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Storming a city versus surrounding a city

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe October 1939 to February 1943' started by bobsmith76, Oct 28, 2014.

  1. bobsmith76

    bobsmith76 New Member

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    You mean the Germans tried to storm Lenningrad in 1941?
     
  2. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    The Red Army's defense along the Leningrad axis lasted from July 10th to September 30th after which it remained stable until January 43'. During the 50 days of often desperate and costy defense, the Red Army forces disrupted Hitlers plans to seize Leningrad by concentric blows from the south and north. With Zhukov's arrival on the 13th of September, combat intensified steadily as the Red Army increased it's resistance and began conducting counterstroakes of it's own. As a result, the tempo of the German advance decreased from a rate of advance of 3 miles per day in July, to 1.3 miles per day in August, to less than a mile in September.

    In late August and early September, German forces advanced simultaneously along the Mga, Krasnogvardeisk and Karelian axes.The Red Army tried to mount effective large-scale counterstrokes at Sol'tsy, Staraia Russa, Krasnoe Selo and Siniavino but achieved little more than slowing the German advance. Even after the Red Army halted the German juggernaut on Leningrad's doorstep and frustrated their attempts to capture the city by direct attack the city remained in mortal danger of being encircled and destroyed.

    Only after all else failed, a German directive on 22nd September read:

    The Führer had decided to erase the city of Petersburg from the face if the earth. I have no interest
    in the further existence of this large city after the defeat of Soviet Russia. We propose to blockade the
    city tightly and erase it from the earth by means of artillery fire and continuous bombardment from the air.

    Before Stalingrad. Pg 109-110. Glantz.
     
  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I would also recommend Michael Jones' book on Leningrad. It gives a pretty good account of both surrounding and storming a city.
     
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  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Something of a false dicotomy in that question. As has been hinted at above it's easier to storm a city if you surround it first. If your opponent can keep feeding men and supplies into a defended city it will be a real meat grinder. The city will also pretty much get destroyed in the process.
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Historically there have been three rather than two options for armies faced with a city.

    1. Storm,- an assault with the aim of capturing the city or fortress.
    2. Besiege - surround and starve the defender
    3. Bypass - ignore, but leave a screen or a cordon to prevent the defender from disrupting lines of communication etc.

    These are not fixed. A failed assault may become a siege, as in Warsaw in 1939. At a certain point in a siege the attacker may decide to attempt an assault - as in Metz in 1944. A bypassed locality may become the objective of a siege as at Bastogne.. .

    If there is no need to capture a city or a fortress then why do so? Fighting in cities takes a lot of infantry manpower, is costly in casualties and neutralises many of the advantages possessed by a mechanised army. Feeding the population can impose a logistic strain on the attacker, (if they care, which was not always the case.). For much of WW2 attacking armies tried to avoid cities and fortresses. The German 1940 strategy was intended to bypass the Maginot Line. Allied strategy in NW Europe was to bypass and isolate cities and fortresses. The allies did not want to capture Paris and feed the Parisians. German Garrisons in the channel Islands Dunkirk and the Girponde wer eleft to feed themselves.

    Sometimes cities were attacked for their political significance. The Red army had to storm Berlin to defeat Hitler. The Germans chose to assault Rotterdam and the Hague from the air. The Western Allies felt the hd to capture Brest Chrbourg and le Havre for their port capacity, and Calais and Bouogne to re,move the thret their guns posed to channel shipping.
     
  6. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    Apologies for missing this post, but I believe I clarified the view with my previous post.

    Let me know if it was any help.

    Cheers
     
  7. green slime

    green slime Member

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    it was. thanx.
     
  8. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    There simply was not enough infantry available for the storming of Leningrad. Stalingrad was a case of the Germans kept taking more and more of the city and so convinced themselves that just one more effort would do the trick.
     
  9. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Storming a city, expecially a city with a major river running either through it or next to it takes alot men and materials and since 80% of the worlds cities are built on or near rivers that is usual a certainty. Tanks largely are useless until each and every building in range is cleared by the infantry due to hidden tank killer units and concealed AT positions and bombing of cities although takes its toll on the enemy generally only serves to create more defensible positions that will no longer fall over, because they already have. This leaves only infantry available to do most of the fighting in cities with tanks and arty just being a removed to a support role at best, however intantry are also very vulnerable when attacking without proper close support, which the tanks can't effectively provide due to the unlceared areas. All these things make a city hard to take needing many men and materials with high losses expected, this can be seen in many of the major city battles.

    Another point is that if you begin to attack a city and commit a certain level of troops into, those troops basically become unusable or undeployable as they are already commited to the city and weakening them to combat other areas of conflict is counterproductive, however you also don't want to lead your troops into a mince grinder that is just eating up troops and materials. Therefore you need to ensure that you have enough troops to get the job done and enough troops on the flanks of the city to ensure that the enemy is not able to shift its attack to your flanks and encircle you.

    However surrounding a city is not always the best case either. Starving a city also takes time and the amount of time it takes will depend on the ability of the people inside the city to ration out available resources and their ability to be air supplied from airfields or air drops, or in cases like tobruk by sea. If you use Tobruk as an example sea replenishment can basically save a sieged city while the whole time creating a thorn in the side of Rommel's forces. He knew he had to keep a large enough force stationed their to make sure he was either a. able to take the city if an opportunity arose and thus have enough reserves to rush the gaps that are created, or b. Have enough forces available to resist any attempt by the besiged forces to breakout towards their own lines as with the attempt by the 6th Army in Stalingrad. You also need to consider that enough troops needed to be available to prevent the enemy of attempting a rescue of the besiged forces from their side as with stalingrad.

    So based on the above a desicion to surround of attack a city should be made on its own individual merits. The strength of your forces compared to the enemies not only besiged units but also the retreating units, the time frame, the importance of the infrasture or economincal areas fo the cities such as bridges, roads or railways the location and such. Other factors such as the ability for the enemy to resupply itself or the risk you take by just simply allocating the men needed for the task of either attacking or besieging and of course the expected losses, can you live with them i.e. the 6th German Army at Stalingrad.

    For me personally I believe a combination of the both is important. attack and surround the city, cutting of the lines of retreat and supply while focusing on important military objectives such as dams, airports and the bridges. Especially bridges, since the best way to take a bridge is both sides at once, not directly across it. The whole time still pushing forward on the front to drive the enemy further away from their besiged troops making the counterattack hard to succeed.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I would think that the presence of a city can work either way. It's a barrier that can either help isolate the city or portions of it or it can be a major defensive barrier. It would be interesting to know where you got the 80% as well, not that it doesn't seem like a reasonable number but I'd like to know what it was based on.

    This has been proven inaccurate on numerous ocasions. Tanks can be very useful in urban environments. This is especially true if the tank infantry teams are well coordinated.

    IMO the most significant problem is that almost every time a force is engaged in combat in a city it is decisivly engaged. Furthermore at the ranges involved most weapons are at their most effective combined with factors that tend to make the amount of training on the part of the defender less important the result is a situation where the attacker has to weigh his options quite closely. This is especially true if it the attacker is one who depends on qualtiy to offset quantity.
     
  11. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Agreed about the city working one way or the other, and honestly I can't remember where I heard the 80% statistic, but since I am inclined to believe it, if not believe it to be actually higher due to the importance of water throughout history before the invention of the train and what not, can you think of a city which is not in the immediate vacinity of a flowing river.

    Anyway, I should clarify that tanks are not useless, they still do make good mobile cover and mobile field guns ready to provide immediate area fire on selected targets as required. But due to the high risks involved losses are usually quite high in urban environments for tanks as we know. I remember reading somewhere that said something along the lines of 'no good tank commander would ever place his tank next to an uncleared building' and since a city is basically one giant uncleared building one after another you can see the problem that can occur. You could be extremely methodical destorying all buildings in sight then move forward and repeat, but that again depends on the size of the city and the points I made above about time frame and supplied available.
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I think I recall from grade school or junior high that cities usually formed at a break in transportation. Rivers often do constitute these. But I don't think LA or Seattle are actually on rivers and that's just off the top of my head. Still the 80% doesn't sound unreasonable.

    As for tanks in cities as I said historically they have proven very useful. However you do need good coordination between the tanks and the infantry. It isn't necessary to destroy all the buildings but securing them is important.
     
  13. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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  14. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    street fighting/house to house/etc is some of the hardest battles in any war
     

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