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"Did the Soviet cavalry crush German tanks in WWII?" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse14 May 2019 10:00 p.m. PST

"The Soviet cavalry during WWII struck the enemy in its very heart. As true saboteurs, cavalrymen made surprise raids behind enemy lines, destroying German army staff commands and storages, blocking roads and cutting vital communications.

In the late 1930s, the world realized that the time of dashing cavalry attacks was over, and future wars would be clashes between tanks and mechanized units. Following this doctrine, the Soviet leadership significantly cut the number of cavalry units in the Red Army. From 1938 to 1941, 19 cavalry divisions were disbanded…"
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Amicalement
Armand

Richard Baber15 May 2019 1:09 a.m. PST

The sheer size of the front in the east made continous defensive lines impossible allowing quite fluid movement of troops, cavalry not being limited to roads are very flexible.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2019 1:25 a.m. PST

Mobility is a key aspect of warfare, be it having the youngest fastest running warriors trying to outflank the enemy, be it chariots, horses or motor vehicles.

The only factor you have to respect is that modern weapons can devastate cavalry as fast as infantry in the open so you either use them for general mobility or charge when you catch the enemy unprepared.

Legion 415 May 2019 6:32 a.m. PST

Agree with both those comments … In some cases Horse Cav can act more like Mounted Infantry. E.g. the Aussie Light Horse of WWI.

Lion in the Stars15 May 2019 8:17 a.m. PST

Yes, the Cossacks were fairly effective in WW2.

I think the biggest problem with cavalry in Europe is that they still thought they were knights, and so were concentrating on doing mounted charges.

The US cavalry all fought as Mounted Infantry, very few mounted charges (I know of exactly one such mounted charge in WW2 in the Philippines).

Andy ONeill15 May 2019 8:57 a.m. PST

Largely speaking, everyone's cavalry fought as mounted infantry.
With very few exceptions.
Cavalry encountering rear echelon or dispersed enemy did charge them a few times. Successfully
This was not their only or even main way of fighting.

Those pictures of polish cavalry charging panzers are fiction.

link

Cuprum15 May 2019 9:20 a.m. PST

The cavalry in 1941-42 is the equivalent of parachutists. Having the opportunity to infiltrate through woodland or through a specially organized fairly small gap in the front of the enemy, the cavalry went to the rear of the enemy and engaged in its disorganization. This was especially effective during the period of slough or big snow, when the enemy was limited in maneuver. During the transition of the Red Army to the offensive, cavalry is an analogue of motorized infantry. It was the cavalry that usually went into the breakthrough with the tanks, using its maneuverability and lack of the need for fuel needed for tanks.

Legion 415 May 2019 3:27 p.m. PST

Horse Cav had the traditional Cav missions of Recon, Screening, Envelopment, and Exploitation. As does today's Air and Armored Cav. And they could do this as they were more mobile than leg Infantry. Of course much of this has been pointed out here.

As we know once Horse Cav closed the range they generally acted as mounted Infantry. Again the big advantage was their speed over leg Infantry and ability to move thru some terrain more quickly than the Infantry. Or even terrain that vehicles may have a problem.

The cavalry in 1941-42 is the equivalent of parachutists.
Being a former parachute trained Infantryman. old fart I can see this analogy as valid, especially from a WWII aspect. I.e. quickly getting into enemy rear areas, by flanking/envelopment. As with Parachute and Air Assault [Inf in Choppers] using Vertical Envelopment.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2019 6:17 p.m. PST

I seem to recall that horse cavalry largely went out of fashion in virtually ALL armies shortly after the beginning of WWII, so……….

I think the results and logic stand for themselves, Soviet/Russian propaganda notwithstanding.

The only way "cavalry" could "crush" German tanks is if you have small-scale, paper or plastic models of the German armor, and use real horses at 1:1 scale to do so.

Cuprum15 May 2019 10:38 p.m. PST

In the case of the struggle with the German tanks, the Cavleria will practically be no different from ordinary infantry. The same anti-tank hand grenades, anti-tank guns, anti-tank artillery on a horse-drawn gang. And the same trenches, if there is time to dig them up.

The cavalry is really out of fashion in Europe. Together with the advent of a large number of good roads. In Russia, especially in that period, there were few good roads – there were only directions))) Read the complaints of the German generals, when even the tanks were stuck in mud almost all over the turret)))

What would be better in these conditions – trucks? Armored personnel carriers? Or cavalry?)))

Cuprum15 May 2019 10:44 p.m. PST

The cavalry (in the Russian theater of operations) has only one major drawback – it is very vulnerable to aviation on the march. But to solve this problem there is a large number of forests)))
By the way, the number of cavalry units in the Red Army increased during the war years. Despite the large number of excellent American trucks and armored personnel carriers. Apparently the reason – the natural stupidity of Russian?)))

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2019 2:47 a.m. PST

One should not mistake the use of Cavalry in WWII as either a complete mistake or a sudden new "war-winning weapon"

Most things in war are a matter of convenience. The USSR could use almost anything that was a force multiplier and cavalry was one such method. It was not the prefect answer since horses don't do as well as armoured vehicles, but still outperform things like bicycles and motorcycles who were only good on roads.

The Red Army's cavalry was clearly a case of "If it works" And for a while it was pretty much an emergency measure, since pre-war plans had been to get rid of cavalry entirely (We see similar pre-war plans with the British, the Belgians, the French and the USA) In a war where everything had to be used to turn the tide using horses proved useful enough.

Note that everyone understood that horses may have been a convenient stopgap, the future belonged to armoured vehicles, the clear winners were the SDKFZ 251 and the M3 Halftrack who set the pattern for future vehicles.

You only have to look at the long retreat of German troops after Normandy, the horse-drawn units are incredibly vulnerable to attack and suffer massive losses as they try to get away.

Fred Cartwright16 May 2019 4:57 a.m. PST

What would be better in these conditions – trucks? Armored personnel carriers? Or cavalry?)))

Well certainly not cavalry. A horse exerts roughly 3 x the ground pressure of a human so will sink in to the mud even quicker. All those pictures of horses stuck in mud up to their bellies testify to have difficult it was for them. Plus any advantage horses have over trucks disappears once you add in artillery and supply wagons. Then you are worse off as the narrow wheeled artillery and wagons sink in to the mud and the horses don't have the power to pull them out.

Apparently the reason – the natural stupidity of Russian?)))

Well I suppose that is one explanation. It certainly wasn't that they were better in the mud.

Murvihill16 May 2019 5:31 a.m. PST

Cavalry was successful in Russia because the road network was poorly developed compared to the rest of Europe. And they fought almost exclusively as mounted infantry, cavalry charges happened but not the norm.

Legion 416 May 2019 6:08 a.m. PST

All good comments. Horse Cav certainly has it's drawbacks. But as noted you use what you have and what works at the time. And of course after the war Horse Cav had pretty much run it's course. And Tech and Tactics had advanced considerably from '39-'45. E.g. you never should charge in the open against MGs, whether Inf or Cav. frown

I was both Light Air Assault and Mech Infantry. I have operated in all environs. Jungles, forests, swamps, subfreezing temps with snow, the muds of the Spring thaw[like those pics posted, but not as bad!], Urban, desert, etc. As usual you adapt, improvise and overcome and again based on terrain and situation. You do what works.

Wheeled and Tracked vehicles as well as helicopters and other aircraft take a lot of maintenance and recovery. Along with resupply.

Horses generally need a lot of fodder, Vet services, etc. Along with transporting them on rails roads or even trucks for long distances. [As do AFVs & trucks !]

In WWII many armies still had horse drawn FA, supply, etc. especially in the beginning. At times units had lost effectiveness when there was an outbreak of Equine Flu.

The US had 2 Cav Divs before WWII, the 1st Cav was reorganized basically as an Inf Div. And 2d Cav disbanded. With troops being reassigned to other units.

Tactics evolves … along with Tech. That is a constant … Armies that don't will suffer.

Fred Cartwright16 May 2019 7:54 a.m. PST

Horses generally need a lot of fodder, Vet services, etc. Along with transporting them on rails roads or even trucks for long distances. [As do AFVs & trucks !]

Yes a lot of people assume horse transport is free, but in reality it requires significant resources to maintain and keep your horses in reasonable condition. That includes fodder (a lot of it), vet services, farriers and their forges, spares for horse furniture, wagons and guns etc.
Prior to mechanisation of farming nearly a third of a farm's acreage was devoted to growing feed for the horses.

Mark 116 May 2019 10:56 a.m. PST

Yes a lot of people assume horse transport is free, but in reality it requires significant resources to maintain and keep your horses in reasonable condition.

True. But …

Petroleum is not among the resources required. And while it takes a lot of feed (fodder and grains) to keep your horse in top shape, you can keep your horse in adequate shape for prolonged periods on a reasonably small amount of grain supplemented by forage. This is the same approach that many armies have taken for centuries in feeding their soldiers -- a core of rations to be supplemented by foraging parties as the army advanced on campaign. Horses require more bulk, but less quality in their forage -- ie: they can graze on grass and weeds, while soldiers typically don't.

This factor should not be underestimated in understanding the value of horse-born troops and weapons. Trucks need fuel to carry soldiers and tow guns. And trucks need fuel to haul fuel to the trucks that carry soldiers and tow guns. No combatants in WW2 managed to supply enough fuel to their forward units to keep them rolling as their offensives penetrated into enemy rear areas. It stopped German advances in 1940 and 1941, it stopped German/Italian and British campaigns in the desert from 1941-1943, it stalled British and US campaigns in ETO in 1944, and it certainly affected Russian advances in 1943, 44 and 45.

But it never stopped the horses from keeping up with the tanks. If you could get enough fuel to keep the tanks rolling, you could provide some infantry support by moving the troops on horseback.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

WarpSpeed16 May 2019 1:01 p.m. PST

Cuprum-By the way, the number of cavalry units in the Red Army increased during the war years. Despite the large number of excellent American trucks and armored personnel carriers. Apparently the reason – the natural stupidity of Russian?)))-Cavalry is an excellent way of spreading mass terror on civilians exposed to an exploitation offensive.Civilians bog the road systems and deny them to military traffic.As a more modern analogy consider the cold war- i envisioned thousands of vws.renaults and porshes tying up the autobahns of West Germany as the Pact flew harassment missions with their lower end .
helicopters and older strike aircraft.

Cuprum16 May 2019 5:44 p.m. PST

WarpSpeed

The USSR spent most of its war on its own territory, so this can only be true for the last quarter of the war.

Fred Cartwright

Both horses and humans are much easier to find another road than a tank and a car. Yes – carts and artillery will be left behind in the mud. But you can carry the most necessary on a pack horse. If the enemy is deprived of such an opportunity – you win.

Mongolian horse – outstanding for unpretentiousness. Just read about it.

Lion in the Stars16 May 2019 8:32 p.m. PST

But it never stopped the horses from keeping up with the tanks. If you could get enough fuel to keep the tanks rolling, you could provide some infantry support by moving the troops on horseback.

That's not exactly true, horses are no faster than men on foot over long distances.

If you can keep the tanks fueled, you're better off letting the infantry ride on the back of the tank!

But for harassment raids over and around rough ground, it is hard to beat horses. There is a reason they're still used in hunting even today!

Fred Cartwright17 May 2019 2:34 a.m. PST

Both horses and humans are much easier to find another road than a tank and a car. Yes – carts and artillery will be left behind in the mud. But you can carry the most necessary on a pack horse.

Two problems with that. Loads are very limited with pack horses, which limits you particularly with heavy things like ammo. A horse can pull much heavier loads than it can carry. Second horses will chew up a road quicker than anything as any farmer who has seen the hunt charge across his wet fields will tell you.

Fred Cartwright17 May 2019 2:39 a.m. PST

The USSR spent most of its war on its own territory, so this can only be true for the last quarter of the war.

They weren't adverse to spreading terror amongst their own countrymen. Saw a documentary where Russians recounted their wartime stories. One was a partisan leader. He said his job was to make the Russian peasants more frightened of the partisans than the Germans. Needless to say that involved doing some pretty unpleasant things, which he wasn't in the least bit apologetic for.

Andy ONeill17 May 2019 2:54 a.m. PST

I dunno about the soviet or german cav but the polish used little carts for machine guns and whatnot.

Horses allow faster travel for short distances and can cope with somewhat rough terrain. The steppe or open forest for example.

Odd fact.
Over a long distance, infantry travel faster than cavalry.

Obviously though. Even if you completely wreck your horse then when you get off it you are likely in better shape than someone who just walked the same 40 miles.

I'm not sure whether cavalry used pack mules. Or how they compare to horses for carrying capacity. The Chindits used mules.
Dad's training included a fair bit of tramping up and down jungle hills. (Not so much fun). They used mules. Which they left to trained handlers as much as they could. A mule could carry way more than a person and especially over rough terrain. No motor vehicle was going to work over that terrain. I didn't ever ask him about food for the mules.

Mark 117 May 2019 10:29 a.m. PST

…horses are no faster than men on foot over long distances.

OK, that's an interesting statement…

Not at all what I understand. But I am willing to be educated on the issue.

My understanding is derived from Endurance Riding, which is an equestrian sport practiced reasonably widely among horse enthusiasts in the western US. The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) sanctions many hundreds of rides every year. Their standards for even a Limited Distance (LD) ride are: 12 hours to complete a 50 mile ride, or 24 hours to complete a 100 mile ride.

As I understand it, the sport of endurance riding was derived from European Cavalry standards from the late 1800s / early 1900s.


[Pic is from a 1904 French Cavalry Horse Test in Lyon, France]

Endurance riding was first developed in the early 1900s as a military test for cavalry mounts. Horses were required to go on a 5-day, 300 mile (483 km) ride carrying at least 200 lbs.

How would leg infantry standards of march compare to 100 miles in 1 day, or 300 miles in 5 days?

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Andy ONeill17 May 2019 10:55 a.m. PST

Cavalry move a similar rate or even slower than infantry over significant distance. That's a given feature of military planning through into ww1. Or thereabouts.

I seem to recall the german cavalry unable to keep up with withdrawing infantry early ww1.

The likes of mongols are exceptions but they did that by using multiple mounts. Iirc this is also relying on grassland for feed.

There are various man vs horse "marathon" races. It's not always the horse that wins.

Legion 417 May 2019 1:10 p.m. PST

How would leg infantry standards of march compare to 100 miles in 1 day, or 300 miles in 5 days?
It would suck ! huh?
Generally Infantry can do a force march on roads @ 12miles in 4 hours. That was the US ARMY Inf standard. Historically Infantry generally would/could force march on roads about 25 miles/a day. Now the other factor is once you get there, after 25 miles. How ready are you to actually go into the assault? frown

I've done a number of 10-12 mile forced road marches while on active duty '79-'90. And generally in the end, they all had one thing in common … It sucked ! frown

Mark 117 May 2019 1:45 p.m. PST

So … looking for more detail on military / unit march rates for cavalry, I have found US Army FM2-15, Cavalry Field Manual, dated April of 1941 / Updated August 1942.

In Chapter 6: Movement and Shelters
Section 1: Marches
p.185 General:
a. A successful march is one that places troops at their destination at the proper time and in effective condition for combat. (Wow, clever idea, that!)

d. Many conditions, circumstances, and factors affect the rate and length of the cavalry march.
(1) Horse elements of Cavalry on good roads in daylight under favorable conditions, with well-seasoned men and animals, are able to march 35 miles per day at the rate of 6 to 6 1/2 miles per hour for 6 days a week as long as the situation requires

So … US Army standards of march for cavalry, at least, do not approach anything like the sport of endurance riding. But under good conditions (with roads) they did have a standard, it appears, of 35 miles per day for 6 days per week, for as long as needed. And at that rate they were expected to arrive in effective condition for combat. That's a useful standard for consideration.

I do not believe infantry formations could sustain that level of march. I believe the horse soldiers were more mobile.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Cuprum17 May 2019 6:17 p.m. PST

Fred Cartwright

This applies only to collaborators, but there were relatively few of them (in Belarus alone, the Nazis destroyed 9,200 settlements, often with residents). Of course those who helped the Nazis the approach of the Red Army led to the horror). But they could hardly have created any serious additional problems for the Germans on the roads. Nowhere have I seen such mentions.

Legion 418 May 2019 7:54 a.m. PST


I do not believe infantry formations could sustain that level of march.
Yes … again … at the end of the march could the unit go into the assault ? Maybe ? frown

Starfury Rider18 May 2019 8:24 a.m. PST

The Red Army Cavalry Regiment dated February 1943 was organised as;

Headquarters
Four Sabre Squadrons (each 8 LMG, 4 HMG, 6 Atk rifles
76-mm Gun Battery (4 guns)
45-mm Gun Battery (4 guns)
82-mm Mortar Battery (12 mortars)

Each Sabre Sqn included four small Platoons (27 men and riding horses, two LMGs and two pack horses with carts), an MG Pl with four M1910 guns (each with a Tachanka cart and four horses) and an Atk Rifle Pl (with six 14.5-mm rifles). A Sabre Sqn had 170 men and 153 riding horses, plus 28 horses pulling carts and wagons.

Overall the Regiment had 1138 all ranks, 1243 horses (947 riding) and just 11 trucks.

Some US Army data on marching rates for foot troops (from the Infantry School);

Average rates in mph-
Day – 2.5 on roads and 1.5 cross country
Night – 2 on roads and 1 cross country

Average daily march length expected to be in the 15 to 20 mile bracket. Maximum distances of well trained troops under forced march conditions;

24hr period – 35 miles
48hr period – 60 miles
72hr period – 83 miles

Definition of a forced march given as where the number of marching hours per day is increased, rather than the hourly rate of march. Any march over 8 hours duration in one day considered to be a forced march, with a halt of from 2 to 6 hours required before starting another march.

Gary

Fred Cartwright18 May 2019 9:02 a.m. PST

This applies only to collaborators, but there were relatively few of them (in Belarus alone, the Nazis destroyed 9,200 settlements, often with residents).

No he wasn't talking about collaborators, just the ordinary Russian peasants caught between the Germans and the partisans. His point specifically was that they made sure the Russian peasants were more frightened of them than the Germans and that necessitated carrying out some very harsh measures against villages to ensure they didn't give any help to the Germans. He particularly mentioned burning down houses and summary executions. Mind you he wasn't the scariest in that documentary. That was a particularly hard looking Russian woman who worked for Soviet military intelligence who explained quite calmly how she tortured captured German officers for information and then when they had got all they could from them took them outside and shot them. Wouldn't want to cross her, that is for sure!

Cuprum19 May 2019 3:21 a.m. PST

Quite silly, on the part of the partisans, it would be intimidating the population, without which their existence is impossible. And why would the Nazis have to destroy about a half tens of millions of civilians in the occupied territories? I think it was about the so-called "Lokotskaya republic" or "Lokot self-government". These are former territories that belonged personally to the tsar family, where serfdom never existed, and where most of the inhabitants did not loyally belong to the communist government. During the German occupation, these territories were not governed by the Germans, but by the local administration with the permission of the occupying authorities. Here, significant armed formations from local residents fought against partisans, and the majority of local residents were anti-Soviet. A significant part of the local inhabitants who inhabited these territories was indeed evacuated by whole families along with the Nazis. Most of these men made up the 29th SS division "RONA" (Russian People¡¯s Liberation Army), which later was distinguished by monstrous cruelty in suppressing the Warsaw uprising, and its commander, SS Brigadef¨¹hrer, Bronislav Kaminsky, was shot by the Nazis (for cruelty!). Apparently it is about this phenomenon.
The guerrillas have always experienced big problems with food and other necessary supplies. Therefore, the fate of war prisoners who did not have any special value, was, in most cases, unenviable. However, the partisans who fell into the hands of the Nazis, too, did not go to the POW camp – they just hung them up like bandits. In such a struggle, extreme cruelty is the norm.

Fred Cartwright19 May 2019 4:28 a.m. PST

Quite silly, on the part of the partisans, it would be intimidating the population, without which their existence is impossible.

Well there are 2 ways of getting people to cooperate. One is to be nice to them and win their support, the other is to terrorise them into giving their help. Seems these partisans chose the latter. There was no mention of fighting with the peasants just the Germans so I have no reason to believe it has anything to do with the Lokotskaya Republic, the Kaminski Brigade, Einsatzgruppen or any other bunch of Nazi collaborators.

Legion 419 May 2019 7:33 a.m. PST

Good information Gary ! Some from my old "Alma mater" … the US ARMY Infantry School! thumbs up

We were required/tested to complete a "forced" with a "fighting load" – 12 miles in 4 hrs. Over standard tarmac road. And yes, again, it sucked … frown

Cuprum19 May 2019 5:44 p.m. PST

Fred Cartwright

I think your film was strongly biased and distorted reality. I would like to look at it. The local population on the territory of the USSR had few reasons to treat the Nazis well. On the contrary, the number of partisans grew steadily, starting in 1942, after the population felt the "new order". It grew precisely at the expense of local residents who had fled into the forest from the occupation authorities.
The most effective means of fighting partisans is to deprive them of their support for the local population. No intimidation will help the rebels in this case. It is enough to arm the local militia (really opposed to the partisans) and provide it with communications for the timely call for support from neighboring garrisons. And the partisans will be doomed, sooner or later. Either you need to kill all the locals or take them to another place. There is no other way.

Fred Cartwright20 May 2019 3:33 a.m. PST

Cuprum,

It was a TV documentary. I will see if it is available online somewhere. It was not just about the partisans. It was Russians recounting their experiences in wartime and as I have already said included the female intelligence officer, some ordinary Russian soldiers and commanders. I see no reason why they would lie about their experiences.

Cuprum20 May 2019 9:04 a.m. PST

Veterans are not necessarily lying. It's enough to edit the interview a little – and you will already hear a completely different story)))
There were regions where Soviet partisans were not welcome – Western Ukraine, the Baltic States. Perhaps it was about some of them.

Starfury Rider20 May 2019 9:52 a.m. PST

I remember the interview, it was in here;

link

Gary

Fred Cartwright20 May 2019 10:55 a.m. PST

Thanks Starfury that saved me a job.

Starfury Rider20 May 2019 11:05 a.m. PST

Well she was a hard woman to forget…

Fred Cartwright20 May 2019 1:00 p.m. PST

Indeed she was!

Cuprum20 May 2019 7:50 p.m. PST

Thank! I watched a movie.
Well, what to say to you – everything, as I expected.
Firstly, all participants in the program speak the truth. But these are only scattered pieces of the interview, arranged to express and confirm the thoughts of the author of the film. Not more. Absolutely not the fact that on some of the described episodes, you can draw any generalized conclusions.
Secondly, a part of the interview is taken from the anti-Soviet partisans – Ukrainian nationalists. Of course, in their descriptions the Soviet partisans will be represented by fiend))) They fought with the Communists much longer than the Nazis.
Thirdly – in those episodes, where robberies and killings of peasants are described, it is not at all clear exactly who we are talking about. Soviet partisans, nationalist partisans, criminal gangsters (they just lived by robbery, without any ideologies and there were also a lot of them)? There are several episodes where the execution of traitors by Soviet partisans is described. But no one says who and why they were executed. Perhaps this is the local pro-German police; either those who betrayed to the Nazis partisans or their families, escaped from captivity the Red Army mans, or this simply German scouts.
I never saw the episode with a woman who tried German prisoners and then executed them))) And in relation to cruelty to German soldiers, what could be expected from people whose wives and children were killed in the most cruel way, for example, burned alive? If they could kill SS-mans ten times, they would do it. I fully understand them, as I understand those American soldiers who shot the guards of the concentration camp.
And, most importantly, from this film I see absolutely no reason for the locals to flee with the Nazis from the Red Army. Nothing like this happened in the rear of the Soviets. Well, except for the fact that the actions of the nationalist partisans continued, and those who collaborated with the Nazis and nationalists, were awaiting execution or sending to the GULAG.

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