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Old 07-01-2011, 10:12 AM
Status: "God was not in Stalingrad." (set 8 days ago)
 
13,692 posts, read 17,725,189 times
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I'm going to combine both your posts and respond to portions of each, though I think we are both ultimately in agreement about the events as they unfolded.

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If you really read what I wrote, you would realize that I am actually agreeing with the gist of your assertion that Germany was faced with a number of critical disadvantages both of their own doing but also natural nearly insurmountable obstacles such as the massive geographical expanse involved in such an undertaking. These are all true negatives when considering such an operation.
I do think we are in general agreement. I believe part of the disagreement (if there was one) was more misunderstanding about each others points as we parse through what are rather long posts.

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However, many points I bring up in my "fantasy" scenario were actually practical, feasible, and realistic decisions that were well within the realm of possibiility.
I don't think your points are without merit in the least. My criticism about their reality is more or less based on the actual historical way the decisions played out. Most of them are possible, but would have required incredible foresight and planning on the part of the Germans.

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Bringing Germany and its economy into a full war time production footing was not an impssible task or unfeasible at that time.
Agreed, this was a critical mistake, but falls back on the lack of a contingency plan. If you believe that victory will be rapid and virually guaranteed (as Hitler did) then there was no need to stress the German economy by moving to full war production. Hitlers popularity with the German people was as much about milk and bread as anything else. I believe he was hesitant to force sacrifice if he didn't believe it was wholly necessary.

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Increasing Germany's war time production in the design and manufacture of various instruments of war, especially armored, artillery, and transport units was a real world workable reality. It wasn't part of your perceived "fantasy" of my scenario.
It is possible, but most of the later German innovations were in response to the realities of a protracted war on the Eastern Front. Developments like better tank guns and sloped armor were direct responses to the war against the Soviets. The 88 while long proven as an effective anti-tank weapon was not really indoctrinated into that role until existing weapons proved all but useless against newer Soviet tanks. In this area, I think most of the changes were correct and possible, they just weren't seen as being necessary until reality compelled the changes.

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Improving the fighting viability and unit cohesion of Germany's allies before the invasion was practical and workable and was vital in the pending prosecution of the war. This wasn't fantasy or unrealistic. it was a necessity and one that was ignorred to the detriment of the overall mission.
Another point that was within the scope of reality, but was a move strongly opposed by the Wehrmacht and general staff who looked down upon the allied units. Hitler had a tenuous relationship with the Wehrmacht and it may have been hard to convince them of the necessity to invest time and resources into those forces.

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Instructing political units to focus on the carrot of persuasion instead of the concentration camp was a realistic, effective, real world approach to the challenge of getting positive results from subjugated peoples. This wasn't a fantasy idea. it was a practical military and poliitical necessity and Hitler and Germany's refusal to recognize this failure was a consummate act of self sabotaging stupidity.

The Nazi policy of annihilation and extermination of various ethnic groups and races was certainly a built in self destruct aspect to their psyche and proved to be a critical factor in their own destruction.
Agreed, the Germans saw what localized support could do for them in the Baltic States and the assistance Army Group North was given during the early stages of the invasion. The Germans were largely seen as liberators in many areas when they arrived. The mistake, again, is one of foresight. If you don't think you will be fighting a protracted war, why delay instituting your ultimate goals.

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Developing Germany's military intelligence units was not an impossible task or beyond the realm of reality. It wasn't fantasy. This was a practical, real world necssity for any military to undertake and it was a clear failing/weakness of the German Wehrmacht to not fully understand the real strengths and weaknesses of their opponent, the Russian military and the average Russian soldier. This failing could have been corrected and strengthened long before the actual invasion. Their intelligence failings were legendary not only against the Russians but against the British and Americans and accelerated their destructive course.
Their intelligence apparatus was very poor, but more than that their ego was very large. They felt invincible and were inclined to see any opponent as easily defeated.

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The enlargement of the actual invasion force was not an impossible undertaking. Given the population availability of both Germany and the conquered territories of Europe, this was feasible. It wasn't fantasy. The creation of a strategic reserve force was a workable measure and a necessity and was ignored by military planners. It was not a fantasy idea.
Enlargement was reasonable as well as the creation of a larger strategic reserve. I would question the 2 million number in the span of barely a year, but yes, this was ultimately possible. Another failure of planning for a contingency.

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Response: Actually Hitler decided after the Battle of Smolensk, just four weeks into the campaign, to make a change in the strategic direction of the campaign and attack the Soviet Union economic base, namely the Ukraine region. Though, on the surface, such a decision would seem to make sense, it did not in any way change the outcome of the campaign or the war. What it did do was further stretch logistical supply lines to the point of breaking and created a logistical nightmare as well as an impossible manpower drain. It managed to further dissolve the strategic focus and dillute force concentrations. Not only now was there an outstretched logistical nightmare as Army Group Center attempted to continue its approach to Moscow but the same out stretching provisioning nightmare applied to efforts now undertaken by Army Group South. Hitler's change of strategic focus and concentration made the entire campaign a doomed adventure.
I used the 2/3 statement as Smolensk marked the closing of the second phase of the operation and the beginning of the third and final phase. In the overall timeline Smolensk ran from early July into early September before the entire battle/campaign was complete and would mark the midpoint of the overall campaign chronologically.

I discussed the issues surrounding the decision earlier in the thread, but we can again go back to the simple fact that there wasn't a coningency plan in place for failing to meet strategic goals. The Germans had hoped that by this point in the campaign they would have completed the encirclement of Leningrad and maybe hold the city as well as be in possession of Kiev and southern Ukraine. More importantly, they had believed that they would have achieved complete operational mobility, meaning the Soviet armies had essentially stopped resisting and the Germans could move at will.

None of these had been achieved by Smolensk. Resistance was greater than they had thought, AG North was advancing slower then expected, AG South had taken much heavier losses then expected and the Soviets had withdrawn in good order to solid defensive positions on their front. AG Center had achieved their objectives, but had spent over 60% of their reserves to do it.

The supply situation was already horrendous for multiple reasons and it was beginning to become a monumental effort just to keep the forces supplied with their needed operational tonnage. The Germans were reduced in most places to using captured Russian oxcarts to move supplies as the roads were incredibly poor, their truck fleet was a hodgepodge of French and Czech equipment without spare parts and the rails were incompatible for the German trains.

All of that existed BEFORE Hitler made the decisions he made, not because of them. It was this point that the failure to have a contingency plan hit home and the Germans started operating on the fly. Personally, I don't feel that they made poor choices at that moment to secure their failed objectives and eliminate a major threat to AG Centers flank.

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These are all valid counter points you are making. And though some of my scenario suggestions seem pretty unrealistic, especially the whole making outfits like the SS, "goodwill ambassadors" is a fairly rich stretch of the imagination, other points in the scenario do, in my view, have reasonable, real world aspects and would only have at least increased their chances and not diminished them.
Agreed that many of the points were reasonable to an extent. Overall even simple changes like improving the logistics and supply capacity of the army and creating a larger strategic reserve could have had a major impact on the campaign. A longer reaching goal would have been to expand available material and fuel reserves in preparation for the invasion to keep the units moving beyond the initial campaign. Even a reserve of 500k could have been a game changer in reinforcing AG South and eliminating the need to divert AG Center's resources, especially if AG Center was well supplied. There is no assurance they would have won, but they most likely would have achieved their strategic objectives.

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In the larger scheme of things, you have an obvious point to the whole adventure...why bother if it was doomed from the beginning? However, if you look plainly at the melodrama of human history on this planet, it is chocked full of bizarre, self destructive acts of futility that make no sense at all.

Humans have a singular tendency to do incrediblly stupid, ridiculous things and to collectively participate on a horrendously destructive course of civilization destroying events. The invasion of the Soviet Union may have indeed proven to be an immaculate "Fubar". However, hindsight never seems to compensate for events taking place on the ground.
I don't think the idea of war with the Soviets was a poor choice overall. It was essentially inevitable and the Soviets weren't going to be getting any weaker. There were alternate plans (Raeders Mediteranean Plan) that may have resulted in a much greater chance of overall victory, but the Soviets would need to be dealt with at some point.

I think the biggest mistake they made was allowing their hubris to cloud their judgement. The Germans planned meticulously for the invasion of France down to the last detail. They had contingency heaped on contingency and knew what to do in every situation. They even planned for it to become a drawn out battle and even Hitler was convinced that it would not be an easy or rapid victory. The fact that they won so easily in France may have been one of the largest contributors to their failures against Russia.

Hitler was so convinced of Germany's superiority and held such a poor view of Russian ability and resolve that he failed to even consider what would happen if everything didn't go according to plan. A plan that was utlimately reliant upon his enemy giving up, versus the Germans actually defeating them. There lies the difference. They planned to defeat France and France gave up. They planned to simply make the Soviets give up and never considered what to do if they didn't.
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Old 07-01-2011, 07:46 PM
 
Location: Carmel, CA USA
40 posts, read 27,392 times
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Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
I'm going to combine both your posts and respond to portions of each, though I think we are both ultimately in agreement about the events as they unfolded.



I do think we are in general agreement. I believe part of the disagreement (if there was one) was more misunderstanding about each others points as we parse through what are rather long posts.



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I don't think your points are without merit in the least. My criticism about their reality is more or less based on the actual historical way the decisions played out. Most of them are possible, but would have required incredible foresight and planning on the part of the Germans.
The German Wehrmacht were consummate military professionals - of that I think we both can easily agree. Their officer cadet academies, training schools, staff and sr. staff colleges, their rigorous, spartan, intensely dis ciplined Prussian military culture as the long standing basis of their senior general staff, their overall adherence to absolute planning and operational detail protocols - these military virtues were the bedrock of the German military mind.

Their operational level planning, meticulous adherence to both strategic and tactical operational detail was without equal.

With all of these advantages to military operational planning going for them, I am mystified by their failure to take into in their analytical calculus - specific and all too obvious mission critical exigencies. How in the wide world of warfare could they possibly overlook glaring voids during the planning stages leading up to Operation Barbarossa's launch?

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Agreed, this was a critical mistake, but falls back on the lack of a contingency plan. If you believe that victory will be rapid and virually guaranteed (as Hitler did) then there was no need to stress the German economy by moving to full war production. Hitlers popularity with the German people was as much about milk and bread as anything else. I believe he was hesitant to force sacrifice if he didn't believe it was wholly necessary.


Though the political conditon of the German public, as you point out, was one of several prime influences on Hitler's mind during this pre invasion stage, I am still deeply puzzled by his process of decision making at this time. Even beyond puzzled, it vexes me to no end.

For a very long time, I have been a student of the historical and personal figure of Hitler. I've studied him. I've examined his life from before the day of his birth to the day of his death. I've studied his thought processes and tried to understand his emotional nature, his motivations, his drives. What made Hitler - Hitler? How could a virtually nameless, faceless, anonymous vagabond roaming aimlessly the streets of the ghettos of Vienna in 1911 go on to become the cult like, demigod of over 50 million fervently loyal, fanatically inclined human beings?

How could this one man lead a modern, vibrant, culturally advanced nation on that fateful road to complete destruction? How could a man clearly capable of such detailed and effective thinking on nearly every major aspect of the German military, on German industrial production capacity, with such an obvious grasp of detail of a broad swath of operational planning, detail, and resource realities - ....

How could he not see the various drawbacks and consequences to such a Achilles laden plan as Operation Barbarossa?

It is clearly the historical conclusion and broad consensus as you mentioned, that Hitler was somehow blinded by his inflated over confidence, by his obvious hubris. You gave a sweeping indictment to Hitler and the entire German military establishment by writing something to the effect that hubris was their downfall.

Yet, this is the kind of assertion that is too easy a conclusion to make. It is too one dimensional and limited in its nature to adequately answer the questions I am posing here. Mr. NJGoat, you are obviously a man capable of in depth thinking and are blessed with an analytical mind and you have drawn my respect. So these questions and ruminations I bring to this arena for examination.

The reality is that Hitler did not get to where he was in 1941 by some odd quirk of fate or accident. He was a very intelliigent, analytical, coldly and consummately calculating...enigma. Through nearly every turn on his rise to power, he knew what his opponents and enemies were thinking before they thought it. His intuitive ability and mastery of both political and military situations both stunned and mystified those around him.

The major political and military events leading up to the Invasion of the Soviet Union speak volumes about the absolute raw calculating nerve, guile, masterful deception, and a daring that few other major world class aggressors in human recorded history could match. From the standpoint of the abilities and talents of an egomaniacal ruler of millions and millions of people...he had it all.

The questions he asked regarding various significant details of Operation Barabarossa and other major campaigns before and after this time, were impressive. He grasped the essential issues and challenges of each obstacle brought to his attention. He asked the right questions.

With all of this knowledge, all of this ability to grasp the essential, how could he overlook glaring holes in this one all consuming plan which set into motion the dark fate of tens of millons of participants?

It's just too plain easy to toss it off as simple hubris, that he and the German people were struck by this hubris and it somehow clouded their ability to thing clearly.

There were clear and documented indications that a number of German generals were adamantly against this plan, any plan to invade the Soviet Union. They felt it would be a drain on Germany, not a benefit. And, some of them sensed it would spell the ruin of the German nation. Was there hubris evident? They were not prone to wild machinatons of teutonic glory in the lands of the East. They knew what was coming, yet most of them nobly did their duty as proper Prussian officers and followed the orders of their Fuhrer. To say that these men could not see the glaring flaws to this fateful plan is too much a misguided conclusion.
These were thoughtful, devoted military professionals.

If they were going to dutiflly follow orders and set upon that fateful road. How could they not address the vulnerable holes in the plan?



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It is possible, but most of the later German innovations were in response to the realities of a protracted war on the Eastern Front. Developments like better tank guns and sloped armor were direct responses to the war against the Soviets. The 88 while long proven as an effective anti-tank weapon was not really indoctrinated into that role until existing weapons proved all but useless against newer Soviet tanks. In this area, I think most of the changes were correct and possible, they just weren't seen as being necessary until reality compelled the changes.
All of these deficiencies were again the result of poor German military intelligence and their inability or unwillingness to gather obviouis vital information as to the actual dispositions of their pending opponent, the Soviets. How in the world could they NOT be aware of tiny, seemingly insignificant details like the T-34 or KV 1 tank designs? How could they not be aware of their production taking place? Perhaps you or someone else on this forum can adquately answer that mystery.

Here it is...

You decide to invade a major continental empire.

You know they have tens of millions more citizens than your own nation. You know they have the largest standing land army in the world.

You know they can easily call up nearly limitless manpower reserves at the drop of a hat.

You know you are dealing with a Rusian peasant soldeir conscript in the field of battle who knows from the first miserable, wretched day of his short little existence on the steppe, that he is used to hardship and can deal with it.

You know the Russian upper echelons of society are clearly intelligent and capable of impressive innovation.

You can open up a land atlas. You can roll out a spinning globe of the world and see for yourself the expanse of a continent facing you and your finite invasion force. You can put pencil to paper and figure the logistical odds against you supplying millions of hapless troops in the field.

You can contemplate what if scenarios in case the primary plan goes to hell in a hand basket.

...Right?

So....how could you, being an elite professional military expert in the German Wehrmacht..not be aware of these concerns leading up to the largest land invasion in human history? How can that happen? How could Hitler overlook these items of profound concern?


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Another point that was within the scope of reality, but was a move strongly opposed by the Wehrmacht and general staff who looked down upon the allied units. Hitler had a tenuous relationship with the Wehrmacht and it may have been hard to convince them of the necessity to invest time and resources into those forces.
When Hitler said something - anything..it became policy. Boorman and others saw to that. You see, Martin Bormann had a little notepad in his pocket and, if the "Chief" so much as sneezed or wondered what was in the table ketchup, it was duly noted and looked into.

Hitler's grip on his generals was nearly absolute. Tiime and time again, Hitler browbeat, bullied, intimidated, mesmerized, hypnotized these normally unintimidated dominant marshals of a massive military machine. These were not men who normally could be so bizarrely influenced by mere mortals. Time and time again, generals would agree beforehand in their scheduled meetings witht the Fuhrer and plan on tryiing to talk him out of various significant policy decisions and time and time again, they stand in front of Hitler and find themselves nodding in agreement and completely sold on whatever he was saying.

I'd say his hold on his senior commanders was fairly solid throughout most of the war. There were a number as previously mentioned who refused to accept the merits of the invasion and privately, disagreed with the Fuhrers. Yet, most of these senior generals did not let that stop them doing their duty to the best of their ability and did not let themselves become actively involved in the eventual conspiracies to kill Hitler and try to end the war. Many of them knew, yet few were even remotely willing to lend a hand in the affair. Many German soldiers, from the highest level generals to the lowest enlisted man in the field took their oath to Hitler and to the Fatherland quite seriously.

These were the days when men actually made a solemn effort at following things like sworn blood oaths, no matter how ultimately misguided or destructive the implications of following those oaths were to become.



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Agreed, the Germans saw what localized support could do for them in the Baltic States and the assistance Army Group North was given during the early stages of the invasion. The Germans were largely seen as liberators in many areas when they arrived. The mistake, again, is one of foresight. If you don't think you will be fighting a protracted war, why delay instituting your ultimate goals.
Their refusal to exploit this benefit during the early stages was careless and seemingly out of character for a man of Hitler's talents and abilities. He saw weakness and advantage and pounced on it. That was his predatorial character. Yes, I know all of the arguments about his racial and ethnic hatreds and how this seemed to cloud his thinking. However, again this is just too easy and one dimensional an explanation. There has to be more to this than meets the eye.



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Their intelligence apparatus was very poor, but more than that their ego was very large. They felt invincible and were inclined to see any opponent as easily defeated.
With all due respect, my invisible coutnerpart over the ethers....the whole "they" deal is too much a generalization, a blanket indictment over men like General Gerd von Runstedt who inclined to see the exact opposite of the Soviet challenge that lay before him and his men. Many of these men both at the senior level of command and in the field didn't see it that way at all. And the ones who did feel that "invincibility" soon began to have a change of heart after a few weeks of being "devoured" (as General von Runsttedt mentioned in letters to his wife) by the infinite vastness of the steppe.



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Enlargement was reasonable as well as the creation of a larger strategic reserve. I would question the 2 million number in the span of barely a year, but yes, this was ultimately possible. Another failure of planning for a contingency
We both see the see the obvious. Even 3 million plus troops spread over such a continental expanse was not adequate for such a colossal undertaking.



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I used the 2/3 statement as Smolensk marked the closing of the second phase of the operation and the beginning of the third and final phase. In the overall timeline Smolensk ran from early July into early September before the entire battle/campaign was complete and would mark the midpoint of the overall campaign chronologically.
I see your point about time line here.


I discussed the issues surrounding the decision earlier in the thread, but we can again go back to the simple fact that there wasn't a coningency plan in place for failing to meet strategic goals. The Germans had hoped that by this point in the campaign they would have completed the encirclement of Leningrad and maybe hold the city as well as be in possession of Kiev and southern Ukraine. More importantly, they had believed that they would have achieved complete operational mobility, meaning the Soviet armies had essentially stopped resisting and the Germans could move at will.

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None of these had been achieved by Smolensk. Resistance was greater than they had thought, AG North was advancing slower then expected, AG South had taken much heavier losses then expected and the Soviets had withdrawn in good order to solid defensive positions on their front. AG Center had achieved their objectives, but had spent over 60% of their reserves to do it.
Though it is true that the Germans failed to meet their strict time table in the summer and early fall 1941, and despite the fact that many German soldeirs both at upper levels and on the field, were beginning to feel overwhelmed by the whole enterprise, I can see why they kept doing what they did both for the remainder of 1941 and starting Operation Blue in 1942.

Even in 1942, the Russians were getting their clock cleaned on a monumental scale.

There were several instances documented where entire 2nd and 3rd ranks of Russian regiments were marched toward the Germans without weapons and ordered to pick the weapons of the dead of the first rank after they shot and to keep going forward! Astounding! The german troops looked at this madness and just scratched their heads, exasperated. I've seen the interviews of these German veterans.

How could you march countless wretches onto a field in front of such a prepared, supplied, and formidable foe as the Germans and let them be mowed down by the thousands? Madness.

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The supply situation was already horrendous for multiple reasons and it was beginning to become a monumental effort just to keep the forces supplied with their needed operational tonnage. The Germans were reduced in most places to using captured Russian oxcarts to move supplies as the roads were incredibly poor, their truck fleet was a hodgepodge of French and Czech equipment without spare parts and the rails were incompatible for the German trains.
Again, the scenario points I detailed in the first post covered the necessity for adequate supplies in forward depots to be fully ready for a 2 year minimum engagement.

I mentioned the need to fix the rail problem in the first post. This was a critical element in the time driven schedule they were facing transporting men and material to the closest staging areas.

The rail differences between the Soviets and the German rail system was a mission critical element which they ignored until they were forced to face it and lost valuable time in trying to fix it in the middle of the operation.

But...why? How could this blatant issue be ignored or neglected? How is that possible. The Germans were detail obsessed military professionals. They documented nearly every minutae detail they encountered ...right down to photographing the Russian dead in the field.

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All of that existed BEFORE Hitler made the decisions he made, not because of them. It was this point that the failure to have a contingency plan hit home and the Germans started operating on the fly. Personally, I don't feel that they made poor choices at that moment to secure their failed objectives and eliminate a major threat to AG Centers flank.
You may not have felt they,or rather, Hitler made a poor choice in patching up that Kiev snag, however, Hitler's senior commanders in the field felt different and felt it lost them precious weeks of
lost opportunity to cover that distance to Moscow and, after giving this isue further consideration, it was that seemingly crucial window dressing at Kiev that altered the course of the war in the East.

Are you really that sure that, had they not encircled and beat the Rusians at Kiev, those same unbeaten Russian armies would have somehow been available to fight AG Center on its approach to Moscow?

If your concern actually did materialize, how was that newly created strategic vacuum in the Ukraine facing AG South going to be addressed?


Is it not an equal possibility that those same Rusian armies stationed in the Ukraine would just as easily remained in that region to defend it in order to fend off an anticipated attack from AG South? Was that obvious anticipated strategic concern not an element to Stalin's thinking?



You see, despite the fact you point out that Hitler and his commanders were beginning to realize that they couldnt' just keeping decimating seemingly endless Russian armies, that they had to attack the economic heart of the Soviet Union and break its will that way, the odd thing was; all of those defeats at the hands of the Wehrmacht were actually beginning to have profount impact on the number of available Russian troops to actually defend Moscow.

They were actually running low on manpower and when I say that, I don't mean the millions of potential peasant / soldier converts in the Soviet Union who were not trained/converted into newly minted troops by the Soviet mobilization system. I mean the existing and available forces in the field at Stalin's disposal. Those millions lost in the beginning battles actually had a profound impact on Stalin and his planners.

The Russians were feeling desperate at this point in the invasion.

And Hitler failed to see this. The irony here is that he also, at the same time, severely underestimated the capability of the Russians and their communist system to hold together. To paraphrase Hitler: "You have only to kick in the door and the whole thing comes crashing down..." Though his underestimation of this opponent cost him and Germany, at the same, he also, ironically seemed to fail to recognize the horrendous damage his forces were inflicting on the Russian defenders and how that could truly affect the outcome of AG Center's drive to capture Moscow.

And, this again, were Hitler, mystifyingly, screws up inexiplicably. He decides to change the strategic direction of the whole invasion by preparing to focus on a major attack in the South, instead.

How did this happen? How could he do this?







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Agreed that many of the points were reasonable to an extent. Overall even simple changes like improving the logistics and supply capacity of the army and creating a larger strategic reserve could have had a major impact on the campaign. A longer reaching goal would have been to expand available material and fuel reserves in preparation for the invasion to keep the units moving beyond the initial campaign. Even a reserve of 500k could have been a game changer in reinforcing AG South and eliminating the need to divert AG Center's resources, especially if AG Center was well supplied. There is no assurance they would have won, but they most likely would have achieved their strategic objectives.



I don't think the idea of war with the Soviets was a poor choice overall. It was essentially inevitable and the Soviets weren't going to be getting any weaker. There were alternate plans (Raeders Mediteranean Plan) that may have resulted in a much greater chance of overall victory, but the Soviets would need to be dealt with at some point.

I think the biggest mistake they made was allowing their hubris to cloud their judgement. The Germans planned meticulously for the invasion of France down to the last detail. They had contingency heaped on contingency and knew what to do in every situation. They even planned for it to become a drawn out battle and even Hitler was convinced that it would not be an easy or rapid victory. The fact that they won so easily in France may have been one of the largest contributors to their failures against Russia.

Hitler was so convinced of Germany's superiority and held such a poor view of Russian ability and resolve that he failed to even consider what would happen if everything didn't go according to plan. A plan that was utlimately reliant upon his enemy giving up, versus the Germans actually defeating them. There lies the difference. They planned to defeat France and France gave up. They planned to simply make the Soviets give up and never considered what to do if they didn't.

Your conclusion is something to consider which I have done. However, it is that same limited viewpoint that it could be simple hubris that clouded Hitler's judgement and those of his senior general staff which did them in.

The complexity of such a herculean enterprise, does not lend an easy fit to such a simple conclusion.

Last edited by SmilingWolf; 07-01-2011 at 08:55 PM.. Reason: touching it up
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Old 07-01-2011, 09:48 PM
 
Location: New York City
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Holy wall of text Batman!

As much as I'd like to participate, reading and responding to such long posts would take too much of my time. Briefly, I'd like to make the following points:

- Waging or preparing for a different type of war in the east would have required Germany to have a completely different philosophy and mindset. There were political reasons why Germany couldn't mobilize all of its resources the way other states could. The philosophy of German racial superiority over others, Russians especially, contributed to the arrogance and even carelessness when it came to planning the war.

-There was some talk about comparing Op. Barbarossa to Napoleon's invasion. In fact the two are even more similar than one might think. First, both Napoleon and the Germans planned to destroy the Russians not far from the border. Napoleon did not initially plan to march on Moscow, and the Germans planned to trap and destroy the Red Army west of the Dnieper river. The Hitler and the Wehrmacht did not envision to encounter serious resistance after that initial stage mainly because they had a very low opinion of the Soviet state. They did not anticipate that the Soviets would create hundred of new divisions in the rear, that the Soviet leadership would not be paralyzed by defeatism like the French were, that the Soviets would continue to resist with every means at their disposal.

- There is another similarity with Napoleon. For both Napoleon and Hitler, the war with Russia was not of paramount importance but rather a means to and end, or even a secondary objective. The real goal for both was to force peace with Britain (on their terms of course). Napoleon invaded Russia in to enforce the Continental system in order to bankrupt Britain. Hitler invaded the USSR to convince Britain it no longer had even potential continental allies. He assumed that the conquest of USSR would show the British leadership the hopelessness of their struggle. Thus the invasion of the Soviet Union wasn't an end in and of itself.

All this leads me to believe that if Hitler truly understood what it would take to defeat the Soviet Union, he probably wouldn't have launched the invasion. Hitler didn't need a quagmire and significant drain on his resources while he was still involved in a war with the British. If the Soviet Union couldn't be defeated in 3-4 months with relatively little preparation, it wasn't really worth it.
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Old 07-01-2011, 11:33 PM
 
Location: Carmel, CA USA
40 posts, read 27,392 times
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Originally Posted by MrMarbles View Post
Holy wall of text Batman!

As much as I'd like to participate, reading and responding to such long posts would take too much of my time. Briefly, I'd like to make the following points:

Quote:
- Waging or preparing for a different type of war in the east would have required Germany to have a completely different philosophy and mindset. There were political reasons why Germany couldn't mobilize all of its resources the way other states could. The philosophy of German racial superiority over others, Russians especially, contributed to the arrogance and even carelessness when it came to planning the war.

What exactly were these political reasons that could prevent Hitler and the German nation from bringing their economy into a full war mode?

Without a full war time mobilized economy, Germany began to suffer resource/raw material shortages in various industires, many of them key war production industries in the run up to Barbarossa. These production constraints affected the arming, supply, and outfitting of the invasion forces.

Hitler clearly had the political power to initiate such a war production program for the German economy at this time and I don't see any clear or logical correlation between this point and the point you bring up about how the Germans felt so superior to the Russians and how that one element of superiority complex could possibly limit or materially distort the entire planning and production requirements for the preparation of the largest combat operation in the history of mankind.




-There was some talk about comparing Op. Barbarossa to Napoleon's invasion. In fact the two are even more similar than one might think. First, both Napoleon and the Germans planned to destroy the Russians not far from the border. Napoleon did not initially plan to march on Moscow, and the Germans planned to trap and destroy the Red Army west of the Dnieper river.

Quote:
The Hitler and the Wehrmacht did not envision to encounter serious resistance after that initial stage mainly because they had a very low opinion of the Soviet state. They did not anticipate that the Soviets would create hundred of new divisions in the rear, that the Soviet leadership would not be paralyzed by defeatism like the French were, that the Soviets would continue to resist with every means at their disposal.
-

Again, My underlying question is: How could such a monumental oversight on the part of both Hitler and the entire German general staff take place?
How could their intelligence services under Admiral Canaris, utterly fail to apprehend the true nature of their opponent? To fully ascertain the true strenghts and inherent weakness of the Soviet military and Soviet state?

How could they not pull out a pencil and a piece of scratch paper and figure out with simple arithmatic the obvious ability of Stalin and the Soviet regime to put nearly limitless numbers of recruits into the field over the long term? How could such a simple element to military planning be so blatantly ignored?





Quote:
There is another similarity with Napoleon. For both Napoleon and Hitler, the war with Russia was not of paramount importance but rather a means to and end, or even a secondary objective. The real goal for both was to force peace with Britain (on their terms of course). Napoleon invaded Russia in to enforce the Continental system in order to bankrupt Britain. Hitler invaded the USSR to convince Britain it no longer had even potential continental allies. He assumed that the conquest of USSR would show the British leadership the hopelessness of their struggle. Thus the invasion of the Soviet Union wasn't an end in and of itself.
With all respect to Mr. Marbles, I would differ in this assertion that Hitler's prime motivation was to dive Great Britain to the peace table or that his motivation was to affect a change of strategic stance with the British.

Literally, from Hitler's entry into elected power in 1933, his over riding, all consuming, all abosrbing priority was to prepare for war and his eye was always on Lebensraum - Land - and that land he was convinced was the answer to Germany's problems and it did not lay in Great Britain...it lay in the East - in Russia. From his writings in Mein Kompf he mentions this priority for the German people.

His priority was to conquer the Soviet Union. The war with Great Britain was a sideshow to Hitler and one of his purposeful deceptons played against both the British and the Russians. He used and manipulated the fears which Great Britain and the Soviet Union held toward one another for his political and military ends and those ends had everything to do fighting Stalin and the Bolsheviks.

It was this political hatred Hitler had for the Communists in combination with his need to gain Germany the lands to the East which drove his motivation and his focus.

The whole Operation Sea Lion was a subterfuge used to deceive both the British and the Russians. With this ploy, Stalin was lulled into a false sense of security beleiving there was no way that Hitler would wage a two front war. Meanwhile, Hitler was deploying invasion force concentrations to Poland and preparing.

Your tack about the whole invasion of the Soviet Union being somehow motivated by Hitler to drive the British to the peace table - this was not his core motivation to invade the Soviet Union. He saw the conquest of the Soviet Union bringing as one of its many by products...that result with Great Britain but it certainly was not the prime directive cause of Operation Barbarossa.





Quote:
All this leads me to believe that if Hitler truly understood what it would take to defeat the Soviet Union, he probably wouldn't have launched the invasion. Hitler didn't need a quagmire and significant drain on his resources while he was still involved in a war with the British. If the Soviet Union couldn't be defeated in 3-4 months with relatively little preparation, it wasn't really worth it.
I am convinced that Hitler could not imagine that the Soviets could put over 20,000 heavy tanks into the field and he actually commented on this specifically during one of his all nighters at Berchtesgaden. Yes, I agree that he did not even remotely fathom what he and several million German combat soldiers were about to face as they prepared to march into the Soveit Union.

He did believe that he could extract significant resources from the Soviet Union especially the Baku oil fields in the Caucusus and the Ukraine bread basket and Ag commodities found there. Oil shortages were rampant in German industry at this time and Hitler had his eye on those fields in the Caucusus.

The extremely limited unrealistic time table is another obvious bone of contention. As NJGoat mentions, how could any invasion force possiblly hope to cover an area from the East Coast of the U.S. to the Mississippi River, fighting huge ongoing battles all along the way and hope to adequately supply, equip, and feed millions of German soldiers in the field, secure this massive territory and manage to hold onto it in just a span of three or four months? How is this dealing with reality?

I also understand the conclusions Hitler and his senior commanders drew after watching the Russian/Finnish War in the winter 1939 and the poor performance of Stalin's forces against the Finns and how this fiasco gave Hitler and his generals a dim view of Russian military capability. Yet, it is still difficult to imagine a modern professional highly regarded military like the German Wehrmacht to use that experience to shape entire strattegic/military assessment of the fighting capabilities of a nation having the world's largest land army, a nation with tremendous industrial capacity, a nation 3 times the size of Germany in population, a nation several times in size of land mass to Germany, millions of square miles of vast territory, and ruled by a supreme autocatic megallomaniac and utterly fail to manage to make some intleligence forays as to their up to date military and industrial dispositions.

Does that not strike you as rather peculiar? As they say in Texas, "That dog just ain't gonna hunt"

The whole overly simple conclusion that this oversight was based on Hitler and Germany's superiority complex toward the Russians is just not convincing. You don't marshal millions of German combat soldiers, stockpile thousands of tons of material and supplies, heavily arm these troops, roll in armor divisions, bring in hundreds of thousands of allied troops,etc, etc. and not make any significant effort at trying to figure out just what exactly you are about to face!

Last edited by SmilingWolf; 07-02-2011 at 12:27 AM.. Reason: Polishing it
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Old 07-02-2011, 06:02 PM
 
Location: Carmel, CA USA
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Pavel Suduplatov, was a special agent of the NKVD during the war on the Eastern Front. He was the lead agent in the assasination of Trotsky in Mexico August, 1940, and participated in a number of other assasinations.


In July of 1941, Pavel Sudoplatov was ordered by Beria,Chief of the NKVD, to Bulgarian ambassador in Moscow to send out a feeler to Hitler and see if he would be interested in a truce.


At the end of of this segment of War of the Century part 2...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StYyw...eature=related



And at the beginning of this segment in War Century part 3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8TSH...eature=related



This, account, along with a private admission given by then retired General Zhukov as to a conversation Stalin held discussing the possibility of such an arrangemnt during the first stages of Operation Barbarossa as the Soviet Union experienced massive losses on the battlefield.

Pavel Sudoplatov - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


from wiki...
".....In late July 1941, under the orders of Lavrenti Beria, he met (in a Georgian restaurant in the centre of Moscow) with the Bulgarian ambassador, who was the representative of Germany in USSR, at the time. Sudoplatov asked the ambassador if Hitler would stop penetration of the USSR, in exchange for giving Germany, a large part of USSR. (No one knows if this proposition was true or if it was an attempt of USSR to gain time)."


This was a substantive indication as to the growing desperation of Stalin in his bid to consider negotiating time for land. He knew that Army Group Center was working and fighting its way successfully closer and closer to Moscow.

Last edited by SmilingWolf; 07-02-2011 at 06:47 PM.. Reason: additons
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Old 07-02-2011, 07:35 PM
 
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Our guys were better trained, better equipped, better led, better supplied. The russian troops were used as canon fodder thrown at the enemy oftentimes with almost no training. They had the benefit of the terrain and numbers and weather on their side and later with our aid, supplies and equipment. The russian army is still pretty poorly equipped and trained.
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Old 07-03-2011, 05:58 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJGOAT
TonyT who is probably the forum’s foremost expert on WW2 had posted recently about the high level discussions going on between Hitler and Molotov on behalf of Stalin about the Soviets actually joining the Axis.
First, let me start by thanking you for the high praise. I wouldn’t, however, go so far as to say I’m “the forum’s foremost expert on WW2”. There are many individuals that contribute regularly, yourself included, that are just as knowledgable on the subject as I am. Nonetheless your comment and quotation of my post are much appreciated.

The following are a few thoughts regarding some of the points that were made in your post of 6/23 (#161). In order to save space, I have not quoted you, but have tried to organized my comments under headings which track with what you wrote.

Soviet Pre-invasion Plans

After the apparent failure of the Tripartite Pact discussions between Molotov and Hitler at the end of November 1940, the Soviets began to realize they needed to get serious about planning for a possible German invasion. At the end of December 1940, the General Staff of the Red Army had finalized a defensive plan which was then presented at a conference for senior officers held by the Defense Commissariat in Moscow the first week of January 1941. Between January 8th and 11th, the Soviets conducted war games to test the effectiveness of the plan. The results were shocking to all involved; the Soviets lost. In his memoirs, Marshal Zhukov, who had participated in the war games as the “Germans”, stated that what occurred over the course of the simulation “proved to be in many ways similar to what really happened after June 22, 1941”. Extremely displeased with the outcome of the games, Stalin ordered a complete revision of Soviet defensive plans.

By late winter 1941, a new plan had been formulated and approved for implementation. The plan relied heavily on close coordination between air, artillery, and armor units positioned along the western frontier of the Soviet Union. Air units would immediately seek out and attack any large concentrations of German forces. If these German formations managed to penetrate beyond the border despite being assaulted by air, they would be engaged by Soviet armor and anti-tank units backed by planes flying close air support. Once these lead elements of the German advance were destroyed, Soviet forces were to be prepared to move westward into German territory if so ordered.

The task of these frontier units beyond what was set out in the plan was to stall the German advance long enough to allow time for the main Soviet defense units to form up and move toward the border. This would be done utilizing a “three echelon” type deployment beginning first with infantry, followed by armor, and then the reserves. The three elements would be combined to become a “first strategic echelon”. If necessary, a “second strategic echelon” would be formed behind the first to support its’ operations until the main force could be brought to bear. It was determined that 170 divisions and 2 brigades would be the minimum required to make the plan fully workable and by June 1941 they were deployed along the frontier. The first echelon consisted of 56 divisions and 2 brigades, the second had 52 divisions, and the third had 62.

Though impressive on paper, the disposition of force was actually poorly arranged and woefully inadequate. The first echelon was actually 7 divisions short of what was originally planned while the third echelon contained 7 more divisions then required. The first echelon was primarily based in barracks 30 miles from the border. The second echelon divisions were between 30 and 60 miles from the border while the third was nearly 180 miles from the border. What was even more striking is the fact that the Soviet General Staff, despite seeing what the Germans had done against France, never factored into their plans the possibility of a surprise attack. Instead, the Soviets believed that an invasion, should it come, would develop slowly and they would have between 15 to 20 days to fully mobilize their forces to meet the German advance.

Just how badly the Soviets miscalculated became readily apparent within the first hours of the launch of Operation Barbarossa. Most of the Soviet first echelon troops never made it out of their barracks and were captured before they could even fire a shot. And as the first day of Barbarossa came to a close, the Germans had driven into Russia over 200 miles at some points, placing them squarely in the midsts of the third echelon, and completely disrupting the Soviets ability to mobilize their main defensive forces.

Army Group Center

With respect to Army Group Center, the seemingly dangerous position if found itself in July of 1941 was actually more imaginary then real. Army Group Center was the strongest of the three elements that made up the invasion force of Operation Barbarossa. It had advanced into Russia from the Polish border in an east/northeasterly direction toward Moscow and successfully smashed those Soviet forces directly in its’ path and blocked or ignored those occupying positions on the flanks in its’ operating sector. And while it is true that large Soviet armies still existed in the Ukraine and the immediate vicinity of Leningrad, both Army Group North and South had enough strength to act as screening forces to prevent the Soviets from threatening Army Group Center if it advanced toward Moscow.

In point of fact, the reason further advances of Army Group Center beyond Smolensk were halted was not based on fear of an attack on the flanks or a sudden realization that the Soviets could not be defeated in the field. Instead, it was rooted in the failure to set a definitive objective for Operation Barbarossa as a whole. Even though the “schwerpunkt” or main focal point of the attack, had been tasked to Army Group Center, its’ objective was not the capture of Moscow itself, but instead to advance into a rather vague geographic location referred to as the “Moscow-Gorki space” and to defeat any Soviet armies it found. Despite the insistence of General Halder and others within the OKH that taking Moscow should be the main goal of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler would not commit to it. Instead, Hitler stated a belief that Leningrad should be the primary target, but deferred any final decision on the matter until Barbarossa was underway and the actual success of the operation could be better determined.

By the second week of July, the commanders on the ground as well as those at the OKH sensed that victory was near. Though sizeable elements of the Red Army were still in the field, Soviet command and control had been so thoroughly disrupted that when they did counterattack, it was usually in a disorganized, even suicidal fashion with the end result being their decimation. The commander of Army Group Center, Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, began to draw up a timetable for the final push on Moscow, which he estimated could be undertaken by either the beginning or middle of August. Von Bock’s plans were suddenly thrown into disarray when Hitler issued “Directive 33” and “Directive 34” on July 10th and 30th, respectively. The Fuehrer had finally reached a decision; Moscow could wait. Leningrad and the Ukraine were the priority targets.

The generals were dismayed. They could not understand why, when it was painfully obvious that the Soviets were struggling to patch together some sort of defense in front of Moscow, Hitler would choose this critical moment to suddenly focus on what really were peripheral objectives. Von Bock pleaded with Halder to try and change Hitler’s mind and push for Moscow. General Walter Model agreed with Von Bock, pointing out that if it took a blitzkrieg to defeat France, then a blitz-blitzkrieg was what was needed in Russia, not delays. General Guderian joined the chorus as well stating that disruption of Barbarossa’s original timetable would be disastrous and might well lead to the attack on Moscow taking place at a point when weather would impact the operation negatively. Guderian added that if the Wehrmacht wasn’t in Moscow by Christmas at the latest, it never would be. Von Bock and Halder, believing that if anyone could change Hitler’s mind it would be Guderian, arranged a meeting between the two on August 23rd. Guderian argued his case but it was in vain. Army Group Center would continue to hold its’ position outside Smolensk, while Army Group North and South moved to take Leningrad and the Ukraine.

Army Group South

The main reason the going was so rough for Army Group South at the start of the campaign can be traced directly back to another instance of Hitler meddling in the operational plan for Barbarossa. As originally drawn up by General Halder, the invasion route for Army Group South required them to cross over the Dneister River. No one at the OKH perceived a river crossing as being particularly problematic. And with that in mind, after crossing the Dneister, they had planned for a large scale, double envelopment of Soviet forces in the Ukraine west of the Dneiper River, using the Germany 12th Army as the southern wing. But Hitler disagreed. He believed such a move to be too fraught with risk, so he ordered Halder to alter the plan to have Army Group South launch its’ attack from Romania and advance along a narrow gap between the Pripyat Marshes and the Carpathian Mountains.

Thus, when Army Group South began to move into the Ukraine on June 22nd, the restricted space forced it to attack head on into the numerically superior Soviet formations blocking its’ path. Forward progress was extremely slow for Army Group South and the terrain made it impossible for the Germans to move in a northerly direction at all, eliminating the possibility of attempting anything other than a single envelopment. Despite all of this, by July 7th, Army Group South had pushed ahead and the Soviet position in the Ukraine began to collapse. The assessment of the German position was that Army Group South now had “equal strength due to the heavy losses inflicted on the enemy and soon would add numerical superiority to tactical and operational superiority”. In essence, the Soviets had lost operational freedom of movement and now lacked the ability to threaten the flank of Army Group Center. This was also the minimum goal that the commander of Army Group South, Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt, had set out to achieve in order to further the mission of Army Group Center in reaching Moscow should that be the next move.

The position that all the army groups were in, especially Center and South, during the second week of July, should illustrate why the directives Hitler issued on the 10th and 30th made no sense to field commanders and OKH generals alike. Successful execution of “blitzkrieg” was dependent upon rapid movement and constant strikes against the enemy. This was especially critical in the Russian campaign because keeping the Soviets off balance and denying them the opportunity to regroup was the only way the Germans could hope to prevail. Halting Army Group Center east of Smolensk at a time when momentum was clearly in the Germans favor was suicidal. Halder, von Bock, Guderian, and Model knew it, but none of them could make Hitler see it.

And this, more than anything, demonstrates why Hitler ultimately failed in the role of Supreme Commander. His inability to focus on the “big picture” and penchant for concentrating on objectives that provided only short term gain continually derailed operations that could have won the war for Germany. So while it is true that the destruction of the Soviet armies in the Ukraine and encirclement of Leningrad were great tactical achievements, strategically they did little to improve the Germans overall position in Russia and contributed nothing to the end goal of knocking the Soviets out of the war. The delay in forward movement of Army Group Center not only gave the Soviets nearly three months to improve their defenses around Moscow, but the shuttling of elements of this group to the north and south then back again, created unnecessary wear and tear on both men and equipment. By the time Operation Typhoon began on October 2nd, combat effectiveness of Army Group Center was down from its’ peak in mid July, and rather than enjoying numerical superiority over the Soviet armies in front of it as it once had, at best it was now numerically equal. All of these factors, in combination with the weather, are what ultimately doomed “Typhoon” to failure before the gates of Moscow.

Final Points

Many have and will continue to argue that the real mistake the Germans made was not in the planning and execution of Operation Barbarossa but the decision to attack the Soviet Union in the first place. Personally, I believe support of this “argument” is based more on how the war ended for Germany rather than a realistic assessment of the position Germany found itself in between late 1940/early 1941 when the planning for Operation Barbarossa began. Britain had been essentially “quarantined” and lacked the ability to seriously threaten Germany in any significant way. With the U.S. still on the sidelines, the only power that stood between Germany and the control of the whole of Europe was the Soviet Union. And far from being a benign, peace loving nation just wishing to be left alone, the Soviet Union had definite territorial ambitions of it’s own. The war with Finland; the taking of the Baltic States; the carving up of Poland; the constant tension with Romania; and the attempts to diplomatically bully both Bulgaria and Turkey, are clear indications of that fact.

None of this was lost on Hitler and he knew it was inevitable that Germany and Russia would clash. The negotiations to have the Soviets join the Tripartite Pact were an attempt by Hitler to redirect Russian expansionism away from Europe. When this effort proved fruitless, Hitler set his plans in motion. He was not ignorant of the risks of such an operation but the potential rewards were significant. Defeating the Soviet Union would eliminate a powerful rival and likely future enemy. It would also remove from the game the only country left on the European continent that could assist Britain in her fight against Germany. Finally, a victory over the Russians would make the United States think twice about involving itself in the Eurpoean war at all. Hitler also knew that time was not on Germany’s side. It was well known to the Germans that Russia was in the process of modernizing and expanding it’s armed forces. Germany was unquestionably at the height of her power. So if now was not the time to strike at the Soviet Union, when would it be? After the Russians had equalled or surpassed the Germans in strength militarily? Obviously not. So, to Hitler, the summer of 1941 represented the last, best chance Germany would ever have to take the Russians out, and Operation Barbarossa was the means by which he chose to do it.

Hitler stated that Operation Barbarossa would be seen as the greatest miiltary operation of all time and that “the world will hold its breath and fall silent when Barbarossa is mounted”. And in this he was not mistaken. Despite its’ imperfections, the size, scope, and sheer audacity of the campaign not only stunned the world, but the fact that it nearly succeeded in toppling the Soviet Union was and is, difficult to deny.
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Old 07-03-2011, 02:22 PM
 
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Originally Posted by SmilingWolf View Post
NJGOAT very cogent observations regarding my initial criticism of the overall strategy for Operation Barbarossa. I will respond to each of your observations in turn and do what I can to enhance the credence of my assertion that Hitler should have narrowed his overall strategic objective by taking Moscow in one supremely concentrated thrust. Your first observation covered the overall big picture question:
“The only real question I would pose is what would the capture of Moscow had done for the Germans?” I would also submit that a variation of this very important question is: What would the capture of Moscow do to the Russian people?
I will give a broad answer to your question and then follow up by responding to each of your points.

Why take Moscow?...

Smiling Wolf, I looked at your long post (again) and without commenting on the whole thing, let me point you at couple of things, that show the flaw of your theories.

Quote:
"The Russian people, though in a constant state of terror and fear of Stalin, were held within the grip of an intense cult of personality/leader worship of the man, bordering on a kind of mass hysteria. In the eyes of the Russian peasant, he was given a kind of God-like status over them. He could do no wrong. He could make no mistake. He was omnipotent. That God-like status was the very core of his ultimate vulnerability."
See, Russian peasant lived in the country-side, in the countless villages, but the hysteria ( echoing to hysteria of Hitler's Germany) that you've seen in the footage or read about in books, took place in cities - big cities in particular like Moscow and St. Pet. So you can't really put "hysteria" and " Russian peasant" in one sentence. As German soldiers back then made an unpleasant discovery that it took forever to make it from one point to another during the fall-spring, when the roads would turn into mud and become impassable, so should you realize that it was not that easy to organize "hysteria" among the population that lived in poverty, had hard time to travel from one village to another and on top of that was deprived of their passports, so that they couldn't escape their yoke and move into cities. It was not all that easy for the Soviet propagandists to make it to all those countless villages to "reinforce" the message from the *dear leader.* With other words, don't think about "Stalin's hysteria" in Russia in terms of Hitler's hysteria in Germany - the country that was much better organized and modernized in technical terms.
That's number one, so let's move to number two

Quote:
"Throughout its long history, the Russian people have deeply depended on strong, despotic tyrants to rule over them."
That's true, but you apparently have no idea why it was/is the case, what's the root of it, otherwise you wouldn't have ascribed such importance to possible defeat of Moscow.
The reason why Russia "deeply" depends on despotic tyrants to rule over it, is not because Russians lack the ability to think differently - the reason is quite the opposite. It's because Russia includes such multitude of different people and different ideas, that following those ideas would have teared the country apart long time ago, since Russians have the ability to enforce and follow those ideas with passion. If there is a disagreement between two or three leading forces in the country and the power keeps on switching hands, thus constantly changing or even abolishing the law all together, at this point the Russian peasant is already happy to have ANY leader who has enough of power to establish ANY law to keep things under control, and he will put up with it for a while, until the rulership becomes unbearable again. Because as far as Russian peasant can see, ANY law and any leadership is better than none, in order to survive as a nation.
So keeping this in mind, let's proceed to the next statement of yours;

Quote:
"If any other nation state under absolute authoritarian rule could possibly understand the dependence of the Russian people on an absolute authority figure, it should have been Hitler and the German people whose culture of respect and adherence to ultimate authority was central to their existence."
You've got that one right - Russians ( as far as the national character goes) share the most with Germans out of all European nations, as controversial as it sounds. Historically it has been a long love-hate relationship, where German influence created a lot of positive and negative developments for Russians. Germans are probably the only other people who's national soul is as polarized as the Russian one; deep intellectualism and love for arts combined with famous German sentimentalism on one hand, and the ability to fall into the pit of the most inhumane creation of it all - the concentration camps of the WWII. In many ways same can be said about the Russians - the undeniable input into the cultural treasury of Europe on one hand and the "leaden atrocities of Russian life" (as one writer referred to it,) on another.

Quote:
"Though the average German was raised to respect authority, he was also raised to take individual initiative and exercise aggressive, independent action and this was one of the primary psychological core elements of the German soldier in the field – from their officers, line officers right down to enlisted personnel. When given an order to take an objective, the typical German officer was given the autonomy and independence of action to fulfill the order and take the objective in whatever way he deemed necessary, just as long as he obeyed the order and took the objective.

On the other hand, the Russian was not given such license or automatic autonomy of action.

The psychological state of the Russian people was dependent on a command and control mentality. Their psychological make-up rested on rule from above. Individual initiative, personal initiative and independence of action were not attributes of the traditional Russian mindset. This was where the major difference existed between the Russians and the Germans."
If everything you write about the "traditional Russian mindset" were true, there wouldn't have been guerrilla war in Russia, and before you'll say that it was "GPU/ NKVD/whatever that organized it, minding you it was the same guerrilla war during Napoleon's invasion, that made the lives of the French soldiers miserable, with no GPU in sight.
So again, you've got it all wrong - while the "psychological make-up" of the Russian propagandist could be rested "on rule from above," the "psychological make-up" of a Russian peasant would go only so far, before he'd have decided what makes more sense in any given situation.
"The harshness of Russia's laws is offset by not having to actually abide by them"
"In taiga the bear is the boss," and the famous Russian "авось" ( blind trust in sheer luck) would describe Russian mindset much better. What you ascribed to Russians, actually reflects more of a German character - they are highly organized people whose mindset was more likely "to rest on the rule from above," particularly under the circumstances. (By the way "things Russian" ( as in "highly disorganized") often added to the suffering of the German POWs while in captivity. If I have time I'll translate the material that includes the witnessing of the survivors.)
Oh well, I don't blame you - it's impossible to know all these things about Russians while just reading books or watching movies.

Quote:
And, it is this very profound dependence on a tyrant and the perception of the Russian people of where that power originated which goes to the very heart of why Moscow should have been Hitler’s ultimate objective in the first phase of the invasion. And, it is that very deep psychological dependence on authority and the Russian perception of Moscow as being the symbol of that authority which clearly should have made the taking of Moscow as Germany’s “prime directive”.
So since your perception of Russians is wrong to begin with, this assumption is wrong too.
The surrender of Moscow ( as administrative center) wouldn't have accomplished the major goal for Germans, even for the fact that Moscow has been surrendered already before, yet it didn't bring victory to Napoleon after all. Purely psychological factor, you know.
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Old 07-03-2011, 02:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyT View Post

The following are a few thoughts regarding some of the points that were made in your post of 6/23 (#161). In order to save space, I have not quoted you, but have tried to organized my comments under headings which track with what you wrote.

Soviet Pre-invasion Plans

After the apparent failure of the Tripartite Pact discussions between Molotov and Hitler at the end of November 1940, the Soviets began to realize they needed to get serious about planning for a possible German invasion.
Not sure why are you conveniently skipping the fact that the Soviets began to realize that they were under the treat of German invasion after the failed discussions with the French and Britons, and particularly - after the Munich agreement in 1939.

Munich Agreement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Joseph Stalin was also upset by the results of the Munich conference. The Soviets, who had a mutual military assistance treaty with Czechoslovakia, felt betrayed by France, which also had a mutual military assistance treaty with Czechoslovakia. The British and French, however, mostly used the Soviets as a threat to dangle over the Germans. Stalin concluded that the West had actively colluded with Hitler to hand over a Central European country to the Nazis, causing concern that they might do the same to the Soviet Union in the future, allowing the partition of the USSR between the western powers and the fascist Axis. This belief led the Soviet Union to reorient its foreign policy towards a rapprochement with Germany, which eventually led to the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939.[5]

But after reading your post I have yet another interesting question..

Quote:
"With the U.S. still on the sidelines, the only power that stood between Germany and the control of the whole of Europe was the Soviet Union. And far from being a benign, peace loving nation just wishing to be left alone, the Soviet Union had definite territorial ambitions of it’s own. The war with Finland; the taking of the Baltic States; the carving up of Poland; the constant tension with Romania; and the attempts to diplomatically bully both Bulgaria and Turkey, are clear indications of that fact."
While taking in consideration that Soviet Union was nothing else but the successor of the Russian empire, can you point me at any other empire in history, that was "benign, peace loving nation just wishing to be left alone?" Was it the British Empire, was it the French, was it the American Empire? I think not, but interestingly enough, it's always the Russian empire whose actions ( quite natural for any empire) are regarded with indignation in the West, the United States in particular.
One might ask-
why is that?
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Old 07-03-2011, 04:30 PM
 
Location: Carmel, CA USA
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Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyT View Post
First, let me start by thanking you fo r the high praise. I wouldn’t, however, go so far as to say I’m “the forum’s foremost expert on WW2”. There are many individuals that contribute regularly, yourself included, that are just as knowledgable on the subject as I am. Nonetheless your comment and quotation of my post are much appreciated.
My overall reaction to this analysis:

I've spent the morning reading over this post regarding the overall assssement of Operation Barbarossa, the dispositions of both sides, including the glaring defensive vulnerablities of the Russians in their preparations leading up to the invasion and the equally, if not greater disastrous decisions Hitler made against his own forces in their struggle to defeat the Soviet Union.

The rendering below of events as they took place on the ground and of the assessment and analysis of the fluid and dynamic strategic disposition of the opposing forces in this historic and massive struggle is probably the best and most revealing analysis I've ever come across.

I tip my hat to you Tony T.





The following are a few thoughts regarding some of the points that were made in your post of 6/23 (#161). In order to save space, I have not quoted you, but have tried to organized my comments under headings which track with what you wrote.

Quote:
Soviet Pre-invasion Plans

After the apparent failure of the Tripartite Pact discussions between Molotov and Hitler at the end of November 1940, the Soviets began to realize they needed to get serious about planning for a possible German invasion. At the end of December 1940, the General Staff of the Red Army had finalized a defensive plan which was then presented at a conference for senior officers held by the Defense Commissariat in Moscow the first week of January 1941. Between January 8th and 11th, the Soviets conducted war games to test the effectiveness of the plan. The results were shocking to all involved; the Soviets lost. In his memoirs, Marshal Zhukov, who had participated in the war games as the “Germans”, stated that what occurred over the course of the simulation “proved to be in many ways similar to what really happened after June 22, 1941”. Extremely displeased with the outcome of the games, Stalin ordered a complete revision of Soviet defensive plans.

It is telling that the Soviets were willing to explore the potential weaknesses in their defensive systems and plans and were flexible enough to conduct war games and objective enough to take a sober assessment of the results.

In this pre invasion period beginning in the fall and winter of 1940, the cruel and cold-blooded terror of Stalin's purges must have been fresh in the minds of these senior officers.

As most of you know, these purges, took place between 1936 and 1938 in three main waves, involving wholesale "liquidation" of by some estimates, anywhere between 650,000 to well over 1 million Russians from every level of society and was Stalin's brainstorm as a way of removing even a hint of potential political threats. In many cases, he not only had the subject beaten, tortured into admitting bizarre conspiratorial confessions against Stalin, and then finally shot, but he also ordered their families either executied or sent to the gulag where many died in prison.

Every segment of society was a target and no one was safe or felt safe from Stalin. I know that others have posted that the purges "only" managed kill off "just" 5% approx. of the officer corps., it gives one pause wondering how these political executions could have affected these men and their ability to conduct themselves to the fullest extent of their professional abilities, in their willingness to make rapid decisions in the field as they were about to face the best professional army on the planet.

Despite the fact that the Soviets held these war games and took a sober look at the distressing results, they really didn't make the best adjustments with tailoring their overall strategic defensive stance to fit such a dynamic, rapidly changing, and shock inducing blitzkrieg or lightning strike innovation the Germans developed and they failed to fully appreciate just how extraordinarily effective this attack approach was against Germany's recent opponents, the Poles and the French and the British.

I believe it was this failure on the part of Stalin and his senior general staff to take the initiative and thoroughly analyze just how these nations and their militaries made the wrong choices in their response to such revolutionary lightning campaigns. Further, they compounded the error by rigidly sticking to a relatively static old world defensive posture which showed little chance of adequately responding in an equal and dynamic and fluid way to the abrupt and shock inducing armor spearhead penetrations of Hitler's armor divisions.

By this time, the specifics of the blitzkreig strategy was no military secret. It wasn't as if Stalin could not have used his very sophisticated intelligence operations already established and linked in Germany to gather any and all relevent information. However, I'm sure Stalin came across one of Clausewitz' quotes:

"[SIZE=3]Many[/SIZE] intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain." Karl von Clausewitz

I would be the last to contradict Clausewitz who is rightfully considered one of the preeminent observers of the conduct of war. However, Stalin's foreign intelligence service were known to be quite accurate and consistent in their analysis of both the Germans and the Japanese. And, if you are not going to give some shred of credence to verfied/triple confirmed intelligence analysis and warnings, why bother having it?

He repeatedly ignored the warnings given to him by his prime intelligence agents in Germany and Poland that an invasion of the Soviet Union was imminent and, in one instance, the actual date of the invasion, June 22,1941, was given to Stalin and he showed obvious and documented contempt for the information. He was simply incredulous that Hitler could ever be willing to confront the prospects of a two front war.




Quote:
By late winter 1941, a new plan had been formulated and approved for implementation. The plan relied heavily on close coordination between air, artillery, and armor units positioned along the western frontier of the Soviet Union. Air units would immediately seek out and attack any large concentrations of German forces. If these German formations managed to penetrate beyond the border despite being assaulted by air, they would be engaged by Soviet armor and anti-tank units backed by planes flying close air support. Once these lead elements of the German advance were destroyed, Soviet forces were to be prepared to move westward into German territory if so ordered.
These plans looked pretty on paper, but whether they could meet the cold steel of reality the next morning is another matter entirely. And, I wonder just how much of that new plan was influenced and worded by the weariness and natural caution these officers must have felt toward Stalin, a man who could have one of his close friends executed (which is what happened just a few years before and which they had to be aware of).

These generals had to be aware of the actual conditon of the Soveit army and air force at this time. It is known that a vast retooling/retraining program was initiated throughout the army to change it's structure and its ability to respond to fast changing events via mobile armored formations, etc. But, tangible and real changes, especially in these forward units didn't seem evident to me. And, the lack of imagination and innovation in the response of senior generals to the results of the war games proves this out.

The Soviet Air Force was a case in point. Because of their reliance on a top down leadership approach and their need to be told what to do at every turn, Soviet pilots lacked not only intense and up to date fighter training needed to hone their skills, but lacked the raw nerve to consistently take the initiative and to take the fight to the German Air Force and they took a very long time in overcoming their built in fear and inferiority toward the German Luftwaffe and its fighter pilots and aircraft. Most of their aircraft were already obsolete at the time of Operation Barbarossa and many couldn't even get off the ground due to spare parts shortages.








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The task of these frontier units beyond what was set out in the plan was to stall the German advance long enough to allow time for the main Soviet defense units to form up and move toward the border. This would be done utilizing a “three echelon” type deployment beginning first with infantry, followed by armor, and then the reserves. The three elements would be combined to become a “first strategic echelon”. If necessary, a “second strategic echelon” would be formed behind the first to support its’ operations until the main force could be brought to bear. It was determined that 170 divisions and 2 brigades would be the minimum required to make the plan fully workable and by June 1941 they were deployed along the frontier. The first echelon consisted of 56 divisions and 2 brigades, the second had 52 divisions, and the third had 62.

Though impressive on paper, the disposition of force was actually poorly arranged and woefully inadequate. The first echelon was actually 7 divisions short of what was originally planned while the third echelon contained 7 more divisions then required. The first echelon was primarily based in barracks 30 miles from the border. The second echelon divisions were between 30 and 60 miles from the border while the third was nearly 180 miles from the border. What was even more striking is the fact that the Soviet General Staff, despite seeing what the Germans had done against France, never factored into their plans the possibility of a surprise attack. Instead, the Soviets believed that an invasion, should it come, would develop slowly and they would have between 15 to 20 days to fully mobilize their forces to meet the German advance.




It is startling to see the difference in how each side looked at the passage of time. The Germans believed they had a very brief burst of time to accomplish such a gigantic operation and the Russians believed they had plenty of time to respond to the expected German assault.






Quote:
Just how badly the Soviets miscalculated became readily apparent within the first hours of the launch of Operation Barbarossa. Most of the Soviet first echelon troops never made it out of their barracks and were captured before they could even fire a shot. And as the first day of Barbarossa came to a close, the Germans had driven into Russia over 200 miles at some points, placing them squarely in the midsts of the third echelon, and completely disrupting the Soviets ability to mobilize their main defensive forces.

The same questions one poses regarding the poor planning and execution of Operation Barbarossa can be applied equally to the morose performance of these front line units. Nearly entire divisions caught sleeping in their barracks? How is it possible that both Stalin and Zhukov refused to put these men on constant alert during this time is difficult to understand.

And, yes, I know the usual arguments professional historians and armchair historians like myself have in regards to this failure. Stalin refused to respond to the highly likely invasion because he didn't want to alarm Hitler and risk sabotaging the existing Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact arrangement, so I get that. He still believed that an actual invasion or war would not take place yet and he was in doubt as to whether it was really an actual war starting. He desperately needed more time to prepare his country for this inevitable conflict.

But Hitler went and did a bad thing. He wrecked the apple cart of convenience for Stalin.

However, for Stalin to not only refuse to put these front line units on alert beforehand (just in case) but to also "throw gasoline on the fire" by further refusing to give explicit orders to take action even long after the first spearheads exploded over the border was an amazing act of criminal negligence just as equal to the existing and pending blunders Hitler committed and was about to commit.



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Army Group Center

With respect to Army Group Center, the seemingly dangerous position if found itself in July of 1941 was actually more imaginary then real. Army Group Center was the strongest of the three elements that made up the invasion force of Operation Barbarossa. It had advanced into Russia from the Polish border in an east/northeasterly direction toward Moscow and successfully smashed those Soviet forces directly in its’ path and blocked or ignored those occupying positions on the flanks in its’ operating sector. And while it is true that large Soviet armies still existed in the Ukraine and the immediate vicinity of Leningrad, both Army Group North and South had enough strength to act as screening forces to prevent the Soviets from threatening Army Group Center if it advanced toward Moscow.


This information confirms the probable validity of the theory that, if Army Group Center had been allowed to retain its overall strategic priority in its advance to Moscow, that conventional fears over their ever stretching flanks would be vulnerable and exposed to organized Soviet counterattacks from both the norhern and southern flanks was an undue and unwarranted concern in reality.

AG North and AG South were well within their sphere of operatonal effectiveness to withstand and repulse any possible Soviet counterattack that could possibly harass AG Center's advance.

AG Center, to use a modern cliche', was "in the zone". They estalbished the tempo of this attack against the Soviets, they owned the battlefied, they owned the initiative and made the rules while the disorganized and disoriented Soviets were still in the weaker reactionary mode of defensive and reactive warfare.

AG Center was well within its means and capabilities to reach Moscow before the fall of 1941 - HAD they retained their strategic momentum and preserved the strategic initiative. If it were up to the generals on the ground, they would have kept this momentum going to Moscow.





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In point of fact, the reason further advances of Army Group Center beyond Smolensk were halted was not based on fear of an attack on the flanks or a sudden realization that the Soviets could not be defeated in the field. Instead, it was rooted in the failure to set a definitive objective for Operation Barbarossa as a whole. Even though the “schwerpunkt” or main focal point of the attack, had been tasked to Army Group Center, its’ objective was not the capture of Moscow itself, but instead to advance into a rather vague geographic location referred to as the “Moscow-Gorki space” and to defeat any Soviet armies it found. Despite the insistence of General Halder and others within the OKH that taking Moscow should be the main goal of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler would not commit to it. Instead, Hitler stated a belief that Leningrad should be the primary target, but deferred any final decision on the matter until Barbarossa was underway and the actual success of the operation could be better determined.

By the second week of July, the commanders on the ground as well as those at the OKH sensed that victory was near. Though sizeable elements of the Red Army were still in the field, Soviet command and control had been so thoroughly disrupted that when they did counterattack, it was usually in a disorganized, even suicidal fashion with the end result being their decimation. The commander of Army Group Center, Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, began to draw up a timetable for the final push on Moscow, which he estimated could be undertaken by either the beginning or middle of August. Von Bock’s plans were suddenly thrown into disarray when Hitler issued “Directive 33” and “Directive 34” on July 10th and 30th, respectively. The Fuehrer had finally reached a decision; Moscow could wait. Leningrad and the Ukraine were the priority targets.

Here is where Hitler made perhaps the greatest blunder in the history of conquest. And this mistake wasn't isolated in relation to the other prime missteps before this. It was the culminaton of a mind beginning its long slide into oblivion. One of the many fascinating ironies of Hitler, his personality, the distinctive nature of his thought processes and his reliance on a once very sharp intuitive read on a variety of imperative challenges facing him, is that he was at once quite able to anticipate and out-think his opponents and enemies and at the same just as able to stick to a form of inertia and rigidy which sealed his fate and that of Germany.

There were many instances where he refused to decide on which approach to take with a standing problem or conflict and either just wait it out and let it resolve itself or he would wait a very long time and intuitively "feel" his way to what he envisioned as the solution and, once this decision was made in his mind, hell on earth could not change or sway his decision.

For the longest time, Hitler let the vagueness and obscure focus of the overall strategic initiative of Operation Barbarossa stew and evolve in his mind as to what to finally settle on and this, in regards to attempting to follow the realities of a lightning fast and dynamically fluid form of attack like the Wehrmacht's blitzkrieg strategy was a recipe for disaster.

While he was "stewing" in his mind over the ultimate strategic aims of Operation Barbarossa, he left his field marshals and generals in the lurch hamstrung by this profound unwillingness to abide by what was collectively assumed to be the overall strategic priority - the encirclement and capture of Moscow. The left hand didn't have a real clue what the Fuhrer right hand really wanted to do.


Quote:
The generals were dismayed. They could not understand why, when it was painfully obvious that the Soviets were struggling to patch together some sort of defense in front of Moscow, Hitler would choose this critical moment to suddenly focus on what really were peripheral objectives. Von Bock pleaded with Halder to try and change Hitler’s mind and push for Moscow. General Walter Model agreed with Von Bock, pointing out that if it took a blitzkrieg to defeat France, then a blitz-blitzkrieg was what was needed in Russia, not delays. General Guderian joined the chorus as well stating that disruption of Barbarossa’s original timetable would be disastrous and might well lead to the attack on Moscow taking place at a point when weather would impact the operation negatively. Guderian added that if the Wehrmacht wasn’t in Moscow by Christmas at the latest, it never would be. Von Bock and Halder, believing that if anyone could change Hitler’s mind it would be Guderian, arranged a meeting between the two on August 23rd. Guderian argued his case but it was in vain. Army Group Center would continue to hold its’ position outside Smolensk, while Army Group North and South moved to take Leningrad and the Ukraine.



This affirms a long standing belief and one which I and others put forward earlier that Hitler wrecked the strategic momentum and drive of the entire invasion by changing course.

This change of strategic direction and focus dramatically altered the dynamics of the invasion force and set into motion upcoming catastrophes. Not only the overall direction was changed, affecting infinite crucial aspects of the invasion, but it clearly throttled the momentum and tempo of the entire campaign. History and the course of Western Civilization can thank Hitler for this supreme act of self sabotage. To anyone who is mesmerized by such an inexplicable course of action taken by Hitler, one sits exasperated by the magnitude of the error and baffled that Hitler could do it.

What he actually helped to create was a series of supreme distractions and diversions which crippled Army Group Center's initiative and further perplexed the senior military leadership. In terms of world domination, Hitler was Germany's biggest asset in the beginning and worst enemy as the end approached.

As mentioned, his decison making process was procrastinating, intuitvely reliant and suddenly decisive and drove many of those around him to distraction.

Hitler was not some bizarre phenomena of luck and happenstance to be where he was in history. Standing at the near zenith of earthly power, leading a nation of over 50 million modern, ambitous, aggressive, dynamic people onto a path and a course of fate that could very well have altered the course of world history far more than it actually did.

In relation to his decison to alter course and affectively halt Army Group Center's drive to Moscow, despite the fact it was supremely poised to pounce on any existing Russian forces in front of it and destroy Moscow, he either had to at least sense the dire implications of such a decision or he deliberately deluded himself into believing it didn't matter.

Either way, it was a supreme, earth shattering mistake and the price would be a dear one.




Army Group South

The main reason the going was so rough for Army Group South at the start of the campaign can be traced directly back to another instance of Hitler meddling in the operational plan for Barbarossa. As originally drawn up by General Halder, the invasion route for Army Group South required them to cross over the Dneister River. No one at the OKH perceived a river crossing as being particularly problematic. And with that in mind, after crossing the Dneister, they had planned for a large scale, double envelopment of Soviet forces in the Ukraine west of the Dneiper River, using the Germany 12th Army as the southern wing. But Hitler disagreed. He believed such a move to be too fraught with risk, so he ordered Halder to alter the plan to have Army Group South launch its’ attack from Romania and advance along a narrow gap between the Pripyat Marshes and the Carpathian Mountains.

Thus, when Army Group South began to move into the Ukraine on June 22nd, the restricted space forced it to attack head on into the numerically superior Soviet formations blocking its’ path. Forward progress was extremely slow for Army Group South and the terrain made it impossible for the Germans to move in a northerly direction at all, eliminating the possibility of attempting anything other than a single envelopment. Despite all of this, by July 7th, Army Group South had pushed ahead and the Soviet position in the Ukraine began to collapse. The assessment of the German position was that Army Group South now had “equal strength due to the heavy losses inflicted on the enemy and soon would add numerical superiority to tactical and operational superiority”. In essence, the Soviets had lost operational freedom of movement and now lacked the ability to threaten the flank of Army Group Center.

Quote:
This was also the minimum goal that the commander of Army Group South, Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt, had set out to achieve in order to further the mission of Army Group Center in reaching Moscow should that be the next move
.

This was suposed to be AG South's original mission : to act in a suporting role to the efforts of AG Center in the taking of Moscow. Had they remained in that role, the outcome of the entire role may very well have been quite different.





Quote:
The position that all the army groups were in, especially Center and South, during the second week of July, should illustrate why the directives Hitler issued on the 10th and 30th made no sense to field commanders and OKH generals alike. Successful execution of “blitzkrieg” was dependent upon rapid movement and constant strikes against the enemy. This was especially critical in the Russian campaign because keeping the Soviets off balance and denying them the opportunity to regroup was the only way the Germans could hope to prevail. Halting Army Group Center east of Smolensk at a time when momentum was clearly in the Germans favor was suicidal. Halder, von Bock, Guderian, and Model knew it, but none of them could make Hitler see it.

The critical combat effectiveness to Blitzkreig were those outlined above and was the kernal of military brilliance. This dynamic and fast moving armored spearhead force that constantly kept its opponent in a state of disarray and confusion. This was an elemental dynamic to the potential defeat of the Soviet Union.

There were many testimonies of Soviet troops who claimed that entire Soviet armies were in a state of confusion and fear as the Germans approached. They anticipated the attack to come from the west and the Germans would suddenly strike from the east. Seemingly from out of nowhere the German armor spearheads were coming up from the Soviet rear raising all kinds of havoc along the way into the penetration and sending shockwaves of, at times, collective panic and hysteria into their ranks.

A paroxysm of destruction and confusion and fear swept through these early armies. Many times, officers would take off and flee and jump on civilian vehicles and throw away their uniforms leaving Soviet enlisted to fend for themselves.

This is certainly not a collective indictment of the entire Soviet officer corps by any stretch because many fought bravely, resisted, did try to at least make some kind of stand but resistence was futile and many died with their men.





Quote:
And this, more than anything, demonstrates why Hitler ultimately failed in the role of Supreme Commander. His inability to focus on the “big picture” and penchant for concentrating on objectives that provided only short term gain continually derailed operations that could have won the war for Germany. So while it is true that the destruction of the Soviet armies in the Ukraine and encirclement of Leningrad were great tactical achievements, strategically they did little to improve the Germans overall position in Russia and contributed nothing to the end goal of knocking the Soviets out of the war. The delay in forward movement of Army Group Center not only gave the Soviets nearly three months to improve their defenses around Moscow, but the shuttling of elements of this group to the north and south then back again, created unnecessary wear and tear on both men and equipment. By the time Operation Typhoon began on October 2nd, combat effectiveness of Army Group Center was down from its’ peak in mid July, and rather than enjoying numerical superiority over the Soviet armies in front of it as it once had, at best it was now numerically equal. All of these factors, in combination with the weather, are what ultimately doomed “Typhoon” to failure before the gates of Moscow.

These are excellent points.





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Final Points

Many have and will continue to argue that the real mistake the Germans made was not in the planning and execution of Operation Barbarossa but the decision to attack the Soviet Union in the first place. Personally, I believe support of this “argument” is based more on how the war ended for Germany rather than a realistic assessment of the position Germany found itself in between late 1940/early 1941 when the planning for Operation Barbarossa began. Britain had been essentially “quarantined” and lacked the ability to seriously threaten Germany in any significant way. With the U.S. still on the sidelines, the only power that stood between Germany and the control of the whole of Europe was the Soviet Union. And far from being a benign, peace loving nation just wishing to be left alone, the Soviet Union had definite territorial ambitions of it’s own. The war with Finland; the taking of the Baltic States; the carving up of Poland; the constant tension with Romania; and the attempts to diplomatically bully both Bulgaria and Turkey, are clear indications of that fact.

None of this was lost on Hitler and he knew it was inevitable that Germany and Russia would clash. The negotiations to have the Soviets join the Tripartite Pact were an attempt by Hitler to redirect Russian expansionism away from Europe. When this effort proved fruitless, Hitler set his plans in motion. He was not ignorant of the risks of such an operation but the potential rewards were significant. Defeating the Soviet Union would eliminate a powerful rival and likely future enemy. It would also remove from the game the only country left on the European continent that could assist Britain in her fight against Germany. Finally, a victory over the Russians would make the United States think twice about involving itself in the Eurpoean war at all. Hitler also knew that time was not on Germany’s side. It was well known to the Germans that Russia was in the process of modernizing and expanding it’s armed forces. Germany was unquestionably at the height of her power. So if now was not the time to strike at the Soviet Union, when would it be? After the Russians had equalled or surpassed the Germans in strength militarily? Obviously not. So, to Hitler, the summer of 1941 represented the last, best chance Germany would ever have to take the Russians out, and Operation Barbarossa was the means by which he chose to do it.

Hitler stated that Operation Barbarossa would be seen as the greatest miiltary operation of all time and that “the world will hold its breath and fall silent when Barbarossa is mounted”. And in this he was not mistaken. Despite its’ imperfections, the size, scope, and sheer audacity of the campaign not only stunned the world, but the fact that it nearly succeeded in toppling the Soviet Union was and is, difficult to deny.


Well said.

As mentioned, Hitler knew that time was of the essence. Every day lost and delayed increased the possibility of failure and defeat in the face of such a formidable opponent.

And this leads to an immaculate irony with Hitler. He knew that time was crucial. He knew all about timing and how and when to take the initiative; he did it his whole adult life and this uncanny ability to seize the moment led him to the very pinnacle of earthly power.

At the threshold of the greatest victory in the history of warfare, he wavers and hesitates and seemingly sabotages the drive and energy and momentum of millions of men who have found themselves in this increasingly desperate collectively devouring struggle for domination and eventually, survival.

Last edited by SmilingWolf; 07-03-2011 at 04:37 PM.. Reason: polish
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