March 29, 2017

1943. Indecision on the Donets Front Hurts German Offensive

The German Command's Strategic Failure on the Donets Front
A German Heinkel He 111 bombarding a target on the Eastern Front in 1943 (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

April 16, 1943

Russian air experts today came up with an explanation that partly accounts for the "on again, off again" attacks that the German army is making along the Donets River line.

As you know, the German high command on the Donets front for the past several weeks has acted with the indecision of a woman at a hat sale. It would appear that the Nazis don't quite know what offensive to put on and where. They have alternated attacks between Chuguev, Izium, and then Balakleya. All of these attacks have failed, and apparently the German command is still "shopping" for a front on the Donets line where they can gain a victory. And any choice the Germans make will be a dangerous one.

Major Vladimir Zemlyanoy, Red Army serial expert, said in Red Star today that the Germans have failed to establish air superiority on this Donets front. Both the Russians and the Germans, he said, are using their aircraft on a broad scale because a concentrated, sustained aerial attack on any one sector would be a waste of effort. Generally speaking, there simply aren't enough bombable targets on the river line.

(Consequently, the Germans—and the Russians as well, for that matter—are using mobile bomber squadrons, throwing large numbers into one sector and then switching to another sector.)

Major Zemlyanoy says that the Germans, by moving their bombers around, are trying to create the illusion that they have blanket bomber coverage of the Donets front. (Mostly the Germans have been using Heinkel 111s on this front. Sometimes they will throw thirty to fifty bombers against one small target, such as a tiny railroad station.)

These mass bomber attacks usually are accompanied by the German "on again, off again" land offensives that last for several days and then die out when they fail.

(It is one of the few instances where air power has governed land forces in this Russian war. Usually it is the other way around. But the Germans have found they don't dare attack without air support, and so) when the German general staff decides to place its mobile bomber squadrons on one sector, it has become a reasonable assumption that there will be a land offensive where they light.