Size of WW2 Red Army divisions

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Post by Art » 09 Dec 2007 14:17

Qvist wrote:Assuming that FHO had a fairly precise idea of the normal structure of a Soviet Rifle Division by 1944
It seems that they had:
http://rkka.ru/org/str/sd-change.htm
They are similar in infantry strength, but the German division has much more artillery manpower (some 2.5 times more)
Per less number of gun - 32 versus 48 (? I'm not sure that I discern the number in your table proprely). Also the number of artillery units is smaller - 3 batallions and 8 (9 in Guards) batteries in the Soviet divsion versus 4 battalions and 12 battaries in the German.
It would be interesting to compare the stocks, first of all the stocks of ammunition, which must be moved with organic transport of division. I believe it would give a clue to the difference in the number of horses and autotransport.
the Red Army to a much greater extent kept theirs at Corps and Front level.
In regard to artillery that is completely true. They had far more artillery pieces outside organic units of the divisions than their German counterparts. It's interesting however that the prewar oranization far more resembled the German one.

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Post by Art » 09 Dec 2007 14:42

imad wrote: He did, however, come up with the remarkably accurate figure of 7,000 for the average Russian Div.
Guderian said in his memoirs that 7 thousands was assumed to be the maximum strength of the division and it's quite a correct statement. However, it's the total strength which is the product of the number of units and their average strength, that really matters. Since the number of divisions was great, the total strength was impressive too. Just for illustration that is how the personnel strength and the average strength of the rifle divisions looked like at the start of the offensive in the East Prussia (10 January 1945):
2nd Belorussian Front
Army Strength of combat troops Average strength of the rifle division
50th............75 857...6 322
49th............67 400....6 266
3th .............83 306....6 383
48th ...........80 353....6 086
2nd Shock...98 219....7 056
65th ...........82 916....6 093
70th............64 537....6 356
5th Tank......32 535.....-
Front troops..80 117.....-
Total............665 340
Total including non-combat troops and aviation - 881 500
3rd Belorussian Front
39th ............68 938.....5 869
5th...............98 048.....6 412
28th.............85 214......6 743
2nd Guards...53 758.....4 829
31st .............67 018.....5 535
11th Guards..70 059.....6 686
Front troops..37 067
Total - 480 129
Total including non-combat troops and aviation - 708 600
All the armies had 9 divisions except the Tank Army which had none. So despite the fact that the average strength didn't exceed 7 000, both fronts had more than 1,5 men.
Last edited by Art on 10 Dec 2007 12:30, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Qvist » 09 Dec 2007 15:07

Hello Art, thanks for that.

A few questions:

1) Do you know how exactly "combat troops" were defined?
2) Is the average divisional strengths combat troops or overall personnell?
Per less number of gun - 32 versus 48
32 versus 49, as far as I can make out. The print quality is not so good, unfortunately. Additionally, 12 Infantry guns versus 27.

The transport establishement is also given, at the bottom of the document - 546 motor vehicles, 146 (148?) motorbikes and 4935 horses in the ID n.A., 150/4/1885 in the Soviet.


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Post by GaryD » 09 Dec 2007 16:43

Qvist wrote:Hello Art, thanks for that.

A few questions:

1) Do you know how exactly "combat troops" were defined?
2) Is the average divisional strengths combat troops or overall personnell?
Per less number of gun - 32 versus 48
32 versus 49, as far as I can make out. The print quality is not so good, unfortunately. Additionally, 12 Infantry guns versus 27.

The transport establishement is also given, at the bottom of the document - 546 motor vehicles, 146 (148?) motorbikes and 4935 horses in the ID n.A., 150/4/1885 in the Soviet.


cheers
The division strength has to be a total for the entire division, and the other number is probably a total of all combat arms units: infantry, tank, artillery, etc. For example, the 2nd SA had 9 rifle divisions which alone had 63,000 troops. There was also a tank brigade, several tank and SU regiments, and a whole lot of artillery.

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Post by Qvist » 10 Dec 2007 02:27

OK, thanks Gary.
However, it's the total strength which is the product of the number of units and their average strength, that really matters. Since the number of divisions was great, the total strength was impressive too.

Actually, they are also impressive on a division-by-division basis, because they translate into quite high combat strengths - if the FHO rule of thumb values are used, to something around 5,500 men or more per division, in almost all cases.

This was considerably better than can usually be found on the German side, at almost any stage of the war. For example, on 31 October 1943, not one of AOK 2's divisions had a Gef.st. exceeding 3,000 men. On 13 December 1942, two of AOK 9's 27 divisions had a GefSt of more than 3,000. On 3 October the same year, the average Gef.St of that army's divisions were 2,240 men. Some divisions had reported only partially which understates the average, but it must certainly have been well below 3,000. On 4 July 1943, the average Gefst was roughly 3,100 men. On 23 January 44, it was 1,468 men. These (AOK 9) are Infanteristische Gefechtsstärke (includes only the Gren.Btl., Pi.Btl. and Schnelle Btl/Aufkl.Abt - not the artillery Rgt).

However, these (except where marked) are full GefSt.:

23.10.42, AOK 11: 5,833
5.4.44, AOK 17: 3,235 (Inf.)
20.10.42, AOK 17: 4,363
15.7.44, AOK 18: 5,655
26.8.44, AOK 18: 4,285
7.6.43, AOK 18: 5,651
Same, but just Inf:: 3,001

You have to go back to the first year of the war to find significantly higher figures. For example, on 17 January 1942, 21 of HG Süd's divisions reported a Gefst of at least 7,000, some had as many as 10,000. Only 7 had fewer than 5,000. But these were of course still divisions with 11 infantry batallions (incl the Pi. and AA btl), plus a 4-batallion Artillery Regiment.

Hence, in terms of combat manpower, Soviet divisions even at 6-7,000 men overall strength were strong compared to what was usually the case on the German side, despite the overall considerably larger size of German divisions. In fact, if we disregard the artillery (which made up a large proportion of German divisional GefSt, but much less of that of a Red Army Rifle Division) I don't have a single data set from later than early 1942 that implies Infantry strengths on the same level as that possessed by the Soviet Armies quoted here.

This illustrates the impact of the fundamental differences in divisional structure between the two armies, if one wants to compare divisional strengths. The point is further borne out by the figures of non-combat Front troops, who are, relatively speaking, much higher than the fairly paltry number of (non-combat) Armeetruppen in a German AOK. In addition, the non-divisional combat units in these Fronts also seem to have been very numerous compared to the amount of fechtende Heerestruppen normally found with an AOK.

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Post by Art » 10 Dec 2007 12:05

Qvist wrote: 1) Do you know how exactly "combat troops" were defined?
2) Is the average divisional strengths combat troops or overall personnell?
Gary has allready answered. It's the strength of rifle, cavalry, tank andartillery units. What is important it's not the analogue of Kapmftstärke or Gefechtstärke - the whole strength of independent combat units was added to the sum but not the strength of combat emlements of these units. For example, if the corps had tree rifle divisions, their strength was included in the combat strength, but the strength of the corps signal battalion was not (at the same time the strength of artillery or tank units subordinated to the corps was). It should be said, that the as far as I know, the estimation of the strength of the combat elements of the units was not used in the reporting practice as widely as in the German Army. Sometimes so called "bayonets" were mentioned, but according to my impression it was a very vague term, and I'm not sure that in every moment of time and in every units it meant the same. Moreover, it seems that the bayonet strength was not systematically reported to higher HQs unlike combat strength.
Additionally, 12 Infantry guns versus 27.
Yes, but infantry guns were outside artillery regiment. It should be added that according to TO&E the soviet division had much more mortars. It's seems however, that these numbers remained mostly on paper as well as the personnel strength. First of all, by the end of the war the light mortars were for the most part excluded from the divisions and other units. Then the real number of medium and heavy mortars was normally far less then the authorized number. I have copied out some numbers:
On 1st June 1943 the rifle and cavalry divisions/brigades had 36 739 82-mm mortars, while the TO&E number was 45 150. The same numbers for 120-mm mortars were 9587/11 744
On 1st January 1944 - 27 560/ 45 583 82-mm and 8 053/12 092 120-mm
1st June 1944 26 585/45 479 82-mm and 8 582/12 263
For 1st January 1945 the authorized numbers are not given, but there is no reason to expect that they seriously differed from the previous ones. The actual numbers - 30 189 82-mm mortars, 9 166 120-mm
1st May 1945 26 164 82-mm mortars and 8 658 120-mm.
Source: A.Shorokorad "The native mortars and rocket artillery"
The production of the mortars (especially 82-mm) was seriously curtailed during 1943 and that led to the decrease in the absolute numbers. The brief look on the data on the divisioanl strength available to me gives the similar conslusion - it was quite normal for the rifle division to have 50 82-mm mortars or even less.

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Post by Art » 10 Dec 2007 12:47

That is how the distribution of the strength of various elements looked for the pre-war rifle division (TO&E 04/400)
HQs - 87 men
3 rilfe regiments - 3x3182= 9546 in rifle units
Howitzer artillery regiment - 1 277
Artilley regiment - 1 038
Staff of the artilley commander with the staff battery - 73
Total in artillery - 2 388
Signal Battalion - 278
Recon Battalion - 273
AA Battalion - 287
AT Battalion - 230
Engineer Battalion - 521
Autotransport battalion - 255
Medical-Sanitary Battalion - 253
Veterinary Hospital - 11
Chemical company - 58
Various rear and support units - 296
Total 14 483
The means of transportation included 558 automobiles. 99 tractors and 3 039 horses:
http://rkka.ru/org/str/rd.html
In fact AFAIR there were different variants of this TO&E, but now we can don't mind this.

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Post by Andreas » 10 Dec 2007 13:41

Very interesting thread. I can easily see the advantages of treating divisions as infantry-heavy sub-units and the Corps as the basic maneuver unit, in the Red Army context. One particular advantage is in the centralisation of artillery, which allows you to cut down on the number of highly-trained artillery officers spread across the frontline, apart from enabling you to concentrate firepower far more easily than your opponent.

It would also increase flexibility, since you could easily replace divisions in the line once they are fought out, without losing much, if any artillery strength.

Of course, the whole system only works well if you have the strategic and operational initiative throughout. In a more evenly matched situation, such fire-power weak divisions become an invitation to the enemy to please attack here. But the policy adopted would appear to show that the planners in the Red Army did reasonably well at matching what they had to what they required.

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Post by Qvist » 10 Dec 2007 14:20

It does yield flexibility in the sense that it makes it easier to concentrate assets - which is essentially a strategic and operational advantage. On the other hand, it would also tend to reduce tactical flexibility and general tactical performance, for which you are dependent on balanced formations who are trained as an organic whole.

On the whole, it seems true to say that the Germans went to one end of the scale when it came to placing their assets within the divisions and with a very strong emphasis on preserving the Divisions qualitatively and quantitatively as the basic building blocks of the army, as formations with a high degree of self-sufficiency and requiring relatively little in the way of higher echelon support assets. The Red Army, and also to a considerable extent the US Army, took the other approach - with much more of the combat assets placed in independent units, and with logistics and support assets much more extensively maintained at higher levels. A corollary of this is the consistent emphasis on Divisional coherence and training and experience as a formation, which also encompasses the nature of the replacement system. This, in my opinion, probably constricted the ability to prioritise and concentrate resources, but it also probably enhanced battlefield performance. In the end, it is a trade-off.

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Post by Andreas » 10 Dec 2007 14:50

Qvist wrote:and also to a considerable extent the US Army, took the other approach
I am not sure I would agree with this. US infantry divisions strike me as far more similar to the German division, rather than the Soviet division. They had a full artillery complement, including a heavy battalion, and all support troops one would find in the German division. Their infantry regiments had their own artillery companies as well.

What distorts the picture is the fact that the US Army had more of everything, giving them the possibility to create their own version of Heerestruppen on a scale that the Wehrmacht and the Red Army could not even dream of. I regularly come across independent tank battalions or TD or chemical mortar battalions that spent the campaign in NWE assigned to a single division. E.g. the 9th ID had the 748th Tank Battalion attached from 28 June 44 to May 45.

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Post by Qvist » 10 Dec 2007 15:04

I am not sure I would agree with this. US infantry divisions strike me as far more similar to the German division, rather than the Soviet division. They had a full artillery complement, including a heavy battalion, and all support troops one would find in the German division. Their infantry regiments had their own artillery companies as well.
Unless I am much mistaken, US Infantry divisions were very light in transport and logistical and other non-combat support elements, these things being provided primarily from higher levels. See f.e. here:
http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/documents/et ... eto-ob.htm

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Post by Andreas » 10 Dec 2007 15:48

While it may look light, one needs to consider the very significant allocation of transport on the lower levels, and before coming to a conclusion, it maybe helpful to have the actual transport volume provided by a QM company and an ordnance company, compared to a German division (and of which wave...). Leo Niehorster's site is very good for this, but misses the info on the QM company.

If you look at this ( http://www.unithistories.com/units/70th%20Inf.Div.htm ), you'll see that medical services would have been comparable to the German ID, while an AT battalion is missingat division level (but AT capacity existed in each battalion unlike in the German division, and a company in each regiment just like the German division), signals are one company instead of a battalion (but again, that could be because signals were held at lower level), and reconnaissance is a company instead of a battalion (but again, some recon availability was available on lower level).

But whatever it is, it appears to be a stronger formation than the Soviet division.

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Post by Qvist » 10 Dec 2007 15:50

Gary has allready answered. It's the strength of rifle, cavalry, tank andartillery units. What is important it's not the analogue of Kapmftstärke or Gefechtstärke - the whole strength of independent combat units was added to the sum but not the strength of combat emlements of these units. For example, if the corps had tree rifle divisions, their strength was included in the combat strength, but the strength of the corps signal battalion was not (at the same time the strength of artillery or tank units subordinated to the corps was).
So, the divisional strengths is only the combat units, but includes attached combat units? And the Fronts additionally had a vast number of independent combat units that had not been attached, but remained under Front control? And the difference between total and total including non-combat and aviation is a sum that also includes the non-combat elements of the Divisions?

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Post by Qvist » 10 Dec 2007 16:18

While it may look light, one needs to consider the very significant allocation of transport on the lower levels, and before coming to a conclusion, it maybe helpful to have the actual transport volume provided by a QM company and an ordnance company, compared to a German division (and of which wave...). Leo Niehorster's site is very good for this, but misses the info on the QM company.

If you look at this ( http://www.unithistories.com/units/70th%20Inf.Div.htm ), you'll see that medical services would have been comparable to the German ID, while an AT battalion is missingat division level (but AT capacity existed in each battalion unlike in the German division, and a company in each regiment just like the German division), signals are one company instead of a battalion (but again, that could be because signals were held at lower level), and reconnaissance is a company instead of a battalion (but again, some recon availability was available on lower level).

But whatever it is, it appears to be a stronger formation than the Soviet division.
That I do not question. And then we're into the awful territory of scrounging around for reference information of which only bits and pieces are easily available, and which quite possibly is misleading. Rich! Bail us out here! :)

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Post by Art » 10 Dec 2007 17:16

Qvist wrote: So, the divisional strengths is only the combat units, but includes attached combat units?
No it's simply the strength of the division. But the combat strength of the armies in my example apart from the sum of divisional strength includes also the summmary strength of the other combat units subordinated to the army or its sub-units.
And the Fronts additionally had a vast number of independent combat units that had not been attached, but remained under Front control?
It was simply the reserve of the Front. In the example above 2nd Belorussian Front had a Cavalry Corps with three cavalry divisions and three tank/mechanized corps and some number of artillery or engineers units in its reserve. So there were no common rule here, the size of the reserve depended upon situation.
And the difference between total and total including non-combat and aviation is a sum that also includes the non-combat elements of the Divisions?
No. The strength of divisions was added to the net combat strength as a whole without breakdown by combat and non-combat elements. The rule was as followes: if the units had a constant organization then its entire strength was added. But for a larger units without strictly defined TO&E only the strength of combat sub-units was included. Therefore, for example, the signal elements of rifle division were added to the total combat strength, while the signal units of the rifle corps or armies were not (but one should remember that tank or mechanized corps were in-fact the division-size units with astrict structure, so their strength was counted as a whole again) . The same story will be with transportation, medical units etc. I think it's worth to give an example to make it more clear

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