The Battle for Yelnia: Command and Staff subject logo: MILGAM
Posted by: badanov

Before Case Blue, the drive for the Caucusus and Stalingrad, German armed forces were organized much the same way the Americans and the Russians were.

The command structure for Barbarossa consisted of three army groups, Army Group South, Army Griup Center and Army Group North. Between these startegic formations was only the Army High Command, OKH, and the Armed Forces High Command OHW. In retrospect it seemed odd that the Germans would not establish a single command for the east to run the campaign, but it is easy to understand why: Hitler expected the war to be over by the end of 1942. No need for an intervening authority to conduct the war in the east.

In the German Army everything has a static organization. Infantry companies of one division were identical to companies in another division. And that pattern continued up to the korps level. From that level up formations were task organized. In this case army korps and panzer korps has unique structures including the commnader's personal assets, AKA GHQ assets. One of the functions OKH had was to create these organizations, according to the task at hand, then assign a commander to fight the formation. German army korps could expect to have between three and four divisions along with any number of different GHQ assets, most likely to include additional artillery, anti-tank and engineering support. Early in the war panzer korps could have three to four divisions, with at least one panzer and one motorized division. These large mobile formations were more likely to have bridging units, primarily pontoon units and ferry units.

On the other side it is safe to say the Red Army was unprepared for war, as unprepared given the large number of hints they could expect to be. Even so, in June 22nd, the Soviet groupd forces were divided into military districts which, upon mobilization, would turn into fronts, a special Red Army strateic formation consisting of at least one and possibly more armies.

Like the German Army, the Red Army has uniform units up to the division level with corps and higher formations being task organized. Just before the war, the Red Army had a number of korps units, which were essentially two to four divisions with no more than an artillery battalion for the commander's personal reserve. But the murders during the 30s of large swaths of senior army officers by the Russian Communist Party virtually eliminated an entire enchelon, the corps.

In the opening of the war the three main military districts on the frontier were designated special military districts owing to the fact they were administering conqured territoes, such as the Baltic States, eastern Poland and norther Bukovia. The great bulk of the active duty Red Army was deployed in these three districts and on the border, but in deliberate downgraded states of readiness.

Within those districts as in other military districts were several GHQ units including aircraft, PVO (Frontal aviation and National Air Defense), engineers and some elite formations.

The organization of the Soviet military ground forces was simple. At the top was the Ministry of Defense which Marshal Yimoshenko held, and the rest was the military districts. Stalin controlled every thing in terms of military communication, and so orders issued by the MoD were issued to senior commanders who knew they came from "The Boss" himself.

Leaving aside for the moment the issues os the murder of field commanders on the orders of Stalin, from the Soviet General Staff, the next echelon down from the Soviet General Staff, STAVKA, were the special military districts, so named until that practice changed and the Soviets were fully mobilized for war. These were later called fronts, a basic Soviet/Russian strategic formation. Beneath that were the armies and then the component maneuver units, divisions, and in ever dwindling numbers corps.

We do not know if the Soviets had provisions for an intervening command between STAVKA and the fronts, and if they did it would have been called theatres. Theatres were used lavishly from Operation Uranus to the end of the war. Zhukov commanded the intervening echelon between Malinovskiy's Stalingrad Front and STAVKA.

Following the liquidation of Western Military District commander Pavlov, Marshal Timoshenko took command of the front and later took control of a new ad hoc command echelon called the western theatre, which encompassed the Western and Brianks Front.

Timoshenko controlled the diversion of munitions and reinforcements which led to the Soviet victory at Yelnia.

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