I had read during past days some books and internet texts about the East front campaign, during WW2. I took some information out of that, and it is very surprising to me.
- First, I read that Russian losses were far more important than what I expected. A ratio of 1 German infantryman to 6 Russians was claimed. The same for tanks, a little less for airplanes.
- Second, this ratio comes from a tactical effectiveness so high that, even with such a slaughter in their forces, Russians do not manage to break enough of German forces to make them give up the fight
- Third, two strategic situations are explained as followed:
1: 1942, at the end of the battle of Stalingrad: While German general Hoth is trying to save the 6th Army by a counterattack, he encountered heavy resistance. But the decisive factor is the Soviet offensive Little Saturn, which hampered the attack by threatening flanks and rears and forced Germans to deploy their forces. Source: Did the Torch operation help doom the Germans at Stalingrad?
2: 1943, battle of Kursk: The Germans are able to repell all Soviet counterattacks and destroy thousands of Russian tanks on both north and south sides of the battlefield. They come close to breaktrhough when the SS Panzerkorps break the third and last line of defense on the South. However, a Soviet offensive on the Don river force the Germans (Hitler and OKH decision, Manstein did not want) to stop the attack on Kursk and deploy some already engaged forces. However, the Russian offensive is entirely repelled with only a few (SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, which is 1 panzerdivision out of 4 constituing the SS Panzerkorps) troops taken out of the South side of Kursk. Still, the Germans entirely withdraw to their position of 5th July (willingly because Soviet counterattacks still failed) and then are pushed back by the Soviet counteroffensives on Orel and Kharkov. Source: Roman Toppel, Kursk
There are plenty of explanations on why the Soviet army suffered so high losses and had that low tactival effectiveness against the Wehrmacht. I am ok with those explanations. What I don't understand is how an offensive, made by another part of the Red Army which is not more effective, and is equally repelled (for example on the Don in 1943), could have deny the Germans the possibility to continue their attacks? And continue to inflict those 1:6 casualties ratios?
Also, considering the commonly accepted force ratios (see wikipedia) in the battle of Kursk, how did the Soviet Army manage to keep an offensive stand?
The question behind those questions is also: are we really sure of those numbers of losses (which comes from latest studies on Russian archives), because I can't imagine at all how they have led Soviet army to a final victory on the East Front?
EDIT from comment: Actually I am not sure what I am asking, because I am not sure what I am trying to understand. I have two questions, each at different scales:
- First, on local strategic scale: how is it possible that the offensives I mentioned stopped German actions, even if they were repelled with not that much German troops being distracted from German actions.
- Second, over all the war: with a casualty ratio so high, how did Soviet union stood?- the casualty ratio is higher than the force ratio, so attrition war is supposed to have succeed for German side- how did Soviet troops maintained morale with that high casualties?