Red Army casualties and performance

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 25 Apr 2006 15:48

Qvist wrote:Hi Kunikov


I do not disagree with this. Statistical analysis can only form one part of the picture, and is of course not a substitute for more general analysis. But it also misses the point a little with regard to the usefulness of that type of analysis. Firstly, what it does is show broad trends and general traits, which is a neccessary context also for individual battles, and hence addresses important questions that can't be dealt with by studying every single battle of the conflict in detail. Even if you did, you would need statistical analysis more than ever to extract from this vast mass of information some sort of general conclusions. Secondly, what does it matter that no two sides can even have exactly the same situation? That is neither here nor there. And you forget that we are here talking of general figures for a period of four years - a vast scope, where the general picture cannot be influenced by fleeting influences or arbitrary factors, especially not given that the picture they present is consistent. When two vast armies fight each other for four years and one of them consistently lose men at a very disproportionate rate, this does say something very clear about "the entire picture".

cheers
Not true, first off my whole post was addressed with the clear idea of an analysis of 'generalship' in mind from both sides, thus the idea that both sides would have to be equal in every aspect and variable comes into play, otherwise one side will always have an advantage in one area and a disadvantage in another. Case in point the Red Army in 1941, this year witnessed the greatest amount of POW's and overall the greatest 'casualties' 1942 was also a point in time when great defeats were inflicted on the Red Army and it suffered large losses, question is why there were still such great losses in 43-45 as there were in the previous 1 and a half to two years. The answer is the following: throughout 1941 and 1942 human lives were worth less than the tanks that were in such short supply, the manpool of the Soviet Union at that point had yet to be fully tapped and reserve armies were being built up all over the USSR. In this instance commanders understood, such as Zhukov, that lives could be given away if only to buy more time for the tanks, etc, that they so desperately were in need of. Into this comes the intelligence about Japan that helped to contribute troops from the Far East to the war against Nazi Germany. In the latter years, 43-45, tank losses, for example, were still tremendous yet the KIA and MIA losses were much less than in the previous years, one because fewer encirclements by the Germans were taking place, and two because they understood that the USSR could not keep producing soldiers, they would rather waste a thousand tanks than a hundred thousand soldiers lives. Something else one needs to consider is that the more bodies you put into the field the more casualties you will take and the more casualties you are WILLING to take. I'm sure the Germans had a certain percentage of casualties they were willing to put up with before they ordered a retreat, well, for the Red Army it was a larger percentage and in the end a larger number (and even if it was the same percentage, the number would still be bigger since they had a larger force on the battlefield). These are only some general ideas which I can go into with much more detail, but sadly I don't have the time to do the relevant research and quoting, etc etc. Simply put Germany's population was half that of the USSR (if you want to include the territories taken over the USSR lets say they had 200 million vs. Germany's 80 million), there is also a reason why they suffered half as many casualties as did the USSR (although that depends on the methods you use to come up with those casualties, KIA from what I recall are around 3.5 million for Germans and around 8 for the USSR, the extra million I would account for the fact that the USSR was caught by surprise in 1941 and in the midst of reorganization, German superiority in the field played a part as well. Lastly the Germans were never surprised or disorganized as was the Red Army, thus what they achieved in 1941 the Red Army could never duplicate onto the Wehrmacht or the extra million could come into play by the following: if Germany suffered 3.5 the Soviet Union could have suffered around 8.75 if you recall the 80:200 million ratio). Simply put each side has a certain number of soldiers it can lose in the field of battle, if that criteria is met, as it was for the Germans, then they lose (of course this isn't set in stone, but hopefully you understand what I am getting at). And even to this one has to add in the other factors such as Germany's population had more elderly and middle aged men than the Soviet Union when the ratio is made with the younger generations, so in fact the Soviet Union could afford even greater losses, etc. In the end if you put the restrictions on the Red Army that the Germans had, they would have suffered less losses and simply lost, because 1941 was a critical year and no one could have recovered from it without taking the losses the Soviet Union took.

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Post by paulmacg » 27 Apr 2006 20:32

I think Kunikov makes some valid points. Looking over the Soviet offensives in 1943 there are a few characteristics which seem to apear in all of them.

The first is the use of massive infantry concentrations with only supporting armour in order to achieve the initial penetration. The mobile units are always reserved for deep operations as they were called. Others would call this the exploitation phase of the offensive, but it is essentially the same thing. Soviet commanders took a great deal of care in choosing the moment to commit their mechanized units. They had already learned that a little early or a little late meant either hopeless chaos and traffic jams or massive casualties taken at the hands of counterattacking German armoured units (Operation Mars in 1942 for example).

Second, the offensives always suffered from a lack of mobility among several different kinds of units and that lack of mobility almost always led to difficulties in sustaining the aforementioned deep operations. Operation Kutuzov, for example, managed to achieve spectacular initial success, but soon after devolved into a chaotic series of meeting engagements in which the Red Army suffered terribly.

Third, the Red Army was already learning to make up for its inability to produce reliable armoured vehicles. They could replace massive losses with hundreds of fresh vehicles. Of course, these were not always manned by properly trained crews and even less frequently by experienced tankers, but they were there and they could fight.

Fourth, the Red Army often used diversionary tactics that, although often successful in drawing powerful German units away from vital sectors, would take immense casualties at the hands of the units they were meant to distract.

To my mind, these four factors have one thing in common. They reflect the reality of the Russian situation in 1943. A huge reserve of available manpower, little time or ability to properly prepare troops for combat, massive numbers of generally unreliable tanks and vehicles, a marked superiority in artillery and a shortage of the trucks needed to quickly move the necessary forces to the areas they are needed in.

Now, given the bloodbaths of 1941 and 1942, if you are a Soviet general, what are you going to do? The answer is take no chances. Overcompensate like there's no tomorrow. Instead of concentrating 2 divisions, concentrate 4 and put another corps behind them just in case. Hold off on committing those tanks until the right moment and pray you make the right decision. In other words, sacrifice as many men as you need to to get the job done because failure is not really an option and you won't get a second chance given the speed at which your armour can go up in smoke.

Of course, in 1944 the rules change yet again, but Rome wasn't built in a day. The Red Army begins to change its tactics to reflect the need to conserve manpower for a war that could last another year or 2 years, but it is still somewhat ill-equipped to do so. Losses are reduced but the lessons and tactics of the first 3 years of the conflict are not easily unlearned. The transition takes time and more losses are incurred before wholesale change can be made. At the end of the year a dramatic improvement has been made, but the toll is still high.

Cheers

Paul

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Post by Kunikov » 27 Apr 2006 22:28

An excellent point about the diversionary attacks, something that I left out which also contributed to many casualties but were also quite helpful in situations like Stalingrad.

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Post by Qvist » 28 Apr 2006 13:48

Hello Kunikov
Not true, first off my whole post was addressed with the clear idea of an analysis of 'generalship' in mind from both sides, thus the idea that both sides would have to be equal in every aspect and variable comes into play, otherwise one side will always have an advantage in one area and a disadvantage in another.
OK, however I did not raise the point in connection with generalship, but rather with regard to a general point of the Red Army standing "toe to toe" with its adversary by 1943/44.
Case in point the Red Army in 1941, this year witnessed the greatest amount of POW's and overall the greatest 'casualties' 1942 was also a point in time when great defeats were inflicted on the Red Army and it suffered large losses, question is why there were still such great losses in 43-45 as there were in the previous 1 and a half to two years. The answer is the following: throughout 1941 and 1942 human lives were worth less than the tanks that were in such short supply, the manpool of the Soviet Union at that point had yet to be fully tapped and reserve armies were being built up all over the USSR. In this instance commanders understood, such as Zhukov, that lives could be given away if only to buy more time for the tanks, etc, that they so desperately were in need of. Into this comes the intelligence about Japan that helped to contribute troops from the Far East to the war against Nazi Germany. In the latter years, 43-45, tank losses, for example, were still tremendous yet the KIA and MIA losses were much less than in the previous years, one because fewer encirclements by the Germans were taking place, and two because they understood that the USSR could not keep producing soldiers, they would rather waste a thousand tanks than a hundred thousand soldiers lives.


Well, first of all, the picture as regards losses is one of continuity - there is no very essential contrast between 1941/42 and 1943/44. It is true that the totality of KIA and MIA decrease compared to previously, but this in itself is a meaningless fact. What is actually the case is that the proportion of MIA falls drastically, and this is quite simply a function of the fact that the Germans are no longer carrying out extensive successful encirclement operations, which again is due to the shift in initiative, which is again fundamentally a product of the dramatic development of the force relation in the Soviet favour. You will not find any significant variation in the relation between wounded and killed in action. There is nothing meaningful any army can really do to alter that relation either, it seems to be fairly consistent for everyone - action that results in x number of killed quite simply also result in 3 to 4 times that number in wounded. As far as overall losses are concerned, these remain at essentially similar levels throughout the war, though overall they gradually improved a little. In 1945, the average daily losses were almost exactly similar to what they had been in 1941. Hence, the notion that manpower was sacrificed in 1941 due to extraordinary circumstances and that this subsequently changed significantly quite simply cannot be reconciled with the data, as far as I can see.
Something else one needs to consider is that the more bodies you put into the field the more casualties you will take and the more casualties you are WILLING to take.
In a word, no. You will not be able to find any general correlation between force size and losses, in this conflict or elsewhere, except in the obvious sense that the number of men you field is the maximum possible number of casualties you can suffer. Indeed, the data from this conflict illustrate this exceedingly well. The German losses increase while their force size decreases. Red Army casualty levels are as high as at any other point at the time when their forces were the smallest, and they also had a generally lower casualty incidence at the time when their strength was at their peak. A better force relation normally in itself also means a more favorable exchange ratio of losses.
I'm sure the Germans had a certain percentage of casualties they were willing to put up with before they ordered a retreat, well, for the Red Army it was a larger percentage and in the end a larger number (and even if it was the same percentage, the number would still be bigger since they had a larger force on the battlefield).
As far as I know, neither army based such decisions on something like that.
These are only some general ideas which I can go into with much more detail, but sadly I don't have the time to do the relevant research and quoting, etc etc. Simply put Germany's population was half that of the USSR (if you want to include the territories taken over the USSR lets say they had 200 million vs. Germany's 80 million), there is also a reason why they suffered half as many casualties as did the USSR


Again, no - this is a logical short-circuit. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why Soviet casualties should be twice the German just because they have a population twice as large.

(
although that depends on the methods you use to come up with those casualties, KIA from what I recall are around 3.5 million for Germans and around 8 for the USSR, the extra million I would account for the fact that the USSR was caught by surprise in 1941 and in the midst of reorganization, German superiority in the field played a part as well. Lastly the Germans were never surprised or disorganized as was the Red Army, thus what they achieved in 1941 the Red Army could never duplicate onto the Wehrmacht or the extra million could come into play by the following: if Germany suffered 3.5 the Soviet Union could have suffered around 8.75 if you recall the 80:200 million ratio).
There have been many discussions here of Overmans, and I believe it is pretty clear that this figure has no real comparability with Krivosheev's, and this comparison is essentially pointless. In terms of overall combat losses, figures are quoted in above post. I don't think it is an issue here that the Red Army ought to have been able to reproduce what the Germans did in 1941, and nor would they have had to in order to make the notion of comparable effectiveness at least possible. But the data falls very well short of allowing that. Note further that it is not in fact the case that 1941 weights the overall figures significantly in the German direction. From the German point of view, they were less good than in 1942, and not that much better than in 1943. Again, the picture emerges from a fairly consistent picture through the war, not from any particularly extreme figures in 1941.
Simply put each side has a certain number of soldiers it can lose in the field of battle, if that criteria is met, as it was for the Germans, then they lose (of course this isn't set in stone, but hopefully you understand what I am getting at). And even to this one has to add in the other factors such as Germany's population had more elderly and middle aged men than the Soviet Union when the ratio is made with the younger generations, so in fact the Soviet Union could afford even greater losses, etc. In the end if you put the restrictions on the Red Army that the Germans had, they would have suffered less losses and simply lost, because 1941 was a critical year and no one could have recovered from it without taking the losses the Soviet Union took.
I'm not sure exactly what the point is here, but yes, clearly the Soviet Union was able to absorb larger losses than Germany.

cheers
Last edited by Qvist on 28 Apr 2006 20:29, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Qvist » 28 Apr 2006 14:00

Now, given the bloodbaths of 1941 and 1942, if you are a Soviet general, what are you going to do? The answer is take no chances. Overcompensate like there's no tomorrow. Instead of concentrating 2 divisions, concentrate 4 and put another corps behind them just in case. Hold off on committing those tanks until the right moment and pray you make the right decision. In other words, sacrifice as many men as you need to to get the job done because failure is not really an option and you won't get a second chance given the speed at which your armour can go up in smoke.
Except, there is no real reason why using four divisions rather than two should result in a greater sacrifice in men (and certainly not in any worse level of losses relative to those of the other side - quite the contrary). Apart from that, I think any commander in any army would rather attack with 4 divisions and a corps in reserve than with just 2, if he had the possibility. The question is rather how much you have at your disposal, no?
Of course, in 1944 the rules change yet again, but Rome wasn't built in a day. The Red Army begins to change its tactics to reflect the need to conserve manpower for a war that could last another year or 2 years, but it is still somewhat ill-equipped to do so. Losses are reduced but the lessons and tactics of the first 3 years of the conflict are not easily unlearned. The transition takes time and more losses are incurred before wholesale change can be made. At the end of the year a dramatic improvement has been made, but the toll is still high.
Agreed - and there is IMO no special hocus pocus involved here. The Red Army as it existed on 22 June was essentially and largely demolished in a short time, and it had to rebuild while at the same time bleeding profusely, and forced to undergo structural and organisatoinal changes in several stages. It is not strange that improvement took time, given the constraints they were operating under. The point here was simply how far that improvement had gone, at a given point in time.
Fourth, the Red Army often used diversionary tactics that, although often successful in drawing powerful German units away from vital sectors, would take immense casualties at the hands of the units they were meant to distract.
Well, but that presupposes that they relatively speaking bled more profusely in such operations than the major ones they were designed to support, and I am not very sure that this is an assumption that could be supported. Again, with very few exceptions it simply appears to be the consistent picture that the Red Army was forced to pay a disproportionate price - early in the war and late, in small operations and large ones, in successful ones as well as unsuccesful ones and defensively as well as offensively. Hence, it would appear difficult AFAICS to account for this phenomenon by recourse to limited or situational factors.

cheers

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Post by paulmacg » 28 Apr 2006 14:50

Qvist wrote:Except, there is no real reason why using four divisions rather than two should result in a greater sacrifice in men (and certainly not in any worse level of losses relative to those of the other side - quite the contrary). Apart from that, I think any commander in any army would rather attack with 4 divisions and a corps in reserve than with just 2, if he had the possibility. The question is rather how much you have at your disposal, no?
According to your numbers for 1943 these tactics did not result in greater or fewer casualties. They did result in greater gains but obviously at the same price in human lives. Clearly the idea was to concentrate rifle divisions down to 1.5-3km per division, but I do not see this as being superior tactics meant to save lives. I see it as Soviet generals overcompensating for the sake of being able to do so. In other words, you know you are going to take massive casualties and you respond to that by having enough men on hand to absorb the losses. You are not making an effort to avoid the losses because you are not being ordered to do so nor are you being given the tools to try more complicated maneuver warfare.

The Soviets took the same approach to dealing with a high rate of attrition in armour. They made little effort to improve upon the quality of tanks or to organize an effective system for recovering lost vehicles. Instead they concentrated on production and replacements. By the time of Kursk they were already able to fully restore a nearly depleted tank corps in a matter of a few weeks. Of course, these methods were extremely wasteful, but they were also extremely effective.
Fourth, the Red Army often used diversionary tactics that, although often successful in drawing powerful German units away from vital sectors, would take immense casualties at the hands of the units they were meant to distract.
Well, but that presupposes that they relatively speaking bled more profusely in such operations than the major ones they were designed to support, and I am not very sure that this is an assumption that could be supported. Again, with very few exceptions it simply appears to be the consistent picture that the Red Army was forced to pay a disproportionate price - early in the war and late, in small operations and large ones, in successful ones as well as unsuccesful ones and defensively as well as offensively. Hence, it would appear difficult AFAICS to account for this phenomenon by recourse to limited or situational factors.
My previous point was an attempt to highlight reasons why wasteful Soviet tactics in 1943 produced such massive casualties despite, or perhaps because of, achieving impressive gains. These diversionary tactics were often carried out by armies not adequately equipped to face the powerful German units they were meant to distract. I do not know specifically that these armies suffered more dramatic losses than those involved in the main operation, but I have no trouble imagining that they did. Still, I did not raise the point for this purpose. I raised it as nothing more than an additional factor.
Of course, in 1944 the rules change yet again, but Rome wasn't built in a day. The Red Army begins to change its tactics to reflect the need to conserve manpower for a war that could last another year or 2 years, but it is still somewhat ill-equipped to do so. Losses are reduced but the lessons and tactics of the first 3 years of the conflict are not easily unlearned. The transition takes time and more losses are incurred before wholesale change can be made. At the end of the year a dramatic improvement has been made, but the toll is still high.
Agreed - and there is IMO no special hocus pocus involved here. The Red Army as it existed on 22 June was essentially and largely demolished in a short time, and it had to rebuild while at the same time bleeding profusely, and forced to undergo structural and organisatoinal changes in several stages. It is not strange that improvement took time, given the constraints they were operating under. The point here was simply how far that improvement had gone, at a given point in time.
I don't see any magic here either. Clearly, for whatever reasons, the Red Army is continuing to bleed right into 1944 and 1945. IMO, there is a dramatic improvement by the end of 1944, but given where the RKKA was forced to start, the end result was not going to be a wonderfully efficient fighting machine. My whole point has always been that by 1944 and 45 the Soviets had learned to overcome their weaknesses and to compensate by other means.

Of course the Red Army did not turn into the Wehrmacht nor did it attempt to meet western standards for conservation of manpower. However, for me, this is not necessarily a valid criteria by which I measure the fighting abillity of an army or the relative abilities of an army's generals.

Having said that, the Red Army did not achieve what it did in 1943-45 by simply wasting a lot more men and tanks. If anything, their success on the battlefield has virtually eliminated large encirclements and units, even if badly depleted, are surviving to be rebuilt. This is a dramatic improvement in itself and it is one that is largely dominant by the summer of 1943.

So, why the casualties? Well, IMO, in 1943 the Red Army is conducting one massive offensive after another with little regard for the costs. They are trading losses taken in defense in 1941 and 1942 for losses taking in offense in 1943. They are still more than willing to trade hundreds of thousands of lives for ground and time, but are now well beyond simply staying afloat. Those lives are now being sacrificed for tangible and considerable gains against an enemy that can barely keep up. I think Kunikov might have been referring to this when he spoke of a margin of acceptable losses. In other words, the Red Army is not inclined to cut short its offensives simply because losses are remaining at the same levels as 1942.

I wonder if officer losses would remain the same throughout the war?

Also, it needs to be said, that the Wehrmacht was not helpless and stagnant throughout this whole period. The Germans were forced to and did adapt to their new role. Certainly some of their defensive operations through 1943 and up to the Battle of Berlin were nothing short of brilliant.

Cheers

Paul

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Post by Qvist » 28 Apr 2006 20:12

Hi Paul
According to your numbers for 1943 these tactics did not result in greater or fewer casualties. They did result in greater gains but obviously at the same price in human lives. Clearly the idea was to concentrate rifle divisions down to 1.5-3km per division, but I do not see this as being superior tactics meant to save lives. I see it as Soviet generals overcompensating for the sake of being able to do so. In other words, you know you are going to take massive casualties and you respond to that by having enough men on hand to absorb the losses. You are not making an effort to avoid the losses because you are not being ordered to do so nor are you being given the tools to try more complicated maneuver warfare.

The Soviets took the same approach to dealing with a high rate of attrition in armour. They made little effort to improve upon the quality of tanks or to organize an effective system for recovering lost vehicles. Instead they concentrated on production and replacements. By the time of Kursk they were already able to fully restore a nearly depleted tank corps in a matter of a few weeks. Of course, these methods were extremely wasteful, but they were also extremely effective.
I guess the point I am making here, and in some ways this amounts to saying the same thing from a different angle, is that a good force relation isn't an approach to compensate for other shortcomings and nor is it essentially a form of tactics, it is quite simply something that you always want to have, to as great a degree as possible. What determines it is the amount of forces you have available, and it is always better to have more rather than fewer, regardless of where you stand qualitatively vis-a-vis the opponent and irrespective of your tactical approach and hence, what you can expect to achieve at a given level of relative force. Here, the Red Army situation changed in two ways - firstly, they very evidently became quite good at gauging what level of force was required to succeed in a given task, which also implies correctly gauging the capabilities of their own forces. Secondly, and perhaps more fundamentally, they achieved the sort of overall force levels which made it possible for them to succeed on these terms. This resulted in warfare that certainly was highly effective, in the sense that it enabled them to achieve great results. That effectiveness however relied fundamentally on a continued large margin of numerical superiority, and on the ability to sustain greatly disproportionate losses. In that light, it was not an efficient form of warfare relative to that practised by its more resource-starved opponent, though it might very well have constituted an efficient use of the Soviet Union's military resources, given the constraints and weaknesses that existed. It is by definition more efficient to achieve a given result at a lower cost than at a higher one, and no army has any conceivable reason for choosing to achieve a given aim at a cost of as much as a single soldier more than neccessary, and the Red Army is no exception. My point here is that it makes little sense in my opinion to think of this casualty-intensive approach as something that fundamentally reflects a chosen approach (not that I say that you claim this, but it is an important distinction), rather than as a reflection of constraints and limitations that leaves no other options if success is to be achieved. If the Red Army had had any realistic way of achieving what they did at the same pace but at a lower cost, they would have done so.
My previous point was an attempt to highlight reasons why wasteful Soviet tactics in 1943 produced such massive casualties despite, or perhaps because of, achieving impressive gains. These diversionary tactics were often carried out by armies not adequately equipped to face the powerful German units they were meant to distract. I do not know specifically that these armies suffered more dramatic losses than those involved in the main operation, but I have no trouble imagining that they did. Still, I did not raise the point for this purpose. I raised it as nothing more than an additional factor.
I realise that, and the point is well taken. But mine is, again, that since the loss levels are not basically a reflection of the specific factors pertaining to 1943, they also cannot be accounted for by those factors. Its consistency instead, in my opinion, point towards explanations more structurally connected to Soviet battlefield methods.
I don't see any magic here either. Clearly, for whatever reasons, the Red Army is continuing to bleed right into 1944 and 1945. IMO, there is a dramatic improvement by the end of 1944, but given where the RKKA was forced to start, the end result was not going to be a wonderfully efficient fighting machine. My whole point has always been that by 1944 and 45 the Soviets had learned to overcome their weaknesses and to compensate by other means.
Well, here I am again tugging a little at the sleeve of what seems to me going a bit too far. Soviet loss levels certainly improved during the second half of 1944, but I am not sure I would say dramatically. And, given their continued outlook, I would not say that they had learned to overcome their weaknesses - rather, it seems that they were still paying a hefty price for them, though the price was diminishing. An important point here is that by this time they were operating under force relation terms that were much better than even a year before, to say nothing of 2 or 3 years presviously - and this constitutes an obvious part of the explanation for improving results. It is clearly possible to compensate for inferior performance by other means - above all by having superior force levels - and this the Red Army clearly did, and increasingly so. But here there is an important distinction between compensation and improvement. None of which means, of course, that there was no improvement in performance.
Of course the Red Army did not turn into the Wehrmacht nor did it attempt to meet western standards for conservation of manpower. However, for me, this is not necessarily a valid criteria by which I measure the fighting abillity of an army or the relative abilities of an army's generals.
Here, I do not quite agree with you, it seems. I would claim that to achieve a given result (in terms of territory taken, losses inflicted, time expended in doing that and so on) at a cost of 20,000 men is quite simply inherently and directly superior to achieving exactly the same thing at a cost of 50,000 men - and no fighting organisation in the world would prefer the latter option if it could achieve the former, no matter how well they could afford the losses. Performance (which I hasten to add is not a direct function of the number of losses taken) is in this sense an objective entity. It rarely settles wars on its own, but it is one of the prime factors that go into doing so - and one that needs to separated for analytical purposes from other factors.
Having said that, the Red Army did not achieve what it did in 1943-45 by simply wasting a lot more men and tanks. If anything, their success on the battlefield has virtually eliminated large encirclements and units, even if badly depleted, are surviving to be rebuilt. This is a dramatic improvement in itself and it is one that is largely dominant by the summer of 1943.
True, but it also needs to be recalled that this was primarily a function of the dramatic shift in the force relation between the two sides - though to be sure, structural improvements in the Red Army also probably contributed considerably to that shift. I have the notion that the reintroduction of advanced and effective large mobile formations in itself meant a considerable increase in Soviet combat power, and ditto the evident increasing skill with which they were handled and operations conducted at the higher level. But the latter at least is something distinct from the battlefield efficiency of its units.
So, why the casualties? Well, IMO, in 1943 the Red Army is conducting one massive offensive after another with little regard for the costs. They are trading losses taken in defense in 1941 and 1942 for losses taking in offense in 1943.
Well, I would pick a bit in that notion and question if it is really a useful one, though no doubt it is intended as a manner of speaking. After all, how exactly does one "trade "losses taken in defense for losses taken in offense? The point is what you are able to achieve with the forces at your dispoasal, and at what cost. Again, there does not seem to be any essential contrast between loss levels incurred on the defense or in the attack. Also of course, there was no shortage of offensive operations in 1941 or 1942 either - the difference, apart from any consideration of battlefield performance, was that they were generally undertaken at much lower levels of force superiorty, which seems the most obvious explanation for their general tendency towards failure.
They are still more than willing to trade hundreds of thousands of lives for ground and time, but are now well beyond simply staying afloat. Those lives are now being sacrificed for tangible and considerable gains against an enemy that can barely keep up. I think Kunikov might have been referring to this when he spoke of a margin of acceptable losses. In other words, the Red Army is not inclined to cut short its offensives simply because losses are remaining at the same levels as 1942.
Yes, but this has nothing to do with its performance or any chosen method of war, and everything to do with the amount of forces Soviet society was capable of generating. The Red Army, just like everyone else, had to adjust to the real limitations imposed by their society's capability to generate means of warfare, in the form of men, equipment and supplies - that is merely to state the obvious. It's just that this capacity was great enough to allow them a wide scope for success despite the continued relative qualitiative inferiority of the instrument at the disposal of the Stavka. To put it bluntly, it does not require much imagination to envisage what would had been the situation if the Red Army by mid 1944 had possessed both a strength and a replacement capacity similar to that of their adversary. Even if such a force had achieved exactly the same spectacular results in the summer battles - Bagratio, Romania and everything - at exactly the same relative costs (which of course they would not), they would still have found themselves in a critical position by October 1944 - as their losses during this spectacularly successful period were stoill roughly twice that of the Germans, and so would have led to a fatal weakening of their position. Of course, they had such a margin both in forces and in staying power that the historical situation did not develop in any such way. But this is more than an idle thought exercise, because that does mean that the completely fundamental precondition for success was a continued large margin of resources and forces, without whom even such spectacular victories would have been in fact intolerable setbacks, regardless of the operational results. That being the case, it is also tenable (if a simplification) to say that Soviet success was fundamentally a result of their superior resources .
I wonder if officer losses would remain the same throughout the war?
Krivosheev provides some data on that:

1942: 161,857 killed, 124,488 MIA.
1943: 173,584 killed, 43,423 MIA
1944: 169,553, 36,704 MIA
1945: 80,000+ killed or missing

No data for 1941, unfortunately. The predictable drop in MIA aside, the numbers are remarkably consistent.

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The above is perhaps as much me developing my own thoughts as a direct response to your points (though these invariably provide at least my starting point), so please don't take it too much amiss if at times you do not feel I am neccessarily addressing your position. I hope they are nevertheless of some interest. Lest it is misunderstood, I am not of the opinion that battlefield efficiency or whatever we want to call it is all that counts - far from it, if this conflict demonstrates anything, it is that there are clear limits to what this can achieve, and that if some of the other major factors are lopsided enough any advantage on that point can be more than counterbalanced. But I believe it is important in analysis not to blur the distinction between what is essentially very different types of capabilities and factors relying on very different things - such as the quality of the higher command organisations, the battlefield capabilities of units, force generation and force levels. Finally, I have not fundamentally here been relating to generals and their comparative qualities, and here I am guilty of taking this thread far astray from its original topic I am afraid.

cheers

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Post by paulmacg » 08 May 2006 17:48

Glantz (When Titans Clashed), gives the following numbers for Red Army losses throughout the war:

1941 (3rd and 4th Quarter): Average Monthly Strength: 3,024,900
Killed or Missing: 2,993,803
Wounded and Sick: 1,314,291
Total: 4,308,094

1942 (1st-4th Quarter): Average Monthly Strength: 5,313,600
Killed or Missing: 2,993,536
Wounded or Sick: 4,087,265
Total: 7,080,801

1943 (1st-4th Quarter): Average Monthly Strength: 6,389,200
Killed or Missing: 1,977,127
Wounded or Sick: 5,506,520
Total: 7,483,647

1944 (1st-4th Quarter): Average Monthly Strength: 6,550,000
Killed or Missing: 1,412,335
Wounded or Sick: 5,090,869
Total: 6,503,204

1945 (1st and 2nd Quarter): Average Monthly Strength: 6,330,880
Killed or Missing: 631,633
Wounded or Sick: 2,191,748
Total: 2,823,381

So, even in 1945 the Red Army managed to lose almost 3,000,000 men before ending the war. This is a shocking figure for me considering by that point in the war the RKKA should have been at the top of its game.

Glantz also offers a breakdown of Soviet losses by operations which is a little more informative. For example, the Red Army lost appr. 630,000 men, 13,000 tanks, 20,000 guns and 4,000 aircraft between June 22nd and Sept. 7th, 1941. Counting Kiev, Leningrad and Smolensk, these number soar by appr. another 1,000,000 men, 3,000 tanks, 50,000 guns and 3,000 aircraft.

In terms of strength commited to battle these numbers are easily understandable.

Defense in Belorussia (22 June-7 Sept. 1941) 417,790 casualties from 627,300 strength
Defense in Ukraine (22 June-6 July 1941) 241,594 casualties from 864,600 strength
Kiev Defense (7 July-26 Sept. 1941) 700,544 casualties from 627,000 strength
Battle of Smolensk (10 July-10 Spet. 1941) 344,926 casualties from 581,600 strength
Leningrad Defense (10 July-30 Sept. 1941) 344,926 casualties from 517,000 strength

The only offensive operation from this period is the El'nia Offesive in which 31,853 casualties were taken from an average strength of 103,200 men (31%).

After a brief lull, losses once again soar, but not nearly as high, during the Battle of Moscow and the subsequent Soviet offensives.

Moscow Defense (30 Sept.-5 Nov. 41) 658,279 casualties from 1,250,000 strength
Tikhvin Offensive (10 Nov.-30 Dec. 41) 48,901 casualties from 192,950 strength
Rostov Offensive (17 Nov.-2 Dec. 41) 33,111 casualties from 349,000 strength
Moscow Offensive (5 Dec. 41-7 Jan. 42) 370,955 casualties from 1,021,700 strength
Liuban' Offensive (7 Jan.-30 April 42) 308,367 casualties from 325,700 strength
Demiansk Offensive (7 Jan.-20 May 42) 245,511 casualties from 105,700 strength
Rhzev -Viaz'ma Offensive (8 Jan.-20 April 42) 776,889 casualties from 1,052,200 strength

So, apart from a few smaller operations, the Red Army, at this point in the war, cannot do anything without paying a heavy price. There is a notable difference between the large encirclements of the first part of Barbarossa and the later Battle of Moscow and Soviet counteroffensives, but the RKKA is still bleeding profusely in nearly every operation either defensive or offensive in nature.

In 1942 the Red Army suffers similar losses but the numbers reflect a change in the nature of the fighting.

Khar'kov Offensive (12 May-10 July 42) 277,190 casualties from 765,300 strength
Kerch Defense (8 May-19 May 42) 176,566 casualties from 249,800 strength
Liuban' Relief (13 May-10 July 42) 94,751 casualties from 231,900 strength

Then, on the defensive, losses climb dramatically.

Voronezh-Vorosh Defense (28 June-24 July 42) 568,347 casualties from 1,310,800 strength
Stalingrad Defense (17 July-18 Nov. 42) 643,842 casualties from 547,000 strength
N. Cauc. Defense (25 July-31 Dec. 42) 193,683 casualties from 345,100 strength
Rhzev-Sychevka Offensive (30 July-23 August 42) 193,683 casualties from 345,100 strength
Siniavinsk Offensive (19 Aug.-10 Oct. 42) 113,674 casualties from 190,000 strength

Starting the Second Period of the War (19 Nov. 42-31 Dec. 43), the Red Army essentially switches to the offensive and remains that way for the rest of the war.

Stalingrad Offensive (19 Nov. 42-2 Feb. 43) 485,777 casualties from 1,143,500 strength
Rzhev-Sychevka Offensive (24 Nov.-20 Jan. 43) 760,000 casualties from 1,400,000 strength

Things quiet down somewhat for the first half of 1943. We see some examples of fairly large offensives that do not result in massive losses.

N. Cauc. Offensive (1 Jan.-4 Feb. 43) 154,539 casualties from 1,145,300 strength
Voronezh-Khar'kov Offensive (13 Jan.-3 April 43) 53,561 casualties from 502,400 strength
Rhzev-Viaz'ma Offensive (Feb.-31 March 43) 138,577 casualties from 876,000 strength

Kursk is not particularily costly.

Kursk Defensive (May-23 July 43) 177,847 casualties from 1,272,700 strength

However, the subsequent offensives are noticeably more costly. In fact, it is during these offensives that the Red Army takes the lion's share of its losses for 1943. Losses in each particular offensive are substantially lower than in the previous 2 years, in general, but the large number of offensives and the constant fighting combine for a total figure easily comparable to the First Period of the War.

Damn, need to get some work done. This is a work in progress. More tonight.

Paul

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 08 May 2006 20:26

Hello Paul

Nice overview. Glantz' data, incidentally, are almost all lifted directly out of Krivosheev it seems . It is extremely instructive to look at these data in toto as a basis for quite a few general judgments.

cheers

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Post by Igorn » 08 May 2006 21:02

Qvist wrote:Hello Paul

Nice overview. Glantz' data, incidentally, are almost all lifted directly out of Krivosheev it seems . It is extremely instructive to look at these data in toto as a basis for quite a few general judgments.

cheers
Qvist, what is exactly nice in this overview? These data are not new and anyone can find it in Krivosheev or Glantz books. As far as "a few general judgements" made by Paul are concerned it is nothing else but attempts to find excuses and justification for the crushing defeat of the Whermacht and attempts to blacken the Soviet victory in the war, which is celebrated in Russia today.

Best Regards from Russia,

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Post by Steen Ammentorp » 08 May 2006 21:20

Igorn – drop it. No one is trying to make excuses or blacken anybody here.

/Steen Ammentorp

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Post by Qvist » 08 May 2006 21:44

What would be useful are relevant German loss data to set these against - the soviet losses tell only a very limited story when seen in isolation. The following aren't very definitive, but should be good as approximations based on the German ten-day reports (combat losses only). Also, on closer inspection Glantz' loss data seem in part much below the figures given by Krivosheev. I have commented where this is the case, otherwise I have used the figures from your post. A general point is that it is somewhat arbitrary to regard losses relative to strength (unfortunately, as this would have been very useful analytically), as the latter is strength on the first day of the operation. In some cases this is a fairly good measure of the general strength level, but in other cases, and especially in battles of long duration and wide scope, very large forces were added underway.

Yearly losses: already quoted in previous post.

22 June - 6 September, whole Ostheer: 441,100.

The figures quoted by Glantz here are extremely strange - according to Krivosheev, the Red Army lost roughly 2.6 million men to combat causes through september. Also, losses at Smolensk, Leningrad and Kiev were far, far larger than 1 million.

Moscow Defense (30 Sept.-5 Nov. 41) 658,279 casualties from 1,250,000 strength

Smolensk: 759,974, from a 10 July strength of 581,600 (needless to say, vast forces were added in the course of the two months the battle lasted)

German, 6 July- 10 September:
PG2, 24,000
AOK2: 38,000
AOK4: 31,000
AOK9: 55,000
PG3: 19,000
= 167,000

Defense in Belorussia: Same data as Glantz

German until 13 July (HG Mitte): ~33,000

Kiev Defense (7 July-26 Sept. 1941) 700,544 casualties from 627,000 strength

German: ~145,000 (AOK 6, AOK 17, PG1 7 July - 30 September, AOK 2, PG 2 6-30 September)


Leningrad Defense (10 July-30 Sept. 1941) 344,926 casualties from 517,000 strength


German (6 July - 30 September):
AOK 16: 50,000
AOK18: 43,000
PG4: 33,000
= 126,000

Yelnia: Can't calculate from my data, as this battle engaged only part of 1 AOK. However, the German losses there are encompassed in the figure for the Smolensk operation. So is presumably the Soviet one.

Moscow Defense (30 Sept.-5 Nov. 41) 658,279 casualties from 1,250,000 strength

German (30 September - 6 November):
PG2: 6,000
AOK2: 3,000
PG4; 13,000
AOK4: 24,000
AOK9: 30,000
PG3: 7,000
= 83,000

Tikhvin: Difficult to isolate relevant portions of German forces

Rostov Offensive (17 Nov.-2 Dec. 41) 33,111 casualties from 349,000 strength

German:

PG1 (20 November - 3 December): 4,000. Seems quite low, but there are no great increases in the following weeks either, which probably means that there was no very significant delayed reporting.

Moscow Offensive (5 Dec. 41-7 Jan. 42) 370,955 casualties from 1,021,700 strength

German (3 December - 10 January):
PG2: 6,000
AOK2: 7,000
PG4; 13,000
AOK4: 15,000
AOK9: 11,000
PG3: 8,000
= 60,000

Some risk of delayed reporting here I think, and here you would have a larger number of non-combat casualties, especially frostbites. But that being said, the German combat losses in December were not very heavy.

Liuban, Demjansk and Rzhev are all difficult to address just with AOK data.

Khar'kov Offensive (12 May-10 July 42) 277,190 casualties from 765,300 strength

Here I would caution about the Soviet figures - Kriv. writes elsewhere that reports were not complete for this battle, and it does not appear that anything has been done to address it in this case, unlike for 41.

I'm afraid I can't recall exactly which German AOKs were involved here - do you remember?

Kerch Defense (8 May-19 May 42) 176,566 casualties from 249,800 strength

AOK11 10-20 May: 6,000. Romanians additional.

Voronezh-Vorosh Defense (28 June-24 July 42) 568,347 casualties from 1,310,800 strength

German 1-30 July

HG Süd, minus AOK 11 and plus AOK2: 81,000. This force scope may be a bit on the wide side. Allies additional.

Stalingrad Defense (17 July-18 Nov. 42) 643,842 casualties from 547,000 strength

German 20 July - 20 November:
AOK6: 84,000
PzAOK4: 21,000
XIX AK: 2,000
XXIV PzK: 3,000
LIX AK: 12,000
= 122,000

Allies additional

N. Cauc. Defense (25 July-31 Dec. 42) 193,683 casualties from 345,100 strength

Here Glantz appears to have made a mistake: He suddenly provides only KIA + Missing. The overall figure is 373,911.

German (20 July - 30 November - unfortunately I have a gap in my figures for December for the commands involved):

AOK17: 41,000
PzAOK1: 29,000
= 70,000
allies additional, plus December.

Rhzev-Sychevka Offensive (30 July-23 August 42) 193,683 casualties from 345,100 strength

German, 30 July - 20 August:

AOK9: 23,000. Nachmeldungen are possible, another 25,000 losses were recorded through September.

Stalingrad Offensive (19 Nov. 42-2 Feb. 43) 485,777 casualties from 1,143,500 strength

German: My data are too fragmentary. From here and up to July 1943 I have nothing really tenable.

Kursk Defensive (May-23 July 43) 177,847 casualties from 1,272,700 strength

German: Roughly 56,000 if I recall correctly.

I am sure I may have used inappropriate German force scopes here and there, would appreciate any corrections on that count.


cheers

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Post by Michate » 09 May 2006 08:45

Rhzev-Sychevka Offensive (30 July-23 August 42) 193,683 casualties from 345,100 strength

German, 30 July - 20 August:

AOK9: 23,000. Nachmeldungen are possible, another 25,000 losses were recorded through September.
The former GDR's official history ("Deutschland im 2. Weltkrieg", Vol. 2, p. 349) gives 9th Army's losses for the period 30. July - 3. September 1942 as 47,098. According to the references this is based on "Anlagen KTB HG Mitte, Führungsabteilung, Akte XI, Personelle verluste seit beginn der Abwehrkämpfe, Stand 4. September 1942". It points to a Soviet archival source (AMO SSR), which is interesting but not too surprising as some GDR's historians were given limited access to these.

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Post by Qvist » 09 May 2006 10:11

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

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Post by pavle » 09 May 2006 12:08

the Red Army was standing on an equal footing with the Wehrmacht in 1944 and 1945.
How can you possibly say that!

I suppose you know the wehrmacht had virtually no airforce left in 44/45 compared with the previous years,
and taking all the factory bombing in Germany in 44/45 (arms prod. etc.)increased due to the lack of german fighter planes,
it is obvious the germans were on the losing side.

But you can say that the russian troops were less well trained, and in a shorter period than the german army was,
and the red army had also inexhaustible supplies of soldiers, so they could afford more serious losses and therefore you could say that in overall the german army achieved more with less..

But that would be an entire other discussion i'm afraid...
Soviet commanders took a great deal of care in choosing the moment to commit their mechanized units. They had already learned that a little early or a little late meant
Well that's also questionable: just take a look at how unrespectfull Marshall Koniev 2nd ukranian front threw his mechanised korps Plyev into the fray of battle in the tankbattle of Debrecen in Hungary 44' He took so much precaution the mechanized battle group almost twice got surrounded and subsequently destroyed by Fretter Pico's forces...

That was just a matter of outbluffing, and large scale manouver to surround your opponent , with any luck..
I would hardly call those actions a well planned tactical countermeasure...

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