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What if Germans concentrated efforts against Leningrad instead of Moscow in winter 1941

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Eastern Front & Balka' started by leopold, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. dcjeepgc

    dcjeepgc Member

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    There were alternate plans to Barborossa, one put forward by Von Runstead (who thought the whole idea of invading ther Soviet Union as "nonsensical"), that called for a German push to a line roughly extending from Odessa on the Black Sea upwards to Leningrad in the north, including the capture of the city, that he felt was an achievable goal and would leave the Wermarcht in favorable position, not only to defend due to logistics and distances for both the Russians and the Germans, but would open up several different options for the second year of the campaigne. Leningrad was felt vital to many german prewar planners as a major port to resupply the continuing offensive and for the added benefit of full control of the Baltic Sea. Without this sea passage the Russians could not receive lend lease military aide from the US or other assistance from Britian through this sea route. I personally believe this would have been an achievable and positive outcome for Germany that would have spared them the loss of some of the best troops in the German order of battle that they were to lose in the "Winter War" in front of Moscow that winter of 1942. Von Manstein's counter offensive at Karkov in the winter of 1943 demonstrates how inept the Russians were at this stage of the war conducting offensive operations far from their supply bases. The Wermarcht could have handled the inevitable counter offensives and then left with favorable options for the spring/summer of 1942.
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The major problem was that the Germans were capable of "one push only". They did not have the reserves to make it Pt I this year Pt 2 next year and so on. And they did not prepare for a prolonged campaign which meant big trouble when the Battle was not finished by the end of year. If someone had suggested to Hitler that the battle would continue in 1942, Hitler would sack this man immediately. Hitler wanted a short war.
     
  3. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Correct. Hitler underestimated the Russians and worse, overestimated the capabilities of the Wehrmacht. Basing it on how it performed in the West as his downfall
     
  4. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    It's funny how Germany, Japan, and Italy all based their grand strategies on "short wars" and were discomfited when the Allies insisted on dragging things out. I guess using your own propaganda as a basis for military planning is a bad idea.
     
  5. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    I think it's the opposite:the Germans planned a short campaing (Barbarossa was beginning with those words ),because they knew that the longer the war,the weaker Germany would be and the SU would be able to mobilise her overwhelming human and material resources .
    Japan knew it had no chance against the US;the only thing they could do was figthing to death (they could afford 1 million deaths)and let the US bleeding :they were hoping that the cost would be to high for the US .
    Concerning Italy :Mussolini was convinced that the war would be over in a few weeks and that with some thousand deaths,he would have his part .
     
  6. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    The opposite? Not sure what you are saying.

    Germany surely was counting on a short war, so was Japan. Japan felt it could accomplish it's objectives in one year, at the most, and then hoped to negotiate a settlement which would leave it in control of most of the Western Pacific. Italy went war thinking that Germany had already won decisively, and was just trying to make sure he got a share of the loot.
     
  7. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    My mistake :eek::eek::eek: the reply was for Pzjaeger,who posted that Hitler underestimated the Russians and overestimated the capabilities of the Wehrmacht :no,he planned for a short war,because he was convinced it wasthe only possibility to defeat the SU and btw,I don't think he was taken by his own propaganda .
     
  8. merlin

    merlin Member

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    I think by then it it too late. The time for taking Leningrad was in the Summer when there were little or no defences.
    I think Leeb too cautious, Hitler too often restrained Manstein, and the Panzers.
    In the early days, speed meant Soviet uncertainty on where there would appear next, uncertainty at the 'top' could mean panic at the bottom!
    Rather than have Falkenhorst in Finmark - bring them to the Baltic for more value, and more use.
    No it would not be easy, but an attack at Leningrad before the Soviets new what was happening could have been more like Minsk than Smolensk!
    And yes, with the port available to supply the Army - next stop Moscow.
     
  9. British-Empire

    British-Empire Member

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    Good post.
    I would have made more sense than to take Leningrad before Moscow.
    Hitler even thought so himself.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Taking a city that is stoutly defended is an expensive and slow process. Taking Leningrad would have meant that the Germans sacraficed thier superiority in operational maneuver. The result would have been heavy infantry losses at a time when Germany couldn't afford them. Whether or not it would have freed up enough forces and supplies to make it worth while is another question.
     
  11. merlin

    merlin Member

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    Yes, "taking a city that is stoutly defended is an expensive and slow process" that's why I suggested the time for taking it was in the summer i.e. late July or early August - before such defences had been organised. It would've helped if the Germans had been able to make a 'landing' at Riga and thereby put a block on the retreating by-passed Russians. But it means Hitler has to let Manstein & Hoepner get on with it, rather than stopping them for the infantry to catch up - if they need supplies, let the Luftwaffe land them at captured airfields!
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    1) This means devoting significant resources both in terms of logistics and troops at a time when the Germans were trying to maintian forward momentum. Furthermore there is a very good chance that even if they are successful the formations will be out of the battle for an extended time as well as require extensive logistical support to rebuild after the battle.
    2) Do you have any idea how inefficient moving large amounts of supplies by air is?
    3) It might have been worth testing the defences to see if a quick or easy victory could be gained but after that a full out assault on Leningrad meant giving up Moscow.
     
  13. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Sorry guys, but I find it really hard to follow up on the thought that by taking a city, be it Leningrad or Moscow or Stalingrad that this could have changed anything in regards to the facts that Hitler was outnumbered, outgunned by the Soviets in any aspect and not to forget his utter misjudgment on behalf of Russia’s fighting capability and armament.
    He couldn’t even defeat little England (In regards to man and industrial power) since he never took into account that they wouldn’t simply give up or tumble into despair – and neither did the Russians. The only foe he estimated correctly IMHO was only France.
    Regards
    Kruska
     
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  14. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    I agreed with this assessment.

    If the Axis forces were intended to take Leningrad, let the Italians under German leadership including Manstein capture it. Manstein proved his idea in the victorious battle of France. He also managed to take Sevastopol at a later time. A what-if is having Manstein producing and performing the idea to take the city with mostly Italian troops.

    Why Italians ? Italian volunteers were eagar to help Finland late in the Winter War, according to a previous post on this site. Italy did not conflict with the SU in territories whereas all nations whose troops were major components of the invasion force -- Germany, Romania, Hungary, Finland -- were.

    The Battlefield series on Crimea provides the following information.
    Von Manstein managed to take Sevastopol with an old-fashion mostly horse tranport, artillery and infantry armies and intermittent air-force support . Romanian mountain troops, mobile troops and cavalries contributed to Von Manstein's success in taking Crimea. Von Manstein delayed or halted operations or combat due to lack of air support at times.

    Not from the TV series, the first Italian divisions for the OB had cavalry, mobile troops and its own air-force support. The last component would be independent in command from German Luftwaffe. Would more freedom of command to Army Group North that Von Manstein would now be tied to help take the city ? Sevastopol fall in July 1942, about 2 years after the OB had started. Would Italian under AGN and Von Manstein take Leningrad in similar length of time ? By then, Finland adopted defense thru-out its new border with the SU and the SU launced soon the Sinyavino Offensive.
     
  15. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Manstein was fighting in the South as commander of 17th army,and he was a junior general,besides there were not enough Italians to take Leningrad .
     
  16. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    In 1942 Hitler´s main goal was already in the southern section. AGS. But if in 1941 the supply lines had been cut to Leningrad, and the Soviet defence if forced to face the enemy from west, south,north, that would have been perhaps possible to break through the defence with panzer spearheads after Stuka attacks and artillery barrages.

    Hitler however was still in trouble as his plan required the war would last 8 weeks.
     
  17. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    At the outset of Barbarossa, Manstein commanded LVI Panzer Corps, which he led on a rapid advance through the Baltic states. In September he was transferred to 11th Army, charged with conquering the Crimea.

    The Italian expeditionary force in Russia in 1941 comprised only three divisions; the southern prong of an offensive against Leningrad would have to be mainly German troops. The Italian force was increased to a full army in 1942 in time for the summer offensive, Operation Blau. The Italian, Hungarian, and one Romanian army ended up being positioned along the Don north of Stalingrad, which anyone with a map could see was likely to be the path of a Soviet counteroffensive. It would have been better to spread these armies across the whole front, alternated with German armies, and providing more German troops for the crucial sector.

    Getting back to 1941, as K-P said, the German objectives were in the south, while the centers or sources of Russian power were also in the south and extending eastwards to the Urals and Siberia. Taking Leningrad doesn't do much to advance the Germans' ultimate goals. On the other hand, capturing Moscow would largely isolate Leningrad and the Russian armies in the north. Normally an advance faces the threat of attack from the flanks, but in this case the advance would actually reduce the danger on the northern flank.

    The southern flank of course is another story, often presented as a choice between "Moscow or Kiev", but the truth is the Germans needed to do both - secure their southern flank while continuing the drive on Moscow. Historically in August-September 1941 they conducted simultaneous, army group level offensives towards Kiev and Leningrad; they would have done better to forego Leningrad and make it Moscow and Kiev.
     
  18. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    I concur with Corronade on the idea that taking Leningrad doesn't do much to advance the Germans' ultimate goals. This idea was precisely uttered in different words by a previous poster that taking a city could have changed anything in regards to the facts that Hitler was outnumbered, outgunned by the Soviets in any aspect and not to forget his utter misjudgment on behalf of Russia’s fighting capability and armament.

    However, would Leningrad be the communist ideological trophy city and hence the target for anti-communist national forces: Italian, German and Finnish leadership? Out of these 3 nations, Italy was the best option for its distance location in the Mediterranean Sea.

    If spreading these armies across the whole front was a better idea, Von Manstein skillful deployment of Romanian mobile and mountain troops would be evident for his success in taking Sevastopol and repelling Red Army landing on the Kerch Peninsula. So M's leadership would only be a factor for success if he was part of the AGN or German-Finnish joint command. Or his would not be a factor for failure for the same reasons.

    Romanian forces were spread effectively in performance; so can the Italian expeditionary force in the SU in 1941. In the three divisions, horses, bicycles, tankettes, Italian and captured French light tanks were muscle and machine mobility in use. So deploying these divisions in Finland -- that was the battleground under part of the German-Finnish joint command -- favored these machines as heavy tanks like KV-1 proved themselves sluggish in mobility in the Winter War just over a year ago. The documentary Air War Over Finland 1939 to 1945 (video weblink is available on this forum) showed that Finnish forces hold 235 aircraft in front-line squadrons; only 4 transport aircraft were available for their task. Luftflotte 5 under Stumpff, which after the air-war over Britain, had about 100 aircraft at airfields in northern Finland at the start of the CW.

    On Battlefield Crimea documentary, Von Manstein's leadership halted at times German led offensives in Crimea due to intermittent air support. Off the top of head, independent operation by the Italian aircraft attachment meant better tactical freedom to exploit Red Army weakness at the start of the Continuation War: Mobility was one aspect German-Finnish joint command relied on to take Karelian and Aunus land.

    Italian forces would be too weak to face direct combat with the Red Army: were the three divisions part of spearhead under AGS ? In other words, effectiveness was the keyword axis co-belligerent troop deployment would aim for. Red Army's focus was in central Russia. Karelia and Kola Peninsula were secondary and hence there Italian forces would have greater chance of success. The airforce under AGN could then concentrate on Leningrad and other places, only to support Italian and various other aircraft in Finland.

    Italian vehicles and aircraft loss were expected but their loss would be evident to Italian leadership to reform the ordnance production if such improvement would happen.
     
  19. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Whether Erich Marcks' original plan or derived ones were feasible to take Leningrad would be not as useful if German leadership was dead set on taking in Ukraine and Caucasus the economic prizes -- main reason Germany invaded the SU for. Therefore one main thrust would be in the original AGS direction. Directions for AGN and AGC could be combined into one that German troops go for Moscow. Co-belligerents troops and/or Baltic troops because of their liberation from the SU occupation, would go for Leningrad under inspiring German leadership who for reason(s) need to achieve personal goals. Leaders including Von Manstein and Rommel who possessed outstanding skills in one area -- operational command or charisma and whatnots -- are assigned under a more or less figurehead overall commander who at times could still make good military judgement with respect from subordinates. Would Von Rundstedt be one ?

    More eastward troops go in Russia, more disperse they are. So taking coastal springboards on the flanks -- Leningrad and Baltic for north; Ukraine and Crimea for south -- could help solve this issue. Taking Leningrad would then be more imminent to German success than Moscow.

    Coupled with another alternative history that Italy would be a capable seapower, Italy would secure the Aegean Sea after with or without German help took Greece. Then Axis naval supply chain could then voyage from Adriatic to Black Sea or Crimea. Was the cost for naval supply about 10 times less than land based transport ?
     

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