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OT--Stalingrad question...

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I've been racking my brain over this one, trying to remember...

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I recall reading (some years back, now) that as the battle for Stalingrad reached a fever pitch, two Panzer units that had been sitting to the west, out on the Russian steppe, were ordered forward. Neither made it as far as a mile. 'Seems they had taken up station during the end-of-summer month, September. When they were ordered forward, there was snow on the ground. During the interim, Russian mice, normally in the grass, had taken shelter from the cold inside the tanks...and chewed the cloth insulation off the electrical wires. For nesting material.

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I have only read of this once, and that was in "Enemy At The Gates", ( I think) but, as I said, it was quite some time ago. I was at Amazon.com this morning poised to buy another copy, but thought I'd put the question to you guys. Can anyone confirm or deny this story? Thanks.

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The story sounds good and believeable to me.

Even if it was not a major reason for the stoppage, it shows one thing clearly:

the Germans had no idea at all about the Russian winter.

In Germany we have a climate like France and England - it is influenced by

the Gulf Stream, which flows all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to south of

Island or so, where the cooling-off water sinks lower and floats back south.

It is like a production line, transporting warmth to Europe.

 

The Russians have a so-called "continental climate". That is nicely warm in

summer, but biting cold in winter. No source of warmth from anywhere.

 

If you don't know such a climate, you need to ask someone who does.

The Germans should have asked their befriended Finns about this - those

fellers know how hard winters can be. But it seems they didn't.

Edited by Olham

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The germans fought 4 years during 1914 - 1918 on russian soil.

German tank officers, like Guderian, teached and studied on the soviet tank school of Kasan.

They knew what russian winter means. But they ignored it. Played vabaque and lost.

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From what I've seen/read if anything was underestimated it was the Russian Army's ability to delay a German victory until the Russian winter could become a factor. Ocean currents have little effect on the temperatures even 100 miles inland, less if there's a mountain range like the Caucusses in between. Not-too-distant history showed what happened to Napolean in the same circumstances. The German High Command knew what the Russian winter was like. But Hitler figured they'd be safely indoors at the Kremlin and beyond by the time it set in. And no one could, or would try to, convince him otherwise.

 

The German Army chose not to consider failure, or even delay, a possibility and therefore did not plan for that eventuality. It cost them. Eisenhower always, and maybe first, asked "What if it doesn't go smoothly? What do we do then?" By planning for failure he was able to reduce its likelihood.

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The mouse story is true...or at least an author wrote it up in a book

Believe it was a kamphgruppe (or mAybe part of a division) commanded by

Graz Bakke IIRC the name and spelling.

Good lord...my smart phone is smarter than I am...Franz Bakke or something like that

And the Germans did not ignore the winter. Because of a inadequate logistical system fuel, food, and ammo had priority over winter supplies and gear.

 

With new sources on the Russian side since the end of the Cold War a lot of the accepted ideas of that theater must be reexamined.

Edited by DukeIronHand

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From Antony Beevor's book Stalingrad, the Fateful Siege: 1942-1943:

 

"The 22nd Panzer Division, as a reserve formation, had been starved of fuel, and during its long period of immobility, mice had sought shelter from the weather inside the hulls. They had gnawed through the insulation of electric cables and no replacements were immediately available." (p.231)

 

The 22nd is the only unit mentioned in the book with that problem,

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From Antony Beevor's book Stalingrad, the Fateful Siege: 1942-1943:

 

"The 22nd Panzer Division, as a reserve formation, had been starved of fuel, and during its long period of immobility, mice had sought shelter from the weather inside the hulls. They had gnawed through the insulation of electric cables and no replacements were immediately available." (p.231)

 

The 22nd is the only unit mentioned in the book with that problem,

Aha! Another confirmation. As I recall from my first reading, it was the 17th and 22nd Panzer.

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IIRC the invasion of Russia would have worked if it had started on time.  But a lot of the German forces had to go and help Musso who was losing to the Greeks.   Operation Barbarossa started a few weeks late and so they hadn't taken Moscow by the time the winter came. 

 

But taking Moscow wouldn't have won the war as Napoleon found out.  So maybe it made no difference in the long run. 

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IIRC the invasion of Russia would have worked if it had started on time.  But a lot of the German forces had to go and help Musso who was losing to the Greeks.   Operation Barbarossa started a few weeks late and so they hadn't taken Moscow by the time the winter came. 

 

But taking Moscow wouldn't have won the war as Napoleon found out.  So maybe it made no difference in the long run. 

 

 

Possibly - and in addition the Germans lost many of their paratroopers and Ju52 transports when invading Crete. Of the 500 Ju52 used invading Crete, they lost 86 by June 1941, with Barbarossa beginning 22nd June. We'll never know whether these 86 aircraft were missed in Russia. Same question remains - would they have made any difference in the long run? Bearing in mind you'd logically have to 'trade' back Crete, and having Crete and Malta in Allied hands throughout would have impacted on Rommel in North Africa and put the Ploesti Oil fields in Romania within bombing range.

 

Barbarossa was over 3.5 million men mobilised for the Axis, and 86 missing transport aircraft would be spread pretty thin.

 

I like Beevor's Stalingrad. He's also written other books, Berlin, Crete etc, but I liked Stalingrad best.

 

It's curious to speculate on whether Hitler might have 'won' if he'd done this or done that, but there's always a compromise to be made when you look 'wider'. We are led to believe that victory/defeat was a close affair, but realistically, I think the odds of ultimate victory were always stacked heavily against the Axis forces. Hitler simply wanted too much, and beyond Blitzkrieg, the German's had major strategic weaknesses. No heavy bombers, no aircraft carriers, no strength at sea. The Germans built capital ships which were tactically obsolete. Had Hitler wooed the British and mobilised the French to rise against the Bolshevics, then who knows, but I suspect that was no more likely to happen.

Edited by Flyby PC

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IIRC the invasion of Russia would have worked if it had started on time.  But a lot of the German forces had to go and help Musso who was losing to the Greeks.   Operation Barbarossa started a few weeks late and so they hadn't taken Moscow by the time the winter came. 

 

But taking Moscow wouldn't have won the war as Napoleon found out.  So maybe it made no difference in the long run. 

 

The heart of Russia is the Ural. If you can get this, then you has won the war. But between Moscow and the Ural are endless distances, big rivers, enourmous woods. No way, that the Wehrmacht could reach it in time.

The whole Operation Barbarossa was senseless stupidness. Never start a war against Russia. If you start a war against Russia, you will lose. If the Russians starts a war they will lose.

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Well, I guess you  have the military knowledge and education, which I don't have,

but I agree - an attack on Russian heartland is like "running empty" sooner or later.

The supply lines and territory that must be held is just getting overstretched.

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While we're playing at "What if's", and bad decisions, consider England and France's decision to make a treaty with Poland. This stipulated that if Poland should be attacked, an immediate state of war would go into effect and both nations would back Poland. This made the Poles quite intransigent when dealing with Germany. After all, they had two heavyweights backing them. What could go wrong? Hitler made his first big mis-step when he invaded. He was certain that the WWI allies would back down as they had so often before. But the way the treaty was written left no room for diplomatic maneuver, and the fight was on. In fact, and despite many repeatings, Hitler did not plan to "rule the world". His vision of 'lebensraum' was to the east: Poland, Ukraine and Czechoslovakia. It was the Slavs that he had in his sights. His mis-reading of France and England was a first step into quicksand.

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