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Did the Red Army and German Army clash in Poland in 1939?

Did the Red Army and German Army clash in Poland in 1939?

I found a youtube lecture by Stephen Kotkin. He is a professor of history, wrote 2 books on Stalin with a 3rd on the way, and has access to certain Russian archives. That's all I know about him, credential-wise.

At 33 minutes in, he says basically the following: The Germans crossed the line (the agreed-to line dividing Poland between Germany and USSR in the Molotov-Ribbentropt Pact) and were holding territory allocated to the Soviets, the Soviet and Germans talked about this, then Stalin decided to retake the territory by force, and did so. (Later he says the territory was the Galician Oil Fields.)

Is this true? Did the Red Army and German Army really clash in Poland at this time, with casualties on both sides? If so, what is the battle called and where can I read more about it? I couldn't find it on wikipedia or even google.


Providing English translations and expanding upon the answer by @James Slides referencing the brief exchanges of fire between forces from the German 1st Mountain Division and elements of the Soviet Volotchitsky Army Group near Lviv in 1939.

September 19th, 1939, near Lviv

At 5.00, the commander of the 24th LTBR Colonel P.S. Fotchenkov ordered the reconnaissance battalion to remain in the city, but to close the exits on the eastern outskirts of Lviv. A separate tank brigade commander ordered to go to the eastern outskirts of Vinniki (the vicinity of the city of Lviv). Captain Shurenkov, the commander of the 2nd unit, contact the Polish headquarters and call the head of the Lviv garrison to negotiate the surrender of the city.

Two armored vehicles sent from Lviv eastward along another road towards the Soviet troops marching towards the city were suddenly subjected to shelling. The commanders thought it was Polish troops and entered the battle, firing from 45-mm cannons and machine guns. As it turned out later, the crews of the armored communications delegates knocked out two anti-tank guns and killed one German officer and four soldiers. Two Soviet armored vehicles with their glorious crews fought to the last covered in fire and burned. This was learned from the representatives from the headquarters of the 1st German Mountain Infantry Division and the 137th German Regiment.

… and later the same day.

At 8.30. Lviv. The Germans unexpectedly launched an attack on the western and southern outskirts of the city. Polish troops took the battle, and Soviet tanks and armored vehicles of the 24th LTBR reconnaissance battalion were between the warring parties. The brigade commander Colonel Fotchenkov sent an armored vehicle with the white flag to the Germans. Soviet commanders in tanks and armored vehicles gave signals in red and white flags, but the fire on them from both sides did not stop. Having exhausted peaceful methods of ceasefire, Soviet tankmen opened fire on the enemy. At the same time, 3 anti-tank guns were killed [of] the Germans, 3 officers were killed (two of them were major), and 9 soldiers were wounded. In the 24th brigade, 2 armored vehicles and 1 tank were killed, 3 people were killed and 4 people were injured. Seeing their losses, the Germans stopped artillery fire.

The above is an English translation from Russian language Wikipedia

Original source:

Meltiukhov M.I., Soviet-Polish War. Military-political confrontation 1918-1939 Part 3. September 1939 War from the West - M., 2001. Chapters: Forces of the parties; Polish campaign of the red army: September 17-21; Moscow-Berlin. See “Forces of the parties. Table 27. Grouping of Soviet troops by September 17, 1939 ”; “The Polish Red Army Campaign: September 17-21”; "Moscow-Berlin"; "The Polish campaign of the red army: September 22 - October 1."

A personal account of the incident

"Then, on the morning of September 17, the 24th tank brigade of Colonel P.S. Fotchenkov, which included a tank reconnaissance battalion under my command, along with other parts of the Kiev Special Military District crossed the border in the Ternopil direction. The battalion operated in the advance detachment. By the evening of the same day we reached Ternopil, and on the night of September 19 entered Lviv. The population greeted the Red Army with glee. Our mood was elated: after all, we carried out a fair liberation mission. Our forward detachment continued to advance rapidly toward the demarcation line. Suddenly, we saw German tanks rushing towards Lviv, infantry and artillery. It alerted. After all, the demarcation line established in advance passed much to the west. The Germans could not have been unaware that the Polish army of General Langer, which had been defending Lviv from the west, had laid down their arms. Nevertheless, the Germans were clearly in a hurry to break into the city, apparently hoping to get ahead of our main forces. What to do? Give way and let them go to Lviv? Not. We must block the way! At my command, the battalion turned around. We made it clear to the Germans that they should not move to the territory occupied by the Soviet troops, but they opened fire on our tanks. And again the question: how to respond to a clear provocation? I made a decision - to open fire. Having taken an advantageous position, the tankers of the battalion fired several salvos from cannons. Our fire turned out to be quite accurate: several German guns, put forward for direct fire, were silent, several soldiers and officers were killed and wounded. Not without losses and with us. Political instructor Vasily Poznyakov died, two armored vehicles burned down. The next day, the Germans apologized and regretted the clash. They tried to explain everything with what the Soviet troops mistook for the Polish defending Lviv. We had to listen and accept these apologies. However, we felt in our hearts - it was very important for the Nazis to conduct reconnaissance of our strength, to test the ability to resist. Well, the first test could not reassure them… In those days, we had several so-called friendly meetings. First, about 20 German officers arrived at our place. The brigade commander Colonel Fotchenkov received them on the outskirts of Lviv - in Vinniki. This meeting was attended by many commanders and political workers of our brigade. I also happened to be there. We accepted the guests according to all the rules. They led them to the location of the unit, showed military equipment. The guests smiled and complimented us. But their excessive curiosity irritated and alarmed us. They were especially interested in tanks. They looked around from the outside, looked into the hatches, the towers, tried to learn as much as possible about the armor, weapons, about all the tactical and technical data of our machines."

From the memoirs of the chief of staff and then the commander (in 1941) of the 63rd Tank Regiment of the 32nd Tank Division A. V. Egorova. (Sourced from LiveJournal.)


This does not appear to be true. There's no mention of it in Weinberg's A World at Arms, which is about the best one-volume history of WWII. The German multi-volume history Germany and the Second World War covers this period in volume 2, Germany's Initial Conquests in Europe, pages 118-126. Warlimont's memoirs, Inside Hitler's Headquarters 1939-45, have further details. While Warlimont is often self-serving, he doesn't portray himself in a good light here, and so his account is worth considering.

The German High Command, OKW, did not expect the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland at the time it happened, according to Warlimont. While they knew of the treaty of 23rd August, they were not aware of the secret annex that provided for the division of Poland. The invasion came as a surprise, and orders were got out as fast as possible (which wasn't very quickly) since the potential for clashes was obvious. The Soviet Military Attaché in Berlin was briefed by Warlimont on 17th September on the progress of the German invasion. Since Warlimont hadn't been told about the boundary by then, he stressed the German claim to the oil area in that briefing and thought he was going to be fired once Stalin telephoned Ribbentrop to complain.

Should OKW have anticipated the Soviet invasion? The Poles had defeated the proto-USSR in 1919-21, the Soviets seemed to be pre-occupied with their conflict with Japan, and the Germans had a low opinion of Soviet capabilities in general. The Germans advanced beyond the agreed boundary line because the Wehrmacht didn't know about it. Even if they had known, they would likely have crossed it so as to be able to defeat the Poles, rather than giving them a safe area to rally in.

Once the Soviets attacked, OKW laid down a maximum limit to the German advance on 17th September and required units beyond that line to pull back. Subsequent lines were laid down every day from 18th to 21st September, pulling German forces back to the "four rivers" boundary line that had been agreed on 23rd August, backed up by orders from Hitler. The intention was to keep German and Soviet troops apart, and to give the Germans time to move back wounded, prisoners, and their own and captured material. Another reason for doing it in stages was to avoid giving various undefeated Polish forces time and space to regroup.

The Germans hoped to revise the agreed boundary, and there were various changes, but the Polish oil fields had always been on the Soviet side of the line, and stayed there. There was no fighting involved in the Red Army taking them over, according to all of these sources. The withdrawal from Brest-Litovsk was amicably negotiated by German and Soviet commanders on the scene, and there was a joint parade before the Germans left.


Yes they did.

In the Polish book published in 2005 "Kampania polska 1939 roku: początek II wojny światowej" Czesław Grzelak, Henryk Stańczyk on page 274 and 275 we can find:

Soviet-German competition for capturing the city (*) resulted in a confrontation of armies of both agressors. Before the noon of 19th of September the Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 137 2nd Mountain Division, when marching to - already captured by Soviet tanks city Winnik - they encounter those troops. A firefight developed with the result: Germans lost 3 AT guns, 5 KIA and 9 WIA; Soviets lost 1 tank, 2 panzer cars, 6 KIA and 4 WIA. That clash (besides apologies from Germans) seems not to be completely random. It may have been a test of strength of both sides [… ]

(*) Lwów

On the page 332 there is:

[… ] on the 23th of September near Widomla German tanks shooted at Soviet patrol from 310th Rifle Regiment of 8th Rifle Division. Casualties of Red Army was 2 KIA and 2 WIA. Apologies from German side was accepted from the Soviet side.

(translation is mine, sorry for not being gramatically correct)


There's a mention about clashes near Lviv by Volotchitsky army group and Germans.

Unfortunately, my sources are only in Russian: Wikipedia and LJ


Soviet and German armies had strict orders to avoid any fighting each other, and they did not fight each other. However partition of Poland in 1939 treaty was secret. After the fighting stopped, small adjustments had to be made to put the actual position of the troops into correspondence with the agreement. In Brest there was a joint military parade of the Soviets and Germans, before the Germans left it to the Soviets.

Polish troops did not have orders to engage the Soviet troops. Of course this did not exclude some small scale fighting, in the conditions of general disorder. The Soviets disarmed Polish troops, deported their officers to prison camps and later murdered many of them. (Katyn massacre is the best known one, but there were several more on the same scale, in particular in Kharkiv).


Generally, the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty signed shortly before Blitzkrieg (01 September 1939) thwarted any direct military conflict between Nazi Germany and the Soviets. No clashes, just the soldiers and generals meeting to hand over some superfluous spoils.


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Did the Red Army and German Army clash in Poland in 1939? - History

Polish Lotnictwo Wojskowe order of battle included two large units, the Pursuit Brigade (Brygada Poscigowa) and the Bomber Brigade (Brygada Bombowa), both under the command of the General Staff, as well as the Army Air Force (Lotnictwo Armijne) which consisted of individual wings (dywizjony) and squadrons (eskadry) assigned in groups to seven different Polish Army commands. The Pursuit Brigade, comprised of five fighter squadrons with the total of 53 aircraft , was given the task of defending Warsaw and its environs. The Bomber Brigade, with 36 excellent medium bombers, and light bombers constituted a considerable force, but outdated concepts of air warfare adhered to by the Polish command severely limited its effectiveness. In total, in its hour of need, Poland was able to muster 404 first-line aircraft, of which only 308 had any combat value. Of these, 128 were PZL P.11 fighters, all 3 to 5 years old which, sturdiness and maneuverability notwithstanding, had very limited performance compared to their German counterparts. The rest of the fighters in first-line units - 30 a aircraft - were totally obsolete. The 36 Los bombers were the only equipment on par with the Luftwaffe, and the 114 reconnaissance/light bomber aircraft could be considered barely adequate for the time.

The remains of a Do 17 shot down by Wladyslaw Gnys on 1 September 1939

The first clash between Luftwaffe and Polish fighters took place on September the 1st, shortly before 7 am over the secret Polish airfield of Balice, near Cracow. A three-airplane section of was surprised during take-off by three Ju 87s and Capt. Medwecki, the Commanding Officer of the Cracow Army Fighter Wing was killed. His victor was Franck Neubert of StG2 Immelmann. 2nd Lt. Wladyslaw Gnys managed to evade the attack, and damage one of the Stukas. A few minutes later, having climbed, he attacked two Do 17s returning from a raid on Cracow, scoring several hits on each of them. After his second dive, he lost visual contact with them and returned to the airfield not knowing that he had just scored the first two victories over Luftwaffe in World War 2. The two German bombers collided after his attack and fell to the ground near the village of Zurada.

Meanwhile, a far bigger engagement was to take place over the outskirts of Warsaw. Alarmed by the well-organized network of observation posts, the Pursuit Brigade in full force (52 aircraft) intercepted a large formation of He 111 bombers from KG27 escorted by Bf 110s of I/LG1. As a result of well-executed attack, six He 111s were shot down at the expense of one P.11c, which crashed during a forced landing. What was supposed to be Der Spaziergang uber Warshau - a 'stroll over Warsaw' - turned into a bitter escape for the Luftwaffe bomber crews. During the fighting, 2nd Lt. Borowski of 113 Eskadra shot down a stray Bf 109, which became the first aircraft of that type destroyed in World War 2.

September 25 - Warsaw is burning after heavy bombardment

In the following days, the Luftwaffe changed its tactics. Taking advantage of the superior characteristics of its aircraft (German twin-engined bombers were faster than Polish fighters), it used small groups of bomber aircraft approaching the target from several directions at different altitudes, while Bf 109s and Bf 110s flew sweeps in the area. These tactics proved quite successful - despite its valiant efforts, the Brigade was unable to prevent German bombs from falling on Warsaw. Its pilots managed to shoot down 47 German planes from 1 to 6 September, but combat attrition was very high, and on September 7 the remnants of the Brigade were moved to the Lublin area, leaving the capital virtually defenseless against heavy Luftwaffe raids (Warsaw was never captured by the Germans - it was to be bombed into submission during 20 days of successful defence against German assault).

The wreckage of Capt. Laskowski's P.11
A Bf 110 shot down in September 1939

Not surprisingly, combat attrition proved high for Army fighter squadrons, and by September 10 all but one Army fighter wings were moved east of Vistula, where a futile attempt to rebuild the Pursuit Brigade and charge it with the defence of Lublin area was being made. Faced with fuel and spare parts shortages, devoid of any organized observation network, these pilots fought only isolated skirmishes with the Luftwaffe, claiming but 5 victories till September 17th. On that day the Red Army crossed Poland's eastern borders, and all the remaining aircraft were ordered to fly to Romania. The only Dywizjon that remained with its Army was the Poznan Army Fighter Wing. Under the excellent command of Mjr. Mieczyslaw Mumler, it was able to fight effectively, up to September 17th, scoring no fewer than 36 kills throughout the campaign. This in spite of the fact that on 9th September Mjr. Mumler was forced to disband 131 Eskadra and transfer its remaining aircraft to 132 Eskadra, (it was also reinforced by three pilots from the disbanded unit, the rest simply had no aircraft to fly).

A crash-landed P.23 of 41 Eskadra

Life wasn't much easier for Army reconnaissance squadrons which, armed with the same P.23 light bombers as the Brigade, often took up ground support missions, trying to relieve at least some of the relentless pressure experienced by the ground units. Again, these actions did enjoy a limited success. On September 2nd, P.23s of 24 Eskadra escorted by 6 P.11s from 122 Eskadra - an extremely rare comfort for Polish bomber crews - totally surprised a German column near Czestochowa, causing many casualties and heavy confusion. On the next day crews from the same Eskadra successfully bombed German Panzer column near Rabka, scoring direct hits on several tanks. Only one P.23 was lost in these attacks, but that, again, was to prove an exception rather than the the rule. In a similar attack on September 3rd, 31 Eskadra - even though its six P.23s caught Germans unaware during a rest and caused heavy casualties - lost two aircraft, the remaining four were more or less seriously damaged. Reconnaissance missions, usually flown by single aircraft, were also dangerous - Luftwaffe's dominance in the air was evident and the crews could rarely count on help from Polish fighters. In general, combat attrition was extremely high and only 16 of the initial 64 P.23s from the army reconnaissance squadrons made it to Romania on September 17th.

Of about 2000 aircraft used against Poland Luftwaffe lost 258 to all causes, and of additional 263 damaged only 40% made it back to the front-line units after repairs. An estimated 230 aircraft were destroyed in action, primarily by Polish fighters and anti-aircraft artillery. About 400 aircrew were killed or missing, and an additional 120 wounded. Of 217 German tanks destroyed and 457 seriously damaged in the campaign, a significant proportion can be attributed to the Bomber Brigade and P.23s of the Army reconnaissance squadrons.

Lotnictwo Wojskowe lost 333 aircraft, 260 as the result of enemy action. Of these, around 100 were destroyed in combat, and a further 120 as the result of sustained damage. Only 25 combat aircraft (as opposed to many training and civilian airplanes) were destroyed on the ground. Aircrew killed numbered 61, 110 were missing and 63 wounded. When comparing the combat potential of both sides, this is by no means a bad result for the Polish Air Force.

An interesting observation is that, throughout the campaign, more than 30 Polish aircraft were shot down by Polish anti-aircraft fire. This sad testimony to the efficiency of Polish AA gunmen (who also took a heavy toll - considering the minute number of AA guns available - of the Luftwaffe) is easy to explain. Constantly harassed by the Luftwaffe, mauled by the horrifying Stuka attacks, Polish ground troops fired at anything that flew. Polish aircraft were indeed a rare sight those days, thus, when they did appear, they were almost automatically assumed to be German. Probably the worst incident happened on September 8th. When P.11s of III/2 Dywizjon were chasing a He 111 formation near Pulawy, Polish AA opened fire, and shot down four aircraft, killing two pilots - one of them the C/O of 121 Eskadra - and wounding one. More frequent, though, were cases of downing Polish liaison and reconnaissance aircraft, which, because of German mastery of the air, usually kept close to the ground and were often hit by own machine gun or even small arms fire.


The 4th Army was activated on 1 August 1939 with General Günther von Kluge in command. It took part in the Invasion of Poland of September 1939 as part of Army Group North, which was under Field Marshal Feodor von Bock. The 4th Army contained the II Corps and III Corps, each with two infantry divisions, the XIX Corps with two motorized and one panzer divisions, and three other divisions, including two in reserve. Its objective was to capture the Polish Corridor, thus linking mainland Germany with East Prussia.

During the attack on the Low Countries and France, the 4th Army, as part of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group A, invaded Belgium from the Rhineland. Along with other German armies, the 4th Army penetrated the Dyle Line and completed the trapping of the Allied forces in France. The then Major-General Erwin Rommel, who was under Kluge, contributed immensely to his victories. Kluge, who had been General of the Artillery, was promoted to Field Marshal along with many others on 19 July 1940.

The 4th Army took part in Operation Barbarossa in 1941 as part of Fedor von Bock's Army Group Center and took part in the Battle of Minsk and the Battle of Smolensk. In the aftermath of the German failure in the Battle of Moscow, Fedor von Bock was relieved of his command of Army Group Center on 18 December. Kluge was promoted to replace him. [3] General Ludwig Kübler assumed command of the 4th Army.

After the launching of Operation Blue, [4] the 4th Army and the entire Army Group Center did not see much action, as troops were concentrated to the south. [5] From 1943 on, the 4th Army was in retreat along with other formations of Army Group Center. [6] The Red Army's campaign of autumn 1943, Operation Suvorov (also known as the "battle of the highways"), saw the 4th Army pushed back towards Orsha. [6] Between October and the first week of December, Western Front had tried four times to take Orsha and had been beaten off in furious battles by Fourth Army. [7]

In 1944, the 4th Army was holding defensive positions east of Orsha and Mogilev in the Belorussian SSR, occupying a bulging, 25- by 80-mile bridgehead east of the Dnepr. [8] The Soviet summer offensive of that year, Operation Bagration, commencing on 22 June, [8] proved disastrous for the Wehrmacht, including the 4th Army. It was encircled east of Minsk and lost 130,000 men in 12 days since the start of Bagration. [9] Few units were able to escape westwards [1] after the battles in the rest of the summer, the army required complete rebuilding. During late 1944–45 the 4th Army, now under the command of Friedrich Hoßbach, was tasked with holding the borders of East Prussia. On the first week in November in Gumbinnen Operation, the 4th Army pushed back the Soviet forces in the Gumbinnen sector off all but a fifteen-mile by fifty-mile strip of East Prussian territory. [10]

The Soviet East Prussian Offensive, commencing on 13 January, saw the 2nd Army driven steadily backwards towards the Baltic coast over a period of two weeks and 4th Army threatened with encirclement. [11] Hoßbach, with the Army Group Centre's commander Georg-Hans Reinhardt concurrence, attempted to break out of East Prussia by attacking towards Elbing but the attack was driven back and the 4th Army was again encircled in what became known as the Heiligenbeil pocket. [12] For defying their orders, both Hoßbach and Reinhardt are relieved of command. [13]

By 13 February, 3rd Belorussian Front had pushed 4th Army out of the Heilsberg triangle. [14] After 13 March 3rd Belorussian Front had pushed 4th Army into a ten by two mile beachhead west of Heiligenbeil before Hitler finally allowed the army to retreat across the Frisches Haff to the Frische Nehrung on 29 March. [2] After Königsberg fell, Hitler sent Headquarters, 4th Army, out of East Prussia and merged its units with 2nd Army to form the East Prussian Army Group, [15] commanded by Dietrich von Saucken, which surrendered to the Red Army at the end of the war in May. Meanwhile, the Headquarters, 4th Army became Headquarters, 21st Army. [16]


Contents

Following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, violations of the vaguely defined borders between Manchukuo, the Mongolian People's Republic and the Soviet Union were frequent. Most of them were misunderstandings, but some were intentional acts of espionage. Between 1932 and 1934, according to the Imperial Japanese Army, 152 border disputes occurred, largely because the Soviets found it necessary to gather intelligence in Manchuria. The Soviets blamed the Japanese for 15 cases of border violation, 6 air intrusions, and 20 episodes of "spy smuggling" in 1933 alone. [1] Hundreds of other violations were reported by both sides throughout the following years. To make matters worse, Soviet-Japanese diplomacy and trust had declined even further, with the Japanese being openly called "fascist enemies" at the Seventh Comintern Congress in July 1935. [2]

1935 Edit

In early 1935, the first shooting affray took place. From then until April 1939, the Imperial Japanese Army recorded 108 such incidents. [3] On 8 January 1935, the first armed clash, the Halhamiao incident ( 哈爾哈廟事件 , Haruhabyō jiken) , occurred on the border between Mongolia and Manchukuo. [4] Several dozen cavalrymen of the Mongolian People's Army trespassed in Manchuria near some disputed fishing grounds, and engaged an 11-man Manchukuo Imperial Army patrol unit near the Buddhist temple at Halhamiao, which was led by a Japanese military advisor. The Manchukuo Army incurred slight casualties, suffering 6 wounded and 2 dead, including the Japanese officer. The Mongols suffered no casualties, and withdrew when the Japanese sent a punitive expedition to reclaim the disputed area. Two motorized cavalry companies, a machine gun company, and a tankette platoon were sent and occupied the point for three weeks without resistance. [5]

In June 1935, the Japanese and Soviets directly exchanged fire for the first time when an 11-man Japanese patrol west of Lake Khanka was attacked by 6 Soviet horsemen, supposedly inside Manchukuoan territory. In the ensuring firefight, one Soviet soldier was killed, and two horses were captured. While the Japanese asked the Soviets for a joint investigation of the issue, the Soviets rejected the request.

In October 1935, 9 Japanese and 32 Manchukuoan border guards were engaged in setting up a post, about 20 kilometers north of Suifenho, when they were attacked by a force of 50 Soviet soldiers. The Soviets opened fire on them with rifles and 5 heavy machine guns. In the ensuing clash, 2 Japanese and 4 Manchukuoan soldiers were killed, and another 5 were wounded. The Manchukuoan foreign affairs representative lodged a verbal protest with the Soviet consul at Suifenho. The Imperial Japanese Army's Kwantung Army also sent an intelligence officer to investigate the scene of the clash. [6]

On 19 December 1935, a Manchukuoan army unit engaging in a reconnoitering project southwest of Buir Lake clashed with a Mongolian party, reportedly capturing 10 soldiers. Five days later, 60 truck-borne Mongolian troops assaulted the Manchukuoans and were repulsed, at the cost of 3 Manchukuoan dead. The same day, at Brunders, Mongolian soldiers attempted to drive out Manchukuoan forces three times in the day, and then again at a night, but all attempts failed. More small attempts to dislodge the Manchukuoans from their outposts occurred in January, with the Mongolians this time utilizing airplanes for recon duty. Due to the arrival of a small force of Japanese troops in three trucks, these attempts also failed with a few casualties on both sides. Aside from the 10 prisoners taken, Mongolian casualties during these clashes are unknown. [7]

1936 Edit

In February 1936, Lieutenant-Colonel Sugimoto Yasuo was ordered to form a detachment from the 14th Cavalry Regiment and, in the words of Lieutenant-General Kasai Heijuro, "out the Outer Mongol intruders from the Olankhuduk region". Sugimoto's detachment included cavalry guns, heavy machine guns, and tankettes. Arrayed against him were 140 Mongolians, equipped with heavy machine guns and light artillery. On February 12, Sugimoto's men successfully drove the Mongolians south, at the cost of 8 men killed, 4 men wounded, and 1 tankette destroyed. After this, they began to withdraw, but were attacked by 5-6 Mongolian armored cars and 2 bombers, which briefly wreaked havoc on a Japanese column. This was rectified when the unit obtained artillery support, enabling it to destroy or drive off the armored cars. [7]

In March 1936, the Tauran incident ( タウラン事件 , Tauran jiken) (ja) occurred. In this battle, both the Japanese Army and Mongolian Army used a small number of armored fighting vehicles and military aircraft. The Tauran incident of March 1936 occurred as the result of 100 Mongolian and 6 Soviet troops attacking and occupying the disputed village of Tauran, Mongolia, driving off the small Manchurian garrison in the process. They were supported by a handful of light bombers and armored cars, though their bombing sorties failed to inflict any damage on the Japanese, and three of them were shot down by Japanese heavy machine guns. Local Japanese forces counter-attacked, running dozens of bombing sorties on the village, and eventually assaulting it with 400 men and 10 tankettes. The result was a Mongolian rout, with 56 soldiers being killed, including 3 Soviet advisors, and an unknown number being wounded. Japanese losses amounted to 27 killed and 9 wounded. [8]

Later in March 1936, there was another border clash, this time between the Japanese and the Soviets. Reports of border violations led the Japanese Korean Army to send ten men by truck to investigate, but this party itself was ambushed by 20 Soviet NKVD soldiers deployed at a point 300 meters inside the territory claimed by the Japanese. After incurring several casualties, the Japanese patrol withdrew, and brought up 100 men within hours as reinforcements, who then drove off the Soviets. However, fighting erupted later in the day when the NKVD also brought reinforcements. By nightfall, the fighting had stopped and both sides had pulled back. The Soviets agreed to return the bodies of 2 Japanese soldiers who died in the fighting, which was seen as encouraging by the Japanese government. [9]

In early April 1936, three Japanese soldiers were killed near Suifenho, in one of many minor and barely documented affrays. However, this incident was notable in that the Soviets again returned the bodies of the dead servicemen.

1937 Edit

Kanchazu Island incident Edit

In June 1937, the Kanchazu Island incident ( 乾岔子島事件 , Kanchazutou jiken) (ja) occurred on the Amur River at the Soviet–Manchukuo border. Three Soviet gunboats crossed the center line of the river, unloaded troops, and occupied Kanchazu (also spelled "Kanchatzu") island. Soldiers from the IJA 1st Division, using two horse-drawn 37mm artillery pieces, proceeded to hastily set up improvised firing sites, and load their guns with both high-explosive and armor-piercing shells. They shelled the Soviets, sinking the lead gunboat, crippling the second, and driving off the third. Japanese troops then fired on the swimming crewmen of the sunken ships with machine guns. 37 Soviet soldiers were killed in this incident the Japanese forces suffered no casualties. [10] The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested and demanded the Soviet soldiers withdraw from the island. The Soviet leadership, apparently shocked by the display and not wanting things to escalate, agreed and evacuated their forces. [10]

Soviet involvement in China Edit

In July 1937, the Japanese invaded China, starting the Second Sino-Japanese War. [6] Soviet-Japanese relations were chilled by the invasion and Mikhail Kalinin, the Soviet head of state, told the American ambassador in Moscow that same month that his country was prepared for an attack by Nazi Germany in the west and Japan in the east. [11] During the first two years of the war, the Soviets heavily aided the Chinese, increasing tension with Japan. From October 1937 to September 1939, the Soviets supplied the Chinese with 82 tanks, over 1,300 pieces of artillery, over 14,000 machine guns, 50,000 rifles, 1,550 trucks and tractors, and also ammunition, equipment and supplies. They also provided 3,665 military advisors and volunteers as part of the Soviet Volunteer Group. 195 of these men, almost all officers, died in battle against Japanese forces. Large-scale aid ceased by the end of the Soviet–Japanese border conflicts. [12]

The Battle of Lake Khasan (July 29, 1938 – August 11, 1938), also known as the "Changkufeng Incident" (Chinese: 张鼓峰事件 pinyin: Zhānggǔfēng Shìjiàn , Japanese pronunciation: Chōkohō Jiken) in China and Japan, was an attempted military incursion from Manchukuo (by the Japanese) into territory claimed by the Soviet Union. This incursion was founded in the belief of the Japanese side that the Soviet Union misinterpreted the demarcation of the boundary based on the Convention of Peking treaty between the former Imperial Russia and Qing dynasty of China (and subsequent supplementary agreements on demarcation), and furthermore, that the demarcation markers had been tampered with. The Japanese 19th division expelled a Soviet garrison from the disputed area, and repulsed numerous counterattacks by an overwhelmingly more numerous and heavily armed Soviet force. Both sides took heavy losses, though Soviet casualties were nearly three times higher than Japanese casualties, and they lost dozens of tanks. The conflict was resolved diplomatically on August 10, when the Japanese ambassador in Moscow asked for peace. The Japanese troops withdrew the next day, and the Soviets again occupied the now-empty area.

The Battle of Khalkhin Gol, sometimes spelled Halhin Gol or Khalkin Gol after the Halha River passing through the battlefield and known in Japan as the Nomonhan Incident (after a nearby village on the border between Mongolia and Manchuria), was the decisive battle of the undeclared Soviet–Japanese Border War. After a series of skirmishes in May and June 1939, the incident escalated into a series of engagements where both sides deployed corps-sized forces, though the Soviets were again far more numerous and more heavily armed than the Japanese. There were three principal engagements:

  • The initial Japanese attack in July (July 2–25), intended to wipe out the materially and numerically superior Soviets. The Soviets suffered very heavy losses compared to the Japanese and minor gains were made by the Japanese, but stubborn resistance and an armored counter-blow stalled the Japanese attack. It drifted into a stalemate with minor skirmishing over the next few weeks.
  • The failed Soviet probing attacks in early August (August 7/8 and August 20) which were thrown back with no gains and considerable casualties. In the intermediate period between these three phases, the Soviets built up their forces, while the Japanese were forbidden from doing so for fear of escalating the conflict.
  • The successful Soviet counteroffensive in late August at Nomonhan with a fully built-up force that encircled the remains of the 23rd division and by August 31 had destroyed all Japanese forces on the Soviet side of the river.

In this engagement the Soviets and Mongolians defeated the Japanese, and expelled them from Mongolia.

The Soviet Union and Japan agreed to a cease-fire on 15 September, which took effect the following day. Free from a threat in the Soviet Far East, Stalin proceeded with the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September.

As a result of the Japanese defeat at Khalkhin Gol, Japan and the Soviet Union signed the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact on 13 April 1941, which was similar to the German–Soviet non-aggression pact of August 1939. [13]

Later in 1941, Japan would consider breaking the pact when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, but they made the crucial decision to keep it and to continue to press into Southeast Asia instead. This was said to be largely due to the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. The defeat there caused Japan not to join forces with Germany against the Soviet Union, even though Japan and Germany were part of the Tripartite Pact. On April 5, 1945, the Soviet Union unilaterally denounced the neutrality pact, noting that it would not renew the treaty when it expired on April 13, 1946. Four months later, prior to the expiration of the neutrality pact, and between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, completely surprising the Japanese. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria was launched one hour after the declaration of war.

The fighting early in World War II between Japan and the Soviet Union plays a key part in the South Korean film My Way, in which Japanese soldiers (including Koreans in Japanese service) fight and are captured by the Soviets and forced to fight for them.


Did the Red Army and German Army clash in Poland in 1939? - History

Joshua Rubenstein, author and associate at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian studies, details the relationship between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the decade before World War II.

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One of the more surprising stories of World War II was the two-year complicated alliance the Soviet Union entered into with their former enemy, the Nazis.

The world was startled in August of 1939 when Hitler and Stalin announced that they had agreed on a non-aggression pact. For a decade, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had been at loggerheads. Nazi Germany had a distinct anti-Bolshevik, antisemitic policy, was very much directed against the Soviet Union.

They were fighting each other through a proxy war during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. And the Soviet Union was famous for being anti-fascist, anti-Nazi. There was always coverage in the Soviet press about antisemitism. There was comprehensive coverage in November and December of 1938 about the violence of Kristallnacht.

The Soviet government repeatedly denounced the antisemitic policies of Nazi Germany, so the world was taken by surprise when the dictators announced this agreement. And this completely changed world history. Within a week, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. This was the start of World War II in Europe. Two weeks later, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. And they divided Poland between them. This was the end of Poland as a country, as a sovereign state, at that time.

So between 1939 and 1941, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union are allies. And Stalin actually provides very substantial support to Nazi Germany. So when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, this time it was Stalin who is taken by surprise. He had been given warnings, including warnings by Churchill and from other intelligence sources that the Germans were preparing an invasion.

But Stalin did not want to provoke Hitler, so he took no defensive measures. He was just afraid that his country wasn't prepared for war. And he was right, because within weeks, the Germans overran Soviet defenses and captured major Soviet cities.

The partition of Poland and the invasion of the Soviet Union and Soviet-held territories also heralded the beginning of systematic mass killing of Jews and other groups by the Nazis. At the time, approximately 3 million Jews lived in Poland alone. While the Nazis fought the Red Army on the Eastern Front, they also constructed and used several concentration camps where millions of people, including Jews, Roma, homosexuals, the mentally ill, the elderly, and children died.

Between 1941 and 1944, the Red Army resisted the Nazis on Soviet territory. By 1944, they pushed the Nazis back westward and reclaimed the Nazi-occupied territories of Byelorussia, Ukraine, the Baltic region, and eastern Poland. As they advanced, the Red Army liberated several concentration camps, coming face-to-face with some of the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust. Fighting between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union continued until the capture of Berlin and the German surrender to the Allies in May 1945.


Stalin and the Red Army in the Great Patriotic War

At the outset of the German invasion of the Soviet Union Britain’s chief of the Imperial General Staff declared that the Wehrmacht would cut through the Soviet forces “like a warm knife through butter.”[1] The prevailing opinion in Washington also held that the Nazis would “crush Russia [sic] like an egg.”[2] Against all odds and expectations the Red Army not only survived the German onslaught but blazed its way through to Berlin by May 1945. The Red Army’s victory over the German invaders was “the greatest feat of arms the world had ever seen.”[3] The war demonstrated the extraordinary resilience of the Soviet order and ranks as the one of the great victories of toiling humanity. Walter S. Dunn has observed that, “the achievements of the Red Army” in the Great Patriotic War, “surpass those of any other army in history.”[4] Soviet leaders even claimed that in the early months of the German invasion the Soviet Union “experienced the equivalent of a nuclear first strike yet survived.”[5] According to Glantz this claim “while overstated a bit … is not far from the truth.”[6] The aim of this paper is to outline how Stalin and the Soviet leadership led the Red Army to victory over the fascist invaders in 1941. It also offers a brief assessment of Stalin as head of the armed forces and his role in the Soviet victory.

The Nazi-Soviet Pact
Western commentators often describe the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact as an alliance but this is profoundly mistaken. Hitler’s ideology centered on the destruction of the Soviet Union and the creation of lebensraum in the east for German settlers. The Nazi-Soviet pact of August 1939 was a temporary expedient for the Nazi leadership which had originally hoped to expand eastwards but was stymied by the British and French declaration of war in support of Poland in September 1939.[7] In a letter to Mussolini in the early months of 1940 Hitler declared that “only a bitter compulsion” had led to the signing of the non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. “The pact with Russia, Hitler reminded the Duce, was merely a tactical and economic necessity until he had safeguarded his rear in the west.”[8] Fritz argues correctly that “achieving space for the German nation and the final confrontation with Bolshevism” were “the two great tasks” Hitler set himself.[9] On 11 August 1939 Hitler informed a League of Nations official, Carl J. Burckhardt, that “everything he undertook was directed against Russia. If the West is too stupid and too blind to comprehend this, he would be forced to reach an understanding with the Russians, turn and defeat the West, and then turn back with all his strength to strike a blow against the Soviet Union.”[10]

The Soviet leadership signed the non-aggression pact with Germany because it feared the Western powers were trying to push Hitler in to a war with the Soviet Union while standing back from the fight themselves.[11] Stalin had seriously attempted to negotiate a triple alliance with Britain and France in the months leading up to August 1939 in order to deter Hitler but received a lukewarm response from the British and French regimes.[12] A similar Soviet proposal for an alliance with Britain and France was put forward during the Sudeten crisis in 1938 and had also been dismissed.[13] Churchill understood that: “the Soviet offer was in effect ignored. They were not brought in to the scale against Hitler and were treated with an indifference – not to say disdain – which left a mark on Stalin’s mind. Events took their course as if Soviet Russia did not exist. For this we afterwards paid dearly.”[14] According to Dmitri Volkogonov, no Stalin admirer, Stalin had been prepared to go to war with Hitler during the Sudeten crisis.[15] On 20 September 1938 the Soviet government informed Czechoslovakia that the Soviet Union was willing to fight in its defense and a partial mobilization of Soviet military forces took place. Seventy divisions were readied for war by the USSR but the Munich agreement was signed on 30 September 1938 and the Soviet Union was ignored.[16] Christopher Read notes that by the summer of 1939 Stalin’s “preferred option of an agreement with Britain and France seemed as far off as ever … Without such an agreement the USSR was in danger of facing Hitler alone, an outcome Stalin was not yet prepared to entertain.”[17] To reiterate British and French reluctance to commit to an alliance with the USSR against Hitler pushed Stalin in to signing the non-aggression pact.

Warnings of War and Stalin’s Response
Many believe that Stalin’s stubborn blindness to reality led to the disaster that befell the Red Army in the months following the German invasion in June 1941. The truth is more complicated. Although Stalin was definitely “guilty of wishful thinking, of hoping to delay war for at least another year in order to complete the reorganization of his armed forces” there were plenty of reasons for Stalin to doubt reports of an imminent German invasion.[18] Stalin worried that Britain would try to embroil the Soviet Union in a premature fight with Germany by providing misleading information.[19] The Soviets also did not mobilize the entirety of their armed forces nor concentrate them in the border areas for fear of provoking Hitler.[20] According to David Glantz: “Stalin was not … the first European leader to misunderstand Hitler, to believe him to be ‘too rational’ to provoke a new conflict in the east before he had defeated Britain in the west. Certainly, Hitler’s own logic for the attack, that he had to knock the Soviet Union out of the war to eliminate Britain’s last hope of assistance, was incredibly convoluted.”[21]

The Germans mounted an “extensive disinformation campaign” to justify their massive military build-up along the Soviet border.[22] The German High Command (OKW) secretly informed the Soviet leadership that the concentration of forces in the east were there to deceive British intelligence and that the German forces needed to practice for Operation Sea Lion in an area outside the reach of the British air force.[23] Hitler also ordered that German troop concentrations appear to be defensive.[24] In addition the Germans put out rumours that their forces deployed along the Soviet border were there to extract economic concessions from the Soviets. This encouraged the Soviets to believe a German attack would be preceded by an ultimatum or a diplomatic warning.[25] The Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece in April and May 1940 also helped explain the presence of German forces on the Soviet border.[26] It also led to several delays in the invasion of the Soviet Union. Soviet intelligence correctly identified the 15 th of May 1941 as the original date for the invasion but when the German attack failed to materialize on that day they were discredited in the eyes of the Soviet leadership. “By late June, so many warnings had proved false that they no longer had a strong impact on Stalin and his advisors.”[27]

Far from doing nothing Stalin responded to the German buildup by mobilizing 800,000 reservists between May and June 1941 and ordering 28 divisions to the Western districts of the USSR in mid-May. According to Dunn the month before the beginning of the invasion witnessed the formation of over 40 Red Army rifle divisions.[28] By the time war broke out in June 1941 the Red Army was composed of around 5.5 million men divided in to more than 300 divisions. 2.7 million were deployed in the western border districts of the Soviet Union. During the evening of 21-22 June these forces were “put on alert and warned to expect a surprise attack by the Germans.”[29] Stalin opted not to implement a full-scale mobilization because he feared that doing so would provoke a German attack which he hoped to delay for at least another year. Stalin and his generals also mistakenly believed that the Germans would initiate the conflict by launching limited probing offensives. The Soviet leadership assumed the decisive battles would be fought a few weeks in to the war and not at the start. They did not expect the Germans to commit their main forces to battle at once which they did to devastating effect.[30] “Paradoxically” says Geoffrey Roberts, “the German surprise attack on 22 June 1941 surprised no one, not even Stalin. The nasty surprise was the nature of the attack – a strategic attack in which the Wehrmacht committed its main forces to battle from day one of the war, slamming through and shattering Red Army defences and penetrating deep in to Russia with strong armoured columns that surrounded the disorganized and immobile Soviet Armies.”[31]

Stalin and his generals also succumbed to German deception efforts regarding the main direction of the German attack. The Germans concentrated their main attack on the Minsk-Smolensk-Moscow axis which was north of the Pripiat marshes but the Soviets expected the enemy’s main efforts to be concentrated on Kiev and Ukraine south of the Pripiat marshes. As a result “the Red Army was off-balance and concentrated in the southwest when the main German mechanized force advanced further north.”[32]

In addition to the strategic surprise achieved by the German forces at the outset of the war the Wehrmacht also benefitted from “institutional surprise.” By June 1941 the Soviet forces “were in transition, changing their organization, leadership, equipment, training, troop dispositions and defensive plans. Had Hitler attacked four years earlier or even one year later, the Soviet Armed Forces would have been more than a match for the Wehrmacht.”[33] According to C. J. Dick when the German invasion occurred the average Soviet mobile corps possessed only 50% of its authorized tank strength. Substantial deficiencies in trucks, artillery and motorcycles also existed. These combined to weaken the Red Army relative to its German foe.[34] Numerous Red Army commanders “were not astonished when the invasion started, though they had not foreseen the weight of the blow. They were surprised in the military sense that their army was in the throes of organizational and doctrinal change and thus unready to fight.”[35]

Glantz believes that the Soviet armed forces were also in serious trouble by June 1941 because of the Tukhachevsky affair which decapitated the Soviet High Command and led to the purge of more than 34,000 officers.[36] Although roughly a third of those purged were eventually reinstated during the war, the elimination of Tukhachevsky and his followers was a serious blow to the combat effectiveness of the Red Army. The timid, cowed, inexperienced and unqualified surviving Red Army officers could not adapt to the fluid tactical and operational situations that emerged during the early months of the war. This contributed greatly to the devastating defeats absorbed by the Red Army during this period.[37] Yet as Roberts observes, “it would be misleading to say that Stalin dominated a High Command consisting of a cohort that had stepped trembling in to the bloodstained shoes of their purged predecessors. When they had gained battle experience and learned from their mistakes Stalin’s wartime commanders performed outstandingly and developed a positive, collaborative relationship with the Soviet dictator in which they displayed initiative, flair, and a good deal of independence.”[38]

War
The German invaders scored spectacular victories against their Soviet opponent in the early months of the war. “By any measure,” says Glantz, the German victories “were unprecedented and astounding.”[39] The Red Army suffered devastating losses of men and equipment and was “all but annihilated” in the summer of 1941.[40] Nevertheless the Germans underestimated their opponent’s ability to mobilize reserves and were painfully surprised by the average Red Army soldier’s tenacity and willingness to fight on in the face of enormous odds.[41] Surrounded Soviet units “fought with a disconcerting fury while inflicting heavy losses on the attacking German infantry.”[42] “From the outset,” says Fritz, “the Germans encountered sharp, fierce fighting that unnerved even veterans of the previous campaigns, accustomed as they were to an enemy who would give up when surrounded, not one who put up a stubborn defense, refusing to surrender while inflicting not inconsiderable casualties.”[43] The ferocious fighting on the Eastern front prompted one German panzer officer to comment that: “War in Africa and the West was sport in the East it was not.”[44]

It is often claimed that Stalin lost his nerve and became deeply depressed with the outbreak of war.[45] This is highly unlikely given that on 22 June 1941 Stalin approved twenty different orders and decrees. He also repeatedly met with other members of the Soviet leadership. According to Glantz and House Stalin met with 29 people on the 22 nd of June 1941.[46] On the 29 th of June Stalin ordered party members and government officials to fight to the finish against the invaders, arrest cowards and employ a scorched earth policy in the event of a forced retreat.[47]

Faced with such severe setbacks the Soviet leadership introduced far reaching organizational reforms in the second half of 1941 while accelerating the mobilization of Soviet divisions.

Reforming the Red Army
Stalin and his generals were forced to reorganize and radically reform the Red Army while at the same time adopting desperate stop-gap measures to try and halt the German juggernaut.[48] According to Glantz: “the fact that the Stavka was able to conceive of and execute so extensive a reorganization at a time when the German advance placed them in a state of perpetual crisis management was a tribute to the wisdom of the senior Red Army leadership.”[49] The changes introduced by Stavka included simplifying the formations at every command level by reducing the number of men under the command of its officers. In the early months of the war most Red Army officers lacked experience and were incapable of handling large masses of men.[50] To remedy this problem Stavka created smaller field armies that Red Army officers could more competently control. The size of a rifle division fell from 14,500 men to roughly 11,000 men while the assigned artillery pieces also declined significantly.[51] As the war progressed Red Army commanders gained experience and were increasingly entrusted with larger units.[52] The Red Army lost thousands of tanks during the first six months of war. This encouraged Stavka to abolish mechanized corps and assign all surviving tanks to infantry support roles. The Soviets temporarily abandoned the idea of large mechanized formations.[53] In 1942 however Stavka member Colonel General Iakov Federenko oversaw the resurrection of separate mechanized formations. These were combined arms formations that marked the gradual return to the prewar Soviet concept of the deep operation. Their size and complexity grew as the war progressed.[54] Although mocked by the Germans Stavka also expanded cavalry forces significantly. These served as effective transport units during the winter of 1941-42 when mechanized forces were incapable of action due to the cold weather conditions. They were also deployed in the escalating partisan war behind the German lines.[55] Stavka also initiated changes in Red Army tactics and operational concepts. Its directives were straightforward and seemingly obvious but helped inexperienced officers to understand and more successfully defend against a highly skilled enemy. Red Army officers gradually learned that direct frontal assaults against the most powerful German units were wasteful and ineffective.[56]

In the first six months of the war Soviet officers often made the mistake of not concentrating sufficient forces at important points in the German lines. This was apparent in the Red Army’s counteroffensive at Moscow on December 5, 1941.[57] Stavka issued Directive No. 03 on 10 January 1942 which ordered all front and army commanders to employ shock troops while mounting offensive operations. Attacks at the level of a front would have a width of only 30 kilometers.[58] The December counteroffensive in front of Moscow had been 400 kilometers wide at the front level.[59] Reducing the width of the attack would concentrate superior forces at specific points in the German lines making them more likely to disintegrate.[60] This method combined with Soviet deception efforts known as maskirovka misled the Germans in to thinking they were vastly outnumbered.[61]The same Stavka directive ordered the use of up to eighty guns and mortars per kilometer in artillery offensives prior to attacks on enemy positions. In 1941 Red Army forces on the offensive were supported by, on average, by 7 to 12 guns and mortars per kilometer. This figure increased to 45 – 65 tubes by the summer of 1942.[62] Far greater gun densities became the norm for Soviet forces later in the war but the improvements in artillery use in 1942 were “a key step in the rebirth of Soviet tactical skill.”[63]

To learn from its mistakes and gain a better understanding of all aspects of combat the Red Army leadership ordered all formations to keep track of fuel and ammunition expenditures, operational decisions as well as planning details. These records were studied by a separate department led by Major General P. P. Vechniy. According to Dick, “the Red Army reckoned that using large numbers of scarce, trained, knowledgeable, experienced, often senior officers for military historical research would pay dividends. So it did.”[64] The studies produced covered all areas of combat which improved Soviet military planning and increased the likelihood of success on the battlefield.[65]

The Soviet Mobilization System
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Soviet military mobilization system in allowing the Soviets to survive Operation Barbarossa.[66] Soviet planners responded to the loss of 3 million men in the summer of 1941 by creating a new Red Army. This Army was also decimated by the Wehrmacht by December 1941. One hundred fifty-four Soviet rifle divisions perished at the hands of the German invaders in the first six months of the conflict. A third Red Army, formed between August and November 1941, halted the German advance on Moscow and a fourth, formed between December 1941 and the fall of 1942, defeated the Germans at Stalingrad.[67]

By June 1941 “the Soviet Union had a pool of 14 million men with at least basic military training. The existence of this pool of trained reservists gave the Red Army a depth and resiliency that was largely invisible to German and other observers.”[68] According to Glantz one of the main factors behind the Wehrmacht’s failure in 1941 was the Red Army’s ability to assemble new forces as quickly as the Germans were destroying existing ones.[69] Five million three hundred thousand reservists were assembled by the end of June 1941. In July 13 new field armies were summoned in to existence.[70] In August, September, October, November and December the numbers were 14, 3, 5, 9 and 2 respectively.[71] Prior to the invasion the Wehrmacht had estimated an enemy force of 300 divisions but by December 1941 the Red Army had fielded more than 600. “This allowed the Red Army to lose more than 4 million soldiers and 200 divisions in battle by 31 December [1941], roughly equivalent to its entire peacetime army, yet still survive to continue the struggle.”[72] A colossal 483 new divisions were assembled by the Soviets during the entire war. The United States only mobilized 90 divisions during the same period.[73] It is also important to note that the Soviets continued to fear a Japanese attack from the east and planned accordingly. Only 7 divisions were sent to the western front from the east and the size of the far eastern forces grew substantially.[74] According to Stahel: “Whatever one may conclude about the Soviet Union’s defeats in 1941, many at the time, including numerous German officers, commented on the remarkable ability of Stalin’s state to take so many losses while at the same time growing the size of the Red Army.”[75]“Soviet reserves,” says Stahel, “allowed for an unprecedented rate of force generation, which German intelligence utterly failed to foresee.”[76] Dunn believes the “herculean” mobilization efforts of the Soviet leadership led to the Wehrmacht’s first defeat in the Second World War during the Battle of Moscow.[77] “Like industrial mobilization,” says Dick, “the mobilization of manpower was a truly remarkable feat.”[78]

Stalin could not only tap in to an enormous pool of potential soldiers he could also count on the good health of the average recruit. The USSR witnessed a significant improvement in the population’s general health during the 1930s.[79] In 1926 3.8% of potential recruits examined had tuberculosis. In 1933 this figure had declined to 0.057%. Those who had heart conditions declined from 78 per 1,000 to 18.6 per 1,000. The number of potential soldiers with “poor physical development” also fell from 25.7 per 1,000 to 4.4 per 1,000 during the same time period.[80]

Contrary to Nazi propaganda the Red Army soldiers mobilized for battle were not fighting against their will for a Soviet system they allegedly hated. While the motivations of Red Army recruits varied considerably by and large they were eager to defend their lands from the German invaders and here lay “the real source of strength for the Soviet state.”[81]

It would also be a mistake to presume that the Red Army simply outlasted the Germans by overwhelming them with numbers. The Red Army also began to gradually outfight its enemy. The new Red Army that emerged from the ashes of the first was heavier in terms of the weapons it deployed and its forces became more operationally and tactically effective than the Wehrmacht. As Dunn has observed the conventional view of the Red Army as an army “composed of masses of poorly armed and poorly led peasants that overwhelmed the Germans does not jibe with details concerning manpower, leadership and the equipment of the Red Army.”[82]

The Soviet War Economy
The strength of the Soviet war economy allowed the Soviets to outproduce Nazi Germany in terms of weapons and equipment which helped secure the Red Army’s victory. The contest for production of arms and equipment between the two sides became increasingly important in the aftermath of the Battle of Moscow. In 1940 the German empire in Europe produced 31.8 million tons of steel while the Soviets produced only 18.3 million tons in the same year. Nevertheless the USSR was able to produce greater amounts of weaponry than the Germans throughout the war.[83] Soviet planners concentrated production on a limited number of basic, defensive weapons and did not waste resources on less important arms such as battleships and long range bombers. These were not essential to the Soviet war effort.[84] The Soviets also adopted the American idea of planned obsolescence in production which meant that even though the life span of the tank or weapon was shortened it took less time to produce and the number of rejected machined parts was kept at a minimum. In the long run the equipment would break down but this was several times greater than the expected lifespan of the weapon on the Eastern front.[85] Overall mass-production, cost-effective design and planned obsolescence secured the Soviet victory in the battle for production.[86] “The Soviet Union,” says Dunn, “with an economy severely disrupted by occupation of its most productive land, analogous to occupation of the United States east of the Mississippi, was able to outproduce Germany. This productive capacity was a major cause of Germany’s defeat.”[87]

The weapons produced in Soviet factories were in many respects superior to their German counterparts. The Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks were rare at the start of the war but as the conflict progressed they became more common on the battlefield. “Tank for tank the Germans were simply outclassed” says Stahel.[88] Only the German 88mm Flak gun was a match for the Soviet T-34s and KV-1s but it could only be used in a defensive posture.[89]“Soviet artillery was another bane of the Ostheer.”[90] During the opening months of the war the Soviets were unable to adequately range and coordinate their artillery fire but as Red Army commanders gained experience they began to subject the Germans to “harrowing bombardments” that were increasingly effective.[91]

Soviet industrialization in the 1930s allowed the Soviet leadership to supply its forces with the massive amounts of weaponry and equipment needed to defeat the invaders. Among the many strategic investments made in the Soviet interior was the Ural-Kuznetsk combine which was begun in 1930 and connected the coking coal of Kuzbas in Central Siberia with the iron ore of the Urals. This metallurgical base maintained a steady supply of equipment that allowed the Soviets to survive the calamities of the war’s early period.[92] Thanks to the industrialization efforts of Stalin and his colleagues in the 1930s on the eve of war the Soviet Union “possessed not only the largest military industrial complex in the world but also one with a trained cadre of administrators already experienced in managing a war economy.”[93] According to Fritz the industrialization of the Soviet Union “was decisive in 1941, as the Soviets absorbed extraordinary losses but kept fighting. The Germans did, indeed, kick in the front door but contrary to Hitler’s expectations, the structure wobbled but did not collapse.”[94] The Red Army used its own weapons and equipment to stop the Germans in December 1941 before British and American lend-lease began to flow in significant quantities in 1942.[95]

The head of the German War Economy Office, General of Infantry Georg Thomas submitted a study on the 2 nd of October 1941 about the Soviet war economy. In it he predicted that the Soviet war effort would only breakdown with the conquest of the industrial regions of the Urals.[96] The Ostheer never came close to capturing those areas and the Soviet war economy eventually overtook its German counterpart despite the dislocations caused by the German advance. Hitler’s mistaken optimism about the war’s outcome led him to release War Directive 32a of 14 July 1941 which ordered the redirection of industry towards the Luftwaffe and the Navy and away from the needs of the Ostheer. This reduced the supply of weaponry and equipment available to the German forces in the east.[97]

Unlike their German counterparts the Soviet leadership recognized from the very beginning of the conflict that the war would be an expensive and drawn out affair and planned accordingly. “As a result,” by October 1941, “while Hitler continued to drastically underestimate the economic implications of fighting the war in the east, the Soviet Union was already three months into its ‘total war’ mobilisation, producing armaments in quantity.”[98] In October 1941 the USSR produced around 500 new tanks while Nazi Germany only produced 387.[99] By March 1942 the Soviets were producing 1,000 new tanks a month while German production in that month declined to only 336 tanks.[100]

The Evacuation of Soviet Industry
Soviet survival also depended on the leadership’s timely evacuation of heavy industry to the east and out of German hands. This effort was overseen by Nikolai Voznesensky who was head of the industrial planning organization GOSPLAN.[101] Most Soviet pre-war industrial production was located in the Western regions of the USSR especially in the eastern Ukraine and Leningrad areas. 1,523 factories were evacuated out of harm’s way between July and November 1941. They were transported to Siberia, Central Asia and the Volga. This task was accomplished despite intermittent German air raids on the factories and railways. Millions of workers were also relocated in what one authority has recognized as “an incredible accomplishment of endurance and organization.”[102] The Soviet government also sabotaged and destroyed what could not be evacuated so it could not be of use to the German invaders. In addition to saving Soviet industrial production necessary for sustaining the war effort the successful dismantling of Soviet industry in the West deprived German economic planners of important economic resources.[103]

Smolensk July 1941
In July 1941 ferocious resistance by Red Army forces in the area around the city of Smolensk which was located along the road from Minsk to Moscow blunted the German offensive on that axis. Stalin committed sizable forces led by Timoshenko and Zhukov. This forced Hitler and the German High Command to make fateful changes to their campaign strategy. The Germans ceased their attacks along the Smolensk axis for two months and instead focused their energies on Leningrad and the Ukraine. “Stalin’s resolve and the resulting attacks,” states Glantz, “in turn increased the pressure on Army Group Center, reinforcing Hitler’s interest in pursuing ‘paths of lesser resistance’ on the army group’s flanks to gain new successes.”[104] The limited successes of the Red Army around Smolensk raised the morale of Soviet troops and bought time for Stavka to organize the defense of Moscow.[105]

At Smolensk the Soviets launched numerous counteroffensives to stop the Germans. This offensive strategy was very costly and resulted in the loss of around half a million dead and missing Soviet troops in two months. Stalin has been rightly criticized for these attacks which were wasteful and callous. Yet as Roberts has argued, “the doctrine of offensive action was not Stalin’s personal creation or responsibility but part of the Red Army’s strategic tradition and military culture.”[106] Stalin of course embraced this offensive spirit and as head of the armed forces was ultimately responsible for the enormous casualties that resulted amongst his men at Smolensk and at Kiev in September 1941. A defensive posture would have been more realistic given the superiority of the Wehrmacht and would probably have saved many lives.[107] In any case the battle of Smolensk inflicted considerable casualties on the German army which failed to break the Soviet will to resist. According to Glantz and House the Soviet counteroffensives around Smolensk between July and September 1941 “halted German Army Group Center in its tracks for the first time in the entire war.”[108] They also “contributed to a palpable sense of crisis in the second half of July” 1941 amongst the OKH (German Army High Command).[109] On the 26 th of July 1941 Hitler confided to the Chief of Staff of the Army High Command Franz Halder: “You cannot beat the Russians with operational successes … because they simply do not know when they are defeated.” German propaganda minister Goebbels noted at the end of July 1941 that, “It is clear that we have underestimated Bolshevism.”[110]

Kiev September 1941
The city fell to the Germans on the 19 th of September 1941. Stalin overestimated the ability of his forces to halt German attempts to encircle the Kiev salient. He also ignored early warnings from Zhukov and other military advisers to withdraw the forces of the South Western Front and abandon the city. 43 Soviet divisions or 452,750 men along with 3,867 guns and mortars were eliminated by the Germans in the ensuing disaster.[111] According to Fritz the Germans captured 665,000 Soviet troops but Glantz and House believe the true number of prisoners was probably closer to 220,000.[112] In any case “Germany had achieved a colossal operational triumph”.[113] Stalin bore primary responsibility for the debacle.

The Battle of Moscow:
The Soviets benefitted from the “unchecked arrogance” of the German High Command which continued to underestimate its enemy despite the heavy resistance the Ostheer was facing.[114] They also failed to prepare their troops for a campaign beyond the summer of 1941. In the postwar period numerous German generals claimed that the arrival of rainy Rasputitsa (time without roads due to heavy rains) in October 1941 disrupted their otherwise sound plans. However, as Stahel has pointed out, “there was nothing unusual about the onset of the Russian rasputitsa by mid October.”[115] “That it is cold in Russia at this time [around October],” noted a former officer in the OKH, “belongs to the ABC of an eastern campaign.”[116] The German High Command had expected the victorious end of Operation Barbarossa by the end of the summer of 1941. They therefore made few if any preparations for the inclement weather they faced beginning with Operation Typhoon.[117]It was not “General Mud” or “General Winter” that defeated the Germans in 1941.[118]Instead it was the extraordinary resistance of the Red Army which saved the Soviet Union. The idea that poor weather conditions were the only reason Operation Typhoon failed “does not withstand examination.”[119] The Red Army faced the same weather conditions as the Germans and deployed all the troops it could to stop the advance on Moscow.[120]Roberts correctly concludes that, while the weather played a role, “the decisive factor” in stopping the Germans from capturing Moscow, “was Stavka’s manpower reserves.”[121]

The battles of Viazma and Briansk in October 1941 on the road to Moscow were undoubtedly an “unmitigated disaster” for the Red Army.[122] At Viazma the German forces pulled off a classic “Cannae” and set up a giant “mincing machine” that consumed hundreds of thousands of Red Army troops.[123] Over half a million Soviet soldiers were captured in the encirclement battles that followed. The Red Army lost 6,000 guns and mortars as well as 830 tanks.[124] Despite this the heroic Red army soldiers within the Viazma and Briansk encirclements fought fiercely and bought time for their comrades under Zhukov to organize for the defense of Moscow.[125] As Stahel observes, “Battles do not exist in a vacuum and cannot be judged simply on the index of losses for or against … Viaz’ma was an undisputed operational victory [for the Germans], surpassed in scale only by the battle of Kiev in September however, strategic success depended on Viaz’ma bringing about the collapse of Soviet resistance or, at the very least, the fall of Moscow.”[126] This it failed to do.

Stalin carefully built up the reserves needed for the Moscow counteroffensive in the months leading up to December 5 instead of committing them directly to battle.[127] The cold December weather and snows affected both sides but slowed the Red Army advance against the Germans. As such the German setback at the gates of Moscow cannot be blamed on the weather.[128] Although the casualties suffered by the Red Army in the December 5 1941 Moscow counteroffensive were “biblical” the Wehrmacht was forced to retreat between 100 and 280 kilometers.[129] The offensive marked the end of the German blitzkrieg against the USSR. The Germans were thrown on the defensive and their complete defeat was staved off with great difficulty.[130] It would be appropriate to say that “the tide of World War … turned on 5 December 1941” with the Soviet offensive.[131]Already by mid-October 1941 the Vatican and the Swiss secret services had concluded that the Germans were bound to lose the war given their debacle in the east.[132] According to Pauwels Hitler personally recognized that defeat was inevitable after the Red Army’s December 5 offensive.[133]

Stalin displayed personal courage by remaining in Moscow as the Germans approached the city.[134] His speeches marking the anniversary of the October Revolution in early November galvanized and encouraged the Soviet people to resist the German invaders. They were printed and disseminated across the USSR.[135] According to the BBC’s correspondent in Moscow, Alexander Werth, “whatever bad memories and reservations [Soviet] generals may have had, Stalin had become the indispensable unifying factor in the patrie-en-danger atmosphere of October-November 1941.”[136] Stalin’s bravery was more than matched by his troops who faced the German onslaught “with fanatical levels of determination and their trademark resilience in the face of daunting odds.”[137] American journalist Henry Cassidy who was stationed in Moscow in the second half of 1941 reported that, “the Soviet Union made its own miracles” during those trying times.[138]

Soviet Operational Art and Operation Bagration
Many historians have erroneously attributed the Red Army’s victory solely to its numerical superiority. As noted above Soviet mobilization and numbers played an important role but the Red Army also increasingly outfought the Germans as the war progressed. “Some commentators,” says Dick, “have denigrated Soviet victories as being the product of mere numbers and a preparedness to suffer what would be, to a Western commander, unacceptable losses. This is mistaken on several counts. The Soviets demonstrated superior operational art by so effectively concealing their concentrations that the Germans did not carry out effective counterconcentrations until it was too late then the Soviets so vigorously conducted exploitation that they negated the effectiveness of the belated response. It was necessary not only to penetrate the German defenses but also to do so very swiftly if the required tempo were to be achieved and the enemy kept off balance. The demands of time – that most precious asset in battle that can so easily work against the attacker – required massive tactical superiorities. Besides, as Lt. Gen. Sir William Slim replied to the suggestion that he was using a pile driver to crack a nut: why not, if you have a pile driver and you are not too concerned about the postoperation appearance of the nut?”[139]

The Red Army applied the principles of Operational Art against its German foe to devastating effect during Operation Bagration which liberated Belorussia from the Germans. Operational Art was a concept introduced by Soviet officer A. A. Svechin during the 1920s and 1930s.[140] It “is the realm of the conception, planning and execution of major operations and campaigns designed, through a succession of steps, to destroy the enemy’s centre of gravity … It determines where, when, and to what purpose tactical units and formations are committed to battle.”[141] Operational Art lies between the levels of tactics and strategy. It involves arranging and synchronizing individual battles so that their effect is greater than the sum of parts.[142] As Svechin put it: “Tactics makes the steps from which operational leaps are assembled, strategy points out the path.”[143]Operational Art was neglected in the United States and Britain for decades after the Second World War but it was applied by the Red Army in 1944.[144]

Instead of pursuing overambitious, difficult to manage, simultaneous strategic offensives that would destroy the enemy at a single stroke the Soviet leadership learnt from past mistakes and chose to pursue the more limited, staggered strategic offensives of the summer of 1944.[145]

Operation Bagration was launched by the Red Army almost on the third anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, 23 June 1944. It aimed at the liberation of Belorussia and the elimination of Germany’s Army Group Center. The outcome was a crushing victory for the Red Army and “a military disaster of epic proportions” for the Wehrmacht.[146]Army Group Center, the most powerful German formation, was decimated and the Red Army advanced more than 300 kilometers.[147] Bagration, in combination with the Lvov-Sandomierz and Lublin-Brest Operations which commenced a few weeks later, destroyed and mauled more than 30 German divisions.[148] According to German general Siegfried von Westphal: “During the summer and autumn of 1944, the German armies suffered the greatest disaster of their history, which even surpassed the catastrophe of Stalingrad.”[149]“This was Stalin’s retribution for Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa,” says Tucker-Jones. “In one fell swoop the Wehrmacht lost a quarter of its strength on the Eastern Front.”[150]

The German High Command expected the Soviet blow to fall south of the Pripyat marshes and concentrated their available reserves there.[151] The Red Army struck Army Group Centre north of the marshes and so faced fewer German troop concentrations. Even though it made up roughly 30% of the Ostheer, Army Group Centre was spread thin and incapable of properly defending its assigned section of the Eastern front. “There was,” says Dick, “precious little tactical depth, as main defense positions were only 5 to 6 km (3 to 4 miles) deep, and there was no depth at all at the operational level.”[152] In addition to insufficient numbers Army Group Centre was hampered by the thriving partisan movement in its rear areas. The partisans passed on “excellent intelligence” to the Red Army before Bagration commenced and carried out effective sabotage missions in the days leading up to the offensive. These disrupted the rail lines leading from Minsk to Orsha and Mogilev to Vitebsk for a number of days which slowed the German response to Operation Bagration.[153] The Germans also made the mistake of concentrating their forces forward in the tactical zone of defense which made them vulnerable to suppression and encirclement by Red Army forces.[154]

The Red Army prepared for Operation Bagration by secretly transferring formations from other fronts and regions. 2,332,000 men, 4,070 tanks and self-propelled assault guns, and 24,400 guns, mortars and rocket launchers were deployed to crush Army Group Center. These numbers meant that Red Army forces outnumbered their German counterparts by 2.5:1 in terms of manpower, 4.3:1 in tanks and self-propelled assault guns and 2.9:1 in artillery. The Soviet air force dominated the skies.[155]

Maskirovka was a crucial part of Soviet preparations for Bagration and made sure that Army Group Centre had no idea of what was going on deep behind the Soviet lines.”[156] It can be defined as a “single, all-embracing concept that includes concealment and camouflage, deception and disinformation, counterreconnaissance and security.”[157] As such it was vital to the Soviet victory. Soviet air superiority furthered the maskirovka efforts by denying the Germans air reconnaissance over Red Army lines except in those sectors where deception was occurring. The Soviet buildup of forces took place by night and openly defensive preparations were made to deceive the Germans. Strict communications discipline was observed. Newly deployed units were camouflaged and concealed well. The Soviets were also aware that the Germans expected the next offensive to come in the south (in southern Poland or the Balkans) and they did what they could to strengthen this expectation. As a result the Germans transferred six divisions and 82% of Army Group Centre’s tanks southward.[158] Overall Soviet maskirovka efforts were extremely successful and the Red Army managed to strategically surprise the German High Command which reacted sluggishly to the opening attacks.[159]

One of the main factors behind the Red Army’s outstanding successes in the summer of 1944 was that Stavka and its representatives involved front commanders in the decision making process. According to Dick: “By 1944, the goals set, the times to achieve them, and the means provided were subject to negotiation.” Front commanders “had real and not nominal influence over decision making.” This was an advantage because these commanders possessed a detailed understanding of the terrain facing them, the capabilities of their own troops and the state of the enemy forces in their sector. Stavka also allowed front commanders to exercise their own judgment and display initiative within the contours of the overall objective.[160] “After all, operational art was a creative process, not a straitjacket requiring the automatic implementation of an inflexible theory and rigid plan.” By 1944 Red Army commanders and general staffs “had profited from long, hard apprenticeships. With experience came realism, an understanding of what was essential and what was of minor importance, the establishment of well-grounded planning norms and an ability to work accurately and to good purpose. The quality of planning had improved immeasurably by mid-1944.”[161] The Soviets also fully grasped the need to follow up the initial attacks with rapid exploitation in order to keep the enemy disoriented and incapable of restoring the integrity of his defense.

Stalin
Under Stalin’s leadership the Red Army “was very much a learning organization.”[162] Both he and his generals learnt a great deal from the early defeats and increasingly understood how to wage war more effectively as the conflict wore on. Stalin listened carefully to his generals and nurtured the talent and creativity of his subordinates.[163] As their competence grew he increasingly began to trust his officers and follow their advice. He also displayed a personal interest in the wellbeing of his commanders and subordinates which cemented their loyalty to him.

According to Glantz and House, throughout the war Stalin “kept his nerve and eventually learned how to orchestrate the instruments of power to defend the Soviet Union his cold-blooded insistence on near-continuous offensive operations in the face of the Barbarossa invasion and his patience in waiting for the correct moment to launch what turned out to be a decisive counteroffensive at Moscow contributed markedly to the survival of his regime.”[164]

Hitler paid tribute to Stalin’s organizational abilities when speaking to his propaganda minister Goebbels just before the Battle of Stalingrad. “Compared with Churchill,” said Hitler, “Stalin is a gigantic figure. Churchill has nothing to show for his life’s work except a few books and clever speeches in parliament. Stalin on the other hand has without doubt – leaving aside the question of what principle he was serving – reorganized a state of 170 million people and prepared it for a massive armed conflict. If Stalin ever fell in to my hands, I would probably spare him and perhaps exile him to some spa Churchill and Roosevelt would be hanged.”[165]

We may close with Seaton who reminds us that: “If he is to bear the blame for the first two years of war, he must be allowed the credit for the amazing successes of 1944, the annus mirabilis, when whole German army groups were virtually obliterated with lightning blows in Belorussia, Galicia, Romania, and the Baltic, in battles fought not in the wintry steppes, but in midsummer in central Europe. Some of these victories must be reckoned among the most outstanding in the world’s military history.”[166]

[1] Jacques Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, ( Toronto: Lorimer, 2015), 66

[3] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 4

[4] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 1

[5] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 66

[7] Jacques Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, ( Toronto: Lorimer, 2015), 48

[8] Stephen Fritz, Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Extermination in the East, (USA: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 36

[10] Jacques Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, (Toronto: Lorimer, 2015), 63.

[11] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 32

[12] Ian Grey, Stalin: Man of History, (Great Britain: Abacus, 1982), 308

[15] Christopher Read, Stalin: From the Caucasus to the Kremlin, (New York: Routledge, 2017), 215

[18] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 25

[22] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 68

[23] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 26. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 68

[24] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 26

[25] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 26-27.

[28] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 64

[29] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 69. On the call up of 800,000 reservists see David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 22

[30] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 69-70

[32] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 16. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 73-74

[33] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 27

[34] C. J. Dick, From Defeat to Victory, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 28

[36] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 20. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 15-16

[37] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 55

[38] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 16

[39] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 48

[40] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 1

[41] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 49

[42] Stephen Fritz, Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Extermination in the East, (USA: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 87

[44] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 48

[45] This story originated in Khrushchev’s secret speech of 1956. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 89

[46] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 74-75, 419, note 3.

[47] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 90-91

[48]David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 57

[52] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 122

[53] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 58. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 97

[54] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 123-124. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 161-162

[55] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 58-59

[57] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 120-121

[58] A Red Army front was the equivalent of a Western Army Group and was intended to perform strategic missions usually in tandem with other fronts. C. J. Dick, From Defeat to Victory, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 14

[59] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 121

[64] C. J. Dick, From Defeat to Victory, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 54

[65] Ibid., 54-55. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 161

[66] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 4

[68] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 61

[70] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 271

[71] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 61

[73] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 69, 74

[75] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 5

[77] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 5

[78] C. J. Dick, From Defeat to Victory, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 51

[79] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 15

[81] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 220

[82] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 2

[88] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 226-227. Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 91

[89] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 227

[92] Alec Nove, An Economic History of the USSR, (London: Allen Lane, 1969), 133, 221-222

[93] Stephen Fritz, Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Extermination in the East, (USA: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 81

[95] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 93

[96] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 108

[101] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 63

[102] Ibid., 63-64. Christopher Read, Stalin: From the Caucasus to the Kremlin, (New York: Routledge, 2017), 228

[103] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 65

[104] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 88

[105] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 76-77, 131. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 99

[106] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 99-100

[108] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 70

[109] Stephen Fritz, Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Extermination in the East, (USA: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 121

[111] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 95

[112] Stephen Fritz, Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Extermination in the East, (USA: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 145. David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 95

[113] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 95

[114] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 6

[117] Ibid., 98. Operation Typhoon was the German operation that aimed at capturing Moscow. It commenced on the 2 nd of October 1941.

[121] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 111

[122] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 151.

[123] Ibid., 150-151. David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941,(Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 147

[124] David Glantz, Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia 1941, (Great Britain: The History Press, 2016), 147. David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 151

[127] Walter S Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army, (USA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 76, 90

[129] Christopher Read, Stalin: From the Caucasus to the Kremlin, (New York: Routledge, 2017), 230

[130] Jacques Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, ( Toronto: Lorimer, 2015), 69

[134] Christopher Read, Stalin: From the Caucasus to the Kremlin, (New York: Routledge, 2017), 230

[135] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 109-111

[136] David Stahel, Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941, (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 5

[139] C. J. Dick, From Defeat to Victory, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 304, note 4

[141] C. J. Dick, From Victory to Stalemate: The Western Front, Summer 1944. Decisive and Indecisive Military Operations, Volume 1, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 11

[143] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 5

[144] C. J. Dick, From Victory to Stalemate: The Western Front, Summer 1944. Decisive and Indecisive Military Operations, Volume 1, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 4

[145] C. J. Dick, From Defeat to Victory, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 89-90. David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 257

[146] Anthony Tucker-Jones, Stalin’s Revenge: Operation Bagration and the Annihilation of Army Group Centre, (Great Britain: Pen and Sword Military, 2009), xii

[147] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 278

[149] Anthony Tucker-Jones, Stalin’s Revenge: Operation Bagration and the Annihilation of Army Group Centre, (Great Britain: Pen and Sword Military, 2009), xii

[151] C. J. Dick, From Defeat to Victory, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 95

[162] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 161

[164] David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Revised and Expanded Edition, (USA: University Press of Kansas, 2015), 51

[165] Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars, (London: Yale University Press, 2008), 373

[166] Ian Grey, Stalin: Man of History, (Great Britain: Abacus, 1982), 424


Zhukov vs Konev: How the Red Army's Two Generals Raced Take Berlin

It was a speedy run to crush Nazi Germany and gain all the glory.

Key point: These two Generals wanted to be the first to put the final nail in the coffin of Hitler's empire. This is how they tried to beat each other to the punch.

On orders from Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, the offensive that resulted in the capture of the Nazi capital of Berlin in April 1945, developed into a race between the army groups of two Soviet commanders, Marshal Georgy Zhukov and Marshal Ivan Konev. The race was heated, and often the lives of soldiers were sacrificed in the interest of time.

Stalin remembered the ruthless German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, that broke the nonagression pact between the two countries that had been signed in 1939. He also sought harsh retribution for the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens and tremendous destruction of property that had occurred.

Zhukov Prepares to Take Berlin…

The task of taking Berlin was given to Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front and Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front with support from at least three other fronts, or army groups. The 48-year-old Zhukov had already been recognized as a Hero of the Soviet Union, his nation’s highest military award. Born into a peasant family, Zhukov rose to high levels of command after serving in World War I and the Russian Civil War. Forces under his command had soundly defeated the Japanese at Khalkhin Gol in 1938-39, ending that nation’s threat of expansion into the Soviet sphere in the East. During the Great Patriotic War, as World War II was called in the Soviet Union, he was instrumental in many of the major victories won by the Red Army on the Eastern Front.

Konev was also of peasant stock. He served as a conscript in the Imperial Russian Army during World War I and in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. During World War II, his troops helped to blunt the German drive to capture Moscow in the winter of 1941. A Hero of the Soviet Union, he led forces at the pivotal Battle of Kursk and through offensive operations in the autumn of 1944.

Friendly Fire Inside the City?

The decisive offensive against Berlin began in western Poland in January 1945. Zhukov and Konev crossed the Oder River and initiated a giant pincer movement to subdue German resistance. During the fighting at Seelow Heights, Zhukov sent waves of Red Army soldiers and tanks against German positions and absorbed horrific casualties during four days of fighting before the road to Berlin was opened. Meanwhile, Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front cleared the Spree Forest, capturing large numbers of German prisoners. Zhukov entered Berlin from the north, while Konev battled into the city’s streets from the south. On April 23, 1945, the two armies linked up in the German capital.

It has been reported that in the process of subduing Berlin the two Soviet Fronts intentionally fired on one another. Why? Perhaps these two marshals were keenly aware that failure would not be tolerated. The commander who lagged behind his rival might well face Stalin’s wrath. In the fighting for Berlin, the Soviets lost 80,000 killed and wounded along with 2,000 tanks, while the Germans suffered an estimated 150,000 casualties.

Zhukov is generally credited with the final capture of the Nazi capital, while Konev was diverted southwestward and linked up with American forces near the city of Torgau on the Elbe River. Both men were praised for their leadership. However, within months Stalin began to perceive Zhukov’s popularity as a threat, and he was dismissed from his post as commander of the Soviet Zone of Occupation in Germany.

After the War

After Stalin’s death, Zhukov returned to government as Defense Minister under Premier Nikita Krushchev. Disgreements over policy led to his retirement. He died in 1974 at the age of 77.

After World War II, Konev commanded Soviet forces in East Germany, led the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact, and suppressed the Hungarian uprising of 1956. He retired from active duty in 1962 and died in 1973 at the age of 75.

Both of these commanders were bold, resourceful, and ruthless during the Great Patriotic War, no doubt spurred on by an awareness that failure would likely mean their own demise.


The Red Army invasion of Estonia in 1944

​Warfare reached the Estonian territory again in February 1944, when the Red Army broke the Leningrad blockade and quickly moved westwards. Despite the pessimism of the German army command’s land forces, Adolf Hitler considered it important to hold Estonia. Abandoning Estonia would have meant a threat by the Red Army’s Baltic fleet to German delivery of iron ore from Sweden, Germany’s ally Finland would have been in a difficult position, and Estonian oil shale was essential to the war industry. A large number of additional troops were sent to Estonia, including the 20th Estonian SS-division, which was constantly supplemented with new conscripts. In the bloody battles from February to March the attack of the Red Army was halted on the Narva front, and warfare almost ceased until July. The Red Army took some of its troops to Finland, and the eastern front focused on Belarus. Several German divisions were transferred from the Narva front to Belarus, and replaced by the newly formed Estonian troops. At the end of July, the Germans abandoned the Narva front and retreated ca 25 km westwards, to prepared positions in the Sinimäed Hills. The Red Army attempts to break through in the Sinimäed Hills were repelled at an enormous cost in human life. In early August, the Red Army began an attack in north-eastern Latvia and made its way to the Emajõgi River by the end of the month, where the front stabilised. The Red Army’s success in Latvia and Lithuania posed a threat that the troops still in Estonia would be cut off and on 16 September Hitler agreed to abandon mainland Estonia. The Red Army attack started on 17 September the 8th Estonian rifle brigade took part as well. The German army retreated quickly from the south-east, the Narva River and the Sinimäed Hills, leaving the Estonian troops in a difficult situation. Tallinn was given up on 22 September. Bloody battles were fought on Saaremaa Island, where the Red Army conquered the Sõrve Peninsula only on 24 November 1944.

​In autumn 1944, approximately 70,000 Estonians fled from Estonia to Germany and Sweden. Upon arrival, they were installed in refugee camps. Integration of the refugees into the local society happened more quickly in Sweden, whereas in war-ravaged Germany many had to stay in refugee camps until the late 1940s. The Soviet Union’s aggressive repatriation politics caused fear in many people that they might be forcefully returned to the Soviet Union. This resulted in the ‘second wave of migration’ – refugees moved on to the USA, Canada etc, sometimes using unsuitable ships for ocean travel.

​Immediately after conquering Estonia, the Soviet security forces embarked on active suppression of the resistance movement and arrested the Estonians who had served in the German or Finnish armies. In less than a year, over 10,000 people were arrested. Some Estonian war prisoners placed in filter camps were sent to Red Army units, some to prison camps, and some were freed. At the same time, about 20,000 men were mobilised into the Red Army. The resistance movement managed to operate until the early 1950s.

​In World War II Estonia lost a total of 200,000 people: executed, killed in action, imprisoned, deported, mobilised, forcefully evacuated and those who fled the country (some later managed to return). Material damage was relatively minor compared to that in western Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Germany. The town of Narva was totally destroyed, and extensive damage was done to Tartu, Mustvee and Tallinn, in the latter especially during the bombing raids in March 1944. The ‘scorched-earth’ tactics employed by the Soviets in 1941 and by the Germans in 1944 failed because of the single-minded resistance of the population.

​At the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, the Soviet Union successfully persuaded the Western allies to leave the Baltic countries to the Union. Non-recognition politics nevertheless continued. For Estonia, the political consequences of World War II ended with the restoration of independence in 1991 and the Russian troops leaving the country in 1994.


Researchers Uncover Remains of Polish Nuns Murdered by Soviets During WWII

Researchers in Poland have discovered the remains of three Catholic nuns killed by Soviet troops toward the end of World War II.

As Sebastian Kettley reports for the Express, a team from the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which investigates crimes committed in the country by Nazi and communist forces, uncovered the women’s skeletons in Orneta, a village in northern Poland, last December.

The dig marked the culmination of a months-long search for the bodies of seven nuns from the order of St. Catherine of Alexandria. Murdered in 1945, during the Russian Red Army’s “liberation” of Poland and subsequent seizure of power, the sisters were among the hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians targeted by the Soviets during and after World War II.

Per the IPN, archaeologists had previously found the bones of Sister Charytyna (Jadwiga Fahl) and three nuns who’d served as nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital—Sisters Generosa (Maria Bolz), Krzysztofora (Marta Klomfass) and Liberia (Maria Domnik)—in Gdańsk and Olsztyn, respectively.

The team drew on archival records to locate the final three nuns’ resting place: a 215-square-foot graveyard in Orneta, writes Mindy Weisberger for Live Science. According to a statement, the exhumed skeletons’ age and sex, in conjunction with necklaces, crosses and religious garments buried nearby, gave the researchers probable cause to identify them as Sisters Rolanda (Maria Abraham), Gunhilda (Dorota Steffen) and Bona (Anna Pestka).

One of the nun's skeletons (IPN) An earlier dig revealed the remains of three nuns who worked at St. Mary's Hospital in Olsztyn. (IPN) A crucifix found during the dig (IPN)

Many of the nuns suffered brutal deaths: Krzysztofora, for instance, sustained 16 bayonet wounds and had both her eyes and tongue gouged out, according to an October 2020 IPN statement. Generosa, meanwhile, succumbed to her injuries after ten days of torture, as Kettley pointed out in a 2020 Express article.

Seventy-six years after World War II drew to a close, Russia’s treatment of Poland during and after the conflict remains a significant source of tension between the two nations. On September 17, 1939, just 16 days after Nazi Germany began the war by invading western Poland, Josef Stalin’s Red Army invaded eastern Poland, promptly annexing the territory in what Deutsche-Welle’s Magdalena Gwozdz-Pallokat describes as the Soviets grabbing “their share of the spoils when Poland was as good as defeated.”

In the brief period between Stalin’s annexation and the Nazis’ capture of eastern Poland in the summer of 1941, the Soviets engaged in brutal acts of repression, including the 1940 Katyn massacre of nearly 22,000 Polish citizens. As the Red Army regained control of the region in late 1944 and early 1945, violence against Poles—particularly clergy, military, educators and others viewed as threats to communist rule—resumed: “Far from being a ‘liberator,’” wrote Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in a 2020 op-ed for Politico, “the Soviet Union was a facilitator of Nazi Germany and a perpetrator of crimes of its own.”

Skeleton found in St. Mary's Cemetery (IPN) A cross found buried near the women's skeletons (IPN)

As Jonathan Luxmoore reported for the National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report in 2019, Soviet soldiers killed more than 100 sisters from the St. Catherine order alone during the 1945 reinvasion of Poland. Religious orders, Luxmoore added, “were seen as secretive organizations threatening the officially atheist Communist Party’s absolute power, so they became key targets for repression.”

The seven nuns at the center of the recent excavations likely died in February 1945, when Soviet troops arrived at the hospitals in Gdańsk-Wrzeszcz, Olsztyn and Orneta, according to Live Science. As the nuns attempted to protect their patients, the soldiers brutally retaliated.

Now, researchers are trying to learn more about these women’s lives. Per the October 2020 statement, pathologists at the Forensic Medicine Institute in Gdańsk are analyzing the skeletons to confirm their identities religious officials in Poland are also seeking beatification for the murdered St. Catherine sisters.

“If we do not want a repeat of the cataclysm of World War II, the truth about the crimes of totalitarianism—Soviet and German—as well as their condemnation have to be a foundation upon which historical education and international relations rely,” an IPN spokesperson tells the Express.


Watch the video: Battle of Berlin 1945 - Nazi Germany vs Soviet Union HD (January 2022).

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