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.
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LeoAU
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Post by LeoAU » 26 Nov 2002 02:43

Stalingrad is actually a good illustration of Soviets superior tactics - they performed better being outnumbered and held the city. At least in urban warfare Soviets did excel.
So, claims about German tactical superiority are false again .

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Post by cybercat » 26 Nov 2002 05:28

I wouldn't call it superior tactics rather the situation the German Army found itself in. They didn't take Leningrad either! The Warsaw uprisings are another case in point and in more modern times the siege of Sarajevo. Although it could be said that Sarajevo didn't really have to be under siege as long as she was. Cities are bastard to take and if enough of the inhabitants fight back and you've not enough people your not going to occupy a city. Stalingrad was a silly battle that shouldn't have been fought. If the German Army had by-passed Stalingrad and gone on to their original target, the oilfields in the Caucasus, then the war in the East may have turned out differently. Hitler was a bit of a tosser putting the names of cities before tactical and strategic considerations.

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Post by LeoAU » 26 Nov 2002 07:17

cybercat wrote:I wouldn't call it superior tactics rather the situation the German Army found itself in.

:D In the city fighting, Soviet used superior tactics. Nothing to do with the whole cituation in the South. I am talking about actual urban combat.

Cities are bastard to take and if enough of the inhabitants fight back and you've not enough people your not going to occupy a city.

Well, Germans did outnumber Soviets at any given time in Stalingrad itself. They had enough forces. Superiority in the skies, hips of armor. Still they failed. Different type of warfare. Germans failed.

Stalingrad was a silly battle that shouldn't have been fought.

Wars are silly and shouldn't be fought. There was no win situation for Hitler in 42. Overextended army, numerious logistics problems, long supply lines. It's been second year of fighting with 'nonexistent', 'annihilated' Red Army, allies are unhappy.

If the German Army had by-passed Stalingrad and gone on to their original target, the oilfields in the Caucasus, then the war in the East may have turned out differently.
Yes it would have. Those armies that encicled 6th army would've cut Germans in Caucasus and the disaster would've been even bigger.

Hitler was a bit of a tosser putting the names of cities before tactical and strategic considerations.
Stalingrad was quite an important political objective, but what's more important - its production lines, strategic position.

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Post by Qvist » 26 Nov 2002 09:57

LeoAu:

Actually, 1943 was the peak year for Soviet casualties. The numbers are 4.4 m in 1941 (6 months), 7.4m in 1942, 7.8 m in 1943, 6.8 m in 1944 and 3.3 m in 1945 (4 months). Interestingly, this means that 1945 was the most casualty intense year for the Soviet Army. All numbers from Krivosheev. They relate just to the war against Germany.

I reckon it is very surprising that in strategic retreat in 41-42 Soviet lose more people than in strategic offensive in 43-45. I believe it really should be the other way around, but it's not.


Well, it is the other way around, at least in part, but normally you'd expect the opposite. Large-scale operational defeat always tends to drive up casualties, mostly because it usually means large amounts of prisoners lost and also because forces are more frequently forced to fight on unfavourable terms.

When all of that improved, together with tactics and their use - the situation changed. I am sure in Krivosheev you will find the break down by year and the losses did diminish.


Well, that is not the picture painted by the casualty numbers. It is certainly not the case that they ever came close to parity with the opposition, consequently these numbers clearly suggest that in tactical prowess the Germans retained a significant edge throughout. Soviet victories were purchased at a disproportionate cost.

It not only came close, it became better. And the casualty figures suggest this. Check out German vs Soviet losses in 44-45. Sorry, I can't list Krivosheev's figures right now, may be you will be able to?


I am sorry, but this is way off the mark. Soviet losses in 1944 are more than twice the strength of the entire Ostheer, who took about 1,7 m. casualties in the East that year. No-one has any certain loss figures for the Germans in 1945, but considering again that Soviet losses exceeded German strength inthe East by a significant margin, it does not seem likely that they would have been higher than Soviet. Unless, of course, you count all the soldiers who went into captivity after the capitulation.

And this observation would only prove that Soviet were tactically superior in concentrating most of their forces, creating numerical superiority on critical sectors of the front - that is part of the tactics, isnt't?


Well, no, that's part of operations. It does show that the Soviets were capable of concentrating their forces to good effect and carry out deep offensive operations successfully. Also, the circumstances does not permit concluding "superiority" from this (although that is of course possible, if not IMO likely). If the the two sides had been relatively equal in strength, then superior concentrations on the critical sectors of the front could only have been achieved through operational superiority and superior mobility. However they were far from equal in strength. The Soviet Army, like it's Western allies in France, did not have to accept the risks of inferiority on certain sectors of the front to achieve superiority at chosen points. Their overall superiority was such that there were ample forces to deploy for offensive operations simultaneously with a secure manning of other parts of the front.

I hope you are not implying that Soviet outnumbered Germans everywhere during successful offensive operation? I am sure you know how Soviets advanced later in the war - with secret concentration of armor and manpower, with fortifying flanks etc.


Well, I am as a matter of fact. At least I am not aware of any example of the opposite. And considering that they had a huge overall numerical advantage, I would frankly be surprised why they would attempt any major offensive without a numerical superiority that were easily within their means to create. That'd be a pretty bad job by the STAVKA.

And when the German cried after the war how hordes of bolsheviks appeared, well, we know that was the result of using superior methods of concentrating those forces, using deception and maskirovka, ie components of the term tactics.


The Soviet Army did not have to employ superior methods of concentrating forces (whatever that may be). They had a large overall superiority, and, having the initiative, could achieve superiorities that were higher still at chosen points with relative ease. They certainly were good at Maskirovka, which naturally was of use.

Sorry Leo, but I think you have some of your basic ideas wrong. Soviet casualties were much higher than German, also late in the war. And the war in the East cannot be understood if you do not keep the overall force relation in mind.

cheers

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Post by cybercat » 26 Nov 2002 12:59

Leo. You obviously didn't read my previous post. Yes the germans had superior numbers but they didn't have 10 times the amount of the Russian side. The Wermacht by being sucked into the city of Stalingrad stretched their lines too thin so that when the defenders of Stalingrad were reinforced the German attack was ground to a halt and the Red Army was able to break through and encircle Paulus' 6th Army. You didn't need the brains of an archbishop to see that advantage. Any half-decent military commander could have seen that. That 10:1 theory is well accepted as fact nowadays. Ok so I'm looking back with 20:20 vision and modern tactical philosophy.

As for Germany having a bigger catastrophe by taking the oilwells of the Caucasus - stuff and nonsense. How would the Red Army encircle anything when they'd have no fuel for their tanks and no oils for the armaments factories. What would they have fought the Germans with: bows and arrows? Until Stalingrad the Red Army was generally ineffective against the Wermacht. It was the onset of winter in 41/42 that did most damage to the Wermacht because of their unpreparedness than what the Red Army did. The Red Army's strength lay with it's logistical superiority based around the factories churning out Tanks and weapons. Without the factories the Soviet Union was finished. Without oil the factories couldn't function. Also if the Red Army was so superior as a fighting force why did it lose 2 million prisoners in the first German assault in 1941 and why was it later dependent on partisan formations in the occupied territories causing havoc in the German rear echelons?

Stalingrad was the main psychological turning point of the war in the East.

The Wermacht were a good army and the truth is their Fuhrer did for them with his stupidity and arrogance.

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Post by ISU-152 » 26 Nov 2002 15:24

cybercat wrote:
Until Stalingrad the Red Army was generally ineffective against the Wermacht. It was the onset of winter in 41/42 that did most damage to the Wermacht because of their unpreparedness than what the Red Army did.


Although Red Army was ineffective in offensive operations during this period they were very good defensively. Halder wrote in his notes that by September 41 the tank striking groups had only 40% of equipment they had at the start of invasion. So during 3 summer months of 1941, the Red Army managed to defeat 60% of all German armor on East front. Not bad I should say.

cybercat wrote:The Red Army's strength lay with it's logistical superiority based around the factories churning out Tanks and weapons.


All the factories that produced tanks were moving east to Urals in 1941/42. The only tank producing factories in the given period were Kirov factory (which was in Leningrad surrounded by Germans) and in Stalingrad. So attacking Stalingrad was a viable target to stop that tank production, don't you think?

What logistical superiority are you talking about? About using horses and wagons to tow ammunition? Red Army was not so motorized as Wehrmacht.

cybercat wrote:Without the factories the Soviet Union was finished. Without oil the factories couldn't function.


Very true. Who said Baku was the only source of oil for engines of Red Army?

Regards

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Post by Qvist » 26 Nov 2002 15:59

Although Red Army was ineffective in offensive operations during this period they were very good defensively. Halder wrote in his notes that by September 41 the tank striking groups had only 40% of equipment they had at the start of invasion. So during 3 summer months of 1941, the Red Army managed to defeat 60% of all German armor on East front. Not bad I should say.


Actually, the main cause for attrition were mechanical troubles due to the long advances over bad roads. By the time Typhoon kicked off in October, the situation was much improved compared to the one described by Halder, simply because the units had had time to catch up with routine maintenance and minor repairs. In any case, considering the casualties the Red Army had during those three months, the price seems rather steep even if they had managed to destroy 60% of all German armor.

cheers

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Post by Logan Hartke » 26 Nov 2002 20:34

BTW, ISU-152, you do know that your avatar is an SU-152, not and ISU-152, don't you?

Logan Hartke

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Post by LeoAU » 27 Nov 2002 00:19

Qvist wrote:Actually, the main cause for attrition were mechanical troubles due to the long advances over bad roads.
Ah, so it's the bad roads. :lol:
So, what you are saying, Germans couldn't reach Moscow in 8 weeks simply because a German tank wasn't designed to travel about a thousand kms over rough surface?
I guess Red Army did something after all, not letting them drive in straight line wearing down their mechanical parts.
Could you post the data you base your opinion on - breakdown of losses by combat casualties, mechanical failures etc?

By the time Typhoon kicked off in October, the situation was much improved compared to the one described by Halder, simply because the units had had time to catch up with routine maintenance and minor repairs.
How about recovering and repairing battle damaged equipment, since all of battle grounds were in German hands and a lot of stuff could've been put back to service?

In any case, considering the casualties the Red Army had during those three months, the price seems rather steep even if they had managed to destroy 60% of all German armor.
cheers
I always thought that that was the price of defeating Germans by staying in the war, that was the price of failed Barbarossa. That was the price of beginning of the end.
Germans started the war with 3 main thrusts. Next year they had enough forces for one only offensive - in the South, yeah that was all because of bad roads...

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Post by LeoAU » 27 Nov 2002 00:59

Qvist wrote:LeoAu:

Actually, 1943 was the peak year for Soviet casualties. The numbers are 4.4 m in 1941 (6 months), 7.4m in 1942, 7.8 m in 1943, 6.8 m in 1944 and 3.3 m in 1945 (4 months). Interestingly, this means that 1945 was the most casualty intense year for the Soviet Army. All numbers from Krivosheev. They relate just to the war against Germany.
Ok, I'll take Krivosheev's numbers. Although I am sure that I have seen many times that 42 was the year. Perhaps in KIA and MIA it was the bloodiest year since most of WIA would become MIA and POW since Soviets were retreating. In 43 it would be different, since many WIA appearing in overall casualty figure will not become MIA.
Could that be the case that most were killed in 42?

And this observation would only prove that Soviet were tactically superior in concentrating most of their forces, creating numerical superiority on critical sectors of the front - that is part of the tactics, isnt't?


Well, no, that's part of operations.
What are tactics then?


And considering that they had a huge overall numerical advantage, I would frankly be surprised why they would attempt any major offensive without a numerical superiority
What about 1941 Rostov counter offensive? Again, I dont' have any specific number, all I remmember from memories of one of the generals there, Bagramyan maybe, that they were numerically inferior.

And when the German cried after the war how hordes of bolsheviks appeared, well, we know that was the result of using superior methods of concentrating those forces, using deception and maskirovka, ie components of the term tactics.


The Soviet Army did not have to employ superior methods of concentrating forces (whatever that may be). They had a large overall superiority, and, having the initiative, could achieve superiorities that were higher still at chosen points with relative ease. They certainly were good at Maskirovka, which naturally was of use.
Looking back at 1941, it was the superior Germans that couldn't defeat inferior and outnumbered (back then) Red Army. I don't see any superiority there. You want to win, you create numerical superiority the way Soviets did and win, and that is part of tactics, winning tactics. But this is probably not what we are talking about here.
Maybe, just maybe those extra casualties were the price for the victory that Soviets were ready to pay and Germans couldn't?

Sorry Leo, but I think you have some of your basic ideas wrong.
I think I got my basic idea right - Soviet army wasn't just a barbaric horde, cannon fodder, mass of poorly trained and badly lead peasants. I think this basics I got right.

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Post by ISU-152 » 27 Nov 2002 09:58

Logan Hartke wrote:BTW, ISU-152, you do know that your avatar is an SU-152, not and ISU-152, don't you?

Logan Hartke


Of course I do, there is no right avatar for my selection. I might look and find one later.
How about this one? Too big for an avatar I guess.
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Post by ISU-152 » 27 Nov 2002 10:08

Qvist wrote:
Although Red Army was ineffective in offensive operations during this period they were very good defensively. Halder wrote in his notes that by September 41 the tank striking groups had only 40% of equipment they had at the start of invasion. So during 3 summer months of 1941, the Red Army managed to defeat 60% of all German armor on East front. Not bad I should say.


Actually, the main cause for attrition were mechanical troubles due to the long advances over bad roads. By the time Typhoon kicked off in October, the situation was much improved compared to the one described by Halder, simply because the units had had time to catch up with routine maintenance and minor repairs. In any case, considering the casualties the Red Army had during those three months, the price seems rather steep even if they had managed to destroy 60% of all German armor.

cheers


Not a valid explanation IMHO. I am talking about 3 summer months of 1941. In September 1941 the Germans were near Smolensk, that is about 500-550 km from the border of USSR. If you say that 60% of german armor broke down after travelling 500 km! :lol: then hack they have a crap equipment in the first place :lol: and deserved that. If you consider 500 km to be a great distance then how about Red Army getting 4000 km advance towards Germany without whining of their mechanical failures?

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Post by Qvist » 27 Nov 2002 10:28

Ok, I'll take Krivosheev's numbers. Although I am sure that I have seen many times that 42 was the year. Perhaps in KIA and MIA it was the bloodiest year since most of WIA would become MIA and POW since Soviets were retreating. In 43 it would be different, since many WIA appearing in overall casualty figure will not become MIA.
Could that be the case that most were killed in 42?


Possibly, I'll have to check again. It does not seem too unlikely. In any case, if we are looking at losses as an indication of the combat performance and fighting methods of units, casualties are clearly the most relevant framework.

What are tactics then?


For the sake of brevity: Operations generally refer to the handling of Corps, Armies and Army Groups. Tactics refers to the fighting methods of Divisions and lower units.

What about 1941 Rostov counter offensive? Again, I dont' have any specific number, all I remmember from memories of one of the generals there, Bagramyan maybe, that they were numerically inferior.


If there is a general problem with Soviet era literature, it is that it usually claims exactly this. Bagramyan may of course have thought that his forces were numerically inferior. In any case, it is completely unlikely that his memoirs contains any numbers on German strength that are based on something solid. I have no books available here and now, I'll see if I can find something.

Actually, what I wrote was a little imprecise. In 1941 the strength relation was generally such that it is much less unlikely that some offensive operations were undertaken at a numerical disadvantage. Whether or not the few successful ones were among them is a different matter. In any case - Bagramyan's info on German strength counts for very little, one way or the other.

Looking back at 1941, it was the superior Germans that couldn't defeat inferior and outnumbered (back then) Red Army. I don't see any superiority there. You want to win, you create numerical superiority the way Soviets did and win, and that is part of tactics, winning tactics. But this is probably not what we are talking about here.


Well - as I recall, the Germans did manage to pick up a victory or two in 1941? :) Point is this. Force generation is one thing, battlefield performance another. Regarding the former, there is no doubt that the USSR was more successful than Germany. Regarding the latter, there is little if anything to indicate the same - quite the contrary.

Regarding 1941, the force ratio neccessarily fluctuated considerably, as the Soviet Union was in the process of mobilising reserves and the RKKA on several occasions suffered huge losses in very short periods of time (Such as the Minsk, Kiev and Vyazma/Brjansk encirclements). However, given the number of formations mobilised by the Soviets, it seems unlikely that it was for the most part much in the German favour. Clearly, what enabled the Germans to inflict successive catastrophic defeats on the RKKA was not a general overall numerical preponderance. In this regard, the situation is not analogous with 1943-45, where the RKKA did enjoy a very large and consistent numerical superiority.

Maybe, just maybe those extra casualties were the price for the victory that Soviets were ready to pay and Germans couldn't?


Well, they certainly couldn't - if the Germans had suffered casualties at the rate the RKKA did in 1941, there wouldn't have been a single German soldier left in the East inside of 5 months. What the German example suggests is that they did not have an adequate amount of forces for the task they had undertaken. As long as the forces they did have were in reasonably good shape, and until the force ratio turned decisively against them, they did prove capable of inflicting sharp defeat on their adversary however.

Your basic point however is that those casualties were simply the price of victory. Of course, this is true. It is also I think reasonable to say that, given the circumstances and constraints, there probably was no easier or less bloody route to victory for the Soviet Union, there are limits to how much you can improve while fighting a total war. But the question remains, why did the price have to be so high? There is no doubt that the Soviet casualty rate was very, very high by historical standards, even relative to the huge size of the forces involved. If you compare with the Western Front in 1944, the Western allies achieved a comparable advance rate and a comparable level of loss infliction, but at a significantly better exchange rate. Once again, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Soviet fighting methods entailed a casualty level that few other armies would either accept or survive. On the one hand, this means that the USSR was willing to pay the price it had to pay to defeat Germany. On the other hand, this means that these fighting methods had serious shortcomings.

I think I got my basic idea right - Soviet army wasn't just a barbaric horde, cannon fodder, mass of poorly trained and badly lead peasants. I think this basics I got right


I'd say that that one you have got right, and I for one am not claiming that they were. I was rather referring to your picture of relative casualty levels and the basic strength relation.

As for the tank losses 1941-post:

I am simply pointing out that the fact that German armor strength was at 40% in early september does not mean that the Soviet Army had destroyed 60% of German tanks, as ISU-152 put it. I do not possess any detailed comparative data on causes for vehicle losses. But it is known that tank strength were at significantly higher levels in early october, that many reports make it clear that mechanical problems were the chief cause of vehicle attrition and that the need to perform overhaul and repairs were considered so pressing that it was the chief reason for the prolonged inactivity of most Panzer formations after the battle for Smolensk.

cheers
Last edited by Qvist on 27 Nov 2002 10:44, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Qvist » 27 Nov 2002 10:42

Not a valid explanation IMHO. I am talking about 3 summer months of 1941. In September 1941 the Germans were near Smolensk, that is about 500-550 km from the border of USSR. If you say that 60% of german armor broke down after travelling 500 km! then hack they have a crap equipment in the first place and deserved that. If you consider 500 km to be a great distance then how about Red Army getting 4000 km advance towards Germany without whining of their mechanical failures?


I am not saying that 60% of German tanks were lost to mechanical failures. I am saying that it is not the case that 60% of German tanks were destroyed by the Soviet Army. I am also saying that mechanical troubles were a bigger attrition factor than combat losses as far as vehicles are concerned, which is a generally accepted fact mentioned in I think every account I have seen. Considering the extremely high rate of advance, the state of the road net and the constancy of action this is hardly surprising.

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Post by ISU-152 » 27 Nov 2002 11:37

Qvist wrote:I am not saying that 60% of German tanks were lost to mechanical failures. I am saying that it is not the case that 60% of German tanks were destroyed by the Soviet Army. I am also saying that mechanical troubles were a bigger attrition factor than combat losses as far as vehicles are concerned, which is a generally accepted fact mentioned in I think every account I have seen. Considering the extremely high rate of advance, the state of the road net and the constancy of action this is hardly surprising.

cheers


Mechanical troubles can be put away within several days whether it is a loose track or engine overhaul. Considering great german maintenance practice and skilled german technicians they would have very few problems repairing any mechanical damage on the march.

Now if you take tanks being hit you have to wield the holes in the superstructure, wash off the blood from the seats of dead crewmen, polish armor plates and do some more wielding if the tank was hit by Molotov cocktail, change radiator shutters, you've got the picture.
Don't forget that the ground was on the German side and they were always capable of repairing vehicles destroyed by soviet AT artillery and PTR.
Only in the defense of Mogilev Soviet 172nd rifle division destroyed more 70 german tanks in early July 1941.

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