Why wasn't Heeresgruppe Nord able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

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HistoryGeek2019
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Why wasn't Heeresgruppe Nord able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 13 Aug 2019 03:04

On paper, it seems like Army Group North has an easy opportunity in June 1941 to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front by sweeping around it and then driving for the Baltic coast in the same way that Army Group A had encircled the British and French forces in Fall Gelb in May 1940. But instead the Soviet Northwestern Front was able to retreat in relatively good order without getting encircled.

Has anyone read anything on this topic, or the overall strategy for Army Group North. Pinning the Northwestern Front against the Baltic must have been the primary campaign goal, right?

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by jesk » 13 Aug 2019 08:05

Krivosheev’s team used the absence of environments to falsify losses. Analysis of losses of the North-West Front by Zemsky

Image

https://military.wikireading.ru/4782

- I draw the attention of the reader: an estimate of the number of total losses of 651,199 people. conducted only on the combat units of the NWF. The calculations did not include information on combat support units (communications, engineering, road, rail, chemical units) and rear units (construction, medical, veterinary, quartermaster and other units). If there was an opportunity to investigate them as well, then, undoubtedly, the volume of losses of the NWF for 188 days of the war would be even greater. It is not an exaggeration to assume that the total number of losses in the personnel of the NWF for this period, taking into account all the units, may amount to over 700 thousand people.

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by Max Payload » 14 Aug 2019 08:39

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
13 Aug 2019 03:04
Northwestern Front was able to retreat in relatively good order without getting encircled.
It did not retreat in good order. If it had, the panzer group would not have been able to bounce the Dvina so easily. To attempt what you suggest would have required Third and Fourth Panzer Groups using essentially the same jumping off positions southwest of Alytus, and that would have meant attempting to keep two panzer groups supplied through the transportation bottleneck of Augustow, and I don’t know how practical that would have been.

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by BDV » 14 Aug 2019 17:09

AFAIK, the initial main goal of the smaller-than-others AGN was to drive deep, breach Stalin line and connect with 3rd Panzer Group.

In the second phase of the operation, 3rd+4th Panzer were supposed to drive North and storm Leningrad together.

As such, surrounding NW front was never planned, and would have diverted the small striking force of AGN from its intended task; likely leading to a mess on the left flank of Axis advance. But, no worries, AGN still managed to make a royal mess of things in mid-July.
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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by Max Payload » 14 Aug 2019 23:25

BDV wrote:
14 Aug 2019 17:09
AFAIK, the initial main goal of the smaller-than-others AGN was to drive deep, breach Stalin line and connect with 3rd Panzer Group.
IIRC the primary goal of Fourth Panzer Group was to reach Novgorod asap. It was Third Panzer Group that was expected to connect with AGN after Smolensk had been secured in order to support the drive on Leningrad.

BDV wrote:
14 Aug 2019 17:09
AGN still managed to make a royal mess of things in mid-July
- after successfully advancing around 500km in 18 days including a major river crossing and against NWF’s 19 rifle divisions, six tank divisions and an airborne corps. Yes, you really have to wonder at von Leeb’s and Hoepner’s incompetence.

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 15 Aug 2019 01:45

Max Payload wrote:
14 Aug 2019 23:25

- after successfully advancing around 500km in 18 days including a major river crossing and against NWF’s 19 rifle divisions, six tank divisions and an airborne corps. Yes, you really have to wonder at von Leeb’s and Hoepner’s incompetence.
Perhaps part of the problem was that AGN advanced too far too fast, stretching its own logistics and reinforcements while pushing the Soviets back to their own position of strength (the Stalin Line).

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by Max Payload » 15 Aug 2019 08:53

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
15 Aug 2019 01:45
Perhaps part of the problem was that AGN advanced too far too fast, stretching its own logistics and reinforcements while pushing the Soviets back to their own position of strength (the Stalin Line).
There were no good options. What AGN was tasked with doing (taking Leningrad in July) was beyond its capability. Everything depended on the panzer group moving so fast that Kuznetsov would be unable to respond effectively. For the first couple of weeks it worked. But it was assumed that the consequence would be a collapse in the ability of the Red Army to resist, and that didn’t happen. An effective Soviet defence of the Luga line (which was east of the Stalin Line) and the consequent logistical problems in overcoming it had not been part of OKW’s planning assumptions.

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by jesk » 15 Aug 2019 22:31

By order of Hitler, a month pause for 41 motorized corps? The order to the 18th army to attack Estonia with the islands, when could it be blocked? The Wehrmacht near Leningrad could always be used more efficiently.

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by BDV » 17 Aug 2019 00:38

Max Payload wrote: IIRC the primary goal of Fourth Panzer Group was to reach Novgorod asap. It was Third Panzer Group that was expected to connect with AGN after Smolensk had been secured in order to support the drive on Leningrad.
Well, OK. Not my understanding, but if you can post a source on that, that'll be nice.

3rd Panzer DID get to Velikyie Luki, so I'm not sure how much MORE were they supposed to achieve during their "cooperation with the northern army group" (the translation of the expression used by Directive 21). From my POV, Totenkopf getting severely bloodied to take over Opochka quickly was only justified by the opening of the road to Nevel and a subsequent drive South to join 3rd Panzer Group and cutoff retreating RKKA units. If there is no turning South of AGN (or at least of 56th PzCorps), there is no reason Opochka cannot be bypassed.

That's what I read in the early July developments on the Pskov-Pustoshka line, but if there's evidence to the contrary, I'm happy to hear it.

- after successfully advancing around 500km in 18 days including a major river crossing and against NWF’s 19 rifle divisions, six tank divisions and an airborne corps. Yes, you really have to wonder at von Leeb’s and Hoepner’s incompetence.
No doubt; textbook advance June 22 to July 9. The mess (as I see it) was in July 10-20, (the triple "но пасаран" on Luga, Emajogi, and Shelon)
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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by Max Payload » 17 Aug 2019 15:26

BDV wrote:
17 Aug 2019 00:38
Max Payload wrote: IIRC the primary goal of Fourth Panzer Group was to reach Novgorod asap. It was Third Panzer Group that was expected to connect with AGN after Smolensk had been secured in order to support the drive on Leningrad.
Well, OK. Not my understanding, but if you can post a source on that, that'll be nice.

3rd Panzer DID get to Velikyie Luki, so I'm not sure how much MORE were they supposed to achieve during their "cooperation with the northern army group"
The ‘royal mess’ in mid-July was caused by AGC facing five Soviet armies that weren’t supposed to be there (seven if you count 24 Army at Elnia and 28th at Bryansk). So instead of Third Panzer Group being able to advance north between the Lovat and the Ostashkov lakes to support AGN, it was stuck trying to close the Smolensk pocket and extracting 19 PzD from Velikie Luki.
Again IIRC (I’ll see if I can find a source) Hoepner’s prescribed line of advance was to be Daugavpils-Pskov-Novgorod-Leningrad. Other than on the close approach to Leningrad, all effective Soviet resistance was supposed to have ended east of the Dvina. Hoepner wasn’t supposed to have to fight his way across the Velikaya, and subsequently Busch’s II Corps was not supposed to have been drawn into battles around Nevel against an army that wasn’t supposed to exist and 8th PzD was not supposed to have been surrounded at Soltsy by an army that should have been destroyed west of the Dvina.
It was this unexpected resistance with its logistical implications for what was becoming a tenuous supply network that caused the flip-flopping in decision making, with Manstein redirected north to Ostrov from Opochka, Reinhardt given permission on 7July to use the Pskov-Luga road and OKH abandoning on 8 July the original plan for Third Panzer Group to participate in the offensive against Leningrad. The next day Leeb/Hoepner/Reinhardt had to seek Brauchitsch’s specific permission to deviate further from the original plan in order to pursue Reinhardt’s proposal to turn his corps north for an advance east of Lake Peipus to cross the lower Luga into the ‘more suitable tank country’ southwest of Leningrad.

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by jesk » 17 Aug 2019 19:16

Max Payload wrote:
17 Aug 2019 15:26
The ‘royal mess’ in mid-July was caused by AGC facing five Soviet armies that weren’t supposed to be there (seven if you count 24 Army at Elnia and 28th at Bryansk). So instead of Third Panzer Group being able to advance north between the Lovat and the Ostashkov lakes to support AGN, it was stuck trying to close the Smolensk pocket and extracting 19 PzD from Velikie Luki.
Von Bock sharply protested against sending 3 Tank Group to Velikie Luki. He believed the group should advance through Smolensk. The Russian armies are weak, half of the militia. The Germans easily surrounded them and captured.

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by jesk » 17 Aug 2019 19:19

BDV wrote:
17 Aug 2019 00:38
No doubt; textbook advance June 22 to July 9. The mess (as I see it) was in July 10-20, (the triple "но пасаран" on Luga, Emajogi, and Shelon)
Not. This is propaganda. About Soltsy learned only because, that Hitler paid attention to them. I will only remind, and this is important, the Führer made many strange and inexplicable decisions.

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Re: Why wasn't Army Group North able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by Max Payload » 19 Aug 2019 06:44

BDV wrote:
17 Aug 2019 00:38
Max Payload wrote: IIRC the primary goal of Fourth Panzer Group was to reach Novgorod asap. It was Third Panzer Group that was expected to connect with AGN after Smolensk had been secured in order to support the drive on Leningrad.
Well, OK. Not my understanding, but if you can post a source on that, that'll be nice.
One source is an old monograph published in English in the sixties by Lt-Gen Walther Chales De Beaulieu, who in 1941 was CoS of Fourth Panzer Group. The author (who died in 1974) cites Leeb’s emphasis on the need for a rapid advance, in particular by Hoepner.
A couple of quotes:
“That Leeb was confident of success is evident from his first and basic Army Group Order of May 5, 1941. It refers to Leningrad as the ultimate objective of the operations: the first intermediate objective of the Panzergruppe was the River Dvina, 185 miles distant, and the second was the Ostrov/Pskov area, another 155 miles on.”
“Reinhardt ... [7 July] put forward a proposal that the German forces should head north via the lower course of the River Luga ... But to this proposal ... there were two objections:
It would be difficult to reach the area in question over 1,000 miles of sandy and marshy tracks through rough forest:
It would mean a contravention of the basic OKH order - to advance on Leningrad from the southeast, via Novgorod.”

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Re: Why wasn't Heeresgruppe Nord able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by jesk » 19 Aug 2019 09:00

Max Payload wrote:
19 Aug 2019 06:44
BDV wrote:
17 Aug 2019 00:38
Max Payload wrote: IIRC the primary goal of Fourth Panzer Group was to reach Novgorod asap. It was Third Panzer Group that was expected to connect with AGN after Smolensk had been secured in order to support the drive on Leningrad.
Well, OK. Not my understanding, but if you can post a source on that, that'll be nice.
One source is an old monograph published in English in the sixties by Lt-Gen Walther Chales De Beaulieu, who in 1941 was CoS of Fourth Panzer Group. The author (who died in 1974) cites Leeb’s emphasis on the need for a rapid advance, in particular by Hoepner.
A couple of quotes:
“That Leeb was confident of success is evident from his first and basic Army Group Order of May 5, 1941. It refers to Leningrad as the ultimate objective of the operations: the first intermediate objective of the Panzergruppe was the River Dvina, 185 miles distant, and the second was the Ostrov/Pskov area, another 155 miles on.”
“Reinhardt ... [7 July] put forward a proposal that the German forces should head north via the lower course of the River Luga ... But to this proposal ... there were two objections:
It would be difficult to reach the area in question over 1,000 miles of sandy and marshy tracks through rough forest:
It would mean a contravention of the basic OKH order - to advance on Leningrad from the southeast, via Novgorod.”
On July 8, Hitler put forward the idea of a blockade of Leningrad, instead of capturing it. From July 15 to August 10, the 41 corps stood idle while Hitler was considering his plans. Reinhardt reported: tankers are eager for battle. But they were not allowed to attack the Russians. Hitler’s order to seize Estonia with the islands is also doubtful. At first, there were 2 divisions, then 5. Estonia could be blocked, the main forces of the 18 army used to capture Leningrad.

Yours, Max Payload, analysis based on limited information. From 50% of the picture, draw your version of the story.

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Re: Why wasn't Heeresgruppe Nord able to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 21 Aug 2019 00:22

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:On paper, it seems like Army Group North has an easy opportunity in June 1941 to encircle the Soviet Northwestern Front by sweeping around it and then driving for the Baltic coast in the same way that Army Group A had encircled the British and French forces in Fall Gelb in May 1940.
I doubt this would have worked. The Gulf of Riga is a narrow body of water and Soviet-possessed islands would have blocked Kriegsmarine interdiction of evacuation. The Soviets successfully evacuated Tallinn a few months later under more trying circumstances. They suffered enough losses to make it an embarrassment but the Germans captured few soldiers in Tallinn. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_ev ... of_Tallinn

The Gulf is narrow enough that enough LW interdiction probably wouldn't have worked, as ships can cross it during the night. Unlike Tallinn, you wouldn't have German/Finnish minefields and torpedo boats operating against an evacuation.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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