WWII Eastern front questions

When Germany invaded the USSR, it went for 3 main objectives (Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad), correct?
I can think of a few reasons for those objectives. Are there others aside from the ones I list? Are some of those reasons false or exaggerated?

Leningrad: Propaganda victory mainly because of the name. Capturing Leningrad made it easier to ship through the Baltic sea, simplifying logistics.

Moscow: Propaganda victory because it’s the capital. The Soviet state under Stalin must have been extremely centralized so this would have amounted to cutting off the snake’s head, throwing the rest of the USSR into confusion.

Stalingrad: Propaganda victory because of the name. Gave access to the Caucasus and its oil resources.
In the end, Germany captured none of them. What would have happened if it had?

Blitzkrieg had been about concentrating forces in a few spots and penetrating deeply. Why split forces to attack 3 distant objectives simultaneously rather than concentrating on taking them one by one? Is there a reason to think that would have succeeded?

I think Hitler presumed that the Soviet Union would collapse rather than dig in its heels and fight as it did. He also assumed that this collapse could be brought about before winter of 1941 set in and his troops were equipped accordingly. He did not count upon the setback of having to bail out Mussolini in Greece, which set back the Barbarossa start date. Finally, he underestimated the resolve of the Russian people to protect their homeland, and overestimated the extent of their inner divisiveness, wishfully thinking that Ukraine and other parts of the USSR would welcome him and would quickly set up pro-Nazi puppet states that the local people would unite behind. He guessed very wrong and once his mistakes were apparent, he continued to insist upon his original strategies being pressed forward.

IMO, there would have been no collapse of the apparatus of state of the Soviet Union, even if Moscow had been taken; and even then, the Germans would have faced many years of bloody conflict along a horrendously long border that would have been almost impossible to seal, even if they did manage to take all three cities you mention.

Thats a huge “what-if” because in reality Germany was close but not quite there at Moscow, and the writing was already on the wall at Stalingrad. Leningrad was somewhat of a different issue, and in hind sight, maybe they made a poor decision, but you certainly couldn’t fault it at the time.

Leningrad-The city was well fortified, and they decided to lay siege and for the purposes of advance to bypass it. They also thought that the Finland would play more of a major role in the eventual capture which for various reasons, they didn’t.

Moscow-Some blame it on the invasion of the Balkans, which some then blame on Italy’s ill fated invasion of Greece. This pushed back (with other factors) the launch of the initial operation but 2-6 weeks depending on who you ask. As quoted. “If the Soviets had to hold out an additional 2 weeks to defend Moscow, then unanswerable remains unanswered”

Stalingrad-The Soviets have come a long way, and had prepared a deep defense which depleted the German forces (which happened again and again on other German offensives), had a limit to a quick breakthrough (the river) and had accumulated a vast reserve of men and material. By this time there was really no way the forces the Germans committed to this battle, no matter how good, could have pulled this off, and even if they did, an assault across the river would have been impossible at this point given the balance of forces. It would have stabilized that area of the front but in the economic/man power/industrial war, it was already over for Germany.

When Barbarossa opened, Stalingrad wasn’t the objective for Army Group South - Kiev was. It was an objective as Ukraine was a major food source.

You are mixing up the strategic objectives for 1941 with 1942.

In 1941, the Germans attacked on three broad front, Army Group North attacks into the Baltic States to Leningrad, Army Group South inti the Ukraine and Army Group Center in Belorussia towards Moscow.The Wehrmacht had studied the French Campaign of 1812 and had identified what they thought was weaknesses of that approach, that is the single file march to Moscow, which left to open to counter attacks, hence the idea of an approach across three fronts. Even then, the main thrust was supposed to be towards Moscow with slightly more than half the divisions assigned to Barbarossa committed in this sector. Moscow was the center of gravity of the Soviets, almost all the railroads went through Moscow and it’s capture could fatally weaken the Soviets. Leningrad would cover the flanks of Army Group Center while in the South, the rich lands of the Ukraine was the target and was also where most of the Soviet forces were deployed. Mid way through the operation, Hitler changed the focus on Moscow to Kiev and diverted most of Army Group Center troops especially most of it’s Panzers to Army Group South and these would be used in the great encirclement at Kiev. It is thought that this decision cost the Germans as it delayed the attack on Moscow until September.

In 1942, the Germans attacked across just one front, in Army Group South area. THe Caucuses and it’s oil fields were the targets and Stalingrad was…in the way. GermAns needed to reduce Stalingrad, whether they needed to take it is still up for discussion.

This simply isn’t true.

Absolutely, whatever people might say about the start date, the Germans had the Soviets on the run, the German army command wanted to take Moscow in a headlong thrust and Hitler diverted important elements to the south.

Interesting. If you read General Guderian’s memoirs (“Panzer Leader”), he said that by Dec. 1941, the German troops were exhausted and freezing. The generals wanted to halt and put the troops in winter quarters, but Hitler decided that Moscow could be captured-hence “Operation Typhoon”. This offensive very nearly was a disaster-the Russians launched a counter attack, and only Gen. Model kept the German line from cracking. Would transferring assets from Army Group South made Typhoon a success? Who knows.

But what I wanna know is. . . was rasputitsa a consideration?:smiley:

The Germans probably could have taken taken Moscow if they had concentrated all their resourses there. But they had good reason to believe they could take it with what they had, so why would they give up their other objectives? They (the Germans) were driving the Soviets back on every front. In late 1941 their problem we keeping up with the fleeing armies - until winter and reinforcements came.

BTW - this great game guderians-blitzkrieg let’s you try out all the "what ifs’ if you have the time and space.

All that I’ve read on this subject indicates that Herr Hitler wasn’t too far off in thinking that the people in the Ukraine would be welcoming. Evidently, at first they were, but it was their mistreatment by the Nazis that caused them to finally become the bitter enemies of the Germans. That treatment (sub-human Slavs, and all that) is probably one of the stupidest mistakes of all time.

Another excellent reason to capture Moscow is Railroads.

All roads lead to Rome but in Soviet Russia all Railroads lead to Moscow.

It was a massive railway hub. Capture that and you do immense damage to the Russians ability to move around Troops, Equipment, Resources etc.

Oh of course, it’s all 20/20 hindsight through each of our own set corrective lenses. We could go on and on, like developing a 4 engine long range bomber; forget the battle cruisers, built more U-boats before the war;

Or my favorite, make the pact with Stalin to invade Poland, but don’t invade, let them be the only ones…now that would make for interesting change…

You mean, sucker the Soviets into invading Poland alone?

The problem with that is that it wouldn’t have worked – the legalistically-minded Stalin carefully waited until the Germans were fully committed and winning the war before committing his troops to the invasion. Ultimately they crossed the border 16 days after the Germans had started the war. The Germans repeatedly badgered the Soviets to commit:

Remember though, that it wasn’t just Hitler. Most western powers anticipated a collapse within a matter of weeks, or in a few cases even days. Figures giving months were generous.

Forming the Kiev pocket (Guderian swinging south to link with some of von Runstedt’s units) delayed the push to Moscow by at least 2 weeks.

I agree. The Germans lost sight of their main objective, which was the oil fields. Stalingrad was a valuable secondary goal but its value was as a transportation hub (Tsaritsyn/Stalingrad/Volgograd was built on the Volga river at the point of its closest approach to the Don River). Once the Germans had cut off the Don and Volga Rivers, there was no longer any transportation for Stalingrad to serve as a hub for. So there was no point in occupying the city itself.