East Front v West Front: Is is a continuation of a discussion about the course of WWII with Professor Lokos in a now-closed line. Please consider it fact based, not meant to denigrate any of the Allies in that war.
I. Claims the USSR fought 70-80 percent of Axis forces in WWII are historically inaccurate.
II. WWII was won by all the Allies acting in concert ... but if the USSR had faced the Axis alone, they likely would have been defeated and occupied.
III. On the other hand, if the Western Allies had faced the Axis alone, (assuming defeat of the Soviet Union), they would still ultimately have won the war, probably in 1945-46, though at a much higher cost.
My tenet is that the emphasis on Russian contribution at the expense of the contribution of the Western Allies is false history. The belief that the USSR faced 70-90 percent of Axis forces and essentually won the war, possibly originated in Soviet propaganda during the Cold War. The believe in that fact has apparently continued post-Soviet period, because of ethnocentric issues in the Russian educational system. Such ethnocentrisms are not confined to Russia.
As part of a study, over the last few years I have attempted to deconstruct the German-led Axis wartime economies, as best I could. I then assigned combat "values" to various portions of the Axis economy(s). This required ranking all economic forces and comparing ... for example ... submarine production, maintenance, crew, support, etc., to tank-vehicle and Eastern Front oriented munitions production.
I found that surprisingly, even excluding Japan, the total Axis force dedicated to the Eastern front was somewhat less than 50 percent of theoretical even its maximum in 1941-42.
Conclusion: The Soviet Union did not single-handedly win the war against the Axis, nor did they face 70-80-90 percent of the Axis forces.
The extreme casualties on the Eastern Front are not an indication of effectiveness in fighting the Axis, but a reflection of the equality of the fight. Measuring “military effectiveness” by “casualties” (for and/or against) is meaningless unless the war is truly one of manpower attrition. True effectiveness in total mobile warfare is usually reflected in LIGHT casualties... see the wars against Iraq, German attack on France, etc.
The following uses relatively commonly available gross domestic product data as a measure of the industrial capability of the major combatants over the course of the War. This data tends to track my own more rigorous statistics, thus is a simple but useful substitute. It will suffice to allow the thoughtful historian to contemplate the “what-if” on a somewhat factual basis.
WWII, a “total war,” was fought and won by national application of the total power of each country, harnessed to war-making ability. Each country’s initial war-making ability was actually a function of many factors including available manpower, training, martial spirit (elan), organization, leadership, planning, flexibility, mechanization, mobility, etc.
But more than anything else, as the war progressed, its course was decided by economic power and production. In time, the biggest industrial force won, and was always going to win absent some deux de machina.
So lets take a quick look and the comparative industrial forces in action, This chart is found in Wiki. It is simplistic but directionally it tracks my data.
Gross Domestic Product, Main Combatents, WWII, by year.
In mobile warfare, extreme casualties occur when the sides are relatively evenly balanced. When one side has overwhelming technology or application efficiency, the war is over quickly... see France 1940, or Iraq 1991 and 2003. In that case the war is Clauzwitzian in nature, and the power of the GDP does not begin to have an obvious effect.
But... in total war, if the initial Clauzwitzian attack by the better prepared-equipped-led armed force is blunted, the war becomes total between the industrial capacity of the two countries... It is then that another story, based of production capacity, emerges. As in the stalemeated manpower-arttrition warfare of WWI, the economic arttrition of WWII was a factor Clauzwitz did not anticipate.
From this economic imperative the bloodshed on the Eastern front begins to be understandable. Initially, in 1941, Axis committed only a portion of their force against the USSR. In GDP units it was about 320-340, against a Soviet GDP of 359. So... if the USSR could survive and turn the war into a total war struggle, based on the rough equality of "committed GDP" they would have a chance. The USSR did blunt the initial rush by terrible expenditures of life and territory.
When that happened after 1941, the USSR could, and did, commit its entire GDP to the war. Estimating German economic focus of 70 percent Eastern Front in 41, and 65-60 percent 42 and 43, allocating all of Austria, and 10 percent of France and Italy to the Eastern front in ’41-42, one can see the Eastern Front became relatively balanced once the war turned into a production race.
Now the course of the Eastern Front war becomes understandable. One can see that the “committed GDP” on the eastern front was initially relatively equal. But from 1942 on, the continual leakage of German GDP to contain and fight the West tilted the economic battlefield increasingly in favor of the USSR.
In 1941, “committed GDP,” Axis=350 including 70 percent German, USSR=359.
In 1942, “committed GDP,” Axis = 300 including 65 % German, USSR = 274 excluding lend lease.
In 1943, “committed GDP,” Axis = 270 including 60 % German, USSR = 305 excluding lend-lease.
Add a factor for the Soviet army military learning curve in use of the weapons into the equation and it can be seen that the pendulum makes an accelerated swing on the Eastern Front in favor of the USSR after mid 1943 or so.
However, if one takes the Western Allies out of the equation, the power balance of “committed GDP” on the only front still fighting, the Eastern Front becomes heavily tilted in the favor of the Axis. In 1941, 1942, 1943, the Axis could have committed their entire economic power, over twice that of the USSR. If Japan entered the war, Axis power would have been over three times that of the USSR.
Simply put, building and supporting one single submarine in the Atlantic was possibly approximately equal to fielding a regiment of 50-75 main battle tanks on the Eastern front. And with no conflict in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, etc., all the resources of the Axis could and would have been focused on the USSR. No amount of Russian sacrifice or heroism could have overcome that disadvantage.
Could the Western Allies, led by US-Britain, have won the war if the USSR had been overrun, or forced from the war in... say ... 1942-43? Well, add 50 percent of the USSR GDP to the total Axis GDP in 1943 (assuming a continual guerilla war in Russia, harsh German treatment of the Russians and corresponding reduction in production incentive).
One can see that by mid 1943, without reducing Italy’s contribution to the Axis GDP because of invasion blockade or bombing, Britain and the USA alone, excluding Canada, Australia, New Zealand, et. al., would have fielded an economic force over two times greater than the total GDP of ALL the Axis including Japan.
Thereafter, the Axis economic power would essentially have been maxed out while the Allies had the potential to grow at an almost unlimited pace... for a great many reasons.... including the fact that the centers of the Allies industrial production were unreachable.
Even if the USSR had been forced from the war in 1942-43, the War in Europe would have won by the Allies in 1945-46. The B-29 was available in large numbers in 1944 and the Atomic bomb in 1945.
That my friends in the economic imperative truth.
And to my Russian friends, everyone respects and stands in awe of the efforts and sacrifice made by the USSR during that war. The fact that two-thirds of the trucks used by the Soviets in the war, a significant portion of the air-power, locomotives, and more importantly a huge percentage of boots, clothing, chemicals, metals, etc., were given to the USSR under terms of Lend lease does not lower the accomplishment, sacrifice, or heroism.
The belief that the USSR was bearing ... what is it now... 80 percent? 90 percent? of the effort in WWII is just Soviet era, post WWII ethnocentric pride that simply does not stand up to examination of the facts.
BUT... what does stand up is that in the early years, the Soviets were fighting maybe 40 percent of Axis power by themselves, and up to 50 percent of the European Axis power for a period of time. There is considerable glory and satisfaction in that.
Some lend lease combat equipment data, does not include items such as clothing, boots, chemicals, etc.
System Allies AxisTanks and SP guns 227,235 52,345Artillery 914,682 180,141Mortars 657,318 100,000+Machineguns 4,744,484 1,058,863Military trucks 3,060,354 594,859Military aircraft total 633,072 278,795Fighter aircraft 212,459 90,684Attack aircraft 37,549 12,539Bomber aircraft 153,615 35,415Reconnaissance aircraft 7,885 13,033Transport aircraft 43,045 5,657Training aircraft 93,578 28,516Aircraft carriers 155 16Battleships 13 7Cruisers 82 15Destroyers 814 86Convoy escorts 1,102 -Submarines 422 1,336Merchant shipping tonnage 33,993,230 5,000,000+Pillboxes, bunkers (steel, concrete- uk only - 72,128,141 tonnes Estimate Concrete runways - 10,000,000 tonnes
Last edited by Jacknola; 10-28-2009 at 09:54 AM.
Jacknola, by uising Wikipedia as a source for your "study", you fail already. Not to mention this "study" is fail by itself.
"casualties on the E.F. are irrelevant", or what did you say there ? What are you talking about ? German army was the most powerful army in the world and the BIGGEST part of it was destroyed on the E.F, also BIGGEST part "Europe Axis" resources was consumed by E.F. Sure, "GPD", "blah-blah", but the BIGGEST part of "Europe Axis" might was destroyed on the E.F., ok? Period. Maybe all those "80 %" are about "Europe Axis".
It's also foolish to underestimate the importance of Pacific Theater, for example. By defeating U.S and allies, Japan Empire could invade USSR. So U.S and allies crushed Japan Empire and USSR with some help from other allies crushed Germany in Europe. One Theater is important for another.
If the Soviets were struggled with the single front against the NAZI's it would have been more serious if the Japanese were to have continued the fight in the Far East.
The Soviets were lucky that they had a damn good spy (Richard Sorge) in Tokyo posing as a Nazi journalist.
It was Sorge that informed Moscow that the Japanese were not going to attack the Soviet Union until:
- Moscow was captured
- the size of the Japanese Army was three times that of the Soviet Union's Far Eastern forces
- a civil war had started in Siberia.
However, unlike the NAZI's the Japanese did not have the industrial output to for a prolonged fight. This is why the Allies placed a higher priority on the European Front rather than the Pacific and Burma-India-China.
In my opinion. It was a war on who can outproduce and deliver material to mitigate whatever losses incurred. If a German sub sank a single Liberty Ship, 10 Liberty ships would have reach their final destination.
Your casualty figures are too low, by the way- for both sides. German total casualties (Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine): Ballpark 50000 KIA+MIA plus roughly 120 000 WIA.
The Allies suffered disproportionately, the Armée de Terre alone suffering in excess of 120 000 dead and a multitude of POWs, etc.
Jack, I will adress your post tomorrow if I find the time.
Last edited by Indiana Jones; 10-26-2009 at 07:45 PM.
"Western Allies would of eventually won." That is so insane I don't even know what to say about it. The under supplied and small Afrika Korps gave the western allies enough trouble as it is. Imagine that but on the tune of 3 million soldiers crammed into France and Italy. Let's not forget that the Battle of Britain was largely hurt because much of the Luftwaffe was being transferred east. It just doesn't make any sense to state that if the largest front of any war ever, which consumed the vast majority of German military and supplies, suddenly disappeared that the outcome would be the same except add a year.
Just 1 year longer ? Sure...
They are not inaccurate. Even when the Western Allied commitment was greatest, did they never face more than one third of the German armed forces. On the other hand, overall German military losses on the Eastern front made up 75% of the German total cacualties. Of course, Japan was fought mostly by the Western allies, but this country was at the time a far weaker entity than Germany was. The Japan of the WWII period should not be mistaken for the ecconomic giant, which it later became.Claims the USSR fought 70-80 percent of Axis forces in WWII are historically inaccurate.
Possibly, but also possibly not. Discussions about this topic fill volumes. In any case, your statement, that it would be certainly so, should be classified as "probably wrong".II. WWII was won by all the Allies acting in concert ... but if the USSR had faced the Axis alone, they likely would have been defeated and occupied.
The same: probably wrong. I sincerly doubt that the Western Allies would have won the war alone, let alone by 1945/46. A landing operation in face of all German armed forces, which are in an ungutted state since the Sovietunion has somehow been swiftly defeated, would have likely failed and may not even have been undertaken in the first place.III. On the other hand, if the Western Allies had faced the Axis alone, (assuming defeat of the Soviet Union), they would still ultimately have won the war, probably in 1945-46, though at a much higher cost.
Defeat by aerial bombardment? America and Britain had absolutely great problems with the Luftwaffe as it was - they were again, again and again in earnest doubt about the bombing effort, because the losses were simply too high. And this was a Luftwaffe that was to a good deal fighting against the Soviets, defending a country that had to spend a high percentage of its war effort to build ground weapons and vehicles, to replace those that were constantly lost in the war with the Red Army. Had the Western Allies faced a Germany that could have concentrated on combating the aerial attacks, they would have been far less "successful". I use the quotation marks, because, even as it was, the bombing strategy wasn't too effective. Although they killed great many civilians, they did not harm the German war effort in a surprisingly little way. In the end, the war had to be decided on the ground.
Finally, the trump card: the atomic bomb. Most people simply accept the logic that with the nuclear bomb the war would have been won by the USA just like that. But this ignores that America would have been able to build not much more than 15 to 20 nuclear bombs until the end of 1946 - and rather small ones at that. (For example, the bomb used against Hiroshima had the equivalent of only 13 kilotons of TNT - that is almost a tactical nuke by later standards). If we assume an early defeat of the Sovietunion, and hence the possibility for Germany to concentrate on aerial defense and a correspondingly smaller destruction due to the conventional bombardment in the years 1941-1945, this number of nuclear bombs would have been nowhere near enough to defeat Germany. And after that, Germany (the leading nation in physics at the time) would have most likely possessed nuclear weapons themselves - the Sovietunion did not need much longer, and that without the motivation of nuclear weapons actively used against it.
In the end I do not think that it is likely that the Western allies would have won the war by themselves at all. The USA may have had the largest GDP in the world, but wars are not only won by the economy. They are mainly won by motivation and will, and while Americans (and British to a degree) usually think they would be veritable titans in these respects, they actually are not (neither are the British, I am sorry). The real hitch is, that the overall war situation was asymmetric: the Axis never really aimed at conquering America, while America did aim at the conditionless surrender of its opponents. In other word: to win the USA must succesfully conquer its far away opponents, while Germany, Italy and Japan had only to survive, in which case their side would have "won WWII". In this situation, the American populace would have accepted the war as long as it wouldn't have hurt too much (because they are throwing the bombs, nuclear or otherwise, once that would have changed, they would have more and more liked the idea of peace. After all, why should Americans die by the millions in distant parts of the world? And President Roosevelt, who could have America actively participate in the war essentially because of Pearl Harbor, would not have lived forever.
I know, this version will not be to the liking of many Americans, who prefer to see their nation as absolutely relentless once angered. But this is simply not true. Actually, the United States have been often quite relenting, especially if things became too difficult. And as far as anger is concerned, that tends to come and fade again. They would have probably indeed ended WWII by 1945/46, however, not by conquering Germany and Japan all by themselves but by throwing the towel. And just to mention it: this would not have been their undoing. I think that even Britain would have survived since Germany would have had more than enough to do with handling its enormous conquests (again assuming the Societunion would have been swiftly defeated) - and in the end would have either given them up, or, in the case that it would have tried to hold onto them, would have failed to do so. The Germans, unlike the Russians, did never tend to keep millions of soldiers under arms in peacetime, and they would have needed just that, to maintain such an giant Empire.
If the Wermacht and Luftwaffe were'nt so busy in the east, how would the western allies have dealt with the continent? Italy was tough enough with only a small defending force. Air superiority would have been much harder to achieve and maintain. And a counter attack at Normandy would have been an avalanch of panzer divisions.
And how many extra u-boats(or FW 190's) could have been built and crewed without the attrition of the eastern front?
Also if Germany never faced T-34's they may not have developed excellent but expensive Panthers and Tiger II's, sounds good for us, but in reality means higher numbers of capable Mk IV's and Tiger I's, and fresh, trained/experienced crews.
How many artillery pieces did Germany lose in the east ?
I am not saying outright we would have lost, but that the continent may not have been liberated.
EDIT:- yea nukes would probably be deployed eventually but i doubt one or two would have done the job,fanatical regime, still at full strength and all that.They could conceivably ride out the first and develop their own, delivered by V2 rockets.
Probably best to tactical nuke an LZ and come ashore in the aftermath.(speculation)
@Kitsune - very well put.
On an additonal note, the Allies simply did not have the braun that the Soviet and German generals had (patton excluded). Perhaps that was the result of the mobilisation doctrine, i.e, a 'civilised army'. Roosevelt new this very well which is why he entertained Stalin all that time.
Jacknola that is an unusually well researched argument for an internet post. It puts the rest of us to shame.
As for Jacknola's critics, I think they miss the main point "Conclusion: The Soviet Union did not single-handedly win the war against the Axis, nor did they face 70-80-90 percent of the Axis forces".
I have always wondered about the German atomic project even if they had developed the bomb how would it have been delivered? Germany had no successful heavy bombers and IMHO getting a '40s era Atomic bomb into a V2 always seemed a bit of a pipe dream. Either way I don't think having the bomb is a war winner it would have just upped the casualties and destruction. But I am not a expert by any stretch.
Last edited by T-5 Killer; 10-26-2009 at 11:38 PM.
All participants played their role in WW2 victory, some less, some more. And saying that without one of BIGGEST participants, who sacrificed millions of lives, the rest "would win easily" is SO ridiculous.