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Old 12-25-2009, 07:54 AM
39 posts, read 251,864 times
Reputation: 56


Hello, everyone. I study WWII history for hobby. While doing some reading on WWII casualties by each nation, I encountered some unbelievable statistic. My questions for you guys are three-fold.

1. Why was the Soviet casualties extremely high compared to other Allied nations such as U.K. and U.S.? U.S. only sustained 400,000 casualties during the entire WWII campaign compared to Soviet' 27 million which is almost 70 times the rate.

2. How many of those 27 million death were inflicted by Nazi troops? I understand the majority of those 27 million casualties were civilians slaughtered by German troops who regarded Russians as "sub-humans" and "Bolsheviks."

3. This question is the most mind-boggling to me. How on earth do you beat the best-trained and best-equipped army under the great generals like Von Manstein, Guderian, Paulus and the likes with poorly trained army with old weapons and lack of leadership?
Based on research, "The purge of the Red army in late 1930's removed three of five marshals (then equivalent to six-star generals), 13 of 15 army commanders (then equivalent to four- and five-star generals), eight of nine admirals (the purge fell heavily on the Navy, who were suspected of exploiting their opportunities for foreign contacts), 50 of 57 army corps commanders, 154 out of 186 division commanders, 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars."
I don't care if you have 20 million-man army. Without strong and brilliant generals, you can not win a war, especially against well-trained and well-led German troops at the time. How did the Red Army beat the Germans despite the severe lack of leadership?

Thanks in advance for any insights.
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Old 12-25-2009, 08:47 AM
Location: Finally escaped The People's Republic of California
11,119 posts, read 7,565,096 times
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Comparing American losses to Soviet losses is like comparing apples to oranges, We (USA) took the battle to our enemies, while the Soviets were invaded deep into thier country. Don't you think American losses would have been greater if several million Japanesse had invaded our West Coast. We didin't lose many civilians.
Your best trained Army and well lead army in the world wasn't so well lead. Yes, The German's had great generals but they had to follow Hitler's orders, and history proved he wasn't a great military leader. Long Supply lines always are a problem, and the German's just flat underestimated the Russian ability to fight and severity of a Russian Winter...
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Old 12-25-2009, 11:49 AM
900 posts, read 543,432 times
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Do not underestimate Soviet weaponry. The military channel just rated the T-34 the best tank in history, and it was an exceptionally formidable weapon because it had a big gun, was pretty mobile, and was produced in massive quantities. Soviet artillery was also very, very good and towards the end of the war they developed a pretty effective airforce. No heavy bombers, but their fighter bombers were pretty good.

Also, Soviet prisoners taken during the Second World War - and there were many, many taken during the initial German invasion, simply didn't survive.

They took such massive causalties for a variety of reasons - poor planning and leadership, tactics that were of the sledgehammer variety, and so forth. But one important fact shouldn't be overlooked. They took the most casualties because they did the bulk of the fighting and the killing of Germans. 8 out of every 10 German soldiers killed during the war was killed on the Eastern front.
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Old 12-25-2009, 09:16 PM
Location: San Diego CA
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Hitler instructed his top generals not to wage the Russian campaign in a conventional manner but to proceed with a war of extermination. Russian prisoners were executed outright or deliberately starved to death. Civilians suffered on the same scale. During the siege of Leningrad over 400,000 civilians died from enemy shelling, starvation or freezing to death. This is a figure comparable to all American casualties incurred during the entire war. The Russians were in many cases were just as brutal to their own. Thousand of Russians were sentenced to penal battalions for a variety of reasons and thrown into combat situations that were almost always lethal.They were ordered across minefields to clear them or ordered into the field to draw and spot German artillery fire.
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Old 12-25-2009, 09:50 PM
Location: Central Illinois -
21,524 posts, read 14,343,579 times
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The Russians, at least the Red Army, suffered their most casualties in captivity. In the opening months of 'Barbarossa' entire armies were surrounded and pockets of tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of men were forced to surrender. However, all these victories of the Wehrmacht were Pyrrhic. It would deplete the Army Groups of their most seasoned and expereinced officers and NCO's, encircled Red Army soldiers often fighting on in hopeless situations in many instances. The toll was high on both sides but the losses could not be absorbed by Germany. There were no replacements available, at home or amongst allies.

The "Scorched Earth" policy the Germans employed when they began their retreat after the battle of Kursk in 1943 (and, in reality, the shrinking of German front lines started shortly after Stalingrad) meant leaving nothing for the advancing Red Army. It was burn down every structure and kill all livestock and take all supplies, leaving many Russians to die.

But the war was also one of divided loyalties after the German invasion. The collective farming and Soviet communism in the formerly independent states of the Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, and the other Soviet satellite states, ordered under Stalin, was a massive failure in the 1930's, leading to the deaths of millions. This led to many of these people fighting for the Germans, and then dealing with the retribution that followed the advancing Red Army when it reclaimed territory once seized by Germany. All of this distrust, the retribution between partisans and German forces led to a ghastly death toll of those caught in the middle. Factor in the weather and the incredible shortage of everything from years of war and the war in the East was the most brutal fighting on the planet in the 20th century, with Stalingrad being one of the most bitterly fought battles in world history.

And it was American supplies and Red Army blood that was responsible for the defeat of the German army. The lesser of two evils, but not by much. It meant freedom for a great many Jews, and that made Soviet victory preferred to anything Germany could have held onto. And defeating Germany if it were at peace with Russia like it was prior to Barbarossa would have been a tall order for the United States and Britain.
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Old 12-26-2009, 02:12 AM
Location: Aloverton
6,564 posts, read 12,300,912 times
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Originally Posted by nicesinging1 View Post
I don't care if you have 20 million-man army. Without strong and brilliant generals, you can not win a war, especially against well-trained and well-led German troops at the time. How did the Red Army beat the Germans despite the severe lack of leadership?
For one thing, Soviet equipment and productivity soon exceeded German gear in many ways, sometimes in quality and nearly always in quantity. For another, yes, it is true that a lot of senior lieutenants should still have been squad corporals, and a lot of generals should still have been majors. But survivors graduate. Leaders learned their jobs. And eventually, the Soviet Army became a better led force. Not as well led as it would have been had Stalin not liquidated such vast numbers of officers, but combat is a good teacher if you live.

Imagine if you take a rifle platoon. Its platoon leader, platoon sergeant and all squad leaders die in action. A sergeant takes over. Maybe he turns out to be good. Maybe he doesn't. If not, he probably dies in action. Someone else gets assigned. Eventually someone with the right stuff and a quick learning curve is in charge. It's brutal, but it happened, and the end result is a capable leader.
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Old 12-26-2009, 04:26 AM
101 posts, read 293,617 times
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Imagine if the Nazis had invaded the Eastern US on a broad front and pushed our Army back to the Mississippi River. Perhaps, we wouldn't stop them until huge battles near Kansas City. The Russians faced one of the most brutal invasions in history.
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Old 12-26-2009, 04:30 AM
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The purges of the 30's left the Soviet militiary basically headless. Once Stalin learned not to interfere with his new military leadership (something Hitler never learned) the Soviets showed they had the better army in every sense of the word. Starting with the Battle for Moscow, the Soviet army showed it was superior to the German army.
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Old 12-27-2009, 10:42 AM
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There are many explanations for the high Russian casualities. First, there tactics stressed the use of human waves and other methods which entailed high casualities to replace the lack of material they had early in the war. Until 1943 Russian units were commonly short of automatic weapons, air support or even artillery while their tanks had important technical and human problems that made them far less effective than they should have been. The T-34 was a great tank, but its early models lacked radios or trained crews to use it. For much of 42 even rifles were in short supply, troops at Stalingrad not given them were told to pick up the weapons of a dead soldier. Russian officers were poorly trained, and poorly trained leaders rely on methods that are costly.

As late as 1945 the Russians sent troops through minefields to gain victories. When you put low value on individual life, you will lose a lot of people.

Throughout 1941 and 1942 poor training and morale combined with the blitzkreig methods of the Germans led to huge numbers of Russian prisoners. These were slaughtered with abandon by the Germans on racial grounds, some ten million died.
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Old 12-29-2009, 07:34 AM
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Costly human wave attacks by the Russians in WWII were not unknown. Some of them were supported by artillery and tanks and some were not. The Russian military had a very low tolerance for faltering or hesitating to move forward in battle, regardless of conditions. Any indication of "cowardice" could be dealt with by a bullet from their own ranks. It's reported that over 15,000 Russian troops were executed by their superiors for non-performance.
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