Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by FernandoPerla, May 15, 2019.
What if Germany managed to take Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad in 1941-42?
If you'd wish some meaningful replies, maybe providing some meaningful details...?
You are aware that, given what else was happening around the world in those years, this happening in 1941 is entirely different (and IMHO, wholly incredible) from the same happening by 1942.
I don't know much about Barbarossa. I just want to debate about probable scenarios.
Then Russia is beaten and Germany has an actual chance of winning the war.
Assuming OP happens, then the USSR implodes in 1942-43 and LL might even be withdrawn. Not sure what the Wallies do then, they were pretty serious about keeping the Soviets in the fight to reduce their blood price for victory. Without the USSR I wonder if they then cut a deal to get out of the war.
Yeah, I can pretty much see that Lend-Lease would be withdrawn - the Americans aren't going to go to the effort of backing such an obviously losing horse and the British will be unwilling to keep the convoys running, if they can even get a port to ship to.
Would the USSR "implode" though? Surely they would withdraw, purge a shitload of officers, politicians, "counterrevolutionaries" and look to keep fighting? This might be the end of Stalin, but some figure would rise to keep the revolution fighting.
The WAllies would probably look to redouble their efforts in the Med and Africa - a major drive through Syria, into the Caucasus maybe? They'll have plenty more equipment available, with LL being shut down.
OK, let's say this happens by the end of summer of 1942. Anything earlier seems nearly impossible, if you want to include Stalingrad among the end goals.
If that is the case, then Japan is in the war too (they'd move in any case, IMHO, but if Moscow has fallen in November 1941, then they have all the more incentive to go to Pearl). The big question is if the "hot-headed junior officers" of the Rikugun managed to abstain from attacking the Soviets in Manchuria or Mongolia. Given that they see the enemy stumbling and that they never liked the go-South strategy (a Kaigun strategy), my bet is that they do.
If the Japanese are at war with the Soviet Union, then I'd agree with the others that Lend-Lease is a non-starter. With Leningrad fallen, it's very unlikely that Murmansk is still in Soviet hands. Arhangelsk might be, but with the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe at the mouth of the White Sea, it's not suitable for shipping Lend-Lease. At the other end, the Pacific route is not usable because at a minimum the Japanese are interdicting it, and at worst they've taken Vladivostok. That leaves the Iranian route, but given all the above, US decision makers probably choose not to throw good money after bad.
So the Soviets are in complete disarray and have lost their industrial districts, as well as tons more of men and materials. The Krasnaya Armiya is a shadow of its former self.
That does not mean they surrendered. They might want to surrender, mind you, especially with a leadership replacement, but it's not as if the Germans will allow them. The ultimate objective for them is the A-A line, i.e. a line from Arhangelsk to Astrakhan, probably passing through Gorki in the center. And guess what, with all the incredible success that is taken for already miraculously achieved in this thread, they still have not reached that line. Additionally, if they managed to take Stalingrad by 1942, that means they still miss out on the real prize, the Caucasus oilfields. Heady with victory, secure in their racial assumptions, they won't negotiate, they'll just keep going to take all the above. Meaning that the war still goes on in the East. Not that the Soviets have any chance of winning now - but most of the Wehrmacht still remains committed there in 1943, too.
That’s where you need to start, acquire some info first. And that was Hitler’s problem too, he didn’t know much about Barbarossa either, at least about his opponent. Hitler didn’t know that the Soviets had ten thousand tanks, had the ability to move entire factories eastward, and didn’t appreciate that it can get rather chilly in Russia.
Military strategy tells all of us that when facing a much larger opponent you concentrate your forces to gain numerical superiority, but Hitler instead diluted his forces across a massive front in three separate campaigns. Clearly the Germans did not understand their opponent.
There’s no reasonable odds of a successful Operation Barbarossa, at least in its historic conception, preparation and execution. Operation Typhoon was even worse.
In 1812, napoleonic France took Moscow. Did it mean Russia was beaten ? No.
In 218-216, Hannibal inflicted a series of crushing defeats on the romans. Did it mean the war was won ?
By all cultural standards of the time it should have. Rome should have acknowledged defeat and sued for peace but since it had far more resources and refused admitting to being defeated, it kept on fighting and paid a crushing price to finally win the war.
The USSR had far more population than Germany and so huge resources and so much strategic depth that it could keep on fighting resources and trade space and men (hence a wide part of the 20/25 million soviet people who died during the war) in exchange for time.
The USSR had time in the second part of 1941 to move its factories eastwards.
It was able to stop the Wehrmacht in late 1941 because Germany had just way underestimated the soviet forces and should have mobilized far more troops to be able to keep on defeating and surrounding them that far.
Germany did not because of the Nazi bias that Germans were superior and Slavs inferiors, because they underestimated soviet resources and fighting spirit.
Nazis were unable to trigger the crumbling of the soviet tyrannical regime because they were themselves murderous genocidal tyrans. Why would Russians want to be « liberated » by a foreign army that aims at exterminating the majority of them and reducing the survivors to slave status in order to conquer a lebensraum for the Germans ?
But if they're not in the war, this might lead to a BEF and AEF in the USSR. Because then the western allies wouldn't want the USSR to fall, and if the USSR fights on, Stalin may be persuaded to let the western allies in.
The key fact unknown to Hitler (and, to be fair, to his generals and to his intel services) wasn't one of those you list. It was the Soviet capability of mobilizing new divisions. The Germans did know the Soviet population was large. But they did not know that the Krasnaya Armiya might succeed in drafting, training, feeding, clothing, equipping and arming tens and tens of divisions in addition to those that already existed in June 1941 (the number of which, anyway, the Abwehr underestimated).
That said, actually it is not accurate that the Germans did not achieve local numerical superiority in their three thrusts. They did. As to troops on the frontlines, they had more than their more populous enemy, all the more if you mention what most supporters of Barbarossa fail to mention, i.e. that there also were Finnish, Romanian etc. troops in the field. The Soviets were actually outnumbered in the first months of the war, notwithstanding the three German thrusts.
But the problem was that in those first months, the German met, and defeated (which in most cases means, destroyed) a number of divisions equal to that they expected. And the Soviets had more, and were mobilizing and fielding more.
As to the notion that a different conception and execution, presumably with a more concentrated approach, might succeed... maybe. My feeling is that this isn't impossible, but it's not very likely. It's Stolfi's hypothesis.
The problem with that is that it leaves important resources (population centers, factories, fertile farmland and some other raw resources) in the hands of the enemy; and, what's much more dangerous for that one straight thrust, it leaves two lethally exposed flanks North and South of it. The Soviet counterattacks in the first three months were disorganized and unsuccessful, yet they diverted German resources and bought time. Later, they grew more and more obnoxious - until they were finally successful in December. And although that was a success, it was limited - because the Germans were not really overextended and had left no significant frontage bulges.
I wouldn't want to see those long, long exposed flanks attacked all over the place in the fall - and I wouldn't rule out that, Moscow having been surrounded (I don't think the Germans can actually take it on the fly), this ATL's equivalent of OTL winter offensive cuts the long, long German bulge that surrounds Moscow. It would be 1812.
Quite Barbarossa does exactly what it was intended to do, the issue being the other 2/3 of the Red army. Even the German planning such as it was assumed the advances on Moscow Leningrad and beyond would be after the total destruction of the Red Army and basically administrative marches against no organised resistance.
After Smolensk the Germans are in no position to advance to Moscow in strength and the notion that you can ignore the largest concentration of Red army troops sitting behind the southern flank of AGC is Halders delusion.
You've practically answered your own question there: After Smolensk.
Have Guderian make a left turn to close the pocket. It sews it up and puts him in a better defensive position. There'll be something resembling the Yelena offensive, but it won't work as well.
Now team G is still pretty tired, but combine this with a (doable) lucky break to give them Leningrad and there's serious trouble coming for the bear.
Or just go the lazy way out and posit that the Soviet government panics and allows everything to spiral out of control.
Historically, the Smolensk pocket was closed and the forces within were destroyed... yet there were still Soviet armies on the road to Moscow, including some of the most powerful then available to the USSR. Those armies were assembled out of freshly called up reserve formations, not from units escaping the Smolensk pocket, so they’ll still be there. And it obviously doesn’t do anything to the ones on the right flank down around Kiev. Not to mention the logistical issues. Those were what rendered the Germans unable to continue the advance, not anything which happened within the Battle of Smolensk.
Probably the best way to contrive it, even if it’s lazy and unlikely.
So Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 steers North - and takes defensive positions East of Smolensk. That's fine for the long-proposed thrust to Moscow. It also means that in the best case, the battle for Kiev would be won by the Germans in the old way, through constant frontal pressure, i.e. with higher German casualties and many of the Soviet units retreating East from there. Which leaves them available for later counterattacks to the Southern exposed flank of that thrust.
In the worst case, admittedly unlikely, the Germans fail to take Kiev until the fall. Same consequences as above, but worse.
As usual, if an alternate-historian wants some asset to do A in his ATL, which is different from the B thing the asset did in OTL, he should wonder what would the consequences be for not doing B.
There's that. However, the Soviets lost, with Kiev, hundreds of thousands of men, their breadbasket, and a pretty important city. They did not panic. I suppose that if the Germans' single thrust is successful, and by the snow they have managed to surround Moscow (pretty hard to do), then the Soviet government might collapse, especially if Leningrad has already fallen. Which means lining up not one, but several lucky breaks for the Germans.
Especially if LL is cut off the Soviets starve. And that is just the food problem, not the industrial machinery, electricity, or material issues. Even with LL the additional losses of men, cities, industry, etc. will be very crippling, especially if Murmansk also falls. Then there is the morale hit that comes with losing everything and the likely Stalin freakout if Moscow is lost. They might continue to resist in some capacity, but they weren't going to be effective and organizing national resistance won't be sustainable. I'd imagine the Wallies would consider taking over the Soviet part of Iran and advancing into the Caucasus if it looked like the Germans were going to take Baku. But at some point they'd have to consider invading Europe...would they even want to risk it?
I've always felt the "Soviets retreat behind the Urals and sulk" theory to be pretty unlikely, IMHO. Once the Great Patriotic War was begun, I feel there would be resistance of one kind or another until victory or genocide. But a removal of LL will severely cripple their ability to conduct Army-level operations. I don't know about it being permanently, though?
The other thing that has always left me wondering is - what comes next? Do the WAllies simply let the Nazis murder millions across the continent of Europe and shrug? Surely in a '41/'42 Nazis-victorious-over-the-Soviets scenario, WAllied offensives would continue in all other Theatres and plans would be laid to do something about Nazi Europe?
They don't have many option once behind the Urals due to the lack of arable land and loss of industry. They'd be in survival mode. Look at the scholarship that has been done on the partisan movement recently; they were a LOT less effective than the Soviets claimed officially. Without sufficient external support, the capital lost, industry and resource evaporating and LL perhaps going away, they really won't have the means to continue on. It would be permanent due to how much they would be losing; even IOTL with LL there were major deficits until territory was liberated in late 1942 on and LL ramped up to new heights.
The question for the Wallies is do they want to sacrifice millions of men to try and liberate Europe alone when the Nazis control everything from the Atlantic to the A-A line in the East? The US certainly let Europe burn from 1939-41 and only got in after they were attacked. The Brits weren't able to do much of anything on their own but raid and bomb. I could see the bombing campaign getting even more resources, but the ground invasion of Europe is going to be exceptionally costly and likely politically tough to justify.
Soviet Winter offensive pushes Army Group Center back out of Moscow. Russian counteroffensives as before but are less strong, taking more time to push Germany back.
War drags on further into late 1945. US tank divisions, full of cool Pershings. Wallies beef up with Comets and start getting large shipments of Centurions before war's end.
Germany surrenders after Berlin and Berghof become radioactive. Wallies take all of Germany and Austria. Cold War boundary shifts more East.
Japan see A bombs, 100 fast attack CVs headed towards it, goes "oh...&%&$" and surrenders.
Concentrating their forces in one spot, Schwerpunkt, was exactly the German strategy which only worked effectively in 1939, 1940, and early 1941. The Soviet response to Blitzkrieg which involved more spread out combat along the front was deep operation or Soviet Deep Battle doctrine, which emphasized the need for multiple breakthrough points and reserves to exploit the breach quickly, or if not possible, to engage in a longer siege. The Soviets didn't yet have numerical superiority in Barbarossa, or even the Battle of Moscow.
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