The Soviet Union Would Have Lost to Nazi Germany in WWII Without Marshal Zhukov
I'm not actually going to be able to debate this for at least another two weeks, however I would like to submit this debate for discussion. The premise of the debate is that the Soviet Union would have lost WWII had they not had Marshal Zhukov. Essentially, had he been purged by Stalin in 1937, died at Kalkhin Gol, or not been promoted etc, then Nazi Germany would have won the war in the East.
Note that the premise of the debate is NOT that Marshal Zhukov won the war for the Soviet Union, just that his presence prevented them from losing. First round is for acceptance as always, and I look forward to debating this in two weeks (hopefully)!
As Con I will debate the premise that 'The Soviet Union would not have lost To Nazi Germany in WW2 without Marshal Zhukov'. In fact I will partly Debate that there was no correlation between the 'winning' against Nazi Germany, on the Soviet side, potential 'Losing', and Marshal Georgy Zhukov.
As for definitions, the terms surrounding this Debate are quite clear, however Pro an I mutually agreed on the definition of 'Lost' being 'annexed'/'been taken' or partly annexed.
Kind Regards to Pro, I am looking forward to your Opening Statement.
I am going to divide my opening argument into two subdivisions. These being:
I. Zhukov's Impact on the War
I. Zhukov's Impact on the War
Due to any potential readers lack of knowledge on the subject, as well as to benefit my future arguments, I would like to provide a brief historical background on Zhukov's impact in "The Great Patriotic War". Note that I am not going to discuss his efforts in the Russian Civil War or at Kalkhin Gol as they have no direct impact upon the war with Germany. My intention is simply to show the huge impact that Zhukov had on the war.
I.A: Leningrad and Yelnya
When Operation Barbarossa was launched on the 22 of June, 1941, Zhukov had been promoted to Chief of General Staff. However, his impact on the very early days of the war mas minimal due to Stalin's dominating presence over STAVKA. Therefore many of the disasters from the second half of 1941, most significantly the encirclement of Kyiv, were more Stalin's fault than any of his generals. However, as is the nature of dictators, Stalin fired Zhukov from his post and placed him in command of the Reserve Front, an army group unique to the Red Army which was supposed to support the front lines in the case of an absolute collapse. Free from Stalin's grip, or at least partially so, Zhukov was able to take charge over the Yelnya offensive in September of 1941. Here Zhukov led a successful counter offensive against the German 4th Army which was approaching the Moscow after having just taken Smolensk. This battle marked the first successful offensive operation by the Soviets in the war and helped save the Red Army valuable time. Without the Yelnya Offensive, it is likely that the Germans would have been able to force their way towards the gates of Moscow before there was even snow on the ground. Following his success at Yelnya, Stalin placed Zhukov in command of the Leningrad Front with the objective of saving the birthplace of the Revolution. The defense of the city had been previously under the command of Stalin's political cronie, Marshal Voroshislov, a man who lacked any military skill whatsoever. When Zhukov arrived, German troops were hardly a mile away from the city, posed to defeat whatever Soviet forces remained. Outraged by Voroshislovs' inadequacies, Zhukov took absolute control over the operation and defended the city from oncoming Germans. The sudden resistance at Leningrad forced Hitler to give the order to siege the city, instead of take it directly. Although the resulting siege was by no means a Soviet victory as more than one million civilians starved, Zhukov's efforts helped delay any further German operations and prevented any more major operations from German Army Group North.
The battle for Moscow in the winter of 1941 was the most dramatic stage of the war until Stalingrad, and few Westerners realize how close Russia came to falling. Zhukov wrote after the war that “The Nazi Group Center, as we now know, had more than a million men, 1,700 tanks and self-propelled guns and more than 19,000 guns and mortars. It was supported by the powerful Second Air Fleet…” . In fact, the Army Group Center came as close as ten miles away from the city, as shown in Figure 1.
In desperation, Stalin recalled Zhukov from Leningrad and gave him the task of defending Moscow, a seemingly impossible task. However, under Zhukov’s strict leadership the city was saved, and with it, the entire Soviet war effort. Without Zhukov’s efforts it is quite possible that the city would have fallen. Some may claim that the terrain was actually the real reason for Zhukov’s victory, however response to this was “Does this mean that the Nazi generals really expected to roll to Moscow and beyond on smooth, well-graded roads?In that case, too bad for them, and for the German forces who, according to Tippelskirch, were halted on the approaches of Moscow by mud. In those days I saw thousands and thousands of Moscow women, who were unused to heavy labor… work on those impassable roads, in that mud….I might nearly add, for the benefit of those who look to mud to camouflage the real causes of their defeat at Moscow, that the roads were impassable for a relatively brief period in October of 1941. Early in November cold weather set in, snow began to fall, and both the terrain and the roads became passable” .
I.C: Stalingrad and beyond
Although much of the defense of Stalingrad can be attributed to Generals Chuikov and Rokossovsky, the entire operation was once again under the command of Zhukov. With his heroic defenses of Moscow and Leningrad, and Stalin’s great failures everywhere else, the tyrannical dictator had begun to realize that in order to win the war he needed to give his generals, especially Zhukov, more leeway. This, mind you, is a realization that Hitler never made. With this shift in Stalin’s ideologies, the outcome of the war shifted drastically as Russia’s many fine generals, and most of all Zhukov, were now able to make their own decisions. Stalingrad is a wonderful example of this. The battle had been raging for over three months when Zhukov was able to make his first move. The Red Army had finally become strong enough to go on an offensive and therefore Zhukov created Operation Uranus (shown in Figure 2), striking of the Third and Fourth Romanian armies and eventual encirclement of the 6th German Army.
The resulting battle was more successful than possibly imagined. Paulus’ 6th Army was fully encircled by the 23rd of November (although he did not surrender until February 2nd of 1943), and Von Manstein’s armies were in utter disarray. Uranus’ success allowed Zhukov to begin another offensive operation, codenamed Bagration. The Bagration offensive became the most successful offensive in any phase of the war, pushing the German army (shown in Figure 3) out all the way from Belarus and obliterating the once powerful German Army Group Center.
II. Lack of Qualified Replacements.
What I mean by this subdivision is that, although the Red Army was full of talented generals, their were simply no other man who could have performed Zhukov’s job. I will talk about all of the generals who would have been next in line to replace Zhukov and show how they could not have been up to the task.
Konev was clearly Russia’s second most skilled Marshal. However, Zhukov has him beat in several categories, some of which are not Konev’s fault at all. For one he was not promoted to Marshal until 1944, thus limiting most of his ability to make huge impacts at the war until very late in the war. Sure, he could have been promoted earlier if Zhukov had not been present, however that is purely speculation. Even if he had been promoted earlier, this does not mean that he would have been fit to take control over a huge portion of Russia’s armies, as he would not have had proper experience with such a high amount of power. Another detriment against Konev, and against every other Russian general really (except perhaps Rokossovsky), is that he did not have the type of strength that Zhukov had against Stalin. Zhukov’s ability to stand up to Stalin (although truthfully he did not do this all the time) later in the war was integral for the Russian’s defeat of the Germans. Konev had never before shown this type of will power, and it would again be pure speculation to say that he could have matched Zhukov in this regard.
II. B: Rokossovsky
Konstantin Rokossovsky is one of the most interesting generals in the war. Polish born, Rokossovsky was purged in 1937 by Stalin and faced execution. He was tortured for weeks on end, including having his finger nails removed, broken ribs and fingers, and forced to endure two mock shooting sessions. However, unlike most of the purge victims, he was released without any explanation, possibly due to his willpower. Although mentally strong, perhaps even more so than Zhukov, he could not have replaced the great Marshal for a particularly petty reason: he was Polish. Stalin held Rokossovsky in a painfully low regard due to his Polish heritage and would never have promoted him to Marshal. In fact, Rokossovsky’s armies were by far the closest to reaching Berlin but he was removed of command in favor of Zhukov because Stalin would never have allowed a Pole to take the German capital.
II. C: Political Cronies
These refer to men such as Voroshislov or Budenjji who were already Marshals at the time solely due to their loyalty to Stalin despite their ineptitude. Voroshislov proved himself worthless at his abysmal command over the defense of Leningrad while Budenjji can proudly claim that he was responsible for the encirclement of Kyiv and the resulting 750,000 Russian PoWs. By no means were these men capable of replacing Zhukov as Marshal of Russia.
Once again. kind Regards to Pro for this Debate.
I will be representing the Con side in the Debate 'The Soviet Union Would Have Lost to Nazi Germany in WWII Without Marshal Zhukov', meaning that I will argue that the Soviet Union would not have lost to Nazi Germany in WW2 without Marshal Georgy Zhukov.
It is no doubt that Marshal Georgy Zhukov had a grand part in the winning of the allied powers in WW2, fighting against the Japanese, as mentioned by Pro, as well as finally the taking of the Nazi capital, Berlin. There is also no doubt that Zhukov was a grand tactician. However, he did not play a grand part in the phase of the War in which the Soviet Union had the possibility to 'lose' against Nazi Germany.
It is to mention, as Pro did, but blaming the 'fault' on Stalin, that Zhukov failed to fight back against the Nazi invasion. This however is not correct. Zhukov, as the Nazi Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union was unleashed, signed "Directive of Peoples' Commissariat of Defence No. 3", on the same day not to mention, as the invasion started, 22 of June 194, which ordered the counter-offensive by the Soviet Unions forces, the Red Army (Referred to as STAVKA by Pro)
Zhukov made a manoeuvre to fight back the enemy, majorly through 'encirclement and destroy', however, this manoeuvre, even with Soviet superiority, failed miserably. Zhukov then claimed that he was forced to sign the document, however there is no evidence for this. He was demoted and sent to the Yelnya Offensive, the Leningrad Front and as stated by Pro to the defence of Moscow. However, this was not 'a seemingly impossible task'.
Lets look at the data surrounding the Eastern front.
Hitler made the fatal mistake of the 'Sommerpause', the Summer Break, in which he ceased efforts to take Moscow, up until Autumn when the effort was taken up again. A fatal mistake. This gave the Soviet forces time to reinforce and to prepare, had he not made this fatal mistake the Nazi forces most likely could have taken Moscow. It is also to note that the Eastern Front, the Front between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, was the largest military confrontation in history, and the Nazi forces were stretched thin, while Soviet forces had a numerical advantage and simply needed to mobilize.
Moscow was not taken, and the Nazi forces basically lost, because there was not a great enough effort in the Blitzkrieg on the Eastern Front. Forces were stretched thin, and The Nazis tried to manoeuvre and conduct in Russian winter. Napoleon had made this mistake over 100 years prior and the Nazis repeated it. The Soviet forces were better equipped and more adaptable to the harsh Russian winter and thus it is not a surprise to see Soviet gain of ground during the 1941 Soviet Counter offensive. If we look at all these factors, one man, Zhukov, becomes quite irrelevant.
Lets look at the ground gains made over the total Period of the Eastern Front conflict.
This displays the initial 'Blitzkrieg', up until December 1941 when the Nazi forces were brought to a roaring halt by the winter.
Here we have the Soviet Counter Offensive, while probably effected by Zhukov in one way or another, anyone could have planned this. Nazi forces were weakened and stretched thin. With the Soviet Troops at hand, this could have been done by nearly anyone. Also note that Resistance groups were rising up behind the Front and weakening the Nazi forces from there.
The last major ground taking by the Nazi forces. Note that this was done because Hitler believed that he needed to take this region, as well as the futile and useless attempt to take Stalingrad. Once again, it is easy to see how thin Nazi forces were stretched, while Soviet forces were nearly twice the size, making it quite easy to fight the Nazi war efforts. This was not a task only achievable by Zhukov.
As also provided by Pro, here we can see the first grand Soviet ground gains. Once again, the Nazi forces were stretched thin, especially if we look at the number of forces in the theater. About 2 million Nazi forces, vs over 6 million Soviets. More to this later, however, once again, Zhukov is unrelated.
The final annihilation of the Nazi forces on the Eastern Front. Zhukov might have been part in these battles, however it was neither a fight against similar numbers, nor was it a fight against an organised army.
Analysis of Troop Strength:
In 1941 (Glantz, David, The Soviet-German War 1941-1945 (http://sti.clemson.edu... )) the Nazi forces are estimated to have had around 3 million troops in the Eastern Front theatre, while the Soviets had around 2.5 million in the theatre with around 5 million overall. With the threat of Invasion, realised by D-Day in 1944, Nazi forces were steadily shifted, in 1942 being a little less than 3 million vs now 5.3 million mobilized Soviet forces, 1943 around 2.5 million Nazi forces vs nearly 7 million Soviet forces, in 1944 slightly decreased numbers on both sides while in January of 1945 the numbers were around 1.4 million vs 6.5 million Soviets. This once again had no relation to Zhukov, but only to the overall situation in which Nazi Germany was in.
As per definition of the word 'lost', Nazi Germany would have had to take over the Soviet Union in order for the Soviets to lose. However, this was not even close to the case. Even if Moscow would have been taken, this would have not had a major effect on Soviet War development. The Soviet Union, at the height of its power, occupied an area of 22,402,200 km², while Nazi Germany's Third Reich only occupied 633,786 km² of fully held territory and 3,600,000 km² at its largest extend in 1942. This means that the Soviet Union effectively held an area 35 times larger than Nazi Germany and still over 6 times larger than the territory Nazi Germany held/occupied. What I am trying to demonstrate is that Nazi Germany was not able to hold this territory even effectively, how would they be able to hold an even larger territory? Their forces were stretched extremely thin as it was, thus meaning they would have been easily beaten (which they were), the Soviet Union also having more troops than Nazi Germany actually never being in real danger of 'losing' to them. Zhukov did not provide a great change to that, after all, when there is no real danger one cannot save one from it.
The Nazis forces were stretched thin and they were increasingly under pressure by several Fronts and several countries, as well as resistance in their own occupied area. The Soviets always had a larger army than the Nazis and thus were not really presented with a grand problem nor the overwhelming possibility of 'losing', even if Moscow would have been taken. As well as all this, the fact that several grand mistakes on the side of the Germans were made, making their war efforts basically futile, the Soviets had little problem in beating the Nazi forces. This was by no means a task only achievable by Zhukov, but a task that would have been achieved even with Zhukov not present. Nazi Germany was up against a multitude of enemies, combined having a way grander strength than they had while desperately trying to protect their territory and stretching their troops out and as such not providing the resistance they could have provided with an intact, well rounded force. Zhukov may have had an impact of the magnitude of Nazi conquest in Soviet Territory, however, he did not achieve something that nobody else was incapable of achieving. The Nazis eliminated their Eastern Front War effort themselves, and not Zhukov. While he most certainly was very skilled, I have to stay firm to the statement that 'The Soviet Union wouldn't have lost to Nazi Germany without Marshal Georgy Zhukov'
Pro seems to assume that my only argument can be the Lend Lease Act. While surely beneficial to the Soviets, this has little to none to do with the bigger picture, which is exactly what I am focusing on, while Pro seems to keep their focus more on the 'smaller issues', such as individual battles. These however, have nothing to do with the reason as to why Nazi Germany was not able to 'win' against the Soviet Union. If I look at the Eastern Front only, but fail to see what is going on in the West, there is a problem.
Sources were the same as the ones used by Pro, others are indicated.
Kind Regards, I am looking forward to your arguments.
My opponent brings up good points in his argument, however his flaw is incomprehension of how combat worked in the 1940’s. His overarching argument is that the Soviets had great superiority over the Germans and it was inevitable, despite big loses, that the Red Army would succeed. He also cites Hitler’s major mistakes as more impactful upon the outcome of the war than anything Zhukov did. For my rebuttal I will attempt to disprove these two parts of my opponent’s argument.
My opponent claims that “Zhukov made a manoeuvre to fight back the enemy, majorly through 'encirclement and destroy', however, this manoeuvre, even with Soviet superiority, failed miserably”. While we may not conclude whether Zhukov signed the directive or not, we can at least say that the Red Army did not under any means have superiority over the Wehrmacht in 1941. Following the Great Purge in 1937, the Red Army was plagued by lack of leadership and hardly any senior generals. 45% of senior officers were eliminated in the purge, 5 out of 16 army commanders, 50 out of the 57 corps commanders, 154 out of the 186 divisional commanders and 401 out of 456 colonels were killed. The results of the purge were catastrophic, made apparent by the disastrous Finnish Winter War. Finland, with an insignificant army, managed to hold off any sort of Soviet offense for over three months, and consequently portrayed the Red Army as weak and disorganized.
Truthfully, when Hitler attacked the Soviets were stronger than anticipated. However, their weaknesses were far greater than any strength. Although the Soviets possessed the best tank in the world at the time, the T-34 (and these were not even available at the start of Barbarossa), the lack of radios meant that they had no way to communicate with other tanks except with flag signals. This led to disastrous encounters with better equipped Panzers. Due to lack of supplies, the Red Army was forced to disband all of their Mechanized divisions, greatly hampering their mobility. Red Army training was also subpar, which had disastrous consequences in the face of the well trained Heer soldiers. The VVS (Soviet Air Force) was the largest in the world, true. However when in combat with the Luftwaffe they stood no chance whatsoever. Essentially, the Red Army was greatly inferior to the Wehrmacht in every way.
Con then goes on to say that it was Winter and not enough manpower, not Zhukov, that stopped the Germans advance to Moscow. The ladder part is countered by my opening argument, showing that the German Army Group Center was more powerful than their Soviet opponents. As for the former, the winter may have been demoralizing, however it also meant that the roads would be clearer than in October, albeit somewhat difficult to navigate. And given that the Germans were just ten miles outside of Moscow on the 5th of December, this would not have been a major detriment.
My opponent argues multiple times that the Soviets had the numerical advantage to beat the Germans, and therefore would have won regardless of Zhukov. However, the Red Army had numerical superiority for the entire duration of the war. It was only half way through Barbarossa did the Reds start making gains. This is because in modern conventional warfare numbers have a much lesser impact on combat. In fact having too large of an army proved to be detrimental since there were simply not enough officers required to organize and lead the armies. What is most important is training and leadership, and to a lesser degree equipment. The Soviet war turned from a defensive war to an offensive one exactly when Zhukov was appointed C in C, highlighted with the Battle of Stalingrad. This is because Zhukov provided the Red Army with much needed leadership, organization, and discipline which could never have been provided by Stalin.
Another red flag presented by Con is his argument under “Overall Situation”. He says that even if the Germans had taken Moscow in 1941, there would be little effect on the war. He cites that the Soviet Union still occupied a huge swath of land, and the loss of one city would not impact anything. This is an incorrect statement on multiple regards. In the words of a Russian soldier named Klochkov, “Russia is big, but there is nowhere to retreat”. For one, losing Moscow would, quite obviously, mean losing the capital. Although there are still many other cities in the Soviet Empire, Moscow is truly the most important. This would result in a huge drop in morale amongst the Red Army, as well as the whole populace. With a low morale there would be a slightly decreased production rate, and the armies would be less motivated for offensive or defensive operations. Also, losing Moscow means losing the seat of government and the STAVKA. Stalin, if not captured, would be forced to move his government to the East and would result in tremendous disorganization of the government and the army. As seen by the beginning of Barbarossa and the Finnish Winter Warm, disorganization is a killer to the army. Without effective leadership, morale will drop further and the army’s combat ability will plummet even further. Therefore the loss of Moscow would lead to more territory losses, most importantly in the key cities of Leningrad and Stalingrad. At this point the Soviet Union would be devoid of all its important cities with perhaps the exception of Vladivostok. Although their industry may still be relatively unhampered due to the relocation of the industrial bases past the Urals at the start of the invasion, the soul of the country would be gone, and with it the war effort. My opponent then states that the Nazi’s could’t hold on to all the territory anyways, which I acknowledge as true. However, Hitler did not want to annex all of the Soviet Union, but only take the land west of the “A-A Line”; the line that stretches from Astrakhan to Arkhangelsk, and leave the Soviet Union with their rather barren Asian possessions, which Hitler deemed “useless”. However, say he could’t control all the land west of the A-A line, the Soviet Union would have still technically lost their “Great Patriotic War”, and I would have fulfilled my BoP ;)
In conclusion, It is clear that the Soviet armies were far inferior to the Wehrmacht at the time of invasion. Although they may have possessed greater manpower than their Fascist foes, this did not at all give them a significant advantage until much later in the war. Without Zhukov’s defense of Moscow, it is doubtful that the Russians could have held back Hitler’s armies for much longer. Zhukov’s victory at Moscow allowed him to improve the Russian army to the point of contending with Hitler. His appointment as Commander in Chief right at the time of the first major successful Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad is a clear indicator of this.
Back over to you, Con.
Kind regards to Pro for their reply.
You do not need to apologize for posting your arguments 'late', take as much time as you have.
I will use this round primarily for rebuttals and will present supporting arguments and evidence for those arguments.
Rebuttals and arguments:
Pro claims that I would not know how combat worked in the 1940's. This is quite incorrect, as I have great knowledge about pastime, as well as present day strategies and weapons of war and am taking all of this into consideration.
It is not to question whether Zhukov signed the papers or not, he stated that he did himself. The actual question would be if he had the blame for the failed counter-offensive in mid 1941, but this is not an actual part of this debate so I will disregard this.
The statement that the Soviet Military was not equal to the Wehrmacht in 1941 is incorrect. Weapon wise they were quite equal, while the Nazis had the great disadvantage that they were invading. The Soviets had the 'home ground advantage' (see for example Vietnam, Vietcong was highly disadvantaged to the US yet had major Success) with Guerrillas as well as the general population supporting the Soviets.
Also Pros claims about the "Great Purge" are incorrect. Pro is correct that it was assumed that up to 50% of Red Army officers had been purged, however these numbers are grossly incorrect. The correct number would be a maximum of around 7.7% (Stephen Lee, European Dictatorships 1918-1945, page 56), thus meaning that Pros assumption about 'disorganization' due to Officers is incorrect. Furthermore in the 'Winter War', the war of the Soviet Union against Finland, the Finnish used 'force multipliers' very effectively, such as weather, skills, position, ambushes, knowing when to fight as well as being advantaged by Soviet under supply. This made them able to cause many casualties and to hold out as long as they did. Ever watched the movie '300'? Same principal, different time, based on historic events. This does not mean that the Soviets were a weak force, the Finnish were simply fighting with non conventional warfare methods, something a conventional force can only hardly fight against. Why do you think the Mongols were able to have the largest empire ever, or why the Nazis 'Blitzkrieg' was so effective? Their enemies were not weak, the tactics were simply unconventional.
The Red Army, though inferior in some ways, was greatly advantaged. After the 'oomph' phase of the Blitzkrieg was over and the fatal 'Sommerpause' was made, Winter came. The Soviets had the advantage in this weather, as their infantry and troops were able to move, while the Nazi forces were not. Think of it this way: If the Nazis wanted to take ground, they would have to move, while the Soviets simply had to sit there. They had the 'defender bonus', as well as having time to mobilize their enormous troops, that shadowed the Nazi troops in every way, especially considering that the Nazis had several fronts, while the Soviets effectively only had one (if you discount their 700 thousand troops stationed in the far east)
Pro also seems to think that winter 'cleared' the roads for the Nazi troops. Seemingly Pro has never encountered heavy snowfall or any harsh winter of any sort. It would have been easier for troops to move in October than in December. Personally I prefer this
Over this... (in a 'mobility' type of view. I love winter and especially snow)
In mud soldiers can still move more or less, while in the winter the roads are absolutely blocked, as well as soldiers not being able to move effectively. The Soviets had Ski troops, which the Nazis had not, which gave them a huge advantage, as it gave the Finnish, over the Nazi forces. Zhukov had no effect on this, unless he somehow created the snow. Also, just to add this, vehicles do not really operate that well in temperatures around -40 degrees Celsius. Engines will not start, simply because the fuel is frozen, a problem that was very present for the Nazi forces. Nazi forces were not prepared for winter warfare, while Soviet ones were. This however, once again, had nothing to do with Zhukov. Soviet individuals dealt with this every year, while Nazis never had encountered this or even thought about winter warfare.
Pro seems to assume that WW2 was fought with 'modern conventional warfare'. This is partly correct, however, numbers were still very important in WW2, as an example the US army was even after WW2 still teaching soldiers to stand in a line and fire salves. WW1 may have been the last war in which infantry was fighting in closed lines and fired salves, however many tactics like this were still present and used in WW2. With this type of warfare present, numbers make a huge impact. Furthermore it is well known that defenders in battle normally do not need equal numbers to the attackers to make an impact (see D-Day and allied casualties). Now imagine a situation in which there are more defenders than attackers. This is what happened up to 1942, when the Soviets turned the situation around and attacked the weaker and disadvantaged Nazi forces. This, once again, had nothing to do with Zhukov. The Soviets were clearly advantaged in the stage of the war from 1942 onwards, Zhukov did not change a lot of this fact.
Pro is correct that Moscow was the most important city for the Soviet Union. However, taking the Capitol of a Nation that is still 'war able' can be a big problem, especially for a smaller, stretched out force like the Wehrmacht. The Soviets, while possibly demoralized, would have fought like hell for Moscow, in a siege as well as in a retake, and I would doubt highly that the Nazis were able to take Moscow in December 1941, nor hold it.
It is clear that the Soviets were inferior to the Nazi forces during the invasion, which was due to tactics, as well as a non mobilized Soviet army, however, after the initial Blitzkrieg phase was over the Soviets were more advantaged in almost every aspect. Not due to Zhukov however, but due to mistakes made by the enemy, defender advantages, weather advantages, supply advantages, skill advantages, advantages in numbers, advantages in support (allies, guerrillas, population), and many more.
In conclusion the Soviets had many more advantages than the Nazi forces. Zhukov had little to nothing to do with these, as such the Soviets could and would have easily had the same outcome of the war as they did (possibly not final outcome, however that was far beyond any point of possible 'losing' to Nazi Germany). I will not say anything against Zhukov's skill as a tactician, however the Soviet defence of Moscow would have taken the same way without him. After the 'Sommerpause' the only way the Eastern Front was going was a loss for the Nazis, as stated by their own Quartermaster General in November 1941 "We are at the end of our resources in both personnel and material. We are about to be confronted with the dangers of deep winter.". The Nazis already had lost around 23% of their troops, around 700 thousand, before winter even fell, while being unprepared against a prepared and advantaged enemy. This all has no connection to Zhukov.
The simple truth is that all odds were against Nazi Germany. This thus means that the Soviet Union would not have lost to Nazi Germany, with or without Zhukov.
I'm going to keep my final rebuttal short as it is quite late here and I don't feel like waking up early to get this done (Nevermind it's going to be long :). Regardless, I would like to thank my opponent for partaking in this debate with me as I know that very few people would find any merit in such a specific premise. Without further adieu, let's begin!
I am going to disregard the specifics of which army had superior equipment and simply present this question to my opponent. He claims that the Germans and Russians were equal in terms of equipment, and the Nazi's were actually at a severe disadvantage due to them being the invading force. Possibly so, however if they had such a dramatic disadvantage, how could you explain the massive swaths of territory they were able to occupy in just 6 months following Barbarossa? There was simply no competition between German and Soviet forces in the early stages of the invasion. Either the Germans had tremendous luck, or the supposed equality between the invaders and defenders is nothing but a myth. Germans had better equipment, more experience, better trained troops, superior leadership and tactics which allowed them to steamroll throughout Soviet lands.
Con observes that my claims regarding the Great Purge are incorrect, however he did not read the specifics of my argument. I stated that over 45% of the senior officers, not all officers, were purged. However the end result is still the same. The Red Army was left with very few veteran officers, who were replaced with inexperienced and ineffective officers. And I maintain my argument that the Soviet failures in Finland are most directly attributed to flaws in Soviet leadership, not Finnish resistance. I acknowledge that Finland fought as well as they could, exceeding all expectations, however had the Soviets been smarter there would have still been no competition. The invading Soviet force reached up to 750,000, with 6,000 tanks, and 3,880 aircraft whereas their Finnish counterparts numbered at best over a quarter million, 32 feeble tanks, and 114 aircraft. The Red Army was, as my opponent consistently points out, better equipped than the Finns in every regard. A few men on skies supported by deadly snipers may have a certain flare, but is useless in the face of hordes of tanks supported by legions of bombers. Therefore the only plausible explanation for the Finns success is that the Soviets had dreadful leadership. Keep in mind that the leading commander of the invasion was none other than our friendly Marshal Voroshislov, who is well known as being completely oblivious in the arts of military commanding. Only when Voroshislov was replaced by the far superior Marshal Semyon Timoshenko (Zhukov's mentor) on the 7th of January did the Soviets see success.
On to the controversial weather. I, being a New Englander, am well aware of the implications of heavy snowfall. Yes, the snow that hit in early December was disastrous the the naive German high command. However, the roads were frozen on the 15th of November, thus allowing the German Spearheads to be unleashed. This gave the Germans over two weeks to take Moscow before the truly heavy snow hit. As shown in the map in my opening argument, two weeks was more than enough time to reach the city. On the other side, Zhukov was given the task of defending Moscow with heavily depleted troops for over two weeks until General Winter could take over. This is clearly a testament to Zhukov's skill as a General that he achieved this task.
As for the debate on the influence of manpower, I suppose there is no solid argument to counteract my opponent's claims as we both are only presenting our opinions; truthfully well founded opinions, but unprovable none the less. Con states, and correctly so, that for defense less troops are required to hold off an attack. If we return to the Battle of Moscow, however, the German troops numbered just under 2 million, supported by 14,000 guns, 1,000 tanks, and 549 superior Luftwaffe aircraft. The Soviets numbered from 1.2-1.4 million, supported by 7,600 guns, 3,000 beleaguered tanks without radios, and 545 planes. Note that at the time, Russia's senior airman, Pavel Rychagov, brazenly said to Stalin "You're making us fly in coffins!". The remark got him and his wife killed, but the truth rung true nonetheless. On both sides the troops were weary, but the Germans still maintained over a half a million numerical advantage over the Russians in one of the most critical stages in the war. True, this was a rarity, however I believe that the value of numerical superiority dissolves in the wake of disarray, as apparent in the early stages of the war. As for Moscow, yes they would have fought hard for their city (if they didn't they would be shot), but then again the Germans would then be, as Con points out, in a much easier situation as they would be on the defense, as well as having the numerical advantage. Plus, Moscow is a heavily rural terrain, thus giving the defenders a greater advantage over the attackers (i.e Stalingrad).
One last point that I forgot to address in my last rebuttal, albeit minor, was the role of partisans. Con said that partisans rising behind German lines weakened the German advance significantly. In actuality, they were most likely more detrimental to the Soviets than they were advantageous. JT Dykman, a professor at Gettysburg College, however states that "Contrary to popular myth, the Partisans were never strong enough to affect the movement or combat readiness of the German armies. As they increased in numbers they robbed German supply trains and brutally murdered any small enemy unit they could catch. Word of mutilated dead comrades to their rear spread both terror and hatred throughout the advancing German armies and increased their willingness to inflict even more violence on the populations they encountered".
I do want to confess that Con presented many valid arguments in this debate which I have no choice but to yield to. Yet I still maintain my stance that Zhukov was fundamental to the Soviet war effort. This debate mainly discussed the Battle of Moscow, which is perfectly legitimate given the serious implications of the battle. However I would like to emphasize once more that Zhukov was the commanding general over every single important Soviet battle and victory. I stand firm that the Wehrmacht was a far superior fighting force than the Red Army due to better training and experience from the wars in the West, Poland, and Yugoslavia. They had superior leadership, with great numbers of officers joining the German armed forces after the embarrassment at Versailles. To top this off, the high command was lead by some of the most talented generals in the world: Von Manstein, Guderian, Rommel, Balck, and others. The only detriment to this formidable high command was Hitler himself, who's foolish decisions cost the Germans many opportunities. My primary argument remains that Zhukov provided the Soviet army with desperately needed military leadership that was lacking following the Great Purge and most significantly the execution of Zhukov's predecessor, Marshal Tuchachevskey. This leadership allowed the Soviet Union to survive the onslaught of 1941 and 1942, thus enabling their industry to catch up with their great potential and repel the Germans from the Motherland.
Again I would like to thank my opponent for a competitive debate and I look forward to his concluding arguments next round.
First of all I would like to, like Pro did it, thank my opponent for this quite pleasant debate.
Final Arguments and Rebuttals:
Pro poses a valid question, asking how the Nazi forces were able to occupy such a 'large' (small in comparison to Soviet area) in just 6 months. However, I have addressed exactly this previously, in round 3, where I stated that the simple reason was the Nazi 'Blitzkrieg' tactic, as well as the Soviets not being prepared against such a attack. The Soviets did not even expect such an attack, to keep it short, this has no relation to the topic at hand, nor the quality of leadership or the capabilities of tacticians on either side. The Soviets gained a clear advantage with the fall of winter, for which Nazi forces were not prepared, as well as the several fronts Nazi Germany was fighting on, followed by much larger troop strength on Soviet side. This all quite easily negates Pros assumption of Zhukov's great involvement and saviour like status proposed by Pro.
As for the war against Finland, one year prior to the invasion by Nazi Germany, a extremely harsh winter was recorded. Soviet 'machine' advantage was suppressed by this, as temperatures reached way beyond the freezing point of both petrol and diesel, thus making Soviet tanks and such basically useless. The Finnish chose their battles very wisely, as well as acting like a guerrilla force, making them virtually unbeatable.
I will not comment too much on the Great Purge, as neither Pro nor myself seem to know the actual effects of the outcome, neither do I want to speculate nor is this very important to the topic, as it is evident that the Soviet Union still had enough high ranking officers as well as well trained ones. Just because some of the top officers were purged does not mean that the overall quality of the military was greatly affected, officers one step lower could have been as qualified if not more qualified.
Pro still does not seem to grasp that 'frozen road and snowfall does not equal free road'. It is the exact opposite, especially for troops that were in no way prepared for the situation. This does thus not show Zhukov's qualities as a general, nor shows an implication of why only he was able to 'win' against the enemy forces.
The Soviet forces were already well mobilized in the winter of late 1941, and as such it would have been a huge task for the Nazi forces to take Moscow. Pro also seems to forget the extreme fundamental issue at hand, Nazi Forces were stretched thin, even with the majority of the Nazi forces being on the eastern front, this was still the largest military confrontation in history, a front, at the largest expansion a little shorter than the US-Mexican border. This means that Zhukov, even when threatened by invasion of Moscow, was never really challenged.
Pro fails to make a point with their last argument, as the statement contradicts itself. On one side Pro quotes the statement which says that combat readiness and effectiveness was not affected, on the other hand the partisans robbed supply lines. If supply lines are affected, the military is affected. Of course this makes a benefit to the Soviet side, even if the Partisans were not sympathising with the Soviets, they were surely not sympathising with the Nazis. And the Nazis had problems with resistance everywhere, even in Germany itself.
I will not question Zhukov's skill as a leader and tactician, however I stand firm by the believe that he did not play such a great role as Pro tries to make him out to have had, nor that without him the Soviets would have 'Lost' to Nazi Germany. Nazi Germany was fighting a war they could only lose, if we look at the overall occurrences in the time this is very clear, as well as the Soviet superiority, for which Zhukov was in no way responsible. Thus as a final conclusion I will have to state that the Soviet Union would not have lost against Nazi Germany in WW2 without Marshal Zhukov, nor would they have, with any moderately skilled person in charge. The Soviets were greatly advantaged, thus meaning that Zhukov had less to do or to save than Pro seems to assume. The role he played in WW2 in the defence of the Soviet Union may have been impressive, however, the same outcome would have been achieved, as stated above, with another individual in his place, the defeat of Nazi Germany, which implies that the Soviet Union would not have 'lost' against Nazi Germany.
Kind Regards to Pro for this debate, thanks to all Readers and Voters, have a nice day!
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