Did Barbarossa have its risky points of failure?

I’m sorry for poor title but wasn’t sure exactly what to title the thread.
When Hitler invaded France trough the Ardenne Forrest German tank columns were stuck in traffic and exposed to potential aerial assault that would’ve been disastrous for Germans. The French repeatedly ignored intelligence and failed to act, something that may have blunted or destroyed the German sickle cut.

I’m curious if there were moments in German invasion of the Soviets where certain actions could’ve dealt serious blows to the operation if executed correctly by the Soviets, where and when were those moments and how could’ve they been executed rightly?
 
"Correct execution" is a very broad term. Do you mean acting up to Red Army late war standards? Because that's not gonna happen. The experience just wasn't there. The Wehrmacht came close to disaster during the Soviet Winter Offensive, but that was after Operation Typhoon, well after Operation Barbarossa. There weren't any opportunities the Red Army had until the Winter Counteroffensive to have a serious chance to inflict a major defeat. Pulling out of the forming cauldrons earlier, maybe, but they would've still been disasters and would have left the evacuated troops in disarray, ripe to get attacked again and destroyed later. In addition, stauncher Soviet resistance with more Soviet troops escaping the cauldrons before they're closed, might well convince the Germans that it's not a good idea to get overextended in one last push. Indeed, this may lead to the Germans giving up on Moscow for the time being and digging in, preserving their operational strength for 1942. While this helps the Red Army, it would actually leave the Wehrmacht in a better state to succeed in Fall Blau, since the Soviet formations and STAVKA are more likely to have the confidence to stand and fight initially (playing right into German hands), and the German Army is less attrited from the Soviet Winter Counteroffensive of 1941. Simply, the plan for Operation Barbarossa didn't involve massive throws of the dice on the operational level like Fall Gelb did (and I would underline that the odds of Fall Gelb failing were far, far lower than the new generation of military contrarians would have you believe), as much of a fatally miscalculated throw of the dice the whole idea of invading the USSR was.
 
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I agree much with Redsword above. The biggest mistake was a defense close to the border. Thats a pre-Barbarossa mistake. Post start, not ordering general counteroffensives without any resemblance of a plan, but a general retreat might have saved forces to fight another day farther from the German supply depots.
 
I think Barbarossa's biggest points of failure were in the assumptions it was based on rather than execution.

The German Army did fine in terms of day to day fighting and advancing*, and the Red army was systematically not in a position to do much better than it did. For instance:



I agree much with Redsword above. The biggest mistake was a defense close to the border. Thats a pre-Barbarossa mistake. Post start, not ordering general counteroffensives without any resemblance of a plan, but a general retreat might have saved forces to fight another day farther from the German supply depots.
While I agree with both of these as potentially good ideas the red army was not going to be able to do either of these in the face of the advancing enemy. The red army in May 1941 just lacks the operational responsiveness to do either, and once loses mount it only gets harder for them

So to answer the OP no I don't think so, I think in the first few months of Barbarossa the best the red army can do is slow and resist the Axis leading to the inherent issues of Barbarossa kicking in faster and harder. But there's no real way the red army in it's 1941 state and with approx 2.6m active in the western districts are going to drive off or defeat the axis with it's 3.8m attacking force. They can stop the Axis achieving it goals, which they do. But those goals are also made impossible** due to fundamental operational errors of Barbarossa compounded by operational limitations.


Tl;dr: Barbarossa certainly had risky points of failure, but not in terms of things the Red army can directly do much about in May-Nov 41 than they already were, and really they happened anyway because Barbarossa failed to achieve it's objectives. It's just that didn't lead to instant defeat of the axis in the east.




*until those inherent issue underpinning Barbarossa started to kick in anyway
**or extremely unlikely if you prefer
 
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One of the possibilities that fascinates me a bit is the potential fall of Leningrad, because a fall of Leningrad opens a shipping lane of supplies, remove the Soviet fleet. Thus it may butterfly into a fall of Moscow if Moscow is also attacked from the Northwest. Here there is a situation IOTL similar to “a blunted sickle” were the Soviet second strategic echelon gutted Manstein’s panzer’s who didn’t know of the Soviet reserves and thought they had reached poorly defended territory. If this doesn’t happen perhaps because they are thrown into the offense earlier or Manstein becomes aware of the threat (wouldn’t solve it as good as the Soviets wasting their forces), maybe the OTL collapse of the first echelon remains a collapse all the way to Leningrad. In such a case we would say, if only they stayed where they were and attacked when the Germans were exhausted.
So, here is a way for the Soviets to do worse.
 
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One of the possibilities that fascinates me a bit is the potential fall of Leningrad, because a fall of Leningrad opens a shipping lane of supplies, remove the Soviet fleet.
Yeah, that's an interesting scenario - it would ease the huge supply problems considerably I think. Though I don't know if it would really change the final outcome of the war but I think it would butterfly the events quite a bit. And it would mean really huge changes to our wartime history in Finland.
 
I’m sorry for poor title but wasn’t sure exactly what to title the thread.
When Hitler invaded France trough the Ardenne Forrest German tank columns were stuck in traffic and exposed to potential aerial assault that would’ve been disastrous for Germans. The French repeatedly ignored intelligence and failed to act, something that may have blunted or destroyed the German sickle cut.

I’m curious if there were moments in German invasion of the Soviets where certain actions could’ve dealt serious blows to the operation if executed correctly by the Soviets, where and when were those moments and how could’ve they been executed rightly?
You mean tactical points of failure? Because we got to see the strategic ones play out in OTL. Most military operations are considered a failure when the enemy army gets to march through your capital and occupy it for 40 years.
 
I’m curious if there were moments in German invasion of the Soviets where certain actions could’ve dealt serious blows to the operation if executed correctly by the Soviets, where and when were those moments and how could’ve they been executed rightly?

The Soviets did game prewar the concept of a Soviet spoiling offensive into Romania even while AGC was driving towards Moscow north of the Pripet Marshes. I seem to recall that the German team won the exercise so the idea was abandoned.
 
"Correct execution" is a very broad term. Do you mean acting up to Red Army late war standards? Because that's not gonna happen. The experience just wasn't there. The Wehrmacht came close to disaster during the Soviet Winter Offensive, but that was after Operation Typhoon, well after Operation Barbarossa. There weren't any opportunities the Red Army had until the Winter Counteroffensive to have a serious chance to inflict a major defeat. Pulling out of the forming cauldrons earlier, maybe, but they would've still been disasters and would have left the evacuated troops in disarray, ripe to get attacked again and destroyed later. Simply, the plan for Operation Barbarossa didn't involve massive throws of the dice on the operational level like Fall Gelb did (and I would underline that the odds of Fall Gelb failing were far, far lower than the new generation of military contrarians would have you believe), as much of a fatally miscalculated throw of the dice the whole idea of invading the USSR was.

I agree much with Redsword above. The biggest mistake was a defense close to the border. Thats a pre-Barbarossa mistake. Post start, not ordering general counteroffensives without any resemblance of a plan, but a general retreat might have saved forces to fight another day farther from the German supply depots.

I think Barbarossa's biggest points of failure were in the assumptions it was based on rather than execution.

The German Army did fine in terms of day to day fighting and advancing*, and the Red army was systematically not in a position to do much better than it did. For instance:




While I agree with both of these as potentially good ideas the red army was not going to be able to do either of these in the face of the advancing enemy. The red army in May 1941 just lacks the operational responsiveness to do either, and once loses mount it only gets harder for them

So to answer the OP no I don't think so, I think in the first few months of Barbarossa the best the red army can do is slow and resist the Axis leading to the inherent issues of Barbarossa kicking in faster and harder. But there's no real way the red army in it's 1941 state and with approx 2.6m active in the western districts are going to drive off or defeat the axis with it's 3.8m attacking force. They can stop the Axis achieving it goals, which they do. But those goals are also made impossible** due to fundamental operational errors of Barbarossa compounded by operational limitations.


Tl;dr: Barbarossa certainly had risky points of failure, but not in terms of things the Red army can directly do much about in May-Nov 41 than they already were, and really they happened anyway because Barbarossa failed to achieve it's objectives. It's just that didn't lead to instant defeat of the axis in the east.




*until those inherent issue underpinning Barbarossa started to kick in anyway
**or extremely unlikely if you prefer

You mean tactical points of failure? Because we got to see the strategic ones play out in OTL. Most military operations are considered a failure when the enemy army gets to march through your capital and occupy it for 40 years.
Thank you all. And yes I was looking for a magic defeat Nazis button for Soviets but I suppose no huge risks were taken. I was thinking of a potential actions Soviets can take to spoil the operation or at least cause a severe setback to Germans
 
Thank you all. And yes I was looking for a magic defeat Nazis button for Soviets but I suppose no huge risks were taken. I was thinking of a potential actions Soviets can take to spoil the operation or at least cause a severe setback to Germans
I mean, a giant butterfly would have Stalin take such an invasion as a serious threat and actually prepare.
 
I mean, a giant butterfly would have Stalin take such an invasion as a serious threat and actually prepare.
Well they were preparing for 1942. Taking the 1941 warning’s seriously AND drawing the conclusion that the borders are lost could maybe cause immense problems a few months into it when the Germans get to Smolensk or so.
 
I mean, a giant butterfly would have Stalin take such an invasion as a serious threat and actually prepare.
Stalin was taking it seriously and was preparing. The whole schtick about 'Stalin didn't believe into impending attack' is just Soviet variant of 'Hitler was an idiot and if not his meddling, Germans would have won'. A lot of people let's say weren't at their best in 1941, Stalin conveniently died relatively soon after the war and so he become rather convenient scapegoat for everyone who didn't want to talk about their own failures.

The core issues about Soviet (not only Stalin, it was a general impression among the Soviet higher ups) perception of possibility of German attack in 1941 were three major 'faults' in their foundational assumptions:

First thing was that Soviet intelligence failed at two important things: they over-estimated the total size of the German military by like 50% - they thought Germans having about ~250-270 division equivalents while in reality Germans had ~170 or so. This lead to misjudging the troop concentration along the Soviet-German border as 'Germans not yet posed for the offensive operations' and secondary failure was in the intelligence analytics department.

To put it simply: Soviet spy agencies were feeding essentially raw data to the leadership without serious attempts to provide actual analysis and 'what this data actually means'. Which in a turn lead to informational overload for Stalin and his inner circle that impeded their ability to correctly access the situation. Most obvious example of that is infamous 'warnings about German attack' that Stalin no less infamously ignored. The problem was that these warnings were coming in since at least late 1940 with dates for the attack shifting constantly back when previous called date approached. 'The boy who cried wolf' situation more and less.

Second thing was that Soviets considered themselves to be much stronger than Germans considered them. So the idea that Hitler will attack USSR to compel British to seek peace was utterly alien to the Soviet higher ups, Stalin including. This line of reasoning was never ever considered by anyone because of its obvious absurdity. Therefore it was assumed that Germany would have to conclude the war against UK in one way or the other before attacking USSR. It is also one of the reasons why British warnings were met with suspicion, as they were viewed as desperate attempts to prolong the war and a sign that UK is ready to fold and want to distract Germans and gain better bargaining position by threatening to involve USSR in the conflict.

To summarize: Soviets did not consider themselves to be a secondary target in comparison to United Kingdom. So the idea that Nazis would wage war on both of them at the same time was not contemplated much.

And the last third thing is related to the first one: Soviet intelligence simply failed to correctly estimate dynamics of German force deployment the German-Soviet border. They put it as about ~80 divisions as early as November 1940 and therefore failed to notice steady troop strength growth throughout the spring of 1941 because new troop movements were interpreted to backfill the previously established numbers. So Soviets reported maybe 30-40% growth in troop strength along the border by May 1941 while in reality it was more like 300-400%, from the initial 20-30 divisions in November 1940 to 110 or so by end of May 1941.

Which in combination with abovementioned over-estimation of the total German army size lead to the conclusion that it was still not an offensive posture. Soviets didn't consider an attack with ~120-130 divisions as viable thing strategically. And they were correct about that. It just Germans considered things differently.
 
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I mean, a giant butterfly would have Stalin take such an invasion as a serious threat and actually prepare.

Stalin was taking it seriously and was preparing. The whole schtick about 'Stalin didn't believe into impending attack' is just Soviet variant of 'Hitler was an idiot and if not his meddling, Germans would have won'. A lot of people let's say weren't at their best in 1941, Stalin conveniently died relatively soon after the war and so he become rather convenient scapegoat for everyone who didn't want to talk about their own failures.

The core issues about Soviet (not only Stalin, it was a general impression among the Soviet higher ups) perception of possibility of German attack in 1941 were three major 'faults' in their foundational assumptions:

First thing was that Soviet intelligence failed at two important things: they over-estimated the total size of the German military by like 50% - they thought Germans having about ~250-270 division equivalents while in reality Germans had ~170 or so. This lead to misjudging the troop concentration along the Soviet-German border as 'Germans not yet posed for the offensive operations' and secondary failure was in the intelligence analytics department.

To put it simply: Soviet spy agencies were feeding essentially raw data to the leadership without serious attempts to provide actual analysis and 'what this data actually means'. Which in a turn lead to informational overload for Stalin and his inner circle that impeded their ability to correctly access the situation. Most obvious example of that is infamous 'warnings about German attack' that Stalin no less infamously ignored. The problem was that these warnings were coming in since at least late 1940 with dates for the attack shifting constantly back when previous called date approached. 'The boy who cried wolf' situation more and less.

Second thing was that Soviets considered themselves to be much stronger than Germans considered them. So the idea that Hitler will attack USSR to compel British to seek peace was utterly alien to the Soviet higher ups, Stalin including. This line of reasoning was never ever considered by anyone because of its obvious absurdity. Therefore it was assumed that Germany would have to conclude the war against UK in one way or the other before attacking USSR. It is also one of the reasons why British warnings were met with suspicion, as they were viewed as desperate attempts to prolong the war and a sign that UK is ready to fold and want to distract Germans and gain better bargaining position by threatening to involve USSR in the conflict.

To summarize: Soviets did not consider themselves to be a secondary target in comparison to United Kingdom. So the idea that Nazis would wage war on both of them at the same time was not contemplated much.

And the last third thing is related to the first one: Soviet intelligence simply failed to correctly estimate dynamics of German force deployment the German-Soviet border. They put it as about ~80 divisions as early as November 1940 and therefore failed to notice steady troop strength growth throughout the spring of 1941 because new troop movements were interpreted to backfill the previously established numbers. So Soviets reported maybe 30-40% growth in troop strength along the border by May 1941 while in reality it was more like 300-400%, from the initial 20-30 divisions in November 1940 to 110 or so by end of May 1941.

Which in combination with abovementioned over-estimation of the total German army size lead to the conclusion that it was still not an offensive posture. Soviets didn't consider an attack with ~120-130 divisions as viable thing strategically. And they were correct about that. It just Germans considered things differently.
+1 on this

To roll back the time line a bit another issue is that any plans that were started, or assumptions that were made in 1939 and the first few months of 1940 did not involve Germany curb-stomping France and Britain on teh continent in 8 weeks in May-June 1940. I.e. people were still thinking in some of the terms of WW1. The impact of that on assumptions and thinking of everyone (including the Germans*) was massive. Everyone had to re-calibrate their thinking form what they thought they knew to new situation.

On top of that and adding to that shock was that the SU had just had a bit of a rude awakening in Sep 39 and Nov 39 - Mar 40 as to the Red armies actual capabilities. This doesn't negate your point about the SU considering themselves stronger than the Germans considered them, but I can see why a cycle of buying time and non provocation became attractive. Especially in the wider context you describe of mistrust etc.


*and it definitely colored their thinking about an invasion like Barbarossa in terms of assumptions about comparative strengths, how it could be done and when it could be done. If nothing else they had by beating France and Britain just done in 8 weeks what they couldn't do in 4 years in WW1, and were about try and do in the east the bit that they not only had managed in WW1 but manged while fighting on both western and eastern fronts in WW1.
 
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Stalin was taking it seriously and was preparing. The whole schtick about 'Stalin didn't believe into impending attack' is just Soviet variant of 'Hitler was an idiot and if not his meddling, Germans would have won'.

Right. The wargame I mentioned I believe was played sometime around spring of 1941. Stalin wanted to know whether the Red Army could invade Romania and destroy Germany's oil supply even as the Germans were invading towards Moscow via Poland. The answer from the exercise, (exercises?) was no, the Red Army was too weak. But, if the Soviets had been stronger, from what we know of the 1941 campaign, they could have stopped Army Group South in its tracks and invaded Romania with both AGN and AGC out of position.
 
Which in combination with abovementioned over-estimation of the total German army size lead to the conclusion that it was still not an offensive posture. Soviets didn't consider an attack with ~120-130 divisions as viable thing strategically. And they were correct about that. It just Germans considered things differently.
If the Soviets believe their too strong for the Germans to invade, and the Germans believe the Soviets are weak enough to invade. Then...

You wonder if the Soviets could have "sold" more their strength more to Germany, show their mobilization ability, show their divisional numbers, parade their new heavy tanks in a show for German leadership. The best part of having a huge army is its deterrent effect. Direct the Germans to focus their war on Britain as the best choice.

Maybe the Germans believe their Nazi stuff and invade anyway, racial superiority, will, etc.. (along with not many good strategic choices)
 
If the Soviets believe their too strong for the Germans to invade, and the Germans believe the Soviets are weak enough to invade. Then...

You wonder if the Soviets could have "sold" more their strength more to Germany, show their mobilization ability, show their divisional numbers, parade their new heavy tanks in a show for German leadership. The best part of having a huge army is its deterrent effect. Direct the Germans to focus their war on Britain as the best choice.

Maybe the Germans believe their Nazi stuff and invade anyway, racial superiority, will, etc.. (along with not many good strategic choices)
That would backfire and cause Germans to attack sooner. Soviets were arming at an alarming rate. Germans knew they’d soon not be able to take them on successfully, that their oil situation will become worse and will also wonder what Soviets are arming millions of men for.
 
That would backfire and cause Germans to attack sooner. Soviets were arming at an alarming rate. Germans knew they’d soon not be able to take them on successfully, that their oil situation will become worse and will also wonder what Soviets are arming millions of men for.
Sooner could only really be Fall of 40 though right?
 
That would backfire and cause Germans to attack sooner. Soviets were arming at an alarming rate. Germans knew they’d soon not be able to take them on successfully, that their oil situation will become worse and will also wonder what Soviets are arming millions of men for.
I don't think it's realistically possible to attack sooner. After the battle of France they need to replace their losses and make preparations for Barbarossa. This will take at least a few months. Which mean you're looking at october 1940 at the earliest (and that is a longshot). More realistic is december or january. Doesn't sound like a good idea, although it would make sure they'd get winterwear.
 
I don't think it's realistically possible to attack sooner. After the battle of France they need to replace their losses and make preparations for Barbarossa. This will take at least a few months. Which mean you're looking at october 1940 at the earliest (and that is a longshot). More realistic is december or january. Doesn't sound like a good idea,

Definitely not a good idea


although it would make sure they'd get winterwear.
I'm not even sure they could count on that! Barbarossa is what 3.8m troops that's a lot of winter uniform to find (and that's before we get into supporting the horses through winter)
 
I'm not even sure they could count on that! Barbarossa is what 3.8m troops that's a lot of winter uniform to find (and that's before we get into supporting the horses through winter)
I'm assuming the Germans wouldn't be that stupid to start an offensive in winter without the proper gear. Also, contrary to popular myth, they did have winterclothing available in the winter of 1941-42, only it was sitting in warehouses in Poland, because they didn't have the logistical capacity to get ammo, fuel and winterclothing to the front, so they had to make choices.
 
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