The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

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historygeek2021
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The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by historygeek2021 » 18 Mar 2021 20:23

In late August 1941, German Panzer Group 2 under Heinz Guderian began its drive south from the Smolensk region toward Kiev, where the Soviet Southwestern Front occupied a salient between German Army Group Center and Army Group South. At the same time, Panzer Group 1 under Ewald von Kleist was driving north across the Dnepr River from the southeast of Kiev.

The commander of the Soviet Southwestern Front, Mikhail Kirponos, and the Soviet chief of staff, Georgy Zhukov, warned Stalin about the imminent danger and urged him to order the Soviet Southwestern Front to withdraw from its forward position to escape the encirclement. In the OTL, Stalin refused until the day after the Southwestern Front was encircled on September 16 to order a withdraw. By then it was too late, and almost the entire Southwestern Front was lost, with total casualties estimated at 700,000. This left a giant gap in the Soviet lines to the south of the Soviet Briansk Front, and in early October Germany was able to launch Operation Typhoon and encircle and capture up to 600,000 Soviet prisoners, allowing the German army to make one last lunge for Moscow before winter.

What if Stalin had listened to Zhukov and Kirponos and ordered the Southwestern Front to retreat to the east in late August or early September?

Without the Kiev encirclement, the Red Army is substantially stronger in early October. The Briansk Front's flank is protected to the south by the Southwestern Front. In the OTL, Guderian drove through the Briansk Front in early October, making it all the way to Orel with little opposition. Likewise, Panzer Group 1 was able to drive all the way to Rostov, and Army Group South captured Kharkov and Kursk before winter. It is doubtful that any of these operations would have been as successful without the Kiev encirclement. The German army had been unable to challenge the Southwestern Front head on at Kiev, and there is no reason to think it would be able to do so in October when the Germans are even farther from their starting positions and supplies.

Likewise, the Soviets would be able to send all of their reserves to the Western and Reserve Fronts instead of trying to plug the gap opened by the destruction of Soviet Army Group South. Even if the Germans manage to encircle Vyazma with the same effect as in the OTL, there would be more Soviet reinforcements blocking their path to Moscow and perhaps even opening lanes for the encircled Soviet troops to escape.

Perhaps one benefit is that the Germans realize their offensive is over before they make the November lunge for Moscow, but they are left facing a much stronger Red Army than in the OTL and they have conquered less territory. Rostov, Kharkov, Kursk and Orel are not touched by the Germans in 1941. Stalin is likely to order the same winter counterattacks, but with a numerically stronger army than he had in the OTL. In the Spring of 1942, the Soviets are far stronger in the south than they were in the OTL and the Germans are farther to the west. Operation Blue would be lucky to reach Rostov before the fall muddy season.

In short, Germany realizes at a much earlier date that its eastern offensive has failed, and that its fate is sealed. It also shows how lucky the Germans were in the OTL to end up in as good a position as they did by the end of 1941. With one glaringly obvious better decision from Stalin, the Wehrmacht's fate could have been sealed much sooner.

Futurist
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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by Futurist » 18 Mar 2021 21:04

You know, I'm wondering if the Siege of Leningrad can be successfully broken in the winter of 1942-1943 in this scenario as opposed to in the winter of 1943-1944. With a better Soviet strategic position, this doesn't actually seem too implausible, does it?

The rest of what you wrote here appears to make sense.

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by Martin_from_Valhalla » 18 Mar 2021 21:07

We don't know for sure whether it ws Zukov who warned Stalin about this danger of surrounding because his vist on 29th of July is not listed in the Visit Journal of Stalin's cabinet. Could be a telephone talk but it's likely that Zukov later in his memoirs attributed to himself this warning to look like a great tactician and a genius.

Other sources say that it was chief of headquaters of SouthWestern Front general Tupikov who advised Kirponos to leave Kiev and retreat. Kirponos dismissed this offer and assured Stalin in a telephone talk that Kiev would have been defended. Hence remenescenses of Kirponos are dubious, some call him as a brave man but not ready for high ranks and responsibilities.

historygeek2021
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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by historygeek2021 » 19 Mar 2021 03:33

Futurist wrote:
18 Mar 2021 21:04
You know, I'm wondering if the Siege of Leningrad can be successfully broken in the winter of 1942-1943 in this scenario as opposed to in the winter of 1943-1944. With a better Soviet strategic position, this doesn't actually seem too implausible, does it?

The rest of what you wrote here appears to make sense.
They probably can. The Germans were in trouble before the Kiev encirclement. Their offensive had stalled all across the front. If it weren't for the Kiev and Vyazma encirclements, the Germans could have been routed in 1942.

KDF33
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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by KDF33 » 19 Mar 2021 07:19

historygeek2021 wrote:
19 Mar 2021 03:33
The Germans were in trouble before the Kiev encirclement.
The trends were certainly moving against them. Soviet force generation was so large that in spite of the Germans capturing ~200,000 POWs per ten-day period, Soviet manpower in the area of the active Fronts grew from 2,527,003 right before the invasion to 3,974,000 at the beginning of September.

The importance of Kiev and Vyazma can also be seen when looking at the total number of POWs claimed by the Germans before, and during, the period of the two operations:

22 June - 20 September: 1,950,652 POWs claimed in 91 days, thus 21,436 daily
21 September - 20 October: 1,338,922 POWs claimed in 30 days, thus 44,631 daily

It is also of note that the RKKA had slightly more men in the active Fronts at the beginning of September (3,974,000) than at the beginning of the Moscow counteroffensive (3,715,523). Of course by then the Ostheer had suffered a further ~525,000 combat and non-combat losses, and thus the force ratio was more favorable to the Soviets.

It shows how the Germans in the late summer needed to "up their game", so to speak, if they wanted to avoid losing the initiative simply due to Soviet force generation.
historygeek2021 wrote:
19 Mar 2021 03:33
Their offensive had stalled all across the front.
This is exaggerated. Heeresgruppe Nord broke the Luga line in August, and cut off Leningrad on September 8, with help from XXXIX. AK (mot.) detached from HGM. 2. Armee and Panzergruppe 2 were also, obviously, still advancing.

Although the balance of force was steadily moving in favor of the Soviets, it had yet to reach a point where the latter could fully contain the German advance.
historygeek2021 wrote:
19 Mar 2021 03:33
If it weren't for the Kiev and Vyazma encirclements, the Germans could have been routed in 1942.
It would have largely depended on future Soviet decisions. When Barbarossa petered out in front of Moscow, I would argue that the Soviets had an opportunity to seize the initiative for good, and that through their own mistakes (primarily those of Stalin, AFAICT) they lost it to the Germans by May of the following year.

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by Futurist » 19 Mar 2021 21:52

historygeek2021 wrote:
19 Mar 2021 03:33
Futurist wrote:
18 Mar 2021 21:04
You know, I'm wondering if the Siege of Leningrad can be successfully broken in the winter of 1942-1943 in this scenario as opposed to in the winter of 1943-1944. With a better Soviet strategic position, this doesn't actually seem too implausible, does it?

The rest of what you wrote here appears to make sense.
They probably can. The Germans were in trouble before the Kiev encirclement. Their offensive had stalled all across the front. If it weren't for the Kiev and Vyazma encirclements, the Germans could have been routed in 1942.
Interesting. I suppose that another question worth asking might be this: Do as many Jews successfully get evacuated from Kiev in this scenario in comparison to real life? In real life, three-fourths (74%) of Kiev's Jews managed to get successfully evacuated to the interior of the Soviet Union and thus managed to survive the Holocaust.

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by Avalancheon » 25 Mar 2021 14:34

historygeek2021 wrote:
18 Mar 2021 20:23
In late August 1941, German Panzer Group 2 under Heinz Guderian began its drive south from the Smolensk region toward Kiev, where the Soviet Southwestern Front occupied a salient between German Army Group Center and Army Group South. At the same time, Panzer Group 1 under Ewald von Kleist was driving north across the Dnepr River from the southeast of Kiev.

The commander of the Soviet Southwestern Front, Mikhail Kirponos, and the Soviet chief of staff, Georgy Zhukov, warned Stalin about the imminent danger and urged him to order the Soviet Southwestern Front to withdraw from its forward position to escape the encirclement. In the OTL, Stalin refused until the day after the Southwestern Front was encircled on September 16 to order a withdraw. By then it was too late, and almost the entire Southwestern Front was lost, with total casualties estimated at 700,000. This left a giant gap in the Soviet lines to the south of the Soviet Briansk Front, and in early October Germany was able to launch Operation Typhoon and encircle and capture up to 600,000 Soviet prisoners, allowing the German army to make one last lunge for Moscow before winter.

What if Stalin had listened to Zhukov and Kirponos and ordered the Southwestern Front to retreat to the east in late August or early September?
Its good to see a thread about the battle of Kiev. This operation doesn't get nearly as much attention as it deserves. Kiev was one of the largest encirclements in military history, with only the Vyazma-Bryansk encirclement as a close second. In many ways, the battle of Kiev can almost be considered as a modern battle of Cannae, with the double envelopment maneuver and the totally lopsided casualtys.

Its hard to put the scale of this disaster into perspective. In the month of September, the Red Army was able to mobilize five new Armys from reserves. But at the battle of Kiev, the Wehrmacht was able to destroy five entire Armys. In other words, they killed and captured more troops than the Soviets had mobilized for the entire month.


As for the possibility of evacuating the Kiev salient before it was closed off. We must keep in mind that Semyon Budyonny (the commander of the Southwestern and Southern Fronts) waited until September 11th before asking permission to withdraw from Kiev. And unfortunately, Joseph Stalin had no intention of retreating: He ordered Budyonny to hold out and die, then sent Mikhail Kirponos to replace him. The situation was completely hopeless by then, and by the time Kirponos assumed command, he also saw the writing on the wall. The Kiev salient would be destroyed, and there was nothing they could do to stop that.

By September 11th, the German encirclement of Kiev was already well underway, and would be fully complete by September 16th when 2nd Panzer Group linked up with 1st Panzer Group at Lokhvitsa. So even if Stalin had granted Budyonny permission to retreat from Kiev at this time, it would not have been possible to fully evacuate the Red Army from the salient. At best, this would have merely enabled some tens of thousands of Soviet troops to escape. The bulk of the five Armys at Kiev would have still been encircled, same as OTL.

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by OldBill » 25 Mar 2021 17:17

What was Stalin's reasoning for doing this, for not allowing Soviet forces to retreat?

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by Martin_from_Valhalla » 26 Mar 2021 06:14

OldBill wrote:
25 Mar 2021 17:17
What was Stalin's reasoning for doing this, for not allowing Soviet forces to retreat?
One can understand his reasoning only if one is a hardcore Stalinist. In reality, he had no idea of any strategy. Hence big losses of Red Army at the initial stage of war.

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by KDF33 » 26 Mar 2021 06:32

Martin_from_Valhalla wrote:
26 Mar 2021 06:14
One can understand his reasoning only if one is a hardcore Stalinist. In reality, he had no idea of any strategy. Hence big losses of Red Army at the initial stage of war.
Yes. Stalin and Hitler seem to have been competing to determine who could most mess up his respective country's war effort.

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by History Learner » 28 Mar 2021 23:51

As noted by others, the timeframe given by the OP isn't workable and basically means OTL, sans a few extra survivors; maybe the Germans don't take Rostov but they ended up loosing it again OTL that same winter so it's a wash there.

An earlier retreat, however, is a war winner for the Germans. With the Soviet pullback, AGS can take Kiev on its own and secure the Dnieper, especially the vital ore production sites and the like near it (including 60-80% of Soviet aluminum output). More importantly, however, it settles the Kiev or Moscow debate of July/August firmly in favor of Moscow, since AGS can now achieve its goals on its own and the chance for a major encirclement on that Axis is non existent. 2nd and 3rd Panzer Armies can thus effect a Via'zyma-Briansk encirclement in August against Reserve and Briansk Fronts, subsequently taking Moscow in September. Without Moscow and the resulting collapse in the Soviet infrastructure network, Leningrad will be unable to hold and Army Group North will be able to take it, either directly or through reaching the Svir River to effect a link up with the Finns; either way, the city will fall that Winter.

1942 would thus be a mop up operation, with AGC and AGS conducting a pincer attack on the poorly supplied and low morale forces that survived 1941 in the Ukraine just to be destroyed in 1942. I'd imagine the A-A Line is achieved by the close of 1942, and then in 1943 the Germans occupy up to the Urals against sporadic resistance. The Anglo-Americans will cut an armistice deal, and still finish Japan off in 1945 or so; instead of a Soviet-American Cold War, we get a Nazi-American Cold War.
Last edited by History Learner on 29 Mar 2021 02:22, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by historygeek2021 » 29 Mar 2021 00:29

It's amazing how the idea of the Allies doing any better than the OTL is unthinkable in the minds of so many, and yet they would have us believe it would have been the easiest thing in the world for Germany to win the war if only X, Y, or Z had happened. One has to wonder how they explain the lopsided annihilation of the Axis that took place in real life, as if it were some sort of one in a million miracle ...

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by History Learner » 29 Mar 2021 01:04

historygeek2021 wrote:
29 Mar 2021 00:29
It's amazing how the idea of the Allies doing any better than the OTL is unthinkable in the minds of so many, and yet they would have us believe it would have been the easiest thing in the world for Germany to win the war if only X, Y, or Z had happened. One has to wonder how they explain the lopsided annihilation of the Axis that took place in real life, as if it were some sort of one in a million miracle ...
If you want a scenario where the Soviets do better, there are many and I can name one off the top of my head; the Kovel option put forward in the high summer of 1944. It would've resulted in the capture of Warsaw and likely Danzig, cutting off East Prussia as well as Army Group North and Army Group Center. Specifically as it pertains to your purposed scenario though, it does not work out in the Allied favor for the reasons I noted. If you disagree with that, the proper response would be to reply why you feel otherwise. If your instinctive response is to point to the fact the Allies won instead of why or how that can be changed in the context of discussing a "What If", then discussion is pointless between us; your mind is made up and no real dialogue came come from such given your viewpoint is, in essence, a logical fallacy.

Case in point is calling it lopsided, when it took six years and overall casualties favored the Axis. In particular, German vs Soviet losses, given the context of this thread. If it was lopsided, it doesn't show up in the data.

historygeek2021
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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by historygeek2021 » 29 Mar 2021 01:50

The idea that Germany would have been better off if the Soviet Southwestern Front had not been surrounded at Kiev is the height of absurdity and doesn't merit a serious response.

And yes, pointing out the tendency of some to see Germany as easily attaining victory if only X, Y, or Z had happened, and the Allies as lucky to have won at all in the OTL, is important for keeping one's sanity in these threads.

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Re: The Soviets retreat from Kiev in early September 1941

Post by History Learner » 29 Mar 2021 01:58

historygeek2021 wrote:
29 Mar 2021 01:50
The idea that Germany would have been better off if the Soviet Southwestern Front had not been surrounded at Kiev is the height of absurdity and doesn't merit a serious response.

And yes, pointing out the tendency of some to see Germany as easily attaining victory if only X, Y, or Z had happened, and the Allies as lucky to have won at all in the OTL, is important for keeping one's sanity in these threads.
An odd tact to take, given you have just replied twice. As I said, if you disagree, the proper response is to explain why; if you are convinced and take any countering argument as absurd, why did you post this discussion thread? Seems to be in bad faith, even placed in the best of light.

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