If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalemate?

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by Boby » 21 Nov 2021 11:46

Hi KDF

I found your calculations consistent and convincing. Very interesting.

In that case, let's assume your ATL.

An opening phase with very heavy losses for the red army. But here the terrain, and soviet fortifications would make some difference (as opposed to the Don geography). Soviets start to transfer forces from the southern fronts, the caucasus and all other fronts. Combing out inoperational forces, reducing air and navy strength even further if neccessary, looking for every reserve left in the labor force, even at the cost of cannibalizing some of it. Waiting for the new formations of the 1925-class.

In this scenario, they would be in the defensive all the time in a much shorter front, so no Volkhov, no Uranus, no Mars, offensives in 1942, not Voronezh and Caucasus offensives in early 1943. That would save some manpower in the meantime.

I see here a bloodbath until end of 1942, leaving both sides exhausted by the spring. Meanwhile, the allies would push in the western front, diverting forces from the Ostheer, and facilitating a soviet partial recovery by mid-to-late 1943.

Just my opinion!

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by Boby » 21 Nov 2021 14:28

stg 44 wrote:
20 Nov 2021 16:09
Boby wrote:
20 Nov 2021 12:53
As for the other points:

Yes, it is well-known Germany lacked an unified strategic organ to direct the war, coordinate and handle all information, like the War Cabinet/Defense Committee/C.O.S. in the UK or the JCS/JPS/JWPC in the US. Here i will not disagree!
Wasn't that supposed to be OKW?
I mean, there were no joint conferences. Raeder/Doenitz and his staff would not go to the same table with Goering and Jeschonek; Halder/Zeitzler and Heusinger/Gehlen with Keitel, Jodl and Warlimont/Canaris. Everybody worked their own way, and if there was contact between branches, it was done mostly by liaison officers and such people.

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 21 Nov 2021 17:08

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 Nov 2021 11:19
Most important WW2 decisions were grand strategic decisions for which there is no conceivable specialist training, military or otherwise. The men making these decisions had either no formal military experience or training irrelevant to their strategic role (German corporals aren't trained in grand strategy).

Grand strategy is a combination of economics, politics, military, etc. Often the military questions pale in significance to the other factors.
I agree with the general thrust of your definition of grand strategy but wouldn't necessarily agree that no conceivable training was available for those whose role it was to practise the art.

For example, it is worth noting that the British Imperial Defence College "was established in 1927, originally as the Imperial Defence College, in accordance with Winston Churchill's vision of promoting greater understanding between senior military officers, diplomats, Civil Servants and officials".

Source: https://www.da.mod.uk/colleges-and-scho ... e-studies/

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by Boby » 21 Nov 2021 17:40

Assuming a 50% increase in irrecoverable losses to OTL losses (3,87 mill., ca. 500k per month), not counting on any emergency, exceptional measure by GKO to bring more reserves from the civilian economy and the inoperational forces, exempted classes and even NKVD and GULAG prisoners (let's say a 10 to 15% of non-in-army manpower). Red Army strength, using KDF detailed calcuations, would decline to 10,10 mill. by January 1943, a level not seen since early 1942, with virtually no more replacements available until the spring.

Of course, it must change also the overall combat losses: more casualties means more people wounded, hospitalized, dying and discharged as unfit.

Was the Ostheer capable, in mid-to-late 1942, to increase the damage to such level? That's the question!

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by KDF33 » 21 Nov 2021 18:20

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 Nov 2021 01:00
This quantifies my main remaining concern. Between the active RKKA and the industrial labor force (inc. transport and construction), SU has a pool of ~24mil over which the ATL:OTL casualty delta is the numerator. To shrink the RKKA+[industrial labor force] by 20% via battlefield damage, you need to incapacitate ~4.8mil more Soviet soldiers than OTL by Spring 1943. That's 6-7 Taifun's or Kiev's worth of battlefield damage, which seems an ambitious goal but might be feasible given massive Kessels during the winter. Between May '42 and May '43, you'd need to add ~400k permanent casualties per month.

Is 20% sufficient to enable a knock out blow beginning in Spring '43?
I think 20% is higher than necessary. First, we need to detail OTL Soviet force developments. I've created a few tables.

Table 1: Overall Soviet deployment, May 1st, 1942
Image

Table 2: Frontline Soviet deployment, July 1st, 1942
Image

As noted in the table, the data here is for Army ground forces and VVS only. On May 1st, frontline PVO amounted to 272,466 personnel, with 302,545 more in the Navy. Thus, total strength (all services) deployed against Germany must have been ~6.1 million on 07/01/1942.

Soviet reserves were still significant: the RVGK had 5 tank corps, 65 divisions and 8 separate brigades, the military districts had 25 divisions and 82 separate brigades and the Fronts facing Japan had 34 divisions and 52 separate brigades.

Table 3: Overall Soviet deployment, October 1st, 1942
Image

Here we see the extent of the damage inflicted on Soviet forces. Total numbers have shrunk by 613,830 since May, and even frontline strength has fallen by ~300,000 since July.

Of note is how the extent of the reduction in frontline strength was limited: by transferring 100,000 Navy personnel to the Army, and by sending units held in reserve, in the military districts and facing Japan. Henceforth, these sources would no longer be available at anything approaching the same scale.

Table 4: Frontline Soviet deployment, November 19th, 1942
Image

Here is Soviet frontline strength at the beginning of Uran and Mars. Again, PVO and Navy are missing, so the true total must be ~6.6 million, or ~0.7/0.8 million higher than at the beginning of October. This reflects the low level of fighting that occurred over the preceding 50 days, the period seeing neither German nor Soviet large-scale offensive activity. It is that period of low-intensity fighting that allowed the Soviets to restore their strength for the winter offensives, rather than high regenerative capacity in itself.

Table 5: Overall Soviet deployment, January 1st, 1943
Image

Here we have our most detailed table, which, thanks to Comrade Schadenko, shows replacement personnel and military cadets. It also shows the conscripts to be called-up over the winter for deployment in the spring, as decreed in GKO Resolution 2640 of 12/20/1942.

It also shows how committed the Soviets were by then. Given how a proportion of the units in the RVGK and military districts were being rehabilitated, and barring removing further forces facing Japan, the RKKA had virtually no reserves to speak of at the time of the decisive winter counter-offensive. This is reflected in frontline strength (6,445,150), which in little over a month of fighting had contracted by over 100,000.

Indeed, Soviet strength would keep falling over the course of the winter battles, reaching a low point of 5,830,000 (including PVO and Navy) on 04/01/1943.

Table 6: Soviet frontline strength (all services), May 1942 to April 1943
Image

Here is a quick-comparison table. Note how the reduction in frontline strength between 01/01/1943 and 04/01/1943 (615,150) almost perfectly matches frontline combat and noncombat losses for January - March (2,083,736, sourced from Krivosheev), minus replacements and cadets already on the rolls at the beginning of the year (1,432,800), i.e. 650,936 expected / 615,150 actual shortfall, the difference easily accounted for by returning wounded/sick.

In short, over both periods of intense combat (July - September 1942 and late November 1942 - March 1943) the Soviets were unable to maintain their frontline strength, only recovering during periods of limited activity (October - late November 1942 and April - June 1943). And that's with OTL frontline losses (combat and noncombat), which amounted to:

1942 3rd quarter: 2,466,014
1942 4th quarter: 1,400,996
1943 1st quarter: 2,083,736
1943 2nd quarter: 603,878

Total for 12 months: 6,554,624

Thus, I would suggest the following (IMO conservative) scenario would be sufficient:

Table 7: ATL campaign, July 1942 - March 1943
Image

With the Sixth and allied armies intact, the Axis would have more forces at the front by April 1943 than the Soviets. Now obviously the latter could shift more men from the Far East, but at best they would gain a couple hundreds of thousands of troops, which doesn't change the overall picture and would expose them to Japanese attack.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 Nov 2021 01:00
Of course your ATL would hold more territory in Spring '43 than OTL, further shrinking Soviet potential by denying soldiers and workers from territory liberated after OTL Stalingrad. But it would take the Kuban and Stalingrad? Germany surely captured/killed/etc some civilian labor during latter Blau and those 4-6 months of missing production surely reduced warmaking potential as well.

Would territorial gains remove another 10% of OTL Soviet warmaking potential [measured roughly by military + industrial labor force]? 20%?
Historically Blau occupied 383,000 km2 with a 1939 population of 10,321,000 (source). During their winter counter-offensive, the Soviets recaptured 494,000 km2 and liberated territories with a 1939 population of 15,484,000.

My ATL would capture somewhat less territory (at least over the summer) but that territory would likely have been home to more population. And, obviously, in the winter the Soviets wouldn't gain back territory and population, but lose more of both.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 Nov 2021 01:00
A shrunken SU/RKKA can also remove workers from agriculture, shifting the denominator towards the total workforce of ~55mil in 1942.
Only if the overall population shrinks faster than the agricultural workforce which, given the territory that would be captured, is not a given.

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Nov 2021 03:31

KDF33 wrote:
21 Nov 2021 18:20
Thus, I would suggest the following (IMO conservative) scenario would be sufficient:

Table 7: ATL campaign, July 1942 - March 1943
Thanks for the tables and I agree that the ATL casualty delta projection is conservative. Setting aside, for now, the issue of territorial loss, why wouldn't ATL RKKA retain more of the ~2.5mil men it released to industry? You've shrunk RKKA's western front by 34% but haven't shrunk the industrial base. The smaller RKKA would have, per man, many more shells/tanks/guns so its per-man lethality would be increased.

That higher-capital, smaller army was not judged ideal by RKKA so they'd probably roughly maintain their OTL ratio of soldiers to industrial workers. In OTL 1943 that ratio was roughly 1.1 : 1 based on Harrison's data (industry, transport, construction = 10.8mil) and 11.8mil in RKKA+Navy on May 1, 1943. That's 22.6mil OTL, minus 2mil ATL gives you 20.6mil. If we maintain the soldier:worker ratio, RKKA's ATL size would be 10.8mil - only 9% smaller than OTL.

In addition, the size of RKKA's training establishments and overhead functions would probably shrink to maintain the OTL ratio of RKKA's German-facing forces to its overall forces. For frictional reasons this couldn't be immediate but by ATL May 1943 the OTL ratio would approximately hold.

Using your figures, the German-facing RKKA held ~half of RKKA+Navy's personnel (I used your April '43 front figure of 5.83mil and the May figure of 11.8mil total, which probably undercounts the front %). Applying that ratio to my interpolation of a balanced ATL RKKA would give ~5.4mil soldiers facing Germany in Spring '43.

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

The foregoing assumes perfect fungibility of workers, rear-area military personnel, and frontline soldiers. So it's an overestimate of ATL RKKA front strength but perhaps not by much if my overall model is valid (because the 2.5mil released to industry were at some point judged capable of army service).

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

Returning to the territorial losses... Let's assume that OTL percentages of labor force hold after territorial losses so that a X% loss of total population means X% loss of RKKA personnel strength, industrial, agricultural, etc. To decrease the German-facing RKKA from 5.4mil to 3.8mil would require reducing Soviet population by ~30%. Assuming 15% evacuation rate, that requires occupying territory holding ~35% of SU's 1943 population. IIRC Harrison pegs Soviet population at 130mil at 1942's start; let's use that as the approximate OTL 1943 baseline.

This implies you'd need an ATL delta to occupied territories of ~45mil (measured by prewar population). Let's stipulate that you take and hold all land that Ostheer took at its maximium advances in '41 and '42. Per your source, that adds 4.9mil near Moscow and 15.5 mil in the South - 20.4mil total. Conquering the entire Moscow-Gorkiy region would get you most of the ~25mil delta per this source. Adding Leningrad and Tikhvin probably gets you the rest (L'grad population being much lower than prewar population of course).

If it's possible to take the Moscow-Gorkiy region during the '42-'43 campaigning year then things look much stronger IMJ. Your ATL casualty deltas are pretty conservative so maybe it is possible?
KDF33 wrote:
21 Nov 2021 18:20
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 Nov 2021 01:00
A shrunken SU/RKKA can also remove workers from agriculture, shifting the denominator towards the total workforce of ~55mil in 1942.
Only if the overall population shrinks faster than the agricultural workforce which, given the territory that would be captured, is not a given.
You're right as a general matter, of course, but - unbeknownst to you - I was working off the mental model I applied upthread (size of the military-industrial labor force). As that labor force shrinks, so does the need for agricultural labor (ceteris paribus).

But you're right to note the kind of territory lost - Southern Russia's cropland was significantly more productive than substitute land farther east (tried to estimate that here). So yeah, there's probably no additional labor reservoir from agriculture despite fewer mouths to feed.

In fact, if I'm right that substitute Siberian/Kazakh land was something like 30% less productive then Soviet collapse in 1943 might be determined solely by Ostheer holding the greater grain region between Voronezh and Krasnodar. The SU couldn't afford any significant degradation in its food supply; Hunger and War documents hundreds of thousands of starvation deaths far from the front and particularly among industrial workers (discussed here and following posts). These (mostly) men died of cumulative caloric deficit; it's easy to believe that 30% of the workforce wouldn't have survived losing another 5 pounds of body weight. Assuming 3,500 calories per lb-body-weight-loss and a 2,400 cal/day Soviet average diet, a 5% decline in average caloric intake causes that 5-lb loss in less than half a year.

Then again - will the Wallies really let the SU collapse due to starvation? If Japan closes down Vladivostok they maybe have no choice but does Japan move even under your projections? Assuming all LL routes remain open, Wallies can perhaps prevent starvation-based Soviet collapse.
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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by History Learner » 22 Nov 2021 05:08

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 Nov 2021 10:29
I always found this paper to be conspicuously lacking in empirical grounding. Harrison's proposed model for collapse is plausible but simplistic - that more Soviet citizens would act like "rats" (prioritizing a post-SU strategy for survival) than "mice" (prioritizing an SU-supportive strategy).

Harrison doesn't, AFAICS, make any empirical argument that the SU was "close" to collapse. He merely marvels that it didn't collapse (as we all must). He lists apparent "rat" strategies (surrenders, food crimes, the Moscow Panic) but (1) doesn't identify any trend between battlefield events and the prevalence of "rat" strategies (aside from Moscow Panic) and (2) has absolutely nothing to say regarding on what conditions the rat/mouse equilibrium would shift fatally rat-ward. Absent 1&2, the paper offers nothing suggesting a feasible route to Soviet collapse in some feasible ATL.

One TMP research project might partially fill this void by suggesting that Soviet soldiers were surrendering tactically at higher rates during late-Fall 1941.

I'd also note that Harrison's model should include freeriding - a tendency for "mice" to evince "rat-like" behavior when less worried about Soviet defeat. But these kinds of economic models are basically useless anyway, except insofar as they crystallize the notion that social cooperation is essential to social projects like a war.

In short I don't think the paper is worth much unless, like many economists, you need to build a model to remind yourself that social cooperation matters. It's common sense masquerading as math. People like Harrison are unduly shocked because they can't imagine Communism being a motivating force - just as Hitler, Antonescu, Mussolini, and Churchill couldn't.
I largely agree with this criticism, which is why I only very rarely cite the paper outside of its relation to Lend Lease. Sometimes I find it useful-albeit rarely-to use it in the social cooperation context; when debating about the breaking point of the USSR or the UK I've had opponents like to fallback on things like "stiff upper lip" or the like to wave away material concerns. Showing your average Soviet was responsive to the situation at hand and not an automaton has impacts; to a certain extent the issue of the USSR I think goes both ways. It was more resilient than people at the time expected and because of that I tend to find people in the present overrepresent it.
If you want to believe losing Moscow means Soviet collapse there's nothing stopping you and nothing firmly establishing it. This was the philosophy of the German generals who were ludicrously stupid at every point in planning Barbarossa, so be careful of what intellectual company you keep.

I don't doubt that losing Moscow would have harmed morale. I believe it would have caused the abnormally high tactical surrender rates of late-Fall '41 to continue or worsen, which is very bad news for the RKKA if Ostheer keeps advancing. Surrender rates declined precipitously, however, whenever Ostheer stopped advancing, as would have happened at some point in 1941 - for logistical reasons alone - even had Ostheer taken Moscow. As you may recall, I also see no merit in arguments about losing the rail hub being decisive. I also see no evidence it would have caused instant evaporation of the Soviet state, as Halder and his gang of clowns believed. The government was resolved to keep fighting from Kuibyshev; the populace seems to have believed Moscow would fall anyway and yet collapse didn't happen. Given that belief, it's hard to imagine collapse ensuing from what most expected anyway.

I find the "just take Moscow" argument totally unconvincing, even accounting for my research on morale and surrender rates in late-Fall 1941.
I'm equally of this viewpoint, in terms of dismissing "Moscow Only"; just taking it alone doesn't destroy the Soviet state. My view is, however, that the loss of Moscow would have a serious blow not only on the material side but on the morale side as well. In this regard, its loss would be a harder blow than most cities/territory in the USSR in a comparative sense, and its loss would help to accelerate to a Soviet collapse. Let's say, for example, a situation where the USSR has also lost Leningrad too and the Campaign season of 1942 is opening up roughly per OTL; I'd imagine many Soviet soldiers would begin to view the war as lost and act accordingly in the same manner the Germans did in 1944-1945.

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Nov 2021 06:00

History Learner wrote:Showing your average Soviet was responsive to the situation at hand and not an automaton has impacts; to a certain extent the issue of the USSR I think goes both ways. It was more resilient than people at the time expected and because of that I tend to find people in the present overrepresent it.
Agreed. There's a vulgar narrative in which Soviet people were automatons that this paper rightly rejects. Because many willing to view Soviets as automatons are right-wingers, and as economists often have credibility with right-wingers, the paper can be useful as an example of minimally decent thinking that those folks will accept. But try not to waste time with people who believe vulgar narratives (reminder to self).
History Learner wrote:Moscow would have a serious blow not only on the material side but on the morale side as well.
Undoubtedly.
History Learner wrote:a situation where the USSR has also lost Leningrad too and the Campaign season of 1942 is opening up roughly per OTL; I'd imagine many Soviet soldiers would begin to view the war as lost and act accordingly in the same manner the Germans did in 1944-1945.
Plausible but difficult to quantify/analyze.
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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by History Learner » 22 Nov 2021 06:44

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Nov 2021 06:00
Agreed. There's a vulgar narrative in which Soviet people were automatons that this paper rightly rejects. Because many willing to view Soviets as automatons are right-wingers, and as economists often have credibility with right-wingers, the paper can be useful as an example of minimally decent thinking that those folks will accept. But try not to waste time with people who believe vulgar narratives (reminder to self).
Most of my trouble has been with Tankies haha.
Plausible but difficult to quantify/analyze.
Agreed in the specifics but its useful as a general statement to consider such ramifications. If Soviet soldiers keep on surrendering like they were in November of 1941 into most of 1942, for example, that's going to have effects on the Soviet ability to respond to German attacks.

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Nov 2021 07:15

History Learner wrote:
22 Nov 2021 06:44
Most of my trouble has been with Tankies haha.
Didn't mean to signal out right-wingers for bias; there's plenty of dumb left-wingers as well. As a fairly left-wing person I mostly avoid these points IRL because I don't want to be annoyed by lack of objectivity in people I generally like.

The way tankies have glommed on to these issues is particularly stupid given that the explanations for Soviet tactical inferiority (basically wealth and education levels versus Germany and the West) align perfectly with Marxist materialism.
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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by KDF33 » 23 Nov 2021 04:52

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Nov 2021 03:31
Thanks for the tables and I agree that the ATL casualty delta projection is conservative. Setting aside, for now, the issue of territorial loss, why wouldn't ATL RKKA retain more of the ~2.5mil men it released to industry?
I don't think that the Soviets could have (re)conscripted many more workers over the OTL.

Table 8: Soviet non-military workforce, 1942, yearly averages
Image

Bear in mind that in 1942 the Soviets:

1. Around the mid-year mark, lost 383,000 km2 with a 1939 population of 10,321,000.
2. Conscripted 5,328,392 people in the last 8 months of the year (May - December). Admittedly the Soviets also demobilized 2,898,000 soldiers/sailors in 1941-42, so the net outflow from the economy could have been as low as 2,430,392. But then people were also conscripted in January - April, when the military grew by 2,203,822 personnel while losing 675,315 dead and missing in the 1st quarter. Thus, the real outflow from the civilian economy can't have been much lower than 5,309,529, and in truth was probably slightly higher (April dead/missing and permanently disabled in the first 4 months offsetting whatever small demobilization for industry occurred in 1941).

Given how the figures in the tables are explicitly described as yearly averages in the Soviet primary literature, it follows that the real figures for the end of the year must have been lower. By how much I can't tell, but it is instructive to note that in 1943, yearly average for the 'public sector' (~43% of the non-military workforce) of the parts of the USSR never occupied was 1,230,000 lower than the 1942 average for the whole USSR under Soviet control.

Table 9: Non-military workforce distribution (yearly averages) for the parts of the USSR never occupied, as well as for the recovered territories, 1942-45
Image

Source for the public sector workforce of the recovered territories can be accessed here.

Of note is how the Soviets more-or-less maintained their industrial labor force in the rump USSR over the 'crisis year' of 1942. Remobilizing the equivalent of 2,541,000 workers would shrink their industrial base by ~35% or, assuming Schadenko meant 'industry' in the widest sense of the word, ~25%.

I'm not saying that the Soviets couldn't conscript more, obviously. Ultimately there is no precise limit to how far you can shrink your productive base. What I don't think the Soviets could do, however, is suddenly pull many hundreds of thousands at once. It is instructive to consider the mobilization decree they drafted on July 26th, after they had lost close to half-a-million personnel just to capture in the preceding 30-odd days.

Call-ups provided for by GKO Resolution 2100, 07/26/1942:

-The class of 1924 (956,256 mobilized 05/01 - 12/31/1942)
-100,000 taken from reserved sectors of the economy
-50,000 taken from labor columns (non-penal)
-35,000 taken from the NKVD
-30,000 taken from the carceral system
-15,000 taken from labor settlements (penal)

For a total of 1,186,256 conscripts. Maybe in a scenario of continuous high losses over the summer they pull more from the reserved sectors of the economy. Say 200,000 more in September, then another 200,000 in November. Not enough to offset the additional losses incurred from the ATL Kessel, but still 5.6% of the industrial workforce.

The RKKA has slightly more men in time for the Ostheer's winter offensive(s), but still nowhere near as many as per the OTL. What productive capacity have they forfeited in exchange?
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Nov 2021 03:31
You've shrunk RKKA's western front by 34% but haven't shrunk the industrial base.
Operations "Green" (OTL Blau I), "Blue" and "Orange" (especially "Blue") would IMO remove at least as much population and industrial capacity as the OTL summer offensive, albeit less agricultural land. The Don basin could then be seized in the winter, pushing territorially-inflicted damage above that of the OTL, to say nothing of direct losses in soldiers captured.

Image
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Nov 2021 03:31
The smaller RKKA would have, per man, many more shells/tanks/guns so its per-man lethality would be increased.
Agreed. Ultimately, overall lethality (or 'efficiency') of the whole force is what matters from a casualties-infliction / avoidance standpoint, however, and here the RKKA would erode.

***

I'll leave it at this for now, but I want to underline how your questions have helped me refine my thinking and dig deeper into the source material, with the finding on the recovered Soviet workforce being a particular gem. As soon as I have a bit of time this week/week-end, I'll address the other points.

Thank you!

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by History Learner » 23 Nov 2021 09:54

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
15 Nov 2021 04:21
I could see a situation developing in which Germany effectively stalemates RKKA somewhere between Donets and Don but Ostheer can't mount offensives. Think the OTL July 1943 balance but Ostheer has the 20 or so extra divisions it would have needed to stalemate the post-Kursk offensives. In that situation, I can see Stalin saying basically "no more offensives until we get a second front in France." That probably extends the war significantly and offloads a lot of dying onto the Wallies. Perhaps the postwar map looks significantly different also, with Wallies rushing into a post-A-bomb vacuum to snatch territory before the RKKA arrives from deep within the SU.
On this note, I have two questions:

1. Setting aside the "how" for the moment, if Manstein had successfully rescued Army Group B via Operation Winter Storm, do you think that would've been sufficient to enable this situation?

2. In a no Kursk situation, where the Germans remain on the defensive in the Summer of 1943 and Stalin is finally goaded into attacking in either late July or sometime in August, would the picture be sufficiently better to enable this or something close to it? The German divisions wouldn't be exhausted, artillery stocks would be much higher, etc.

I find the overall scenario you outline interesting, and I think it becomes possible to sufficiently modify it to enable a Three Way Cold War scenario too.

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 23 Nov 2021 10:13

History Learner wrote:1. Setting aside the "how" for the moment, if Manstein had successfully rescued Army Group B via Operation Winter Storm, do you think that would've been sufficient to enable this situation?
IMO no. The trapped formations tied down enormous Soviet formations that were therefore unavailable in Ukrainian battles critical to preserving the German position that winter. Prit Bhuttar's On a Knife's Edge is a good account of how close to disaster was Ostheer in Ukraine that winter. Had HG-B been rescued, they would have little combat value in the next several months, as they couldn't take their heavy equipment and their personnel were surely degraded by periods of nutritional and sleep deprivation.

Maybe avoiding/shortening the Stalingrad airlift has non-Ostheer strategic benefits that justify the cost but I doubt it. Once encircled, sacrificing 6th Army to save the rest of the Ostheer was probably - albeit inadvertently - the correct strategy.
History Learner wrote:2. In a no Kursk situation, where the Germans remain on the defensive in the Summer of 1943 and Stalin is finally goaded into attacking in either late July or sometime in August, would the picture be sufficiently better to enable this or something close to it? The German divisions wouldn't be exhausted, artillery stocks would be much higher, etc.
I don't think so. Tank/SPG and other equipment losses were enormously favorable to Ostheer during Zitadelle because damaged tanks were recovered. When on the defensive the tables turned. Ostheer also captured ~25k PoW in the first week and surely more thereafter - many fewer were always captured when Ostheer was on the defensive.

A "No Zitadelle" ATL trades a favorable equipment and PoW balance for perhaps a more favorable bloody casualty balance. I don't see it fundamentally altering the picture. Indeed, I lean towards believing that Stavka should have preempted Zitadelle and tried to capture the enormous shell stockpiles that Ostheer had built up.
History Learner wrote:I find the overall scenario you outline interesting, and I think it becomes possible to sufficiently modify it to enable a Three Way Cold War scenario too.
To be clear it was only in response to KDF33's ATL in which Ostheer's '42 offensives are fundamentally different. It was an initial take that I'll now say was excessively pessimistic for that scenario. I don't see any path to stalemate in the East during 1943 that doesn't involve basically ignoring the West. Even that stalemate would be short-term and might end the war earlier due to Wallied advances.
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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by History Learner » 23 Nov 2021 10:32

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
23 Nov 2021 10:13
IMO no. The trapped formations tied down enormous Soviet formations that were therefore unavailable in Ukrainian battles critical to preserving the German position that winter. Prit Bhuttar's On a Knife's Edge is a good account of how close to disaster was Ostheer in Ukraine that winter. Had HG-B been rescued, they would have little combat value in the next several months, as they couldn't take their heavy equipment and their personnel were surely degraded by periods of nutritional and sleep deprivation.

Maybe avoiding/shortening the Stalingrad airlift has non-Ostheer strategic benefits that justify the cost but I doubt it. Once encircled, sacrificing 6th Army to save the rest of the Ostheer was probably - albeit inadvertently - the correct strategy.
Okay, and first let me profess to never having read the cited text in question, but it seems somewhat confusing here; surrounded and without resupply they are able to tie down significant Soviet formations, but cannot achieve that while in supply? Obviously non-sleep and food deprived soldiers are better, but given they were able to continue fighting sufficiently under those conditions as to tie down Soviet formations, again, why couldn't they if evacuated?

As for the heavy equipment, my understanding is Manstein intended/wanted to do that? Perhaps faulty memory on my part, but I seem to recall heavy lifters specifically being attached to the relief force with the intent of re-activating the artillery arm.
I don't think so. Tank/SPG and other equipment losses were enormously favorable to Ostheer during Zitadelle because damaged tanks were recovered. When on the defensive the tables turned. Ostheer also captured ~25k PoW in the first week and surely more thereafter - many fewer were always captured when Ostheer was on the defensive.

A "No Zitadelle" ATL trades a favorable equipment and PoW balance for perhaps a more favorable bloody casualty balance. I don't see it fundamentally altering the picture. Indeed, I lean towards believing that Stavka should have preempted Zitadelle and tried to capture the enormous shell stockpiles that Ostheer had built up.
A lot of the reason I ask this is because of the strong defensive success of AGC in Belarus from August onwards; the forgotten campaign there cost the Red Army something like ~700,000 casualties for very little territory gain or serious German casualties. If replicated in Ukraine, given the ongoing manpower issues the Red Army was operating under that KDF has noted in the past, I'm somewhat leaning towards the Red Army being too bled out to continue the offensives on a large scale because of the high casualties and lack of sufficient territorial reclamation to help make up for that.
To be clear it was only in response to KDF33's ATL in which Ostheer's '42 offensives are fundamentally different. It was an initial take that I'll now say was excessively pessimistic for that scenario. I don't see any path to stalemate in the East during 1943 that doesn't involve basically ignoring the West. Even that stalemate would be short-term and might end the war earlier due to Wallied advances.
So, as an addendum, I've been reading up on the diplomatic dance between the Germans and Soviets prior to Kursk concerning a separate peace. My thinking-open to criticism and I'm obviously asking you both for input anyway-is the Germans successfully stalemating the fight at least sufficiently that Stalin cuts a deal. With the Soviets out, I think the political calculus in the West would be forced into the same direction, and Stalin wouldn't be able to renege later on with Lend Lease being cut off. I can explain it in more detail and provide some of my sources, if you want? If you see it as too fundamentally flawed, I understand.

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Re: If the Axis would have retreated to the Daugava-Dnieper Line early enough, would they have had a chance at a stalema

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 23 Nov 2021 10:35

KDF33 wrote: I want to underline how your questions have helped me refine my thinking and dig deeper into the source material
KDF33 wrote:Thank you!
Same goes for you, thank you!
KDF33 wrote:Given how the figures in the tables are explicitly described as yearly averages in the Soviet primary literature, it follows that the real figures for the end of the year [1942 right?] must have been lower.
Harrison's figures must come from these sources because he also gives a yearly average. This obscures the effects of territorial exchanges, probably the most important economic datum of the entire war.

Still, we could guess... SU lost territories with 10.3mil population between July and September, after which the lines are roughly static with some Soviet recovery in December. So rough estimate:
  • Assume linear capture of population during July-September of 3.4mil per month. [reduce September's but this is rough]
  • Assume unoccupied population static in October-November and increases by, say, 2mil in December.
  • Apply the national labor participation rate of ~45% to generate monthly labor delta figures.
  • Set January-June labor force as X, with each succeeding month having labor force = X - [monthly delta calculated above]
  • Weight each month as 1/12 and set equal to yearly average; solve for X.
When I do this, I get:

Image

...but of course this doesn't give us any details on labor force composition. My kingdom for real monthly averages!

[I just realized I ignored evacuation also. Ah well, it's a start for now]
KDF33 wrote:I'm not saying that the Soviets couldn't conscript more, obviously. Ultimately there is no precise limit to how far you can shrink your productive base. What I don't think the Soviets could do, however, is suddenly pull many hundreds of thousands at once. It is instructive to consider the mobilization decree they drafted on July 26th, after they had lost close to half-a-million personnel just to capture in the preceding 30-odd days.

Call-ups provided for by GKO Resolution 2100, 07/26/1942:
My previous reply to you referenced "friction" as impeding the fungibility of different kinds of OTL workers; that was understated.

I'm of two minds here. On the one hand I've elsewhere referenced GKO declarations that had to draw labor heavily from critical industries, arguing that RKKA casualties would have to have come from such sources in the short term. On the other hand the top-line military-industrial labor force stats are what they are and I can't square pushing the SU into collapse by reducing that workforce by 10% or perhaps even 20%.

To resolve the tension I'd need, IMJ, more data on the real transferrability of human resources between these different roles, on the short/medium-term productivity penalties paid, on military training timelines, and on the administrative difficulties/feasibility of coordinating such shifts. On top of that I'd probably need a model to give a payout of different resource configurations (front vs. rear) instead of juggling/dropping all these variables mentally.

I'll leave it at that for now and maybe try to conceive a model - at least ponder how one might work. In the background I've been thinking of a somewhat realistic video game incorporating these kinds of factors, as all the other games I've seen use risible production/economic models.

I have to again emphasize my strategy for dealing with these problems - make my ATL's easy by starting earlier. ;) But it's definitely productively difficult.

On that theme, I'm more easily seeing another ATL with a PoD later than my baseline post-France model: If Germany groks Soviet fighting resolve shortly after Barbarossa begins - in July '41, say - then it could have moved up the post-Moscow mobilization surge by several months and probably avoids the rail-induced Winter Crisis. That juices German production and/or releases workers to the army, enabling "One more panzer group" (or greater augmentation) for the '42 campaign. ...which is to make the point that Ostheer '42 suffered a hangover from the wild nights of planning Barbarossa.
KDF33 wrote:recovered Soviet workforce being a particular gem.
That truly is a gem, I've been trying to estimate stuff like this for years from non-Soviet sources. But a note of caution - as the Soviets certainly moved workers back into recovered territory, not all the workforce in recovered territory is truly recovered workforce. No idea what adjustment is needed though, not even to an order of magnitude.
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