Red Army casualties and performance

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paulmacg
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Red Army casualties and performance

Post by paulmacg » 24 Apr 2006 14:18

SPLIT-OFF FROM "Comparison between German and Russian generals".

the ROBB wrote:If I remember correctly I believe it was Kunikov that said German generals don't deserve the military honour or have military prowess!!!!!! TOTALLY disagree my friend! In almost every major battle the Germans were outmanned,outgunned,had little or no air cover,had less armour and still managed to either kick serious but! or hold out for lenghty periods of time...and the Russian generals mistrusted each other so much , they hardly even spoke to each other never mind co-ordinate an attack or defensive together!!! Stalin didn't even want his Generals to have too much success in fear they would be a threat to his "leadership"...
I would like to address a few of these points. Firstly, German success at the tactical or operational level over the course of the war was pretty much a mixed bag. Starting with Poland and ending with the Battle of Berlin, several examples come to mind. The first, of course, would be France which I think we can all agree was a resounding success, but after that the waters become much more muddied. North Africa was a back and forth struggle ending in German defeat, Greece was a costly victory that prevented 2 panzer divisions from participating in Barbarossa, the border battles of June and July 1941 were devestating to the Red Army, but also revealed serious weaknesses in German operational planning, Smolensk, Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, Korsun, Bagration and on and on and on.

I think it safe to say that the Western Allies found a German Army that had already a few years of experience under its belt, but, like the Red Army, were able to turn an advantage in production and manpower into an edge on the battlefield. And that edge, or rather that ability to survive, enabled them to learn. I have no problem stating that the Red Army, for its part, was standing toe to toe with Germany, in virtually every aspect, by 1944 (and possibly even by the end of 1943). Likewise, the Western Allies learned enough in Africa and Italy to stand their ground in Normandy against a determined, if depleted, enemy.

I think it a gross exagerration bordering on the ludicrous to state that the Germans were outmanned in every major battle and that, despite those odds were somehow always able to "kick ass". In fact, the Wehrmacht was able to achieve at least local numerical superiority on several occasions throughout 1941 and 42, but were not always able to achieve a clear victory. They did often fight well in a losing cause, but there are also several examples of total German collapse or, at the very least, a complete failure of battlefield intelligence leading to a disastrous or near disastrous defeat.

Now, back on topic, I find it difficult for myself to support an argument that Soviet generals were unable to effectively coordinate their actions due to a lack of communication. This seems to me to be at least a gross oversimplification and at worst simply wrong in every sense.

Soviet offensives in 1941 were a sad affair usually resulting in monstrous casualties, but they were definitely coordinated, albeit poorly, and those of early 1942 were not much better. However, I do not think Stalingrad could be viewed in the same way and certainly the massive counterattacks that followed Kursk were not amateurish attempts. In fact, by 1944 the Red Army was regularily pulling off strategic offensives on a scale difficult for me to even imagine. I doubt very little that any of this could have been accomplished without at least two Soviet generals taking a few minutes to get in touch with each other.

This kind of statement is typical of an all too common misperception that the Red Army was ruled by fear and mistrust when the reality is that it was no more ruled by these factors than other contemporary armies. Yes Stalin made political moves to increase his prestige in post war politics, but he was far more inclined to leave the operational and the tactical to the men that knew what they were doing. In many ways, the success of his generals became his success and he was well aware of that fact. I often think that his decisions concerning Zhukov receive much more attention than they should. In fact, there was intense rivalry between Soviet generals, but many, including Zhukov, were given the freedom to make messes and later clean them up. An example would be the 1942 Mars offensive.

In fact, I agree fairly strongly with Glantz and others that the Wehrmacht, during the course of the war, began to take on more of the characteristics of the prewar and early war Red Army. There are several reasons for this of course and few of them have anything to do with the relative quality of the respective countries' military leadership, but a failure to communicate is not among them. I could even argue that your comments more closely describe a late war Wehrmacht than they do the RKKA in 1943-45.

Although I have no desire to add fuel to the fire, theROBB, I must say that your comments really do demand at least some effort at validation.

Cheers

Paul

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 24 Apr 2006 14:49

Hello Paul

I think your argument here oversteps quite considerably on one or two points.
I have no problem stating that the Red Army, for its part, was standing toe to toe with Germany, in virtually every aspect, by 1944 (and possibly even by the end of 1943).
Personally I must say I have very considerable difficulties with squaring that with the combination of a continued very marked discrepancy in losses despite an increasingly crushing superiority in forces. In late 1943, the Red Army was consistently winning and deploying - in its active Fronts alone - an average of more than 6.5 million men, roughly 2.5 times more than the Ostheer were fielding. Despite this, they were still losing roughly five times more men than the Ostheer - some 4.5 million combat losses during the second half of 1943, against approximately 900,000 German. The picture was a little better through 1944, but not by a great deal, and primarily because the summer battles were so disastrous for the Germans. Even during 3q 1944 however, the Soviet combat losses were still roughly twice as large as the German - by far the best relation they ever recorded during the course of the war (except that we don't know the ratio in 1945, of course), and this in a situation where the Germans lost several hundred thousand men as prisoners more as a result of the outcome of the operations than as a part of them, to put it that way. Simultaneously, their force superiority grew more pronounced still - during the second half of that year, the Fronts were fielding an average of more than 6.7 million men, while the German strength was around the 2 million mark for most of that period. Force relations in armour and artillery were even more pronounced. A force that is of comparable capability as its opponent, but who is 2.5 to 3.5 times stronger and who is consistently inflicting serious defeat on him quite simply does not consistently lose 4 to 5 times as many men. Though you cannot read quality out of such data in an entirely straightforward way, the data are in this case so vastly lopsided that this judgment is IMO more or less completely ruled out by them.
I think it a gross exagerration bordering on the ludicrous to state that the Germans were outmanned in every major battle and that, despite those odds were somehow always able to "kick ass". In fact, the Wehrmacht was able to achieve at least local numerical superiority on several occasions throughout 1941 and 42, but were not always able to achieve a clear victory. They did often fight well in a losing cause, but there are also several examples of total German collapse or, at the very least, a complete failure of battlefield intelligence leading to a disastrous or near disastrous defeat.
This is a bit unspecific to really deal with, but it is in fact no exaggeration to say that a very pronounced Soviet force superiority was a constant feature of the fighting in the East, more or less from the time of the Moscow counteroffensive in 1941. There are perfectly good Soviet strength data available on the operational level, and on the German side it is also almost invariably possible to at least make a satisfactory estimation. I cannot think of a single major operation or battle in 1943 or later where there was not avery pronounced Soviet force superiority. As indeed one would expect, given the large overall superiority along the front as a whole, which would normally result in even better force relations at chosen points of contact.

These are the basic strength data, expressed as quarterly average strength:

Quarter German Iststärke.........Soviet Fronts Ratio
3q41.........2 800 000 ~...............3 334 400.......1:1.2
4q41.........2 675 000 ~...............2 818 500.......1:1.1
1q42.........2 525 000 ~...............4 186 000.......1:1.7
2q42.........2 600 000 ~...............5 060 300.......1:2.0
AVG..........3 849 800
3q42.........2 825 000 ~ ..............5,664,600.......1:2.0
4q42.........2 900 000 ~ ..............6,343,600.......1:2.2
1q43.........2 800 000 ~ ..............5 892 800.......1:2.1
2q43.........2 850 000 ~ ..............6 459 800.......1:2.3
AVG..........2 843 750..................6 090 200.......1:2.1
3q43.........2 850 000..................6 816 800.......1:2.4
4q43.........2 575 000..................6 387 200.......1:2.5
1q44.........2 406 750 .................6 268 600.......1:2.6
2q44.........2 409 75....................6 447 000.......1:2.6
AVG./........2 560 375..................6 479 900......1:2.5
3q44..........2 076 250.................6 714 300.......1:3.1
4q44..........1 900 000~...............6 770 100.......1:3.6
1q45..........1 800 000~ ..............6 461 100.......1:3.6
2q45.............?...........................6 135 300
AVG./........1 949 000~................6 520 200.......1:3.4

The Soviet figures are from Krivosheev, and refer to the average combined strength of the Soviet Fronts and independent armies opposing the Germans. They do not reflect the often numerous forces who were at any specific point contained in the Stavka reserve. The German figures are a bit of work in progress, and should not be relied upon to be exactly correct, but they are not much off. Unlike the Soviet figures they include no air forces, but that should be more than outweighed by the fact that they are Iststärke, which normally means that 10-20% of them were not present and fit for duty, but away on leave or short-term sick or wounded, something which apparently is not the case with the Soviet figures. It is of course important to recall that the ratio here is a direct one between the German and Soviet forces, taking no account of the German allies, who significantly affected that relation, especially early in the campaign. It also probably does not include Soviet allies, but that is a phenomenon of somewhat more limited scale, and only during the later part of the war. As you see, the force relation deteriorated pretty steadily from the German point of view, first because Soviet strength was increasing so vastly, then because German strength dropped. Since this is average strength (the average of the monthly strengths, to be more exact), they are also impacted by the scale of the losses as well as the scale of reinforcement and replacement, since what it tells us is the level of force each side was able to maintain through a period, rather than at one specific point, as strength figures usually do. As losses were consistently much higher on the Soviet side (and at a more disproportionate rate than the force relation, except during 1q43 and 3q 44)), this means that if put in terms of the number of men who were present at one point or another of the period, the Soviet advantage would be larger still. It also means on the other hand that the presence of the Stavka reserve had an influence on the figures despite not being included in them, as it was used to keep up the strength of the Fronts.

The combat losses on a yearly basis, based on various German reporting and on Krivosheev's figures minus sick and frostbites were:

Year...........German.........Red Army....ratio

1941..........831 050..........4 158 407.....1:5.2
1942........1,061,329.........6 584 764.....1:6.2
1943........1,523,124.........6 877 118.....1:4.5
1944........1,953,455..........5 685 785....1:2.9

Probably the German 1944 losses are a little too low, and the Soviet 1941 figures are quite questionable.
This kind of statement is typical of an all too common misperception that the Red Army was ruled by fear and mistrust when the reality is that it was no more ruled by these factors than other contemporary armies.
Well, that may be a little bit an overstatement in the opposite direction. It was not the case in many other armies that generals who failed or fell foul of the political leadership risked facing execution, as occasionally happened in the Red Army. I don't think you can reasonably compare fear as a factor in what was after all a stalinist system with what was the case for instance in the British or US armies. I agree however with the general drift of your comments.

In conclusion, I would say

1. There is always a risk when seeking to counteract what one feels is a simplistic or exaggerated image of events to exaggerate, and hence risk replacing old inaccuracies with new ones of the reverse kind. The notion of German struggling against the strongest odds in the East have clearly been used too freely and simply, but that does not mean that it is basically fictional. On the contrary, it can be firmly documented to have been very real indeed from a fairly early point in the war, and there is no doubt whatsoever that it was also consistent.

2. Much as I value Glantz, I do think he has sometimes tended to fall into this trap, possibly as a result of his strong and justified desire to reverse several widespread misconcetions or exaggerations combined with a relative weakness of sources on German figures beyond what little can be found in published literature.

3. It is clear that German generals were for the most part facing a very (and increasingly) difficult force relation situation in the East, and this obviously had a very major impact on what they could achieve. It is also wholly clear AFAICS that they continued to be able to hurt their opponent at a very disproportionate rate, including late in the war. This was probably much more a reflection of structural strengths and weaknesses in the opposing organisations than of generalship, and how much importance to attach to it is legitimately debatable, but it is something that needs to be acknowledged and to form part of the assessment.

4. On the whole, I think these discussions (on generalship) needs to take account of the fact that generalship is actually only one of the factors that go into the result of a battle or a campaign, and rarely among the most important ones. Despite this, it seems that victory or defeat is used not just as the main measure of a general, which is illogical enough, but also occasionally even as the measure, in a direct way, which is absurd. To take one example, I would argue that the fact that Manstein did not manage to break through to Stalingrad is in itself irrelevant if one is to judge his performance in these battles. That result might conceivably be due wholly to factors outside Manstein's control. If he is to be held culpable for the outcome, then it needs to be shown how his decisions impacted on that result, what other options were open to him and how large an influence they had on events compared to other factors. Generalship is about what you are able to achieve given the resources at your command relative to those of your enemy, and within the constraints that are imposed on you.

cheers

Igorn
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Post by Igorn » 24 Apr 2006 18:45

Qvist wrote: These are the basic strength data, expressed as quarterly average strength:

Quarter German Iststärke.........Soviet Fronts Ratio
3q41.........2 800 000 ~...............3 334 400.......1:1.2
4q41.........2 675 000 ~...............2 818 500.......1:1.1
1q42.........2 525 000 ~...............4 186 000.......1:1.7
2q42.........2 600 000 ~...............5 060 300.......1:2.0
AVG..........3 849 800
3q42.........2 825 000 ~ ..............5,664,600.......1:2.0
4q42.........2 900 000 ~ ..............6,343,600.......1:2.2
1q43.........2 800 000 ~ ..............5 892 800.......1:2.1
2q43.........2 850 000 ~ ..............6 459 800.......1:2.3
AVG..........2 843 750..................6 090 200.......1:2.1
3q43.........2 850 000..................6 816 800.......1:2.4
4q43.........2 575 000..................6 387 200.......1:2.5
1q44.........2 406 750 .................6 268 600.......1:2.6
2q44.........2 409 75....................6 447 000.......1:2.6
AVG./........2 560 375..................6 479 900......1:2.5
3q44..........2 076 250.................6 714 300.......1:3.1
4q44..........1 900 000~...............6 770 100.......1:3.6
1q45..........1 800 000~ ..............6 461 100.......1:3.6
2q45.............?...........................6 135 300
AVG./........1 949 000~................6 520 200.......1:3.4
Above figures are not accurate and misleading. For some reasons you excluded from 1941 statistics 500,000 Finns, 150,000 Rumanians and 67,000 Germans stationed in Northern Norway. You forgot to include in 1942 statistics around 430,000 Finns, 650,000 Rumanians, Hungarians and Italians, and around 90,000 Germans in northern Norway. You forgot to include in 1943 statistics 400,000 Finns, 150,000 Rumanians and Hungarians and around 80,000 Germans in northern Norway. Your 1944 statistics does not include about 210,000 Poles, Rumanians and Chechs on the Soviet side and around 200,000 Finns, 550,000 Rumanians and Hungarians, and 60,000 Germans in northern Norway on the Axis side. And in 1945 around 400,000 Poles, Rumanians, Bulgarians and Chechs were fighting on the Soviet side while around 100,000 Hungarians were fighting on the German side.


22 June 1941

Soviet: 2,680,000 (Western MDs) 1:1.4 Axis: 3,767,000 incl. German 3,050,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000 (northern
Norway)+500,000 Finns

11 September 1941

Soviet: 3,463,000 (front) 1:1.16 Axis: 4,022,000 incl. German 3,315,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000 (northern
Norway)+500,000 Finns+150,000 Rumanians

1 Nov 1941

Soviet: 2,200,000 (front) 1:1.9 Axis: 3,517,000 incl. German 2,800,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000
(northern Norway)+500,000 Finns+150,000 Rumanians

1 Dec 1941

Soviet: 4,197,000 (front) 1.23:1 Axis: 3,407,000 incl. German 2,700,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000
(northern Norway)+500,000 Finns+140,000 Rumanians

7 March 1942

Soviet 4,663,697 (front) 1.34:1 Axis: 3,470,000 incl. German 2,700,000 (eastern Europe)+80,000
(northern Norway)+450,000 Finns+140,000 Rumanians+300,000
Hungarians and Italians)

5 May 1942

Soviet 5,449,898 (front) 1.52:1 Axis: 3,580,000 incl. German 2,550,000 (eastern Europe)+80,000
(northern Norway)+450,000 Finns+500,000 Rumanians+
Hungarians and Italians)

7 June 1942

Soviet 5,313,000 (front) 1.42:1 Axis: 3,720,000 incl. German 2,600,000 (eastern Europe)+90,000
(northern Norway)+430,000 Finns+600,000 Rumanians+
Hungarians and Italians)

5 July 1942

Soviet 5,647,000 (front) 1.50:1 Axis: 3,740,000 incl. German 2,600,000 (eastern Europe)+80,000
(northern Norway)+450,000 Finns+500,000 Rumanians+
Hungarians and Italians)

etc.

Sources:

1. Earl Ziemke, From Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East
2. Fremde Heere Ost comparative strength reports for 1. 4. 43; 14. 10. 43; 1. 5. 44; 1. 6. 44; 1. 8. 44; 1. 9. 44 and 1.11.44.
3. David Glantz & Jonothan House, When Titans Clashed
4. Krivosheev, Grif Sekretnosti sniat

Best Regards from Russia,

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Victor
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Post by Victor » 24 Apr 2006 19:50

Igorn,
the figures given by Glantz and House for the Axis allies aren't too correct. See this older thread: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=76874

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 24 Apr 2006 19:58

Above figures are not accurate and misleading. For some reasons you excluded from 1941 statistics 500,000 Finns, 150,000 Rumanians and 67,000 Germans stationed in Northern Norway.
I clearly stated that German allies were not included in these figures. You are right that most of the figures utilised above does not include Geb.AOK 20, which I forgot in my hurry - sorry for omitting to point that out. Again, I would also stress that I would not neccessarily be prepared to stand by these as exact figure, they are a compilation job in progress. But I have a fair confidence in their accuracy in most cases - with the proper caveats - , at least for purposes as general as this discussion.

The following concerns itself solely with the German figures.
22 June 1941

Soviet: 2,680,000 (Western MDs) 1:1.4 Axis: 3,767,000 incl. German 3,050,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000 (northern
Norway)+500,000 Finns
More or less OK, except the German figure must include part of the OKH reserves (some of whom were already designated to Heeresgruppen, but not released), which mine do not for the same reason that the Soviet figures do not include forces not part of the Fronts.
11 September 1941

Soviet: 3,463,000 (front) 1:1.16 Axis: 4,022,000 incl. German 3,315,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000 (northern
Norway)+500,000 Finns+150,000 Rumanians
German Ist was very considerably lower than 3.4 million in early September - that figure is more or less equivalent to the sum of the HG commands plus the OKH reserves plus AOK Norwegen (as GebAOK 20 was still called) at the outset of Barbarossa, and these reserves were fed into the battle at more or less a rate which together with replacements kept just about pace with the losses. This means that the German strength remained fairly constant through that quarter, at 2.8-2.9 million. The tabulated Septemvber Iststärke of the Army commands (not including AOK Norwegen) in September were just over 2.5 million, which was almost 100,000 lower than in July. This figure must either be an incorrect estimate, or more likely it reflects something else than Iststärke. I have what seems likely to be a ration strength figure of almost similar size for October, so that would appear as a likely suspect in this case. That is a type of figure of no reasonable comparability to Soviet Front strengths.
1 Nov 1941

Soviet: 2,200,000 (front) 1:1.9 Axis: 3,517,000 incl. German 2,800,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000
(northern Norway)+500,000 Finns+150,000 Rumanians
I'd be very interested in knowing where ythis figure comes from, because I have never succeeded in finding a clean overall Iststärke report for the Ostheer as a whole for this period (up to July 1942). The Ist of the AOKs in this month barely exceeded 2.3 million, though AOK Norwegen and forces directly under the HGen would raise that some. My figures for this quarter rely fundamentally on working from previous strength points taking into account losses, replacements and unit transfers, and they could easily be somewhat inaccurate. It however does not seem possible that it could have been as high as 2.8 million, which is very close to the 22 June strength of the whole Ostheer. Losses had much exceeded additions for a considerable period of time at this point.
1 Dec 1941

Soviet: 4,197,000 (front) 1.23:1 Axis: 3,407,000 incl. German 2,700,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000
(northern Norway)+500,000 Finns+140,000 Rumanian
s

The trend here seems to make sense relative to November, but again 2.7 million seems an implausibly high number. The Norway figure is too low - at this point GebAOK 20 had a strength exceeding 100,000, which it basically kept in the following period.
7 March 1942

Soviet 4,663,697 (front) 1.34:1 Axis: 3,470,000 incl. German 2,700,000 (eastern Europe)+80,000
(northern Norway)+450,000 Finns+140,000 Rumanians+300,000
Hungarians and Italians)
This seems again considerably too high.
Soviet 5,449,898 (front) 1.52:1 Axis: 3,580,000 incl. German 2,550,000 (eastern Europe)+80,000
(northern Norway)+450,000 Finns+500,000 Rumanians+
Hungarians and Italians)
This makes no sense relative to the previous figures - by all accounts, German strength must have been considerably higher in May than in March. But tihs is much closer to what there ought to be, taking into account losses and so on, than the last two or three figures quoted.
7 June 1942

Soviet 5,313,000 (front) 1.42:1 Axis: 3,720,000 incl. German 2,600,000 (eastern Europe)+90,000
(northern Norway)+430,000 Finns+600,000 Rumanians+
Hungarians and Italians)
This seems reasonable.
5 July 1942

Soviet 5,647,000 (front) 1.50:1 Axis: 3,740,000 incl. German 2,600,000 (eastern Europe)+80,000
(northern Norway)+450,000 Finns+500,000 Rumanians+
Hungarians and Italians)
I have seen many reports giving strengths for early July, and they are all around 2.8 million, if the rear commands in the East are taken into account. 2.6 million is however the figure given without forces in the Ostgebiete, who for some reason were at this point unusually numerous. The GebAOK20 figure is much too low - at this point that army had an Ist of more than 120,000.

Please feel free to continue with the "etc" - from this point on, I have firmer figures than for the difficult (source-wise) 1st year.

A note on your sources: I take it that FHO charts from 1943 and 1944 have not been used as sources for strength figures in 1941/42? Invidentally, I happen to have those charts too. Krivosheev do not provide any strength figures for specific dates, just quarterly averages, so that cannot be a source for the above either. Ziemke I am not so sure about since I have only excerpts, but I presume that the actual basis of the figures is Glantz/House's appendix in WTC? I consider them good for the Fronts figures, but their axis figures have been discussed many times, and there seems to be numerous question marks attached to them. They do not seem to be based on any really systematic investigation of casualty sources, but rather on various figures taken from different accounts. This is perilous, because it is rarely possible to assess the basis of such figures. Even more, there is a very clear risk that different figures are not similarly based.

cheers

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Post by paulmacg » 24 Apr 2006 21:59

I'm gonna have to bump this one up now because Qvist couldn't wait for me to put soemthing intelligent together. Don't be so impatient young Qvist. Life is long. 8-)

Cheers

Paul
Last edited by paulmacg on 25 Apr 2006 12:46, edited 1 time in total.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 24 Apr 2006 22:32

Hi Paul

Sorry to pre-empt the continuation a little, but I have some points to make to this. Both of your points are familiar arguments, but they are in my opinion problematical.
Still, there are other areas in which the Red Army was improving at a rapid pace even in 1943. I will admit that their tendency towards frontal attacks led to extremely high casualty rates, but at the same time they were almost constantly on the attack for a very long period of time. Casualty rates were bound to be higher.
Yes, but the problem is that you can't really find such a correlation between posture and losses. During the defensive fighting at Kursk, for example, their ratio of losses was not appreciably different from other major operations of the same period, where they were generally on the attack. Also, they achieved their best ratios in periods where they were on the offensive - 1q 43 and 3q 44. Of course, these were also periods of major encirclement victories, which illustrates that being on the offensive does not neccessarily have an adverse effect on relative casualties. Other campaigns, wars and research also fail to suggest any real general correlation of this sort, despite the fact that defensive posture is an undoubted tactical advantage.

Certainly the Red Army improved in a number of ways and manners - not least organisationally, in that it fielded increasingly complex and powerful formations, and also in the preparation, planning and conduct of operations. Their strategic leadership and judgment I think merits the description "superb", at least from the summer of 1943 on. But the casualties still speak of lingering weak points, and while they improve markedly - consistent in this with the several indications of improvement in various areas - they do not improve nearly enough to allow a serious possibility of regarding the Red Army as on par in general combat power per man and weapons systems employed with their opponent, as far as I can see.
Also, I think it is important to remember that even though overall the Red Army enjoyed a massive manpower advantage, the nature of their advance and tactics did not lend itself to an equally large local superiority. At the point of the initial attack, due to excellent deception tactics and vastly improved battlefield intelligence, they were frequently able to concentrate large numbers of men on a relatively narrow front, but I doubt very much that even those concentrations were in the...to be continued...(leaving work)
No intention to be blunt, but this is not in fact correct - Red Army superiorities in individual major operations were usually demonstrably larger than along the front as a whole, as they should be. Red Army methods did not prevent them from achieving truly massive concentrations along initial points of attack, and still less in the offensive sector as a whole. And it is in the nature of any offensive that the attacking side can achieve even greater initial superiorities at the point of attack than tfor the operation as a whole - the Germans did so at Kursk, and the Red Army later did so during Rumyantsev and elsewhere. And quite apart from the actual data, intelligence and deception helped, but it is not a fundamental precondition for achieving this in a situation of general force superiority and a relatively low force density. Under such circumstances, the side with such a superiority can always achieve better odds than along the front as a whole, even if the opponent has perfect insight into intentions and makes a maximum counter-concentration.

Let me illustrate that point with a little "game".

Envisage a "frontline" divided into six zones. Side blue has ten counters. Side red has 25, for a general relation of 1:2.5.
Each side has to place at least one counter in each zone.
Side red, being the attacker, chooses to place just one counter in each of the five northernmost zones, and all the remaining 20 in his chosen attack sector, the southernmost one.
Blue, being the defender and having for the sake of argument perfect overview of Red's disposition, have to place five of his counters in the five topmost zones - and have only five left with which to oppose Red in the bottom one.
Hence, Red is left with a superiority of 4:1 in his chosen attack sector, which is much better than the general relation of forces, and there is nothing whatsoever Blue can do to avoid this even with perfect knowledge of Red's dispositions.
If Blue did not have perfect knowledge of Red's intentions and placed, say, just 3 counters in the bottom sector, the advantage would of course be even greater. But the advantage does not fundamentally rely on that.

The magnitude of this effect relies on the force density. If the force denisty (ie, forces relative to frontage) is very low, as on the Eastern Front, the effect increases, because a larger proportion of the weaker side's forces has to be committed to maintain at least a minimum of defense along non-prioritised sectors of the front. If the density is so extremely high that it is not possible for the stronger side to employ as many forces as he wishes effectively, as might to an extent have been the case in Normandy f.e., the effect turns, and the weaker side would be able to achieve a better relation at his chosen points than along the front as a whole, even in the face of a maximum effort from the stronger side.

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Post by Kunikov » 25 Apr 2006 03:07

Comparing losses/casualties is not the only criteria for an objective analysis of which side had better tactics, operational art, and strategy throughout the war. Especially when it comes to the Eastern Front.

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Post by Steen Ammentorp » 25 Apr 2006 05:36

Kunikov wrote: I would suggest Reese's book "Stalin's Reluctant Soldiers" and "Stalin's Generals" by Shukman which gives bios of many of the central figures from WWII, so you'll find their educational backgrounds there, although somehow I think you might have this book already :D
Yes – I do have the Shukman book. I am looking for a study of the whole general officer corps so I will give Reese's book a try. Thanks.
Kunikov wrote:Comparing losses/casualties is not the only criteria for an objective analysis of which side had better tactics, operational art, and strategy throughout the war. Especially when it comes to the Eastern Front.
Which criteria should then in your opinion be included and why?

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Steen Ammentorp
The Generals of World War II

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 25 Apr 2006 05:52

Steen Ammentorp wrote:
Kunikov wrote:Comparing losses/casualties is not the only criteria for an objective analysis of which side had better tactics, operational art, and strategy throughout the war. Especially when it comes to the Eastern Front.
Which criteria should then in your opinion be included and why?

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Steen Ammentorp
The Generals of World War II
I don't think there is a certain criteria per se that should be included, simply put the entire campaign has to be studied in detail, countless detail, to understand why one battle turned out how it did, and the same for every other. One side might have an advantage in weapons, another in numbers, maybe a shortage of officers, NCO's, signal troops, engineers, sappers etc, a shortage of ammunition or fuel, medical supplies, mines, etc, breakdown of supply routes, etc. what the troop morale is, intelligence of the enemy, deception measures, political machinations working in the background, etc. There are too many variables, since no two sides can have the same situation in all aspects and variables which an army works with real criticisms are very much limited to what is known, and that says very little for the entire picture.

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Post by Qvist » 25 Apr 2006 07:31

Comparing losses/casualties is not the only criteria for an objective analysis of which side had better tactics, operational art, and strategy throughout the war. Especially when it comes to the Eastern Front.
No, but it is a very important one, and one that cannot be ignored by any analysis that concerns itself with "quality" in some structural sense. As said, the relation is not entirely straightforward of course. The only reason why we can draw such relatively direct and far-reaching conclusions from them is that they are so consistently lopsided, and to such a great degree.

Why "especially when it comes to the Eastern Front"? I would on the contrary say that the Eastern Front is uncommonly appropriate for it. It is possible to find reasonably good data, at least for most of the period. The conflict is of fairly even scope over time, and went on for a long period, which makes it possible to see development over time (Which you cannot really in the same way on the Western Front, for example). And not least, again unlike the Western Front, the casualty picture provide very clear conclusions in itself.

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Post by Michate » 25 Apr 2006 07:47

1 Nov 1941

Soviet: 2,200,000 (front) 1:1.9 Axis: 3,517,000 incl. German 2,800,000 (eastern Europe)+67,000
(northern Norway)+500,000 Finns+150,000 Rumanians

I'd be very interested in knowing where ythis figure comes from, because I have never succeeded in finding a clean overall Iststärke report for the Ostheer as a whole for this period (up to July 1942). The Ist of the AOKs in this month barely exceeded 2.3 million, though AOK Norwegen and forces directly under the HGen would raise that some. My figures for this quarter rely fundamentally on working from previous strength points taking into account losses, replacements and unit transfers, and they could easily be somewhat inaccurate. It however does not seem possible that it could have been as high as 2.8 million, which is very close to the 22 June strength of the whole Ostheer. Losses had much exceeded additions for a considerable period of time at this point./quote]

Most of the German strength figures in "When Titans clashed" are taken from two sources:

- Most of the 1943-44 figures aret taken from FHO strength comparison reports.
- Some more figures (including June 1941, September 1942, October 1944) are taken from Ziemke's "Stalingrad to Berlin".

Additionally there are some figures, that can be found in neither of the two mentioned sources. As no other sources are referenced, these are probably interpolations, and most of these are rounded to a full 100,000. The strength figures 1. November 1941 do belong to this latter category.

Figures for the Finnish front seem to be mere estimates for most dates.

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Post by Qvist » 25 Apr 2006 07:50

Hi Kunikov
I don't think there is a certain criteria per se that should be included, simply put the entire campaign has to be studied in detail, countless detail, to understand why one battle turned out how it did, and the same for every other. One side might have an advantage in weapons, another in numbers, maybe a shortage of officers, NCO's, signal troops, engineers, sappers etc, a shortage of ammunition or fuel, medical supplies, mines, etc, breakdown of supply routes, etc. what the troop morale is, intelligence of the enemy, deception measures, political machinations working in the background, etc. There are too many variables, since no two sides can have the same situation in all aspects and variables which an army works with real criticisms are very much limited to what is known, and that says very little for the entire picture.
I do not disagree with this. Statistical analysis can only form one part of the picture, and is of course not a substitute for more general analysis. But it also misses the point a little with regard to the usefulness of that type of analysis. Firstly, what it does is show broad trends and general traits, which is a neccessary context also for individual battles, and hence addresses important questions that can't be dealt with by studying every single battle of the conflict in detail. Even if you did, you would need statistical analysis more than ever to extract from this vast mass of information some sort of general conclusions. Secondly, what does it matter that no two sides can even have exactly the same situation? That is neither here nor there. And you forget that we are here talking of general figures for a period of four years - a vast scope, where the general picture cannot be influenced by fleeting influences or arbitrary factors, especially not given that the picture they present is consistent. When two vast armies fight each other for four years and one of them consistently lose men at a very disproportionate rate, this does say something very clear about "the entire picture".

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Post by paulmacg » 25 Apr 2006 13:59

Qvist wrote:I do not disagree with this. Statistical analysis can only form one part of the picture, and is of course not a substitute for more general analysis. But it also misses the point a little with regard to the usefulness of that type of analysis. Firstly, what it does is show broad trends and general traits, which is a neccessary context also for individual battles, and hence addresses important questions that can't be dealt with by studying every single battle of the conflict in detail.
OK, hopefully I can some of this out before I am pre-empted again. :)

There are two things that need to be remembered here. First, I was arguing against some VERY general statements and second, I did not have to go into great detail to make my point. If I were to attempt to point out flaws in a much more elaborate set of data (like that which you have provided), I would undoubtedly have been much more careful in my wording. Still, you are correct. These are not necessarily private conversations even if sometimes we intend to respond to very specific points made by one speaker.

In any case, I believe I made valid points that, within the context of a discussion on generalship, were more than enough to go where I wanted to go. The German Army did, at times, manage to achieve local superiority in numbers and that same local superiority did not always give them the clear victory they wanted. The Battle of Smolensk is an excellent example of this. At the Dnepr River crossings, both Panzer Armies were able to achieve excellent local odds over an overall numerically superior opponent. Yet, despite this they were unable to produce anywhere near the results they had anticipated against a much weaker enemy and despite lopsided casualties.

Yes, a cold assessment of the numbers would lead one to believe that the Germans won the Battle of Smolensk in a landslide victory, but that assessment would only be half the story and would not truly mean much in the context of a discussion on generalship. And, I think, it would mean even less if strategic goals were taken into account.

I am not arguing that the Red Army was qualitatively better then the Wehrmacht because that is not necessarily true, but I am more than willing to argue the merits of Soviet generalship. One can look at the numbers in at least two ways. I am of the opinion that those statistics also show a vastly improved Red Army in 1944 and most likely in 1945 that was making a very considerable effort to reduce casualties for the same reasons any other army attempts to keep casualties to a minimum.

However, I do think that a discussion of generalship is more about the way in which leadership utilizes the tool at its disposal in order to achieve victory. Of course, at this point I find it necessary to say that I am not condoning the often brutal tactics utilized by the Red Army to achieve victory, but I am willing to go so far as to say that, at least in as much as leadership, the Red Army was standing on an equal footing with the Wehrmacht in 1944 and 1945.

Or, even better, the Red Army was at least as good as the vaunted Wehrmacht at using the tools at its disposal to produce victory. In this case, one of those tools was a larger pool of manpower and the ability to use that pool in a sometimes wasteful fashion. I will not argue the morality of that decision, but I think it is important to remember that Russia was facing extinction and was facing an opponent with a very pronounced technical advantage.

Sorry to have to deal with your excellent arguments in this way, Qvist, but I do not have any reference materials on hand at the moment. I am sure you can see where I am going though.

Cheers

Paul

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Post by Qvist » 25 Apr 2006 14:33

Hi Paul

I'm sorry if my reply was premature, I did not intend to tackle undeveloped arguments. I read it in the way that the two points you had put up were fully developed as far as they went, and that "more to come" meant additional points. Hence, there didn't seem to be any harm in addressing them without waiting for the rest. There wasn't anything unintelligent about them, even if I do not ultimately agree with them. I do apologise if this was unsuitable, as it now seems clear that it was.

Anyway, no risk of pre-emption this time, because I am going away for the next two days. For my part, I would be delighted if you took the time to return to the matter in the mean time - I was enjoying our discussion, as I have also done with our previous ones. It seems we are not likely to really fundamentally disagree in the end, but it is nevertheless interesting to deal with the arguments involved. I'll return to your above post when I have the opportunity, but at first glance there seems to be little I can say to it except voice agreement.

best regards, Qvist

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