Discussion:
1941 What if the USSR used standard gauge
(too old to reply)
SolomonW
2018-05-30 03:01:14 UTC
Permalink
I was reading this article which is clearly well researched.

https://www.feldgrau.com/WW2-German-State-Railway-Deutsche-Reichsbahn

Although there would still be problems in adapting German trains to the
Russian winter, the Germans could ship a lot more supplies.

For example according to the article "The assault on Moscow in 1942 failed
primarily because the Germans were not able to extend their standard gauge
line east of Smolensk fast enough. While ample quantities of supplies were
available for the first two phases of the German attack against Moscow, the
German rail transportation system was not able to sustain the shipment of
needed military supplies for the third and final assault phase."

Any thoughts on this?
Phil McGregor
2018-06-06 03:57:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by SolomonW
I was reading this article which is clearly well researched.
https://www.feldgrau.com/WW2-German-State-Railway-Deutsche-Reichsbahn
Although there would still be problems in adapting German trains to the
Russian winter, the Germans could ship a lot more supplies.
For example according to the article "The assault on Moscow in 1942 failed
primarily because the Germans were not able to extend their standard gauge
line east of Smolensk fast enough. While ample quantities of supplies were
available for the first two phases of the German attack against Moscow, the
German rail transportation system was not able to sustain the shipment of
needed military supplies for the third and final assault phase."
Any thoughts on this?
As I understand it, the problem the Germans faced logistically was not just standard vs broad gauge related, nor was it entirely related to
the need to winterise German locomotives to Russian winter standards ... there were other, less well known, but still significant factors
that would continue to exist ...

1) Shortage of Rolling Stock. Not Locomotives, but Goods Cars and, aiui, especially POL Tanker cars. The Germans had an ongoing shortage
throughout the war which constrained their actions, especially their use of motorised units which required POL. This may be partly
ameliorated by the possible capture of Russian standard gauge rolling stock ... however, historically, the Germans captured relatively
little AND, worse, the Russians had their own shortages of rolling stock due to piss poor industrial management of its production coupled
with even worse RR level management (local areas, even local factories and collectives, literally stole and hid what rolling stock there was
in order to ensure that, come peak demand time [harvest, say] they'd have what THEY needed on hand, and bugger everyone else the rest of the
time). Historically this was partly overcome by shipments of Lend Lease rolling stock but never fully resolved and, aiui, continued to be an
pngoing problem after the war ended.

Evidently the shortage of POL Tankers was an important constraint on the usage of German mechanised units (and their Truck-borne Army-level
supply elements) in Russia over and above the guage problem ... the latter merely making it worse.

2) Mechanised Transport. In order to supply the deep penetrating Mechanised units the Germans had to cobble together massive numbers of
trucks ... far more than they had, in fact. To do it they used massive numbers of French, Dutch, Belgian, Czech and other captured vehicles
which was a logistical nightmare. Parts were not interchangeable and, indeed, due to generally low levels of production of the captured
models, were in short supply ... and, frankly, many of the captured vehicles were basically worn out crap. Operating over the long distances
in Russia and over dirt roads (if they were lucky) meant that there were increasing deficits as they wore out, broke down and generally
couldn't be repaired ... again, this was enough to have significat operational impacts on Mechanised force utilisation. And, like the
shortage of rolling stock mentioned above, was something the Germans never managed to resolve.

Even for German-made vehicles there was, as there was with tanks and other armoured vehicles, an emphasis on producing new vehicles by
minimising the production of spare parts ... so even German made trucks were a maintenance problem, just less so than the disastrous state
of the impressed foreign models.

3) Piss Poor Planning. The war was going to be won in a few months. So there was no need, and, indeed, no planning for it to last longer -
which meant that there was no planning for a long campaign. No planning for a winter campaign ... I am not sure how much of a factor this
would remain. It depends on whether the Germans would be able to take Moscow before winter sets in or not ... and I am not sure whether the
difference in guages would be enough to allow this. If it does, then it doesn't necessarily help all THAT much ... Napoleon took Moscow and
look how well THAT turned out for him ... piss poor German planning would almost certainly mean they wouldn' be able to do much more than
JUST take Moscow ... it is extremely unlikely they would be able to do much more.

Would Russian morale have collapsed? Well, it certainly didn't when Napoleon did the same thing ... and, if, as he promised, Stalin stayed
and fought to the end IN Moscow a more rational and effective Russian leadership might very possibly appear, and avoid all the idiocies
Stalin inflicted on his own country's military-industrial effort in 1942-44. Since Hitler would, if anything, even more convinced of his own
genius and the pusilanimous incompetence of the old-school generals he is, perhaps, likely to be even more disastrous a meddler in the
German efforts thereafter, which bodes ill for German efforts in 1942.

The Germans will do better, but I am not sure it would be *enough* better to defeat Russia ... as one German vet evidently said, 'It vas too
damn big, it vas too damn cold ...'

YMMV,

Phil

Author, Space Opera (FGU); RBB #1 (FASA); Road to Armageddon;
Farm, Forge and Steam; Orbis Mundi; Displaced (PGD)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Email: ***@tpg.com.au
SolomonW
2018-06-06 06:48:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil McGregor
Post by SolomonW
I was reading this article which is clearly well researched.
https://www.feldgrau.com/WW2-German-State-Railway-Deutsche-Reichsbahn
Although there would still be problems in adapting German trains to the
Russian winter, the Germans could ship a lot more supplies.
For example according to the article "The assault on Moscow in 1942 failed
primarily because the Germans were not able to extend their standard gauge
line east of Smolensk fast enough. While ample quantities of supplies were
available for the first two phases of the German attack against Moscow, the
German rail transportation system was not able to sustain the shipment of
needed military supplies for the third and final assault phase."
Any thoughts on this?
As I understand it, the problem the Germans faced logistically was not just standard vs broad gauge related, nor was it entirely related to
the need to winterise German locomotives to Russian winter standards ... there were other, less well known, but still significant factors
that would continue to exist ...
However, it was an important factor; this alone would increase the German
supplies, whether it is enough to win is debatable.
Post by Phil McGregor
1) Shortage of Rolling Stock. Not Locomotives, but Goods Cars and, aiui, especially POL Tanker cars. The Germans had an ongoing shortage
throughout the war which constrained their actions, especially their use of motorised units which required POL. This may be partly
ameliorated by the possible capture of Russian standard gauge rolling stock ... however, historically, the Germans captured relatively
little AND, worse, the Russians had their own shortages of rolling stock due to piss poor industrial management of its production coupled
with even worse RR level management (local areas, even local factories and collectives, literally stole and hid what rolling stock there was
in order to ensure that, come peak demand time [harvest, say] they'd have what THEY needed on hand, and bugger everyone else the rest of the
time). Historically this was partly overcome by shipments of Lend Lease rolling stock but never fully resolved and, aiui, continued to be an
pngoing problem after the war ended.
A big problem was that the Germans tended to destroy or leave to rust what
they did capture in rolling stock, mainly as it was useless to them. Here
it would not be useless.
Post by Phil McGregor
Evidently the shortage of POL Tankers was an important constraint on the usage of German mechanised units (and their Truck-borne Army-level
supply elements) in Russia over and above the guage problem ... the latter merely making it worse.
Yep
Post by Phil McGregor
2) Mechanised Transport. In order to supply the deep penetrating Mechanised units the Germans had to cobble together massive numbers of
trucks ... far more than they had, in fact. To do it they used massive numbers of French, Dutch, Belgian, Czech and other captured vehicles
which was a logistical nightmare. Parts were not interchangeable and, indeed, due to generally low levels of production of the captured
models, were in short supply ... and, frankly, many of the captured vehicles were basically worn out crap. Operating over the long distances
in Russia and over dirt roads (if they were lucky) meant that there were increasing deficits as they wore out, broke down and generally
couldn't be repaired ... again, this was enough to have significat operational impacts on Mechanised force utilisation. And, like the
shortage of rolling stock mentioned above, was something the Germans never managed to resolve.
Even for German-made vehicles there was, as there was with tanks and other armoured vehicles, an emphasis on producing new vehicles by
minimising the production of spare parts ... so even German made trucks were a maintenance problem, just less so than the disastrous state
of the impressed foreign models.
Yep, Hitler did need was trucks.
Post by Phil McGregor
3) Piss Poor Planning. The war was going to be won in a few months. So there was no need, and, indeed, no planning for it to last longer -
which meant that there was no planning for a long campaign. No planning for a winter campaign ... I am not sure how much of a factor this
would remain. It depends on whether the Germans would be able to take Moscow before winter sets in or not ...
and I am not sure whether the
difference in guages would be enough to allow this. If it does, then it doesn't necessarily help all THAT much
As it is the Germans just missed out. With better railways, the Germans
would have started a bit earlier and kept going a bit longer. It might make
a difference, so I agree with your *might*.
Post by Phil McGregor
.. Napoleon took Moscow and
look how well THAT turned out for him ...
Moscow was much more important in 1941 then in Napoleon's time, it was not
even the capital then.
Post by Phil McGregor
piss poor German planning would almost certainly mean they wouldn' be able to do much more than
JUST take Moscow ... it is extremely unlikely they would be able to do much more.
Would Russian morale have collapsed? Well, it certainly didn't when Napoleon did the same thing ... and, if, as he promised, Stalin stayed
and fought to the end IN Moscow a more rational and effective Russian leadership might very possibly appear, and avoid all the idiocies
Stalin inflicted on his own country's military-industrial effort in 1942-44.
I recently went to Moscow and toured Stalin's bunker. I amazed at how much
security he had; I doubt very much he would be captured.
Post by Phil McGregor
Since Hitler would, if anything, even more convinced of his own
genius and the pusilanimous incompetence of the old-school generals he is, perhaps, likely to be even more disastrous a meddler in the
German efforts thereafter, which bodes ill for German efforts in 1942.
I doubt Hitler could have meddled more. Having said that in 1941 after the
failure of the German army to take Moscow, then Hitler being around was a
plus for the German military.
Post by Phil McGregor
The Germans will do better, but I am not sure it would be *enough* better to defeat Russia ... as one German vet evidently said, 'It vas too
damn big, it vas too damn cold ...'
YMMV,
Phil
Author, Space Opera (FGU); RBB #1 (FASA); Road to Armageddon;
Farm, Forge and Steam; Orbis Mundi; Displaced (PGD)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The Horny Goat
2018-06-09 14:18:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by SolomonW
I was reading this article which is clearly well researched.
https://www.feldgrau.com/WW2-German-State-Railway-Deutsche-Reichsbahn
Although there would still be problems in adapting German trains to the
Russian winter, the Germans could ship a lot more supplies.
For example according to the article "The assault on Moscow in 1942 failed
primarily because the Germans were not able to extend their standard gauge
line east of Smolensk fast enough. While ample quantities of supplies were
available for the first two phases of the German attack against Moscow, the
German rail transportation system was not able to sustain the shipment of
needed military supplies for the third and final assault phase."
Any thoughts on this?
You sure 1942 isn't the new 1941? There was plenty of 1942 fighting
around Moscow especially in the spring but it was not a major theatre
in 1942. Further, I don't recall reading that lack of rail supply in
any way hurt the German 1942 in their drive to the Volga which was
considerably further from Germany than Moscow.
Rich Rostrom
2018-06-11 19:33:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Horny Goat
You sure 1942 isn't the new 1941? There was plenty
of 1942 fighting around Moscow especially in the
spring but it was not a major theatre in 1942.
Not quite true; there was a major Soviet offensive
in late 1942 (Operation MARS) directed against the
Rzhev salient, about 240 km west of Moscow.

But I think you're right - in the quoted paragraph,
1942 is a typo for 1941.
Post by The Horny Goat
Further, I don't recall reading that lack of rail
supply in any way hurt the German 1942 in their
drive to the Volga which was considerably further
from Germany than Moscow.
It isn't mentioned in narratives much, because the
problem was so ubiquitous on the Eastern Front that
it "goes without saying". German forces by later
1942 had learned to operate within the constraints
of the supply that the rail net could provide: half-
starved was "the new normal".
--
Nous sommes dans une pot de chambre, et nous y serons emmerdés.
--- General Auguste-Alexandre Ducrot at Sedan, 1870.
The Horny Goat
2019-08-07 22:35:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by SolomonW
I was reading this article which is clearly well researched.
https://www.feldgrau.com/WW2-German-State-Railway-Deutsche-Reichsbahn
Although there would still be problems in adapting German trains to the
Russian winter, the Germans could ship a lot more supplies.
For example according to the article "The assault on Moscow in 1942 failed
primarily because the Germans were not able to extend their standard gauge
line east of Smolensk fast enough. While ample quantities of supplies were
available for the first two phases of the German attack against Moscow, the
German rail transportation system was not able to sustain the shipment of
needed military supplies for the third and final assault phase."
Any thoughts on this?
WHAT German assault on Moscow in 1942? Certainly there was one in the
fall / early winter of 1941 but that pretty much ended on or about 5
Dec 1941. The closest they came in 1942 was to take Voronezh but the
intent there was to turn SOUTH towards Stalingrad not NORTH towards
Moscow.

I've wargamed a 1942 "turn towards Moscow" but while in that scenario
the German player DID take Moscow, the cost of the attrition battle
required to take it made the victory of doubtful benefit. Think Verdun
1917 times 3 and you'll have the right idea.
Byker
2019-08-08 00:46:36 UTC
Permalink
WHAT German assault on Moscow in 1942? Certainly there was one in the fall
/ early winter of 1941 but that pretty much ended on or about 5 Dec 1941
I get the feeling the advance was starved to a stop. It's not true that the
Germans were unaware of the Russian winter. But with limited supply
capacity, priority was given to fuel and ammunition. Enemy food stores were
supposed to make up for the lack of rations.

German dreams of capturing Moscow and ending the War in the East evaporated,
and Stalin's dreams of a grand counteroffensive that would kick the Germans
out of the Soviet Union also faltered. The slaughterhouse that was the
Eastern Front would continue until 1945...
The Horny Goat
2019-08-09 00:20:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Byker
WHAT German assault on Moscow in 1942? Certainly there was one in the fall
/ early winter of 1941 but that pretty much ended on or about 5 Dec 1941
I get the feeling the advance was starved to a stop. It's not true that the
Germans were unaware of the Russian winter. But with limited supply
capacity, priority was given to fuel and ammunition. Enemy food stores were
supposed to make up for the lack of rations.
German dreams of capturing Moscow and ending the War in the East evaporated,
and Stalin's dreams of a grand counteroffensive that would kick the Germans
out of the Soviet Union also faltered. The slaughterhouse that was the
Eastern Front would continue until 1945...
Simply capturing Moscow in 1941 does not guarantee German victory. If
they capture Moscow AND manage to hold it through the 1941-42 Sovet
counter-offensive it probably puts them into a winnable war of
attrition in 1942. This is particularly true given the Soviet Union's
rail net which was at last as centralized on Moscow as France's was on
Paris.

But merely taking Moscow does not guarantee the ability to hold it.
Please don't make that dangeorusly false assumption.

A 1942 drive on Moscow as their main offensive (e.g. instead of the
Stalingrad campaign) probably results in an updated version of 1916-17
at Verdun on a grand scale. Given the German's superiority of speed,
such a major battle of attrition would be the last thing the Wehrmacht
commanders would hope to achieve.

On the other hand, looking at the German capture of Sevastopol does
show they had the ability to do a massive siege...
Byker
2019-08-10 19:14:08 UTC
Permalink
Simply capturing Moscow in 1941 does not guarantee German victory. If they
capture Moscow AND manage to hold it through the 1941-42 Sovet
counter-offensive it probably puts them into a winnable war of attrition
in 1942. This is particularly true given the Soviet Union's rail net which
was at last as centralized on Moscow as France's was on Paris.
But merely taking Moscow does not guarantee the ability to hold it. Please
don't make that dangeorusly false assumption.
That reminds me of "Fatherland" by Robert Harris, where, years after the
conquest of Moscow, a never-ending partisan war continues to rage on...
The Horny Goat
2019-08-11 15:44:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Byker
But merely taking Moscow does not guarantee the ability to hold it. Please
don't make that dangeorusly false assumption.
That reminds me of "Fatherland" by Robert Harris, where, years after the
conquest of Moscow, a never-ending partisan war continues to rage on...
In Fatherland the fighting was far to the east of Moscow, can't recall
which side of the Urals was on and was considered by the Germans more
an irritation than a serious war.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind the Germans could have taken
Moscow in 1941 - but am not at all sure they could necessarily hold it
(for once thing it would have meant forgoing the Kiev pocket which
would mean another 600k Soviet troops on the front) and if they were
to take it and be driven back even to 100 km east of our timeline's
spring 1942 front line how is Germany ahead? (For one thing I would
expect this to take even greater losses on both sides than OTL)
Yeechang Lee
2019-08-13 05:05:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Horny Goat
Post by Byker
That reminds me of "Fatherland" by Robert Harris, where, years after the
conquest of Moscow, a never-ending partisan war continues to rage on...
In Fatherland the fighting was far to the east of Moscow, can't recall
which side of the Urals was on and was considered by the Germans more
an irritation than a serious war.
Disagree. The ongoing war with the US-backed Russian forces is a two
decades-old running sore that leads to seemingly infinite German
casualties which, Harris writes, must be transported on night
trains. Despite this everyone knows how bad the Eastern front is; the
cadet who discovers the body that begins the investigation is sent to
a punishment battalion in the east, which is understood to be certain
death.
Post by The Horny Goat
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind the Germans could have taken
Moscow in 1941 - but am not at all sure they could necessarily hold it
If Hitler demanded that Stalingrad be held at any cost, surely Moscow
would be even more prized, and thus even more an ultimate drain on
German manpower and resources if lost?
--
geo:37.783333,-122.416667
The Horny Goat
2019-08-13 06:11:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yeechang Lee
Post by The Horny Goat
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind the Germans could have taken
Moscow in 1941 - but am not at all sure they could necessarily hold it
If Hitler demanded that Stalingrad be held at any cost, surely Moscow
would be even more prized, and thus even more an ultimate drain on
German manpower and resources if lost?
While I agree what's your point? Neither Hitler nor Stalin knew that
the winter of 1941-42 would be the coldest in 40 years.
Byker
2019-08-13 17:00:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yeechang Lee
If Hitler demanded that Stalingrad be held at any cost, surely Moscow
would be even more prized, and thus even more an ultimate drain on German
manpower and resources if lost?
While I agree what's your point? Neither Hitler nor Stalin knew that the
winter of 1941-42 would be the coldest in 40 years.
I wonder if todays "climatologists" would have fared any better...
Dimensional Traveler
2019-08-13 19:38:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Byker
Post by Yeechang Lee
If Hitler demanded that Stalingrad be held at any cost, surely Moscow
would be even more prized, and thus even more an ultimate drain on
German manpower and resources if lost?
While I agree what's  your point? Neither Hitler nor Stalin knew that
the winter of 1941-42 would be the coldest in 40 years.
I wonder if todays "climatologists" would have fared any better...
Weather is not Climate.
--
Inquiring minds want to know while minds with a self-preservation
instinct are running screaming.
Byker
2019-08-13 21:41:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Dimensional Traveler
Post by Byker
I wonder if todays "climatologists" would have fared any better...
Weather is not Climate.
Maybe they should've read the Farmers Almanac...
The Horny Goat
2019-08-13 23:57:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by Byker
While I agree what's your point? Neither Hitler nor Stalin knew that the
winter of 1941-42 would be the coldest in 40 years.
I wonder if todays "climatologists" would have fared any better...
I'm unclear what you mean - Germany suffered far less in the winter of
1942-43 than in 1941-42 (a) because the winter was much milder and (b)
because by then they had had neary 18 months to get ready. Of the
winters after 22 June 1941 -> 9 May 1945 1941-42 was by far the
coldest.

I remember back in January 1985 when I was living in Winnipeg I was
reading in the Winnipeg Public Library a book which featured the daily
Moscow temperatures from that winter on successive pages.and had the
epiphany "hey it's colder than that the other side of this window!"

Ironically at that time the West German army was using CFB Brandon
(about 2 hours west of Winnipeg) for armor training and it was common
to see German soldiers in Winnipeg airport. (I've no idea whether they
still do - I moved 2 years after that and haven't been back since)

They chose Brandon as it is open prairie with lots of maneuver space.
I do not believe they ever trained in winter but then the German army
in the 1980s never contemplated fighting in central Russia either....
Rich Rostrom
2019-08-15 15:14:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Horny Goat
I remember back in January 1985 when I was living in Winnipeg I was
reading in the Winnipeg Public Library a book which featured the daily
Moscow temperatures from that winter on successive pages.and had the
epiphany "hey it's colder than that the other side of this window!"
Back around 2000, I had a co-worker who was a Russian immigrant.

Two years running, he went back to Moscow for a visit over
Christmas/New Year's. Both times, it was colder in Moscow than\
here in Chicago while he was there.
--
Nous sommes dans une pot de chambre, et nous y serons emmerdés.
--- General Auguste-Alexandre Ducrot at Sedan, 1870.
The Horny Goat
2019-08-15 15:59:25 UTC
Permalink
On Thu, 15 Aug 2019 10:14:45 -0500, Rich Rostrom
Post by Rich Rostrom
Post by The Horny Goat
I remember back in January 1985 when I was living in Winnipeg I was
reading in the Winnipeg Public Library a book which featured the daily
Moscow temperatures from that winter on successive pages.and had the
epiphany "hey it's colder than that the other side of this window!"
Back around 2000, I had a co-worker who was a Russian immigrant.
Two years running, he went back to Moscow for a visit over
Christmas/New Year's. Both times, it was colder in Moscow than\
here in Chicago while he was there.
Winnipeg Edmonton and Ottawa have the coldest winters in North
America. I lived in WInnipeg for 4 years some 30 years ago and had a
great time but no question Jan/Feb were no picnic. They DO have
beautiful summers

CFB Brandon (which is an army base 2 hours west of WInnipeg) has just
about identical weather to Winnipeg and is used for armor training as
it's basically 100k acres of open prairie.
The Horny Goat
2019-11-29 03:18:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by SolomonW
For example according to the article "The assault on Moscow in 1942 failed
primarily because the Germans were not able to extend their standard gauge
line east of Smolensk fast enough. While ample quantities of supplies were
available for the first two phases of the German attack against Moscow, the
German rail transportation system was not able to sustain the shipment of
needed military supplies for the third and final assault phase."
Any thoughts on this?
Uh WHAT 1942 German assault on Moscow?

The only German assault on Moscow was in the fall of 1941 after the
liquidation of the Kiev pocket with the Russian counterattack
beginning on 5 Dec 1941.

There were two main German plans for 1942. One was an attempt to break
through around Tula in the south and NW of Moscow to the north to
attempt to encircle Moscow. The other plan (and the one that was
adopted was the attempt to drive to the Volga and either capture or
disrupt the Soviet oil industry in the Caucasus.

I'm pretty sure every regular reader here knows how THAT turned out!

(My personal view is that they made the right choice but bungled the
execution for all the usual Hitlerian reasons. I also think the
Stalingrad campaign demonstrated the Germans WOULDN'T win and the
Kursk battle proved that the Germans would and that the period between
most anything could have tipped the scales either way including into a
bloody stalemate. As it was the Red Army was running into manpower
problems in the winter of 1944/45 so the 'bloody stalemate' wasn't
nearly as science fictiony as it sounds - up until around Jan Feb 1945
the Russians were losing more troops than the Germans which is amazing
given how badly the German army got crushed in the summer of 1944 in
the East)

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