The Infantryman

Discussions on all aspects of the USSR, from the Russian Civil War till the end of the Great Patriotic War and the war against Japan. Hosted by Art.
Sokol
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The Infantryman

Post by Sokol » 18 Nov 2002 10:26

Hi folks! I'm new to the forums, and I just thought that I would introduce myself with a point of view that I have developed over the course of several years. The topic is one I'm sure some of you will find distasteful, others interesting, and there will also undoubtedly be those who will find it warranting an extensive flaming of my person. Bearing that in mind, I ask you this question: Do you not agree that the Soviet Infantryman was the best, most effective soldier in the world during the Second World War?

I mean, from a strictly practical point of view, the Soviet soldier had no equal in bravery bordering on insanity. Little wonder the Wehrmacht slaughtered such large numbers of Soviet soldiers in slogging matches, as the often futile, yet fanatical, human wave attacks made by the Soviets resulted in enormous losses, just to soften up a position for a follow up attack. Entire divisions were wasted and reconstructed from the ground up in this way. The psychological effect of these wastes of manpower on the soldiery of the Reich, however, was immense.

A German Colonel was documented as saying in awe/bewilderment: " Those crazy Ivans, they attack us without any care for the sanctity of life, least their own. They stride past walls of their own dead, without fear or panic."

In the winter of '41, a German soldier wrote in his diary; "Every night we ponder. There's a slit-eyed Mongol out there for each of us, just waiting. It's only a matter of time before they send me home in a bodybag."

The Soviet peasant (the bread and butter of the Soviet Union's 400-odd Infantry Divisions) was an easily trained, hardy, fearless, man of disproportionately high morale. He would often go with little food, little or no shelter, little battlefield equipment and still charge into battle heedless of danger. Of course, even these men had their downsides, with more than 80% being illiterate, and with a tendency to clump together on the open field during battle, making them easy targets. However, a popular saying during the Great Patriotic War was; "It's better to die in company, and Mother Russia has sons enough."

These sons of Russia were the ones who faced the Wehrmacht's power, and these sons of Russia were the ones who stopped the Germans outside of Moscow. A German Field Marshall was quoted as saying this following the disaster at Stalingrad: "The Ivans were always first rate fighters, but after Stalingrad they became first rate soldiers."

Compared to the other Allied soldiers and the Germans facing them, I believe that the Russians were superior in terms of soldiery. Before you begin recounting tales of how many Russians died here, and how many Russians died there in comparison to German fatalities, assess those situations accordingly : 1) The strategic situation 2) The tactical situation 3) The logistical situation.

What I'm saying is; all things being equal (albeit they rarely are), I believe the Russians could defeat any enemy in purely infantry combat. If you need further proof on the great skill, tenacity and prowess of the Russian infantry arm, have a look at the Rattenkrieg and examine the close-quarters battles that occured daily between the Russkies and the Germans. When it came down to it, the Germans were regularly stomped.

PS I'm not Russian.

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Korbius
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Post by Korbius » 19 Nov 2002 15:52

All the above-mentioned criterias apply to the Japanese soldier too, so I would say the Japanese infantryman was a real footsoldier of that time, even though the japs had inferior weapons, they fought bravely, rarely giving themselves up. Even when the tide turned later in the war, they kept the same fighting spirit.

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LeoAU
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Post by LeoAU » 20 Nov 2002 03:05

Korbius wrote:All the above-mentioned criterias apply to the Japanese soldier too, so I would say the Japanese infantryman was a real footsoldier of that time, even though the japs had inferior weapons, they fought bravely, rarely giving themselves up. Even when the tide turned later in the war, they kept the same fighting spirit.

Right... But Soviets defeated 1mln strong Kwantung army in a matter of 2 weeks in August 45. With the same fighting spirit...

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Quite true

Post by Sokol » 20 Nov 2002 04:38

It is indeed quite true that the Japanese were incredibly ferocious combat troops - when it came down to fanatical defence of the main islands of Japan. Fanatically devoted to a battle to the death? Absolutely. But, you must also take into account the physical aspects of a combat soldier, and although I hate to make generalizations, Soviet soldiers were often far more physically (hand to hand) dangerous than their Japanese counter-parts. That's why I am of the opinion that the best combat infantry in WW2 were Russian peasants, especially the Siberians. Fearless, tough and mindlessly devoted to the task at hand. With quality training and the proper indoctrination, they would have also been far more deadly than the soldiers of the Wehrmacht in practice.

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Post by ISU-152 » 20 Nov 2002 12:08

I would say with proper training they would be the best. But this training was never accomplished on a mass scale.
In hand-to-hand combats they were the best and germans feared most of all hand-to-hand combats with russians. I have a picture of a german field-febel somewhere who has a distinguished pin on his chest with number 23 on it.

That means that he survived 23 hand-to-hand combats! Really amazing survavability.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 20 Nov 2002 12:44

Well, bravery and ferocity isn't the only thing that matters. It is quite evident that the ordinary Soviet soldier possessed many qualities valued in all armies. But ultimately, the better part of the infantry's effectiveness lies in it's support weapons, level of training, capability for coordination and tactical methods. The passage

: " Those crazy Ivans, they attack us without any care for the sanctity of life, least their own. They stride past walls of their own dead, without fear or panic."


isI think indicative of some shortcomings in these areas, as well as of the courage and spirit of the Russian soldier. They shouldn't have to stride past walls of their own dead. As said though, all respect for the many sterling qualities of the Russian infantryman.

cheers

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Korbius
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Post by Korbius » 21 Nov 2002 00:44

The russian soldier fought hard because he was fighting in his own land during the german offensive, and he didnt have a third option other than going to fight german troops or be executed by Stalin. Other than that, it was a country of 200 millions at that time, and therefore it can afford the looses in troops and at the same time they couldn't achieve proper training due to the huge number of troops. There were many more excellent infantrymen from different countries such as Finland who succeded in repelling attacks from the largest army in the world, and they should get their deserved attention because of their small number compared to bigger armies such as the WH or Soviet army.

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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 00:49

Absolutely Qvist, you're right. It is a pity that the Russian soldier was valued more for his willingness to die than for his capability as a fighting tool. No soldier should have to stride past walls of dead made up of his friends and comrades, just because a madman of a military dictator (in this case Stalin) decided that anytime is a goodtime for a futile offensive with no hope of success. It is to their credit they managed it without breaking down. Thanks for the input, much appreciated.

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Korbius
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Post by Korbius » 21 Nov 2002 00:56

LeoAU wrote:

Right... But Soviets defeated 1mln strong Kwantung army in a matter of 2 weeks in August 45. With the same fighting spirit...[/quote]

Yes, it is true, but as I pointed out, their obsolete equipment such as tanks and light weapons weren't any match to the T-34 or PPsh-41. Germans captured 2 million Soviet troops in the early stages of the war so don't go into comparisons on who got defeated and who won, keeping in mind that the discussion is about the infantryman, regardless of the outcome of the war.

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David C. Clarke
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Post by David C. Clarke » 21 Nov 2002 01:00

Well I think that "best infantryman" is a title that doesn't belong exclusively to any one nationality. I think that each battle deserves a look and you will find that every country had engagements in which the poor guy with the rifle fought "beyond the call of duty". Best Regards, David

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Korbius
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Post by Korbius » 21 Nov 2002 01:08

Thank you David for clarifying to who the "best infantryman" title applies, cause that's what I was trying to point out, but it was laying as a thought in my subconscious mind :D

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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 01:16

Korbius wrote:The russian soldier fought hard because he was fighting in his own land during the german offensive, and he didnt have a third option other than going to fight german troops or be executed by Stalin. Other than that, it was a country of 200 millions at that time, and therefore it can afford the looses in troops and at the same time they couldn't achieve proper training due to the huge number of troops. There were many more excellent infantrymen from different countries such as Finland who succeded in repelling attacks from the largest army in the world, and they should get their deserved attention because of their small number compared to bigger armies such as the WH or Soviet army.


I would never presume to attack the obvious qualities of the soldiers of Finland. But I'm arguing overall quality of WW2 infantrymen (in this case infantrymen of the Soviet Union) in relation to the notion of an 'ideal combat infantryman' (mind and body). The Finns were absolute masters of their own terrain, masters of the ways of the Winter War, masters of the ways of largely guerilla warfare and prolonged guerilla combat. The Soviets employed against them in the late 30's were not. The Finns had the equipment they needed to survive in that kind of weather, had developed the tactics necessary to wage war in that kind of weather and had a long running tradition of fighting in that kind of weather. While I agree with the fact that they are excellent fighters, especially as shown in those years of conflict with the USSR, we must put their abilities and strengths in context. Could they repeat such miraculous victories in less potent weather conditions?

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Daniel L
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Post by Daniel L » 21 Nov 2002 01:20

I agree, a nation of three million people mangaing to defend themselves against a nation of 171 million is quite a miracle.

regards

Sokol
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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 01:24

David C. Clarke wrote:Well I think that "best infantryman" is a title that doesn't belong exclusively to any one nationality. I think that each battle deserves a look and you will find that every country had engagements in which the poor guy with the rifle fought "beyond the call of duty". Best Regards, David


I was kind of angling for an 'overall' best infantryman title. Certainly, each and every nationality engaged in the war had their heroes, their idols, their champions. But, I was mainly trying to emphasize the impact of Ivan soldiery on WW2, as opposed to the infantry of, for example, Americans, Germans and the British.

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Korbius
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Post by Korbius » 21 Nov 2002 01:28

It is difficult to give the best infantryman title, but I think that you were leaning more on Soviet infantryman who had the toughest times against a strong enemy such as Germany, but its kind of difficult to judge in this situation because SU had the largest population and the largest army in the world.

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