The results they obtained prior to Blau were primarily courtesy of Red Army blunders (Lyuban, Barvenkovo and Crimea). The losses to 39th Army in early July were similarly the result of failure to anticipate German potential offensive actions. But it is stretch to assume that the Red Army would continue to offer the Ostheer such easy wins going forward or that the Red Army would be debilitated by them to the point where the Ostheer could subsequently conduct a successful final knock-out blow.KDF33 wrote: ↑22 Dec 2020 02:05The Soviets were incapable of absorbing such losses. Between 1.5.1942 and 1.8.1942, the strength of the Red Army fell from 11,218,122 to 10,401,553 men, a reduction of 816,569, or 7% of their total strength. The only reason why they more-or-less maintained their strength in-theater over the summer is because they allocated the entirety of their 10 reserve armies, as well as miscellaneous units drawn from other areas, including inactive Caucasus districts and the Fronts facing Japan.
There were more targets of opportunity to pursue over the summer. Finishing off Leningrad would remove close to half-a-million Soviet troops, as would closing the Toropets bulge. A well-resourced effort against the Sukhinichi "salient", unlike the limited effort of Wirbelwind, was another option to bag a large prisoner haul.
Those operations, as well as every fruitless Soviet offensive, would contribute to shift the force ratio in favor of the Axis. Each successful operation would also release previously tied-up German formations, either to form reserves or to add to the next Schwerpunkt. Eventually, it would become feasible to restart the general offensive, and thus attain results similar to those you have outlined in this thread.
As mentioned above, with the ressources they historically had in 1942, with which they attained just such results between May and July.Max Payload wrote: ↑22 Dec 2020 00:51With what resources? In April the Ostheer was still recovering from the effects of the Soviet winter offensives and ground conditions were generally unfavourable for deep offensive operations. By May the Red Army was being adequately supplied with weapons and supplies, and was approaching a manpower advantage over the Ostheer of 3:2. Stavka and the frontline commanders were still capable of making costly mistakes, but the more capable commanders were being identified and promoted.
KDF33 wrote: ↑22 Dec 2020 02:05As mentioned above, in response to TMP. I would add that it is a myth that Stalin had concentrated reserves away from the area hit by Fall Blau. We have the OOB of the Red Army for July 1st, and it shows:
Kalinin Front/Western Front/Moscow DZ: 1,830,980 men, 18,606 guns and heavy mortars, 2,418 tanks
Bryansk Front/South-Western Front/Southern Front: 1,715,165 men, 17,428 guns and heavy mortars, 2,298 tanks
Overall figures for the entire Eastern Front, on the basis of which those shares have been calculated, come from Kursk 1943: A Statistical Analysis, p2, by Zetterling and Frankson.
It is true that the STAVKA anticipated an attack against Moscow, but the southern anchor of their defensive system was the Bryansk Front. It is where they concentrated 7 of their 17 active tank corps, a further 4 being allocated to the South-Western Front. These substantial forces, as well as additional tank formations held in STAVKA reserve, were mauled by the Germans in the opening phase of Fall Blau on the Voronezh direction.
I think the tank corps figures were 5 of 17 with 6 in Southwestern Front, but I don’t understand why you included Bryansk Front in the comparison you made between the the central and southern axes. Bryansk Front was withdrawn from the Southwestern Direction command and placed under direct Stavka control for the precise reason that the German offensive was expected to strike northeast from the Kursk/Orel area along the general line Livny-Efremov-Venev towards Moscow or possibly even further east. That was why Bryansk Front’s substantial reserve of five tank corps, three rifle divisions, five cavalry divisions and several brigades were positioned east and northeast of Livny and it was why the bulk of the nine new reserve armies in the process of forming up in June were in the Moscow area. Just in terms of rifle divisions Kalinin/Western/Bryansk Fronts (all under direct Stavka control) had 124 at the end of June, while Southwestern Command (Southwestern/Southern Fronts) had only 55. Bryansk Front was relatively unaffected by Blau compared to Southwestern Direction, though it’s left flank 40th Army did bear the initial brunt of the offensive.
Stahel is correct to point out that as the offensive progressed it produced diminishing returns, and Stalin was wrong to ignore Zhukov’s advice to concentrate the winter’s offensive effort against AGC instead of dissipating it along the entire frontline, but the Moscow counteroffensive could hardly be characterised as anything other than a major German defeat.KDF33 wrote: ↑22 Dec 2020 02:05Inasmuch as thwarting Red Army offensives attrited the Soviets, it would play a part in defeating the USSR. As for the winter campaign of 1941-2, I would refer you to this book by David Stahel. The Soviets would have been in a far better position, come spring, had they suspended all offensive operations in early January. Indeed, the winter offensive of early 1942 must rank as one of Stalin's seminal mistakes of WW2.