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Subject: Four Roads to Moscow: why did Barbarossa fail? rss

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Severus Snape
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I posted this on the game page to Four Roads, but perhaps more people will see it here and comment.

Gittes, a usually reliable fellow-geek, says this:

As a side note, the article that comes with the game is pretty tepid, and includes a whole host of strawman arguments.

Sean, could you offer some reasons behind your reasoning, please?

And what say the rest of you? Why did Barbarossa fail?

goo
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Bill Lawson
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The short answer as David Glantz makes clear in When Titans Clashed was the Soviets unprecedented ability to generate new units. If the Germans destroyed 12 divisions another 12 appeared. If several Armies were pocketed and destroyed there was always another echelon of new armies forming to there rear. The Germans meanwhile were out running there supplies and being ground down by combat and getting over extended by the increasing size of the front as they advanced.
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Darrell Hanning
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The only chance Germany had was in '41. After that, Soviet production buried the Wehrmacht.

And 1941 went out the window, when Guderian was diverted to the Kiev pocket.
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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I believe without the disasters the Red Army faced during the Winter War '39-'40, Barbarossa would have been a stunning succes. If you ask me, the Fins were responsible for Barbarossa to fail.
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DarrellKH wrote:


And 1941 went out the window, when Guderian was diverted to the Kiev pocket.


Well, reaching Moscow wouldn't have guaranteed victory. Destroying the enemy's army might have the same effect. Guderian encircling over half a million troops in Kiev cannot be seen as a mistake, IMO.

I personally don't think the Germans could have defeated the Russians - no matter what. What the Germans did achieve was spectacular considering the difference in size between the nations and really show that the Wehrmacht was an amazing military force during the entire war.
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Björn Hansson
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Harae wrote:
I believe without the disasters the Red Army faced during the Winter War '39-'40, Barbarossa would have been a stunning succes. If you ask me, the Fins were responsible for Barbarossa to fail.


You might have a point.
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I'd point two main reasons for Barbarossa's failure:

1) despite the great quantity of vehicles gained through the invasion of France, most of the German Army's transport was horse-drawn. This slowed down an advance that could have been truly "lightning";

2) through Lend-Lease the US made the Red Army more mobile, not by lend-leasing tanks - which were generally inferior to the Soviet design - but by supplying trucks in great quantities.
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billyboy wrote:
The short answer as David Glantz makes clear in When Titans Clashed was the Soviets unprecedented ability to generate new units. If the Germans destroyed 12 divisions another 12 appeared. If several Armies were pocketed and destroyed there was always another echelon of new armies forming to there rear. The Germans meanwhile were out running there supplies and being ground down by combat and getting over extended by the increasing size of the front as they advanced.


But there was a limit to Soviet manpower; how close did they get to running out of men? The loss of 13 million on a population of 180 million is not insignificant. By the end of the war divisions were a lot smaller than at the start.

taragalinas wrote:
Well, reaching Moscow wouldn't have guaranteed victory.


True. Nobody knows what the effect of the loss of the 20% of Soviet industry that was in the Moscow region would have been, what the logistical impact of the loss of the major communications hub represented by the rail centre would have been, nor what instability would have resulted from the displacement of the political centre, nor how well the command and control ability of the Soviet High Command would have coped with a requirement to move deeper into the interior of the Soviet Union. It keeps the historians in work.

Gorgoneion wrote:
2) through Lend-Lease the US made the Red Army more mobile, not by lend-leasing tanks - which were generally inferior to the Soviet design - but by supplying trucks in great quantities.


Sherman tanks were given to Guards units because they had radios and were reliable. Valentine tanks were popular for reconnaissance because of reliability. Perhaps most of all the Lend- Lease of trucks allowed the Soviets to concentrate on the production of tanks and provided them with sheet metal to do make them.

However, given that most Lend-Lease was late in the war the question is how much did it contribute to stopping the Germans by Stalingrad. Perhaps it made all the difference. Blocking Lend-Lease and a more astute political approach to encourage the recruitment of Hiwis might have won Germany the Eastfront War. No doubt Hitler had a different vision.
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Severus Snape
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Okay, guys--gals? There's always Piero's avatar image--if any of you read the article in the ATO annual #10 on why Barbarossa failed, could you comment on what you thought of the article, please? Either here or on the thread I posted on the Four Roads page.

And thanks.

goo
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Steve Arthur
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The German failure can be summed up in one word I think...

........HITLER...

..I feel just about every decision he made concerning the war against the Soviet Union including the decision to invade in the first place was wrong....
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Rob Doupe
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Blitzkrieg is a lot harder in a country with hardly any paved roads. And the Germans had little idea of the manpower and industrial resources of the USSR. It's remarkable they achieved as much as they did.
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Too much Russia, too little Wehrmacht.
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billyboy wrote:
The short answer as David Glantz makes clear in When Titans Clashed was the Soviets unprecedented ability to generate new units. If the Germans destroyed 12 divisions another 12 appeared. If several Armies were pocketed and destroyed there was always another echelon of new armies forming to there rear. The Germans meanwhile were out running there supplies and being ground down by combat and getting over extended by the increasing size of the front as they advanced.


ASIDE THAT IS OFF TOPIC: I have never made the connection before, but there is a bit of similarity between this and the Lost Cause ideology from the US Civil War. Martially superior yet numerically inferior army being overwhelmed and exhausted by their foe. Except I do not buy the argument in the case of the Civil War whereas I could make a case for it in the Eastfront of WW2. Except for those lovely T-34s....
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Severus Snape
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Capt_S wrote:
billyboy wrote:
The short answer as David Glantz makes clear in When Titans Clashed was the Soviets unprecedented ability to generate new units. If the Germans destroyed 12 divisions another 12 appeared. If several Armies were pocketed and destroyed there was always another echelon of new armies forming to there rear. The Germans meanwhile were out running there supplies and being ground down by combat and getting over extended by the increasing size of the front as they advanced.


ASIDE THAT IS OFF TOPIC: I have never made the connection before, but there is a bit of similarity between this and the Lost Cause ideology from the US Civil War. Martially superior yet numerically inferior army being overwhelmed and exhausted by their foe. Except I do not buy the argument in the case of the Civil War whereas I could make a case for it in the Eastfront of WW2. Except for those lovely T-34s....


Billyboy, always a pleasure to have you around as you support my threads, no matter how obscure. As does the good Capt S.

BB, Capt S makes a good point. The old-school line was that the Wermacht was defeated by sheer numbers, and certainly the Soviets reached those 3-1, or better, odds that old-school AH gamers so dearly love. But, and Glantz supports this, the quality of the Red Army also grew significantly . There were the guys who developed the deep penetration and all that rot--such a weird thing to say in any context, but it is a Saturday night and so much can be forgiven.

It was quality and quantity that defeated the Wermacht.

In the meanwhile, if no one is going to actually READ the article in Four Roads, how about sending it to me so that I can read it. Then I'll comment on it.

goo

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In a very old issue of Command Magazine, as I recall, Ty Bomba claimed to have been engaging in an abstract conversation of this sort on public transit while stationed in Germany. As the story goes, and forgive me if I paraphrase from memory, an elderly German gentleman within earshot thumped his cane on the floor to silence the speculation, and said something to the effect "Russia vas too damned big, it vas too damned cold, and zere vere too damned many of zem."
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Severus Snape
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mcszarka wrote:
In a very old issue of Command Magazine, as I recall, Ty Bomba claimed to have been engaging in an abstract conversation of this sort on public transit while stationed in Germany. As the story goes, and forgive me if I paraphrase from memory, an elderly German gentleman within earshot thumped his cane on the floor to silence the speculation, and said something to the effect "Russia vas too damned big, it vas too damned cold, and zere vere too damned many of zem."


And what was Ty doing over there, Mike: trying to start WWIII? I wouldn't be surprised as we could then see surf Nazi's going up--or is it down?--the Rhine.

goo

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Darrell Hanning
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taragalinas wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:


And 1941 went out the window, when Guderian was diverted to the Kiev pocket.


Well, reaching Moscow wouldn't have guaranteed victory. Destroying the enemy's army might have the same effect. Guderian encircling over half a million troops in Kiev cannot be seen as a mistake, IMO.

I personally don't think the Germans could have defeated the Russians - no matter what. What the Germans did achieve was spectacular considering the difference in size between the nations and really show that the Wehrmacht was an amazing military force during the entire war.


The trapped Soviet troops at Kiev weren't going anywhere. Deviating from the only offensive that was heading toward Moscow was, IMO, a very serious mistake. When Stalin learned that Guderian was heading south, I imagine he felt a tremendous sense of relief.

If the Germans had any chance, it was in the capture of Moscow breaking either the Soviet will, or their ability to govern. I said nothing about "guarantees".
 
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It might not have been enough, and it would have gone against the basic thinking and propaganda of the Nazis, but there were millions in the Soviet Union that hated Stalin and would have gladly helped Germany fight- but the Germans treatment of them ended any hope of that.

Russia's greatest asset was massive manpower, and yet the Germans could have had a large chunk of that for themselves if they could have come in, at least acting like they wanted those people as allies. Of course, I'd imagine if that had been successful, then after the Soviet Union had fallen, Hitler would then eliminate those recent allies. So, it's a good thing he wasn't smart enough to be nice to them until he defeated Stalin.
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Colin Raitt
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When I've played Germany I find myself on a tight schedule with many problems already. If ignored Britain will defeat Italy. The United States supports her and may declare war on me. The naval blockade extends to my allies and conquests. It causes shortages of copper, tin, diamonds and especially food and oil. Continued mobilization takes men away from the factories and fields.Breaking the pact with Stalin stops oil and food transfers. Conquered war torn neighbours provide less food as tribute than they peacefully traded before the conflict began. They must be garrisoned against invasion and insurrection. Italy has a fine navy but needs coal,food and oil. Thank heavens for Romania.

Invading with the declared intention of eradicating the untermensch living there to create lebensraum seems to make them hate us and love Stalin. Whilst there is some chance of victory the russians are not going to surrender. Taking Moscow might be enough to get them to surrender, people quite reasonably think that the war is lost if you can't hold your capital.

The first week sees easy successes against troops on the border. Man for man the Germans are better than the russians. Halftracks, radios, experience, and doctrine are all in their favour. These advantages don't work as well in a city but often allow a city to be isolated. Finns and Romanians lack tanks and heavy weapons but can advance where they have numerical superiority. Russia has numbers on her side once she is mobilised. With more planes and tanks (and those nice T34s) this more than balances German quality.

Logistics and weather slow the advance. Rail lines to the front have to be repaired and converted to european gauge. Supply dumps must be moved forward. An infantry division can walk 600 miles to Moscow in a month but without food and ammunition it is helpless. Carts are slower in mud, snow or ice.

The Germans came close, advancing to the outskirts of Moscow but they couldn't assault it till it was surrounded. That would be a mammoth tasks as all the rail lines radiate from it. The Moskva river and forest aid the defence. You have to haul supplies by cart for a hundred miles right the way round both flanks or take Kalinn, Ryazan and Voronezh.

So you can't take Moscow before the russians are mobilised and you can't take it afterwards because you are weaker.







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Michael Dorosh
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Capt_S wrote:
billyboy wrote:
The short answer as David Glantz makes clear in When Titans Clashed was the Soviets unprecedented ability to generate new units. If the Germans destroyed 12 divisions another 12 appeared. If several Armies were pocketed and destroyed there was always another echelon of new armies forming to there rear. The Germans meanwhile were out running there supplies and being ground down by combat and getting over extended by the increasing size of the front as they advanced.


ASIDE THAT IS OFF TOPIC: I have never made the connection before, but there is a bit of similarity between this and the Lost Cause ideology from the US Civil War. Martially superior yet numerically inferior army being overwhelmed and exhausted by their foe. Except I do not buy the argument in the case of the Civil War whereas I could make a case for it in the Eastfront of WW2. Except for those lovely T-34s....


It doesn't hold true in the Second World War either; the Germans were lucky in the first years of the war to find enemies that were more poorly organized than they were.

Hitler insisted on a series of gambles that paid off but came up against it in 1941. As he did in Poland and France, he threw his army in unprepared (winter clothing, anyone?) with small ready reserves of fuel, ammunition, replacements and the big one, a set of rolling stock that was the wrong guage for the Russian rail system. As noted above, the German supply system relied on horse-flesh, and thousands of the smaller Russian panje ponies had to be pressed into service to supplement the German draft animals. That they managed to continue successful offensive drives two years into the war is testament to how lousy the Red Army was, not how great the Germans were.

The Red Army was also aided in late 1941 by the ability to redeploy large forces from their eastern borders, once war with the U.S. was a sure thing, so they weren't just "creating new units" but also better using resources they already had.

There was also quality involved, certainly by 1944-45, especially at the operational level once they figured out what they were doing, as well as intelligence victories. Logistically, Soviet tanks may not have won engineering awards, but they made tanks that worked, in large numbers, that were by and large better than what the Germans were putting in the field, while Germany screwed around with all kinds of "secret weapon" and "supertank" projects, eating up valuable resources.

I don't know that I would ever say Germany "never" had a chance, but it is fair to say that they were poorly organized, and not nearly as good as most laymen and even many historians give them credit for. Matthew Cooper's 1976 book THE GERMAN ARMY is still a good one to read for its discussion of high-level issues, and Mosier's THE BLITZKRIEG MYTH is also recommended. John Ellis has interesting things to say in his books such as BRUTE FORCE also.
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Some further possible reasons:

Germany's failure to adopt a 'total war' economy until way too late in the war and so being consistently outproduced;
Insane treatment of the Russians and Ukranians (opponents and civilians), ensuring fanatical and continuing resistance;
Trying, for the second time in less than twenty five years, to fight a two front war.
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Barbarossa very nearly succeeded in 1941, and virtually everyone forgets that their shared knowledge of what actually happened doesn't make its eventual failure any more likely. Clearly Muscovites had no difficulty in predicting Barbarossa's success.

In Barbarossa Derailed, Glantz suggests that the fighting & counter-attacks at Smolensk caused irreplaceable German infantry casualties, and it was this that prevented the breaking of the very last Russian line before Moscow. He appears to concentrate only on numbers, and not the weather nor supplies. The last has less meaning in 1941 as the German armies hadn't been on campaign for very long, and even their mobile forces were able to carry much of their own requirements. German rail construction battalions were numerous and were put to a great deal of hard work, including fighting off bypassed enemies, but this proves that their Herculean task was merely that, and it was largely accomplished. The Russians like to downplay the weather in favour of their military as the major contributor to their salvation, however by December the pre-war Red army had largely gone and the counterattack at Khimki -- 20km NW of the Kremlin -- was undertaken by the last T-35 landships and urban factory workers led by commissars, whose 'extreme winter' fieldcraft may have been no better than the Germans'.

Some Germans sources cited a fatal delay to Barbarossa caused by flooding in the south, an occasional but serious phenomena, which had to be allowed to dissipate before they crossed rivers like the Prut.
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RogCBrand wrote:
It might not have been enough, and it would have gone against the basic thinking and propaganda of the Nazis, but there were millions in the Soviet Union that hated Stalin and would have gladly helped Germany fight- but the Germans treatment of them ended any hope of that.

Russia's greatest asset was massive manpower, and yet the Germans could have had a large chunk of that for themselves if they could have come in, at least acting like they wanted those people as allies. Of course, I'd imagine if that had been successful, then after the Soviet Union had fallen, Hitler would then eliminate those recent allies. So, it's a good thing he wasn't smart enough to be nice to them until he defeated Stalin.


I think this could have worked ... As it was the Germans had almost 100,000 ex-USSR troops fighting with them ... in the 6th army alone before it was destroyed. This happened even with the horrible treatment the Germans gave the Soviets.
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zuludawn wrote:
Too much Russia, too little Wehrmacht.


The Russians were usually outnumbered in 1941, not least because they lost five million men by the end of the year, plus very many in Finland previously. They also lost the Ukraine wherein lived 20% of their population, and much else besides. Fighting the Germans continued to generate casualties in this general range, and by the end of the war they had run out of the low-grade recruits who filled their ranks from 1942 onwards, who can be considered to be less effective on average than soldiers from Axis minor nations such as Romania. Whereas, the pre-war Red Army was man-for-man probably the best in eastern Europe.

Its interesting to note how few large Russian cities there are even today: few have populations over one million and only the famous four are over 2m. Its a rural country, and its rather too large for the Soviet army to cover everything, thus its hard to isolate an enemy except by costly encirclement. The forces used to isolate Stalingrad were sorely missed, such that Operation Saturn became Little Saturn.
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Severus Snape
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Nevertheless, through numbers, courage, sacrifice and increasing skill, the Red Army defeated the Wermacht in the long game.

But let's return to the short game.

goo
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