intelligence tools available to
However, less significant than the time lag remains the crucialerror in numbers.
consistantly miscalculated the size and strength of the USSR, in varyingdegrees, until the invasion. Actual Soviet strength is discussed later but briefly the problem with
estimates may be summarized as follows: they omit the Russian cavalry reductions, thereported divisional totals are in error by one- third, and they miscalculate the creation of newmechanized corps and tank divisions. After 22 June,
secured much better informationregarding Soviet frontline strength. However, total estimates, including reserves, reveals only amarginal improvement when compared to the historical record. For example, on 8 August,
estimated the Red Army strength at 260 rifle, 50 tank, 20 cavalry, and 60 other divisions.Organized Soviet strength by that date actually totaled over 300 rifle, 70 tank, and about 61 cavalrydivisions. Yet perhaps the worst estimate appeared on 1 December. No Soviet reserves had beenidentified although twelve armies existed. The
The numerical strength of the majority of Soviet combat units is low; their equipment isunsatisfactory. New units were appearing with less frequency in recent days; individual units are being transferred from quiet to endangered front sectors. On this basis it should be assumed that nosignificant strategic reserve units exist at present. . . . The combat strength of the enemy has beenweakened decisively, as a result of losses in personnel and material which have surpassed allexpectations.
These errors provided ample reason for the terrible miscalculations of the late Summer and Fall
1 September 1939, the Law of Universal Military Service was adopted by the Supreme Soviet.At that time, the Red Army was still nominally on a peacetime level. Its major formationsconsisted of 96 rifle (infantry) and one motorized rifle divisions organized into 25 rifle corps, and26 cavalry divisions organized in 5 cavalry corps.
Many of these divisions possessed a tank element.In addition, the army possessed independent rifle and tank brigades as well as four tank corps, eachconsisting of one rifle and two tank brigades. To expand these formations the Law lowered the draftage from 21 to 19 and for those who had completed secondary school it specified 18 years. Thischange contributed to the increase in the size of Soviet reserve forces before the beginning of theGreat Patriotic War as seen in Table 2.The period between September 1939 and June 1941 witnessed substantial formation changes toconform to the personnel increases. The additional manpower enabled new rifle units to beestablished. Concurrently, Soviet mechanized corps first disbanded and then rebuilt on a new table of organization. Tank brigades nominally reformed into divisions. However, significant numbers of technical and officer Specialists were required to create the necessary mechanized corps, and toincrease the existing tank cadres to their new strength. These cadres could not be quickly created.Therefore, it became necessary to reorganize Soviet cavalry divisions to obtain these men. Thus, of the 32 Red Army cavalry divisions that existed in 1938, only 13 remained by 1941.
These changesallowed the reformation process to occur in two stages. In 1940, nine mechanized corps beganforming. Later, in the period March-June 1941, another 20 mechanized corps organized although war broke out before most of these could be considered battle-ready. In fact, of the 20 mechanized corps inthe West on 6/22/41, only six had relatively high combat value. Of the others, some could scarcely beconsidered mobile due to their severe shortages of tanks and motorized support elements.
NARG T78, R261, F52-61. Seweryn Bailer, ed.
Stalin and His Generals
(N.Y. 1969), 592 (note 36).
Istoriya Vtoroi Mirovoi Voiny, Vol. 3 (Moskva, 1973-1982), 418; Vol. 2, 202, hereafter IVMV
50 Let Vooruzhennykh Sil SSSR (Moskva, 1968), 236, hereafter 50 Let
et al., Sovetskie Tanovye Voiska 1941-1945
(Moskva, 1973), 21-22, hereafter,
Total Soviet tanks on 22 June 1941remains very unclear. Stalin indicated 24,000 organized and 60 tank divisions. Robert Sherwood.
Roosevelt and Hopkins
(NY, 1948), 335. Of existing models, only 1,861 were new heavy/medium types.
Vol. 3, 420-421 indicates 60% of Soviet tanks were in the western