Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

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stg 44
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Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by stg 44 » 26 Nov 2021 23:44

What if after repeatedly delays Hitler finally accepts advice to abandon the offensive against Kursk in late June rather than keeping the July offensive date and has his forces transition to defensive posture to absorb any coming Soviet offensive instead? This would not be replacing it with Manstein's 'backhand blow' as a plan, rather forces would counter attack when and where possible and fight an attritional defensive battle in Ukraine and Orel based on fortified positions instead. How does the Summer-Autumn of 1943 play out in this situation?

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by History Learner » 26 Nov 2021 23:57

stg 44 wrote:
26 Nov 2021 23:44
What if after repeatedly delays Hitler finally accepts advice to abandon the offensive against Kursk in late June rather than keeping the July offensive date and has his forces transition to defensive posture to absorb any coming Soviet offensive instead? This would not be replacing it with Manstein's 'backhand blow' as a plan, rather forces would counter attack when and where possible and fight an attritional defensive battle in Ukraine and Orel based on fortified positions instead. How does the Summer-Autumn of 1943 play out in this situation?
German artillery stocks aren't drained by Kursk and their combat arms aren't gutted either. I would expect it to play out very closely to the failed Soviet offensives of the Winter of 1943-1944 in Belarus. Good news for the Germans, as attrition would favor them given the Soviet need to acquire the manpower of the occupied territories but also because holding onto the East Bank of Ukraine enables them to continue exploiting Ukraine's mineral resources; instead of a 20% increase in armaments for 1943, we see a 40% or even 50%?

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by stg 44 » 27 Nov 2021 00:24

History Learner wrote:
26 Nov 2021 23:57
holding onto the East Bank of Ukraine enables them to continue exploiting Ukraine's mineral resources; instead of a 20% increase in armaments for 1943, we see a 40% or even 50%?
Probably not, as the issue was the British bombing of the Ruhr that caused the blunting of the armaments increase, not the loss of mining areas.
History Learner wrote:
26 Nov 2021 23:57
German artillery stocks aren't drained by Kursk and their combat arms aren't gutted either. I would expect it to play out very closely to the failed Soviet offensives of the Winter of 1943-1944 in Belarus. Good news for the Germans, as attrition would favor them given the Soviet need to acquire the manpower of the occupied territories but also because
My feeling is about the same. Especially around Orel thanks to the clandestine defensive belt program that Model had implemented, which saved the 2nd and 9th armies during the Soviet offensive. Properly manned they'd be beastly to have to fight through.

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by History Learner » 27 Nov 2021 00:35

stg 44 wrote:
27 Nov 2021 00:24
Probably not, as the issue was the British bombing of the Ruhr that caused the blunting of the armaments increase, not the loss of mining areas
I agree with Tooze that the RAF's Ruhr campaign was the chief reason, but I'm unconvinced the loss of the mining areas didn't have an impact either; Richard Overy, IIRC, has made a case along these lines. Certainly, the fact that despite the bombing and loss of mining areas the Germans managed to increase production by 20% seems to indicate, at least to me, that the removal of the latter should push it higher.
My feeling is about the same. Especially around Orel thanks to the clandestine defensive belt program that Model had implemented, which saved the 2nd and 9th armies during the Soviet offensive. Properly manned they'd be beastly to have to fight through.
Using the Belarus 1943-1944 model, Orel falls but the Soviets are stopped before Smolensk having taken excessively high casualties. In Ukraine, I see it as harder to predict. Maybe we see two more Battles of Kharkov and some German operational success on the Mius, before the Soviets achieve a sufficient breakthrough to force a German withdraw upon the Panther Line in early 1944?

TMP? KDF? Thoughts?

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by Kingfish » 27 Nov 2021 01:21

The need to retain the initiative was too deeply ingrained for the Germans to simply flip a switch and revert to an attritional defensive campaign. If not at Kursk then somewhere else, and not much later than the original date.
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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by KDF33 » 27 Nov 2021 04:06

History Learner wrote:
27 Nov 2021 00:35
KDF? Thoughts?
IMO, it would make no difference. Zitadelle was a brief affair that hurt the Soviets about as much as the Germans, proportionally speaking.

Two things broke the back of the Ostheer in the summer of 1943:

First, the RKKA had grown so large, inclusive of reserves and replacements, that it could sustain maximum offensive intensity for months at a time, whereas in the previous summer it could only do so for weeks.

Second, the Anglo-American threat in the Mediterranean, especially after the Husky landings, meant that the Germans could no longer apply their standard response for containing Soviet general offensives: transferring dozens of divisions from the OKW theaters to the Ostheer within a single quarter.

The combination of these two factors meant that the Ostheer, although starting the campaign at its post-Barbarossa peak numbers-wise, steadily eroded over the summer months, falling from 3,138,000 men on 07/01 (divisional slice of 16,691) to 2,985,000 on 08/01 (15,794) and finally 2,676,000 on 09/01 (14,234), which is when the German line started to collapse. The same trend also holds for tanks, with operational numbers within the Panzer formations falling from 2,287 (07/01) to 1,176 (08/01) and finally 821 (09/01).

With personnel casualties concentrated among the infantry, this means that in 2 months the Ostheer almost lost the equivalent of a full infantry regiment per division. As for tanks, with 821 runners on September 1, Panzer strength had fallen to a level unseen since the winter of 1941/42. By then the line was held with a thin screen of infantry with few mobile reserves, with only the artillery arm reasonably in shape. Which is why the Soviets started gaining significant ground, whereas in July-August their territorial gains had been comparatively shallow and limited to points of maximum concentration of force.
History Learner wrote:
27 Nov 2021 00:35
Using the Belarus 1943-1944 model, Orel falls but the Soviets are stopped before Smolensk having taken excessively high casualties. In Ukraine, I see it as harder to predict. Maybe we see two more Battles of Kharkov and some German operational success on the Mius, before the Soviets achieve a sufficient breakthrough to force a German withdraw upon the Panther Line in early 1944?
I don't think the 'Belarus model' holds, because the model in question does not, in fact, show the superiority of a passive defense reliant on field fortifications. Soviet-to-German loss ratios were no worse during the battles against Heeresgruppe Mitte in fall 1943 / winter 1944 than they had been over the summer, and the reason why the Soviets failed to advance in the center is because they had, over months of continuous fighting, suffered such high attrition that they could no longer bring overwhelming force against the entire frontline, but only against certain sectors - and Stalin prioritized retaking the Ukraine.

This becomes evident when looking at force ratios:

Soviet (01/01/1944) / German (11/01/1943) strength by sector of the front:

Heeresgruppe Nord: 1,252,000 (1,580 AFVs) / 694,027 = 1.80-to-1
Heeresgruppe Mitte: 1,580,000 (1,159 AFVs) / 808,463 = 1.95-to-1
Heeresgruppen Süd u. 6. Armee (HGA): 2,230,000 (2,015 AFVs) / 912,466 = 2.44-to-1

German strength returns are for ground forces and miss 108,000 W-SS personnel spread among the 3 main Army Groups as well as Heeresgruppe A. Soviet strength returns are for ground forces + VVS/PVO. Note that on 01/01/1944, Ostheer strength had fallen by a further 113,000 men compared to 11/01/1943.

***

Overall, by July 1943 I don't see how there was much wiggle room left. The last consequential German decision of the war against the Soviet Union had been taken on May 4, when Zitadelle was postponed (initially to June 12), in consequence of which the Soviets gained the breathing space necessary to build-up a decisive advantage over the Germans.

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by History Learner » 27 Nov 2021 04:53

KDF33 wrote:
27 Nov 2021 04:06
I don't think the 'Belarus model' holds, because the model in question does not, in fact, show the superiority of a passive defense reliant on field fortifications. Soviet-to-German loss ratios were no worse during the battles against Heeresgruppe Mitte in fall 1943 / winter 1944 than they had been over the summer, and the reason why the Soviets failed to advance in the center is because they had, over months of continuous fighting, suffered such high attrition that they could no longer bring overwhelming force against the entire frontline, but only against certain sectors - and Stalin prioritized retaking the Ukraine.
I'm inclined to agree with your analysis but this bit seems contradictory to me; the loss ratios are no worse than in the Summer but by Winter have induced such attrition as to render their forces incapable of advance without radical concentration?

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by KDF33 » 27 Nov 2021 05:25

History Learner wrote:
27 Nov 2021 04:53
I'm inclined to agree with your analysis but this bit seems contradictory to me; the loss ratios are no worse than in the Summer but by Winter have induced such attrition as to render their forces incapable of advance without radical concentration?
The attrition was cumulative. Extreme losses in July - August, and then still-high losses in September, October, November, etc. meant that Soviet strength by late 1943 was significantly eroded compared to July. Now the Germans were worse off, but still it was no longer possible for the Soviets to successfully mount the sort of broad-front advance of the late summer.

They could still attack more-or-less everywhere, but they could no longer succeed everywhere. Which is why the offensives against Heeresgruppe Mitte, past the summer battles, were virtually all costly failures in late 1943 / early 1944.

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by History Learner » 27 Nov 2021 06:20

KDF33 wrote:
27 Nov 2021 05:25
History Learner wrote:
27 Nov 2021 04:53
I'm inclined to agree with your analysis but this bit seems contradictory to me; the loss ratios are no worse than in the Summer but by Winter have induced such attrition as to render their forces incapable of advance without radical concentration?
The attrition was cumulative. Extreme losses in July - August, and then still-high losses in September, October, November, etc. meant that Soviet strength by late 1943 was significantly eroded compared to July. Now the Germans were worse off, but still it was no longer possible for the Soviets to successfully mount the sort of broad-front advance of the late summer.

They could still attack more-or-less everywhere, but they could no longer succeed everywhere. Which is why the offensives against Heeresgruppe Mitte, past the summer battles, were virtually all costly failures in late 1943 / early 1944.
I get the base logic you're using here, I just don't follow the conclusions of it; if the Germans were worse off, I don't see how the Soviet offensive could come to costly failures unless there is a logistical angle to it because the attrition would favor them in engagements. This I think carries us back to the question of the strategic defense or not. For comparison on casualties:

Kursk (Citadel): 177,000/54,000 = 3.28:1
Kursk (Inclusive of Soviet counter-attack phase): 863,000/203,000 = 4.25:1

When you expand into the wider defensive fighting that occurred later on:

Smolensk: 760,000/115,500 = 6.58:1
Donbass (August): 273,500/29,000 = 9.43:1

I think it's pretty undeniable the Germans did significantly better, loss rate wise, when on the defensive in 1943. Given the lack of Kursk would mean their infantry arm isn't gutted, the artillery park doesn't burn through much of its reserves at Kursk before the Soviet offensive phase and there is less wear and tear on the AFVs, I think it's reasonable to assume the Germans would do better.

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by ljadw » 27 Nov 2021 08:35

It is very hazardous to use loss rates to prove,80 years after the facts,that Germany would have done better with a defensive strategy .
Why ? Because doing so is ignoring the FACT that time was running against Germany .The German reserves were strong enough for only ONE theater of operations,while Germany would have to fight on two theaters of operations .That means that Germany had to decide :to transfer its reserves to the west and waiting on an allied attack,while meanwhile the Eastern Front would collapse,or use them in the east to nip there the danger in the bud and to have after this defensive victory the opportunity to transfer the reserves to the west .
To use them in the east meant a preventive offensive ;the sooner this offensive would happen, the better .

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by stg 44 » 27 Nov 2021 19:01

ljadw wrote:
27 Nov 2021 08:35
It is very hazardous to use loss rates to prove,80 years after the facts,that Germany would have done better with a defensive strategy .
Why ? Because doing so is ignoring the FACT that time was running against Germany .The German reserves were strong enough for only ONE theater of operations,while Germany would have to fight on two theaters of operations .That means that Germany had to decide :to transfer its reserves to the west and waiting on an allied attack,while meanwhile the Eastern Front would collapse,or use them in the east to nip there the danger in the bud and to have after this defensive victory the opportunity to transfer the reserves to the west .
To use them in the east meant a preventive offensive ;the sooner this offensive would happen, the better .
Which German divisions were moved out of Russia to fight in Italy in 1943?
1st SS division was transferred to Italy briefly to ensure they didn't defect after the invasion of Sicily, but never fought and came back East relatively quickly and was arguably not necessary other than as a political stunt. What others were sent? Seems like there were enough reserves for both theaters, Hitler just mismanaged the situation in the East.

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by ljadw » 28 Nov 2021 06:43

No German divisions were moved out of Russia to Italy,because none were available .
If the Citadel divisions were transferred to Italy,they could have made a difference,but the result would have been the collapse of the Eastern Front .Even during Citadel,the Soviets launched an ever bigger counter-offensive .Kutuzov started on 12 July 1943.
In 1944 only the remainings of a few divisions could be transferred to the West (LSS,DR,9 and 10 SS ) or from the West to the East .
The fact that divisions had to be transferred from France to other ToO is striking : it proves that Germany had no strategic reserves after Citadel.

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by History Learner » 28 Nov 2021 06:48

ljadw wrote:
28 Nov 2021 06:43
No German divisions were moved out of Russia to Italy,because none were available .
If the Citadel divisions were transferred to Italy,they could have made a difference,but the result would have been the collapse of the Eastern Front .Even during Citadel,the Soviets launched an ever bigger counter-offensive .Kutuzov started on 12 July 1943.
In 1944 only the remainings of a few divisions could be transferred to the West (LSS,DR,9 and 10 SS ) or from the West to the East .
The fact that divisions had to be transferred from France to other ToO is striking : it proves that Germany had no strategic reserves after Citadel.
I'm not entirely sure what point you're attempting to make here; if no German divisions were moved out of Russia to Italy (False, but given it was one I'll let it slide), what are you arguing for or against?

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by ljadw » 28 Nov 2021 09:33

You said on post 9 that the Ostheer would have done better without Kursk .
This is totally wrong .
The Citadel forces were not strong enough to stop the Soviet attacks ( the Soviets could and did attack from Leningrad to the Black Sea ),they were only strong enough for an attack on a small scale :time and geography, to destroy the Soviet mobile reserves and immediately after a successful Citadel,the OKH would transfer them .
Kursk was needed,but could be successful only if it started earlier, much earlier than in the HTL,which was impossible .And, even then, the chance for a successful Kursk in May was non existent.
Loss ratios were irrelevant .
The Citadel forces had to leave the East, but that was possible only after the elimination of the Soviet reserves .And in July this was not possible . In May it was also not possible .

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Re: Operation Citadel cancelled in late June

Post by ljadw » 28 Nov 2021 09:37

stg 44 wrote:
27 Nov 2021 19:01
ljadw wrote:
27 Nov 2021 08:35
It is very hazardous to use loss rates to prove,80 years after the facts,that Germany would have done better with a defensive strategy .
Why ? Because doing so is ignoring the FACT that time was running against Germany .The German reserves were strong enough for only ONE theater of operations,while Germany would have to fight on two theaters of operations .That means that Germany had to decide :to transfer its reserves to the west and waiting on an allied attack,while meanwhile the Eastern Front would collapse,or use them in the east to nip there the danger in the bud and to have after this defensive victory the opportunity to transfer the reserves to the west .
To use them in the east meant a preventive offensive ;the sooner this offensive would happen, the better .
Which German divisions were moved out of Russia to fight in Italy in 1943?
1st SS division was transferred to Italy briefly to ensure they didn't defect after the invasion of Sicily, but never fought and came back East relatively quickly and was arguably not necessary other than as a political stunt. What others were sent? Seems like there were enough reserves for both theaters, Hitler just mismanaged the situation in the East.
Proof that Hitler mismanaged the situation in the East ? The claims of Liddell Hart and Manstein are only lies .
The transfer of the LSS to Italy had nothing to do with Citadel .
If Citadel was cancelled,nothing would have changed : the Allies would land in Italy and the Soviets would be at the border of Romania .

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