Alternative to Tikhvin Operation, Leningrad falls

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by wiking, Sep 23, 2016.

  1. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Based on my last post in this thread:
    https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/operation-nordlicht-instead-of-störfang.398497/page-4
    It would seem that the Tikhvin Operation of 1941 was a major blunder beyond it's unsustainability that put Army Group North in a really bad situation, it also missed the chance to cut the Road of Life that helped Leningrad survive the winter of 1941-42.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_of_Life
    http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Tikhvin+Defensive+Operation+of+1941
    [​IMG]

    It would seem that given the depth of penetration of 18th army against Tikhvin, had it instead kept to the West Bank of the Volkhov river it would have been a far more sustainable situation that would have destroyed the Soviet 54th army as well as cut off the Road of Life supply route to Leningrad. Plus it would give the 18th army a defensible terrain feature to anchor their position on, not travel as far, and a better front density of troops to hold the line. Then Leningrad would fall over the winter, probably no later than January 1942 due to lack of supplies. That would then free up the rest of 18th army screening the city and the Oranienbaum bridgehead for other Operations and remove about 2.5 million Soviets from Stalin's control, plus of course the KV factory in Leningrad. Come Summer after repairs Leningrad would be a supply base for AG-North and air base, while Finnish troops freed up could then attack Murmansk and the rail road in Spring/Summer.

    The German 11th army would likely then never head north at all and at most go to AG-Center to conduct Operation Wirbelwind near the Rzhev salient.

    Was what I'm suggesting even possible in late 1941 or am I missing something? What would the knock on effects have been come 1942 with Leningrad surrendering over the Winter? How would Stalin react, what political impact with the Wallies would it have if then Murmansk fell in Spring/Summer, while then the situation with AG-Center and South are changed? Demyansk too would probably get some operations to widen it's supply lines come Summer and might be used as a springboard to try and cut off the bulge between it and Rzehv, or at least the rail lines supplying it. Could this force the hand of the Wallies to launch Operation Roundhammer in Spring 1943?
     
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  2. ObssesedNuker Commander of 10 million men

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    I'm not sure how the Germans remaining on the defensive west of the Volkhov River leads to the Road of Life being cut? If anything, it would accelerate the Road of Life since the Soviets don't have to deal with all the dislocation in their supply routes that came from the historical German capture of Tikhvin.
     
  3. wiking Well-Known Member

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    I posted maps in the other thread, but I'll report one here:
    [​IMG]
    Above the road of life if the route with dashed lines, the summer shipping route is the straight line with a ship symbol. Only the direct route was open in winter, no shipping routes. The entire area in the picture is the area west of the Volkhov river, so if that is held by the Germans there is no route available over the winter, as shipping cannot get through the ice. Routes east of the Volkov are too dangerous to try and traverse on the ice. In the big OP map the area where the number 54 is is the wooded pictured area in this right side of this post.
     
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  4. ObssesedNuker Commander of 10 million men

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    Ah, I see... so you aren't precisely proposing that 11th Army simply go on the defensive, but instead finish clearing the Western Bank as an alternative to the Tikvhin Op and then go on the defensive? Well, to that I suppose my answer is the same as the Nordlicht one: Maybe. I can see it working out, I can see it failing. It is not exactly a given that it's more sustainable: the terrain on that side of the Volkhov is pretty much identical to the terrain on the eastern bank, the distances are pretty similar, and the Germans did prove unable to hold a portion of the western bank that was captured during the Tikhvin op... but then neither did they have the buffer of a river (even if a frozen one, which greatly reduced it's defensive value) in the way of the Soviet counter-attack. So yeah, I wouldn't call it a sure-fire thing, but it is plausible.
     
  5. wiking Well-Known Member

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    No 11th army here, that was still in Crimea in 1941, that would be the 18th army. I don't know how strong the 54 Soviet army was at this point, maybe they can stop the Germans, but given how the Volkhov Front got pierced so badly there is a solid argument that they couldn't over a much shorter distance. As to the part of the West Bank seized IOTL...that was not held because the 18th army was stretched out deep to the East of the Volkhov to Tikhvin and left the 54th army on the west bank where it was able to attack a much more stretched out 18th army than would exist here. By staying west of the river 18th army is FAR less stretched out and probably can crush most of the 54th army here, which leaves the Soviets pretty weak for a counterattack. It is possible the 18th army would fall short, I'm just not necessarily seeing how. With less stretched out lines it's going to be harder for the Soviets to pierce German lines and probably results in a 2nd Shock army situation if/when they do rather than budging the 18th army. Come the thaw then the line is really solid against a Soviet attack and Leningrad would have fallen by then.
     
  6. ObssesedNuker Commander of 10 million men

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    Which was what I meant to type. >_<

    The distance on the map seems roughly equidistan, although I'll have to find some geological reference somewhere in there to do a specific measurement.

    It comes down to questions on how strong was the 54th army, how good was its defensive set-up was, and likely a series of intangibles factors regarding the morale of Soviet forces and stuff like that. I wouldn't at all say it's a done-deal, but I do agree that it is quite possible. Given how obvious a move it is, I wouldn't be surprised if the Germans had made such an attempt to clear the entire Volkhov West Bank OTL... Possibly as part of the Tikhvin operation? I'll have to dig through my books and have a looksie.

    Unlike with Nordlicht though, it's not much use discussing an attempt that fails, though, since it would be little different from the OTL Tikhvin Op in results.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2016
  7. thaddeus Well-Known Member

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    my question from previous thread

    "what is a northern line in a negotiated end to German-Soviet conflict? White Sea-Baltic Canal to Volkhov River to Lovat River?

    (or there other resources or natural defense line(s) further SE towards Moscow that overlooks?)"

    in this scenario no one is talking about negotiated end to conflict but it is still logical northern front?

    "what if" they had stopped at Orsha or Smolensk in the center, no drive to Moscow? with the Soviets waiting for hammer to drop there are they willing to start offensive towards Leningrad? meaning on scale needed.
     
  8. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Given that during the Tikhvin Operation the 54 was shoved nearly half the way back anyway...it looks like it was a matter of planning on the German part rather than Soviet resistance.
    If you do find something please let me know, I cannot find that much information about the 54th army.

    Sort of, though things would be interesting if there was a failure, but no Tikhvin move, which left 18th army in a really bad position.

    It really depends what happens with the rest of the war; we first need to figure out how they get to the negotiated peace before we can say what any lines look like in that deal. Likely though the front shuts down along the Volkhov and Svir rivers once Leningrad and Murmanak fall. Then fighting shifts south, though Stalin may keep pushing along the Volkhov to get to Leningrad for political reasons. The Germans would at least launch their OTL planned operation to open up a rail line to the Demyansk pocket and have the manpower to do so, which means that come Spring/Summer it wouldn't keep needing air supply due to the OTL narrow corridor opened getting rained out constantly. If that works that opens up a potential for a bunch of operations around AG-Center with might influence the course of the war even more strongly toward an armistice.

    That would be a different thread entirely.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
  9. thaddeus Well-Known Member

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    are you speculating Leningrad might fall before end of 1941? or just that once "bridge" over Ladoga is cut that it WILL fall?
     
  10. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Once the ice bridge is cut and held for a month or two Leningrad starves. Despite Tikhvin being taken some supply to Leningrad was still getting through and of course Tikhvin was liberated. If a defensible line is held that also cuts the ice road, Leningrad was at the end of it's tether and without it it is doomed. I'd say though that they'd last into January at least before having to give up. So if 54th army could be shoved back from the east side of the Road of Life and the Germans hold that for 2-3 months, then Leningrad WILL surrender because they lack food. Canabalism will only go so far. As it was even with the Road of Life hundreds of thousands of people starved to death despite the Soviets evacuating hundreds of thousands of civilians over that winter:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_of_Life
    If that gets cut in November then none of that happens and there is nothing coming in, plus 550k more mouths to feed with nothing. ITTL then the Road of Life never even starts.
     
  11. wiking Well-Known Member

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    I'm wondering if there is the potential for a follow up after Leningrad and Murmansk fall with the resulting reserves of mountain troops and regular infantry divisions to expand the supply lines to the Demyansk salient and then use that as a jump off point to cut off the bulge the Soviets shoved in German lines during the Tropets-Kholm offensive between Demyansk and Rzhev. There is only one rail line supplying the bulge, which was near Demyansk, and would cut off a number of Soviet armies, straighten the line, and completely free up forces from the west side of the Rzhev salient to defend against threats to the east.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toropets–Kholm_Offensive

    Was that possible once Leningrad and Murmansk are taken in Summer 1942?
     
  12. per70 Well-Known Member

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    A few more details with regards to this suggestion.

    In early October, von Leeb proposed an attack from Kirishi --> Volkhov --> Ladoga.
    Hitler overruled him, among other due to concerns about the terrain, and wanted an attack through Tikhvin instead (although there were major terrain concerns in that direction as well).
    Finally, due to the rapid success of Typhoon, an opportunity to encircle the entire North Western Front arose - by a combined attack from AG Center (through Kalinin-Torzhok) and by AG North moving south from Chudovo.

    When AG North finally launched their offensive in mid-October, they were thus moving in three directions.
    The southward attack (by 1 Pz Div, 1 Mot Div and 1 ID) reached Malaia Vishera where it got bogged down. About 10 days into the offensive, it was cancelled (both due to the lack of success and because of the setbacks suffered around Kalinin).
    The strike towards Tikhvin succeded by early November in capturing the town, but failed to advance any further.
    The strike northwards towards Volhov was initially only conducted by 1 ID, but was later reinforced, and reached the outskirts of Volhov by early November where it bogged down.

    The end result of these operations was a large increase in the frontline (about 300km iirc) due to the bulge extending to Tikhvin.
    Which stretched the German troops to the limit and enabled the Soviets to succesfully counterattack by the end of November.

    With regards to Soviet forces, roughly 70% of the Soviet troops located between Lake Ladoga and Lake Ilmen belonged to 54th Army. That army was locked in heavy combat trying to break the Leningrad siege during the start of the German offensive.
    Meaning the forces facing the German attack were stretched to the limit and had no or extremely limited reserves available to counter German moves.


    In my opinion, the southward attack could be cancelled with little negative consequences for the Germans. They achieved little in the attack, and the Soviet troops defending had little in the way of reserves they could send elsewhere.

    Whether these additional German forces should have been sent directly towards Volkhov, or if they should have been used to strengthen the Tikhivin attack to is difficult to answer.

    In OTL, the approach towards Volkhov was slow enough that it enabled the Soviets to reinforce the front by forces from 54th Army (and even from the Leningrad Front).
    A more rapid advance might prevent that.


    A German success in this attack - that is to say, reaching Lake Ladoga while cutting off the bulk of 54th Army - will garner a lot of benefits:
    (1) Cutting off the supplies to Leningrad (2) inflict more losses on the Volkhov Front (3) a large shortening of the frontline (4) anchoring the defensive line on a major river.

    That would certainly change the nature of the fighting in the north during the winter.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
  13. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely. Once Leningrad surrenders in January-February then the Soviets are really in trouble, because 18th is now totally unencumbered by anything other than holding the Volkhov. I wonder if 2nd Shock army would even attack or might attack elsewhere than it historically did.

    I'm really curious to know how Stalin would have reacted. Perhaps instead of the Tropets-Kholm offensive the success of 18th army would mean the Soviets deploy along the Volkov and go for a major offensive against AG-North instead of AG-Center to liberate Leningrad. Without the Valdai Heights offensive then AG-Center is in a great place to counter Soviet offensives from Moscow, while the Soviets might be able to shove major bulges in the German line along the Volkhov, but still fail to breakthrough to Leningrad over the Winter.
     
  14. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Find some more maps and sources on this, it looks like had the XXXIX Panzer Corps with 2 Motorized and 2 Panzer divisions, all relatively weak, had been tossed into the push against Volkov instead of Tikhvin and no moves made east over the Volkhov river, then with the historical 2 (later a 3rd) infantry divisions then Volkhov city would have fallen before October 15th at at least 9 if not 10 Soviet divisions of the 54th Army west of the Volkhov river would have been trapped and wiped out (maybe 10 depending on when the 3rd Guards Rifle division showed up). Then there is nothing to defend Ladoga city and the rail line to the 7th Independent Soviet Army defending the Svir river is cut and all supply to Leningrad is lost, even the last remaining port, which was in the 7th Army's area and cannot now be supplied via rail for Summer. The Volkhov river line is then very defensible with the German divisions on hand even if the Panzer corps is removed from the line as a reserve.

    In that case I think Stalin would be in a panic over Leningrad, which actually should have to surrender then no later than the end of January. The earliest the Soviets can get a Shock Army into the area would be in January, which I think he would do instead of the Toropets-Kholm offensive due to the symbolic and real military value of Leningrad. So that means the Rzhev Salient and Demyansk/Kholm pockets as we know them don't form in January, as the Shock Armies are instead deployed to the Volkhov to save Leningrad. Without the 9-10 divisions of the 54th army the Soviet 4th and 52nd armies are not strong enough to breach the German positions on the Volkhov river, but I'm sure they will batter themselves to death trying based on Stalin's orders in November and December.

    Come January I think the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Soviet Shock Armies are used against the Volkov to try and break the siege, but 16th army can help 18th army without the Toropets-Kholm offensive. They would likely be able to breach the Volkhov river line in January/February whenever they could attack due to shear weight of numbers, the question is whether they could fight to Leningrad or if they'd burn out well short of their objective and then be in a really bad way when Leningrad surrenders and AG-North gets a massive reinforcement from all the divisions freed up from screening Leningrad.
     
  15. per70 Well-Known Member

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    A few other observations about this period:

    (1) In late September; the Germans transferred, among others, the 1st PzDiv + 6th PzDiv + 36th Mot Div to AG Center.
    I seem to recall that von Leeb requested that the 36th Mot Div remain in the north, but was denied.

    Given that the AG North failed to complete the encirclement at Leningrad, while at the same time knowing that the Germans in large part was stopped in the exploitation phase of Typhoon due to a lack of supplies instead of lack of troops, I would argue that retaining 36th Mot Div in the north would have been the best option.

    (2) The three-pronged attack mentioned above was a mistake. After some consideration, I also believe the best approach would be in concentrating the attack in the direction of Volkhov.

    (3) An attack on Volkhov was originally supposed to start on October 6, but the expansion of the offensive delayed it to October 16. An earlier attack date would mean Soviet reinforcement needs (occuring in mid-October) would be in direct competition with the need to plug the hole in the line west of Moscow. I would assume the latter would take precedence.

    Given this, I believe this attack would have a high chance of success.


    In the aftermath of this, the Finnish plan of attacking Belomorsk might come closer to a realization.

    With regards to the Soviets - it's difficult to assess how they would respond.
    They might make an even larger effort into relieving Leningrad at years end - which probably benefits the Germans.
    Or they might abandon Leningrad, and put even more emphasis into their offensive in the center - which would casue trouble for AG Center.
     
  16. wiking Well-Known Member

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    The thing of that is if AG-North's infantry is able to hold the Volkov river line with minimal trouble, then AG-North's last Panzer corps, which was stripped down to help 16th army and AG-Center, would be able to be used against Soviet penetrations of AG-Center's front. Plus with infantry divisions freed up from Leningrad once it surrenders they too can appear on the central axis. Plus given the problems of supply the Toropets-Kholm offensive had, adding in 2nd Shock army, which already had a ton of it's own problems, isn't going to help their supply situation.
     
  17. merlin Well-Known Member

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    If the Soviets cannot supply Leningrad in late '41 early '42, and rather than starve, they surrender. Then what, are they going to get fed by the Germans!? Is Hitler seriously requesting food shipments from FDR? More likely - work for food, get the port functioning, perhaps build some more KV tanks!
     
  18. wiking Well-Known Member

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    There was some discussion of requesting the US feed the people of Leningrad if they surrendered.
    Likely given the mass starvation and death that happened in Leningrad IOTL the military command would refuse to surrender for as long as possible and let civilians starve en masse as per OTL. Only as they started to starve would they surrender, which would be after probably 1 million people died instead of 'just' the ~650k of OTL in the first winter. As this is before the major evacuations have happened the starvation is quicker and more brutal without the OTL November and on supplies. Likely things get really really ugly, worse than IOTL, given the attitudes of Soviet commanders and Hitler's starvation/destruction order for Leningrad. Slave labor for survivors is going to happen, but I don't see making tanks as a likely possibility. Though the KV factory probably will become a major tank repair depot.

    The real question is what are the strategic implications going forward.
     
  19. Catspoke Member

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    Once Leningrad falls: You will free up several parachute battalions, ss police, Spanish blue and the international SS brigades, i.e. some decent if static infantry. In 42 I would put these on flank support for Stalingrad instead of the Italians and move their Italians and their mountain divisions to Tupase or just mix them with the various allied armies for stiffening. The parachute troops could be fed into Stalingrad city fight and actually complete taking the place in 1942.

    All the Siebel ferries and Italian torpedo boats used in Ladoga in 1942 could be kept in the med, bringing supplies directly into Mersa Matruh, maybe the first Tiger tanks could be used in the Egypt desert instead of the Leningrad front OTL (or alternatively the Siebel ferries could bring up more supplies up the Don or an earlier jump across from the Kerch to Taman).

    Unsure how much extra the Soviets can supply along this part of the front in 1941 (with the Germans in Kalinin and close to Moscow I imagine rail capacity is tight), so I can't really imagine a Leningrad relief relief effort by the Soviets a whole lot larger than OTL early. I could see major attempts later in 1942 though to retake the city.
     
  20. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Murmansk comes first, but after that I'd imagine the Spaniards would be put on the Volkov defensive line as per OTL, though something interesting for the parachute troops might come up beyond partisan hunting or holding a defensive line. The other question is what does Stalin do about the encirclement starting in mid-October? If he writes off Leningrad then the Germans have a lot more troops to play around with over the winter in 1941-42, though the Soviets have 2nd Shock Army to use elsewhere. Probably that helps Demyansk for the Germans on balance. Then the question first is what happens in Rzhev and Murmansk before Stalingrad is even a factor. The Tigers probably get their first appearance at Rzhev in 1942 rather than in Africa due to the logistics issues around them and the value they'd add in that sector. I'd think the MAS boats would be used in the Black Sea for operations against the Soviet Fleet.

    Losing Murmansk early in 1942 and all that LL that year will be very though for the Soviets, as it was over 25% of their intake that year and Persia and Vladivostok couldn't take more yet; infrastructure upgrades that made them more important in 1943 haven't happened yet. Plus then Air Fleet 5 can be used in the Mediterranean, which means Malta definitely falls in August 1942 if not earlier.

    You're right Soviet logistics were stretched to the breaking point in winter 1941-42; what I can find about the Toropets-Kholm offensive suggests it was badly delayed IOTL due to the extreme lack of sufficient supply elements like trains. Once in the Toropets-Kholm-west of Rzhev bulge they had an ammunition famine due to lack of supply. Putting in more troops helps a bit, but stretches supply even further and delays the operation even more to get them ready; or as per OTL with 2nd Shock army they attack before they are ready based on Stalin's orders and get into trouble.

    In terms of German paratroops, perhaps they can lead an assault across Kerch by air? Or perhaps they just end up replacing Ramcke's brigade with a full division. Or they even end up in the Balkans to fight Tito with extra German mountain troops to clear that out before the Caucasus invasion begins. Without the Northern Front active other than say 2 mountain divisions used to defend Norway from potential Allied invasion the German mountain divisions will all be used in the Caucasus once the Tito situation is wrapped up; they nearly did in Spring/Summer 1942, so with the mountain troops used in the North, plus paras for a surprise drop behind the partisans Tito could end up dead/captured and shut down resistance before divisions then are used in the Caucasus come August. The SS Mountain divisions were not particularly good from what I gather when not fighting partisans, so maybe they are just left doing security duty against Soviet partisan resistance in the Caucasus Mountains (which apparently was a major problem IOTL, they ended up killing all the German petroleum engineers in their sleep one night at Maykop).

    11th army would likely be used around Rzhev instead of with AG-North for Operation Whirlwind (Wirbelwind), which would snip off 3 Soviet armies, retake Kaluga, and anchor the southeast part of the Rzhev salient on a strong river line. That would free up something like 2 German corps for defensive or offensive operations elsewhere. Perhaps enough extra forces are available to attack at the salient between Rzhev and Demyansk in 1942...which would be very bad for the Soviets if that comes off, because it would wipe out the Kalinin Front and straighten the line so that Rzhev is only threatened on one side. Add in Stalingrad falling and the Soviets have major problems in 1942.