Soviet failure during Barbarossa

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Henri Winkelman
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Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by Henri Winkelman » 11 Sep 2018 18:50

Hello guys,

A couple of weeks ago someone made an excellent animation about the eastern front during operation Barbarossa.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu3p7dxrhl8

Of course we have all seen the (almost incredible) rapid progress of German troops during the first months of the war, but this animation makes the Russian failure even more clear. What is most striking to me is the huge amount of Russian POW's and the failure to relieve them. (Opposed to the German successes at Demyansk and Kholm later in the war.)

In more than 20 pockets 3 million Soviet prisoners were taken.

Code: Select all

	Pocket			Prisoners taken	Tanks Destroyed/Captured	Guns Destroyed/Captured
1	Rossizny		Unknown		200 tanks			Unknown
2	Bialystok-Minsk		290,000		3,332 tanks			1,809 guns
3	Smolensk		310,000		3,205 tanks			3,120 guns
4	Roslavl			38,000		250 tanks			359 guns
5	Gomel			84,000		144 tanks			848 guns
6	Dvina			35,000		355 tanks			655 guns
7	Staraya Russa		53,000		320 tanks			695 guns
8	Luga			250,000		1,170 tanks			3,075 guns
9	Reval			12,000		91 tanks			293 guns
10	Galacia			150,000		1,970 tanks			2,190 guns
11	Uman			103,000		317 tanks			1,100 guns
12	Zhitomir		18,000		142 tanks			123 guns
13	Valdai Hills		30,000						400 guns
14	Kiev			667,000		884 tanks			3,718 guns
15	Vyazma-Bryansk		663,000		1,242 tanks			5,412 guns
16	Nikolav			60,000		84 tanks			1,100 guns
17	Dnieper Bend		84,000		199 tanks			465 guns
18	Mariupol 		106,000		212 tanks			672 guns
19	Crimea			100,000		160 tanks			700 guns
20	Donetz			14,000		45 tanks			69 guns
Total				3,067,000	14,322 tanks			26,803 guns
From a historiographical point of view, the focus has always been on German "what if-scenarios" (what if the Germans had taken Moscow, etc.) But what if the Russians could've prevented even half of these encirclements?

And what are the main causes (from a Russian point of view) for this unbelievable catastrophe?

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by Art » 11 Sep 2018 19:21

German final count for the year 1941 was 3.3 million POWs:
https://web.archive.org/web/20161110012 ... h_gen.html
Also some 50 000 captured by Finns.
Your table contains some cases of double counting. In particular Gomel is actually included in the totals for Kiev, and Roslavl is actually included in the totals for Smolensk. Also certain overclaim for other reasons.

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by Henri Winkelman » 11 Sep 2018 19:50

Art wrote:
11 Sep 2018 19:21
German final count for the year 1941 was 3.3 million POWs:
https://web.archive.org/web/20161110012 ... h_gen.html
Also some 50 000 captured by Finns.
Your table contains some cases of double counting. In particular Gomel is actually included in the totals for Kiev, and Roslavl is actually included in the totals for Smolensk. Also certain overclaim for other reasons.
Thanks for correcting the numbers, but still an almost ridiculous amount.

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by ljadw » 11 Sep 2018 20:32

Art wrote:
11 Sep 2018 19:21
German final count for the year 1941 was 3.3 million POWs:
https://web.archive.org/web/20161110012 ... h_gen.html
Also some 50 000 captured by Finns.
Your table contains some cases of double counting. In particular Gomel is actually included in the totals for Kiev, and Roslavl is actually included in the totals for Smolensk. Also certain overclaim for other reasons.
It could even be lower : at the end of 1941 ,no one at the OKW/OKH knew the exact number of POW and no one trusted the official figures,they decreased the number of POWs arbitrarily : the official figure was 3,918,148 ,the new figure became 3,378,599 ( on January 10 1942 ),curiously the number of captured officers increased by 50 :from 15,221 to 15,271 .
Corrected montly figures were

June + July 813,830
August : 678,480 (corrected figure )
September : 989,203( idem )
October : 1,046,533 (idem )
November :371,934 (idem )
At the end of the year, these figures were again corrected .

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by Art » 11 Sep 2018 21:03

Corrected by whom/when/where?

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by Art » 11 Sep 2018 22:08

Henri Winkelman wrote:
11 Sep 2018 19:50
Thanks for correcting the numbers, but still an almost ridiculous amount.
Not quite compared with the earlier campaigns:
Image

For comparison in their great offensive on the Eastern Front in 1915 German and Austro-Hungary captured about 1 million Russian POWs in 6 months and some 2.4 million in three years of war on the Eastern Front (1914-1917).

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by Henri Winkelman » 12 Sep 2018 17:50

Art wrote:
11 Sep 2018 22:08
Henri Winkelman wrote:
11 Sep 2018 19:50
Thanks for correcting the numbers, but still an almost ridiculous amount.
Not quite compared with the earlier campaigns:
Image

For comparison in their great offensive on the Eastern Front in 1915 German and Austro-Hungary captured about 1 million Russian POWs in 6 months and some 2.4 million in three years of war on the Eastern Front (1914-1917).
Your point being? These were all clear defeats, and so was (however not definite) Barbarossa for the Russians. The failure of France has been discussed a lot on this forum, but when we talk about Barbarossa questions are raised why the Germans didn't do better.

Wrong question in my opinion, the question should be why the Russians failed so terribly. So I hope you have an answer to that question.

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by Art » 12 Sep 2018 19:41

Henri Winkelman wrote:
12 Sep 2018 17:50
Your point being?
The original question was why German captured so many prisoners. The answer is that the earlier campaigns in Poland, West and Balkans gave comparable numbers of POWs in proportion to duration and the size of forces involved. There is no reason to view "Barbarossa" as any sort of anomaly.
If the question is why German offensives on the first stage of the war (1939-42) managed to capture so many prisoners, then the answer is relatively straightforward - because they were able to undertake encirclement operations of rapid tempo and large spatial scale as a result of motorization of troops and employment of modern weapons.
Finally, if the question is why "Barbarossa" developed as it developed historically then the obvious advice is to consult existing books on the subject.

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by BDV » 18 Sep 2018 15:25

When Soviet unit was captured, it lost everyone involved, cooks, mechanics, drivers, couriers, health personnel, record-keepers, everyone.

But when the Wehrmacht lost a person, it was from the cutting edge of the unit (the fighting men). The ratio of head to tail is hotly debated (1:3, 1:5?), but the ratio of 200k Axis losses : 700k Soviet losses in August say, is not that impressive anymore. The ratio of Sovjet:Axis losses becomes even less impressive when you account for the (large) losses of Auxiliaries. The only thing that prevented Barbarossa from being a huge debacle for the Axis was that the operational edge of the Wehrmacht which allowed the Axis to complete a number of encirclements, leading to more lopsided losses, improving the Axis side of the ledger; well, until RKKA learned to avoid encirclements altogether.

As the Soviet State and RKKA did prevent the Wehrmacht from achieving its stated Barbarossa goal ("to destroy in a swift campaign"). As such "failure" does not apply. Soviets were the first ones to stop the "Blitzkrieg" on land. They could have (conceivably) done it in a less wasteful manner, but those that failed were the Wehrmacht and Auxiliaries.
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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by jesk » 18 Sep 2018 19:31

BDV wrote:
18 Sep 2018 15:25
When Soviet unit was captured, it lost everyone involved, cooks, mechanics, drivers, couriers, health personnel, record-keepers, everyone.

But when the Wehrmacht lost a person, it was from the cutting edge of the unit (the fighting men). The ratio of head to tail is hotly debated (1:3, 1:5?), but the ratio of 200k Axis losses : 700k Soviet losses in August say, is not that impressive anymore. The ratio of Sovjet:Axis losses becomes even less impressive when you account for the (large) losses of Auxiliaries. The only thing that prevented Barbarossa from being a huge debacle for the Axis was that the operational edge of the Wehrmacht which allowed the Axis to complete a number of encirclements, leading to more lopsided losses, improving the Axis side of the ledger; well, until RKKA learned to avoid encirclements altogether.

As the Soviet State and RKKA did prevent the Wehrmacht from achieving its stated Barbarossa goal ("to destroy in a swift campaign"). As such "failure" does not apply. Soviets were the first ones to stop the "Blitzkrieg" on land. They could have (conceivably) done it in a less wasteful manner, but those that failed were the Wehrmacht and Auxiliaries.
The conclusions are erroneous without taking into account the actual situation. Germans could take Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev in July 1941. Hitler did not allow them to do this. Crimea could be circumvented and take Caucasus. Such affairs...

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by BDV » 20 Sep 2018 17:03

jesk wrote:The conclusions are erroneous without taking into account the actual situation. Germans could take Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev in July 1941. Hitler did not allow them to do this. Crimea could be circumvented and take Caucasus.
AGN: The Axis could NOT take Leningrad in July 1941 (maybe only if Mannerheim is convinced to storm Leningrad). That is seen at Soltsy, and at Poretsye. Heck, AGN could not take Tallin until almost SEPTEMBER.

AGC: The axis could barely take Mogilev in July, how they going to take Moscow, twice the distance away?

AGS: The Axis could not take Korosten in July (to protect left flank from RKKA Armee 5), plus Soviet armies on the right (6, 12) were not annihilated until August.

Before Adolf "not allowing," it was the Djugashvilli and RKKA combo not allowing.
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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by jesk » 20 Sep 2018 19:39

BDV wrote:
20 Sep 2018 17:03
AGN: The Axis could NOT take Leningrad in July 1941 (maybe only if Mannerheim is convinced to storm Leningrad). That is seen at Soltsy, and at Poretsye. Heck, AGN could not take Tallin until almost SEPTEMBER.
Nothing happened in Soltzy. The 8th Panzer Division turned out to be semi-circular, repelled, as Manstein wrote, 17 enemy attacks. Several days were spent on the restoration of combat capability. But Hitler distorted the occasion. He ordered the offensive to be stopped before the armies were pulled on the flanks. The order to take Estonia was superfluous, it could be blocked.
The Germans could not take Tallinn, but this is not the case to extrapolate to the whole of the Wehrmacht. Estonia is surrounded by the sea, there was no way to get around the enemy from the rear. Had to storm the forehead. The same Stalingrad, if the Germans had crossed the Volga and surrounded it, everything would have happened faster. The plan of the offensive was supposed to be fought with large defending forces.
AGC: The axis could barely take Mogilev in July, how they going to take Moscow, twice the distance away?
Germans surrounded Mogilev. Russians fought their way from there. Erected barriers and scratched further. It's easy there.
AGS: The Axis could not take Korosten in July (to protect left flank from RKKA Armee 5), plus Soviet armies on the right (6, 12) were not annihilated until August.
All the Germans took. Destroying the 6th and 12th armies was a mistake. Halder insisted on active operations in the north of Ukraine. But Hitler decided to strengthen the Kiev direction to the detriment of Moscow. In the south of Ukraine Romanians, they are weaker.
Before Adolf "not allowing," it was the Djugashvilli and RKKA combo not allowing.
Then Hitler for parity Shilkgruber call!

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by BDV » 21 Sep 2018 19:28

jesk wrote: Nothing happened in Soltzy. The 8th Panzer Division turned out to be semi-circular, repelled, as Manstein wrote, 17 enemy attacks. Several days were spent on the restoration of combat capability.


"Several days" equal 4 weeks, IIRC. Also 8th Panzer had to break out, leave Soltsy (strategic rail-highway junction) - saved by disregarded TKopf.

But Hitler distorted the occasion. He ordered the offensive to be stopped before the armies were pulled on the flanks. The order to take Estonia was superfluous, it could be blocked.
I agree, could have been taken from behind if proper assessment of enemy strength is made, instead of unprotected deep armor strikes and simultaneous separate foot infantry assaults (same issue like Tikhvin/Volkhov). Very poor usage of available force by local commander, Von Leeb. If only vLeeb would have been less interested in "judenfei-ing" Estonia and paid more attention to actual battles. But why stress you can exert your bravery by executing women, children, and old men?

The Germans could not take Tallinn,
and Leningrad, and Oranienburg, and Sevastopol, and Stalingrad, and Voronezh, and Volkhov, and Tula.
Big troubles taking not only Tallin, and also Kharkov, and Brest-Litovsk, and Mogilev.

Germans surrounded Mogilev. Russians fought their way from there. Erected barriers and scratched further. It's easy there.
It's easier in Moscou (for Sovjet).

All the Germans took. Destroying the 6th and 12th armies was a mistake. Halder insisted on active operations in the north of Ukraine. But Hitler decided to strengthen the Kiev direction to the detriment of Moscow. In the south of Ukraine Romanians, they are weaker.
Exercise of withdrawal at Rostov 1941, proof flank has to be safe.
Exercise of withdrawal at Soltsy 1941, proof flank has to be safe.
Exercise of withdrawal at Tikhvin 1941, proof flank has to be safe.
Exercise of withdrawal at Velikiye Luki 1941, proof flank has to be safe.
Exercise of withdrawal at Kerch-Feodosia 1941, proof flank has to be safe (commander EXECUTED based on Erich "armbanduhren" Manstein lying complaint).

Also Operatsyia URAN, proof flank has to be safe.

Then Hitler for parity Shilkgruber call!
Schicklgruber I used many times, including in discussion with you.
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: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by jesk » 21 Sep 2018 20:45

BDV wrote:
21 Sep 2018 19:28
"Several days" equal 4 weeks, IIRC. Also 8th Panzer had to break out, leave Soltsy (strategic rail-highway junction) - saved by disregarded TKopf.
After the abandonment of Soltsy, Hitler ordered 41 panzer corps to stop advancing towards Leningrad. As you noticed, for 4 weeks. Leb used the 8th Panzer Division, in connection with the operational pause, to fight the Soviet troops surrounded in the rear. There was nothing in Soltzy. Slightly battered ONE German division.
I agree, could have been taken from behind if proper assessment of enemy strength is made, instead of unprotected deep armor strikes and simultaneous separate foot infantry assaults (same issue like Tikhvin/Volkhov). Very poor usage of available force by local commander, Von Leeb. If only vLeeb would have been less interested in "judenfei-ing" Estonia and paid more attention to actual battles. But why stress you can exert your bravery by executing women, children, and old men?
The Germans are war criminals. Needless to say. Born for murder.
As for the Tikhvin operation, it was conducted by 6-7 divisions on a broad front. Be equal for a better analysis on "Typhoon"! 80 German divisions dared the Soviet defenses as straw. A million dead and captured for October near Moscow!
Soltsy, Tikhvin scale is small, but you are looking for examples to glorify the Russians.
and Leningrad, and Oranienburg, and Sevastopol, and Stalingrad, and Voronezh, and Volkhov, and Tula.
Big troubles taking not only Tallin, and also Kharkov, and Brest-Litovsk, and Mogilev.
Everything is piled up. Selectively, the operation against Oranienburg was banned personally by Hitler. Leeb asked permission to clear the area, Hitler vetoed. Defenders of Tula were in deep rear and were doomed, if not for the known problems with the climate.
It's easier in Moscou (for Sovjet).
The surrounded Moscow had no chance. Stalingrad held, every day on the Volga delivered fresh meat. Sevastopol was also supplied with the sea.
Exercise of withdrawal at Rostov 1941, proof flank has to be safe.
Exercise of withdrawal at Soltsy 1941, proof flank has to be safe.
Exercise of withdrawal at Tikhvin 1941, proof flank has to be safe.
Exercise of withdrawal at Velikiye Luki 1941, proof flank has to be safe.
Exercise of withdrawal at Kerch-Feodosia 1941, proof flank has to be safe (commander EXECUTED based on Erich "armbanduhren" Manstein lying complaint).

Also Operatsyia URAN, proof flank has to be safe.
Rostov and Operation "Uranus" are counter-offensive. Defense in some places is broken. In "Mars" also pressed on the flanks, but nothing happened ...
Schicklgruber I used many times, including in discussion with you.
I'm not against. Leaders need sonorous pseudonyms.

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Re: Soviet failure during Barbarossa

Post by Stiltzkin » 21 Sep 2018 21:00

Your point being? These were all clear defeats, and so was (however not definite) Barbarossa for the Russians. The failure of France has been discussed a lot on this forum, but when we talk about Barbarossa questions are raised why the Germans didn't do better.
Barbarossa was the textbook example of maneuver. A mincer has the job to grind, but if you throw in too much meat it gets stuck. Armies have limitations set by circumstances, or by the opponents strength/warmaking potential which results in an equilibrium. If a sprinter runs 100 under 10 seconds, how often can he repeat his performance until he gets tired?
From a historiographical point of view, the focus has always been on German "what if-scenarios" (what if the Germans had taken Moscow, etc.) But what if the Russians could've prevented even half of these encirclements?
Then the war would have ended sooner or would have been fought to a standstill, its a question of how many more men can be fed into the campaign actually. Perhaps the opposite would have occured, the General Staff might have realized that achieving a quick victory is impossible and they would have changed their strategy much earlier, leading to a prolonged war of attrition against Soviet favours, instead of an overextension of the Wehrmacht.
And what are the main causes (from a Russian point of view) for this unbelievable catastrophe?
The tactical superiority of the Wehrmacht, which they would never admit, the explanation is usually "weren't prepared", one of the most ridiculous statements, considering it was one of the most uparmed military complexes in history with expansionist ambitions since the 20s, not to mention that they possessed the best intelligence in the world and participated in multiple major conflicts before 1941 one of which was a full scale war/invasion.
The Soviet Army has to buildup its strength relative to its losses, in the earlier phases of Barbarossa it was not possible, since the rate of attrition exceeded manpower generation. If the Wehrmacht had the efficiency of v. Hötzendorfs K and K, then they would have been encircled instead, even by Yugoslavia.
Not quite compared with the earlier campaigns:
I think many of these examples lack any substance. In recent literature (I believe also in Bergström's Barbarossa), it is stated that the exchange rate was 1:19 against France and not so great against the USSR (around 2.4), not only are the figures incorrect but such a comparison is also absurd, since most of these captives were taken after the surrender and total defeat of the forces, while most of the Soviet POWs during Barbarossa were a result of encirclements during major operations, while the action still continued and combat did not cease.

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