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Was lend-lease essential in securing a Soviet victory?


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Just started reading David Glantz' new book on the battle of Smolensk between July and August 1941 which is all about the delay imposed on the German advance by a successful Soviet defence.

Yeah I thoroughly enjoyed that book. Even the Germans knew by that point that the "blitzkrieg" as they had gotten used to it - I.E. A relatively short campaign, was not in the cards this time. Whether they cared to admit it was another question however the number of casualties going home for longer hospital care was an unavoidable sign that all was not going well.

As to the rest of it, not sure what the point is. It was a world war period. You can't take pieces in isolation and make statements about what might have happened given other specific changes and ignore those things that don't fit that narrative. If the Nazis weren't ass**les you wouldn't have had a world allied against them either. But they were and we did.

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Childress - Sorge told Stalin that Hitler was going to attack a month before the invasion. Stalin didn't believe it and considered Sorge a British double agent spreading lies because of it. When he had a chance to exchange a Japanese prisoner for Sorge after the latter had been compromised and arrested by the Japanese, he reportedly denied knowing who Sorge was, and let him be executed. This was in fact Stalin's way of covering up his idiocy in trusting Hitler - he tried to physically eliminate anyone who had been right in the matter and knew that he, Stalin, had been wrong about it.

As for the Siberian formations, first the actual far east divisions were already arriving in the west as early as September, and did so in a tiny trickle, and made no difference to the outcome.

They were not the formations that turned the tide at Moscow. Instead that honor goes to formations that began forming in July and August, throughout the Russian interior, including to Urals and western Siberia yes, but far more from all the other areas with more of the population. That wave of newly formed rifle divisions only entered combat in late November or early December, on the Moscow part of the front especially (more did so in the south opposite Rostov). They had been *training* all that time. Those were the actual "Siberian" divisions, the Germans just didn't know squat about actual Russian mobilization or what came from where. You can find all the details in Walter S Dunn's various works, including Stalin's Keys to Victory e.g.

The myth that far eastern formation sent west turned the tide was a German misunderstanding at the time. They did not know how the Russians were making so many new formations. They were pushing diplomatically for a Japanese declaration of war in early December 1941, after Pearl Harbor and with their own offensive stalled at the gates of Moscow, hoping that a Japanese declaration against Russia in response to their own against the US would help in that battle. There was no prospect of it ever doing so, and it never made the slightest difference in the outcome of the 1941 campaign.

It was just another case of the Germans being completely wrong in all of their estimates of what the Russians had available, where it was coming from, and what actually determined what they could deploy against the Germans, when, where, etc.

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ASL Vet - sure the Germans have more POL and more planes without the west - see my first post above in this thread on the subject. But you missed the operative clause of my previous where I said "lawn ornament" - which was, because they can't get it there. It was not the absolute amount of fuel - or the absolute amount of combat aircraft - that limited German power projection into Russia. It was their transport links and the awful, low capacity of those links --- which was a result of inadequate planning and hopelessly overconfident estimates as much as any absolute scarcity of such things in all of Europe.

When the last German push to the Caucasus stalls out in the late summer of 1942, they have all of 2 Panzer divisions and 1 motorized infantry division on which their entire campaign hinges, with about 300 tanks. And 2/3rds of them are out of fuel. They can't fuel an extra 200 tanks up at the pointy end, at that stage. It isn't because there is no fuel in Germany, it is because the fuel is in Germany at not the outskirts of Grozny.

Similarly, in the fall of 1943 when the Germans lose the Ukraine, the trench infantry strength of Army Group South is about 50,000 men. Not the rear area types and specialists, the actual combat infantrymen who are not in hospital and are with their units out on the front lines. There are millions of men in the Replacement Army at the same date. But they are not out on the line where it matters - because the German army didn't plan that they would be needed after the Russian summer offensives and get them where they were needed.

The shoestring shortages the Germans at the front face repeatedly, that lead to one lost campaign after another, are not absolute scarcities of the required item of military force or of supply. They are systematic inabilities to get what they have elsewhere to where it is actually needed and can have the largest impact - caused by an utterly inadequate focus on the logistic component of modern great power warfare, from running their war economy on a shoestring, from persistently unrealistic and overconfident estimates, from a persistent attempt to fight the war with the stocks on hand and to regard replenishment of those stocks as battle runs them down as a minor afterthought to be left to the dimmer types in the quartermaster corps.

This is the sort of own-goal limitation that Steve was already discussing in his first response on the topic, and it remains correct.

*Could* the Germans have done better with no western allies to fight? Absolutely. They *could* have done better with what they actually had - light years better. They could have done even better than that had they just managed their war economy and logistic priorities more realistically from early in the war (which means, much more conservatively and expecting a long war of attrition from the word "go"). But they didn't do those things because being Very Bad at precisely such things was the leading characteristic of the German Wehrmacht in WW II.

(Their next most salient characteristic was firing everyone who knew anything and told the truth about any of the above, brilliant past performance be darned, while promoting Panglossian yes-men who systematically pretended everything was fine).

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IMHO that depends on what is meant by "win the war". My own opinion for what it's worth (since at this point all we are doing is speculating) is that most likely the Soviets could have evicted the Germans from their territory unassisted. But by that time their losses in manpower, among other things, would have so sapped their strength that further advances against a determined German defense would not have been possible at that time. Germany, however exhausted, would be unconquered.

Agreed. That the USSR stopped the Germans on their own is not in doubt. How far back they could have pushed the Germans on their own is an interesting question, but I think it highly unlikely the Red Army would have ever seen Berlin. The Soviets themselves seem to have recognized that fact.

"Without American production the United Nations could never have won the war"

-- Joseph Stalin

"Stalin frequently said that without lend-lease we could not have won the war, and I agree with him."

-- Nikita Khrushchev

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Vanir, Michael,

I think Germany would have had little difficulty losing the war regardless. Not because it was physically unable to defeat an unassisted Soviet Union - it was physically capable to defeating an unassisted Soviet Union. But what Germany was physically capable of and what it actually accomplished in practice with its existing command and its idiocies, are two entirely different things. The latter did not even come close to the former.

To those who doubt this, as a case I recommend studying the accomplishments of von Bock up through July of 1942. Pay particular attention to the reputation for massively successful offensive operations on the largest scale that Germany had to that point, and von Bock's personal role in the list of those operations, since Poland. Next, review what he had done just since the start of Case Blue. Specifically, meeting a counterattack by no fewer than 10 tanks corps, including the first Russian full tank army counterattack of the war, with a force no more than half its size, and completely defeating those forces while continuing the initiative.

Then notice he was removed right then. Notice that the reason for his removal was that the high command wanted to use his armor to do something colossally stupid that threw away the success Blue had achieved so far, and that he did comply with half that demand, and only delayed complying with the other half because he understood, as that high command did not, that the Russian counterattacks around Voronezh that he was defeating were not a sideshow, but the main event.

Savor that set of developments. Then dial it back 8 months and review how and why Guderian and von Rundstadt were sacked, and perform the same review.

Germany was quite capable of defeating itself with only the Russians to smash against...

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I will just add to your discussion that, after the initial Barbarossa operation, both Germany and USSR switch to "total war" state doctrins.

At this stage, the superbs actions and battles, audacious movements encirclements and so on, where secondary events.

The objectives became, instead "winning in the battlefield": destroying the entire ennemy state system, logistics, politics, industries, ect, ect.

In fact, the soviets loose many mens, many armies, many battles. But that don't really matter in a "total war" doctrine, where the main objective is not in the battlefield. But increasing is industrial and social power of destruction and destroying his opponent counterparts.

Before Barbarossa, these is "clausewitch" point of view in German's doctrine: A suprise operations and audacious movements to to encircles and destroy the ennemy armys and "Hop!" win the war.

But for winning a "total war", you have to destroy more than just an army.

The soviets in WW2 will never have stopped on germany frontiers. No matter the cost.

and sorry for my bad english ^^

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You have now made your position clear. The Soviet Union, by itself, without any assistance or participation in WW2 from Britain or the US would have defeated Germany all by itself. If Britain and France did not declare war on Germany after it invaded Poland and Germany then invaded the Soviet Union history would not have changed at all and the Soviets would be in Berlin regardless. Perhaps that might be the case or perhaps not we will never know. This does explain your position on the utter uselessness of Lend Lease though and how it contributed absolutely nothing to Soviet victory.

I have patently not made my position clear since your statement of it is so far off.

The simple point I m trying to make is that the the question posed in this thread "Was Lend Lease Essential in securing a Soviet Victory" is in its self immensely disrespectful to modern day Russians and diminishes the suffering of the Soviet peoples.

The war was won by the Soviets because of three factors:

1) An ability to mobilise their industry

2) An ability to mobilse their population

3) A logistics system that could support a vast army at distance from their home bases

4) The creation of a doctrine that could produce German defeats albeit at the operational level in their concept of "Deep Battle"

Three of these four factors were in place by August 1941 and were the factors that produced the victory at Moscow in 1941 and Stalingrad in 1942 which stopped the German advance and in doing so ensured that the won could be won later. Allied air power is not a factor and neither is Lend Lease to any great extent. However there are other factors at work that stop a successful German victory, as has been pointed out by others, Great Britains efforts in 1941, the German High Command, etc, etc. But we should not diminish the real contribution made by the Soviets themselves to that defeat.

Turning to the third period of the war, was Lend Lease a contribution to the ultimate defeat of Germany, yes it was, as I posted earlier FOOD supply saved MILLIONS of Soviet lives. Did the Allied Air Offensive contribute, yes it did as did the Allied landings in Sicily, etc, etc. As Michael said there is real doubt if the Soviet Union alone could have reached Berlin unless Germany was drawn off elsewhere.

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What this debate should be about is how important are these factors in relation to one another and the nature of modern warfare in the middle of the 20th. The Russo-German War was an old fashioned war of mass armies destroying one another on the ground. On the other hand the Western Powers fought a modern war of machines which attacked the enemy population and economy by sea and by air and then defeated the Germany army in the field again by use of machines. This idea had its roots in the Great War search for a second front to break the trench deadlock of Flanders. The problem this produces is that it is hard to put a quantitative value on these two approaches and thereby compare their overall contribution to the defeat of Germany. The debate was obscured until recently by an inability to assess to what contribution air power had to the defeat. But the results of modern air power such as the bombing of North Vietnam, use of aircraft in the Bosnian Conflict, both the Iraq Wars, etc have shown that air power has an ability to utterly destroy enemy infrastruture but only a limited ability to destroy enemy military forces and does not have the effect to make political or social change. For that you need boots on the ground. This knowledge was not available until the end of the C20th which made it hard to quantify air power.

The table I posted earlier showing relative casualties on each Front is too crude to assess this as it takes no account of the effect on the German economy of a diminished ability to fight due to lack of machines. This would raise the Western Allied contribution and lower the Soviet one. Under the military casualty measure, the Western Allies contributed 13% to the defeat of Germany. If you add in the effect of naval and air power you add in about 15% raising the Western Allies total to 28%. The reason the air power figure is low is that the air campaign does not become effective until middle 1943. If you add in Lend Lease aid to the USSR and estimate that it saved 1 million soldiers lives that adds a further 8% which brings your total up to around a third which I think would be more or less correct.

I do not claim that these figures are correct and they are certainly open to question but this kind of calculation does attempt to show the relative values. The bottom line is that to produce political change in Germany you had to occupy the country and in order to do that, just as in the Great War, you needed to destroy the German Army which meant killing 5 million soldiers. The other factor is ease of access to killing those soldiers and in this the Western Allies were at a severe disadvantage by not having easy land access to the enemy. This made their economic cost of causing those deaths far higher.

The one objective of this kind of study is to put into context the relative values of the different styles and abilities of warfare conducted by the Allied Coalition it is not a reflection of their willingness to engage the enemy. The USA spent a fortune on fighting the war but distance and geography meant that it was hard for her to engage the enemy, the Soviet Union could not help but engage the enemy but did not have the riches to spend on it.

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They were not the formations that turned the tide at Moscow. Instead that honor goes to formations that began forming in July and August, throughout the Russian interior, including to Urals and western Siberia yes, but far more from all the other areas with more of the population. That wave of newly formed rifle divisions only entered combat in late November or early December, on the Moscow part of the front especially (more did so in the south opposite Rostov). They had been *training* all that time. Those were the actual "Siberian" divisions, the Germans just didn't know squat about actual Russian mobilization or what came from where. You can find all the details in Walter S Dunn's various works, including Stalin's Keys to Victory e.g.

I would second this post, Walter Dunn's "Stalins Keys to Victory" makes a clear explanation of how the Soviet their raised huge armies.

Halder notes in his diary that by November the German's estimate that they have destroyed ALL the Soviet pre-war divisions and yet they are facing a force that is even larger when they started. Their force on the other hand has run through their replacements and is shrinking in size. Nothing illustrates more clearly the reasons for the Soviet victory in the winter of 1941.

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But there was another, more recent source of dislike and distrust among the US ruling elite. In 1933 the UK defaulted on their WW I war debts. Fairly or not, this cast the UK as a deadbeat nation and among the US powers that be there was not a lot of eagerness to leap to that embattled nation's defense.

Michael

Michael this is only partly true. Yes the UK defaulted on its Great War debt to the USA of £866 in 1932 but in turn was owed £2,300 by other countries for their war debt. Hoovers moratorium was to give time to address this issue as it was a world-wide one not just a British one. As a matter of interest the UK paid the last of her WWII debt to the USA on 31st Dec 2006 which was paid in full.

You can read the full story from the BBC

The UK is about to pay off the last of its World War II loans from the US. But it hasn't always been so fastidious.

On 31 December, the UK will make a payment of about $83m (£45.5m) to the US and so discharge the last of its loans from World War II from its transatlantic ally.

It is hard from a modern viewpoint to appreciate the astronomical costs and economic damage caused by this conflict. In 1945, Britain badly needed money to pay for reconstruction and also to import food for a nation worn down after years of rationing.

"In a nutshell, everything we got from America in World War II was free," says economic historian Professor Mark Harrison, of Warwick University.

"The loan was really to help Britain through the consequences of post-war adjustment, rather than the war itself. This position was different from World War I, where money was lent for the war effort itself."

Bomb damage at St Paul's

Britain needed to rebuild

Britain had spent a great deal of money at the beginning of the war, under the US cash-and-carry scheme, which saw straight payments for materiel. There was also trading of territory for equipment on terms that have attracted much criticism in the years since. By 1941, Britain was in a parlous financial state and Lend-Lease was eventually introduced.

The post-war loan was part-driven by the Americans' termination of the scheme. Under the programme, the US had effectively donated equipment for the war effort, but anything left over in Britain at the end of hostilities and still needed would have to be paid for.

But the price would please a bargain hunter - the US only wanted one-tenth of the production cost of the equipment and would lend the money to pay for it.

As a result, the UK took a loan for $586m (about £145m at 1945 exchange rates), and a further $3,750m line of credit (about £930m at 1945 exchange rates). The loan was to be paid off in 50 annual repayments starting in 1950, although there were six years when payment was deferred because of economic or political crises.

Generous terms

It's easy to cough and splutter at the thought of our closest ally suddenly demanding payment for equipment rather than sparing a billion or two as a gift.

But the terms of the loan were extremely generous, with a fixed interest rate of 2% making it considerably less terrifying than a typical mortgage.

Still there were British officials, like economist JM Keynes, who detected a note of churlishness in the general demeanour of the Americans after the war.

Nobody pays off their student loan early, unless they are a nutter

Dr Tim Leunig

His biographer, Lord Skidelsky, says: "Keynes wanted either a gift to cover Britain's post-war balance of payments, or an interest-free loan. The most important condition was sterling being made convertible [to dollars]. Everyone simply changed their pounds for dollars. [Loans were] eaten up by a flight from sterling. They then had to suspend convertibility. The terms were impossible to fulfil."

Anne Moffat, the MP for East Lothian, asked the parliamentary question that revealed the end of the WWII loan after being pressed by an interested constituent. She is a little surprised that we are still paying the Americans off all these years later.

"It is certainly bad that no-one seems to have known about it. It seems to be a dark, well-kept secret."

Historic debts

Yet for Dr Tim Leunig, lecturer in economic history at the LSE, it's no surprise that the UK chose to keep this low-interest loan going rather than pay it off early.

"Nobody pays off their student loan early, unless they are a nutter. Even if you've got the money to pay it off early, you should just put it in a bank and pocket the interest."

And if it seems strange to the non-economist that WWII debts are still knocking around after 60 years, there are debts that predate the Napoleonic wars. Dr Leunig says the government is still paying out on these "consol" bonds, because it is better value for taxpayers to keep paying the 2.5% interest than to buy back the bonds.

In a 1945 state department survey on the US public's attitudes to its wartime allies, Britain was one of the least trusted countries

Dr Patricia Clavin

And while the UK dutifully pays off its World War II debts, those from World War I remain resolutely unpaid. And are by no means trifling. In 1934, Britain owed the US $4.4bn of World War I debt (about £866m at 1934 exchange rates). Adjusted by the Retail Price Index, a typical measure of inflation, £866m would equate to £40bn now, and if adjusted by the growth of GDP, to about £225bn.

"We just sort of gave up around 1932 when the interwar economy was in turmoil, currencies were collapsing," says Prof Harrison.

Nor were we alone. In 1931, US President Herbert Hoover announced a one-year moratorium on war loan repayments from all nations so the international community could properly discuss what it was going to do.

British resentment

Many Britons felt that the US loans should be considered as part of its contribution to the World War I effort.

"The Americans lent Britain a lot. Britain resented making payments," says historian Dr Patricia Clavin, of Oxford University.

And although Britain was unable to pay its debts, it was also owed the whacking sum of £2.3bn.

OUTSTANDING WWI LOANS

Britain owed to US in 1934: £866m

Adjusted by RPI to 2006: £40bn

Other nations owed Britain: £2.3bn

Adjusted by RPI to 2006: £104bn

These loans remain in limbo. The UK Government's position is this: "Neither the debt owed to the United States by the UK nor the larger debts owed by other countries to the UK have been serviced since 1934, nor have they been written off."

So in a time when debt relief for Third World nations is recurrently in the news, the UK still has a slew of unresolved loans from a war that finished 88 years ago. HM Treasury's researchers descended into its archives and were unable to even establish which nations owe money. The bulk of the sum would probably have gone to allies such as nations of the Empire fighting alongside Britain, says Dr Clavin.

Nor is HM Treasury able to say why the UK never repaid its WWI debts - even though, at the time, many Americans took a dim view of repayments being suspended, for they had bought bonds which stood little chance of showing a return on their investment.

Investors gather after the Wall Street Crash

The Wall Street Crash helped plunge economies into chaos

Thus despite fighting on the same side in WWII, an air of financial distrust remained after hostilities ended.

"In a 1945 state department survey on the US public's attitudes to its wartime allies, Britain was one of the least trusted countries," says Dr Clavin.

During the crisis years of the 1930s, only one nation continued to pay in full - Finland. Perhaps a conscious effort to foster a good reputation with an increasingly influential power, Finland's actions generated thousands of positive stories in the American media at the time. Nor has it been forgotten; the Finns celebrated this achievement in an exhibition last year.

But for the UK, a reputation for reliability has taken longer to restore.

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Agreed. That the USSR stopped the Germans on their own is not in doubt. How far back they could have pushed the Germans on their own is an interesting question, but I think it highly unlikely the Red Army would have ever seen Berlin. The Soviets themselves seem to have recognized that fact.

"Without American production the United Nations could never have won the war"

-- Joseph Stalin

"Stalin frequently said that without lend-lease we could not have won the war, and I agree with him."

-- Nikita Khrushchev

The way I see it, even if one was to assume that 1941 would have largely played out the same in the complete absence of the western allies, 1942 probably would have been substantially different. I think there were something like 200,000 German troops occupying Norway and there were plenty of troops occupying France. I don't know how many, but certainly the Germans could have fielded two more entire armies on the Eastern Front. So instead of two Romanian Armies on either flank of 6th army it is not outside of the realm of possibility that there would have been two more entire German armies deployed in addition to the two Romanian armies. One could also theoretically include a much larger Italian order of battle. Hitler didn't even want Italian troops on the Eastern Front but Mussolini felt that it was his sacred obligation to send them and he insisted. Mussolini probably would have sent a much larger Italian contingent if he could have so a doubling of the size of the Italian forces in 1942 is not out of the realm of possibility. Lest some scoff at the Italians, the Italian army did give a good account of themselves in 1941 and even in the winter of 1942 they held the line for several days before breaking. If each division's frontage was shrunk with the addition of two German armies and another Italian army they could have been a decent addition to the Axis OB. There would also be more German armor as well. Just the presence of the Afrika Korps as a reserve armored force to counter Soviet breakthroughs would have made a big difference in the Stalingrad operation. German reserve armor made a big impact on Zhukov's failure in Operation Mars as well as the big Kharkov breakthrough just before the push on Stalingrad. On top of that you have a substantial increase in the size of the Luftwaffe with plenty of fuel to fly as many missions as they want to since the German sources of fuel and oil are secure and nobody is bombing the German rail and transportation system. Certainly the German home front would not see any bombing raids so German production would not have been hindered in the least from the standpoint of enemy action. Of course political interference would have been ever present, but I think it is safe to assume that the German order of battle would have more of everything in it relative to what was actually present. So I'm not sure at all that the Soviets would have pushed Germany out of their territory or that Soviet survival would have been assured.

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It is an interesting idea but one on which JasonC has already touched upon as having supply difficulties.

In 1942 Germany had a railway crisis in the East because they did not have enough capacity between the 7 railway lines and 420 trains a day reaching the Polish - Russian border and the 5 lines that crossed Ukraine and Belorussia carrying 120 trains a day. There was a programme running through the summer to upgrade the lines to 36 trains a day which would raise the total to 180 trains a day called the Ostbau 42 programme.

Serving HG Sud was one line running to Odessa at 24 trains a day and another running through Kiev carrying 24 trains a day as far as the Dnepr. From the Dnepr to the Don the railways were pretty much destroyed by the Russians and temporary replacements carried around 36 trains a day maximum. The Don bridges had all been destroyed and there were two replacement crossings, one at Rostov which served a 24 train a day line running down to the Caucuses (with a single track spur running off to Stalingrad) and another crossing at Belaya Kalitwa which carried a single track line directly to Stalingrad which carried 12 trains a day which opened in mid Sept.

Given that an Herren Gruppe required 24 trains a day in supplies (trains carried 450 tonnes net and so this equates to 10,000 tonnes) and then additional ones to carry replacement troops and equipment, Fall Blau was seriously short of logistical support - a fact that the Chief of the General Staff Halder had pointed out at the start of the operation as he had urged only one axis of advance by one HG - a point that had been ignored.

The shortage of logistical lift was so severe that 6.Armee sent most of its horses to the rear as winter approached which reduced its mobility but reduced its supply demand as fodder was bulky to transport. Likewise the advance to the oilfields in the south was often delayed for weeks at a time by shortages of fuel as supplies were switched to support 6.Armee and 4.PzArmee advance to the Volga.

Given these circumstances it is hard to raise combat capability by adding additional troops so the only gain is replacement of Allies by German troops but even then, they are operating under par as being short of supplies.

One feature of the Russo-German War was the superior utilisation of railways by the Soviets.

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So I'm not sure at all that the Soviets would have pushed Germany out of their territory or that Soviet survival would have been assured.

My own assumption in addressing this question was that the Western Allies would be engaged with the Axis as historically, but that there would be no Lend-Lease to the USSR at all. Under those conditions, I think it possible, even likely, that the Soviets would have been able to clear their territory at great cost, but not much more.

As for what the Western Alliance would have accomplished, I think that too would have been diminished since they would have been facing a larger German army. Conquest of Germany would then have been dependent on the success of the atomic bomb.

In light of that, I think Lend-Lease to the USSR was a good investment.

Michael

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DAF - Xactly. The issue beyond the Dnepr was limited railroad bridges as much as track damage; it is easy enough to rapidly build a pontoon bridge to let a motorized division cross and continue, it is decidedly harder to get up a bridge that can carry a full freight train across a wide river obstacle. The Germans had to use truck fleets to supplement the limited rail transport for the 1942 campaign, but those burned up a lot of the fuel they could deliver, and broke down from overuse, and were sure to get slammed by the weather as soon as it turned, etc. The Germans were trying to supply entire panzer corps spearheads with a fleet of 300 Ju-52s carrying about 1 ton apiece - less than a third what just one such formation needed. After any move more than about 50 miles they just run out of fuel. The issue is not having fuel in Germany, it is getting out where it is needed.

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Was the problem of rail and bridge building something that could ever have been properly addressed? Given a coldly rational approach to planning, could the shortfalls which had obviously been at least partly predicted have been mitigated/sidestepped enough to make a difference?

AIUI, there was a problem of guage, too, which meant the Germans couldn't just use the track already in place (though the hard work of grading and building the road bed had been done).

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My own assumption in addressing this question was that the Western Allies would be engaged with the Axis as historically, but that there would be no Lend-Lease to the USSR at all. Under those conditions, I think it possible, even likely, that the Soviets would have been able to clear their territory at great cost, but not much more.

As for what the Western Alliance would have accomplished, I think that too would have been diminished since they would have been facing a larger German army. Conquest of Germany would then have been dependent on the success of the atomic bomb.

In light of that, I think Lend-Lease to the USSR was a good investment.

Michael

I would agree with that conclusion whole heartedly.

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Was the problem of rail and bridge building something that could ever have been properly addressed? Given a coldly rational approach to planning, could the shortfalls which had obviously been at least partly predicted have been mitigated/sidestepped enough to make a difference?

Well, given that I am predisposed in favor of the idea that there was hardly any way that Germany could have won the war that it started, I tend to think not. So much of what Germany needed to do was simply beyond their means. Hitler didn't realize that because he underestimated his enemies (especially the USSR) and overestimated what Germany was capable of. Given that, through "perfect play" Germany could have improved its performance some. It's just that imperfect play is built into human endeavors, and in the case of Germany attained the status of a state religion. And don't forget that if we would allow Germany perfect play, we should allow it for the Allies as well. Absent many costly bungles, the Allies might have life a lot harder on the Nazis.

Michael

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Was the problem of rail and bridge building something that could ever have been properly addressed? Given a coldly rational approach to planning, could the shortfalls which had obviously been at least partly predicted have been mitigated/sidestepped enough to make a difference?

AIUI, there was a problem of guage, too, which meant the Germans couldn't just use the track already in place (though the hard work of grading and building the road bed had been done).

Not just gauge. German locomotives had smaller water reservoirs for steam. Plus, the lack of adequate insulation for the cold weather. The German locomotives had about 1/2 the range of Soviet locomotives. They had to re-gauge the rails, AND add watering stops between every pre-war one the Soviets had built. (Of course, they also had to add more wood/coal carriers behind the locomotives and insulate them to Soviet standards.)

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DAF - Xactly. The issue beyond the Dnepr was limited railroad bridges as much as track damage; it is easy enough to rapidly build a pontoon bridge to let a motorized division cross and continue, it is decidedly harder to get up a bridge that can carry a full freight train across a wide river obstacle. The Germans had to use truck fleets to supplement the limited rail transport for the 1942 campaign, but those burned up a lot of the fuel they could deliver, and broke down from overuse, and were sure to get slammed by the weather as soon as it turned, etc. The Germans were trying to supply entire panzer corps spearheads with a fleet of 300 Ju-52s carrying about 1 ton apiece - less than a third what just one such formation needed. After any move more than about 50 miles they just run out of fuel. The issue is not having fuel in Germany, it is getting out where it is needed.

The Germans did have one alternative which were the 3 Grosstransportraum Regiments of heavy trucks. For Fall Barbarossa they had marshalled 45,000 tonnes of heavy lorry of 4 tonnes trucks with 4 tonne trailers but these had largely broken down by October. Returned to Germany for refitting they returned to each of the HG and HG Sud was given 10,000 tonnes of lift for Fall Blau to supplement the railways which were expected to be slow in recovery. Other HG used them for general operations but there is no reason they could not have concentrated more in HG Sud area. These get you about 600km (ie about 200km beyond the Don river or half way from the Don to Stalingrad) to supplement the railways. But you are still limited by the fuel delivered from the Polish-Russian border.

You are exactly right about the Bridge building. The main pair of Don Bridges were heavily damaged and a repair team from the Eisenbahntruppe examined them under fire at the end of July and repair started immediately with a team from Organisation Todt but even so it took until mid Sept to get a temporary bridge open and even this was only able to handle a small number of trains which was supplemented by a cable way and lorries running on a pontoon bridge.

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Was the problem of rail and bridge building something that could ever have been properly addressed? Given a coldly rational approach to planning, could the shortfalls which had obviously been at least partly predicted have been mitigated/sidestepped enough to make a difference?

AIUI, there was a problem of gauge, too, which meant the Germans couldn't just use the track already in place (though the hard work of grading and building the road bed had been done).

I am afraid I will have to disagree with Michael on this one. The problem was largely structural (but for understandable reasons.) and could have been solved with enough willpower. The problem was that the Deutsches Reichsbahn (DRB) was starved of investment during the pre-war years and ignored during the planning process so that when war came it was ill prepared to meet the challenge. The DRB was vital for the war economy so the Reich Transport Ministry (RVM) tended to protect the weak DRB when occupying newly conquered territories such as France by setting up new companies to run them which came under military control or in the case of the Ostbahn in Poland under NSDAP control. They could not recruit good staff, lacked managers and had interference from soldiers.

The same situation occurred during the invasion of Russia, the Eisenbahnpioniere converted the track and ran the broad gauge trains behind the front, the FedKo (Grau Eisenbahner) ran the trains in the military rear area and then in the Reichs Kommisariats the RVM set up little railway companies called HBD to run the railways. These did not work well, at one point the Gestapo arrested three senior managers because the trains were not running well and they had to rely on vast numbers of indigenous staff! Construction work was done by the Army, Organisation Todt, RAD and private German companies.

The trend during the war was when Speer took over the economy and put his own man into the head of the DRB and RVM for the DRB to take over everything to do with railway and things ran much better, the Ostbahn certainly improved once the DRB had operational control and a lot of the track improvements were done by the DRB in Russia as they had the engineers, equipment and skills to do the job.

The problem was that this gradualist approach meant that the Germans never really looked at the Soviet network with some railway experts. The Soviet network was very strange - it had a track length about the same as that of Germany 106,000 km and a similar number of locomotives 25,000 but it hauled as almost as much freight as the US system which had four times the length of track and double the number of locomotives. The Soviets achieved this by running lightweight trains of great length all at one speed which gave them the maximum flow through the network. Soviet military trains carried 750 tonnes net weight (ie double that of German ones) with a typical wagon loading of 18 tonnes. The lightweight trains could run on poorly constructed track and they ran at slow speed ( 15 km per hour) in order to maintain the maximum flow (A similar approach to speed and flow was used in the Red Ball Express). This allowed the Red Army to use lots of tracks while the Germans tried to upgrade a few main line tracks to meet their higher standards.

If Germany had really studied the Soviet network and engaged the DRB experts at a much earlier date (- Dr.G.Garbe a German railway expert who lived in Minsk of all places before the war was writing in railway journals about the Soviet network as were other geographers and explorers.) and realised this, they could have gone into Russia with a different attitude and railway operating procedures and changed the gauge but used Kreigslok 52 on poorly constructed rails at slow speed and hauled as much freight as the Soviets did with far less effort and infrastructure which could then have been spent on bridge building and rail repair.

The Soviets had a fully integrated transport system with the NKPS under the control of Rear Area Services of the Red Army which controlled the entire railway operation from factory to front and they achieved re-building rates of rails and bridges and freight haulage that the Germans never did.

see here if you want to delve deeper into this subject:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=203286

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Engineering was a poor cousin in German military planning. They relied on semi civilian organizations for too much of it. Their intel on what counted as a Russian "road" was abysmal pre war, and they didn't adapt when they found out in the course of the 1941 campaign. Mileage achieved ran 50-60% of expectations, vehicle wear was 3 times as fast, the spare parts required likewise. They should have adapted to all of those things - instead they relied on field "hacks" and short term fixes like cannabilizing the vehicles that fell out to keep a few running.

The truck fleets assigned to each panzer group were crazy small, nothing that the US army would have tolerated. They had none of the focus on base building, improvements etc to support follow on operations that e.g. the US managed in the south Pacific. Basically they went into the war in Russia as though it would be a slightly larger France, and that was just hopelessly unrealistic about the conditions on the ground.

On the specific bottleneck of bridging and rail supply, they needed to make building a much higher priority; they needed to stage operations around the pacing the supply system could support instead of trying to win the war in one more operation. They needed to plan on the war requiring a *flow* to the front not a stock of assets that just moved there once.

These are all a fundamental rethinking of their whole approach to war, upgrading the G-4 and downgrading the G-1. Instead of operations calling everything and everyone else just being an afterthought expected to support the ops guys and his plans any way they could, blamed for not meeting sky high unrealistic expectations if they didn't - they instead needed to *start* from what was logistically possible, make their operational plans *within* those constraints instead of pretending they were unconstrained, etc.

In terms of major command decisions, this above all leads to a very different treatment of the officers conveying information about limits up the chain of command. That was treated as defeatism and borderline treason and incapacity in the actual history. It was instead immensely valuable *realism* and objectivity, and the first requirement to addressing all of these problems was to *reward* those conveying *accurate* information about it, and "fading" the over-promisers who failed because their projections were unrealistic --- instead of the reverse.

When a Guderian who has dared to race to the channel and drove his men to the seemingly impossible at Kiev tells you that the men are fought out and need a pause, at Tula - you listen. When a von Rundstadt tells you that Rostov cannot be held and the line needs to be dressed - you listen. When a von Bock tells you the main event is holding the left shoulder and then the drive along the Don to Stalingrad and the Caspian, and that the right and the Caucasus will have to take care of itself as a poor cousin side show, because everything will be decided by whether that left flank drive succeeds or fails - you listen. You don't sack them because you don't like the reality they are accurately describing to you.

This should be obvious - in any rational military it would be obvious, to the professionals it was reasonably obvious though only the best of them saw it reasonably clearly (and even they had their lapses and rose colored glasses at times). But it was the farthest thing from an actual capability of the German high command in WW II.

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DAF - the planning for engineering in Russia was inadequate, and operations too ambitious, but this can be overstated. The Germans did manage to get trains rolling over regauged track to a new railhead at Minsk by early July, which is an impressive achievement. But the truck fleet that had to "lighter" from railhead to front had already lost about 1/3rd of its runners by the middle of July. It was worked very hard and the Russian roads were very poor. The point being, the Germans did have "surge" engineering and truck borne logistics abilities, and got a lot out of them. But they could not keep up that pace, and could only get it on the highest priority axis at any given time.

The limit on any rapid advance from the previous rail changeover points was about 250 miles, set by truck supply limitations. The Germans could advance in bounds that long, in other words, but extension beyond that distance immediately resulted in a "scramble", emergency supply situation. To catch up, the railway repair crews had to crawl out to the spearheads at about 12 miles a day, which is an impressive rate sustained, but doesn't match the surge rates of mechanized advance after major victories.

And when they hit bridging problems, that 12 miles a day crawl just doesn't happen on the far side of the river. Instead they are reduced to reliance on captured rolling stock, or to truck columns with the aforementioned 250 mile range, about. They could spend a month or more making a permanent bridge, and then still be bottlenecked in the trains that could cross it and be managed on the far side.

The farther you push the trucks and the more you rely on them, the harder you are working them and the more of them will break down. In good weather you can get something past the 250 mile "tether" but you are "eating" your fleet of running trucks to do it. In bad weather, the truck supply system just fails - mileages achieved fall by half and mechanical losses double or triples to boot. Your tether is pulled twice as short, as a result, and the losses to running trucks from trying to operate beyond the practical range limit soar.

Therefore, you need operational pauses between advances to give the track a chance to catch up; you need to stockpile supplies at the limits of the gauge changeover before the next leap; you need a period in which the trucks do not have far to go to "lighter" between those dumps and the units to get the trucks out of the workshops and back on the roads; you have to keep an eye on the weather to determine what is practical with truck supply, with the mud period halting operations and winter reducing them. You can use the same pauses to refit your tanks and to take infantry replacements *if* you have planned on a realistic rate of loss for both and have a stream coming forward.

When instead of the above, you let operational opportunity from the front *pull* you as deep as you can go, you run the spearpoints in a logistically bankrupt manner. That can work while enemy opposition is light, but it will increase and your unsupplied forces will then be checked by it. And you will then have to scramble to adjust your stance, and give the logistics system a chance to catch up, replenish, etc.

All armies in WW II had to face such logistics limitations. The better ones just recognized them ahead of time, and planned on sequences of operations and sustained campaigns, build up periods between them when fighting was an attrition matter, etc. The Germans were perpetually trying to fight the war in one big effort and get it over with, and lack of realism about that was always expensive.

FWIW...

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Interesting discussion, all thanks for contributing!

Personally I have nothing to add since I'm not that thoroughly informed on the subject as others here.

Regarding the turning point of the war I believe the blunt success of German armies in 1940 helped to 'establish' Hitler as a military genius, which (luckily) contributed to many of the German fundamentally flawed command decisions on strategic and operational scale. It reminds me of one of my friends style of playing poker. Always re-raises everyone no matter what hand he has and counts on his luck to have a decent hand when someone decides to challenge him. Works quite well, until a majority of players found out about his habit and call him to death :)

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Apart from the turning point IN the war, there is the strange phenomenon of Germany not really having a war economy until 1942-1943. They theoretically could have begun working on that from around mid 1930's, somehow one would say that they weren't planning for a world war... which they begun.

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