Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union of 1941-45
Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union of 1941-45
a just war of liberation waged by the Soviet people for the freedom and independence of the socialist motherland against fascist Germany and its allies—Italy, Hungary, Rumania, Finland, and, in 1945, Japan. The war against the USSR was unleashed by German fascism, a dictatorship of the most reactionary and aggressive forces of imperialism, which sought to destroy the world’s first socialist state. This war was the most important and decisive component part of World War II (1939-45).
Situation on the eve of war. After the Hitlerites had seized power in Germany in 1933, the German imperialists began intensive preparation for war against the USSR in the belief that crushing the Soviet state would be the most important and decisive phase in the struggle for world domination. The ruling circles of the USA, Great Britain, and France with their policy of nonintervention in and tolerance of the fascist aggression, which they pursued until the beginning of World War II, and American and British monopolies with their financial assistance promoted the creation of the mighty military and economic potential of fascist Germany, hoping to direct it against the Soviet Union. However, contrary to their calculations, World War II (1939-45) began as an armed struggle between two major groupings of imperialist states. Between 1938 and 1941 fascist Germany, with the help of its allies Italy and Hungary, occupied Austria, Czechoslovakia, Albania (even before World War II), Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, part of France, Denmark, Norway, Yugoslavia, and Greece in an attempt to first eliminate its Western European competitors and use the military and economic potential of the Western European countries in the future war with the USSR. It also concluded military alliances with Bulgaria, Rumania, and the puppet state of Slovakia, which was formed after the liquidation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. The militarization of the economy and the whole German society, the seizure of foreign industries and reserves of strategic raw materials, and the use of forced labor in occupied and allied states greatly increased the military and economic power of fascist Germany (see Table 1). A rapid expansion of production
|Table 1. Military and economic capacity of Germany|
|1 With occupied areas|
|2 With resources of satellite and occupied countries|
|Industrial workers ...............||10,400,000||28,000,000|
|Coal extraction (tons)...............||251,600,000||439,000,000|
|Aluminum output (tons) ...............||199,500||324,000|
|Steel output (tons) ...............||22,500,000||31,800,000|
capacities enabled fascist Germany to sharply increase military output in 1940-41 (see Table 2). Vast human resources, a rapid growth of military production, and large reserves of plundered arms and military property enabled fascist Germany to increase its armed forces and technical supples in a short time. By June 1941 the armed forces totaled 8.5 million men, including about 6 million in the ground troops and about 1.7 million in the air force. The ground forces were composed of 214 divisions (169 infantry, 21 panzer, 14 motorized, and ten other divisions) and seven separate brigades. The fascist German Army had 11,000 tanks and assault guns (5,640 in the field forces), 11,100 aircraft (6,500 in the field forces), and about 78,000 guns and infantry mortars. By June 1941 the fascist German Navy had, among others, three battleships, four heavy and four light cruisers, 43 destroyers and torpedo boats, and 155 submarines. In preparing for the war for world domination and especially against the USSR, the Hitlerites instituted large-scale ideological preparation, preaching racism and extreme chauvinism—the “superiority” of the Aryan race and the historical “justice” of the conquest of “living space” (Lebensraum) for Germany—among the German population and the army; instilling hatred against communism, the Soviet people, and the “lower races” (Untermensch); and moulding a special type of fascist soldier—a murderer and predator.
After defeating France, fascist Germany began direct preparation in the summer of 1940 for the war against the USSR. The political aims of the Hitlerites were the seizure of USSR territory and its extremely rich economic resources, the destruction of the Soviet socialist system, and the physical annihilation and enslavement of the peoples of the USSR. In the instructions and directives collected in the so-called Green Folder, one can read: “There is no doubt … tens of millions of persons will die of hunger if we take out of this country the things necessary for us.” The general plan, called the Ost Plan, provided for the systematic extermination of up to 30 million civilians and prisoners of war in occupied territories and the expulsion of about 50 million Poles, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians to Western Siberia, the Northern Caucasus, South America, and Africa over a 30-year period. The remaining population was to be Germanized by the Hitlerites and transformed into a labor force for 10 million German colonists. The Hitlerites planned to divide the territory of Russia into separate political and administrative regions with their own agencies of administration, thereby liquidating the Russians as a nation. They also intended to destroy the Russian intelligentsia, to abolish secondary and higher educational institutions, and to artificially limit the birthrate. The attainment of these goals was supposed to ensure the dominant position of fascist Germany in the whole world. The war plan, called Operation Barbarossa, provided for a surprise attack in which a powerful onslaught would be made by large forces of panzer and motorized troops with the purpose of isolating, encircling, and destroying the main forces of the Red Army located in the western part of the USSR and the subsequent rapid advance into the depths of the country with the purpose of seizing the major political and economic centers and reaching the Arkhangel’ sk-Volga line.
|Table 2. Military output of Germany|
|Guns (75 mm and larger)...............||5,000||7,000|
|Infantry mortars ...............||4,000||4,000|
|Tanks (medium) ...............||1,400||2,900|
|Tanks (light) and armored cars ...............||800||2,300|
|Rifles and carbines ...............||1,352,000||1,359,000|
In order to carry out Operation Barbarossa, the Hitlerite command detailed (including the armed forces of Germany’s allies) 190 divisions (5.5 million men), 3,712 tanks, 4,950 combat planes, 47,260 guns and infantry mortars (excluding the 50-mm infantry mortars), and 193 fighting ships. The armament of the fascist German troops was in good operating condition, and the officers and soldiers had combat experience.
All these forces and weapons were deployed in three major strategic groupings. Army Group North (Leningrad axis), under the command of Field Marshal W. Leeb, was composed of the Sixteenth and Eighteenth field armies and the 4th Tank Group (from Oct. 5, 1941, the 1st and the 2nd tank groups and from Jan. 1, 1942, the 3rd and the 4th tank groups were called panzer armies)—a total of 29 divisions, including six panzer and motorized divisions. Army Group North had the support of the First Air Force (1,070 combat planes). This group was assigned the task of routing the Soviet troops in the Baltic area and of capturing Leningrad and the Baltic seaports, including Tallin and Kronstadt. Army Group Center (Moscow axis, where the main efforts of the enemy were concentrated), under the command of Field Marshal F. Bock, was composed of the Fourth and Ninth field armies and the 2nd and 3rd tank groups—a total of 50 divisions, including 15 panzer and motorized divisions, and two motorized brigades. Army Group Center had the support of the Second Air Force (1,680 aircraft). The group was assigned the task of splitting up the strategic front of the Soviet defense, encircling and destroying the troops of the Red Army in Byelorussia, and developing an offensive toward Moscow, assisting army groups South and North. Army Group South (Kiev axis), under the command of Field Marshal G. Runstedt, was composed of the German Sixth, Seventeenth, and Eleventh, and the Rumanian Third and Fourth field armies, the 1st Tank Group, and a Hungarian corps—a total of 57 divisions, including nine panzer and motorized divisions, and 13 brigades, including three motorized brigades. Its task was to destroy, with the support of the German Fourth Air Force (about 800 aircraft) and the Rumanian Army Air Forces (about 500 aircraft), the Soviet troops in the Right-bank Ukraine, to reach the Dnieper, and then to develop an offensive east of the Dnieper. The following forces were deployed in Finland: the German Army Norway, under the command of Colonel General N. Falkenhorst, and two Finnish armies, under the overall command of Marshal C. Mannerheim—a total of 21 divisions and three brigades. Their actions were supported by the German Fifth Air Force and the Finnish Army Air Forces—a total of 900 aircraft. Army Norway was to capture Murmansk, and the Finnish troops were to assist Army Group North in the capture of Leningrad. The high command of the ground forces kept 24 divisions, including three panzer and motorized divisions, in reserve. The strategic war plan adopted by the fascist German command was a venturesome one. It was based on an overestimation of fascist Germany’s military and economic strength and an underestimation of the Soviet Union’s strength and economic, political, and military capabilities. The fascist command self-confidently believed that it could completely crush the resistance of the Red Army before the beginning of the winter.
The Communist Party and the Soviet government foresaw the possibility of an armed struggle with the forces of imperialism and, in the years of peaceful socialist development, adopted all the necessary measures to strengthen the country’s defensive abilities. The successful fulfillment of the prewar five-year plans greatly increased the military and economic potential of the USSR. A second coal and metallurgy base was created in the east. In 1940 the USSR produced more than 18 million tons of steel, about 15 million tons of pig iron, more than 13 million tons of rolled metal, almost 166 million tons of coal, 31.1 million tons of petroleum, and more than 48 billion kW-hr of electric power. Important measures were carried out before the war toward reorganizing the work of industry and transportation in view of the impending danger of war, creating a defense industry, developing the armed forces, providing them with new equipment and increasing their size, and broadening the training of military cadres. War appropriations greatly increased, rising from 25.6 percent of the total state budget in 1939 to 32.6 percent in 1940, and to 43.4 percent in 1941. New defense plants were built, and those already in operation were expanded at a rapid pace and had more and more metal, fuel, electric power, and new machine tools allocated to them and the best-trained engineers, technicians, and workers sent to them. From 1939 to the first half of 1941 the war industry produced more than 17,000 combat planes, including 3,719 new models produced between 1940 and the first half of 1941—Yak-1, MiG-3, LaGG-3, Pe-2, II-2)—7,600 tanks, including 1,861 KV and T-34 tanks; more than 80,000 guns and infantry mortars; and more than 200,000 machine guns and submachine guns. In 1940 the navy received more than 100 different, new fighting ships, and 269 ships were under construction. However, all this could not meet the requirements of the armed forces. Weak spots also included the lag in the production of antiaircraft guns, antitank cannons, artillery ammunition, and mechanized traction for artillery systems.
The size of the armed forces increased sharply from 1,513,000 men in early 1938 to 4,207,000 men by early 1941. In the 2½ years before the war, 125 new divisions were formed. By the beginning of the war the total ground forces numbered 303 infantry, tank, motorized, and cavalry divisions. However, no unit was equipped according to the full table of organization and equipment; some of the divisions were still in formation. The navy had three battleships, seven cruisers, 59 destroyers, 218 submarines, 269 torpedo boats, 2,581 aircraft, and more than 1,000 coast artillery guns in operation.
The development of the armed forces raised the demand for command cadres. In 1941 the USSR had 203 Red Army and Navy military schools (75 in 1938), 19 military academies, ten military departments at civilian higher educational institutions (14 and six, respectively, in 1939), and seven higher navy schools. However, it was impossible to fully staff the newly established units with command cadres because the demand greatly exceeded the available supply. The majority of Soviet officers (about 80 percent) were Communists or Komsomols and had high moral, political, and combat qualities. However, a considerable part of the senior and higher command personnel was not properly trained for troop leadership. This was owing to insufficient combat experience in conducting large-scale operations under conditions of modern warfare as well as to a great weakening of the command cadres following the unjustified repressions that resulted from violations of socialist legality in 1937-38. The personnel of the armed forces were infinitely loyal to the socialist motherland. The number of communists between 1939 and the middle of 1941 trebled and totaled about 561,000 by the beginning of the war.
In view of the incoming information on fascist Germany’s preparation for an attack on the USSR, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) and the Council of People’s Commissars demanded that the military agencies accelerate the implementation of measures on raising the combat readiness of the armed forces. In the spring of 1941 the General Staff, jointly with the staffs of military districts and fleets, drafted a new plan for the defense of the state border. In early June a refresher training period was begun, during which 755,000 reserve personnel were called up into the army and navy and 38,500 men sent to fortified regions of border districts. In May and June the relocation of a number of divisions and corps belonging to border districts and the advancement of troops from the internal military districts to the west was begun; the commands of the border districts were directed to begin building frontline command posts, speed up the construction of fortified regions, and to move between June 14 and 19 frontline and army administrations to field positions. Fleets and flotillas were directed to improve combat readiness. However, many of these important measures were begun too late and could not be completed by the beginning of the war. One of the reasons for this situation was J. V. Stalin’s miscalculation in appraising the military and strategic situation and the possible time of fascist Germany’s attack on the USSR. Stalin hoped to postpone a clash with Hitler’s Germany through diplomatic negotiations and avoided giving Germany a pretext for attack.
The western borders of the USSR were covered by the Leningrad, Special Baltic, Western, Kiev, and Odessa military districts, which in the first days of the war became the bases for the Northern, Northwestern, Western, Southwestern, and Southern fronts, which were commanded, respectively, by Lieutenant General M. M. Popov, Colonel General F. I. Kuznetsov, General of the Army D. G. Pavlov, Colonel General M. P. Kirponos, and General I. V. Tiulenev. The naval borders of the motherland in the west were guarded by the Northern, Red Banner Baltic, and Black Sea fleets and by the Pinsk and Danube military flotillas, which were commanded, respectively, by Rear Admiral A. G. Golovko, Vice Admiral V. F. Tributs, Vice Admiral F. S. Oktiabr’skii, Rear Admiral D. D. Rogachev, and Rear Admiral N. O. Abramov.
The troops of the aforementioned districts and the personnel of the fleets were to repulse the attacks of the enemy and cover the mobilization, strategic concentration, and deployment of the Red Army’s main forces. They numbered 170 divisions and two brigades (2.9 million men), 1,540 new-type aircraft, a great many aircraft of outmoded design, 34,695 guns and infantry mortars (not counting the 50-mm ones), and 1,800 heavy and medium tanks (including 1,475 new types) and a large number of light tanks of outmoded design. Of the 170 divisions, 144 had 8,000 men each, 19 between 600 and 5,000 men each, and seven cavalry divisions had 6,000 men each, while all the enemy divisions were fully staffed with between 14,000 and 16,800 men in each division. Enemy forces outnumbered Soviet troops by 1.8 times in personnel, 1.5 times in medium and heavy tanks, 3.2 times in combat planes of new types, and 1.25 times in guns and infantry mortars. The enemy superiority in troops and weapons was even greater along the axes of the main attacks.
By the time of the enemy attack, the troops of the western border districts had not been brought to combat readiness and, not having completed the strategic deployment, found themselves dispersed on a front 4,500 km long and more than 400 km deep. Especially grave consequences were caused by the delay in bringing to combat readiness the troops of those border military districts and those garrisons of fortified regions that were to engage in battle immediately after the enemy attack. Most of the troops were still in permanent barracks, in camps, or en route. Their staff did not exceed 60-70 percent of the wartime table of organization and equipment; they had not deployed service troops and had an insufficient number of signal units and communications equipment, engineering subunits, and transportation. The artillery of many infantry divisions and antiaircraft weapons were at firing ranges and the combat engineering units, in engineering camps; there was a shortage of ammunition, fuel, and other matériel. The responsibility for the inadequate combat readiness of the troops lies to some extent with the People’s Commissariat of Defense (Marshal of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko) and with the General Staff (General of the Army G. K. Zhukov).
The powerful enemy main-attack groupings along a front from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea were resisted by the frontier troops (47 ground and six naval frontier detachments, nine separate frontier command posts, and 11 regiments of the NKVD operational troops—a total of about 100,000 men), as well as by infantry divisions of the first echelons of the covering armies that were near the border, but not deployed for combat formation. At 12:30 A.M. on June 22, 1941, a directive was relayed to all the border districts according to which the fortifications at the state border were to be occupied during the night, all the troops were to be brought to combat readiness, and all aircraft were to be dispersed among airfields. But this order reached the troops too late.
It is under these extremely unfavorable conditions that the Soviet troops entered the war with a strong and experienced enemy that had the economic resources of almost all of Western Europe at its disposal (the output of the major types of industrial goods of fascist Germany and its occupied and allied countries was almost double that of the USSR) and whose army had been mobilized and concentrated well in advance.
In Soviet literature it is customary to divide the Great Patriotic War into three periods.
First period (June 22, 1941, through Nov. 18, 1942)—the summer-fall campaign of 1941 (June through November), the winter campaign of 1941-42 (December 1941 through April 1942), and the summer-fall campaign of 1942 (May to November).
Second period (Nov. 19, 1942 through the end of 1943)—the winter campaign of 1942-43 (November 1942 through March 1943) and the summer-fall campaign of 1943 (April through December).
Third period (January 1944 to May 9, 1945)—the winter campaign of 1944 (January through May), the summer-fall campaign of 1944 (June through December), and the 1945 campaign (January to May).
The war of the USSR with imperialist Japan (Aug. 9 through Sept. 2, 1945) was a direct sequel and an important part of the Great Patriotic War; although a separate campaign (Soviet-Japanese War of 1945), it was at the same time, the main event of the last period of World War II.
First period (June 22, 1941, through Nov. 18, 1942). SUMMER-FALL CAMPAIGN OF 1941. At dawn on June 22, 1941, fascist Germany, treacherously breaking the nonaggression pact, initiated military operations against the Soviet Union, taking the Soviet troops by surprise. German aircraft delivered concentrated blows at airfields, railroad junctions, naval bases, barracks of military units, and many cities at a depth of 250-300 km from the state border. After an artillery bombardment, the main forces of the fascist German Army invaded the USSR. Rumania and Italy entered the war against the USSR simultaneously (Italian troops began combat actions on July 20), followed soon after by Finland (June 26) and Hungary (June 27). The first to receive the enemy attack were the divisions stationed near the border and the frontier troops. Fierce battles developed all along the front. The enemy’s surprise attack and the rapid advance of its panzer and motorized troops disrupted the command control of the Soviet troops. The troops of the border military districts suffered heavy losses. The Soviet Air Force lost about 1,200 airplanes on the first day of the war, including 738 airplanes of the Western Military District. Moreover, the greater part of these airplanes were destroyed on the airfields without having entered into combat. The ratio of forces and weapons changed still further in favor of the enemy, whose superiority, especially in the air, became overwhelming. The raids of the enemy air force inflicted heavy losses on the troops before they even reached the front. In the sustained frontier battles of 1941 in the areas of Liepaja, Przemysl, Lutsk, Brod, Rovno, Dubno, and other cities, the Soviet troops displayed exceptional courage, valor, and a readiness to sacrifice their lives. Their counterblows inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and delayed the German advance along the southwestern axis by about a week. The defense of the Brest Fortress has gone down in history as a shining example of the Soviet people’s patriotism and heroism.
However, it proved impossible to stop the enemy. Using their superiority in tanks and aircraft, enemy troops advanced in three weeks up to 500 km along the northwestern axis, up to 550 km along the western axis, and up to 300-350 km along the southwestern axis. The enemy occupied Latvia, Lithuania, and large parts of the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Moldavia. West of Minsk the enemy succeeded in encircling part of the troops of the Western Front, who later broke through to the east. The Soviet Union found itself in mortal danger. The gains of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the freedom and independence of the peoples of the USSR were in jeopardy. In the June 22 address, the Communist Party and the Soviet government appealed to the people to repulse the aggressor and expressed firm confidence in the victory over the enemy. On June 22 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued decrees on the mobilization, beginning June 23, of citizens subject to military service born between 1905 and 1918 and on the introduction of martial law in several western regions of the country.
Despite the grave situation, Soviet soldiers on the front and the Soviet people in the rear did not lose courage. All the peoples of the Soviet Union, brought up by the Communist Party in the spirit of patriotism, internationalism, and hatred of fascism, rose to the defense of the socialist motherland. The mobilization proceeded in an atmosphere of tremendous patriotic enthusiasm; by July 1 a total of 5.3 million men had been mobilized. People’s volunteer corps were being formed. The population rose to the defense of their cities from the blows of the enemy air force, actively participating in local antiaircraft defense. The Soviet people rallied even more closely around the Communist Party and, responding to its appeals, transformed the country into a united military camp.
The Communist Party’s contribution to history lies in the fact that under the extremely grave conditions of the first months of the war, it inspired the Soviet people and was able to ensure the country’s reorganization for war. Of great importance was the June 29 directive of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) to Party and Soviet organizations in regions near the front, which was proclaimed in the July 3, 1941, radio speech of J. V. Stalin, secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) and chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. The directive became the program of the Soviet people’s struggle against the fascist German invaders. It demanded the mobilization of all the forces to crush the enemy. The Party called on Soviet soldiers to defend every inch of the land and to fight until the last drop of blood for Soviet cities and villages; it called on the Party and Soviet organizations to ensure overall aid to the army in the field through well-organized mobilization, precise and uninterrupted supply, rapid transport of echelons, and so forth. In the areas temporarily captured by the fascists, the people were urged to organize partisan detachments and create conditions that would be unbearable for the occupation forces. On June 13, 1941, an extraordinary body was set up under Stalin’s chairmanship—the State Defense Committee. The committee concentrated the absolute power of the state in its hands with the aim of uniting the efforts of the front and the rear for victory over the enemy. On June 23 a mobilization plan for ammunition production was put into effect. On June 30 a mobilization plan of the national economy for the third quarter of 1941 was adopted.
The threat to important economic regions in the west and south of the country necessitated the immediate relocation of large industrial enterprises to the east (the Urals, Siberia, and the Volga Region) and making the east the primary military and economic base of the USSR. On June 24 the Council on Evacuation was organized and put in charge of the relocation of enterprises, establishments, educational institutions, people, materials, and state valuables into the distant rear. Special bureaus and commissions were created in people’s commissariats and agencies, and representatives were appointed for each group of enterprises. On-the-spot evacuation was directed by republic, oblast, city, and raion Party and Soviet agencies. Between July and November 1941 some 1,523 industrial enterprises, including 1,360 large, primarily military, enterprises, were relocated to the eastern regions of the country. Of these enterprises, 226 were relocated to the Volga Region, 667 to the Urals, 244 to Western Siberia, 78 to Eastern Siberia, and 308 to Kazakhstan and Middle Asia. In 1941 the railroads evacuated a total of about 1.5 million cars of freight. By the end of 1941 many enterprises that were evacuated to the rear resumed their work for the needs of the front. On August 16 the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) approved a military and economic plan for the fourth quarter of 1941 and for 1942 for the Volga Region, the Urals, Western Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Middle Asia.
The planned socialist economic system made it possible, through the redistribution of productive capacities and raw material reserves, to greatly increase the production of armaments and matériel and to begin the mass production of new models of weapons. At the same time, the reorganization of the national economy for war required time, especially since the process was complicated by the mass evacuation of enterprises. An acute shortage of armaments and matériel was therefore felt in 1941 and early 1942, when war production had not yet been fully developed.
The Communist Party devoted special attention to improving political education among the troops. On June 27 and 29 the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) adopted a decision on the additional mobilization of Communists and Komsomols for frontline service. In the first three months more than 95,000 Communists and Komsomols went to the front as political soldiers. To reinforce the ranks of political personnel, 47,000 Party, Soviet, trade union, and Komsomol officials were mobilized. A total of more than 1.1 million Communists joined the armed forces in the first six months of the war. On July 16, 1941, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a decree on reorganizing the agencies of political propaganda and on introducing the institution of the military commissar in the Red Army; on July 20, this decree was extended to the navy. Political administrations and departments were established in large units; the post of military commissar was established in regiments, divisions, corps, headquarters, and military educational establishments and institutions and the post of junior political officer, in companies, batteries, and squadrons. By the end of the year, the post of military commissar was introduced in ordinary battalions and artillery battalions. Jointly with Party and Komsomol organizations, commissars and junior political officers did outstanding political work, inspiring the soldiers to the struggle against the fascist invaders. In difficult battle conditions, they often inspired soldiers to military heroism with their examples of personal bravery. The post of appointed Party organizer was established in units to replace the elected secretaries of Party organizations. The Communists and Komsomols were the force that rallied the personnel of units of different sizes in fierce battles. To increase the ranks of the Party, the admission requirements for frontline soldiers were eased and the admission procedure was simplified. Whereas 27,000 people were admitted as Party candidate members in the first half of 1941, 126,600 were admitted in the second half. By the end of 1941 there were 1.3 million Communists and 1.7 million Komsomols in the armed forces.
In the rear of the country new large units were rapidly being organized. Between June 27 and Dec. 1, 1941, 291 divisions and 94 brigades were sent into the field—70 divisions from the inner military districts; 27 from the Far East, Transcaucasia, and Middle Asia; and 194 newly formed divisions and 94 newly formed brigades. On Oct. 1, 1941, universal, compulsory military training of the population was introduced; this training encompassed over 9.8 million people throughout the war.
As early as June 23, the General Headquarters of the High Command (chairman, S. K. Timoshenko) was set up for the strategic leadership of the armed forces. On July 10 it was transformed into the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command (Verkhovnoe komandovanie), which was originally composed of J. V. Stalin (chairman), V. M. Molotov, S. K. Timoshenko, S. M. Budennyi, K. E. Voroshilov, B. M. Shaposhnikov, and G. K. Zhukov. On July 19, Stalin was appointed people’s commissar of defense and on August 8, supreme commander of the USSR armed forces. From that time on, the General Headquarters was called the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command (Verkhovnoe glavnokomandovanie). The work of the General Headquarters was based on the Leninist principle of strict centralization in the administration of the armed forces combined with joint leadership in decision-making and strict personal responsibility in the implementation of these decisions. All major strategic decisions were made at sessions of the General Headquarters with the participation of the commanders in chief of the various branches of the armed forces, the commanders of combat arms, the commanders and members of the war councils of corresponding fronts, and other responsible persons. General Headquarters planned army and navy operations and exercised their day-to-day control, made the necessary corrections in the missions in the course of operations, and assigned new missions to the army and navy. It also restored disrupted coordinated actions and affected the course of operations by introducing its reserves into battle and regrouping the troops. General Headquarters representatives coordinated the actions of the fronts on the spot. The work of the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command in matters of the combat employment of the branches of the armed forces, combat arms, and special troops; the operational command of the troops; the matériel and technical supply; and the formation of new large units was ensured by the People’s Commissariat of Defense and its chief agency, the General Staff, which was the working agency of General Headquarters. The chiefs of the General Staff during the war were G. K. Zhukov (until July 1941), B. M. Shaposhnikov (July 1941 to May 1942), A. M. Vasilevskii (May 1942 to February 1945), and A. I. Antonov (from February 1945). To coordinate the actions of fronts and fleets and to unite troop efforts along the major strategic axes, three high commands were set up on July 10: the northwestern axis (inactivated on Aug. 29, 1941), the western axis (existed until Sept. 11, 1941; restored Feb. 1, 1942; inactivated May 3, 1942), and the southwestern axis (inactivated June 21, 1942). The chiefs of these high commands were, respectively, Marshals of the Soviet Union K. E. Voroshilov, S. K. Timoshenko (from Feb. 1, 1942, General of the Army G. K. Zhukov), and S. M. Budennyi (from Sept. 13, 1941, S. K. Timoshenko).
Between July and September battles broke out on an immense scale all along the Soviet-German Front. Soviet troops, forced into a strategic defense and receiving the assistance of the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command reserves, continued their struggle in July to win the initiative. This took the form of counterblows delivered by two mechanized corps of the Western Front near Lepel’, by the Twenty-first Army near Bobruisk, by the Eleventh Army near Sol’tsy, by the Fifth Army south of Korosten’, and so forth. Although the situation was extremely unfavorable for the Red Army, the fascist German command could not destroy the main body of the Soviet troops. The heroically resisting Soviet troops inflicted heavy losses on the enemy troops and forced them to use their reserves, not to increase their strength and weapons but to replace the losses of the strike groupings.
The fascist German Army Group North tried to break through to Leningrad. In fierce battles near Luga; south of Lake Il’men’, near Staraia Russa; and in the area of Krasnogvardeisk, Soviet troops wore out the enemy forces with a defense and counterattacks and inflicted heavy losses on them. However, the enemy succeeded in occupying Estonia and breaking through to the close approaches to Leningrad. Here the enemy encountered the impregnable defense of the Soviet troops and of the working people of Leningrad, who rose to the city’s defense. A great role in the defense of Leningrad was played by the heroic 100-day defense of the islands of Ezel (Saaremaa) and Dago (Hiiumaa) and the 150-day defense of the Hango Peninsula. The Soviet people were determined to hold Leningrad, the cradle of the proletarian revolution. Under the leadership of the War Council of the Leningrad Front (commanded by Lieutenant General M. M. Popov; from September 5, by Marshal of the Soviet Union K. E. Voroshilov; and from September 13, by General of the Army G. K. Zhukov) and of the Party and Soviet organizations of Leningrad and the oblast, a system of defense installations was set up around the city, a people’s volunteer corps was formed in the city, and partisan detachments were organized in the enemy’s rear. On September 8, the fascist German troops succeeded in breaking through to Lake Ladoga, capturing Shlissel’burg (Petrokre-post’) and cutting the ground lines of communications linking Leningrad with the rest of the country. The enemy tried to take the city by storm but was repulsed and stopped at the southwestern and southern approaches. This was the beginning of the heroic epic of the struggle of the army, navy, and the working people of Leningrad under the most difficult conditions of the blockade, which has gone down in history as an unsurpassed example of military and civilian valor, fortitude, and the mass heroism of the Soviet people.
Along the western axis, the fascist German Army Group Center opened an offensive on Smolensk on July 10. It was resisted by the main forces of the Western Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko), which had had no time to organize a firm defense in depth and which was considerably surpassed by the enemy in troops and matériel (seven times in tanks, 2.4 times in artillery, four times in aircraft). Two powerful German panzer groups forced the Dnieper. Despite great losses, the enemy succeeded in capturing Smolensk on July 16. The counterblows of the Twenty-second Army near Vitebsk and Velikie Luki, of the Twenty-first Army near Rogachev and Zhlobin, of the Twentieth Army near Orsha and Krasnoe, and of the Sixteenth Army near Smolensk and other areas pinned down the enemy’s forces, which suffered heavy losses. At the end of July the troops of the Western Front halted the German main-attack force, and on July 30 the fascist German Army Group Center passed to the defensive. In the course of the Smolensk Battle the title of guard was conferred, for the first time in the history of the Red Army, on the large units that had fought best.
Along the southwestern axis, the Soviet troops, between July and September, contained the pressure of the fascist German Army Group South in bloody battles. The German High Command hoped, by delivering strikes at the flanks and rear of the major forces of the Southwestern and Southern fronts, to destroy one of the largest groupings of Soviet troops and to break through to the major industrial regions of the Ukraine and then to the oil resources of the Caucasus. By the middle of July, defensive combat was begun with the fascist German troops advancing toward Kiev, south of Poles’e. Taking advantage of a 60-km gap between the Fifth Army defending the Korosten’ fortified region and the troops covering Kiev, part of the German 1st Tank Group broke through to the approaches of Kiev. The fascist German command detailed the Sixth Army to capture Kiev. However, Soviet troops were able to stop the enemy advance on Kiev. South of Kiev, along a front from Berdichev to the Dnestr, the troops of the German 1st Tank Group broke through to the Belaia Tserkov’ region on July 16-17, the Seventeenth Army advanced along the Zhmerinka axis, and the German Eleventh Army forced the Dnestr in the Mogilev-Podol’skii area. The counterblows of the Soviet troops delayed the enemy advance by a few days, but in early August the enemy encircled the Soviet Sixth and Twelfth armies in the area of Uman’. At the same time, the troops of the Rumanian Fourth Army broke through the defense of the Soviet Ninth Army on the Dnestr, north of Tiraspol’. Cut off from the main forces of the Southern Front, the left-flank large units of the Ninth Army formed the Maritime Group of Troops (later called the Separate Maritime Army). Reaching the Dnestr in a zone of the Southwestern Front by early August, the fascist German troops directed large forces southward at the flank and rear of the Southern Front. The Soviet troops were forced to withdraw beyond the Dnieper by August 19, conducting defensive combat from Nikopol’ to Kherson. The Separate Maritime Army retreated southward toward Odessa on August 10. The 1941 heroic defense of Odessa (August 5 to October 16) began. During this defense, Soviet troops pinned down more than 18 Rumanian and German Divisions, inflicting heavy losses.
On August 25 the troops of the German Army Group South captured Dnepropetrovsk and reached Zaporozh’e. General Headquarters of the Supreme Command overestimated the combat abilities of the troops of the Southwestern Front, which were worn out by the protracted combat, charging them to hold the Dnieper line and rejecting the request of the front’s command to withdraw the troops beyond the Dnieper. By the middle of September, the fascist German troops succeeded, through the strikes of two tank groups (the 2nd from Konotop in the north and the 1st from Kremenchug in the south) along the general axis toward Lokhvitsa, in encircling the troops of the Southwestern Front east of Kiev. On September 19 the Soviet troops evacuated Kiev. This defeat seriously affected the situation of the Soviet troops of the whole southern wing of the Soviet-German Front. At the end of September and in early October the fascist German Army Group South struck a series of blows with superior forces at the troops of the Southwestern and Southern fronts, which had had no time to consolidate their positions. After fierce and persistent battles in October and November 1941, the Soviet troops were forced out of the Donets Basin. The enemy forces succeeded in breaking through to the Crimea, where they were halted by the heroic defenders of Sevastopol’, who held down the German Eleventh Army and made it impossible to use it either for thrusts at the Caucasus or to support the First Panzer Army advancing on Rostov.
In September 1941 the fascist German command concentrated its main efforts toward capturing the Moscow area. The enemy planned, by delivering blows from the areas of Dukhovshchina, Roslavl’, and Shostka, to encircle and destroy the troops of the Western Front (commanded by Colonel General I. S. Konev), of the Reserve Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union S. M. Budennyi), and of the Briansk Front (commanded by Colonel General A. I. Eremenko) on the approaches to Moscow and to capture the Soviet capital before the onset of winter. To carry out Operation Typhoon, the enemy concentrated 77.5 divisions (more than 1 million men), 1,700 tanks, 950 aircraft, and more than 14,000 guns and infantry mortars in Army Group Center. It was resisted by 95 Soviet divisions (about 800,000 men), 782 tanks (141 heavy and medium), 545 aircraft (primarily outmoded models), and 6,808 guns and infantry mortars. Along the axes of the chief blows, the enemy superiority in forces and weapons was overwhelming. The enemy turned to the offensive between September 30 and October 2. By October 7 the enemy succeeded in encircling a large grouping of Soviet troops west of Viaz’ma, which conducted uninterrupted fighting for a week, holding down 28 enemy divisions. This enabled the Soviet command to adopt urgent measures on organizing a resistance on the Mozhaisk defense line, where part of the encircled Soviet troops broke through from Viaz’ma. On October 10 the Western and Reserve fronts were united into the Western Front under the command of General of the Army G. K. Zhukov. Troops from other sectors of the front and from the depth of the country were hurriedly transferred to Moscow. On October 19 the capital was declared to be in a state of siege. Some of the government and scientific establishments, educational institutions, enterprises, and the diplomatic corps were evacuated. The General Headquarters of the Supreme Command remained in Moscow. People’s volunteer corps regiments and divisions were formed in the city, and defensive installations were erected on its approaches. The capital of the USSR was being transformed into an impregnable fortress. The stubborn and heroic defense of the Soviet troops stopped the enemy by the end of October. On November 15-16 a new German offensive on Moscow was begun. In late November, at the price of heavy losses, the fascist German troops succeeded in advancing from the north to Krasnaia Poliana and Kriukovo (25-30 km from Moscow) and from the south to Kashira, but they were unable to break the resistance of the heroic defenders of Moscow. In the defensive battles around Moscow, the Soviet troops displayed exceptional fortitude and mass heroism. They fought to the last man, repulsing the blows of superior enemy forces. The deeds of the soldiers of the Panfilov Division and many hundreds and thousands of other heroes of the defense of Moscow will go down forever in history. The enemy forces completely exhausted their offensive opportunities. As early as late November the Soviet troops struck counterblows with the forces of the First Shock Army in the Iakhroma region and of the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps near Kashira.
The heroic struggle of the Soviet people in the rear of the fascist German troops began from the very first days of the Great Patriotic War. The occupiers encountered universal hatred and active resistance on the part of the population. The partisan movement of the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), inspired and organized by the Communist Party, became a national movement. By the end of 1941, about 3,500 partisan detachments and groups were active in the enemy’s rear. On the occupied territories of Leningrad, Kalinin, Smolensk, Orel, and Kursk oblasts of the RSFSR and in the Karelian-Finnish, Byelorussian, Ukrainian, and Moldavian SSR’s more than 800 underground city and raion Party Committees and raion Party centers and about 300 city and raion Komsomol committees were established. They were the direct organizers of the national struggle in the enemy’s rear.
As a result of the military actions in the summer and fall of 1941, the fascist German Army, using the temporary advantages and superiority in tanks and aircraft, inflicted heavy losses on the Soviet troops. It succeeded in blocking Leningrad from the land, advancing to the outskirts of Moscow, capturing a large part of the Donets Basin, and breaking through to Rostov. The enemy occupied part of Karelia, the whole Baltic region, almost the whole Leningrad Oblast, Byelorussia, many western oblasts of the RSFSR, Moldavia, the Right-Bank and part of the Left-Bank Ukraine, and almost the entire Crimea. The USSR lost important economic regions where before the war more than 40 percent of the population lived and 68 percent of the pig iron, 58 percent of the steel, 60 percent of aluminum, 38 percent of the grain, and 63 percent of the coal were produced.
The fascist German invaders established a terrorist regime in the occupied territory, setting up the so-called new order. The mass extermination of prisoners of war, the organized plunder of national property, the ruthless suppression of any acts of resistance, and the introduction of the institution of hostages became part of fascist Germany’s state policy. The massacre of about 100,000 Soviet citizens in Babi Yar in Kiev; the organized extermination of hundreds of thousands of Soviet people in the extermination camps of Ośweiçim, Maidanek (Poland), Salaspils (Latvian SSR), and many other places and in thousands of concentration camps; the destruction of entire raions in Byelorussia during punitive expeditions; the bloody atrocities of the punitive detachments in Smolensk and Leningrad oblasts, the Donets Basin, and Kerch; and the tactic of scorched earth during retreats were the methods used to implement the Ost Plan.
Despite the extremely grave consequences of the blows of the fascist German troops, the chief result of the military operations in the summer and fall of 1941 was the disruption of the German General Staffs original strategic calculations of quickly routing the Soviet troops. The enemy could not crush the Red Army. The beginning of the war already showed that the Hitlerites’ military venture was doomed to failure. The fascist German troops were drawn into protracted battles and, for the first time in World War II, were stopped along the major axes at Leningrad, Moscow, and Rostov. The Red Army was able to wear out the enemy forces, to retain its combat abilities despite the heavy losses, to gain time, and to prepare the conditions for passing to the counteroffensive. The selflessness and mass heroism of the Soviet soldiers was admired by the friends of the USSR and startled the enemy.
The efforts of Soviet foreign policy in the summer and fall of 1941 were aimed at uniting the freedom-loving peoples of the world and creating an anti-Hitlerite coalition. On July 12 the USSR and Great Britain signed an agreement on joint actions in the war against fascist Germany. On July 18 in London the USSR signed agreements with the government of Czechoslovakia and on July 30, with the Polish government-in-exile. The beginning of August saw the establishment of contacts with the government of the USA, which announced its decision to extend economic aid to the USSR in the war. After Japan’s attack on the American base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, the USA and Britain declared war on Japan, and on December 11 Germany and Italy declared war on the United States of America.
WINTER CAMPAIGN OF 1941-42. In the beginning of December 1941 the Soviet people and their armed forces were faced with an extremely important military and political task: to liquidate the threat to Moscow, Leningrad, and the Caucasus and to wrest the strategic initiative from the enemy’s hands. Despite the limited number of troops and weapons, insufficient industrial output, failures in the preceding engagements, and a severe winter with an excessive snowfall, the Party, the government, and the Soviet command were able to mobilize and concentrate a maximum number of troops and weapons along the decisive axes of operations and to prepare the troops from the point of view of morale to pass from defensive to offensive actions. Having exhausted the enemy forces in defensive engagements and secretly concentrating and conserving, despite the grave situation at the front, large reserves that had arrived from the east, the Soviet command on December 5-6 launched a powerful counteroffensive near Moscow—the first large-scale offensive operation of strategic significance in the Great Patriotic War. By that time, the Soviet counteroffensive was successfully developing at Tikhvin and Rostov; these actions had begun in the middle of November and diverted considerable enemy forces. By early in December, the Hitlerite command had more than 800,000 men (in divisions and brigades), about 10,400 guns and infantry mortars, 1,000 tanks, and more than 600 aircraft near Moscow. The Soviet troops had 719,000 men (not counting three divisions for which there are no data), 5,908 guns and infantry mortars, 415 rocket-launching artillery installations, 667 tanks (of which 205 were heavy and medium), and 762 aircraft (including 593 new models). Thus, the Soviet forces had no superiority in troops and weapons. The Soviet troops had the enormous advantage of an upsurge in morale that seized the troops as a result of the first Red Army victories at Tikhvin and Rostov, the impending transition to the counteroffensive, and the great political Party work. At the same time the morale of the fascist German troops had fallen drastically.
Upon passing to the counteroffensive, the troops of the Kalinin Front (commanded by Colonel General I. S. Konev), the Western Front, and the right wing of the Southwestern Front (from December 18, the Briansk Front was under the command of Colonel General Ia. T. Chere-vichenko), in stubborn battles during the Kalinin, Klin-Solnechnogorsk, Tula, and Elets operations, defeated the enemy’s main-attack groupings along the Moscow strategic axis of operations and advanced 100-250 km. The immediate threat to Moscow was removed. In the course of the general developing counteroffensive on a front from Leningrad to the Black Sea, the Soviet troops advanced 350-400 km to the west between January and April 1942.
In the Battle of Moscow, the Soviet troops, for the first time during the entire war, inflicted a great defeat on the fascist German Army and dispelled the myth of its invincibility. The enemy suffered heavy losses in manpower and matériel; 38 enemy divisions were smashed in the Battle of Moscow. Although Army Group Center could not be entirely destroyed owing to limited troops and weapons, the Battle of Moscow played an enormous role in the war. Hitler’s plan of a blitzkrieg was thwarted for good. The Soviet troops wrested the strategic initiative from the enemy’s hands. The Red Army victory at Moscow was of enormous political and military significance. It marked a decisive turn in military events in favor of the USSR and had a great impact on the whole subsequent course of the Great Patriotic War and World War II. The routing of the Germans in the Battle of Moscow inspired the Soviet people and the peoples of the whole world to a liberation struggle against fascism.
SUMMER-FALL CAMPAIGN OF 1942. To secure the successes of the winter offensive, the Red Army passed to the defensive in the spring of 1942. The heroic labor of the Soviet people made possible a rapid increase in war production. In the first half of 1942, 1,200 enterprises that were relocated to the east had been restored and put in operation; compared with the second half of 1941, the production of ground artillery doubled and the production of tanks increased 2.3 times; of submachine guns and antitank rifles, six times; and of infantry mortars, 3.2 times. Aircraft production had an insignificant increase.
The USSR attained great successes in the international arena. By the summer of 1942 the antifascist coalition already included 28 countries. On May 26, 1942, the USSR and Great Britain signed a treaty of alliance in the war against fascist Germany and its European allies and on cooperation and mutual aid after the war. On June 11 the Soviet-American agreement On the Principles Applying to Mutual Aid in the Prosecution of the War Against Aggression was signed. A bulletin on the negotiations pointed out that “a full accord was reached with respect to the urgent tasks of creating a second front in Europe in 1942” (Vneshniaia politika Sovetskogo Soiuza v period O techest-vennoi voiny, vol. 1, 1944, p. 248).
By May 1942, the active Soviet fronts and fleets totaled 5.5 million men, 43,642 guns and infantry mortars, 1,223 rocket-launching installations, 4,065 tanks, and 3,164 combat planes. Fascist Germany and its allies had 6.2 million men, nearly 3,230 tanks and assault guns, almost 3,400 combat planes, and up to 43,000 guns and infantry mortars on the Soviet-German Front.
In planning the summer campaign of 1942, the Soviet Supreme Command on the whole projected defensive actions; but, in the expectation that the allies would open a second front in Europe, it planned several offensive operations near Leningrad; in the Demiansk region; along the Smolensk, Orel, and Kharkov axes; and in the Crimea. A certain over-estimation of the Soviet armed forces’ capabilities, an error in determining the axis of the enemy’s main thrust for the summer of 1942 (it was believed that this would be in the Moscow region) and the related distribution of forces and weapons along the strategic axes, and the absence of a second front largely determined the course and outcome of this campaign, which was unsuccessful for the Soviet troops.
The chief task the fascist German command set itself was to rout the Soviet troops and to end the war in 1942. This strategic goal was to be attained through the following successive operations: First, the Kerch’ Peninsula and Sevastopol’ were to be captured, local blows were to be inflicted on other sectors of the front, and, in the north, the fall of Leningrad was to be attained. Subsequently, it was intended to deliver the main blow in the south, to destroy the Soviet troops west of the Don River, to capture the oil regions of the Caucasus and the mountain passes through the Caucasus Range, and to sever Soviet lines of communications on the Volga with the capture of Stalingrad. The successful execution of these operations was to create the conditions for the subsequent thrust on Moscow. The fascist German leadership expected that the victorious completion of the campaign would make it possible to draw Turkey and Japan into the war against the USSR.
On May 8, 1942, the German Eleventh Army passed to the offensive on the Kerch’ Peninsula and inflicted a serious defeat on the Soviet troops. After the sustained battles of May 15-20 the enemy occupied Kerch’, seizing the combat equipment of the Soviet troops, who evacuated with great losses to the Taman’ Peninsula.
On May 12, 1942, the troops of the Soviet Southwestern Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko) passed to the offensive along the Kharkov axis. This offensive encountered a counteroffensive of the enemy, who struck from the regions around Kramatorsk and north of Kharkov. The operation in the Kharkov region ended in a serious Soviet defeat. On May 20 the German Eleventh Army, reinforced by an air corps and super-heavy artillery, began preparing the assault on Sevastopol’. Soviet troops waged a bitter struggle for Sevastopol’ until early July 1942, when the fascist German troops managed to capture the city. The stubborn defense of Sevastopol’ tied down considerable enemy forces, forcing the enemy to delay the beginning of the summer offensive in the south.
The outcome of the operation in the Kharkov region and on the Kerch’ Peninsula, which was unsuccessful for the Soviet troops, greatly complicated the situation on the southern wing of the Soviet-German Front. The strategic initiative once more passed to the enemy. The fascist German command concentrated a striking force composed of 69 infantry, ten panzer, and eight motorized divisions along the southwestern axis and opened an offensive on Voronezh and in the Donets Basin on June 28-30. Under the blows of the enemy’s superior forces, the troops of the Briansk, Southwestern, and Southern fronts fell back 150-400 km by July 25, abandoning the eastern regions of the Donets Basin and the right bank of the Don. In the middle of July the enemy reached the great bend of the Don, threatening a breakthrough to the Volga and the Caucasus. An extremely grave situation arose once more. Fierce defensive battles broke out along the Stalingrad and Caucasus axes. The Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) devoted special attention to the need for improving the discipline and perseverance of the troops in combat. In this respect the July 28 order Number 227 of the People’s Commissariat of Defense played a great role; the order pointed out that the iron rule for the troops must be “Not a step back!” As early as July 12 the Stalingrad Front was formed, and the troops of the front took up defensive positions along the great bend of the Don from Pavlovsk to Verkhniaia Kurmoiarskaia. The heroic defense of Stalingrad began on July 17 and lasted until the middle of November 1942. The German Sixth Army, which was advancing on Stalingrad and which was supported by the more than 1,200 aircraft of the Fourth Air Force was halted in sustained and protracted battles on the right bank of the Don. The fascist German command turned the Fourth Panzer Army, which originally operated along the Caucasus axis, in the direction of Stalingrad. On July 31 the two armies resumed the offensive on Stalingrad. After bitter battles, the enemy troops broke through to the outer line of Stalingrad’s defense, but they were stopped there. The fascist German command regrouped its troops and at the same time threw the whole Fourth Air Force into combat. On August 23 the enemy reached the Volga in the regions of Rynok and Akatovka, north of Stalingrad, and the city was subjected to the first massive bombing by fascist air power. Between September and November the Soviet Sixty-second and Sixty-fourth armies waged bitter street fighting against the enemy’s superior forces, which never succeeded in breaking the will and courage of the heroic defenders of Stalingrad.
In the south the troops of the Northern Caucasus Front, in heavy defensive combat (which began on July 25) between the Don and the foothills of the Glavnyi Range of the Caucasus, in the mountains of the Caucasus, and on the Black Sea shore, wore out the enemy’s Army Group A and halted its advance in early November.
In heavy combat the commanders, political officers, and Party and Komsomol organizations instilled among the soldiers fortitude, iron discipline, implacable hatred for the enemy, and the ability to broadly apply the combat experience gained. In a special decree of June 12, the Party’s Central Committee requested that all commanders and all political officers, including those of higher ranks, personally conduct propaganda among the soldiers. The Party, despite considerable losses, increased in 1942 through the admission of the best soldiers into its ranks. (There were 1.4 million Communists in the armed forces in the middle of 1942 and 1.9 million by the end of 1942.)
One of the important measures in the matter of military organization was the introduction, by the Oct. 9, 1942, edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, of complete single command and the abolition of the institution of the military commissar in the Red Army; on October 13 this edict was extended to the navy. Commanders (chiefs) were charged with full responsibility for all aspects of the life and combat activity of troops, and the institution of deputy commanders for political affairs was introduced. Political workers were given various army ranks and insignia.
During the fierce battles of the first period of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet armed forces acquired great combat experience; the skill of generals and officers, headquarters, agencies of the rear, political officers, and army, Party, and Komsomol organizations increased. Several problems of military theory were worked out, especially the complex problems of the strategic deployment of the armed forces and of conducting a strategic defense under the unfavorable conditions of the beginning of the war. A new form of strategic offense arose—the operation of a group of fronts. Officers of all ranks acquired experience in defense, in offense, and in the organization of close coordinated action of troops and the overall security of combat operations and learned how to create reserves in time and use them rationally. By the end of the first period of the war, the strategic and operational defense acquired great depth, the zones of defense narrowed, and the tactical density of troops and weapons increased. Antitank defense and the construction of defensive positions by the engineers improved, and defense became more aggressive, especially through the organization of counterblows and counterattacks. The offensive began showing tendencies toward the massing of tanks, artillery, and aircraft along the axes of the main thrusts in order to break through the enemy’s defenses. The navy gained valuable experience in protecting the coastal flanks of the ground forces, disrupting enemy communications, and protecting its own communications.
On the whole, the first period of the war was the most difficult, at the front as well as in the rear. The enemy offensive was halted at the price of incredible efforts and great losses. The Soviet people and their armed forces achieved a favorable change in the correlation of forces. The strategic situation of fascist Germany had worsened by the end of 1942, despite its capture of considerable USSR territory. The strategic goals of the summer campaign were not attained, the troops of the main-attack groupings had weakened, the front was extended, and there were no large operational reserves.
Second period (Nov. 19, 1942 through the end of 1943). The situation by the second half of November 1942 remained extremely tense along the whole front. The USSR and its armed forces continued to fight alone against the Hitlerite coalition. The governments of the USA and Great Britain did not fulfill their obligations and did not open a second front in Western Europe. The Soviet rear was confidently gathering strength. By late 1942 and early 1943, the Soviet people achieved considerable improvement in industry and agriculture. Compared with 1940, war productions increased five times in the Urals, nine times in the Volga Region, and 27 times in Western Siberia. The 1942 output totaled more than 25,000 airplanes, over 24,000 tanks, about 57,000 guns, and more than 125,000 82-mm and 120-mm infantry mortars. By early November 1942, the army in the field and the navy had more than 6.1 million men, 72,500 guns and infantry mortars, 1,724 rocket-launching artillery installations, 6,014 tanks (including 2,745 heavy and medium), 3,088 combat planes, and 233 warships.
By November 1942, fascist Germany and its satellites had the greatest number of troops and weapons on the Soviet-German Front for the whole period of the war: more than 6.2 million men, nearly 71,000 guns and infantry mortars, 6,600 tanks and assault guns, 3,500 combat planes, and 194 warships.
WINTER CAMPAIGN OF 1942-43. General Headquarters of the Supreme Command posed the task of destroying the southern wing of the fascist German front from Voronezh to the Black Sea in the course of the winter. Simultaneously, a series of operations were planned to improve the strategic positions of Moscow and Leningrad. First, the main enemy grouping near Stalingrad had to be destroyed and conditions created for developing a subsequent offensive along the Kharkov, Donets Basin, and northern Caucasus axes.
By the beginning of the counteroffensive of Stalingrad, the troops of the Southwestern, Don, and Stalingrad fronts had more than 1 million men, 894 tanks, 13,500 guns and infantry mortars, and 1,414 combat planes. They faced an enemy grouping consisting of more than 1 million men, 675 tanks and assault guns, 10,300 guns and infantry mortars, and 1,216 combat planes. Soviet troops gained superiority along the axes of the main thrusts only through the skillful maneuvering of troops and weapons.
The counteroffensive at Stalingrad was opened on Nov. 19, 1942, by the troops of the Southwestern Front (commanded by Lieutenant General N. F. Vatutin) and the Don Front (commanded by Lieutenant General K. K. Rokossovskii); Colonel General A. M. Vasilevskii, representative of the General Headquarters, was in charge of coordinating the actions of the fronts. On November 20 the troops of the Stalingrad Front (commanded by Colonel General A. I. Eremenko) passed to the offensive. Breaking through the enemy’s front and acting along converging axes, the Soviet troops on November 23 linked up southeast of Kalach. In the course of the operation, the troops of the three fronts destroyed 12 divisions of the Rumanian Third and Fourth armies and on November 30 completely encircled 22 divisions and 160 individual units of the German Sixth Field Army and Fourth Panzer Army. In the second half of December the troops of the Stalingrad Front threw back Army Group Don, which was advancing from the region of Kotel’nikovskii to relieve the encircled troops. Simultaneously, the troops of the Southwestern and Voronezh fronts (commanded by Lieutenant General F. I. Golikov) routed the Italian Eighth Army and the German Hollidt Operational Group in the middle reaches of the Don. The forces of the Don Front routed the German troops encircled at Stalingrad between Jan. 10 and Feb. 2, 1943. The Soviet Army took 91,000 prisoners, including more than 2,500 officers and 24 generals, headed by Field Marshal F. Paulus, commander of the encircled grouping.
The Battle of Stalingrad was the greatest battle of the entire Second World War and was a major victory of the Soviet people and their armed forces. The military doctrine of the fascist German command suffered complete failure. Two German armies, two Rumanian armies, and one Italian army were routed during the counteroffensive; a total of 32 divisions and three brigades were destroyed, and 16 divisions lost their combat capability. During the Battle of Stalingrad the enemy lost 1.5 million men, 800,000 of whom were lost during the counteroffensive; more than 10,000 guns and infantry mortars; up to 2,000 tanks and assault guns; and about 2,000 combat and transport planes. Owing to this great victory, the strategic initiative was wrested from the enemy’s hands once and for all and conditions were created for the Red Army’s transfer to the general offensive; the mass expulsion of the enemy from Soviet territory was begun. The destruction of the German fascist troops at Stalingrad was the greatest military and political event of World War II and marked a radical turning point in the course of the Great Patriotic War as well as of the entire Second World War.
The victory at Stalingrad had enormous international significance. It strengthened the freedom-loving peoples’ faith in the inevitability of the defeat of the Hitlerite bloc. The struggle of the enslaved peoples of Europe against the fascist occupiers increased. Turkey and Japan were compelled to abandon their intention of fighting the USSR. The antifascist coalition strengthened, and the Soviet Union’s role as a leading force in this coalition increased.
The completion of the rout of the fascist German troops at Stalingrad was accompanied by the simultaneous execution of the Velikie Luki (Nov. 24, 1942 to Jan. 20, 1943) and Rzhev-Sychevka (Nov. 25 to Dec. 20, 1942) offensive operations, which pinned down a large fascist German grouping and hampered the transfer of reserves from it to the south. In January and February 1943 the troops of the Southwestern and Southern fronts (commanded by Colonel General A. I. Eremenko; from February 2, by Colonel General R. Ia. Malinovskii) cleared the enemy out of the great bend of the Don and captured Voroshilovgrad, Kramatorsk, and Rostov. At the same time, the troops of the Transcaucasian Front (commanded by General I. V. Tiulenev) and the Northern Caucasus Front (commanded by Lieutenant General I. I. Maslennikov) routed a fascist German grouping in the Nal’chik-Stavropol’ and Krasnodar operations, liberated a large part of the Northern Caucasus, and advanced through heavy fighting between 500 and 600 km.
In January 1943 the troops of the Leningrad Front (commanded by Lieutenant General L. A. Govorov) and the Volkhov Front (commanded by General K. A. Meretskov) defeated the enemy south of Lake Ladoga, broke through the Leningrad blockade, and restored land communications between the hero city and the rest of the country. The actions of the fronts and the navy in lifting the blockade were coordinated by Marshal of the Soviet Union K. E. Voroshilov and General of the Army G. K. Zhukov.
The troops of the Northwestern Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko) defeated the enemy’s Demiansk grouping in February and March, and the troops of the Kalinin Front (commanded by Colonel General M. A. Purkaev) and the Western Front (commanded by Colonel General V. D. Sokolovskii) defeated the Rzhev-Viaz’ma grouping between March 2 and April 1.
In January and February the troops of the Voronezh Front (commanded by Lieutenant General F. I. Golikov) and the Briansk Front (commanded by Lieutenant General M. A. Reiter) completely destroyed the Ostrogozhsk-Rossosh’ and Voronezh-Kastornoe groupings of German, Italian, and Hungarian troops and, developing the offensive, liberated Kursk on February 8, Belgorod on February 9, and Kharkov on February 16. In an attempt to slow down the Soviet offensive, the fascist German command concentrated two panzer armies and one field army (over 30 divisions) in the regions around Poltava and Krasnograd and west of Stalino and on February 19-22 opened a counteroffensive, which forced the Soviet troops by March 26 to evacuate Kharkov and Belgorod and to retreat beyond the Severskii Donets River. On Mar. 8, 1943, on the approaches to Kharkov in the Sokolov region, a separate Czechoslovak battalion, which was formed in the USSR under the command of Lieutenant Colonel L. Svoboda, received its baptism of fire.
These operations ended the winter campaign of 1942-43 in which the Red Army threw back the enemy 600-700 km from the Volga and Terek rivers and liberated the Northern Caucasus (except the Taman’ Peninsula) and Voronezh, Stalingrad, Rostov, and Kursk oblasts as well as considerable parts of the Donets Basin and Smolensk, Orel, and Kharkov oblasts. Between November 1942 and March 1943 the Soviet troops routed more than 100 enemy divisions. The enemy lost nearly 1.7 million men, 24,000 guns, more than 3,500 tanks, and 4,300 aircraft. The active operations of the Soviet troops in the principal theater of operations of World War II enabled the Anglo-American troops to successfully complete the offensive in North Africa, to land in Sicily in 1943 and to develop an offensive in southern Italy.
SUMMER-FALL CAMPAIGN OF 1943. After the defeat in the winter campaign of 1942-43, fascist Germany and its allies faced a real threat of losing the war. In an attempt to change at any cost the course of events and to replace their losses, the Hitlerites carried out total mobilization in the first half of 1943 and greatly raised war production. (Between 1942 and 1943 the production of tanks rose from 9,300 to 19,800; of infantry mortars, from 10,000 to 23,000; of guns of 75-mm caliber and greater, from 12,000 to 27,000; and of aircraft, from 14,700 to 25,200.) This enabled the enemy, by the beginning of the summer campaign, to raise the number of troops and weapons on the Soviet-German Front to 5,325,000 men, 54,330 guns and infantry mortars, 5,850 tanks and assault guns, and about 3,000 aircraft. To prevent the disintegration of the fascist bloc and to regain the strategic initiative, the fascist German command decided to undertake in the summer of 1943 the great offensive Operation Citadel in the region of the Kursk salient (Kursk arc), which formed a wedge in the disposition of the fascist German troops. The main blows were to be struck from the region south of Orel with the forces of Army Group Center and from the region north of Kharkov with the forces of Army Group South in the general direction of Kursk, with the aim of encircling and destroying the Soviet troops in this region and then, through a series of headlong blows, of crushing the Soviet defense on the southern wing. The fascist German command counted on securing its victory in World War II near Kursk. For the offensive in the Kursk region, the command assigned about 50 divisions most fit for combat numbering nearly 900,000 men, about 10,000 guns, 2,700 tanks and assault guns (mainly new types), and more than 2,000 aircraft.
By the summer of 1943 the Soviet armed forces, owing to the efforts of all the people, received a great deal of replenishments, especially in matériel and armaments. The army in the field had more than 6,400,000 men, 98,790 guns and infantry mortars, 2,172 rocket-launching artillery installations, 9,580 tanks and self-propelled guns (including 6,232 heavy and medium), and 8,293 combat planes. The Red Army was preparing to launch a major offensive in the summer. Having discovered the enemy’s offensive plan in time, the Soviet command decided to bleed the enemy’s main-attack groupings white with a planned defense in the area of the Kursk salient, to complete the rout with determined counteroffensives, and then to pass to a general offensive on a wide front.
The enemy launched the offensive along the Kursk axis on July 5 from the Orel and Belgorod regions. The Soviet troops of the Central Front (commanded by General of the Army K. K. Rokossovskii) and the Voronezh Front (commanded by General of the Army N. F. Vatutin) halted the enemy on the 7th-10th days of fierce defensive combat; the enemy was able to advance only 12-35 km and was forced to pass to the defensive. On July 12 the Soviet troops of the Western Front (commanded by Colonel General V. D. Sokolovskii) and the Briansk Front (commanded by Colonel General M. M. Popov) passed to the counteroffensive against the enemy’s Orel grouping; on July 15 the troops of the Central Front also passed to the counteroffensive. With joint efforts they threw the enemy forces back by August 18 to the defensive line the enemy had prepared east of Briansk. On August 3 the Voronezh and Steppe fronts (commanded by Colonel General I. S. Konev) and parts of the Southwestern Front (commanded by General of the Army R. I. Malinovskii) launched a counteroffensive against the enemy’s Belgorod-Kharkov grouping. The preparation and action of the fronts in the Battle of Kursk were coordinated by Marshals of the Soviet Union G. K. Zhukov and A. M. Vasilevskii, representatives of the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command. On August 5, Orel and Belgorod were liberated and the first cannon salutes of the war were fired in Moscow in honor of these victories. Kharkov was liberated on August 23.
The Red Army victory at Kursk signified the complete collapse of the German High Command’s offensive strategy and the completion of the radical turning point of the Great Patriotic War. In 50 days of uninterrupted combat, 30 divisions, including seven panzer divisions, were destroyed, and the fascist German army lost more than 500,000 men. The Battle of Kursk, along with the battles of Moscow and Stalingrad, was one of the major phases on the Soviet Union’s road to victory in the Great Patriotic War. The strategic initiative that the Red Army had seized in Stalingrad was totally consolidated.
The rout of the fascist German troops at Kursk created favorable conditions in August and September 1943 for the Soviet troops to pass to a general summer-fall offensive on the 2,000-km front. The troops of the Kalinin Front (commanded by General of the Army A. I. Eremenko) and the Western Front launched the Smolensk Offensive Operation on August 7, liberated Smolensk on September 25, and then reached the approaches to Vitebsk and Mogilev. The troops of the Briansk Front routed the enemy’s Briansk grouping between September 1 and 30, liberated Briansk on September 17, and reached the Sozh River. Between August 13 and September 22, the troops of the Southwestern and Southern fronts (commanded by Colonel General F. I. Tolbukhin) completed the liberation of the Donets Basin and reached the Dnieper and Molochnaia rivers. Between August and December 1943, battles for the liberation of the Left-bank Ukraine developed as did the battle for the Dnieper. By the end of September the troops of the Central, Voronezh, Steppe, and Southwestern fronts advanced 200-300 km to the west, reached the Dnieper in a 700-km belt (from the mouth of the Sozh River to Zaporozh’e between September 21 and 30, forced the Dnieper, and captured the bases of operations in the regions of Liutezh (north of Kiev), Bol’shoi Bukrin (south of Pereiaslav-Khmel’nitskii), Kremenchug, and Dnepropetrovsk. In subsequent operations the Soviet troops expanded the bases of operations and defeated a number of fascist German groupings. On October 20 the Voronezh, Steppe, Southwestern, and Southern fronts were renamed the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Ukrainian fronts, respectively, and the Central Front was renamed the Byelorussian Front. During the 1943 Kiev Offensive Operation, the troops of the First Ukrainian Front liberated Kiev on November 6, advanced up to 150 km west, and, in the second half of November, repulsed an enemy counteroffensive in the Zhitomir region. The Red Army thwarted the plan of the fascist German command, which had counted on halting Soviet troops on the Dnieper, forced the Dnieper in a rapid, unprepared assault, advanced 125-140 km along its right bank, and prepared the conditions for the successful operations for liberating the Right-bank Ukraine.
Between September 26 and November 5, in the course of the Melitopol’ Operation, the troops of the Southern Front reached the lower reaches of the Dnieper River and Perekop and began preparations for the liberation of the Crimea. During the Novorossiisk-Taman’ Operation in September and October 1943, the troops of the Northern Caucasus Front and the Black Sea Fleet liberated Novorossiisk on September 16 and completely cleared the Taman’ peninsula by October 10; in November they forced the Kerch’ Strait and captured a base of operations north of Kerch’.
Along the western axis, the troops of the Second and First Baltic fronts and of the Western and Byelorussian fronts by the middle of December liberated part of Kalinin, all of Smolensk, part of Polotsk, and Vitebsk, Mogilev, and Gomel’ oblasts; forced the Desna, Sozh, Dnieper, Pripiat’, and Berezina rivers; reached Poles’e; broke in half the strategic front of the enemy; and thwarted the enemy’s plan of creating a strategic defense on the boundary of the East Rampart. On October 12, 1943, the T. Kosciuszko Division, the first Polish division formed in the USSR, under the command of Colonel Z. Berling, had its first combat experience in the fighting near Lenino (Mogilev Oblast) as part of the Western Front.
The Red Army victories in 1943 furthered the development of the partisan struggle, which became an important strategic factor. By the middle of 1943, 24 underground oblast and 222 district, okrug, city, and raion Party committees were operating on occupied territory; by the end of the year, about 250,000 people’s avengers were fighting under their leadership. Partisan krais and raions were set up behind enemy lines, and Poles, Bohemians, Slovaks, Hungarians, Bulgarians, and German antifascists fought side by side with Soviet people on occupied Soviet territory. The centralized leadership of the struggle behind enemy lines was exercised by republic and oblast staffs of the partisan movement, headed by the Central Staff of the Partisan Movement (established May 30, 1942; chief of staff, P. K. Ponomarenko). Large partisan detachments were converted into brigades and divisions, and the commanders were given military ranks. Following instructions of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik), the partisans in 1943 carried out such large operations for destroying routes of communications as Operation Rail War involving 170 partisan brigades and Operation Concert with 193 brigades. The actions of the partisan detachments and large units were coordinated with the combat actions of the Red Army.
The second period marked a radical turning point in the course of the Great Patriotic War. The Red Army advanced between 500 and 1,300 km west and liberated almost two-thirds of occupied soviet territory from the fascist German occupiers. The fascist myth of the Soviet troops’ inability to conduct a successful offensive in the summer was dispelled. The Red Army routed 218 enemy divisions, destroying its most experienced cadres, and destroyed more than 14,000 aircraft, nearly 7,000 tanks, and about 50,000 guns. The irreparable losses of the enemy ground troops in the second period totaled more than 2.3 million men. After the Battle of Kursk, the fascist German Army was forced into a strategic defensive all along the Soviet-German Front.
The Soviet victories in the second period drastically altered the military and political situation in the international arena and within the USSR and had a decisive impact on the course of the whole Second World War. The rout of the enemy’s main-attack groupings on the Soviet-German Front created favorable conditions for opening a second front in Western Europe through a landing of Allied troops in France. The aggressor countries were forced to pass to the defensive on all the fronts of the war. However, the Anglo-American command, in violation of its pledges, continued to postpone the opening of a second front and limited itself to a slow advance in Italy, which capitulated in September 1943.
The rise of the USSR’s international prestige brilliantly manifested itself at the Tehran Conference of 1943, where the leaders of three powers—the USSR, Great Britain, and the USA—coordinated plans and timetables for joint actions toward defeating the enemy. The resistance movement in occupied countries became stronger. The national liberation movement in Poland, headed by the Polish Workers’ Party, assumed large proportions in 1943. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, underground radio centers, partisan detachments, and combat groups were organized, diversionary actions were carried out at enterprises, and antifascist literature was published and widely disseminated. The heroic struggle of the peoples of Yugoslavia against the fascist occupiers, led by the Communists, became more active. The partisan movement was on the rise in Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, France, and other fascist-occupied countries. This struggle of the freedom-loving peoples weakened the forces of the aggressors and made Germany’s European rear more and more unstable. The fascist state and the “new order” it had set up in Europe faced a catastrophe.
The military and political situation inside the USSR during the second period of the Great Patriotic War was characterized by a radical change in the work of the rear. The heroic labor of the working class assured an upswing in industrial production. In the great heroic deeds of the working class, a great role was played by women, young people, and adolescents who had replaced the male workers who had gone to the front. The Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) and the State Committee on Defense successfully implemented measures for overcoming the acute shortage of fuel, metal, and electric power. In 1943 capital investments into these branches doubled compared with 1942; new metallurgical plants were built, existing ones were expanded in the Urals and Siberia, coal mining in the Kuznets Basin was drastically increased, and new electric power plants with capacities exceeding 1 million kW were put in operation. The successful development of heavy industry formed the basis for the rapid development of war production; thus, between 1942 and 1943, the production of aircraft rose 38 percent; antiaircraft artillery, 65 percent; heavy-caliber machine guns, 74 percent; and ammunition, 25 percent. The all-Union socialist competition for the maximum utilization of resources and for raising labor productivity, which started in 1942, became a large-scale movement; one of its forms was the movement of high-speed workers (skorostniki). The operation of the transportation system improved considerably; the entire rail transport system was put on a war footing on Apr. 15, 1943, and the river and sea transport, on May 9, 1943.
Owing to the efforts of the Party and the government and the selfless labor of the men and women of the kolkhozes, agriculture supplied the front, industry, and the population with food and raw materials without serious interruptions. Compared with 1942, the sown areas in 1943 increased by 6.4 million hectares. In August 1943 the Central Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars adopted a decree on measures for restoring the economy in the liberated areas. Workers of the kolkhozes in these areas received more than 1.7 million head of cattle as well as seeds and fertilizers from the unoccupied regions.
The successes achieved in industry ensured the further strengthening of the Soviet armed forces. The ground troops received new armaments and matériel: the PPS submachine gun, the SPG heavy machine gun, the 76-mm regimental gun, the 57-mm ZIS-2 antitank gun, and the 152-mm corps artillery howitzer. The 82- and 120-mm infantry mortars were modernized and the SU-76, SU-85, SU-122, and SU-152 and later the ISU-122 and ISU-152 self-propelled guns were created. The production of T-34 tanks increased and the production of modernized heavy KV and IS tanks was begun. In aviation, the production of the new La-5, Yak-9, and Yak-7 fighters, of the 11-2 attack airplanes, and of the new Pe-2 and Tu-2 bombers increased.
New matériel in large quantities called for changes in the organization of the troops. New tables of organization and equipment for infantry divisions and guards infantry divisions were introduced; the corps organization among infantry troops (abolished in 1941 owing to a shortage of armaments and matériel) was restored; and artillery divisions, breakthrough corps, gun artillery divisions, guards’ rocket-launcher divisions, and antiaircraft artillery divisions were formed. Tank armies of uniform composition, which included tank and mechanized corps, were also created. The air force was strengthened by the formation of large units with unified armament. The Party and Komsomol stratum in the Soviet armed forces increased. By the end of 1943, there were 2.7 million Communists and about 2.4 million Komsomols in the army’s Party organizations. The role of the army press increased. In 1943 about 130 daily newspapers and more than 600 triweekly newspapers were published in the field forces; they had a combined circulation of more than 3 million copies.
In the same period the organization of the enemy troops changed too. The fascist German Army received large quantities of weapons for antiaircraft and antitank defense. The size of the infantry divisions was reduced from nine to six battalions. The number of automatic weapons was increased simultaneously; in 1943 the German troops received the new heavy tanks Mark V (Panther), Mark VI (Tiger), and Mark VIW (Royal Tiger); the assault gun Ferdinand; and an 88-mm antitank gun. The air force received the HS-129 attack airplane and the new FW-190A fighter.
In the second period of the war, the Soviet art of warfare made considerable strides in its development. Soviet troops were enriched with the experience of preparing and executing operations for the encircling and destroying of large enemy groupings and of rapidly developing operations in depth through the use of mobile groups of fronts and armies and the deep operational formation of troops. The Red Army mastered the art of carrying out successive operations and the skill of concentrating troops and weapons along the main operational axes of attack and the effective use of all branches of armed forces and combat arms in their close coordinated actions. The troops gained the experience of carrying out large-scale regroupings and wide maneuver of troops and weapons, of breaking through the enemy’s defense, of successfully forcing water barriers with and without preparation, of the swift pursuit of the enemy, of conducting meeting engagements and battles and large-scale defense operations, and of repulsing enemy counter-thrusts in the course of an offensive.
Third period (January 1944 to May 9, 1945). By early 1944 the fascist German troops continued to occupy Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Karelia, and large parts of Byelorussia as well as the Ukraine, Leningrad and Kalinin oblasts, Moldavia, and the Crimea. The enemy had an army of more than 10 million men fit for combat at its disposal. Fascist Germany’s war economy in 1944 was capable of supplying armaments and matériel to 225 infantry and 45 panzer divisions.
At the same time, fascist Germany’s situation had drastically deteriorated by early 1944. The defeats on the Soviet-German Front led to an exacerbation of the domestic political situation in Germany itself as well as among its allies and satellites. The German economy, despite the growth in war production that continued until July 1944, entered a period of insurmountable difficulties. The situation with man reserves became extremely acute. According to the data of the German General Staff, new mobilizations by early 1944 had replaced less than three-fourths of the losses on the Soviet-German Front, which amounted to 1,223,000 men between July and November 1943.
By early 1944 the fascist German Army had 315 divisions and ten brigades. On the Soviet-German Front, it had 198 divisions, six brigades, and three air forces, as well as 38 divisions and 18 brigades of the German allies in action—a total of 4,906,000 men, 54,470 guns and infantry mortars, 5,400 tanks and assault guns, and 3,073 aircraft. The enemy maintained a stubborn defense and great efforts were needed to rout him.
In comparison with the first years of the war, the general military, political, and strategic situation had changed radically in favor of the USSR and its armed forces. Despite the difficult war conditions, the Soviet government ensured a considerable growth in war production. Compared with 1943, the 1944 state budget provided for a further increase of 2,171,000,000 rubles in capital investments. In such major branches of industry as ferrous metallurgy, coal extraction, and power engineering, the 1944 capital investments considerably exceeded the prewar level. In 1944 the production of steel rose 28 percent; pig iron, 31 percent; and coal, 30 percent. Between 1942 and 1944, 2,250 large enterprises were built in the eastern regions. The large-scale restoration of industry and agriculture in the Ukraine and Byelorussia was begun. A total of 19,000 km of railroads had been restored in 1944. In 1944 the defense industry was producing five times more tanks and aircraft per month than in 1941, reaching the maximum level for the whole war. The victories at the front inspired the Soviet people to new labor heroism; socialist competition broadened, extending to more than 85 percent of the workers by the end of 1944, and the movement for raising the productivity of labor assumed still larger proportions.
In agriculture the heroic labor of the kolkhoz peasantry brought about, despite continuing difficulties, increases in the output of grain and animal products. Sown areas increased by 16 million hectares between 1943 and 1944.
The USSR field army had 6.1 million men, 88,900 guns and infantry mortars, 2,167 rocket-launching artillery installations, about 4,900 tanks and self-propelled guns, and 8,500 combat planes. The Soviet Air Force firmly retained the air supremacy it had gained in the 1943 operations. However, the Soviet armed forces had no overwhelming superiority in troops and weapons over the fascist German troops (except in aircraft). Therefore, the assertions of the bourgeois historians of World War II, who strive to prove that the victories of the Soviet troops were achieved through an immense superiority in troops and weapons, do not correspond to the facts. The situation in the naval theaters of operations was determined by the combat actions on land. The enemy still held quite a number of Soviet naval bases, which limited the opportunities of the Baltic and Black Sea fleets for basing and operations.
The tasks of the Red Army in 1944 consisted in fully liberating Soviet territory from the invaders, moving the combat actions beyond the borders of the Soviet motherland, helping the peoples of Europe to liberate themselves from the fascist yoke, and, jointly with the allies, crushing Hitler’s Germany and forcing it to accept unconditional surrender.
WINTER CAMPAIGN OF 1944. The winter campaign began with a gigantic battle in the Right-bank Ukraine (Dec. 24, 1943, to Apr. 17, 1944), which consisted of a series of frontline offensive operations and operations by groups of fronts: the Zhitomir-Berdichev, Kirovograd, Korsun’-Shevchenko, Lutsk-Rovno, Nikopol’-Krivoi Rog, Proskurov-Chernovtsy, Uman’-Botoshany, Bereznegovatoe-Snigirevka, and Odessa operations.
The offensive was carried out by the troops of the First Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army N. F. Vatutin), the Second Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army I. S. Konev), the Third Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army R. Ia. Malinovskii), the Fourth Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army F. I. Tolbukhin), the Black Sea Fleet (commanded by Admiral F. S. Oktiabr’skii), the Azov Military Flotilla (commanded by Rear Admiral S. G. Gorshkov), and a partisan army of 50,000 men. The actions of the fronts were coordinated by Marshals of the Soviet Union A. M. Vasilevskii and G. K. Zhukov, representatives of General Headquarters.
This offensive, which was carried out at a time when the spring thaw made the roads impassable, a completely unexpected occurrence for the fascist German troops, led to the rout of the strongest enemy grouping on the southern wing of the Soviet-German front—Army Group South (commanded by Field Marshal E. Manstein) and Army Group A (commanded by Field Marshal E. Kleist)—and to the liberation of the Right-bank Ukraine and large parts of the western regions of the Ukraine. The Soviet troops reached the state border, the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, and the territory of Rumania.
Simultaneously with the offensive in the Right-bank Ukraine, an offensive was carried out in the areas of Leningrad and Novgorod (Jan. 14 to Mar. 1, 1944), where the troops of the Leningrad Front (commanded by General of the Army L. A. Govorov) and the Volkhov Front (commanded by General of the Army K. A. Meretskov), in coordinated action with the Second Baltic Front (commanded by General of the Army M. M. Popov), the Baltic Fleet (commanded by Admiral V. F. Tributs), strategic aviation, and partisans, defeated the fascist German Army Group North (commanded by Field Marshall G. Küchler); advanced 220-280 km; and liberated all of Leningrad Oblast and part of Kalinin Oblast from the fascist German invaders. The heroic epic of besieged Leningrad came to an end. From January through March 1944 the troops of the First Baltic Front (commanded by General of the Army I. Kh. Bagramian), the Western Front (commanded by Colonel General V. D. Sokolovskii), and the Byelorussian Front (commanded by General of the Army K. K. Rokossovskii) conducted several local offensive operations with limited goals in Byelorussia.
In the south, the troops of the Fourth Ukrainian Front and the Separate Maritime Army (commanded by General of the Army A. I. Eremenko), in coordinated action with the Black Sea Fleet, the Azov Flotilla, and Crimean partisans, carried out the Crimean Operation (Apr. 8 to May 12, 1944) during which they routed the German Seventeenth Army and liberated the Crimea. This greatly improved the situation on the southern wing of the Soviet-German Front and the conditions for the basing of the Black Sea Fleet. The actions of the ground forces, air forces, and fleet in liberating the Crimea were coordinated by Marshals of the Soviet Union K. E. Voroshilov and A. M. Vasilevskii.
In the 1944 winter campaign the Soviet troops inflicted a great defeat on fascist Germany and its satellites: 172 divisions and seven brigades suffered great casualties; of these, 30 divisions and six brigades were completely destroyed. The Soviet troops liberated more than 300,000 sq km of Soviet territory, where about 19 million people had lived before the war.
In April the Soviet troops reached the state border and entered the territory of Rumania, transferring the combat actions beyond the borders of the motherland. This made it possible to proceed to the restoration of the state borders of the USSR.
SUMMER-FALL CAMPAIGN OF 1944. The successes attained by the Soviet armed forces in the war with fascist Germany in the summer of 1944 showed that the USSR could, with its own forces, not only drive the enemy from its territory but also liberate the enslaved peoples of Europe from the fascist yoke and complete the rout of Hitler’s army. The attempt to anticipate the Red Army in liberating the countries of Europe compelled the ruling circles of the USA and Great Britain to abandon their policy of further delaying the opening of the second front in Europe in order to restore there the prewar order. On June 6, 1944, American and British troops began the Normandy Operation by landing on the northern shore of France. However, this did not lead to any serious changes in the grouping of Germany’s armed forces. The Soviet-German Front remained the decisive front.
By June 1, 1944, the enemy forces on the Soviet-German Front totaled 4,005,000 men, 48,635 guns and infantry mortars, 5,250 tanks and assault guns, and 2,796 combat planes. The Soviet army in the field by that time had 6,425,000 men, 83,200 guns and infantry mortars, 2,380 rocket installations, 7,753 tanks and self-propelled guns, and 11,800 aircraft. In addition, allied Polish, Czechoslovak, Rumanian, Yugoslav, and French units of various sizes were on USSR territory; these units had 104,000 men, 1,220 guns, 163 tanks, and 122 aircraft.
The summer-fall campaign began on June 10 with a Soviet offensive in Karelia. The Finnish troops were defeated in two successive operations—the Vyborg Operation, carried out by the troops of the Leningrad Front’s right wing and the Baltic Fleet, and the Svir’-Petrozavodsk operation, carried out by the troops of the left wing of the Karelian Front (commander of the front, General of the Army K. A. Meretskov) jointly with the Ladoga and Onega flotillas, which were commanded by Rear Admiral V. S. Cherokov and Captain N. V. Antonov, respectively. This eliminated the threat to Leningrad from the north. The Finnish government was compelled to begin negotiating an armistice, which was concluded on September 19.
In the summer of 1944 the Red Army struck a decisive blow in Byelorussia. The blow along this strategic axis surprised the fascist German command. The operation was carried out by the troops of the First Baltic Front (commanded by General of the Army I. Kh. Bagramian), the Third Byelorussian Front (commanded by General of the Army I. D. Cherniakhovskii), the Second Byelorussian Front (commanded by Colonel General G. F. Zakharov), and the First Byelorussian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union K. K. Rokossovskii), in coordinated action with the Dnieper Flotilla (commanded by Rear Admiral V. V. Grigor’ev) and partisans, who struck powerful blows against the enemy from the rear. The actions of the fronts were coordinated by Marshals of the Soviet Union G. K. Zhukov and A. M. Vasilevskii. In the course of the Byelorussian Operation (June 23 through August 29), Soviet troops crushed the enemy’s defense on the central sector of the Soviet-German Front, which was the most important one, and routed one of the strongest enemy groupings—Army Group Center (commanded by Field Marshal E. Busch; from July 28, by Field Marshal W. Model). The breakthrough of the enemy’s defense was carried out on a 500-km front, simultaneously at six sectors; large fascist German groupings were encircled and liquidated in the areas of Vitebsk and Bobruisk. Developing the offensive along converging axes, the Soviet troops liberated Minsk, the capital of Byelorussia, completing the encirclement of a 105,000-man enemy grouping, which was soon afterward annihilated. In the course of the further offensive on a wide front, the Soviet troops approached the borders of East Prussia, entered the territory of Poland, reached the Vistula River, on the right bank of which they seized two important bases of operations in the areas of Magnuszew and Pulawy, and liberated the Warsaw suburb of Praga. As a result of the Byelorussian Operation, the Red Army, advancing a total of nearly 600 km, liberated the Byelorussian SSR, a large part of the Lithuanian SSR, and eastern Poland. Seventeen enemy divisions and three enemy brigades were destroyed; 50 enemy divisions lost half their men.
The successful course of the offensive in Byelorussia created favorable conditions for conducting other offensive operations. Between July 10 and July 24, 1944, the offensive was assumed by the troops of the Leningrad Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union L. A. Govorov), the Second Baltic Front (commanded by General of the Army A. I. Eremenko), and the Third Baltic Front (commanded by Colonel General I. I. Maslennikov), in coordinated action with the troops of the First Baltic Front, thus beginning the Baltic Operation. The eastern part of the Baltic region was liberated in July and August.
Between July 13 and August 29, 1944, the troops of the First Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union LS. Konev) carried out the Lvov-Sandomierz Operation, during which they defeated the fascist German Army Group Ukraine-North (commanded by Colonel General J. Harpe), routing 40 divisions and one brigade and liberating the western regions of the Ukraine and southeastern Poland. At the end of July the main forces of the front reached the Vistula River, forced it, and captured an important base of operations in the Sandomierz region. The presence of the bases of operations of the First Byelorussian and the First Ukrainian fronts on the Vistula created favorable conditions for undertaking new operations on the territory of Poland and Germany.
In late August the 1944 Slovak national uprising broke out in Slovakia. The Hitlerites threw regular troops against the rebels. Mortal danger hung over the rebels. In an attempt to help the Slovak patriots, the General Headquarters, upon the instructions of the Soviet government, ordered the troops of the First Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union I. S. Konev) and the Fourth Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army I. E. Petrov) to cross the Carpathians and force their way to the rebels. The Czechoslovak 1st Army Corps, under the command of General L. Svoboda, participated in the offensive. During the 1944 East Carpathian Operation, Soviet and Czechoslovak troops captured the Dukla Pass on October 6 and commenced the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
In August and September 1944 the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union R. Ia. Malinovskii) and the Third Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union F. I. Tolbukhin), in coordinated action with the Black Sea Fleet (commanded by Admiral F. S. Oktiabr’skii), the Danube Military Flotilla (commanded by Vice Admiral S. G. Gorshkov), and strategic aircraft, conducted the Iasj-Kishinev Operation. The actions of the fronts were coordinated by Marshal of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko. With two powerful thrusts along converging axes, the troops of the fronts encircled the main forces of Army Group Ukraine-South (commanded by Colonel General F. Frisner) and soon annihilated them (18 out of 25 German divisions were destroyed). Simultaneously, the troops of the left wing of the Third Ukrainian Front, in coordinated action with the Black Sea Fleet, encircled the Rumanian Third Army southwest of Belgorod-Dnestrovskii and forced it to capitulate. The liberation of the Moldavian SSR was complete. Under the conditions of the rapid Soviet offensive on Rumanian territory, the people’s patriotic forces, led by the Communist Party of Rumania, staged an armed uprising on August 23 and overthrew the fascist government of I. Antonescu. The Rumanian troops, turning their weapons against the fascist German occupiers, joined the Red Army and acted jointly with the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front until the end of the war. Developing the offensive in the west and northwest, the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front, in coordinated action with the troops of the Fourth Ukrainian Front, completed the liberation of Rumania.
After the liquidation of the enemy’s Iaşi-Kishinev grouping, large units of the Third Ukrainian Front reached the Bulgarian border, crossing the Rumanian-Bulgarian border on September 8. On September 9 a popular armed uprising broke out in Sofia under the leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The Fatherland Front’s government, which came to power, declared war on Germany. By that time the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and Danube Military Flotilla, in coordinated action with the troops of the Third Ukrainian Front and Bulgarian partisans, occupied all the naval bases in the Black Sea. Thus, by the end of September, with the rout of the fascist German Army Group Ukraine-South, the Soviet troops created the conditions for the next offensive and for the liberation of the peoples of Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia.
On the territory of the USSR, Soviet troops launched an offensive in September 1944 to complete the liberation of the Baltic area. The troops of the Leningrad Front, with the support of the Baltic Fleet, carried out the Tallin Operation from Sept. 17 to Sept. 26, 1944, while the troops of the First, Second, and Third Baltic fronts began, on Sept. 14, 1944, the Riga Operation, delivering simultaneous blows along converging axes, and reached the approaches to Riga by the end of September. The actions of the fronts and the fleet in the liberation of the Baltic area were coordinated by Marshal of the Soviet Union A. M. Vasilevskii. To prevent the main forces of the fascist German Army Group North from retreating to East Prussia, the Soviet Supreme Command on October 5 shifted the main efforts during the offensive from the Riga to the Memel (Klaipeda) axis. The troops of the First Baltic Front surrounded Memel, while the troops of the Second and Third Baltic fronts continued the offensive on Riga, liberating the city on October 13. The main forces of Army Group North were blockaded on the Courland Peninsula (western part of Latvia).
From Sept. 29 to Nov. 24, 1944, the Baltic Fleet and part of the forces of the Leningrad Front carried out the Moonsund Operation, during which they cleared the enemy out of the islands of the Moonsund Archipelago. Large national military units (a Lithuanian infantry division and Latvian and Estonian infantry corps) took part in the operations for the liberation of the Baltic area. The Red Army was actively aided by partisan detachments and underground Party organizations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The various operations resulted in the liberation of the Estonian SSR and a large part of the Latvian SSR and in the completion of the liberation of the Lithuanian SSR. The basing system of the Baltic Fleet expanded considerably.
On the southern wing, the troops of the Fourth Ukrainian Front, in coordinated action with the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front, crossed the Carpathians by the end of October 1944 and liberated the Transcarpathian Ukraine. From Oct. 2 to Oct. 27, 1944, the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front, which included Rumanian troops, in coordinated action with the troops of the Fourth Ukrainian Front, carried out the Debrecen Operation, which ended in the liberation of eastern Hungary. The troops of the Third Ukrainian Front, in coordinated action with the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, which was commanded by Marshal J. Broz-Tito, and with the Bulgarian people’s troops, carried out the Belgrade Operation (Sept. 28 to Oct. 20, 1944), routed a large enemy grouping, and liberated Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia.
On October 29 the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front and on December 12 the troops of the Third Ukrainian Front as well began the 1944-45 Budapest Operation, during which a 188,000-man enemy grouping was encircled on December 26 near Budapest. On Dec. 22, 1944, the Hungarian National Assembly in Debrecen elected the Provisional Government of Hungary, which declared war on fascist Germany on December 28. The defeat of the fascist German armies on the southern wing of the Soviet-German Front compelled the German command to begin withdrawing its troops from the territories of Greece and Albania, creating favorable conditions for the successful actions of the Albanian National Liberation Army, which completed the liberation of its country on Nov. 29, 1944.
In October, Soviet troops launched an offensive in the USSR Far North where, from Oct. 7 to Nov. 1, 1944, the troops of the right wing of the Karelian Front (commanded by General of the Army K. A. Meretskov) and the Northern Fleet (commanded by Admiral A. G. Golovko) carried out the Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation, which led to the liberation of Soviet territory above the Arctic Circle and of the northern region of Norway. The liberation of the Pechenga region improved the basing of the Northern Fleet in the Barents Sea.
As a result of the two 1944 campaigns, the USSR armed forces almost completely liberated Soviet territory occupied by the fascist German invaders (only one group of fascist German troops remained pressed against the sea in the western part of the Latvian SSR) and restored the entire state border from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. In 1944 the Soviet troops liberated 906,000 sq km of Soviet territory, where 39 million people had lived before the war. The Soviet troops routed 314 enemy divisions and 47 enemy brigades; of these, 96 divisions and 24 brigades were destroyed or taken prisoner. The Red Army transferred the combat actions beyond the USSR, beginning the liberation campaign to free the peoples of Europe from the fascist yoke. Rumania, Bulgaria, Finland, and Hungary, which had been Germany’s allies, were taken out of the war. The eastern part of Yugoslavia was liberated in coordinated action with the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia. The enemy was driven out of large parts of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and northern Norway. Fascist Germany found itself completely isolated.
The Soviet art of warfare rose to a still higher level in 1944. The various operations were begun successively along different axes of operations and then merged into a simultaneous strategic offensive on an enormous front, which led to the complete rout of the most important enemy groupings along different axes of operations and to great strategic results.
CAMPAIGN OF 1945. By the beginning of 1945 the fascist German command continued to wage a war on two fronts, but as before kept its main forces against the Red Army. The German armed forces had 299 divisions and 31 brigades (7.5 million men), 43,000 guns and infantry mortars, 7,000 tanks and assault guns, and 6,800 aircraft. The Anglo-American troops faced 107 German divisions. The Red Army was opposed by 169 German divisions and 20 brigades and 16 Hungarian divisions and one brigade. These troops numbered 3.1 million men, 28,500 guns and infantry mortars, nearly 4,000 tank and assault guns, and about 2,000 combat planes. The Soviet army in the field had about 6 million men, 91,400 guns and infantry mortars, 2,993 rocket-launching artillery installations, about 11,000 tanks and self-propelled guns, and 14,500 combat planes. (All these data do not include the Leningrad Front and the Thirty-seventh Separate Army, which did not take an active part in combat actions at that time.) Polish, Czechoslovak, Rumanian, and Bulgarian troops fought as organic parts of the Soviet fronts. The Soviet troops had attained considerable superiority over the enemy in men and weapons.
The fascist German command, confronted by a clear threat of defeat, attempted to provoke a split in the antifascist coalition and to bring about a separate peace with the USA and Great Britain. These hopes were nourished to a large extent by the policy of the most reactionary elements among American and British ruling circles, which tried to conduct negotiations with Germany secretly from the USSR. The Soviet Union continued to strive for strengthening the anti-Hitlerite coalition. The decisive victories of the Soviet armed forces contributed to the success of the Crimean Conference (Yalta Conference) of the leaders of the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain, held from Feb. 4 to Feb. 11, 1945; at this conference, the questions relating to the completion of the defeat of Germany and its postwar status were agreed upon and the principles for solving the problems of liberated Europe outlined. An agreement was also reached that the USSR would enter the war against imperialist Japan two to three months after the end of the war in Europe.
The Soviet armed forces were faced with completing the liberation of eastern and southeastern Europe and finishing off Hitler’s army and, jointly with the allies, compelling fascist Germany to accept an unconditional surrender. It was envisaged to open an offensive simultaneously on a front stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Danube, striking the decisive blows along the Warsaw-Berlin axis in the Ostroleka-Kraków zone (550 km).
The opening of the Soviet offensive was planned for Jan. 20, 1945. In December the German offensive in the Ardennes placed the Anglo-American troops in a grave situation. On Jan. 6, 1945, W. Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, appealed to J. V. Stalin, Soviet supreme commander in chief, for help. Although the Soviet troops were not fully ready and the weather conditions were unfavorable, the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command decided to speed up the offensive.
The 1945 campaign on the Soviet-German Front began on January 12-14 with a Soviet offensive in East Prussia and Poland. This forced the Hitlerite command to transfer considerable forces from the Western Front to the Soviet-German Front, which eased the situation of the Anglo-American troops. From Jan. 13 to Apr. 25, 1945, Soviet troops carried out the East Prussian Operation with the forces of the Third Byelorussian Front (commanded by General of the Army I. D. Cherniakhovskii; from Feb. 20 by Marshal of the Soviet Union A. M. Vasilevskii) and the Second Byelorussian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union K. K. Rokossovskii), with the support of the Baltic Fleet. Soviet troops broke through the enemy’s powerful, deeply echeloned defense and reached the sea on January 26, cutting off the enemy’s East Prussian grouping, which was split into three parts. Four divisions were pressed to the sea on the Samland Peninsula, and five divisions and other units in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and more than 20 divisions in the Heilsberg fortified region southwest of Königsberg were encircled. The troops of the Third Byelorussian Front destroyed these groupings between February and April 1945.
From Jan. 12 to Feb. 3, 1945, the Vistula-Oder Operation was carried out by the troops of the First Byelorussian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union G. K. Zhukov) and the First Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union I. S. Konev) with the active support of the armies of the left wing of the Second Byelorussian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union K. K. Rokossovskii) and the right wing of the Fourth Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army I. E. Petrov). The troops of the First Byelorussian Front struck their blows from the Magnuscew and Pulawy bases of operations and the troops of the First Ukrainian Front, from the Sandomierz base of operations; they broke through the mighty Vistula defense line and, rapidly developing the offensive, advanced more than 500 km, reached the Oder, forced it without preparation, and captured several bases of operations. In this operation the Soviet troops routed the main forces of Army Group Center (commanded by Colonel General J. Harpe); 35 divisions were destroyed and 25 lost between 50 and 70 percent of their personnel. Soviet troops liberated almost all of Poland and its capital Warsaw, as well as the Upper Silesian industrial region, and reached the Oder River. The First Army of the Polish armed forces (commanded by Lieutenant General S. G. Poplawski) took part in the liberation of Warsaw. The troops of the First Byelorussian Front reached the approaches to Berlin (60 km east of it).
From Feb. 10 to Apr. 4, 1945, the troops of the Second and First Byelorussian fronts carried out the Eastern Pomeranian Operation, during which they routed the fascist German Army Group Vistula (commanded by SS Reichsführer H. Himmler), reached the shore of the Baltic Sea in a wide front, and eliminated the threat of a flank attack from the north against the Soviet grouping that was preparing an attack on Berlin. The Baltic Fleet was able to shift its combat actions into the Baltic waters of the enemy.
From Feb. 8 to Feb. 24, 1945, the troops of the right wing of the First Ukrainian Front carried out the Lower Silesian Operation in the course of which they reached by the end of the month the Neisse River, on the same line as the troops of the First Byelorussian Front. They encircled large enemy garrisons in Glogau (Glogow) and Breslau (Wroclaw) and occupied positions advantageous for an offensive on Berlin from the south and southeast. The main forces of the front subsequently regrouped toward its left wing and, from Mar. 15 to 31, 1945, carried out the Upper Silesian Operation, in the course of which the Soviet troops reached the foothills of the Sudetes, occupying a line advantageous for protecting the thrust on Berlin from the south.
In the Western Carpathians the troops of the Fourth Ukrainian Front passed to the offensive on January 15 and, acting under the difficult conditions of mountains and forests, advanced 150-270 km by the middle of April, tying down in this region considerable enemy forces. In Hungary the troops of the Second and Third Ukrainian fronts, after repulsing strong enemy counterblows in January, liquidated the enemy’s Budapest grouping, which had been encircled earlier, and liberated Budapest, the capital of Hungary, on February 13.
In order to restore the defense on the Danube, the fascist German command in early March launched a counteroffensive with large forces that were transferred from the Western Front. From Mar. 6 to Mar. 15, 1945, the troops of the Third Ukrainian Front repulsed this attempt of the fascist German troops in a sustained and active defense in the Balaton Defensive Operation and passed to the offensive without a pause. On March 16 the troops of the Second and Third Ukrainian fronts began the Vienna Operation and captured Vienna, the capital of Austria, through a combined blow on April 13.
On Apr. 16, 1945, the troops of the First Byelorussian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union G. K. Zhukov) and the First Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union I. S. Konev) and, from April 20 on, also the troops of the Second Byelorussian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union K. K. Rokossovskii) began the Berlin Operation. The Polish First Army (commanded by Lieutenant General S. G. Poplawski) and the Second Army (commanded by Lieutenant General K. K. Swerczewski) participated in the offensive. After breaking through a strong defense of the fascist German troops on the western bank of the Oder and on the Neisse, the troops of the First Byelorussian and the First Ukrainian fronts launched an offensive that enveloped Berlin from the north and southwest. On April 24-25 they encircled an enemy grouping of almost half a million men and split it in half. At the same time the forward elements of the Fifth Guards Army of the First Ukrainian Front reached the Elbe River and on April 25 met the troops of the American First Army in the region of Torgau.
By May 1 the troops of the First Byelorussian and the First Ukrainian fronts liquidated the enemy’s Frankfurt-Guben grouping (about 200,000 men) southeast of Berlin, while southwest of Berlin they repulsed the blows of the German Twelfth Army, which attempted to break through to the Frankfurt-Guben grouping. Bitter combat broke out in Berlin itself. On April 28 the enemy’s Berlin grouping was split into three parts. On April 30, Soviet troops took the Reichstag by storm and hoisted the Banner of Victory on it. On May 2 the remnants of the Berlin garrison capitulated. The troops of the Second Byelorussian Front delivered a blow on Rostock, routed the enemy’s Third Panzer Army, reached the shore of the Baltic Sea, captured Rügen Island, and made contact with the British troops along the line of Wismar, Schwerin, and the Elde River. During the Berlin Operation the Soviet troops completely routed 93 enemy divisions, took about 480,000 prisoners, and captured 1,550 tanks, 8,600 guns, and 4,510 aircraft.
The completion of the Berlin Operation signified the final rout of fascist Germany and its armed forces. On May 8,1945, representatives of the German High Command signed the act of Germany’s unconditional surrender in Kalshorst (a suburb of Berlin).
While the Soviet troops were completing the Berlin Operation in Germany, a large grouping of fascist German troops, under the command of Field Marshal F. Sherner, remained in Czechoslovakia. On May 1-5 a people’s uprising, led by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, broke out in Prague and in several regions of Bohemia and Moravia. The rebels appealed to the Soviet troops for help over the radio. The troops of the First Ukrainian Front, rapidly regrouping their main forces, made a swift march into Czechoslovakia and between May 6 and May 11, 1945, jointly with the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union R. Ia. Malinovskii) and the Fourth Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army A. I. Eremenko) in the Prague Operation routed the German Army Group Center, which refused to surrender, entered Prague on May 9, saved the residents from death and the city from destruction, and completed the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
Thus the war in Europe ended victoriously with the campaign of 1945. The Soviet people and their armed forces, having won a world-historic victory under the leadership of the Communist Party, made a decisive contribution to the rout of fascist Germany and its allies and maintained the freedom and independence of their motherland. An edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR declared May 9 a national holiday, Victory Day.
Campaign of 1945 in the Far East (August 9 through September 2). World War II did not end with the end of the war in Europe. In the Far East and in the Pacific Ocean militarist Japan continued the war against the countries of the antifascist coalition and China. During the war of the Soviet Union against fascist Germany, the Japanese imperialists maintained large forces in Manchuria and Korea, waiting for a favorable moment to attack the USSR and diverting up to 40 Soviet divisions. This was of direct help to fascist Germany and a crude violation of the neutrality treaty concluded between the USSR and Japan in April 1941.
The USA and Great Britain, which entered the war against Japan in December 1941, had by the middle of 1945 inflicted great losses on the Japanese navy and Air Force; however, Japan still retained considerable ground forces. In order to completely liquidate the source of war in the Far East, restore peace in the whole world as quickly as possible, and ensure the security of the USSR, the Soviet government, true to its pledges as an ally assumed at the Crimean Conference, declared war on Japan on August 8. During the three-month respite from war, the Soviet High Command was able to transfer large forces from the west to the Far East. On the night of Aug. 8, 1945, the troops of the Transbaikal Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union R. Ia. Malinovskii), the Second Far Eastern Front, (commanded by General of the Army M. A. Purkaev), and the First Far Eastern Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union K. A. Meretskov), in coordinated action with the Pacific Fleet (commanded by Admiral I. S. Iumashev) and the Amur Military Flotilla (commanded by Rear Admiral N. V. Antonov), opened an offensive along a 4,000-km front. Troops of the Mongolian People’s Republic participated in the war with the Soviet troops. The overall command of the military action was exercised by the High Command of Soviet troops in the Far East (commander in chief, Marshal of the Soviet Union A. M. Vasilevskii). The coordination of the actions of the fleet and the air force with ground forces was exercised by Admiral of the Fleet N. G. Kuznetsov, commander in chief of the navy, and Marshal of the Air Force A. A. Novikov, commander of the air force.
As a result of the coordinated operations of the three fronts and the navy, the Japanese Kwantung Army (commanded by General Yamada), which was the chief shock force of the enemy’s ground forces, was completely routed in a short time, for all intents and purposes by August 20; this was of enormous help to the liberation struggle of the peoples of East and Southeast Asia and contributed to the development of revolutions in China, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other Asian countries. The Soviet troops liberated Manchuria, Southern Sakhalin, the Kurile Islands, and North Korea. On September 2, Japan signed the act of unconditional surrender. This capitulation marked the end of the entire Second World War.
Major results and the most important consequences of the war. The Great Patriotic War ended in a complete victory for the peoples of the USSR over fascism, a victory that in its significance and consequences was a major event in world history. In a bloody and destructive war the Soviet Union defended the socialist achievements, and the most advanced social system protected its freedom and independence. “The victory of the Soviet people in the war confirmed that there are no forces in the world that can stop the forward development of the socialist society” (Programma KPSS, 1969, page 17). The enormous opportunities inherent in the socialist system enabled the Soviet Union to overcome the extreme difficulties of wartime, and, despite great losses, come out of the war strong and mighty. The victory of the USSR revealed the greatness and invincible might of the socialist state before the working people of the whole world.
As a result of the victorious outcome of the war, the USSR greatly strengthened the security of its borders. According to the peace treaty, Finland returned the old Russian Pechenga region with the ice-free port of Pechenga to the USSR. The new borders with Finland on the Karelian isthmus, which were pushed farther north from Leningrad, were secured. According to the decisions of the three-power Potsdam Conference (1945) and the four-power Moscow Foreign Ministers’ Conference (1947), the northern part of East Prussia, with the ports of Königsberg and Pillau, was incorporated into the USSR and is now Kaliningrad Oblast of the RSFSR. The Lithuanian SSR regained the Klaipeda region with the port of Klaipeda, which had been captured by the fascists. According to the treaty with Czechoslovakia, the Transcarpathian Ukraine became part of the Ukrainian SSR. In the far East, according to the decision of the three-power Crimean Conference (1945), Southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands were incorporated into the USSR.
The USSR played the decisive role in the liberation of the peoples of Europe from fascist enslavement and rendered invaluable help to the peoples of Asia in the struggle against the Japanese aggressors. After smashing the war machine of the fascist block, the Soviet Union, relying on the democratic forces of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Albania, brought freedom and national independence to the peoples of these countries. The USSR, with the support of the domestic antifascist forces, liberated the peoples of Rumania, Bulgaria, and Hungary—all former German satellites. The Red Army brought liberation from the fascist yoke to the German and Austrian peoples. Austria regained its independence. In the East, the Red Army liberated Northeast China and North Korea, and, having destroyed Japanese imperialism, created the conditions for the full liberation of the peoples of China and Korea from the Japanese aggressors.
A major consequence of the Soviet victory and of the mighty revolutionary movement that developed at the end of the war and in the first few postwar years was the emergence of the world socialist system. The peoples of Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, China, the Korean People’s Democratic Republic, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia embarked on the path of socialism.
Another major consequence of the defeat of the fascist coalition was the rapid development of the national liberation movement in colonial and dependent countries, which led to the disintegration of the colonial system.
The second stage in the general crisis of capitalism developed in the course of the war and the socialist revolutions. As a result of the breaking away of several European and Asian countries from the capitalist system, the gap in the front of imperialism widened. The most reactionary striking forces of imperialism, represented by fascist Germany and imperialist Japan, were routed.
The entry of the USSR into the war against the countries of the fascist block completed the process of the transformation of World War II into a just people’s liberation war against fascist tyranny. This was predetermined by the very nature of the socialist state and its Leninist foreign policy, which is based on the principles of peace, equality, national self-determination, and respect for the independence and sovereignty of all countries. True to its international duty, the USSR set itself the task of helping the enslaved peoples at the very beginning of the Great Patriotic War and made enormous sacrifices for the sake of this task. All progressive mankind was on the side of the USSR; the working people in many countries unfurled an antifascist liberation struggle and thereby helped the Soviet people as much as they could. The will of the peoples in the struggle against fascism gave birth to the anti-Hitlerite coalition. The heroic struggle of the Soviet people gave a powerful push to the development of the resistance movement in the occupied countries of Europe and stirred up the popular masses in the states of the antifascist coalition.
The Soviet Union bore the major brunt of the war on its shoulders. In comparison with other countries fighting in the war, the Soviet Union incurred the greatest material losses. The fascist German invaders destroyed hundreds of cities and more than 70,000 villages, leaving about 25 million people homeless. They destroyed about 32,000 industrial enterprises and 65,000 km of railroads and smashed 98,000 kolkhozes, 1,876 sovkhozes, and 2,890 machine and tractor stations. The material losses of the USSR totaled 2,600 billion rubles. The Soviet Union lost more than 20 million people dead (with civilians), which amounted to 40 percent of all the human losses in World War II. During the war on the territory of the USSR the fascist aggressors exterminated and tortured to death more than 6 million civilians and about 4 million Soviet prisoners of war. More than 4 million Soviet citizens were deported to Germany. Large numbers of Soviet people died in Hitlerite concentration camps in Poland, Germany, Austria, and other countries.
The peoples of the Soviet Union and their armed forces played the decisive role in the victorious outcome of World War II. From June 1941 to the middle of 1944 between 190 and 270 enemy divisions fought at any one time on the Soviet-German Front. The Anglo-American troops in North Africa faced between nine and 20 and in Italy between seven and 26 fascist German divisions. Even after the opening of the second front in Western Europe, the main forces of the enemy remained on the Soviet-German Front. By Apr. 15, 1945, 214 divisions, including 34 panzer and 15 motorized divisions, and 14 brigades of the fascist German troops operated here, while the Anglo-American troops faced only 60 German divisions, including only five panzer divisions. On the Soviet-German Front the enemy lost 607 divisions (176 divisions against the Western allies), three-fourths of its air force, and a large part of its artillery. Of the 13.6 million men killed, wounded, or captured, fascist Germany lost 10 million men on the Soviet-German Front. It was the Soviet armed forces that led to the collapse of Hitler’s war and state machine.
The Soviet rear formed the economic basis for the victorious outcome of the Great Patriotic War. Despite grave losses, the Soviet economy withstood the test of war. The Soviet social, state, and political system, whose power is based on the alliance of the working class and the peasantry and the friendship of the peoples of the USSR, showed its superiority under conditions of war as well as peace. Guided by the Leninist principles of political, military, and economic leadership of the country, the Party successfully mobilized and organized the human and material resources of the state for the victory over the enemy.
Prominent Party and state leaders were in charge of the major sectors of state, Party, and military leadership: A. A. Andreev, N. A. Voznesenskii, K. E. Voroshilov, A. A. Zhdanov, M. I. Kalinin, A. N. Kosygin, D. Z. Manuil’skii, Anastas I. Mikoyan, V. M. Molotov, M. A. Suslov, N. M. Shvernik, A. S. Shcherbakov, and others.
|Table 3. Major indexes of the development of the USSR national economy in 1941-45 (1940 = 100%)|
|National income ...............||92||66||74||88||83|
|Gross industrial output ...............||98||77||90||104||92|
Production of aircraft, tanks, armaments, and munitions ...............
|Gross agricultural output ...............||62||38||37||54||60|
|Number of workers and employees ...............||88||59||62||76||87|
|Incomes of state budget ...............||98||92||113||149||168|
A well-functioning war economy was established in the USSR, and the unity of front and rear was achieved. (The major indexes of the development of the USSR national economy are shown in Table 3.) Through a tightly regulated economy, the Soviet state succeeded in ensuring an uninterrupted food supply to the front and in satisfying, with the help of a system of rationing, the vitally necessary, minimal requirements of the population. (From 1942 to 1945 between 62 and 80 million people were on rationed supply.)
The Soviet people, their working class, and the kolkhoz peasantry displayed mass labor heroism. Through the duration of the war Soviet industry produced huge quantities of armaments and matériel, providing the front with everything it needed and surpassing the capitalist war industry of fascist Germany (see Table 4), despite the fact that Germany, using the resources of allied and occupied countries, produced much more pig iron, steel, electric power, coal, and so forth than the USSR. This was a manifestation of the superiority of the socialist economy and of the Soviet socialist system over the capitalist system.
The following people’s commissars were in charge of the production of armaments, matériel, ammunition, metal, and fuel and of the organization of the war economy: B. L. Vannikov, V. V. Vakhrushev, P. N. Goremykin, A. I. Efremov, A. G. Zverev, V. A. Malyshev, M. G. Pervukhin, I. F. Tevosian, D. F. Ustinov, A. I. Shakhurin, and others. The following scientists and designers made great contributions in supplying the armed forces with high-quality armaments and matériel: A. A. Arkhangel’skii, A. A. Blagonravov, S. G. Goriunov, V. G. Grabin, M. I. Gurevich, V. A. Degtiarev, V. G. D’iakonov, S. V. Il’iushin, V. Ia. Klimov, S. P. Korolev, Zh. Ia. Kotin, A. N. Krylov, N. A. Kucherenko, S. A. Lavochkin, Artem I. Mikoyan, A. A.
|Table 4. Output of major types of weapons and matériel in the USSR and Germany (the latter with satellite and occupied countries)|
|July 1, 1941|
July 1, 1945
|Annual average||1941-44||Annual average|
|Infantry mortars ...............||347,900||86,900||68,000||17,000|
|Tanks and self-propelled guns ...............||95,099||23,774||53,800||13,450|
|Combat planes ...............||108,028||27,007||78,900||19,725|
|Motor vehicles and prime movers ...............||205,000||51,000||375,000||93,700|
Mikulin, V. M. Petliakov, N. N. Polikarpov, P. O. Sukhoi, F. V. Tokarev, A. N. Tupolev, V. G. Fedorov, B. I. Shavyrin, A. D. Shvetsov, G. S. Shpagin, A. S. Iakovlev, and others. Alongside the designers of new models of matériel, scientists of all branches of knowledge played a great role in mobilizing the country’s resources for the needs of defense. The Soviet intelligentsia and all its branches—scientists, the huge army of engineers and agronomists, teachers and doctors, writers, composers, painters, journalists, and actors—were united by a high sense of patriotism and contributed all their energies and knowledge to the cause of the victory over the enemy.
Bourgeois falsifiers of history, exaggerating the contributions of the USA and Great Britain, strive to minimize the role of the USSR in the victory over fascist Germany and militarist Japan. In particular, they attempt to prove that the USSR was victorious owing to the economic aid of the Allies. In the most difficult period of the war, when Soviet industry could not replace the losses of 1941 and when production in the Urals and Siberia was only developing, the Allies’ Lend-Lease deliveries of aircraft, tanks, ammunition, motor vehicles, locomotives, and various strategic raw materials helped the USSR in the war. However, all these deliveries (through 1945 inclusive) amounted to only a small part of the total war production of the USSR: about 2 percent of antiaircraft guns, up to 13 percent of aircraft, and 7 percent of tanks. Only the deliveries of motor vehicles were of great importance. The bulk of the supplies for the front was provided by the Soviet national economy.
The USSR armed forces and Soviet military science and art of warfare showed their total superiority over the enemy. The major principle of Soviet military development was Party leadership of the armed forces. The supreme military agency in the armed forces was the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command. It included J. V. Stalin (supreme commander in chief), A. I. Antonov, S. M. Budennyi, A. M. Vasilevskii, G. K. Zhukov, S. K. Timoshenko, and B. M. Shaposhnikov.
The Communist Party had trained a brillant galaxy of Soviet military leaders who successfully executed the preparation of operations and commanded fronts, fleets, armies, and flotillas. They included such great military commanders as I. Kh. Bagramian, A. M. Vasilevskii, N. F. Vatutin, K. A. Vershinin, L. A. Govorov, A. G. Golovko, S. G. Gorshkov, A. A. Grechko, A. I. Eremenko, G. K. Zhukov, G. F. Zakharov, I. S. Isakov, I. S. Konev, N. I. Krylov, N. G. Kuznetsov, R. Ia. Malinovskii, K. A. Meretskov, K. S. Moskalenko, A. A. Novikov, F. S. Oktiabr’skii, I. E. Petrov, M. M. Popov, K. K. Rokossovskii, V. D. Sokolovskii, F. I. Tolbukhin, V. F. Tributs, I. D. Cherniakhovskii, V. I. Chuikov, and I. S. Iumashev.
A prominent role in the leadership of the war and of operations was played by officials of the General Staff and other agencies of the central apparatus, by chiefs of staffs of fronts, and by commanders of combat arms. They included V. A. Alafuzov, A. I. Antonov, S. S. Biriuzov, A. N. Bogoliubov, M. P. Vorob’ev, N. N. Voronov, L. M. Galler, A. E. Golovanov, M. S. Gromadin, S. F. Zhavoronkov, P. F. Zhigarev, M. V. Zakharov, K. P. Kazakov, V. V. Kurasov, M. S. Malinin, I. T. Peresypkin, A. P. Pokrovskii, N. D. Psurtsev, L. M. Sandalov, Ia. N. Fedorenko, A. V. Khrulev, S. A. Khudiakov, M. N. Chistiakov, S. M. Shtemenko, and N. D. Iakovlev.
The activity of the Party organizations and the political work in the armed forces was directed by Party envoys, who were members of war Councils and chiefs of political directorates and political sections of fronts, fleets, armies, and flotillas. They included I. I. Azarov, V. N. Bogatkin, V. R. Boiko, L. I. Brezhnev, M. A. Burmistenko, S. F. Galadzhev, K. A. Gurov, A. A. Epishev, P. I. Efimov, A. S. Zheltov, M. Kh. Kalashnik, A. P. Kirilenko, K. V. Krainiukov, A. A. Kuznetsov, N. M. Kulakov, D. S. Leonov, D. A. Lestev, M. V. Mzhavanadze, E. E. Mal’tsev, M. M. Pronin, I. V. Rogov, M. V. Rudakov, A. G. Rytov, N. E. Subbotin, I. Z. Susaikov, A. N. Tevchenkov, K. F. Telegin, D. I. Kholostov, S. S. Shatilov, I. V. Shikin, and T. F. Shtykov.
The Leninist foreign and domestic policy of the Communist Party and the Soviet government formed the basis for deciding all strategic tasks set before the Soviet armed forces in the course of the war. The chief means of action of the Red Army in the war was the strategic offensive: of eight campaigns in the war against the fascist German invaders, six were offensive operations.
The Soviet art of warfare developed in complete conformity with the requirements of military science. In the course of the war the troops learned to set up impregnable defenses. The defensive actions of the Soviet troops at Kursk and in the region of Lake Balaton were models of conducting defense and maneuvering troops and weapons and brilliant examples of the fortitude of troops. The art of conducting offensive operations and combat reached a high level: the organization and execution of artillery and air power offensives; the concentrated employment of large tanks and large mechanized and air force units to rout the enemy along the decisive axes of operations; breaking through enemy defenses at a great depth and at high speed; the encirclement and destruction of enemy groupings; the unplanned forcing of water barriers; the storming of large cities; and so forth. The art of organizing stable coordinated action of all combat arms and branches of the armed forces and of directing large masses of troops and matériel developed. The Soviet art of warfare displayed great achievements in such large strategic operations as the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, and Kursk or the Byelorussian, Iaşi-Kishinev, Vistula-Oder, and Berlin offensive operations.
In this long and bitter struggle, the USSR armed forces proved to be mightier than the mightiest war machine of the capitalist world.
The war showed the exceptional strength of the ideology of socialism—the spiritual weapon of the Soviet people. The Soviet people’s loyalty to the ideas of communism and proletarian internationalism and to the cause of peace and freedom of peoples, which had been nurtured by the Communist Party, formed the basis for the high moral spirit of the Soviet people and their ideological principles and patriotism, which found its clear expression in the mass heroism on the front and in the rear.
Servicemen of the army, air force, and navy; partisans; and underground fighters displayed unparalleled bravery, fortitude, and courage in combat. The Soviet people preserve the memory of their sons and daughters who heroically gave their lives in combat for the motherland. Such were N. F. Gastello, A. K. Gorovets, S. S. Gur’ev, L. M. Dovator, A. V. Kaliuzhnyi, I. M. Kaplunov, D. M. Karbyshev, Z. A. Kosmodem’ianskaia, I. I. Laar, A. M. Matrosov, E. A. Nikonov, M. A. Panikakha, I. F. Panfilov, Iu. V. Smirnov, V. V. Talalikhin, N. D. Fil’chenkov, E. I. Chaikina, and many thousands of other heroes who performed unsurpassed feats of valor. More than 7 million people were awarded orders and medals of the Soviet Union. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred on 11,603 servicemen (including 86 women) for heroism in wartime; of these, 104 received the title twice and G. K. Zhukov, I. N. Kozhedub, and A. I. Pokryshkin, three times. Heroes of the Soviet Union include representatives of many peoples and nationalities of the USSR. This was a concrete embodiment of the friendship of the peoples of the USSR and their loyalty to the ideas of socialism and Soviet patriotism.
The Soviet armed forces received considerable aid from partisans and underground fighters, who displayed high skill and heroism in their selfless struggle behind enemy lines. There are many renowned names among the organizers and leaders of the partisan movement and the underground. They include T. P. Bumazhkov, A. V. German, M. A. Gur’ianov, K. S. Zaslonov, Ia. E. Kalnberzin, S. A. Kovpak, V. I. Kozlov, I. A. Kozlov, V. Z. Korzh, N. I. Kuznetsov, M. I. Naumov, P. K. Ponomarenko, S. V. Rudnev, A. N. Saburov, V. P. Samson, A. Iu. Snechkus, A. F. Fedorov, V. Z. Khoruzhaia, and M. F. Shmyrev.
The glorious Communist Party was the experienced leader of the Soviet people, their inspirer and organizer in the years of war as well as peace; everywhere—at the front, in the rear, in enemy-occupied territory, the Party was a united, fighting, mobilizing, and guiding force. Through personal example and moving speeches, the Communists strengthened the morale of the people and roused them to feats of arms and labor. The Party was guided in its work by Lenin’s immortal teaching about the defense of the socialist fatherland. The solid foundation that enabled the Party to cope with the most trying ordeals of the Great Patriotic War were the unshakable unity of its ranks, the revolutionary theory of Marxism-Leninism, discipline and organization, and close cohesion around the Central Committee.
A total of 1.5 million Communists, including tens of thousands of Party, state, trade union, and Komsomol leaders, went to the front during the Great Patriotic War. More than 5 million people joined the Communist Party during the war. And although more than 3 million Communists died in combat against the enemies of the Soviet motherland, by the end of the war the Party had almost 6 million members, of whom 53 percent were in the armed forces.
Relying on the soviets as agencies of state authority, on the trade unions, the Komsomol, and other public and political organizations of the working people, the Party conducted enormous work among the masses. It educated the Soviet people in the ideas of Marxism-Leninism and revolutionary traditions and nurtured among them a readiness for heroic deeds in the name of victory over the enemy. The press, radio, literature, art, and the whole agitation and propaganda work of the Party organizations were placed in the service of the Communist education of the masses. Using concrete examples of Hitlerite atrocities, the Party nurtured a burning hatred for the enemy among the Soviet people.
The Communist Party mobilized all the state, economic, and public organizations to create a well-organized war economy that could provide the front with everything needed for victory. The Party slogan “Everything for the front, everything for victory!” became the decisive slogan in the rear. The Soviet people suffered enormous material privations during the war, but they firmly trusted their own Party and heroically fought and worked for the welfare of the motherland. This union of the Party and the people was the force that helped to overcome all the difficulties and achieve victory over German fascism.
The Communist Party devoted particular attention to the daily life and activities of the armed forces. The victory of the Red Army was a victory of the Party’s military policy and of the principles of Soviet military development worked out by Lenin. The Communist Party in every possible way supported the development of Soviet military thought, aroused creative initiative among military personnel, and saw to it that new and valuable war experience was passed on to the whole army. The Party exerted its influence on the army and navy and implemented its war policy through the Chief Political Administration, war councils, commanders, political agencies, and Party organizations. The war councils were agencies of collective leadership of the troops, which, however, did not restrict the corresponding commanders’ authority in making decisions on operational questions. The activity of the Party organizations and political work were guided by the political directorates of fronts and fleets, the political sections of armies and flotillas, and the political agencies of large units. The political agencies were the force that organized the servicemen to fulfill combat missions. Their work was aimed at strengthening the army and navy, ensured the day-to-day influence of the Party, and rallied the personnel around the Party and its Central Committee. To strengthen the Party leadership of the armed forces, the Party sent the best of its sons to the front. The Communists were always the reliable support of the commander in combat, and they fought in the most difficult and dangerous sectors of the front. The best of the best servicemen joined the Party; they considered it a great honor to be Party members and to fight and, if necessary, to die as communists. It is perfectly natural that about half of all those who were awarded orders and medals during the war were Communists and Komsomols. Among the Heroes of the Soviet Union, 65 percent were Communists and 30 percent Komsomols.
The difficult ordeals of the war not only did not weaken the Party but strengthened it still further. During the war the Party grew numerically and became even more strengthened ideologically. The Soviet people, closely united and led by the Party, won a world-historic victory in the Great Patriotic War.
In destroying the fascist aggressors, the Soviet Union not only defended its freedom and independence but played the decisive role in the liberation of the peoples of Europe and Asia from the threat of fascist enslavement. World civilization was saved. Therein lies the world-historic contribution of the Soviet people to mankind.
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Edited by Marshal of the Soviet Union M. V. ZAKHAROV