Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

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Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Jul 2020 19:03

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Jul 2020 18:37
This is how I see WW2: Germany would have beaten the SU one-on-one. The SU needed the Wallies help to win but the Red Army did most of the fighting. Under any fair, normative concept of "how the war was won," it was won by the Red Army and enormous Soviet sacrifices and heroism.
You still seem to be thinking only about (or at least discussing) the war against Germany though. The Soviet Union could concentrate on its war with Nazi Germany and almost entirely ignore the threat from Japan and Italy, especially after December 1941. The Western Allies, though, simply couldn't do that to the same extent even after it had been agreed that the war in Europe was more dangerous than the war in the Pacific. For the Western Allies, "the war" was always more global than it was for either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

Saying that in no way diminishes the sacrifices made by the Red Army or the suffering of the peoples of Eastern Europe.

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Tom

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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 05 Jul 2020 19:05

Max Payload wrote:Germany was always looking to increase output, of which manpower is only a component. Equipment, infrastructure, transport, energy and raw material supply etc are all equally relevant.
Where does equipment come from?

Who runs/builds infrastructure and transport?

Do coal and ore walk to factories?

Somehow I've repeatedly encountered this really bad economic idea on AHF - that non-factory inputs aren't influenced by labor.
Max Payload wrote:how does the fact that only a third of German military expenditure was committed to the East render that front a less than decisive factor in the war?
I don't see any difference between your question and "why does war production matter?"
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 05 Jul 2020 19:09

Tom from Cornwall wrote:You still seem to be thinking only about (or at least discussing) the war against Germany though
Hi Tom,

I've noticed in a few threads that you've construed discussing X as thinking only of X (e.g. discussing Communism's impact on social solidarity means German brutality wasn't also motivating).

There are always a million things to discuss and only so much time and patience, please keep that in mind.

Happy Fourth of July weekend from our side of the pond or, as it were, condolences on Traitor's Weekend.
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by stg 44 » 05 Jul 2020 20:07

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Jul 2020 18:48
I agree with Harrison, however, that O'Brien takes his revisionist argument too far. Way too far, IMO.

He does so by focusing exclusively on military goods, to the exclusion of military services - a really massive, fundamental error that I just can't fathom an editor/interlocutor missing (then again the book sold well so maybe a "hot take" was the point).

There are some other errors in the book that I'll maybe get around to discussing.
Because WW2 was a war of machines more than men. The Wallies had such low losses because firepower and machinery did their fighting for them. The Soviets too focused on a select few categories of weapons to maximize and their masses of manpower to use, which was greater in quantity than the Germans, but quite a bit lower in quality because loss rates are so high. How did the much smaller German+Axis armies inflict such disproportionate losses on the USSRs manpower? Machinery and firepower. Using lots of men in the role of infantry/combatants gets you extremely heavy losses, but the Soviets had little choice due to the huge damage to their economy inflicted by Barbarossa and Case Blue that L-L only partially helped with. Notice that the Soviets suffered fewer and fewer losses from 1943 on, that was being increased L-L, increased production due to the recovery of territory, and declining German firepower and machinery in the East which instead went to fight the Wallies even if overall numbers of men on that front didn't really change all that much from 1943 to 1944.

Think you're just either not at the section where he explains that part of the thesis or have forgotten it, but his fixation on production and more importantly pricing for said production is the reality of the enhanced effectiveness said machinery gave to fewer and fewer men. Compare the 'tooth to tail' ratios of the Germans to the Soviets and the WAllies to the Germans. And the Soviets to the Wallies and then examine death tolls.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Jul 2020 18:37
My point about the thought experiment of removing one or the other fronts from the war to see what the impact would be IMHO helps reveals which front was more decisive, because if one 'faction' of the Allies could still win without the other 'faction' in the war, that would tell you more about the relative importance of each.
Yep, didn't see that until after I wrote my post. I'm a huge fan of thought experiments and agree with your hypothetical analysis of the solo matchups.

But I don't agree that this is the right approach to answering at least one conception of "how the war was won."

My own thought experiment:

Two small countries, X and Y, go to war. X and Y are nearly evenly matched but X has the U.S. as an ally. For five years X and Y slaughter each other while the U.S. mostly watches - say the Americans fly 1 bombing sortie against Y over five years. After five years, however, the U.S. uses a small portion of its resources to amplify X's efforts by 10%, putting X over the hump against Y.

Who did most of the fighting? Clearly X.

How was the war won? Almost entirely by X, with a small assist from the U.S.

Under my conception of "how the war was won" it doesn't really matter if X would have lost to Y absent the small assist from the U.S. (say X is 1% less powerful than Y and therefore needed American help to prevail).

This is how I see WW2: Germany would have beaten the SU one-on-one. The SU needed the Wallies help to win but the Red Army did most of the fighting. Under any fair, normative concept of "how the war was won," it was won by the Red Army and enormous Soviet sacrifices and heroism.

Your thought experiment, IMO, addresses more of a hypothetical question rather than "how the war was won." I am of course deeply interested in those hypotheticals but I don't think that's the topic of O'Brien's book and I don't think it's what most people think of when considering "how the war was won."
The USSR did most of the dying, the question is whether that is a viable heuristic to determine who did the most or more importantly most effective fighting. After all the Soviets only inflicted permanent losses of only about 20% of peak Wehrmacht strength (IIRC about 14% of total Wehrmacht strength throughout the war) up to January 1945. Granted it was disproportionately infantry and other combat arms, so that was a pretty important fraction of the Wehrmacht strength, but by itself that was hardly decisive given that the Germans alone had 10 million men in the Wehrmacht at peak strength, but up to 1945 suffered only about 2.124 million permanent losses (dead+missing/pows) in the East from June 1941-January 31st 1945.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_ca ... _war_diary

Now you do need to factor in disabled among the wounded and sick as well and out of the 3.5 million sick and wounded IIRC about roughly 1/3rd were not considered fit or any further war service. So altogether that is about 3.24 million permanent losses (disabled+killed+missing/pow) by January 1945. Let's include those died of wounds as well, which was about 300k more for all fronts combined and say 3.35 million. The Wehrmacht had 18 million men serve during WW2, though not all Germans, but then not all casualties were German either but are included in the totals. So that's 18.6% of the total Wehrmacht were permanent losses in the East from the start of the war to January 31st 1945 when reporting broke down.
Even if that was only combat personnel that is hardly war winning casualty infliction.

To put a finer point on things though, let's say that of the 18 million only about 9 million of the Wehrmacht was ever combat personnel, i.e. deployable to a front rather than doing any sort of administrative work at home or duties that didn't require combat level physical abilities. That means the Soviets inflicted permanent losses of about about 37% of combat capable German manpower (again ignoring any Axis minor or Italian manpower). Again not war winning even if still quite severe. But keep in mind that all that was in the context of the WAllies being in the war and damaging German production and absorbing what is said to be 2/3rds of German production.

So, not to diminish the role of the USSR in the war, can we really say they were more effective in their role in the war than the Wallies? Especially given that the Wallies combined took something like 300% more Axis PoWs than the Soviets? That's counting 1945 though. But still even up to January 31st 1945 the Wallies had taken more just German PoWs than the Soviets, mostly in June 1944-January 1945, vs. June 1941-January 1945.

Food for thought.

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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Jul 2020 21:29

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Jul 2020 19:09
Happy Fourth of July weekend from our side of the pond or, as it were, condolences on Traitor's Weekend.
I'll happily raise a glass to American Independence from this side of the pond. :thumbsup:

To be honest, many in power in the UK still can't seem to get over the loss of Britain's second empire in the last century and the old gag about having lost an empire but being unable to find a role is probably just as true now as when first uttered by Dean Acheson (and yes, I did have to look up who had said it!).
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Jul 2020 19:09
I've noticed in a few threads that you've construed discussing X as thinking only of X (e.g. discussing Communism's impact on social solidarity means German brutality wasn't also motivating).
Probably fair, maybe I shouldn't think so literal-mindedly, but in this case I do think that O'Brien is discussing the broader global war against the Axis so challenges to his perspective should in fairness consider the full scope of the case he is making.

I probably need to read a bit more about the "human capital" argument too - the extent of British mobilisation of the population in support of the British war effort was huge, does only a soldier's life have "human capital"? What about the loss of 5-6 productive years of those conscripted into the munitions industry from other ways of life? Could you point me to any useful articles that would enlighten me as to the economic debate on this matter?

Regards

Tom

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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by Urmel » 05 Jul 2020 21:59

I'm pretty aligned with Davie's review. I like a lot about O'Brien's book, but he doesn't even get into the question of whether killing German soldiers mattered to victory - arguably the major contribution of the Soviet Union to the Allied victory. Which to me indicates that he doesn't want to, because of what it may do to his thesis. In an earlier article (2008) he is quite a bit less circumspect about what an absence of an effectice air/sea campaign would have done to the war in the east, and posits that it would have enabled the Germans to win the war there in 1944 or so. Again, I don't think that passes muster.
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 Jul 2020 10:24

stg 44 wrote:
05 Jul 2020 20:07
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Jul 2020 18:48
I agree with Harrison, however, that O'Brien takes his revisionist argument too far. Way too far, IMO.

He does so by focusing exclusively on military goods, to the exclusion of military services - a really massive, fundamental error that I just can't fathom an editor/interlocutor missing (then again the book sold well so maybe a "hot take" was the point).

There are some other errors in the book that I'll maybe get around to discussing.
Because WW2 was a war of machines more than men.
...
Food for thought.
A lot of food for thought in your post and I'll give it a fuller treatment when I'm off vacation and back with the relevant books.

I disagree with your basic theses but appreciate the intelligent, analytical style of this post - much like my view of O'Brien.

Preliminarily, I have a couple subsidiary factual issues that we can discuss in greater depth but for now I'll just note them:
  • You use the OKW war diary for Eastern Front casualties; IMO the Overmans study compellingly revises dead upwards by 35%. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_ca ... r_Overmans The war diaries were incomplete - not surprising in the midst of such a war (and far less incomplete than comparable Soviet records).
  • As I've mentioned elsewhere, there are problems with O'Brien's estimate of German air/sea production versus land. He goes from USSB statistics but, as Tooze points out, those statistics don't properly account for the Heer's enormous consumption of "civilian goods" to feed/clothe/etc soldiers in the field. That revision would significantly decrease the air/sea war's fraction of German war production - I'll probably get around to quantifying this effect sooner or later.
---------------------------------
I disagree that the land battles of WW2 were more about machines than men. IMO there's a certain economic reductionism - of which O'Brien's book is the apotheosis - that ignores the human factors of battle. The Red Army, for instance, had nearly as much material per soldier as the German in the latter years of the Eastern Front, but on anything approaching numerical manpower parity the Germans would have prevailed dramatically.

IMO the variations in manpower strength and in combat efficiency outweighed variations in material assets, per soldier, in WW2. That's something about which I need to say more (later), however.

---------------------------------------------
You mention "tooth vs. tail" and IMO that's highly significant just not in the way you argue: capital-intensive warfare imposed significant logistical strain that decreased the teeth of a wealthy attacker for tactical benefits that can be far overstated. The U.S. Army's divisional slice of >60k attests to this dynamic. Is it wise to trade half the men in the teeth for more weapons/ammo in those men's hands, versus a poor country that uses twice the toothed men and less-expensive ammo/weapons? Probably yes but on balance the amplification of overall combat effectiveness is marginal.

--------------------------------------------

You argue that the West's reliance on capital-intensive combat explains its lower casualties. There's at least two much-better explanations, one of which is obvious, IMO:

First, the West faced ~60 German divisions for about a year (averaged between fronts) while the Red Army faced more than twice that number for nearly 4 years. So even assuming uniform quality West and East, we'd expect the Germans to have killed ~10x as many in the East as in the West. Of course the ratio was higher than that, which raises the second point:

Second point returns to the human factors over the material. Western soldiers were far better educated than the largely peasant army that the SU fielded, especially later in the war after the initial cohort of higher-educated and more urban soldiers had been incapacitated. Both the Germans and Wallies were far ahead of the SU in average education levels; it's unsurprising the Soviets died at far higher rates to achieve similar outcomes. Modern warfare benefits from higher development levels that the largely peasant Soviet society simply lacked.

---------------------------------

Finally, you claim that the 37% of German combat-capable males incapacitated by the Red Army by 1-1-1945* wasn't "war winning."
*IMO closer to 50% on Overman's analysis.

First, what percentage of incapacitation do you view as war-winning? 60%? 100%?

Second. The ultimate objective of war is, as Davie nicely points out in his review, to subject the opponent to your will. That doesn't require incapacitating all or even most enemy soldiers. So long as your side is stronger, you can keep pushing forward until the enemy has lost what he needs to hold. Killing the enemy helps with that process but it's not the end goal. Raising the Hammer and Sickle over the Reichstag is the end goal, which ends the war.

Regardless of the exact number, had the Heer 3-4mil more combat-capable soldiers facing the West the war would have been fundamentally different.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 Jul 2020 10:25

Urmel wrote:In an earlier article (2008) he is quite a bit less circumspect about what an absence of an effectice air/sea campaign would have done to the war in the east, and posits that it would have enabled the Germans to win the war there in 1944 or so. Again, I don't think that passes muster.
Cite for this article?

If no "air/sea campaign" means Germany v. SU solo, I doubt many would disagree with that conclusion.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 Jul 2020 10:28

Tom from Cornwall wrote:I probably need to read a bit more about the "human capital" argument too - the extent of British mobilisation of the population in support of the British war effort was huge, does only a soldier's life have "human capital"? What about the loss of 5-6 productive years of those conscripted into the munitions industry from other ways of life?
That sums up my amendment of Davie's argument. Not just war workers, also military conscripts who didn't die. Davie's calculation accounts only for human capital expended via death, rather than expended via life-years employed.

Again, the value of the services they provided is part of Econ 101 - it's a bit shocking to see economic analysis that ignores the value of these services and only focuses on goods produced.
Could you point me to any useful articles that would enlighten me as to the economic debate on this matter?
What debate, exactly?
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by Urmel » 06 Jul 2020 11:21

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Jul 2020 10:25
Urmel wrote:In an earlier article (2008) he is quite a bit less circumspect about what an absence of an effectice air/sea campaign would have done to the war in the east, and posits that it would have enabled the Germans to win the war there in 1944 or so. Again, I don't think that passes muster.
Cite for this article?

If no "air/sea campaign" means Germany v. SU solo, I doubt many would disagree with that conclusion.
The Germans couldn't defeat the Red Army in 1941 or 1942 when there wasn't an air/sea campaign by the Allies and they could muster multi-offensives. So I would disagree with that conclusion, for one.

Article was 2000 actually.
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by Ружичасти Слон » 06 Jul 2020 14:58

Urmel wrote:
06 Jul 2020 11:21


The Germans couldn't defeat the Red Army in 1941 or 1942 when there wasn't an air/sea campaign by the Allies and they could muster multi-offensives. So I would disagree with that conclusion, for one.
I agree.

Germany army was fail for to win Soviet union on 1941 and was fail again to win Soviet union on 1942.

Many peoples was write and was think reasons for fails was be mud was be freeze was be rain was be hitler make stupid decisions was be ........ Nobodys was write and was think was be British and Amerika air campaign or sea campaign. After 1942 peoples was write and think for other reasons.

When was not win on 1941 and on 1942 why to think was be win on 1943 on 1944 on 1945 or later?

It seems to me many peoples believe for Germany peoples are ubermenschen and slavic and other peoples are untermenschen and have dreams for Nazi reich for 1.000 years and make imaginations storys how Germany army was must to win. But everybodys know Germany was fail. So we must to read about excuse and excuse and excuse ...... But always was write by peoples presumption for Nazi was win when change was make.

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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by stg 44 » 06 Jul 2020 15:01

I'll have to tackle the rest later, but for now:
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Jul 2020 10:24
A lot of food for thought in your post and I'll give it a fuller treatment when I'm off vacation and back with the relevant books.

I disagree with your basic theses but appreciate the intelligent, analytical style of this post - much like my view of O'Brien.

Preliminarily, I have a couple subsidiary factual issues that we can discuss in greater depth but for now I'll just note them:
  • You use the OKW war diary for Eastern Front casualties; IMO the Overmans study compellingly revises dead upwards by 35%. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_ca ... r_Overmans The war diaries were incomplete - not surprising in the midst of such a war (and far less incomplete than comparable Soviet records).
Overman's study has been found to be flawed:
viewtopic.php?t=226986
viewtopic.php?f=76&t=140220

For this one you'll have to search for Overman's name and you'll find the relevant sections (starts bottom of page 3):
http://www.operationbarbarossa.net/wp-c ... tation.pdf

The war diaries were the tally of losses to that point before reporting broke down. I get not trusting it after the system broke down, but until that point in 1945 it was reasonably accurate. Overman's study on the other hand relies on very flawed demographic data and includes casualties that happened after the period in question (end of January 1945).
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Jul 2020 10:24

[*]As I've mentioned elsewhere, there are problems with O'Brien's estimate of German air/sea production versus land. He goes from USSB statistics but, as Tooze points out, those statistics don't properly account for the Heer's enormous consumption of "civilian goods" to feed/clothe/etc soldiers in the field. That revision would significantly decrease the air/sea war's fraction of German war production - I'll probably get around to quantifying this effect sooner or later.
[/list]
Not really sure what sort of percentage of the economy you think military uniforms cost. Care to post some numbers to illustrate your point about the various 'civilian' categories added to the calculation? O'Brien focuses on weapons, because those mattered quite a bit more than the cost of uniforms. In terms of things like food a lot did come from requisitions in the East even in 1941. Unfortunately I don't have numbers because AFAIK none were really kept of all the scrounging that was done. I think you're willfully missing the point of O'Brien's argument that the war was won or lost due to weapons, so it really only makes sense to factor in military production rather than civilian items.

If you read the paper that Urmel cited, O'Brien puts a much finer point on his argument that should hopefully clarify his position to you.

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Jul 2020 10:24
I disagree that the land battles of WW2 were more about machines than men. IMO there's a certain economic reductionism - of which O'Brien's book is the apotheosis - that ignores the human factors of battle. The Red Army, for instance, had nearly as much material per soldier as the German in the latter years of the Eastern Front, but on anything approaching numerical manpower parity the Germans would have prevailed dramatically.

IMO the variations in manpower strength and in combat efficiency outweighed variations in material assets, per soldier, in WW2. That's something about which I need to say more (later), however.
You're certainly welcome to disagree with his thesis, but ultimately it was the tanks, bombers, artillery, ammunition, etc. that decided the issue, not masses of charging infantry, even for the Soviets. It wasn't human wave attacks the Germans feared, it was massed T-34 assaults backed by Il-2s, heavy artillery, and various SU series SPGs.

I'd like to see a source that shows that the Soviet army had as much material per man than the Germans before 1945. I wouldn't be shocked by that necessarily by say March 1945, but prior to January 1945 I very much doubt that given that the Soviets had fewer trucks in raw numbers than Germany did and more men. Again the Eastern Front from late 1942 on was modulated by increasing Wallied intervention in the war, which sucked off German equipment, reserves, and supplies and gave the Soviets lopsided material advantages in certain categories (in raw numbers, not necessarily per capita).
Take for instance the Luftwaffe: in terms of single engine fighters by 1943 75% of them were on fronts other than the Eastern. That was a huge gain for the Soviets, as the Luftwaffe had been a massive part of Wehrmacht success in the East to that point and when it wasn't available bad stuff tended to happen.

Then there is the value add of Lend Lease, which helped improve the quality of Soviet gear from 1943 on, not just in terms of actual Western equipment, but also through raw materials, machine tools, and even semi-finished materials. In 1941 for instance when the Soviets had to rely on mostly their own production and equipment more aircraft were lost to non-combat causes than combat, but by 1943 that had reversed. It wasn't simply material assets, but the quality of the material as well. The T34/76 vs. the T-34/85 was quite a substantial difference in combat efficacy even beyond the quality of materials issue or the cannon size, because of the use of the 3 man turret and experience producing the design so they could correct production flaws, which had plagued 1941-43 models.

The Soviets and Wallies too would disagree with you about the value of material superiority as well, as their entire method of fighting was overwhelming the enemy by having more material massed at the site of battle than he did. See the book "Brute Force" by Ellis.

The human element mattered to some degree, as did organization for combat, but there is a limit to human quality in the face of massed firepower.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Jul 2020 10:24
Second. The ultimate objective of war is, as Davie nicely points out in his review, to subject the opponent to your will. That doesn't require incapacitating all or even most enemy soldiers. So long as your side is stronger, you can keep pushing forward until the enemy has lost what he needs to hold. Killing the enemy helps with that process but it's not the end goal. Raising the Hammer and Sickle over the Reichstag is the end goal, which ends the war.
Too bad the Soviets themselves disagree with you:
https://mca-marines.org/gazette/seven-p ... -doctrine/
-Destruction or capture of the opponent’s forces, and the destruction or seizure of the weapons and equipment necessary for them to fight. This may be undertaken directly through engagement or indirectly through maneuver that forces the opponent into an untenable situation. Whichever course is chosen, destruction or capture of the opposing force is the premier consideration in the planning of combat action. All other objectives are considered as secondary and contributory.

-The seizure of terrain held by the enemy. The occupation of terrain for its own sake is not a consideration. Rather, occupation of terrain is predicated upon destruction of the opposing force that holds it and stems directly from the accomplishment of that task. In this respect, the two activities are considered as inseparable coelements of mission accomplishments.
Operation Bagration as a case in point.
Urmel wrote:
06 Jul 2020 11:21
The Germans couldn't defeat the Red Army in 1941 or 1942 when there wasn't an air/sea campaign by the Allies and they could muster multi-offensives. So I would disagree with that conclusion, for one.

Article was 2000 actually.
You mean other than the ongoing war against Britain in the Atlantic, on the Channel Front, in the Mediterranean, in the Arctic waters, etc.? If wasn't as if 100% of the Wehrmacht was deployed in the East, in fact less than 50% even in 1941 if you look at overall Wehrmacht strength in 1941 and 1942. Still the USSR was brought to the point of collapse through Case Blue:
https://ideas.repec.org/p/wrk/warwec/603.html

That said though apparently everyone at the time thought the USSR would be vulnerable to being defeated in a single campaign (yes including the Allies), in hindsight it was silly to think that the world's biggest country would be defeated in 1 or 2 major campaigns, so to say that because the USSR wasn't defeated before the US entered in 1941 (i.e. 5 months into the invasion of the USSR) means that the USSR couldn't be defeated or the Allies had no role in the war in 1941-42 is frankly silly.

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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by Urmel » 06 Jul 2020 21:25

There was more than 50% of the Wehrmacht employed in the east in 1941, 1942.

Yes almost all of the navy was in the west. A decent part of the airforce was. The Med was just a bit more than a rounding error. The west was where depleted divisions went to be rebuilt because it was a safe space.

But 80% of the Heer was in the east. So in the larger scheme of things 1941 and 1942 were a major focus on the east. And they still couldn’t defeat the Red Army. I also would like to see any evidence that the Soviet Union came close to collapse over Fall Blau or that it not happening can be ascribed to the air/sea battle. The paper you linked isn’t it, it’s clearly saying so itself.
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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by stg 44 » 06 Jul 2020 23:50

Urmel wrote:
06 Jul 2020 21:25
There was more than 50% of the Wehrmacht employed in the east in 1941, 1942.

Yes almost all of the navy was in the west. A decent part of the airforce was. The Med was just a bit more than a rounding error. The west was where depleted divisions went to be rebuilt because it was a safe space.

But 80% of the Heer was in the east. So in the larger scheme of things 1941 and 1942 were a major focus on the east. And they still couldn’t defeat the Red Army. I also would like to see any evidence that the Soviet Union came close to collapse over Fall Blau or that it not happening can be ascribed to the air/sea battle. The paper you linked isn’t it, it’s clearly saying so itself.
If you just look at divisions I can see where you'd think that. See the raw numbers:
https://www.feldgrau.com/WW2-Germany-St ... nd-Numbers
In Wehrmacht Service*, 1941: 8,154,000+
In Wehrmacht Service*, 1942: 9,580,000+
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_F ... 0earmarked.
The Wehrmacht had a total strength of 7,234,000 men by 1941.

2 June 1941 3,050,000 Germans, 67,000 (northern Norway)

7 June 1942 2,600,000 Germans, 90,000 (northern Norway)
Last I checked 3.1 million is quite a bit less than 50% of 8.1 million or even 7.2 million. 2.69 million is vastly less than 50% of 9.5 million.

Granted that was the vastly major of deployable army divisions, but divisions weren't the only manpower in the army or wider armed services. If you eliminated the British in the war the Italians would be more deployable in the East, as would the Luftwaffe, same with the serious investments in air defense, etc. That's not even getting into removing the economic warfare the British waged via the blockade. So even at the peak of Axis commitments to the East they were still nowhere close to going full in against the Soviets. They only got weaker in the East from June 1941 on. The only major exception was during the period of Kursk, but even then in terms of relative deployments that were never as heavily deployed East as in June 1941.


As to Harrison's paper it said the Soviets were close to collapse, not that they were going to given the flawed historical strategy. By the peak of Blau the USSR was down to about 40% of pre-war agricultural output, but still have over 2/3rds of it's population, but now something like 25 million refugees evacuated from the west, while labor was heavily reduced, both mechanical (tractors) and biological (horses and people).

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Re: Der Alte Fritz on O'Brien's How the War was Won

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 07 Jul 2020 04:27

stg44 wrote:ultimately it was the tanks, bombers, artillery, ammunition, etc. that decided the issue, not masses of charging infantry, even for the Soviets. It wasn't human wave attacks the Germans feared, it was massed T-34 assaults backed by Il-2s, heavy artillery, and various SU series SPGs.
Not masses of charging infantry but not machines alone either.

What the Soviets and every army discovered as they gained combat experience was that combined arms was the whole ballgame, not brute numbers of machines/shells.

Within combined arms doctrine, we see nearly every combatant moving towards a low ratio of AFV:infantry as the war went on. For all Guderian's post-war protests about spreading panzers across more divisions, early-war tank divisions were too tank-heavy.

One compelling piece of evidence is the performance of panzer divisions when they had lost 80% of their tanks - not a rare thing on the Eastern Front. Even with those losses, they remained powerful because most of their killing power was in their various other arms - artillery, infantry, AT, recon, pioneer etc.

----------------

As I said this is a deep discussion and one that's not necessary to my critique of O'Brien. I'll start another thread on it.
Too bad the Soviets themselves disagree with you:
https://mca-marines.org/gazette/seven-p ... -doctrine/
Tactical doctrine is a completely different matter from the strategic question of how to win wars.

I am not denying the importance of incapacitating enemy soldiers. Indeed the whole basis of my Eastern Front ATL threads is for the Ostheer to incapacitate more RKKA via encirclements in Ukraine.

But they do so in service of the war-winning objective of capturing all European Russia, not as part of a project to kill/capture 40 million RKKA soldiers.
I'd like to see a source that shows that the Soviet army had as much material per man than the Germans before 1945.
Just look at the topline numbers for the big '43-'44 battles. In Bagration the SU had ~4:1 manpower superiority but >10:1 superiority in AFV's and artillery. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Bagration (sources in article). There's some disputes between books over the numbers but nobody thinks the Soviet advantages in manpower exceeded their AFV/guns advantages.

Same with with simultaneous Lvov-Samdomierz offensive, which had ~10% manpower superiority but ~2x as many tanks/guns.

You're right that the per-man truck figures don't follow this trend but their importance was more operational/strategic in sustaining the offensives rather than tactical.

Even if non AFV/artillery factors somehow show the Heer to have had more equipment per man, it would be a marginal difference and not one capable of explaining the Heer's ~6x killing power, per man.

Additionally, you're no doubt correct that the trend was for increasing RKKA equipment/man. Yet the Red Army of '41 inflicted about as many bloody casualties (per month) as in '43, despite fewer soldiers and less equipment/man. So the human element dominates over the material even for intra-RKKA analysis.
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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