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Operational-Strategic Run Up to Op Bagration


John Kettler
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This is a most useful doc providing the context from which Op Bagration emerged. So far, I've yet to find the subsequent docs in what I hope is a series.

It is of particular interest from the standpoint of the refinement of the Russian way of war. In what would now be criminal in Russia, Stalin is directly criticized for some of his decisions, decisions which led to enormous numbers of avoidable Russian casualties. The doc suffers from the History Channel syndrome, in that wildly inappropriate (pre-War Panzer IV/D coming through the trees; I-16s and such) imagery and war movie footage are employed, making for a rather surreal viewing experience. The numerous quotes from both sides are insight producing. The excerpts from the special report of the GKO-level commission sent to find out what went wrong in earlier operations is something I'd not been exposed to, and the resulting "brooming" of COs for incompetence and waste of troops and ammo was pertinent not merely in terms of the GPW, but the subsequent Cold War. Vasily Sokolovsky was one of the high profile types swept out; he was fired from command of the Western Front, yet still managed to make quite a career for himself after the GPW ended.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404101257.html

His General Staff-level TOP SECRET writings on nuclear warfare, obtained through MI-6 controlled GRU agent in place Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, made harrowing reading during my time in military aerospace. His seminal Soviet Military Strategy was a key part of the Soviet Military Thought series.

Regards,

John Kettler

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23rd Panzer's account of the war also makes light of Russian tendency to simply attack over and over again on open ground with minimal support circa 1943. Gradually transforming into more coordinated, if still crude, assaults with more supporting arms. The Russians weren't ignorant. Human wave assaults were a flimsy way to win battles, that was obvious in 1918. Problem was in 1943 the Red Army's supporting arms weren't quite ready to go on the offense, but the STAVKA was and often demanded it. The M-30 was still in short supply, the T-34/85 was only starting to come into production-and would not be released to frontline commanders until 1944 regardless-, and the Il-2/Pe-2 still had to perform their jobs in contested airspace.

In some ways, failure to go on broad offensive in 1943 was paid for. The Germans were given more time to dig in across the front and no Army in the world could have pushed into 1944 Poland without an awful lot of fighting.

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Actually, Russian attacks in 1943 had quite good support and combined arms, generally. Yes they got even more in 44-45 and could rely on capital and major weapon systems more (armor, artillery weight etc). But the unsupported riflemen attacks really happened in 1941-42, through the fall of 42 really. The local counterattacks ordered in desperation and the like. Late 1942 and during 1943 was precisely when the Russians got tons better at all that. Beyond that, I don't think there was any offensive failure at all, in 1943. They won the war that year. Nor is there any evidence whatsoever that the sectors where they didn't attack as heavily in 1943 - the north - got harder to attack as a result of delay. Those areas crumbled readily in 1944, and didn't fight as well as the southern areas did. So much for time and fortification - the reality is, mobile forces and reserves and command attention do more to hold an area than time or the spade.

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Actually, Russian attacks in 1943 had quite good support and combined arms, generally. Yes they got even more in 44-45 and could rely on capital and major weapon systems more (armor, artillery weight etc). But the unsupported riflemen attacks really happened in 1941-42, through the fall of 42 really. The local counterattacks ordered in desperation and the like.

Indeed. Note that Rebbentisch' book depicts the fighting of the 23rd Panzer mostly in the Caucasus and Mius fronts as well. Secondary fronts from which the Russians were probably not prioritizing the arrival of heavy equipment and support. Since the war was being decided elsewhere. During Operation Winter Storm 23rd Panzer found the Soviets a much tougher fight, and was heavily worn down through the end of 1942.

I should also mention that I totally forgot the book's narrative started in 1942 with 23rd's deployment to Kharkov, but Rebentisch claims that the Soviets carried out human wave assaults as late as 1944. Course' he also claims the Russians got their men deliberately drunk and tricked them in to attacking the Germans a bunch. At times he reeks of subtle Nazi-rhetoric detailed though his book is.

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