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Old 02-13-2010, 12:24 PM
 
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Hello, everyone. Recently, I have been watching and researching WWII documentaries on the Eastern European theatre and some questions arose that I need insights on. During the WWII documentary I watched, a German general was quoted as saying, "The Wehrmacht (German Army) is like an elephant. It can crush thousand of ants (Red Army) but since there are so many of the ants, it will ultimately be eaten to the bones."

At the start of Operation Barbarossa, the Wehrmacht attacked Russia with 3 million-man army that was well-trained, well-equipped, well-supplied and well-led against the Red Army that was poorly trained, under-equipped, under-supplied and reeling from lack of able generals due to Stalin's purges. My questions are three-fold.

1. Some people told me the Red Army had enormous manpower that could always replace huge number of casualties. But hasn't the development of high-tech and mass-killing weapons like machine gun, artillery, tanks and bomber planes made humanwave attacks ineffective?

2. Who do u think will win in a battle of 3 million-man strong army that is well-equipped and led by great generals vs. 10 million-man army that is poorly trained, lacks proper and advanced weapons and most importantly lacks great and able generals?

3. How large was the Red Army at its peak during WWII?

Thanks in advance for any insights.
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Old 02-13-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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Quote:
1. Some people told me the Red Army had enormous manpower that could always replace huge number of casualties. But hasn't the development of high-tech and mass-killing weapons like machine gun, artillery, tanks and bomber planes made humanwave attacks ineffective?
The answer to that question is no. The Russians used them effectively throughout the war. But the Russians also had all the weapons you mention above in large quanity. By late 43 they were better than the Germans in all of them, certainly in numbers but often in quality as well.

Quote:
2. Who do u think will win in a battle of 3 million-man strong army that is well-equipped and led by great generals vs. 10 million-man army that is poorly trained, lacks proper and advanced weapons and most importantly lacks great and able generals?
Well from operation Barbarossa I would guess the later But you are wrong on the generals. People like Zhukov, Timoshenko, and a wide range of other Russian generals were excellent, as was the staffwork of Starvka. You also have to consider the Russian winter and Hitler's interferance in your models.

Quote:
3. How large was the Red Army at its peak during WWII?
I have seen estimates of 12 and a half million men in 1945, but this likely includes the airforce and navy and many were not in combat. In the summer 1944 offensive there were 5.7 million in the Russian army facing the Germans.

The Soviet Offensive July 1943 - May 1945 - World War II Multimedia Database
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Old 02-13-2010, 06:32 PM
 
Location: On a Long Island in NY
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But hasn't the development of high-tech and mass-killing weapons like machine gun, artillery, tanks and bomber planes made humanwave attacks ineffective?
Human wave charges are still occasionally used by the Taliban in Afghanistan. They especially love to try and swarm those isolated platoon and company sized US/ANA/NATO outposts.

Mass charges were also widely used by the Communist forces in the French Indochina War and the Vietnam War, and especially by China during the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War and the 1950-53 Korean War. Ive also heard reports of human wave charges and other WWI style tactics being used in the Ethiopia-Eritrea Wars of the 1980s and 1990s.
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Old 02-13-2010, 08:03 PM
 
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I imagine they were used in the many revolutionary wars in the sixties and seventies in Africa as well.
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Old 02-14-2010, 04:14 PM
 
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Stereotypes, Stereotypes...
1) It is an illusion to think of the 3 million German forces as well trained, well equipped, motivated, etc. In reality, most of this force was poorly supplied. I don't know the exact ratio, but these 3 millions included vast numbers of Italian, Romanian, Hungarian troops as well as elements from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Baltic states. Tensions were so high that in some places German forces needed to separate between Hungarian and Romanian troops who preferred to shoot at each other, rather then at the Soviets. They invaded in June, but by December, still didn't accomplish what they planned and the supply lines were overstretched. Tanks and troops simply froze in the snow.
2) On the other hand, Soviets weren't in such bad shape. Their best troops were concentrated in the east to prevent a Japanese attack which Stalin feared, but never came. By 1942, all these troops were moved west.
When retreating, the Soviets as usual burned much of the fields and farms to deny Germans food supplies. And in spite of the miserable conditions, the moral of Soviet troops was much higher then that of Axis forces. Soviets also used horses successfully in reconnaissance missions (in some cases Germans did the same, but to a lesser extent).
3) Hitler's personal interference cost Germany hundreds of thousands of troops. I still have difficulty understanding why these German generals executed Hitler's crazy orders when it was clear they were insane and didn't make military sense.

Last edited by oberon_1; 02-14-2010 at 04:24 PM..
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Old 02-14-2010, 04:51 PM
 
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I have to disagree. The Germans made up (in 41 as compared to 42) the great majority of the troops in Russia, and they were better motivated, trained, and equiped then the Russians. The Russian troops were poorly equiped, very poorly trained, and lacked adequate officers at the squad and company level. The huge numbers who surrendered reflected this and commonly weak morale.

A major factor in turning around the morale, other than German defeats in front of Moscow was the slaughter of Russians by Germans and skillful use of propanda by Stalin. The russian army in 1942 was signficantly different in both its skills and its hatred of Germans than before.
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Old 02-15-2010, 04:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by WIHS2006 View Post
Human wave charges are still occasionally used by the Taliban in Afghanistan. They especially love to try and swarm those isolated platoon and company sized US/ANA/NATO outposts.

Mass charges were also widely used by the Communist forces in the French Indochina War and the Vietnam War, and especially by China during the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War and the 1950-53 Korean War. Ive also heard reports of human wave charges and other WWI style tactics being used in the Ethiopia-Eritrea Wars of the 1980s and 1990s.
There was wide-spread use of human wave attacks during the Iran-Iraq wars of the 80's.

Short answer as to why modern technology hasn't completely eliminated human wave attacks is because machine guns run out of ammo, malfunction, etc. Tanks, bombers, all the high tech goodies aren't always available or ready to be brought to bear, or at times, their use is poorly coordinated.

Picture every zombie movie you've ever seen...aren't the humans more technologically advanced weapon-wise? Yet, in every one, most of them are overwhelmed by the low tech zombies...
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Old 02-15-2010, 04:58 PM
 
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Another reason is psychological. When a high technology army sees the willingness of enemies to carry out human wave assaults, their morale commonly collapses, leading to routs. It does not matter how well machine guns or tanks works if the people manning them are running away.
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:12 PM
 
Location: On a Long Island in NY
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Originally Posted by skinem View Post
There was wide-spread use of human wave attacks during the Iran-Iraq wars of the 80's.

Short answer as to why modern technology hasn't completely eliminated human wave attacks is because machine guns run out of ammo, malfunction, etc. Tanks, bombers, all the high tech goodies aren't always available or ready to be brought to bear, or at times, their use is poorly coordinated.

Picture every zombie movie you've ever seen...aren't the humans more technologically advanced weapon-wise? Yet, in every one, most of them are overwhelmed by the low tech zombies...
Bodies beats bullets every time.

Just like the Korean War, UN/US firepower vs Communist NKPA/Chinese "People's 'Volunteers' " manpower.
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Old 02-16-2010, 09:02 AM
 
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The US firepower defeated the Chinese every time after Ridgeway took over. The early PLA offensives worked only because US forces were caught unprepared and dispersed with a large gap between the 8th army and X corps that was impassible to the road bound US, but not the Chinese.

One the US formed lines near their supply base in late 1951 their firepower repeatedly defeated Chinese human waves.
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