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  • Stalin's initial reaction to setbacks on the Western Front was to personalize the defeats as individual negligence. The attribution of blame for the setbacks inhibited candid expression by the leadership complicated by the identification and clarification of lessons. Stalin's harsh reaction caused commanders to be cautious in reporting the truth if it was unpleasant. In an illustrative conversation of 4 Sept '41 between Marshal Zhukov and Maj Gen Rakutin, cdr of the 24th Army, Zhukov reprimanded Rakutin for throwing his tanks into battle "thoughtlessly" and losing them, and also for making false reports:

    Rakutin: "I'll go out this morning to investigate the matter, as I received the report only now...."

    Zhukov: "You're not a detective, but a general. Send me a written dispatch that I can report to the government. Has Shpelevo been occuppied or is that also eyewash?"

    Rakutin: "Shepelevo has not been occupied. I'll look into it myself tomorrow and report. I won't lie."

    Zhukov: "The main thing is, stop the fibs of your staff, and deal properly with the situation, or you won't look too good." [source Volkogonov, "I.V. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy", p. 213 with citation to archival material]

    Stalin's repression proved detrimental to a change process that required candid assessments from commanders who were gaining experience from shortcomings in operational concepts and organizational adaptations. Zhukov later convinced Stalin that little was accomplished by executing senior commanders for battlefield defeats. Zhukov saved Konev from following Pavlov's fate.

    TBC
    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

    Comment


    • Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post
      This is good but in the border battles at the start of Barbarossa they experienced a drastic shortage of towing vehicles to bring the artillery quickly to repel enemy armor attacks. Even when on the offensive, as I stated upthread, their artillery lagged behind the tanks as did their infantry. Ryabyshev, commander 8th Mechanized Corps was adamant about attacking with infantry and artillery support but things never worked out that way for the most part.
      Not so bad. 8 MechCorps had 114 STZ tractors (of them 7 in repair) compared with 128 authorized:
      https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=114792918
      Which was quite satisfactory.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
        Not so bad. 8 MechCorps had 114 STZ tractors (of them 7 in repair) compared with 128 authorized:
        https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=114792918
        Which was quite satisfactory.
        Correct - 12th Tank Division/8MC had 89 tractors with 70 operational. 34th Tank Division/8MC had 24 tractors number of operational [no data]. 7th Motorized Division/8MC had 165 operational.

        The source for the above was translated from Russian to English from Aleksei Isaev's original Russina text book and is given as The principle automobile and mechanized tank directorate as of 1 May 1941.

        The 8th Mechanized corps strongest division was the 12th T.D. with 100/98 T-34, 58/57 KV's and the aforementioned 89 tractors. It also had a weak 34th T.D. with predominately T-26 tanks - 233. The 7th Motorized Division had 85 BT-7 tanks and the most tractors with 165.

        The book(s) I have do not list the type of tractors. Was the STZ the main heavy/medium artillery tractor?

        In the Kiev Special Military District, in addition to existing formations, the 15th, 16th, 19th, 22nd, and 24th mechanized corps were formed. These corps were primarily made up by taking divisions from the existing corps. As an example, the 19th Tank Division was taken from the existing 9th Mechanized Corps to form the basis of the 22nd Mechanized Division. The 10th, 15th, 19th, 30th, 32nd, 35th, and 39th tank divisions never received adequate required vehicles, including tractors, by the outbreak of the war.

        The off road terrain in and leading up to combat areas was, for the most part, unsuitable for the tractors in all of the corps unless they were on a road. Many broke down between the outbreak of war and their first combat engagement due to faulty orders and counter - orders sending them miles in different directions needlessly. I have already given the example of Ryabyshev's 8th. M.C. being sent east 75 km and then back to where they started from. Tanks broke down as well. This was especially true of the KV tanks. Large and lumbering machines with mechanical problems. The track pins on the T-34's would fail on these long treks.

        Infantry had inadequate vehicles as well as the artillery which both lagged behind the forward tank formations and brought into the battle late, or in some instances not at all.
        Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

        Comment


        • Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
          The attribution of blame for the setbacks inhibited candid expression by the leadership complicated by the identification and clarification of lessons. Stalin's harsh reaction caused commanders to be cautious in reporting the truth if it was unpleasant.
          Irrespective of Stalin BS in situation reporting (or putting it more mildly "lack of accuracy in reporting") was a real and common problem. Svechin wrote this article already in 1934 based on WWI experience:
          http://grwar.ru/library/Svechin-TacticFact/ST_01.html
          with the bottom line that accuracy of all tactical reports should be viewed with suspicion.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
            Irrespective of Stalin BS in situation reporting (or putting it more mildly "lack of accuracy in reporting") was a real and common problem. Svechin wrote this article already in 1934 based on WWI experience:
            http://grwar.ru/library/Svechin-TacticFact/ST_01.html
            with the bottom line that accuracy of all tactical reports should be viewed with suspicion.
            Thanks for the Svechin piece. Lack of accuracy seems to be one of the universal realities in combat. As children we have all played the game of passing a whispered message through a number of players sitting in a circle and hear how garbled the message was after relatively few passages.

            I had a division commander who said the first reports are never as good or as bad when follow-up reports come in. We all had the experience to know that things always looked better in daylight.

            I have posted elsewhere on this website, that the German General Balck in an interview stressed how a commander has to know his subordinate commanders. When he went forward, he knew if he questioned subordinate commanders on their unit fuel status, some would low-ball the amount to get extra, others over-estimate their amount on hand, and he had some who he could rely on to tell him exactly how much they had and how much of a march or fight they could do with that amount. His point was one had to know their commanders.

            Apparently, Zhukov had a similar understanding. And there is the old adage, "if you ax the head of the bearers of bad tidings, you will get no bad tidings". And, if you are such a leader or manager, you will become isolated and insulated and cannot lead effectively.
            Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 20 Feb 19, 06:53.
            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

            Comment


            • Picking up the thread on how the Red Army worked through this initial period of recovery in the face of a catastrophic defeat and the demise of its tank/mech force.

              Front commanders and staffs meanwhile took analysis of their experiences into their own hands. The deputy commander for armor forces in the Western Front analyzed tank losses in fighting from 1 to 5 September 1941 and concluded that the losses were a result of inadequate reconnaissance of enemy and terrain; poor organization of interaction between tanks, infantry and artillery; the dispersal of tanks and their employment in small groups; and the slowness of the infantry to exploit the success of their tank attacks. On 27 Sept, a Western Front directive from the command on "The Use of Tank Brigades in Basic Aspects of Battle" categorically forbade tank attacks that were uncoordinated with infantry and artillery and that had not suppressed enemy air and artillery. Tanks were not to be employed in groups of three to five machines.

              The problem for Red Army leadership was determining what and where to begin rebuilding. Stalin and his senior leadership rose to the occasion by encouraging the army to believe that change was possible and by setting the direction for change. In mid-September, Stalin, attempting to recognize units that had fought well and to raise the troops' morale, ordered the General Staff to establish a means for distinguishing the best units as example for the rest of the army. Order No. 308, 18 Sep 1941, designated Soviet Guards units that had displayed particular bravery, discipline, and organization. Bestowing the Guards honorific became an identification device and a means for recognizing those units that had followed the Red Army's direction of change.

              Also in September, an officer group as watchdogs of the General Staff was appointed down to division level. They inspected the actual unit positions on the front and checked the fulfillment of orders and instructions. These officers were obligated to report, quickly and with absolute objectivity, only that which they had seen with their own eyes. As eyes and ears for the General Staff and Red Army leadership, these officers received orders to check specific aspects of readiness, note shortcomings in training, investigate the availability of personnel and equipment, and monitor the situation.

              In accordance with the General Staff Directive of 9 November 1941, and the NKO order of 11 Dec 1941, sections (departments) for the study of war experience were reorganized in the staffs of the Fronts and armies. The Red Army moved institutionally to standardize its practice of distilling war experience for lessons. The first important step was gathering commander and staff experiences at the tactical and operational levels.


              TBC
              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

              Comment


              • The Moscow counteroffensive in Dec 1941, yielded a number of problems at the tactical and operational level units. In the tank units, the Front's small mobile groups, improvised collections of small tank, cavalry and ski units, were unable to exploit to a great depth because of size and sustainability. The mobile groups' actions were noticeably unaggressive and lacked maneuverability. [This observation noted in Radzievskii's study, "Breakthrough".] The small brigade-size tank units had problems attempting to encircle large German groupings. Mobile groups did not possess sufficient striking force due to an insufficient number of tanks and their difficulty maneuvering through deep snow. Spearhead units often ran out of ammunition, indicating that there were still problems to be solved in logistical support to tank units. Additionally, the lack of mobile groups at the army level did not allow a quick development of success in depth.

                The Stavka issued Supreme High Command Order No. 57 on 27 Jan '42, titled "The Combat Use of Tank Units and Formations." The order represented the first centralized directive on the use of tank forces and was a clear indication that the process of collection and analysis of war experiences was in position to feed the leadership the information necessary to determine the direction of change. The Red Army's senior leadership could indicate the immediate direction of change in tactical procedures and operational practices and promulgate it in orders and directives.

                Within weeks the Stavka order rippled through the Fronts as they responded with their implementing instructions and orders. The strongest response appeared in the Southern Front on 24 Feb '42. After specifying by date and unit the "erroneous" uses of tank units and losses in material and equipment, it directed actions to be taken: tank brigades and separate battalions attack in mass; do not allow commitment of tanks to battle without reconnaissance; commander work out required coordination; and forbade separation of the motorized rifle battalion from tank brigade. The seriousness of the order was emphasized by the warning, "Each case of erroneous use of tank forces is to be investigated and the guilty prosecuted before a military tribunal."


                TBC
                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                Comment


                • Tactical leadership was still concentrating on the basics in armored warfare for achieving and sustaining the initial penetration. German defenses around Moscow were shallow with few armored reserves. But defeating larger enemy reserves in the operational depth would require stronger forces committed to the breakthrough exploitation.

                  Reversing the Kulik Commission and initial war conclusions on mechanized corps, the Red Army, with more experience, identified an increased use and size for tank and mechanized forces. A March 1942 directive creating tank corps responded to war experience, indicating that the General Staff's acceptance of "the idea of separate tank corps and armies was the only way to develop operations in great depth."

                  By March, the Red Army General Staff checked compliance with the Supreme High Command directive letter of 10 January 1942, containing two minimum conditions for successful penetration of the enemy's fortified positions. A General Staff officer assigned to the Transcaucasus Front recalled, "I had to monitor the requirements of the troops to verify fulfillment of the requirements stated in the General Headquarters directive concerning the actions of the strike grouping and the artillery offensive, which no one as yet clearly understood." [ Nikolai Saltykov's memoirs, "I Report to the General Staff", 1983] Despite the important measures ordered in the directive, how to fulfill the requirement was a question not only for the commander but also the verifying agent. Directives and orders alone cannot induce change or innovation.
                  Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                  Comment


                  • As a solution to the problem noted at the end of the previous post, NKO (Peoples Commissar of Defense) Order on 25 Apr '42 introduced a system for direct work on generalizing and using war experience from the General Staff down to army staffs. For the first time, the Red Army General staff used its military history section as an active executive agent for immediate exploitation of war experiences, under the title, Branch for the Use of War experience. Analysis and conclusions of combat experience was handled systematically for direct contribution on a daily basis to the planning process, unlike previous military history sections, with goals of incorporating the analysis in longer term regulations and theory. In fact, a Janus operation would devote one face to the daily business of collecting experience for study, the other to analytical conclusions for future application.

                    This extra dimension in exploiting information proved the value of an executive agent with the capability to collect, analyze, and recommend the application of a collective experience and disseminate that information. The War Experience Branch became the hub for the organizational sharing of practical knowledge.

                    Unless the branch translated these lessons into new critical tasks, tactical procedures, or operational practices, change would remain abstract and not affect the army's actual routine. The identification of specific tasks in orders, instructions, and directives provided the basis for subordinate commanders and staffs to act on changes. However, directives and orders proved insufficient, requiring supplemental examples that led to other necessary publications before the Red Army could implement successfully the solutions, representing incremental changes, to tactical and operational problems.


                    TBC
                    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                    Comment



                    • I know this backdrop to battlefield actions is probably boring for many readers, but sometimes it is necessary to look at the backside of a tapestry for the warp, woof and knots.

                      In August 1942, the Branch for War Experience published its first "Sbornik Materialov po Izucheniyu Opyta Voyny" [Collection of Materials for Study of War Experiences] with the objective "to inform operating forces of the Red Army, reserve formations, military academies, and officers of the main and central directives of the Peoples' Commissariat of Defense about the combat operations experience in the Great Patriotic War." The first collection, reviewed personally by Stalin, dealt with topics such as actions for destroying large groupings of encircled enemy, conclusions from 1941 airborne operations, air defenses, and German field defenses.

                      This issue also addressed concerns in studying war experience. The article noted that "tactical procedures for conducting battle, tactical-technical procedures, and methods for using tactical means in battle are continually changing and improving." The article further observed, "Many new tactical procedures of troops and technical means of fighting ... have become the property of the entire Red Army and have rendered great assistance in the struggle against the enemy. But many new procedures obtained in the process of battle, undoubtedly valuable for troops, have not received rapid and broad dissemination, only because ... are very weakly dealt with in the tactical formation and even Fronts."

                      The article cautioned units not to wait too long to try out an expedient technique or procedure before sharing it with other units. It also specified that the operating information of tactical units and corps should be organized by army and Front staffs. Additionally, the article cautioned, the study of combat experience should not be one's own troops isolated from the study of the enemy tactical procedures for fighting and new technical means used by him.

                      The article identified the information leaflet as one of the most successful forms. These "collections" became a major device for establishing a model, or exemplar, that subordinate commanders and staffs could emulate in their operations. The collections became a compendium of incremental changes and innovations for various combat operations.


                      TBC
                      Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                      Comment


                      • The Red Army wanted to follow their successful winter operations by maintaining the strategic initiative with a spring offensive. Believing the German Army was focused on Moscow, the Red Army High Command calculated an offensive around Kharkov could be conducted without encountering significant German reserves. The Southwestern Front main effort sought to envelop the German forces in the Kharkov area from north to south, carrying the offensive further to the west and the Dnepr River.

                        While the SW Front planned and prepared for a breakthrough operation consistent with the Stavka letter of 10 January 1942, it produced operational flaws in the execution. Despite the number of units drawn together in the Front's offensive, the numerical superiority of the Soviet troops over the German forces was very slight at 2.1 to 1. Red Army rifle divisions were no more than 8-9 thousand men, while German infantry divisions were nearly 90% strength, 14-15 thousand. The SW Front had a 1.5 : 1 advantage in artillery and mortars and possessed a slim advantage in tanks at 2.5 : 1. The breakthrough sector proved too wide, not allowing a greater superiority over enemy and significant density in forces, especially artillery. The circumstances grew worse as the operation unfolded.

                        On the first day of the operation (May 12, 1942) the new tank corps, as the armored exploitation force, were far behind the first echelon. The following day, the tank corps remained 30 kilometers too far from the enemy lines. When the 6th Army, SW Front's main strike force, made a successful tactical penetration, the commander failed to commit his second echelon for decisive development of a breakthrough into operational depths. Poor Front intelligence failed to detect the German buildup on both flanks. Weak air support lacked the punch the strike force needed. Isolated and unsupported by neighboring Fronts, the operation collapsed swiftly with disastrous losses from the weight of the German counteroffensive.

                        The Kharkov operation illustrates the insufficiency of directives and orders. The Stavka letter of 10 January could not pass the practical knowledge necessary to implement an armored breakthrough at the operational level. Such an instrument for passing practical knowledge in operational concepts and organizational adaptations calls for an example. The Red Army still required a successful operation as a model.

                        By this point in the war, the tactical brigades were increasingly under experienced commands. The more successful tank brigade commanders became the tank corps commanders. While tank commanders would have a feel for the tactical employment, they would have to learn the timing, coordination, preparations and work through an additional level of command to fight a tank corps. At the operational level, the indices for distance space, depth and force densities all change.

                        TBC
                        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                        Comment


                        • The successful model came in August 1942. Along a passive sector of the Soviet-German front near Rzhev and Sychevka, the Red Army's Western Front conducted a breakthrough operation. General Radzievskii, in his book, "Proryv (Breakthrough)", noted the operation was "the embodiment of methods to conduct the breakthrough, which was further developed in subsequent campaigns of the war." The operation concentrated two armies in one sector, creating the highest density for 1942: one division per 2 to 2.5 kms; 100 guns and mortars per km; 15-23 tanks for infantry support per km.

                          Division formations were in two echelons; armies had second echelons with a mobile group. The Front mobile group had two tank corps and one cavalry corps. The front launched the attack. Rainy conditions precluded air support and created difficulties for artillery. However, the density of forces drove well forward into the German defenses. The Front committed a tank corps to exploit the tactical breakthrough. Poor road conditions and rain led to overheated motors and a significant amount of small mechanical damage, slowing the tank corps advance. German reserves counterattacked and restored the situation before the tanks could arrive to develop the advantage. The battle became protracted.

                          The small incremental changes of increased quantity of tanks supporting infantry in the first echelon; rifle armies creating mobile groups of three tank brigades, and the Front allocating two tank corps for a mobile group in the application of armored forces by the Western Front solved problems that had frustrated previous operations. The Western Front operation became a model for success in penetrating a defense and moving the offensive to a significant depth. Subsequent Red Army operations continued to build on this example.

                          TBC
                          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                          Comment


                          • Also in August 1942, the 9th Tank Corps, 3rd Guard Tank Army, participated in a counterstrike against German forces in the area of Sykhinichi and Kosel'sk. "In the course of these battles was revealed a series of shortcomings in organizing combat and control of combat units and formations," noted the preamble to a separate document written by the 9th Tank Corps cdr and published by the 3rd Tank Army. The text provided specific points and diagrams that other tank commanders could imitate. The document provided practical how-to knowledge and understanding necessary to execute armored operations, showing the order of march and formations of the corps in the commitment to a breakthrough. While most of the document dealt with offensive operations, it also furnished points and diagrams for defense.

                            To be cont'd
                            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post
                              Here is a report written on 5 August 1941 by the Chief of Armored Forces Southwestern Front Major General Nikolai Victorovich Morgunov:
                              For the point of comparison the order issued by general Zeitzler (Chief of the German General Staff) in January 1944:

                              Reports continue to arrive that tanks attached to other units are continuously committed to actions, without proper maintenance and without sufficient support from other arms. The result is giant losses in this expensive type of weapons which lag behind production and capacity and therefore cannot be replenished. It is completely unacceptable when Tiger battalions are committed to action at day and at night for duration of a whole week, without having a single pause for technical maintenance. Any detachment of tank units from their repair maintenance facilities is prohibited. It is equally intolerable when attached tanks are thrown in an attack without support from artillery and heavy infantry weapons and when infantry donít exploit the result of the tank attack and lags behind or when tanks stay at nighttime at positions without infantry protection. Every unit commander to whom tanks are attached is fully responsible for their tactically sound employment, especially for organization of artillery support, close cooperation with infantry and technical maintenance.
                              When things started to go awry for Wehrmacht we hear some familiar motif.

                              Comment


                              • The Western Front model from experience in August 1942 led to higher directives on armor use. New principles were directed in NKO Order 325, dated 16 Oct 1942. According to the order, separate tank brigades and regiments were designated for direct infantry support. Direct infantry support tank units were to advance with the infantry to assist in making the initial tactical penetration for a breakthrough operation. Tank attrition in these units was understandably high. Tank and mechanized corps were Front and army means, to be utilized on main axes as the echelon to develop success by inflicting powerful strikes to split up large enemy groupings and advance well into the operational depth. The armored corps were to be committed after the penetration of the tactical defense in order to be at full strength for engagement with German reserves in the depths of the defense. The generalized experiences, passed along immediately in the for of directives, prompted quick incorporation of lessons learned by Red Army commanders. The commanders of 1941 tank brigades led corps in 1942 and provided a core of combat-hardened, experienced leadership. The placement and relative stability of armored unit leaders proved crucial for implementing change.


                                To be continued
                                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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