The Wehrmacht Was Stronger Than the Red Army at the Outbreak of the War
Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Volume 5
“The enemy was superior to the Soviet forces: in personnel – by 1.8 times, in medium and heavy tanks by 1.5 times, in new combat aircraft – by 3.2 times, in guns and mortars – 1.25 times. The direction of the main attack of the enemy created the most significant advantage in strength and means…”
■ The Essence of the Myth
Wehrmacht command had significant numerical superiority over the Soviet troops in the main areas of impact which caused the defeat of the Red Army in 1941.
■ Fast Facts
The overall balance of power against the USSR at the beginning of hostilities was not in favor of the Germans. In June 1941, the Wehrmacht had no explicit quantitative superiority over the Red Army and even the number of basic types of military equipment were inferior. However, training of personnel and the level of technology used by the Wehrmacht was much higher than in the Red Army.
■ Detailed Facts
The Soviet Union at the end of the 1930s was the most militarized country in the world. By June 1941, the number of Red Army soldiers significantly increased. On 1 September 1939, the USSR introduced universal conscription. The number of personnel increased by almost threefold: from 1.943 million in September 1939 to 5.710 million in June 1941. Despite this, the Wehrmacht in 1941 was still ahead of the Red Army in terms of personnel with 8.3 million.
At the beginning of June 1941, Germany had full mobilization, yet the Soviet Union did not. Total mobilization only Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Volume 5 The Wehrmacht Was Stronger Than the Red Army at the Outbreak of the War started after the attack. Soviet potential to increase personnel was enormous. In Ukraine during the first year of the war, almost 3.2 million people were mobilized.
In June 1941, the balance of power of both parties along the Soviet-German border looked like this:
These indicators show that the USSR should have prevailed against its opponent. The Soviets had 59,787 guns and mortars against the 42,601 enemy guns which meant a ratio of 1.4:1 in favor of the Red Army.
The number of tanks and other military equipment of the Wehrmacht was significantly inferior to the Red Army
Famous researchers say that the data shows the Soviets were almost four times stronger in terms of armored technology. There were 15,687 Soviet tanks (although, many needed repair) against the 4,436 tanks and assault guns of the Wehrmacht.
Other calculations based on serviceable tanks also confirmed Soviet superiority: 12,379 Soviet tanks confronted 3,266 German tanks and tankettes with an additional 402 tanks from the Germans’ allies.
In mid-1941, the Wehrmacht did not have any heavy tanks. The Red Army was only faced with 439 new medium tanks and 3,500 light. The Soviet command concentrated 636 KV heavy tanks, 1,225 T-34 medium tanks and more than 10 thousand light tanks along its border districts.
The Soviets had a double advantage in aviation. There were 10,743 Soviet aircrafts against the Luftwaffe’s 4,795.
According to these figures, on 22 June 1941, Germany and its allies had an advantage in the number of personnel but were significantly inferior to the USSR in terms of technical equipment.
This balance of forces where the Red Army had tremendous technical superiority was the biggest problem for the German command.
The Soviet troops on the territory of Ukraine were especially powerful. As of 21 June 1941, the balance of forces and assets of both parties intended to conduct an armed struggle in Ukraine was as follows:
In June 1941, the Wehrmacht did not have an explicit quantitative superiority over the Red Army. The number of the Wehrmacht’s basic types of military equipment was inferior. However, the level of training of the Wehrmacht personnel and the level of military technology was higher than the Red Army.
The apparent advantage of the Wehrmacht was their troop deployment and full combat readiness which focused on attacking Soviet forces. The Red Army was just beginning to focus on this and to deploy their troops along their western border.
The Germans had a very high morale and hoped for another lightning war. In the summer of 1941, the Wehrmacht was the strongest army in the world, making it a very serious opponent.
And though the Soviet designers managed to create a war machine before the war which corresponded to international standards of military-technical developments or even exceeded it, the Red Army had yet to learn how to skillfully use it.
So the idea that the defeat of the Red Army in 1941 was caused by the numerical superiority of the enemy is not true.