TheMarcksPlan wrote: ↑
23 Nov 2021 10:51
First, Stavka probably erred by ringing the pocket so strongly. In fact, Stavka/Stalin later disfavored encirclements precisely because of how long Stalingrad took (see Art's discussion here
). They probably should have just waited them out. But taking that RKKA commitment as a given, unleashing those Soviet forces seems probably bad for Ostheer overall - at least not dramatically better than OTL Stalingrad.
Second, it just takes a lot more forces to utterly destroy an entrenched foe than is needed to defend against utter destruction.
I agree in general terms, but I guess my point of disagreement is whether or not that was true in the case of Stalingrad, post encirclement. Admittedly it's extremely hard to prove it either away because it's somewhat subjective in variable terms, but I just wonder if being in supply, and thus able to maintain weapons/food, evacuate wounded and the associated morale effect of not being cut off would make up for this.
Also, are we sure the logistical capacity exists to even allow the armies IOTL tied down around Stalingrad to go on the offensive? My understanding is that there was only one railway line into what became the Kursk salient to move all supplies west from Kastornoye; the poor supply situation in the region led to failed, costly attacks in February and March. To quote from Chris Bellamy:
The Russians’ main problem was the lack of communications and
transport within the salient, which in those days meant railways.
With the main line to Kursk from Moscow through Orel in German
hands, the best line — double-tracked — ran from Moscow south
through Tula, and thence to Kastornoye and Stary Oskol. That could
take forty to forty-ve pairs of trains a day. From Kastornoye, a line
ran westwards through Kursk and L’gov, but that could only take
twelve to eighteen pairs of trains a day. After heavy equipment, fuel
and ammunition reached railway stations on those lines, transport
was along dirt roads. The Germans had much better rail links, into
Orel, Bryansk and Kharkov, and the Russians understood this.
Adding the Stalingrad armies would probably overload the logistical network to collapse.
There was some - can't recall how much - but for Manstein's smaller force to have carried with it sufficient lift for the larger encircled armies would have made Manstein's columns disproportionately non-combat. Given the relief force's own logistical issues, I can't believe that much of the (probably inadequate) intended lift was actually advancing sufficiently far to get to the pocket and back.
I'm not an expert here though, just working off first principles.
I'm sounding out your ideas, so no worries. Tentative idea I have in mind is higher U-boat induced shipping losses in 1942, preventing TORCH and thus allowing the Germans to focus on the Stalingrad crisis in the winter of 1942-1943.
Without getting deep into the battlefield issues and whether serious peace discussions actually happened, it takes two to deal. Hitler wasn't ready to deal except on terms Stalin couldn't conceivably concede (all of Ukraine, Baltics, plus Baku).
Based on my research, I'm inclined to believe the peace feelers did happen and was genuine on both sides. As for the matter of Hitler, Chris Bellamy's Absolute War
has this to say, starting around Page 596:
If Rokossovskiy thought he had bad news, Stalin had already received worse — or so it seemed. Relations between Russia and its allies had already been shaken in April when, on the 13th, the Germans announced that they had found the mass graves of Polish officers at Katyn. The Poles in exile in London, including General Anders and Prime Minister Sikorskiy, were furious and deeply concerned, having attempted to track down the missing officers for three years. Relations between Soviet Russia and the London Poles virtually ceased. Meanwhile, in Russia, moves begun by the SPP —the Union of Polish Patriots, a group opposed to the ‘London Poles’— were accelerated. The SPP had been formed in Moscow in early spring, to create a new Polish army linked to the Red Army. Then, at the Trident conference in Washington between 11 and 27 May, Churchill and Roosevelt had decided to postpone the cross-Channel invasion from late summer 1943 until May 1944. Stalin knew almost straight away, of course, but was told officially on 4 June. On 11 June he told his western allies that this created ‘exceptional difficulties for the Soviet Union’. The Red Army would have to do the job ‘almost single handed’, and the Soviet people would be deeply disappointed. Kerr warned the British government that Stalin’s icy politeness masked a very real lack of faith in the ‘Grand Alliance’.49
While relations between the western Allies and the Russians quavered, the Germans were not happy, either. It is now widely acknowledged that in Hitler’s mind, ‘clear military victory over the Soviet Union was impossible to achieve’.50 However, he wanted to conduct one more massive attack, perhaps to persuade his Quisling allies, and also continued diplomatic manoeuvres.51 German agents approached Russian representatives in Sweden about a separate peace with Moscow, and also contacted the British and Americans. The first half of 1943 was therefore full of diplomatic tensions, although they abated after Quebec in August. The Russian view, and the traditional view, is that Kursk was meant to restore German prestige and deal the Soviet Union a mortal blow by encircling and destroying the largest single grouping of Soviet forces on the eastern front. Subsequently, the Germans intended to regroup and drive through the Steppe Military District, north-north-east, cutting Moscow off from the rest of the country. It was meant not only to tidy up the battlefront and achieve attrition but, in so doing, to achieve a massive psychological victory. Its ultimate aim was ‘shock and awe’ or, as it is now called, ‘effects based warfare’.52
Some Germans now see it differently. Hitler and the German General Staff ‘were fully aware of the fact that it was no longer possible to achieve a decisive victory on the eastern front, certainly not in a single battle’.53 Therefore the OKH pursued only two, limited objectives. The first was to establish a shorter defensive line by pinching o the troops in the Kursk bulge, which might have released 20 divisions or so. The second was to weaken the Red Army, whose largest concentration of forces — estimated at 60 divisions — was concentrated in the salient.54 Of 6 million troops on the eastern front, the Red Army had about 1.3 million from the Central and Voronezh Fronts in and close to the Kursk bulge for the defensive phase.55