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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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 01:36

Korbius wrote: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.


Your statement rings true. However, we must not forget that the Soviets did not use standard infantry tactics in WW2. A key tactic was the massed infantry assault against prepared machine-gun positions. Certifiable suicide, which became obsolete even before WWI. Therefore, we must examine how they even managed the exchange ratio that they had with the Germans (approximately 4:1). Despite a lack of training, lack of proper weapons, lack of supplies (all especially true early in the war) and the annihilation of the entire senior officer corps (35,000 of the most experienced and well-trained Soviet officers before the war) and still they managed to perform so well. I think that alone warrants the Soviet peasant to be put on a short-list for the most effective overall soldier of WW2.

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Korbius
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Post by Korbius » 21 Nov 2002 01:50

You are completely right Sokol, but since S. Union had the largest population at the time, it could afford loses since the troops could be replaced due to their superiority in number. And I guess that it's those massed infantry assaults that made the Soviet infantryman gain a reputation as fearless and rugged.

Sokol
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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 02:10

Heck, I'd have preffered those men lost in massed infantry charges to be brought back and have that Russian reputation of fearlessness, ferocity and ruggedness somewhat tarnished. But, that was not the only factor in said reputation. The most even of fights on the Eastern Front was, to an extent, Stalingrad. There tanks made little difference. There artillery and air power were redundant. There it was all about the infantry, and there the Soviets shone through as the better hand to hand fighters and as the more effective overall infantry. Combined arms effectiveness was the domain of Germans. The Russkies all too often had their infantry arm as the most over-used and under-supported.

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Oleg Grigoryev
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Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 21 Nov 2002 02:17

Sokol wrote:
Korbius wrote: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.


Your statement rings true. However, we must not forget that the Soviets did not use standard infantry tactics in WW2. A key tactic was the massed infantry assault against prepared machine-gun positions. Certifiable suicide, which became obsolete even before WWI. Therefore, we must examine how they even managed the exchange ratio that they had with the Germans (approximately 4:1). Despite a lack of training, lack of proper weapons, lack of supplies (all especially true early in the war) and the annihilation of the entire senior officer corps (35,000 of the most experienced and well-trained Soviet officers before the war) and still they managed to perform so well. I think that alone warrants the Soviet peasant to be put on a short-list for the most effective overall soldier of WW2.
where did you get this one???????? for use of such tactics responsible commanders were sent to military tribunals - I can cite you an original Soviet General Staff order to that regard. As for purges- 350000??????????? devide it by 10.

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Oleg Grigoryev
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Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 21 Nov 2002 02:29

To date the study of the purge of the Red Army officer corps from
1937-9 has focused exclusively on the terror of the Ezhovshchina,
that is, the arrest and execution of officers by the secret police of
the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) headed by
Nikolai Ezhov for whom the period is named. Several articles and
documents on the Red Army purge published in Voenno-istoricheskii
zhurnal and Izvestiia TsK KPSS in 1989 and 1990 have revealed that
the terror was only one of two extraordinary processes that
eliminated officers from the army in those years. The other,
heretofore unrecognized, was expelling officers from the army and
discharging them from the Communist party for associations with
enemies of the people and, in 1938, for associations with foreigners,
which did not necessarily result in death or imprisonment. Thousands
of officers were expelled from the party as the result of independent
actions by primary party organizations, and subsequently discharged
from the army in an orgy of denunciations at the local level out of
Moscow's control. As these two processes became interrelated,
confusion added to fear and magnified the effect of the terror.
Simultaneously, thousands of officers were reinstated and tens of
thousands new officers commissioned, more than making up for the
purged officers numerically, but not in experience, and making it
extremely difficult to assess the impact of the Ezhovshchina on
military cadres. This new information suggests a need to reexamine
our understanding of the purge of the Red Army, because before the
publishing of the aforementioned materials and documents, it was
assumed that all officers removed from the armed forces in the years
1937—9 had been arrested and either executed or imprisoned by the
NKVD. Table 9.1 from a report by E. A. Shchadenko, Chief of the
Commanding Personnel section of the People's Commissariat of Defense,
however, shows that a minority of army officers and political leaders
were removed from the army by arrest, and the majority were
discharged from the army through expulsion from the party.

All told, 34,301 army, air force, and Political Administration of the
Red Army (PUR) leaders were discharged from the army either through
arrest or expulsion from the party during the Ezhovshchina. Of these,
11,596 were reinstated by May 1940. This leaves the fate of 22,705
men unknown. These men could have faced a variety of ends after their
discharge. Those discharged because of arrest could have remained in
the Gulag under arrest, or later been freed but not reinstated to the
army, or even been shot; those expelled and not rehabilitated may
later have been arrested and sent to the Gulag or possibly executed.
The most extreme possibilities would be for all to have been shot or
for all to have been set free to go home. Neither extreme is likely.
If the NKVD was out to arrest someone, it does not seem plausible
that just because people had been discharged from the army and party
they would not be arrested; quite the opposite would seem to apply.
We know those discharged were not all killed because officers
continued to be released and rehabilitated after May 1940.
The numbers also show a more limited impact on the military than
previously thought. Before the publication of the figures in Table
9.1, it had been variously estimated that between 25% and 50% of the
Red Army officer corps was repressed in the Ezhovshchina,
Conveniently, Shchadenko's office gave the percentage of the
leadership permanently discharged in the purge, which allows a
calculation of the total strength of the nachal'sostav in the purge
years. In 1937, the nachal'sostav numbered 144,300, of whom 11,034
discharged for political reasons remained discharged as of May 1940,
equaling 7.7% of the nachal'sostav. In 1938 there were 179,000
leaders, of whom 6,742 political dischargees were still discharged in
May 1940, which equalled 3.7% of the nachal'sostav; and in 1939 the
army had 282,300 leaders, 205 or 0.08% of whom were dis charged for
political reasons and remained discharged in May 1940. Because the
army stepped up officer procurement during the Ezhovshchina, and at a
rate that outpaced discharges, it is extremely difficult to invent a
statistic to describe the cumulative impact of the purge on the
military, and Shchadenko's annual figures are probably the most
definitive we will ever have.
The reason for the earlier high estimates of the percentage of
repressed officers and PUR men by Western historians was not so much
the erroneous estimates of the number of repressed officers, but
tremendously low estimates of the size of the nachal'sostav. John
Erickson and Robert Conquest estimated the officer corps to number
80,000 and 70,000 respectively, so whereas Erickson's estimates of
between 20,000 and 30,000 men discharged is very near the mark, his
estimate of the impact is very far off, as is Conquest's estimate of
35,000 arrested officers out of a corps of 70,000. His estimate of a
minimum of 20,000 arrested PUR men is 300% off.2 Both of these
historians considered the majority of victims of the Ezhovshchina to
have been arrested, not expelled and discharged, and did not realize
how quickly and in what large numbers men were rehabilitated.
Chistki should not be viewed as antimilitary actions on the part of
the party, or as attempts to subvert the leadership of the army; in
fact, they reflected a genuine concern for the moral health of the
Red Army just as civilian chistki were to strengthen, not punish,
those party organs. In the military chistki men were expelled not
only for political reasons; failure in one's military duties could
also result in being booted out of the party. In the 1933 chistka,
for example, the particular stress was on discipline. Those who did
not maintain it in their units, or were personally undisciplined,
were subject to expulsion from the party."



"Stalinist terror - New Perspective". Book is
published by Cambridge University Press in 1993 and edited by J. Arch
Getty and Roberta T.Manning . Chapter 9 is written by Roger R. Reese
and it is called "The Red Army and the Great Purge".

Sokol
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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 02:30

oleg wrote:
Sokol wrote:
Korbius wrote: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.


Your statement rings true. However, we must not forget that the Soviets did not use standard infantry tactics in WW2. A key tactic was the massed infantry assault against prepared machine-gun positions. Certifiable suicide, which became obsolete even before WWI. Therefore, we must examine how they even managed the exchange ratio that they had with the Germans (approximately 4:1). Despite a lack of training, lack of proper weapons, lack of supplies (all especially true early in the war) and the annihilation of the entire senior officer corps (35,000 of the most experienced and well-trained Soviet officers before the war) and still they managed to perform so well. I think that alone warrants the Soviet peasant to be put on a short-list for the most effective overall soldier of WW2.
where did you get this one???????? for use of such tactics responsible commanders were sent to military tribunals - I can cite you an original Soviet General Staff order to that regard. As for purges- 350000??????????? devide it by 10.


Oleg, the number I provided was 35,000, not 350,000 so I do not have to divide that by ten. More than 300 Generals alone were killed. No, those tactics were readily used in every theater of Russian operations, such was the tragedy. A Russian General remarked; "We have the maximum potential manpower. Now we must translate that into maximum slaughter."

If I have to, I will provide specific examples of massed charges against prepared positions. But, if you do not believe me, such is your right. Only later in the war were such tactics abolished. Bayonet charges even occured in Murmansk, by Red Army Marines (especially the so-called Striped Death Marines).

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Oleg Grigoryev
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Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 21 Nov 2002 02:31

A Russian General remarked; "We have the maximum potential manpower. Now we must translate that into maximum slaughter."
what would be the name of this General?

Sokol
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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 02:35

My sources include, but are not limited to,

Times Life Books "Russia Besieged"
"Red Army Resurgent"
"Soviet Juggernaught"

and

"Allied Tactics and Strategies in WW2: Brute Force"

***

Sokol
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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 02:36

"What General was that?"

Can I get back on that to you on Monday. The book states his name, but I cannot remember it for the life of me and the earliest time I can get hold of it is on Monday.

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Korbius
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Post by Korbius » 21 Nov 2002 02:48

Yes Sokol, in Stalingrad the Soviet infantryman proved himself to be fearless and brave, but as I said before, the casualties in stalingrad were higher on the S. Union's side because in that case too it was easy to replace KIA troops due to the fact that they could afford such huge losses.

Sokol
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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 03:08

Korbius wrote:Yes Sokol, in Stalingrad the Soviet infantryman proved himself to be fearless and brave, but as I said before, the casualties in stalingrad were higher on the S. Union's side because in that case too it was easy to replace KIA troops due to the fact that they could afford such huge losses.


Well... Point taken. But consider this: Stalingrad's defence force (62,000 men at the onset of the campaign) was attacked by the entire 6th Army with support elements. That's roughly 300,000-350,000 men pre-peak. They were very badly outnumbered. And they held. Chuikov ordered the only bridge connecting Stalingrad and the other side of the Volga destroyed, meaning that supplies could only be brought in by ferry. These ferries were attacked by Luftwaffe and artillery with an uncanny regularity. Every shipment of reinforcements suffered 25% !!killed!! before they even reached Stalingrad. Not to mention wounded. So much for reinforcements. Besides, reinforcements were regularly redirected to take part in Operation Jupiter later on in the fighting. Soviet troops had incredible supply woes as well. Ninety nine percent of the city was systematically destroyed by the Luftwaffe, yet the defenders held. In summation: The Red Army in Stalingrad was pretty much on their own, and they held against an enemy that outnumbered them 8:1. Four special engineer Battalions of the Wehrmacht were brought in, the best of the best, and their special offensives were stopped within 48 hours.

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Korbius
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Post by Korbius » 21 Nov 2002 03:25

The russian defense forces of stalingrad did indeed make a heroic stands against the german army, and in such case where 40 russian soldiers held the grain elevator for a couple of days delaying the entire german timetable, and those SturmPioniere troops who were busy in rooting out soviet resistance during the late period of the offensive in stalingrad, did achieve most of their objectives, even though at a slow pace, and when Uranus started, already 90% of the city, basically all of it, was under german hands.

Sokol
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Post by Sokol » 21 Nov 2002 03:35

I do not dispute the fact that 90% of the city was in German hands. But it was all wasteland. And they couldn't take the Soviet toehold in Stalingrad (ie the ferry landing spot). After 48 hours those four Battalions were also so badly mauled that their roles changed from special storm engineers to regular combat troops.

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LeoAU
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Post by LeoAU » 21 Nov 2002 04:38

Sokol wrote:Your statement rings true. However, we must not forget that the Soviets did not use standard infantry tactics in WW2. A key tactic was the massed infantry assault against prepared machine-gun positions.
All armies of that time used so called human waves attack in some form.

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LeoAU
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Post by LeoAU » 21 Nov 2002 04:56

Sokol wrote:Oleg, the number I provided was 35,000, not 350,000 so I do not have to divide that by ten. More than 300 Generals alone were killed.
I think you got your numbers wrong. Around 40,000 officers (35 in your sources) were dismissed during that period of time. For all causes - age retirement, I don't know sick leaves or something, etc etc, as well as so-called purged. So, what Oleg is saying - not all 35,000 were killed, even many of the purged ones were imprisoned and later sent back to army (like Rokossovsky for eg.).

No, those tactics were readily used in every theater of Russian operations, such was the tragedy.

According to Russian version of blitzkrieg - deep operation, enemy line should be broken by infantry and then the armor exploits the break through. This way, the armor does not waste resources in the initial stages of the offensive. And it worked.
What you referring to was probably used either by incompetent commanders or in the mess of early stages of the war.

Bayonet charges even occured in Murmansk, by Red Army Marines (especially the so-called Striped Death Marines).

So, for example, Omaha beach attack - same pre WW1 human wave tactic?

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