June 22 (The Cask and the Hoops)
Chapter 2.4. About something that has never happened
…….. Having wasted tons of paper for something that has never happened (and could not happen) Soviet "historian" spent even more paper to deny something that DID happen. We are talking about such an important stage of pre-war preparations as mobilization. All the books without exception tell that "the history gave us too little time", that our army "could not be completely ready for war before 1942", and for that reason we had to delay the warfare against Germany.
What to delay? Where to and what for?
The author can not even imagine what the "full war awareness" is. Far less is he able to understand how much time – years or centuries – one needs to get to this mysterious "full awareness" state. Mobilization is another pair of shoes. This is a list of some absolutely specific measures to be taken by specific executives listed by names at specific days and times. Let's abstain from further dilettantish explanations and just read a large quote from the monograph by General Vladimirsky, the then deputy chief of the operations branch of the 5th Army headquarters, who had to know everything about mobilization measures in his line of work (keywords are underlined by M.S.) :
"... Mobilization plans in all rifle units and formations had been worked out. They were regularly checked, updated and modified by senior headquarters. Assignation of motor transport, horses, harness and saddlery acquired from the economy resources to units and formations was essentially over…
Divisions were completely staffed with small arms, except for certain kinds of it (PPD submachine guns, heavy machine guns)…
Rifle infantry divisions were almost completely staffed with artillery armament, except for 37mm antiaircraft guns (understaffed by 50 percent). Level of equipment of corps artillery regiments was 82 percent…
Rifle divisions' level of equipment in mechanized transport was 40-50 percent. The missing motorcars and tractors were to be replenished from national economy resources of the Eastern Ukrainian regions…
Since May 20, 1941 all the inactive enlisted staff was engaged in a 45-day training session at rifle infantry divisions. Thus we managed to increase the number of personnel in each of the rifle divisions to 12-12.5 thousand men, which is 80-90 percent of assigned personnel of wartime…"
I hope my dear reader remembers the thousands of times that we were told a lie of "the Red Army divisions being staffed by peacetime establishment and being twice as small is German ones by June 22"? Do you remember our great "Victory Marshal" (G.Zukov) speculate in his memoirs that "right before the war the level of staffing in frontier military districts was 5-6 thousand men in 19 divisions in 8-9 thousand men in 144 divisions"?
In fact, the "1941 – lessons and conclusions" most official collective monograph of General Staff tells us about the following level of staffing in rifle divisions of frontier military districts: "21 divisions – up to 14 thousand men, 72 divisions – up to 12 thousand men, 6 rifle divisions – up to 11 thousand men." (3, page 82).
Let us get back to the book by Vladimirsky:
"... Mobilization sequence provided in the mobilization plans of the units was generally the following: Each unit was divided into two mobilization echelons. The forward echelon included 80-85 percent of the unit's regular staff… The due time for the forward echelon to march-off for the mission was 6 hours.
The rear mobilization echelon of the unit included 15-20 percent of the regular staff, complemented with all the designated personnel arriving on mobilization. The due time for the rear echelon… was set to: for the units allocated at the frontier, together with air defense and air forces – not later than the first mobilization day, for the rest of units – in 24 hours...
All units and formations were assigned mobilization areas unexposed to aerial observations out of their confinement areas, and were also given ingress and cover procedure for these areas for the period of mobilization.
According to the resolution drawn by commissions from army and district headquarters which had checked the mobilization readiness state of rifle units and formation in May and June 1941, all the rifle divisions and corps units were considered ready for mobilization in due time…" (92)
So, the traditional version was the following: The Red Army needed at least one more year to prepare for war. The Germans decided not to wait chivalrously and attacked the army "not ready for war".
A somewhat more refined version of the same persistent myth reads as follows: we needed two of three week more to complete our mobilization measures, but the rush advance of the Wehrmacht deep into our land made mobilization impossible. Which actually was the reason for…
If fact, the latent mobilization was virtually OVER. Rifle divions of Western military districts (that is, the skeleton of our army of those times, and besides – its primary defensive force!) had almost finished mobilization procedures and scheduled dates for their combat readiness were not even days, but just HOURS away! A small "makeweight" (the rear mobilization echelon) could be brought up in arms in one or two days. How could the "surprise attack" of the Germans take these few hours away from the Red Army? Was the size of the USSR similar to Luxembourg or Denmark taken by the Wehrmacht in a single day? One must also mention that our command had absolutely no doubts as to the feasibility of the due dates specified for the roundout of our units and getting them fully operational.
The units already had main kinds of rifle and artillery arms (see above). The lack of 50% of organic means of transport mentioned by Vladimirsky was not a threat, either. The truth is that the "staff numbers" specified in Stalin's preparation plans for the Great War were huge. So, a howitzer regiment (36 howitzers) of a Red Army rifle regiment was to have 73 tractors, 90 trucks and 3 passenger cars according to the troop list of April, 1941. The fact that the number of tractors exceeds the number of guns does not prove the excessive weight of artillery systems. A 122-mm howitzer weighed about 2.5 tons, a 152-mm howitzer – 4.2 tons, and any of them could easily be towed by a single tractor.
Division howitzers were to be towed with tractors produced by the Stalingrad and Chelyabinsk factories (STZ-3, STZ-5, S-60, S-65). This was exactly the means of transport that could move along Russian country roads under rain and snow. Tractors could tow guns across rugged terrain as fast as 10-15 kph, which was quite enough for a rifle (infantry) division, where artillery was just not to fall behind soldiers walking on foot. Anyway, the enemy could not even dream of 72 crawler tractors in an artillery regiment. The only artillery regiment of a Wehrmacht rifle division had all its artillery systems (including 150-mm howitzers) towed by horses.
If fact, the Kiev military district had 2389 howitzers in its ranks by the start of war (1277 122-mm howitzers and 1112 152-mm howitzers) (29, p. 97). Let us note in parentheses that one only required 2016 howitzers to completely staff all the divisions in the district by the troop list (32 rifle, 16 tank, 8 motorized divisions). And the number of operable tractors in the district artillery (without the tractors in the ranks of motorized units) was 2239 (152, p. 83). One can easily see that the motor traction power almost matched the number of the vehicles to be towed. Besides, there district artillery units also had 161 specialized tractors ("ComIntern", "Voroshilovets", "Communar") to tow heavy guns.
A detached antitank battalion of a Red Army tank division was to have 24 motorcars and 21 tractors for 18 45-mm guns by the troop list (27 tractors for 18 guns in an antitank battalion of a motorized division). The tractor to be used was an armored fully-tracked "Comsomolets" based on assemblies and components from a T-38 light tank, armed with a socket-mounted machine gun and generally matching a German Pz-I tankette by its combat capabilities (which was always put by all Soviet historians to the "tanks" category). By July 1941 there were 7780 of such "Comsomolets" produced, with 6700 of them sent to the troops (148). Troops of Kiev special military districts had 1088 operable "Comsomolets" units on the list, which makes 27 tractors per each antitank battalion on the average. To say in a word, rumors of "a disastrous lack of motor traction power" in the Red Army's artillery are grossly exaggerated.
Situation with the mobilization readiness in mechanized corps was much worse. That's quite understandable. First of all, a mechcorps requires a great number of mechanisms by its definition, among them motorcars and tractors (crawler tractors), most of which were to work for the national economy till the day when the mobilization would be publicly announced. Second, Stalin's gigantomania being the reason for a simultaneous build-up of 29 mechcorps with a thousand tanks in each exceeded the actual capabilities of the country's economy.
Having admitted all these, let us not be hasty in our conclusions and get to studying concrete facts specified in the monograph by Vladimirsky:
"The 22nd, 9th and 19th mechanized corps were being built since April, 1941 on the base of former tank brigades, and they were still under preparation by the start of war… Having relatively much manpower (9 thousand men in a tank division and 10.2 thousand men in a motorized division which was 80 and 90% of the wartime staff respectively), mechanized formations were understaffed in senior officers and sergeancy (40-50 percent)... Units were severely understaffed in tank and tank unit commanders, tank drivers and other technicians…"
However, one should remember what were these mechcorps Vladimirsky tells about. According to the pre-war plans of the Soviet armored forces command, the 19th Mechcorps did not even belong to the nineteen "operational mechcorps" and was built up with a lower establishment, while the 22nd and the 9th Mechcorps were to be completely prepared only in 1942. The lack of the nominal number of tank commanders and drivers was "compensated" with the lack of the nominal number of tanks. So, the 22nd Mechcorps had 712 tanks (69%), the 9th Mechcorps had 316 tanks (31%) and the 19th Mechcorps had 453 tanks (44%).
Cognition comes through comparison. The Wehrmacht, with its numbers being frantically increased since autumn of 1940, had similar problems: "Regular officers in tank and motorized divisions made up 50% of command staff, and 35 down to 10% in infantry divisions... The rest were reservists, with their professional level much lower..." (189, p.72). It was only in Soviet propagandistic writings where the notorious "two-year experience of modern warfare" existed. Of the five tank divisions in the 1st Wehrmacht Tank Group:
- none of them participated in the Polish campaign;
- only two of them (the 9th and the 11th) participated in the invasion of France;
- the 14th td had one week of combat experience in Yugoslavia before the "Barbarossa";
- the 13th and the 16th td (created in 1940 on the base of infantry divisions) had absolutely no combat experience by June 22, 1941.
The situation in the 4th, 8th and 15th Mechcorps which were quick-strike units was much better.
Namely, the level of staffing in private corps in the 15th Mechcorps' divisions was 94-100%, 45-75% in junior command personnel, 50-87% in senior commanders, and the understaffing in command personnel was mainly due to the lack of political instructors and administrative staff. The so-called "big training session" helped to staff the 8th Mechcorps with personnel at 89% in June 1941 before the recall; its artillery regiments had 88% of the established amount of guns, the number of 45mm guns even exceeded the "regular level" (49 instead of 36).
Each of these three mechcorps had 2-3 thousand motorcars on the list before the public mobilization was announced, with the number of tractors varying from 165 (15th Mechcorps) to 359 (8th Mechcorps). Although it was far from the authorized level of equipment (which was 5165 motorcars – that is, 1 car per 6 men of personnel, including tankmen), one can hardly agree with the authors saying that the "so-called mechanized corps were just regular infantry strengthened with tanks..."
The general situation in the Red Army was as follows. In February 1941 there were 34 thousand tractors, 201 thousand trucks and special motorcars, 12.6 thousand passenger cars (16, p.622). Naturally, the process of arming the Red Army with military equipment was not over in February 1941. Factories worked on a three-shift mode, so the defense job in 1941 included 13.150 tractors in total (16, p. 617). The number of motorcars in the Red Army increased to 273 thousand by June 1941 (2, p.363). Finally, public mobilization was announced on the 23rd of June, and in spite of all the chaos and mess of the catastrophic start of war 31.5 thousand tractors and 234 thousand motorcars more were passed over to the Red Army by the national economy by July 1st, 1941 (3, p.115).
There were 220 tractors and 1670 motorcars per each of the 303 of Soviet divisions (of all types and across all the military districts) on the average. Per each division on the average. This means that divisions of the Western frontier districts were supposed to have twice as much of military equipment: indeed, one would never send the mobilized motorcars and tractors to the Siberian or Central Asian districts…
That's where one could rejoice at the great achievements of the Stalin industrialization, but in fact there's nothing to be glad about. Almost each of the reports of Soviet corps and division commanders reads something like the following: "The materiel allowed in the mobilization plan did not arrive on mobilization". How's that? Where did all these 234 thousand motorcars and more that 31.5 thousand tractors come???
Rokossovsky (the then commander of the 9th Mechcorps) writes that the personnel of the corps' regiments and divisions, with neither horses nor motorcars at the start of war, had to carry mine throwers, light and mounted machine guns and ammunition literally on the shoulders, which resulted in "completely exhausting and losing any combat value". How did it happen that mechanized corps divisions did not receive the 1700 (not even 170) motorcars of those mobilized in the first week of war?
And here's the report of the 10th td commander (15th Mechcorps):
"...cars assigned from the national economy by the mobilization plan to arrive by the end of M-2 (i.e. the second day on mobilization - M.S.): "GAZ-AA" – 188, "ZIS-5" – 194. The division did not receive any of these cars neither on M-2 nor on any of the next days..."
"The 2nd Anti-tank artillery brigade commander M.I.Nedelin reported to have not received tractors from the national economy, so he would be able to advance only one battalion to the frontier" – a quote from Marshal Bagramian's memoirs.
It was definitely not by chance that Nedelin later became Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Strategic Missile Forces: he managed to advance an artillery battalion (12 anti-tank guns) even in this global chaos. Compare this to the 5th anti-tank artillery brigade, which, according to Vladimirsky, by June 29 (that is, on the 7th day of war!) "due to the lack of tractors remained in Novograd-Volynsky" (250 km to the east from the border - M.S.). The situation was similar in all the other ATABs at all fronts. Not a single brigade – except for the 1st ATAB lead by Moskalenko – accomplished its task to fight enemy tanks, and all the Soviet historians name the same reason in unison: "lack of motor traction power". How's that? Where did all the equipment – the one already in the ranks by June 22, the one mobilized in the first days of war – go?
Some reader would probably say these are all individual local defects. Please take a look at the situation in general:
"…There were severe problems with the delivery of mechanized means of transport under mobilization… Thousands of motorcars and tractors requiring repair accumulated in delivery points. Some motorcars arrived to military commissariat delivery points without fuel or did not arrive at all due to the lack of fuel on-site... So, there were problems sending cars from the Moscow military district (that is, the central capital district. – M.S.) to the Western special military district to go under their own power; only one fourth of the cars was sent by the third day of mobilization... road transport was often loaded into echelons and sent to front without drivers and fuel due to great rush… 1320 echelons (50347 carriages) with cars stood on the railways…" (3)
General Vladimirsky gives some reasons for such a strange course of mobilization:
"…In the evening of June 26 the War Council of the 5th army heard a report on the course of mobilization of troops and rears of the 5th army. It was found out that mobilization of troops and rears of the army which was to be over by 24:00, June 25 according to the mobilization plan (i.e. on the third day of mobilization announced at 00:00, June 23) had actually been disrupted… Most of the private corps in reserves – natives of the western regions of Ukraine (i.e. occupied in September 1939 in the course of the "liberation campaign" in Poland. – M.S.) – either failed to arrive to the units in time or absconded from mobilization... The few motor vehicles of local enterprises did not arrive to the troops, as they were used to evacuate families of Soviet employees and workers to the East…"
How sweet… families of WORKERS go to the rear in motorcars with comfort, having taken all their stuff with them. Probably someone who was born and grew up somewhere in New Zealand may believe that…
Vladimirsky explains this unexpected and discouraging failure to mobilize reservists with "psychological impact from a sudden enemy attack upon the general feeling of the local population, rapid move of the frontline to the east and sabotage conducted by enemy agents in our territory".
But that is not all: "Command and technical staff in reserves, motorized transport and drivers assigned from the eastern regions (i.e. from the regions under the rule of the Bolsheviks since 1919. – M.S.) did not arrive to the army either..." General Vladimirsky did not comment on this information…
Let us once again emphasize the main point in the conclusion of this chapter. The Red Army was not unarmed at all. It received a great amount of manpower, guns, tanks and tractors during the latent pre-war mobilization – a much greater amount than the enemy. Disruption of public mobilization plans weakened its combat power but did not reduce them to zero.
However, the first "funeral peal" already sounded. The praised "Stalin order" turned into outstanding chaos and anarchy in the first hours of contact with a real well-armed enemy. The army mechanism, solid in theory, started falling into separate "gears" even before the first shots were made.
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