- May 3, 2018
- Reaction score
great thread. Great read.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.
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.
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.