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What if the USSR had attacked Germany in May, 1941


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#1 GrossBorn

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 12:51 AM

Searched the forum and didn't see this scenario discussed...

As Germany prepared to attack the Soviet Union in June, 1941...unbeknownst to Germany, the Red Army had prepared their own attack. Stalin, fearing an attack by Hitler goes ahead and gives the OK for the Red Army to begin an offensive against Germany in late May.

1. How successful would the Red Army have been? Could they have reached the German frontier or even captured Berlin?

2. Would the inexperience of the Red Army allow the Germans to successfully counter-attack and captured large portions of the Red Army?

3. What would the implications be in the next two years for combat on the Eastern Front?

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#2 PzJgr

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 01:03 AM

You are correct, I have not seen this question before.

1. How successful would the Red Army have been? Could they have reached the German frontier or even captured Berlin? The Russians were alot closer to Berlin than they were in 39' so I believe they would have been successful in getting to Berlin.

2. Would the inexperience of the Red Army allow the Germans to successfully counter-attack and captured large portions of the Red Army? I don't believe so. When Germany attacked the USSR, its front widen considerably much like coming out of a funnel. The Russian's front would be getting narrower as they advanced and with the size of its army, even inexperienced as it was, I believe they would have caused an incredible amount of damage to cause the Germans to be unable to launch any kind of counter attack. There was no defensive fortifications facing eastwards. Worsecase scenario would be the Russians being stopped at the German/Polish border.

3. What would the implications be in the next two years for combat on the Eastern Front? I believe we would see the Germans sueing for peace and the Russians taking all of Germany's gains in the East. Russia would come out stronger with the Western allies beholding to the Soviets. Not a pretty picture.


Excellent what if. :salute:
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#3 von Rundstedt

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 01:43 AM

GrossBorn excellent question

I would have to say that initially that the Red Army would have the Germans on the back foot, but i recall that the Germans at that point in time had about 120 divisions either at or tranferring to the Eastern Front. I think after the initial attack the Germans would regroup and most likely launch a counter-offensive, remember many of the German division had one thing that the Red Army did not have and that was battle experience, so the Germans knew how to deploy and coordinate their troops under battlefield conditions, where as the Red Army did not.

Also several things, what about Roumania and Hungary does the Soviet Red Army invade these two Tripartite members, this could work out to the advantage of Yugoslavia remaining as a Tripartite member, does the Soviet Union go after just Germany or the whole Central and Eastern Europe. Does Western Europe allow the vast push into Europe by the Soviet Union.

I can't see that Sir Winston Churchill and Henri Petain and others to allow this, meaning that Britain would have to choose to allow this or to ally itself with Germany to prevent the Soviet Union to conquer continental Europe.

#4 Sloniksp

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 01:54 AM

I believe that this was briefly discussed, but without a thread of its own?

As for Russia launching a pre-emptive strike, I think it would have failed. The Soviet Union was in absoluetly no shape to go to war in 41'. Stalin signed the treaty with Germany for this very reason. He needed time to build up and modernize his military.

We must remember that in 41', the Red army was very different from the one in 43'. It lacked the proper supplies, leadership, weapons, motivation, equipment and experience.
While being larger then the German army, size is unfortunately the only advantage that the Red Army had in 41' ;)

There I said it and I know some of you find this hard to believe! :D
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#5 Troglodyte

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 03:09 AM

Welcome to the Dark Side, young Skywalker/Sloniksp! :jawa: :jedi:

On topic, i think it would've got very ugly. Since Axis was't ready to defence and Soviets to attack.
I'm also interested in how other countyes would've reacted on this one.
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#6 Kai-Petri

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 07:35 AM

Like said above, the Red Army was probably not ready for this kind of operation, especially as the Germans were through several successful ops, and knew how to perform. Also they were winning so they were morally high. Sure the Red Army had heard of the German victories "everywhere" as they were still allies, so that gives another advantage to the Germans.

The Red Army equipment and tactics probably was not capable of coping against the German´s tanks, planes and tactics.

The best moment however to strike the enemy is when the troops are concentrated for an operation. So if , say, the Red Army had attacked the Germans with all their might 2-3 hours before the beginning of Barbarossa, at least the Germans would have faced huge losses and perhaps The Red Army could have broken through in places. In the next phase the German counter attacks would probably push the Red Army back to their starting lines, with the usual pockets being created of the Red Army troops ( because Stalin would urge not a step back ), and Luftwaffe destroying the Soviet Air Force enabling the "Blitzkrieg" method to be used. However the losses would not make it possible for the Germans to make such huge Army Group operations and the battle would reach the old Polish-USSR border and stop there. After that it would take time to create new forces to continue the battle and the losses of the first phase would dictate who could attack first.

Just some of my thoughts on the subject...
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#7 PzJgr

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 01:28 PM

Also remember that in may, List's twelve army was still in the Balkans after their campaign in Greece. Russia attacking in May would have been an opportune time to do so. The Twelve Army consisted of the following:

  • First Panzer Group, under the command of General Ewald van Kleist.
  • XL Panzer Korps, under Lieutenant General Georg Stumme .
  • XVIII Mountain Corps, under Lieutenant General Franz Bohme.
  • XXX Infantry Corps, under Lieutenant General Otto Hartmann.
  • L Infantry Corps, under Lieutenant General Georg Lindemann
  • 16th Panzer Division, deployed behind the Turkish-Bulgarian border to support the Bulgarian forces in case of a Turkish attack

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#8 Sloniksp

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 06:24 PM

OOO I forgot one thing, the Airforce... having launched an attack on Germany, surely would have proved better then the historical outcome of the Red Air Force being caught on the ground.
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#9 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 08:43 PM

I suspect that it would have been an unmitigated disaster for the Soviets. Many Red Army formations, particularly the mechanized ones, were in very poor shape. The Red Army was in the midst of a major reorgainzation and reequipment of its mechanized units in particular.
Most formations were short artillery. All had ammunition shortages. There was a general lack of communications equipment.

The most probable immediate outcome would have been that the Germans initially would fight a "retreating ambush" pulling the Soviets forward while causing them heavy casualties and then have swept in and pocketed huge formations using blitzkrieg tactics similar to those Rommel became so famous for in Africa.

The Red Air Force was likewise just beginning to get modern fighters. The obsolsent to obsolete Polikarpov fighters like the I 16 and I 153 were still mainstays and absolutely no match for German Me 109E and F fighters. Obsolesent bombers like the SB 2 were also still the main ones in use. These would have proved all-too-easy prey for Luftwaffe experten now with years of hard learned experiance under their belts. It probably was better the Red Air Force was caught on the ground....at least the pilots survived that way.

I could see some Soviet Tank corps with several hundred "Sparrow shooters" advancing in to Western Poland with one breaking down every few minutes and the remaining runners running into an anti-tank line and being shot to pieces. The few KV 1 and II would have proved marginally useful on the offensive while the few T 34 might have made themselves felt for a bit until they broke down.
Russian infantry trying to advance into dug in German defensive lines would have found themselves being mown down and wondering why their own artillery wasn't supporting them.

The Red Army of 1941 wasn't the battle hardened army it was by 1942. Nor would being on the offensive versus a desperate defense for the motherland be something to inspire bravery among the troops once the shooting started.

#10 PzJgr

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 08:52 PM

OOO I forgot one thing, the Airforce... having launched an attack on Germany, surely would have proved better then the historical outcome of the Red Air Force being caught on the ground.


Don't know about that one. The Red Air Force was not modern and experience was lacking. If anything, this is where the Germans would definitely have excelled. As for the ground forces, The Red Army's numbers makes up for lack of experience. They did have some good tanks but were not designed for high speed mobility. I still say they could have succeeded. It definitely would not be a cake walk for the Germans.
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#11 Sloniksp

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 09:03 PM

Most formations were short artillery. All had ammunition shortages.


Shortages? Ha! Thats a nice way of putting it :rofl: They were virtually non-existent!!!
Some that had the ammunition, couldnt even use it as the caliber did not match the gun!


Don't know about that one. The Red Air Force was not modern and experience was lacking. If anything, this is where the Germans would definitely have excelled. As for the ground forces, The Red Army's numbers makes up for lack of experience. They did have some good tanks but were not designed for high speed mobility. I still say they could have succeeded. It definitely would not be a cake walk for the Germans.



Haha, couldnt agree more... I guess the point that I was trying to make was that historically the Germans encountered virtually no Soviet Fighters in the air as they were all on the ground. In a Russian attack, they would have at least some kills. :D
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#12 Carl W Schwamberger

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 09:22 PM

How badly the Soviet Army is defeated depends on how well German intellegence anticipates the proposed attack. If the data is collected and properly analyzed and if Hitler accepts the information presented, then the Red army will charge into a giant ambush. This has a potiential for a even worse result than historically. Remember, Glantz, Pleshhakov, and other tell us the Soviet Armys on the frontier attempted to execute a war plan for taking the offense in June 1941. A few local commanders sucessfully discarded their written orders in effect on June 22 and deployed in a defensive stance during first week, but the majority went into the attack however unrealistic. The results of those first few days had much to do with the severe losses of June/July.

Conversely if the Soviet preemptive attack is a suprise then the Germans are set back a few weeks and take more losses than otherwise.

A look at the various counter attacks attempted by the Soviet army from July through October suggest how the preemptive attack may have gone. The element of suprise was no longer a factor after June. As summer progressed into fall the Soviet ground forces demonstrated other more fundamental problems. Poor training of all ranks, badlly serviced motorized equipment (tanks and trucks broke down a lot), repeated failures in the supply system, constant interfrence by the political authorities, inferior tactics and doctrine... Even after many weeks of mobilization to active service before combat the reservists could not cope with offensive operations.

The only way the USSR has a chance of making this gambit suceed is if the military is properlly mobilized many months in advance,and experinces a adaquate training program. That requires the purges and expansion of the previous four years take a different course and leave the Red Army with adaquate numbers of skilled leaders. Without the properlly trained commanders and staff the Red Army simplly cant cut it.
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#13 Carl W Schwamberger

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 10:05 PM

A 'What If' that gives the USSR a chance of coming off significantly better would be: Stalin and his staff take the intel reports of the German threat seriously. From Febuary or March they begain a properly panned and oganized mobilization of the reserves. All units are sent through a three month training program, with emphasis on their basic skills, not political classes.

The existing offensive plans are replaced by one emphasising the stratigic defense, with strong operational reserves positionsed for local counter attacks within their capability. The airforces place their older machines forward for the Germans to use up their air hours clearing them. The new aircraft are held back out of range with a strategy of striking with them as circumstances allow.

With the emphasis on the stratigic defense multiple defense zones are prepared. Labor units are created, some from the least prepared reserve formations, to dig the trenches so the combat worthy units can train.

By the begaining of June the Soviet military should be fairly mobilized with additional 80 to 90 reserve divsions on or near the frontier and deployed in a defense with depth. The 200+ divsions now in the frontier defense zones will have a mimimum of three months intensive training with follow on training for those in service before March. Another 100 divsions will be in the interior in various states of rediness and available to complete preperations for war as the emergency approaches. Manpower for casualty replacements will be in the training pipeline.
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#14 Sloniksp

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 10:12 PM

A 'What If' that gives the USSR a chance of coming off significantly better would be: Stalin and his staff take the intel reports of the German threat seriously. From Febuary or March they begain a properly panned and oganized mobilization of the reserves.


Completely agree... In fact the most reliable source of such information was a German Spy working for the Russians in Japan- Victor Sorge.
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#15 Kai-Petri

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Posted 18 January 2008 - 07:45 PM

Whatever the result it´s bound to be better that what happened in real life....

The biggest problem once Barbarossa begun was the fact that there was no communication between units thanx to Germans and low number of equipment and even Stalin and his Generals in Moscow did not know what was going on. They just kept on sending orders and expected them to be followed. Thus the main weapon - the fighting power of troops - was also lost and the units felt they had been left behind. Like mentioned before the Red Army was behind in many things but without proper orders the end result is rather pathetic.
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#16 alephh

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Posted 18 January 2008 - 11:49 PM

The Red Army attacking in 1941 would result somewhat similar situation to that of summer 1942, when Wehrmacht was preparing for the Operation Blue (drive to Caucasus) when the Soviet Formations suddenly attacked. Paulus of course wanted to withdraw, but some generals mentioned to Hitler that situation offered a great chance to counterattack. Hitler saw that, ordered Paulus not to withdraw, and the soviet attack was beaten. This teached Paulus the lesson that Hitler/HQ knows better how bad/good the situation (=big picture) really is - and the best thing to do is to obey and things will end victoriously - but crisis didn't play out the same way in Stalingrad.


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#17 Kai-Petri

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Posted 19 January 2008 - 12:47 PM

Second Battle of Kharkov - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Second Battle of Kharkov: Information and Much More from Answers.com
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#18 Carl W Schwamberger

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Posted 20 January 2008 - 03:44 AM

Whatever the result it´s bound to be better that what happened in real life....

The biggest problem once Barbarossa begun was the fact that there was no communication between units thanx to Germans and low number of equipment and even Stalin and his Generals in Moscow did not know what was going on. They just kept on sending orders and expected them to be followed. Thus the main weapon - the fighting power of troops - was also lost and the units felt they had been left behind. Like mentioned before the Red Army was behind in many things but without proper orders the end result is rather pathetic.


Yes it is clear the collapse in communications was extensive. Exactly how much of that can be contributed to what cause is another thing. German commandos (Brandenbergers ect..) destroyed a significant portion of the telephne/telegraph network. German signals unit did critical work in disrupting the Soviet radio communications. Then there was the equipment lost in the opening days when the storage buildings and vehicals carrying the equipment were bombed by the Luftwaffe.

The other half of this is the effect of the army not being mobilized. The units were mostly in the summer training camps, at construction tasks, or in the barracks. Consequently the field communications were not established, the back up networks not setup, insuffcient guards posted to interfere with the Geman commandos... A proper mobilization and preperation for war, even for just a few weeks, would have allowed a setup of the complete operational communications. While not a panacea this would have slowed and partially mitigated the collapse in communications in late June.
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#19 Herr Oberst

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Posted 20 January 2008 - 05:07 AM

I'm a bit surprised that Kai didn't mention the Russian's experience with the Finns. If the Russians felt militarily ready, then they wouldn't have entered into the Hitler Stalin Pact. Also the meetings with the Germans, observation from the training at the tank schools and during the Polish Campaign were not lost on the Russian leadership and they knew that the Wehrmacht was a worthy adversary. Also a slight, but we are discussing ifs, chance that the British and French would intervene concerning Finland against the Russians, although Poland put that idea on the back burner of Allied Strategy.

So it may have made the Charge of the Light Brigade look like a sensible exercise....Donald Pleasance made an excellent Himmler.;)
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#20 Kai-Petri

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Posted 20 January 2008 - 08:27 AM

I'm a bit surprised that Kai didn't mention the Russian's experience with the Finns. If the Russians felt militarily ready, then they wouldn't have entered into the Hitler Stalin Pact.


I guess I have mentioned the Winter War quite often so I didn´t want to bore people about that again.... ;)

For Soviets one of the reasons to make pact with Hitler instead was the fact the Western Allied were not getting anywhere with their negotiations in summer 1939, and Stalin got fed up with that. Also Stalin could thus turn Hitler´s head to west, and possibly Stalin could just wait and make his army bigger while Hitler was getting his army destroyed in the west in a long war.
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#21 Avatar47

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 05:42 PM

An unmitigated disaster, complete and disastrous. Regardless of how much 'better' they would have done than what historically happened through Barba, politically, it would have been intolerable. Russia signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, and attacking their partner would have gotten them all the same animosity that Germany garnered after it attacked Russia. Russia was seen by many powers as the worse alternative to an at least capitalistic, although fascist, Germany. Would the Russian people + their minorities have tolerated this for long? IMO they would have fought with nowhere near the same elan they did in the original timeline. The 'sense of urgency' would not have been there. It would have been a war of aggression rather than survival. Europe (ex UK) would have united behind Germany for fear of a Red Europe. Spain, Turkey, Sweden, + other still neutrals would have thought twice about staying neutral, for fear of being indiscriminately attacked. Volunteers from occupied countries would have been more forthcoming. A worse decision by Stalin could not have been made.

#22 FramerT

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 08:37 PM

How would the Western allies look at this? Now Stalin looks like the "bad guy" for breaking the treaty. Rosevelt and Churchill now wonder about the spread of communism and still help
with Lend-Lease? Who's side would the Ukrainians now take? Remember they thought they were being liberated by the Germans.

Now Russia faces the same long supply lines that Germany originally did. And without lend-lease trucks.
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#23 Avatar47

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 04:28 PM

I'd actually even dare say that had the Soviets attacked in 42 the situation wouldn't be all that different. Better, but not much better. I still believe Hitler would have declared war on the USA if Japan attacked, but I am seriously wondering what the US reaction would be to a Soviet invasion of the Reich in 42. What a diplomatic mess that'd all be....

#24 Carl W Schwamberger

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 03:01 AM

How would the Western allies look at this? Now Stalin looks like the "bad guy" for breaking the treaty. Rosevelt and Churchill now wonder about the spread of communism and still help
with Lend-Lease? Who's side would the Ukrainians now take? Remember they thought they were being liberated by the Germans.

Now Russia faces the same long supply lines that Germany originally did. And without lend-lease trucks.


I dont see why Britian would take offense with a Soviet attack. Churchill had been hoping for Allies against Germany, and had been warning the USSR about German intent anyway in the hope of changing Stalins attitude.

As for the Soviet peoples, they would be told what to think.
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#25 von Rundstedt

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 04:35 AM

I dont see why Britian would take offense with a Soviet attack. Churchill had been hoping for Allies against Germany, and had been warning the USSR about German intent anyway in the hope of changing Stalins attitude.

As for the Soviet peoples, they would be told what to think.


Just for a moment the Soviets however unprepared they were for an offensive managed to pull off the military victory of all time and defeated Germany i would say Stalin bouyed by his military victory would order the continuation and wrest control from the rest of Western Europe, The Soviet Union would stretch from the Iberian Peninsula to the Barring Straits, the Soviet Union would end up the Ultimate Superpower even the United States would never match this enormous amount of Power, and i dare say Britain would not stand a chance against Stalin.




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