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Old January 20th, 2017, 01:48 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by Alto View Post
Deep operations was a brilliant operational art with a legacy in Tukhachevsky's use of cavalry and rapid, reckless advance in the RCW.

I'd disagree with you that Soviets were the first innovators of operational art, however. I'd say they were the first ones who codified it. Napoleon's battles were won more through operational art than battlefield strategy, but he detested theory and refused to codify his intuitions, a job left to later historians. Jomini did some work on operations, but left most of his work to precise tactics. Clausewitz focused on strategy.

Both Deep Operations and Blitzkrieg were sets of improvisations working together more than grand strategies, but they differed in the depth of thinking in the operational area, which you've explained very well. The Soviets won the war through their better operational management - Soviet logistics in WW2 were brilliant, and their ability to supply and keep up massive offensives, most notably Bagration, were real winners, even when the Germans remained a potent fighting force to the war's end.

Blitzkrieg was a purely tactical idea that linked into some vague strategic concepts but never considered operations. Operational thinking helped the Soviets manage their economy of force, while German economy of force was out of whack.

I'd compare Operational vs. Tactical art to time management vs. business/marketing tactics.

The Germans were like CEOs listening to consultants making a million recommendations. They were all good, but the Germans didn't have time and resources to implement all of them.

The Soviets were like CEOs that first figured out how to keep everything running as fast as possible, and how to work as long as possible without fatigue.

German tactics in Blitzkrieg were heavily - excessively - influenced by Schlieffen's manifesto collection called Cannae - the cult of the envelopment. They knew exactly what would win every war but were logistically caught off balance by their inability to optimally allocate their resources.

The Soviets in deep operations thought several moves ahead. Instead of simple envelopment-at-all-costs like the Kiev pocket by the Germans, they focused on deep pushes and resource management.

Soviet doctrine in WW2 is probably the only scramble-free doctrine in history. The remarkable coherence of the whole system (no holes needing to be filled in), and also of the Soviet economic plan of the time is amazing.

I'm glad you started this thread - deep operations is probably the first time you could fight a war by the book and expect to win with few improvisations.
I grant you that we could go up to the doctrine of the war of movements and that some go up to this one, we may also deal with Clausewitz and Von moltke.
For the moment i've got a big shoe to fill with my posts on the battle of Smolensk and, if you want, we could return on this subject later.
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Old January 20th, 2017, 01:53 PM   #52
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I think there's a tendency to analyse this sort of offensive in terms a wargamer would be familiar with as the sole controlling character. Generals in world war two could not micro-manage every aspect of such a massive operation. They would plan, sometimes in detail if enough time is available (which rarely is on a potentially mobile front), but the auctioning of the overall plan is the field of sub-commanders, and that includes confrontations as much as rear echelon. Yes, a certain of coordination is possible and indeed desirable, but then, if a sub-commander cannot act because a general wants to okay everything, then the army will not be able to respond to situations quickly enough. The success of any army in WWII operations is communication - plans are all very well but as Market Garden proved, they can and at times will go horribly wrong. Without communication logistics cannot supply the means to fight nor can units coordinate or react effectively.
Dear @caldrail, i'm not a wargamer, i only defend a point of view about the comparison between two doctrines of the armored warfare and about respectives strategy adopted by both sides on the eastfront in 1941.
For this i support my argues on historians works like, for instance these of Glantz, Harris or Masson.
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Old January 20th, 2017, 04:01 PM   #53
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BARBAROSSA DERAILED: The Battle for Smolensk 10 July-10 September 1941, Part 3

The Soviets are beginning to retaliate effectively: The first counteroffensive of Smolensk.


Marshall Semyon Timoshenko in charge of the Western Front Armies for July 2, 1941.
Click the image to open in full size.

Without giving to germans pause, on july 17 marshall Timoshenko ordered Lt. gen. Konev and his 19th Army to retake Smolensk.
At the same time, orders were transmitted to the two Soviet armies in the Smolensk pocket (close to the captured city) to continue their attacks.
While the 20th Army fought northwest of the city, Lukin's 16th Army attacked east toward the 19th Army.
On July 19, Lukin's troops (16th army) managed to capture a toehold in the northwest part of Smolensk.
In bitter house-to-house-fighting, a precursor of things to come at Stalingrad, the Germans were completely pushed out of the northern part of Smolensk by the end of July 25.

In addition to Konev's Army, Timoshenko and the Soviet high command organised five task forces to take control of units that retreated to the line of the Dniepr and Vop Rivers, as well as some reserve units arriving at the front.
After a short preparation, four of these combat groups, each numbering several infantry and tank divisions, were commited to fight directly east of Smolensk.

Here is the Map again. The attack of the 16th and 20th armies and of 19th Soviet Army cross the Vop and Dniepr Rivers by the mid and the end of July.
Click the image to open in full size.

Arriving in Moscow on July 17 fresh from fighting in Ukraine, gen. Konstantin K. Rokossovsky was placed in charge of one of the task forces, a group of two or three Tank Divisions and one Rifle Division.
The remaining newly created combat groups, jumped off on july 23 under command of Rokossovsky, and they immediately ran into determined german opposition with the furthest being roughly 12 miles.
The intensity of the fighting is illustrated by the experience of the 101st Tank Division in Task force Rokossovsky which lost 140 of it roughly 170 tanks during four days of fighting.
Russians fought their way to the area of Bobruisk by july 24 by tremendous cost.

A group of Russian tanks lies mired in the mud of the Russian steppes at tolotshin.
Click the image to open in full size.

General Konstantin K. rokossovsky embodied the new generation of Soviet generals imbued with the new doctrine, the Deep Battle
Click the image to open in full size.

Characteristically, the Germans counterattacked, on july 29, the German Panzers from two groups linked up at the Solovyevo crossing , Soviet were repelled but doggelly fought on, however, and retained control of the eastern end of the River, preventing the german from gaining a foothold on the east bank.

The battle for Smolensk is not ended, Germans have still some dices to throw and Russians have still some pieces to move on the chessboard.....

To be continued in the next episode in the next week, when i'll have enough time.

Last edited by phil1904; January 20th, 2017 at 04:55 PM.
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Old January 20th, 2017, 11:01 PM   #54

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Very impressed by your knowledge of this front
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Old January 21st, 2017, 01:53 PM   #55
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Very impressed by your knowledge of this front
Thanks i just retranscribe that i read and that i learn thanks historian works
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Old January 21st, 2017, 08:16 PM   #56
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Thumbs up Great topic!


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Thanks i just retranscribe that i read and that i learn thanks historian works
I have long held the opinion that this series of (largely unknown) Soviet offensives signaled the end for any realistic German hope of victory in the east. These operations were not well understood (for what they were) in the West, prior to the partial opening of the archives after the end of the Cold War. This was largely due to the fact that without access to the Soviets documents of the period, no one was able to see the full picture of the planning, intent, and the operational goals/objectives of these operations.

This is not to say that these battles were not described in Cold War era Western works on the subject (Erickson), just that they were not properly described for what they actually were; a series of full blown Soviet attempts at employing "Deep Battle" doctrine in major offensive actions.
Although the Germans were able to first contain and ultimately repulse and destroy many of the attacking Soviet Armies, they paid a fearful butchers bill in doing so. The casualty figures are readily available. As such, it can hardly be viewed as a favorable outcome with regards to the possibility of still achieving the overall objectives they had set for themselves when going into the campaign.

The more sapient among them were most certainly thinking: "Oh $h!+, what have we gotten ourselves into here...".
When you add in the miserable logistical situation that existed on the German side during the period when these battles were being fought, the above statement has an even greater meaning.

While your efforts to bring this "unknown" battle to light here on this forum should be applauded, I would advise anyone reading here who finds the subject interesting to seek out the two volume work by David Glantz.

If you think you understand the eastern front yet know nothing about this particular series of battles?
You too may want to look into it.
This battle was actually my "write in" second choice for "most significant of WWII" on the long dormant poll that just came back to life the other day...LOL. At the time I posted (2013-14?) Nobody seemed to think much of it...for the most part they just carried right on arguing about the importance of Moscow, Stalingrad, and Kursk
And that says a lot about the whole understanding the Eastern front thingy...
But I digress.
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Old January 21st, 2017, 09:45 PM   #57
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Iron
I completely agree with you, in particular about the partisan and almost contemptuous vision of Western historians on Soviet military though in World War Two at the time of the Cold War and the Deep Battle doctrine used in this battle : Deep defence:Isserson in the first phases and Deep Battle offensive at Yelnya !

I read Glantz and :when Titans clashed too
I cannot post a long message because keyboards malfunction
Kind regards,

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Old January 21st, 2017, 11:58 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by Iron1 View Post
I have long held the opinion that this series of (largely unknown) Soviet offensives signaled the end for any realistic German hope of victory in the east. These operations were not well understood (for what they were) in the West, prior to the partial opening of the archives after the end of the Cold War. This was largely due to the fact that without access to the Soviets documents of the period, no one was able to see the full picture of the planning, intent, and the operational goals/objectives of these operations.

This is not to say that these battles were not described in Cold War era Western works on the subject (Erickson), just that they were not properly described for what they actually were; a series of full blown Soviet attempts at employing "Deep Battle" doctrine in major offensive actions.
Although the Germans were able to first contain and ultimately repulse and destroy many of the attacking Soviet Armies, they paid a fearful butchers bill in doing so. The casualty figures are readily available. As such, it can hardly be viewed as a favorable outcome with regards to the possibility of still achieving the overall objectives they had set for themselves when going into the campaign.

The more sapient among them were most certainly thinking: "Oh $h!+, what have we gotten ourselves into here...".
When you add in the miserable logistical situation that existed on the German side during the period when these battles were being fought, the above statement has an even greater meaning.

While your efforts to bring this "unknown" battle to light here on this forum should be applauded, I would advise anyone reading here who finds the subject interesting to seek out the two volume work by David Glantz.

If you think you understand the eastern front yet know nothing about this particular series of battles?
You too may want to look into it.
This battle was actually my "write in" second choice for "most significant of WWII" on the long dormant poll that just came back to life the other day...LOL. At the time I posted (2013-14?) Nobody seemed to think much of it...for the most part they just carried right on arguing about the importance of Moscow, Stalingrad, and Kursk
And that says a lot about the whole understanding the Eastern front thingy...
But I digress.
This may be true, but I think what is even less understood is that forward defense (the posture adopted by first the poles, then the franco british and then amazingly the soviets) was a catastrophic failure that played into the hands of the germans and allowed for their early successes on both the western and eastern front.

In the case of the soviets it is all the more inexcusable since they had seen it fail in both Poland and France.

A more sensible strategy would have been a variation on the one adopted in the war of 1812... Having the main soviet line of defense behind the Dniepr, some 600 km from the border would have negated the initial german advantage and created a logistical nigthmare for the germans (assuming it was coupled with intense destruction of rail and roads)... The germans suffered massive loss of tanks and trucks when they had to move offroad/without using rail. The equipment just broke down and spare parts were a major issue....

Then there is the oil expenditure, and Germany had serious problems with oil and needed to conserve it...The more the germans moved, the more the precious oil was spent..

This is a massive failure of both the political and military leadership of the USSR. The political, because it adopted a posture where it knew the germans could attack by surprise, the military because it adopted a wholly unrealistic plan.

In the initial Barbarossa the axis had roughly twice the forces it had for the French campaign.. The soviets were defending with about the same forces the allied had (with it is true more tanks and planes) but the front was twice longer (and without the benefit of the Maginot line locking about half the front)... In simple terms the soviets were facing a situation that was about 4 times worse than the allies in 1940.. In that context selecting forward defense was pure idiocy

The USSR spent 6 months recovering from that mistake and the huge losses it entailed....
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Old January 22nd, 2017, 01:11 PM   #59
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@tomar
The positionning and strategy chosen in June 1941 by Soviet armies, was what Stalin wished.
The latter wanted at all costs, avoid a premature conflict with Nazi germany and stubbornely refused to take into account all the warnings, both those of his intelligence services and those of the British.
The Red army was not even in a state of high alert, despite insistent demands and all signs of an iminent German attack, on 22 June 1941.
Moreover, let us not forget that the Germans benefited not only from the effect of surprise but also from the numerical superiority by June 1941.

If the Soviet armies had been positionned in accordance with recommandations of, Zhukov and Timoshenko, which were advocated since the autumn 1940 and confirmed by exercices on map since the beginning of 1941, there was no doubt that the first frontier battles had been different.
It's interesting to note that the battle of Smolensk, Vyazma-Briansk was already mentioned in the pre-war plan of Zhukov.
That's only, since July 1941, that things started to change, the Soviet generals, at least, the best of them, began to use another strategy, their own....

Last edited by phil1904; January 22nd, 2017 at 01:30 PM.
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Old January 22nd, 2017, 07:23 PM   #60
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Hi Tomar!

For the sake of clarity, I hope you're not upset if I break your post up into a few pieces and respond to each of them, rather than making one contiguous reply.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
This may be true, but I think what is even less understood is that forward defense (the posture adopted by first the poles, then the franco british and then amazingly the soviets) was a catastrophic failure that played into the hands of the germans and allowed for their early successes on both the western and eastern front.
First off? The attempt to draw any parallels between either of Fall WeiB or Gelb is not instructive in the least when one is examining the situation (as it pertained to the RKKA) in the Summer of 1941.
In the first case, the Poles were hopelessly positioned militarily, both in their state of deployment, and the composition/doctrine/equipment of their forces when the Wehrmacht crossed the frontier. Add to this the fact that they had little ability to react by maneuver due to the nature of the assault, and precious little space (i.e. time) and ready reserves with which to reconstitute a front, even if they had been able to conduct a more effective mobile defense. Most critical is of course the swiftness with which things went "pear-shaped". Couple this with Stalin's move from the East, hammering the final nails into the coffin of any possible hope to reconstitute forces, and that was all she wrote. This is not to say that everything went perfectly for the Wehrmacht (far from it in fact), but given the vast disparity in forces the outcome was never in doubt, regardless of Soviet participation.
This was David vs. Goliath, but David tripped on his robe and dropped his sling. By the time he found it and tried to gain his feet, Goliath stomped on him and squashed him like a bug.

Fall Gelb is a matter of another entirely different sort and the Germans were very fortunate with the way things played out for them. In this case, they faced a much more capable enemy force (in the French Army), but one that was literally hamstrung by an outdated command structure. The French defensive plan was not unsound in its reasoning given the most recent experiences upon which it was formulated. What became the undoing of this plan was the utter lack of a reliable communications system within all levels of their command structure. Add to this the persistent German interdiction of the domestic communications infrastructure (by tactical air assets and quick moving motorized spearheads) and the French ability to react to the fluid situation they faced quickly collapsed. Suffice to say, when the armoured thrust burst through the weak elements holding positions in the Ardennes and drove a wedge to the Meuse at Sedan, the French military situation dissolved into abject chaos. This was not a failure of their plans per se, it was more a failure of their ability to react at the tempo required. And (yet again, just like happened nine months earlier) when coupled with the lack of "space" (again: time) in which to reconstitute the disorganized armies fleeing the trap in Belgium, that was again, all she wrote.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
In the case of the soviets it is all the more inexcusable since they had seen it fail in both Poland and France.
In the case of the Soviets, you are overlooking number of circumstances peculiar to their situation. Allow me to elaborate.
*Please note that I will not provide citations for each specific point present here, but you can trust in the fact that the information I offer is substantiated in print. This was primarily gleaned through study of various books/articles/papers authored by David Glantz (with or without Jonathon House) and R.N. Armstrong, two of the most respected English language writers/scholars on the matter.

-The RKKA was in the midst of relocating their historically located MLR (Stalin Line) forward into positions from which to defend their newly acquired territory when the Wehrmacht struck, and this work was far from complete. As a result of this ongoing work, the communications network upon which the Command structure was supposed to rely was incomplete, as was the re-establishment of the logistical infrastructure upon which the re-positioned forces depended for any effective combat capability. This is a HUGE disadvantage for anyone who would face the kind of onslaught delivered on 22 June. Supply depots and mechanized forces were strung out over hundreds of kilometers between their former locations in Ukraine/Byelorussia and the ones being formed in Western Poland and in the recently annexed lands to the south and to make matters even worse, work on conversion of the railway networks in Poland and the Baltic Republics to Soviet broad-gauge had hardly even begun in the Spring of 1941! Likewise, the VVS was undergoing much the same business when the Germans struck and as such, were virtually useless as anything more than ground targets for the marauding Luftwaffe.

-Next we have to examine the political situation in the USSR (vis-a-vis: Germany) and more specifically, how this was effected by the state of affairs I've described above. This however, requires a basic understanding of the doctrine under which the prevailing Soviet defensive planning was formulated: i.e. Deep Battle. The basic tenet of this is very much akin to what was later to emerge as Manstein's "backhand blow". Forward blocking units are to buy time while motorized counter-thrusts are mustered in the immediate rear. Once the enemy spearhead(s) have penetrated and defined their axis (or axes) of advance, these are to be counterattacked along their flanks, this while simultaneous exploitation occurs into the rear areas of the attackers. The whole idea being to cause a major disruption to the supply train and Divisional & Corps HQ/assets supporting the mobile forces engaged in the initial attack. Deprived of their organic elements, these units are now suddenly faced with either staging a fighting retreat to their start line or standing fast...and dying where they stand. Exploitation of this unfavorable (for the initial attacker) situation by the subsequent Corps (NB: as per 1941 TOE) sized formations arrayed in successive echelons, (with more standing up from the substantial reserve manpower) would now come in the form of a general offensive along the entire length of the front. These forces would punch multiple holes through the enemy line by massed infantry/artillery assaults (after probing attacks identified the best avenues for these efforts) which would then be followed by mechanized forces from the second echelon. These would drive to the limits of their ready supply while the bulk of the foot infantry and organic assets cleaned up the aftermath. Once the mobile forces reach a suitable defensible location (ideally a river or strong ridgeline at or near their operational depth) they establish positions for an operational pause while the next wave of mobilized reserves were moved forward to flesh out the ranks.
Rinse and repeat. You will note that this same basic doctrine is exactly what was later used to first drive the Wehrmacht off of Soviet territory and subsequently, to drive them all the way back to Berlin...
The only difference was in the refinement of method, this through bitter combat experience.

Now with regards to the political situation in the months leading up to Barbarossa. In light of what was planned (per immediately above) and how this relates to the first point I brought forth?
Stalin's Generals were telling him exactly the situation in their command as it existed at that time. The blocking line that would absorb, delay and draw out the spearheads for identification was incomplete. Far more worrying, the mobile Corps formations that were supposed to prosecute the planned counter offensives (under the doctrine) were currently strung out halfway across European Russia and in no coherent state in which to carry out their orders; even IF they could receive these orders...which they couldn't because everything was somewhere between "here and there" at the time. And fully aware of ALL of this (and the terrible import that it carried for the people under his watch) Stalin basically stuck his fingers in his ears and said "I can't hear you so this can't be happening"...what else could he do by the time German intentions became horribly clear?
This is actually a severe simplification (obviously) of the path chosen by the Soviet leader in the face of the mounting evidence and YES...there are MANY things he could have done to improve the situation. But if he suddenly starts enacting these preventative measures in the early Spring of 1941 (too little, and far too late, I might add), this is tantamount to a blatant admission that HE HIMSELF had made a grave mistake in his own estimation of Herr Hitler and obviously in Stalin's world, this would not do.
On the other hand, his actions (or lack thereof) in the immediate period following Barbarossa's launch have been explained in a few different ways and the truth is certainly somewhere within these, though it's doubtful that there will ever be a definitive answer. Initially, belief that there was a mistake/rogue action on the German part, which would be quickly explained and addressed diplomatically. Fear for his life and his position. Shame and personal guilt. Hopeless depression as he watched his country being torn asunder. Regardless?
That's basically how it went down folks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
A more sensible strategy would have been a variation on the one adopted in the war of 1812... Having the main soviet line of defense behind the Dniepr, some 600 km from the border would have negated the initial german advantage and created a logistical nigthmare for the germans (assuming it was coupled with intense destruction of rail and roads)... The germans suffered massive loss of tanks and trucks when they had to move offroad/without using rail. The equipment just broke down and spare parts were a major issue....
As it evolved, the Germans GOT their logistical nightmare anyways, it just took a few weeks for it to manifest itself. The thing that is hard to understand is why there was not a more concerted effort made on the part of the Soviets to preemptively withdraw more of their forces in the immediate period before the launch of the German invasion. Most sources explain that much for the same reason there was little effort made to speed up the reconstitution of these forces into coherent, combat effective units, withdrawal would also indicate an admission of failure on the part of the Soviet leader and he just wasn't "going there", largely due to his own peculiar psychological makeup.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
Then there is the oil expenditure, and Germany had serious problems with oil and needed to conserve it...The more the germans moved, the more the precious oil was spent..
Contrary to this commonly held belief, the Wehrmacht was actually in one of it's most (if not it's most) favorable positions with regards to POL at the outset of Barbarossa. They had captured vast amounts of finished oil products, motor fuels, and bulk natural crudes in the conquests in Western Europe the Summer before. Millions of tons. Added to this were the almost daily shipments that the USSR had been sending them under the terms of their bilateral trade arrangements, tied into the M-R Pact of 1939. The numbers are readily available in print. There is a very interesting work in English on the subject (warning: Cold War era, so the data sources for the Germans are all...German. LOL!) called "Oil and War", written by Freeburg and Goralski. I have it somewhere on one of my sagging my bookshelves. If you like the whole "sinews of war" subject, this is a very good read.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
This is a massive failure of both the political and military leadership of the USSR. The political, because it adopted a posture where it knew the germans could attack by surprise, the military because it adopted a wholly unrealistic plan.
The "plan" was not in and of itself unrealistic. It was a victim of circumstances. Had Hitler waited until 1942 to try this, it would have been a whole other kettle of fish. The thing is, you can't just spontaneously decide to do a complete about face on a thing like an Army's "plan of attack"; especially so in the case of an organization the size of the Red Army. This much should be blatantly obvious.
Stalin and (some of) his military advisors thought they had the time to finish redeployment forward while Hitler dealt with the UK. This proved a grave error. There was nothing wrong with the doctrine...look how it worked at Kursk for one very good (textbook, actually!) example of this. It took refinement and these lessons were learned (some VERY painfully) starting right from the very series of operations that Phil is describing in this thread, launched in July of 1941. Once Stalin actually started letting his better Generals handle things and they learned to stop overreaching their LOC's during the exploitative phase (i.e. basically Kursk forward to the end) the Germans had no answer to the Red Army.
And they were no longer just bludgeoning their way through things like they did at the beginning.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
In the initial Barbarossa the axis had roughly twice the forces it had for the French campaign.. The soviets were defending with about the same forces the allied had (with it is true more tanks and planes) but the front was twice longer (and without the benefit of the Maginot line locking about half the front)... In simple terms the soviets were facing a situation that was about 4 times worse than the allies in 1940.. In that context selecting forward defense was pure idiocy
I don't see how you can possibly say that the Soviets were facing a situation four times worse than the French. The thing you are overlooking in your assessment? Time and space... and the freedom of action it buys you in the long run. You likely remember me mentioning this way, way, back up there somewhere...no?
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
The USSR spent 6 months recovering from that mistake and the huge losses it entailed....
The USSR began counterattacking at Smolensk in July of 1941 and they continued doing so until they finally threw the evil ba$+ards out of their own country and pushed them back into theirs.

They did not spend six months "recovering" my friend. If you actually look at the ENTIRE scope of the fighting in the East rather than falling into the same old "pivotal moments" level of "understanding" (to be fair? that almost everyone on these sorts of boards has)? There are literally hundreds of Corps (and larger) sized engagements occurring all up and down the thousands of kilometers that formed the front. And this basically went on without respite for almost four years. The "M/S/K" crowd (think about it for a second, you'll get it!) drives me crazy to tell the truth. Heck, a whole lot of folks still seem to think that if only Hitler had sent freaking Rommel (a mediocre Corps Commander at best, IMO) to the East, we'd all be eating bratwurst and singing "Lili Marlene" today.
This is no fault of yours, there are probably a half a billion people running around posting on the internet that really don't know squat about any of this either.

It's a pretty uncommon and rather extensive/complicated subject to study in depth.

Best regards!

Last edited by Iron1; January 22nd, 2017 at 07:24 PM. Reason: forgot a greeting..how rude of me!
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