Validity of the reputations of the Russian and German militaries during WWII


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Player 0

Junior Member
This is a controversial topic, but I wanted to know is there as much validity towards the respective reputations popularly conceived of these two entities, i.e. that the German military was highly disciplined vs. the Russians' image of being undisciplined rapists and barbarians.

Just wanted to know what guys thought, because I remember once finding a book on amazon, though can't remember the name atm in where a historian claimed that much of what is popularly known about the Russian army comes largely from German sources in order to discredit the Russians due to cold war politics.
 

CardSharp

New Member
German propaganda hit on the fear of red army reprisals as a major argument during the last days of the war. I remember seeing Nazi propaganda films showing executed civilians in a village that the Wehrmacht retook from the Russians. This gave the German soldier something else to fight for near the end when victory was no longer a possibility.
 
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CardSharp

New Member
i.e. that the German military was highly disciplined vs. the Russians' image of being undisciplined rapists and barbarians.
Another note on this, the red army came a long long ways between the start of the war and the end of the war, but they still suffered higher casualties than the Germans right up to the end. This I don't think was a matter of discipline as much as how the commanders used troops under them, it's fair to say that Russian commander were less than frugal with their men's lives. Even the good Marshal Zhukov can rightly be called a butcher.
 

Lacrimosa

New Member
Suffered higher casualties because they were conducing high-tempo assaults into heavily defended urban terrain.

Suffice to say that no reputable military historian subscribe to the view espoused by thread-starter anymore. See works by Glantz and Beevor for a selective sampling of current views.

And calling Zhukov a butcher is merely emotive nonsense betraying a total lack of understanding of what the military profession is about. If you want to molly-coddle and save the troops, join the nursing corps. Work of military man is achieve the political objective of the war, in this case defeat of the fascist beast, in the fastest and most efficient manner.
 

delft

Brigadier
The German army and air force were much better than their Russian opponents, according to the German generals writing their memoirs in the 1950's. But these generals had a lot to explain away, mostly by blaming Hitler for their failures. Many of their explanations were inconsistent.
Examples:
The weakness of the German position on the southern front in November 1942 was recognized by Von Richthofen ( nephew of the famous one ) but nothing was done about it. When the sixth army was encircled Hitler didn't allow an offensive to try to save it, so he was responsible for the disaster. However if he would have allowed it the German army might not have been able to cover the retreat of Armee Gruppe A from the Caucasus, which would have let to a much greater disaster.
Hitler left the organization for the Battle of Kursk, Fall Zitadelle, entire to the professional soldiers. The operation was a total failure, but a Russian air attack on one Luftwaffe air field failed because the Germans had installed a radar system and were able to intercept the bombers. That one Russian failure get nearly as much attention as all German failures together in several accounts of battle.
The destruction of Armee Gruppe Mitte in the summer of 1944, when the German army lost nearly as many divisions as they had in Western Europe is often only mentioned.
 

CardSharp

New Member
The destruction of Armee Gruppe Mitte in the summer of 1944, when the German army lost nearly as many divisions as they had in Western Europe is often only mentioned.
I think this reinforces my contention that Soviet command was never being up to the standard of the Wehrmacht command. Operation Bagration, the destruction of Army group centre you referred to, was arguably the most successful battle/campaign fought by the red army. The red army had a 3:1 manpower advantage (not counting reserves), a 25:1 tank advantage, and a 10:1 advantage in guns and aircraft, and they still lost 770,888 men in the battle versus the Wehrmacht's 399,102 overall.

Soviet commanders were pushed to achieve political objective and given a certain period of time to achieve them by (or they were sacked), this resulted in Commanders spending lives to meet deadlines.
 

Lacrimosa

New Member
I advise you not to use wiki as your source. Just a suggestion.

You are regurgitating myths that no serious military historian agree with anymore. Soviet operational art is widely recognised as superior to the fascist counterpart.

Again, read some serious work. Glantz. The US Army studies. The Soviet staff studies.

Anyway, the obsession on (wildly inaccurate) statistics betrays a lack of understanding of how wars are fought and won. War is about achieving objectives, not playing around with a spreadsheet.
 
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Mightypeon

Junior Member
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One should bear in mind that the Wehrmacht of 1939 is not the Wehrmacht of 1945, and the Red Army of 1939 is not the Red army of 1945 either.

As an example:
Germany trained its units from regional areas, meaning that troops often knew each other from previous civilian life, the units largely fought in the way they were trained, and German unit cohesion was comparably high. However, the comparably tightly knit German formations had greater issues and getting reinforcement recruits up to their standart, often to an extent that battallions switched from "Auftragstaktik" to "Befehlstaktik", greatly reducing the impact of Germans being fairly literate/well educated etc.
The Russian armies most significant weakness was the lack of an NCO corps (what they had suffered severe casulties early on), which greatly increased the importance of commanding officers (if you have good seargents, even a incompetent political appointee will not be totally fatal, if you dont, any mistake by the commanding officer will directly affect battle outcomes).
Meaning that it propably is the WW2 army with the largest variance in combat effectiveness.
Concerning the "murdering rapists", if you consider the amount of things the Germans did, the Russian were comparably well behaved. Normally, attrocities fall back on the defeated with interest, in the case of the Russians, atrocities towards Germans happened, but not as much as the Germans did earlier.

Concerning assertions that Russians are never frugal with lives, please read up on Soviet operations in Manchuria, in my opinion one of the best planned and executed campaigns in WW2.
 

Lezt

Junior Member
My perspective on this is an odd one.

I actually think that the Germans and the Soviets are combat power is closer than we used to believe during the war with the Germans having the edge.

We know for a fact that the soviet population had been inflated before the war by up to around 20%. That the entire statistic of soviet war time production is fishy since false reporting is rampant or incomplete systems were considered complete and accounted as combat ready - such as tank without ammunition.

The high casualty rate inflicted on the Soviets claimed by the Germans coincides with the "ghost" population lose the Soviet census shows. It is a convienant way for the soviet leadership to show the world that world that their man power is limitless when women began to take on a much larger role in the red army.

By saying that the red army was not prepared for war is also an explanation fabricated to fit the poor performance of the Russians in early war. If you read "The Bloody Triangle, the defeat of soviet armor in the ukraine june 1941" by victor j. kamenir. You will see that the fighting men of the red army is competent while the support they received have more to be desired of.

Reading after reports from both sides can show huge contradictions, such as the German vets claiming to destroy many tanks at 1500m at kursk while soviet after action report calculated the the mean combat range was 600m.

But of course both side have their characters, the Soviets with their brute fearlessness and the Germans with their dynamic cunning. Both knew their limitation quite well. For Germany tried to bleed Russia dry while Russia tried to pin down German units to prevent the Germans from using their tactical mobility in things such as encirclement.

And it shows in their army make up, where Germany focused their striking power in their mobile units while the soviets spread their striking power along the front. The result is that the Soviets rarely achieved a deep penetration and encirclement of German units (unless they are ordered to fight to the last man in "fortress cities") while the constant pressure along the whole of the front had German panzer divisions running up and down to contain breakthroughs and therefore unable to make a large offensive. While the Germans were able to have a much higher exchange rate by ceding ground and even remove 2 panzer division from the eastern front for the western front. The Germans would have bleed the Russians dry had the western allies not landed in 1944.

Attrocities happens on both side, and even with the western allies. For those of you thinking what I am talking about, I am talking about the disaperance of ~1 million German POW by starvation in American POW camps against the Geneva convention. The book "Other losses" by James Bacque is not proven or disproven, It has been discredited by the Eisenhower Center for American Studies and confirmed by KGB intelligence records and by the former senior United States Army Center of Military History Colonel Ernest F. Fisher.

But yeah, back to Russia and Germany. Russia's scorched earth policy left many russian in starvation during the winter of 1941. The Germans actually send in grain to feed the local populace, so to say the Germans are there for a genocide is debatable. While the Russians in first line units usually were well behaved, the second line ones were a different story.
 

delft

Brigadier
The German panzer division were running up and down because there were too few of them, due to a lack of production capacity and the wrong use of that capacity.Adolf Galland writes in his memoirs ( I read the English translation ) that the roof burned of the Third Reich on the Eastern Front, due to the high quality and the superior numbers of the aircraft of the Red Air Force. The German aircraft were very good but, again, too few to prevent defeat.
Also the penetration by the Red Army during an offensive went pretty deep from November 1942. Remember how after the destruction of Armee Gruppe Mitte in 1944 the Red Army reached the outskirts of Warsaw, of course with very long supply routes and so with little strength. And rescuing the AK wouldn't have been an object.
 
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