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Sparky

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The main German failing was at the operational-strategic level, indeed the main error had a "political" root. Hitler felt that they had to make a major offensive in '43. There was some muttering about impressing the Turks and others. Between the '41 failure before Moscow (after great apparent success) and the utter futility of the whole Caucuses/Stalingrad adventure (Fall Blau) which was completely rolled back, they did have some defensive successes. After spending the whole of '42 getting precisely nowhere and at great cost, the defensive success against Operation Mars and during 3rd Kharkov was not seen as enough.

There has been talk over the years about expanding 3rd Kharkov and producing an early Zitadelle before the Soviets had a chance to fully dig in around Kursk. I used to think that might, just might have been a better choice. However looking at what the Germans did collect for Zitadelle some months later, I'm inclined to discount that. While most Pz/PzGren Div were fairly well up to strength in infantry and artillery, Panzer numbers were woefully short. Most Pz Div had only a (reinforced at best) single Pz Abt instead of the normal 2. Indeed at the start of Fall Blau in '42 some started with 3 Pz Abt. Even 1st-3rd SS had little more than 3-5 Co. of Pz, admittedly some StuGs, Marders and T-34 as well.

3rd Kharkov was won with quite fresh units and at that time might have been able to take a bigger chunk of the later Kursk salient. However at that time most other Pz/PzGren Div were fairly weak. They either had been starved of replacements during '42 in favour of the Fall Blau drive or had been gutted during the rollback of Blau. So while the SS would have been capable of an early Zitadelle, few others would have been in any shape. After that it was a race between German production and Soviet production and digging and guess who produced more and dug deeper. The Germans simply did not have the means for more than transient successes.

We can all discuss the detailed German tactical failures on the Southern Flank but what success they did have was a partial Soviet operational failure. The Soviets expected the preponderance of German force to have been on the Northern flank. The effect was that AG Centre got nowhere fast (or slow) and the Germans did break through in the South. By the time Prokhorovka was coming into view Stavka had a panic attack and forced 5th Guards Tank Army into a overly hasty piecemeal counter attack that gutted it. The point is that there were tactical errors on both sides, but I think in the overall scheme of things they cancelled each other out. That is to be expected in even the most successful operation.

I did an outline of trends a year or two ago, but I feel is worth repeating because it gives a good overall 'feel'.

'41: A great German offensive and Soviet existential crises eventually stopped short "at the last moment", but still the first time in WW2.
'42: A great German offensive eventually stopped and completely rolled back.
'43: A major German offensive stopped in its tracks and the start of the Soviet rollback of the German '41 gains.
'44: Great Soviet offensives wiping out all of German '41 gains.
'45: Great Soviet offensives that extinguished Germany.

So if you really think about it '41 was the only year that the Germans gained anything and that partly because it was a sucker punch against a self deluded Stalin.
great thread. Great read.

Curious Paul. Two questions for you to pick that brain of yours.

1) if the Germans had not launched Zitadelle but in fact transitioned to a strategic stance of an elastic mobile defense and waited for the Soviet Summer '43 offensive and exploit the one aspect of the Soviet military that still FAR trailed the Germans and wouldn't fully catch up until a full year later with Bagration. How do you think that might have played out. Could it have extended the war in the east another year or two and completely changed the post war reality that was....

and a more interesting one as that first question is in the realms of the highly hypothetical because disregarding the post war ass covering of the German generals, few to none did not expect to kick the Soviets asses again in the summer of 43 as they did in the summer of the previous two years. By the time the notion of the elastic defense became accepted it was already too late.

but this one. I find highly interesting.

simple question

2) Do you feel the Germans could have won the war against Stalin and Soviet Union in 1941? Was it possible and how might they done things differently. I definitely have something in mind, curious if you might reach the same place I am with it.
 

Paul M. Weir

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1) That's hard to answer.

Part of the reason for 3rd Kharkov was that Stalin had got a bit overconfident with the Soviet post-Stalingrad success. While he had been inclined to rely on his generals more and more simply because they had proved to him that they were better in military matters, I think 3rd Kharkov accelerated that trend. Because of that, when the Germans started to look like they were preparing for Zitadelle he accepted their advice to wait and let the Germans exhaust themselves. If the Germans showed no sign of a summer offensive then he would have ordered his own summer offensive. However 3rd Kharkov would likely have tempered his ambition. Unlike Hitler, he did learn. Some of the Soviet forces like 1st Guards Army, 1st and 5th Guards Tank armies that got badly chewed up during Zitadelle would have been at full strength.

I would not say that the Soviets would have done better in that situation, but I am inclined to think that at worst the Soviets would have been behind in time terms about 2-3 months. While not up to later standards, the Soviet Army was rapidly catching up in terms of operational art (for want of a better term). In prior offensives, logistics was a major Soviet weakness but that seems to have been less of a problem in the later '43 historical operations. I see no reason for that to change in an alternative '43 summer. Reserves were also there in good quantities (eg 5th GdTA was rebuilt in a month) and that also would not change.

There is another thing about '43+ major offensives. The Soviets liked to start a major offensive, not a diversionary offensive, somewhere, allow the Germans to switch reserves, then start another major one elsewhere, again allow the Germans to switch reserves and reinforce the original one or start yet another major one. While broad front offensives in some respects are inefficient, they do have the benefit of forcing the defender to continuously chase his own tail. They were also quite ruthless about leaving a less successful operation to subsist on a shoestring and put the intended resources elsewhere, IE reinforcing success above all else.

The final thing is that the Soviets, while deficient at the operational level usually out foxed the Germans at the strategic level. A prime example is that in conducting Barbarossa, the Germans had no clear end play in mind and kept changing objectives while that uncertainty could never be ascribed to the Soviet side. As an adjunct to that, the Soviets were the masters of maskirovka or deception, only the beginning of Fall Blau was where the Germans put one over the Soviets in a major operation.

In summary, I feel that though the Soviets would not have pulled off a Bagration, I think the Germans could not have held all that much longer, maybe a few months, a year, no. I must warn you that is just my impression, gut feeling, tingling in my little finger type of thing.

2) Short of a total nervous collapse on Stalin's part, no!

The Germans waltzed into the USSR expecting a cake walk, maybe in some respects even easier than France. They totally underestimated Soviet forces and available reserves and as I said above, had no real idea of how to finish their campaign. They lacked a clear final objective. They were not even on a full war economy! They often didn't have decent maps! Their logistics ... ! You could go on and on about the little details but these little things add up to disaster. It has been said that the Germans know well how to fight wars, but not to win wars.
 

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Ok, just got Das Reich in the post, I have set up the maps to allow me to re-fight the first 2 days (5th-6th July), I will then write down what units are in what hex and advance the maps 2 up (I can do 5 maps east to West and 2 North to South) have just finished clipping LAH and am about to clip DR, so in a week maximum I will launch Zitadelle in the II SS Pz Korps Sector and fight it out or 'play through' to use a Death Ride Kursk phrase all the way to the 13th (I should have enough saved then to buy GD & 11th Pz in one go.

Bloody awesome system.

Now I just need to buy another house with a bigger study for me so I can have the whole thing set up as a oner.

Regards

Perry
 

stuh42asl

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Almost done GD............then 3rd and 11th Panzer divs..... then I can start that sector...........hmm we need someone the do the 3rd Panzer Corp and KG Raus
and then we could say that the campaign is done :)
 

Proff3RTR

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Almost done GD............then 3rd and 11th Panzer divs..... then I can start that sector...........hmm we need someone the do the 3rd Panzer Corp and KG Raus
and then we could say that the campaign is done :)

Just started last night, SSLAH managed to break through 52nd Guards fairly quickly and have split the 151st GRR in 2 halves and have destroyed the whole 3rd Battalion in the process, the are as I type getting ready to release the PanzerGruppe towards Yakovlevo. Das Reich have taken Beresov and are clearing the woods to its NE, TotenKopf is pushing hard to Gonki but it is slow going, 155thGRR & 1243RR are proving tough nuts to crack, However I am confdent that by the 1400 turn I will be able to break both Regiments and push hard to encircle the main body of the 52nd GRD.
Korps Hq planes to be on a line Yakovlevo in the West to Teterevino in the East by mid-morning on the 6th, Aufklarung from SSLAH have indicated that a Soviet Tank unit is moving in from the West but that will be dealt with before 1800hrs.

Still stashing the cash for GD and the rest of the XLVIII Pz Korps Sector, and damn this is one hell of s system.

And yes, someone needs to pick up the slack and do Korps Raus and III Pz Korps (I will not be able to buy it until at least end of next year!).

Regards

Perry
 

Proff3RTR

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Chiefnotzien II SS Pz Korps to 4. Panzerarmee-Hauptquartiere

Korps situation as of 23:59 hrs 5/7/43.

During a day of hard fighting the Korps has managed to break through the enemies first line and has managed to lodge both SS-LAH & DR into the start of the 2nd defensive belt, Korps intends for SS-LAH & SS-DR to break the 2nd line around Pokrovka no latter than 1400hrs 6/7/43.
In SS-TK's sector the fighting has proven to be more intense and as such SS-TK has only managed to clear up to Gonki and have also managed to swing to the East towards Shopino, although both 5th SS & 6th SS PzGr Regts have taken heavy losses (400 KIA & WIA in total).
Korps plans for SS-TK to continue to expand on 6/7/43 towards Visloye and secure Korps right (East) flank along the Lipovye Donets up to and including a line opposite Teterivino Nord.

Line reached at 22:00hrs 5/7/43 is as follows:
SS-LAH-West Dem'Yanovka-East 3Km
SS-DR-West Right flank SSLAH-East woodlin North of Kolkhoz Smelok-Trudu
SS-TK-West Kolkhoz Smelok-Trudu-South to Gonki-East to Ternovka and then bending back to Shopino.

Korps losses 5/7/43:
SS-LAH
SS Pz Regt 1- 4 x Tiger, 10 x PZ IVH
1st & 2nd SS-PzGr Regts - 250 men combined
SS Pz Aufklarungs Abt 1 - 50 men, 4 x Sdkfz 232
SS Stug Abt 1 - 10 Stug IIIG

SS-DR
3rd & 4th SS-PzGr Regts - 200 Men Combined
SS Stug Abt 2- 5 Stug IIIG
SS Pz Aufklarungs Abt 2- 100 men, 4 x Sdkfz 232, 4 x Sdkfz 222
SS Pz Arty Regt 2- 8 x 105mm FldHw

SS-TK
SS Pz Regt 3-20 x Pz III L, 5 x Pz IVH 4 x Tiger
5th & 6th SS-PzGr Regts- 400 men Combined
SS Pz Aufklarungs Abt 3- 100 men
SS Stug Abt 3- 20 Stug IIIG

Korps has experienced heavy air attacks since first light and so far has only encountered 1 Tank unit (230th Tank Regiment) this was encountered by the Tiger Gruppe of SS-LAH, the Tiger Gruppe engaged and destroyed this Regiment in a 4 hour Panzer battle just South of Bykov on the Divisions left flank of advance.

Intent:
Korps as stated intends to push on into and through the 2nd defensive belt and achieve freedom of action and movement by 23:59hrs 6/7/43 at the latest, this will allow Korps to then re-align as intended in the Armee's initial attack orders to face down defeat the introduction of the enemies deep reserves. Once this has been achieved Korps will be able to swing North and guard XLVIII Pz Korps right (Eastern) Flank as it drives North towards Kursk.

Korps is still awaiting Armee clearance to group SS Pz Regt 1 & SS Pz Regt 2 on the Korps inner flanks to 'lift' the Korps advance forward past Pokrovka and on towards Prokhorovka (this is requested again due to a message from the 1a 4.Panzer Armee stating that Armee is considering using the two Pz regts in the event that XLVIII Pz Korps does not make better headway tomorrow).

Sign:

Hausser
SS-OberGruppenFuhrer und General der Waffen SS
GOC
II SS Pz Korps
 
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stuh42asl

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Just started last night, SSLAH managed to break through 52nd Guards fairly quickly and have split the 151st GRR in 2 halves and have destroyed the whole 3rd Battalion in the process, the are as I type getting ready to release the PanzerGruppe towards Yakovlevo. Das Reich have taken Beresov and are clearing the woods to its NE, TotenKopf is pushing hard to Gonki but it is slow going, 155thGRR & 1243RR are proving tough nuts to crack, However I am confdent that by the 1400 turn I will be able to break both Regiments and push hard to encircle the main body of the 52nd GRD.
Korps Hq planes to be on a line Yakovlevo in the West to Teterevino in the East by mid-morning on the 6th, Aufklarung from SSLAH have indicated that a Soviet Tank unit is moving in from the West but that will be dealt with before 1800hrs.

Still stashing the cash for GD and the rest of the XLVIII Pz Korps Sector, and damn this is one hell of s system.

And yes, someone needs to pick up the slack and do Korps Raus and III Pz Korps (I will not be able to buy it until at least end of next year!).

Regards

Perry

Hi Perry

Well almost done Russian setup...............sheesh the map alone is almost 5 feet wide by what looks like almost 7 feet long. With five guards regiments in the first defensive line and a 6th plus 2 tank brigades for counterattacks the first line is scary, and good luck trying to get across the Pena quickly, most of the river has marshy shores and few bridges to capture. The east side of the map bottlenecks the Germans into an area about 1/5 of the map. And the6th Guards army support units add a huge number of anti[tank aircraft and engineer units. Not to mention three regiments of Katyushas...................... And the creme de la creme the entire 3 Mechanized Corps.......very impressive I knew the OB for 3MC was massive but wow..........so the arrving re-inforcements are going to stiffen an already tough tactical puzzle.
 

Proff3RTR

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Hi Perry

Well almost done Russian setup...............sheesh the map alone is almost 5 feet wide by what looks like almost 7 feet long. With five guards regiments in the first defensive line and a 6th plus 2 tank brigades for counterattacks the first line is scary, and good luck trying to get across the Pena quickly, most of the river has marshy shores and few bridges to capture. The east side of the map bottlenecks the Germans into an area about 1/5 of the map. And the6th Guards army support units add a huge number of anti[tank aircraft and engineer units. Not to mention three regiments of Katyushas...................... And the creme de la creme the entire 3 Mechanized Corps.......very impressive I knew the OB for 3MC was massive but wow..........so the arrving re-inforcements are going to stiffen an already tough tactical puzzle.

Carnage, Pure Carnage.

I have managed to 'Lift' SSLAH forward and we are just short of Yakovlevo. SSLAH has taken roughly 2 Kompanies of Grenadiers Loss wise and a few Platoons from the Pz Regt but we have managed to really smash up the 151st Gds Rifle Regt (Basically it is all but wiped out!) DR is pushing hard to come in line with SSLAH but has hit some hard defence line held by some very stubborn Ivans, TK is still struggling to break into Gonki and has suffered considerable losses (almost 4 Kompanies from 2 Battalions!). I am going to have to release the TK Div Reserve to 'Lift' TK forward. Love this game.
 

stuh42asl

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The 4th is the tough part for Gross Deustchland.........they have to take several towns without the panzer regiments...............The leadership were idiots to not just launch on the 4th. All the attacks did was to get the russians on the roll. The russian command now knew the timeline, where the main attacks were coming from and so the delay for the major push till the 5th allowed the russins command to get their re-inforcements moving. Again the Tiger battaliion was split and the GD highcommand turned to the panthers to do the taks that the tigers should have done. This is the confusing part for me. The first echelon was held by five regiments that were not deployed in depth. Once thru the initia defence line there was a lot of maneuver room to deploy and move forward. A armored thrust at one pint would have opened the line up like a cheap pinata and then expanding the openings shoulders could mean the entire line coud have been rolled up by the follow on units. This thrust would have allowed a deep penetration of the first line and quick move onto the second before the reserves could have moved up and occupied the second echelon.
 

Proff3RTR

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The 4th is the tough part for Gross Deustchland.........they have to take several towns without the panzer regiments...............The leadership were idiots to not just launch on the 4th. All the attacks did was to get the russians on the roll. The russian command now knew the timeline, where the main attacks were coming from and so the delay for the major push till the 5th allowed the russins command to get their re-inforcements moving. Again the Tiger battaliion was split and the GD highcommand turned to the panthers to do the taks that the tigers should have done. This is the confusing part for me. The first echelon was held by five regiments that were not deployed in depth. Once thru the initia defence line there was a lot of maneuver room to deploy and move forward. A armored thrust at one pint would have opened the line up like a cheap pinata and then expanding the openings shoulders could mean the entire line coud have been rolled up by the follow on units. This thrust would have allowed a deep penetration of the first line and quick move onto the second before the reserves could have moved up and occupied the second echelon.

The people to blame for the very poor showing of GD are Hoerlin & Strachwitz, Hoernlin just simply did not appreciate how to open the Russian front line and did not allow for proper Recon or Pioneer actions in front of GD (look to 11th Pz Div and how many assets Pioneer wise they applied to their front) and Strachwitz handled GD's Pz Regt in an abysmal manner, Even to the point that he blamed the Pz Regt's poor showing on the morning of the 5th on Deckers Panthers, who were until at least 0830 hours upto 5 Km south of the line of departure. GD's Panzer losses during the first few days of Zitadelle were catastrophic, when you compare them to the II SS Pz Korps they beggar belief, IIRC by AM on the 7th they Regiment had lost almost 75% of its original number, a truly shocking amount when you think of it. Strachwitz blamed 10th Pz Brigade time and time again for HIS failures. I have said many times before, GD was a formidable unit & normally very good but Zitadelle was not it's finest hour.

oh and by the way, happy belated new year.

Regards

Perry
 

stuh42asl

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The people to blame for the very poor showing of GD are Hoerlin & Strachwitz, Hoernlin just simply did not appreciate how to open the Russian front line and did not allow for proper Recon or Pioneer actions in front of GD (look to 11th Pz Div and how many assets Pioneer wise they applied to their front) and Strachwitz handled GD's Pz Regt in an abysmal manner, Even to the point that he blamed the Pz Regt's poor showing on the morning of the 5th on Deckers Panthers, who were until at least 0830 hours upto 5 Km south of the line of departure. GD's Panzer losses during the first few days of Zitadelle were catastrophic, when you compare them to the II SS Pz Korps they beggar belief, IIRC by AM on the 7th they Regiment had lost almost 75% of its original number, a truly shocking amount when you think of it. Strachwitz blamed 10th Pz Brigade time and time again for HIS failures. I have said many times before, GD was a formidable unit & normally very good but Zitadelle was not it's finest hour.

oh and by the way, happy belated new year.

Regards

Perry
Yes I totally agree on your points. I honestly think from a command point the German High command should have never tried the attack. After the cancellation the first time they should have stablized the front line to prepare for the Russian summer offensive. They would have performed a lot better then than wasting their best units on an offensive where they lost both strategic and operational initiative.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Back to you Perry and your family!!

Shane
 

Proff3RTR

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Yes I totally agree on your points. I honestly think from a command point the German High command should have never tried the attack. After the cancellation the first time they should have stablized the front line to prepare for the Russian summer offensive. They would have performed a lot better then than wasting their best units on an offensive where they lost both strategic and operational initiative.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Back to you Perry and your family!!

Shane

The main problem you had was the different styles in approach to cracking the Soviet defence lines. Look at how II SS Pz cracked the same if not deeper nut on their sector on the night/early morning of the 4/5th July, night time attack by infantry, silent move up to the FUP and LOD and then a sudden violent close range attack which grabbed the front line and tore open a gap from which the Pz Gruppe could advance.

GD on the other hand just charged headlong into a deep defence and minefields (what were their Recon units doing?) and a swamp!! total cock up, and on the first full day of the offensive as well. We all know how bad GD during the operation, 11th Pz Div did so much better and they were so much smaller as well in Panzer numbers. I do onder what II SS Pz Korp would of achieved if they had had 10th Pz Brigade seconded to them and not XXXXVIII Pz Korps.

Still stuffed from eating to much over Christmas, need to get my bergan on my back and smash the hills again.
All the best

Perry
 

stuh42asl

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The main problem you had was the different styles in approach to cracking the Soviet defence lines. Look at how II SS Pz cracked the same if not deeper nut on their sector on the night/early morning of the 4/5th July, night time attack by infantry, silent move up to the FUP and LOD and then a sudden violent close range attack which grabbed the front line and tore open a gap from which the Pz Gruppe could advance.

GD on the other hand just charged headlong into a deep defence and minefields (what were their Recon units doing?) and a swamp!! total cock up, and on the first full day of the offensive as well. We all know how bad GD during the operation, 11th Pz Div did so much better and they were so much smaller as well in Panzer numbers. I do onder what II SS Pz Korp would of achieved if they had had 10th Pz Brigade seconded to them and not XXXXVIII Pz Korps.

Still stuffed from eating to much over Christmas, need to get my bergan on my back and smash the hills again.
All the best

Perry

I honestly think that had they seconded the 10th Panzer Brigade along with extra maintenance and recovery units to assist the Panthers then that would have smashed the Russians in their sector. The terrain would have been more favorable to the Panthers and with the Tigers a breach would have been easier. I could imagine that if they used the Panthers as the long range covering fire, and the Tigers formed the spearhead it would have been a lot different. They knew the Panthers were a new toy so use them carefully ,position them for over-watch fire and plan their locations to limit the abuse on the tanks engines and drive trains. Even though it was new equipment crews would then have time to learn their tanks. I have studied the terrain GD crossed. For the most part the southern portion of the Pena was a write off, like you said the river on that side was pure marsh land. The Russian 151 and 153 Guard Rifle Regiments had very good defensive terrain. But the Russian 199, 196, and 201 Guard Rifle Regiments held areas that tanks could move in. The two Guard Rifle Regiments on the north shore of the Pena just had to dig in deep and hold the area. While the 7Ist Guards rifle division only contributed one Rifle regiment to hold Gertsovka so in reality the center was only the best terrain for tanks. So like the French failed in 1940 GD failed to stack their armor to blitz the russian line.
 

stuh42asl

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Perry:

Like you said GD went willy nilly into the lines. right into minefields wire etc. In the encyclopedia(Huge Kursk book) I have they did not appreciate a lot of things, just like in the northern sector. The Russian dedicated Anti-tank teams, the engineers that were trained to build minefields quickly in German line of advance. (once the dirrection of advance was known) and the extensive number of resources the Russians had at their disposal. In some of the accounts I have read many German tank commanders hit minefields that were not known, ( due to minefields laid on the ground by the russian engineer teams). Mine detection and disposal ( The germans for all their technical advantages never developed a dedicated anti-tank mine vehicle, the British developed the Flail tank, the Russians developed the PT-34 mine roller etc). Also the Russian anti-tank teams were amazing, using the PTRD anti-tank rifles, grenade bundles, molotov cocktails, and anti-tank mines. I read an account of one sgt who destroyed three Elefants with molotovs and anti-tank mines. A German Hauptman included in his battle report that an Elephant they were escorting literally blew up due to a grenade bundle placed on the top deck of the tank.

I have started the GD portion, and the initial day July 4th Is bloody frustrating. All the Panzer regiments are kept in reserve so all GD , 11th Panzer and 3rd Panzer have for armor support is the Stug batteries, self propelled anti-tank guns, and the SIG self propelled guns. There is an opportunity for Stuka support, but again the GD command messed up.
It is not like that there were not enough Stuka squadrons and wings available. The idea of trying to clear out the outposts were nothing more than a waste of time. The fact that this action started alerted the Russian command that the assault had begun. In the Russian reserves this action allowed the 3MC to move up the 1,3 and 10 Mechanized brigades to the second defensiveline, also including the 41st and 49th tank brigades. So in short the Russians had two tank brigades at the 1st defensive line followed by two more moving to the second as well as the tank brigades in each of the three mechanized brigades for a total of 7 brigades for the defense.The three mechanized brigades were kitted out and well organized so they are the three biggest threats to the Germans. The Russians tried to pull off a surprise arial/ ground attack prior to the German assault , but failed to.
 
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