How could the USSR do better with a POD of June 22 1941?

There are a lot of threads about how could Germany do better in the eastern front, but the USSR initially suffered staggering losses and a couple millions of its troops got encircled, as well as losing large swathes of territory.
How could the USSR do better since the start of Barbarossa, without having Germany to do worse than OTL?
Bonus if they still don't accept Allied troops fighting on soviet soil.
 
There are a lot of threads about how could Germany do better in the eastern front, but the USSR initially suffered staggering losses and a couple millions of its troops got encircled, as well as losing large swathes of territory.
How could the USSR do better since the start of Barbarossa, without having Germany to do worse than OTL?
Bonus if they still don't accept Allied troops fighting on soviet soil.

With such a late PoD this is very, very hard. I think for the USSR to really do better you need a PoD in April, giving 2 months for new orders to fully permeate the Soviet chain of command and troops to move to new positions and prepare them.

What the Soviets need to do is stage a fighting retreat on a broad front without breaking, so that they can avoid the large losses to major portions of the army getting trapped in pockets and digested by the Germans while still bleeding German fighting power. That would greatly ease the strain on Soviet manpower, mean more men stay in industry supporting the troops, and meaning the training and experience of the 1941 army is not lost when pretty much the whole army is wiped out as it was in OTL. That means that in 1942, after the Germans have exhausted themselves, rather than facing a Soviet Union that is on the brink of collapse, they would face an experienced and battle-hardened force which could potentially reach Berlin by late 1943.

The problem here is that Soviet doctrine was one that emphasized the counter-attack as the best means of defense, and the army of 1941 doesn't have the training or equipment to do that successfully against the Wehrmacht of 1941. But it is even less well prepared for a fighting retreat. And a fighting retreat is often called the most difficult military maneuver, taking hits in the way that does the most to drain the enemy's strength while falling back again and again and again is very hard on morale. And if the army breaks along a major front and advancing is as easy for the Germans as arranging passenger rail from point A to point B, things get very, very, very bad for the Soviet Union and the whole Allied cause.

So while maybe the Soviets could have been more lucky in their smaller decisions during Barbarossa, it may be that realistically they did about as well as they could. Because no army can get lucky all the time. And when the army is less experienced than their enemy, they're just going to be worse at managing their luck, as it were. Opportunities will be missed and opportunities will be handed to the enemy on a platter. That said, even avoiding the Kiev pocket could be a big gain for the Soviets... Possibly saving millions of lives and shaving months off the total length of the war.

Certainly, modern work has revolutionized our view of the Eastern Front. It used to be that we saw it as the Germans pushing on an open door, facing off against a Soviet military that was so gutted by the purges and afraid of Stalin that it couldn't even fight. We now know that Soviet commanders took the initiative, and often fought in the absence of orders from the top, or even in contravention from orders from the top. In the confusion on the invasion, the Soviets fought hard, and constantly counter attacked over, and over. In fact being too aggressive and attacking the Germans before they were sufficiently prepared. While the German advances in 1941 look impressive on a map, the Wehrmacht destroyed itself achieving those gains. It would never launch a similar offensive again. Hundreds of thousands of German and allied troops died in those first months. Men with vital skills and training, who could not be replaced with troops of equal quality.

The Soviet Union was hurt far worse by Barbarossa than the Germans were, but the Soviet armies annihilated in those first months made the Germans pay a heavy price for those victories, buying precious time for their younger brothers to grow into the victorious armies of 1944 and '45.

fasquardon
 
Stalin dying, maybe treated as a martryr

New leadership more friendly to the West. Agrees 'Finlandization' of Poland.

Soviets support Warsaw rising
 
I'm not sure what could really be done in 1941. Perhaps if the Soviets became far more cautious they could avoid some of the later big encirclements, e.g. the Kiev pocket and Bryansk pockets. They really should have held back on any serious attacks when they were not ready, but such a massive institutional change in favor of defence and withdrawals might be ASB.

The problem is rather than single decisions that caused disaster, it was just a general malaise at all levels in 1941. Poor communications, unseasoned commanders and troops led to sluggishness that let the Germans get "lucky" many times, . The Red Army wasn't completely useless, it was true, but it definitely punched far below its weight in 1941. No army can lose 5 million casualties to inflict 1 million while losing 1/3 of it's territory, and honestly call it a victory. Not to impugn the bravery of any individual but the whole political and military decision making had left them all unready.

Later on when the Soviets had more ability to actually execute on their plans, there are a lot of good decisions they can make. Avoid the bad decision to launch the Kharkov offensive in 1942 and keep those veteran troops alive for later. A willingness to cut their losses might be helpful in avoiding a lot of the unsuccessful later war offensives like Operation Mars, which bled the Red Army for little gain.
 
An idea I have is Soviet aircrew training. My understanding is that the Soviet Union expanded its air training programs far out of proportion to what it could actually train. There were fairly serious fuel shortages throughout, and what little fuel there was ended up being very thinly spread among a huge number of pilot trainees. The result was two fold: thousands of educated men in better than average physical shape spent years and years in training schools while doing very little actual flight training, and the ones who did pass through arrived at the front poorly trained. I don't think the problem was ever solved during the war, though some improvements did eventually occur, in a large part due to Lend-Lease fuel supplies. So two possible solutions:

A) "Somewhat plausible": reduce the number of students in flying schools, make sure the ones you have get more fuel. Outcome: better trained pilots and the excess high quality manpower ends up being used more rationally.

B) "Probably not plausible at all": starting in 1943 or so, send a few thousand pilots directly to the United States or Commonwealth to train. Moving people to North America is cheaper than moving fuel from North America. I think by 1943 American flight training had ramped-up capacity, so it should be able to absorb several thousand extra pilots without too much of a hassle. And the result is a core of VVS with vastly better training that the reality, with the corresponding increase in effectiveness.

Probably wouldn't work because it's hard to imagine the Soviet Union willingly letting thousands of its young impressionable men to live among the capitalists for months a time, but maybe if they're in special training camps, far away from the cities, with no leave passes and a commissar (or politruk later) per three pilots and extra dose of Marxism-Leninism each Sunday?
 
allow the Kiev military district to retreat after the battle of Smolensk put their right flank in the air for 300 miles That debacle cost the Soviets 40 divisions and 500 tanks and added at least 6 months to the war
 
Not purging all the generals would be a good start, and not having the political officers handcuffing they military generals.
 
Pulling back from Kiev in late-August would do wonders. At that point, the Southwestern Front wasn't very badly pressed since Guderian's turn south was having trouble getting under way, while the 1st Panzer Group was still consolidating it's bridgehead over of the D'niepr. A withdrawal then would have pulled out of the trap before it could begin to close, saving the Soviets some 700,000 men and oodles of equipment, and let them mount a credible defense of the Donbass and Kharkov industrial regions.
 

Someone already mentioned the 411 AFVs the Soviets lost, but they also lost 28,419artillery guns and mortars. Not to mention all the infantry equipment for the 700,000 men of the Front. That the victory opened the way for the German capture of the Kharkov and Donbass industrial regions also denied the Soviets the continued productive output for those regions for the next two years (and reconstruction meant they didn’t achieve pre-capture output for years afterwards). Even industries which were evacuated had to cease production for months as they were relocated and then restarting production was a painful process as they had to ramp-up while dealing with the dislocation of inputs and loss of workers.

To use a high profile example: the Kharkov Factory No.183, where the T-34 had been originally designed, produced 300 tanks a month between June and September. It’s evacuation necessitated that production shut down until through October and November. When it finally restarted production in December out at Nizihny Tagil, the first months output was only 25 tanks, around 8 percent of what it had managed pre-evacuation. Quality of production suffered throughout 1942 too, as only 10% of the original workforce went with the evacuated machinery and the replacements had to learn on the job.
 
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marathag

Banned
There were fairly serious fuel shortages throughout, and what little fuel there was ended up being very thinly spread among a huge number of pilot trainees.
They weren't flying as a way to cut down on training accidents, that the VVS was currently getting purged for as if 1941.
Ok, its war.
Stop the purging of the Red Air Force immediately.
While at it, announce a general pardon for any military man willing to fight for Mother Russia.
OTL, dozens of officers, most arrested before the invasion, were still shot in October.
 
They weren't flying as a way to cut down on training accidents that the VVS was currently getting purged for as if 1941.

Certainly the 1941 purges didn't help. But simply not doing them wouldn't have changed much as they only really hit the senior leadership hard. But lower down, the biggest reason for the lack of officers at the lower levels was expansion, not execution. Bergstrom and Mikhailov go into quite a lot of detail on this (Glantz as well, though the air force is less of a focus for him): the primary problem afflicting the VVS in 1941 was that it was simply too big, having expanded far too fast.

It lacked the necessary trained officers and men, and the necessary logistics to operate at anything more than a marginal level, despite (or indeed because of) its vast size. Either you need to build a larger and more effective base for expansion in the pre-war years, or you need to slow the expansion and settle for a smaller, but more sustainable and better trained air force.

While Soviet air doctrine had some issues, and many of their planes were less than first rate, it wasn't anything a competent air force couldn't have sorted out. The bigger issue was that most of the VVS could barely handle basic flying skills and was completely unprepared for combat at the unit level and up. Doctrine is meaningless when most of your pilots don't even have the training for proper squadron level combat drills, and what experienced officers you do have are overranked for their experience level, and overworked simply administering formations too large for them to handle. The dire state of the new trainees' skillset was recognized at the time, but in 1941 the priority was in getting as many men as possible through the schools and into the field, with the intent of training them up properly later. Unfortunately the German invasion meant there was no later.
 
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marathag

Banned
The bigger issue was that most of the VVS could barely handle basic flying skills and was completely unprepared for combat at the unit level and up. Doctrine is meaningless when most of your pilots don't even have the training for proper squadron level combat drills, and what experienced officers you do have are overranked for their experience level,
It's a bit easier when you don't have Colonels who were Captains last month, and so on.
It's easier to have just one weakness of low skill pilots, rather than two of poor pilots with petrified leadership out of their ability, trying to lead them.

Shooting people willy-nilly after the 22nd really didn't solve anything, except to eliminate those who were following the disastrous polices since 1939, set by Stalin and his direct cronies.
 
The other commentators have it right. Avoid the Kiev pocket. That is the one thing they could have done that would have made the biggest difference.

The Northwest Front probably achieved as much as it could, and the West Front was screwed by decisions made before June 22nd, 1941. The two southern fronts are the area where you can get the biggest improvement with a POD of June 22nd or later.

There are areas of improvement in the 1942-45 campaigns, but they tend to be less obvious mistakes, and with smaller effects than the destruction of the Kiev pocket.
 
It's a bit easier when you don't have Colonels who were Captains last month, and so on.

Quite. The problem is, when you have a threefold increase in men like the Soviet Air Force did in 1939-1941, then by necessity you're gonna need a lot more Colonels and the only way the Soviets found they could make the numbers work was by promoting all those captains, regardless of whether they shot some of their generals or not.
 
Speaking of the Kiev pocket... My understanding is that in 1941, the Soviets were expecting the main thrust to come in the South, when it was in fact AG North and AG Center and the push towards Moscow that was the main target. (And then in 1942 the Soviets thought the Germans would try for Moscow again... Only to be caught by surprise as the Germans tried to grab Stalingrad and the Caucasus.) Maybe some benefit could be gained from the Soviets re-deploying in 1941, or guessing correctly in 1942?

Of course shifting their forces from the South to the Central front would probably be best done with a PoD some months before the war, so that men and materiel could be moved and new orders distributed through the flaky lines of communication.

But maybe there were post June 22nd opportunities I don't know about?

The Soviets preparing for an attack in the South in 1942 is easier. And could lead to a much easier 1942. The Soviets may have "won" Stalingrad, but keeping the Germans from the banks of the Volga would have had great benefits.

fasquardon
 
Other people covered strategy, training etc, I'd toss a thing or two about military hardware. Aircraft 1st:
- Introduce the ANT-58 powered with AM-38 engines (= Tu 2 equivalent), while phasing down the production of IL-4.
- Tone down production of Tumansky radial engines, tool them up to produce Mikulin liquid cooled engines.
- Don't wait for late 1942 in order to have a M-82 powered fighter, do it in winter of 1941/42 (there was a big surplus of M-82 engines in 1942 in OTL). Might work also as a fighter-bomber, M-82 offered a lot of power down low, too.
- Il-2 with rear gunner ASAP.
- Fix the canopy on MiG-3 so it can be discarded in emergency, make a proper installation of AM-38 on it (basically a bigger cooler is needed), don't wait until 1942 to arm it with two cannons. Keep such a fighter in production, even if that means less IL-2 produced.
- It might be a god idea to try designing a drop tank installation for fighters, Soviet Union is a big place after all.
- Introduce a 2-speed supercharged AM-38/35A hybrid, and later the AM-39. Those engines can power a long-range fighter without the raw performance taking a big hit, while ANT-58 should be doing 620-640 km/h at altitude with AM-39.
- Yak-1 goes on basically as-is. Smaller, lighter & sleeker (=better performing) 'pre Yak-3' needs to be next step already by early 1943.
- Su-2 production is phased out by winter of 1941/42.

The main shortcoming of all of this is that real benefits might start to show by Spring of 1942, by what time Soviet Union has already endured most of the human & territorial losses.
 
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Tanks/AFVs/artillery - a lot of good ideas & real hardware, but some of them were a bit late, and mainstays (T-34, KV-1) were very unreliable during the 1st 6 months of the Russo-German war. I guess reliability can't be really cured faster than it was historically so.
With that said:
- No KV-2 (make more KV-1s instead). SU-152 is also interesting, so is the 'SU-122' (the 122 mm cannon on the KV-1 chassis)
- SU-122 (122 mm howitzer on T-34 chassis) by winter of 1942/43, SU-85 by late 1942 (basically, both emerging a year before OTL).
- SU-76 ASAP. Also 'SU-57', with the powerful 57mm AT gun.
- Keep the 57mm ATG in production through 1942-43.
- Modify the F22 cannon so it's elevation and azimuth controls are on same side of the breech.
- "Every gun is also an AT gun" doctrine ASAP, not from 1942 on.
- A good indirect-fire SP artillery is also needed, 122 and/or 152 mm howitzers on tracked chassis.
- SP AA gun is dearly needed - 2x23mm VJa, or 2 x 25mm, or 1x 37mm. The 85mm AA self-propelled on T-34 is too sexy, but it cuts into 'proper' tanks production.
- Introduce the long barrelled 45mm ATG ASAP.
- Western stuff: Matilda and Valentine need external mantlet shoehorned in so they can carry a proper cannon; Churchil needs either the Soviet 57mm or 76mm cannon; M3 medium needs to loose the 37mm turret and gain extra armor.
 
There are a lot of threads about how could Germany do better in the eastern front, but the USSR initially suffered staggering losses and a couple millions of its troops got encircled, as well as losing large swathes of territory.
How could the USSR do better since the start of Barbarossa, without having Germany to do worse than OTL?
Bonus if they still don't accept Allied troops fighting on soviet soil.

Adopt the tried and tested strategy of falling back exchanging land for time and wait for General Winter while saving as much of the army as possible building up an overwhelming force for a counter attack in 1942.

Evacuate as much industry as possible and all necessary workers - destroy what cannot be saved.

Destroy road and rail infrastructure as they fall back making logi harder for the Nazis (scorched earth if you will).

I am not convinced that the Red Army and the Russian authorities was capable to do all of this but an attempt to follow this would IMO serve the Workers paradise better than OTL
 
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