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  • Giving ground for time.......

    Something pretty basic that I hear all the time, that was a Russian "stratagy" used against the Germans for a long period in the war. Does anyone know how this really "worked", and who came up with the idea? Or is a Western misconception that many have, and that would include me as well.....

    Cheers, any help out there?

    TRDG

    Tom

  • #2
    My quick answer is that is something done by every army to some extent, depends on how much space and how much time of course. In 1941 the Red Army was being forced back and tried counterattacks to gain time...as at Kiev and Yelnia (as our friend Andrey pointed out in answer to the so-called Nimitz).

    I think it was more of a deliberate tactic in 1812 then 1941-42 the Russians could not do that forever, so Kutuzov made a stand at Borodino. Similarly, there was the Order 227 "Not one Step Back"
    http://www.mishalov.com/Stalin_28July42.html

    Some unwise people at the front comfort themselves with arguments that we can continue the retreat to the east, as we have vast territories, a lot of soil, many people, and that we will always have abundance of bread. By these arguments they try to justify their shameful behaviour at the front. But all these arguments are fully false, faked and working for our enemies.

    Every commander, every soldier and political officer have to realise that our resources are not infinite. The territory of the Soviet Union is not a wilderness, but people workers, peasants, intelligentsia, our fathers and mothers, wives, brothers, children. Territory of USSR that has been captured by the enemy and which enemy is longing to capture is bread and other resources for the army and the civilians, iron and fuel for the industries, factories and plants that supply the military with hardware and ammo; this is also railroads. With loss of Ukraine, Belorussia, the Baltics, Donetsk basin and other areas we have lost vast territories, that means that we have lost many people, bread, metals, factories, and plants. We no longer have superiority over enemy in human resources and in bread supply. Continuation of retreat means to destroy us and also our Motherland. Every new piece of territory that we leave to the enemy will strengthen our enemy and weaken us, our defences, our Motherland.
    So "space for time" has its limits.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by TRDG View Post
      Does anyone know how this really "worked", and who came up with the idea? Or is a Western misconception that many have, and that would include me as well.....

      TRDG

      Tom
      The destruction of the RKKA armys & defenses in wesern White Russia forced the strategy on the USSR from the start. The disaster that occured to the several armys defending from Brest-Litovisk north to the Lithuanian region made it impossible to continue the battle in Poland & Prussia as originally planned. The loss of Minsk at the end of June made the situation worse.

      Zhukov is usually credited first in the books I have read for the idea of creating new defense zones & battlefields further east, as opposed to continuing to follow the original plan and sending the newly mobilized reserve units west to meet the Germans. From July the plans alternated between trying to make a stand on sucessive defense zones, or withdrawing further east as the defensive positions became untenable. Other Soviet commanders followed the same practice 1941 and in the south in 1942 so it does not look like Zhukovs first use of this was a uniques stroke of military genius. Just recognition that the original strategywas no longer valid.

      joea's remark covers this very well. As the Wehrmacht closed in on the Moscow/Lenningrad regions it clearly was impossible to trade land or space, plus the Wehmacht was now weak enough that making a stand would repel the attackers.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
        The destruction of the RKKA armys & defenses in wesern White Russia forced the strategy on the USSR from the start. The disaster that occured to the several armys defending from Brest-Litovisk north to the Lithuanian region made it impossible to continue the battle in Poland & Prussia as originally planned. The loss of Minsk at the end of June made the situation worse.

        Zhukov is usually credited first in the books I have read for the idea of creating new defense zones & battlefields further east, as opposed to continuing to follow the original plan and sending the newly mobilized reserve units west to meet the Germans. From July the plans alternated between trying to make a stand on sucessive defense zones, or withdrawing further east as the defensive positions became untenable. Other Soviet commanders followed the same practice 1941 and in the south in 1942 so it does not look like Zhukovs first use of this was a uniques stroke of military genius. Just recognition that the original strategywas no longer valid.
        As I know there was no strategy of trading space on time.

        There was strategy to retreat to avoid encirclement.

        And there was strategy to not retreat in any case.

        Also there was strategy of slow retreat fighting against superior forces. The Soviets used such tactics in Moscow battle when they had little forces to defend the frontline. The most famous example - Panfilov's 316th Rifle Division.

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        • #5
          The 1941 strategy does not seem that much different from 1812, if you allow for differences in mobility. As in 1812, there was a split of opinion in 1941about whether to stop and fight, and as a result, the fighting took place outside Moscow (at one point, in exactly the same spot).

          In 1812, Barclay de Tolly wanted to retreat to avoid a pitched battle with the Grande Armee. Alexander and most of his generals went along, grudgingly, until the French got too close to Moscow; Kutuzov's appointment carried an implicit order to give battle west of Moscow, hence, Borodino 1812.

          Similarly, in 1941, Stalin grudgingly went along with a strategy of avoiding encirclement (Napoleon had little ability to encircle since he didn't have tanks and mech inf), but the line had to be drawn at Moscow - for transportation purposes as well as political ones - hence, Borodino 1941. [EDIT: It's probably a bit strong to say Stalin "grudgingly went along with" a strategy of retreat, but he had little choice in the matter.]

          It's never a strategy one would prefer, but it happens all the time - e.g., Peter the Great in the Great Northern War; Sam Houston in the Texas Revolution; the Greeks in the Persian Wars (with help from their trireme fleet).
          "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
          -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

          (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Jon Jordan View Post
            The 1941 strategy does not seem that much different from 1812, if you allow for differences in mobility. As in 1812, there was a split of opinion in 1941about whether to stop and fight, and as a result, the fighting took place outside Moscow (at one point, in exactly the same spot).

            In 1812, Barclay de Tolly wanted to retreat to avoid a pitched battle with the Grande Armee. Alexander and most of his generals went along, grudgingly, until the French got too close to Moscow; Kutuzov's appointment carried an implicit order to give battle west of Moscow, hence, Borodino 1812.

            Similarly, in 1941, Stalin grudgingly went along with a strategy of avoiding encirclement (Napoleon had little ability to encircle since he didn't have tanks and mech inf), but the line had to be drawn at Moscow - for transportation purposes as well as political ones - hence, Borodino 1941. [EDIT: It's probably a bit strong to say Stalin "grudgingly went along with" a strategy of retreat, but he had little choice in the matter.]

            It's never a strategy one would prefer, but it happens all the time - e.g., Peter the Great in the Great Northern War; Sam Houston in the Texas Revolution; the Greeks in the Persian Wars (with help from their trireme fleet).
            Absolutely no.

            In 1812 the Russians deviated from the General Battle waiting for the French to weaken.

            In 1941 Soviets fought everywhere when it was possible.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Andrey View Post
              Absolutely no.

              In 1812 the Russians deviated from the General Battle waiting for the French to weaken.

              In 1941 Soviets fought everywhere when it was possible.
              I agree with Andrey here, I think we forget how different the Tsarist Russia Empire of 1812 was from the Soviet Union. One thing, as the part from Stalin's Order 227 indicated was how much population lived in the parts already occupied. I don't have to check census records (did they have them in 1812??) to know the population density was far greater in 1941 than 1812. That's not even mentioning the fact that in the USSR the west was more developed industrially and agriculturally than the east...look how many factories had to be moved, also there were resources etc. So it is quite understandable why the Soviets fought harder to protect this. Another thing you can see in the film They Fought for the Motherland is how civilians berated Red Army soldiers for retreating and leaving them to be occupied by the Nazis. A lot of soldiers must have felt ashamed at leaving their fellow citizens to their fate.

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              • #8
                My two cents:

                As for 1812: IMO there are some similarity but not always. In the beginning La Grande Armee tried to wedge between two main Russian armies. Napoleon wanted to play his favorite trick – to defeat them one by one. So only possible Russian strategy for that time was not to let him to do it. And they have a bit space for that: the areas to the West of the Dnepr were recently annexed to the Empire and their importance was not too great (relatively, of course). And as soon as Russian Armies united in Smolensk on the edge of core Russian region, they started to prepare for decisive battle. But Napoleon brightly outmaneuvered them and they had to retreat to the next position near Tsarevo-Zaimische and was ready for decisive battle again. Arrived Kutuzov considered that position as unsuitable and ordered to retreat to Borodino where the battle took place as you know. And moreover, Kutuzov planed to give another battle between Borodino and Moscow but he could not mainly because the Tsar dismissed his orders for 3rd and Danubian armies and for reserve divisions to go to Moscow by that time. So IMO Russian strategy for the second phase of that campaign was to stop Napoleon as far as possible from Moscow. And they did not manage to do it because of many reasons but not because they want to lure Napoleon in Moscow.

                About importance of occupied areas: there was no census at that time. AFAIK the population and producing were further more concentrated in central regions and at least economic losses was almost comparable.

                As for the GPW: you know the pre-war soviet strategy was merely offensive: "to beat the enemy in his own land". Lots of soviet officers paid with their lives and freedom for different views. And when that conception failed in 1941 Soviets doubtfully had complete strategy for all war. It is supposed before Stalingrad or even before Kursk Soviets didn't have real strategic initiative – so their actions were mostly simple – to cover main direction, to stop Germans by any price, to start "permanent mobilization", Often their strategy at that time resembles Patton's strategy for other place and other time: "Kill jerries!" – they simply tried to kill them as much as they can. You know even encircled troops often continued to fight giving more time for others. Certainly they understood (though not always) it was pretty stupid to sent reserve regiment by regiment into battle. So they needed to concentrate them in armies, to built defensive line and so. But I am sure they did not plan to ensnare Germans in Stalingrad in 1941. For the first month of the war Stalin expected to stop Germans on the Dnepr (as well as Russians in 1812). But Soviets also did not manage to do it and they tried other lines.

                Sorry for a bit chaotic text

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                • #9
                  So

                  The Russians were basically "steamrolled" back to the gates of Moscow, after that, there was no more land for time to be traded, so to speak, is what I am getting from your replies. The front lines moved so fast into Russia that it was kind of a self made idea here, trading space for land, there was'nt really a choise here for the Russians, until Zhukov started doing something different, by the time Moscow came into sight for the Germans.
                  Now, after Kursk, did the Germans start this line of "stratagy" as well, or would it be more of a forced, by Russsian attacks, kind of German "mind set"?

                  Cheers, any thoughts here?

                  Tom

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TRDG View Post
                    The Russians were basically "steamrolled" back to the gates of Moscow, after that, there was no more land for time to be traded, so to speak, is what I am getting from your replies. The front lines moved so fast into Russia that it was kind of a self made idea here, trading space for land, there was'nt really a choise here for the Russians, until Zhukov started doing something different, by the time Moscow came into sight for the Germans.
                    Incorrect. The Russians were not "steamrolled" back to the gates of Moscow.

                    There was a set of battles where the Germans were stopped. First of all, it was the Smolensk Battle in July-August of 1941. Even the German Moscow Offensive contained 2 different offensives - the first began in September, 30th, than it was stopped. The second began in November of 1941 and finished when the Soviets organized Counteroffensive.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TRDG View Post
                      ... trading space for land, there was'nt really a choise here for the Russians, until Zhukov started doing something different, by the time Moscow came into sight for the Germans.
                      Now, after Kursk, did the Germans start this line of "stratagy" as well, . .....
                      Quite the reverse. Hitler's strategy was to hold every possible square metre of ground in the east until the Anglo-American threat in the west could be eliminated (i.e, the invasion forces comprehensively defeated) and to then concentrate the resources of the Reich on the defeat of Bolshevism. Hitler only sanctioned withdrawals to avoid imminent encirclement or to free up forces for use elsewhere - usually by straightening a convoluted front line.
                      "Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against infection of peoples by the mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships."
                      Hero of the Soviet Union, Andrei Sakharov 1968

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TRDG View Post
                        The Russians were basically "steamrolled" back to the gates of Moscow, after that, there was no more land for time to be traded, so to speak, is what I am getting from your replies. The front lines moved so fast into Russia that it was kind of a self made idea here, trading space for land, there was'nt really a choise here for the Russians, until Zhukov started doing something different, by the time Moscow came into sight for the Germans.
                        I agree with Andrey - it looks as quite unsubstantial view, sorry.

                        First - please pay attention at scale. You can say so generally for Rommel Campaigns for example but on the East front the really huge masses were involved in actions in really vast territory. Lots of armies operated there and their ways were very different sometimes.

                        Second - excuse me, do you really believe it was just a sort of stroll for Germans before December 1941? As Andrey mentioned above there were many battles some of them even were successful for Soviets. Certainly at that time Soviets had almost nothing to meet german mobile troops - real wunderwaffe of blitzkrieg - but they did what they could, and march to Moscow cost hundreds of thousands both of russian and german lives. BTW Something similar I can say about 1812: for instance when you consider Russian retreat from Smolensk please remember it was accompanied by three fierce battles at Corps level and above (battles of Krasny, Smolensk and Valueva Gora).

                        Originally posted by TRDG View Post
                        Now, after Kursk, did the Germans start this line of "stratagy" as well, or would it be more of a forced, by Russsian attacks, kind of German "mind set"?
                        Supporting Slim Fan: e.g. Von Manstein in his memoirs constantly complained about Hitler who did not allow him to retreat a bit for some strategic or operational benefits.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Guys, that is not it........

                          Now when did the Germans invade Russia? June 22, 1941, and they got to the outskirts of Moscow around the end of September. How many miles is that? So around three months to get there, the "steamroll" was a general statement, there were some hard battles, but the Germans almost made it there, did'nt some elements of the German army make it to some of the suburbs of Moskow? To me, that is pretty fast while meeting mixed resistance at times, some that they were met with defeat, but they kept on trying.

                          Now, the German "land for time", Hitler was against this, many of the front line commanders were not, some did'nt even obey orders and withdrew, against explicit orders from Hitler. They were driven back for the most part, but many German commanders thought there was a lot of space to move to, but behind their lines, to set up a more favorable defence line, one they might have a chance to hold. And maybe evencounter attack from, once they survived the first attack from the Russian forces, I should have "worded" it better. I can see where you might not get where I am coming from on this.

                          Cheers, thanks for the posts, very interesting so far.

                          Tom

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TRDG View Post
                            Now when did the Germans invade Russia? June 22, 1941, and they got to the outskirts of Moscow around the end of September. How many miles is that? So around three months to get there, the "steamroll" was a general statement, there were some hard battles, but the Germans almost made it there, did'nt some elements of the German army make it to some of the suburbs of Moskow? To me, that is pretty fast while meeting mixed resistance at times, some that they were met with defeat, but they kept on trying.
                            If to speak very simply about the actions in Moscow direction the Germans made first rush in June, 22nd. They used element of surprise, encircled the Soviet troops in Byelorussia and quickly reached the region of Smolensk for a month (app. by the end of July). Then they had difficult Smolensk battle when they moved ahead VERY slowly and even were forced to retreat somewhere. By the beginning of September they were stopped completely and officially turned to defence. They were in defence the whole September. In the last day of September they began their advance which was stopped app. in the beginning of November. App. in the middle of November they began new offfensive and it was only during that last offensive when the Germans approached to outskirts of Moscow.

                            So they moved quickly for a month, then they had a hard battle and moved very slowly for the next month, then they didn't move for the thrid month, then they advanced for a month again, stopped for a couple weeks and advanced again for a month. Only after that they approached to the gates of Moscow. Do you really think it looks like the movement of "steamroll"?

                            Now, the German "land for time", Hitler was against this, many of the front line commanders were not, some did'nt even obey orders and withdrew, against explicit orders from Hitler. They were driven back for the most part, but many German commanders thought there was a lot of space to move to, but behind their lines, to set up a more favorable defence line, one they might have a chance to hold. And maybe evencounter attack from, once they survived the first attack from the Russian forces, I should have "worded" it better. I can see where you might not get where I am coming from on this.

                            Cheers, thanks for the posts, very interesting so far.

                            Tom
                            It is good to trade space for time if time works on you. For example you have powerful plants in rears which are only beginning to produce new weapon.

                            Time worked against Germany so I don't see reasons to trade space for time (in strategical scale).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Andrey

                              Yes, I understand that, just look at the miles gained in that 3-5 month time period, that is all that I am saying here, for the concept that I have right now.

                              Cheers, you know me by now, don't take my views at face value after reading my post very quickly, I try to make people "think" to get what I am trying to say, I'm not the best at writing my thoughts down, but I get by somehow.

                              Tom

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