Why were the germans so many times encircled?

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Rein
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Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Rein » 06 Sep 2021 21:09

I recently noticed the many times the Germans were surrounded or have to do pocket fightings.
Is there some patern through the war?
Why mostly in winter?

8 February to 21 April 1942 Demyansk Pocket
winter 42/43 Stalingrad
24 January to 16 February 1944 Korsun Pocket
12-21 August 1944 Falaise pocket
1945 Ruhr

Did i forget some other encirclements?

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I have questions
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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by I have questions » 07 Sep 2021 00:09

It's hard to give a concrete answer, because there are differences in situation between the events you mentioned above.

Firstly, why in winter? Because typically it's harder to fight in winter. Another point worth mentioning is that for Demyansk and Stalingrad, overextension was an issue, troops were spread thin and worn down by previous months of fighting, be it general fatigue or casualties, forcing units to take on bigger responsibilities without replenishment. Similar to how the US line during the battle of the bulge nearly broke due to the fact that worn out or inexperienced units occupied that particular stretch of front.

The simple fact of being overwhelmed by the enemy is also worth noting. This is especially the case later on in the war, where the Germans don't have enough men to cover their front and resort to using a thin security screen, enemy recon picks up on that and the plans are drawn up so that the assault force can bypass the bulk of the German defenses, thus encircling the major positions and simply overrunning the security screen.

The Falaise pocket was a matter of poor planning for the Germans. They gambled all their money away essentially in a risky operation that had a low chance of success, dangerously overextending an already precarious frontline. The allies capitalized on this mistake and mauled the German forces (it's also worth noting that at Falaise the Germans were never entirely cut off, just under incredible pressure that made it look as though they were cut off).

The Ruhr is an easy one. The encirclement happened because by that stage, German forces on the western front were spent. Any allied drive might be met by scattered resistance, perhaps even stall, but in the end, the outcome would never be in doubt.

You have indeed left out many encirclements. However, the question shouldn't be why it happened across the board, rather it's best to look at encirclements individually because often, there are different circumstances that lead to the encirclement in question. While there are certainly consistent themes, no two cases are identical.

If you are looking for a pattern, you could make a case for the following:
1.) Overextension
2.) Enemy forces possessing an advantage (man or material)
3.) Worn down by previous battles
4.) Poor planning or preparation

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Kelvin » 07 Sep 2021 13:02

Rein wrote:
06 Sep 2021 21:09
I recently noticed the many times the Germans were surrounded or have to do pocket fightings.
Is there some patern through the war?
Why mostly in winter?

8 February to 21 April 1942 Demyansk Pocket
winter 42/43 Stalingrad
24 January to 16 February 1944 Korsun Pocket
12-21 August 1944 Falaise pocket
1945 Ruhr

Did i forget some other encirclements?
Apart from this, many pockets were formed : Operation Bagration includes encirclement at Vitebsk, Bobruisk and Minsk in Berlarus in June 1944, then followed by Brody pocket in July 1944 and finally Jassy-Kishinev pocket in Moldavia in Aug 1944 and in Sept 1944, in Belgium, Mons pocket,
In 1945, there are Heiligenbeil pocket during Jan-March 1945, also seige(encirclement) of Konigsberg in Jan-Apr1945 and seige or encirclement of Poznan in Jan-Feb 1945

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Sheldrake » 07 Sep 2021 18:05

Several reasons:

1. Most WW2 Armies included a mix of immobile assets (supply dumps, ports, airfields , railways, fortifications), troops on foot or with animal transport moving at 2 mph and motorised troops with tanks moving at 20 mph. Whether called Fullerism, deep battle, blitzkrieg, or keil and kessel, a common theme in WW2 operational art was to penetrate linear defences, isolate and surround an enemy. So the Germans splintered the Polish army into frgaments, surrounded the British and French in the Dunkirk pocket in 1940, and collected over a million Russian prisoners in the aftermath of encirclements in 1941 and 1942. The British rounded but tens of thousands of non motorised italian soldiers in the western Desert. The Red Army would do the same to the Japanese in Augusyt 1945.

2. Around 80% of the German army German army were non motorised forces relying on animal transport. THe Germans were more susceptable to encirclement than say the fully motorised British or American troops.

3. On many occasions Hitler insisted that troops stand and fight where they were rather than withdraw. It can be argued that Hitler made the correct call in December 1941 as the line eventuially stabilised. Had the Germans started to withdraw in strength Hitler's invasion of Russia might have ended as quickly as Napoleons. After winter 1942 HItler was less willing to allow his Generals to give up ground to preserve the troops.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Kelvin » 08 Sep 2021 03:35

Sheldrake wrote:
07 Sep 2021 18:05
Several reasons:

1. Most WW2 Armies included a mix of immobile assets (supply dumps, ports, airfields , railways, fortifications), troops on foot or with animal transport moving at 2 mph and motorised troops with tanks moving at 20 mph. Whether called Fullerism, deep battle, blitzkrieg, or keil and kessel, a common theme in WW2 operational art was to penetrate linear defences, isolate and surround an enemy. So the Germans splintered the Polish army into frgaments, surrounded the British and French in the Dunkirk pocket in 1940, and collected over a million Russian prisoners in the aftermath of encirclements in 1941 and 1942. The British rounded but tens of thousands of non motorised italian soldiers in the western Desert. The Red Army would do the same to the Japanese in Augusyt 1945.

2. Around 80% of the German army German army were non motorised forces relying on animal transport. THe Germans were more susceptable to encirclement than say the fully motorised British or American troops.

3. On many occasions Hitler insisted that troops stand and fight where they were rather than withdraw. It can be argued that Hitler made the correct call in December 1941 as the line eventuially stabilised. Had the Germans started to withdraw in strength Hitler's invasion of Russia might have ended as quickly as Napoleons. After winter 1942 HItler was less willing to allow his Generals to give up ground to preserve the troops.
Hi, Sheldrake, perhaps Hitler let his Ostheer too mobile in defence of Ukraine in second half of 1943, In July 1943, Manstein Heeresgruppe Sud had 48 divisions including 13 x mobile divisions ( 3. 6.7.11.17.19.23. Pz.Div. LAH, Das Reich, Totenkopf, Wiking and Grossdeutschland Pz.Gren Divisions,) then LAH rushed to Italy in mid July 43, then Soviet Steppe, Southern, Southwestern and Voronezh Fronts launched their offensive towards Ukraine, from August to Dec 1943, then German reinforced LAH, 1. 14. 16. 24. 25. Pz division during this period, Manstein always used backhand strategy, to withdraw then struck back Russian rear. its seemed good in Kharkov offensive in Mar 1943, but the result in Ukraine in 1943, ableit German did not suffered disastrous defeat like in 1944, but they gave up most of Ukraine, if the army did not defence and only withdraw and withdraw, Russian maybe in Berlin in mid 1944.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Stephan » 16 Sep 2021 07:47

Hitler did tended to give orders to stand fast and fight at all costs. Essentially as Stalin did, and both caused heavy losses, when the troops couldnt make tactical retreats in time.

Eisenhower, in his memorial Invasion in Europe, comments several times on this. Germans taking a stand and figthing on in a doomed position, instead of retreat, regrouping and takin a new defensive stand further back.

Also, at occasion Germans tended to continue to pour new troops into an already lost battle, leading to great meaningsless losses.
Where it would be much wiser to cut the costs. If the battle is visibly lost, its better to spare all the fresh troops for a new defence line, and try to retreat with what undestroyed troops from this lost battle.... To rest them some behind the new defence line, and be able to reuse them later on.

I suppose it was the bad tactics of Hitler, whom in long periods took over the overall command from his professional generals.
And occasionally, let Himmler lead the defences... With the bad results by the same reason; the german professional generals were well trained in strateghy and tactics, but not always their ex corporals...

And some of the russian - georgian ex priests werent good strategists either. Even if they listened to their military advisors a little better than some ex-corporals...

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 16 Sep 2021 13:17

I would suggest several possibilities.

(1) Hitler's strategic reluctance to give ground until the last possible moment, which was sometimes too late. Most of the coastal encirclements in East and West can be put down to this.

(2) Most of the German divisions were horse-drawn and unable to outpace mechanized pursuers. This was a universal problem.

(3) Sometimes it made sense to hang onto communications nodes as long as possible to make pursuit difficult. This applies to the assorted "Festungs" declared.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Cult Icon » 16 Sep 2021 13:25

There were a lot of pockets in 44-45 (most of them unfamous), that's a good sign that the German army was losing as they didn't manage to counterattack strong enough to stop the formation of the pocket.

The German army was indeed seasonal in a few years of the war: stronger in the summer (as they accumulated/rebuilt their forces for offensives or strategic defense after the muddy season) and weaker in the winter (after expenditure of forces.)

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Yuri » 21 Sep 2021 07:23

Rein wrote:
06 Sep 2021 21:09
I recently noticed the many times the Germans were surrounded or have to do pocket fightings.
Is there some patern through the war?
Why mostly in winter?

8 February to 21 April 1942 Demyansk Pocket
winter 42/43 Stalingrad
24 January to 16 February 1944 Korsun Pocket
12-21 August 1944 Falaise pocket
1945 Ruhr

Did i forget some other encirclements?
Yes, forget.
For example, Missed the encirclement of Budapest in December 44-February 45.
According to the information provided by the Hungarian general - the head of the garrison of Budapest, at the time of the encirclement in the city there were about 110-120 thousand people from the German troops and about 120-130 thousand from the Hungarian troops, and in total from 220 to 250 thousand people were encirclement in Budapest.
However, 45 thousand people acted at the front in the trenches at the same time, the loss of which was continuously replenished

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 21 Sep 2021 09:31

It doesn't seem to me that the very question is valid. Between winter 1942/43 and February 1944 not a single regiment (or probably not a single battalion) on the Eastern Front was encircled and fully or partly destroyed. So not so many pockets before the collapse phase started.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Sheldrake » 21 Sep 2021 10:44

Art wrote:
21 Sep 2021 09:31
It doesn't seem to me that the very question is valid. Between winter 1942/43 and February 1943 not a single regiment (or probably not a single battalion) on the Eastern Front was encircled and fully or partly destroyed. So not so many pockets before the collapse phase started.
Odd choice of dates - unless a misprint.. But a great chance to remind us all of one of the big examples in the topic title
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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 21 Sep 2021 10:52

Yes, I mean February 1944. Actually, I forgot the Gorodok pocket in December 1943, which was short-lived and relatively inconsequential. The Korsun aka Cherkassy pocket was the first large pocket after the winter 42/43 with considerable operational consequences.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Sheldrake » 21 Sep 2021 12:48

Art wrote:
21 Sep 2021 09:31
It doesn't seem to me that the very question is valid. Between winter 1942/43 and February 1944 not a single regiment (or probably not a single battalion) on the Eastern Front was encircled and fully or partly destroyed. So not so many pockets before the collapse phase started.
I suspect that Stalingrad may have been a cautionary tale and von Manstein's role in command avoided pockets form much of 1943.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 10 Nov 2021 09:08

Sheldrake wrote: It can be argued that Hitler made the correct call in December 1941 as the line eventuially stabilised. Had the Germans started to withdraw in strength Hitler's invasion of Russia might have ended as quickly as Napoleons.
David Stahel's latest book on the Soviet Moscow counter-offensive impressively collates personal diaries and operational histories to argue that HGC's generals significantly evaded Hitler's orders and - with Kluge's assistance/allowance - maintained meaningful scope for flexibility. When actually forced to comply with Hitler's order, the results were worse than otherwise. Stahel also traces the "Hitler saved the Ostheer" narrative to postwar accounts by Hitler-loving generals who wanted to say something good about the Fuehrer's immense willpower and continue the Nazi worship of the will in general.
Art wrote:It doesn't seem to me that the very question is valid. Between winter 1942/43 and February 1944 not a single regiment (or probably not a single battalion) on the Eastern Front was encircled and fully or partly destroyed. So not so many pockets before the collapse phase started
There's the Moltke (elder) quote that, when asked whether his victories put him in the ranks of history's greats, he responded "No, for I have never conducted a retreat." It's at least as arguable that Ostheer's paucity of pockets between Stalingrad and Cherkassy is what's unusual.

A big factor is probably that Soviet offensives were depth-limited by logistics, which were probably more horse-bound than German in 1943 and early 44. Ostheer could usually blunt - sometimes more than blunt - the mechanized spearheads, which made it possible to outrun the foot-mobile bulk of RKKA.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
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"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 10 Nov 2021 17:41

Worth to repeat this quote from Marshal Zhukov:
Since Stalingrad Stalin followed his own approach to encirclement and annihilation of German troops. The course of the Stalingrad operation sunk into his memory and he returned to it again and again. I had to face this in a conversation with Stalin when we later planned an operation to encircle the Germans in the Krivoy Rog region. He objected to our intentions to conduct an operational encirclement ... He objected and gave another task, demanding to create a threat of encirclement, which would force the Germans to hastily withdraw from the Krivoy Rog Basin. Recalling Stalingrad on this occasion, he said that, just as now, we promised there to surround and destroy the Germans in ten days, but we spent more than two months messing around with them.
A similar conversation took place with Stalin later, when already in 1944, when we approached Chernivtsi - Proskurov and planned an encirclement corresponding to the general situation. At least we were thinking about it.
Stalin called me and said:
- I feel that you are planning an encirclement there. I had to confirm that we really had this thought, and the situation itself prompted it.
“Don't do this,” Stalin said. “How long will it take?
We replied that the encirclement and subsequent destruction of the encircled enemy would obviously take about a month.
“A month,” he said, “you say a month? You said the same in Stalingrad. In fact, it will took two or even three months. Do not surround them on our territory. We must kick them out. Drive them out, to free the land as soon as possible, we need to sow at spring as we need bread. Let them go, we need to minimize destruction. Create such a situation which would force them to leave quickly. We must drive them out of our territory as soon as possible. This is our task. Encirclement will be conducted later, on hostile territory."
(Zhukov in a conversation with K.Simonov in 1960s)

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