Red Army casualties and performance

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Michate
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Post by Michate » 09 May 2006 14:28

Hello Michate

That is a very interesting major contrast with the ten-days isn't it? There isn't much in later figures to suggest that such a large discrepancy was added at a later time either. I wonder if there could be some issue of scope - f.e. the higher figure including non-combat losses, or referring also to elements detached to AOK9 but whose losses were reported through the channels of some other AOK? AOK4 reported only insignifant losses during this period, but PzAOK2 seems to have reported well above 20,000 during August. In any event, that does not really affect the relevance of that figure, and also on the strength of the nature of the report that underlies your quoted figure we clearly ought to give it precedence above the ten-days.

cheers
Hello Qvist,

I agree there is a discrepancy between the figures from the 10-day reports and the AG Center diary that is too large to be explained simply by the different time scope (47,000 during the period extending only a few days into September vs 48,000 for the whole two months). I am a little suspicious of the secondary source I quoted (such little very interesting data tidbits as the one we discuss not withstanding, it is full of the usual pretentiousness common to the "real-existing socialism") and there may be issues of inclusiveness - it might refer to losses on an "Abgänge" basis or to more than just 9th army, but the accompanying text is a little vague. Personally I think however the figure I quoted is not implausible, considering the seriousness of the Soviet attack against the Rhzev salient and the many local crises it brought on the German side. But we may be drifting again from the topic of the (new) thread.

BTW, please accept my apologies that I did not answer to your last mail yet, I hope I will be able to return something during the next week.

Best regards,
Michate

paulmacg
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Post by paulmacg » 09 May 2006 14:28

Two points:

First, I am not entirely sure what conclusion I am going to draw from this examination of Glantz' and others data. And, in any case, that conclusion may not be perfect, comprehensive or definitive. I am interested in this topic and I am participating. At present, I am not presenting anything more than an unformed argument in the hopes of more feedback and other voices presenting themselves.

Second, Glantz lists the following sources:

1. Earl F. Ziemke, From Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1968), 9, 18-19, 144, 412-413, 457, 498.
2. Fremde Heere Ost comarative strength reports for 1.4.43; 20.7.43; 14.10.43; 1.5.44; 1.6.44; 1.8.44; 1.9.44; and 1.11.44.
3. G.F. Krivosheev, Grif sekretnosti sniat: Poteri vooruzhennykh sil SSSR v voinakh, boevykh deistviiahk, i voennykh konliktakh (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1993), 152-153
4. Voennoe iskusstva vo vtoroi mirovoi voine (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1973), 171. Soviet strength data is accurate, but German strength is grossly inflated.
5. TsPA UML (Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism and Leninism), which include several GKO decrees which I will not list here.

Of these sources, I personally only have access to Ziemke. I cannot offer an opinion, therefore, on the manner in which Glantz has interpreted the data. I am limited to only what he has stated.

Glantz also offeres comparative figures for Soviet and German relative strength, but I have been unable to examine them closely. I will do so as soon as I clear my desk of the small mountain of orders I have managed to accumulate.

Cheers

Paul

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Post by paulmacg » 09 May 2006 16:06

Starting after Kursk, the Red Army pretty much rules the roost in terms of strategic initiative. 1943 sees a nearly unbroken series of Soviet offensives. The most costly of which would seem to be:

Orel Offensive (12 July-18 Aug. 43) 429,890 casualties from 1,287,600 str.
Chernigov-Poltava Offensive (26 Aug.-30 Sept. 43) 427,952 losses from 1,581,300 str.
Smolensk Offensive (7 Aug.-2 Oct. 43) 451,466 losses from 1,252,600 str. (appr. 225,000 per month)
Donbas Offensive (13 Aug.-22 Sept. 43) 273,522 losses from 1,011,900 str. (appr. 220,000 per month)
Lower Dnepr Offensive (26 Sept.-20 Dec. 43) 754,392 losses from 1,506,400 str. (appr. 250,000 per month)
Belgorod-Khar'kov Offensive (March-23 Aug. 43) 255,566 losses from 1,144,000 str. (appr. 50,000 per month)

Of these, the Orel offensive was also particularily costly in terms of armour and aircraft (2,586 tanks and SP guns and 1,104 aircraft). Only 892 guns were lost during the operation. For comparison, the Kursk defense cost 1,614 tanks and SP guns and only 459 aircraft. 3,929 guns were lost during Kursk.

The Belgorod-Kharkov (1,864), Chernigova-Poltava (1,140) and Lower Dnepr (2,639) Offensives were also costly in terms of armour.

Several other smaller offensives took place during this period. They roughly averaged between 50,000 and 100,000 losses per month.

Now, 1943 is clearly different in many respects from 1942 and almost night and day from 1941, but casualties, in total, do not differ accordingly when taken as a whole.

Also it is necessary to say that this is, as of yet, a somewhat superficial examination of some very general statistics. Hopefully, I'll be able to add a little more colour to the gray as time goes on. In that vein, I am going to hold off on 1944 and 1945 until I can make some sense of the numbers from the first 3 years of the conflict.

Cheers

Paul

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 11 May 2006 04:21

I'll only make this post on this issue:

From Dec. 1941 - May 1942 the Red Army participated in 13 operations, defensive and offensive:
KIA, MIA, POW were 1,257,000
Jan-Sep 1943 13 operations:
729,000
Aug 1943 - April 1944 19 operations:
1,041,000
Jun-Oct 1944 10 operations:
453,000
July 1944-May 1945 19 operations:
681,000

As can be seen Soviet losses most definitely decreased as the war went on, losses per operation went down and they were of course results of many factors

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 11 May 2006 09:22

Kunikov - I believe we have been through this so many times that I don't think I am going to do yet another resprise. You know the arguments and don't need to have them repeated. The thing that these figures in effect show is that Missing went down as the war progressed - nothing else. And "losses per operation" is a en entirely arbitrary measure.

cheers

paulmacg
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Post by paulmacg » 11 May 2006 14:31

Glantz, in When Titans Clashed (pg. 176), writes:

Perhaps the principal cause of the reversal in the East was the revolution in Soviet command, staff and operational and tactical techniques. By mid-1943, Stalin had come to trust his commanders and staff officers as professional leaders, and they had justified this trust by learning the painful lessons of mechanized warfare.

Glantz is referring to improvements made in the Soviet ability to organize and, more importantly, sustain a large-scale offensive operation. Specifically, he highlights the newfound Soviet ability to effectively coordinate "the different arms and services into a true combined-arms operation". Additionally, improvements made in the areas of intelligence, deception and antitank defense were important.

He goes on to say that:

Similar improvements were evident in the careful orchestration of artillery, engineers, infantry and armor to penetrate German defenses by focusing overwhelming forces on extremely narrow fronts. In the counterstroke at Prokhorovka and in the Kutuzov, Rumiantsev and Suvorov operations, the Red Army also tested the tank armies and separate tank and mechanized corps that were henceforth the hallmark of Soviet deep operations. With experienced commanders, competent staff officers, and improved logistics based on American trucks, these armored formations demonstrated their ability to match the best efforts of the German panzer force.

Glantz closes with the following comments:

Many problems remained to be solved, particularily the correct timing and procedure for introducing these tank units into battle during or after the initial penetration attacks. In addition, ways had to be found to reduce the often catastrophic number of casualties suffered by the Red Army even in its successful offensive operations, lest victory be snatched from the Soviets' grasp by an army and nation bled white.

So, finally we come to the point. Glantz acknowledges that, despite all of the improvements and lessons learned, the RKKA is still suffering enormous casualties that, if they were to continue, could prove disastrous. Of course, this is the statement that I find the most interesting since, obviously, it implies that we will see the effects of those efforts at some point in the future. In other words, we should see a gradual reduction in Soviet casualties and the concrete employment of new tactics for that purpose. Already I am beginning to wonder if Glantz has not overstepped himself a bit here.

On pg. 179 Glantz seems to want to address the question that is implicit in his own conclusion. He writes:

By contrast, the Third Period of the War marked the full development of Soviet force structure, equipment, and operational and tactical concepts. Before considering this development, however, it should be recognized that the Soviets, like the Germans, suffered from severe manpower shortages. The staggering civilian and military casualties of the war, the large factories needed to maintain weapons production, and the demands of rebuilding a shattered economy in land reclaimed from the Germans all strained the supposedly inexhaustible supply of Soviet manpower.

Also, on pg. 180:

During the Third Period of the War, the Soviets had both the numbers and the skill to destroy the German forces, but the manpower crisis necessitated a continued emphasis on sophisticated maneuver attacks. Massive frontal assaults occurred but more infrequently, and they were usually examples of failure on the part of Red Army commanders.

So, in theory, 1944 should see the fruition of these efforts, but since the overall numbers are not considerably lower in terms of casualties for either 1944 or 1945, the question must be asked: What exactly was done to reduce casualties and how effective were those measures?

Cheers

Paul

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 11 May 2006 15:36

Qvist wrote:Kunikov - I believe we have been through this so many times that I don't think I am going to do yet another resprise. You know the arguments and don't need to have them repeated. The thing that these figures in effect show is that Missing went down as the war progressed - nothing else. And "losses per operation" is a en entirely arbitrary measure.

cheers
It's come to my attention that 'losses per operation' is the only real way to understand what was going on. I won't get into details with you because of your bias, but eventually a good study will be made of this and you will understand what I mean.

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Steen Ammentorp
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Post by Steen Ammentorp » 11 May 2006 16:16

Kunikov wrote: It's come to my attention that 'losses per operation' is the only real way to understand what was going on. I won't get into details with you because of your bias, but eventually a good study will be made of this and you will understand what I mean.
And what about the rest of us? Please remember that there several other readers than those posting in the thread!!

/Steen Ammentorp

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 11 May 2006 16:24

Steen Ammentorp wrote:
Kunikov wrote: It's come to my attention that 'losses per operation' is the only real way to understand what was going on. I won't get into details with you because of your bias, but eventually a good study will be made of this and you will understand what I mean.
And what about the rest of us? Please remember that there several other readers than those posting in the thread!!

/Steen Ammentorp
I can't comment too much for even my sake, I haven't researched enough. I was talking to a friend and we discussed this. His general ideas of what should be taken into consideration was the following: how many men on the offensive, how many offensive operations undertaken (how many times are the attacks, counter-attacks repeated), how much ammunition is expended, including artillery and small arms. That's as far as we got, to understand why Soviet losses were so big or so small it is necessary to look at these statistics. Recently from the book "Thunder in the East" I'll try to find the quote later on, there was a comparison between Soviet expenditures in 1941 and later on in the war, a day and night comparison to say the least! While other reasons mentioned before hand also matter, diversionary operations, air superiority, etc. Bottomline is that every operation has to be meticulously studied and understood via many of the factors involved.
EDIT: Found it, "According to one Russian estimate, in the Battle of Moscow in 1941, ammunition expenditure was 700-1,000 tons a day; in 1944 the 1st Belorussian Army Group alone was expending 20-30,000 tons a day." Moscow Defensive and Offensive operations in 1941 cost the Red Army 514,000 and 140,000 losses respectively, Bagration had twice as many men participating in the offensive and cost the Red Army 179,000, but also keep in mind those numbers were for only one Army Group/Front.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 11 May 2006 18:58

It's come to my attention that 'losses per operation' is the only real way to understand what was going on. I won't get into details with you because of your bias, but eventually a good study will be made of this and you will understand what I mean.
Well, we have been down this road many times before and so far I have seen nothing in the way of argument from you apart from vague talk of future studies. How is one supposed to deal with an argument that is put forward repeatedly and then given no backing? And if you don't have the basis for arguments, how do you know that your line of reasoning is valid? You're usually quick enough to expect substantiation of arguments from others, I might point out. I have tried to engage you in discussion on this point many times, and you invariably shy away from it. And please, don't give me the bias thing - what "bias" would that be then?

What I meant when I said that losses per operation is an arbitrary measure is that they vary too greatly in scope and duration to be directly comparable entities, and hence any tabulation of losses in a given number of operations does not automatically make for a relevant comparison with another set of operations. An "operation" is not a uniform unit, it is simply an interpretative perspective - it can encompass anything from the operations of a few ten thousand men over a few days to that of several Fronts for many months. The average between the two tells us essentially nothing.
I can't comment too much for even my sake, I haven't researched enough. I was talking to a friend and we discussed this. His general ideas of what should be taken into consideration was the following: how many men on the offensive, how many offensive operations undertaken (how many times are the attacks, counter-attacks repeated), how much ammunition is expended, including artillery and small arms. That's as far as we got, to understand why Soviet losses were so big or so small it is necessary to look at these statistics. Recently from the book "Thunder in the East" I'll try to find the quote later on, there was a comparison between Soviet expenditures in 1941 and later on in the war, a day and night comparison to say the least! While other reasons mentioned before hand also matter, diversionary operations, air superiority, etc. Bottomline is that every operation has to be meticulously studied and understood via many of the factors involved.
Which this passage indicates that you do understand. But given the above, how useful is it to make the sort of comparison you made in the previous post? I think you will find, for example, if you inspect your data more closely that generally speaking operations (as defined by Krivosheev) tend to become much larger and longer as the war progresses.

It is certainly a sound idea to look at the main elements of a given operation in conjunction with each other, and quite possibly they would in toto suggest some conclusions, which I take to be the main gist of your reasoning as expressed above. I have the data for the almost 100 operations listed by Krivosheev accessible - strength, duration, time, losses, average daily losses- and can easily post them in a handy format if you should care to enter into a discussion of just what conclusions they do suggest. They will however between not account for more than just above half of the overall Red Army losses.

cheers

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 11 May 2006 19:07

EDIT: Found it, "According to one Russian estimate, in the Battle of Moscow in 1941, ammunition expenditure was 700-1,000 tons a day; in 1944 the 1st Belorussian Army Group alone was expending 20-30,000 tons a day." Moscow Defensive and Offensive operations in 1941 cost the Red Army 514,000 and 140,000 losses respectively, Bagration had twice as many men participating in the offensive and cost the Red Army 179,000, but also keep in mind those numbers were for only one Army Group/Front.
Well, again the obvious reason for the discrepancy between these figures is that during the Moscow defensive operation, several hundred thousand men were taken prisoner in the disastrous early phase of that operation, which did not happen during Bagration. Hence it is entirely a product of choosing to look only at one part of the casualties, the effects of which is greatly aggravated by the fact that one of the two categories of losses included is of a type that is generally only notable when crushing defensive defeats are suffered. Beyond that, may I ask - and not rethorically - what point this is supposed to illustrate?

cheers

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 11 May 2006 19:34

Qvist wrote:
EDIT: Found it, "According to one Russian estimate, in the Battle of Moscow in 1941, ammunition expenditure was 700-1,000 tons a day; in 1944 the 1st Belorussian Army Group alone was expending 20-30,000 tons a day." Moscow Defensive and Offensive operations in 1941 cost the Red Army 514,000 and 140,000 losses respectively, Bagration had twice as many men participating in the offensive and cost the Red Army 179,000, but also keep in mind those numbers were for only one Army Group/Front.
Well, again the obvious reason for the discrepancy between these figures is that during the Moscow defensive operation, several hundred thousand men were taken prisoner in the disastrous early phase of that operation, which did not happen during Bagration. Hence it is entirely a product of choosing to look only at one part of the casualties, the effects of which is greatly aggravated by the fact that one of the two categories of losses included is of a type that is generally only notable when crushing defensive defeats are suffered. Beyond that, may I ask - and not rethorically - what point this is supposed to illustrate?

cheers
Reasons for Soviet losses and the fact that it goes far beyond 'great' German tactics and leadership.

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 11 May 2006 19:35

Qvist wrote:
Well, we have been down this road many times before and so far I have seen nothing in the way of argument from you apart from vague talk of future studies. How is one supposed to deal with an argument that is put forward repeatedly and then given no backing? And if you don't have the basis for arguments, how do you know that your line of reasoning is valid? You're usually quick enough to expect substantiation of arguments from others, I might point out. I have tried to engage you in discussion on this point many times, and you invariably shy away from it. And please, don't give me the bias thing - what "bias" would that be then?

What I meant when I said that losses per operation is an arbitrary measure is that they vary too greatly in scope and duration to be directly comparable entities, and hence any tabulation of losses in a given number of operations does not automatically make for a relevant comparison with another set of operations. An "operation" is not a uniform unit, it is simply an interpretative perspective - it can encompass anything from the operations of a few ten thousand men over a few days to that of several Fronts for many months. The average between the two tells us essentially nothing.
It would be a waste of time to engage you in any debate when it comes to numbers. Your mind has already been made up and in the end numbers tell only a part of the story.

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Post by Igorn » 11 May 2006 20:04

Kunikov wrote:
Qvist wrote:
Well, we have been down this road many times before and so far I have seen nothing in the way of argument from you apart from vague talk of future studies. How is one supposed to deal with an argument that is put forward repeatedly and then given no backing? And if you don't have the basis for arguments, how do you know that your line of reasoning is valid? You're usually quick enough to expect substantiation of arguments from others, I might point out. I have tried to engage you in discussion on this point many times, and you invariably shy away from it. And please, don't give me the bias thing - what "bias" would that be then?

What I meant when I said that losses per operation is an arbitrary measure is that they vary too greatly in scope and duration to be directly comparable entities, and hence any tabulation of losses in a given number of operations does not automatically make for a relevant comparison with another set of operations. An "operation" is not a uniform unit, it is simply an interpretative perspective - it can encompass anything from the operations of a few ten thousand men over a few days to that of several Fronts for many months. The average between the two tells us essentially nothing.
It would be a waste of time to engage you in any debate when it comes to numbers. Your mind has already been made up and in the end numbers tell only a part of the story.
Kunnikov,

I fully agree with you in this point. Any dispute with Qvist ends up with reference to Krivosheev and conclusion that Germans always had an upper hand in the matters of tactics and combat skills and all Soviet wins were achieved only due to the quantative advantage.

Best Regards from Russia,

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 11 May 2006 20:17

Hello Paul
During the Third Period of the War, the Soviets had both the numbers and the skill to destroy the German forces, but the manpower crisis necessitated a continued emphasis on sophisticated maneuver attacks. Massive frontal assaults occurred but more infrequently, and they were usually examples of failure on the part of Red Army commanders.

So, in theory, 1944 should see the fruition of these efforts, but since the overall numbers are not considerably lower in terms of casualties for either 1944 or 1945, the question must be asked: What exactly was done to reduce casualties and how effective were those measures?
A very good question. The simple answer (to just make a start) would appear to be on the first point that the rhytm and nature of Soviet offensive operations changed, increasingly taking the form of large battles of annihilation of a more closely defined duration, coupled with an increasing sophistication in the large offensive formations. On the second point, the losses themselves are of course a direct answer, and on that basis the reply would seem to be "not very". However, they succeeded in being very considerably more destructive to their opponent, without increasing the cost to the Red Army (and indeed while generally reducing it, at least to some degree).

It is perhaps worth recalling that the German experience earlier in the war also suggests that even very successful annihilation victories do not tend to go hand in hand with low own losses - indeed, the summer of 1941 was the most costly quarter the Ostheer experienced prior to the summer of 1943, and costlier also than any other quarter in 43/44 except for III-44. Likewise, their losses in III-42 were notably high.

However, to qualify the loss intensity point a bit, it can be a little misleading in some ways to look at just total figures for 43 and 44 respectively. Firstly, II-43 were marked by very low activity on both sides, and marks by far the least costly quarter of the war. This means that if you compare quarter by quarter, the contrast in the three other quarters are correspondingly greater. Also, I and in part IIQ 1944 are really the tail end of the late 43 offensives, probably more similar in outlook and character to their predecessors than their successors. It is perhaps best from the summer of 1944 that one can begin to judge the fruits of these late developments, after the replenishing operational pause in late spring and early summer. And, during the last two quarters of 1944, losses are very much lower than in the corresponding period of the previous year. * One thing to remember here however is that the German forces were considerably weaker than the year before. Of course, I-45 is at similar levels to earlier years and II-45 is quite gruesome given that it lasted only 39 days (transposed to a fult quarter, that intensity would equal 1,768,000). But this was after all the final bloody battles, which could hardly be fought in any other way than with great and bloody intensity, as long as German determination (or desperation) persisted.

For reference, Soviet quarterly losses (as usual, from Krivosheev, combat losses only):

III-41....2 642 122
IV-41.....1 516 643
1941......4 158 407

I-42.......1 652 007
II-42......1 369 041
III-42.....2 317 473
IV-42.....1 246 243
1942......6 584 764

I-43.....1 904 852
II-43.......429 627
III-43..2 619 109
IV-43...1 923 530
1943....6 877 118

I-44....1 851 031
II-44...1 008 789
III-44..1 756 388
IV-44..1 069 577
1944...5 685 785

I-45....1 880 567
II-45......757 600
1945...2 638 167

I think there is a good deal to be said for comparing a quarter to the same quarter in other years rather than to the preceding and succeeding quarters of the same year. As you see above, losses fluctuate more strongly by season than in any other way, and mostly according to a similar pattern in every year. For instance, IIIq, and to an extent Iq, always tends to be the costliest ones in every year. This is of course connected to the pace of operations as dictated by season and weather.

cheers

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