Germany winning on the Eastern Front

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Der Alte Fritz
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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 18 Jan 2014 11:01

steverodgers801 wrote:Since Germany had to win in 3 months time, it was beyond the capacity of the crews to convert the rail lines in time. The German planners decided that Germany would simply capture enough Soviet equipment to make up the difference. A major part was that Soviet trains had a longer travel distance then German and so not only did rail lines have to be restaged, new stations had to be built requiring special crews and equipment that were in short supply.
What you say is true about Barbarossa but in that case during Case Blau, they should have learnt their lesson and got things running properly by then? Case Blau had major problems of supply during the later stages of the operation. During the planning for the Operation, Gen Gercke told the operations staff that there was only one double tracked railway available (Rostov-Caucasus) with a capacity of 24 trains a day and that it could only support one Army Group not the two that were planned. The Stalingrad line was a branch off this with a capacity of 12 trains a day. And he was proved right, the Stalingrad Armies stole supplies from the Caucasus Armies and neither was supplied properly leading to halts by the armoured units in their advance that lasted days.

A key issue is that unlike every other Army the Heer/Wehrmacht has divided the Transport Service from the Supply Service. The Transport Service was tiny and only responsible for railways while the Supply Service had its own strategic motor vehicle transport the Grosstransportraum. Also the Transport Service was used to running either a) offensives mounted from the Reich using the DRB b) small operations using foreign but military controlled railways (like in Greece). Russia was the first time and only time that the Transport Service had to build a railway from the bottom up and the structure created by the RVM did not help instead of a team from DRB being there to help, a new team had to be built from bits and pieces of DRB or Ministry staff (often the Army claimed the people who made up the staff were less than the best.) From a strategic point of view the Transport Service did not have much influence - less than the QMG, the DRB had no political influence nor did the RVM and everyone was promoting the motor vehicle as the new dawn.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by flakbait » 19 Jan 2014 07:01

I for 1 was under the original "assumption' that with the damages inflicted that the beginning of the campaign to prevent rapid Soviet reinforcement and speed of the panzer advance that the former Soviet RR system played little part in the campaigns until late fall. I was WRONG ! As in any `successful` (at least initially) campaign LOGISTICS is THE "key". It is the cornerstone upon which all else rests. Same with studying tank types. Actual `performance` not only depends on numbers and ease of manufacture, armor and armament performance AND dependability plus maintainability, it also depends on spare parts availability, fuel consumption, engine service life, fire control optics and crew survivability, track ground pressure and cross country mobility, (relative) crew comfort; an actual myriad of factors that come together as a result of choices made by many persons beyond the control of the tank`s crew. But each influences the `whole` and how it performs overall. Same with trying to gain a better understanding of this decisive undertaking`s BIG picture...in the end for lack of a REALLY good road system and/ or "modern" airlift capability and most major rivers flowing N to S and largely only marginally useful what else is left to move the Nazi troops and war machines` needs? A largely hastily rebuilt and regauged series of sets of thin arteries carrying the lifeblood of the Reich forces...kinda puts the whole concept of the Eastern Front in a slightly different perspective...

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 19 Jan 2014 08:36

I think the question that needs to be answered is "Why did Imperial Russia/Soviet Union" lack a decent road net?

In Britain as in American (and I think Continental Europe,) the road net was built in the C18th as tarmacadamed road for mail coaches (horse drawn) or Toll Roads or Turnpikes. Napoleon built roads for military movement in France. Later when the motor vehicle appeared it used and expanded on this network.
I do not know why Russia missed out on this pre-railway communications expandsion.

Be that as it may, in Russia the only way to move around all year round was by rail and in 1941 with 25 trains a day for an Army Group, rail could move 11,250 tonnes a day. The Grosstransportraum of an Army Group had a capacity of 15,000 tonnes and at 300km range could do the journey (600km) in 3 days giving a capacity of 5,000 tonnes a day to the Army Group. So after AG Mitte moves past Minsk, it really needs to get some sort of railway line established in its rear.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by flakbait » 19 Jan 2014 22:48

Myself, I had honestly "assumed" that the majority of the 1st and 2cnd wave Nazi invasion forces were kept resupplied by their own organic division motor and horse drawn supply vehicles, with them continuously drawing from their assigned Army Supply corps which was largely motorized. Had no idea that the former Soviet RRs were so rapidly (even if barely) repaired and put back into operation...or that they were largely fully functioning in less than 2 months after the start of the campaign, even if subject to further periodic failures requiring major almost from scratch rebuilding due to overwhelming overuse and abuse by the Germans...the information does change my own understanding of the logistic war on this front of WW2...

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by steverodgers801 » 19 Jan 2014 23:57

The problem for the Germans is that the vehicles they used for supply were often the same ones needed to move troops forward. The average German division moved at the same rate as Napoleon's troops. This meant the PZ units had to do far more combat then desired which affected their performance.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 20 Jan 2014 09:44

The Germans evolved a new supply system for Operation Barbarossa which had resulted from the Marcks and Lossberg studies and the comments by von Paulus during his time in the Supply Service.

How it worked was like this: the Infantry Divisions had a mixture of motor and horse drawn supply columns (in 75 Infantry Divisions they had lost their motor columns and been given extra horses to provide the vehicles for the Grosstransportraum.) which distributed supplies collected from the Army level depots and distributed them around the Division to Regimental, Battalion, etc dumps. This was done over a range of 50-100km ie. 1 day from the depot.

The Army depots drew their supplies largely by motor vehicle columns from a) the railhead delivered by train b) Regional depots of the Supply Service over a distance of 250-300km for motor vehicles or 125km for horses. c) Direct deliveries to the Armies depots of urgent supplies by the Grosstransportraum.

The Regional Depots such as the one deployed at Minsk were supplied by the Grosstransportraum at first and later by rail. These were established at roughly 300km intervals which represented the maximum 'logistical reach' of the German Army.

The Panzer Corps used a slightly different system in that they had a group of Grosstransportraum lorries travelling with them that acted as a mobile depot which returned to the Regional Depots once they were empty.

The Grosstransportraum was great expanded for the invasion of Russia and the one regular Regiment was joined by 2 'raised from civilian service' Regiments. The expanded Regiments had a capacity of around 20,000 tonnes using 4 tonne lorries with 4 tonne trailers. see http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=108967

So at the start of the campaign, the Divisions advance to attack, their biggest supply demand is at this point and they can draw from the depots in Poland for the first encirclement battles at 300km from the border up to Minsk. The GTR is able to start moving supplies forward. The Eisenbahnpioniere are stuck behind the ID advancing up the railway lines who are holding the Soviets in check while the Panzer units and other ID race round the flanks to encircle them. The Kessels are surrounded and destroyed.

The second leap forward from Minsk is supported by the GTR who supply the Army depots directly and attempt to build up a Regional depot at Minsk. The Eisenbahnpioniere change the gauge of the rails do some basic repairs and move forward. This covers the area from Minsk to Smolensk 300-600km and it s time of pursuit since the Soviets have no formed lines as such although there can be heavy fighting by some units. The supply demand is relativity low as this is a pursuit phase.

At Smolensk in August, there was always planned to be a break to build up the Minsk depot and establish a new Regional Depot at Smolensk. But the Soviets effectively make a stand and there is heavy fighting which stretches the supply chain. The GTR are running from Poland to Minsk and from Minsk to Smolensk. The railway is operated by the FEDkos as far as the Minsk depot which is used by the GTR (ie still covering 300km from Regional depot to Army depot) but there are problems as the Transport Service are inexperienced and not meeting their 25 trains a day target (the Transport Officers of AG South only realises he can reach his 25 trains a day target if he unloads the trains and send them back in September - a basic error.) The Eisenbahnpioniere are working from Minsk to Smolensk.

Having defeated the Soviets at Smolensk and the other problems of shifting objectives at right angles to the line of march (and hence unsupportable except by the now over stretched GTR) with a working railway line up to the Regional depot at Smolensk, the advance can now be made towards Moscow 400km away so 2 bounds forward. But the GTR is gutted with a large proportion of its vehicles under repair or lying beside the roadside. The railway lines are running a minimum service to the Regional Depots and providing supplies only, no reinforcements, no replacement weapons, no winter clothing. The advance is spectacular but largely a pursuit with low supply demands so when real opposition is met outside Moscow, there are no supplies to support a heavy attack and no transport capacity to provide replacements.

The German supply and transport system is designed to support an attack over two bounds of 600km and a pursuit beyond that, just like a scaled up version of the Battle for France (one bound deep). The Soviet stand at Smolensk in August is what over stresses the system but the inherent failures were much earlier at Minsk. In order to fight heavy battles deeper into the Soviet Union, you need to do two things: 1) one wing of the encircling Panzers needs to advance up a railway line so that it opens early (too many Eisenbahnpioniere are killed in fighting in unsecured territory trying to push the railways forward faster.) this saves the GTR from hauling supplies from Poland to Minsk at the same time they are hauling supplies from Minsk to Smolensk. 2) You need to deploy strategic assets such as the DRB to re-build the railways directly behind the troops so that the Regional Depots can open and be supplied by rail immediately. This keeps the GTR operating over a 300km range and allows sideways advances to Kiev. It also allows you a higher capacity and so can send reinforcements forward and items such as replacement weapons and winter clothing. Waiting until the Spring of 1942 to deploy the DRB for a major construction programme was too little too late

This is the Soviet secret of rapid advance and supply. They too operated in 300km bounds although slightly differently (Rear Area Services supplies everything directly to the Army Depots which are then responsible for delivering supplies directly to the Divisions, Divisions are only responsible with their single Motor Transport Company for collecting subsistence supplies from the Army and distributing supplies around the Division by horse drawn columns.). But their advance concentrates on capturing railways quickly and they have a vast organisation of Railway Troops - 30 Brigades (compared to 6 Regiments of Eisenbahnpionieres) backed up by construction teams and railway operating teams from NKPS for a total of 250,000 men deployed on railway re-construction. The Germans can completely destroy the railways, it makes no difference as the NKPS can re-build railways from scratch at a rate close to that of the advancing troops of the Combined Arms Armies. The pursuit is maintained by lorry columns sufficient to support the pursuit AND fight a battle at the end of it by concentrating supplies at the Schwerepunkt (another German organisational problem as they do not introduce Army Group Supply Officers until 1942?) everyone else has to live off the land. The lorries who carry out this work are not LL four wheel drive Studebakers (which are reserved for artillery units) but are Soviet made Gaz-AA or LL Ford 6 two wheel drive trucks of 1.5 tonne load weight - light enough to operate on the worst of roads and be hauled out of ditches by horses, not German 8 tonne trailer combinations which break up the road and are difficult to recover. They will support advances up to 650km by the time of the Oder-Vistula Offensive in Jan 1945. But railways are the key to this success and they will get any railway to operate, broad gauge, standard gauge, Romanian low capacity, German high capacity, they will make it work by putting loads of men on loading unloading, trans-shipping, whatever is needed.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by steverodgers801 » 20 Jan 2014 22:20

A major problem for the German supply was the advance left vast numbers of men behind and since there was no way to round them all up they became a major threat to German supply.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Alixanther » 31 Jan 2014 21:04

It seems that Red Army was mostly a huge RR builder department, shielded by some troops ahead. Now it's obvious how they succeeded in spite of having a less mobile army per-se. Mainly because when using trains, these foot soldiers could be quickly and effectively brought to focal points.
I still think that the Eastern Front had a particular dynamic - the longer it was, the better for the Germans. They however, needed to put up a fluid defense, by shifting between two (or more) lines of defense and bringing quicker and better troops to the assembly points in order to achieve the local superiority for a breakthrough. (this was particularly true for late '43 - early '44 but at that time it as too little too late)
The generals, given the "stand fast" order, were right that shortening the front was better - IF the situation stays the same: troops hold their assigned sectors and fight independently, in some cases bringing combat power from neighbouring forces.
However, Stalin was able to put enough pressure on all sectors (playing his manpower card gambit) in order to prevent the German forces from reinforcing a critical sector by army means alone.
The ability of a state to provide strategic and global logistics to its fighting armies is sometimes a huge bonus for the overall combat performance, even if the tactical encounters are littered with failures and defeats.
There's a catch, though: the length of the extended front should be "as crow fly" - as closely ressembling a line possible and the troops should never go for prize targets until the Red Army is combat broken.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Wargames » 31 Jan 2014 21:48

sebas379 wrote:Bombing the Russian industry? You mean all those factories they evacuated to the Urals? they were well out of reach of the Luftwaffe.
I think they lost the war in the east before they invaded.

An attack in 3 directions, splitting your forces up to a level where they cant help each other when needed was the first problem.
Then, when the march on Moscow in autumn 1941 got slowed down, Hitler ordered Guderian and his tanks away from the push to destroy other Russian formations. Granted, if left alone they could have threatened the German flank, but it slowed the push to Moscow.
The army wasn't equipped for a long war, for example they didn't bring winter equipment until well into the winter season.

It was a do or die invasion based on the assumption that they would only have to kick down the door and the whole rotten structure would have come down. they based their assumptions regarding the Red Army on the Winter War with Finland and failed to see the improvements the Russians started to make after that.

Despite the German tactical and strategical superiority, it was too much of a gamble from the get go.
There were no provisions for a prolonged war. It all had to be done in one campaigning season or the momentum would be lost.

The Red Army was virtually wiped out in the first months, but by the time of the Battle of Moscow, they had raised a new one. Yes, things were desperate (think for example about the volunteer divisions fighting near Moscow) but they held. Once the Soviet counterattack around Moscow was launched and the Wehrmacht was thrown back hundreds of kilometers there, they should've realised they were beaten. The German army was losing the best of it's troops whereas the Russians were getting better and better trained etc.
I'll add to this that Hitler got off to a late start in attacking Moscow due to being diverted by the war between Italy and Greece. That late start almost certainly impacted their reaching Moscow. But does Stalin surrender if Moscow is taken? Probably not. In that case the German Army is still in the field fighting in winter. They still lose the war. It just takes six months longer.

Maybe the strategy shouldn't have been to take Moscow at all but just the southern oil fields? Not so cold and it leaves the Russian T-34's without oil.

Or maybe the strategy should have been to not invade at all. As I highlighted the other poster's comment above:

"I think they lost the war in the east before they invaded."

Maybe it's been discussed elsewhere, but there doesn't seem to be any strategic point in invading Russia at all. What does Germany gain? Only the oil fields are useful and they are guaranteed to be blown up and burning when the Germans arrive. And to take the oil fields you still have to take Stalingrad or the Russians have a bridge to counterattack across and not only retake the oil fields but trap the German Army there (as did happen). Invading Russia invites long lines of communication and supply plus defensive lines stretched over vast distances plus the security and occupation of huge amounts of captured territory. I'm a war gamer and I can't war game this. Too much territory, too many supply problems, and no victory conditions. I'm sure the German High Command had to have seen this too.

I'm only guessing here, but Hitler's objective in invading Russia appears to be politically driven - That is to overthrow Stalin and to let the Russian people do it. Hence, the reason for the advance on Moscow. I see no viable military or economic objective or means of ending/winning the war.

I'm only on page 1 of 7 here so expect several posts in a row by me on this topic but I actually don't see Hitler's military mistake in the USSR beyond attacking it late or just in attacking it at all.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Wargames » 31 Jan 2014 21:58

bam wrote: So my simple insight into how could the Germans have won is this: they could have if all they had done was provide food and shelter for the Russians. If the Germans had advanced with loud speakers announcing "russkis, come over here for a warm meal and we will release you as soon as the Bolsheviks are beaten", I think that might have caused the whole rotten soviet structure to collapse.
I did not know Hitler treated Russian POW's this way (I deleted that part from the above post). My own thought was that Hitler should have been creating independent Russian states along the way free of communism and (mostly) Stalin to put the Russian people on his side.

But I can see where Hitler's racial views would not have allowed this. So, once again, it becomes an un-winnable war.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Wargames » 31 Jan 2014 22:22

LWD wrote:There may be many reasons to fight on or to surrender but moral is an important one.
I've designed and made dozens of war games and moral is not a factor (not even for the Italians in North Africa). Surrender is the result of a hopeless, inescapable situation. When presented with the opportunity to run (escape) or surrender, the soldier always chooses to run. Surrender represents accepting the unknown. Running represents escaping back to the known.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Wargames » 31 Jan 2014 22:43

Kelvin wrote: German was master of encirclement battles, this was their basic fighting techiques in war, In June 1941, original Bialystok-Minsk pocket caught 500,000 Russian in pocket but many of them escaped from the pocket and only 320,000 were captured. It was because active Russian troop had more skill in fighting and escaped the encirclement and if many Russian surrendered in mass, why German did not captured all of 500,000 troops. And in South and North, Southwestern Front and Northwestern Front also succeeded in escaping German encirclement. I don't see them surrendered in mass. And by July 31 1941, only 790,000 Russian were captured in 40 days but in Vyzama battle which lasted for less than 20 days, they captured 670,000 Russian.
And again, when German successfully annhilated a large number of Russian troops in encirclement battles such as Kiev and Vyzama-Bryansk because they had adequate panzer and motorzied troops, in Kiev, both Kleist and Guderian had 8 x Panzer and 7 x motorized infantry divisions plus 1 x motorized infantry regiment and in Vyzama-Bryansk pocket, Guderian, Hoth and Hoeppner had 14 x Panzer and 8 x motorized infantry divisions with 1 x motorized infantry regiment. With adequate panzer troop, they could seal the pocket completely and then let the infantry clean up the pocket. This was about the successful or failure of military strategy and tactics, it was nothing to do with Russian willing surrender in mass.
The comment that using motorized units to surround units (cut off their rear) which then surrendered is correct. Notice moral is not an issue for surrender. Having someone in your rear and cutting off your escape is.

Hitler's ability to "surround and surrender" is limited by his number of motorized divisions, their fuel, replacements, and weather conditions. He eventually ran out of all four.

To win the war, Hitler must surround Moscow with Stalin in it and then not let him escape - an unlikely situation for Stalin to agree to.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by werd » 31 Jan 2014 23:14

Alixanther wrote: However, Stalin was able to put enough pressure on all sectors (playing his manpower card gambit) in order to prevent the German forces from reinforcing a critical sector by army means alone.
In 1944-45 Minsk-Warsaw-Berlin line was critical. Germans had data intelligence about Soviet plans and forces to cover the central direction. Hitler forbade to defend deep into this plot. In the summer withdrawal to Berezina allowed Germans to defend surely, putting to coming Russians big losses. In June 1944 Germans still were nearby Smolensk. Closer to Moscow, than to Berlin. Hitler's gross blunders cost to Germans of defeat in war.

Distance Vitebsk-Moscow 519 km; Berlin-Vitebsk 1389 km

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Wargames » 31 Jan 2014 23:38

ChrisDR68 wrote:With the benefit of hindsight I think the only thing that could have produced a German victory in 1941 over the USSR was speed and a single concentrated thrust aimed at the centre of the country.

The Germans invaded the USSR with 3.3 million troops, 3300 panzers and 2700 aircraft. Even though that's an enormous and powerful force it's simply not large enough given the size of the USSR particularly as the proposed fighting front would double or even triple the more the Germans advanced deep into the country.
Agreed with the statement in bold. It is unavoidable. It's like an 11 man football team moving from a 100x54 yard field to a 600x 324 yard field and thinking the same 11 players can still cover it.

A broad front advance simply proved to be too slow and logistics badly lacking to reach the objectives the Germans set themselves given the forces they had available in June 1941 as Paulus had found in his war games of December 1940.
I was unaware of Paulus' war games. What was the excuse for overruling him?



The riskier strategy would be for the whole of the German army to advance in one single thrust from central Poland aimed in the direction of Moscow but with the end goal being the Volga river east of Moscow. A single thrust would ease the logistics situation somewhat and the Germans would need to convert fewer railway lines to the European guage. It would also concentrate the force of the invasion therefore enabling speed to be kept up and as they would be next to each other the army groups could assist each other with unexpected Soviet counterattacks and thrusts.

The obvious flaw in this plan would be the very large flanks north and south a single thrust would create. I would still have three army groups with Army Group North protecting the northern flank of the advance and Army Group South protecting the southern flank. The main strike force would be Army Group Centre as in the actual invasion.
The risk on the flanks would enormous. Every time your flanks were attacked in the rear (And Stalin would order it done), there would be enormous pressure to stop the advance until the flank is secured. This would slow the center group's forward progress.

It also allows the Russians to concentrate their defenses centrally, making breakthroughs more costly and difficult. Every front is covered by a mine field in front of a tank trap behind which are the anti-tank guns and behind that the artillery and behind them the T-34's - all in mass. Every attack faces a Karkov. The attacks in the rear slowing the advance allows these in depth defenses time to form.

Not saying it can't be done. Just agreeing with your own assessment of the flaw.

Once the Germans had reached the Volga river east of Moscow the Germans would then advance north and south establishing the new Reich frontier along the Volga river down to Astrakhan in the south. The Volga doesn't reach all the way up to the north coast of the USSR so the Germans would have to use the large number of lakes in that region as part of their new frontier here and bridge the gaps between the lakes with land based fortifications backed up with their panzers.
I agree the Volga is the obvious line but you are describing a defensive front some 2,500 miles long. If you could get there with 3.3 million men, yes, you could probably defend it (You'd have about one battalion per mile). Get there with 2.2 million men and - no - you probably can't. And, if you do defend the length of the Volga and the Russians successfully picked a point to cross and broke through, the Germans would find themselves in the same position as France at Sedan in 1940.

While offense may favor the Germans, defense does not. The defensive front is just too long. And the Germans must always stop for the winter and that means creating just such a defensive line.

But it can't be any worse than Hitler's plan.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Wargames » 31 Jan 2014 23:52

Konig_pilsner wrote:The assumption that Barbarossa could have been launched as planned earlier has been dispelled years ago,
KP
I'm late to this debate. Can someone direct me to where this was argued?

Thanks.

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