Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

What if Stalin had stabbed Hitler in the back in 1940?

Discussion in 'Alternate History' started by Brutal Truth, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    I know it's quite far-fetched. But Stalin was not always predictable. Let's imagine that he had started to have misgivings about his treaty with Germany at the end of the Winter War, and had secretly ordered the Stavka to make contingency plans in March 1940. So on May 10, when Germany starts its great offensive on the Western Front, he decides to launch an invasion against its former ally.

    Would had it been possible? Would had it succeeded? The Red Army was in bad shape in the spring of 1940, however it was huge. It would have taken many weeks to mobilize it, especially with the mobilization proceeding discreetly so the Germans don't become alarmed. Surely at the beginning Stalin would have believed to have all the time he needed, because he would not have imagined that the Western Allies would collapse so quickly. If he had waited until June probably it would have been too late, the Germans would have had time to finish the French and move their forces to the East - like they had planned to do in 1914. They had over 40 infantry divisions in reserve when they launched Fall Gelb, and those forces could have been used to delay the Red Army. By May 20 or so however it was clear that the W. Allies were crumbling. Could Stalin have launched an offensive with the forces at hand before the end of May? What do you think would had happened if he did?
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    24,197
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    Finland
    Sure Stalin could have done it but letting Germany exhaust itself in the western front as well as the Allied forces, too, and then conquer the ruins of Europe was his wet dream. Hitler wanted to avoid two-front war so if that would have happened perhaps Stalin could have taken Germany By surprise. However Stalin went into shock as the mechanized forces beat France so quick and decided to modernize the Red Army the same way. However he had killed the part of Army that could have done that , actually, and he had the yes men left to lead the Army the old way. But with massive troop concentrations attacking he could have beaten Germany like 43-45, I guess. Man losses could have been huge but when did Stalin care about that. Btw in 1942 the Red Army would have had some 3,000 or 4,000 t-34s which would have been a game changer in attack. Some thoughts there.
     
  3. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    I suspect that if he had waited until the start of Fall Rot it could have gone worse for the Soviets than during Barbarossa. After slowly advancing in Poland they would have faced the best of the German army with what would have basically been a large but incompletely mobilized and poorly led infantry force. The Soviets had disbanded their tank corps during the previous winter. I don't know the Red order of battle in May-June but I think they had only a dozen motorized divisions and most tanks were in independent brigades and battalions. We would need the resident Glantz to comment (I guess there must be one here) ;) The Soviets might have had a much better chance if they had attacked between, say, 25-30 May, but could they have done it after only a couple weeks covert mobilization? I think there would be a possibility that Hitler would have been scared enough to cancel Plan Rot and send most of the army east. In this case the Western Allies could have had a chance to reorganize and maybe survive.
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    24,197
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    Finland
    I only remember this:

    On 16 May, Churchill flew to Paris, The delegation arrived in Paris during the afternoon and found the French in a state verging on paralysis. General Maurice Gamelin explained that the Germans had broken through on a 50 km front and had already advanced 60 km inward from Sedan. When Churchill asked about the strategic reserve, Gamelin replied that there was none. Churchill then inquired when and where Gamelin proposed to attack the flanks of the bulge. Gamelin replied with a hopeless shrug and the famous words: "Inferiority of numbers, inferiority of equipment, inferiority of method."
     
  5. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Yes, it's a famous episode, I think Churchill reported it in The History of the 2nd WW. He asked in French where is the strategic reserve and Gamelin replied: "Aucune" (None). Churchill was flabbergasted. Strange that he had not been kept updated about such a basic issue, but that was a problem with coalition warfare and the situation was changing too fast for the Allied command. But imagine if in early June Hitler had ordered his panzer divisions and other formations to Poland to face a Soviet offensive. In that case there would be no Fall Rot, or maybe a much smaller offensive, and the French may have been able hold the Weygand Line. Then it would depend on the events in the East. A big victory in Poland/East Germany would have allowed the Germans to turn again to the West, but it takes time to move a lot of divisions, replace losses, refit worn equipment etc. The Allies may have had several months respite. I don't know, but it is an interesting alternative scenario.
     
  6. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    1,077
    Likes Received:
    37
    Didn't the French have 5 million men available? 100 divisions active? and the BEF?
     
  7. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    The 5 million were the totality of the Armed Forces, the field army would be much smaller. On the number of French divisions on May 10 I have found different figures. For instance G. Chapman reports 77 infantry divisions of all types (including 7 motorized and those deployed on the Alps facing Italy) but excluding those designated "Fortress", plus 5 cavalry divisions, 3 light mechanized and 3 armored div (a fourth was forming). Natkiel and Young place a total of 100 div. against the Germans, of which 22 in reserve, including the 3 armored divisions. But part of this reserve was assigned to the 1st Army Group. Too many divisions were deployed to guard the Maginot Line and the Franco-German frontier. The 7th Army, that originally was intended as a mobile reserve and included 2 mot. and one light mech div, was committed by Gamelin on the extreme left to help the Dutch. The BEF had 10 div, the Belgians 22 and the Dutch about 10, but the latter surrendered already on May 14. When the Germans broke on the Meuse the French committed their reserves in a piecemeal and uncoordinated fashion, and the enemy was always a step or two ahead. By the start of Fall Rot, on June 5, the French had little over 60 divisions left against the Wehrmacht, several of them weakened. They put up a stiff fight during the first days but by then the situation was hopeless. But what would have happened if Hitler had moved his best divisions to the East instead of using them for Fall Rot?
     
    Kai-Petri likes this.
  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    24,197
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    Finland
    There was a plan to hold onto France and troops from the evacuation ( I think mostly French ) wanted to return. This would cause problems to the German Army if more and more troops could return this way and keep German units tied.

    [​IMG]

    The French armies and the "2nd BEF" were operating on interior lines and were closer to their bases and supplies. About 112,000 French troops from Dunkirk had returned to France via the ports of Normandy and Brittany and the 100,000 British troops in the area had been reinforced by about 60,000 fighting troops from England. The French had also managed to replace many of their tank and other armoured vehicle losses for the 1e and 2e DCr (heavy armoured divisions) and the 4e DCr had its losses replaced and French morale experienced something of a revival by the end of May.

    Most French soldier replacements had not experienced the débâcle in the north and officers returned from Dunkirk had gained tactical experience against German mobile units and discovered that tank-for-tank, French vehicles were superior to their German equivalents, having thicker armour and better guns; the French artillery had also performed well.[7] From 23–28 May, the Seventh Army and the Tenth Army (General Robert Altmayer) were rebuilt and Weygand adapted to German tactics with defence in depth and delaying tactics, to inflict maximum attrition on German units. Villages, towns and cities were fortified for all-round defence, to serve as hedgehogs with the new infantry, armoured and half-mechanised divisions held back, ready to counter-attack and relieve surrounded units, which were to hold out at all costs.

    Operation Cycle - Wikipedia
     
  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    24,197
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    Finland
    Also....

    From Julian Jackson´s Fall of France (2003)

    In the first stage from 10th May to 3rd June 1940 German losses : casualty rate 2,500 per day.

    The second phase: 4th June to 18 June, when you´d expect the French troops to have been entirely demoralized, the casualty rate rose almost up to 5,000 per day for Germans!

    So military reasons are found:

    Weygand´s combative style initially had a galvanizing effect after the torpid and distant leadership of Gamelin.

    Second, soldiers who had experienced German air attacks in early May had become partially inured to them. at least to the shrieking of the Stukas.

    Third, the High Command had altered its tactics. Abandoning the orthodoxy of the continuous front, Weygand adopted the "chessboard" defence system made up of Hedgehogs, points of resistance centred on a natural obstacle like a wood or a village, and protected by all round by artillery. The gunners were now instructed to fire at tanks on sight, like a revolver, rather than, as French doctrine previously prescribed, being employed only for concentrated fire under centralized control. This gave greater flexibility to the defence.
     
  10. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    16
    I would imagine that in the spring of 1940 the Soviets were still reorganizing from their difficult battle with the Finns and not apt to take a much stronger enemy, distracted though he might be.
     
  11. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    24,197
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    Finland
    Personally I think Stalin stopped the Winter War because the papers World wide made the Red Army look incompetent. 200 million vs 5 million and the latter was giving the the Red Army a lecture.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
    Thumpalumpacus likes this.
  12. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    16
    The Winter War occupied 21 divisions of the Red Army until the middle of March at the earliest, and many likely much longer, I'd guess. Getting them back to depot and refitting would probably strike them from any invasion of Germany in June. That sort of thing doesn't happen overnight.
     
  13. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    IMHO Finnish infantry was the best in the world, but yes giving the difference in size it was quite humiliating for the Soviets. Plus the international opinion regarded the USSR as an aggressive bully, and the Anglo-French had even contemplated an intervention to size Baku oilfields - which shows how far from reality their leaders were at that time.
    Undoubtedly the poor performance of the army dissuaded Stalin from further adventures - if he had contemplated them - until improvements were made. 21 divisions not available at the start of a hypothetical invasion of German would not be a big problem however, they could be kept in reserve or used as follow-up forces.
     
    Thumpalumpacus and Kai-Petri like this.
  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    24,197
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    Finland
    In Finland we had the National guard and all Finnish men were practically shooting every week with rifle. Also women were part of a National group 'Lotta Svärd'. So the whole country in a way was ready for any invasion attempts.

    I recall reading that during Winter War several Soviet soldiers shot their rifle for the the first time when they were taken to the front in lorries. This caused also occasional chaos as the troops already in place heard shots from behind and thought the Finns were already there.
     
    Thumpalumpacus and Brutal Truth like this.
  15. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    16
    Given the weaknesses in the Red Army that the Winter War exposed, those 21 divisions would probably matter against a German army that was clearly in better shape.
     
  16. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    24,197
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    Finland
    The funny thing is that during early Barbarossa the Soviets Lost such big numbers of men due to Stalin order 'Not a step back'. After Stalingrad it was the other way round. Hitler thought that by creating 'fortresses' he could win. Stalin and Zhukov instead made the Red Army more mobile and with maskirovka i.e. camouflage made the Germans think that the main offensive was elsewhere than it really was.
     
    Thumpalumpacus likes this.
  17. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    16
    That's another reason to view any hypothetical 1940 invasion of Germany with skepticism. Of course, the Red Army's deployment in 1941 made encirclements easier, but at the same time, I don't think Soviet combined-arms doctrine was mature in 1941, much less so in 1940. It wasn't until 1942, by my reckoning, that the Red Army started to perfect the integration of infantry, artillery, and airpower in an effective manner.
     
  18. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    24,197
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    Finland
    Early 1942 with operation Fredericus and the Crimea area battles Stalin was still the stubborn dictator. After Stalingrad it seems he understood the strategy of not a step back does not work. Interestingly enough Zhukov was obsessed with destroying the AGC and tried all he can to do so. Stalingrad was not to him or the other Russian High Command very important at first, and the number of German POW's surprised them.
     
  19. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    16
    Hitler made the same mistake later (as you've already pointed out) by insisting on brittle defenses when mobile would have been better, in 1943-44.
     
  20. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2021
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Actually the "Not a step back" order (Order No 227) was issued on 28 July 1942. According to Wikipedia Intended to galvanise (sic) the morale of the hard-pressed Red Army and emphasize patriotism, it had a generally detrimental effect and was not consistently implemented by commanders who viewed diverting troops to create blocking detachments as a waste of manpower. On 29 October 1944, blocking detachments were disbanded by Stalin's order No. 349 citing the changed situation at the front.
    Regular blocking detachments were quietly abandoned already by October 1942, as many commanders considered them a waste of manpower. The order resulted in hundreds thousand unlucky soldiers sent to penal battalions during the rest of the war, but it didn't have a big effect on the overall course of the conflict.
     
    Thumpalumpacus likes this.

Share This Page