The problem(s) with Operation barbarossa

Discussion in 'The Eastern Front' started by James2019, Jan 11, 2020.

  1. James2019

    James2019 Member

    i would like to get your thoughts on the problem(s) with Operation barbarossa. in my opinion, it was the weapons (mainly guns) were not able to fire because of the russian cold and also, the length of the supply lines
  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Barbarossa had failed before the cold set in
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  3. James2019

    James2019 Member

    can you be more specific
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

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  5. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The German war machine was front loaded. It could put maximum effort into the initial attack but it lacked depth. For Barbarossa to be successful the Soviet Union had to fall by winter 1941 - it did not.
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  6. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

    The logistics were a huge contributing factor, especially with the difference in rail gauges which meant that supplies could only get so far by rail and then had to be transported onwards by vehicles and horse drawn transport which put a huge strain on the ' supply tail' especially as there were many different types of trucks from the conquered territories which led to a problem with obtaining spares.

    And let's not forget the size of the front line. When the Germans invaded France the width of the area more or less stayed the same size but even at the start of Babarossa the width of the front was huge and the further the Germans went in Russia the wider the front got.

    Read 'War Without Garlands' by Robert Kershaw.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    There is also David Stahel's book on the 1941 Summer Campaign: "Operation Barbarossa and Germany's defeat in the East" .. which I found a very instructive read.

    Already by August 1941 - before the mud and the cold - it became apparent that the Blitzkrieg attack on Russia, despite all initial successes, had failed to bring about a Russian collapse. While an overextended German Army was already at the end of its logistical tether, the 'Russian Bear' had been awakened.

    I also would recommend David M. Glantz's "When Titans Clashed, How the Red Army stopped Hitler" (which is one of my favourites).
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
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  8. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Initially logistics were less of a problem as the forward loading approach meant that much of the material was already forward. In earlier conflicts they had also been able to make great use of captured materials (for example in France they had made use of much French fuel). Both these approaches were only short term and as the conflict extended both in time and space logistics became an increasing problem. Despite propaganda the German army was the least mechanised of any major army fighting in Europe and heavily dependent on horse drawn transport. An often unsung aspect of Allied support for the Soviets was the number of trucks supplied.
  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    There are many dimensions for the failure to achieve Hitler's vision of overrunning a country which amounted to 1/6 of the world's surface,he rationalised it to a Greater Reich border to be established on the Ural Mountains line to keep the Russian population east of the line in Siberia.His confidence dwelt to some aspects on past Russian military "achievements"....defeat by Japan in 1904,followed by defeat by Germany in 1917, the recent poor performance of the Red Army against the Finns added to that,the recent campaign against the British and French giving the glorious Blitzkreig victories in the west

    Hitler's over confidence extended to his military circle and he declared to Jodl, "we have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down".Hitler thought that Stalin's military purge of 1937/38 would give him an advantage but events proved not so.He envisaged a 6 week collapse of the Soviet Union,just as Poland and France had collapsed. After the defeat of Russia,Hitler was confident that Britain would sue for peace....A Russian collapse did not happen despite the initial poor showing of the Red Army....750.000 Red Army POWs taken in the first two weeks of the campaign from an army which was not geared up and trained to fight a Blitzkreig war....Luftwaffe monumental successes against the Red Army aviation unheard of with the Blitzkreig techniques successful initially,but redundant as the vast spaces of the Steppes unfolded to the Germans.

    The Russian slash and burn policy on retreat leaving little infrastructure to support mobile warfare...tanks to the front required railways which for a start required a change from Russian gauge to European gauge...some rolling stock had adaptor gear fitted but that was insignificant in finding a solution.Logistics further put the supply lines at risk with partisan action always a threat and every weapon, ammunition,food and clothing (winter clothing was not at a priority it should have been) had to be supplied via the long supply line from Germany.

    There was little left behind from the slash and burn policy of the retreating Russians to be much use for the Germans.There was also a problem with spares for tanks and it got to a stage where the Germans created factories simply to manufacture spares...Tiger spares for the engine and transmission were fixed at 10%.Add to that the number of mods done to the Maybach engine meant that maintenance was a nightmare for servicing units with the varying spares that had to be carried.The advantage of captured western military inventory soon wore out in the harsh Russian winters...spares again being the root cause of lack of availability.

    Hitler after his victories in 1940 relaxed his war economy output while Stalin relocated Russian war economy behind the Urals...created his tank city there turning out T34s without any possibility of German military interference.By the time the German war economy had been increased, it became increasingly a target for Bomber Command as the RAF built up its bomber strength.

    Overall Hitler set a key situation before winter that Germany would hold a Leningrad-Moscow-Volga line.By the end of 1941,he had not taken Leningrad or Moscow and the offensive pressure on Moscow had been relieved by diverting 65% of his military strength to the south east....a decision that William Shirer referred to as "the most catastrophic single decision in Hitler's career" After that, the cost of the war mounted and the casualty rate became a burden on manpower availability as German division after German division went through the Red Army mincemeat machine.

    As an aside to Post #1, I would add that the German mechanical plant suffered from lubrication problems..their lubrication oils were not appropriate to the harsh Russian winters...lack of the correct specification of lube oil (the development of multigrade oils would come postwar) resulted in inadequate lubrication being suffered and having subsequent of specialist oils must have been also a problem.
  10. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Actually standard practice for all major combatants. Germany's big problem was distribution - getting the right spares to the right place so there are examples of Panther equipped units getting loads of Mk IV spares. The sheer variety of German equipment didn't help
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

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  12. James2019

    James2019 Member

    Robert-w i know from watching the WW2 documentary series "war factories", that every weapon the german factory made from guns to tanks and aircraft, hitler always made "modifications" in particular tanks. The maker(s) of these, always wanted to make the same weapon again and again to help maintain the output to the frontline.
  13. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    In reality Hitler was too damn lazy to go into detail. Yes he interfered greatly in the overall designs but never got down into detail. People like Speer also managed to block some of his more outrageous projects. Germany's problem was partly an engineering culture that seemed to always go for the most technically advanced models rather than ones that could be produced in quantity albeit less leading edge. However what I was referring too was that the number of different models of AFV was excessive
  14. James2019

    James2019 Member

    Harry Ree i totally agree with what you said. I also see that you went into a lot of detail. i already knew that stalin dimantled his factories and rebuilt behind the urals. I might be wrong in this, but didn't stalin put general zhukov in chatge to hold moscow while they relocated behind the Urals?

    If i were hitler, i would've gone straight for the baku oil feilds for the oil and the ukraine for the wheat, then after that i would've sorted out the supply lines by making to german, ukraine and russian railway gauge the same, then i would head north, northeast to russia whilst making sure that i could get men, equipment and supplies to the front line as quick as possible
  15. James2019

    James2019 Member

    Robert-w yes, you are right there, hitler should've left alone what speer was trying to do. there would be a time granted in which impovements would be made to the weapons but hitler shouldnt have got involved in these decisions. I would like it noted however that hitler was not always wrong. Before / during the early stages of Barbarossa, hitler's generals wanted to go straight for moscow whilst army group north headed north. I think that his generals were wrong and hitler was right, the wehrmacht needed to head for the baku oil fields to help maintain the german war effort
  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  17. James2019

    James2019 Member

  18. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Not so simple.

    Generally speaking the provision of tank spares was not a problem until the end of 1941.Adequate availability of spares had seen the Wehrmacht through the early lightening campaigns in the west.But before the phoney war ended,Hitler set up his Ministry of Armaments and Ammunition in March 1940 and headed it by a civilian who reported directly to him........have not researched who the character was.

    Friction between the new ministry and the Wehrmacht arose after the Russian campaign had started and production of new tanks stepped up by the Ministry.In the next 3 months there was no spare parts problem but by the autumn of 1941,such a problem emerged and had to be faced.Supply lines were over extended at a time when Rasputitsa (thanks Owen) set in.Most roads (talk of 100 metre wide roads to avoid the mud) became impassible preventing the delivery of material and spares....railroads provided little help and tanks requiring repairing added to transport bottlenecks...given that the repair shops could be as many as 70 kms behind the front line,that being the maximum distance laid down in orders for such centres.

    The Tiger had left the production tracks with a 10% spare part facility cover for engines and transmission for a tank that would return an unsatisfactory reliability.There was worse to come with the introduction of the Panther on the Russian Front in early 1943,arising from a basic engineering error of the Ministry of Armaments.The Ministry had prioritised mass production before the model had been tried,tested and properly evaluated.Combat experience saw the design flaws manifested....major defects in design were identified in the steering and control mechanism resulting in the tank batch of 325 vehicles being declared unsuitable for the battlefield.These were sent back to Berlin to a special factory,established for the task of rebuilds.That work being done,the Panther engine was found to be inadequate giving a further delay for a return to service..... that being accomplished,the Panther became available for the front with a new engine in the autumn of 1943.(reconditioned engines were found to be lifed out on average after 50% running hours against new engines)

    This episode in the development of the Panther was said, in the circumstances, to be responsible that many delivered to the Russian front without common spares were lost or lost because of insufficient time to repair them.Apparently the spares issue improved as it would be expected when the supply line reduced as the German front line fell back towards Germany....but far too late to improve the battlefield situation.

    The philosophy of a single model in engineering manufacturing has been brought up many times...usually the decision taken even though it would mean a common batch of spares,a training and maintenance commitment devoted to the single model and a reduction in production costs, that a design/wear and tear fault thrown up in less than envisaged and predicted service would be a serious adverse decision.Therefore the philosophy "to back a number of horses" has been to introduce a number of models in order to avoid the pitfall,the decision has to be how many?...too many and the experience of German tank warfare.particularly Russia has an increased chance of occurring.

    An illustration given from the Russian campaign from a German perspective was that if a tank regiment was equipped with three basic models of tanks, each of which, came with 3 or 4 modified types,the maintenance procedures and system could not cope under battlefield conditions.The attraction in hindsight from a German tank practitioner appears to be in favour of the T 34,the main battle of the Red Army,a simple tank without any question of implementing "improvements"....the only improvement as I see was that the tank entered service without being radio equipped which was soon put right...interesting that the tank designer who established and kicked off the T 34 project in 1937 fell to Stalin's purge.

    Choosing a successful tank as the T34 as the main battlefield tank was what the Russians achieved..was it luck or was the decision based on a rational engineering assessment.
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  19. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Well, Stalin chose his scapegoat for the early defeats in the purge of the Red Army in late 1941.Pavlov took the blame and was executed for his supposed failure in the field.Zhukov succeeded him and Stalin,said to be in shock did withdraw from Moscow initially and sought temporary abode behind the Urals.

    Hitler was in a personal dilemma,his armies were in front of Leningrad,Moscow and in the south before Rostov.Overall Hitler was not precise in his instructions to his military leadership regarding which of the three fronts was his priority.

    His ideology was an extreme hatred of the Bolshevik regime and its personalities , ..along with many of his well known traits.... .Leningrad...shall I take Leningrad after all it's named after the arch enemy?,although Lenin is dead but it looks like a hard nut to crack or shall I take Moscow..not a prize compared to what I have in mind and that sealed it.

    Hitler went to war with insufficient reserves of fuel oil and thus had a plan in place that countries so favoured with oil would fall to him.Baku was the attraction and he diverted 65%,(I have seen 75% quoted) of his military strength into the Kuban Peninsula for a drive on Baku.This thrust failed for the Stalingrad encirclement of the 6th Army intervened which would have resulted in these forces being trapped...Manstein was the man who organised the withdrawal of the force from the Kuban Peninsula to save the situation.Looking at the map,the maximum German gains in the drive to Baku was a line in the form of a loop from Stalingrad in the north,down to just east of the town of Nalchik (less than 200 miles from the Caspian Sea and not quite into the oilfields) and on to east of the town of Novorossisk on the shores of the Black Sea.

    In his pomp,Hitler was guaranteed to dismiss advice from his generals.....Keitel and Jodl were mere toadies and after all Hitler as he often declared to his military leadership,he knew about battlefield strategy and tactics because of his battlefield experience of the Great War.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  20. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Lots of good info posted already.

    I don't think anyone has mentioned yet how the Germans turned the Estonians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, etc, against them with their brutal occupation practices after being initially welcomed as liberators from the Soviets.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
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