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Russian Losses in WW1


wiking85
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<!--quoteo(post=1437531:date=Jul 8 2010, 02:27 AM:name=John Gilinsky)--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE (John Gilinsky @ Jul 8 2010, 02:27 AM) <a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=1437531"><{POST_SNAPBACK}></a></div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec-->Phil: Human nature helps to probably explain a goodly number of those many "wounded" in relativley quiet periods on both fronts. Military medical doctors (vast overwhelming majority civilians in uniforms) recognizing the stresses of war and feeling sympathy for soldiers and other military personnel who just wanted to get out of it for a period of time to see their families or relatives labelled them "wounded" rather than "sick" as such front area doctors knew that military bureacrats would very quickly catch on to this "doctor induced disease" and take actions. No one would question contusions, severe bruising, fractures, etc....caused of course by taking cover during say a bombardment. A few kindly words with the M.O., some strategically placed bandages and presto - a ticket to home or at the very least safe rear areas. This reminds me of the WW2 German phenomenon of diagnosing or actually deliberately NOT diagnosing "shell shock" or any other mental stress disorder in soldiers: besides fearing being put of one's misery by official decress (life unworthy of life) the doctors had a neat solution: stomach disorders/ulcers!

John

Toronto<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

A very good and discerning answer, John...I admit that I had not conseidered that....but not enough to account for the massive numbers we're discussing, surely ?

Phil

Phil: This is the first full quote that I have done for a couple or more years. The reasons for my requoting are both simple and complex. Simply put basic human nature will act to preserve one's self, one's community, one's friends or comrades. Admittedly such subterfuges might seem ridiculous on the hundreds of thousands scale but then we are not talking of hundreds of thousands are we? We are referring to something between 50,000 or so upwards of 150,000 at most. Clearly not all doctors participated in doing such wilfull misdiagnoses and nor can it be said did all or most soldiers knowingly attempt or actually malinger. The situation in the German army of WW2 as referred to is quite well known and not refuted by any post-1945 writer medical or otherwise as far as I know. Other factors beside 'heimat' or homesickness, family reunification in wartime and the like would have played a part in such misdiagnoses. Long running "quiet sectors" (much of the front for extended periods of time), overconfidence on the German troops on the Eastern Front with overreliance on their firepower stopping any real Russian assault thereby inducing infantry and general field commanders to part with troops as not essential in the short term, a natural sympathy and regard for troops going home or back so that news, eyewitness testimonials, special foods and luxuries might be brought back to the front lines are just some of the extra inducements for German military medical personnel to facilitate such practices.

Complex reasons deal more with the subtle nuances of both military practices as actually undertaken on the Eastern Front especially on the German sectors. Unfortunately, in April 1945 many know what happened to the German miltiary archives at Potsdam. War diaries, unit histories and accounts, reports, ....gone. We will never know unlike other theaters of war for many units and in general what presumably actually happened as normal routine due to the dearth of archival records overall. The irony of course is that after 1991 we now have in theory, access to voluminuous records in Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Rumanian and especially Russian. Moreover, military medical history is usually not a favourite topic of the vast majority of military historians as being too logistical, soft or tangential to their primary interests of combat history or strategy and tactical studies.

Oh well, again we can always hope that some grad students and/or profs take an interest in the newly opened up central Eastern European archives and produce some great stuff.

John

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hi, PJA, yes it is surprised to know that there were 16,000 German were killed in Italy, considering they only fought one major battle there, looks like Italian also deserved more credit, and do you know how many Germans were buried in the Eastern Prussian?

As you say, it is very difficult to reconcile such a large number of German war graves in Italy with the fact that the only single large scale action we associate Germans with in that theatre is Caporreto.

Perhaps the number indicates a constant presence of token contingents, advisers and specialists etc...but it still seems too high a number, doesn't it ?

Incidentally, I have contacted German War Graves for info., but they seem unwilling to spend time answering my questions.

Perhaps they think I'm a nuisance, or that I'm mad ! Maybe they're suffering cash defieciencies after bailing out debt ridden Euro-neighbours...

Phil

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Caporreto was of course a brilliant success for Germans, but still German may suffered large number of losses in the latter phase of the battle, say later November and December, when they were far from their initial base, their artillery can not keep up with their infantry, and at the same time the front line started to stabilized, now they had to front-attacked a well-dug in enemy with artillery support

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John,

Again, let me applaud your insight and historical sense...I do not believe, however, that the discipline and high standards of the Imperial German Army was consisitent with relinquishing such a large number of men on the false pretext of very slight wounds. It certainly is a feasible explanation for some of the disparity...but not enough to explain how, in 1918, more than thirty men were reported wounded for every one killed or missing.

Phil

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Phil: Yes you are right quantitavely. Given say 1917 to 1918 would that many (tens of thousands of soldiers) been given a false "blighty" by sympathetic military doctors? Perhaps but the numbers do seem high for this to have been regularly systematically applied. If German military authority was what is was in 1914 this would not have happened. However, think of how the war affected everyone's sensibilities as to survival, their families and how they viewed their own society. War weariness was the norm and commonplace for all belligerents by early to mid-1917 (Russian Revolution, French mutinies, peace feelers by AH from 1916 onwards, increasing labour conflicts/strikes in France, Canada,...). Food shortages and general social unrest would have impelled many especially married men to want to go home to see if they could help out rather than just sitting in some god forsaken uncomfortable trench facing an "inferior" and demoralized enemy who it must be remembered increasingly onwards from the summer of 1917 fraternized with one another regularly. Fraternizations by all ranks it must be remembered would have furthered the desires of both sides to "go home" - contributing to this doctor induced "wound" strategy and hence stats and of course furthering the Russian Revolution along by dissolving or seriously undermining military efficiency in the Russian front lines. Moreover, the ill affects of such regular fraternizations on the previously vaunted Prussian style German military machine also contributed to a weakening of rigid military discipline and rules including of course the proclivity of medical personnel to engage in a little home front "fraternization." Still, sufficient military discipline existed in the German military machine so that such numbers based solely or even mainly on such doctor practices is not sufficient to explain the fundamental discrepancy between the miniscule number of killed (less than 1000) officially reported for 1918 for the Germans on the Eastern Front and the tens of thousands of "wounded."

Another alternative or contributing explanation may lie in the fact that some German units and/or unit doctors openly wilfully engaged in such practices with a blind eye being turned by some or at least sufficient numbers of commanding and/or senior German officers. In 1917 we know that at least 100,000 French troops were in a state of mutiny. Could not upwards of 50,000 German soldiers on the moribund down-played Eastern front(remember the Germans really wanted for most of 1918 to win the war by defeating Great Britain and France on the Western Front especially before the arrival of millions of American troops)have gotten away with this? Such medical personnel and their willing 'patients' might give the excuse that they really wanted to both yes visit their loved ones and family but also mainly try to get to the western front for the good of the fatherland. What patriotic military police investigator or officer would ignore such an "excuse"? They could further state that they had been told that the war would be won by Germany by defeating the Allies in the west and they wanted to help out any way. If necessary by re-enlisting after their "leave" etc.....

John

P.S.: Phil keep trying (and others) to get anything you can out of the official German War Graves people. Try emailing them in German - Deutsche - use Google translator and / or German speaking friends colleagues etc.... Suggestion made about German Eastern Front burials I think is a good one including the unknown German dead as well.

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John, There is the question of how - if at all - the German soldiers on the Eastern Front differed in outlook and motivation from their comrades fighting in the West. Was there a feeling that Germans from the Eastern Front might have been infected with the" Bolshevik Bacillus" ?

In the event, a million (?) German soldiers were transferred from the East to take part in the great spring/summer offensives of 1918 in the West, and it would appear that they gave a good account of themselves. Indeed, they had been pioneering storm troop tactics as recently as September 1917 at Riga.

It should be noted that in the West, also, there was a huge increase in the preponderance of those listed as wounded compared with the number posted as killed when the front was relatively quiet. I will post figures as evidence if requested, but am anxious not to push the statisitcal excercise too far. Significantly, this was not the case with the British statistics. This reinforces the old adage that casualty statistics vary according to who, and how, you count.

Phil

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Precisely Phil: the eagerness to both "get home" and to "go west"(latter geographically of course only!) must have been heavily intertwined and affecting the German eastern front troops as much as anyone else. This then does in part account for the significant discrepancy between the small KIA and the relatively innumerable "wounded" especially for 1918. Perhaps some of our German speaking friends in Germany who have access to excellent German especially military medical memoirs that cover the Eastern Front during 1916 or at least 1917 to 1918 can elucidate on this.

John

Toronto

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Caporreto was of course a brilliant success for Germans, but still German may suffered large number of losses in the latter phase of the battle, say later November and December, when they were far from their initial base, their artillery can not keep up with their infantry, and at the same time the front line started to stabilized, now they had to front-attacked a well-dug in enemy with artillery support

After Caporetto there was a series of Central Powers (German and Austro-Hungarian) attacks on the Piave. These failed miserably and prompted the German OHL to pull troops out of Italy, as it was assumed that no further successes could be gained against Italy and the scare, valuable veterans deployed to Italy were more useful elsewhere.

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The distinctions in the practical effects of being labelled officialy "wounded" versus "sick" should also be taken into account. Sick soldiers could be expected to recover fairly quickly or nearly so and be sent back to the front whereas wounded soldiers might require far longer periods of convalescence and treatment(s)with all those "hidden ailments" accompanying such "wounds." Moreover, a soldier on leave classified as "wounded" was far more likely to get sympathy, good recognition, and financial assistance locally at least as compared to a merely "sick" soldier. There were also financial support situations and ultimately end of and post-war pensionability statuses. Soldiers wounded multiple times would be less likely to be sent back to the front at least quickly and be given the benefit of the doubt. These social-political aspects of military medical practice in war also therefore played a part in possibly distorting what we would normally classify as "wounded" soldiers.

John

Toronto

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After Caporetto there was a series of Central Powers (German and Austro-Hungarian) attacks on the Piave. These failed miserably and prompted the German OHL to pull troops out of Italy, as it was assumed that no further successes could be gained against Italy and the scare, valuable veterans deployed to Italy were more useful elsewhere.

wiking, was battle of Piave was fought between Italian and Austro-Hungarian in June 1918, long after Germans were transfered to the Western Front ?

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wiking, was battle of Piave was fought between Italian and Austro-Hungarian in June 1918, long after Germans were transfered to the Western Front ?

Yes it was, but there were also joint German-Austrian attacks in December 1917 that failed as well. Hoffmann refers to these in his book "The War of Missed Opportunities".

OHL had decided that Italy was a strategic blackhole for them, but the Austrians had only one major active front left, Italy, which they needed to wrap up in a victory so they threw the dice in their version of Kaiserschlacht. But the Austrians were far, far worse off than the Germans by 1918 had had no hope of even a small victory, something the Germans figured out in 1917.

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Thanks! Not surprise about German's failure in December, that was all about the artilley, or lack of them, I doubt German-Austrian artilley could catch up with their infantry in December

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Thanks! Not surprise about German's failure in December, that was all about the artilley, or lack of them, I doubt German-Austrian artilley could catch up with their infantry in December

It was that, poor logistics, strong defensive positions, and the arrival of British and French units, which was superior doctrine to the AHs. They had sound ranging from their experiences in France, while the AHs had nothing similar, which meant the Entente forces could rain down very effective counter battery fire on their foe without the AHs being able to reply in kind. They lost a large number of batteries against the British and French.

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  • 4 months later...

A striking feature of Russian demographic history in the twentieth century is the appalling deficit of males. In the 1897 census there was a deficit of 700,000. By 1926 this had increased to a deficit of 5,000,000 : by 1939 the figure rose to 7,200,000...these reflect the catastrophic loss of males in the Great War, the Civil War and the period of collectivization.

By 1950, this male deficit had risen to 20,800,000, implying a loss of males 1941-45 on an incredible scale...an increase in the deficit of 13.6 million ! Yet the Soviet armed forces lost "only" 8.7 million personel killed or died from all causes, suggesting that even away from the battlefield, males are slaughtered or die on a much greater scale than females.

If we allow for a an increase in the male defict of roughly 4.3 million in the period of the Great War and Civil War, and attribute nearly two thirds of them to the military, we have about 2.8 million military deaths, of whom in excess of half a million, perhaps three quarters of a million, were recorded for the Civil War. This leaves a balance of approx. 2 million military dead for the Great War... which seems about right. I will elaborate further on ths with some more specific references to 1914-17.

Phil

Those statistics are staggering.
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Pete and others: Approximately 2 million killed in action, died of wounds and/or of diseases contracted on or during military service between August 1, 1914 and the late fall of 1917 (about October 1917!)usually is the commonly accepted figure. Sometimes the figures of 1.6 million and above is given but realistically I prefer rounding the number upwards which is due to the varying reasons already stated.

Definitely related to these war time casualty figures and which most of us tend to forget generally for WWI - POST-WAR casualties - murders committed by veterans, suicides, early or premature deaths and the like.

Another social medical historical aspect of military or war casualties are the close or immediate family members and the impact on them of such casualties - family distress, psychological problems, economic impact - young relatively healthy males or simply males as traditional breadwinners now absent from econcomic familial sustenance, funerary arrangements and/or costs for same, direct state family intervention via the granting, issuing, processing and distribution or re-distribution of public garnered state wealth (taxes) through war pensions and benefits.

John

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  • 2 weeks later...

What accounts for the enormous destruction of males in Russia falling so preponderantly on their sex not only on, but away from, the battlefields ?

This applies most spectacularly in WW2. but it is also apparent in the earlier periods.

The more insidious effects caused by loss of males that you mention, John, stood out in sharper relief in other continental european nations where there was a fabric of society left intact...where the norms of life were retained, and where family structures and government procedures existed that served to remind the rest of society how unfortunate the widows and orphans were.

In Russia, the years that followed the Great War were so catastrophic...revolution, civil war, famine, Stalinism....that there was, I daresay, a kind of meltdown that continued for decades and was made even more extreme by WW2.

Phil (PJA)

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Phil - the enormous losses of life especially "away from the battlefields" especially in comparison to German, AH, French and British medical casualties are attributable to the deficiencies of properly trained medical personnel, lack of proper medicines, general especially 1914-1915 neglect based in large measure on the first two factors combined with strategic considerations, deficiencies of "etappe" or rear area organization and transport resulting in serious evacuation delays so that many died of their wounds in transit or at improvised at best "hospitals."

John

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No, sorry, John, you misunderstand me.

What I refer to is the incredible loss of life among men who were not in the military.

Take WW2....8.7 million soviet military personel died; yet the male deficit increased by 13.6 million : that's incredible. It implies outrageous massacre of civilian men : executed, worked to death, whatever. Fewer than two thirds of the male deficit was attributable to deaths in the armed forces. It's apparent that even in the onslaught on civilians, the war took a disproportionate toll of males.

In the period of the Great War and the Civil War the male deficit had increased by 5 million. I wonder how much of this was due to the death of soldiers, from whatever cause.

Phil (PJA)

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Phil (and others): Overall during the period 1914 to 1945 inclusively within continental Europe alone including Russia/Soviet Union it is irrefutable that far more civilians (males, females, children, infants and old persons) were killed or died as a direct result (e.g.- blockades/starvation)of the World Wars and their immediate aftermaths as well than legally recognized armed forces members of belligerent states involved in either or both World Wars. WW2 whose figures you quote in this GWF(!) overshadows both deliberately and due to, inter alia, the Holocaust alone the holocausts of WWI. Hunger blockades (e.g. Allied of Germany 1918-1919), mass deportations of "suspect" ethnic minorities (e.g. Jews from the Pale of Settlement - 1914-1915), general neglect of loosing belligerents' nations towards their incarcerated POWS (e.g. Central POWS in early Soviet Uninon 1918 - 1919)are just some examples of both civilian and semi-civilian (that is disarmed enemy personnel to use modern American military parlance)or medically incapicitated military personnel (e.g. veterans, returned soldiers, convalescing soldiers) losses attributable to the First World War. Again it is the massive social political impact on local and family daily lives that is of great fascination and which we are only now (since 1991) coming to terms with this on the Eastern Front during WWI with the slow but steady publication using archival resources previously closed related to this very broad subject. Casualty figures or stats will forever be arguable but it is the actual impact on people's and family's lives/history that we can now piece together (if this task alone is quite intimidating due to the distances, languages and time alone involved in doing so!).

The disproportionate male death rates generally are attritubtable to such factors or reasons as:

a) the concept of "total war" for both wars where everyone was presumed to be involved and thereby both substituting and conflating a "militarization" of "normative" rear area and home front life so that war workers, factory workers, office personnel, farm hands all constantly thought of the war as it impacted or might impact on their own lives and thereby have such paramilitary, semi-military personnel (such as home guards, rear area military security personnel, training or depot units, etc...)either included or excluded from casualty figures and estimates. In other words especially for Russia the massive mobilization in itself created a massive pool of extapolating "massive" casualty figures both contemporailly scientifically and post-war to meet politically motivated produced "history."

B) the genreally heightened stress levels for everyone but of course especially heightened by those combattants or near/semi-combattants which in turn would have clearly induced a greater risk of injury and disease amongst such personnel and thereby in turn increasing the male casualty figures both combattant and non-combattant (considering the anxieties felt by immediate family male relatives of combatants, potential for being drafted or conscripted, etc....).

c) the strident "manliness" war related propaganda which in turn would have had some effect on creating false expectations of what was expected of combatants and civilians who might find themselves involved directly in the war effort by killing the enemy of your fatherland / motherland / family and be killed (even if necessary by your own fatherland/motherland) if you failed to do such killing) and thus generating unnecessary risk taking and the diminuition (whcih naturally occurs in a prolonged conflict anyways) of regarding one's own and other's lives including comrades as sacrosant.

d) the concurrent impact of total war with rear or home front area deprivations both intentional (e.g. food or fuel rationing) and unintentional (e.g. blockades)cumulatively feeding off one another and also increasing the heightened stress levels above more directly attributable to combat, near-combat or conflict related activities and thereby increasing the risk of serious injury and diseases.

e) for Russia/Soviet Union in particular: the revolutionary political concepts of sacrificing one's life for the greater revolutionary cause from the spring of 1917 onwards and/or sacrificing one's life for the restoration of "order and authority." (Whites).

John

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For the record, John and others participating in this thread, I have just been citing passages from Nik Cornish's book The Russian Army And The First World War in the thread about capital punishment in the Tsarist Army- "From Russia with bullet" - and here is his reckoning for Russian losses in the Great War : Battle deaths ( killed in action or died from wounds) ....1,670,000

Deaths from disease or accidents ........155,000

Deaths while PoW .........181,000

Total military deaths from all causes 1914-17 .........2,006,000

There we are again, the consensus reigns at two million !

He cites the oft repeated figure of five million for wounded and sick, but makes a bad mistake by alluding to five million PoWs, which is more than double the total claimed by Germany and her allies.

Phil (PJA)

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Yes, they are indeed, Pete.

Set against Russia's huge population, though, the loss of 1.67 million killed in combat equates to only one in one hundred , whereas Germany lost one in thirty two, France one in thirty. The figure also implies that Russian soldiers were fifty per cent more likely to surrender than they were to be killed in battle, whereas in the German and French cases the troops were at least twice as likely to be killed in combat than they were to be captured. To a degree, this reflects the more open conditions of warfare on the Eastern Front, where mobile fightng allowed encirclement and capture of large numbers....this was also apparent in the West in the opening battles of 1914 and in the mobile warfare of 1918. It still seems, though, that the Russians lost heart more quickly than their Franco-German counterparts, and we have to address the social and political implications inherent in this.

Phil

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Amongst several Russian and other historians such as Norman Stone and Bruce Lincoln the demoralization and inherent social political backwardness immediately showed themselves from the start of the war. One of the ironies is that despite these fundamental handicaps that the Russians regionally,locally and in certain sectors actually performed very well including comparison with other belligerent "developed" powers. The stats are also somewhat misleading overall in that given a very large population (at least 180,000,000) to start with even very heavy losses it was thought could be "absorbed." In reality with the tremendous speed ups all round and the technologically based learning curves for co-ordinated development combined with the "backwardness" (e.g. majority of soldiers were illiterate, far too few officers, etc...) massive casualties were sustained repeatedly, readily and pervasively by the Russian forces.

John

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Amongst several Russian and other historians such as Norman Stone and Bruce Lincoln the demoralization and inherent social political backwardness immediately showed themselves from the start of the war. One of the ironies is that despite these fundamental handicaps that the Russians regionally,locally and in certain sectors actually performed very well including comparison with other belligerent "developed" powers.

Yes, that's an important aspect that I feel needs to be emphasised, John.

The Russians achieved some major successes : we all know that they really tore into the Austro-Hungarians, right from the start, at Lemberg...it's also widely known that they inflicted severe defeats on the Turks in the Caucasus; but what is also important, and not often acknowledged, is the fact that they gave the Germans some very nasty moments, too.

Phil (PJA)

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  • 3 months later...
especially as we know dog tags were abolished by the USSR early in the Second World War?

John, I know this is an old thread now, but I'm curious as to this particular bit as I had never (other than them ordering the stoppage of the manufacture of bakelite 'tubes' in November 1942 (order Nr.376) ) before heard that the USSR abolished them during WW2 (makes the comment all the more intriguing when it's considered that the Red Army actually issued 3 different official patterns between 1941 and 1945!). Regimental issues of tags (just as in the old Imperial days) were also frequent.

Dave

('one or two' of the type authorised on 15th March 1941 (that replaced the updated 1917 pattern 'locket' of August 1925 and were 'officially' (but not 'actually') revoked in Order 376 of November 1942) can be seen below...excavated whilst relocating graves in the area of the Demyansk pocket...)

post-357-0-28583600-1302704908.jpg

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