Why were the germans so many times encircled?

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rcocean
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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by rcocean » 10 Nov 2021 21:59

Art wrote:
10 Nov 2021 17:41
Worth to repeat this quote from Marshal Zhukov:
Very Interesting. Was zhukov implying a criticism of Stalin or that he agreed?

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by rcocean » 10 Nov 2021 22:03

"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."
Yes. Another reason is the Germans had nowhere to retreat to. So, the Germans could have avoided encirclement in the Ruhr and left their industrial heartland and retreated to where? The Elbe? Bavaria? The whole German army was in a big pocket at that point with the Soviet Army on one side and the Allies on the other.

As for the Falsaie Pocket, yes that resulted because Hitler wanted to launch a counter-attack and cut off the 3rd army. Could it have succeeded? Maybe. Hitler didn't know his mail was being read. What if Ultra hadn't given the Allies a heads-up on what Hitler was trying to do. In any case, if the Germans had simply started to retreat, as the German Generals wanted to do, how many troops would've made it back to Germany given the Allies massive superiority in mobility, tanks, and air power?

All the criticisms of Hitler and his stand fast orders and counterattacks in 1944-45 ignore the fact that risks had to be taken because simply retreating meant sure defeat. A 100-1 shot makes sense, when the alternative is 100% certain defeat.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Kelvin » 11 Nov 2021 03:15

rcocean wrote:
10 Nov 2021 21:59
Art wrote:
10 Nov 2021 17:41
Worth to repeat this quote from Marshal Zhukov:
Very Interesting. Was zhukov implying a criticism of Stalin or that he agreed?
Hi, Art, I would think Stalin himself appreciate the success of Stalingrad pocket.

Did he have any comment on Cannae at Belarus and Moldavia in 1944 ? Thank

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 11 Nov 2021 09:38

rcocean wrote:
10 Nov 2021 21:59
Art wrote:
10 Nov 2021 17:41
Worth to repeat this quote from Marshal Zhukov:
Very Interesting. Was zhukov implying a criticism of Stalin or that he agreed?
It is very interesting, hadn't seen that before. Reminiscent of Hitler's frequent complaint that his generals didn't understand strategy and economics.

It's hard to say Stalin was wrong without knowing more on projected economic/demographic parameters: how much food would be gained, how many more people would need to be fed, etc. SU's food situation was still extremely precarious, even in 1944.
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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 12 Nov 2021 09:39

rcocean wrote:
10 Nov 2021 21:59
Very Interesting. Was zhukov implying a criticism of Stalin or that he agreed?
Zhukov said that they had different opinions on these occasions, but, of course, he had to conform. In general, his assessment of Stalin was rather positive than negative:
Stalin understood strategic questions from the very beginning of the war. The strategy was close to his usual realm - politics, and the more directly the questions of strategy entered the political issues, the more confident he felt.
At the beginning of the war, he was poorly versed in matters of operational art. I personally began to feel that he mastered operational issues in the last period of the Battle of Stalingrad, and by the time of the Battle of the Kursk Bulge it was already possible to say without exaggeration that he felt quite confident in these matters as well.
As for tactical questions, strictly speaking, he did not understand them until the very end. Yet, as a matter of fact, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, he didn't need to understand tactics. It is much more important that his intelligence and talent allowed him, during the course of the war, to master the art of operational to such degree that, when summoning front commanders and talking with them on matters related to the conduct of operations, he showed himself as a person who understood them no worse, and sometimes better than his subordinates. At the same time, in a number of cases, he found and suggested interesting operational decisions.
In those episodes described by Zhukov the debate related to the question of strategy or even grand strategy. In those question Zhukov apparently didn't felt himself confident enough to argue (*).

*They say that by late 20s (i.e. when Zhukov entered the academy) the course of strategy in the Frunze Military Academy was reduced to mere 1% of the academic time. That hardly gave him expertise in this subject.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 12 Nov 2021 10:51

Kelvin wrote:
11 Nov 2021 03:15
Hi, Art, I would think Stalin himself appreciate the success of Stalingrad pocket.
In January 1943 the Stalingrad was still viewed as a model for future operations. See:

"The enemy retreats from the North Caucasus, burning supply dumps and making demolitions on roads....
It is not profitable for us to push the enemy from the North Caucasus. It would be more advantageous to delay him in order to encircle him by the strike of the Black See Group [of the Transcaucasia Front]"
From Stavka's directive of 4 January 1943 to the Transcaucasus Front, signed by Stalin.

"The capture of Bataisk of our troops is of great historical importance. With the capture of Bataisk we block hostile armies in the North Caucasus and deny retreat to the regions of Rostov, Taganrog, Donbass to 24 German and Romanian divisions.
The enemy in the North Caucasus should be encircled and destroyed in the same way as he is encircled and being destroyed at Stalingrad"
from Stavka's directive of 23 January 1943 to the South Front, signed by Stalin.

On can also remember the operations Gallop and Polar Star whose objectives were formulated in a similar vein. However, after the spring of 1943 the Soviet command abruptly lost interest in encirclement operations for a long time. Was it a result of retrospective assessment of protracted reduction of the Stalingrad (and Velikiye Luki) pocket - Zhukov said that it was, I don't know other evidences.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 12 Nov 2021 21:24

Art wrote:However, after the spring of 1943 the Soviet command abruptly lost interest in encirclement operations for a long time. Was it a result of retrospective assessment of protracted reduction of the Stalingrad (and Velikiye Luki) pocket - Zhukov said that it was, I don't know other evidences.
I've often wondered whether hotly debated topics like 6th Army breaking out of Stalingrad to meet Manstein's Wintergewitter really have much at stake. Any 6A breakout gains Ostheer a barely-mobile, poorly-equipped mass of men but unleashes massive and powerful forces that were tied down hundreds of miles from the main action in Ukraine historically. It's arguable that 6th Army had to be sacrificed for any hope of restoring a coherent German front east of the Dniepr that winter. So I can see RKKA's judgment of encirclements, post-Stalingrad, being entirely correct.
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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 14 Nov 2021 12:14

Kelvin wrote:
11 Nov 2021 03:15
Did he have any comment on Cannae at Belarus and Moldavia in 1944 ? Thank
Shtemenko in his memoir described planning of the "Bagration" in the following way:
The Vitebsk region did not raise any doubts. Here, the operational position of the Soviet troops, deeply engulfing this fortified center, made encirclement with the simultaneous fragmentation and destruction of the enemy grouping by parts the most expedient method. In relation to other areas, the term "encirclement" was not used. As for the methods of action, as in the operation "Rumyantsev" previously, great caution was shown. Experience gained in the battle of Stalingrad and other major battles testified that the encirclement and liquidation of the encircled enemy was associated with the expenditure of a large number of troops and military equipment and the loss of a long time. And any delay on such a wide offensive front as in Belarus gave the enemy the opportunity to bring reserves and parry our attacks .. It was also taken into account that the peculiar wooded and swampy terrain in which the Belarusian operation developed did not allow creating a continuous encirclement front.
In this particular situation, we considered the previous methods of destroying the enemy unsuitable. It was necessary to come up with something new. In particular, the following idea was born: having inflicted defeat on the bulk of the enemy's troops in the tactical depth of his defense with a powerful artillery and air strike, throw their remnants from pepreared positions into forests and swamps. There they will find themselves in less favorable conditions: we will strike them from the front, from the flanks, from the air, and the partisans will assist from the rear. In terms of results, it was equivalent to encirclement, and we considered this method of action to be unconditionally beneficial.
...
In the Stavka the plan was discussed on 22 and 23 May...During these two days, the goal of the Belarusian operation was finally formulated - to encircle and destroy large forces of Army Group Center in the Minsk region. The General Staff, as already noted, did not want to use the word "encirclement", but we were corrected. The encirclement was to be preceded by the simultaneous defeat of the enemy's flank groupings - Vitebsk and Bobruisk, as well as his forces concentrated near Mogilev. This immediately opened the way to the capital of Belarus from converging directions.
apparently meaning that they were "corrected" by Stalin. This piece partly confirms the Zhukov's testimony, as Shtemenko admits that the Soviet command was reluctant to conduct enriclements following the Stalingrad's experience. But somehow a change of mind came in May 1944.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by stg 44 » 14 Nov 2021 15:47

Art wrote:
14 Nov 2021 12:14
This piece partly confirms the Zhukov's testimony, as Shtemenko admits that the Soviet command was reluctant to conduct enriclements following the Stalingrad's experience. But somehow a change of mind came in May 1944.
In general or just in Belarus? After what happened in October 1943-April 1944 during the offensives there it would make sense they would be gun shy about it in Belarus, but in 1944 the Soviets had a number of encirclements in Ukraine that although they didn't work as well as intended were highly damaging to the enemy. STAVKA didn't seem to be shy about encircling Korsun or the 1st Panzer army later on.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 15 Nov 2021 10:00

Korsun or Cherksassy was the second operation which was planned as encirclement after a nearly a year-long pause. The first one was the Gorodok operation in December 1943 which is relatively little known. In both cases the configuration of the frontline engulfing German-held salients simply cried for such decision.
Tarnopol and Kovel were relatively small garrisons which were isolated an besieged spontaneously rather than by plan. Proskurov or Kamenets pocket seems to be not initially planned as a pocket by a Soviet side, which intended just to cut this group from the west and say "good riddance" while it would retreat to Romania. That probably contributed to abortive result of his encirclement.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Sean Oliver » 10 Dec 2021 00:30

Shtemenko's comments ring very true. Mere "encirclement" was not enough to ensure a genuine decisive victory if the surrounded enemy could evade and ultimately extract a considerable percentage of themselves with or without outside help. Encirclements were most successful when the surrounded troops could be forced to surrender quickly (perhaps two weeks or less) without a lot of protracted fighting.
After Stalingrad, the encirclement of Germans was relatively easy due to the low combat strength/density of German infantry companies along the front. The real problem for the Red Army was keeping them encircled long enough to force their surrender. This didn't occur as often as it was hoped as Shtemenko says. The Germans managed to extract quite a lot of troops from encirclements which were difficult to seal off thoroughly like Korsun. Although some vehicles and guns were valuable and might be lost, it was more important for the Germans to save trained and experienced infantry.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Cult Icon » 10 Dec 2021 02:34

Encirclements require a lot of coordinated, preferably motorized.. infantry encircled the enemy force. The Red Army's motorized infantry/tank formations were rather lacking in 1943, there weren't enough mechanized corps compared to the more numerous (motorized infantry light) tank corps.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 10 Dec 2021 09:41

Still there was a whole series of pockets, big and small in the winter of 1942/43. From Stalingrad to Velikiye Luki.
Or Demyansk pocket a year earlier.

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Cult Icon » 10 Dec 2021 13:58

* Referring mainly to the long ranged, broad front advances after July 1943

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Re: Why were the germans so many times encircled?

Post by Art » 11 Dec 2021 12:32

I believe, long ranges and broad fronts featured in the winter campaign of 1942/43 as well:
https://miro.medium.com/max/3838/1*-Pn8 ... 0yP69A.png
To a large degree these vast advances were a result of a series of fully or partly successful encirclements.

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