May 14, 2015

1943. Stalin Names Himself Marshal of the Soviet Union

Marshal of the Soviet Union
Joseph Stalin delivering the eulogy at the funeral for Red Army commander Mikhail Frunze in front of Lenin's Mausoleum, 3 November 1925  (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 7, 1943

The Red Army this morning is pressing towards the important railroad and highway junction of Vyazma from two directions. Russian troops are driving westward from the town of Gzhatsk and southward from the direction of Rzhev. Following the successful storming of Gzhatsk yesterday the Soviet forces continued their advance, capturing twenty more inhabited points last night.

(This means that the Russian troops are west of the town only some forty miles from Vyazma. The Red Army forces are about the same distance away.)

(The Germans had built tremendous defenses at Gzhatsk, even down to trenches with roofs over them. It took the Red Army two strong attempts before the Axis forces were kicked out of the place. When this was done, it ousted the Germans from the nearest point to Moscow they had succeeded in holding after their abortive attempt to take the capital last year.)

(The Germans were dug into Gzhatsk with the intention of staying there. They built twelve miles of trenches connecting all sorts of pillboxes, blockhouses, and fortified points. There also were the usual antitank ditches, acres of minefields, and barbed wire.)

The capture of Gzhatsk leaves only one of three German springboards against Moscow remaining. Rzhev was the first to go. Now only Vyazma is left of this powerful offensive triangle.

Premier Josef Stalin is now formally in the Red Army. For the first time in his spectacular career in the Soviet Union, Stalin has assumed a strictly military post. His new award as Marshal of the Soviet Union was announced last night.

There is nothing exactly parallel to this post in the United States Army. It is the highest army position that a man can attain in Russia. The nearest approach the American army has to this rank is the post of a four-star general now held by General Marshal, General MacArthur, and General Eisenhower.

Premier Stalin now holds the position of Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the USSR. He also is Chairman of the State Defense Committee, the People's Commissar of Defense, and Chairman of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party.

It is not expected that any startling change in Russia's prosecution of the war will result in Josef Stalin's new post as Marshal. By assuming this post, he merely receives the military rank as well as the title in the Soviet High Command.

The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union carries with it the highest insignia of the Army. It is a platinum, diamond studded star worn at the neck of his tunic. However, in the past Premier Stalin has refused all decorations. He also has never worn a uniform. Now he is entitled to wear both.

(Only about a dozen men have ever attained the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union during the entire history of the USSR. About a half-dozen of these men are still directing Russia's war. These include some of the military brains of the world such as Marshal Timoshenko, Marshal Budenny, Marshal Voroshilov, and others.)

At Stalingrad in the early days of the communist revolution, Stalin directed the defense of Tsaritsyn, later renamed Stalingrad. However, at this time he held no military position. He was a representative of the Communist Party Central Committee directing the war from Moscow.

However, in that victory and in the present war, Stalin's military policies have been a major factor—a factor which has resulted in the present victory of the Red Army's winter offensive.