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loki100

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A short setting of the scene

By early June 1941, diplomatic and political attaches at embassies in Moscow started to notice a very different manner in the Soviet capital. The almost wilful ignoring of German conquests, the build up on the western border, and the potential threat to the USSR was being acknowledged by Soviet officials.

Although Stalin’s ‘no provocation’ order was still in place, and the Soviets continued to ignore minor border violations such as reconnaissance flights. Observers traced this change of attitude to first the Soviet-Yugoslavian Friendship Treaty in April and the subsequent failure to even protest when Germany invaded and overran Yugoslavia. It would appear that events at the Mayday celebrations in 1941 were the catalyst, as it provided an opportunity for many of the senior officers in the armed forces to meet and discuss their plans.

What followed, was not the coup as it was sometimes rather simplistically described. The party remained in power, and Stalin remained de facto leader of the USSR, equally many of his cronies and favourites retained their offices. It was more a rebalancing. Many in the armed forces were convinced that the Germans would attack, and attack soon. If that happened, their lives were on the line, and they wanted influence over such decisions.

At a political level, this saw a general change in the membership of the Sovnarkom (council of ministers) and creation of the GKO (state defence committee) to try and link the military work of the STAVKA with decisions about industrial and scientific policy. Stalin remained at the core of this system but seemed to accept far more guidance and advice than before.

The main change was in Soviet planning for war and organisation of the RKKA (Red Army). All the lessons of Poland, France and Yugoslavia indicated the Germans were more competent than the Soviets in their use of tanks and aircraft. The old illusion that a war would see several days of border battles followed by a quick Soviet advance was abandoned.

The proposed solution lay in a series of apparently minor steps. The problem, as future historians stressed, was that when added to the ‘no provocation’ order, this actually added to the confusion in the RKKA on that fateful Sunday.

A completely new OOB was in the process of being put in place on the western borders. So as to make the best use of the able officers, and to improve the overall officer ratio, a large number of lower level HQs were abolished. A number of commanders such as Gorbatov were released from prison and allocated to combat formations. Thus 4-5 rifle divisions were grouped into an ‘army’, and these armies were clustered into geographically named fronts. The main axes, north and south of the Pripyet marshes were then grouped into ‘strategic directions’.

The reserve formations at Minsk and Kiev were given a priority in terms of reinforcements and ordered to take up more dispersed positions along the old Soviet-Polish border. Equally those formations on the German border were ordered to create a second defensive line using formations drawn back from the front and their own available reserves. Finally the STAVKA reserve formations were ordered to form a new defensive line anchored around Rzhev-Bryansk.



If needed, these multiple reserve groupings would allow the first echelon forces to fall back in some order, and to regroup behind the defence lines rather than a continual process of having to retreat whilst under attack.

The tank, motorised and cavalry formations were also in the process of restructuring. Tank divisions were organised so that all had the advantage of combined arms (ie 1 LArm brg+ 2 mot brgs is not c/arms, 2 LArm + 1 mot brg is).

The prewar planning around active partisan operations were revisited. Long neglected arms dumps were being replenished, but they had to compete with regular units who also needed re-arming. A process not helped by the chaotic procurement system that had left tank brigades with a multiplicity of unit types and no concentration of the new T-34s.

All this was in the process of being introduced when the Germans struck at 2am on 22 June 1941. At least the Red Army had a semblance of a strategic plan, other than to hold fast on the border. In every other sense, it was caught very badly off balance.
 

loki100

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Even as late as Saturday 21 June, Soviet orders and command structures were under active review (ie the 1.3 set up is *rather* different to 1.2). Although the existing HQ structure was actually quite efficient in its use of officers (ie I've managed to get rid of about 15), the RKKA faced a major shortage of officers at regimental and battalion level (officer ratio is 74%).

Fortunately the mobilisation ordered at the start of June was complete (ie unlike 1.2, the Red Army is mobilised), but the chaotic procurement system had proved beyond short term repair (ie I have an upgrade bill of almost 600 IC), not only were many units not equipped with the most modern equipment but the intermixing of different models of planes and tanks in the same formation was chaotic.

A review of the forces available in Siberia had identified 5 elite rifle and armoured divisions that could be safely deployed to the west, at 23.00 on 21 June these were ordered to redeploy to the Moscow sector as a special STAVKA reserve.

Kuznetsov had undertaken an analysis of the VNF (navy). To no-ones surprise, this was mostly comprised of antiquated capital ships. To save on supplies, all the WW1 subs were scrapped (20), and the more modern submarines were ordered on scouting patrols in the Arctic, Baltic and Black Seas. A major weakness was the lack of transport ships, and despite all the constraints on Soviet industrial production, 2 new squadrons had been ordered.

The VVS was divided into 3 formations. Interceptor squadrons (PVO) were allocated to major cities with orders to minimise German air attacks. The bulk of the tactical bomber fleet was withdrawn and would be used for counterattacks rather than to tackle the initial assault. Finally, the numerous but ill-equipped and badly trained strategic bomber force (ADO) was to be expended on raids on Ploesti and against Finland.

The NKVD was ordered to place priority on building up SMERSH (ie domestic counterespionage - smert shpionam = death to spies), cadres in countries already at war with the Germans were ordered to stand down and those in axis countries were ordered to be prepared to take the intelligence war to the axis when war broke out.

Finally, in part so as not to provoke the Germans, the border forces had been left where they were. On receipt of the signal 'Izba' (house), these forces were to start to pull back to the preferred defence line and at the same time the reserve groups at Kiev and Minsk were to move to their initial combat positions. A risky part of this plan, was the intention to launch a generalised counterattack with some 15-20 divisions across the German part of the front on receipt of the order 'boevemu' (attack). This gamble, if successful, might allow some 60 divisions the chance to escape immediate encirclement and entrapment on the borders.

Depending on the early events, an attempt would probably be made to try and knock Finland out of the war early on. However, the Leningrad Front were clear that this was a secondary objective to the defense of Leningrad itself. Equally, a counteroffensive might be launched into Rumania but only if it was clear there was no danger of encirclement.

At 01.00 on 22 June, Soviet espionage reported that the sequence of code words were being circulated to the German army groups. The Soviet response was immediate.
 

loki100

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Here it goes... This should be a fun ride, I look forward to seeing how it compares to the last iteration. :)
It feels different - if you ignore the abysmal officer ratio, then the Soviets feel stronger than in 1.2 - prob a little behind in hardware techs but with such a huge upgrade backlog thats not an immediate problem but pretty good in terms of operational disciplines and industrial techs. I wonder if the combination is to give something that feels quite robust but could collapse under too much pressure - if so that would give a historic feel that June/most of July, although hairy weren't catastrophic for the Soviets, then the bottom fell out of their operational deployment and the huge encirclements started.

Some of the reserve formations around Moscow and Orel are rather hefty too - but it makes me wonder whats on the other side of the border - there are some huge stacks in key positions.

I don't think I'll be invading NE America in mid 1944 in any case ...
 

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The Sunday Blow - and immediate consequences

STAVKA 24 June 1941

To all assembled it was clear that the gamble of the immediate counterattacks had effectively failed to do more than slightly delay the German offensive. Whilst so far only border provinces had fallen to the Germans and their allies, many of the Soviet formations were caught in desparate battles seeking to break clear and retire to the second echelon defence lines:



The worst affected area was around Memel where the entire front had been engulfed, and although a desparate defense was being conducted it was extremely unlikely that many divisions would be able to fall back to the Riga-Dauga line. All this was being made worse by the crippling supply and fuel shortages that were affecting all the formations in the Minsk region.



For the rest of the front, for the moment, the line was being held but this masked the extent that few if any divisions had been able to escape. More and more divisions were having to be left as rearguards or to conduct desparate counterattacks in order to give their colleagues chance to retire. However, the substantive armour available in the Kiev sector was moving into position and would be able to start to launch counterattacks by early July.

In terms of combat, including losses due to air-raids, Soviet rifle divisions were losing about 3-5% of their strength in every day of fighting, German losses were around 10% of Soviet casualties.

In the main the Rumanian front was quiet. A small German attack was being pushed into the centre and for the moment the front command was content to let them advance. Substantial armoured divisions were on hand to seal off the breakthrough.

The one bright spot was on the Finnish front. Here, a Soviet attack from Murmansk was beating back German mtn troops guarding Petsamo, and in the main the Soviets were having the better of the sequence of battles along the Karelian frontier.

More importantly, a major breakthrough had occured near Vipuuri and a second success was expected in the next day. In both cases, uncommitted reserves were available to quickly exploit the breach. Equally Finland was under constant Soviet air attack and much of its industry and resources around Helsinki lay in ruins.



The low level of officers was leading to post-combat delays of over 120 hours. Thus at the moment, any formation committed to a counterattack was effectively lost, it had no chance to recover before it was overrun by German Pzrs.
 

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Success in Finland, things holding up for now in the Center and South and a breakthrough in the Baltic... And you've played only four or five days!

The realization that offensive action is a death sentence for your divisions right now is chilling. You must be putting a lot of thought into the selection process of how many units to retreat and how many to order to stand and die. Too few on the offense and you risk a German breakthrough, too many on the offense and there won't be enough to escape to the second line...

Right now, things appear to be in the balance - which is good, gamewise. I look forward to further developments.
 

loki100

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Success in Finland, things holding up for now in the Center and South and a breakthrough in the Baltic... And you've played only four or five days!

The realization that offensive action is a death sentence for your divisions right now is chilling. You must be putting a lot of thought into the selection process of how many units to retreat and how many to order to stand and die. Too few on the offense and you risk a German breakthrough, too many on the offense and there won't be enough to escape to the second line...

Right now, things appear to be in the balance - which is good, gamewise. I look forward to further developments.
Until the front comes under some control, that combat delay is indeed a death sentence for any formation I commit to attack (it also makes me cautious about using strategic movement too), I can't just break off and retreat, so the best use is to persist in a counterattack till it fails due to low organisation. I think I've already lost about 15 divisions so at least my officer ratio is slowly improving! -- got to look on the bright side.
 

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The Battle on the Frontiers - phase 1

STAVKA 2 July 1941

The outcome of the first weeks of fighting was that at no point on the main Soviet-German front could the Soviets be said to hold the strategic initiative - or even to be in control of the pace of operations. Equally so far, no town that had been attacked had been held - the best outcomes were some defensive skirmishes around Kaunas on 27 June where a German attempt to seize the town off the march had failed. However, a stronger attack on 30 June had cleared the Soviet defenders out of the town.

German air attacks across the front were causing additional casualties but so far the PVO squadrons had protected the rear area with considerable success (ie my NU has actually gone up due to catching a number of bomber raids). Overall, over 50% of the original strategic bomber fleet had been lost in raids over Ploesti (but had inflicted substantive damage) and in Finland. The last formation had shifted its attentions to industrial targets in W Finland.

The only good news from a review of the overall front was that there were no massive German breakthroughs, and a number of divisions were still escaping the encirclements on the border:



However, this masked a growing disaster in the central area. A major German attack had been launched at Wolkowysk, a town in itself of no importance. However, some 15 rifle and armoured divisions were struggling to escape encirclement and needed to retreat into this town. Categoric orders had been issued to hold at all costs, at least till these units had escaped.

The second problem, was that some 25 divisions in this sector were now effectively trapped between the Germans and the poor roads in the Pripyet sector. Once Wolkowysk fell, there was a danger of a massive envelopment of some 25-40 divisions.



In the Riga sector, things had stabilised a little. The reserve formations had reached their combat positions and the Germans were now faced with 2-3 lines of dug in rifle divisions. Whilst this front was not strong enough to stop any individual attack, the hope was that the more organised defence would badly slow the Germans. This might allow troops from Minsk, and, even better, Finland, to arrive and to protect the vital approaches to Leningrad and Smolensk:



Finally, it appeared as if Finland would pay a substantial price for allying with the fascist beast. The road to Helsinki now lay open, and it was hoped that the capture of their capital would encourage the Finns to surrender - thus freeing about 20 rifle divisions to deal with the German incursion into the Baltic States:



Finally the Kiev and Odessa sectors were relatively under control. The troops on the Hungarian border had largely escaped, with the loss of a few divisions, and were starting to form a coherent defense line, and the substantial armour available in this sector was moving up. The Rumanian breakthrough was proving hard to reduce but equally they seemed incapable of extending it. Across the southern part of the front, an organised defence, with local reserves was forming up.
 

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In another part of the Kremlin

Clerks from the central committee foreign affairs secretariat are translating Stalin's latest demand to Churchill for (a) fuel and (b) a second front, *now*, but are struggling to find the english for:

"at the moments the Germans are all over us like a Komodo dragon on heat"

... not least, does this explain why Comrade Stalin has been so subdued since the 22nd - has he been watching wildlife films?
 

loki100

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Krasnaya Zvezda 6 July 1941

[a little note - this paper (translate as Red Star) was one of the main army newspapers in the Soviet era. Vasily Grossman was really a correspondent for it, and along with the Italian journalist, Curzio Malaparte, produced some of the best reporting on the Soviet-German war, in particular its scale and ferocious nature of the fighting. The report below was as filed, not as published]

Soviet triumph at Wolkowysk by Vasily Grossman

Despite the shock of the fascist blow almost 3 weeks ago, the Red Army is already showing its fortitude, operational flexibility and capacity for determined defence. How can an operation that ends in a retreat be called a triumph? It can when almost 60,000 comrades are rescued from encirclement and able to move to the rear to regroup - and then turn again on the fascists.

The Germans struck at the 5th Army holding open the retreat route through Wolkowysk, and also, to make matters more desparate, were in a position to threaten the retreat routes of 5th Army itself. Accordingly, the front command ordered a sequence of counterattacks on the flanks of 5th Army using a variety of cavalry, rifle and mechanised formations as available. 5th Army itself was ordered to hold off the direct German attack as long as possible:



By 2nd July, the fascist thrust at Wolkowysk was beaten off with around 700 casualties on both sides, and the first formations were arriving from encirclement - given food and sent to the rear to regroup.

Finally by the 4th of July, all formations had been rescued and it was time for the 5th Army to escape its own threatened encirclement. Thus the flank offensives were to be maintained for at least 4 more days, and the 113rd Rifle Division went over to the offensive so as to disrupt German preparations for a renewed assault:



Here, and in the Riga sector, the fascists are starting to find out what is to fight without the benefit of surprise. They may still win localised victories but our retreats are now with a purpose, and losses relatively even.
 

loki100

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Uh-oh, is the Fascist bolt already shot? Good job slowing down the Germans, it takes away their main asset.
Nope, not yet. It seems to be playing out quite historically, early July was a bit of a false period of optimism for the Soviets - in reality and probably in the game. The Germans can take what they want, but are now in amongst a more organised defence belt so it takes them time, but that means that pressure points are constantly building as a 'safe' province becomes enveloped etc.

If the same dynamics work through, I expect my current defense belt to fall apart in the north and centre by mid July, so the slowing is but a prelude to them breaking out.

Whats frustrating is at no point can I get traction (except in Finland) - and the post attack delay makes me scared to commit too much to counterattacks.
 

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Riga and Pinsk sectors 10 July 1941

Report of the Riga Military Soviet

Recent operations have progressed to plan. We are slowly falling back to Riga itself and improving the defences in the direction of Minsk. For the most part we are trading casualties with the enemy, and most retreats are in good order, and towards covering troops. Nonetheless pressure is building up steadily, especially in the southern part of the front, and the danger of being cut off from an easy retreat path to Minsk is slowly developing:



Report of the Pinsk Military Soviet

Although the fighting at Wolkowysk was a sucess in its own terms, most of the formations of the 5th and 10th armies are still mixed up in the German offensive, the counterattacks that currently, and tenuously, hold open their retreat paths will fail in the next day and we need at least 3 days to pull the bulk out. There is a real danger that the whole front could collapse in the next 3-4 days, thus unhinging both the Riga defence and the plans for a major armoured counterstroke in the Kiev sector.

 

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Isvestia 10 July 1941

The Finnish capital, Helsinki, fell to Soviet troops late yesterday. However, despite appeals from the Soviet leadership to avoid more death and destruction, their leadership have, misguidedly, opted to continue to fight. Our troops will push onto Turku, to complete the first blow against the fascist clique.

Elsewhere on the front, Riga is still standing firm and our heroic counterattacks in the Pinsk sector are making substantial gains - it appears as if the fascists have no commitment to the war they have started.
 

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Okay, so I was a little too quick in writing off the Germans. :)

It feels a bit psychotic: on the one hand, I'm rooting for you, on the other hand, I want the Germans to make a creditable showing. After all, you can't have an epic comeback if the German war machine stalls less than a hundred miles in. But if they get too far... It's a balancing act, I guess. :)

Nice job taking Helsinki. Are the Finns sufficiently on the ropes that you can easily take Turku with the forces at hand?
 

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Okay, so I was a little too quick in writing off the Germans. :)

It feels a bit psychotic: on the one hand, I'm rooting for you, on the other hand, I want the Germans to make a creditable showing. After all, you can't have an epic comeback if the German war machine stalls less than a hundred miles in. But if they get too far... It's a balancing act, I guess. :)

Nice job taking Helsinki. Are the Finns sufficiently on the ropes that you can easily take Turku with the forces at hand?
thats precisely my dilemna - I was originally tempted to model the Soviet behaviour of the first two days (ie do nothing and let the Germans move unmolested), but somehow I couldn't bring myself to that. But I do hope the AI can push itself to generate some of the utter desperation of August-September when it appeared as if they'd win. I thought that with the last patch to HOI2, it was just right - my last game with that, by Aug 42 I was really worrying how I'd survive, then got control of the situation in the south (mainly by pocketing about 8 Pzr divs that had got too frisky), but the feel of that game was excellent.

I have to think about Finland - I need to pull at least one army out so as to shore up the Riga positions, especially nearer to Smolensk. In the south it looks like they have 2 inf divs at Turku, and I can spare about 4 NKVD rifle divs (these are in the set up as 3 inf brigades and a police brigade - not sure they are particularly valuable with this combination though), and if needed take my time. Their NU is at 69%, with spies and strategic bombing I think I can drive this down to 66%, at which stage I don't need their last VP.

One other improvement over 1.2 is that it doesn't treat every round of Soviet-Finnish conflict as the Winter War, so no early peace trigger and instead you've got to beat them by the normal conditions.

Looking at what its doing, I still think the AI is attacking too linearly, its clearing me out of provinces very systematically, but if I was playing the Germans, I'd have cut the panzers loose and gone for deeper offensives - mind you I have a large armour reserve that I'm keeping back especially to say hallo to (what the Soviet press always called) 'the criminal Guderain'.

Having said all that - if I post as Isvestia or Pravda, it *may* not be the unvarnished truth.
 

Stuyvesant

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Having said all that - if I post as Isvestia or Pravda, it *may* not be the unvarnished truth.
I figured as much when I read the following quote a few posts ago:
Elsewhere on the front, Riga is still standing firm and our heroic counterattacks in the Pinsk sector are making substantial gains - it appears as if the fascists have no commitment to the war they have started.
:)
 

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STAVKA 15 July 1941

The reports from across the battle front were consistently gloomy. On the flanks, the Rumanians had finally started a larger offensive and whilst this was being held, it added to the overall pressure. Equally the assault on Finland seemed to be running out of force just short of its main targets. The 19th Army had been withdrawn to provide a reserve in the Velikiye Luki sector (ie just north of Smolensk) and the remaining force might be too weak to finally break Finnish resistance.



One bright note, was early evidence that the decision to focus NKVD operations in Germany on inciting rebellion might be paying off.

At Riga, 3 key provinces had been lost in the last 2 days, the good news was that the defenders were likely to make it back to Soviet lines and that casualties were broadly equal - about 5000 Soviet and 3500 Germans. Equally some German Infantry divisions appeared to have been badly battered. Nonetheless, the front could not regain any strategic initiative, and the danger was mounting of a German breakout direct to Minsk:



In the Pinsk/Pripyet sector, defeat was following on defeat. Some of the final fresh Soviet troops in the sector had been committed to more counterattacks to try and secure retreat routes. A rare, and welcome, outright victory had occured at Mutwica, and this had allowed a more orderly withdrawal. The real danger was the lack of any reserve if this entire front collapsed.



Finally in the Tarnopol-Lvov sector, and especially at Styr, the first major Soviet offensive of the war was underway. The goals were to disrupt the organisational planning of AGS, and, just maybe, draw German attention away from Pinsk to the north. It was not expected that the offensive would achieve a conventional victory but it was welcome to learn from prisoners that at least some German Pzr divisions were already badly knocked about by the desparate Soviet defense:



The immediate decision was whether to abandon the Riga positions in favour of a defense on the Minsk axis, and if so, could such a withdrawal be managed in the face of German attacks?