KDF33 wrote:I fault the Soviets for two major decisions:
1. Not evacuating the Kiev salient
Agreed. From the fundamentals I referenced earlier, however, I see a German strategic error in the existence of a strong Southwest Front in August '41: Germany could have and should have launched Barbarossa with sufficiently strong forces to have destroyed SWF in June/July (i.e. a minimal additional panzer group).
KDF33 wrote:I am more tolerant of the first mistake, Kiev, given the confused nature of the early months of the war and the desire to retain significant population and production centers.
Given the lack of mobility in SWF's units, I wonder how much better a withdrawal would have gone. They probably would have had to abandon much heavy equipment at the start of the march as they were lacking even adequate horses.
KDF33 wrote:Launching a generalized winter counteroffensive in January 1942, at a time when the residual German offensive capability was virtually nonexistent, thus wasting an opportunity to consolidate and achieve such a lopsided force ratio in the spring as to render infeasible a renewed German offensive.
I agree this was a mistake but I'll qualify agreement below. Basically I don't think the RKKA could have supported, say, a 50% larger force by adding back in all casualties foregone by a "no general offensive" counterfactual.
KDF33 wrote:Blau is vastly underrated in terms of the damage it inflicted on the Soviet formations facing the offensive. Putting aside Sevastopol, July saw Army Groups A and B bag 326,491 POWs, at a cost of only 53,791 combat casualties.
Obviously Blau was a great victory but to beat the SU Germany needed world-historical victories like Kiev and Vyazma. Blau 1 was intended to be such a victory - Hitler and OKH were concerned about the relative lack of PoW's - so only by that unique standard does it come up short.
Re 326k PoW's in July, note that Ostheer captured ~1mil tactically (i.e. aside from the big operational pockets) during the ~100 days of offensive Barbarossa campaigning - about 10,000 tactical PoW's/day. Per a TDI study [url]https://apps.dtic.mil/st ... 401064.pdf
[/url] on capture rates, the % of enemy forces captured is strongly correlated with the attacker's level of tactical success ranging from "pushed back" through "penetrated" to "enveloped." Blau's tactical outcomes during July certainly exceeded the average daily advance rates of the broad Barbarossa period so we'd expect its tactical capture rate to be higher. Blau faced fewer RKKA than did Barbarossa broadly (~1.8mil vs. ~3mil +/-) but given the level of tactical success we'd expect something approaching 10k PoW daily outside of operational encirclements.
So AG's South/A/B didn't capture many more men in July than would be expected in the normal course of overrunning RKKA units in non-encirclement conditions. Plus 326k PoW's is a fairly small percentage of forces engaged during July 42 (maybe 25% depending on who we consider engaged). Contrast that with Minsk, Vyazma, or Kiev where up to 80% of opposing forces were wiped out in a few weeks. Given those observations and the disappointment expressed by Hitler et. al. regarding PoW hauls, I still see Blau 1&2 as failures, albeit some of the most stunning failures in military history.
KDF33 wrote:More generally, the Germans needed to inflict massive, annihilating defeats every month on the Soviets to prevent their massive mobilization swinging the force ratio enough so as to forestall further German success
KDF33 wrote:Too much emphasis is put on depriving the Soviets of resources to then be able to defeat them. The solution has long struck me as being the other way around: defeating the Soviets is the precondition to seize their resources.
I favor the opposite emphasis - that taking underlying Soviet warmaking potential is the proper focus and battlefield victories/annihilation only a means. But my disagreement may be functionally minor, solely rhetorical, as it probably cashes out in the same operational outlook. First let me justify my preferred emphasis:
- SU lost in Barbarossa ~60mil to occupation and ~6mil on the battlefield.
- Maximum RKKA field strength was functionally limited by logistics capability, production flow, and food supply. It was, therefore, directly related (within some band of variation) to SU's underlying demographics and economics.
- Under this model, loss of territory did far more to weaken RKKA than did battlefield losses.
I see your emphasis on continual destruction of RKKA as mandating repeated world-historical military feats to forestall RKKA from reaching its potential. By contrast, an emphasis on destroying RKKA potential means that the German army can slip up here and there after a well-executed initial land grab.
Consider, for instance, Germany holding a line roughly Leningrad-Vladimir-Voronezh-Don-Rostov. Between that line and the OTL winter 41-42 line reside, by my reckoning, at least 40mil people (22mil in Moscow-Gorkiy, 15mil in Eastern Ukraine, 5mil in Rostov/Don-bend etc). Taking early '42 Soviet population as 130mil and assuming 20% evacuation, holding the deeper line over the winter reduces Soviet population by ~25% (-32/130). One way or another that has to cash out in ~25% lower Soviet production - there wasn't any slack in the '42 Soviet economy. With 25% lower production, RKKA has to shrink roughly accordingly to maintain even its poor early '42 material standards. 25% would remove ~2.4mil from the RKKA's '42 roles. Retaining 2.4mil more men to maintain OTL RKKA strength would have serious consequences:
You can't cut food supply so the men have to come from the non-ag ("public") sector. With 25% lower overall population that sector is now 13.8mil men; losing another 2.4mil gives 11.4mil or 62% of OTL '42 workforce. So if the smaller counterfactual '42 SU wants to keep as many men in arms as in OTL, they get 62% of the weapons, supplies, transport, etc. Seems an obvious non-starter on transport and supplies alone, the army has to shrink.
It's at base a pretty simple idea: make the SU a smaller country; smaller countries have smaller armies.
If, by contrast, the Germans sit at roughly the same strategic line and the leave the SU roughly the same size, they have to kill/capture those 2.4mil men repeatedly (slightly smaller replacement generation because losing 2.4mil isn't insignificant). Seems much easier to prevent generation/replacement of armies than to defeat them repeatedly.
The reason we probably don't disagree much functionally is that the means of conquering Soviet territory is to annihilate the guys trying to stop the Germans. While I believe demographics/economics sets a hard limit on total RKKA size, its proportion of field vs. replacement/training army varied with casualties. In '41 there were always more men in internal military districts than with operating fronts, by early '42 that was no longer true. Killing/capturing more of the field army forces SU to maintain a larger training inventory, which makes the Ostheer's landgrabs easier (which shrinks total RKKA size, which...).
But as our discussion about '42 strategy shows, there's still some potential differences. It's why I don't underestimate the value to Germany of taking/ruining Stalingrad and the Kuban in Blau. While Germany might have killed/captured more RKKA in '42 with our alternate strategies, how many more soldiers appear from the Blaulands by early '43, how many more T-34's, shells, etc. are in Soviet hands if the Germans never take those areas? How many fewer Soviet skilled workers don't die at work due to the greater agricultural production?
I don't have sufficient hard data to answer these questions but the effects seem on the order of magnitude of, say, a Vyazma catastrophe.