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Krautman

Grognard bibliography requested

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Hello,

I would like read about two somewhat grognardish topics, could you perhaps recommend to me the most useful books and/or internet sources? I can read English, German and French. These are my questions:

1. How actually could Germany bring the Soviet Union to the brink of destruction with what it had available in 1941-1942? I know, it sounds like a very stupid question, but from reading through this forum I guess a convincing answer is not that easily given.

2. How did infantry and tanks attack and defend in the World Wars? I mean, on lower (maybe up to battalion?) level? Is there a comparative synchronic or diachronic account which evaluates different tactical approaches? What impact did technology and mentality have on the development of such tactics? And which difference - on local as well as on operational level - did tactical improvements make once they were successfully implemented?

There is a reasonably-priced copy of "Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg 4: Der Angriff auf die Sowjetunion" available. I also could get Erwin Rommel's "Infanterie greift an" and Rudolf Steiger's "Panzertaktik 1939-1941". Are these worth buying? Which other books could you recommend?

Thanks in advance,

K.

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My 2c worth:

1. Germany fatally stalled their offensive outside Moscow in the winter of 1941. This failure puts the myth of German 'flexible offensive doctrine' in a new light IMHO. It also puts 'the spectacular blitzkrieg victories of 1940 in France' in a new perspective - i.e. why did they get it so wrong in 1941 if the Germans were so uberperfect in the early war years? If you answer 'Hitler' - well not until later in the war and this really was an operational level failure in 1941.

2. Don't over-think it. Combat Mission is surprisingly realistic (or simulationist) for a computer game, so any reading you can do is worth its weight. In reality, combined arms of infantry and tanks was seldom practised to perfection. My advice - always use combined arms! Tanks supported by infantry and visa versa. That is - tanks will get schwacked by bazookas/panzerfausts without infantry nearby and infantry really like bulletproof cannon/MGs to support their assaults. Don't under-estimate guns in defence.

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Hitler made the (forced by Mussolini's stupidity) strategic error of spending several weeks conquering the Balkans, Greece etc so Barbarossa was delayed those crucial weeks.

Then the Russian wet weather and winter came a bit early and was one of the worst. The German troops were not equipped for that climate as a huge gamble had been made to send only ammo to the front (extended and inadequate supply lines) on the expectation that Russia would collapse before winter.

That gave the Russians time to re-equip with T-34's and (thanks to the lack of aggression of the Japs), transport tough Siberian divisions from the east to counterattack the Germans away from Moscow.

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David Glantz is by far the best author on the subject overall. John Erickson is also good, but older; Glantz improved upon his work essentially. For a German perspective, Ziemke is good. Other good eastern front authors are Zaloga, Zetterling, Krivosheev (on Soviet losses) and Manstein (Lost Victories). For economic strategies (yes that is important to your question), Milward or Harrison is a good start. Glantz will give you the best rundown for your first question (and his answer is much different, and more correct, than how the two previous posters answered it).

As for finding tactical stuff, you will find it in the best operational histories. Memoirs do not tend to be good sources for tactical information. The website Lone Sentry has some decent articles and Jentz' books on the Panzertruppen contain some solid tidbits of information. In my experience, to figure out how tactics really worked you have to read between the lines in operational histories and really think about what arms commanders are using in what situations and in what sequence. Playing CM also helps to show how such things work and lets you make more sense of how real battles worked and why.

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How actually could Germany bring the Soviet Union to the brink of destruction with what it had available in 1941-1942?

I think the only way that could happen is if something had caused a complete political collapse of the Soviet government. If Stalin had been ousted, his successors might have been willing to reach a temporary accommodation with Germany, but my guess is that sooner or later hostilities would have recommenced. But even more likely, there would have been no armistice at all, regardless of who was in charge.

I don't believe that the Germans had quite enough power to bring the Soviets down. Their entire strategy was based on the belief that they would essentially destroy the Red Army within 200 kilometers of the border in the first month and everything would be mopping up after that. They radically underestimated the resiliency of the Soviet army and society. They did more or less destroy the existing army in the first month or two of the war, but the Soviet kept creating new armies and throwing them into the fray, a feat that Germany could not match. Whereas the Soviet army continually increased its fighting power, the German army was continually eroded.

Michael

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Hitler made the (forced by Mussolini's stupidity) strategic error of spending several weeks conquering the Balkans, Greece etc so Barbarossa was delayed those crucial weeks.

Pure myth. Oft repeated but never true. First of all, late rains in the western districts of the USSR would have prevented the campaign from beginning more than just a very few days earlier than the historical date.

Secondly, Martin van Creveld, by comparing OKW's original planned scheduled buildup in the east with what actually occurred after the Balkan campaign was over, found no significant differences.

Michael

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Germany fatally stalled their offensive outside Moscow in the winter of 1941. This failure puts the myth of German 'flexible offensive doctrine' in a new light IMHO. It also puts 'the spectacular blitzkrieg victories of 1940 in France' in a new perspective - i.e. why did they get it so wrong in 1941 if the Germans were so uberperfect in the early war years? If you answer 'Hitler' - well not until later in the war and this really was an operational level failure in 1941.

The impression I gain from my own readings is that in most cases during the early war years (and indeed well into 1944) Germany did not always so much win their battles as the Allies lost them.

Case in point: France 1940. The French command and control system was abominably outdated. As a result, the orders coming down from the Supreme Command were often 24-48 hours out of date. They simply could not keep up with a fluid and rapidly evolving situation.

Somewhat the same often occurred to the British in North Africa, albeit for different reasons.

Bottom line: If the Allies had been as well prepared for the kind of war that they found themselves in, in terms of tactical doctrine, and command and staff procedures, they would have given the Germans a much better run for the money, might even have stopped them cold. Whatever victories the Germans would have been able to eke out would have been far less dazzling and bought at a much higher price.

Michael

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Glantz's "Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War 1941-3" is a mine of information about how the Red Army adapted after the Disasters of 41. It also shows just how delusional the original German 'strategy' was.

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