Weaknesses of the Soviet Army 1944-45?

I was always under the impression that the Soviet army was an unstoppable juggernaut during the mid-40’s, having both relatively advanced and reliable weapons and tech as well as having sheer manpower to back it up. From the things I read, the Soviets could have easily defeated the Western Allies for all of the 40’s if they had decided to continue their march West Allied atomic bomb or not simply because their land warfare had pretty much been battle perfected and they would have over-run all of Europe faster than the Americans could manufacture atomic bombs.

My question being, was there anything the Soviet Army (and lesser extent Air Force) lacked either in weapons, technology or tactics? I know their Navy was notoriously bad but the kind of war they were fighting didn’t really require their navy to be top-notch. Had the war entered 1946 they would already be fielding small-arms superior to even the Western Allies, and had already superior tanks to everyone else. I know they had to import trucks from the West but they were already mass-producing their own designs towards the end as they were kind of expecting a conflict with the West.

If they could have, they would have. I think they perferred to garrison their buffer prizes and regenerate their army.

Above ten thousand feet , their airforce did not exist. How long it would have taken the Soviets to aquire fighters, that could go toe to toe with the USAAF and the RAF, with the remains of the Luftwaffe flying American fighters. Heavy Bombers, Stalin had it relatively easy with the Germans, in this regard. They had no bomber force that could fly beyond the Urals, and hit the relocated soviet industrial heartland. They are not going to be that lucky this time.

The pacfic is an American lake and their only real avenues of attack are the former murmansk run and the bosporus. I think they would cede naval dominance, and try to mimic germanys uboat war, at the wrong end of the schooling the allies got from the Germans.

I dont think they have the American artillery shells, a long tom or an 8 inch cannon is gonna screw up tanks, no matter how advanced they were for that time period.

I think it boils down to real world, the soviet army was fatigued and could have been on the verge of mutiny, that and Stalin may have been keeping an eye on military formations that could overwhelm moscow, and over throw him. An American threat keeps them looking westward, and not getting ideas.


What they had, was a serious Manpower issue.

They took huge casualty rates in the Great Patriotic War, & things were certainly much, much worse than the official Soviet histories would suggest.

No bombers. Lots of CAS but no strategic bombing capability until the 1950s for Russia, they had a different view of airpower’s role in a campaign.

In ‘Numbers Predictions and War’ (among other books) Trevor Dupuy tried to model the relative combat effectiveness of armies per unit of combat power. In WWII case he took the German army as most effective. It was still around twice as effective per unit in 1944-45 as the Red Army per his modelling. Of course that still left the Germans in a hopeless situation given the balance of forces: the major Soviet offensives of that period deployed several times the combat power of the Germans. But he found that the Germans were more like 20-30% more effective per unit of combat power than the Western Allies late in the war. And the balance of forces would not have been as skewed against the Western Allies either. It’s just one finding, but it’s not clear the Soviets were really on a par with the West in military effectiveness at the end of WWII, though it’s true their weapons were technically comparable, superior in some cases.

In case of air forces as has been mentioned the Soviet forces were mainly an adjunct to their land forces. There was not a real concept (or capacity, or need up to that time) for a strategic bombing force. Also the Soviet air arms were obviously far behind those of the West (or Axis) in anti ship operations. For example the German heavy ships in the Baltic showed remarkable survivability on gunfire support missions even in 1945, over months, with few fighters to protect them. Such ships wouldn’t have lasted for even days against specialist Allied antiship a/c units of 1944-45.

Also Soviet fighter exchange ratio’s v German fighters were distinctly less favorable than what Allied fighters achieved v the Germans in 1944-45, where we can see actual losses in specific engagements, and not have to rely on claims, which were exaggerated in almost all cases but not to the same degree on average among air arms. Another more direct example of this was seen in the air fighting over Korea 5-8 years after WWII. Studying actual losses on both sides, the US fighters had a distinct advantage over the Soviet AF ones they mainly engaged, not as high a ratio as the US fighters claimed v all opponents (Soviet, Chines and North Korean), but the Soviet claims publicized from the 1990’s apparently showing combat parity were far more exaggerated when compared to original records of US losses. And this was despite a consistent numerical advantage of the main ‘Unified AF’ air combat type, the MiG-15, over the main USAF air combat type, the F-86 (the overall UN air force was much larger, but mainly consisting of more or less difficult targets when it came to air combat).

The Soviet weaknesses at the time were mostly strategic. Their economy and industry had been wrecked. They had lost millions of military aged males and had comparatively little technical expertise or technicians. They had no strategic bombers or modern naval assets. They had to rebuild rail and logistics infrastructure. Analysts at the time expected the Soviets would need at least 5 years to rebuild before they could consider launching an attack on the West.

Allied air power had effectively crippled German logistics. It could have done the same to the Soviets. All Soviet rail, oil, and industrial facilities were vulnerable to attack by strategic bombers. The Allies controlled both oceans and could land troops anywhere they pleased. Further, the Soviets were trying to exert control over their new possessions. It would take five years to finally consolidate control over the Eastern European nations they captured in WW2.

But the most important thing the Soviets lacked was an ocean. The US was invulnerable to conventional attack. US industry could funnel almost unlimited forces into the Soviet Union through Europe and Eastern Asia, but there is no co parable way the Soviet Union could stage for an attack on the US.

The Soviet Union was stronger than the western allies in Europe in 1945. But the Soviet Union had essentially reached its peak. The United States still had untapped resources that it could have developed and brought into the battle. So the Soviets would have beat the Americans in 1945 and 1946. And the Americans would have beat the Soviets in 1947 and 1948.

Book recommendation: “Ivan’s War”

Life in the Red Army was no cake walk.

AND the Soviets would no longer be receiving Lend Lease. :slight_smile:

One thing nobody has mentioned this time is the difference in unit structure. The Soviets had their political officers that enforced orthodox beliefs and actions. I remember reading that commanders were sometimes forced, or at least felt forced, to attack the enemy when attacking was not the best option, for fear that the political officer would report them for not being sufficiently committed to Communism.

By contrast, US forces placed more emphasis on the ability of non-coms, and individual initiative.

There isn’t much good information in this thread. The importance of strategic bombing, as in all casual discussions of WW2, is dramatically overplayed. Post-war American propoganda wanted to play up its contribution to the war, and play down the Soviet contribution, and so we dramatically overstate the effectiveness of strategic bombing campaigns. The Germans and Soviets were correct not to focus at all on long range heavy bombers, as they were not a cost effective use of resources - they were only potentially a tool of the allies who had uncommitted manpower and industry that wasn’t being used in a full land war at the time.

That said, the American air force would’ve absolutely dominated the Soviets regardless of strategic bombers. The role of heavy bombers was overplayed, but the role of ground attack aircraft is underplayed. American, Canadian, and British aircraft swamped the countryside. Aircraft were hidden away. Vehicles were too afraid to move during the day. The Russian Air Force benefited from the allied air forces devastating the German ones. Russian fighter production, capability, and pilot training was significantly inferior to the allied air forces. Air supremacy would’ve been achieved in weeks.

The idea that Soviet tanks were vastly superior to Allied ones is false. The casual History channel explanation is that the T-34 was the best tank of the war, and the Sherman was a piece of junk that got our soldiers killed. But you know what? The Soviets gave their best armored units Shermans, which were regarded as a reward for success in combat. The Soviets themselves considered allied tanks better.

The Soviets were a vastly underrated fighting force from 1943 onward. The popular myth is that the Russians just threw endless bodies at the problem and swamped the Germans, but that simply isn’t true. The Russians were vastly better operational planners from 1943 until the end of the war. How they reshaped their armed forces and improved from the utterly bumbling force of 1941 into the dominant fighting force of 1944 is one of history’s greatest military triumphs.

That said, they were exhausted. They’d suffered beyond anything we could relate to in the west. They picked up entire industries and moved them eastward. Workers would lose their limbs to frostbite because they were building war materials in the open or in a tent in the freezing cold. They’d required unimaginable sacrifice from both soldiers and civilians to overcome what they did, and by 1945 they were exhausted. Asking them to continue an even tougher war at that point would’ve broken them.

Lend Lease also supplied them with a huge multitude of critical gear to keep their industry going. They simply couldn’t compensate for that on a short timescale. It’s not just tanks and trucks - it was everything from canned food to ball bearings to rubber. Lend lease was critical to the entire Soviet economy, and yanking it out from under them just when they’d need it most would’ve had devastating economic effect - certainly a bigger effect than any strategic bombing campaign would bring.

American industry was fully ramped up, its manpower yet untapped to its full potential, its forces fighting in the Pacific were freshly freed up, its logistical abilities were one of the great wonders of military history. Russia was devastated and exhausted. America was ramped up to full capacity and unscathed. The allies would’ve inherited what worthwhile things were left from Germany - veteran troops, equipment, expertise - as they would’ve been fully motivated to fight the Russians. And American competence in the WW2 ground war is definitely underrated due to the mystique of wermacht penis envy.

The western allies would’ve rolled through Eastern Europe with impunity.

Complete fantasy. It took the Western Allies years to wear down the Luftwaffe at enormous cost to attain air supremacy over the Germans. A large part of the reason the Allies were able to do this was the strategic bombing campaign forcing the Luftwaffe to bleed and almost entirely devote itself to defending Germany from bombing. German aircraft production consisted almost entirely of single engine fighters from 1944. The major strategic targets of Soviet production were beyond the range of Allied strategic bombing in the Urals. The Western Allies could have attained air superiority, but the idea that they could achieve air supremacy and have effectively destroyed the Red Air Force’s ability to do anything but vainly try to defend the air space over Moscow in a matter of weeks is utter fantasy.

Complete bullshit. Got a cite for this nonsense? Of 12 Guards Tank Corps, none used Shermans. Of 9 Guards Mechanized Corps, 3 used Shermans - and notably only 76mm models, none of the 75mm models.

Really? The largest army in history, the one that had just defeated the Wehrmacht, the one that was to completely overrun the Kwantung Army in Manchuria in three months’ time, and the Western Allies were going to brush it aside with impunity as they strolled through Eastern Europe?

The considerable lack of concern the Soviet brass (and commissars) had about their battlefield losses was a significant weakness. From the immense losses suffered at the beginning of the war up until the end, this was shocking.

In particular, the number of men just thrown away in the last 6 months was inhumane. Attacking holdout areas of no tactical significance, directly attacking the Seelow Heights in the final drive to Berlin, etc.

(It was a reasonable call to halt the Winter 1945 offensive to gather strength despite Berlin being so close. It was stupid to not cross the Oder more than they did before halting. It was possibly a reasonable thing in earlier stages of the war to halt at major rivers with few to no bridgeheads. But not at this point.)

In many cases, they outmanned the Germans by at least 10 to 1 and sometimes far, far more. And still they took phenomenal casualties. This was cannon fodder tactics beyond WWI levels.

The people calling these plays were not nearly as capable as the field generals on the opposing side or most US generals.

I’m not so sure the Soviets were all that spent at the end of the war. The UK was certainly running on fumes. I wonder if their food production capabilities could have withstood a more protracted war, especially without US aid. (Their stripping of German factories after the war certainly helped avoid some of the worst postwar nightmares.)

I agree. I think the United States would have beat the Soviet Union but it wouldn’t have been a walkover. It would have essentially been an entire new world war and would have taken at least as many years and as much effort as defeating Germany had taken. And the effort of defeating Germany was provided by several nations including the Soviet Union. America would have essentially been fighting on its own in a war against the Soviet Union starting in 1945; Britain and other allies were pretty much exhausted by the war against Germany.

:confused: The B-29 Superfortress had a combat range of something like 2000 miles with several tons of bombs. Flying out of Norway, Pakistan/Northern India, or Japan or even western Germany, they could have reached most of Russia and bombed the piss out of it, and even if they couldn’t hit the factories, they sure could hit the rail infrastructure between them and the front. Hell, even flying from the existing bases in East Anglia, B-29s could hit somewhere between Kazan and Izhevsk.

The Germans never really had any strategic bombing capabiity to speak of, nor did the Russians.

I suspect that what might have happened is that the Russians would have had decent success initially, but as the strategic bombing ramped up, and tactical interdiction strikes ramped up, the Russians would falter due to lack of supplies. Meanwhile the Allied forces would be getting huge shipments of men and material, and would eventually go on the offensive.

The B-29 could, but all of those B-17s, B-24s and Lancasters couldn’t; and much more importantly the P-51 wasn’t getting anywhere near Kazan, much less the Urals. Bombing the Urals would mean sending B-29s without fighter escort flying for several hundred miles over hostile defended territory against an enemy air force that hadn’t been bled out to the point of exhaustion through years of attrition and throwing pilots into combat after 10 hours of flight instruction.

Logistics. The Germans weren’t able to capitalize (heh) on this because they didn’t have deep strike strategic bombers by the time the Soviets really got rolling, and the US was sending over boatloads (literally) of the sinews of war they needed (everything from jeeps and trucks to trains, clothes and other accoutrements to food and other other supplies)…but had any of that been disrupted the Soviets would have been fucked. And had they tried to push into Western Europe you can bet that their logistics would have been hammered and would have been their Achilles heal.

That was from a standing start, and the allies had to wait two years for the USA to join, the USAAF in 41 and 45 were two different breeds, both in manpower and equipment.

Germany effectively went on defense, at no time were any counter force raids undertaken against English and other airfields, but it really does not matter, the soviets were a different beast.

The B29 was in service and the B36 was expected, in real life both formed the nacent atomic bomber force. Soviet facilitys were dialed in.

Utter Reality, the soviet airforce was air to mud and thats the way they liked it. Unlike the Germans, they never had to worry about a high altitude opponent, and streams of bombers coming over, every hour on the clock.

Now lets add the V1 and V2 missiles under Allied control to the mix. How long till regime change happens in Moscow, and someone starts to sue for peace.

That same army you speak of, did not take a pause and then start to roll over the occupation forces in Germany , I think that speaks louder than rolling over a horse army in manchuria.


Your point regarding the fighters was well taken though, makes one wonder if inflight refueling could have been sped up in that time frame.


Did the Russians have a fighter that could reach the altitudes of a B29? Of course their accuracy would have been terrible for conventional bombing, but I was wondering if they could actualy have intercepted an Enola Gay over Moscow that went in high.

The Russians had mostly aircraft from the United States, did they not?

And if it would have been so easy, why wasn’t project Dropshot implemented?
I think it was because the US populace was very, very tired of WWII.