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Soviet Op Bagration and later corps structure


John Kettler
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Was trying to find some information on the attack frontage for a GPW Rifle Regiment and got served this by the search engine. It is a most interesting discussion on the above topic which was on The Dupuy Institute Forum. Not only was it great read, but one of our own, Andreas, was smack in the middle of the discussion. One of his observations was a stunner, especially from a CM perspective. In the named operation in the text, the breakthrough frontage for the entire 37th Army (3rd Ukrainian Front) was a mere 3.5 kilometers wide, well within CM map dimensions! His remarks in Bold. Of more direct CMRT interest is that in October 1944 3rd Ukrainian Front reduced platoon strength by a squad per platoon throughout all the infantry formations. The Force Superiority figures are a bit disconcerting, because they are expressed backwards from the way we do it here in the US and many other places. The Russians list the enemy first. This becomes patently obvious in a listing for tanks and assault guns which shows 1:11.2. Talk about crushing armor superiority!

http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000042.html

Andreas

posted 01-08-2003 07:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andreas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


I am also wondering about the "preferred". Reading Koniev's memoirs (Aufzeichnungen eines Frontbefehlshabers) last night, and looking at Samsonov's excellent study of the Iassy-Kishinjev operation (Die Zerstoerung der Heeresgruppe Suedukraine), two things stand out for me.

1. By this stage of the war, a Red Army rifle division was considered to be at full strength if it reached about 6-7,000 men (Koniev refers to his divisions at Lvov being filled up to "full strength" with about this level of men). 

2. Assault divisions going in as part of the first wave would be filled up to this level. Rifle divisions not in this wave would presumably be of lower strength, because the destruction of the enemy was to be achieved by rapid maneuver of mechanised forces.

I think where "preferred" comes in is when you look at the attachments of independent artillery, guards mortar, SP gun, breakthrough tank and whatnot units, which seem to have been made on Corps level.

Hmm, for those interested I repost some info here from a thread on a wargaming forum a while back (http://www.battlefront.com/cgi-bin/bbs/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=025686 for those wanting to read the whole discussion we had). I thought it was quite a good discussion, and I would be interested in comments by members of this forum on the undoubtedly numerous mistakes in my assessment of the operation.

Maybe familiar to some (Greg, Tero):

Funnily enough, this is actually CM size, at least when you look at the map size.

Iasi-Kischinjow Operation, August 1944 (Kischinjow would probably be called Kischinew in German unit histories)

Operations of 3rd Ukrainian Front (GOC General Tolbuchin)

Main effort of the front is in the sector of the 37th Army (GOC Lieutenant General Scharochin). Main effort of 37th Army is 66th Rifle Corps and 6th Guards Rifle Corps. The 37th Army has a 4km wide breakthrough frontage assigned to it. It is divided in two groupings, two corps up, one corps reserve. According to plan, it is supposed to break through the depth of the German/Romanian defense in 7 days, to a distance of 110-120km, with the distance to be covered in the first four days 15km each.

66th Rifle Corps (GOC Major General Kuprijanow) consisting of two groupings (61st Guards RD, 333rd RD up, 244th RD reserve). Attached are 46th Gun Artillery Brigade, 152nd Howitzer Artillery Regiment, 184th and 1245th Tank Destroyer Regiment, 10th Mortar Regiment, 26th Light Artillery Brigade, 87th Recoilless Mortar Regiment, 92nd and 52nd Tank Regiment, 398th Assault Gun Regiment, two Pioneer Assault Battalions, and two Light Flamethrower Companies.

Corps frontage 4km
Corps breakthrough frontage 3.5km (61st RD 1.5km, 333rd RD 2km)

Densities per kilometer of frontage:
Rifle battalions 7.7
Guns/mortars 248
Tanks and assault guns 18

Superiority
Infantry 1:3
Artillery 1:7
Tanks and assault guns 1:11.2

There is no man-power information for the divisions, but expect them to have between 7,000 - 7,500 men each, 61st GRD maybe 8,000-9,000. The soldiers were prepared over the course of August by exercising in areas similar to those they had to attack, and being brought up to speed on special tactics needed to overcome the enemy in their sector.

Density in 61st GRD sector per kilometer of frontage:
Rifle battalions 6.0
Guns/mortars 234
Tanks and assault guns 18

Density in 333rd RD sector per kilometer of frontage:
Rifle battalions 4.5
Guns/mortars 231
Tanks and assault guns 18

The initial attack
333rd RD did not bother with niceties like reserves and put three regiments up. 61st GRD attacked in classic two regiment up, one reserve formation. This proved to be lucky, since its right wing of 188th Guards(?) Rifle Regiment got stuck in front of the strongpoint Ploptuschbej. 189th Rifle Regiment on the left wing made good progress though, as did 333rd RD on its left. The GOC 61st GRD therefore inserted his reserve (187th GRR) behind 189th RR and off they went. When darkness came, 244th RD was inserted to break through the second line of defense. It lost its way though, and only arrived at 2300, by which time elements of 13th Panzer were counterattacking.

The German/Romanian opposition was XXX. and XXIX. AK, with 15th, 306th German ID, 4th Romanian Mountain Division, and 21st Romanian ID. 13th PD was in reserve. At the end of day one, 4th Romanian Mountain, and 21st Romanian Divisions were almost completely destroyed, while 15th and 306th ID were heavily damaged (according to a German source: 306th lost 50% in the barrage, and was destroyed apart from local strongpoints by evening). Almost no artillery survived the fire preparation.

13th Panzer counter-attacked 66th Rifle Corps on day one, and tried to stop it on day two but to no avail. A study on the divisions history says 'The Russian dictated the course of events.' 13th Panzer at the time was a materially understrength, but high manpower unit, with a high proportion of recent reinforcements. It only had Panzer IV, Stugs and SP AT guns. The division was at the end of the second day in a condition that it was incapable to attack or of meaningful resistance.

At the end of day two, the Red Army stood deep in the rear of German 6th Army. No more organised re-supply of forces would be forthcoming, and 6th Army was doomed to be encircled and chopped up. Franz-Josef Strauss, who was to become a very important German politician after the war, served with the Panzerregiment of 13th Panzer. He comments that the division had ceased to exist as a tactical unit on day three of the Soviet offensive: 'The enemy was everywhere.' 

The comment on the result of 66th Rifle Corps operations in Mazulenko is: 'Because of the reinforcement of the Corps and the deep battle arrangements of troops and units the enemy defenses were broken through at high speed.' 

This post is based on two German language sources, one being Mazulenko, 'The destruction of AG South Ukraine', and the other Hoffmann, 'Die Magdeburger Division', a history of 13th Panzer.

This is what the Red Army saw as a late war set-piece attack. It is a relentless meat-grinder, that was protected by Maskirovka, full control of the air, and prepared with almost scientific rigour. This kind of stuff made Blitzkrieg look like Kindergarten.

Almost exactly after a month the Red Army had destroyed AG South Ukraine completely. On the 6th September it had reached the Jugoslavian border at Turnu-Severin, on the 16th September it stood in Sofia, on the 19th it had reached the Hungarian border at Arad. Before that, on the 17th the old lands of the Danube Swabians at Temeschwar (Timisoara) were occupied.

I posted this because I thought some people maybe interested in this rather 'secondary' theatre, and also because it is one of the few accounts I have come across that details almost down to battalion level for some aspects the organisation and preparation for a Soviet offensive of this scale.

A German battalion commander (Hauptmann Hans Diebisch, CO II.IR579, 306.ID) commented: 'The fire assets of the German defense were literally destroyed by the Soviet fighter bombers attacking the MLR and the rear positions. When the Russian infantry appeared (auftauchte - indicating they did not see them coming) inside the positions ofthe battalion and it tried to retreat, the Russian air force made this impossible. The battalion was dispersed und partly destroyed through the fire of the air force, mortars and machine guns.' (quoted from Mazulenko)

The divisions were (as I said) at far below strength, it is therefore logical to assume that their consituent parts were below strength too. The authorised strength was ~9,200 men based on the 1943 shtat. These divisions are at about 80% of that. 

One way to deal with that was to lose specialist personnel. Interestingly, according to Zaloga in order to reach 8,000 men division in October 1944, 3rd Ukrainian Front (the front undertaking this operation) ordered a specialist TO&E under which each rifle platoon would lose a squad. So the rifle battalions here would have about 2/3 TO&E strength. Assume a bit more for 61st GRD, since Guards divisions seem to have received more reinforcements. 

Still, at 4.5 rifle battalions to a km, and 2/3 strength, you are effectively putting 3 full-strength rifle battalions in there per km. Open a CMBO map and have a look at what that looks like. 

The Germans were heavily outnumbered at this point (as they were at many other points). But this did not happen because of some accident, or because the Germans overlooked something. It was the result of successful planning, Maskirovka that led to the Germans expecting the attack elsewhere or not at all, and consequent superior concentration of overwhelming force in a narrow breakthrough sector. Once resistance there was smashed, rapid movement would bring about the complete disintegration of the German rear areas as well as troop command and control.

Regards,

John Kettler

Edited by John Kettler
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On 9/10/2019 at 2:44 AM, John Kettler said:

Corps frontage 4km
Corps breakthrough frontage 3.5km (61st RD 1.5km, 333rd RD 2km)

 

On 9/10/2019 at 2:44 AM, John Kettler said:

Superiority
Infantry 1:3
Artillery 1:7
Tanks and assault guns 1:11.2

These are a pair of important notes for scenario designers to keep in mind if they want to make campaigns and scenarios for the Red Army. Turns out even my own assessments as to what the Russians were using to support attacks with was low-balling it. Seven to one in artillery and guns!       

On 9/10/2019 at 2:44 AM, John Kettler said:

A German battalion commander (Hauptmann Hans Diebisch, CO II.IR579, 306.ID) commented: 'The fire assets of the German defense were literally destroyed by the Soviet fighter bombers attacking the MLR and the rear positions. When the Russian infantry appeared (auftauchte - indicating they did not see them coming) inside the positions ofthe battalion and it tried to retreat, the Russian air force made this impossible.

Exactly how German commanders were describing Normandy, the Falaise Gap, etc. 

On 9/10/2019 at 2:44 AM, John Kettler said:

Still, at 4.5 rifle battalions to a km, and 2/3 strength, you are effectively putting 3 full-strength rifle battalions in there per km. Open a CMBO map and have a look at what that looks like. 

And since this was the main effort the fire support for it should be suitably commensurate. There is not much dispersal of force since the Russians lacked the sophistication in command and control for it. It almost looks to be something out of 1918 but since the Germans in defense would lack the manpower or support or both to stop it, it was going to work. 

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That 4,5 battalions per kilometer were echeloned in depth. In first echelon, having task to capture 1-2 lines of defense, were 1-2 battalions. As you know, Soviet companies had few ammo (1-3 drums for smgs and <6 for lmgs) and had to be rotated soon.

On 9/10/2019 at 9:44 AM, John Kettler said:

By this stage of the war, a Red Army rifle division was considered to be at full strength if it reached about 6-7,000 men (Koniev refers to his divisions at Lvov being filled up to "full strength" with about this level of men). 

In fact, it was new semi-official TO&E: 7 th. division, 6 th. division. Weapons were cut not proportional to numbers: light machine guns were reduced to 50%, 3 in platoon instead of 6, for example.

On 9/10/2019 at 9:44 AM, John Kettler said:

Interestingly, according to Zaloga in order to reach 8,000 men division in October 1944, 3rd Ukrainian Front (the front undertaking this operation) ordered a specialist TO&E under which each rifle platoon would lose a squad. So the rifle battalions here would have about 2/3 TO&E strength.

3/4, if we measure by squads number. By the way, in CM "1944" TO&E is pretty close, if only squads had 7 men, not 11...

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On 9/18/2019 at 10:11 PM, SimpleSimon said:

One thing i'm unsure of, if specialist units were attached, such as Engineers, did they go in with the first wave? The last waves? Or were they just parceled up between all of the Battalions? 

With the 1-st wave, sometimes with dedicated assault groups.

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I have the following approximate structure for a 'breakthrough unit' from 11th Guards Army at roughly this time (allegedly in order of deployment):

T-34 Mineroller Company

Heavy Tank Regiment

Assault Engineer Battalion

Heavy Assault Gun Regiment

First 'wave' of Rifle Regiments

Flamethrower Tank Company

Light Assault Gun Regiment

Second 'wave' of Rifle Regiments

All a little vague I know, but it's what I have.

FWIW

 

 

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  • 4 months later...
On 9/18/2019 at 12:22 AM, DMS said:

3/4, if we measure by squads number. By the way, in CM "1944" TO&E is pretty close, if only squads had 7 men, not 11...

Been looking into this and considering whether a change might be needed.  The problem is I find a bunch of different reduction schemes, one of which is described in Zaloga & Ness's Red Army Handbook as reducing to 3x larger squads to trim some manpower (along with other changes).  That is what was put in, at least generally, for the 44 reduced org.  It could perhaps be considered a first stage of reduction, although the full strength 43 platoon is a bit over strength in the first place.  However, I have recently found some material on a scheme that reduced the platoon to 4x 7-man squads each with 1 LMG that seems to be related to the mid-43 Stavka order to form SMG platoons in all rifle companies and am wondering if a 7-man squad was a more widespread "standard" reduction imposed across fronts?  Also found a schematic for a 1944 reduced regiment that has the rifle company down to 72 men and 3x platoons with 3x 6-man squads each, then another for only 60-man company with 2x platoons, 3x 6-man squads.

The thing is, you can use headcount adjustment in the editor to get the 44 org down to approximately 6-7 per squad pretty easily (although that does mean you may lose squad leaders in some squads), but if the headcount is set at 6-7, you cannot use the editor to add back in men to an individual squad, so I am somewhat reluctant to advocate for a change to the 44 org on that basis unless such an org was never used.

 

Edited by akd
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