How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

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AHardDaysNight
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How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by AHardDaysNight » 25 Sep 2017 23:21

I'm reading "From Defeat to Victory" (Excellent book by the way) about the Soviet 1944 offensives and in the section titled "German strategic mistakes" the author mentions several times the failure to target Moscow in 1941 and 1942. Though he acknowledges that prioritizing Moscow in either year would face major challenges, in his view it would have been the only way to defeat the USSR.

However in 1942 the Soviets had major forces concentrated around Moscow and were hammering the Rzhev salient with superior forces. Had the Germans attacked Moscow in 1942 how bloody would it have been and how much of a chance was there to actually succeed? For the sake of argument let's assume that it takes place after Sevastopol falls and 11th army is transferred north to take part in operations against Moscow.

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by maltesefalcon » 26 Sep 2017 03:17

Hitler went for the southern route at least in part to secure a better oil supply whilst denying same to the Soviets. Even he realized that his forces were not sufficient to achieve that objective and also go for Moscow. They could not even finish off Leningrad, although they tried.

So what if the Stalingrad/Caucausus campaign were abandoned for a coup de main attack on Moscow as soon as the winter was over?

Hitler had no guarantee that Moscow would fall, and even if it did, the Soviets would surrender. A repeat of 1812 was a very real possibility. More to the point, the Germans were not equipped either militarily, economically, demographically nor industrially to fight a long term war with Russia. Securing an oil source other than Romania would certainly help.

We will never know the outcome of the alternative plan proposed above. But it is human nature to assume there is a solution to every challenge. Therefore, given two choices and one leads to failure, we assume the alternative will succeed. But in this case there may be no correct answer. IMHO Germany shot its bolt in 1941 and lost the chance to win the war.

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by BDV » 26 Sep 2017 13:21

maltesefalcon wrote:More to the point, the Germans were not equipped either militarily, economically, demographically nor industrially to fight a long term war with Russia.
With Auxilliaries willingly providing cannon fodder (Romania alone sustained ~half million casualties fighting the Soviets), and with French industry geared for mass production of modern weapons under full German control, I have to disagree with both the lack of demographic and industrial resources. Well, unless historical evidence is unearthed that Djugashvilli-Stalin's Sovjet neuer-mann was immune to Kernel Filloux' 100 pound shells

Failure on the OstFront was less an issue of inevitability than an issue of actual German/Axis mistakes and choices at multiple levels.
Nobody expects the Fallschirm! Our chief weapon is surprise; surprise and fear; fear and surprise. Our 2 weapons are fear and surprise; and ruthless efficiency. Our *3* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency; and almost fanatical devotion

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by stg 44 » 26 Sep 2017 15:22

BDV wrote:and with French industry geared for mass production of modern weapons under full German control
It wasn't. They produced a very limited amount for the German war effort for a variety of reasons, one of which was the lack of raw materials to fuel the French industry thanks to the blockade. Adam Tooze writes about that in "Wages of Destruction"
Last edited by stg 44 on 26 Sep 2017 23:52, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by BDV » 26 Sep 2017 16:12

stg 44 wrote:"BDV": and with French industry geared for mass production of modern weapons under full German control
It wasn't (a). They produced a very limited amount for the German war effort for a variety of reasons, one of which was the lack of raw materials to fuel the French industry thanks to the blockade (b).
a) That is incorrect. The French industry WAS geared for mass production in June 1940.

b) That German decision-makers decided to allocate scarce resources elsewhere is a DECISION German decision-makers conscientiously made.
Nobody expects the Fallschirm! Our chief weapon is surprise; surprise and fear; fear and surprise. Our 2 weapons are fear and surprise; and ruthless efficiency. Our *3* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency; and almost fanatical devotion

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by stg 44 » 26 Sep 2017 16:28

BDV wrote:
stg 44 wrote:"BDV": and with French industry geared for mass production of modern weapons under full German control
It wasn't (a). They produced a very limited amount for the German war effort for a variety of reasons, one of which was the lack of raw materials to fuel the French industry thanks to the blockade (b).
a) That is incorrect. The French industry WAS geared for mass production in June 1940.

b) That German decision-makers decided to allocate scarce resources elsewhere is a DECISION German decision-makers conscientiously made.
Source on French industry being geared up to mass produce stuff that was actually useful for the Germans? There was industrial sabotage and limited resources, all that industry was useless, because it couldn't be supplied or staffed with workers willing to produce for Germany.

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by NBrotz » 26 Sep 2017 16:50

First, I will say that I'm more focused on the operational aspects of just how the Germans could undertake a renewed offensive against Moscow, then the economic ones. However, in strategic terms, Hitler either has to deprive Stalin of resources, or acquire resources himself. Cutting off the Volga of barge traffic, seizing or destroying the Baku oil fields, and recruiting racially-acceptable Caucasus locals into his army (albeit that wasn't exactly his idea) seems like the best way of achieving that. Taking (or destroying) Moscow still might unhinge the Soviet Union's railway and telecommunications network, but he'd have to be concerned a lot of that could be redirected.

Now, if Hitler could be convinced that he could get his oil from the Suez Canal and Middle-East, thereby reinforcing the Mediterranean and limiting his offensive ambitions in Russia, then you have a plausible POD. Either that or somebody has to convince Hitler that between Romanian oil and the synthetic oil plants in Germany, with adequate civilian rationing and limited operational military maneuver, there's still enough available to win the war and not collapse the German economy.

For tactical options, the Germans can either try to envelope Moscow (via Kalinin and Tula like they did in Typhoon) or launch a frontal assault via Rzhev. Either way, they'd be foolish not to eliminate the salients in front of Moscow and straighten the line first, namely in clearing the Soviet salients between Demanysk and Rzhev, and Vyazma and Orel. Unfortunately, there might not be enough time and resources to straighten the line along the Moscow front before winter. It would also be an extreme danger to try to strike Moscow via Rzhev without clearing the flanks first, but they might try. A diversionary attack somewhere else along the front may improve its odds of success, but it's still iffy.

If they do clear the flanks, the trick here is a delicate balancing act between biting too much and biting too little, the build-up between offensives, and the time lapse between them. If the Germans attempt a Kursk-style encirclement, there is a high probability that the Germans will burn themselves out. On the other hand, if the Germans humble themselves to clearing the salient between Olenino and Bely (like they did in Seydlitz OTL), as well as Demanysk and Kholm, the Soviets will heavily reinforce the shoulders of the bulge between Demanysk and Rzhev. A modest offensive between Kholm and Bely might still carry the day, but admittedly, I'm not taking into account the terrain here to appropriately judge where the Germans should make their attack. Also, perhaps the Germans decide to leave the bulge between Vyazma and Orel alone.

The unfortunate reality is, the Germans might spend the entire summer undertaking 'snail offensives' biting into the Soviet front line like something out of WWI, for heavy losses and little gain. Maybe I'm underestimating the relative strength of the Germans versus the Soviets at this stage in the war, but it seems to me that attacking right into the heart of the USSR's defenses is likely to fail badly.

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by Konig_pilsner » 26 Sep 2017 17:34

Back to the original question instead of arguing about the same old crap...

The biggest obstacle to attacking Moscow is time. There would be certain prerequisites to the offensive that would eat up a good portion of the campaign season, and to avoid attrition a wider pincer would probably be implemented. That creates a longer front which requires a larger force with greater supply constraints. It is doubtful a secondary attack could be simultaneously be attempted in the south, which leads to AGS being hammered throughout the campaign.

In more detail:

1. The bulge west of Rzhev to Demyansk would have to be eliminated first. The northern pincer could then attack towards Bologne and on to Kalinin.

2. The Southern Pincer would likely originate from Orel, head east to cut off the rail line that runs from Moscow to Karkov, and then head north bypassing Tula.

3. The center would still have to push towards Moscow to keep the pressure off the flanks.

The biggest problem would be supply, as the infrastructure west of Moscow would have to be rebuilt and the German transport fleet is still recovering from the 1941 losses. This will lead to frequent pauses which allow the Red Army to regroup.

Success (as always), would depend more on what the Russians do then the German. If they hold ground and commit to fruitless counter attacks they could find themselves in a difficult position. Similarly, if initial German progress leads to overconfidence and a departure to a more grandiose plan, it will make the defense of Moscow that much easier.

KP

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by maltesefalcon » 26 Sep 2017 23:46

stg 44 wrote:
BDV wrote:
maltesefalcon wrote: and with French industry geared for mass production of modern weapons under full German control
It wasn't. They produced a very limited amount for the German war effort for a variety of reasons, one of which was the lack of raw materials to fuel the French industry thanks to the blockade. Adam Tooze writes about that in "Wages of Destruction"
I did not say that. Please amend your post to show the quote attribution to the correct contributor. :D

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by stg 44 » 26 Sep 2017 23:52

maltesefalcon wrote:
stg 44 wrote:
BDV wrote:
maltesefalcon wrote: and with French industry geared for mass production of modern weapons under full German control
It wasn't. They produced a very limited amount for the German war effort for a variety of reasons, one of which was the lack of raw materials to fuel the French industry thanks to the blockade. Adam Tooze writes about that in "Wages of Destruction"
I did not say that. Please amend your post to show the quote attribution to the correct contributor. :D
Sorry, I don't know why it quoted you.

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by maltesefalcon » 26 Sep 2017 23:55

BDV wrote:
maltesefalcon wrote:More to the point, the Germans were not equipped either militarily, economically, demographically nor industrially to fight a long term war with Russia.
With Auxilliaries willingly providing cannon fodder (Romania alone sustained ~half million casualties fighting the Soviets), and with French industry geared for mass production of modern weapons under full German control, I have to disagree with both the lack of demographic and industrial resources. Well, unless historical evidence is unearthed that Djugashvilli-Stalin's Sovjet neuer-mann was immune to Kernel Filloux' 100 pound shells

Failure on the OstFront was less an issue of inevitability than an issue of actual German/Axis mistakes and choices at multiple levels.
The Allies had more people, more money and the ability to make more goods than Germany. They did in fact outproduce Germany on every important sector of the military economy in the long run. That is borne out by production statistics. So time was working for the Allies and working against Germany. Hence a long campaign works in favour of the Allies.

I'm not sure where I went wrong in my analysis?

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by James A Pratt III » 27 Sep 2017 02:48

The Russians in early 1942 thought the Germans might launch an offensive later that year towards Moscow. This is where they put the bulk of their troops. Operation Blau was something they didn't expect. A offensive towards Moscow in mid 1942 would have been a very costly offensive for the Germans they would have gained ground, ect but the results would not be worth it

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by stg 44 » 27 Sep 2017 15:11

James A Pratt III wrote:The Russians in early 1942 thought the Germans might launch an offensive later that year towards Moscow. This is where they put the bulk of their troops. Operation Blau was something they didn't expect. A offensive towards Moscow in mid 1942 would have been a very costly offensive for the Germans they would have gained ground, ect but the results would not be worth it
That's the thing, there weren't actually that many strategic reserves fully operational in June 1942. I asked a question about Soviet summer reserves in the Eastern Front subforum I think right before this thread was posted and for most of the reserves they were very recently formed, inexperienced, had not yet been issued equipment, etc. so that when the first, most prepared ones entered combat in July around Stalingrad they got slaughtered:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kalach
If say there is an offensive toward Moscow it would have to come from the south, pretty much where Case Blue started from historically and swing north instead of south after Voronezh. In their path would be 5th Tank Army, which was mostly wiped out then disbanded in mid-July historically, 1st Reserve Army, which became 64th Army and was routed at Kalach later in July historically, and 3rd Tank Army, which in August attacked the German 2nd Panzer Army and was mostly destroyed in combat. 4th Reserve army came down from Kalinin in July IIRC, but was less prepared for combat than 1st Reserve/64th Army was. On the Don Flank and around Stalingrad 3rd, 6th, 5th, and 7th Reserve armies were behind the front and ordered forward; not sure how quickly they could be dispatched to Moscow if needed, 3rd Reserve would end up fighting around Voronezh though as they were very close to it to start with. Perhaps the southern reserve armies would get dispatched to Southwestern Front to bolster it for counteroffensives against AG-South to take pressure off of Moscow.

One major area that will hurt the Germans if they attack toward Moscow is Soviet aircraft reserves in the Moscow area and the Moscow air defense zone, which made it one of the very most air defended areas in the world. The closer they get to Moscow the more air power they'd face and even with man for man superiority due to experience and training, they would face a lot of Soviet air regiments; decoupling the Luftwaffe from the Panzer spearheads, if it happens, would remove the major German trump card in the 1942 campaign.

Then there is the Kalinin/Western Front reserves; if there is a German offensive toward Moscow I doubt we'd see an offensive against Rzhev in July-October and instead those reserves being used to blunt and offensive against Moscow. So I'm not sure an offensive against Moscow would necessarily work or not, though it would certainly gain ground in that direction and might net Tula and the area south of the Oka river, while being logistically sustainable due to being far close to establish rail hubs than Stalingrad/the Caucasus, while also potentially shortening the line and making logistics/defense easier for AG-Center forces in the Rzhev area. It would certainly also take pressure off of them.

I also have trouble seeing a Moscow offensive being as bloody for the Germans as the historical Case Blue, because there isn't a chance for an Operation Uranus type encirclement and if the offensive is stopped short of Moscow it's not going to be a bloody street fight, while still drawing in major Soviet reserves and bloodying them. Not only that, but being logistically sustainable and taking Soviet industrial areas (Tula/Stalingorosk), it might be a plus even in failure compared to the historical Case Blue. If the offensive does get into a street fight in Moscow...even if they cannot take the city, turning the Soviet capital into a front line battle zone does have a substantial impact on Moscow as a rail hub, communications center, center of government, and production center, all of which has pretty negative consequences for the USSR.

So an offensive toward Moscow is probably a better option than the historical Case Blue with hindsight, the issue is how do you get Hitler to not think like he did historically about the Summer 1942 offensive?

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by Konig_pilsner » 27 Sep 2017 17:08

Hi NBrotz,

Sounds like we both have the same ideas. AGC's front was so unstable during the winter/spring that preparing the infrastructure for a major attack on Moscow was far behind schedule which makes timing the crucial factor. The Germans tend not to make the same attack twice, which is why I doubt they would attempt a repeat of Typhoon. Eliminating the western bulge is a necessity because it ties down too many German forces, reestablishes the link with AGN, and allows for the capture of the rail line going through Bologne/Torzhok/Kalinin.

The south-eastern bulge can be ignored in the opening phase and the favorable tank terrain to the east of Orel can be exploited to bypass Tula in an attempt to capture Kashira and a bridgehead across the Oka river. As stg44 suggests this would be the favored route separating the Western Front Armies from the South Western Front. After that, elements of the southern pincer can drive back west to meet up with forces advancing from Vyazma to reduce the Tula/Kaluga pocket.

The proposed northern pincer would have the toughest time as the whole Valdai area is heavily forested. After reducing the bulge it would have to move fast to catch up, but it was vital for all three avenues of attack to have its own dedicated supply route.

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Re: How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

Post by BDV » 28 Sep 2017 15:23

If the attack is "on Moscow" expect some unfortunate armee grouping to be ordered to hold fast on some exposed point on the Moscow Yaroslavl or Moscow Wladymjr route; 200km from the nearest railhead (served by 1 track half-serviceable rail-line) with similar results to historical.

Now if the attacks are a bunch of pitched battles against exposed Sovjet positions (of which there were a few), not all will go as one sided as Bustard Hunt and Izyum, but if OKH and GROFAZ have the stomach for 1941 level of casualties, the result will be the destruction of the Sovjet Kalinin, West, and Bryansk Fronts. Moscow may well fall, as a ripe fruit in the German lap.

In any case, the Axis will be in good position for the needed strategic defensive on line of their choice in '43*.

But if it's "Last Stop: Moscau", things will turn out poorly, IMO.

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* with the if auxiliaries are provided with weapons caveat, obviously.
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