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Mansteirn's Elastic Defense Feb - March 1944

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe February 1943 to End of War' started by Fred Wilson, Aug 21, 2015.

  1. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I do not think the 1942 and 1943 Kharkov disasters were due to "junior officers" failings. Lack of willingness to risk Stalin's wrath by going to the defensive by commanders was important but mostly it was not detecting the significant German reserves building up on the flanks of the advance in time. I suspect the red army had a lot less communications equipment than the Germans so, even if the local commanders had been free to react they may have lacked the means to do so effectively.
    In 1944-45 two thing schanged usually the Germans lacked local reserves capable of major counterattacks and the introduction of "logistical stops" created a lot less opportunities for them. The 1944-45 red army didn't resort to the sort of "give all available fuel to a Kampfgruppe and try one more push" tactics that were so common in German late 1941 operations, and they had no need to take such risks that would play unto the German strengths (high quality low level leadership/initiative), while multiple attacks and reinforcing success played into the late war German weakness (brittleness of the "non elite" divisions), and so the steamroller brought them to Berlin. The red army nonetheless did conduct some spectacular long range operations to create the various historical "pockets" and in the final campaign against the Japanese.
    "Elastic defence" could be effective as it allowed limited in the initial shock better and put the mail line of resistance out of range of the massive Soviet artillery so partly negating it's effectiveness, but troops are at their most vulnerable when pulling back and ran the of the attacker generating sufficient "momentum" to shatter the defender is high.
     
  2. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    The Germans never had sufficient mobile forces for an elastic defense,that's why the theory of the elastic defense which Manstein presented his readers after the war,was a non sequitur .
     
  3. Triton

    Triton New Member

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    That is true - after Kursk.
    I am sure, Hitler misjudged the successes in spring 1943 and he, again, saw the Red Army as exhausted. He just couldn't understand how they could cope with the losses of 1941. He claimed 28000 (!) destroyed tanks when he visited Mannerheim, And, although successful, the Stalingrad operation inflicted 3 times the losses for the Red Army compared to the Wehrmacht. So he still hoped, that the Wehrmacht could conquer Moscow in 1943 and negotiate a favourable peace with Stalin.
     
  4. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    It was already so on 22 june 1941,when they committed some 25 mobile divisions with 4000 tanks for Barbarossa .

    In 1941,the Germans did capture 13400 tanks (qualified as BEUTE): it is unknown if these were intact,damaged or destroyed : probably a mixture .

    Kursk was for Hitler a defensive attack with limited aims .
     
  5. Triton

    Triton New Member

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    Well, they had enough forces to conquer large parts of the european part of the Soviet Union.
    In 1941, the Wehrmacht was vastly superior in strategy and tactics, in the quality of the soldiers and the even in logistics. After the experience of World War 1, when Russia simply imploded in 1917, it was an easy prediction that this time, victory would be even easier and faster.

    Manstein hoped, that a few "Charkows" would exhaust the Red Army and show, that victory even against an inferior Wehrmacht was very far away if not even impossible. Stalin was a very cautious leader and shyed away from big risks. he always feared a long war and do the job for the Western allies.
     
  6. patriceXXI

    patriceXXI New Member

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    Its worth noting that an "elastic defense" never existed, see the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket - Wikipedia

    And the Kamenets-Podolsky pocket - Wikipedia

    The latter manstein was able to circumvent the encirclement of the 1st panzer army only to be relieved of duty for the poor strategic footing of army group south, which was due to hitlers "hold ground at all costs" doctrine. In both battles you will see that Hitler intervened in the corps level command of each battle to the detriment of the German forces.

    Stalin learned to trust his generals after the successful winter offensive and kharkov/Crimean disasters
     
  7. Jesica

    Jesica New Member

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    You are wrong. You can see why looking at the evolution from Map 5 to Map 7 from 'The german defeat in the east' by Earl Ziemke:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After the failure of 'Wintergewitter' Manstein's forces were ill and his last remaining offensive-capable force was First Panzer Armee. His northern flank was an improvised ad-hoc kampfgruppe known as 'Armeeabteilung Fretter-Pico', plus the remains of Sixth Armee: 'Armeeabteilung Hollidt'. Now First Panzer Armee was deep south, while the main soviet thrust was deep north. Soviets by no means elected Manstein's desired path. They aimed for a large encirclement of the complete Heeresgruppe A (which is by the way, the original objective of 'Uranus'). Ziemke states in page 67 of his book:

    Now Manstein instead of luring his enemy to attack where he wanted, acted accordingly shifting his forces, playing a castling. He strengthened Fourth Panzer Armee so it could hold the line while First Panzer Armee was extracted from the Caucasus and settled ready for a strike on the deep south flank of Group Popov. He also received key reinforcements he didn't expected nor did have in mind at the very start of the soviet thrust. This is explained by Ziemke in pages 90 and 91:

    It is now clear that in fact, Hitler was planning to get rid from Manstein, but the present situation was so dangerous that he was clueless to what to do and simply let Manstein freedom to start his castling and plan his famous backhand bow. The last statement also note that Luftwaffe was somewhat relieved for the counter-strike, and events would show that Richtofen's planes were key for success.

    So your theory about elastic defense depending on knowing of where to expect an attack is destroyed by Manstein's castling. The example of Bagration is vague since Manstein wasn't in command and the Luftwaffe presence was extremely limited thus depriving Heeresgruppe Mitte from vital reconnaissance. One of the principles of elastic defense is to gain at least local air superiority, and since that didn't happen on 22 June 1944, we can't call that an elastic defense.
     
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