Chapter XXIV

"The Beginning of the Road"

Marshal Chuikov entitled his memoir of the Stalingrad battle Nachalo puti (The Beginning of the Road). As of 19 November 1942, he said, "'Not a step back!' now meant go forward . . . now meant we have to advance to the west."1 The road would be long in distance and in time, to Berlin 1,500 miles and twenty-nine and a half months. Although it was new to Chuikov's Sixty-second Army, which later, rebuilt and renamed Eighth Guards Army, would be on it all the way to Berlin, the road, of course, was the same one on which German Sixth Army had begun its thousand-mile march from the Soviet border to Stalingrad seventeen months earlier.

On 25 January 1943, in the first congratulatory order of the day to be issued during the war, Stalin thanked the commands and troops of the southern fronts and gave them a new slogan: "Onward to defeat the German occupationists and to drive them out of our country!" His order of the day for 23 February 1943, which was the Red Army's twenty-fifth anniversary, asserted, "Three months ago Red Army troops began an offensive at the approaches to Stalingrad. Since then the initiative has been in our hands. . . . The balance of forces on the Soviet-German front has changed."2

In his anniversary order of the day, Stalin also declared "the battle at the walls of Stalingrad" to have been "the greatest in the history of wars." Those who had participated in it were rewarded accordingly. A hundred and twelve officers and troops received the title and decoration Hero of the Soviet Union; 48 generals were awarded the Order of Suvorov or the Order of Kutuzov; 10,000 in all ranks received other decorations; and 700,000 were given the campaign medal "For the Defense of Stalingrad." Forty-four units were authorized to incorporate place-names associated with the battle into their designations; 55 received unit commendations; and 183 earned the title "guards."3

Charles E. Bohlen, the U.S. State Department's chief Soviet analyst, noted with some concern that Stalin omitted the Western Allies from the celebration. On 6 November 1942, in his annual speech on the eve of the anniversary of the 1917 revolution, Stalin had talked at length about the advantages a second front in Europe


would bring. In the 23 February 1943 order of the day, he merely remarked that in the absence of a second front, the Soviet Army had borne "the whole burden of the war" thus far, and he suggested that it alone would be capable of defeating Germany in the war. On 6 November, he had said, "We are not waging [the war] alone, but in conjunction with our allies." And he had proposed the slogan: "Hail the victory of the Anglo-Soviet-American fighting alliance!" He did not mention the alliance in the 23 February order of the day.4

The OKW's Armed Forces Report issued from the Fuehrer Headquarters on 3 February awkwardly attempted to transform a disaster into an epic. The opening sentences read: "The battle for Stalingrad has ended. True to its oath to the last breath, Sixth Army, under the exemplary leadership of Field Marshal Paulus, has succumbed to the overwhelming strength of the enemy and to unfavorable circumstances. The enemy's two demands for capitulation were proudly rejected. The last battle was fought under a swastika flag flying from the highest ruin in Stalingrad." Depicting the end as Hitler had wanted it to be but as the world, including most Germans, already knew it had not been, the report concluded, "Generals, officers, noncommissioned officers and men fought shoulder to shoulder to the last bullet. They died that Germany might live!"5

That the war in the East had changed course drastically was obvious also to the Germans by January 1943, and Hitler and Propaganda Minister Goebbels were trying to convert the calamitous outcome of the 1942 campaign into a national commitment to total war. On 13 January 1943, Hitler issued a decree stating, "The total war confronts us with tasks . . . that must unequivocally be mastered"; he named a three-man committee, consisting of Field Marshal Keitel, the chief, OKW; Martin Bormann, the chief of the Nazi Party Chancellory; and Hans Lammers, the chief of the Reichs Chancellory, to mobilize all military, party, and state agencies for the effort.6 Speaking for Hitler on 30 January, the tenth anniversary of the Nazi seizure of power, Goebbels called "the gigantic winter battle in the East the beacon of total war for the German Nation." On 18 February, in an hour-long speech devoted solely to the total war theme, he declared Europe to be under an assault "out of the steppe" that only the German Wehrmacht and its allies could stop. The battle of Stalingrad, he said, had been "the great tocsin of German destiny," and the nation's watchword henceforth had to be "People arise--and storm break loose!"7

Germany was in fact far from being on a total war footing in early 1943. War production had been over 40 percent greater in 1942 than in 1941 (largely owing to Armament and Munitions Minister Speer's organizational improvements), and 1942 had been the first year in which consumer goods production had been cut significantly, but the assumption that the war would


soon be over had governed economic planning until the end of the year. Consequently, although the output of consumer goods was 10 percent less in 1942 than in 1941 (but only 12 percent less than in the last prewar year, 1938), the tendency had been to preserve the consumer sector of the economy, and the numbers employed in such industries had held steady even though the war industry work force had declined almost 10 percent between 1939 and 1942.8

The declaration of total war terminated the phase in which the prospect of an early victory had governed policy; however, total war connoted a much more cogent and purposeful policy shift than actually occurred. After the 13 January decree was published, Hitler told the committee of three that what he really wanted them to do was to squeeze another 800,000 men out of the work force for military service, not to reorient the whole war effort. To the extent that it materialized at all thereafter, the total war program conformed to Hitler's request. On 27 January, the Office of the Generalplenipotentiary for Labor declared all men sixteen to sixty-five and all women seventeen to forty-five subject to a labor draft. After granting blanket exemptions in numerous categories, it registered 3.5 million persons and--over the next year and a half--put 700,000 of them to work. On 4 February, the Ministry of Economics ordered all non-war-related businesses to close and defined those as nightclubs, luxury bars and restaurants, jewelry stores, custom garment shops, and, among others, establishments trading in postage stamps.9

Paulus' surrender brought the road to a dead end for Germany's allies. By 31 January, the headquarters for the Rumanian, Italian, and Hungarian Armies were all out of the front and engaged in trying to reassemble what was left of their troops. (Hungarian Second Army had been smashed by a Soviet offensive begun on 12 January.) Marshal Mannerheim, commander in chief, Finnish Army, had asked Twentieth Mountain Army to release all the Finnish troops (five battalions) still attached to it.10

The governments of Finland, Hungary, and Rumania, whose countries lay athwart the Soviet road to the west and would be the first to experience the assault "out of the steppe," were looking to their own salvation, as was Italy's Mussolini, who was watching the British and Americans open another, and to him more dangerous, road in North Africa. Mussolini proposed making a separate peace with the Soviet Union. Rumanian Marshal Antonescu proposed doing the same, only with the Western Allies. In the early months of 1943, Finland, Hungary, and Rumania all began casting about for contacts and understandings with the Western Allies that might shelter them from the full consequences of a Soviet victory.11


The Transitions

In the High Commands

From the outset of the war, Hitler and Stalin were the actual as well as titular supreme commanders of their respective armed forces. Both had sufficient power as heads of government in totalitarian states to conduct the war as they saw fit, and both made the 1942 campaign the definitive test of their generalship. How each construed the results of the campaign set the German and Soviet Commands on the courses they would follow to the war's end.

Until the late summer of 1942, Stalin maintained an appearance of collegial command vested in the Stavka and directed the war in person through the Stavka and its adjunct, the General Staff. At a higher level, he also controlled the whole war effort through the State Defense Committee, the GKO. In 1941, he could not have done differently without setting the state and the military systems that he had built around himself hopelessly adrift. He had preserved the systems, thereby probably also saving the nation; but his generalship after the Moscow counterattack had failed to capitalize decisively on that success and had paved the way for the second German summer offensive. Finally, with the "Ni shagu nazad!" ("Not a step back!") order of 28 July 1942, Stalin reached what could have been the last stop short of strategic bankruptcy: he had to demand that his forces sacrifice themselves to buy time for him. A month later he had to call on Zhukov and Vasilevskiy to augment his generalship.

The History of the Second World War states that by appointing a deputy supreme commander, Stalin "introduced a new element in the leadership at the strategic level" and that Zhukov and Vasilevskiy "were provided with plenipotentiary powers and possessed great authority in the fighting forces."12 Specifically, Stalin had, in making Zhukov deputy supreme commander, for the first time installed a military professional in the direct chain of command above the operational level and had, by granting plenipotentiary powers to Zhukov and Vasilevskiy, created the nucleus of at least a provisional military high command.

The development of the high command continued through the rest of the year and into the early months of 1943. The planning and execution of the counteroffensive at Stalingrad brought the commanding general of the air force and the chiefs of artillery and armor, whose posts in the Defense Commissariat had until then been mostly administrative, into the line of command under Zhukov and Vasilevskiy. In December 1942, the artillery and armored and mechanized forces had acquired branch status (which the air force already had) and their chiefs had become commanding generals and deputy defense commissars. The mostly ad hoc command structure of late 1942 was formalized in May 1943 when Zhukov's and Vasilevskiy's appointments as first and second deputy defense commissars, respectively, put them at the heads of both the line and staff military chains of command.13

Stalin also gave the military professionals tangible evidence of his confidence and their worth to the extent


that they probably gained more in ranks and titles than they did in actual influence on the conduct of the war. On 18 January 1943, Zhukov became a marshal of the Soviet Union, the first general to be promoted to that rank in the war, and General Voronov became a marshal of artillery under a less than two-week-old Central Committee decree authorizing branch marshalships. Vasilevskiy advanced to general armii also on 18 January and to marshal of the Soviet Union a month later. The commanding general of the air force, Novikov, became a general polkovnik in January, a general armii in February, and received his star as marshal of aviation in March 1943. Three field commanding generals--Malinovskiy, Rokossovskiy, and Vatutin--moved through the ranks from general leytenant to general armii by April 1943. Stalin's generosity with promotions was lavish but measured. Fedorenko, the commanding general of armored and mechanized forces, had become a general polkovnik in January 1943, but apparently because the armored branch's performance had not yet equaled that of the artillery or the air force, Fedorenko was left to wait more than a year for his promotion to marshal of the armored forces. Stalin also made pointed distinctions between offensive and defensive success. Malinovskiy, whose army had smashed Operation WINTERGEWITTER, moved up two grades in rank and became a front commander in 1943 and a marshal in 1944. Chuikov, who had held the Stalingrad bridgehead through the siege, stayed an army commander and ended his service in the war as a general polkovnik. Rokossovskiy, who had wiped out the Stalingrad pocket, became a marshal in 1944. General Eremenko, who had conducted the defense, was a general armii when the war ended. Eremenko and Chuikov eventually became marshals, but not until 1955, two years after Stalin died.14

The military's relationship to Stalin had changed. He had come as close to creating a high command and appointing a commander in chief as he ever would, and he had accepted the professionals' guidance. Vasilevskiy described the new relationship as it affected himself, Zhukov, and Stalin when he wrote, "The Stalingrad battle was an important turning point [in Stalin's development as a military leader]. J. V. Stalin began not only to understand military strategy well . . . but also found his way about well in the operational art. As a result, he exercised a strong influence on the working out of operations. . . ."15 That Stalin had discovered an effective system of command, which was also satisfactory to himself, was evident in his own entry into the military as a marshal of the Soviet Union in March 1943. What is most remarkable, however, is that after late 1942, Stalin had managed successfully to foster and exploit military professionalism without relinquishing any of his authority over or within the armed forces. The army had performed as if it had a high command, but it did not. Orders continued to be issued in the name of the Stavka. Zhukov, as deputy supreme commander, and he and Vasilevskiy, as first and second deputy defense commissars,


wielded great authority when Stalin desired them to, but it was his authority not theirs. In terms of real power, the distance between Stalin and his deputies always was, when he wanted it to be, at least as great as that between a marshal and a private.

Like the Soviet, the German Command underwent a transition in 1942, in its instance completing the one begun in February 1938 when Hitler had made himself commander in chief of the armed forces. Although Hitler had progressively expanded his role in military affairs, especially during the early campaigns of the war, the Armed Forces High Command, the OKW, had not evolved into a true armed forces command, and during the 1941 campaign in the Soviet Union the service high commands had continued as semi-autonomous parts of the command structure represented in the high-level decision-making process by their commanders in chief. In BARBAROSSA and TAIFUN, the Army High Command, the OKH, had also figured as the designated high command for operations on the Eastern Front. However, following Field Marshal Brauchitsch's dismissal in December 1941, the OKH had ceased to be a high command in all but name, and Hitler had assumed direct personal control of the Eastern Front. Subsequently, the 1942 operations were planned and executed according to his specifications, and victory, nevertheless, eluded his grasp, bringing him at the end of August into about as close an encounter as Stalin's with strategic bankruptcy.

Stalin's response was rational and self-serving; Hitler's only self-serving. In September 1942, he further dismantled the command structure, leaving himself alone atop the "heap of wreckage."16 The clean sweep--of Keitel and Generals Jodl and Halder--that Hitler threatened did not materialize. Keitel and Jodl kept their posts in the OKW until the end of the war. But Hitler secured everything he wanted: an OKW and General Staff firmly brought into agreement with him and subservience to him and, through General Schmundt and the army officer personnel office, a direct hold on every officer from lieutenant to field marshal. On 30 September, just two weeks before he was going to have to issue Operations Order No. 1 putting the Eastern Front on notice to expect another bad winter, Hitler announced a victory, not over the enemy but over "an old world," that of military tradition. He told the German people they were about to see the Nazi social system take full effect. Birth, background, and schooling, he said, had ceased to be criteria for military preferment, which henceforth would go only "to the brave and loyal man, the determined fighter who is suited to be a leader of his people."17 To Schmundt, he talked about advancing line officers to the top commands and abolishing the General Staff's distinctive red trouser stripes and silver collar tabs.18 In short, Hitler placed the army under his tutelage.

But the winter was far worse than Hitler could have imagined it would be in September 1942, in fact, worse than he already thought it had been on the day Paulus surrendered in Stalingrad;


consequently, his relationship to the military came into question again. On 1 February 1943, Soviet forces began operations aimed toward Kursk, Kharkov, and the Dnepr River crossing at Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye that could have engulfed not just armies but Army Groups Don and Center.19 On the 6th, Hitler called Field Marshal Manstein, the Army Group Don commander, to the Fuehrer Headquarters and--although it was not evident at the time--laid the groundwork for a renewed partnership between himself and the military "old world" that would get him past the current crisis and sustain him through another twenty-six months of war.

Manstein came to the meeting as the representative of his world, that of the General Staff in the pre-Nazi tradition, and its leading candidate to be a chief of the General Staff with clear responsibility and genuine authority. Hitler had ignored the idea of a strong chief of the General Staff when it first arose in early 1942, and he dismissed it as impossible when Manstein proposed it on 6 February. But, although he tried for four hours, he could not do the same when Manstein confronted him with what he had come to regard as the General Staff's most pernicious principle, namely, that maneuver had to take precedence over position on the defensive as well as on the offensive. The events at Stalingrad had not shaken his conviction derived from the previous winter's experience that voluntary withdrawals always served the enemy better than they did oneself, but he stopped short of putting his conviction to another test and authorized Manstein to take the Army Group Don front inside the bend of the Donets River back a hundred miles to the Mius River line.20

In the succeeding weeks, Manstein repaid Hitler's reluctant concession handsomely. On 20 February, he launched an operation that in the next twenty-six days demolished four Soviet armies and established a front on the Donets River north to Belgorod. (On the 20th, Soviet spearheads were seventy miles west of Kharkov, within artillery range of Dnepropetrovsk, and less than forty miles east of Manstein's headquarters at Zaporozhye.) In the second week of March, the recapture of Kharkov, an event that would attract worldwide attention, was taking shape, and on the 10th, Hitler went to Zaporozhye to add an Oak Leaf Cluster to Manstein's Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and to greet and hear reports from all of the army and air corps commanders in the south. He was amiable, even jocular, and he found the generals' morale to be "fantastic." Three days later, he staged a similar scene at Army Group Center with Field Marshal Kluge and his generals, who were then completing a phased evacuation of the Rzhev salient that was releasing enough troops to block the Soviet advance past Kursk.21

Manstein stopped the offensive on 18 March at Belgorod, thirty miles north of Kharkov, which had fallen on


the 14th. The full onset of the spring thaw forced him to make this decision, and he had to leave a deep bulge around Kursk, but Hitler could proclaim a victory in his annual Memorial Day address on the 21st (which he had postponed for a week in anticipation of such an announcement). From the Potsdam Armory, the shrine to Prussian and German feats of arms, he told the nation and the world that Europe had been saved, and preparations were under way to secure additional successes in the coming months and to assure the final victory. On 13 March, he had signed Operations Order No. 5 alerting Manstein and Kluge to be ready to seize the initiative again as soon as the spring muddy season ended.22

The field marshals and the rest of the "old world" military establishment would be ready with few exceptions in the spring of 1943 and for as long thereafter as Hitler wanted them. In a long talk with Goebbels on 9 March, the day before his visit to Manstein, Hitler had revealed how he meant to reciprocate. He said he did not trust a single one of the generals; they all tried to swindle him whenever they could; they did not even understand their own trade--war; the entire officer-training system had been wrong for generations. "Slowly but surely," he concluded, leadership selection for the armed forces would be changed; Schmundt would see to that.23

In Operations

The primary components of the blitzkrieg were the doctrine of combined arms, the deep operation, and the envelopment. The first two were late developments of World War I. The Germans and the Allies had used combined arms in 1918 to achieve deeper penetrations of the enemy front than they had previously managed at any time since 1914. During the interwar period, the deep operation (essentially as it had been conceived in the German General Staff's tactical instructions, "The Attack in Positional Warfare" of January 1918, a coordinated frontal thrust designed to break through multiple defense lines to depths of twenty-five or thirty miles in several weeks) was regarded as the most practicable means of averting another trench deadlock such as had occurred in World War I.24 The envelopment dated back to 2 August of 216 B.C. when a Carthaginian force under Hannibal encircled and annihilated a much larger Roman force under the Consul Terentius Varro at Cannae. Hannibal's accomplishment had been long admired but seldom repeated. The pre-World War I Chief of the German General Staff, Generalfeldmarschall Alfred Graf von Schlieffen, analyzed the several dozen eighteenth and nineteenth century battles in which enveloping maneuvers had been employed and found only one fully successful encirclement--the Battle of Sedan in September 1870, which decided the Franco-Prussian


War against France.25 Schlieffen concluded, and military opinion generally concurred during and after World War I, that to attempt an encirclement, unless the opportunity for one arose by chance in the course of a battle, was an almost pure gamble because an envelopment, even by a numerically superior force, was difficult to complete and easy to evade. In Schlieffen's opinion, a complete battle of encirclement required a daring and imaginative Hannibal and a stubbornly inflexible Terentius Varro, "both cooperating for attainment of the great goal."26

In the German campaigns against Poland in September 1939 and France and the Low Countries in May and June 1940, strategic envelopments and combined arms deep operations conducted at high speed and to greater depths than had previously been thought possible produced the blitzkrieg. For the 1941 campaign against the Soviet Union, the envelopment was incorporated into the deep operation to form the Zangenangriff ("pincers movement"), the double envelopment repeatedly executed along the strategic lines of attack. The blitzkrieg attained the highest state of its operational development in the 1941 campaign in the East but did not achieve a decisive strategic result. On 6 July 1942, when the Stavka ordered the retreat in the southern sector, Stalin stopped playing Terentius Varro to Hitler's Hannibal, and the encirclements accomplished thereafter were mostly of empty space.

In November 1942, the roles changed, and Hitler cooperated in German Sixth Army's encirclement and annihilation. Soviet histories rank the battle as "the Cannae of the twentieth century"; as "the first example in the history of war of such a powerful enemy grouping, equipped with the latest technology, being encircled and totally liquidated"; and as having "enriched the military art with a classical example of the modern offensive operation."27 The envelopment is stated to have been the Soviet main form of maneuver in the operations conducted from late 1942 until the end of the war.28

In the months from November 1942 to February 1943, the envelopment was indeed the main form: the Soviet record shows ten major enveloping operations to have been initiated and to have been components of a second winter general offensive on the entire front from Leningrad south to the Taman Peninsula. Had they been completed by March 1943 as planned, the Soviet forces in the center and the south would have reached the Dnepr River seven months earlier and those in the north the Narva River-Lake Peipus line eleven months earlier than they actually did. However, only three of the operations were completed, the one at Stalingrad and two of lesser magnitude and effectiveness carried out against German Second Army and Hungarian


Second Army in late January 1943. Of the others, MARS failed; SATURN was reduced to providing support on the approaches to the Stalingrad pocket; and two, on the Narva River-Lake Ilmen line and on the Taman Peninsula, did not materialize. The three directed toward Kursk, Kharkov, and the Dnepr bend regained substantial and important territory but also brought on a reverse that restored the initiative to the Germans in the spring of 1943.29 The victory at Stalingrad, great as it was, was not economical in either time or effort. On the whole, in the 1942-1943 winter offensive, the Soviet commands did not demonstrate a capability to employ the envelopment as a consistently effective form of maneuver.

The Stavka did not include a single envelopment in its plans for the year 1943. The Soviet Military Encyclopedia lists nine encirclements completed between January 1944 and May 1945, but all of those, except possibly the last, resulted from opportunities that occurred in operations during which they had not been planned.30 When Zhukov and Vasilevskiy proposed to open the 1943 summer offensive with envelopments, Stalin told them he had had enough of envelopments; they were a luxury; the mission was to drive the Germans off Soviet territory fast.31 In his memoirs, General Shtemenko states that the General Staff, in which he was the operations chief during the war, evaluated the envelopment in 1943 and concluded that "because of the time required, the complications of the maneuver, and other considerations, it was far from profitable to encircle every enemy grouping."32

In the summer of 1943, the Soviet forces abandoned the blitzkrieg tactics they had employed in the previous winter campaign and took up the "cleaving blow" (rassekayushchiy udar), a less sophisticated and inherently more ponderous mode of conducting operations but one vastly more reliable in the hands of Soviet commands and troops. The cleaving blow derived from a form of combined arms deep operation (based on the German General Staff's "The Attack in Positional Warfare" of 1918) developed in the Soviet Army in the early 1930s and emerged as the true main form of Soviet World War II operations in the 1943 summer offensive, the advance to the Dnepr River. In August, six fronts launched massive cleaving blows, frontal thrusts running parallel to each other.33 The objectives were to overwhelm the enemy's defenses and to force him back on a broad front (over seven hundred miles broad in that instance).

The Decision

The eleven and one-half months from 5 December 1941 to 19 November 1942 were the time of decision on all fronts in World War II. On 5 December 1941, the Soviet forces counterattacked at Moscow. The Japanese


attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December and the German declaration of war four days later brought the United States into the war. During the summer of 1942, the Germans achieved their farthest advances in the Soviet Union and North Africa and the Japanese theirs in the Pacific. In November 1942, the British broke through at El Alamein on the 3d; American and British forces landed in Morocco and Algeria on the 8th; the Japanese Navy abandoned the fight for Guadalcanal at sea on the 15th; and the Soviet offensive began at Stalingrad on the 19th. After November 1942, the Axis was on the defensive and in recession on all fronts.

However, the Soviet victory at Stalingrad resulted from both sides' commitment of their main forces to a seventeen-month contest for the strategic initiative. By comparison, the Western Allies achieved their successes at Guadalcanal and in North Africa much more cheaply and easily. In the Soviet analysis, this disproportion in the scale of effort confirms the Eastern Front as the "main and decisive front" in the war and the decision there as having also "caused Germany and its allies to go over to the defensive in all of the World War II theaters." In the Soviet view, also, the Western Allies first roused themselves to genuine participation in the war "after it became apparent [in the winter of 1942-1943] that the Soviet Union was in the position to liberate the peoples of Europe from the fascist yoke by means of its own strength."34

But the Soviet Union did not liberate Europe by its own strength, and it remained a bystander to the Pacific war until Japan's defeat was assured. The Soviet Union did not single-handedly open the road to victory in World War II by the decision over Germany in the East. From December 1941 on, the United States carried the burden of a two-front war with Germany and Japan and assumed the tremendous task of building sufficient strength in ground, sea, and air forces to impose a second front on Germany. The roads that began at Stalingrad for the Soviet forces and in North Africa for those of the Western Allies converged in the heart of Germany. After the U.S. Navy had forced the Japanese Navy to withdraw from the waters around Guadalcanal, the "retreat of the Japanese armed forces would not end until Japan surrendered."35

The period of the decision over Germany as it is construed in this volume does not figure in the Soviet periodization of the Soviet-German war, the Great Patriotic War. It falls within two larger periods: that of the strategic defensive (22 June 1941 to 19 November 1942), in which the Moscow counteroffensive begun on 5 December 1941 produced a "radical change" (povorot) in the war, and that of the "radical turn" (perelom) (19 November 1942 to December 1943), which the encirclement at Stalingrad initiated. This treatment enables Soviet war history to do justice to the full unfolding of Soviet military power by bringing the battle of Kursk in July 1943 (a German offensive smashed at the start) and the summer offensive begun in August 1943 (proof that the Soviet forces did not


need the help of "General Winter") into the period of the radical turn while also preserving the stature of the two great turning points, at Stalingrad and Moscow, without slighting either of them. On the other hand, non-Soviet war history is concerned with German failure as well as Soviet success and with the circumstances of and reasons for both. These concerns have determined the time span of this volume.

During the interval covered in this volume, the courses of the war and of world history turned. At Moscow, on 5 December 1941, the Soviet reserves and the weather transformed what would in any event have been a most unsatisfactory ending to the German 1941 campaign into a disaster. The United States' entry into the war made Germany's defeat inescapable if the German forces could not overcome the Soviet Union before the American power came into play, and that they could not have done after 5 December 1941. Germany could not have done more thereafter than to keep the strategic initiative out of Soviet hands, and it failed at that on 19 November 1942. The battles at Moscow and Stalingrad were indeed the radical povorot and the radical perelom of the war in the East. The first terminated Germany's bid for world power; the second put the Soviet Union on the road to a full share in the victory and to superpower status.

The governing factors in the Soviet decision over Germany were the Soviet manpower, industrial base, and territory. German strategies designed primarily to destroy Soviet manpower proved inadequate in 1941 and abortive in 1942. Despite the Germans' best efforts, the Soviet strength at the front grew from 2.9 million men in June 1941 to 4.2 million in December 1941 and then to 5.5 million in June 1942 and to 6.1 million in November 1942.36 In March 1943, Hitler still rated the Soviet Union's running out of manpower "sooner or later" as his best strategic prospect in the war but conceded that he no longer counted on it.37

The Soviet industrial base figured in the December 1940 plan for Operation BARBAROSSA primarily as a German war aim. Had BARBAROSSA been terminated as planned on the Arkhangelsk-Volga River line, it would have brought the central (Moscow-Upper Volga) and southern (Donets Basin) industrial regions, which then accounted for over 80 percent of productive capacity, under German control. Hitler's decision in August 1941 to shift the main effort from the center to the south and thereby make the industrial base also a strategic objective closed down the southern region, which accounted for over half of Soviet output particularly of coal and steel, but in the subsequent course of events put Moscow and the central region out of German reach.38 The drastic declines in Soviet coal (63 percent) and steel (58 percent) production in the last quarter of 1941 resulted from the disruption and partial loss of the southern industrial region. But the German reverse at Moscow in December 1941 left the Soviet Union in possession of the central region, and it and two other regions, the Urals and the western Siberian (Kuznets Basin),


sufficed to decide the contest for the industrial base in the Soviet favor.39

The German 1942 offensive totally crippled the southern industrial region and caused a drastic decline in oil output in the Caucasus. The following table shows that coal, steel, and oil production, in millions of tons, did not recover during the war:40

Commodity 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
Coal 165.9 151.4 75.5 93.1 121.5 149.3
Steel 18.3 17.9 8.1 8.5 10.9 12.3
Oil 31.1 33.0 22.0 18.0 18.3 19.4

German output, also in millions of tons, during roughly the same period was as follows:41

Commodity 1941 1942 1943 1944
Coal 246.0 258.0 269.0 281.0
Steel 31.8 32.1 34.6 35.2
Oil 4.8 5.6 6.6 ---

Nevertheless, in 1942, Soviet output already had surpassed that of Germany in tanks and other armored vehicles (24,400 Soviet; 4,800 German), in aircraft (21,700 Soviet; 14,700 German), in infantry rifles and carbines (4 million Soviet; 1.4 million German), and in artillery (for which comparable figures are not available). Soviet accounts attribute this remarkable feat entirely to the Communist system's ability to overcome adverse circumstances, but it also appears likely that stocks of strategic materials, particularly steel and other metals, had been accumulated before the war.42 Certainly, the 3 million tons of lend-lease supplies delivered by 30 June 1943 and the Western Allies' commitment to provide much greater quantities thereafter (all told 17.5 million long tons, 16.4 million of them from the United States) helped the Soviet Union to devote its own resources to weapons and ammunition production.43

The vastness of its territory had been the most vexing strategic problem the Russian Empire presented to a would-be conqueror. In June 1811, a year before Napoleon I made his attempt, Tsar Alexander put it in classic form to General Armand de Caulaincourt, the French ambassador in St. Petersburg: "We have plenty space," Alexander said, " . . . which means that we need never accept a dictated peace, no matter what reverses we may suffer."44 During the civil war of 1918-1921 and before that contest for the territory of the empire was resolved, Stalin propounded the principle of "the stability of the rear." In it he maintained that the Communist military success in the war then going on or in any other required possession of the Russian heartland, the broad belt of ethnic Russian territory lying roughly between Moscow and Leningrad in the west and reaching eastward into the Ural Mountains.45


Alexander's principle of space (which, of course, was so generally accepted even in his time as to hardly need to be stated) and Stalin's of the stability of the rear dominated the strategies of both sides in the struggle for the decision. The Soviet leadership used space as a last resort, not as the weapon of choice Alexander had seemed to imply it was. It was ready on 22 June 1941 to fight a war of attrition but not one deep in its own territory; nevertheless, it did that--involuntarily in 1941 and deliberately from 6 July to 19 November 1942. On the other hand, it applied the principle of the stability of the rear, in the terms Stalin had stated it two decades earlier, as soon as the likely course of the war became apparent. From early July 1941 to 19 November 1942 (and for at least some weeks after), the Soviet main effort was always in the center, on the approaches to Moscow, the citadel of the heartland. The German blitzkrieg, the most effective form of the war of annihilation yet devised, had to come to grips with the Soviet main forces. It did not do that. Hitler had diverted the main effort from the center to the south in August 1941 and again in the summer of 1942, thereby, in the first instance, dissipating his best chance and, in the second, his last chance of annihilating the mass of the Soviet Army, which had been the stated primary objective in the original BARBAROSSA directive of December 1940 and all those issued thereafter. Whether the outcome could have been different if the diversions had not been made is now at best a moot question. However, their having been made could have had no other result than to substantiate a prediction Alexander had based on the principle of space, which was that under its conditions, the would-be conqueror was likely in the end to have to accept the terms of his intended victim.


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1. Chuikov, The Battle for Stalingrad, p. 218. Originally published as Nachalo puti (Moscow: Voyennoye Izdatelstvo, 1959).

2. USSR Embassy, Information Bulletin, no. 10, 28 Jan 43, p. 1; Ibid., no. 19, 25 Feb 43, p. 2.

3. IVMV, vol. VI, p. 82; VOV, p. 190; USSR Embassy, Information Bulletin, no. 12, 28 Jan 42, p. 5.

4. Dept. of State, Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. III, p. 506; USSR Embassy, Information Bulletin, no. 135, 1942, pp. 1-6; Ibid., no. 19, 25 Feb 43, pp. 1-3.

5. Domarus, Hitler, vol. II, p. 1985.

6. Jacobsen, Der zweite Weltkrieg, pp. 373-75.

7. Helmet Heiber, ed., Goebbels-Reden (Duesseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1972), pp. 165, 173-75, 208.

8. Deutsches Institut fuer Wirtschaftsforschung, Deutsche Industrie im Kriege, pp. 37, 46f, 49, 159, 178.

9. OKW, Stellvertretende Chef des Wehrmachtfuehrungsstabes, Kriegstagebuch vom 1.1.-31.3.43, 16 and 22 Jan 43, I.M.T Doc. 1786 PS; Jacobsen, Der zweite Weltkrieg, p. 378; Heiber, Goebbels, pp. 189, 199.

10. Juergen Foerster, Stalingrad, Risse im Buendniss, 1942-1943 (Freiburg: Verlag Rombach, 1975), pp. 46-66; (Geb.) AOK 20, Ia Nr. 133/43, an OKW, WFSt, 29.1.43, AOK 20 36560/2 file.

11. Foerster, Stalingrad, p. 68; Paul Schmidt, Statist auf diplomatischer Buehne, 1923-1945 (Bonn: Athenaeum Verlag, 1949), p. 555.

12. IVMV, vol. V, 236.

13. Zakharov, 50 let, p. 333.

14. See the biographical entries in Ministerstvo Oborony SSSR, Institut Voyennoy Istorii, Sovetskaya Voyennaya Entsiklopediya (Moscow: Voyennoye Izdatelstvo, 1980) and in the registers of names in the appropriate volumes of IVOVSS.

15. IVMV, vol. V, p. 326.

16. Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier, p. 274.

17. Domarus, Hitler, vol. II, p. 1922.

18. Taetigkeitsbericht des Chefs des Heerespersonalamts, 1-5 Oct 42, H 4/12 file.

19. The post-Stalingrad phase of the Soviet 1942-1943 winter offensive is treated in detail in ch. V of Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin.

20. Manstein, Verlorene Siege, pp. 437-44.

21. David Irving, Hitler's War (New York: Viking Press, 1977), pp. 497-99; Louis E Lochner, ed., The Goebbels Diaries (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1948), p. 294.

22. Domarus, Hitler, vol. II, p. 1999; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. Nr. 430163/43, Operationsbefehl Nr. 3, 13.3.43, CMH files.

23. Jacobsen, Der zweite Weltkrieg, pp. 383-85.

24. Erich Ludendorff, Urkunden der Obersten Heeresleitung ueber ihre Taetigkeit 1916/18 (Berlin: E. S. Mittler u. Sohn, 1920), pp. 641-66; Hermann Foertsch, Kriegskunst heute und morgen (Berlin: Wilhelm Andermann, 1939), pp. 228-35.

25. Schlieffen himself designed the next envelopment to be attempted after Sedan. Executed after his death, it failed in September 1914. The battle of Tannenberg, the German victory on the Eastern Front in August 1914, produced the one successful encirclement in World War I.

26. Alfred von Schlieffen, Cannae (Fort Leavenworth: The Command and General Staff School Press, 1931), pp. 297-306; Foertsch, Kriegskunst, p. 246.

27. Bagramyan, Istoriya voyn, p. 205; IVOVSS, vol. III, p. 65; VOV (Kratkaya Istoriya), p. 174.

28. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, p. 867; IVOVSS, vol. VI, p. 235; Bagramyan, Istoriya voyn, p. 479.

29. IVMV, vol. VI, maps 2, 10, 11.

30. The last, the encirclement of Army Group Center east of Prague, was completed on 11 May 1945, four days after the war against Germany had ended. Voyennaya Entsiklopediya, vol. VI, pp. 37, 494-96.

31. G. K. Zhukov, Vospominaniya i razmyshleniya (Moscow: Izdatelstvo Agenstva Pechati Novosti, 1969), p. 518.

32. S. M. Shtemenko, Generalnyy stab v gody voyny (Moscow: Voyennoye Izdatelstvo, 1981), vol. I, p. 236.

33. On the operations and their form at this stage see Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, ch. VIII.

34. IVMV, vol. VI, pp. 318, 504.

35. Paul S. Dull, A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945) (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1978), p. 247.

36. IVMV, vol. V, p. 143 and vol. VI, p. 35, table 4.

37. Jacobsen, Der zweite Weltkrieg, p. 384.

38. The estimates of the relative importance of the central and southern regions are based on Theodore Shabad, Geography of the Soviet Union: A Regional Survey (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951), pp. 79, 107.

39. The decision could probably be attributed equally well to the five-year plans for industrialization, which during the 1930s had promoted industrial development in the eastern regions (for the purpose of putting the plants out of bombing range).

40. IVMV, vol. XII, p. 161.

41. Deutsches Institut fuer Wirtschaftsforschung, Deutsche Industrie im Kriege, p. 52.

42. IVMV, vol. XII, pp. 161-68; Zakharov, 50 let, p. 457f; Deutsches Institut fuer Wirtschaftsforschung, Deutsche Industrie im Kriege, pp. 71, 183.

43. Jones, Roads to Russia, app. A, table 1.

44. Armand de Caulaincourt, Memoires du general de Caulaincourt (Paris: Librierie Plon, 1933), vol. I, p. 292.

45. Stalin defined the stable rear as being "of prime importance to the front, because it is from the rear, and the rear alone, that the front obtains not only all kinds of supplies, but also its manpower, sentiments, and ideas." During World War II, he established the stability of the rear as the chief of several so-called permanent operating factors in war. Stalin, Sochineniya, vol. IV, pp. 284-88, 323-26; K. E. Voroshilov, Stalin and the Armed Forces of the USSR (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1951), pp. 107-23.

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation