The Russian Battlefield
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ТОПИК: Lost Threads
Lost Threads 2 год назад  
It’s a pity that the threads on the previous version of this site’s forum have been lost to the ether. There were some interesting debates. One of the more hotly debated topics, conducted in September 2003, related to the old chestnut of whether Germany could have won the war in 1941 if different decisions had been made by the German High Command, in particular the decision to deal with the threat to Army Group Centre’s flanks in August and September rather than continue the push towards Moscow.

The main participants in the debate were Sean Oliver (who still posts on the RKKA website) and Oleg. It was a prolonged exchange and consequently difficult to summarise, but here goes:-

Oleg’s argument was that at no time was Army Group Centre strong enough to take Moscow. This, he argued, was tacitly acknowledged by the ‘on to Moscow’ enthusiasts in Army Group Centre (Guderian, Hoth and Bock) as early as 20 July when Guderian began to push south after being stalled from further eastward movement at Elnia. By 9 August Guderian was committed to a southerly offensive against Central Front (in response to Fuehrer Directive 34 issued 30 July), and, Oleg argued, the Fuehrer Directive of 21 August that set Kiev as Guderian’s objective was merely the authorisation for a manoeuvre that was already ongoing.

Much of this was hotly disputed by Sean Oliver who’s argument was that Army Group Centre would have been in a strong position to begin an offensive towards Moscow around mid-August (with nineteen panzer/motorised divisions and twenty-five infantry divisions) and that the Soviet forces on the Moscow axis, being weaker in August than in October, would have succumbed to a 2–3 week long blitzkrieg campaign losing Moscow in the process.

This view was, to put it mildly, contested by Oleg. He argued that the Soviet forces on the Moscow axis were actually stronger in August than in October. He also argued that Army Group Centre would not have been in a position to launch a major offensive in mid-August because the fighting for Roslavl was still ongoing during the first week of August.

They do appear to have agreed that if Army Group Centre had tried to move east in August the probable attack point for Second Panzer Group would have been 43rd Army on the left wing of Reserve Front.

Ultimately the argument hung on a number of unresolved issues:

1. To what extent did the weather affect the progress of the German ‛summer army“ during Operation Typhoon (heavy rain/mud late October and early November, low temperatures late November)?
Opinion on this differed. The question is relevant because if the weather was a significant factor in October/November, it would not have been so in August/September.

2. To what extent were Soviet fortifications on the approaches to Moscow strengthened during September and October?
This question is relevant because a significant strengthening of the defences would have had an effect on the progress of Typhoon but would have had no comparable effect on an offensive in August.
No information seemed to have been available on this.

3. Had the Germans decided to move east, what would have been the relative strengths of Soviet and German forces on the Moscow axis in mid-August, and to what extent could Soviet forces have been reinforced over the subsequent 3–4 weeks -the probable duration of the German offensive according to Sean Oliver’s scenario? How does this compare with the relative strengths of Soviet and German forces on the Moscow axis at the beginning of October and the extent of Soviet reinforcement over the subsequent 8–9 weeks of Operation Typhoon?
This is a key question because if the weather and enhanced Moscow fortifications were not relevant factors in October/November and the Germans couldn’t take Moscow in Operation Typhoon, it might reasonably be argued that, without a more favourable relative strength, they would have been unable to take the city in September.
Sean Oliver and Oleg put forward some related figures, but it seems the necessary information was unavailable.

Oleg made much of the potential impact of offensives by Southwestern Front and Bryansk Front on the southern flank of any Army Group Centre push to the east in August/September. His argument was that Southwestern Front had sufficiently stabilised the front in the Ukraine at this time to be able to release forces to conduct an offensive against Army Group Centre east of the Pripet Marshes and that offensives by Bryansk Front on Second Panzer Group’s right flank would prevent Guderian from advancing more than half way to Moscow.
Sean’s objection to this (which Oleg did not satisfactorily answer) was that if Bryansk Front was unable to seriously hinder Guderian’s move south to Kiev/Konotop in late August/early September, how could the same Bryansk Front over the same period have seriously hindered a move east by Guderian towards Moscow? As for Southwestern Front, Sean disputed that it was in a position to release sufficient forces to mount a significant attack on Army Group Centre’s southern flank.

My own observations on the issue are that the OKH decision to ‘turn to the south’ was only partly due to the ferocity of the Soviet resistance at Elnia. Moscow was explicitly not a primary objective of the original Barbarossa plan and the Soviet forces at Velikie Luki and Gomel represented a serious threat to Army Group Centre’s flanks that could not readily be ignored. What would have happened if Army Group Centre had ignored that threat and struck at 43rd Army in mid-August in a renewed drive to the east is one of those imponderables of history, but Oleg’s argument on this was flawed in one important regard — that by August Southwestern Front had sufficiently stabilised the front in the Ukraine to be able to release forces to conduct an offensive against Army Group Centre’s right flank east of the Pripet Marshes. This assertion lacks credibility. Col-Gen G F Krivosheev in summarising the 82 days of the Kiev Strategic Defensive Operation from 7 July to 26 September characterised the battle as ‛… over two and a half months of uninterrupted heavy fighting“. Army Group South crossed the lower Dnieper near Kremenchug on 8 August without any help from Army Group Centre and a few days later First Panzer Group moved north out of the bridgehead to begin to threaten the rear of Southwestern Front. If Soviet forces in the Ukraine were unable to hold Army Group South to the west bank of the Dnieper in the first half of August and Southwestern Front was subsequently presented with a threat to its left flank, it suggests that Southwestern Front would not have been in a strong position to release forces for a major offensive into Belorussia during the period of Sean Oliver’s proposed German offensive towards Moscow.

Yet the key point of Oleg’s argument seems to be correct — the Soviet forces on the Moscow axis in August were stronger (and presumably better able to resist a German drive to the east) than they were in October. BSSA gives the combined strength of Western and Reserve Fronts on 1/10/41 as 68 division equivalents. A month earlier it was 71 division equivalents and at the beginning of August it was 82 divisions equivalents. At the start of Typhoon (30/9/41) Krivosheev gives a manpower total for Western and Reserve Fronts of a little over one million. The missing piece of the jigsaw in this argument is the manpower total for those two Fronts in mid-August.
Another valid point made by Oleg is that if the ‘turn to the south’ by Second Panzer Group had not occurred, Southwestern Front would not have been destroyed and the considerable reinforcements that went to the Ukraine in September and October would have been available for deployment on the Moscow axis. However, the questions of whether Army Group Centre, had it been able to take Moscow in September, would have been able to hold it through the winter, and of whether the capture of the city would have made any significant difference to the outcome of the war were not debated in detail.
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Re:Lost Threads 2 год назад  
They are not lost:


They are no longer maintained.

Scott Fraser
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Re:Lost Threads 2 год назад  
That's excellent news. There were some interesting discussions on the old forum. I'm glad they are still accessible.
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Re:Lost Threads 1 Год, 10 мес. назад  
The network54.com site posted by Scott only contains previous forum posts to 6 October 2005. Are the posts on the Ikonbord platform from 2005 to 2008 also available?
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