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"Would The Soviet Union Continue To Fight Germany..." Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2017 9:22 p.m. PST

… In World War Two If They Had Lost Moscow?

"In October 1941, the Second World War teetered on a knife edge.

There was war in China and war in North Africa, and soon there would be war between America and Japan. But in the autumn of 1941, the only war that really seemed to matter was fought in a portion of central Russia.

Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, had begun brilliantly on June 22, 1941. Encirclement after encirclement had inflicted almost 4 million casualties on the huge but disorganized Soviet armies. By early October, they had advanced to within 200 miles of Moscow. Now came Operation Typhoon, the offensive to seize the Soviet capital and—or so the Germans hoped—end the campaign…"
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VVV reply13 Sep 2017 2:43 a.m. PST

The importance of Moscow was that it was a rail hub and industrial centre. Would its loss have broken Russia, I doubt it.
More important would have been capturing Russias oil fields. All those (Russian) tanks needed fuel to keep them going

kiltboy13 Sep 2017 6:23 a.m. PST

I very much doubt it as well.

The sheer size of Russia and the population being mobilised for total war makes me think they would have kept on.

Germany was never going to win that fight as the logistics were too large to overcome.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2017 9:13 a.m. PST

While the loss of Moscow would not necessarily have meant the loss of the war it certainly would have put a serious crimp in the Russian ability to continue – their transport net was very centralized

Plus there is the issue of morale and if Uncle Joe could have kept the troops in line

Probably the Germans only real chance to win – especially if they followed up, as noted with a Fall Blau the next year that went all the way to Gorki and the Baku oil fields

Lion in the Stars13 Sep 2017 9:17 a.m. PST

With basically all rail lines going to Moscow, losing Moscow would have crippled the Soviet's ability to move troops and supplies.

Not to mention the enormous damage to morale if the Capital fell.

Were I on the German High Command, I would have put maximum effort into taking Moscow, and only enough troops around Stalingrad to tie down those forces.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Sep 2017 10:05 a.m. PST

The fall of Moscow would have probably led to eventual defeat for the Soviets. As noted the loss of this central rail hub (pretty much every rail line radiated out from Moscow with relatively few cross connections) would have terribly crippled the Soviet's ability to move troops and resources around.

In addition, we can assume that once the Germans had Moscow there would have been a series of desperate counterattacks by the Soviets which would have used up nearly all of their reserves. In reality this is exactly what happened in early 1942 when Stalin became convinced that the Germans were on the verge of total collapse and he threw every man he had into costly attacks that left the Red Army in terrible shape in 1942. With the loss of Moscow this would have been even worse.

Also, with the disruption of the rail net and the huge psychological blow of the fall of Moscow, it's hard to see Leningrad holding out for long. The troops defending it would lose heart and I imagine the Germans would take the place in the spring of '42 at the latest.

With these successes under their belts, the German 1942 offensive probably would have driven the Soviets all the way back to the Urals. At this point, with 2/3 of their population now in occupied territory, the Soviets would have little hope of gathering enough strength for a serious counteroffensive. The Germans would probably have the sense not to try to drive clear across Siberia, but they could form a solid line at the Urals which the Soviets would have little hope of breaking. So not a complete victory, but good enough to keep the East contained and still free up troops for other fronts.

Murvihill13 Sep 2017 10:07 a.m. PST

OTOH, wouldn't the Germans be facing the Soviet counteroffensive with 40 more miles of front to defend?

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member13 Sep 2017 11:51 a.m. PST

I'd agree with Frederick and Scott W (above).

A rump Soviet government may have carried on a desultory war from the Urals, Siberia, central Asia, but the Germans might well have simply entrenched behind secure boundaries somewhere around the Urals or just west, having taken all the strategic territory, and let the remainder wither away. Or invited in the Japanese over the Amur to gobble up Kamchatka.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2017 12:10 p.m. PST

My impression is that the German plan was not actually to take Moscow, but rather to encircle and destroy Moscow.

I admit I have not examined the issue for some time, so my recollection could be faulty on this, but I recall that their plan was the well-proven process of encirclement, not only of the forces in the area, but of the city itself. It was a dual pincer movement that intended to reach to a substantial depth behind Moscow itself. As with Leningrad, the military (and Hitler himself) were loathe to get involved in urban combat. In the case of Moscow, though, rather than seeking to force the city to surrender through siege, the plan was to divert/dam the Neva river and turn the area of Moscow into a lake.

In any case, success would have taken Moscow out for the Soviet side.

In my view this would not have _necessarily_ resulted in the Soviet Union being taken out of the war. It would have been a substantial blow, to be sure.

As others have noted Moscow was the nation's primary transportation hub.

It was a significant industrial center as well, but so were other cities, many of which had their industrial facilities evacuated before they fell. Moscow's industry, though, was only partially evacuated. Much remained, and could not have been evacuated in time if Typhoon succeeded.

It was the center of government, in a centralized system of government. But shadow facilities were already being set up further east. Stalin chose to remain in Moscow as government ministries were evacuated. There was some chance that an encirclement would have bagged Stalin, or that he might have been killed through some combat action (e.g. in a bombardment, or interdiction when he did decide to evacuate late in the game). Losing Moscow alone would have been a great systemic shock. Loosing both Moscow and Stalin would have been even greater.

At some point the Soviet system, being driven from the top, could have come unhinged. In-fighting, distraction, loss of direction are very serious impediments to efficiency in a system that relies on centralized control. In my mind these were the greater risks than the industrial / transportation risks.

From the standpoint of industrial/transportation risks, Blau was far closer to shutting down the Soviet's ability to wage war. At one brief point, a few brief days, the Germans had forces in position to shut down 80% of the Soviet's oil supply. This was though control of some of the fields, but more importantly through interdiction (by an admittedly token force) of the critical rail lines from the remaining fields. If the Germans, from top-to-bottom, had recognized how critical this was, and focused on this issue, they could well have shut down the Soviet airforce and tank force. At that point, with dwindling manpower reserves and no demonstrated ability to do anything with their infantry other than suck up German ordnance, the ability of the Red Army to interfere with German plans would have effectively ended.

I don't think the Germans actually expected peace in the east. Rather, they expected ongoing boarder conflict with "indigenous people" of the east. But they saw this as an equivalent of the American west. Once the nation was established, conflict with native populations may have been troublesome, but never posed a threat to national survival.

(aka: Mk 1)

donlowry13 Sep 2017 5:18 p.m. PST

Maybe if taking Moscow was accompanied by an offer of peace …?

number4 Inactive Member13 Sep 2017 9:11 p.m. PST

That didn't work for Napoleon in 1812

Skarper14 Sep 2017 3:52 a.m. PST

Mark 1's post is very comprehensive and well argued.

I'd say the Soviets would have continued to fight but if unable to retke Moscow quickly – within days really, their ability to do so would have ebbed away.

If Stalin was still pulling the levers then there would be plenty of attacks and a great deal of casualties. But little scope of retaking the ground lost.

The railways are the key.

Now the Germans did try to take Moscow. If they would have tried to hold it or simply destroy the infrastructure is another matter. But they did try.

Time was wasted earlier in the campaign and that may have been pivotal, but I tend to beleive the Soviets who after the war countered that forces encircled and destroyed in the Kiev pocket would have been used to threaten the flanks of any drive for Moscow. They knew it mattered and would have thrown everyone in to hold on.

So – though it was the Germans only chance to win in the East it was never really on the cards.

So this question is to my mind very much a 'what if'.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2017 7:23 a.m. PST

One must remember that early in the planning German officers, such as von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, advocated a drive on Moscow. Hitler, however, had a preference for seizing economically significant targets and engaging in large scale battles of encirclement. The preference for these "cauldron battles" or the German term "kesselschlacht" was reinforced by the massive encirclement of Russian forces during the first battle for Kiev.

Mark is correct that Typhoon was another such attempt with the idea of cutting rail lines, encircle Moscow, and pretty much letting the city fall on its own. Getting involved in urban fighting was never part of the plan. Of course one can never be certain. Had Moscow, even encircled, continue to hold out would Hitler have ordered it cleared as a symbol? Certainly events at Stalingrad might hint at Hitler reversing course.

Fred Cartwright14 Sep 2017 8:44 a.m. PST

Stalingrad is different of course at is was never encircled. Even Leningrad could be supplied across the ice in winter. Stolfi's book Hitler's Panzers East argues coherently that a drive on Moscow in late July would have stood an excellent chance of success. There was very little in the path of AG Centre to stop it. The troops facing AG South wouldn't have a free rein to attack the flank of AG Centre as they would have had AG South driving into their own flanks and rear. Turning them round to face north would have been a major challenge in itself. Fortunately things didn't work out like that, but it remains an interesting what if. Have always wanted to play it out as an operational level wargame.

Mobius14 Sep 2017 8:51 a.m. PST

While certainly crippling losing Moscow would not be the end of rail connectivity. Rail lines extend along both sides of the Volga (remember Stalingrad defenders were supplied from across the river) and Nizhny Novgorod could act as a hub.

If the Germans did surround Moscow and attempted to starve it, it would be another Leningrad with people holding out until it could be liberated.

Retiarius914 Sep 2017 6:01 p.m. PST

Resulting in the movie Fatherland with rutger hauer

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 5:42 a.m. PST

Interesting discussion. Fred is correct on Stalingrad not being surrounded and I made my point poorly. Long after Stalingrad ceased to be militarily significant it retained a symbolic significance. It is not unreasonable, had a surrounded Moscow held out, for Hitler to change his mind and order forces into the city to eradicate all resistance.

There were a number of missed opportunities on both sides. I do recommend Stolfi's book as a worthwhile read especially when considering some of the "what ifs".

LORDGHEE15 Sep 2017 11:30 p.m. PST

nope, as 90% of the Russians lived north and east of Moscow.

the only Russian city to fall was Kalinin (modern Tver), with it's bridges over the volga river the Russians deafened it as they did Moscow.

Fred Cartwright16 Sep 2017 10:36 a.m. PST

the only Russian city to fall was Kalinin (modern Tver), with it's bridges over the volga river the Russians deafened it as they did Moscow.

I am assuming you mean defended it, not deafened it! As for what would have happened with Moscow it remains one of the great what ifs of WW2.

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