The Desna Line
|V-Day victory salute in Moscow on May 9, 1945 (source)|
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
September 17, 1943
If you want a thumbnail description of the German army in Russia tonight, it can be said to be a group of Nazis in grey-green uniforms looking for a place to stay this winter. At least this is an accurate definition of those Nazis on the upper Desna river line.
The Red Army's capture of Briansk has thrown the Germans out of the lynch-pin in what was to be the link between the Nazis' northern and southern winter line.
When Hitler's summer offensive failed around Kursk and when the Russians started their breakthroughs, the Germans were forced into a fighting retreat towards the Desna. (In fact, one Russian division captured German high command documents telling of the preparation of the Desna for the winter. This document ordered that, if necessary, the German troops were to fall back on this line.)
They have fallen back alright, but the Germans have lose their military balance...they're still falling.
The Briansk victory and the routing of six Nazi divisions means that a serious hole has been punched in this Desna line. Ninety miles down the river another Russian breakthrough across the Desna is still making progress around Novgorod-Siverskyi. We have yet to see how far the Russians intend to follow up these breakthroughs, particularly this close to the fall rainy season, but the most natural defense line behind the Desna are the upper reaches of the Dnieper river.
Meanwhile, all along the other sections of the front south of the Sea of Azov, the Russians are moving westward at the rate of three to nine miles. It may be significant that the Germans lost only eight planes on the entire Russian front yesterday. (The Nazis have evidently abandoned the air to the Soviet air force.)
Moscow is positively getting as used to victories these days that the people think something is wrong if the siege guns and rockets don't salute another Red Army success by at least nine o'clock.
There were two salutes last night, and one tonight. The story goes that Moscow mothers tell their daughters, "I want you home right after victory salute tonight."
Now the daughters are answering, "You mean the first victory salute, or the second?"