If tension ran high in the German headquarters at the end of summer 1942, it was scarcely less in the Soviet command. On 30 August the Germans broke through the intermediate Stalingrad defense ring forcing the defenders back toward the inner ring on the outskirts of the city itself.1 Two days later, General Polkovnik Andrei I. Yeremenko, commanding at Stalingrad, and his commissar, General Leytenant Nikita S. Khrushchev, appealed to the troops to stand and defend the city. On 3 September the Soviet Supreme Commander, Joseph V. Stalin, declared that Stalingrad "could be taken today or tomorrow" if the forces between the Don and the Volga north of the city did not counterattack immediately.2 In haste the Soviet command committed three reserve armies of untrained replacements in a counterattack on 5 September.3 Halder observed several days later that the German Sixth Army, attacking toward Stalingrad, was making good progress and had had a "defensive success" on its north flank.4

The Russians did not know what sacrifices the current campaign might yet entail, and the cost of war was already truly colossal. To certainly 6,000,000, possibly as many as 8,000,000, military losses in killed and captured were added millions of civilian casualties, a million or more dead of starvation alone in Leningrad during the winter of 1941-42. The Soviet Union had lost 47 percent of its inhabited places, territory in which 80,000,000 persons had resided. That territory had produced 71 percent of the Soviet pig iron, 58 percent of its steel, 63 percent of its mined coal, and 42 percent of its electricity.5 By the end of their 1941 offensive the Germans had occupied areas that had produced 38 percent of the grain and cattle and 84 percent of the Soviet sugar.6

The Soviet Command

The price was not more than the Soviet regime was willing to pay. Stalin was in a duel to the death and knew it, and he had never counted the cost of sacrifices that furthered the ends of the Communist system or sustained his power. The capacity to sacrifice lives and territory was in fact the historic Russian strategic asset. But the issue of survival in a war with a technically and militarily proficient enemy ultimately had to be decided on other terms. That these would be far more stringent than anyone


had supposed had been fully brought home only under the shock of invasion. Since then the Soviet leadership had worked feverishly to make good the deficiencies. In the waning days of summer 1942, when it again appeared that the German armies could march wherever they pleased in the heart of the Communist homeland, the burning question was whether those labors would become engulfed in a general collapse of the national will to resist. Morale of the troops and the people showed signs of breaking. The burden of suffering, of defeats, and of mistakes weighed more heavily than at any time in the war. The confidence and hope the winter's successes had raised were dissipated. The Soviet command, it appeared, might have taken its people close to the edge of disaster too many times.

On the Eve of War

From the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 until mid-1941 Soviet policy was compounded of a nice mixture of ambition and apprehension. Alternately aggressive and timorous, the Soviet Union cultivated an offensive military posture but at the same time sedulously maneuvered to avoid a genuine military confrontation. The Nazi-Soviet pact signed in August 1939 and the secret protocols added in September of that year gave the Soviet Union substantial new territory in the west, a free hand in the adjacent areas of eastern Europe and, on paper, immunity from direct German aggression. The 1939-40 Winter War with Finland brought a victory of sorts, some territorial gains, an unwholesome international reputation, and a loss of military prestige. The German victories of 1940 in France and the Low Countries raised doubts on both sides concerning the profitability of the pact. Joseph Stalin almost certainly was not pleased suddenly to find himself alone on the Continent with Hitler. To the Germans, the Soviet moves into the Baltic States and Bessarabia and the renewed threats against Finland appeared as blackmail, which in fact they were. After mid-1940 both parties felt increasingly restive in the partnership, but only one, Germany, was ready to do something about it. In November, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov went to Berlin to negotiate an increase in his country's share and received a barely veiled warning that Germany would not tolerate any further Soviet expansion on its western borders--the warning was heeded. In April 1941 the Soviet Union stood by while Germany pocketed the Balkans, the traditional Russian sphere of interest. Throughout, and up to the day before the invasion, the Soviet Union adhered scrupulously to the schedule of economic exchange on which Germany by then had fallen substantially behind.

In late April 1941, at the end of the Balkan campaign, the German Ambassador to the Soviet Union told Hitler that Stalin was "prepared to make even further concessions to us."7 On 6 May, Stalin, who until then had preferred to exercise power from behind the scenes, for the first time assumed an executive post in the government, becoming, as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, the official chief of the Soviet state. The move, prompted by awareness of a growing danger, was, as the German Ambassador interpreted it, primarily designed to give Stalin a stronger


and more open position from which to direct his efforts at staying on good terms with Germany.8

On the eve of the war both dictators plunged determinedly onward toward disaster. Hitler, who had not yet completely overawed his advisers, brushed aside all arguments against his impending Russian adventure. Stalin's men were hardly likely to tell him things he did not wish to hear; nevertheless, for him too, holding the course he had set required a deliberate exercise of will. The German deployment to the east, which went into full swing in early 1941, could be ignored or misinterpreted, but it could not have escaped the notice of an intelligence apparatus as highly developed as that of the Soviet Union. That it had not, could be inferred from the 10 April alert, which ordered an increased state of readiness for the military districts on the western frontier.9 The German Ambassador, however, told Hitler that the Soviet activity on the frontier was nothing more than an automatic reaction prompted by the "well-known Russian urge for 300 percent security."10 That same urge for security, had the German deployment been properly interpreted at the highest level, would beyond doubt have set in motion mobilization measures on an altogether different order of magnitude from those which were actually undertaken. But Stalin held the lid on tight, coldly ignoring official warnings from Britain and the United States and apparently oblivious to the impending military showdown between Germany and the Soviet Union, rumors of which, the German Ambassador observed, were being brought along with facts to confirm them by "every traveler" from Germany to Moscow.11 On 14 June 1941, Tass, the official Soviet news agency, published a communiqué which stated that according to Soviet Government information, Germany was observing the nonaggression pact as strictly as the Soviet Union was and no grounds existed for thinking that Germany meant to break the pact.12

Preparedness and Doctrine

The Soviet Union was neither devoted to peace--in the last half of the decade of the 1930's it had fought in Spain, in the Far East, and against Finland--nor was it unprepared for war in the same sense that Great Britain and the United States, for instance, were not ready. It was badly prepared owing chiefly to administrative malfunctions that, despite substantial effort and some remarkable achievements, prevented attainment of readiness for war on the plane to which the Germans had by the early 1940's raised the military art.

The great and persistent Soviet weakness was lack of initiative at all levels, which resulted in dogmatism, slavish dependence on orders from the top, and preference for the fixed and approved formula even when it was contradicted by reason or experience.13 That weakness had been made much worse by the great purges of the 1930's, which had removed the most experienced and independent commanders and had made conformity a near-absolute prerequisite for survival. The immediate


and aggravating influence was the so-called personality cult associated with Stalin, but it may be doubted whether under the Soviet system, in any case, a complete cure would have been possible or desired.

Although the Soviet command had direct combat experience and the examples of the early World War II campaigns in western Europe to learn from, the most important lessons had in some instances been misinterpreted and in others unsuccessfully applied. From the Spanish Civil War it had drawn the conclusions that large armored units were not worthwhile and that aircraft would only be useful for operations over the battlefield. Consequently, the mechanized corps in the Army had been abolished, and aircraft production had concentrated on fighter and close ground support types.14 From 1939 until shortly before the invasion, the largest Soviet armored unit was the tank brigade. Soviet doctrine in that period regarded the tank as primarily an infantry support weapon. After mid-1940, apparently under the influence of the German example in France, the mechanized corps and tank divisions were reinstituted, but then in the haste to get a large number fast few were fully equipped.15

For the Soviet command the war with Finland had been a traumatic experience. It had disclosed deep-seated weaknesses in the military structure. Finnish Marshal Carl Mannerheim aptly compared the Soviet performance to one by a badly conducted orchestra in which the players could not keep time.16 By the Russians' own later admission, many of the officers "had no clear conception of modern war" and could not plan or command a co-ordinated operation.17 The damage to the Soviet military reputation abroad was enormous, greater, perhaps, than it should have been in the light of the recent and successful Soviet actions against the Japanese at Khassan Lake and on the Khalkhin Gol in the Far East.

The experience in Finland may have been in considerable part responsible for Stalin's determination to avoid a clash with Germany at any cost. Quickly thereafter the Soviet Union had displayed an intense desire to avoid becoming militarily embroiled with either side in the big war. When the Germans invaded Norway in April 1940, allegedly to forestall the British and French who had talked about sending troops through Norway to aid the Finns, they thought they would have to make explanations to the Soviet Union and were surprised when the invasion elicited a figurative "big sigh of relief" even though the Soviet-Finnish war was by then over.18

How fundamental were the defects which the Finnish war had revealed was demonstrated by the reforms undertaken in the Soviet military system. In April 1940, as soon as the war had ended, the Army abolished the old, formula-ridden, oversimplified training instructions and undertook to establish combat-oriented officer training courses. In May general and admiral ranks were reinstituted in the armed forces and other egalitarian holdovers from the Revolution were abandoned. In August the commissar system was abolished. A conference held in December 1940, however, revealed that most officers



were still receiving stereotyped training and that only small progress was being made toward achieving individual initiative and flexibility.19

In weapons the Soviet Union had made some remarkable advances. It had developed multiple rocket projectors, the famous Katyushas; the T34 medium tank, which was diesel-propelled, faster, and more heavily armed and armored than any of the German tanks; and the--for that time--superheavy KV (Klimenti Voroshilov) models of tanks that ranged in weight to upwards of sixty tons. But the tanks and rocket projectors as well as new aircraft types had not been put into full-scale production by the time of the invasion. Armament production had been high and steadily increasing throughout the period of the Five Year Plans but without emphasis on or appreciation of new weapons. The Commisariat of Defense had, for instance, classified submachine guns as police weapons and therefore had not included them in the military production plans.20

From the German victories in western Europe the Soviet command had apparently also failed to draw pertinent conclusions. It saw as the chief causes for the Polish and French defeats the lack of will to resist and the fifth column.21 That reasoning, projected into the Soviet period of great defeats, was to occasion vast, pointless,


and at times paralyzing suspicion and terror. The Soviet command, moreover, had no clear conception of what would happen when war began. It assumed that initially both sides would be engaged in mobilization and strategic deployment and therefore not ready to launch major operations for several weeks. Hence, it assumed further that the frontier military districts would be capable of holding the enemy until mobilization was completed and the Soviet forces could take the offensive.22

In June 1941 the defense of the Soviet western frontier was assigned to the Leningrad, Baltic Special, Western Special, Kievan Special, and Odessa Military Districts.23 If war broke out they were to become front (army group) headquarters commanding initially twelve armies, three on the Finnish border and nine on the frontier between the Baltic and Black Seas.24 While it is difficult to accept that the western frontier military districts were in as austere a condition as the Soviet post-Stalin accounts would have them appear, they were undoubtedly not prepared for the test to which they were about to be subjected. They were established along a line that had over nearly all of its length less than two years before, in places less than a year before, been deep in foreign territory. The border defenses and the communications lines were still mostly under construction. The much more highly developed Stalin Line behind the old border had lately been neglected and, in any event, was not included in the war plan.25

Most serious, the Soviet Army was then a rigid instrument, uncertain in its responses under the best conditions, with a very low probability of successful reaction to surprise. It was to face as near total surprise as any army has encountered in modern times. The directive placing the frontier military districts on a war footing was issued from Moscow at 0030 on 22 June. Three hours later, before any warning had reached the forward units, the Germans crossed the border.26

Because of the Soviet reluctance to release hard statistics, nearly all Soviet strength figures must remain estimates (as must to a much greater degree all Soviet casualty figures). The best available Soviet figure on troop strength gives a total of 4,207,000 men in the Soviet armed forces "by 1941."27 If the German estimate which places roughly 70 percent of the Soviet strength in divisions on the western frontier is accepted, and if allowances are made for naval and air force personnel and a possible strength increase during 1941, the actual combat-ready Soviet strength in the western military districts amounted to about 3,000,000 men. Undoubtedly, the war plan envisaged a very rapid increase in the days immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, and very likely


such an increase was partially accomplished even under the conditions that accompanied the German attack.

In military equipment and weapons the Soviet forces had some striking numerical superiorities and qualitative deficiencies. Of 6,000 combat aircraft at stations in Europe (8,000 planes estimated in the whole Soviet Air Force), for example, only 1,100 were recent models.28 According to German intelligence estimates the Soviet Army had 10,000 tanks (out of a total of 15,000) in armored units on or near the western frontier.29 The far greater part of those were older types but the western military districts had 1,475 KV and T34 tanks, both of which were superior to any of the German tanks.30 Production of the newest models of weapons and tanks was rising rapidly. In the first five and one-half months of 1941, 1,500 KV and T34 tanks had been built against less than 400 in the previous year.

On balance, the Soviet Union was not at a positive disadvantage initially except in the air, and, even in the short term, it had the potential to achieve superiority in troops and possibly also in war production.

Invasion and Retreat

Under the shock of invasion the Soviet Government responded predictably with a series of decisions aimed at centralizing military and political controls and strengthening the influence of the Communist Party. On 23 June it created the Stavka (Staff) of the High Command of the Soviet Armed Forces under the Commissar of Defense Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Semen K. Timoshenko.31 That same day the military commissars were reinstituted in the armed forces and given equal command responsibility with the military commanders. A week later all the powers of government, including the ultimate authority over the armed forces, were concentrated in a 5-man State Defense Committee under Stalin. An important member of the State Defense Committee was Lavrenti P. Beria, the police chief, whose NKVD (secret police) units were setting up blocking detachments behind the front to catch stragglers and prevent unauthorized retreats.32 On the first day of the war the five military districts on the western frontier became Leningrad, Northwest, West, Southwest, and South Fronts.

On the frontier, surprise soon turned to confusion and in not a few instances panic. To hold with the first echelon until a counterattack could be prepared, although now clearly an impossibility, remained the whole basis of Soviet strategy. A reserve front of four armies created on the third day in the most endangered sector due west of Moscow was first ordered to be ready to counterattack and then, on 1 July, combined with the shattered West Front.33 Still trying to halt the retreat, Stalin had the Commanding General, West Front, and his staff shot and some days later applied the same Draconian remedy to the Northwest Front.34 Henceforth an officer who permitted a retreat forfeited his life. The pistol shot in the back of the neck became a very common occupational


hazard for all ranks in the Soviet Army.

In the first two weeks of July the Soviet Command, stripped by the force of events of its earlier illusions, set about organizing for a desperate, bitter, and costly struggle. On the 3d, Stalin, who had not made any public statement until then, in a nationwide radio address called for a "patriotic," nationalistic effort against the foreign invader, for a scorched-earth policy in the threatened areas, and for partisan warfare in the occupied territory.35 The creation of the Stavka of the Supreme Command (supplanting the High Command Stavka) with Stalin at its head continued the centralization that had been begun at the start of the war and that was completed when Stalin assumed the posts of Defense Commissar (19 July 1941) and Commander in Chief of the Soviet Armed Forces (7 August 1941).

The Stavka of the Supreme Command remained the highest Soviet military planning and executive group throughout the war. The Stavka was, under the State Defense Committee, a strategic planning council rather than a general staff, but it could issue orders through the Army General Staff, the administrations and commands of the service arms, or directly to the field commands. Its dozen or so members included the Army Chief of Staff, the Chief of the Naval Staff, high-ranking representatives of the combat arms, and top experts from the technical services.

More genuinely urgent than the reorganization of the top level command, which after all served mainly to strengthen Stalin's position, was the necessity for devising a workable system of command in the field. Three of the five original front commands had proved unequal to their missions.36 The degree of incompetence in the lesser commands was as high or higher. The purges had removed too many experienced officers and had brought many others too rapid advancement, especially in the higher ranks. The only solution was to bring the unit organizations more nearly within the range of command capabilities. In mid-July the rifle corps and mechanized corps were abolished and the armies were reduced to at most five or six divisions. The rifle divisions, which had had actual peacetime strengths of about 12,000 men, were for the most part already being reduced by attrition and drastic organizational shortcuts to 6,000 to 9,000 men. The tank divisions were broken up into smaller independent units which were assigned directly to the armies. In essence, the armor was again reduced to an infantry support role.

The one shift away both from the trend toward centralization and from the reduction in the sizes of commands was the creation on 10 July of three high commands for the so-called strategic directions, Northwest, West, and Southwest. They were expected to co-ordinate the operations on broad sectors comparable to those of the German army groups and eliminate the time lag in the transmission of orders and decisions from Moscow.37 They were turned over to Marshals Klimenti I. Voroshilov (Northwest), Timoshenko (West), and Semen M. Budenny (Southwest), men whose military experience had been acquired in the civil war and whose exalted ranks reflected political rather than professional


competence. The commands for the strategic directions, as far as can be determined, never assumed their full functions and were, except for the Southwest Command, which survived into early 1942, soon quietly abolished.

In mid-July, when German Army Group Center pushed into the gap between the Dvina and Dnepr Rivers, the strategic gateway to Moscow, and formed several large encirclements north and south of Smolensk, the Stavka deployed a second reserve front of six armies east of Smolensk.38 The Soviet command was doing exactly what the Germans had hoped it would; it was standing and fighting and not voluntarily retreating into the interior. It had, moreover, made the decision that Halder and Brauchitsch had predicted, namely, to put its main effort in the center, in front of Moscow.39

While Army Group Center stood by in August and September awaiting the return of its big armored formations, the Soviet build-up continued. At the end of September, two days before Army Group Center went back into motion, the fronts on the Moscow approaches had more than 40 percent of the Soviet Army personnel and artillery and 35 percent of the aircraft and tanks.40 The strategy was still the same: meet the enemy head-on, wear him down, stop him, and then counterattack. Again it failed. In a week the Germans trapped the greater part of six armies in pockets at Bryansk and Vyaz'ma. On 10 October the Army Chief of Staff, General Armii Georgi K. Zhukov, took command of the West Front into which the reserve front had been merged and therewith assumed responsibility for the defense of Moscow.41

October was a black month for the Soviet Union, the darkest of the entire war. Leningrad was under tight siege; Moscow was threatened; Kharkov fell; and German armies closed in on the Donets Basin industrial area. The human cost was appalling. The Germans claimed 3,000,000 prisoners alone.42

On the other hand, the Germans, in action continuously for four months, had to contend with the added strains that the fall rains and mud inflicted on men and equipment. The margin of German superiority was narrowing. In the second half of October the Soviet command created three new reserve armies. In the first two weeks of November, it deployed six additional reserve armies to backstop the whole front on the line Lake Onega-Gorki-Stalingrad-Astrakhan. By the end of November five reserve armies, two of them new, were deployed in and around Moscow.43

The First Winter Offensive

The German weakness showed first on the flanks. In November Army Group North was stopped at Tikhvin; Army Group South was stopped at Rostov and then, before the end of the month, had to fall back to the Mius River. At the end of November the Stavka released three reserve armies plus better than a dozen divisions to the West Front. On the morning 6 December Zhukov counterattacked.44 It was in fact the moment the Russians had been waiting for since June, but the Stavka


moved cautiously, giving the West Front and the Kalinin Front (created on 17 October) on its right only enough strength from the reserves initially to achieve a 1.5:1 superiority in troops, tanks, and artillery and 2:1 in aircraft.45

In December, while West, Kalinin, and Southwest Fronts fought to eliminate the German threat to Moscow, the Stavka extended the counteroffensive north and south along the length of the front from Tikhvin to the Kerch' Peninsula. By the turn of the year it had worked out plans and deployed the reserves for a general offensive that would have as its objectives the destruction of Army Group Center, the liberation of Leningrad, and the reconquest of the Donets Basin and the Crimea. On 7 January 1942 the Stavka gave Kalinin and West Fronts, assisted by the fronts on their flanks, the mission of "not only encircling, but also splitting and destroying piecemeal," the main force of Army Group Center.46

In deciding to go to the general offensive the Stavka overreached itself. On 10 January it called attention to serious and elementary tactical errors that had been made during the period of the December counteroffensive, among them failure to concentrate at the points of main effort, dispersal of armor and artillery, and poor co-ordination of the combat arms.47 For the Stavka to recognize the weaknesses was one thing; for the field commands to correct them was quite another. In the general offensive the fronts and armies frittered away the reserves and, despite frequent admonitions, failed to observe the principles of concentration and mass in employing their troops, artillery, and tanks. On 1 February, trying to save part of the offensive, the Stavka gave Zhukov full command of the operation against Army Group Center, but it was too late. By then the reserves were all committed. After midmonth the power of the offensive began to decline everywhere.48

Although the 1941-42 winter offensive failed to accomplish a clear-cut victory, it dealt the enemy a damaging blow. Most important, it destroyed the myth of German invincibility and raised immeasurably Soviet military prestige abroad and political prestige at home. It imbued the Russian people with confidence and gave the regime a renewed hold on the population on both sides of the front. It gave the Army a fund of experience to exploit in developing viable offensive doctrine. The opportunity was not wasted. Special detachments in the General Staff, the staffs of the service arms, staff and command schools, fronts, and armies set about collecting and evaluating information and producing instructional materials.49

1942, Retreat and Recovery

Encouraged by the winter's successes, the Stavka planned to keep the initiative and, after the spring thaw, attack at Leningrad, Demyansk, Orel, Kharkov, in the Donets Basin, and on the Crimea, to forestall the Germans and create conditions for another Soviet general offensive.50 Defensively it built up the central sector of the front, expecting the German main effort again to be directed toward Moscow. The German


attack on the south flank was considered a likely possibility, but it was expected to bear north toward Moscow, not south toward the Caucasus and Stalingrad. Consequently, instead of going to Southwest and South Fronts, the greater part of the Soviet reinforcements went to the central sector, and to Bryansk Front, which was expected to cover Moscow and Tula from the south.51 By those false estimates the Stavka placed itself in an only slightly less dangerous strategic position than that of the previous year.

On 12 May 1942, at Kharkov, the Southwest Front opened the first of the projected preliminary offensives. The plan was to envelop the city from the north and south, the main thrust being made from the south out of a bridgehead that had been created on the Donets around Izyum during the winter fighting. The operation had been conceived with total disregard for the condition of the enemy and for the complications that could result from an attempt to execute an unsupported thrust out of an unstable bridgehead position. Perhaps for those two reasons more than any others, the attack out of the western end of the bridgehead achieved some surprise and gained ground in the first four days; but the Izyum bridgehead had been on Army Group South's own schedule of preliminaries to the summer offensive. On the 17th a German armored force cut into the bridgehead from the south and in a week converted it into a pocket and a trap for 240,000 Soviet troops.52 The Soviet summer offensive evaporated in the Kharkov debacle, and the Southwest Front was weakened beyond repair in the time that was left before the German offensive began.53

The Soviet command at least did not enter the second summer campaign with all the self-imposed handicaps of the first. In July the Stavka gave the orders in time to save Southwest Front and South Front from encirclements. Between 28 June and 24 July, Bryansk, Southwest, and South Fronts fell back 80 to 120 miles and gave up the important Donets Basin. The retreat severely damaged morale throughout the country, and the forces it saved were seriously weakened, but it did deny the Germans a victory of the kind they wanted and needed.54

In the continuing absence of a clear Soviet explanation, the strategy of the 1942 summer campaign seems to have been rooted in a misreading of the German intentions which, costly as the consequences were, may inadvertently have forestalled greater disasters. With the same stubborn consistency it had displayed the year before, the Soviet Command kept its main forces in the center. At the end of June 1942 it had 28 armies between Leningrad and Tula and 18 armies between Tula and the Caucasus, the latter including Bryansk Front's 5 armies which had as their main mission the defense of Moscow on the south. Southwest Front and South Front had between them 10 armies, 3 of them not much more than cadres left from the Kharkov battle. Kalinin Front and West Front, on the direct approaches to Moscow, had a total of 15 armies. That deployment prevailed through the summer. The reinforcement of the south flank, when it took place, came out of newly formed reserves, not, as the Germans


had expected, out of the substance of the forces at the front.

The essential aspect of the 1942 summer campaign was that, while both sides fought it on false premises, the permanently damaging consequences fell entirely on the Germans. In August and September the Soviet armies on the south flank retreated another 80 to 360 miles, but the German armies became overextended and began to outrun their supplies. In the meantime, Soviet reserves had begun to move in along the lower Volga and in the Caucasus.55

By the fall of 1942 the combination of sheer space, Soviet resistance, and the German failure to attain a balance between means and objectives had brought the German armies for a second time to a state of dangerous overextension. Russia was engulfing the German forces as it had those of Napoleon and Charles XII; but to smother an invasion by exploiting space had not, in fact, been a deliberate element in Soviet strategy. In the late prewar period Soviet strategic doctrine, as far as it was formulated, had emphasized the attack and the destruction of the enemy "on his own territory."56 Although, in the post-war Stalinist era, the so-called strategic retreat was elevated after the fact to the status of doctrine, it was not a consciously applied doctrine in either of the first two summer campaigns. Nevertheless, both in 1941 and in 1942 it served better than any other strategy the Soviet command was able to devise.

During the summer, in the midst of the second great retreat, the Soviet Union finally passed its crisis as a military power. In spite of a decline in basic industrial capacity occasioned by the loss of the Donets Basin and the disruption of oil production, direct output of military items rose. Aircraft production increased 60 percent above that of 1941, to 25,000 planes by the end of the year, according to Soviet figures--which appear high. Tank output nearly quadrupled. The Russians officially claimed a total production of better than 24,000 tanks in 1942, 66 percent of them T34's. Over 3,000 multiple rocket projectors were produced in 1942 as against a few hundred the year before.57 In the Army, tank corps were reintroduced, and, following the German example, tank armies were created. In troop strength the Soviet Union held a clear superiority. As of 20 September, according to German estimates, the Soviet forces opposing the German armies numbered 4,255,840 men, 3,013,370 of them at the front and 1,242,470 in reserve. German Army Groups North and Center were outnumbered at the front and, with the Soviet reserves counted in, all of the army groups faced potentially superior forces.58 For the future a further shift was in prospect:



the Soviet recruit class of 1925 numbered 1,400,000 men while that of the Germans would yield only slightly more than one-third as many.

In the midst of the second German offensive, the Soviet military reforms begun in 1940-41 and reversed after the invasion were finally carried through. In the late summer, at the height of the retreat, officers and commissars were authorized, in fact encouraged, to carry out summary executions of "cowards and traitors." This gesture of desperation soon had to be modified. Equally desperate, from the doctrinaire Party point of view, but more to the point, was the simultaneous realization that the traditional military principles, feudal and reactionary as they might be considered, gave armies staying power in the field. Suddenly the Soviet Army began to assume all the old, long-despised trappings of military authority: sharp and rigid rank differentiation as the basis for discipline, strict observance of military etiquette, class status for officers, including special privileges and distinctive uniforms and insignia, the recognition of a Russian, as opposed to the revolutionary, military tradition, and the awarding of medals and decorations. At the same time, such men as Voroshilov and


Budenny, who had achieved high ranks chiefly through political channels, were quietly moved into the background. A most important step toward the professionalization of the Army was the reintroduction on 9 October 1942 of the principle of the single commander. The commissars, who until then had been at least the co-equals of the military commanders, were reduced to deputies responsible primarily for political indoctrination and morale.59

In the higher reaches of the Soviet command the war experience was being rapidly assimilated. In the 1942 retreats the Soviet front and army commands showed some of the flexibility that had been completely absent before. A year of war had produced a core of seasoned, capable officers in the higher commands. Two of the best, Zhukov and General Polkovnik Aleksander M. Vasilevskiy, were with the fronts on the south flank during the summer campaign as representatives of the Stavka. The practice of assigning representatives, begun during the summer of 1941 and further developed throughout the war, gave the Stavka a means of exercising effective control in crucial areas and provided an echelon of command capable of translating strategic guidance from the Stavka into operations. At the end of August 1942 German intelligence concluded that the Soviet higher commands had mastered the tactical principles of modern warfare and would be capable of applying them fully as ably as the Germans themselves were it not for the continuing inferiority of the lower and intermediate staffs.60


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (I) * Next Chapter (III)


1. Institut Marksizma-Leninizma, Istoriya Velikoy Otechestvennoy Voyny Sovetskogo Soyuza, 1941-1945 (Moscow, 1961) (hereafter cited as IVOV (R)), II, 438.

2. A. I. Yeremenko, Stalingrad (Moscow, 1961) , pp. 159-63.

3. IVOV (R), II, 517.

4. Halder Diary, vol. VII, 10 Sep 42.

5. IVOV (R), III, 7.

6. Ibid., II, 166.

7. Raymond James Sontag and James Stuart Beddie, eds., Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939-1941 (Washington, 1948), p. 332.

8. Ibid., p. 336.

9. John Erickson, The Soviet High Command (New York, 1962), p. 574.

10. Sontag and Beddie, eds., Nazi-Soviet Relations, p. 331.

11. Erickson, Soviet High Command, p. 574; Sontag and Beddie, eds., Nazi-Soviet Relations, p. 334.

12. IVOV (R), II, 10.

13. Ibid., I, 439.

14. Ibid., I, 439.

15. Ibid., I, 457.

16. Carl Mannerheim, Erinnerungen (Zuerich, 1952), p. 374.

17. IVOV (R), I, 462.

18. Sontag and Beddie, eds., Nazi-Soviet Relations, p. 140.

19. IVOV (R), I, 463.

20. Ibid., I, 415-16, 453.

21. Ibid., I, 441.

22. Ibid., I, 441, 471.

23. The sector boundaries were as follows: Leningrad Military District--the Finnish border from the Arctic coast to the Isthmus of Karelia; Baltic Special Military District--the East Prussian border; Western Special Military District--from the southern border of the Lithuanian SSR to the northern border of the Ukrainian SSR, Kievan Special Military District--from the northern border of the Ukrainian SSR to the Rumanian border; Odessa Military District--the Rumanian border to the mouth of the Danube. (To help the reader distinguish between opposing forces, all Soviet military organizations appear in italics throughout this volume.)

24. S. P. Platonov, ed., Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-1945 (Moscow, 1958), p. 178.

25. IVOV (R), I, 473.

26. Ibid., II, 11.

27. IVOV (R), I, 460.

28. DA Pamphlet 20-261a, p. 42.

29. Halder Diary, vol. VI, 2 Jul 41.

30. IVOV (R), I, 475.

31. Ibid., II, 21.

32. Ibid., I, 57; Erickson, Soviet High Command, p. 598.

33. IVOV (R), II, 35.

34. Erickson, Soviet High Command, p. 626.

35. S. Golikow, Die Sowjetarmee im Grossen Vaterlaendischen Krieg (Berlin, 194), pp. 11-14.

36. IVOV (R), II, 29.

37. Ibid., II, 62.

38. Ibid., II, 69.

39. Ibid., II, 61.

40. Ibid., II, 234.

41. Ibid., II, 241.

42. As of 1 December 1941. DA Pamphlet 20-261a, p. 88.

43. IVOV (R), II, 271.

44. Ibid., II, 274.

45. Ibid., II, 277.

46. Ibid., II, 320.

47. Ibid., II, 317.

48. Ibid., II, 327-28.

49. Ibid., II, 359, 612.

50. Platonov, ed., Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 288.

51. IVOV (R), II, 404.

52. Walter Goerlitz, Paulus and Stalingrad (New York, 1963), p. 183.

53. IVOV (R), II, 411-17.

54. Ibid., II, 422.

55. Ibid., II, 438-44, 462.

56. IVOV (R), I, 440.

57. Ibid., II, 504-15.

58. The Eastern Intelligence Branch, OKH, comparative force estimates were as follows:

  German and Allied Forces

    Total 3,388,700*
Army Group North 708,400
Army Group Center 1,011,500
Army Group B 1,234,000
Army Group A 434,800

  Soviet Forces Opposite the German Army Groups

    In the Front Reserves Total

  Total 3,013,370 1,242,470 4,255,840
Army Group North 916,700 84,910 1,001,610
Army Group Center 1,012,070 344,270 1,356,340
Army Group B 818,250 561,050 1,379,300
Army Group A 266,350 252,240 518,590

* The German figures are ration strengths which in this instance were some 250,000 men higher than the actual combat strengths.

OKH, GenStdH, Fremde Heere Ost, Nr. 2669/42, Gegenueberstellung der verbuendeten und der sowjetrussischen Kraefte, Stand 20.9,42, H 22/235 file.

59. Alexander Werth, Russia at War (New York, 1964), pp. 414-28.

60. OKH, GenStdH, Fremde Heere Ost (I) Nr. 2492/42, Gedanken zur Weiterentwicklung der Feindlage im Herbst und Winter, 29.8.42. H 3/190 file.

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation