Lend-Lease and the Planned Second Front
|A still from the film The Battle of Russia (1943)|
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
March 8, 1943
The Red Army last night continued its advance toward Vyazma; capturing a series of inhabited points, taking prisoners and booty. In one sector of this front only 115 miles west of Moscow, a Red Army spearhead penetrated into the rear of one German garrison. Faced with the threat of complete encirclement, the German troops fled in disorder. On the sector northwest of Vyazma, 600 Germans were killed in bitter fighting last night when six heavily fortified inhabited points were captured by Russian troops.
The Germans are putting up a desperate defense in this sector southwest of Rzhev. The Russian drive southward threatens to cut the main railroad between Vyazma and Smolensk. If this line was cut it would be a major disaster for those German troops operating in the Vyazma bulge.
On the sector west of Rostov, heavy air fighting has been in progress while the German and Russian forces have been conducting bitter trench fighting. Six German planes were shot down yesterday.
This morning's communiqué mentions the big German forces being thrown into a counterattack in the eastern sector of the Donbass. Last night the Germans threw in motorized infantry troops supported by eighty tanks. This attack was beaten off. After the Germans lost twelve tanks and much manpower they retreated to their original positions.
The (strongest) statement about the second front published in many months was made this morning in the newspaper Pravda, organ of the Communist Party.
Pravda made two references to the absence of a second front in Europe in an editorial commenting on Josef Stalin's new position as Marshal of the Soviet Union. (The question of a second front is still uppermost in the minds of the ordinary men and women here in Russia. Although there has been little official reference to the issue during the past six months, the Soviet people still feel disappointed and let down by their allies. It is a sore point with them.)
In today's editorial Pravda said: "Because of the absence of a second front, the Red Army for the past twenty months has been bearing all the burden of the fighting against Hitler and his accomplices. Not a single other country, not a single other army in the world, could be able to stand such a test."
The newspaper then added: "The decisive moment in the Patriotic War of the Soviet people against the invaders has come. The victorious Red Army offensive of November 19 is successfully continuing.
"The enemy is planning to keep the Soviet land. Using the absence of a second front in Europe, the Hitlerians are transferring to the Soviet front reserves from France, Holland, and other occupied countries. The enemy is feverishly carrying through a total mobilization hoping to create new armies to take a revenge for his defeats."
(This editorial is the first definite indication that perhaps Soviet pressure for a second front is again rising.)
(The Russian press has been publishing the details of the Allied fighting in North Africa. It also has been giving details of the round-the-clock air offensive against Germany and Western Europe. The sinking of the Japanese convoy off New Guinea was also published in full.)
(However there has been virtually no publicity concerning the amount of American and British supplies, armament, food, clothing, tanks, and planes which have been sent to Russia. The Russian people have no idea of the immensity of these shipments.)
(And there has not been a single mention of what part these supplies have meant to the present victorious offensive.)
(The Russian people also have no idea of the scope of such American and British organizations such as the Aid to Russia funds. They know virtually nothing of the tremendous personal interest the people of the United States and other Allied nations are taking in their problems.)
(All in all, it has been a pretty one-sided presentation of the second front question.)
But it all boils down to the one single, paramount fact. Russia wants a second front in Europe—now. She feels that this is the quickest road to victory, particularly now when the Red Army is on the march.