The numbers do not support those claims. This table offers a sample of that data:. Soviet mobilization efforts and steady German losses began to change the force ratios in , but the Red Army only had a roughly advantage from February until mid before maxing out at a little over 4: 1 at the very end of the war. Both sides were able to temporarily achieve greater numerical advantages in certain times and places by concentrating forces. What about force ratios at the Battle of Stalingrad, which has been the focus of so much attention? It turns out there are some surprises here, too.
During the defensive phase of urban warfare August through mid-November , the Red Army was outnumbered about 1. The Red Army reversed the odds in its counteroffensive in November , achieving about a advantage during Operation Uranus. The Soviet Union had a larger population than Germany in — about twice as large. In the Axis occupied about a third of Soviet territory where 45 percent of its population lived — nearly 90 million people out of million. Some refugees fled the occupied zones.
The best estimate is that to million people remained in the unoccupied areas of the Soviet Union. For nearly two years, the Soviets actually fought with a lower population base than the United States. Brute Force: Not Just Russia By the end of the war, the United States and the Soviet Union actually had just about the same size total military forces 12 million and the same size armies 6 million.
However, the Soviets mobilized more troops during the course of the war, nearly twice as many. They fought longer and had to replace far more casualties. They did it by stripping the civilian and agricultural workforces, which dropped by 40 to 60 percent. Americans and their British comrades like to believe that while they won World War II in Europe with finesse, while the Soviets won with overwhelming brute force, but that simply is not true.
Ellis detailed the advantages of the Allies. They generally avoided prolonged combat, instead opting to maneuver ever deeper into an enemy's rear, striking at targets of opportunity and seizing vital crossroads and bridgeheads. After Kursk, the Soviets made one more major refinement to their order of battle; although no more overarching changes were necessary as in , the tank and mechanized forces received their final organzation at the end of As mentioned above, the Soviets then sought to improve their existing formations rather than create new ones, primarily through the use of specialist units and improved equipment.
By August , the tank corps structure was allotted two regiments of self-propelled guns, to add to its already not inconsiderable organic firepower. The breakthrough operation in Soviet doctrine was a complicated problem; the conduct of a deliberate attack against permanent, layered enemy defenses is one of the costliest military maneuvers. The Soviets used a closely orchestrated combined-arms assault upon the German defenses to break the line.
For such attacks the Soviets assembled a huge local superiority over the Germans in both manpower and equipment. Ruthlessly stripping forces from quieter sectors, the Soviets in the Belorussian offensive in amassed a great superiority in men and equipment in the four fronts that faced Army Group Center, including an overall numerical superiority of in combat troops, and in tanks and self-propelled guns. The Belorussian offensive, codenamed Bagration by the Soviets, also saw the use of cavalry-mechanized groups as the exploitation echelons of the 1st and 3rd Belorussian Fronts.
These formations consisted of a cavalry corps and a mechanized corps each, and were well-suited for operations in the particularly difficult terrain of Belorussia. With two of these cavalry-mechanized groups and the 5th Guards Tank Army in the operation, and the majority of German mobile reserves in the South out of position for the main blow of the Summer, Bagration was an enormous victory, the result of a coordinated offensive by four fronts that obtained its strategic objective of liberating the whole of Belorussia.
The experience of Rotmistrov's 5th Guards Tank Army in operation Bagration was a classic example of the combat performance of one of the Red Army's new mechanized formations. The initial plan committed the tank army through the 11th Guards Army, in support of the 1st Baltic and 3rd Belorussian Fronts, to drive on Minsk through Borisov. However, 11th Guards ran into unexpectedly tough resistance from the Germans, and so the Front Commander, General Ivan Chernyakovskii, ordered Rotmistrov to consolidate his troops in the 5th Army sector, to exploit its success.
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At hours on 26 June, three days after the assault began, the 5th Guards Tank Army moved into a clean breakthrough and into the German rear. Creating the necessary outer and inner fronts of encirclement, Rotmistrov's tank troops made possible the destruction of the entire enemy grouping in a single week of combat. In contrast to the German tendency to keep pursuing units under tight control and on a single axis of advance, the Soviets chose to maintain pressure upon the enemy by pursuit across a wide front.
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Again, the theories of PU and its successors served the Soviets well; by fanning out to take multiple objectives simultaneously, the Soviets managed to confuse the Germans and keep pressure on. As the war went on, improved Soviet tactical experience, better close air support, and faltering German combat effectiveness allowed the Soviets to better avoid the inevitable defeats in detail that this doctrine brought.
The end result was a system that provided constant pressure, and capitalized on the constantly improving Red Army's tactical ability. While by the Soviets enjoyed an increasingly large superiority in manpower and equipment, shortages in critical areas still limited their advances. They attempted to cope with their lack of personnel transport by having their infantry ride into battle on the tanks they were assigned to. This technique brought increased casualties among the tank riders, but provided for much increased mobility and infantry support for tanks in combat.
While the Soviet exploitation forces could maintain pressure on the retreating German forces, the advance would continue. As soon as the logistical leash yanked back the Soviet mobile forces, however, the Germans would seize the opportunity to reestablish a defensive line. It was in the area of trucks and motor vehicles where American lend-lease was most felt in the offensives of the third period of the war. The other area where the armored and mechanized forces suffered was in the amount of radios available.
Throughout the war, the Soviets had to depend on wire communications within their combined-arms formations, but the rapidly moving tank and mechanized corps were not so lucky. As a result, the mobile forces generally had weaker communications than in their Western counterparts. For example, in early the 5th Guards Tank Army, at full strength with two tank and one mechanized corps, had a mere radios; this was less than that assigned to a single US armored division.
Worse still, the critical shortage of radio sets hampered air-ground communication, weakening the effectiveness of Soviet close-air support during the war. By the period of , the Soviet material superiority over the Germans grew to become overwhelming, and with it the German ability to withstand repeated offensives dropped significantly, allowing the Soviet manpower advantage to eventually become even more decisive as well.
Late-war operations usually consisted of multiple fronts acting in concert against a series of objectives as in Bagration. Throughout the Second World War, the Soviets advanced their practice of the operational art. During their Great Patriotic War, the Soviet mobile force structure went from a bulky, difficult to command force to the flexible, hard hitting, fast moving and independently acting organization that brought about the collapse of the German Army in the East, contributing decisively to the allied victory.
These lessons were learned at tremendous cost to the Soviet Union, but the Red Army leadership was quick to learn them and apply their wartime lessons to their prewar theories to arrive at a force structure that was well suited to the war that they intended to fight. By the Summer of , multiple-front strategic operations like Bagration and Lvov-Sandomirz became the norm for Soviet offensives, and the strategic-level pressure generated by these coordinated offensives completely unhinged the Germans across the front.
The Red Army's wartime restructuring of its mobile forces stemmed from the ability of Stavka and the Armored Directorate to create an organization that allowed the Soviets to fully employ their doctrine of deep operations. Soviet strategic reserves and the vastness of Russia bought the time that Stavka needed to reorganize to defeat its opponent, and costly failures and excessive casualties were the price of experience against an opponent that was all too skilled at warfare at the tactical and operational levels.
The prewar theories of talented officers like Tukhachevsky and Triandafillov, reinforced by the cruel experiences of war, formed the basis for changes to the Red Army's mechanized forces. Rising from the ashes of the catastrophic defeats of came a mechanized force that was unparalleled in its flexibility and coordination at the highest levels of war. That the Soviets could successfully conduct the reorganization of their mobile troops during the desperate years of and showed a high degree of determination and ability to adapt to a complicated situation, traits that eventually brought victory to the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War.
Source: Charles Sharp: School of Battle. Portland: Frank Cass, , 9, Nafziger, , Richard Simpkin, trans. Earl F. Army Command and General Staff College, , David Glantz, trans. David Glantz, David. Malinovsky and O. F Nafziger, , Adair, Paul. London: Arms and Armour Press, Armstrong, Richard.
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And The Army Strength in Equipment Red 1943 Organization
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, Chuikov, Vasili. The Beginning of the Road. Clark, Alan. Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict, New York: Quill, Coox, Alvin. Nomonhan: Japan against Russia, Stanford: Stanford University Press, Drea, Edward.
Nomonhan: Japanese-Soviet Tactical Combat, Duffy, Christopher. New York: Da Capo Press, Dunn, Walter. Hitler's Nemesis: The Red Army, Westport: Praeger, Erickson, John ed. London: Brassey's Defence Publishers, Erickson, John. The Road to Stalingrad. New York: Harper and Row, The Road to Berlin. Boulder: Westview Press, Glantz, David, ed.
Was the Russian Military a Steamroller? From World War II to Today
Portland: Frank Cass, London: Frank Cass, Kharkov Anatomy of a Military Disaster. New York: Sarpedon, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, Glantz, David and House, Jonathan. Grechko, A. The Armed Forces of the Soviet State. House, Jonathan. Fort Leavenworth: U. Yet by both of the requirements for the supremacy of the offensive were at hand: tanks and planes.
The battles of Cambrai and Amiens had proved that when tanks were used in masses, with surprise, and on firm and open terrain, it was possible to break through any trench system. The Germans learned this crucial, though subtle, lesson from World War I. The Allies on the other hand felt that their victory confirmed their methods, weapons, and leadership, and in the interwar period the French and British armies were slow to introduce new weapons, methods, and doctrines. Consequently, in the British Army did not have a single armoured division, and the French tanks were distributed in small packets throughout the infantry divisions.
The Germans, by contrast, began to develop large tank formations on an effective basis after their rearmament program began in In the air the technology of war had also changed radically between and Military aircraft had increased in size, speed, and range, and for operations at sea, aircraft carriers were developed that were capable of accompanying the fastest surface ships. Among the new types of planes developed was the dive bomber , a plane designed for accurate low-altitude bombing of enemy strong points as part of the tank-plane-infantry combination.
Fast low-wing monoplane fighters were developed in all countries; these aircraft were essentially flying platforms for eight to 12 machine guns installed in the wings. Light and medium bombers were also developed that could be used for the strategic bombardment of cities and military strongpoints.
The threat of bomber attacks on both military and civilian targets led directly to the development of radar in England. Radar made it possible to determine the location, the distance, and the height and speed of a distant aircraft no matter what the weather was.
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By December there were five radar stations established on the coast of England, and 15 additional stations were begun. So, when war came in September , Great Britain had a warning chain of radar stations that could tell when hostile planes were approaching. World War II. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents.