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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Stuyvesant

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Given the troubles you have had thus far with disengaging and retreating troops, my vote would be against pulling troops from the Riga front to the Minks front. It seems too risky, with a very real danger that the Riga front will collapse.

Of course, you have a better idea of where the German Panzers operate, so if they're not in the north, the risk of withdrawal would become smaller. And equally important, it might be that you really need some additional troops to hold the Minsk front - I can't tell how serious the situation is down there.

Maybe the offensive in the south will draw some pressure away from the Minsk front? One can hope...
 

Uriah

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loki100: have read this AAR with interest - hope to pick up a few hints on how to vanquish the Red Army in my AAR. I hope the AI shows as much sense as you have shown.
 

loki100

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Given the troubles you have had thus far with disengaging and retreating troops, my vote would be against pulling troops from the Riga front to the Minks front. It seems too risky, with a very real danger that the Riga front will collapse.

Of course, you have a better idea of where the German Panzers operate, so if they're not in the north, the risk of withdrawal would become smaller. And equally important, it might be that you really need some additional troops to hold the Minsk front - I can't tell how serious the situation is down there.

Maybe the offensive in the south will draw some pressure away from the Minsk front? One can hope...

All this phase of the war seems to be trade offs - do I risk more troops in counterattacks designed to allow already beaten divisions the chance to retire, or do I just accept they are lost and avoid further losses?

The Riga choice is a biggy - even a retirement will mean leaving a large rearguard, which will be gobbled up, but if the pzrs drive east, then I have a large army badly out of position to guard both Leningrad and Moscow. The hope is they go for Riga, which I'll lose, but extract a huge price in terms of time and losses, and hopefully then be able to retire towards Leningrad in some sort of order. Equally, being ultra-optimistic - if they lunge for Minsk (& most of the armour is the southern part of this sector), I've got both 3 mech corps waiting for them, and ... a large force poised on their flanks.


loki100: have read this AAR with interest - hope to pick up a few hints on how to vanquish the Red Army in my AAR. I hope the AI shows as much sense as you have shown.

I'm trying to apply in reverse the lessons I learnt largely on the offensive in my last Soviet AAR - the AI doesn't tend to use double line defenses, preferring instead to set it all up in the front line, and I realised that allowed the attacker a huge advantage - you can see the difference here in the fighting at Riga where I lose a province, but have a solid line behind it, so the retreating divisions can be funnelled back to the rear, and at Pinsk where its a constant mess, with the real fear it'll all fall apart.

The real frustration is having no feeling at any point of being in control of the pace of operations - hopefully the Styr offensive in the south will give me that ... but so far the Germans aren't taking the hint.
 

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be afraid .... be very afraid

Every time I think I've got a handle on the situation - even that the German offensive is slowing down, I get an hour like this one:



this marked a huge German counterattack across the central portion of the Front that threatened to dislocate all my hard earned rebuilding of the front in the Pripyet sector ... and put paid to the offensive at Styr in dramatic fashion.
 

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Krasnaya Zvezda 21 July 1941

Vasily Grosman, Riga (again as filed, not as printed)

For the last 36 hours, the fascists have launched a major offensive designed to seize the city of Riga, despite the best efforts of our brave fighter pilots, the garrison has been under continual air attack. However, we are, after almost a month of retreats, ready for them.

The defending divisions have accepted the STAVKA directive to 'hold at all costs', the bridges to our rear are secured by well dug in reserves. This time the fascists will have to fight inch by inch, any victory will cost them dearly in terms of time and lives. This time a Soviet victory will not be defined in terms of rescuing comrades and executing an organised withdrawal, here we intend to halt their assault on Russia.

Morale amongst the defending troops has been raised even higher by the sounds of the guns of 1st and 10th Mech Corps as they crash into German positions to our south and east. Our heroic defenders at Riga are well aware they are being attacked by the bulk of the whole German army group, and in turn this increases the chance of success elsewhere, every minute that Riga holds, we can destroy the cohesion and attacking momentum of the fascists on this entire sector - at last, the whole Minsk front has turned on its tormenters of the last 31 days:

 

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STAVKA 20 July 1941

Meanwhile the nightly briefing session at the STAVKA was somewhat more sober. The success in attracting the main blow in the north onto the well prepared Riga position was welcome, as was the chance to unleash 6 tank divisions in a broad front attack along the Minsk-Smolensk axis.

However, two main problems faced the Soviet planners.

One was the danger that the assault on Finland would fall agonisingly short of its goal. Finnish NU was still at 69-70% meaning that all three VP sites needed to be taken, and except in the centre, the front was stagnating. Urgent messages were sent to Popov in command of the Leningrad MD to speed up operations and to ensure that Finnish positions were encircled rather than attacked directly. Less important in the short term, the war in the Arctic had stalemated too - this did not matter in terms of forcing Finland out of the war, but partisan reports indicated there were no German garrisons north of Narvik - the scope to seize valuable resources was too important to let slip:



The other main problem was the intentions of AGS. Although most of the Styr offensive (other than the attack on Dubno) had failed, it seemed to have made the German high command decide that the route to Kiev and the Ukraine was too well defended. The assault on Dubno was making slow progress but prisoner reports indicated a number of the German divisions were already badly worn down.

Koniev in command of the Kiev MD was ordered to consider whether the best option was to enlarge his current offensive or release armoured units to Minsk-Smolensk in case the Germans were planning a renewed blow directly towards Moscow:



Equally AGS could be committed to renew the assault in the Pripyet sector. Here finally, as a result of continual retreat and desparate counterattacks, some semblance of a front had been re-established - however, almost all the divisions were extremely weak after a month of desparate fighting and the front was far more fragile than it appeared - the potential still existed that another German blow could split the Soviet forces north and south of the Pripyet into two disconnected blocks:

 

loki100

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The rear, research, production and spies

A quick review of this side of things.

At the start I put a mass of IC into clearing my dissent (at 5%) in part as in the longer term I need all the IC I can get and also it was impacting on combat. Having cleared this, I then set all the rifle divs not to reinforce (this was essentially what the Soviets did historically - reinforcements were channelled to particular sectors, not allowed just to flow into the line), and am trying to reduce my backlog of upgrades (its dropped from nearly 600 at the start mainly due to the German culling of my border divisions). I've got 5 militia (DNO) and 2 conventional rifle divs in production, 2 transports to give me some flexibility, and a load of brigades - AA for HQs to help deter the German bombing, some AT and Art to give the infantry a bit of punch (I've inherited quite a strong tech position in these areas). Finally, and maybe a bit wierd, I'm building a rocket test site. The logic is I'll need it at some stage, and I may well not have this much IC for quite a while in the future:



In terms of technology, I'm really prioritising officers, and have my ratio up to 79% (from the 74% I started with) - most of this gain has come from the Germans eliminating divisions, but I should reach the mid 80s by early Autumn. The other priority was to ensure that the domestic spy network was up to 10 - once this is achieved some of the spy effort will go to research. I've a mass of techs selected, and will juggle them around, but at the moment am prioritising those around education, supply, IC and my oil production problem:



Finally, have foreign spies (including from my notional allies) all over the place - fortunately they seem obsessed with my OOB not with hitting my research or production. In reverse, for Germany I shift between counter-espionage and partisan production, for the rest I'm going for their production as I'd guess their research effort is trivial to start with:

 

loki100

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2 short interludes

An extract from the diary of Maj General Kreizer, 48th Rifle Division, 10th Army, Riga.

By 01.00 on 24 July all three rifle divisions had escaped German encirclement at Riga and reached the relative safety of the 24th Army's rifle pits guarding the bridges over the Daugava. Our comrades treat us as well as possible and officers accept all the information we can give them on the German OOB and tactics - already the battle for the bridges has commenced, we then pull back to the rear - to the inevitable and uncomfortable meeting with the NKVD - with the accusations of cowardice and sabotage. Hopefully they decide we did what we could and that they need us to return to the front.

We held Riga for 5 days against 15 German divisions, incl Pzrs & constant air attacks, but neither in terms of losses (3000 Soviet, incl air attacks, 1400 German) nor more importantly in terms of organisational disruption, did we achieve our primary goals - the hope was to further damage the organisation of the German assault troops and force them out of the offensive, judging by the initial battle reports of the 24th Army we failed in that.

However, it appears that the 11th Army to our east has done all that and more. So far the battle for Aizkraukle has rarely featured in front reports but STAVKA now sees it as a model, along with the results of an offensive down south, in how to slowly deny the Germans operational mass for further attacks. They have skillfully absorbed the blows of 5 Pzr divisions, and, from the available reports, some of those German divisions will not be contributing to their offensive for some time:



General Popov is sitting in the Smolny Institute in Leningrad pouring over his situation map for south Finland. So near but so far from victory. His 19 rifle and 1 (lt) armoured division are almost utterly exhausted - only 2 would be treated as combat ready in better times. His only re-assurance is the 15 German and Finnish divisions he faces are in the same state.

He has begged STAVKA to raise additional Army HQs to improve co-ordination and been turned down. He begged them not to withdraw 19th Army, but that is now in reserve near Smolensk. He has been asking for specialist mountain divisions to operate in the Arctic and finally been told that 2 will be sent - from the Caucasus! If he is lucky they will arrive before the winter snows that far north.



Suddenly his door is flung open without knocking or any acknowledgement. To his shock and dismay Mekhlis (note he was the commissar Stalin used to instill terror in the red army at this period) and a 'special section' squad of NKVD troops stood there - his own staff standing to the side looking cowed.

Mekhlis turns on him - "Comrade General you are accused of being a German spy who abused the trust of the people by sabotaging the Finnish campaign - what do you say"

Poplov was stunned, he knew from the tone of STAVKA imperatives that the 'failure' was deemed his, not theirs for pulling out the 19th after the initial victories. He explains some of this to Mekhlis.

Mekhlis - "so, you wish not only to lose us the war in the north, but also to fatally weaken the defences guarding Moscow, you are more than a traitor, you must be one of the few fascist agents and saboteurs we missed in 1937"

The room falls quiet - all know this is usually a death sentence.

Mekhlis - "However, Comrade Stalin is also understanding, maybe you are not a spy or a trotskyist, maybe just incompetent? You have 10 days to force the surrender of Finland, if you fail, we will assume the charges against you have been proved - and as a testament of our good faith, a squadron of Sturmoviks have been ordered to support your assault on Turku - remember Comrade General, only by success can you convince Comrade Stalin that his fears are unfounded ... Good day"
 

loki100

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STAVKA 1 August 1941

Despite the ongoing pressure at the various fronts, the Soviet general staff, including the various 'representatives of the STAVKA', supervising the main fronts met to review operations in the first 6 weeks of the war.

Several things were clear - most importantly that the Germans nowhere had managed a clear breakthrough, but equally, most times, would suceed where they attacked. The opposite of this was that so far no Soviet counterattack had been powerful enough to actually recapture ground, except in the low intensity warfare with the Rumanians and Germans along the Dniestr in the south.

Although Soviet casualties had been heavy, surprisingly few formations had been lost outright, something like 21 divisions and the ADO (strategic bomber) squadrons that had been deliberately sacrificed over Finland and Ploesti:



What was not clear was German intentions or capacity. Best estimates from the fighting around Styr and along the Daugava is that something like 4 Pzr and around 10 Inf divs had been badly mauled - and were possibly in reserve refitting. Elsewhere putting together various intelligence reports some idea of German concentrations emerged. Equally, their attempt to follow up their victory at Riga by pushing across the Daugava had been foiled and since then that sector was relatively quiet.

The best guess was that AGS had been thrawted by the determined resistance, and sizeable, if unsucessful Soviet armoured counterblows, and had sent formations to push through the Pripyet or even to the Minsk sector. From current fighting, and estimates of German movements it looked as if the next blow would fall in the Pripyet-Smolensk sector.

The Pripyet remained the biggest worry, not least the divisions in the line were very weak and also no reserve existed if a strategic collapse occured. In the main, at least some reserves were available on the direct route to Moscow and along the lower Dniepr:



Once Finland capitulated, it would probably be possible to extract 50th Army to strengthen the Moscow sector but this formation had taken heavy casualties in the last 6 weeks. Other troops could be redeployed to bolster the Leningrad defences. Other than that, the first militia divisions would be available in mid-August.

It was agreed to transfer the small reserve forming up behind Odessa to the Pripyet.

The second, related problem was how to make effective counterattacks. One proposal was to scrap the existing mechanised corps, bracket the Lt Arm and Motorised divs with the cavalry divisions to provide a mobile reserve and try to bring all the medium armour divisions into organised tank armies. The difficulty was that a number of the Mech Corps were already embroiled in combat and any disengagement to regroup and concentrate could weaken already vulnerable positions.

However, despite misgivings, it was felt there was no way could the Red Army be sure to even stabilise the front in August, never mind move over to a strategic offensive. Thus priority had to continue to be given to the current defensive tactics (which were working) and localised spoiling attacks to disrupt German plans.
 
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Pravda 8 August 1941

Heroic Soviet tank formations have recaptured Smolensk, Orsha and Vityebsk as the start of the long planned attack that will drive the fascists back from our Soviet motherland.

Elsewhere, the final stand of the gangsters who dragged Finland to war is being played out at Vaasa.
 
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STAVKA 10 August 1941

This session was almost completely consumed by the dire reports coming from Batov's Smolensk front. For the first time the possibility of a major German breakthrough was becoming real - and on the sector that gave them easiest access to Moscow.

The German offensive had started on the 2nd with a series of bitter fighting on the flanks (with around 6000 Soviet and 4500 German losses). These battles had put a heavily reinforced AGC in position to then drive directly on Orsha, Vityebsk and critically Smolensk which had only been held by an isolated HQ formation. These battles, and the Soviet counterattacks, had again seen relatively even losses (14,000 Soviet and 10,500 German) but in combination had widened the breach so the front was in danger of losing connection to the overall Leningrad district to its north. Worse, the German offensive to the NW of Smolensk had trapped the forces racing south to try and secure that critical juncture at the heart of the front - now only held by the badly battered 29th Tank Division (itself earlier pulled out of the line to refit):



To try and contain the breakthrough, both reserves of infantry and the 19th Mech Corp from the STAVKA reserves were being sent to this critical sector. Equally the VVS sqdrns that had been held back for the defense of Moscow were now being fully committed.

Along the rest of this sector, the Germans were making steady progress in the Pripyet, and although no breakthrough was threatened, the rifle divisions in that sector were running extremely low both on manpower and in organisation.

Along the Daugava, in the main German attacks had been held but they were now threatening to gain a large bridgehead just east of the Riga positions - this could allow them to cut off the Estonian front armies from Leningrad, thus necessitating a wider retreat - though the advantage of shortening the front would allow a massing of formations on the direct road to Leningrad:



At the end of the meeting, Stalin signed the order removing Popov from command of the Leningrad sector, this was now subordinated to Timoshenko's overall Baltic sector. Popov was ordered to concentrate on the war in the far north and ending Finnish resistance.

Koniev was ordered to send some 20 divisions north to help create a reserve on the Smolensk-Moscow axis from the Kiev sector.
 

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Been absent for a few days and had a fun time reading the stream of updates since my last visit. Mekhlis' appearance was nasty. If I were Popov, I'd probably lead from the front. Especially if Finland refuses to surrender in time. Waaay from the front - being a Finnish POW has to beat being a guest of the NKVD (or Smersh, or MGB, or OGPU, or whatever acronym/abbreviation is appropriate for the time frame).

I liked the contrast between Pravda's triumphalist tone in the recapture of Smolensk and the following staff report about the impending German breakthrough on the road to Moscow. :)

Things are clearly very much still in the balance. It makes for a fun read, that's for sure.
 

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My real problem is I'm now paying the price of all those counterattacks and rearguards, plus a generalised beating. A division with around 40% org is one of my best at the moment (esp for those that have slowly fallen back from the borders) - so what is happening is I can no longer survive long enough in combat to really damage German org, so the scope for a monumental collapse is there. I'm going to have to use the formations I dragged in from the south, not for a counterattack, or even to reinforce the front line but to replace the front line, whilst the current lot try to fall back and recover.

In terms of casualties, most of the rifle divs have lost 30-40% of their manpower, so not yet critical, but again something, at some stage I need to address.

I am also *very* impressed with the German AI - it broke off with AGS and sent those troops to reinforce AGC, now that I'm getting weaker its shifting frrom broadfront to blitzkrieg style attacks - being much more willing to lunge forward rather than methodically clean up its flanks. It also opts out of attacks if its going nowhere, and then shifts the excess (over what it needs for defense) divisions somewhere else.
 

loki100

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STAVKA 20 August 1941

For the first time, the question of making a strategic rather than tactical/operational retreat was under consideration. The German pressure on the Smolensk axis was continuing, although fortunately some fresh formations were filling in behind the current front. Overall the rifle and armoured divisions in the front, especially on the Minsk-Moscow axis, had been in continuous combat for 2 months. They were now too weak to hold any German attack for any length of time and it was imperative they were given a break.

The first stage had been to order a weak but broadly spread out counterattack along the upper Dniepr - at best this might delay the next phase of German attacks and indicate the Red Army was stronger than it really was. The goal was both to allow time to withdraw the current front and to allow reinforcements drawn from Koniev's central Dniepr formations to deploy on the Moscow axis:



For the first time, Moscow was appearing on the STAVKA operational maps and it was agreed to pull, as much as possible, of the current 3 fronts on that line back behind the fresh divisions, and to designate 2 defense lines. The first to be held by fresh troops as long as possible - the second had to be held at all costs:



In the north, there was some space to retire, and with the German breaching of the Daugava line, there was no choice but to abandon the Baltic states. A deep defense would be organised on the direct route to Leningrad and a weaker, more spread out defense adopted on the Leningrad-Moscow communication routes.

Both fronts would be reinforced by troops moving south from Finland, although their progress was being badly slowed by German sabotage and the confusion in that country following its surrender first to the Soviets, then to the Germans the day after, followed by the return of the pro-Soviet govt to Helsinki on 16 August:



Finally, an overall plan of retreat was communicated to STAVKA co-ordinators and front commanders. In the NW, as noted there was some space, equally Koniev was granted flexibility to pull back a short distance - especially as he had now lost almost all his reserves. Any retreat in the south need only be marginal as so far, there had been no sustained pressure in that sector.

Moscow was now critical - there was a need for some sort of retirement but it could not be substantial - there was no space. Additional AT and Art brigades would be available by October and it was hoped these would help the Red Army beat the Pzrs, the newly raised DNO (militia) divisions were mostly allocated to the fringes of the main combat zones:



Russia might be large, but at least in the centre, there was now precious little space in which to retreat.
 

Darth Moose

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I'll have to go look at the maps in Col. Glantz's Clash of the Titans (I'm in 1942 now), but IIRC you're doing better than history.

It is interesting that your game is paralleling history in one way - the southern front held out the longest in the summer of 1941, which is why the precious Panzer formations of AGC were diverted south into Ukraine, losing precious months for attacking Moscow. It was that time which allowed the Soviets to build up their defenses and bring reinforcements from the Far East.

I wonder if the AI will do the same mistake?
 

loki100

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I'm genuinely surprised how historic this is working out - given that my whole strategy has been one of linear retreat rather than trying to hold and be encircled. The price I've paid is less in losses pure and simple and more that about 60% of the rifle divs on the German front are below 40% in terms of org, so its become very brittle.

I've got a copy of Erickson's Road to Stalingrad next to the laptop so yes I am sort of comparing progress.

Also you can see in the game how AGS was quite easy to fend off for a while - the gap between the Pripyet and the Hungarian border is quite narrow, so its very hard for the Germans to get much momentum.

At the moment, though if anything the German AI has a bit of a Moscow fixation, I see no movement to AGS, in fact the only mistake it *might* have made is too much committed to chasing me out of Estonia, I'm hopeful I can stalemate the Estonian-Russian border but the terrain there is far more open that it was in HOI2, so they may develop a real threat to Leningrad from the West as well as from the South ...
 

Stuyvesant

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Wow. That's a pretty dramatic situation. I had not previously realized just how fragile your frontline is. The lack of org doesn't show up very well in the continental-sized maps. :)

Your proposed 'last stand' defensive line (the one you outlined in black) has an ugly corner jutting northward, almost severing the direct route between Moscow and Leningrad. Did you choose that line based on more defensible terrain?

Finally, this:
...confusion in that country following its surrender first to the Soviets, then to the Germans the day after, followed by the return of the pro-Soviet govt to Helsinki on 16 August...
has me confused. Which probably mirrors your own reactions. :) Any idea how this sequence of events came to pass?
 

loki100

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Wow. That's a pretty dramatic situation. I had not previously realized just how fragile your frontline is. The lack of org doesn't show up very well in the continental-sized maps. :)

Your proposed 'last stand' defensive line (the one you outlined in black) has an ugly corner jutting northward, almost severing the direct route between Moscow and Leningrad. Did you choose that line based on more defensible terrain?

Finally, this: has me confused. Which probably mirrors your own reactions. :) Any idea how this sequence of events came to pass?

Aye, its a real problem now, some units have been losing battles for 10 weeks and have very rarely had a chance to recover - I notice it if the Germans hit some of my troops moving up from reserve -- its not that I win, but at the end of a combat, at least some of their troops are knocked about too, whilst all through the Smolensk battles, I managed a casualty ratio of about 2.5:1 but scarcely dented their org. Judging by the info, I think the German AI is spending IC on reinforcements whilst I'm just letting the rifle divisions grind down.

Idea on the gap between Leningrad and Moscow is I'll pull back into the swamps - if I'm lucky it will start to force the AI to spread out a bit as well, and use very deep echelons on the direct roads to those cities. But I'll start with a more advanced line, it along with the Ukraine is a place where I can afford to cede space for time.

Finland had me confused. What I think happened is I took Vaasa on the 12th Aug, they shoved their capital up to the Norwegian-Finnish border, they surrendered and were puppeted on the 13th, the Germans took (or already occupied, I suspect), their capital on the 13th, so they promptly surrendered to the Germans and went GIE (in Moscow). So the whole country became German, except the provinces I actually occupied, so as opposed to be able to SR out my 3 armies for the Leningrad sector, they had to walk, recapturing ground as they went. As I occupied Helsinki when all this happened, I restored their govt on the 16th.

The frustrating bit was that in the last 5-6 days of the war, I'd started to hold off from any fighting except at Vaasa as I quite wanted to inherit what was still a sizeable force. All I've now got is a single theatre HQ.

One good thing I've noticed is that 1.3 has sorted out the mis-alignment between govt type and ideology after a coup or surrender. So the Finnish CP (SKP?) is in power, and it has a Soviet form of govt. So in 1936 GC, that really opens up the door for a strategy based seriously on subversion rather than conventional warfare.
 

loki100

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STAVKA 1 September 1941

As with many deliberations at this key period, the discussion was dominated by an attempt to understand German intentions and capability. The 10 day battle around Smolensk seemed to be winding down, again a lot of ground had been lost, and around 10 divisions had been lost in encirclement (and a further 6 in the retreat from the Daugava). However, the major redeployment from the Ukraine seemed to have stopped any real breakthrough, and for the first time, some divisions had been pulled to the rear to regain their organisation.

The loss of the Daugava positions had had the advantage of shortening the Soviet defence lines - the problem was the Germans too now had 'spare' formations, and the strategic question was where they would be deployed.

Leningrad itself, was steadily building up its defensive belts as the forces from Finland arrived. Effectively 5 armies held the front and the same number were in reserve (although these were a mix of the badly battered and fresh). Orders had been given to Timoshenko that once the agreed retreat lines were reached, no further retirements were to be allowed. The Germans had to be made to fight for further gains. The first instance of this was the decision of the 11th Army to stand and fight at Pskov:



The direct road to Moscow was now covered by 3 fronts with the Kalinin Front guarding the north flank and the Bryansk Front the south. Again some of the apparent strength was illusory - but the worst affected divisions were now in reserve and slowly the armour was being pulled from defensive duties to provide a counterattack force:



In practical terms - no other sector mattered and Koniev was ordered to send a fresh infantry army and at least one Mech Group to provide a new reserve at Moscow itself - the equivalent of two new armies not being expected from Siberia till October at the earliest.

Overall the Ukrainian and Odessa sectors were holding well. German, Hungarian and Rumanian pressure was steady rather than critical, and although ground continued to be lost, no major breakthroughs were being threatened and the critical industrial regions of the lower Dniepr and Kharkov/Dombas well to the rear of the current fighting:



Finally, absolute Soviet losses remained relatively light - a number of divisions had been lost when the decision was made to pull back at both Smolensk and in the NW. However, this masked the ongoing issue of formations scarcely combat ready and of mounting losses, especially in the rifle divisions:



The operational assumption was that since the Germans had committed so much already to their assault on Moscow, they would continue to do so, rather than divert forces south to open up access to the Ukraine. The unknown was whether their troops, released by the loss of the Estonian Front, would be used to attack Leningrad, Moscow or to reinforce the so far largely ineffective AGS?
 

loki100

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Krasnaya Zvezda 6 September 1941

Vasily Grossman - Pskov (12th Army Sector)

(again, this was the report as filed, not quite as published).

And so it goes, 12th Army has held this town in the face of the fascists for 8 days now, our losses mount, but the enemy makes no real progress. Our morale rises by the hour now it is clear that the major retreats of late August are over - 12th is committed, reinforcements are on the way, even as tired and exhausted divisions are carefully shepherded to the rear to recover, and to fight again.

The morale of the defenders has been immensely improved by the decision to commit both VVS ground attack aircraft and substantial fighter cover, our heroic pilots have, for the first time in months, driven the fascists from the air - no longer do the riflemen have to endure interminable air attacks. Equally, and as a measure of the new determination, a major offensive has been launched to recapture ground to the east, and news filters through of 24th Army's equally heroic struggle to defend the gates of Leningrad at Narva - and to ensure the last of our comrades escape encirclement in Estonia.

The Red Army is proving itself more than equal to the recent 'not one step back' directive from Comrade Stalin.



As a less patriotic aside - the strength and org figures for these rifle divisions is pretty typical of those that have taken the brunt of the fighting so far - so manpower at around 65-70%, org 40% or less (these divs have just spent 6 days under attack so they are now less well org than usual). Obviously what I'm trying to do - and it is starting to show - is to use sustained combat, in relatively favourable terrain (its marsh) to drive down German organisation, so as to slow the assault and give my fresher reserve divs (though, in this sector, they've all been through the Finnish war) a decent chance of halting the Germans before Leningrad.

I've also, for the first time, gained airsuperiority over the battlefield, and chewed up some German TAC bombers.