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.
User avatar
Qvist
Member
Posts: 7836
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 16:59
Location: Europe

Post by Qvist » 27 Nov 2002 11:41

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.


Well, believe what you like, but that's not what the sources say.

Only in the defense of Mogilev Soviet 172nd rifle division destroyed more 70 german tanks in early July 1941.


According to who?

I'll withhold final judgment until you confirm the type of source, but I assume that it is based on the division's own kill claims. If that's the case, you can forget it, the figure is worthless. Kill claims are notoriously unreliable and practically always exaggerated. It would not be at all surprising or unusual if it were ten times too high. The only way to find out is to compare it to German sources. Until that is done, the figure tells you nothing at all.

cheers

User avatar
LeoAU
Member
Posts: 336
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 23:04
Location: Down Under, Melbourne

Post by LeoAU » 28 Nov 2002 00:47

Qvist wrote: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.

Ok then, we use the same terms. I hope we agree that strategically Soviets were superior, they won the war after all.
Tactically. Looking at Stalingrad where numerically inferior Soviets held the city, I can't say there was a sign of tactical inferiority. The way the fighting teams were orginised - small independent groups, with their own objective, number of men each with its own role - anti tank or machine gunner etc - it was a sign ot tactical thinking, changing, adapting to new conditions. And that case where a group like that held the entire German division for several days.

Also. For example, Berlin was taken in no time compare to Stalingrad. Cybercat suggested a 1:10 ratio for city combat. Well, Soviets didn't have such advantage. And their losses, being very high were smaller than Germans.


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.

My basic point is that Soviets greatly improved tactically, and that was one of the main reasons of victory. Lack of tactical knowledge or ability was often compensated or sustituted by higher losses. That was not the general rule by the end of the war however.

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.
What historical standards are you applying if there was no war like that one? New step in weapons, methods of killing, hence unseen before casualties.

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.

You can't compare West and East fronts!
Regarding Rostov 1941 counteroffensive. If Oleg shows here up, I am sure he will help me on numbers, I remember somewhere in these forums he argued that Soviets were numerically inferior there, so he's got some data.

cybercat
Member
Posts: 2079
Joined: 11 Nov 2002 21:26
Location: UK

Post by cybercat » 28 Nov 2002 02:19

Berlin was already a ruin before the russians arrived. That and the fact that the city was defended by boys and pensioners, it had come under one of the largest bombardments of modern times before the Russians arrived and that the russians committed masses of resources to taking the city are the reasons for Berlin falling. Germany by the time the Russians arrived in Berlin was already finished although the Russians took heavy casulaties taking Berlin notwithstanding the calibre of the defenders they were facing. The ratio of 10:1 was on the Russian side and they showed that they were willing to accept the high casualty rate and commit even more troops to the battle in order to take Berlin and destroy the Nazi regime. Your military history in repsect to the war seems to be very subjective and selective.

User avatar
LeoAU
Member
Posts: 336
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 23:04
Location: Down Under, Melbourne

Post by LeoAU » 28 Nov 2002 06:58

cybercat wrote:Berlin was already a ruin before the russians arrived.

Which only helped defenders. It only slowed down the attacking side.

That and the fact that the city was defended by boys and pensioners,
Yes, and women and children. It was defended by folksturtm units, yes, as well as regular army, ss units etc. And many of them simply would not surrender knowing they would be shot on the spot.

The ratio of 10:1 was on the Russian side

Can you prove that with some numbers???

and they showed that they were willing to accept the high casualty rate and commit even more troops to the battle in order to take Berlin and destroy the Nazi regime.

Soviets lost 78.291 killed in the operation, and that is not just the city fighting, it is the number of killed since the beginning Berlin offensive, from 16 April. German POW and KIA was 5 times this number.

Your military history in repsect to the war seems to be very subjective and selective.
I haven't seen any different approach from you yet.

User avatar
Qvist
Member
Posts: 7836
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 16:59
Location: Europe

Post by Qvist » 28 Nov 2002 09:21

Ok then, we use the same terms. I hope we agree that strategically Soviets were superior, they won the war after all.


Personally, I would agree with that.

Tactically. Looking at Stalingrad where numerically inferior Soviets held the city, I can't say there was a sign of tactical inferiority. The way the fighting teams were orginised - small independent groups, with their own objective, number of men each with its own role - anti tank or machine gunner etc - it was a sign ot tactical thinking, changing, adapting to new conditions. And that case where a group like that held the entire German division for several days.


You can't draw general conclusions about tactical skill levels from one single battle. And also, Soviet casualties at Stalingrad were roughly twice as high as German. Not that the RKKA didn't fight well in Stalingrad, they did.

Also. For example, Berlin was taken in no time compare to Stalingrad. Cybercat suggested a 1:10 ratio for city combat. Well, Soviets didn't have such advantage. And their losses, being very high were smaller than Germans.


I would tend to be as dismissive of the 10:1 ratio for city fighting as I am of the ridiculous 3:1 rule to attack. There is certainly no lack of historical examples to contradict it. As for Berlin, there simply are no reliable numbers for German losses. So we do not know whether they were higher than Soviet.

My basic point is that Soviets greatly improved tactically, and that was one of the main reasons of victory. Lack of tactical knowledge or ability was often compensated or sustituted by higher losses. That was not the general rule by the end of the war however.


Then I suggest you look again at Krivosheev's numbers as I quoted them, because they clearly show that remained the general rule. I agree that the general fighting quality of the Soviet Army improved for many reasons. How important this was for victory can be debated.

What historical standards are you applying if there was no war like that one? New step in weapons, methods of killing, hence unseen before casualties.


As you see, I am comparing with other armies in the same war.

You can't compare West and East fronts!


Why not?

cheers

ISU-152
Member
Posts: 711
Joined: 14 Nov 2002 14:02
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine

Post by ISU-152 » 28 Nov 2002 09:43

Qvist wrote:
You can't compare West and East fronts!


Why not?

cheers


Can you? See how many German troops were committed in each of the fronts including artillery support, mortars, tanks, Luftwaffe and Waffen SS and you'll get the picture. The germans fought stubbornly on the east but were surrendering in droves on the west. If the german troops on the west were as committed as those on the east D-Day would turn out into a bloodbath and you would have nothing heroic to talk about on this forum. Or you forget about Dunkirk perhaps? The allies were really lucky to escape there or maybe it was the wish of Hitler?

User avatar
Qvist
Member
Posts: 7836
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 16:59
Location: Europe

Post by Qvist » 28 Nov 2002 10:12

See how many German troops were committed in each of the fronts including artillery support, mortars, tanks, Luftwaffe and Waffen SS and you'll get the picture


This is not important in itself. The force ratio is. And they were relatively similar on the Eastern and Western Fronts. As for armoured formations, and particularly W-SS armoured formations, these were generally, proportionately speaking, more numerous in the West than in the East. In Normandy, roughly 1 in 5 German divisions were Panzer or Panzer Grenadier. In Italy, the proportion was higher still, throughout the campaign. Of the 11 W-SS mechanised divisions (not counting the Polizei division), 6 fought in Normandy.

The germans fought stubbornly on the east but were surrendering in droves on the west. If the german troops on the west were as committed as those on the east D-Day would turn out into a bloodbath and you would have nothing heroic to talk about on this forum.


That is a vast exaggeration, but you do have a point. Quality-wise, the picture is somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, there was a disproportinately high presence of mechanised formations in the West. On the other hand, there were many low-grade divisions, and the overall quality of the German forces in the West was much more uneven than in the East. The outcome on D-Day was hardly a question of commitment. There is substance to your claim that commitment was higher in the East though. The percentage of MIA in German casualties in the West is consistently much higher than in the East - also for periods where formations were not surrounded and forced to surrender. This clearly indicates that the willingness to surrender was appreciably higher in the West. However, the numbers vary strongly between formations, and first-rate ones do not seem to have an unusual MIA drain in the West either. So, this is again also a reflection of the presence of many low-grade formations. There is also no lack of cases where the Germans fough every bit as stubbornly as in the East, and there is certainly little to indicate that they generally folded quickly. In Normandy, they held a narrow defensive perimeter for two months, under conditions of firepower density and attrition rates unprecedented on any front. All in all, I'd say that this is something to consider but not something that in itself can account for the great disparity in relative casulaties.

And to point out differences among two major theatres obviously does not mean that they are incomparable.

cheers

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 28 Nov 2002 23:39

I believe the following viewpoints reflect the Finnish opinion of Russian soldiers.

In the Finnish war literature, it is widely accepted that the Russians of the Winter War 1939-1940 and the Russians of the Continuation War 1941-1944 were totally different as opponents. The Russians were able to learn from their mistakes, and the level of their training improved after they had gained experience.

What amazed the Finns was the "human wave" tactics, which of course was seen as extremely rigid, insane and wasteful use of manpower that Finns could not even think of using themselves. Troops were driven into machine gun fire like cattle, and the impression was that the "courage" had sometimes been achieved partly by serving vodka to the troops ahead of the attack, and Politruks in the rear secured that no one could turn back alive.

The Red Army was ruthless to those responsible officers who failed to meet their ordered goals -- it was like a conditional death sentence already placed on them, so in that position the officers had no reason to save their troops, either.

Surrendering to the enemy was punished with death penalty in the Red Army, which the troops well knew. They were also scared by the propaganda about how the Finns would torture them. However, it did not prevent Soviet troops from capitulating in large numbers. What happened to them after peace was made and they were returned, is evident but probably not publicly discussed.

There were also those units who committed group suicide by exploding themselves rather than surrendered, and their gallantry was respected by the Finns.

The Russians were keen to use their shovel to dig in, and they were resilient and patient beyond what one would expect from most westerners.

There is a widely quoted dialogue in the popular war novel "The Unknown Soldier" by Väinö Linna, a Finnish novelist and front-line soldier of the Continuation War, who based his book on his own experience. The novel characters discuss prospects of the war, exchanging their opinions:

-- One Finn equals ten Russians in combat!
-- And what shall we do, when the eleventh one comes?

This summarises quite well the problem the Finns had.

Hanski

Return to “The Soviet Union at War 1917-1945”