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Assesment of negative effect of Stalin on Red army development

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe' started by arca, Jun 15, 2013.

  1. arca

    arca Member

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    Five days ago on 11 th June it was 76 years to the day from execution of Marshal of the Soviet Union Mikhail Tukhachevsky and beginning of greatest blood letting in any army in history without resistance.
    Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky was a nobleman by birth and served in WW I as a lutenant but was captured in 1915. He escaped five times, last time from Ingolstadt fortress as incorrigible escapee.In late 1917 he joined the Red army as a lutenant and by 1919 by merit alone, despite his noble heritage he was commanding an army. After the civil war where he participated in all decisive battles showing his grand talent he became one of world leaders in the field of modern military theory.He advocated,already in 1920s modern, industrial backed war of manoeuvre, where leading role would have tanks, aircrafts and firepower(guns and automatic weapons).Among many of his postulates about future warfare were need for cooperation between different branches of the armed forces and need to avoid stalemate and attrition of great proportions that modern age defensive forces were able to deliver to attacking forces. For this purpose Tukhachevsky and other like Triandafillov developed new concept during the 1920, - the 'Deep battle'. This concept focused on the use of concentrated, combined arms forces utilizing planes, tanks, artillery and infantry ‘to penetrate the elaborate defense systems developed during the First World War’ (Glantz & House 1995), then to use mobile mechanized forces to encircle enemy formations attacking them from the rear and flanks preventing the enemy from forming a solid frontline and successive exploitations of enemy rear. Contrary to their contemporaries they gave leading role in these penetrations to tanks, while others were still giving tanks role of supporting other arms. In 1930 first mechanized brigade was created composed of amour, motorized infantry, artillery and reconnaissance units. And in 1932 first two mechanized corps were created (three years before first panzer divisions, which were also much smaller formations). Air force and airborne forces also played pivotal role in these new concepts, with first ever airborne assault was performed near Mogilev in 1930! New level of warfare was introduced, between tactics and strategic goals, the operational level. As Svechin summarized it: ‘Tactics make the steps from which operational leaps are assembled , strategy points the way’. These new theories were stipulated in Red army field regulations of 1929! ,already a Blitzkrieg like doctrine was a formal, written maxime of the RED army.
    Stalin hated Tukhachevsky from early on, because of his origin, his brilliance, their confrontations in civil war and Stalin’s paranoid fear of any one talented and prominent. Yet even the tyrant saw brilliance in avant-garde young commanders and allowed Tukhachevsky to head rebuilding of the army. In 1932 alone 4000! tanks were produced and each year about 3000 more rolled from giant tank factories built during first and especially second five year plan. Similar expansion was matched in aircraft, artillery and other armament. Simultaneously prodigal generation of theoreticians/ commanders introduced comprehensive rules and guidance for implementation of this new forces in the spirit of the Deep battle. In 1935 'Instructions on Deep battle' were made and in 1936 its final codified form, 'Provisional Field Regulations of 1936’. In 1935 Tukhachevsky became Marshal of Soviet union , and his army was leading the world in theory of modern war and also fielded more armoured units than the rest of the world combined, a true pride of soviet state.Meanwhile Wermacht had no armoured forces in 1932 when two mechanised corpses were already in existance and fielded 3 panzer divisions in 1935 with few hundred tanks (PZ I and II models).
    These extracts are some general principles, from original Field regulations of 1936 (in further text FR1936) :
    -‘Mechanized combat teams consisting of tanks, self-propelled artillery, and infantry on personnel carriers are capable of accomplishing independent missions either separated from the other branches or in cooperation with them. They have great mobility and massive fire and penetration power. The basic
    combat procedure for a mechanized combat team is a tank attack which must be supported by planned artillery fire. Movements and assault by the mechanized combat team must have air support.’
    -‘In the attack, tanks must be used in massed formations.’
    -‘-‘Modern neutralization weapons, primarily tanks, artillery, aviation, and mechanized units in large scale use provide the option of simultaneously attacking the entire depth of the enemy battle formation with the objective isolating,
    encircling, and destroying the enemy.
    Encircling the enemy is accomplished as follows:
    a. by envelopment of one or both flanks, for a decisive attack against the flank or rear of his main force;
    b. by a breakthrough by tanks and infantry on personnel carriers into the enemy rear with the objective of cutting off the retreat route of his main force;
    c. by attacks by air, mechanized units and cavalry against retreating enemy columns with the objective of hindering their retreat.’

    View attachment 18950
    From early on there were two confronting camps in soviet military leadership. One group were talented military innovators around Tukhachecsky and the other were Stalin’s cronies who served with him in 1st cavalry army during civil war. Those were old guard officers who still drew on their civil war experience to create paradigm for modern warfare. During the 20s and until mid 30s the mechanized war protagonists had prominent role in shaping of the armed forces because of their obvious talent. But in mid 30s it became dangerous to be talented and prodigious especially if one overshadowed and/or contradicted comrade Stalin. By that time Stalin had eliminated all of his potential rivals, enemies, imaginary enemies and also man who simply had reputation or influence and obtained absolute power. Last bastion of people who he distrusted and who even dared openly contradicting him (about military science alone) was officer corps. In Stalin’s mind wasn’t just logic that one could perhaps comprehend, that the army was the only potential enemy with real power to endanger his absolute rule. He also decided to abolish entire paradigm of warfare, and to abolish the paradigm also meant to physically abolish all the men who shared it, no matter how harmless and insignificant they were for him, not because he perceived the teachings as harmful but just because it derived from his potential rival. This led to ravage of the intellectual cream of the army and eventualy led to utter devastation of army and military inteligentia leadership in whole. Starting with arrest, torture and execution of Tukhachevsky (also his wife and sisters were executed,and under age daughter was sent to GULAG as soon she turned 18..), it continued to to the unimaginable scale that left armed forces almost without talented, educated or even average theoreticians, commanders, teachers(in military schools), weapons designers and engeneers. At least 30 000 officers were executed or enslaved in concentration camps, many of those died later.

    This included 3 of 5 marshals,(of course two left were totally incompetent and responsible for at least few million unnecessary losses when war came), all 11 deputy defense commissars (all of them specialist for various fields of military art- air force ,artillery,mechanized forces,logistics etc.), all commanders of military districts, commanders and chiefs of staff of Navy and Air force, 14 of 16 army commanders, 60 of 67 corp commanders, 136 of 199 division commanders, 221 of 397 brigade commanders, and 50 percent of regiment commanders.(!!!!!!!) Another 10 000 officers were discharged in disgrace. Now old guard cavalry lobby took over. This meant return in terms of military science to civil war positions, dispersal of tanks evenly for infantry support,abolishing of mechanized corpses , comprehensive suppression of mechanized forces that included serious reduction of production, delay in development of new models and even decommission of many tanks already in use. Tukhachevsky and other specialists already in early 30s recognized draw backs of to lightly armored tanks, clumsy contemporary heavy tanks and inefficient aircraft of that time. Their efforts in early 30s led to start of development of new main, medium tank with adequate protection (later known asT-34), better heavy tanks (KV-1), more efficient ground attack aircraft (IL-2), and new generation of soviet fighters. In the late 30s, during the purges these developments were not abolished, but were considerably slowed, due to doctrinal shift to civil war experience and new priorities. For example Stalin and his clique hoped to reenact victorious performance of cavalry in the civil war, although this time the role of cavalry (which was retained in huge numbers) would also be assumed by light tanks, which were to be predominant armored tool .Also designers and factories leadership were heavily purged and suppressed . Air force role was acknowledged, and production continued less affected, but top aviation theoreticians and designers were purged or at least intimidated resulting in dramatic fall air force quality, both in doctrinal and design field. For example independent role of air force, crucial in modern war was recalled in favor of more primitive and ineffective role of exclusive ground army support.
    FR1936:
    -‘Air force units, apart from independent missions, act in close operational tactical coordination with the mixed combat teams. They are used against columns, troop and materiel assembly areas, and against transport facilities
    of all kinds (fighters and light bombers), against bridges (bombers), against enemy aircraft, on their air bases (interceptors, fighters, and light bombers). To achieve optimum combat effectiveness, aviation must attack in great numbers of aircraft.’
    Training and readiness of the army dropped dramatically (army internal survey conducted by general inspector of the infantry in autumn 1940 after debacle with Finland, showed that among 225 surveyed regimental commanders none had attended Frunze academy, 25 of them attended other lesser schools and the rest only attended regimental courses!), Others were paralyzed by fear and no innovation, initiative or flexibility was exercised. Officers acted only in a dogmatic, schematic like manner, with no initiative and no reaction to change of situation in the field without orders from superiors. All this led to catastrophic losses, belated actions, and one sided match when Germans came.
    FR1936:
    -‘ Very important is the personal initiative of lower-level leaders who are the first to experience a sudden change in the combat situation.’
    While Tukhachevsky and others developed theoretical part superbly, there wasn’t enough time before the purges for fine tuning, practical rehearsals and complete adaptation of theory to practice. This encompasses aspects like logistics, supply and maintenance of advancing mechanized forces, efficient communications, ratio of various army branches in combined arms units and new tactics for such novel units. All this was abruptly stopped when purges began.
    FR1936:
    -‘Only if the special service troops perform independently and proficiently, especially the engineer, communications
    and transport troops (rail and motor vehicle) is it possible to derive maximum benefit from the mobility of modern armed forces.....make the troop combat support service especially important and require absolute continuity in performing this service in all cases of troop combat activities and life....Organizing the materiel support of combat actions is therefore a most
    important duty of commanders and their staffs.’
    -‘...maintaining communications after relocation of the command post and ensuring cooperation between
    different branches during the individual phases of the action; use of radio facilities, type of transmitting orders while the battle is in progress;
    use of order receivers, signaling system, means for uninterrupted contact with mobile units operating in the enemy's rear; and uninterrupted communications
    with friendly rear area services’
    In 1936 no army in the world had all this elaborated to effective level because theory was relatively new and there was no war so far for testing and to put theory in practice.But in that time ‘Soviets were well ahead of Germans in theoretical concept and practical experience of mechanized warfare’ (Glantz).
    Spanish civil war provided necessary proving ground for new weapons and theories. During the war all sides encountered similar problems concerning mechanized units; inadequate armor of tanks, vulnerability to artillery fire, tendency to out run it’s supporting infantry and difficulties to penetrate prepared defenses on it’s own. These difficulties helped Germans to adjust and refine their performance ( acceleration of development of more heavily armored tanks, advancements in combined arms employment, etc.) On the other hand in 1939 Soviets created a commission headed by army commissar Kulik, dreaded inquisitor and main enforcer of Stalin’s terror in Red army( also idiot in all military matters), most others were anacronic soldiers (like marshal Budenny) and those few who still remembered enlightened teachings of Tukhachevsky didn’t dare speak up, cause losing career would be the best possible outcome of such action. In fact the difficulties of Spanish war only contributed to suspicion toward new theories and weapons. The results of this mind trust included removal of motorized infantry elements from mechanizes corps and brigades and assigning them infantry support role, further shift of focus from developing new hardware and supporting organizations needed for independent mechanized, mobile units, and finally year later abolishment of mechanized corpses. Purges and degradation of Red army continued until at least 1941, all the while Wermacht was perfecting the art of war.
    IMO there is no exacerbation possible in assessing the damage done to the Red army by Stalin’s purges.
    The State the Red army in 1941 was a direct consequence of combination of stupidity, paranoia, ambition and madness of one J.V.Stalin.
    View attachment 18949
    View attachment 18948
     

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    Tamino and urqh like this.
  2. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Never heard of him....But then again I'm like most westerners and have little knowledge of the Soviet military planning and doctrine between the wars...although you are amongst some knowledgable guys and gals on here that do know such things...

    Thanks for the posting...Pretty informative..And interesting...Well written and prompts further investigation of the times by me....thanks for the good post.
     
  3. arca

    arca Member

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    Thanks. There is also a what if scenario, with my modest opinion on how the 1941 war would develop in such scenario. :)
     
  4. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Fortunately not all the talented officers were killed. Zhukov, who was a member of the cavalry group, but the best would probably be Vassilevsky, who helped planned all the major Soviet offences from Moscow to Manchuria.
     
  5. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    Agreed. Talented officers like Zhukov , Koniev survived along with Rokossovsky (who was also arrested , tortured by NKVD and sent to Gulag in Purge but reinstated after German invasion started with full military rank. Rokossovsky is the strange one. Although he suffered badly in body he contiunied to serve Soviet State proudly during the war )
     
  6. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Ah,the old myths are reappearing : the big purge of the Red Army (haha) and Stalin being responsible for the bad situation of the Red Army in june 1941.

    The truth is that the purge was very limited and that the bad situation of the army was caused by the forced increase of its strength .
     
  7. arca

    arca Member

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    Granted, that was one of the reasons(beside those many I mentioned). But the expansion and the expanded army itself would be another story allyogeather if were led by brilliant man and not limited minds.
     
  8. arca

    arca Member

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    A real glimpse into what might happened scenario can be found find in the Far East. There the purges and restrains on commanders were much lighter because of real threat from Japan and distance from the capital and center of power. (therefore Stalin perceived it as less of a threat for himself). In 1939 Japanese invaded a remote area in Outer Mongolia and hoped to provoke the Soviets into smashing themselves into their prepared defenses. They got more then they bargained for . One of Tukhachevsky’s most brilliant disciples, then corps commander, general Zhukov, attacked the Japanese, with forces in front pinning them down, while concentrated tank forces supported by motorized infantry and aircraft broke through on the narrow sectors on the flanks, exploited in operational depth and encircled entire Japanese force. Japanese lost more than 60 000 man, which caused them to look elsewhere to create their empire. Battle at Halkin Gol demonstrated soundness of theory and force structure of the Deep battle, before world was shocked by Nazi Blitzkrieg demonstration in Poland.
     
  9. efestos

    efestos Member

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    I would really like to understand how to kill or to imprison thirty thousand skilled officers (especially in the top ranks) had not influence in the capacity of the army. Even in the soviet one.
     
  10. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Excellent work arca - but how do you justify this statement. As I read it, Halkin Gol was a small, rather traditional battle with open wings and no long Japanese communications\logistics.

    IMO it demonstated that firepower was far more important on the modern battlefield than bayonet numbers or fanatical martial spirit.

    It also showed Zukov's ruthless determination, irrespective of the number of soldiers, he lost in taking the commanding hill (can't remember its name).
     
  11. arca

    arca Member

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    Actually I quotet Glantz and House from 1995 'When titans clashed' in that statement. It seems to me that allthough relatively small compared to future battles it contained many elements, from Deep battle; like mobile combined arms units exploiting on the wings and encircling the enemy, with focus on mobility, firepower and cooperation between armour, mobile infantry and airforce. Soviets had less than 8 000 dead in entire 7 day battle. That was just a busy morning in '41 :)
     
  12. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    There are two separate factors, the army was vastly expanding and this did have a major effect of the lack of leadership, but it was greatly compounded by the purges since they were mostly of the higher ranks. Too many officers were two ranks above their training and they had no one to teach them. I remember reading how Stalin had to send a memo early in the war that anti tank guns were not to be spread out all over, but concentrated in key areas. Voroshilov and the cavalry clique were stuck in the Russian civil war and had no clue how to fight the German style of fighting. The second key factor was the lack of large tank formations and the lack of knowledge on how to use them. Many officers had spent years developing tank forces and the purges hit hardest among those officers. It would take two years before doctrine was worked out and the officers in charge of the tank units were competent. Marshall Kulik was so backwards he wanted to eliminate tanks altogether. It didn't help that the BT series of tanks were being phased out and spare parts were not available and the T34 was still in limited production. Pavlov commander of the western front which was hit hardest by Barbarossa had decided while in Spain that large tank formations were not feasible and so they were eliminated. After the battles in Poland Stalin changed his mind and started reforming the tank corps, but it was still only starting when the Germans attacked. I believe this is one of the two main reasons Pavlov was shot shortly after the attack, besides that he lost control of his front.
     
  13. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    From what I have read there were in the Red Army some 200000 officers before the purge,of which 34000 were expulsed,,arrested,killed . Of those,11600 returned .

    Meanwhile, due to the increase of the effectifs,the number of officers increased (in 3 years) to 500000 .

    While the purges did not help,the human quality of the Red Army was not that bad in 1941.The problem were not the men ,but material and time : most of the MC existed since only a few months,and,there were very big material problems ;

    I like also to see (what is impossible,of course) the proofs that the officers who were lost during the purges were better than their successors : why would Tukhachevsky be better than Chapchnikov,or Zhukov ?
     
  14. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I would have to say however that reduction of some 15% of the officer corps (10% a permanent loss) must have had a chilling effect upon the remainder as far as independent thought goes. Many, perhaps most more interested in covering their own behind rather that commanding effectively. The large number of AFV's and artillery captured intact seem to indicate Command failure rather than equipment shortages.
     
  15. arca

    arca Member

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    LJAd

    Total number was 75 000- 80 000 officers, of those 35 000 killed or sent to concentration caps, of whom many died later. 10000 more expeled. The human quality in '41 was a disaster(with notable exceptions). Of course material(that is quality and know how to use it) was the problem, since it's development was totaly neglegted and there weren't many left for such job anyway. I'm not sure what better exactly means but they were more educated, more experienced, and enticed to use initiative. This process was reversed, during the purges. It is not simply the absense of men, it's the huge difference those man could have done(if alive and if alowed) during the crucial 5 years prior to the war in improving the army in every aspect as discribed in the text above.
     
  16. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    Perhaps operation Uranus is much better example. Frequently that operation is described as a German defeat by their invention - Blitzkrieg. But, it seems that Vasilevski and Zhukov utilized the Russian invention.

    This seems to be the beginning of an exciting tread. Thanks "arca" - Great opening post. :thumbup:
     
  17. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I'm reading Glantz now on Barbarossa. It seems to me that the newer officers did not unerstand their responsibilities, and most important, how to fight battles. Add to this the unwillingness or lack of communication of Stalin and the Stavka to understand what was happening in the field, and you have a recipe for the disater that befell the Soviets in 1941. I think the purges had a great deal to do with commanders lack of desire to show initiative. I'm no expert, but Soviet victory was a combination of the Soviets replenishment of destroyed divisions, the German offesive running out of steam, the weather, and faulty German intelligence. There certainly were other factors, but to an inexperienced reader, these seem to be the main culprits.
     
  18. arca

    arca Member

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    Yes, Uranus meant the return of Deep battle. This time it included the elements of Soviet experience from first 16 months of the war, knowledge taken from the enemy in battle.
     
  19. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    LJAD, one does not simply step into the role of commander, it takes some ten years of training just to make regiment and close to 20 for army. Coordinating thousands of men takes a lot of practice as well as understanding what the job entails. After WW1 Patton and Ike got together, bought a tank and stripped it down to its nuts and bolts and rebuilt to study it. The most important is how to get so many men and machines moving to the right place at the right time as well as how to keep them supplied. The worse thing Stalin did was remove initiative, so that even when a plan failed, it was impossible to change it so millions died or were captured, because their leaders were not capable of changing a plan, even if they had an idea of how to adjust.
     
  20. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    I am not convinced :

    In the Far East, the commander,Blücher,disappeared,this did not prevent the Soviets to defeat Japan in 1939 .There is no proof that with Blücher/without Zhukov,the Soviets would have done better/worse .

    it is the same for Tuchachevsky,Chapovnikov,Zhukov :eek:ne can not say : the first was competent,his successors : not .

    In september 1939,Marshall ,an obscure colonel,was appointed chief of staff,over the heads of dozens of generals .

    At the start of WWI,Joffre also purged the French army : between 130 and 200 French generals were fired.

    About the initiative : you are right,but,the situation would have been the same without the purge of the Red Army,which was only a small part of the great purge.

    There is no proof that the initial Soviet defeats in the summer of 1941 were caused by the purge of the Red Army ,after all,it were the same overpromoted Soviet generals,of whom has been claimed that they were incompetent,who stopped the Germans in the summer of 1941.

    To say that their predecessors would have done better/as well is something questionable,unproved and improvable
     

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