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Let's rate some Soviet units

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe' started by Miro, Jan 18, 2002.

  1. Miro

    Miro Member

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    One thing that interests me is the capabilities of some Soviet units and I would like to hear some opinions on their combat value as compared to Western and Axis forces.
    I would like to hear some opinions on division and corps-sized formations and how they would compare to their Western allies and Axis counterparts. Like lets say the Waffen-SS divisions were a German armoured/mechanized elite and the airbourne divisions the Western infantry elites. Did the Soviets have any units that could be considered elite by these standards, ie compared to the Waffen-SS or the 101st and 82nd AirbDiv. IF yes which units do you think and why? If no, what units had the potential to be elite?
    The time I choose would have to be '43 or early '44 since afterwards many German units were too weak and before they were too strong for a matchup like this.
    Opinions? Comments? Suggestions?
     
  2. talleyrand

    talleyrand Member

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    1. Soviet Divisions were half the size of US Division, smaller than British Divisions also.
    2. The Soviet system didnt provide for units to recieve replacements. Many/most divisional or corp's size units fought until they were completely destroyed. They were then broken up to form new units, or spent months in the rear being reformed.
    3. This meant that for the most part, units were either fully staffed, equipped and green, or veteran and shot to hell.
    4. In '43 and '44 the Soviets started forming large units made of veterans plus, inserting veterans into Guards units. This gave the Soviets several "elite" units they lacked in the earlier phases of the war. It showed.
     
  3. Miro

    Miro Member

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    You make some interesting points about the Soviet system of rotating units, but by mid-43 they must have head some pretty experienced and well-equipped formations in the field (probably lurking around the Kursk salient expecting a German assault). What I mean is that nobody really knows about their individual units, the only thing you ever hear is "the Soviets attacked with so-and-so many hundred thousand men, crashed through the German line and took this and that". But with the war raging for almost four years there must have been a lot of veteran troopers out there and I have no doubt that some Soviet units were par with even the Waffen-SS units.
    What would really interest me would be a site that lists the different units and where they fought (I have been to the Armies-site but that is mostly about the smaller combatant nations).
     
  4. talleyrand

    talleyrand Member

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    I would suggest "The Red Army Handbook" by Zaloga. Sutton Publishing, UK 1998.
    I think this book cost about $25 and is available at any Barnes & Noble
     
  5. Miro

    Miro Member

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    Thanks
     
  6. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    what about the Guards divisions? Or were these just a ploy to intimidate the Germans? I would think that a unit had to fight for a long period of time prior to being designated a Guards division.
     
  7. Miro

    Miro Member

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    I know that the "Guards" units had to distinguish themselves in battle before they could officially bear that title. But even then, it is hard to estimate their capabilities. For instance, Rodimtsevs 13th Gd Div distinguised itself during the Battle of Stalingrad (see Beevor's book on the subject) but at the end of the battle only 300 out of the original 13000 were alive to tell the tale. Again Beevor makes the point that the 2nd Gd Army under Malinovsky during the Stalingrad relief effort was one of the Red Army's best units, but I can only guess the reason for this statement, since he does not elaborate. Soviet accounts are often inaccurate concerning numbers of enemy kills and own casualties, as are many German accounts. The fact that the Soviets often pulled units out of the battleline, disbanded them and then reconstituted them under a different designation, only to rename it if and when that original formation distinguished itself in battle again, all this does not make things easier. Most reconstituted units were filled up with new conscripts, but there are undoubtedly formations that were amalgamated from several disbanded units with considerable battle experience. To top that off, it would be futile to rate units from 44 onwards since by then the Soviets possessed every other advantage on the battlefield, thus making comparisons infeasible.
    I guess I will just have to settle for the fact, that Guards units were generally better than regular units, but not as good as let's say most Waffen-SS divisions, although the Russians almost always fought more doggedly when they encountered the Waffen-SS.
     
  8. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    That is a point. As for the Russians fighting more doggedly against the Waffen-SS, well for good reason and it was mutual.
     
  9. Miro

    Miro Member

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    I wholeheartedly agree with you that both Waffen-SS and Soviet units facing it had all reasons to fight more doggedly, since neither could expect much mercy from the opponent.
    However, one thing that just came to my mind is, that the Soviets always used their most experienced and veteran units to exploit the initial breakthrough during an offensive. Therefore the easiest way to identify their best formations is to find out which units were most often kept as STAVKA reserves, ie only to be commited after a major breakthrough. This still does not help much in comparing them to other Allied and German formations, but it narrows the plethora of Soviet formations down to maybe fifty or so units. Then, knowing those formations, one could go on and find out about their strength and equipment, in order to compare them to other Allied and German units
     
  10. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Hallo!

    I found your comments very interesting.
    The Red Army was indeed a fanthastic machine, more for his weaphons and number, than quality of its units.
    In the early stages of the war it was a huge army, with antique tanks, aeroplanes, and so... It has no experienced officer due to Stalin's purgues. as you know he killed 30.000 officers. Included 3 of 5 marshalls, 120 od 150 high ranked generals ans so on...
    After the German invasion, the tremendous human and industrial capacity of the Soviet Union won the war.
    You should know about excellent weaphons as the T-34, the KB-1 and the IL-2 Stormovich. The officers adquired expierience in the tremendous battles of 1941, in which the red giant showd how weak it was... Kiev, by example, where Von Runstedt captured 5 entire armies! ( 700.000 men ) due to Stalin's persistence in figthing till the last man, ignoring the advice of Zhukov.
    But after Stalingrad the Red Army was an elite fighting force at all. They showed it in Kursk. Despite the Russian soldiers were extremely bad trained. Because of the analphabetism in Russia they could not achieve great victories against the highly trained Panzertruppen... But they were a lot of men, a lot of excellent weaphons and very good officers...

    If you have any comment or would like to teach me how to post a comment in the main page write to FriedrichH984794@aol.com

    yours, Friedrich v H. u H. Jolly
     
  11. Miro

    Miro Member

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    Hallo Friedrich,

    Ich stimme vollstaendig mit Ihnen ueberein, dass die sowjetische Kriegsmaschine nach den Debakeln von 41' und teilweise '42 eine gut ausgeruestete und exzellent gefuehrte Streitmacht war.
    In den letzten zwei Wochen habe ich D.M. Glantz "When Titans clashed" gelesen, und Glantz beschreibt sehr ausfuehrlich, wie die Rote Armee von '44-'45 der Wehrmacht von 1939-41 aehnelt, waehrend die Wehrmacht kontinuierlich zu einer Kopie der Roten Armee von 1940-42 verfaellt.
    Die einzige Aussage von Ihnen, mit der ich nicht hundertprozentig uebereinstimme ist, dass die Rote Armee von '43-'45 immer zahlenmaessig ueberlegen war. Die Rote Armee hatte nie mehr als 7 Millionen Mann gleichzeitig unter Waffen, mit vielen Einheiten in Sibirien und weniger wichtigen Gebieten stationiert. Die zahlenmaessige Ueberlegenheit war mehr eine oertliche Ueberlegenheit, Resultat einer ausgezeichneten "Maskirovka", d.h. die Deutschen wurden immer wieder abgelenkt und dazu gezwungen, in falschen Orten zu konzentrieren. Diese Taktiken fuehrten natuerlich zu einer enormen zahlenmaessigen Ueberlegenheit in den wichtigen Sektoren, die die Rote Armee zu durchbrechen versuchte.

    [ 17 February 2002: Message edited by: Miro ]</p>
     
  12. Miro

    Miro Member

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    And now the English version of my post, I had to write some German again, after all, you cannot go on for more than 6 months without writing your mother tongue ;) .

    Hello Friedrich,

    I completely agree with you that the Soviet war machine was a well equipped and excellently led Army after the debacles of '41 and '42.
    Lately I have read D.M. Glantz's "When Titans clashed" and Glantz describes how the Red Army of 1944-45 came to assemble the Wehrmacht of 1939-41, while the Wehrmacht gradually deteriorates to assemble the stumbling Red Army of '40-'42.
    The only part of your post, that I do not entirely agree with is that the Red Army always possessed a numerical superiority in '43-'45. The Red Army never had more than 7 million men under arms simultaneously, with large numbers tied down in Siberia and other peripheral theaters (Iran, Finland). Their numerical superiority was almost always local thanks to a superbly exercised "maskirovka", i.e. the Germans were time and again deceived into concentrating in the wrong places or not at all. Obviously these tactics led to the enourmous local superiority in the vital front sectors that the Red Army planned to break through in.
     
  13. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Ah ha--glad to see we have more than one here who can translate ;) :D
     

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