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Barbarossa - Horse Drawn Blitzkrieg

SeaKingTacco

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Agreed. Especially if the US had no Europe to divert some of its resources to.

Which leaves the really big question. What would have happened after the US takes out Japan?

Look at that in three streams: 1) Germany is stable in Europe without attacking Russia ; or 2) Germany has beaten Russia; or 3) Germany is still fighting Russia?

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If Germany has taken out Russia, there is no scenario for a succesful cross Atlantic liberation of Europe by the Americans. There would have been no domestic appetite and the logistics are nearly impossible.

The Third Reich may or may not have collapsed under the weight of it’s own contradictions, but that may not have been until the the 1970s or 1980s, after a “cold war“ with North America.

it raises the question of what the middle east would have looked like, with no Israel and no British investment in Saudi/Iraqi oil. Would Iran and or Turkey have emerged as regional powers? Aligned with whom? Germany? Or the US?
 

medic5

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I think what is often not discussed about why Hitler wanted war in the first place, resources and elimination of the people he deemed unworthy. Hitler needed the resources of the east, and his sole purpose of starting the war was the destruction of the Soviets.

If Russia had fallen, Germany would have become the next world power, but it never could've happened. The Soviets wouldn't have given up if they lost Moscow or Stalingrad or both. Let's paint a picture, Paulus and the Sixth Army take Stalingrad and cut the Volga, Army Groups A and B pivot and take the Caucuses, and Army Group North takes Archangel. That is literally the furthest the Germans planned. They sit on the steppe with their imaginary line, now what? Would Stalin really make peace? Allow the Germans to consolidate their gains? There is no possibility that the Soviets would have given up.

Regarding Sea Lion, I believe that sea power would've been the deciding factor. Yes, air power probably has greater importance during the initial landing, but what about resupplying afterward? Would the Allies would have been able to supply their forces in Normandy if the Germans controlled the channel? Sure the Germans could've landed their armor and caused all sorts of chaos, but armor isn't much use if you can't fuel them.

My two cents.
 

Colin Parkinson

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Japan had the majority of it's land forces in Manchuria and Korea opposing the Soviets and occupying China. The island forces were a small part of the army. I never understood Japan's need to further than that into China. Pure arrogance I suspect. Malay and the Dutch East Indies made sense due to rubber, tin and oil. The drive into China and Japanese brutality was a driving factor in US foreign policy, driven by public concern in the US for China. japan could have pulled back and consolidated their hold on China, with the fall of Europe, they could seize Dutch, French and British colonies, providing the resource they needed. Taking pains to avoid confronting the US, then could isolate Chinese coastal trade till they got trade agreements beneficial to them. Malaysia could have been a bridge to far, had the Brits taken the threat more seriously and placed a more competent General in charge. With a little more preparation and some more training for the RAF there, it's quite debatably how far the Japanese would have gotten, it was a close run thing for them as it was. They may have eventually succeeded, but it would have been a nasty fight and the Japanese would hesitate to advance further.
 

rmc_wannabe

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The Nazis lost due to their own brutality and genocidal ambitions.

Germany spent precious time, money, manpower, and resources on the concentration camps. Also, German Jews were just as pissed off about the Treaty of Versailles as everyone else, even more so for the merchant class that were suffering through inflation, and a lot of them had fought patriotically for Germany during the First World War. If the Nazis weren't hell bent on wiping out a race, they would have had retained manpower and resources to expand its influence. They would have also had able bodied, Jewish men to supplement its armed forces and workforce. Framing it as a Nationalist effort instead of the genocidal fools errand it was.
 

Kirkhill

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I think what is often not discussed about why Hitler wanted war in the first place, resources and elimination of the people he deemed unworthy. Hitler needed the resources of the east, and his sole purpose of starting the war was the destruction of the Soviets.

My two cents.

Two cents well spent.

I do take issue with your first sentence though. In particular "elimination of the people he deemed unworthy". I agree that he certainly did that, and that he had personal issues in that regard but I think his primary focus was on Das Volk and ensuring that they would never again be starved, humiliated and driven into bankruptcy.

To ensure the supply of resources for Das Volk he needed to do two things:

Secure resources
Eliminate competition

Eliminating competition, like charity, begins at home.
 

FJAG

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The Nazis lost due to their own brutality and genocidal ambitions.

Germany spent precious time, money, manpower, and resources on the concentration camps. Also, German Jews were just as pissed off about the Treaty of Versailles as everyone else, even more so for the merchant class that were suffering through inflation, and a lot of them had fought patriotically for Germany during the First World War. If the Nazis weren't hell bent on wiping out a race, they would have had retained manpower and resources to expand its influence. They would have also had able bodied, Jewish men to supplement its armed forces and workforce. Framing it as a Nationalist effort instead of the genocidal fools errand it was.

I think that you are grossly overestimating the allocation of time, money, manpower and resources which went into the machine that perpetrated the truly horrific genocide that took place under the Nazis.

One needs to remember that the holocaust wasn't directed solely at the Jewish race but at several elements that the Nazis considered part of the Jewish-Bolshevik problem. While some 6 million plus Jews died, there were another 11 million victims of persecution including everything from mostly Soviet civilians and POWs, to Poles and Serbs, the disabled, Romani, homosexuals and Freemasons.

While the scale of such deaths were truly horrific, the resources committed to the effort were relatively modest. The Einsatzgruppen who followed the German combat forces were relatively small and in total numbered give or take some five thousand. The troops responsible for the concentration camps were part of the SS-TV which was considered a part of the Waffen SS but was only a small fraction of it. The vast majority of the Waffen SS were basically front line troops albeit that some front line Waffen SS troops convalescing from wounds were assigned to the camps. At their height there were 27 concentration camps with around 6-700 subcamps. The key here is that the subcamps were considerably smaller and their primary function was to provide forced labour pools.

Essentially the camps were run with SS guards and administrators but the actual control of the daily workings within the camp were carried out by trustees from amongst the inmates. Similarly, much of the collection and transportation of inmates was carried out by local security forces and often by those of the foreign security personnel of the countries occupied by Germany.

It may never be accurately known how many individuals were participants in the system. Based on German records, the post war German prosecutors investigated some 170,000 individuals as suspects but in the end only 6,700 were ever found guilty. Compare that to a German Army in WW2 of some 17.9 million in total and with some 9 million at its peak.

The point here is that the entire operation was very much set up as an economy of force system which was also designed to benefit the German war effort with cheap labour.

While the outcome of the Holocaust was truly horrific, it would be incorrect to say that "the Nazis lost because of their own brutality and genocidal ambitions". There are many reasons why the Germans lost, principle amongst them is that their resources did not match those of their combined adversaries especially the USSR (21 million and 13.2 at its peak), Britain (5.9 million and 4.7 million at its peak) and the Americans (16.3 million, 12 million at its peak) and the industrial output of the USSR and the US. While Germany had ambitions which led to the war, those had their foundation in the outcomes of WW1 including the fragmentation of the German people under foreign regimes and the restrictions placed on Germany, the great depression, the growth and threat of communism and the factors Kirkhill cites, it would be wrong to characterize these ambitions as being 'genocidal' notwithstanding that genocide was an eventual outcome.

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Brad Sallows

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Stalin's hope was that the armies in the west would fight themselves to exhaustion so the USSR could walk in and take over more territory. The USSR was reforming and improving its military and armaments. I've come across a few theses which proposed tentative periods by which Stalin might have deemed the USSR ready: mid '42, mid '43, etc. 1941 was too soon. The German-Russian war may have been inevitable.

Germany's fleet was relatively weak, and it's air force was built to support armies, not for strategic warfare. I doubt Germany could ever have successfully invaded Britain; a negotiated peace borne of stalemate and exhaustion might have been possible after mid '41 and before whatever date Stalin might have chosen. However, if Churchill kept the British spine stiff until Dec '41, I can't imagine why the Japanese should not have gone ahead since much of what they wanted belonged to European countries in no position to offer much resistance, especially if Britain were preoccupied with a Germany undistracted (yet) by adventures in Russia.
 

medic5

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Agreed. In 1941 the Red Army was still recovering from the Officer purges, and their Deep Battle Doctrine was in shambles after the execution of Tukhachevsky. Stalin did not expect a war for at least a few more years, and dismissed Barbarossa intelligence as lies.

What I think most people fail to realize is that 1941 was the perfect time for the Germans to invade, if there ever was to be one. The Germans could never hope to outproduce the Soviets, and late 1941 was the peak of German mechanization. After that, the Wehrmacht steadily demechanized, and even converted some of their divisions into ordinary infantry. There would be no better opportunity, the British were in shambles and couldn't even think about entering Europe for another half decade, the US was not at all involved, and the Soviets would only grow stronger from here as their technology advanced and they rebuilt their officer corps.

All of this was to avoid a two front war, since everyone knew that war with the Soviet Union was inevitable. Would you rather wait for the US to get involved, the British to rebuild, and the Soviets to close the gap in technology and doctrine? 1941 offered the best odds on a hell of a gamble.
 

medic5

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Japan had the majority of it's land forces in Manchuria and Korea opposing the Soviets and occupying China. The island forces were a small part of the army. I never understood Japan's need to further than that into China. Pure arrogance I suspect. Malay and the Dutch East Indies made sense due to rubber, tin and oil. The drive into China and Japanese brutality was a driving factor in US foreign policy, driven by public concern in the US for China. japan could have pulled back and consolidated their hold on China, with the fall of Europe, they could seize Dutch, French and British colonies, providing the resource they needed. Taking pains to avoid confronting the US, then could isolate Chinese coastal trade till they got trade agreements beneficial to them. Malaysia could have been a bridge to far, had the Brits taken the threat more seriously and placed a more competent General in charge. With a little more preparation and some more training for the RAF there, it's quite debatably how far the Japanese would have gotten, it was a close run thing for them as it was. They may have eventually succeeded, but it would have been a nasty fight and the Japanese would hesitate to advance further.
I think one has to understand the goal of Imperial Japan. By 1940, Japan was the dominate regional power. They had pretty much grabbed all the islands that they could without antagonizing the US, and had to make a decision. Would they slow down and consolidate their gains, or try to become something greater than just a regional power? Their choices were simple, stand down or keep going that would inevitably lead to antagonization and war with the Americans.
 

Infanteer

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Interesting.

1. There are no scholarly books on what would have happened had the Germans not invaded the Soviet Union because you can't write one. It's ahistorical and while it can be fun, its speculative only.

2. Anyone interested in Barbarossa and the 1941 campaigns in general must read the works of David Stahel. An Australian researcher living in Germany, these are the authoritative English language books on the campaign. He writes on a period that is very poorly covered in the literature (for example, his book on the battle of Kiev is only the second to cover what was to date the largest battle in the history of mankind).

Barbarossa
Kiev
Typhoon
Moscow
Moscow Counteroffensive

Stahel builds off David Glatz's monumental series of books that are the authoritative books on the Eastern Front from the Soviet perspective. Glantz's premise was that Moscow established that the Germans would not win the war on their terms, Stalingrad that they would not win at all, and Kursk that their loss would be total and decisive. Stahel uses a deep well of primary sources to push back the first part of this premise - the German loss in the East in 1941 was actually much earlier. Stahel puts it at the battle of Smolensk in August of 1941. Due to issues of attrition, lines of communication, and mechanical issues the Germans after August had to assume positional warfare on most of the front and could only attack along a single axis with part of their mechanized forces. So Stahel essentially re-writes Glantz's premise somewhat that Smolensk established that the Germans would not win the war on their terms, Stalingrad that they would not win at all, and Kursk that their loss would be total and decisive.

3. Speculation on what the Americans would do in the event of a British defeat should read more on the Rainbow Planning. An excellent start is the Plan Dog memo which is sort of a bridge from US interwar planning to US wartime planning. The Americans very much considered that they would fight the next war on their own, and that Japan was there most likely opponent. This was due to two policies - first Hemispheric defence was listed as the priority throughout the Interwar period, and Hawaii, Alaska, and Panama formed a triangle that constituted the western part of the hemisphere. Second, the Open Door policy regarding China clashed directly with Japanese regional aims and created the path to an oil embargo and war. This was tangentially related to what was going on in Europe.
 

Infanteer

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I think what is often not discussed about why Hitler wanted war in the first place, resources and elimination of the people he deemed unworthy. Hitler needed the resources of the east, and his sole purpose of starting the war was the destruction of the Soviets.

I think you give too much credit and foresight to Hitler's planning. The war was started rather inadvertently, and was about the Polish Corridor, not the destruction of the Soviets.

If you look at the Stahel reference above, there is good evidence showing that the thinking behind the issuing of Fuhrer Directive 21 directing the invasion of the Soviet Union was in fact driven by the inability to defeat Britain, and Hitler's concern for the ever increasing cooperation between the UK and the US. Stahel contends (convincingly in my opinion) that Barbarossa was another strategy of expedients, designed to secure one flank before the US/UK relationship became too much for Germany to handle.

So I'd offer that the Germans didn't start the war with the sole purpose of destroying the Soviets, and that Barbarossa was simply a means to an end - the end of snuffing out the Anglo-American alliance that Hitler believed was the biggest obstacle to victory.

What I think most people fail to realize is that 1941 was the perfect time for the Germans to invade, if there ever was to be one. The Germans could never hope to outproduce the Soviets, and late 1941 was the peak of German mechanization.
Not quite accurate. The Germans did not convert to a wartime economy until 1943. In 1941, the German Armed Forces were still losing steel to construction products like the new German parade grounds in Nurnberg, etc, etc. Contrast to the Soviets, who essentially converted 100% of their economy to the war effort hours after the Germans invaded.

I think one has to understand the goal of Imperial Japan. By 1940, Japan was the dominate regional power. They had pretty much grabbed all the islands that they could without antagonizing the US, and had to make a decision. Would they slow down and consolidate their gains, or try to become something greater than just a regional power? Their choices were simple, stand down or keep going that would inevitably lead to antagonization and war with the Americans.
Dominant militarily maybe, but even in 1941, the Japanese were still dependent on foreign sources for key materials - oil, tin, rubber. They had to import these supplies from the colonial powers of Britain and the Netherlands.

Their attempt to establish hegemony over China was in direct conflict with stated US policy in the region (Open Door). The Japanese understood that they could not be an independent power and pursue an aggressive regional agenda without securing a resource base. When they made the decision in late 1941 to go to war, they knew full well that they only had fuel supplies to fight for about 2-3 years.

So, as opposed to being a regional hegemon, the Japanese were playing from a weak hand, and they knew it.
 

Colin Parkinson

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I think one has to understand the goal of Imperial Japan. By 1940, Japan was the dominate regional power. They had pretty much grabbed all the islands that they could without antagonizing the US, and had to make a decision. Would they slow down and consolidate their gains, or try to become something greater than just a regional power? Their choices were simple, stand down or keep going that would inevitably lead to antagonization and war with the Americans.
and it was completely and utterly wrong and pig headed, had saner minds prevailed, then they could have consolidated, worked the local populations into an alliance by not treating everyone as crap and be able to actually get goods back to the home Island. Postwar the Brits were happy to find in Malaysia large stockpiles of tin and rubber that had been destined for Japan, but their merchant fleet was sunk, so it never left.
 

medic5

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I think you give too much credit and foresight to Hitler's planning. The war was started rather inadvertently, and was about the Polish Corridor, not the destruction of the Soviets.

If you look at the Stahel reference above, there is good evidence showing that the thinking behind the issuing of Fuhrer Directive 21 directing the invasion of the Soviet Union was in fact driven by the inability to defeat Britain, and Hitler's concern for the ever increasing cooperation between the UK and the US. Stahel contends (convincingly in my opinion) that Barbarossa was another strategy of expedients, designed to secure one flank before the US/UK relationship became too much for Germany to handle.

So I'd offer that the Germans didn't start the war with the sole purpose of destroying the Soviets, and that Barbarossa was simply a means to an end - the end of snuffing out the Anglo-American alliance that Hitler believed was the biggest obstacle to victory.

I personally believe that the Soviet Union was the target all along. Bolshevism was his true ideological enemy, and the Soviet Union possessed the resources for future wars. The plan was to force Britain into a peace deal, then with his western front secure, invade the Soviet Union. His primary target was always the east, not just something that came up on a whim since he couldn't control the UK. I would make the argument that the destruction of UK/France was to secure his western front in preparation for his eastern campaign.

I will take a look at the books you linked by Stahel, I'm not particularly well read in this area at all.

Not quite accurate. The Germans did not convert to a wartime economy until 1943. In 1941, the German Armed Forces were still losing steel to construction products like the new German parade grounds in Nurnberg, etc, etc. Contrast to the Soviets, who essentially converted 100% of their economy to the war effort hours after the Germans invaded.
What I meant was the German Army was at its strongest in comparison to the Red Army in 1941, and that ratio would steadily shift as the years past. The Wehrmacht still held tremendous technological advantage over the Soviets, but doctrinally and technologically their edge would erode as time passed. Do you believe that the Germans would have done better if they waited till 1943 to attack? What about waiting till 1945? My opinion is of that the Germans would only see their advantages be eroded if they continued to wait.

Then again, none of this is necessary if you don't agree that war with the Soviets was inevitable and that Hitler's primary ambition was the destruction of the Soviet Union and the capture of its resources.

Thank you Infanteer for your book recommendations, I definitely have much to learn. After reading much of your posts from older threads, I have much respect for your knowledge and really appreciate the decision games you made.
 

medic5

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and it was completely and utterly wrong and pig headed, had saner minds prevailed, then they could have consolidated, worked the local populations into an alliance by not treating everyone as crap and be able to actually get goods back to the home Island. Postwar the Brits were happy to find in Malaysia large stockpiles of tin and rubber that had been destined for Japan, but their merchant fleet was sunk, so it never left.
I definitely agree. Then again, we do have the benefit of armchair analysis. Things were far less certain in December 1941.
 

Infanteer

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What I meant was the German Army was at its strongest in comparison to the Red Army in 1941, and that ratio would steadily shift as the years past. The Wehrmacht still held tremendous technological advantage over the Soviets, but doctrinally and technologically their edge would erode as time passed. Do you believe that the Germans would have done better if they waited till 1943 to attack? What about waiting till 1945? My opinion is of that the Germans would only see their advantages be eroded if they continued to wait.

The Germans did not hold a tremendous technological advantage over the Soviets. In fact, it can be argued that it was the other way around. Russian tank designs (KV and T-34) were by far and away superior to anything the Germans had. Their appearance one the battlefields of 1941 caused serious problems for the Germans, and those designs would influence future German tank design (Mk 5 and 6). Soviet small arms were more rugged and there is reference to Germans preferring captured Russian sub-machine guns. Ditto with artillery, which was more simple, numerous, and effective, even in 1941. In the air, the Il-2 was a better ground attack plane than what the Luftwaffe could field. Although the Soviets fielded a large amount of obsolete equipment in 1941, this was because they never threw anything out - but their modern equipment in 1941 was as good or better than anything their enemy fielded.

Zooming out a bit, the Soviet technology also provided an advantage in terms of production. From trucks to tanks to radios to planes, the idea was to find a good design and go with it. Contrast this to the Germans, with an essentially boutique system of various models from competing industries and a huge variety of platforms from conquered countries. Imagine you are the quartermaster of 47 Panzer Corps, and one of your divisions is entirely kitted out with French trucks and older Mk 1 and 2 tanks, while the other one is a mix of German trucks and newer Mk 3 and 4 tanks, and the third had Czech material. Even in the earliest months of the war, the effects of these two systems began to make an impact. The Soviets possessed a technological base designed for total war, while the Germans possessed one that, when exposed to a war longer than six weeks, could not keep pace.

Compared to the German Army which was essentially a horse drawn Army of 125 divisions spearheaded by about 25 mechanized divisions, the Red Army was anything but disadvantaged technologically. Where the Red Army had problems was with some clunky pre-war doctrine and organization, command and control, and integration of combined arms, which you add some ruthless strategic decision making that could be counter productive. These are things that would take a year or so to iron out, and they used the lives of millions of Soviet soldiers to buy the time to do so.

There is, however, some merit in your argument that in 1941 the Soviets were at their nadir and the Germans "caught them on the wrong foot," and that they would have been much better prepared in future years. The Soviets were coming out of the officer purges, and had just been roughly handled by the Finns. Generals who performed well, like Zhukov in the Far East, were beginning to rise to the top and displace the old Civil War Cavalry cronies that Stalin kept around. The Red Army was also going through a period of doctrinal and organizational flux with regards to mechanized forces as well.

Although speculative, it is fair to say that given the size of the Soviet economy and the reluctance of the Germans to mobilize theirs (they were about to begin demoblizing parts of their Army prior to Barbarossa to free up men for the civilian economy), the Germans would not have been as successful had they delayed their invasion of the Soviet Union by a year or two.

If you are interested in the Red Army at all, especially in the early part of the Second World War, the books Stumbling Colossus and Colossus Reborn are essential reads.
 

medic5

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The Germans did not hold a tremendous technological advantage over the Soviets. In fact, it can be argued that it was the other way around. Russian tank designs (KV and T-34) were by far and away superior to anything the Germans had. Their appearance one the battlefields of 1941 caused serious problems for the Germans, and those designs would influence future German tank design (Mk 5 and 6). Soviet small arms were more rugged and there is reference to Germans preferring captured Russian sub-machine guns. Ditto with artillery, which was more simple, numerous, and effective, even in 1941. In the air, the Il-2 was a better ground attack plane than what the Luftwaffe could field. Although the Soviets fielded a large amount of obsolete equipment in 1941, this was because they never threw anything out - but their modern equipment in 1941 was as good or better than anything their enemy fielded.
What I said was not correct, I mostly meant to say that the Germans fielded better equipment then and had better doctrine especially around the flexibility and initiative on the part of junior officers than the Soviets. Yes, the T-34 and KV were amazing designs and could put the Pz 3/4 to shame even with the long barreled 75, but out of the 26,000 or so tanks the Red Army fielded, how many were amazing designs? Almost all were useless BT/T26 series tanks that were useless in anything outside of reconnaissance. I don't put much weight on small arms, but I doubt submachine guns were particularly useful on the steppe, and superior German squad level weapons mostly would have negated that advantage.

Regarding aircraft, I know absolutely nothing about aircraft, so I won't even try to form an opinion. But I did notice that the Soviet Air Force was pretty much destroyed on the ground and didn't gain back superiority till much later. Whether that is because of the surprise of the Germans or better tech, I have no idea.

My original point was that the Germans were the strongest they would ever be in comparison to the Soviets in 1941, and that if time were to pass the Germans would grow weaker and weaker while the Soviets rebuilt. About mechanization, following 1942 the German Army actually demobilized (I don't have a source to back this up, remember seeing a graph somewhere, so call me out if I'm wrong), and the number of Panzergrenadier divisions actually decreased on the official table of organization. Yes, the Heer was horse drawn, but in 1941 they did not feel the brunt of oil shortages yet, and they would only grow more horse reliant over time.

Basically what I am saying is regardless whether the Germans were stronger than the Soviets in 1941, this was their best chance to win. Not quite sure how good that chance was though.

I'm going make a reading list, any other books about the Eastern Front (or WW2 in general) you would recommend?
 

FJAG

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... Russian tank designs (KV and T-34) were by far and away superior to anything the Germans had. Their appearance one the battlefields of 1941 caused serious problems for the Germans, and those designs would influence future German tank design (Mk 5 and 6). Soviet small arms were more rugged and there is reference to Germans preferring captured Russian sub-machine guns. ...

Add to that the fact that the T-34 model was designed for rapid and cheap manufacture. Most of the few design improvements to the tank over the years were to make it faster to build rather than improve on what was already a basically good fighting vehicle. Russian monthly T-34 production averaged out at 1,300 was the equivalent of three full sized German tank divisions (and that's considering that many of their factories had to be moved during the German offensives.)

Meanwhile German monthly tank/assault gun production of all types (but mostly the less capable PzIII and PzIV types) averaged out at 300 in 1941, 450 in 1942, 1,000 in 1943, and 1,500 in 1944. Total German tank/assault gun production was 50,000 while 57,000 T-34s were built (29,000 were the 85mm upgunned version) together with an almost equal amount of all other Russian types of tanks and assault guns.

T-34 - Wikipedia / German armored fighting vehicle production during World War II - Wikipedia

A final factor was that after 1943, Germany had to worry about three fronts--fighting in Italy, guarding the depth of the Atlantic Wall, and Russia while Russia really only had the one.

Like the tanks, the PPSh-41 was designed for rapid and simple manufacture through stamped sheet metal parts rather than machined ones. While the German MP 40 was also mostly stamped metal and quite useable and rapidly manufactured, the fighting in built up areas of Russia was not suitable for the standard infantry rifle, the K-98 and many captured PPSh-41s were pressed into service to augment the more limited supplies of MP-40s.

My uncle had a Russian Tokarev SVT (40 I think) and I remember one day taking a large box of old WW2 surplus ammunition to the range. Pretty much every casing ruptured or split lengthwise but nonetheless the rifle operated without stoppages. Rugged and reliable (the ammo not so much).

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Weinie

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The Germans did not hold a tremendous technological advantage over the Soviets. In fact, it can be argued that it was the other way around. Russian tank designs (KV and T-34) were by far and away superior to anything the Germans had. Their appearance one the battlefields of 1941 caused serious problems for the Germans, and those designs would influence future German tank design (Mk 5 and 6). Soviet small arms were more rugged and there is reference to Germans preferring captured Russian sub-machine guns. Ditto with artillery, which was more simple, numerous, and effective, even in 1941. In the air, the Il-2 was a better ground attack plane than what the Luftwaffe could field. Although the Soviets fielded a large amount of obsolete equipment in 1941, this was because they never threw anything out - but their modern equipment in 1941 was as good or better than anything their enemy fielded.

Zooming out a bit, the Soviet technology also provided an advantage in terms of production. From trucks to tanks to radios to planes, the idea was to find a good design and go with it. Contrast this to the Germans, with an essentially boutique system of various models from competing industries and a huge variety of platforms from conquered countries. Imagine you are the quartermaster of 47 Panzer Corps, and one of your divisions is entirely kitted out with French trucks and older Mk 1 and 2 tanks, while the other one is a mix of German trucks and newer Mk 3 and 4 tanks, and the third had Czech material. Even in the earliest months of the war, the effects of these two systems began to make an impact. The Soviets possessed a technological base designed for total war, while the Germans possessed one that, when exposed to a war longer than six weeks, could not keep pace.

Compared to the German Army which was essentially a horse drawn Army of 125 divisions spearheaded by about 25 mechanized divisions, the Red Army was anything but disadvantaged technologically. Where the Red Army had problems was with some clunky pre-war doctrine and organization, command and control, and integration of combined arms, which you add some ruthless strategic decision making that could be counter productive. These are things that would take a year or so to iron out, and they used the lives of millions of Soviet soldiers to buy the time to do so.

There is, however, some merit in your argument that in 1941 the Soviets were at their nadir and the Germans "caught them on the wrong foot," and that they would have been much better prepared in future years. The Soviets were coming out of the officer purges, and had just been roughly handled by the Finns. Generals who performed well, like Zhukov in the Far East, were beginning to rise to the top and displace the old Civil War Cavalry cronies that Stalin kept around. The Red Army was also going through a period of doctrinal and organizational flux with regards to mechanized forces as well.

Although speculative, it is fair to say that given the size of the Soviet economy and the reluctance of the Germans to mobilize theirs (they were about to begin demoblizing parts of their Army prior to Barbarossa to free up men for the civilian economy), the Germans would not have been as successful had they delayed their invasion of the Soviet Union by a year or two.

If you are interested in the Red Army at all, especially in the early part of the Second World War, the books Stumbling Colossus and Colossus Reborn are essential reads.
Amazing explanations of how things unfolded.
 
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