May 15, 2015

1943. The Soviets Look to the Western Allies to Open a Second Front

Holding Back the Onslaught
A still from the film The Battle of Russia (1943)
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 26, 1943

The Soviet government announced today that the fishing agreement between Japan and the Soviet Union granting leases to Japanese fisheries in Siberian waters has been renewed for one year.

This one year agreement has been under negotiation for the past several months. The new protocol is exactly the same as last year's, except that Japanese fisheries pay the Soviet government five percent instead of four for fishing privileges.

This is the seventh successive one-year fishing agreement that Russia has signed with Japan since the long-term agreement ran out in 1936. Since that time, negotiations have been conducted on a twelve month basis. The 1943 agreement was signed in Kuybyshev by Vice-Commissar for foreign affairs, Lozovsky, and the Japanese to the USSR, Sato.

Last Tuesday the leading Russian newspapers printed a long digest of Prime Minister Churchill's speech. The Soviet radio also repeated a lengthy resume of Mr. Churchill's broadcast.

(In the past three days I have been talking to Russians that I know, asking them their reactions to what the Prime Minister said.)

(Every Russian that I talked to expressed disappointment with Mr. Churchill's speech. Some even threw up their hands and said, "Well, that's the end of the second front." Others could not understand why, at a period so crucial, that Mr. Churchill talked so little about the winning of the war.)

(I thought I would pass these reactions along to you for what they are worth. It demonstrates the absolute singleness of purpose with which Russia is fighting this war. Consequently) Russians cannot understand why for one moment an Allied government takes time out to discuss its internal problems. (It was the same reaction I got when I talked to these Russians about Lend-Lease. When they learned that there was some Congressional opposition to extending the Lend-Lease agreement, they could not understand it. Their one question was always, "If it helps to win the war, then why argue about it?")

So there you have the general viewpoint of the ordinary Russian, who today is working harder than ever and glancing anxiously every once in a while to the west. The question paramount in his mind, and don't forget it, is, "When are those British and American troops going to come out of the west and start that second front?"

The news from the Russian front this morning reveals no radical changes in the fighting positions. German resistance has stiffened in the Smolensk region. Both the Red Army and the Nazi forces are throwing more men and armor into the fight, and the battles are getting fiercer every day. The Russian troops are maintaining the initiative and are still moving forward on this sector. However, it is an advance in which they have to fight for every yard.

A similar increase in the tempo of the battle is occurring in the Kuban. The Germans here, too, have thrown in reinforcements. It is evident that the German command has ordered a last-ditch defense of what little territory Hitler has managed to cling to in this sector immediately north of the Caucasus. The Russians have now started their spring drive to rush the Nazi forces into the Kerch Strait, but it is going to be no easy job.

The flying weather has improved on all fronts, and a dollar-bright moon has enabled both sides to carry on a twenty-four hour offensive in the air. However, the decisive fighting still is being done on the ground. As they are operating today, the Russian air force has an absolute parity with the German Luftwaffe. Neither side has been able to establish general superiority in the air over the Russian front. Only on some sectors has temporary, local air superiority been achieved, and this only until the opposing forces have had time to rush reinforcements to the threatened front.

However, this summer should see some interesting developments in Russia's air war. This will particularly be true when the damaging blows by the American and British air forces on German plane production make themselves felt. Then we'll see who has air superiority in Russia.