WWII, V-E Day: The War in Numbers versus The War of Numbers

22 June 1941–9 May 1945: Dedicated to Soviet Russia’s men and women in arms who died in Second World War to save their own peoples and the World

Oleg Savkin
May 6, 2019 · 9 min read

The Great Patriotic War over, my mother’s family counted the death toll from the war and shared their wartime experiences on the post-war reunion day: 26 family members never made it home (close and distant relatives); my uncle Boris succumbed to his wartime wounds ten years after he had returned home. My father’s family uniquely made it unscathed. It will never be a distant memory to us.

Ever since then, the paperback writers have been at loggerheads fighting their war of words from the desktop trenches, both East and West.

The War in Numbers

Nazi Germany started World War II in Europe. To do so, Germany had all its armed forces mobilized towards the end of 1930s. Before attacking the Soviet Union in June 1941, those forces totaled 179 infantry and cavalry divisions, 35 armor and motorized divisions and 7 brigades.

Out of these numbers, 62 divisions and 5 brigades were deployed to the Northern, Western and Southern theatres of military operations whereas 152 divisions and 2 brigades were concentrated on the Eastern theater of operations against the USSR.

In addition to German formations deployed to the Balkans and Southern theatres of operations, there were also 40 Italian divisions taking part in combat operations. Germany’s satellite states including Finland, Hungary and Romania deployed 29 divisions and 16 brigades to the frontiers of the Soviet Union.

Efforts were in progress to prepare for the war against the Soviet Union the Italian and Slovakian divisions and one Spanish division. In the summer of 1941, the leadership of Germany focused its main efforts on the war against the Soviet Union; the size of forces committed by Nazi Germany and its satellite states clearly shows that this was their strategic line. The same strategic line remained unchanged throughout the entire duration of the war and until Germany’s final defeat in 1945.

Over June 1941 — May 1945 periods, Germany formed 402 divisions and 98 brigades.

Over the same period of time 151 divisions and 26 brigades were restored in force.

Out of forces available to Germany by 22 June 1941 and the forces formed and restored during the war, total of 767 divisions and 131 brigades throughout the entire war period, Germany engaged on the Soviet-German front 560 divisions and 85 brigades or 72% of the total number of the armed forces and military formations available to Nazi Germany.

The total number of German divisions fighting on the Soviet-German front incrementally increased throughout the war. In 1941, these numbers amounted to 172; in 1942, these numbers amounted to 252.5; in 1943, these numbers amounted to 270.5, and in 1944, these numbers amounted to 350 formations.

At the same time the largest number of German military formations deployed to the Western theatre of operations was 282.5 divisions in 1944 and that number included 165.5 formations that were being formed or restored in force, and most of them would be eventually deployed to the Eastern or Soviet-German front.

In addition to the German troops fighting on the Soviet-German front during the war, there were also 141 divisions and 60 brigades from Finland, Hungary, Romania, Italy, and Slovakia fighting for Germany.

The Soviet-German front was the most combat-intensive throughout he entire duration of Second World War; the large-scale operations conducted by huge groups of armies fighting on both sides accounted for 1,320 days (93%) out of 1,418 days of the entire wartime period.

When fighting the war on the Soviet-German front, Germany’s forces suffered the largest losses in terms of divisions and brigades, a total of 508 divisions vs. 179 divisions lost by Germany in the Western and Southern theatres of operations.

The Soviet troops received capitulation of 87 divisions and 8 brigades whereas the Allied troops of the United States, the United Kingdom and France received capitulation of 46 divisions and 9 brigades.

The Soviet-German front actually accounted for three-quarters (72%) of Germany’s armed forces formations that were defeated, destroyed and captured and for more than 60% (166 out of 275.5) of the military formations of the armies of its satellite states that were defeated, destroyed and captured.

During the last two years of the war, Germany suffered the largest losses in terms of divisions and brigades. Those losses totaled 219 divisions and 46 brigades in 1944, and 282 divisions and 42 brigades in 1945, respectively. Out those formations, the Soviet-German front accounted for 155 divisions and 29 brigades, and 198 divisions and 30 brigades, respectively.

In 1945 alone, Germany lost on Soviet-German front nearly as many divisions as it had on 22 June 1941 (for comparison, on 22 June 1941 Germany had 217.5 divisions whereas its 1945 losses on the Soviet-German front totaled 213 divisions). During the last days of the war from May 1 till May 9, 1945, the Soviet troops destroyed or captured 94 German divisions.

The War of Numbers

The following are some excerpts from an analytical review posted by the Eisenhower Institute.

http://www.eisenhowerinstitute.org/programs/livinghistory/SovietExperienceww2.htm

The Soviet Experience in World War Two
By JT Dykman
The Eisenhower Institute, Washington, D.C.

Overview

Americans have little conception of the Soviet Union’s experience in World War II…..

The populations of the United States and the USSR were about the same, 130,000,000, when both nations went to war within six months of each other in 1941…..

America would lose slightly more than 400,000 soldiers (killed or missing) and almost no civilians during World War II and the USSR, depending on which historian you believe, would lose at least 11,000,000 soldiers (killed and missing) as well as somewhere between 7,000,000 and 20,000,000 million of its civilian population during the Great Patriotic War……

Looking only at Anglo-American forces engaged against German soldiers on our two fronts, northwest Europe and Italy, the United States lost 139,380 soldiers (killed and missing) during the conflict. General Eisenhower had just over 3,000,000 men under his command, with about a third of them safely in England, and faced a German Army of less than 1,500,000 of which our forces killed 834,314. At the same time, Soviet armies in excess of 20,000,000 soldiers were fighting German armies totaling 5,700,000 at their strongest and killed 2,415,690 of them as they fought their way out of Russia and on to Berlin….

The above statements suggest conclusions implied, based on the numbers that speak for themselves. There are many people taking these numbers for granted when they use these allegedly convincing statements of fact to prove their point in the discussion of what is now a distant memory to them.

… Yet some numbers, as quoted, are fundamentally wrong:

The Eisenhower Institute’s overview reads, “The populations of the United States and the USSR were about the same, 130,000,000…” — This is wrong, as of June 22, 1941, the population of the USSR was 196.7 million people: it is an understatement in terms of the population of the USSR by 60.7 million, a number measurable by an order of magnitude.

What about other numbers used in the above review?

1. According to the Eisenhower Institute’s overview the Soviet armies in excess of 20,000,000 soldiers were fighting the German armies totaling 5,700,000 soldiers at their strongest.

2. According to the Eisenhower Institute’s overview the Soviet armies would lose at least 11,000,000 soldiers killed and missing and would kill 2,415,690 enemy soldiers.

The War in Numbers versus the War of Numbers

If the numbers quoted in the Eisenhower Institute’s overview are challenged, there may be other answers to the following questions:

1) How many men did Nazi Germany + satellite states actually deploy to the Soviet-German front during the war?

2) What was the actual strength of the Soviet armies committed to fighting the German armies and the armies of Germany’s satellites?

3) What were the actual enemy losses suffered on the Soviet-German front? How many enemy soldiers (Nazi Germany + Satellite States) did the Soviet Army kill during the war?

4) How many soldiers did the Soviet Army lose over the four years of the war fighting the war against the armies of Nazi Germany and its satellite states including the collaborationists?

The Soviet armies in excess of 20,000,000 soldiers — this number “…the Soviet armies in excess of 20,000,000 soldiers..,” it looks like a summation of total averaged strength of the Soviet armies in the battlefield over the four years of fighting the war and which is compared with an averaged strength of the German armies during one year out of the four years of fighting the war. Should that be the case, a very strange statistical method was used to benchmark the belligerent forces ratio.

* The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union. 1941–1945. Short History. 1st Edition, 1965

Permanent losses suffered by the armed forces of Germany and the armies of its satellite states on the Soviet-German Front over 22 June 1941–9 May 1945 periods.

Military losses in terms of formation losses; the USSR vs. Germany

Total Red Army losses on the Soviet-German front (from 22 June 1941 until 9 May 1945) and in the war against Japan (from August 8 till September 2, 1945)

Total number of men and women called to active military duty (net of re-drafted personnel) amounted to 29,574.900. Over the 4-year period of WWII, total number of military personnel inclusive of military strength at the start of the war amounted to 34,476,700.

Distribution of military personnel during the war time: according to military statistics annual military strength of the armed forces averaged from 10.5 to 11.5 million men (more than 33% of the grand total); half of the military personnel strength (from 5.0 million to 6.5 million) would be deployed to the Soviet-German front to service with fighting troops.

During the years of the war, the decline of total number of military personnel due to various reasons accounted for 21.6 million or 62.9 % of the total personnel called to military duty; 11,944,100 men were accounted for permanent losses.

According to the military command field reports the sanitary losses suffered by the fighting troops totaled 18,344,148 including 15,205,592 wounded, 3,047,675 sick, and 90,881 frost-bitten.

The military medical statistics reported by military hospitals would show much larger numbers: over 22 June 1941 — September 1945 periods, the total number of patients registered by hospitals amounted to 22,326,905 individuals.

Americans indeed have little conception of the Soviet Union’s role and contribution to victory in World War II ….. and J.T. Dykman from The Eisenhower Institute contributed to this lacuna of America’s knowledge about World War II to make the gap just wider….

Benchmarking the German and the Soviet forces in terms of their respective strength and warfighting capabilities

Personnel strength and armaments of German and Soviet infantry divisions in 1941–1945

Personnel strength and armaments of a Soviet mechanized corpse and a German armor division in 1943–1945

Personnel strength and armaments of a Soviet mechanized corpse and a German motorized division in 1942–1945

Personnel strength and armaments of a Soviet armor corpse and a German armor division in 1943–1945

The Soviet Union’s Red Army’s Wartime Losses in Terms of Ethnicities Profile

They represented all nations and nationalities that lived in the Soviet Union inclusive of:

The quotes and statistics have been sourced through the Study entitled, Russia and the USSR in the 20th Century Wars.

Russia and the USSR in the 20th Century Wars

The Losses of the Armed Forces

The Statistical Study

Under general editorship of Colonel General F.G, Krivosheyev, Full Professor of Military Science Academy; Ph.D. in Military Science

Moscow, OLMA-PRESS

2001

Russia is Fighting Back, a documentary from the US War Department.

For more numbers follow the link below, For

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Oleg Savkin

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History Writer, WWII

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