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  • No 'Great Purge' of the RKKA

    Hopefully we can have a bit of fun with this one. Assume that Stalin, for whatever reason, decides that Beria and his cohorts have been manipulating the records to discredit their enemies within the Red Army and so has them imprisoned and/or killed instead of the officers. How does this impact upon the way the USSR conducts itself during WW2? Let's start as if the 'Non-Aggression Pact' has already been signed and the Red Army is committed to take the eastern portion of the Polish state ..... otherwise it could get messy.
    Signing out.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
    Hopefully we can have a bit of fun with this one. Assume that Stalin, for whatever reason, decides that Beria and his cohorts have been manipulating the records to discredit their enemies within the Red Army and so has them imprisoned and/or killed instead of the officers. How does this impact upon the way the USSR conducts itself during WW2? Let's start as if the 'Non-Aggression Pact' has already been signed and the Red Army is committed to take the eastern portion of the Polish state ..... otherwise it could get messy.
    Oh this will be fun.

    First off, ACG's own skoblin would probably have a different handle, since Nikolai Skoblin rose to some fame as a result of the Tukhachevsky affair.

    Beyond that, I need to think about it a bit.

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    • #3
      We need Scott Fraser for this one. His detailed knowledge will help in knowing who of the better WW2 generals would have stood a chance of ending up in a senior position & who would most likely not have risen so far.

      Part of the problem here is knowing how men who were never really tested as combat commanders would have fared. As we know, some cut it, some don't.

      Assuming that the armoured formations are kept together and in better shape and that senior military men of ability (Voroshilov and Budenny don't count) are listened to, things clearly go better. Better, however, is still not great. If the VVS is effectively wiped out in the first week or so and the armoured forces are lacking usable vehicles, spares etc then thee are going to be big issues. If the idea is to deploy heavily on the border to meet the German attack then a lot of forces are lost because the Germans simply move too fast & get inside the Red Army's decision cycle.

      The difference I forsee is that the Germans & their allies will be more badly damaged as they move forward. With better commanders a junior levels local units may react more effectively. With armoured units better practiced in their tactics their counter-attacks will be more efective. Rather than the German offensive grinding to a halt at the gates of Leningrad and Moscow it grinds to a halt further west. Rather than the 1942 attacks taking a chunk out of Sth Russia they are probably aimed at Moscow or Leningrad...or simply make less progress. Russian counter-attacks in late 1941 are more effective. More Russian industry, resources & population remain under Russian control. It is all bits & pieces, but it probably means that Germany is in a fair bit more trouble in 1943 & '44.
      Last edited by BF69; 10 May 12, 19:14.
      Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

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      • #4
        I've seen this one discussed on two other occasions. One of the points made by more than one Red Army historian, western and former Soviet, is that the massive mobilization/expansion of the Red Army from 1939 created more leadership problems than the purge. In 24 months the active service and reserves were doubled through expanded conscription, then from latter 1940 conscripts scheduled for deactivation to the reserves were held in active service, and reserve formations begain receiving orders to active service. This placed a even larger strain on the training of new NCOs & junior officers. I cant recall any specific numbers from those dicussions, but the number of junior & newly promoted midlevel officers requiring training due to the expansion was larger that the shortage created by the Purges.

        My own thought here is this was a similar situation to the massive expansions of the Wehrmacht from 1934 through 1937, or the US Army from 1939 through 1942. the difference being of course that neither Germany nor the US were invaded during the army expansion. The equivalent point for Germany would have been in 1936 or early 1937. The German army during the 1937 Austrian Anschluss would have been no more able to cope with the full weight of a Franco/Belgian invasion than the Red Army of 1941 could cope with Germany & its Allies.

        Similarly the US Army of late 1941 had expanded from barely 450,000 active service, reservists, and state guards, to nearly four million. It was undergoing its own long running purge as well. Fortunately a invasion of 180 Japanese of German divisions was not practical, so like the Germans the US Army got to complete its expansion and leadership training relatively unmolested.

        None of this is to say the Red Army officer purge was insignificant. It did eliminate a large bloc of field grade officers with fifteen to twenty five years field experience and school room training. Generals I think are mostly overaged and over egoed and not worth considering here, but the the thousands of colonels and majors eliminated are the heavy lifters who train the battalions and do the staff work that make divisions, corps, and armies function. Without the Purge there would have been more experienced leaders to train the newly joined and newly promoted leaders, and there would have been a larger pool of trained and experienced leaders in place when the Germans attacked.

        On my shelf is a article by a MBE Bailey. In one section he identifies the German casualties from 22 June to 30 November as 800,000. My thought is had the Purge not occured the improved leadership/staff at the regiment and division level would have increased the German casualties to one million, or perhaps more. That might have been enough to break the German army in the winter offensives of December/January.

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        • #5
          There is the possibility that Hitler, seeing that the Red Army was still a sizable experience force to be reckoned with, might have held off his plans to invade the Soviet Union and instead would have concentrated on taking Great Britain completely out of the war first and securing North Africa so he would have access to Middle Eastern oil via the Suez Canal.

          If not, his army might not have penetrated as far into the Soviet Union as they did before being bogged down by an early winter.
          “Breaking News,”

          “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by SRV Ron View Post
            There is the possibility that Hitler, seeing that the Red Army was still a sizable experience force to be reckoned with, might have held off his plans to invade the Soviet Union and instead would have concentrated on taking Great Britain completely out of the war first and securing North Africa so he would have access to Middle Eastern oil via the Suez Canal.

            If not, his army might not have penetrated as far into the Soviet Union as they did before being bogged down by an early winter.
            so in other words Germany loses no matter what, just more spectacularly?
            Task Force Regenbogen- Support and Paras

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Dashy View Post
              so in other words Germany loses no matter what, just more spectacularly?
              Chances are, Germany would have conquered Great Britain and had the chance to consolidate access to resources such as Middle Eastern Oil before committing to invading the Soviet Union. With Great Britain out of the picture as a launch pad to bomb German war industries, there would be far more men and materials available to commit to taking out the Soviet military.

              No doubt, because of the purges, Hitler saw a weakness in the Soviet military that he could exploit while the invasion of Great Britain could wait. It was only his stretched supply lines along with an early severe winter that prevented him from achieving that goal.
              “Breaking News,”

              “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by SRV Ron View Post
                Chances are, Germany would have conquered Great Britain and had the chance to consolidate access to resources such as Middle Eastern Oil before committing to invading the Soviet Union. With Great Britain out of the picture as a launch pad to bomb German war industries, there would be far more men and materials available to commit to taking out the Soviet military.
                No way no how.

                Hitler cannot conquer Britain. There are several 'Sealion' threads around here. Put aside a few weeks and read them. Hitler's best chance to invade Britain was after the fall of France, and by 'best' I mean NO chance. Germany couldn't do it. Not enough navy then, not enough navy ever. I'm not going to waste a bunch of time on this, it just isn't possible.

                Middle East oil? Nope. The best Germany could hope for is a bit of Egyptian oil. The big oilfields are a long way away & German logistics just aren't up to that. it is going to be easier for Britain (with US help) to support a force in the Persian gulf than it will be for Germany.

                Also keep in mind that Japan is running out of oil & is going to attack the US sometime soon. If there is no German invasion of Russia it might hold off a bit longer, but the Japanese know that their navy is in danger of losing the ability to tackle the Americans - they won't wait forever. The moment the US is in then Britain - which will be hanging on - loses any incentive to make peace. Those German gains in Nth Africa suddenly become harder to hold and the number of bombers in the skies increases.

                No doubt, because of the purges, Hitler saw a weakness in the Soviet military that he could exploit while the invasion of Great Britain could wait. It was only his stretched supply lines along with an early severe winter that prevented him from achieving that goal.
                You have this wrong. Hitler didn't want to invade Britain. Even when the invasion was being planned he wasn't that keen & he didn't need much convincing to pull the plug. Hitler was obsessed with the idea of invading Russia - it was what drove him. You are wildly overestimating the role of the purges in his thinking. He thoght Russia would fall because they were his racial inferiors and because 'Jewish bolshevism' had further rotted the Russian state & military. The purges may well have confirmed his thinking, but they did not inspire it. Absent the purges he was still going to invade in 1941. It was the next step in his plan. France was gone. Britain was an irritant at best. Russia was the future of the German people - indeed, they cuold not survive without it.

                Hitler's forces are going to hit a better organized & run Red Army. It will still be a terrible year for Russia, but it won't be as terrible. It will still be a good year for Germany, but not nearly as good as in OTL. Fewer Russian troops will be captured & killed. More formations will escape, fight longer & fight better. More industry will survive. The fightback will come sooner & be stronger.
                Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

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                • #9
                  A few factors to consider, at least in my opinion.

                  1) Before the 'purge' there was a lot of debate within the Soviet military about the role of the air force, especially the development of a strategic bomber force. In this timeline a fleet of four engined bombers *could* have been in production and/or ready for use against Axis installations/industry.

                  2) The ongoing reassessment of the RKKA would not cease just because more of the officer corps survive in this timeline. I'm just heading off a potential argument that it would have been better organised here, nothing more.

                  3) The top commanders of the RKKA in the OT - Vatutin, Zhukov, Konev etc. - were relatively young and energetic, something that gets played up in some histories as being a major benefit to the Red Army. In this timeline these commanders will probably be much further down the greasy pole with (arguably) more experienced but less flexibly minded generals ahead of them. The disasters of 1941, assuming they still occur, could destabilise the Soviet command structure far more in this timeline than they did historically.
                  Signing out.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
                    No way no how.
                    Hitler lost his chance for air superiority when he switched from bombing RAF airfields to bombing London as a result of the British launching raids on German cities. Without air superiority, there was no way that Operation Sea Lion would have succeeded. Had he concentrated on destroying the RAF, he would have gained the air superiority that would have allowed him to protect an invasion force from the RAF, the Royal Navy, and from counterattacking British forces.

                    The problem with his Russian campaign was logistics. Resupply became a problem when the Soviets used a Scorched Earth Policy as they retreated. Crops were destroyed, bridges and dam blown up, anything not permanent was moved East including the rails from the railroad lines. With no good paved roads or a network of railroads for moving supplies, The Germans got bogged down in the mud of a wet fall followed by being totally unprepared for a severe Russian winter.
                    “Breaking News,”

                    “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SRV Ron View Post
                      Hitler lost his chance for air superiority when he switched from bombing RAF airfields to bombing London as a result of the British launching raids on German cities. Without air superiority, there was no way that Operation Sea Lion would have succeeded. Had he concentrated on destroying the RAF, he would have gained the air superiority that would have allowed him to protect an invasion force from the RAF, the Royal Navy, and from counterattacking British forces.

                      The problem with his Russian campaign was logistics. Resupply became a problem when the Soviets used a Scorched Earth Policy as they retreated. Crops were destroyed, bridges and dam blown up, anything not permanent was moved East including the rails from the railroad lines. With no good paved roads or a network of railroads for moving supplies, The Germans got bogged down in the mud of a wet fall followed by being totally unprepared for a severe Russian winter.
                      Okay, a few points.

                      1) The whole 'switching targets' issue of the Battle of Britain is a myth. It's a nice myth because it fits with the 'Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few' popular version. Sadly Fighter Command, although stretched, was nowhere near breaking point. The Luftwaffe, on the other hand, was leeching air crew and aircraft at a unsustainable rate. Not only that but the switch, such as it was, was a very gradual process that the Germans had actually started before Bomber Command targeted Berlin!

                      2) Resupply was not badly affected by 'Scorched Earth'. Studies made by the likes of Martin Van Creveld and John Ellis reveal an invasion plan at odds with reality. They didn't take into account just how primitive the road and rail network in the USSR was. Even with the main railheads working to full capacity they couldn't move enough trains, let alone unload them, to keep their forces going. The motor transport they used was not robust enough to cope with Soviet 'roads' (which were often just dirt tracks - rutted in summer and winter, rain-sodden bogs in spring and autumn!) leaving the spearheads to maintain themselves by cannibalising broken down vehicles to keep the 'runners' going. When Winter came, it initially favoured the Germans as they had firm ground to drive forward once more but in the end they were so over-stretched and short of supplies that they had to stop and go over to the defensive. With the Winter clothing stuck back down the supply lines and the Red Army fighting so close to their own depots the Germans never stood a chance of holding, let alone advancing! It's sobering to think that the Winter of 1941-2 was actually quite mild.
                      Signing out.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SRV Ron View Post
                        Hitler lost his chance for air superiority when he switched from bombing RAF airfields to bombing London as a result of the British launching raids on German cities. Without air superiority, there was no way that Operation Sea Lion would have succeeded. Had he concentrated on destroying the RAF, he would have gained the air superiority that would have allowed him to protect an invasion force from the RAF, the Royal Navy, and from counterattacking British forces.
                        Sigh! Like I said, you need to read the 'Sealion' threads. FM has covered some points, but I forsee the potential for a bunch of 'yes, but' replies. Hopefully this will forestall that.

                        This is something I knocked up a while ago based on rading a bunch of books on Sealion & engaging in a bunch of internet debates with very well informed people (including people who have written books on the subject). I haven't edited it recently, so there might be a few minor bits open to challenge. The substance, however, is solid. Also keep in mind that every day Hitler held off invading Britain became better defended on land & in the air. Weather issues meant that if the invasion didn't take place by October 1940 Germany would have to wait almost 6 months for another chance. By that time Sth England would have been impregnable. There was only one tiny window to even attempt this and it closed quickly.

                        Now, can we get back to Russia?

                        Had Germany been able to deploy its land forces in Britain then, yes, Britain would have fallen. As others have pointed out, however, this was simply impossible. Even if Germany had 'won' the Battle of Britain the RAF would simply have withdrawn to airfields out of range of escorted German bombers. These were plenty close enough to the south to contest Luftwaffe control over the invasion beaches.

                        The Luftwaffe had 3 tasks 1) establish air superiority over the Channel & invasion beaches 2) provide close air support to ground forces lacking heavy weapons or effective naval support 3) attack Royal Navy forces & keep them away from the invasion force. Now, keep in mind that the part invasion force was coming from as far away as Holland & Belgium (betcha didn't know that).This would have meant that many aircraft assigned to covering the fleet could not simply have been turned around & assigned to one of the other missions. At best the Luftwaffe MIGHT have accomplished 1. in part, 2. in very small part & 3. virtually not at all (most of the aircraft needed for 1. were also needed for 2. - can't do both). In the process it would have severely damaged itself & killed off a large number of experience aircrew.

                        As for the rest, the handful of ships that constituted the Kriegsmarine would have been swept aside by the Royal Navy. Without counting the Home Fleet based at Scapa Flow (itself enough to destroy its opponent without breaking sweat) there were hundreds of destroyers & smaller coastal craft based in the South of England (plus a few cruisers). These alone would have been capable of slowing & damaging any invasion fleet. The converted barges the Germans were going to tow across the Channel were so unseaworthy that they could barely turn & could be swamped by the wake of a passing destroyer. When an attempt was made to simulate landings with them in France under near perfect conditions something like 30% didn't even make it to shore.

                        The first wave of the invasion was to take many days. Indeed, so slow were the barges that some of them would have taken 3 days at sea just to reach the English coast. Even at the peak of German power over the English Channel, the Royal Navy owned the night. RN units up to cruiser size regularly raided French ports during the buildup to SEALION, some even entering the harbour at Calais (I think) to shell the port. Imagine what would have happened to a slow moving fleet of barges being towed by tugboats (as was planned) during the night - no air cover, minimal support from surface forces. And just in case you were planning to throw up submarines, in the shallow & narrow waters of English Channel, crowded with ships, submarines would have been a target, not a weapon. Now, keep in mind that the British knew that if the Germans invaded successfully they were lost - The Home Fleet would probably have fought to the last in order to keep that invasion from happening. It would not have had to do so, however.

                        And just in case you were imagining that german paratroops would descend from the skies to swamp the invasion zone & sow confusion, forget about it. The invasion of the Low Countries in particular had not only devastated numbers, it had also wrecked most of the air transport capability required to rapidly reinforce airdrops. Only a few thousand paratroops were on hand. Ironically, given the status of the battle at sea, they might have been among the few German troops to actually land in Britain. Those coming by sea would mostly have perished at sea.

                        As others have pointed out, British defensive capabilities were far better than is generally accepted. Keep in mind that the invasion was slated for September. Britain's low point was July 1940. By September units were being re-formed & re-armed after the disaster in France. Fresh Canadian troops were arriving. There were armoured forces available in the South. There were large numbers of well trained & sometimes experienced troops. The role of the Home Guard was to aid in local defence either until regular units arrived, or as a adjunct to regular units. Britain was NOT relying on them to turn back a German invasion force.

                        This invasion was seriously wargamed at Sandhurst back in the 1970s (i think). Even under relatively favourable conditions to the Germans (they assumed that the German first wave gets ashore in decent shape) the invasion force was isolated in days & defeated in something like a week. The reality would probably have been worse. I won't bore you further with all the details, but trust me when I say that the more detail you examine about this proposed invasion the clearer it is that the Germans had no idea what they were doing & it had zero chance of success (did I mention the many thousands of horses they planned to transport in the invasion fleet - yes, horses!! , Oh, and tanks were going to drop off the front of barges, completely submerge & drive ashore with compressed air being pumped in by hose!! ).

                        Personally I wish Hitler had tried. He would have humiliated himself, destroyed his Navy, severely damaged his airforce & lost tens of thousands of his best troops (& probably a few good generals) for absolutely no real gain. Such damage as was done to the RAF & RN would have benefited him little.
                        Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                          Okay, a few points.

                          1) The whole 'switching targets' issue of the Battle of Britain is a myth. It's a nice myth because it fits with the 'Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few' popular version. Sadly Fighter Command, although stretched, was nowhere near breaking point. The Luftwaffe, on the other hand, was leeching air crew and aircraft at a unsustainable rate.
                          Depending on whos statistics you use the loss rate for fighter pilots varied from 1-1, to 1 RAF to 1.3 Luftwaffe pilots. Either way the German air force loses here as their fighter pilot replacement training was wholly inadaquate in those months. First the training schools had been largely shut down and the instructor staff sent to the combat units for a maximum effort to support the May offensive. The training was just restarting in August. Second the Germans had not revamped their pilot training to the same extent as the RAF. The Brits had slashed training to a emergency course of less than four months, focused only on training a fighter pilot. Frills like long range navigation, areodynamics, advanced knowledge of the Merlin engine were discarded. The German pilot ciriculum had not been similarly reduced and was still aimed at producing a well rounded airman. The result was the Germans could not effectively replace fighter pilot losses. they were reduced to pulling instructors back out of the schools, or looting the transport and bomber squadrons for former or potiential fighter pilots.

                          The third factor is while the entire German AF was committed in a maximum effort, the RAF had a reserve of fighter pilots in the midland and western groups that were only slowly drawn upon.


                          Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                          2) Resupply was not badly affected by 'Scorched Earth'. Studies made by the likes of Martin Van Creveld and John Ellis reveal an invasion plan at odds with reality. They didn't take into account just how primitive the road and rail network in the USSR was. Even with the main railheads working to full capacity they couldn't move enough trains, let alone unload them, to keep their forces going. The motor transport they used was not robust enough to cope with Soviet 'roads' (which were often just dirt tracks - rutted in summer and winter, rain-sodden bogs in spring and autumn!) ...
                          Second part first: Three years later the wholly motorized US/Brit armies failed to supply their armies across the well paved French and Belgian highways by auto. If they could not haul ammunition and fuel from Normandy to the Meuse or Mossel Rivers with automotive transport there was not chance the Germans could do so from Poland to Moscow or Rostov.

                          For the railroads I've come to hope for a discussion of what the German armies actually required on the battle front from September through January 1941, and what it would have required to take up the shortfall in railroad transport. Double or triple the rolling stock? Add another 100,000 men for railway labor? 80,000 km of new rails and other material ready in depots in Poland? I've not found any answers in casual reading & suspect the answers would further aggravate the axis fanbois.

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                          • #14
                            I have a few questions:

                            Would the NKVD be less ruthless in enforcing party discipline meaning: shooting commanders because of losing territory to the Germans.
                            Also would Stalin refuse to send soldiers condemned to either be killed by the Germans with NKVD soldiers behind.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SRV Ron View Post
                              Hitler lost his chance for air superiority when he switched from bombing RAF airfields to bombing London as a result of the British launching raids on German cities. Without air superiority, there was no way that Operation Sea Lion would have succeeded. Had he concentrated on destroying the RAF, he would have gained the air superiority that would have allowed him to protect an invasion force from the RAF, the Royal Navy, and from counterattacking British forces.

                              The problem with his Russian campaign was logistics. Resupply became a problem when the Soviets used a Scorched Earth Policy as they retreated. Crops were destroyed, bridges and dam blown up, anything not permanent was moved East including the rails from the railroad lines. With no good paved roads or a network of railroads for moving supplies, The Germans got bogged down in the mud of a wet fall followed by being totally unprepared for a severe Russian winter.
                              Early in the pages of Glantz and House's When Titans Clashed, is a description of the wargamed scenario of an invasion of the USSR by the Wehrmacht. Even under frighteningly favourable conditions, it crashed and burned outside Moscow. Obviously, someone on the OKW ignored this vital piece of information. That the Germans got bogged down in mud in autumn and were unprepared for a real continental winter (instead of the nancy boy winters they get in Germany) indicates that not only had they overlooked the obvious (the USSR gets cold) but they hadn't even done some basic homework - the USSR doesn't have tarmac roads. The logistical problems were compounded by the fact that the Wehrmacht had to carry substantial amounts of fodder, Soviet destruction of rail lines, and its truck park was drawn from all over Europe.

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