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Red Army Summer Disaster of 1941. Why?

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe October 1939 to February 1943' started by Artema, Mar 15, 2010.

  1. Artema

    Artema Member

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    It's interesting to know what Western historians think about it.
    Soviet (=communist) historical science used to give to answers (both deceptive):
    1) Stalin believed that Hitler wouldn't attack.
    2) German army had overpowering superiority in people and weaponry.

    New Russian science has much more interesting and realistic explanations, and I shall write about it, but I also would ask my dear colleagues to be so kind and write their opinions first.
     
  2. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Germans never had superior manpower compared to Russian Forces, as far as I am aware.

    At the outbreak of war, the Russian Army was still recovering from the Great Officer Purge that extremely shook up their Army and its ability to respond. I believe they were aware of an impending German attack but were completely caught off guard by the speed at which the Germans advanced.

    The Germans had much better leadership, tactics, and communication. You can also argue they had superior weapons and tanks and airplanes during the beginning phases too. Once you route an army its hard for it to recover if you are out-maneuvering them on all fronts.
     
  3. Artema

    Artema Member

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    Thank you! Some I would agree, some may be argued, but I'd like to wait for other opinions.
     
  4. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Stalin had recognized the need for reorganizing the Red Army and was in the middle of doing so when the Germans attacked. The failure on the Red Army's side was due to poor leadership, lack of organization and poor tactics. The Red Air Force was totally inadequate so in this area the Germans had the advantage but the Soviets had the manpower and army weaponry.
     
    Triple C and Gerard like this.
  5. Gerard

    Gerard Member

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    The Germans caught thet Soviets in the middle of an overhaul of their equipment as well as their organisation. This coupled with the paralysing effect that the purges had on the Middle and Senior Level Commanders, denying them any freedom of action (bit like the German Panzers on D-day) and obsolete aircraft and tanks meant the Soviets were in for a seriously bloody summer.

    but the Germans didnt have overwhelming superiority in weapons or manpower. PzJgr's post imho, is pretty much on the money!
     
  6. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The communication lines between the front and Moscow were also weak and also destroyed as much as the Germans could during the early phase. So Stalin was still giving orders to attack and push the Germans to Germany when the Blitzkrieg tanks were 100-150 kilometers behind the frontline. Stalin was very late with his orders, and once they had some idea of what was happening (in Moscow) , the front troops were practically out of the "game". To my understanding it was Zhukov who then suggested that the front troops should be sacrificed because they could not be saved and a new line would be created some 300-400 kilometers behind the original border line, where the new troops would be sent and the new defensive line created to stop the blitzkrieg. Otherwise the new troops would be lost as well if they were sent to help the troops in the original frontline.
     
  7. Artema

    Artema Member

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    First, I'd like to say several words about so-called "purges" and how they influenced the Red Army fighting efficiency. I believe that this influence is often exaggerated both by Russian and Western historians.
    First question is, how many officers were purged?
    1937: 18 658 Red Army officers (13% of the total amount) were discharged, including 4474 who were arrested.
    1938: 16 362 discharged, 5032 of them arrested.
    In 1938 11 178 officers were reinstated by appeals.
    Reasons for discharging varied, they were not always political. For political reasons, in 1937-1939 9579 men were arrested (1457 set free later) and 19 106 discharged (9247 reinstated later).
    So, the total number of the purged was 8122 arrested and 9859 discharged. Among those, who were arrested, about 1634 were executed.
    In 1937 the Red Army had 206 000 officers. In Summer 1941 -- 439 143 officers, 85% of the amount that was needed. So, from arithmetical point of view "purges" were absolutely insignificant. From the other hand, the high level commanders were nearly totally exterminated, but in June 1941 the Red Army's problems were not on the highest level of commandment, but on the middle and low levels.
    So, the main problem was not caused by purges, but by the ideology, which did not encourage initiative and self-thinking in commanders.
     
  8. Artema

    Artema Member

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    About Stalin awareness.
    After Molotov's visit to Berlin in November 1940, Stalin new very well that the war with Germany was inevitable. The only thing he did wrong was being confident, that certain political demands would precede the war, as it was with Poland and as a matter of fact it had always been with all wars. He did obviously mistook Hitler's reasons for the war. Hitler wanted no new agreements and concessions, he wanted just to destroy the USSR to have his hands free with England.
     
  9. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    A question, what source did you use for the numbers? I have found in different sources and documentaries where the numbers were way higher than that. If the numbers you present are correct, then I would agree that it would not significantly impact the army leadership.
     
  10. Artema

    Artema Member

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    I also would agree with the opinion that Germans had better tactics, organization and communications. I would even say they had overpowering superiority in these three matters.

    As for men and weaponry, the thing is, that the Red Army began its war time deployment on June 10 (or maybe 12), 1941. So, up to the German attack it was less than half deployed, there were huge holes in its defense line. For example, front line for a division was 30-40 km long instead of 15-20. Also war plans (which were developed for every formation) often could not be fulfilled, because many divisions were not on their places, and this factor multiplied panic and disorganization, as the war broke.
    So, Germans really had power superiority, not thoroughly, but in some key directions.
     
  11. Artema

    Artema Member

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    These recently published numbers originate in NKVD internal statistics. For years they were not available for historians in detail. Though in various books number vary, generally they correspond to each other.
    And what numbers and sources do you possess? Not 40 000 officers purged?
     
  12. Kersantti Gustafsson

    Kersantti Gustafsson Member

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    An interesting supposition I recently read supports this theory especially
    when Heeresgruppe Süd found such massive resistance, when they faced three Soviet armies, the 5th, 6th and 26th. Perhaps Stalin had ideals of a westward drive of his own? Especially with regard to what happened in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and what he tried to pull on Finland.
     
  13. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Did Stalin encourage initiative and self-thinking in his commanders? Zhukov was the only one who dared disagree, I think.
     
  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Stalin´s awareness? Losing 3,5 million men during autumn 1941, 20,000 tanks during autumn 1941, all of your air force during the first two days on the air fields.... Pretty destructive awareness...
     
  15. Artema

    Artema Member

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    Judging by Stalin's behavior, he considered himself a great warlord till Summer 1942, when a catastrophe happened even more dangerous than in 1941. After that he demonstrated much more respect to his generals.
     
  16. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Germany (without its allies )had no numerical superiority in june 1941:there were on each side some 2.75 million men.
    Btw :was the summer of 1941 a disaster for the SU ?In september there were more Russians on the frontline than in june and Barbarossa had already failed .
     
  17. Artema

    Artema Member

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    It was not because of unawareness, there were other reasons.
     
  18. Artema

    Artema Member

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    The only document that partly supports this version is so-called "Zhukov's note" to Stalin of (attention!) May 15, 1941. Zhukov wrote that German army was fully deployed along the Soviet border and would attack soon, so it wouldn't be bad to attack preventively. But Stalin was sure Hitler wouldn't attack without any ultimatum, and Zhukov's proposal wasn't accepted.
     
  19. Artema

    Artema Member

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    But half of these men in the Red Army weren't on their places! They were either in trains or in assembly points.

    May I answer with the other's words? :)

    Sure it was a disaster. Not lethal, though.
     
  20. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Not that I dare contradict Kai-Petri (he has forgotten more on this matters,than I will ever know ;)),but Krivosheev is giving other figures:
    for the 3th quarter of 1941 :2642122 combat losses
    for the 4th quarter of 1941 :1516643 combat losses
    On the other hand,I admit that these figures (especially those of the 3th quarter )are probably underestimated .
    For the tank losses:they were very heavy,indeed,but in 1943,they were 22400.
     

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