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Hitlerism and German military were defeated by Stalin’s political leadership, Soviet Armed forces and the massive scale of Russian resources, mostly!

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Every time I read and hear about WW II from the Western perspective, I feel the real story of who won it, or how it was won, or what truly beat Hitlerism, is not really in the discussion.

These days I am reading “Life and Fate“, the epic tale of war on the Eastern Front written by Valery Grossman, an extraordinary Russian journalist who was truly embedded with the Soviet forces before, during and after the battle of Stalingrad, in a way that Western jounalists today rarely experience. The story he tells is one of the true barbarism of the war fought against Hitler’s armed forces. No other story by Stephen Ambrose or Cornelius Ryan is comparable for the breadth and depth of human suffering depicted by Grossman.

So it is useful serendipity today that the Web sphere offers a review of books now being published in the US about the epic war in the East. Here is an excerpt from that review:

The German invasion of the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941. It involved three million men: 152 divisions in three army groups, 3,350 tanks, 2,000 airplanes, 7,000 pieces of artillery, 600,000 motorized vehicles, and 625,000 horses. The initial efforts matched such numbers. In three weeks, Army Group Centre advanced 400 miles and captured the whole of Belorussia. Russian armies lost nearly 5,000 tanks, nearly 10,000 artillery pieces, and 1,700 planes. The victories at Bialystok and Minsk were each comparable to the German victory over the combined French and British armies in May 1940.

German plans called for the destruction of the Red Army west of the Dnieper and Dvina Rivers–to prevent it from escaping into the hinterland of Russia–and the capture of Smolensk, the land bridge to Moscow. All went well, though the distances and the minimal Soviet infrastructure quickly caused trouble with the strategic schedule as the panzer divisions awaited the slow infantry and supplies. And Smolensk held out for 63 days.

Still, the German leadership was suffused with a sense of complete victory. Eleven days after the invasion began, the army chief of staff, Franz Halder, made a famous entry in his diary: “I am therefore not exaggerating when I say that the campaign against Russia was won in 14 days.” This isn’t the mad logic that it might seem in retrospect. The General Staff’s rule of thumb was that a nation could produce two divisions (30,000 soldiers) for each million of its population. The Soviet Union prewar population was 190 million, and so should have produced an army of six million soldiers in 384 divisions. By September, Soviet dead and prisoners exceeded four million. In the first six months of fighting, the German army achieved 12–repeat, 12–great encirclements on a par with the victories at Sedan in 1871 and the Ardennes in 1940.

If Barbarossa had been a war game, all would have been over. Yet the Russians didn’t play by quite the same rules. On August 11, Halder would write:

Overall, it is clearer and clearer that we have underestimated the Russian colossus, which had prepared itself for war with an utter lack of restraint which is characteristic of the totalitarian state. This is as true in the area of organization as it is of the economy, the area of transport and communications, but above all to pure military power. At the start of the war, we reckoned on some 200 enemy divisions. Now we have already counted 360. These divisions are definitely not armed and equipped in our sense, and tactically they are in many ways badly led. But they are there.

THE GERMANS DIDN’T HAVE A WAY to win the war if the Russians were willing to keep fighting.

The fighting in Western Europe was a bloody and tough slog, but how many times worse would it have been if by the fall of 1943 the Soviet armed forces hadn’t forced the German military into full scale retreat on a vast front, especially after the battle of Kursk. And the blood letting in the East hadn’t ended. Apparently there were hundreds of thousands of Soviet military casualties during the phases of the preparation and final battle for Berlin.

Considering the way in which Allied generals and their political masters conducted the war in the West after the Battle of the Bulge, it is fair to say that they couldn’t contemplate epic and savage battles on the scale that Stalin ordered and didn’t flinch from including Stalingrad, Leningrad, and the Kursk offensive.

I just found another review of a Grossman book and another about the soldiers of the Red Army. Fascinating perspectives and explanations about Stalin’s evil manipulation of Russian soldiery and their barbaric behaviour before and during the final defeat of the German military machine.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/02/11 at 14:19