul, that seems a very minor issue here (300km farther east is ~15% of the haulage distance from central Germany).
History Learner wrote:throwing militia with all that implies
An interesting question is what RKKA would have done had it entered ATL November with a front strength of ~1.5mil, regardless of Moscow. The militia option implies massive losses for little gain.

What about deploying OTL December's gaggle of reserve armies 6 weeks earlier? Given the shortness of RKKA training at the time, this implies throwing extremely-poorly trained men. I don't know whether the specialist personnel (art'y, signals, engineering) would be minimally proficient at that time.

-------------------------------

There are other points to be made - as I said I'm not approaching this ATL with the level of effort and rigor I usually do. Here's a few more:
  • OTL December saw 30-40% of Ostheer's 1941 artillery losses [OKW KTB appendix]. I don't have stats on Jan-Feb. but probably similarly anomalous. Avoiding these losses implies greater Ostheer fighting power [ATL vs. OTL] than simple Iststarke would suggest.
  • Morale impacts on SU from losing Lgrad and Moscow. Partially accounted for by assuming November tactical PoW rates instead of pre-November, but it's feasibly way worse.
  • Impact of extra ATL Kessels (Moscow, Kharkov, Leningrad/Volkhov) on RKKA's stock of trained specialists (arty, engineer, signals, staff officers, generals). OTL RKKA largely stopped losing these men from November when encirclements stopped happening; I don't know - have never seen discussed - what stock of these specialists had been lost OTL and how many remained.
Combining all the foregoing, we could have a post-Moscow RKKA whose combat value is far lower than even its diminished numerical strength would suggest, and whose soldiers are surrendering tactically (or deserting) at astronomical rates.
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 19 Apr 2021 06:14, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by History Learner » 19 Apr 2021 05:28

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Apr 2021 04:24
Do we have a thread expert on Moscow defensive lines? History Learner? Can you say more on this topic?
I appreciate the vote of confidence but Stg 44 is far more knowledgeable and skilled in that than I am. IIRC, serious defensive construction didn't begin until September, when it became clear Kiev was ending and the August-September offensives had categorically failed, which made it obvious the Germans were coming.
An interesting question is what RKKA would have done had it entered ATL November with a front strength of ~1.5mil, regardless of Moscow. The militia option implies massive losses for little gain.

What about deploying OTL December's gaggle of reserve armies 6 weeks earlier? Given the shortness of RKKA training at the time, this implies throwing extremely-poorly trained men. I don't know whether the specialist personnel (art'y, signals, engineering) would be minimally proficient at that time.
Presuming they can-and I have my doubts given the immense administrative and transportation difficulties loosing Moscow would entail-then besides being poorly trained, you also have poorly equipped troops because you've most likely lose the 600 factories contained within Moscow and its environs. That was, as I pointed out in the other thread, 10% of Soviet industry in 1940 values. If they are seriously under-equipped and even more poorly trained than the troops the Soviets sent forward in December of OTL, are they really any better than militia? Yes, they might follow orders better and can march gloriously to their deaths, but they are still marching to their deaths.

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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by stg 44 » 19 Apr 2021 15:20

historygeek2021 wrote:
19 Apr 2021 03:04
Nevertheless, the claim of an additional 2 million additional Soviet permanent losses over the OTL prior to Spring 1942 as a result of this ATL seems excessive.
Why? If Moscow does fall the Soviets would pay any price to get it back (and would have to given the advantages holding Moscow early on confers) and if Kiev still falls and most of the Soviet troops caught in the pocket are still caught ITTL it would make a heap of sense. Plus without Ukraine and Moscow Soviet industrial output would be much worse than OTL. Fewer tanks, aircraft, and bullets means more blood.

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Re: Kiev/Moscow 1941: The Gornostaipol Option

Post by historygeek2021 » 19 Apr 2021 19:18

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Apr 2021 04:24

I don't understand why overall force ratio wouldn't be correlated with localized, unless Ostheer suddenly unlearned the schwerpunkt concept while RKKA became amazingly mobile.
In the OTL the advance forces in late October through December were dispersed over a wide area, in keeping with Hitler's/Halder's distant objectives (Yaroslavl/Voronezh). The spread out forward German units thus suffered localized unfavorable force ratios, meeting the new Soviet reserve armies, and were compelled to retreat. The schwerpunkt concept was unlearned throughout the OTL Barbarossa campaign as the OstHeer was compelled to spread out to cover its flanks and satisfy Hitler's/Halder's ambitions. Bock complained about this bitterly. The Red Army reserve units were relatively mobile, being transported on the Soviet Union's efficient rail system, which you've acknowledged elsewhere.
Re logistics - why exactly? You can't just say "logistics!"
It is common knowledge that the OstHeer suffered severe logistical difficulties in late October through the winter of 1941/1942. I shouldn't have to provide detailed explanations of basic facts that are known to every regular user on this forum. The only thing in your ATL that could change this would be an earlier capture of Moscow, allowing German rail lines to be extended to that city by early December (possibly). Nevertheless, this wouldn't solve the OTL crisis in shortage of trains, although I am aware than in your "Grand ATL" Germany would have an uncanny prescience about exactly what needs to be done to efficiently manage the rail system in the east.
Re lack of mobility - whose? German (suffering problems OTL) or Soviet (dreadful).


Yes, Germany lacked the strength, logistics and mobility in the winter of 41/42 to conduct kessels, whereas the Soviets accomplished 2 and threatened to encircle AGC. The Soviet reserve armies were relatively mobile when moving on their internal rail lines. I don't see anything in your ATL that would change this.

For Ostheer advancing farther east, this is a matter of rail logistics as the railheads would advance (they always did) and the trucks/horses would move from the railheads. While going farther east makes a longer rail haul, that seems a very minor issue here (300km farther east is ~15% of the haulage distance from central Germany).
I suppose it is possible that if Moscow fell by early October, Germany's railheads could be extended to Moscow by early December. AGC operating from the Moscow region would also have better infrastructure and shelter, so that would be a factor in Germany's favor. Nevertheless, the number of trains reaching the front was not adequate in the OTL, and nothing in this ATL would change that.
OTL December saw 30-40% of Ostheer's 1941 artillery losses [OKW KTB appendix]. I don't have stats on Jan-Feb. but probably similarly anomalous. Avoiding these losses implies greater Ostheer fighting power [ATL vs. OTL] than simple Iststarke would suggest.
If the OstHeer could hold its ground in the winter of 41/42, that would go a long way toward solving their equipment shortages in OTL 1942. But the OstHeer holdings its ground in the OTL and any ATL requires Hitler and Halder not to overextend them, which isn't plausible.
[*]Morale impacts on SU from losing Lgrad and Moscow. Partially accounted for by assuming November tactical PoW rates instead of pre-November, but it's feasibly way worse.
[*]Impact of extra ATL Kessels (Moscow, Kharkov, Leningrad/Volkhov) on RKKA's stock of trained specialists (arty, engineer, signals, staff officers, generals). OTL RKKA largely stopped losing these men from November when encirclements stopped happening; I don't know - have never seen discussed - what stock of these specialists had been lost OTL and how many remained.
[/list]

Combining all the foregoing, we could have a post-Moscow RKKA whose combat value is far lower than even its diminished numerical strength would suggest, and whose soldiers are surrendering tactically (or deserting) at astronomical rates.
It's hard to see what extra kessels would occur in this ATL over the OTL. I suppose there might be an additional kessel at Moscow in late September/early October, but how does that square with History Learner's insistence that the Soviet Union would have nothing with which to defend Moscow after the first kessel?

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