Warsaw Uprising and the Red Army: Nothing New?

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Re: Warsaw Uprising and the Red Army: Nothing New?

Post by Art » 08 May 2022 16:07

These are fair points. I agree that the battle of Wolomin/Radzymin/Praga itself was of relatively limited importance. The decisive thing was that advance of the entire 1 Belorussian Front came to a halt simultantously. Which was for many reasons, some unrelated to the tank battle.
I don't think that advance to Warsaw can be described as the main blow of the 1 BF in the short term perspective. By the morning of the 1st August 1944 its center of gravity was clearly on the Vistula River. Four field armies of the front (69, 1 Polish, 8 Guards and the bulk of 47 Army) was supposed to cross the river and capture bridgheads on the western bank. Other three armies (28, 65 and 48), already seriously weakened and exhausted, were pursuing the German 2 Army reatreating from Belorussia. Between them the 2 Tank Army was somehow falling between two stools, as it dind't had firm contact or common objectives with either group. It was very doubtful that this army alone would be able to capture Warsaw - that would take an unlikely scenario of weak resistance and Vistula bridges captured intact.

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Re: Warsaw Uprising and the Red Army: Nothing New?

Post by Vasilyev » 09 May 2022 01:23

Art wrote:
08 May 2022 16:07
These are fair points. I agree that the battle of Wolomin/Radzymin/Praga itself was of relatively limited importance. The decisive thing was that advance of the entire 1 Belorussian Front came to a halt simultantously. Which was for many reasons, some unrelated to the tank battle.
I don't think that advance to Warsaw can be described as the main blow of the 1 BF in the short term perspective. By the morning of the 1st August 1944 its center of gravity was clearly on the Vistula River. Four field armies of the front (69, 1 Polish, 8 Guards and the bulk of 47 Army) was supposed to cross the river and capture bridgheads on the western bank. Other three armies (28, 65 and 48), already seriously weakened and exhausted, were pursuing the German 2 Army reatreating from Belorussia. Between them the 2 Tank Army was somehow falling between two stools, as it dind't had firm contact or common objectives with either group. It was very doubtful that this army alone would be able to capture Warsaw - that would take an unlikely scenario of weak resistance and Vistula bridges captured intact.
I think that’s one of the main criticisms to give the conduct of the operation after 7/21 or so, the lack of a “main direction” of effort. In the Front’s plan established on 7/11 after the German withdrawal from Kovel, 2 TA would support the main effort - the capture of Brest - by breaking into 2nd Army’s rear and capturing Siedlce and Biala Podlaska:

https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view ... ee196041v2

Instead, on the 21st 2 TA was redirected to Lublin, explicitly for political reasons. The Front’s plan now resembles a concept it drafted on 6/20:

https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view ... ee196041v2

One can infer that this version of the plan was rejected precisely because the Front’s armored advance completely diverged from the main attack on Brest.

Capturing Vistula crossings were of course very important, both in the planning for the operations and the Stavka orders to 1 Belorussian Front on 7/28 and 7/30 on seizing bridgeheads.

But again, while it might by that point have been the main effort practically speaking (As you said, the bridgeheads had a strong concentration by 8/1) in terms of the conduct of operations it wasn’t treated as such. Otherwise 2 TA would never been taken from Demblin and Pulawy, which it captured on 7/25, and directed NW toward Warsaw. Not only did this take the Front’s armor away from a potential main point of effort, it gave up a golden opportunity (IMO) to seize bridgeheads while the German 17 ID was still deploying.

So by 7/25 the Front has 3 areas which could credibly be called its main point of effort - forcing the Vistula, Brest, and the drive on Warsaw. Instead of picking and choosing one over the next week to focus on, the Stavka and the Front instead continues to divide their attention and forces. After Brest falls, the freshest armies on the right wing (70 and 61) are withdrawn entirely. After Siedlce falls on 7/31, 11 TK is withdrawn to the Pulawy Bridgehead. 8 Guards Army is sent over the Vistula as well, beginning its crossing in force on 8/1.

On whether or not the Warsaw area was still regarded as a main point of effort, I think the Stavka’s order on 7/27 about further operations (Which mentions Warsaw first) makes clear that it was.

Certainly, the war diary of the German 9th Army considered the battle east of Warsaw to be the most critical - it threatened to divide it completely from 2nd Army, cut off supply from Warsaw to 2nd Army, and potentially seize bridgeheads over the Narew and Vistula.

Getting a bit long winded, but returning to the main point - the operation set multiple main areas of effort, assigned too few forces to any of them, and then set overambitious objectives. Compared to the otherwise top-notch Soviet planning and conduct of operations in Summer 1944, it comes across as amateurish and overconfident.

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Re: Warsaw Uprising and the Red Army: Nothing New?

Post by Art » 13 May 2022 20:37

Vasilyev wrote:
09 May 2022 01:23
On whether or not the Warsaw area was still regarded as a main point of effort, I think the Stavka’s order on 7/27 about further operations (Which mentions Warsaw first) makes clear that it was.
It describes advance toward Warsaw instread of capturing Warsaw and only by the 1 BF's right wing. In the spirit of this directive Warsaw was expected to be captured somewhat later and wasn't an immediate objective.

It is hard to avoid the impression that Rokossovsky was not cerain about his operational objectives and probed his way step by step, so to speak. These vacillations, if any, were ended by his superiors, the short-term objectives were defined in certain terms by the Stavka, and Rokossovsky's own orders conformed to the Stavka's directive. The effect of these orders was weakening of his center in the region between Warsaw and Siedlce and strenghening his left wing at Vistula. Two field armies (8 Guards and 47 Army) were diverted to Vistula, 11 Tank Corps was also sent from Siedlce to Vistula etc. So the shift of focus was obvious. The continued advance to Warsaw, was redundant in this scheme and meant dissipation of forces between several divergent objectives. It is hard to say why it wasn't discontinued. Probably Rokossovsky thought that Germans were two weak to oppose this advance, or probably he thought that it would assist his right wing, or probably he thought that it would secure a flank of the Vistula crossing, or probably he meant a red herring. He didn't describe his thinking, so we can only guess. And also the 2nd Tank Army was already locked in combat, it is always difficult to discontinue the battle that has already started.

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Re: Warsaw Uprising and the Red Army: Nothing New?

Post by Vasilyev » 14 May 2022 00:11

Art wrote:
13 May 2022 20:37
Vasilyev wrote:
09 May 2022 01:23
On whether or not the Warsaw area was still regarded as a main point of effort, I think the Stavka’s order on 7/27 about further operations (Which mentions Warsaw first) makes clear that it was.
It describes advance toward Warsaw instread of capturing Warsaw and only by the 1 BF's right wing. In the spirit of this directive Warsaw was expected to be captured somewhat later and wasn't an immediate objective.

It is hard to avoid the impression that Rokossovsky was not cerain about his operational objectives and probed his way step by step, so to speak. This vacillations, if any, were ended by his superiors, the short-term objectives were defined in certain terms by the Stavka, and Rokossovsky's own orders conformed to the Stavka's directive. The effect of these orders was weakening of his center in the region between Warsaw and Siedlce and strenghening his left wing at Vistula. Two field armies (8 Guards and 47 Army) were diverted to Vistula, 11 Tank Corps was also sent from Siedlce to Vistula etc. So the shift of focus was obvious. The continued advance to Warsaw, was redundant in this scheme and meant dissipation of forces between several divergent objectives. It is hard to say why it wasn't discontinued. Probably Rokossovsky thought that Germans were two weak to oppose this advance, or probably he thought that it would assist his right wing, or probably he thought that it would secure a flank of the Vistula crossing, or probably he meant a red herring. He didn't describe his thinking, so we can only guess. And also the 2nd Tank Army was already locked in combat, it is always difficult to discontinue the battle that has already started.
Hard to do more than speculate without more documents! I’m sure having the plan to swing 2 TA toward Warsaw by itself already on file from June made it seem like a good choice. Bureaucratic inertia carrying Rokossovsky and the Front forward. IMO sending it across at Demblin/Pulawy on 7/25 before most of 17 ID arrives would be the best plan. 8 GA and 69 A arrive shortly thereafter and you get a hefty bridgehead in the Vistula bend.

By the end of July (Orders from 2 TA below on 7/29 and its war diary on 7/31), taking Praga seems to having been the immediate objective at that point:

https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view ... b5b7620av9

What happens if 2 TA is still supported by 8 GA and maybe other formations (70A never being withdrawn, allowing 47A and 11TK to pull in more closely to 2 TA) is unknown. The German counterattack was committed very piecemeal, uncoordinated, and honestly wasn’t very impressive in results (Fails to encircle 3 TK, beats its head again 8 GTK for 2 days). Entirely plausible Praga falls, at which point the Warsaw Uprising controls much of the city center + a good bit of the riverbank. Maybe 8 GA storms across and takes much of the city before Vormann can cobble together his reserves.

For many reasons it could turn out to be not the best bridgehead unless they take the whole city, but certainly an interesting outcome.

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Re: Warsaw Uprising and the Red Army: Nothing New?

Post by Art » 19 May 2022 08:43

Vasilyev wrote:
14 May 2022 00:11
IMO sending it across at Demblin/Pulawy on 7/25 before most of 17 ID arrives would be the best plan. 8 GA and 69 A arrive shortly thereafter and you get a hefty bridgehead in the Vistula bend.
According to the 2 TA war dairy (entry of 23 July 1944):
"Commander of the 1 Belorussian Front gave the task of preparing the Army for operations to capture the areas of Deblin, Pulawy, movement to the west bank of Vistula and further advance toward Warsaw"

It seems that this plan wasn't carried out because Vistula bridges were not captured intact but were blown up. Crossing of the river against the opposition seemed problematic. The war diary and the after-action report of the 2 Tank Army further speculates that crossing of Vistula would face serious German opposition while surprise advance to Warsaw along the eastern bank would hit a void. That was apparently a situation appraisal made about this time. Accordingly the tasks were modified somewhat:
"Commander of the front gave the Army the task: advance along the highway in the overall direction to Garwolin-Praga, take Praga, capturing bridges over the Vistula in this region"
(war diary entry of 27 July)

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Re: Warsaw Uprising and the Red Army: Nothing New?

Post by Vasilyev » 26 May 2022 18:11

Art wrote:
19 May 2022 08:43
Vasilyev wrote:
14 May 2022 00:11
IMO sending it across at Demblin/Pulawy on 7/25 before most of 17 ID arrives would be the best plan. 8 GA and 69 A arrive shortly thereafter and you get a hefty bridgehead in the Vistula bend.
According to the 2 TA war dairy (entry of 23 July 1944):
"Commander of the 1 Belorussian Front gave the task of preparing the Army for operations to capture the areas of Deblin, Pulawy, movement to the west bank of Vistula and further advance toward Warsaw"

It seems that this plan wasn't carried out because Vistula bridges were not captured intact but were blown up. Crossing of the river against the opposition seemed problematic. The war diary and the after-action report of the 2 Tank Army further speculates that crossing of Vistula would face serious German opposition while surprise advance to Warsaw along the eastern bank would hit a void. That was apparently a situation appraisal made about this time. Accordingly the tasks were modified somewhat:
"Commander of the front gave the Army the task: advance along the highway in the overall direction to Garwolin-Praga, take Praga, capturing bridges over the Vistula in this region"
(war diary entry of 27 July)
Funny enough for 1944, the Luftwaffe actually played a brief role in helping defend the Demblin-Pulawy area on the 25-26. 9 Army’s KTB notes that air support was the only reinforcement it could offer 17 ID for several days, and reports from 2 TA also describe German air strikes causing not-inconsequential damage and disruption to 16 TC and 3 TC. Like at Kovel 4 months beforehand (According to Isaev’s recent book on fortress battles), the Luftwaffe could still achieve very temporary air superiority when the Soviet advance was out of range of 6 Air Army’s bases and they weren’t yet able to rebase closer.

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