February 2, 2015

1943. Soviet Military Strategy After Stalingrad

Tenacity on the Eastern Front
"The 8th Guard of the Army of General Chuikov in the streets of Odessa, April 1944" (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt - source)
The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

March 2, 1943

One of the notable things about this Russian winter offensive is the hardheaded attitude of the Soviet high command towards the enemy.

Even in the flush of the Red Army's greatest victories, there has been no official suggestion that the German commanders are fools, or that the German soldiers are cowards, or the power of Hitler's Wehrmacht crushed.

When Josef Stalin said in his Red Army anniversary Order of the Day that the Germans "can launch new adventures," he meant it. (The Soviet press throughout the winter offensive has emphasized this. Generals to whom I talked maintained the same attitude.)

(For example, when I talked with General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the victorious 62nd Army at Stalingrad, he said matter-of-factly that Hitler probably would launch a counteroffensive. He added, however, that "The Red Army is going to have a lot to say about any future German plans.")

(It must be pointed out that) Russia's hardheaded attitude towards this war does not end with a careful assessment of the enemy. It is just as realistic and frank about the Soviet fighting forces as the troops which oppose them.

The army newspaper, Red Star, had an interesting editorial today which clearly demonstrates this attitude. (This editorial is also worthy of study for those people who think there is no such thing as criticism in the Russian press).

(Speaking of the fighting in the Donbass, the Red Star editorial pointed out that German resistance has greatly increased. "Our victories are great," the newspaper said. "However, this does not give anyone the right to harmful delusions. Hard fighting is ahead. The enemy is still very strong.")

(Red Star continued explaining that the Soviet strategy of breaking through defensive positions and sending mobile units to roam the enemy's rear capturing fortified points had been very successful. It then added, "to develop these successes, it is necessary first, at all costs, to hold the captured junction points and ward off counterattacks of troops attempting to restore former positions.")

(The importance of immediately establishing a completely circular defense around these captured points was emphasized.)

Red Star said that the Germans in the Donbass have adopted the Soviet tactic of bypassing an objective and attacking from the flanks and the rear. "There have been cases," the newspaper said, "where Red Army commanders did not organize a circular defense and establish strong reconnaissance. German tanks bypassed and attacked them from the rear. The commander took the German tanks for his own approaching units, and thus the enemy succeeded in braking through. (Our units were forced to wage a battle in disadvantageous conditions.")

(Red Star then observed that, in order to avoid such counter blows, the forces capturing a fortified point must immediately completely mine all approaches to the objective and establish reconnaissance. "It is impossible to restrict oneself only to observers. Scouting detachments must be sufficiently mobile and equipped with firing means to find out where the enemy is concentrating for a counterattack and smash these attempts in the beginning.")

(The Russian air force aided in smashing the German fortifications, sending bombers and stormer planes over to smash pillboxes and points of support.)

"The difficulties of the offensive are growing," the newspaper concluded. "We must treble our efforts, stubbornly overcoming these difficulties and consolidating our victories."

The Germans didn't leave Rzhev voluntarily. This is shown by the great amount of equipment they left behind. They were kicked out of Rzhev in a blow that eliminated the main Axis threat to Moscow. (The newspapers say that soon the railroad between Velikiye-Luki and Moscow will be in full operation. And this spring shipping on the upper Volga will start again from the ancient town of Rzhev.)

Red Star this morning hails the offensives in the Demyansk, Rzhev, and Kursk sectors as being of major significance. The paper points out that the Axis is getting exhausted and becoming weaker. However, at the same time it warns that "we can expect new adventures from the enemy. It is natural on such a large front that in some sectors the Germans have succeeded in concentrating considerable forces," the newspaper said.

"The Red Army has to ward off furious counterattacks by tanks and motorized infantry in the Donbass. And west of Kharkov the enemy is bringing in reserves and has counterattacked several times."

However, Red Star does not strike any note of despair. The initiative is still in the hands of the Red Army, and it intends to keep it there.