The State of the Ostheer - May 1942

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Max Payload
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Max Payload » 01 Feb 2020 01:08

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
31 Jan 2020 19:53
Yeah I've heard of wikipedia too.
So have most people. But you presume too much. The figures I quoted were from Krivosheev.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
31 Jan 2020 19:53
What does this have to with my point?
Your point appeared to be that it was a close-run affair in part because Soviet steel production had been so adversely affected. I disagree.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
31 Jan 2020 19:53
The Soviets won so it wasn't close?
It wasn’t close because of the way that they won - crushing the southern wing of the Ostheer over the winter of 1942/43 and advancing from the Volga and the Terek to the Donets. I doubt that Paulus thought it was close.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
31 Jan 2020 19:53
Before I spend time on an answer, are you saying that Soviets were not on the brink of starvation?
I’m saying that food shortages in the SU were not so severe that they rendered the outcome of the conflict a close-run affair. The GKO could have, but did not and did not need to, take additional remedial measures to prevent mass starvation from collapsing the war effort

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 01 Feb 2020 06:47

Let me try to turn down the temperature a bit...

My response is not based on rejecting your thesis so much as I'm responding to what I view as a common story about the Eastern Front that diminishes the richness of this story of the biggest war in human history.

Clearly the SU won and, by the end, it was clearly wasn't close. Narratives about inevitable Soviet triumph due to overwhelming numbers and weapons, however, ignore that the SU was a poor country fighting a rich one, an undereducated army fighting an advanced one, a multi-ethnic/political and complicatedly loyal state fighting a unitary one. Many commentators on this site and at least in non-academic histories fail to realize that many Soviet citizens died of war-induced malnutrition even during 1944 and that most Soviet battle deaths occurred after winter '42 and perhaps after Kursk. To the extent none of that applies to you, it doesn't.

To argue that the war was close is a not a statement about the OTL outcome, it's a statement that small changes to German strategy early in or before the invasion could easily have changed the outcome. These changes (such as German planning for at least a large winter campaign) would have had exponential effect over time, so that a small change in 1941 gives potentially decisive change by 1943 or later.
Max Payload wrote:Your point appeared to be that it was a close-run affair in part because Soviet steel production had been so adversely affected.
Not simply that of course. The point is that the SU was fending off an enemy with 3-4 times its economic resources.

Steel a is decent proxy for economic power in the 1940's, especially given the unreliability of prices during (1) war, when government sets prices and (2) the rule of a non-market system in which prices contain less information than in a market system.

Most observers find it obvious that Japan was a poor country unprepared to act on the global stage in WW2; it's my intuition that comparing Japan's economic base to the SU's drives home oft-ignored facts about the SU.

Your citation to topline Soviet weapons production is well-taken, but I've seen many historians misuse these stats for half a century in a simplistic manner. Among things not represented by the topline stats is technology level of these weapons. Any crudely industrialized country can build a tank; it takes a bit more to make a truly effective tank:
  • Soviet electronics production was crude and abysmal - most was imported before and during the war. Due to command and control problems caused by lack of radios and phones, the combat power of Soviet weapons suffered greatly. A Pz IV produced without radios would be worth not even half to the Germans; most Soviet tanks lacked radios in the early war years. Same for howitzer or mortar unconnected to electronic C&C networks.
  • The Soviet optics industrial was similarly crude and underdeveloped. This similarly undercut Soviet tank and gun effectiveness.
So even before discussing how poverty impacted Soviet tactical acuity, the crude state of the Soviet economy aside from heavy industries immediately cut the true (military) value of its industrial output.

Also worth mention is that Soviet production stats include light tanks that still made up the bulk of '42 production, whereas German stats don't include armored cars and halftracks. These German vehicles equaled or exceeded the combat value of a light tank and the SU produced very few (none? can't think of any Soviet examples).

Finally, Germany out-produced the SU in ammunition until the last days of the war. Ammo production exceeded the value of ALL German land weapons production. RKKA counted more guns than Ostheer, but Ostheer's guns did far more shooting and - due to the tech factors discussed above - shot far more effectively. As the casualty rates attest.
It wasn’t close because of the way that they won - crushing the southern wing of the Ostheer over the winter of 1942/43 and advancing from the Volga and the Terek to the Donets. I doubt that Paulus thought it was close.
I doubt Ivan Russisky, a little-known private encircled with thousands of comrades during Mannstein's backhand blow, would have had a different perspective.
During winter 42/43, the SU launched multiple offensives across the entire front. Only one of the major ones - Uranus - succeeded. Ostheer stopped Mars - "Zhukov's greatest defeat" - dead in its tracks. Little Saturn failed to reach its objectives and its continuation was wrecked by Mannstein's backhand blow. In the north, offensives against AGN failed as well. The April '43 front line was basically the same as April '42.

Obviously the RKKA did better that winter than Ostheer in terms of strategic gains. By that point in the war, the accumulated German mistakes were showing exponential results.

The margins were slimmer than imagined, I'd argue. A 20% stronger '42 Ostheer probably holds most of its Summer '42 gains, for instance. As I'll discuss more below (or in a following post), that would have potentially decisive implications for the war.
By contrast, a 20% stronger 1944/5 Ostheer merely gives Hitler a few more weeks/months to finally kill himself.

...because the "likelihood of winning" based on small changes isn't linear. A small change may exceed the winning/losing margin in Year 1, causing winning in Year 2, and victory in Year 3 for instance. That same small change may be strategically irrelevant if started from Year 3.

Viewing the winter 42/3 campaign in isolation, what I mean by "close" is that the Ostheer still inflicted strategic defeats like Mars and Kharkov. In my book, an army that can achieve strategic victories is still "close" to success. Had the Wallies made peace with Germany in January 1943, for instance, the Ostheer probably at least achieves a favorable peace with Russia. By late 1944 clearly it wouldn't have. We may differ on our definitions of close, which is fine.

I'll have more to say on the food issues, including your idea of America saving Russia from famine. It's a valid question that I've considered during some active research. I don't think it works but of course confirmation bias is a thing and you'll want the analytical goods. I'll answer your point as part of another project on "variables effecting Eastern Front ATL's," which will take a bit more time. I'll post the answer here and in my thread on those variables.
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 01 Feb 2020 07:45

I want to add something crucial that I admittedly don't state often or ever: The inner working of the Soviet economy during the war is an ongoing historical research project for which **NOBODY** has definitive answers.

In support I offer the view of Stephen Kotkin, biographer of Stalin who has yet to publish his third volume, which starts on June 22, 1941:
https://youtu.be/1NV-hq2akCQ?t=2083

In the linked video (time-stamped), Kotkin discusses some of the scholarship on the Soviet wartime economy and concludes as I do - this is an ongoing project. The entire video is great (though on a personal level I detest Kotkin's politics) and is well worth converting to MP3 and listening to on your commute or whatever.

I say this not to concede utter, global ignorance about the Soviet economy. We know enough to say that it had a breaking point (because it was composed of humans, regardless of Nazi propaganda about untermenschen or Cold War propaganda about Communist automatons following party diktat through brainwashing or fear). In my ATL's regarding economic/agricultural collapse, I leave the margins entailing such collapse so wide that I don't think the details of future scholarship would refute them. Given better information about the Soviet economy, I would have more room to postulate lesser conditions for German victory.

What I hope the video drives home is that the cutting edge of scholarship views the Soviet wartime experience as one version of actual economic collapse - thus loss of over half of heavy industrial production and widespread malnutrition-induced deaths - with the threat of absolute social/economic collapse overhanging for much of the war. IMJ this newer scholarship is not reflected in most popular historical accounts, Youtube WW2 channels, History Channel specials, and even in this forum.
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by ljadw » 01 Feb 2020 14:29

there was no breaking point,because war communism was disguised war capitalism .More than 25 % of the agricultural production was done by the private sector .The private sector and the shadow economy ( black market ) saved the SU .

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Max Payload » 01 Feb 2020 14:33

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
01 Feb 2020 06:47
Let me try to turn down the temperature a bit...
OK. To address some of the points you make.

The direct comparison between the size of the Soviet and German economies (and between Soviet and Japanese steel production) overlooks several factors :
Much of the German economy was geared towards facing the threats from the US/BE. The Soviet economy was almost exclusively geared towards fighting Germany.
Almost from day one the Soviet economy was geared towards war production at the expense of the civil economy, whereas in Germany that kind of commitment was not made until the early months of 1943.
The Soviet war effort was considerably aided, particularly after 1942, by Lend-Lease.
The Japanese had no meaningful material support from its allies and faced the US/BE war effort.

Relative levels of personal wealth and education between combatants are not always decisive or even particularly relevant factors in relation to outcomes, as the Americans discovered in Vietnam.

I don’t question the level of privation experienced by the Soviet civilian population, even to the extent of deaths partly or largely attributed to malnutrition, but I question whether those privations endangered the war effort.

Perhaps you are confusing/conflating two distinct issues:
Could Germany have won if it had planned Barbarossa differently - to which, I confess, I don’t know
Could Germany have won if different operational decisions had been made after 22 June 1941 - which has been widely debated and for which the consensus seems to be, probably not.
I accept that there are aspects of the Soviet war economy that remain opaque (and I will keep an eye out for Kotkin’s work), but in 1941 the issue was less one of relative economic strength but rather of the consequences of events on the battlefield. My personal view is that by December 1941 the best Germany could have hoped for was an armistice. Your claim that a “20% stronger ’42 Ostheer probably holds most of its Summer ’42 gains” sounds plausible but is unprovable. I think that if Paulus had been allowed to go over to the defensive at the end of September and had withdrawn his panzer divisions into reserve, Sixth Army would not have been surrounded, but I can’t prove that either. The fact is the Ostheer wasn’t 20% stronger and Paulus wasn’t allowed to go onto the defensive. The same is true of your ‘butterfly effect’ argument in relation to incremental improvements in German operations in 1941. Who knows what counter-actions on the Soviet side they may have engendered.

I accept your point about the inferiority of aspects of Soviet technology, particularly in regard to gun optics and electronics. It is no coincidence that the Soviets were eager to acquire large quantities of radio and radar equipment from the West in the LL arrangements. But it would be wrong to generalise this point. The Yakovlev and Lavochkin monoplane fighters produced in 1940, and their later variants, were hardly hapless victims of the Bf-109s. The T-34 had its flaws, but it didn’t prevent the Germans from wanting something similar but better. The Zis-2 was by far the best purpose-built anti-tank gun on any battlefield in 1941. The 120mm heavy mortar was so good, the Germans copied it almost exactly. The design of the late-war German MP 44 (StG 44) assault rifle was largely based on the pre-war Soviet Tokarev STV-40. And in cases where Soviet design was unsophisticated, that very simplicity and lack of sophistication facilitated mass low-cost production. You quote the “crude state of the Soviet economy” cutting the “true (military) value of its industrial output.” I could equally quote the German propensity for endless design modifications and indecision constraining its effective military output.

As for the Soviet 1942/43 winter offensives - there was more to it than the success of Uranus and the failure of Mars. Operation Spark broke the isolation of Leningrad from overland contact with the interior; Operation Little Saturn achieved its objectives, destroying most of the Italian army on the Don and compromising the German defences on the Chir; the subsequent operation on the middle Don by Vorenezh Front destroyed the Alpine Corps and the Second Hungarian Army; and the hurriedly prepared but successful Voronezh-Kastornoye operation surrounded most of von Salmuth’s Second Army west of Voronezh. Even the subsequent Kursk-Kharkov-Slavyansk Offensive wasn’t total failure despite Manstein’s backhand blow - it left the Red Army in control of all territory to the east of the Donets/Mius line and in control of the Kursk/Oboyan salient. The April ’43 frontline may have been “basically the same as April ’42” but the difference to 1942 lay in the relative strength of the two sides in 1943.

I would also dispute your claim that “strategic defeats like Mars and Kharkov”, are evidence that Germany was still “‘close’ to success” . Mars was not a strategic defeat, it was a failure of a major offensive to achieve any significant gains and at huge cost. Strategically it changed almost nothing. It may have given Zhukov momentary pause to wonder if the Ostheer could be beaten, but it could have given OKW/OKH little reason to think that they were close to success. Kharkov was unquestionably a German success, but it was a counterstrike against an over-ambitious Soviet offensive that was outrunning its supplies and whose Generals had misinterpreted German intentions with regard to Fourth Panzer Army’s retreat to the Mius as being a strategic withdrawal to the Dnepr.
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 01 Feb 2020 16:10

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
01 Feb 2020 06:47

Finally, Germany out-produced the SU in ammunition until the last days of the war. Ammo production exceeded the value of ALL German land weapons production. RKKA counted more guns than Ostheer, but Ostheer's guns did far more shooting.
Source for this?

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Feb 2020 03:32

Max Payload wrote:Perhaps you are confusing/conflating two distinct issues:
Could Germany have won if it had planned Barbarossa differently - to which, I confess, I don’t know
Could Germany have won if different operational decisions had been made after 22 June 1941 - which has been widely debated and for which the consensus seems to be, probably not.
I'm combining them; you're right that it's useful to specify the exact frame for each point but these discussions too often begin in media res and I'm always conscious of verbosity versus analytical helfpfulness.

On the issue of different pre-Barbarossa decisions I'm on record for German victory being not only possible, but likely. The economics favor Germany enormously; the demographics are not so skewed as simple population figures suggest. Because the SU needed ~half its labor force in agriculture, while Germany reduced this ~10% via greater efficiency and foreign substitution, there should never have been a point when the SU could numerically overwhelm the Ostheer. This is especially true after OTL Barbarossa cut SU's population by ~30%, and even more true if a better Barbarossa cuts it by 40-45%. So long as the Ostheer remains stronger than Red Army, SU should continue losing more and more population and resources, such that by the end of '42 it's a marginal player with no oil and little productive agricultural land.

Re post-Barbarossa decision making, I haven't done as much thinking on it as pre-Barb. I'm moving towards a position that full-scale orientation against the SU during summer '41 could have led to a favorable peace with SU.

As I say upthread, the economic disaster of the Winter Crisis '41/42 is under-appreciated. It may have been possible for Germany to prevent/ameliorate this catastrophe via vigorous action in summer '41 once the domestic railroad authorities were crying Cassandra about it.
Combine that with immediate replenishment of the replacement stock for the '42 campaign - necessity of which should have been clear by August at the very latest - and with less needless reinforcement of the West. These measures would have enabled the ~20% increase to Ostheer strength that would have put the SU in crisis by early '43.

Am I prepared to die on that hill? No.
I am prepared to say that much is missing from mainstream analysis of Soviet prospects after Barbarossa failed. The views of Stahel and Glantz, for example, which accurately the portray German weaknesses and Soviet military strength, fail to analyze the underpinnings of the Soviet post-Barbarossa resurgence. It's not necessarily an error on their part - Soviet economy/society is not their focus - but the influence of revisionist military analysis has not been counterbalanced by needed revision of the Soviet economic/social picture.
The Zis-2 was by far the best purpose-built anti-tank gun on any battlefield in 1941.
Agreed. But the decision to stop its production in 1941 shows the main weakness of the Soviet economy. Looking at the gun from its headline stats one wouldn't expect it to be particularly expensive. But it was, probably because the design's sophistication. The Soviets couldn't afford sophisticated designs.
I could equally quote the German propensity for endless design modifications and indecision constraining its effective military output.
There's no serious case that the German war economy was the least efficient of any, so I agree.
There's a middle ground between brute force and rational sophistication. Germany was later able - but too late - to find that middle ground. The tradeoff in the opposite direction was simply not possible for the Soviets, however. Luckily the Allies supplied most of their tech-heavy needs later in the war.
As for the Soviet 1942/43 winter offensives - there was more to it than the success of Uranus and the failure of Mars.
Fair points. I glossed over a lot of the winter battles out of laziness.
Re Operation Saturn achieving its objectives, that's only true of the initial penetration. It intended to cut off Army Groups A/Don by seizing Rostov in their rear.
Your claim that a “20% stronger ’42 Ostheer probably holds most of its Summer ’42 gains” sounds plausible but is unprovable. I think that if Paulus had been allowed to go over to the defensive at the end of September and had withdrawn his panzer divisions into reserve, Sixth Army would not have been surrounded, but I can’t prove that either. The fact is the Ostheer wasn’t 20% stronger and Paulus wasn’t allowed to go onto the defensive.
No alternate history is provable in any strict epistemological sense...
Still, to say that Germany lost because it was weaker rather than because of its strategic approach is to posit that an alternate history in which Germany is strategically smarter wouldn't have succeeded. ...which is also epistemically unprovable.
Mars was not a strategic defeat, it was a failure of a major offensive to achieve any significant gains and at huge cost. Strategically it changed almost nothing.
This is sort of semantics. I think the defeat of a strategic offensive is a strategic defeat.
Had Germany showed the ability to defeat all strategic offensives - i.e. to render the Eastern Front a sustained stalemate - I'm pretty sure Stalin would have accepted a compromise peace.
That is to say, repeated defeat of strategic offensives would have led to a different war outcome. Sounds like strategic defeat to me but ymmv.
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 02 Feb 2020 03:57, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Feb 2020 03:48

@Max Payload

One other thematic point I wanted to make about "closeness."

In comparing relative equipment strength at a particular moment, the impact of a small change in production can be much more significant than the %delta to production from the small change. This is because equipment stock at Time X is a matter of [Production - Losses] between an earlier Time Y and Time X.

On the Eastern Front, each sides frontline equipment stock was usually a small percentage of annual production - say 20% or so. Churn due to losses was enormous, particularly for the Soviets.

Using a 20%-of-production baseline for deployed equipment, a 10% annual production delta could mean a 50% deployed delta at some critical moment.
It's easy to imagine a 50% delta to deployed Ostheer equipment in '42 having dramatic consequences for '42 outcomes...
...and it's easy to forecast 10% higher German army weapons production given avoidance of the '41/42 Winter Crisis.
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Feb 2020 04:09

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
01 Feb 2020 16:10
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
01 Feb 2020 06:47

Finally, Germany out-produced the SU in ammunition until the last days of the war. Ammo production exceeded the value of ALL German land weapons production. RKKA counted more guns than Ostheer, but Ostheer's guns did far more shooting.
Source for this?
I'm going off memory and don't have the books at hand. There's been some discussion on AHF past, see this post e.g.: viewtopic.php?t=169307&start=135#p1984223

Assuming that's accurate for '42, the German advantage would have been far greater in '43/'44. Soviet war production expanded only marginally over '42 (peak of proportional Soviet war effort and unsustainable per Harrison), whereas German production increased dramatically, including in ammo (as I think figures you've shared show).
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Feb 2020 04:18

Apropos of our discussions, I want to promote our own Der Alte Fritz's blog: https://www.hgwdavie.com/blog

One of his 2018 posts discusses the impact of poverty on the RKKA. https://www.hgwdavie.com/blog/2018/10/6 ... casualties

His analysis was definitely in my mental background when posting my earlier replies in this thread.
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Cult Icon » 02 Feb 2020 05:43

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2020 04:18

One of his 2018 posts discusses the impact of poverty on the RKKA. https://www.hgwdavie.com/blog/2018/10/6 ... casualties
Article is decent for what it covers but very lacking for what it doesn't. The biggest factor rkka losses is that they were attacking with infantry excessively- whether in the offense or defense- and not doing it in a cost-effective way (well planned, heavily supported with combined arms). This is something I have never seen covered in an adequate way by any western historian of soviet forces.

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Feb 2020 06:00

Ok instead of holding off on my in-depth post about Soviet starvation during the war, I'll data-dump some tables from Hunger and War to give you all a sense of the scope of this problem.

Here's a link to 9 tables from the book: https://imgur.com/a/D5TGZAb

The most jarring to me is the table of mortality increases in **The URALS** during 1944:

Image

This is 1,000km from the front yet in Chelyaninsk - perhaps the most important armaments center of the SU - death rates for adults were over 4 times higher than in 1940!!!!

A critical piece of evidence that the authors suss out is that OVERALL mortality didn't increase dramatically. Why? Because pre-war most mortality was of <5yo's - "infant mortality" in tech speak. During the war, however, fewer kids were born. And so many kids died early in the war - when records are more sparse - that by 1943/4 there weren't many 2-5yo's around to die! Previous researchers probably looked at the headline stats for mortality and didn't see a dramatic divergence, only recently have the Hunger and War researchers exposed the real truth.

What's more the data show that excess mortality was concentrated in men aged 20-59 (see charts in link). That means the very workers supplying the war were literally being worked to death!

Even at the critical Nizhny Tagil tractor factory (most of SU's T-34 production) up to 40% of lost work days were due to starvation! [see bottom chart in link] Actually it's almost certainly higher than this, as the authors say that record keeping didn't allow them to identify the causes for all lost work days...

The authors emphasize that starvation mortality/morbidity was a slow-progressing condition:
Earlier, we discussed how the lack of trained physicians and their inexperience recognizing cases of starvation influenced the reliability of cause of death diagnoses. These same difficulties also beset factory doctors treating workers in defense industry. Because the condition usually progressed slowly, at least among non­ prison workers, sufferers themselves did not necessarily understand the cause of their deteriorating health and seek medical assistance. At least up through 1943, factory doctors tended to mistake signs of advanced starvation— lethargy, inability to stand, loss of vision, incontinence, bradycardia, and hypothermia—as symptoms of its earlier stages. Because they were already under pressure to avoid signing workers off work, when finding patients with these symptoms, they tended simply to place them on lighter work or assign them bed rest at home. This was insufficient, because at this stage of starvation, patients needed not just rest, but re­feeding.
Pg. 320-21


...thus many more people than who died or were out sick suffered symptoms of starvation. What effect did hunger have, therefore, on the productivity of the millions of workers who were grievously underfed but didn't reach clinical levels or death? Harrison has mentioned productivity declines across many sectors of the SU economy. There are many reasons to expect this - disruption of networks by military action, replacement of experienced soldiers, relocation effects - but it would be fascinating to see disaggregation of malnourishment effects. Unfortunately that level of data will probably never be available.

What this evidence proves - in my mind beyond any reasonable doubt - is that starvation had a definite impact on the Soviet economy. There are clues elsewhere: Moskoff's "Bread of Affliction" mentions that "food crime" was the biggest concern of interior law enforcement, for example.

When I say that the Soviet Union may have collapsed if Germany held the "Blau lands" through 1943, this is what I'm referring to. The regions taken - Eastern Ukraine, southwest Russia, the Kuban - were the most important breadbaskets remaining to the SU after loss of Western/Central Ukraine in '41. Undoubtedly the Blaulands were less productive in '43 after being recovered, due to loss of capital goods and dislocation of personnel and supporting networks.

But if the SU had lacked those regions entirely? Say it's a 10% drop in food supply per capita. I can't imagine the SU surviving that loss intact. Given the razor-thin margins of survival/effectiveness even in the absolutely critical Urals factories, there probably wasn't enough spare calories in the Soviet diet for large-scale production to continue. Either every non-worker would have to be literally starved to death or the workers just couldn't have functioned.

Max Payload suggests increased food supplies from the U.S. The '42 populations of the U.S. and SU were roughly equal at ~130mil. Would the U.S. have given up 10% of its food to the Communists? For many reasons I find this politically infeasible. There would also be huge problems with large-scale distribution of food to relieve famine in the midst of war: famines relief is almost always a problem of distribution rather than total supply. Most LL food went directly to the RKKA so didn't encounter distributional issues (i.e. the SU just fed the supplies into existing military logistics). "Food crimes" would afflict the distribution channels...
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Feb 2020 06:24

TheMarcksPlan wrote:There would also be huge problems with large-scale distribution of food to relieve famine in the midst of war
...I actually find it completely implausible that the SU would have been administratively capable of relieving famine throughout its territories using external food sources. Why? Just look at the 1930's and the 1946-47 famine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_fa ... E2%80%9347

...or just at '46-'47 if you believe the Holodomor was an intentional act rather than administrative failure (I lean towards the latter. Kotkin, who thinks Stalin was an evil Communist, strongly argues that he didn't intend the Holodomor).
The exacerbating factors of the '46 famine - excessive efforts to extract food from Ukraine - would only have been worse in the context of a wartime famine. Stalin would have demanded food for the armies and factories, peasants would have increased their passive resistance to the state. The results would have been catastrophic IMO.
Given Soviet failure to properly administer food distribution in peace, it's hard to imagine them doing better in the midst of war even if the U.S. dumped millions of tons of grain in Vladivostok and Murmansk.
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Yuri » 02 Feb 2020 10:13

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2020 06:00
Ok instead of holding off on my in-depth post about Soviet starvation during the war, I'll data-dump some tables from Hunger and War to give you all a sense of the scope of this problem.

Here's a link to 9 tables from the book: https://imgur.com/a/D5TGZAb

The most jarring to me is the table of mortality increases in **The URALS** during 1944:

Image

This is 1,000km from the front yet in Chelyaninsk - perhaps the most important armaments center of the SU - death rates for adults were over 4 times higher than in 1940!!!!

A critical piece of evidence that the authors suss out is that OVERALL mortality didn't increase dramatically. Why? Because pre-war most mortality was of <5yo's - "infant mortality" in tech speak. During the war, however, fewer kids were born. And so many kids died early in the war - when records are more sparse - that by 1943/4 there weren't many 2-5yo's around to die! Previous researchers probably looked at the headline stats for mortality and didn't see a dramatic divergence, only recently have the Hunger and War researchers exposed the real truth.

What's more the data show that excess mortality was concentrated in men aged 20-59 (see charts in link). That means the very workers supplying the war were literally being worked to death!

Even at the critical Nizhny Tagil tractor factory (most of SU's T-34 production) up to 40% of lost work days were due to starvation! [see bottom chart in link] Actually it's almost certainly higher than this, as the authors say that record keeping didn't allow them to identify the causes for all lost work days...

The authors emphasize that starvation mortality/morbidity was a slow-progressing condition:
Earlier, we discussed how the lack of trained physicians and their inexperience recognizing cases of starvation influenced the reliability of cause of death diagnoses. These same difficulties also beset factory doctors treating workers in defense industry. Because the condition usually progressed slowly, at least among non­ prison workers, sufferers themselves did not necessarily understand the cause of their deteriorating health and seek medical assistance. At least up through 1943, factory doctors tended to mistake signs of advanced starvation— lethargy, inability to stand, loss of vision, incontinence, bradycardia, and hypothermia—as symptoms of its earlier stages. Because they were already under pressure to avoid signing workers off work, when finding patients with these symptoms, they tended simply to place them on lighter work or assign them bed rest at home. This was insufficient, because at this stage of starvation, patients needed not just rest, but re­feeding.
Pg. 320-21


...thus many more people than who died or were out sick suffered symptoms of starvation. What effect did hunger have, therefore, on the productivity of the millions of workers who were grievously underfed but didn't reach clinical levels or death? Harrison has mentioned productivity declines across many sectors of the SU economy. There are many reasons to expect this - disruption of networks by military action, replacement of experienced soldiers, relocation effects - but it would be fascinating to see disaggregation of malnourishment effects. Unfortunately that level of data will probably never be available.

What this evidence proves - in my mind beyond any reasonable doubt - is that starvation had a definite impact on the Soviet economy. There are clues elsewhere: Moskoff's "Bread of Affliction" mentions that "food crime" was the biggest concern of interior law enforcement, for example.

When I say that the Soviet Union may have collapsed if Germany held the "Blau lands" through 1943, this is what I'm referring to. The regions taken - Eastern Ukraine, southwest Russia, the Kuban - were the most important breadbaskets remaining to the SU after loss of Western/Central Ukraine in '41. Undoubtedly the Blaulands were less productive in '43 after being recovered, due to loss of capital goods and dislocation of personnel and supporting networks.

But if the SU had lacked those regions entirely? Say it's a 10% drop in food supply per capita. I can't imagine the SU surviving that loss intact. Given the razor-thin margins of survival/effectiveness even in the absolutely critical Urals factories, there probably wasn't enough spare calories in the Soviet diet for large-scale production to continue. Either every non-worker would have to be literally starved to death or the workers just couldn't have functioned.

Max Payload suggests increased food supplies from the U.S. The '42 populations of the U.S. and SU were roughly equal at ~130mil. Would the U.S. have given up 10% of its food to the Communists? For many reasons I find this politically infeasible. There would also be huge problems with large-scale distribution of food to relieve famine in the midst of war: famines relief is almost always a problem of distribution rather than total supply. Most LL food went directly to the RKKA so didn't encounter distributional issues (i.e. the SU just fed the supplies into existing military logistics). "Food crimes" would afflict the distribution channels...
The main motto of the researcher is to question everything and everyone, regardless of the authorities.
The authors of Hunger and War showed the opposite of what they wanted to show.
All healthy men aged 18-55 in the cities of the Urals were called up to the red Army. At the same time, the population of the Urals in 1941-1942 grew at the expense of people evacuated from the Western regions of the USSR. Arrived men aged 20-59 years are people who are not suitable for military service, that is, suffering from diseases. In addition, the authors did not take into account that in 1942-1943, evacuees from Leningrad arrived in the Urals, that is, people who were already "killed" by hunger arrived in the Urals.
There will be famine in the Urals if and only if there is a drought. And the inhabitants of villages, not cities, will die of hunger. Delivering food to the city is not a problem, the cities are located on railway lines. The problem with delivering food to villages is that villages are located 120-150 km from major cities on an area of 824,000 square kilometers (for comparison, the area of France and Germany is 901,000 square kilometers).
I come from the Urals (South Ural-Orenburg region), the city of Magnitogorsk (the city of Magnetic mountain) was previously part of the Orenburg region, and the city of Mednogorsk (the city of Copper mountain) is now in the Orenburg region.
My sources of information:
My great-grandmother was born in 1860 and lived for 102 years.
My two grandmothers were born in 1901 and also died in the same year in 1990.
My grandmother's second husband was born in 1894 (my grandfather, as I now learned, died of wounds in the hospital).
My aunt was born in 1925 and worked on a collective farm.
My father was born in 1927 and is an agronomist by training. He worked on the collective farm as a tractor driver, agronomist, foreman (the collective farm is divided into teams, our collective farm had three teams – three villages) and, finally, the Chairman of the collective farm. Before being drafted into the Red Army in March 1945, my father worked as a Turner in a mechanical factory during the winter. This plant from Moscow was located in a small room of the locomotive depot and the surrounding area at a railway station 7 km from our village.
Finally, my experience of working in the village until the age of 15 and therefore, I can:
plant seeds, grow and harvest-cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, pumpkin, watermelons, melons, apples, plums, pears, currants and gooseberries;
feed, water, and harness a horse in a cart or sled, feed a pig, herd cows, goats, and sheep, and mow hay for Pets for the winter;
milk the cow, pass the milk through the separator to get the cream, from which then beat the butter in a special tub;
raise chickens, geese and ducks, collect their eggs, and in late autumn, when the cold weather comes, cut some of the poultry for meat.
my father taught me how to care for bees and collect honey, he had seven beehive;
at the age of six, he taught me how to shoot a small-caliber rifle and a shotgun (my father had two 4.5 mm rifles and a 16-gauge shotgun). During the hunting season (spring and autumn), we shot wild geese and ducks when they flew to the shore of the Arctic ocean or back and sat down to rest in the lake and pond;
I can catch fish in the river, lake and pond using special devices or fishing rods;
collect mushrooms, strawberries and blackberries in the fields and ravines.

I lived in the village in 1962 when there was a drought and I know what it is. The second time I saw what a drought was like in 1969, but I no longer lived in the village. However, according to the stories of my relatives, these droughts were were Paradise compared to those that were in 1921-1922 and 1930-1931. From 1940 to 1946, there were no droughts-God, Allah, and Buddha blessed Russia/the USSR, the Red Army, and comrade Stalin to fight the European hordes.

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Aida1
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Aida1 » 02 Feb 2020 13:44

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2020 03:32


This is sort of semantics. I think the defeat of a strategic offensive is a strategic defeat.
Had Germany showed the ability to defeat all strategic offensives - i.e. to render the Eastern Front a sustained stalemate - I'm pretty sure Stalin would have accepted a compromise peace.
That is to say, repeated defeat of strategic offensives would have led to a different war outcome. Sounds like strategic defeat to me but ymmv.
These offensives cannot be considered strategic in any sense of the word. To achieve stalemate, you needed a lot more than just stop an offensive. You needed to inflict crushing defeats applying a much more agressive defense where there is no clinging to terrain but a much more flexible defense with largescale counterattacks of an operational nature.

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