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Was lend-lease essential in securing a Soviet victory?


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And methinks they had a very good point too. The unwillingness of the Soviets to allow Western air supply during the fighting kind of gives the game away, n'est-ce pas?

Having studied this part of the offensive a bit more lately, I'm more on the fence about this than I used to be. At some point an offensive runs out of steam. There are multiple indications that was happening in several key areas of the front. The biggest example was the near total destruction of the 3rd Tank Corps and the mauling of the bulk of the 2nd Tank Army in the Radzymin-Wolomin-Praga area. Ad hoc German counter attacks, some coming literally off of trains, were able to decimate the Soviet forces closest to Warsaw.

To me there is no question about the condition of the Soviet forces nearest Warsaw. They were spent. No, the question is if the Soviets had wanted to make Warsaw a strategic objective if they could have moved forces around to keep the offensive up. That's the area I see room for debate on both sides.

But let's not kid ourselves. Stalin was absolutely uninterested in having an organized Polish force to deal with. We know how Stalin treated Poland in the 2 years they occupied it from 1939-1941 and also what happened from 1945-1980s. That all on it's own makes it unlikely that the Soviets did everything they could to liberate Warsaw. Whether they could have if they wanted to is a separate discussion.

Steve

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According Pyl'cyn, writing in Penalty Strike, p. 148, says Stavka had planned on mounting the Vistual-Oder Operation on January 20, 1945, but at Churchill's urgent request, to take pressure off the Ardennes, Stalin moved up the start date to January 12. By January 16, Pyl'cyn's regiment had reached the souhern suburbs of Warsaw. The Warsaw Uprising began August 1, 1944 and ended October 2, 1944. Earlier Russian combat operations are below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Radzymin_(1944)

"After the Russian reconnaissance units reached Warsaw in late July, on August 1, 1944 the Warsaw Uprising started. Starting from an area south of Mińsk Mazowiecki, Lieutenant-General N. D. Vedeneev's 3rd Tank Corps (part of the Soviet Second Tank Army) thrust northwest through Okuniew and Wołomin to Radzymin, reaching an area only three miles (five kilometers) from the strategic bridge over the Narew River at Zegrze.

In response to Vedeneev's thrust, the Germans started a tactical counter-attack near Radzymin on July 31. The offensive, carried out by 4 understrength Panzer divisions,[1] was to secure the eastern approaches to Warsaw and Vistula crossings, and aimed to destroy the three tank corps of the Second Tank Army in detail. Under the leadership of German Field Marshal Model, the 4th, 19th, Hermann Göring, and 5th SS Panzer Divisions were concentrated from different areas with their arrival in the area of Wołomin occurring between July 31 and August 1, 1944. Although the 3rd Tank Corps gamely defended the initial assaults of the Hermann Göring and 19th Panzer Divisions, the arrival of the 4th Panzer and 5th SS Panzer Divisions spelled doom for the isolated and outnumbered unit.[2]

Already on August 1, the leading elements of the 19th and 5th SS Panzer Divisions, closing from the west and east respectively, met at Okuniew, cutting the 3rd Tank Corps off from the other units of the Second Tank Army. Pressed into the area of Wołomin, the 3rd Tank Corps was pocketed and destroyed on August 3, 1944. Attempts to reach the doomed tank corps by the 8th Guards Tank Corps and the 16th Tank Corps failed, with the 8th Guards Tank Corps taking serious losses in the attempt. Although Model had planned to attack the 8th Guards Tank Corps next, the withdrawal of the 19th and Hermann Göring Panzer Divisions to shore up the German defenses around the Magnuszew bridgehead forced the remaining German forces around Okuniew to go on the defensive.[3][4]

For unknown reasons, on August 2, 1944 all armies that were to assault Warsaw had their orders changed. The 28th, 47th and 65th Armies were ordered to turn northwards and seize the undefended town of Wyszków and the Liwiec river line. The 2nd Tank Army was left in place and had to fight the Germans alone, without support of the infantry. Also, 69th Army was ordered to stop while the 8th Guards Army under Vasily Chuikov was ordered to halt the assault and await a German attack from the direction of Garwolin.

Further combat lasted until August 10, when the Germans finally withdrew. Soviet losses were heavy, but not heavy enough to affect the overall course of their thrust to the vicinity of Warsaw. The 3rd Tank Corps was destroyed, the 8th Guards Tank Corps took heavy losses, and the 16th Tank Corps took significant losses as well. Overall, the Second Tank Army's losses were significant enough that it was withdrawn from the front lines by August 5, 1944."

Per the Wiki on the Battle of Radyzimin, the question of whether the Russians could've liberated Warsaw in time remains open, because relevant parts of the Russian Archives remain off limits. There is a mixed view on what really happened.

"After World War II, communist propaganda used the example of the Battle of Radzymin of 1944 as a proof that the German counter-attack prevented the Red Army from helping the Warsaw Uprising. However, it remains unknown why the Soviet assault was halted as some Russian archives are still closed to historians[citation needed]. Some Polish and Western historians argue that the Soviet assault was halted because Stalin wanted the Warsaw insurgents, loyal to the Polish government in exile (known for its anti-Soviet stance), destroyed."

Regards,

John Kettler

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I believe there was an author who claimed that while in 1939 Britain and France would not be a match for Germany, in 1938 they had a decent chance of winning a conflict (if they had not gone to accommodate Hitler in Munich). Britain and France were ill-prepared, but according to the author in 1938 German preparedness and overall strength were even worse.

Surprisingly, Hitler seemed to think of the Munich agreement as a defeat of his. He reportedly complained that his war was stolen from him.

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Foreigner,

Germany was in exceedingly weak military condition when the Rhineland was remilitarized by Germany. Had the French moved in then, there would've been no need for Lend Lease, since that would've pretty much sunk Germany's military ambitions right there.

It would appear, though, that, depending on whom you believe, France didn't want to take an action sure to be unpopular with her war-weary people; that some thought a real war might ensue; that negotiation was preferred, and the most interesting was that France, in full-blown economic crisis then, couldn't afford the 30 million francs/day a military move against the German reoocupation of the Rhineland would've cost.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remilitarization_of_the_Rhineland

And from the German end?

"Not long after dawn on March 7, 1936, nineteen German infantry battalions and a handful of planes entered the Rhineland. They reached the river Rhine by 11:00 a.m. and then three battalions crossed to the west bank of the Rhine. When German reconnaissance learned that thousands of French soldiers were congregating on the Franco-German border, General Blomberg begged Hitler to evacuate the German forces. Hitler inquired whether the French forces had actually crossed the border and when informed that they had not, he assured Blomberg that they would wait until this happened.[22] In marked contrast to Blomberg who was highly nervous during Operation Winter Exercise, Neurath stayed calm and very much urged Hitler to stay the course.[23]

Heinz Guderian, a German general interviewed by French officers after the Second World War, claimed: "If you French had intervened in the Rhineland in 1936 we should have been sunk and Hitler would have fallen".[24]

A German officer assigned to the Bendlerstrasse during the crisis told H. R. Knickerbocker during the Spanish Civil War: "I can tell you that for five days and five nights not one of us closed an eye. We knew that if the French marched, we were done. We had no fortifications, and no army to match the French. If the French had even mobilized, we should have been compelled to retire." The general staff, the officer said, considered Hitler's action suicidal.[25]:26

Hitler himself said:

The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance.[26]"

Regards,

John Kettler

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John Kettler,

Thanks for the description! But I think it can be argued that French (and possibly British) intervention was less likely in 1936, even if the odds were more in their favor than in 1938.

The re-militarization was clearly a violation of the Versailles treaty, but not an outright threat of war with another nation. After all, that was indisputably German territory. So in the Rhineland case, an intervention would be harder to justify than in 1938 if Hitler had indeed attacked Czechoslovakia. After all, in 1923 - 25 the French and Belgians did occupy the Ruhr as Germany failed to make their reparation payments (a clear Treaty violation), but drew international condemnation in the process (in part for using "colonial" troops).

So it seems there was a tacit understanding that the Versailles treaty would not be kept anywhere near to the letter without grave consequences. Still I believe that if not the Anschluss, then at least the threats surrounding the Sudetenland should have been "whistled" for crossing the line.

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"Not long after dawn on March 7, 1936, nineteen German infantry battalions and a handful of planes entered the Rhineland."

I read somewhere a couple of years back that not all of those battalions were full-fledged infantry. There simply weren't enough available to man the force. So the numbers were made up with border guard and police detachments, which would have been very lightly armed. Faced with an incursion by French regular army forces, they would have simply melted away.

Michael

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Third, the public of both Britain and France were not in favor of starting a ground offensive into Germany. They were largely naive and hopeful that Germany would be satisfied with achieving it's stated goals of:

1. Being rearmed

2. Having the Rheinland reoccupied

3. Incorporating the Sudetenland

4. Recovering lands ceded to Poland

5. Unification with Austria

Another point to no small extent was a sad truth that at the end of the day their were plenty of people in the west who simply did not think Hitler was such a bad guy. The Pro-Fascist movements in France were nothing to sneeze at. Britain was beset by a powerful wave of Red Scare that encouraged them to ignore absolutely everything Hitler was doing so long as he was an enemy of communism and had no ambitions towards the Empire.

Throw in no small amount of shared views with the Nazis, such as racism and anti-semitism on the part of everyday people.

Call it a hunch, but the only guy in the west who I suspect had Hitler pegged as a complete SOB from Day 1 of his Chancellorship was Roosevelt.

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Call it a hunch, but the only guy in the west who I suspect had Hitler pegged as a complete SOB from Day 1 of his Chancellorship was Roosevelt.

Churchill in The Gathering Storm claims to have had an inkling along those lines. Of course, he has also been known to embroider his reputation here and there. But in this case I tend to believe him as in speeches in Parliament he was pretty early in pointing to a German menace.

Michael

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It's important to some extent to understand that we can look back on the direction history took with hindsight. Which is what Erwin is getting at. In 1933 most of the men in His Majesty's Government considered Churchill a fringe rogue and adventurer. Like how Ron Paul is in America. Roosevelt's hands were tied by the overwhelming voice of the isolationist movement. The few men in Washington who were in favor of action were only in favor of action against Japan, not Germany. Although as I recall "Germany First" had pretty much been decided before Marshall even became Chief of Staff.

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Prewar fully 1/4 of the US population considered itself of German heritage. Italians constituted another large chunk of the US population. Add this to the super strong isolationist tendencies of the population as a whole and you can see why the US simply wasn't prone to getting involved. As I think I already stated in this thread, FDR deliberately tried to capitalize on casualties from provocations such as convoy protection. There was a specific incident when a US Coast Guard destroyer was sunk. FDR basically said "see that! This should mean WAR!". The response was "No, our ship shouldn't have been there in the first place, so don't do that again".

Generally speaking nobody in Western Europe wanted another war since they were still recovering from the last one. Which is why there was no popular support for a war with Germany until Germany attacked them directly. Even then many Brits thought it might be better to sue for peace. The Luftwaffe's attacks on civilian areas changed all that. Idiots.

Steve

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Remember, it's a good thing the Nazi's were idiots. But I also think if they weren't idiots they wouldn't be Nazis. They were delusional fanatics, apt at making one bad decision after another. What I can't understand is why the military chiefs, who supposedly were not idiots, went along with it to the degree they did.

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Sequoia,

I think that partly can be attributed to the fact that, at least initially, a series of Hitler's crazy bets paid off big time, which made their otherwise reasonable objections seem weak, cowardly, and stupid in comparison. Afterwards, there was an element of "groupthink" - once enough people (at least publicly) profess their belief in something - no matter how wrong it was, such as the infallibility of the Fuhrer kissed by Providence and selected by Destiny - even the best people would subconsciously start to question their better judgement. There are interesting tests where a roomful of paid actors giving the same wrong answer most often force the unsuspecting test subject to repeat it (regardless of the obvious truth).

Of course, it didn't help that often disagreeing with Hitler was disagreeable to one's health, freedom, and life...

... or it may be a banal case of a lot of the high-ranking officers missing a spine.

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Sequoia, it is an example of behaviour as a lagging cultural artifact in a system: the military was subordinate to the Emperor, was still happy to declare allegiance to the Chancellor rather than to the flag (because declaring for the flag is a political construct that goes with the establishment of a republic.) European militaries generally survived with a conservative model of organisational development: tradition hangs around because it works. Of course, if your leader is a mental midget or moral incompetent, you're in the poop with this model.

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Prewar fully 1/4 of the US population considered itself of German heritage.

I heard once that early in the Republic's history, there was a plebiscite or referendum to decide the official language of the US, and it was a close-run thing between German and English. Any truth in that?

Lord, this thread is soooo dead. Obviously no one cares about LL anymore...

Hey, you and Steve have expounded in agreement, and that's settled the matter, pretty much :)

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The issue people always miss when discussing things like this is that WW2 was an economic conflict. Given sufficient manpower (and other resources), the issue is how to best spend it to achieve the best military effect. Unless people know enough about the war economy of the USSR to know how much slack there was to change production priorities/amounts to compensate for the lack of Lend Lease, it is hard to discuss the role of Lend Lease in the victory. It is grossly pessimistic to just remove the LL kit from the ORBAT, and the supply from the supplies total, since the Soviets would have compensated. For example, the USSR almost neglected trucks because they got a huge number from USA. They could have reduced armoured vehicle production without a huge effect.

Conversely it is obviously optimistic to say LL had no effect. My judgment is that the war would not have changed in outcome, but it would have been extended by c6months. Fortunately the Corporal painter would still have made all the mistakes, and the Soviets would have fought like tigers at the key points. I cannot see Moscow falling in 1941 with the absence of LL (not that too much had arrived by then). I also cannot see that Uranus would have been that different without LL - Stalingrad might have fallen, but 6th Army was not going to be able to reinforce the flanks enough to stop the encirclement. Kursk would have been the same.

Ironically, I think the main effect would have been a slower advance into Europe in 1944/5, due to supply, and a slightly weaker Red Army in the earlier years and hence more ground to make up.

But, I am not sure I can substantiate my position any more than either extreme I mentioned...

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The issue people always miss when discussing things like this is that WW2 was an economic conflict. Given sufficient manpower (and other resources), the issue is how to best spend it to achieve the best military effect.

That's partially true but the second sentence belies the assumption that the lead-lease question asks that we tend to gloss over: if the Soviets had been defeated by Nazi Germany (lets assume that lend-lease is important and without it there's a collapse on the East in 1942), would the Western Allies have been capable of accepting the casualties necessary to defeat a Germany that's had two full years without distraction to solidify its defense against invasion?

I think the answer is likely no.

So while part one of the answer is 'probably not', part two of the answer is 'and the reason you've asked that question is to shift the discussion over credit for winning the war away from the massive blood price the Soviet Union paid for victory that we did not'.

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snip

So while part one of the answer is 'probably not', part two of the answer is 'and the reason you've asked that question is to shift the discussion over credit for winning the war away from the massive blood price the Soviet Union paid for victory that we did not'.

I can't remember the payout for the standard GI life insurance bill - was it $10k? Figure the Western Allies "saved" this amount for each of the Soviet lives spent in the conflict and the question of whether the Soviets paid enough for Lend Lease becomes a little clearer.

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