Mark Solonin - June, 1941. Final diagnosis.


Mark Solonin

June, 1941. Final diagnosis.


Moscow, 2013

ISBN 978-5-699-67335-3





This book, as all previous ones, was written without a contract, financing, direct or indirect support from any state, academic or socio-political structures. Whereas the search, collection and translating a huge massif of archive documents required significant efforts and expenses. I was able to solve this problem only due to versatile help from dozens of people, even those whose names are mostly unknown to me. I am warmly and sincerely grateful to each of them and consider it my pleasant duty to mention special contribution by Peter Chernyshov (Ukraine), Igor Gumenny (Ukraine), Michail Gorfunkel (Great Britain), Sergey Gorshenev (Russia), Ilya Dombrovsky (Netherlands), Alexy Zharov (Russia), Dmitry Kirikov (Germany), Richard Lechmann (Ukraine), Sergey Petrov (Russia), Vasily Risto (Germany), Alexander Fisher (USA).









At dawn of 22 June, 1941 troops of Hitler’s Germany invaded the USSR. Three weeks thereafter, German generals could state that a first task set in the plan “Barbarossa” («Major Russian land forces deployed in the Western Russia must be destroyed in bold operations by way of deep rapid advance of tank spearheads. The retreat of battle-capable enemy forces into the wide expanses of the Russian territory must be prevented…») was mostly accomplished.

The advance of tank spearheads was deep and rapid. The enemy occupied Lithuania, Latvia, almost the entire Belorussia, Western Ukraine, forced crossing of the Bug, Neman, West Dvina, Berezina, Goryn and Sluch Rivers and approached the Dnieper. On the 10th of July, the Germans took Pskov, 16th July Smolensk.

Two thirds of the distance between the western border and Leningrad and Moscow have been passed. Wermacht’s tank divisions had overcome 500 km and more of the Soviet roads. During the first 20 days of the war, the Germans occupied the territory of about 450,000 sq. km, which was about twice the Polish territory taken by the Wehrmacht in September of 1939 and three times the Belgian, the Netherlands and NE France territory taken by the Wehrmacht in May, 1940 (See Fig. 1).

The forces of the Baltic and Western Special military districts (over 70 divisions, 1 million people) have been crushed, dispersed in the woods or taken prisoner. A little later, the same happened with the Southwestern and Southern Fronts. «The retreat of battle-capable enemy forces was successfully (for the Germans) prevented». Only disparate fragments remained of once a huge army; division commanders who managed to extricate fifteen hundred people with a dozen machine guns and a couple of cannon (i.e., to preserve 10 to 15 percent of the personnel) were mentioned in the orders as particularly distinguished.

By July 6 – July 9, the troops of the Northwestern, Western and Southwestern Fronts lost 11.7 thousand tanks and nineteen thousand cannon and mortars (Krivosheyev, 1993, p. 368). Tank forces suffered especially heavy, practically irreplaceable losses – the world-largest Soviet tank forces created by multiyear labours and huge material resources. As soon as on July 15, 1941 the remains of mechanized corps began to be officially disbanded. Aviation divisions and air force regiments in the Western districts lost no less than 80 to 85 percent of the aircraft; besides, remaining combat machines were considered mostly out of order. As a result, by 1 August, 1941 the Soviet air force lost 10,000 aircraft (four times the number the Luftwaffe had on the Eastern front). Out of those, 5,240 were counted as «unaccounted loss» (TSAMO, Fund 35, List 11333, Case 23, Sheet 353).

The lightning-speed loss of enormous territories unavoidably caused the loss of giant stores of military property, which for some reason were concentrated next to the USSR western borders. GAU (Main Artillery Directorate) data indicate that out of 40 military storages located next to the line Leningrad-Nezhin-Kremenchug only 11 were evacuated. In border Districts were also lost hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel and lubricants, tens of millions of individual first aid dressing packages, huge amounts of food supplies, fodder and uniforms.

Not surprisingly, by mid-July many German generals believed the campaign on the Eastern Front was at its end: they could not imagine that the army, which had suffered such losses, will be capable of further resistance. Sure, «beaten Hitler’s generals» were wrong in the final analysis, and the war ended in Berlin, but our joy in this regard is with tears in the eyes. Whatever was easy and fast lost in 3 to 4 months of summer-fall of 1941 had to be returned at the price of continuous three-year long bloodshed, at the price of millions of lives on the front and millions of civilians in the occupied territories. Overall, the Red Army was able to return to the line of 1941 international border only by July-August, 1944. This is overall; in some cases, like in the Baltic area, the fighting continued through the spring of 1945.


Nevertheless, the most incredible in this entire story must be recognized not a high tempo and depth of the Wehrmacht’s offensive, not the huge losses by the Red Army but surprisingly (implausibly low) losses by the enemy. The advancing, and very successfully so, Wehrmacht suffered losses tens of times lower than the defending Red Army.

Let us take as an example Wehrmacht’s 6th tank division (Army group «North»). This example is noteworthy in that the 6th tank division (td) was armed worse than anyone else: the basis of its tank park was light Czech tanks, vintage 1935 (Pz35(t) in the German nomenclature), technically outdated and quite worn down by multiannual marches and engagements. 24 of June at the Dubisa River (Lithuania), the 6th German tank division collided in a head-on battle with the 2nd Red Army tank division on whose inventory, beside other things, were 31 most up to date heavy tanks KV. In the encounter, the Soviet division was totally crushed, lost its hardware and its commander. The 6th German tank division lost 24th of June only 121 personnel (31 killed, 18 unaccounted for and 72 wounded) (NARA, vol. 315, R. 323, f. 0019). Less than 1 percent of organization chart personnel number.

And that was the hardest day and the largest losses. On June 28, the 6th tank division crossed a full-flowing Daugava, a natural defensive line of strategic importance. The losses: 3 killed, 14 wounded (NARA, vol. 315, R. 323, f. 0040). Having crossed onto the north bank, the German tank division rushed to Pskov. 4 through 6 of July it crushed in a head-on engagement units of the Red Army 163rd motorized division (md) and 3rd tank division, broke through the bunker line of the Ostrov fortified area and crossed a number of small rivers. The losses for 3 days: 28 killed, 55 wounded (NARA, vol. 315, R. 323, f. 0052-0062).

Here is another German division, 11th tank division. The personnel loss is among the highest in all Wehrmacht’s tank divisions: by 3rd July, the division lost 923 persons, including 333 irretrievably (DF MA. RH 24-48/198, pg. 20). Six percent of the organization chart number. At the cost of these six percent, 11th tank division managed to accomplish the following: continuously advancing in the vanguard of the 1st Tank Group, the division made it over more than 200 km; entered engagements with the Soviet 10th and 43rd tank and 228th infantry divisions, 109th and 213th motorized divisions and 114th tank regiment of the 57th tank division; these engagements ended up in that only numbers remained of these Red Army divisions and maybe 30 to 40 percent of the personnel with a dozen of tanks, and the German division rolled farther east.

The entire Wehrmacht grouping lost on the Eastern front between 22 June and 6 July 64,132 personnel, including 19,798 irretrievably. These numbers quotes in his renowned «Military diary» head of headquarters of the German land forces Colonel General F. Halder (record of July 10, 1941).

Certainly, on the 10th of July Halder did not have the complete information about the losses as of July, 6. That is why these numbers (64 thousand, including 20 thousand irretrievably) are somewhat conservative. According to the so-called «ten day reports» (loss reports by the Supreme command based on dispatches from unit and grouping headquarters for each ten day period), Wehrmacht’s losses by 10th July, 1941 were 77 thousand personnel, including 23 thousand irretrievably. The East Front grouping at that moment had, according to Halder, 3.3 million personnel. Thus, total losses (killed, wounded and unaccounted for) were just 2.3 percent.

Even these numbers are questionable because any dispatches put together in the course of combat activities are insufficiently accurate and complete. We may fine-tune statistical data even further but this endless discussion should not obscure the main thing. And the main thing is that the Wehrmacht paid for the crush of the Red Army First Strategic echelon (the First Strategic echelon was no inferior to any European army and in the number of tanks and aircraft it was several times larger than any of them), for the occupation of endless expanses only 2-3 percent of its personnel. But if we take not the total but only irretrievable losses (killed and unaccounted for), they turned out about 1 percent. Almost imperceptible. Even in the process of what the Soviet historiography called «Wehrmacht’s triumphal march in France», the irretrievable German losses were double these numbers (46 thousand; Hahn, 1987).

The major evaluation of Wehrmacht losses is given by their comparison with the enemy losses, i.e., the Red Army. In the official view of the contemporary Soviet historians, during the period of 22 June through 6-9 July the forces of the Northwestern, Western and Southwestern Fronts irretrievably lost 589 thousand personnel. This number does not include the losses by the Northern front (Leningrad VO – Military District) and by the Southern front (Odessa VO), which began combat activities, respectively, 29 of June and 3 of July, 1941 (Krivosheyev, 1993, pg. 62-64).

Today, there is no doubt in clear and substantial underestimation of the loss data by the compilers of the collection «Secrecy label removed» (Krivosheyev’s collection). In particular, they estimated total losses by the Northwestern Front at 88.5 thousand personnel (which is only 23 percent of the initial number). Can it be true if all known documents unanimously testify that the front was zapped, only disparate groups of soldiers and commanders reached Ostrov and Pskov[1]. What is noteworthy is that the same collection, pg. 368, informs that between 22 June and 9 July the NW Front lost 341 thousand units of small arms. How could 89 thousand people «lose» 341 thousand rifles?

In a normal fighting army, the losses of personal small arms are always lower than personnel loss. It is illegal to abandon a rifle, it has the number, and somebody signed up for it. A rifle weighs 3-4 kg, one healthy male, without particular strain, can take away from the battlefield 3 to 4 rifles remaining from wounded and killed comrades. In an abnormal, panic-stricken scattering army, the loss of personal weapons may approach the personnel loss. But not several times personnel loss numbers! By the way, the Western Front managed (in the pages of the statistical collection) to lose 521 thousand units of small arms at the personnel loss of 418 thousand. Only in the case of the Southwestern Front, the numbers quoted in Krivosheyev collection make sense (the losses are 242 thousand personnel and 170 thousand units of small arms).

To summarize, we come up with the following: even if we accept intentionally and significantly underestimated Krivosheyev numbers, the ratio of the irretrievable personnel losses in the so called «border battle» (up to 6-10 July) is 1 to 23. However, the real picture of the irretrievable losses is, most likely, 900 to 1,000 thousand on the Soviet side and 25 to 30 thousand on the other side, which gives the ratio of 1 to 35. Stepping somewhat out of the chronology, I will right away note that the final ratio of the irretrievable losses for the entire 1941 was about 1 to 28.

This is a «miracle», which does not fit any canons of the military science. Such loss ratio could be possible in a case of white colonialists who have come to Africa with cannon and rifles and advanced on the aborigines armed with spears and hoes. But in the summer of 1941 the situation on the USSR western borders was totally different. The defending party overall was not inferior to the enemy either in numbers or in armaments. And it was quantitatively superior with regards to means of carrying out a powerful counterstrike (tanks and aviation). Besides, it could form its defences on a system of natural obstacles (full-flowing rivers Bug, Neman, Berezina, West Dvina, Dnieper and Dniester) and long-term defence facilities (about 1,000 reinforced concrete bunkers along the «new» border and over 3,000, along the «old» one).


Search for explanations


What was it? What happened with the «invincible and legendary» Red Army? How could such eerie crush have happened with the army of a country endowed with uncountable natural resources, the country, which, frankly, was not doing anything else but preparing to a future war?

The right answer begins with a right question. I would like to rephrase this maxim: an incorrect answer (even more so, an intentional attempt to befuddle the people) begins with the absurdly phrased question. That is exactly the way the Soviet propagandist historians operated: the corresponding section in their pamphlets is called «Causes of temporary misfortunes of the Red Army». Or even steeper: «Causes of losing the border battle». The words «temporary misfortunes» is not at all something that forces a search for any weighty cause. Temporary misfortune can happen to anybody. And the term «border battle» as applied to a military campaign unfolding on the expanses exceeding the area of most European countries should be treated as a brilliant find of the party propagandists. The reader’s imagination pictures right away a fight between a border guard platoon and the assaulting gang. It only remains to add two words, «unexpectedly and suddenly», and the reason for losing the «border battle» becomes simple and clear.

Incidentally, the thesis of «unexpected and sudden attack on a peacefully sleeping country» even in the Soviet times did not pretend to be «the first line of defence». It rather played the part of the «foreground» (in the trade of war, this term denotes a band of territory where it is planned to brake somewhat the enemy advance and delay his approach to the main line of defence).

Even the Soviet propagandists understood that it was not worth it to over-emphasize the subject of notorious «suddenness». (The word «even» in this case pertains not to the evaluation of their mental capacities but to the evaluation of the situation, which they were working under, feeling behind their backs a firm support from the «organs», which were ready to gag any objector).  It gave a silly picture of the dear party, its wise Central Committee and the Leader himself – they could not distinguish the concentration of a three million strong enemy army next to the USSR borders. In the very first rays of «glasnost», the flowers of suddenness eventually faded. Today, even a conscientious high school pupil knows that a long swath of the heaviest defeats (the Uman, Kiev, Vyazma, Bryansk, Kerch and Kharkov «pockets») began in the summer of 1941, continued during the fall and renewed in May of 1942; what kind of «suddenness» could it be?

Correspondingly, a first and main «line of defence» in the Soviet historic mythology became a «multiple numerical advantage of the enemy, especially in tanks and aviation». This sounds really convincing. Weighty. A Soviet person, brainwashed from childhood, immediately imagined three Red Amy men with «one rifle for three of them» toward whom five Germans hidden behind the armour of a «Tiger» are moving. And right behind them, the formations of submachine gunners, all as one in APC’s. Try to fight in such environment!

This entire delirium melted as the fog at dawn at the first indications that ideological censorship was being eliminated. As of this moment, tanks, cannon, machine guns and divisions were long ago counted and recounted, and the results numerously checked, rechecked and published. Only those who closed their eyes tight and did not open them the recent 10 to 15 years can today be unaware of the real correlation of forces. Out of many decent publications, I can recommend, for instance, a detailed article by Meltyukhov (2008). The most inquisitive ones may want to turn directly to primary documents, the more so that in our times they may be accessed without even leaving your computer (http://militera.lib.ru/docs/da/index.html; http://mechcorps.rkka.ru/index.htm; http://wwwsoldat.ru/doc/).

On my own behalf I only would like to add that 22 June the war did not end, it just began. And that is why «instant photos» of the composition of the opposed groupings as of the first day of war can in no way be considered the exhaustive answer to the question about the parties’ correlation of forces. No less important is (both theoretically and practically) the capability to build up forces, replenish losses in the personnel and hardware and form new groupings. It is customary in our country to forget conventionally about it. This custom arose during the Soviet times not at all by accident as the «instant photo» seriously distorts (in favour of Germany) a real image of the correlation of forces.

Whatever Wehrmacht command accumulated 22 June 1941 on the borders of the Soviet Union was maximum achievable for Germany. Germany long ago mobilized reservists and now conducted combat activities on several land fronts, in the skies above the «Reich» and in the boundless expanses of the Atlantic. Overall, 2 tank, 1 motorized and 25 infantry divisions were brought into combat on the Eastern Front from the Reserve of the Supreme Command. It is very modest, both in absolute and relative numbers (three army groups: «North», «Centre» and «South» initially included 119 divisions not counting the so-called «protection» divisions). As the march replenishment, Wehrmacht groupings on the Eastern Front got through the end of 1941 less than 20% of their initial numbers.

On the other hand, the forces, which the Red Army unfolded by June, 22 in the western districts represented the minimum, which a 200 million-strong Soviet Union was able to concentrate in the west in the environment of uncompleted hidden mobilization. 23 June 1941 began the open mobilization. By 1 July, 5.3 million people were drafted[2] in the ranks of the armed forces. That meant doubling of the Red Army personnel and allowed for the formation of hundreds of new divisions and brigades. The mobilization, of course, had not ended on the 1st of July. It was just a beginning. Totally to the end of the year (according to the minimal available estimates) were mobilized 11.7 million people. Scrupulous present-day researchers came up even with 14 million people. Of course, not all these millions immediately got to the active army. Overall, however, the total «manpower resource» the Red Army Command was provided with in 1941, approximately tripled the corresponding resource of the enemy.

As early as 10 July, despite heaviest losses and encirclements in the first days of war, the acting Red Army Fronts had 202 (!) divisions. This included 62 «fresh» groupings of the 2nd strategic echelon, which did not participate in the June engagements[3] (Gurkin and Malanyin, 1963). Besides, these 62 divisions were only the beginning of a long list. Even by that date in the Reserve of the Supreme Command, immediately behind the front, were 22 infantry, 6 tank and 3 motorized divisions. By 1 August the numerical strength of the active army increased to 263 divisions. But the mobilization flywheel was continuing to revolve, and ever new formations appeared on the front…

The replenishment dynamics of the tank forces is even more eloquent. For Wehrmacht’s replenishment to the Eastern Front in the first half of 1941 were delivered 513 tanks and «storm guns». Besides, introduced into combat were two fresh tank divisions (the 2nd and 5th), which together included 380 tanks. Total, 893 tanks including 631 medium ones. During the same period, the Red Army received from the industry 5,600 tanks, among them 2,200 medium T-34 and 2,000 heavy KV. And all these do not include tanks, which were redeployed in the active army to the front from internal military districts.

We should do justice to the Soviet propagandists. They understood that it would not be possible for them to hold for a long time the frontal defence line (i.e., explicitly and insolently lie about Wehrmacht’s «multiple numerical advantage»). That is why they began ahead of time to prepare the second line of defence. «Yes, there were plentiful arms but they all were hopelessly outdated and way behind enemy’s military hardware». Meltyukhov quotes a wonderful example in the aforementioned article. He writes that on the margins of the manuscript of the 4th volume of the classical Soviet «History of the Second World War» there was a following notation: «the numbers for the Soviet armed forces, especially for the tanks – 18,600, aircraft – 15,990 are way too high (what a boy! M.S.) Without a qualitative description, the reader may form false impression of the strength of the parties on the eve of the war. It is known that in the Soviet Army absolute majority of tanks were outdated…»

This trick was invented many decades ago but it enjoys a special success today. The young generation of «new Russians» are used to the situation that it is impossible to find at a store not only a domestically manufactured radio receiver but even domestically manufactured smoothing iron, vacuum cleaner and teakettle. So, they are prepared, without a moment’s hesitation, to believe that the Soviet Union also was such backwater village. «In any case, there is no need to prove (emphasis added; M.S.) that the Soviet industry was notoriously weaker than the German one both in its technical means and workforce qualification». That is how, firmly and with certainty, is writing a publicist well-known in the narrow «patriotic circles», who without turning an eyelash informs about himself: «Did not graduate from two universities: the Saratov State Medical and the Uralian State Pedagogical. An activist in the movement of clubs of fantasy devotees».

Another one, not just a «devotee» but writer-fantast («A.A. Ulanov, writer-fantast. Born 26 January 1976 in Kiev. Writes in genres of combat and humoristic fantastic and alternative history») together with a known blogger Shein wrote a whole book where he literally «spread thin on the wall» the pre-war Soviet defence industry. «The Soviet Union could not, simply could not support the armour-piercing shell production line by three highly-qualified experts (machinist, welder, punch operator) as the Germans did it. These people were rare in the Soviet industry, they were distributed piecemeal among the factories…» (Ulanov and Shein, 2011). Please appreciate a hypnotising recitative «could not, simply could not…»   

I am ready to believe without reservations that among Ulanov’s and Shein’s friends and acquaintances it is impossible even «piecemeal» to find even a single one really familiar with a factory plant. There is nobody to explain the young people that the word combination «highly-qualified punch operator» is a bad joke. High qualification is a requirement for a scientist studying the nature of metal mechanical deformation. High qualification was a must for a large group of engineers who designed a powerful hydraulic press. On the other hand, a barely literate kolkhoz lady, who will be put in the war time to this press, will need the skill to accomplish three operations. These operations are: to insert a blank, to push the button and to remove a ready-made part. These punch operators (and candidates punch operators) were in the USSR in tens of millions.

A machinist is high above a punch operator. But his work may also be different. The simplest one is to insert into the lathe’s rotary head a small round (axis-symmetric) part and cut a roundabout groove in it. Such task is well within capabilities of a factory apprenticeship school student after a month of training. Machinists of such qualification were in the Soviet Union not in the units but in the millions (each high school had a workshop with lathe). Nothing more was required for attaching a stamped cap (aerodynamic shroud) to an armour-piercing shell. As a welder is also mentioned, it is possible to assume (Ulanov and Shein did not supply a drawing) that the cap is attached by welding rather than by tight insertion. Meaning that the tolerance for the size of the setting groove was quite wide. Just a job for a boy from the apprenticeship school…

Fortunately, in the recent 10 to 20 years serious studies have also been written in the history of designing, manufacturing and combat application of almost all specimens of the Soviet military hardware. A big job was undertaken, mountains of primary documents studied, some long-standing myths dispersed (such as a «flying tank» IL-2 and all-powerful «Katyusha», which the Germans ostensibly «were even unable to copy»). As a result, it was established: in general, Red Army armaments were above the average level. They were no inferior (again, in general) in their tactical-technical parameters to any army in the world.

Active work was conducted in the pre-war USSR also on «technological wonders». Existent not only in drawings but also in metal were hydraulically-stabilized tank sights, automatons for aircraft extricating from a dive, IR night vision systems, radars, rocket accelerators, etc. Certainly, many of those (maybe the majority) were purchased or stolen from the West. But in this case we are interested not in the process, not in the method but in the result.

Sure, there were problems with ergonomics of the military hardware, with its design reliability and service convenience due to the shortage of experienced engineering personnel and fidgety hastiness in introducing the hardware on combat inventory. These shortcomings made armament combat application and repairs more difficult but not at all impossible. This was convincingly proved by the practice of the Finnish army, which was fighting in 1944 (and fighting brilliantly) using Soviet aircraft, tanks and artillery tow vehicles captured in 1940-1941.

Nevertheless, it is impossible not to recognize that «the absolute majority of tanks in the Soviet army belonged to outdated systems». First, if we assume as the reference mark Soviet T-34 and KV then not the majority but each and every Wehrmacht tank as of 22 June, 1941 belonged to «outdated systems». Second, the most modern systems are always, in any army in the minority; and by the time when they replace their predecessors and become mass phenomenon, they will unavoidably become «outdated». That is what arms race is all about. In summer of 1941 armoured monster KV overwhelmed both Soviet and German tankers. By spring of 1945, next to heavy IS tanks and self-propelled ISU-152, the same KV looked meagre…

The new epoch, an epoch of unbridled freedom of thought and expression gave birth to a whole bouquet of new, sometimes quite extravagant versions explaining causes of the 1941 military catastrophe. The threshold to overcome for entering the discussion radically declined. Previously, for publishing an article in a newspaper the author had to camp on the doorstep of editor’s office and show state awards, ranks and scientific degrees… Nowadays, everything is simple, and anyone blessed with an «idea» can make the entire planet aware of it through the worldwide web.

Many actively use it. I happened to read (more than once) that in Wehrmacht headquarters, as it transpired, existed a terribly secret rule, under which a secret lowering «fudge factor» was applied to loss reports. Some Comrades believe that loss numbers in German reports are underestimated exactly by half. Some others, without turning an eyelash, state a ten-fold underestimation of losses («it was more convenient to calculate»). And it also turns out that in the Wehrmacht a tank was considered irretrievably lost only if it was sent for remelting. All the rest, petrified as burnt boxes in the fields, were not included on the loss list… However farcical they are, even these «versions» deserve mentioning. They provide additional confirmation of the fact that the incredible crush of the Red Army in the summer of 1941 is out of all notch of formal logic and insistently demands explanation.

A young Doctor of History A.V. Isayev proposed a few such explanations. If my memory does not fail me, number one in line was «the dogmata of density». There are in the theory of the military art such notions as «battle array density» and «tactical density». This parameter was calculated by way of dividing something by the geometrical size of a front area. For instance, 15 tanks per 1 kilometre of the front, 130 gun barrels per 1 kilometre, 250 shells per hectare, etc. Sometimes, the inverse fraction is used: 20 kilometres per division, 800 metres per battalion… Combat Field Books include quite specific requirements to density of constructing the battle array. Both in the offensive and retreat.

So, Mr Isayev calculated the distance between the Baltic and Black Seas (and did it correctly, accounting for whimsically kinking border line), divided kilometres by the number of divisions in the Red Army’s First Strategic Echelon and came up with the incontestable conclusion: there was no possibility to hold Wehrmacht’s advance. There was many more kilometres per one front division than the Combat Field Book prescribes.

The public highly enjoyed this conclusion (at last! Everything is so simple, understandable and scientific) and I was very much upset. Could it be that they do not teach anything at school? If A is greater than B then the quotient of the division of by B will always be greater than the quotient of dividing by . At any , mind you. The number of Soviet and German divisions may be divided by the width of the front, depth of Lake Baikal, length of Zhukov’s horse tail – in any case, with any gimmickry the parameter for the Red Army will be GREATER! And if 150 Soviet divisions was insufficient for the defence, how come 120 German divisions could advance on such vast front? And to do it brilliantly!

                   A second Isayev’s idea ("steel-sword” and “divine proportion") is simply overwhelming by its... umph, beauty. "Divine proportion" is the organizational structure of the German tank divisions ("The Germans came to their "divine proportion" in the organization of the tank forces: for 2-3 tank battalions in Wehrmacht tank divisions were 4 (or 5, if motor bike ones are included) battalions of motorized infantry... Exactly this organization of tank forces allowed the Germans to come to the walls of Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev"). A division formed according to such proportions is exactly, according to Mr. Isayev, the all-smashing "steel-sword". And what about the Red Army? "If we call a spade a spade, the Soviet party did not have efficient organizational structure of the "tank division" type. The presence of organization structures called "tank division" should not mislead – they were incapable to solve the tasks of independent tank grouping… These divisions were overloaded with tanks (emphasis added - M.S.) and underloaded with motorized infantry and artillery" (Isayev, 2004).

        A fiery phrase about "tank divisions overloaded with tanks" is stubbornly repeated in dozens of pages. The Soviet tank forces, most powerful in the world, are declared nonexistent only because the structure of the Red Army tank divisions was different from the corresponding German structure vintage 1941, at that the German structure is declared unrivaled ideal of perfection allowing for doing miracles.


        This entire "theory" goes straight to the garbage dump by a simple reminder that in the Red Army also were divisions of the downright "divine proportion". Of course, we are talking about motorized divisions under the organization chart of July, 1940. Everything in this division is structured exactly as in Wehrmacht’s tank divisions: one tank, two moto-infantry and artillery regiments. Both the ratio of the number of tanks and people, and the composition of armament in the artillery regiment are quite comparable. The only thing is that the "miracle", if it at all happened, was in a totally different direction...

        As for "overloading" of the Soviet tank divisions with tanks, this "overloading", alas, existed only in theory. In real life, by the beginning of the war average number of tanks in divisions was 208 units (Germans had on average 200 tanks in Eastern front divisions). The further we go, the worse it gets; already in several days (in the best case, in a couple of weeks) even in a few divisions initially "overloaded" with tanks remained a dozen tanks each. However, they did not start fighting better because of it. Whereas the Germans, from the first days and hours of war, were decisively breaking peace-time organization structures - within tank divisions were formed "combat groups" of most various numerical strength and composition, which conducted offensive not paying attention to what extent their "proportion" was gold...

        Military failure, especially a rapid and crushing one, unavoidably causes search for spies and suspicions of treason. In principle, this version is not as outlandish as it may appear from the first sight - if it is known for certain that dozens of Red Army generals, captured by the Germans, actively cooperated with the enemy, there is nothing impossible in an assumption that some of them could have begun working for the enemy even before being captured[4].  Moreover, with all my dislike of "conspiracy theories" and other conspirological schemes, I cannot but recognize that "the generals’ conspiracy" is the first (among those reviewed here), which at least hypothetically may be adequate to the occurred events.

       Poor design of the lubrication unit of the tank track upper left support roller or insufficiently "divine" organizational structure of divisions are details unfit for explaining the catastrophe on a scale of the one, which happened in the summer of 1941 with the Red Army. On the other hand, treason by generals is a serious matter with most destructive potential consequences. And at last, some real facts of action (and even to a greater extent - inaction) of the top command on the eve of war do not fit even the widest definition of boundless Russian slovenliness.

        Only little remained to do – to find conspirators, bring to light their designs, plans and contacts with the enemy. Until this day nothing of the kind was done by anybody. What our distinguished conspirologists (Kozinkin, Martirosyan, Mukhin) are writing is so absurd that only those who believe, without any objections, in superstitions, omens, portents or augury can take it seriously. Notorious "conspirator generals" behave illogically. They do not try to join and coordinate their efforts but "betray in turn", one after another, from one month to the next: from encirclement and perishment of the Western front in June of 1941, through even greater, in its scope and consequences, catastrophes at Kiev (September, 1941) and Vyazma (October, 1941) and to crushing and shameful defeat in Crimea and at Kharkov in May of 1942.

        To their own peril cookers of the "conspiracy theory" in concert ganged on Army General[5] D.G. Pavlov, the Western Front Commander; their "peril" is in that this story (contrary to many similar stories) is well known - protocols of Pavlov’s interrogation and trial were published as early as 1992. It follows from the documents that even the "investigation" conducted by known techniques was unable to find any traces of a connection between Pavlov and the Germans. It also is noteworthy that "traitor" Pavlov in the night on 22 June, without Moscow approval (!), issued the order of combat alarm with unsealing the "red envelopes". Subsequently he did not make even the smallest attempts to cross to the enemy (which was no problem in the environment of total collapse of the front), moreover, he obediently "brought his guilty head" to Moscow where to he was summoned "on the mat" early in July. After receiving a new assignment (deputy Western Front Commander), he immediately departed Moscow to the front.     

        At last, extremely surprising is the absence on the part of mythical "conspirators" even a slightest attempt to do the only thing, which could have resulted in the success of the "conspiracy": to arrest (or kill) Stalin. The "conspirators" also forgot to address the people, army, soldiers in German captivity with a call to anti-Stalin uprising. Suit yourselves but that is not the way to make a conspiracy...

        A natural closure, culmination point in the construction of the "conspiracy theory" became the idea that there was only one conspirator, and he wriggled his way to the very summit of power, and his name was Stalin. There are several variants to this version.

        An unrivaled record in absurd was set by some Mr. Osokin (2007). His sensational "discovery" is that Stalin, ostensibly, concluded with Hitler a super-secret agreement, according to which the Red Army concentrated next to the western borders of the USSR in order to board railway cars and go... to the shores of La Manche, to conquer England! As a return favor Stalin, ostensibly, allowed the German forces to cross through the territory of the Soviet Union into Iran. However, Hitler dastardly deceived Stalin: the Germans jumped out of the cars with submachine guns and "rolled up sleeves" (the latter point is particularly emphasized by Mr. Osokin), and crushed the Red Army, which - again, under the terms and conditions of secret agreement between Stalin and Hitler – was going to La Manche light handed, without shells and bullets. As an indirect confirmation of his hypothesis Mr. Osokin refers to the fact of issuance to the personnel of some Red Army units trunks instead of long jones – in trunks, in his view, it is more convenient to cross La Manche.

        It would appear this fiery delirium does not deserve even to be mentioned - however, other opinions surfaced. Osokin’s book was published beautifully rendered polygraphically, then budget money was expended for making "documentary" (wow!) film presented in Moscow with great fanfare; the talented "path-finder" granted numerous interviews for the Russian central media. Really, it is difficult indeed to explain these miracles without resorting to conspirological versions.

        Another (although not so extravagant) version was spat out by spouses-retirees Ya.Verkhovsky and V.Tyrmos. And not just spat out but materialized in the form of a book published by "Olma-Press" known for its fruitful cooperation with the archive service of the FSB[6] (Verkhovsky and Tyrmos, 2005). Moreover, if one believes the authors’ statements, the book was included on some "list of recommended literature", which list the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation is ostensibly circulating to the governors and other high-ranking state bureaucrats.

        Verkhovsky and Tyrmos developed in detail the idea long ago present in the blogosphere: Stalin intentionally allowed Hitler to carry out a crushing first strike on the Red Army. What for? In order for to appear in the eyes of the world and, first of all, the president of the USA as a "victim of aggression" and to get the help under lend-lease. 

        The absurdity of such suggestion is obvious. The law of lend-lease had the official name "An Act Further to Promote the Defense of the United States". It said nothing about "aggression", "victims of aggression", etc. The law provided the president of the United States with the right independently - without consent of the Congress – to make a decision of the transfer of armament, ammunition and other military hardware to the countries, whose support was important for the defenses of the USA. For the defenses of the USA. The law did not envision any "charitable objectives", any chivalrous "concern of widows and orphans".

        Practically first and major (in the compounded amount of deliveries) receiver of lend-lease became Great Britain. And this was not obstructed at all by the circumstance that, technically, the "first shot" came from the Brits. England declared war on Germany (and not the other way around), and it was the English aviation that carried out 4 September 1939 a first bomb strike on the enemy territory. The French army, the closest ally of Great Britain, also was the first to invade the German territory 9 September of 1939. Of course, making a decision of political and military support of England and France in their war against Hitler’s Germany, the president  and Congress of the USA followed not a legal chicanery on the subject "who made the first shot" but their evaluation of the real objectives of war and real interests of America.

        As for the "reputation" of Comrade Stalin, in June of 1941 it was too late to save it. After everything that happened in 1939-1940, after the division of Poland demonstratively and insolently formalized by the "Treaty of friendship and borders" with Hitler, after aggression against Finland and annexation of the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) Stalin had no chance to appear in front of the Americans as innocent victim. "The plague on both your houses" was all that could say any US citizen with regards to the scuffle for sharing the predatory prey between Stalin and Hitler, no matter how this scuffle began. And if eventually Great Britain and the United States accepted the USSR as their ally, it was caused by a harsh prose of "Realpolitik" and not at all by the romantic strive to help an "innocent victim of aggression".

        Out of the ordinary idea was put forward by N. Volsky. He also believes that Stalin intentionally allowed Hitler to carry out first - and not just first but also quite successful - strike. Volsky explains the motifs of such decision much more seriously: "The cadre army (and broader, the entire population of the country) had no motivation for a serious war... It was already found out in Finland that there would be no victorious march... That is why to implement his plans - indeed, expansionist plans - Stalin needed really to motivate his subordinates, from a Marshall and down to a shift foreman in the Urals factory. Only a deadly threat to the common existence could force everybody to fight for dear life (http://www.lebed.com/2007/art4992.html).

        Sounds logically – but totally unlike the style and methods of Com. Stalin. As is known, The Master was distinct in a great caution, restraint and circumspection bordering on the cowardice (a little known fact: Com. Stalin did not sign the order to conduct a first atom bomb test. It went off with a bang under the signature of Com. Beria). However, what N. Volsky describes required the readiness to a reckless risk. Who could know in advance how the country and army will react to first defeats: "by the tide of frigid rage and readiness to stick out" (that is how the Soviet ambassador in London I.Maysky described the reaction of English to first Luftwaffe bombardments) or by mass desertion?

        And the last, the placement in border districts giant stores of military property is absolutely incompatible with the intent "to allow Hitler to win a little". If Stalin’s intents were as described by N.Volsky, in the border corridor would be left a couple dozen of infantry divisions "like a lamb to the slaughter", and the main forces of the cadre army including precious (in every sense of this word) mechanized corps would be east of the Dnieper and West Dvina...  


           EXAMINATION TEST   


        Not by accident did we dwell so much on reviewing the loss arithmetic of the German and Soviet armies. It is exactly the issue of why losses by the Red Army turned tens of times higher than those by the Wehrmacht brings us to the secret of the dark "mystery" of the summer, 1941. These losses have very different structure. Whereas the Germans had on average three wounded per one killed, in the Red Army irretrievable losses were three to four times greater than the sanitary losses.

        How could it be? Could it be that the anatomy and physiology of Soviet and German persons were radically different? Of course, it is not a matter of anatomy. In the summer of 1941 in Red Army units, irretrievable losses were mostly (in some cases - almost totally) deserters and prisoners of war, the number of killed was 5-6-7 times smaller. "The forces in disparate groups dispersed in the forests", writes in his memoirs general Boldin (in the beginning of war - deputy Western Front Commander).

        Analysis of the personnel loss structure prompted the direction of further study. No less eloquent turned out the losses of combat hardware (their dynamics, structure, and ratio with losses of similar hardware before and after 1941, comparison with losses of the enemy). The only thing after that was to "adjust the focus" and carefully, by the day and hour, to review the real course of combat actions for the first weeks of war. That way it was possible to form an integral picture of the military catastrophe in the summer of 1941. 

        I published results of this work in the book entitled "The Barrel and Hoops" (first published in 2004), then in 2008, radically reworked, this book was published under the title "22 June. Anatomy of the catastrophe". The major concept was developed and supplemented in a book "23 June: day "". Quite demonstrative for understanding the real status of the Soviet Armed Forces is the history of the beginning of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war reviewed in detail in a book "25 June – stupidity or aggression?" The books "On peacefully sleeping airdromes" and two-volume "New chronology of the catastrophe" were devoted to the aviation "component" in the history of the crush of 1941.

        In the final analysis some "body of works" formed, which review in detail and substantively rationalized the following conclusion: the main cause of the defeat lies outside of the domain of operational art, tactics, amount and quality of armaments. The shortest formulation of an answer to the question about the causes of the defeat may be boiled down to five words: THE ARMY WAS NOT FIGHTING. In the battlefields of 1941 met not two armies but the armed forces of the Nazi Germany, organized and working as well-tuned clockwork, on the one side, and a huge armed mob, on the other side.                       

        Causes of the Red Army turning into an uncontrollable mob had nothing in common with the notorious "absence of the means of communication". The cause, effect and the main content of the unbridled decomposition of the army became mass noncompliance with orders, mass deserting (both open and hidden) and mass surrender into captivity. The Soviet Union turned out not ready to war in terms of the "human factor". In the total contradiction with what was for decades hammered in by the Soviet propaganda, the Red Army conceded to the enemy not in the number of cannon, tanks and machine guns but in the readiness, skills and desire of soldiers to do their duty. In the collision with a real, dogged and stable enemy, it turned out that in the Red Army there were plenty of tanks but the lack of motivation for the armed struggle.

        Six years ago, in the foreword to "The anatomy of the catastrophe" I wrote: "The used source base has a clear disadvantage: it is incomplete, fragmentary and composed mostly by the people who by their service and party duty had the objective of hiding the truth of the circumstances and causes of a catastrophic defeat of the Red Army... Strictly speaking, this book does not include even single new document or fact". The book, which you are now holding in your hands, is made absolutely differently – it in principle and consistently ignores all and any contraptions of the Soviet "historians"; if they are encountered a couple of times in the list of referenced publications, it means that they were used as an illustration of some ultramundane lie.

       The same fate betided memoirs of the Soviet generals; may God be their judge and jury, but today, when it is possible to compare what they wrote (or rather what was written for them by their ideologically savvy "literature workers”) with real documents and facts, it is difficult to avoid the feeling of discomfort and shame. And even if there are in this feculent flow some sparkling grains of truth, digging out such "gold" is too difficult, tiring and unreliable; it is simpler today to use primary archive documents. 

       My first books provided the reader with new conclusions from the facts commonly known (more correct and honest to say from available but ignored by two generations of historians). In the last book, everything is completely the other way around: it does not contain new (new relative to my previous works) conclusions. All conclusions are "old", but this time they are supported by thousands of pages of documents from Russian and German military archives, the documents, which mostly have never been published.

       It is possible to call this book an "examination test". Checking and fine-tuning of the previous books. It is also possible to treat it as the "trial shot" on the dummy of the Soviet pseudo-history stuffed with the saw dust. Its only place now – a garbage dump.







Part 1    ON THE EVE


           Chapter 1.1. Red Army vintage 1941.


         In this chapter (as in the book as a whole), there will be no discussion of how the Soviet Russia, utterly ruined in a long war (1914 through 1920) turned a mighty military power. A lot was written about it, and we in this case – for the study and understanding of the course of combat actions in the first weeks of the Soviet-German war – are interested not in the method, in the process but in the final result. We will restrict ourselves to only a brief quotation from one quite official document. On the 2nd of April 2008 the State Duma adopted a special Statement devoted to the memory of holodomor (famine genocide) victims. In particular, it says: "As a result of famine caused by forced collectivization suffered many regions of the RSFSR, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belorussia. About 7 million people perished there in 1932-1933 of famine and illness associated with starvation. The peoples of the USSR paid a huge price for industrialization, for a giant economic breakthrough, which occurred in those years..."

         Seven million. Not a single West European country (not counting Germany herself) suffered in the years of the Second World War such immolation, which Stalin’s subjects during the so-called "years of peace" brought to the altar of forced militarization of the USSR. Stalin and his satraps knew how to force the people to work. It is possible (and necessary) to argue how rationally these great labors were organized in terms of the criterion "cost - result". In any case, Stalin did not care too much about the "cost", and the result came up tremendous. Weighty, rough and visible.

          Cyclopic mountains of the accumulated weaponry allowed for the creation of the world-largest land army, which included by the summer of 1941 198 infantry (among those, 19 mountain infantry), 61 tank, 31 motorized and 13 cavalry divisions. Altogether 303 divisions. Also 94 corps artillery regiments and 74 regiments of the Reserve of the Supreme Command (RGK), 10 PTABR’s (antitank artillery brigades of RGK) and 16 paratrooper brigades. Traditionally, we did not include on this list very numerous units and groupings of the NKVD forces.




        The foundation of the army in the first half of the 20th century, main force in defence, the only instrument, with which it was possible to take the territory and hold it in the course of the offensive, was the infantry. "Any situation map of the Eastern front will show that both on cardinal directions of most defensive battles and in the areas of numerous breakthroughs operated first of all infantry divisions" (Middeldorf).

        The main "brick", basic tactical unit was infantry ("rifle", as it was called in the Red Army) division. In the construction of this quite complex and multifaceted "brick" it was necessary to solve two tasks. First, to provide for maximum possible capability of a division to independent, autonomous actions. A division (ideally) must do everything on its own: to suppress the enemy by fire, to support its actions by reconnaissance and communications, to blow up a bridge in the retreat, to throw the ferry crossing in the offensive, to fix its combat hardware, to treat sick horses, and repair horse harness. Second, in all these components a division in the own army should not be inferior to divisions of potential enemies.

        The latter aspect deserves a more detailed review. Despite the composition, structure and armament of infantry divisions in the Red Army and Wehrmacht are no longer a secret, despite the fact that on paper and on the Internet it is possible without much trouble to find all necessary information (up to the complete staff lists of the divisions with all harness makers, postmen, cattle herders and propagandists), ignorant dissertations that "the Soviet division was half-strength of the German one" still remain in the pages composed by domestic "historians" and journalists.

         As we are talking about infantry, we will start with infantry detachments. In the Red Army, rifle divisions had three rifle (infantry) regiments, three battalions each. The German infantry divisions also had three infantry regiments, three battalions each. Almost complete equivalence. The word "almost" is hiding some, not conceptually important but, still, advantage of Soviet divisions. Even on the level of the smallest unit – infantry section - in the Red Army divisions are slightly more people (11 instead of 10). In the German infantry regiment – the communication platoon and in the Soviet infantry regiment – communication company; the Germans had the sapper platoon, in the Red Army regiment had the sapper company; there was no equivalent of anti-aircraft company and foot reconnaissance platoon in Wehrmacht’s regiment. At the end of the day total numerical strength of the personnel of a Red Army rifle regiment was slightly greater than that of a Wehrmacht’s infantry regiment: 3,182 against  3,049.

         Of course, comparison of only the number of personnel is saying little about a 20th century army (incidentally, as early as in battles of the 2nd century B.C. horsemen were counted separately from infantrymen, archers were not mixed into one heap with heavily armed knights, etc.) It is much more important to evaluate the armament of the Soviet and German infantry.

         The basis of the fire system in the infantry units and detachments was machine guns.[7] In Soviet divisions, one hand machine gun per rifle section, and in German ones, one hand machine gun per section. In the Soviet rifle company there were 12 hand machine guns, and in German infantry company, 12. In battalions, correspondingly, 36 and 36. Accounting for the armament in detachments of the regiment level, rifle regiments of Soviet divisions had 116 hand machine guns, and German infantry regiments - 115.

        As for the mounted, i.e., more powerful machine guns, providing for better accuracy and practical rate of fire, Soviet divisions had many more of them. German infantry company did not have mounted machine guns, Red Army rifle company had the machine gun platoon with 2 "Maxims". Each battalion, both in Soviet and German divisions, had one machine gun company. Overall, the rifle regiment of a Soviet division had 54 mounted machine guns, the German infantry regiment, only 36. A difference in the fire density is quite palpable.

         A second (smaller) component of the fire power in infantry detachments were rifles. Their number was about equal (123 units in the Red Army rifle company and 130 in Wehrmacht’s one). Substantially different was the quality, or strictly speaking, type of used arms.

         A German infantryman was armed with Mauser rifle whose bolt (exactly as in the Russian Mosin’s "three-linear") had to be jerked "backwards-forwards" after each shot. In the process, aiming was unavoidably distorted and had to be repeated, thus substantial decline in practical rate of fire. On the eve of war, the Red Army was rearmed with a self-loading Tokarev rifle (SVT-38/40) with a magazine of 10 cartridges. This provided for substantially greater rate of fire and fire density of the infantry detachments[8]. This rifle at that time could be considered among the best small arms speimens in the world. It is supported, in particular, by the fact that captured SVT’s were officially included on Wehrmacht’s armament inventory.

        Under the organization chart, on the inventory of a Red Army infantry company must have been 96 SVT (self-loading Tokarev’s rifles) and 27 regular "three-linear rifles". The “three-liners” were issued to drivers, clerks, messengers, soldiers of the mounted machine guns and mortars, i.e., those who would need to shoot only in emergency. There were 27 infantry companies in a division. In order to provide them totally with the self-loading rifles, 2.6 thous. SVT were needed. For the entire infantry (rifle) division under the organization chart was supposed to be 3,307 self-loading rifles. Actually, by the war beginning the Soviet industry manufactured about 1 million SVT, which was much more than enough to equip all Red Army infantry divisions.

         As for the total number, the Red Army had 7,740 thous. units of rifles and carbines all types (Krivosheyev, pp. 351, 355). On average, 33 thous. per each of 236 "estimated" infantry divisions[9]. Taking into account that under the organization chart, the infantry divisions were supposed to have 10,420 rifles and carbines, the real situation may be described as "three rifles per one person". Machine guns (especially mounted "Maxims", which were manufactured in Russia/USSR for several decades) were also accumulated plenty. On average, 722 hand held and 323 mounted per one "estimated division". About two times the organization chart requirement.                                                           

         As for the so-called "submachine guns" (MP-40 in the Wehrmacht, PPD and PPSh in the Red Army), in these weapons were used pistol cartridges, with effective range of fire no greater than 200 meters. Their role in the total fire system of the infantry (rifle) regiment was minuscule. In the Wehrmacht, detachment commanders, reconnaissance people and sappers were armed with submachine guns (total of 16 MP-40 on the inventory of the infantry company). There were no special "submachine gunner" detachments under the organization chart of Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions. (Of course, it did not preclude the possibility of forming improvised combat groups armed with "submachine guns" and causing panic in the rear of demoralized enemy forces). Overall, less than 5 percent of Wehrmacht’s infantry division personnel were armed with submachine guns. In the Red Army, theoretically, this number should have been 9 percent (1,204 units per division) but actually, by the beginning of the war there were three times fewer of them.

         The infantry regiment had something else except small arms. In the armies of mid-20th century, the infantry regiment had its own artillery (mortars and light cannon). The number and distribution of mortars in the Soviet and German divisions were identical: 9 light (50-mm) and 6 medium (81/82-mm) mortars per each infantry (rifle) battalion and 3 more light mortars in a reconnaissance battalion. Total: 84 light and 54 medium mortar per a division.

         The number and calibre of light regimental cannon is also totally the same: six "three-inchers" per regiment (of course, taking into account two such cannon on the inventory of reconnaissance battalion, the Wehrmacht’s infantry division had 20 light cannon against 18 per a Red Army infantry division). However, the artillery systems proper were quite different. The main objective of regimental artillery is, being directly in combat orders of the advancing infantry, suppressing enemy firing points (machine guns). Therefore, such weapons do not need to have either a great range of fire or a great shell power, whereas the weight of the gun should be such that the crew could roll it in the field on their own force. 

         The Germans decided that the main feature for regimental cannon is small weight. The results was a 75-mm calibre system with unusually low initial projectile velocity (221 m/s, which more in line with mortar parameters than with a barrel artillery gun) and very light at that – only 400 kg. Another feature of the German infantry gun was separate loading (the projectile and propellant charge did not form a single unit). Together with great barrel elevation angle this enabled shooting with small charge on closely located targets with curved fire. This was at a cost of substantial decrease in the rate of fire compared with unitary loading.

         The Red Army went a different way. Soviet 76-mm regimental cannon, vintage 1927, weighed two times the German "light infantry gun". However, it accelerated the projectile to 387 m/s (3.5 times kinetic energy). The unitary round provided for higher rate of fire. A result was higher accuracy and distance of shooting, the possibility of defeating small size and moving targets and at very short distances - even light tanks.

        With heavy artillery armament of the infantry regiment Germans clearly made an error. 150-mm "heavy infantry gun" was only heaven knows what. No other army in the world had such systems of the regimental artillery. A huge weight (1,750 kg in action position) made moving the gun by physical force of the crew on a ragged terrain practically impossible, and there was no mechanical towing means for it in the infantry regiment. On the other hand, very low initial projectile velocity (240 m/s, lower than for the Soviet 120-mm mortar) and the resulting low shooting distance (4,700 m) made it impossible to use this system as a wholesome howitzers. Plus, the structure of the infantry regiment did not include subdivisions - communications, correction, instrumental reconnaissance, - which could have provided for combat application of heavy howitzers).

        There were two such “wonder-weapons” in the Wehrmacht infantry regiment. On the inventory of the Red Army rifle regiment were four 120-mm mortars. Four is two times two, and this is not the entire difference. The Soviet mortar was six times lighter than the German "heavy infantry gun", moving it on the battlefield did not cause any particular problem. The defeating action of a 16-kg mine of the 120-mm mortar was quite sufficient for the destruction of main types of targets (machine gun emplacements, dugouts with light cover), and nothing greater was required from the regimental artillery. The war put a final stamp on it – beginning in 1943 Germans began recalling 150-mm guns from the armament of infantry regiments replacing them with four 120-mm mortars.

        By the start of the war all due artillery armament for a Red Army infantry regiment was in place. Even with some reserve. Every single one out of 236 "estimated" divisions on average had 154 50-mm mortars (instead of 84), 62 82-mm mortars (instead of 54), 16 120-mm mortars (instead of 12) and 20 regimental 76-mm cannon (instead of 18) (Krivosheyev, pp. 351, 355; Miuller-Gillibrand, 2002).

       Thus, a first brief and indisputable summary: in its armament the Soviet infantry regiment was not inferior to Wehrmacht’s infantry regiment and in many aspects exceeded it.


         Comparison of artillery armament of the Red Army rifle divisions and Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions produces even simpler and unique conclusion. Soviet divisions included two artillery regiments each, total of five artillery battalions. German infantry divisions had one artillery regiment each, total of four artillery battalions. The division artillery in Soviet divisions included 60 barrels, in German ones, 48 barrels. The aggregate salvo weight was, respectively, 1,300 kg and 1,100 kg. Obvious superiority in all three parameters.

         However, this simple arithmetic is not an end in the advantage of the Soviet division artillery. The "barrels" proper should be evaluated. For starters – some necessary theory.

         All artillery systems are subdivided into two major types: cannon and howitzers. The difference between them may be easily illustrated by a specific example. On the inventory of the Wehrmacht were 105-mm cannon and 150-mm howitzer.  The weight of the systems in the deployed mode is almost the same (5,640 and 5,510 kg, respectively), the energetics are also quite similar (5.23 megajoule and 5.82 megajoule). However, these magajoules are used totally differently: in a cannon, the light 15-kg projectile is accelerated to the velocity of 835 m/s (which, incidentally, is 2.5 times the speed of sound next to the surface), whereas a howitzer throws a much heavier (43 kg) projectile at a speed of only 520 m/s.

         Different technical parameters cause substantial difference in the combat application tactics. Cannon have flat trajectory (at the distance of a shot, high velocity projectile moves almost parallel to the ground surface), shoots point blank on small size and/or moving targets. Howitzer throws its projectile in a way the rocks were thrown by combat catapults of the ancient world – high into the skies. Curved howitzer fire is often conducted from closed positions (i.e., the enemies do not see each other, and the fire control is accomplished using external correctors – on land or in the air). Cannon are irreplaceable when shooting at tanks, aircraft and bunker embrasures. On the other hand, howitzers are capable of defeating the targets hidden behind backside of hills. At the same gun weight, the howitzer projectile is always much heavier and mightier; on the other hand, howitzer’s probability of hitting a small target is low, and control of the howitzer fire demands serious efforts and resources.

         As we can see, using words "better" or "worse" when comparing howitzer with cannon is absurd. These are different instruments for solving different tasks. And solving these tasks is equally needed for winning the fight. Exactly for this reason, the total "howitzering" of Wehrmacht’s infantry division artillery should be treated as an error. A German artillery regiment had only howitzers: 12 heavy 150-mm (one battalion) and 36 light 105-mm (three battalions). If to these is added the absence of "normal" (i.e., with high initial projectile velocity) cannon in regimental artillery, then there were no instruments in Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions for defeating pinpoint moving targets.

         Consequences of this clearly showed up as early as in June of 1941 (which will be elaborated in dozens of documents, which are waiting us in the following sections of the book). That was when on the battlefield appeared such pinpoint moving target as heavy tank V. German commanders and soldiers discovered in terror that they were simply disarmed before this enemy – antitank 37-mm "mallets" left barely noticeable indentations on the armour of a steel monster. And there was no more powerful cannon on the organization chart of Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions[10].

         The armament structure of Red Army rifle divisions’ artillery regiments was much more reasonable, and the opportunities of combat applications were broader. Out of five battalions three were howitzer (12 heavy 152-mm and 24 light 122-mm), one cannon (12 long-barrel 76-mm division cannon) and one mixed (4 cannon and 8 light howitzers). The Soviet "light" howitzer (122-mm) had one and a half times heavier projectile than the German 105-mm. Thus, howitzer artillery of a Soviet rifle division (44 barrels) gives aggregate salvo weight greater than howitzer artillery of a German infantry division (48 barrels). Besides, in addition to howitzers the commander of a Soviet rifle division had 16 cannon whose energetics allowed punching through the front (i.e., the strongest) armour of any German tank at a distance of one kilometer.


Comparison of flak armament between Soviet and German divisions will not take too much time. Everything is simple here – there were no flak means on the inventory of Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions. Nothing at all. This is hard to believe, hard to understand what German generals were thinking composing such organization chart (at that time there were no scribbles of Soviet historians about "at dawn, by a strike on peacefully sleeping airdromes, the entire Soviet aviation..."). Still, German infantry divisions had nothing to oppose attacks from the air. Whereas the Red Army rifle division had its own flak battalion with 8 semiautomatic 37-mm cannon and 4 medium 76-mm flak guns. And that was far from all flak means in the rifle divisions.


         Every rifle regiment had its own anti-aircraft company, which, according to the organization chart, had 3 large calibre (12.7-mm) machine guns DShK and 6 installations “Maxim” machine guns. In artillery regiments, each of the five battalions had one quadrupled installation. Sure, one may agree that such flak means are good rather for scaring the flier than for shooting down the enemy airplane. But after all, the rifle division has other tasks than a fighter aviation regiment. And if it was possible to make the enemy nervous and deviate from the combat trajectory, get out of diving earlier than necessary, the job of the antiaircraft unit was totally done. Certainly, in this component real availability of the armament was very different from that prescribed by the organization chart. The 37-mm semiautomatic guns just began to be delivered into the forces, the DShK machine guns were in short supply everywhere. However, selective review of the documents shows that at least 10 to 12 flak "barrels" of different type were almost in each division. No doubt, it is too few. But the Germans did not have even one.


        Let us now turn to a highly important mid-20th century army parameter, means of active antitank defence. At the level of infantry (rifle) regiment there was total equality - 12 antitank cannon per regiment. But the cannon were different: in the Red Army, the calibre was 45-mm, in the Wehrmacht, 37-mm. Some comrades (such as PhD in history .Isayev) explained to the public long and hard that "parameters of the 37-mm German and 45-mm Soviet cannon, despite different calibre, were similar both in explosive action and in the capability of defeating armoured targets" (Isayev, 2004, p. 80). There are, however, no miracles. The body weight and volume is proportional to the cube of geometrical size. Therefore, even if total geometric similarity is observed, the 45-mm projectile will be 1.8 times heavier than the 37-mm projectile. Nobody obligated Soviet designers to maintain the geometric similarity. They designed for the 45-mm cannon fragmentation projectile with the weight of 2.14 kg. The German fragmentation 37-mm projectile was 0.62 kg – one third!

         It is important that the utilization of the "forty-fiver" as a light infantry gun was not a forced improvisation – such tactic of combat application was envisioned initially. The assigned ammunition allowance of 45-mm antitank cannon fragmentation rounds accounted for three quarters (!) of the total amount. And these projectiles were not only on paper – millions of 45-mm rounds were sitting in storages. The plan for 1941 envisioned manufacturing of 8.3 million fragmentation 45-mm rounds (and "only" 2.2 million armour-piercing) (RGASPI, fund 17, list 162, case 32, page 67).

         As for the main thing, i.e., fighting enemy tanks, in this respect the capabilities of the German 37-mm and Soviet 45-mm cannon, indeed, were equal (despite the fact that in the initial kinetic energy of armor-piercing projectile the Soviet system twice exceeded the German one). Both of them with certainty defeated light tanks with anti-bullet armor and were practically useless[11] against the heavy tanks of the new generation (details in the next chapter).

         As mentioned, at the regiment level number of the antitank cannon in the German infantry and Soviet rifle divisions was the same. However, at the next level a radical difference shows up. At the disposal of the Soviet division commanders was antitank battalion (18 45-mm cannon), whereas Wehrmacht’s infantry division commander had the entire antitank battalion[12] of three companies, 12 each, overall 36 37-mm cannon. It would appear, in this case the German divisions had clear advantage.

        Let us not be hasty with conclusions. Antitank battalion was all that the commander of Wehrmacht’s infantry division could dispatch into the area of a suspected enemy tanks breakthrough. Wehrmacht infantry divisions had no other cannon capable of fighting tanks (as was previously mentioned). Whereas for the commanders of the Red Army rifle divisions antitank battalion was only one of many instruments of fighting tanks. There were also 16 longbarrel 76-mm cannon (initial projectile velocity 650-680 m/s) in the structure of artillery regiment. In summer of 1941, they with certainty punched through the front armor of any Wehrmacht’s tank. There were even more powerful 76-mm flak cannon, 4 units per antiaircraft battalion. It already makes the total of 18 + 16 + 4 = 38 "barrels". More than in Wehrmacht’s antitank battalion of infantry divisions, and incomparably better. There were some rifle divisions which managed before the war to get also 37-mm rapid-fire flak cannon, which could also be successfully used to fight light tanks.

        But even that was not everything. In the structure of divisions was reconnaissance/intelligence battalion. This battalion in Red Army rifle divisions was half of the German intelligence battalion in terms of the personnel numbers (respectively, 273 and 623). However, it was incomparably mightier in terms of armament. The intelligence battalion in Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions was in actuality a regular infantry battalion, reduced in numbers. It was often used as a forward group of the advancing infantry (which we will encounter many times in documents in the subsequent sections of the book). It adds only three 37-mm cannon to the total list of means of the antitank defense. Whereas the intelligence battalion of a Soviet rifle division had 16 floating machine gun whippets -37/-38 and 10 armored vehicles B-10. These vehicles were armed with a 45-mm cannon installed in a revolving "tank" (in its appearance and design) turret. That is 10 more antitank "barrels", which at that were covered by armor and were highly mobile.

Mobility is among the most important requirements to antitank detachments. Tank attack is always fast moving (the distance of 1.5-2 km between the deployment line and the line of enemy trenches a tank crawls without any hurry in seven minutes). Therefore, an antitank battalion, which came to the breakthrough location half hour late did not fulfil the combat assignment and is already unable to do it as enemy tanks have already disappeared behind the clouds of smoke and dust... The issue of high-speed antitank defense in the Wehrmacht was solved beautifully. For transporting 37-mm cannon of the antitank battalion was used a three-axle automobile Kfz-69. On a highway this rather light (2,450 kg) vehicle with a 60 hp engine rushed at a speed of 70 km/h (of course, without the cannon as the running gear of a 37-mm cannon did not allow for the transportation at a speed over 40-50 km/h). As for passability, an automobile with two driving rear axles could be considered an "off-roader" on automobile highways in Belgium and France but not in the Russian mud-locked roads.

         In the Soviet Union it was done differently. The Red Army Command decided that the antitank cannon means of transportation must have no worse passability than tanks. Such vehicle – an armored track tow-truck "Komsomolets" – was designed on the basis of parts and aggregates of a light floating tank -37. The tow-truck could haul guns weighing up to 2 ton (i.e., all available and upcoming antitank cannon), it could overcome a ditch 1.4 m wide, ford 0.6 m, break with its armored nose young firs up to 18 cm in diameter and turn around on a 5-meter site. It had very low per unit area track pressure on the ground (0.58 kg/sq.cm against 0.9 – 1.0 for German tanks). That is why "Komsomolets" had better passability than any enemy tank. Besides, the track machine was armed with a ball-mounted machine gun and could develop speed of 47 km/h (on highway, without load and trailer) and 11 km/h fully loaded (cannon as a trailer, ammunition in the bed) on cross-county terrain.

        7,780 of these wonder machines were manufactured from 1937 through 1941. By the beginning of the war in Red Army units were listed about 6,700 "Komsomolets" (Prochko, 2002). Under the rifle division’s organization chart, 21 tow-trucks were per 18 cannon. Thus, simple arithmetic shows that the available number of "Komsomolets" was sufficient for total equipping of 319 battalions, which was almost one and a half times their real number[13]. 3,447 units of the aforementioned floating tanks -37/ -38/ -40 were listed in the military districts as of 1 June 1941 (Meltyukhov, 2000, pg. 597). On average, 15 tanks per division, i.e., almost total level of equipment. Of course, these tanks were poor swimmers, worse than a pleasure craft. But they could cross a forest rivulet without a ford or bridge, or could haul an antitank cannon to the firing position.

        Absolutely unique was the motorization level of the Red Army’s rifle division’s howitzer artillery. Three battalions (36 howitzers) under the organization chart were assigned 72 tractors (track tow-trucks), 90 trucks, 9 specialized automobiles and 3 cars. Out of those, 36 tractors were used for towing the guns, 27 hauled trailers with ammunition, 9 were held in reserve, for replacing the broken ones. German artillerymen could not even dream about such luxury – the entire artillery of Wehrmacht infantry divisions was horse-driven. Obvious advantages of a track tow-truck (power, passability and the capability of nonstop, tireless movement) should be amended by one more, very important for war of mid-20th century – a tractor, as opposed to poor beast, does not convulse at a sight and sound of a low-flying airplane.

        Specialized artillery tow-trucks were in short supply even for the first-priority users – mechanized corps. For this reason howitzer regiments in infantry divisions were equipped by regular tractors (STZ-3, ChTZ-60, ChTZ -65) with 52-65 hp engines. The towing speed was, of course, low (6-8 km/h). But it was quite acceptable for artillery of the rifle divisions – the guns did not lag behind the walking soldiers. As for passability, in a fall muddy season on Russian roads a track tractor had no competitors.

         To control a huge, complex multilink jumbo called "infantry division" reliable communications are needed. As everybody and his brother “knows", the Red Army did not have communications as saboteurs cut all wires, and nobody in the army heard about portable transmitters. Even those who did not hear anything else about the war history, "know" about this. This is not coincidental – saboteurs really existed. One of each four Wehrmacht’s tank groups had one saboteur company from the special purposes unit "Brandenburg". Documents are waiting for us in subsequent chapters, in which we will find a specific answer to a question of how this untold horde of saboteurs was used. It will be also shown what kind of a real process hid behind the words "the communications in Red Army units and groupings were lost". But in the mean-time we will return to dry numbers, and for starters will figure out the simplest – the geometry of the theatre of military operations.

         The Field Book (PU-39, par. 375) established division’s defence corridor width at 8-12 km (even less in offensive). In real life, it was not always possible to maintain these norms. We will consider that the division is defending on a wide front of 20 km. The divisions have neighbours on the left and right. We will consider that they also have 20 km of front each. Divisions, as a rule, are parts of rifle corps whose headquarters are 20-30 km off the front line. Therefore, the commander of a rifle division needs communications with the subordinated regiments (the distance to those is 5-6 km), communications with the superior headquarters (20-30 km) and communications with the commanders of neighbour divisions (the same 20-30 km at the maximum). In short, the distance is nowhere greater than 30 km.

At such distance, an operative summary can be delivered to the corps headquarters simply by a courier. This is the most noise-proof communication channel that one may think of. It is not necessary to walk. In the structure of a rifle division there is entire communications battalion whose equipment includes 6 riding horses, 3 motorbikes, 1 car and 3 armored vehicles B-20 (a saboteur would be certainly unable to wrest them out). Plus, a battalion has 18 service dogs, exactly for the purpose of sending with them enciphered reports. At a distance of 10-20 km signal rockets, bonfires, colored smoke, etc., can serve as a "means of communication".

        That is exactly how, with such means of communications (of course, without motorbikes and automobiles) were fighting Suvorov and Napoleon, and the results were quite all right! By the end of the 19th century the telephone appeared. There were many telephones in the Red Army – 252,376 units as of 1 January 1941 (Russia-XXth century, Documents. Year 1941", Book 1, 1998, pg. 623). On average, more than 800 units in each of 303 divisions. Telephone units must be connected with wires. The wires were also available. As of 1 June 1941 listed in the Red Army were 71 thous. km of duplex telephone cable, 315 thous. km of telephone monocable and 35 thous. km telegraph cable (TSAMO, fund 16, list 1709, case 39, pg. 57-59). This amount of wire was enough to coil the globe 10 times at the equator. On average, it is 1,400 km of wire per division.

         In order not to haul heavy reels with wire on the back, the communications battalion had 11 trucks. The wires should be uncoiled, laid and connected to the units. For these, people are needed. There were the people. Each rifle regiment in the Red Army had the communications company. Sixty persons each. The division’s communications battalion has 278 personnel. Plus the communications platoon in the reconnaissance battalion. One division has the number of communications people about equal to the number of German saboteurs on the entire Eastern front.

         In a rifle division, whose offensive tempo even under the most optimistic conditions did not exceed 10 km a day, wired telephone lines could in principle provide for all necessary communications. Nevertheless, the Red Army infantry also had means of radio communications. 24 radiostations in each rifle regiment. 37 radiostations in a howitzer artillery regiment, 25 radiostations in a light artillery regiment, 10 – in the flak battalion, three radiostations in the communications battalion of the division, three radiostations in the reconnaissance battalion... Overall, a rifle division under the organization chart had 153 (one hundred and fifty three) radiostations. Memorize this number, esteemed reader. And please understand that when "historians" of certain ideological affiliation begin rueful lamentations on the subject that "the districts were only 30 percent provided with means of radio communications", they are saying to you that the saboteurs cut wires of a division, which had not 153 but only 46 radiostations.

            Now we will switch from quantity to quality. The radiostations were so-called "regimental" and "battalion". The radiostation 5-AK was regularly used as the "regimental" one (it was included on the inventory in 1939). The transmitter capacity was 20 w, action radius 25 km with the telephone communications and 50 km with the telegraph communications. As we see, the "regimental" radiostation could practically provide for the communications in the link "division-corps". A division, under the organization chart, was supposed to have 19 such radiostations (including 3, in the reconnaissance battalion).

        As "battalion" ones, light portable radiostations RB, 6-PK, RBK, RBS, RRU, etc. (1.5-3 w capacity) were used. Contrary to common misperception, they included very high frequency (metric waves) radiostations (such as RRU, which had 58 fixed settings in the range of 33.25-40.5 MHz).

        This is in theory. And what was in real life? Actual Red Army equipping with the means of radio-communications as of 1 June 1941 was as follows: 6,729 radiostations 5- and 41,735 battalion radiostations of the types specified above. (TSAMO, fund 16, list 1709, case 39, pg. 57-59). In actuality, there were even more of them as the document, from which these numbers are taken, is called "Availability list of means of communications in the military districts". But beside district there were also central agencies of the armed forces. In particular, in the Western OVO (most of the stories about "wire cutting saboteurs" are associated with first days of war in Belorussia) were listed 708 portable radiostations 5- and 5,011 battalion ones. On average, 10 regimental and 73 battalion radiostations per each "user" (44 divisions of all types and 25 non-integrated artillery regiments).

        Of course, headquarters of large groupings had also not been forgotten. For the communications in the link "corps-army-front" were en masse produced radiostations RSB and RC mechanized corps (capacity, 80 w), 11- and RAF (capacity, 500 w). Their total by 1 June 1941 was 1,638 units. On average, 18 units per each infantry and mechanized corps (and the corps includes three, maximum four divisions, each of them was supposed to have one RSB, plus communications lines between the corps command and neighbors and the army headquarters). In particular, the Western OVO had 89 powerful 11- and RAF (they are listed on the same line) and 57 RSB. This is not counting 34 stationary army radiostations of various types. In the neighboring Kiev district, correspondingly, 107, 92 and 53.

        How were all these used? Details are in the following chapters, although one noteworthy document should be mentioned right away. Early in July of 1941 (the date in the document is illegible) the Southwestern Front’s 5th army Military Council directed to the headquarters of the subordinated corps a directive, which began with stating the following facts:

"In the course of all combat actions of our army radio communications with mechanized corps, as the only means of communications, are operating very unstably due to a fault of corps communications heads. It was established that radio communications, as a rule, disappeared with the onset of night, whereas the atmospheric environment for the radio operation during the night are most favorable. It indicates that either the work is stopped because of the fear to be located by the enemy or the radio operators are simply sleeping. As a rule, when the radiostations are folded down for changing the location, this is not reported. The radio-signal table is absolutely ignored, signals for reporting to the corps are not used. Especially outrageous attitude to the issue of establishing radio communication is observed all the time from headquarters of the 22nd mechanized corps[14]. According to the report by Captain Filimonov, the radiostation of the 22nd mechanized corps absolutely did not work for 2 days because it was stuck in a swamp and nobody reported it. Moreover, on the order of the corps communications head the radiostation is working only on reception again, because of the fear to be located by the enemy..." (TSAMO, fund 3456, list 1, case 6, pg. 89).


        Let us return, however, to Red Army rifle divisions and to the comparison of their capabilities with Wehrmacht infantry divisions. There were some parameters, in which German divisions unarguably exceeded the Soviet ones. First of all, motorbikes. Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions were supposed to have 530 motorbikes (including 190 with sidecars), whereas under organization chart a Soviet division had only 14. There were no special motorbike detachments in German infantry divisions. However, practically all detachments of the divisions were saturated with motorbikes. Messengers, reconnaissance people, doctors, etc., used them. One more line in the list of divisions’ hardware are cars. The Germans had 394 of those against 19 in the Red Army rifle divisions.

        The arithmetic advantage is obvious. The tactical advantage is not as great as may appear from the first sight. Most commanders in Soviet rifle divisions must have ridden horses (the organization chart of the division included 616 riding horses). Who would argue, a German officer in a car moved in space faster and with incomparably greater comfort – while this space was stone-block pavements of the old good Europe. During the fall mud season, on something, which was called "roads" in Russia, a car simply stopped or had to be towed by a couple of horses (the photographs are available)...

         Be it as it may, the bulk of personnel of Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions were walking. The entire artillery (except for antitank) was horse-driven. Those were two factors determining potential march tempo. The abundance of light transportation means (motorbikes and cars) could not change anything - although, certainly, their presence heightened total combat potential of divisions. As for the trucks (and the trucks define mobility of the rear, delivery of ammunition, etc.), the organization chart numbers are quite comparable (615 in Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions and 529 in the Soviet rifle divisions). We’ll remark right here that such number of trucks could appear in the Red Army divisions only after the conduct of open mobilization.

The last – both in order and in significance – is the number of people. Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions had 16% more personnel than Red Army rifle divisions (16,859 against 14,483). The explanation is very simple. First of all, German divisions had more numerous rears, approximately 2 thous. personnel more than Soviet divisions. Second, German organization chart almost always assumes greater number of people per unit weapon. For instance, the German mounted machine gun crew includes four (!) men, although only one is shooting. A German artillery regiment had 2,696 personnel for 48 guns, whereas two artillery regiments in a Soviet rifle division had 2,315 personnel for 60 guns, etc. And at last, Wehrmacht’s infantry division had the entire "field reserve battalion" (876 personnel under the organization chart), which a Soviet division did not have.


         A summary. Combat units and detachments of Soviet rifle and German infantry divisions had about equal number of personnel and weapons, the artillery in a rifle division is more powerful and mobile (mechanized hauling), Soviet divisions had more antiaircraft and antitank means, the Germans had more automobile transport and rear structures. By and large – quite equivalent groupings. This, of course, was not coincidental - General headquarters in Moscow and Berlin carefully watched the armed forces of a potential enemy. 





Artillery was the ruthless "God of war" in armed conflicts of the first half of 20th century. Not the elegant, lightning-speed fighter planes and not terrible tanks but simple and visibly unpretentious mortars and cannon destroyed by the avalanche of fire defensive fortifications and command points, rapidly and ruthlessly exterminated the attacking enemy (they account for half of all killed and wounded in WWII) and cut the way for the tanks and infantry.

        We will explain this by one rather tentative but demonstrative calculation – by comparing the capabilities of a howitzer artillery regiment and bomber aviation regiment. A corps artillery regiment included 3 battalions, overall 36 guns. Let us assume that they were 152-mm howitzers. The standard usage "per a day of strenuous engagement" for them was 72 projectiles. There are different projectiles; let us take a typical 40-kg fragmentation-high explosive one. Thus, on the whole a regiment is capable to "unload", as the artillery men say, 104 ton. It is important to emphasize here that the mentioned standard is a calculation supply unit, it has nothing to do with technical capabilities of a gun. A howitzer can shoot out 72 projectiles per hour without any particular stress on the crew and hardware. If the projectiles are available (and with needed breaks for cooling the barrel), the amount 104 ton could be doubled, tripled, quadrupled...

        A bomber regiment of the front aviation in summer of 1941 included 60 bomber planes SB. The expenses of material resources for armament, equipment, servicing the aviation regiment and airdromes, for training flyers and surface technical personnel are simply incomparable with expenses for artillery regiment. And what is the result of these expenses? In very rare cases, a bomber regiment made 60 sorties per day and dropped on the enemy 36 ton of bombs (typical load – six bombs FAB-100). And even this load could be carried by the airplanes only in the day-time, in good weather, whereas artillery pounded the enemy 24/7 and all year round. To make the picture more complete, it needs to be taken into account that the artillery – with careful adjustment of fire and good work of adjusters – is hitting very precisely, whereas "horizontal bombers" of that epoch even under training grounds conditions could barely hit a circle of 300 meters in radius[15].

         We will note right away that Comrade Stalin liked and valued the artillery and clearly understood its role and significance. He said in the meeting devoted to the results of war with Finland (17 April, 1940): "The modern war demands mass artillery. In the modern war the artillery – is God... Whoever wants to readjust for new times must understand that the artillery decides the fate of war, mass artillery..."  The understanding found its expression in specific accomplishments - see Table 1 (composed based on Artillery purveyance..., 1977 and Muller-Gillibrand, 2002).

                                                                                           Table  1





   82-mm (81-mm) mortars



  76-mm (75-mm) regimentsl and mountain cannon



  76-mm cannon



  120-mm mortars (150-mm "infantry guns") 



  105-mm howitzers



  122-mm howitzers



  107-mm (105-mm) cannon



  152-mm (150-mm) howitzers 



  122-mm cannon -19



  152-mm cannon-howitzers L-20



  203-mm (210-mm) howitzers




As we see, in all items, in all major calibers of artillery systems the Red Army had by the beginning of the war more barrels than its enemy.              

Total absence in Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions of at least some equivalent of the Soviet division cannon has already been mentioned previously. On the other hand, in the USSR was made such excess of 76-mm division cannon that they sometimes were included on the inventory of artillery batteries in infantry regiments where under the organization chart should have been light short-barrel 76-mm cannon. As the main division howitzers (which is the main laborer at war) the Red Army used 122-mm system whose projectile was significantly (by 45%) heavier than the projectile of a 105-mm German howitzer (22 kg against 15 kg). 


        The advantage of Red Army artillery is even more distinct at the next level, in corps and armies. In non-integrated artillery battalions attached to Wehrmacht infantry groupings were used 105-mm cannon and the same 150-mm howitzers, which were on the inventory of artillery regiments in infantry divisions. At the stage of preparing the invasion of the USSR, a decision was made to introduce a heavy battalion (12 howitzer, caliber 150-mm or 8 such howitzers and four 105-mm cannon) in the structure of artillery regiment of tank divisions. For this, applying the "Trishka’s frock"[16] technique, Wehrmacht’s command had to disband 17 non-integrated artillery battalions.

        At the end of the day (and not considering so far the artillery of the so-called "high power", i.e., howitzers of the caliber over 200-mm and cannon of the caliber 150-mm and greater), by June of 1941 Wehrmacht had in its structure, on all fronts and theaters, 33 cannon, 38 howitzer and 12 so-called "mixed" (8 howitzer  + 4 cannon) battalions. Total of 83 battalions.

        The Red Army at that moment was unfolding (not considering the artillery of "high power") 133 non-integrated artillery regiments (94 corps, 12 cannon RGK and 27 howitzer RGK). (Artillery purveyance, 2007; Meltyukhov, 2008; Muller-Gillibrand, 2002). There were one and a half more regiments than the Germans had battalions! These regiments had various structures but mostly of a three-battalion composition. The available number of guns (total of 4.7 thous. units) was mostly sufficient for their total equipping. However, nobody intended to rest on laurels – the manufacturing plan of artillery armament for 1941, as approved 7 February of 1941, proposed the production of 2 thous. more guns (300 107-mm cannon, 600 122-mm cannon and 1,100 152-mm cannon-howitzers) (RGASPI, fund 17, list 162, case 32, pg.41).

        Multiple numerical advantage was amended by a substantial advantage in tactical-technical parameters of artillery systems (see Table 2)   


                                                                                                            Table  2




Shell weight

Distance, km

  105-mm cannon .18




  150-mm howitzer  s.F.H.18




  122-mm cannon -19




  152-mm cannon-howitzer L-20





           Surprising, but fact – such artillery system in the Wehrmacht, capable of shooting at a distance in the "20-km range", was the 105-mm cannon -18[17]. However, in the projectile weight this system could not even be compared with the Soviet -19 and ML-20. As for the major German 150-mm howitzer, at equal to the ML-20 weight of the projectile, it was inferior to the Soviet corps guns in the shooting distance by 4-7 km. Such quantity begin to transfer to quality. The point is that in artillery duel (counter-battery fight, in a strict military language), the difference of 4-7 km in the range allows – with the necessary "human factor", i.e., expert commander and trained artillery men – to suppress the enemy battery remaining in a relative safety. Magnificent guns -19 and ML-20 remained on the inventory of the Soviet army for several decades after the end of WWII and in the armies of the USSR satellites up to the end of 20th century.

         For the destruction of particularly strong defense facilities (reinforced concrete bunkers), were intended heavy artillery systems (artillery of a "great" and "special" power under the USSR terminology). Soviet historians incessantly emphasized that enamoring with heavy artillery systems convincingly demonstrated aggressive intents of the German militarism. Huge guns weighing 15-20 ton and heavier, with heavy wheels, on tracks or even railway platforms were expensive but for Hitler, as is known, worked the entire Europe.

        With the help of "the entire Europe" (i.e., using guns of Czech and French manufacturing), it was possible to form in the Wehrmacht 41 battalion on whose inventory were 388 210-mm[18] howitzers and 40 heavy 173-mm cannon. Besides, 7 battalions were unfolded armed with 150-mm cannon (under the organization chart each such battalion must have had 9 guns) (Muller-Gillibrand, 2002). Overall, there were almost 500 heavy artillery systems (we will not be discussing "exotics" like 600-mm mortars, as they did not play noticeable role in the events of the summer, 1941).

        Europe certainly did not work for Stalin, and his policies were, as everybody knows, immutably peace-loving. As a result, by June of 1941 listed in the Red Army were 871 203-mm howitzers, 47 modern mortars Br-5 (caliber 280 mm) and 38 heavy cannon Br-2 (caliber 150-mm) ("Artillery purveyance …", 1977). Altogether (not counting "exotics"), 956 large caliber artillery systems. The major structure units were howitzer regiments RGK of high power, three battalions each (there were two different organization charts, 24 and 36 guns per regiment). They were armed with 203-mm howitzers B-4. There were 33 such regiments (other sources say - 34). It was one of a few structure elements of the Soviet artillery, which was substantially lacking in the number of guns to the total equipping under the wartime organization chart. So, they have to be content with only a double numerical advantage over the Wehrmacht.


        Faithful to its traditions[19], the Soviet historical propaganda, keeping quiet about real facts of superiority of the Soviet artillery, erected a patulous myth about the "Katyusha". In hundreds of books and newspaper articles it was narrated that "retrogrades" from the Main artillery directorate hampered the development of this "wonder weapon". But the truth triumphed, and one day before the war began the rocket installation of salvo fire BM-13 was included on the inventory. And already 14 July, 1941 a "Katyusha" battery carried out its first crushing blow. "The battery razed from the face of earth the railway node Orsha... Combat efficiency of the new weapon exceeded all expectations... Subsequently Hitlerites removed from this area of the front three echelons loaded with the killed (have they been moved anywhere?) and wounded."  Subsequently "the Hitlerites tried, but to the very end of the war were unable to create anything like it".  

        On Wehrmacht's inventory indeed there was nothing like it. And not for nothing. As far back as the ancient Chinese knew powder rockets. In medieval chronicles are encountered disparate mentions of using something like rockets in sieges of fortresses. But in order to convert a Christmas cracker into a weapons system capable not only of "seeding panic among the enemy" but also of destroying the assigned target it was necessary to solve a whole number of complex scientific-technical issues. The foremost of those was selection of method to stabilize the rocket flight trajectory.

        Developers of the Soviet unguided rockets selected the aerodynamic stabilization. The very same, which is successfully used in the trade of war beginning with a feathered arrow for a bow or crossbow. Simple and cheap. But for efficient stabilization is needed very high flight velocity (aerodynamic forcers are proportionate to the squared velocity of air flow). 82-mm rocket projectile (RS-82) with aerodynamic stabilization was developed and was successfully used by the Soviet combat aviation as early as in engagements at Halhin-Gol. For the aviation, that was doubly successful decision. First, by the moment of rocket launch it is already moving relative to the air medium at the speed of 100-120 m/s. Second, "cognition comes through comparison" – against the background of the then major shooting armament of airplanes (rifle-calibre machine guns and light 20-mm cannon) RS-82 was unusually powerful instrument of fire support for onland forces.

        An attempt to use the same approach for designing an onland system of rocket artillery was unavoidably deadlocked. In order for the rocket to have sufficient velocity at the moment of leaving the rails it had to have sufficient velocity. The rails had to be long (5 meters and longer). That increased the size and weight of the installation (the "Katyusha’s" launch installation - of course, without the automobile weight – was 2,200-2,300 kg). In the rocket weight structure most was the propulsion motor. Despite all these efforts and expenses, the dispersion of rocket projectiles was enormous (by the 1942 Tables, at the fire distance 3,000 m the side deviation was 51 m, and the distance deviation - 257 m).

        German engineers, absolute world leaders in rocket construction in the late 1930s, selected a different way. Rocket projectiles in the German army were stabilized by spinning, which was generated by the flow of incandescent gas through a system of nozzles set at angle to the lengthwise axis of the projectile. Not only such stabilization technique provides for incomparably high shooting compactness. For spinning unfeathered projectile, the velocity of leaving the rail almost does not affect the trajectory stability. This enabled manufacturing a low velocity projectile where most of the weight was taken by combat charge defeating the enemy. The rails could be very short and light.

        Six-barrel launch installation for 150-mm rockets became most common (in the domestic literature it is often called "six-barrel mortar", which is technically incorrect). Its weight in travel mode was only 515 kg. It could be towed by any automobile, horse team, could be rolled in the battlefield by the efforts of the crew. The concept of spinning stabilization did not require great speed of projectile flight and allowed to switch from 150-mm to heavier, 280-mm and 320-mm rockets. The payload first was 45 kg of explosive (ten times of a 132-mm "Katyusha" projectile) and at direct hit destroyed a brick house; 320-mm rocket was loaded with 50 kg of incendiary mix capable of causing a 2-meter high fire on the area of 200 sq. m. 

        Thus, the Germans managed to create a high-efficiency weapons system. It occupied its own specific "niche": light, cheap, mobile installation capable, at small shooting distance, to carry out a strike comparable with fire of high power artillery. The final result of "designers’ competition" was brought by the practice of combat application: as early as in 1943 in the USSR began upgrading of "Katyusha’s" rocket projectile using spinning by the gases exiting obliquely positioned exhausts. The systems B-14 and B-24 included on the Soviet army’s inventory in 1950s used unfeathered spinning rocket projectiles, which practically totally copied main technical solutions of German engineers.

        The "Nebelwerfer"[20] system was included on Wehrmacht’s inventory in 1940. By June of 1941, at the time when in Moscow were only signed documents of including the "Katyusha" on the inventory, the Wehrmacht had already had 18 battalions of rocket mortars (18 launch installation each). They were used in combat in the very first hours of the invasion in the USSR.


         Among all components of the artillery hardware as the most important should be recognized ammunition. In the final analysis the shell (mine) is the "payload", for the delivery of which to the target is working the entire huge complex of people, guns, artillery tow-trucks, load trucks, communications lines, spotter aircraft, etc. In WWII, low shooting accuracy was compensated by huge expense of the ammunition (the standard for the suppression of one machine gun was 60-80 shells). As a result, even in the simplest parameter – aggregate weight - artillery projectiles substantially exceeded the gun used to send them on enemy’s head.

       For instance, the allowance of ammunition to the most common Red Army 122-mm howitzer set in the NKO order No.0182 (strange irony of the history: the order was signed 9 May, 1941) was 80 rounds of ammunition. The combined weight of the projectile, propellant charge and projectile crate for one allowance of ammunition (about 2.5 ton) was a little greater than the weight of the howitzer. However, one allowance of ammunition is not too much. As a rule, for the conduct of an offensive operation (which was about 15-20 days) was planned the use of 4 to 5 allowances of ammunition[21]. Thus, the weight of the ammunition used in the course of the operation multiply exceeded the weight of the guns. In 1941, the Wehrmacht expended on the eastern front about 580 kiloton of ammunition (all kinds). That is approximately 15 times the aggregate weight of all artillery systems operating on the front.


Under the peace Treaty of Versailles, the winning countries set for Germany rigid restrictions. She was allowed to have on Reichswehr’s armament 1,000 rounds of ammunition per each of 204 75-mm guns and 800 rounds per each of 84 105 mm howitzer. Total of 217 thous. shells. Miserly number of guns and amount of ammunition compared with armies of the Great Powers. When in spring of 1935 Hitler declared the withdrawal of Germany from submission to the Treaty of Versailles, a little over 4 years remained to the beginning of the World War. The history left little time to Hitler, and the nature, even fewer natural resources (as is known, the production of copper, lead, tin and saltpetre in Germany was strained). The Soviet Union was in much better position. Even more demonstrative is the difference in priorities, with which two totalitarian dictatorships were preparing to war (see tables 1, 3, 4)


                                                                                          Table  3


Ammunition (million pieces)



  81-mm (82-mm, 107-mm) mortars



  75-mm (76-mm) field cannon



  105-mm (122-mm) howitzers



  150-mm (152-mm) howitzers and howitzer-cannon[22]




                                                                                                            Table  4


Ammunition per one barrel: 



  81-mm (82-mm, 107-mm) mortars



  75-mm (76-mm) field cannon



  105-mm (122-mm) howitzers



  150-mm (152-mm) howitzers and howitzer-cannon




As we can see, the situation was quite paradoxical. The Red Army substantially exceeded the Wehrmacht in the number of guns of all major calibers but was inferior to its future enemy in the general amount of accumulated ammunition. By June of 1941, Germany had close to 740 kiloton of shells for medium caliber barrel artillery and the Soviet Union - 450 kiloton. Same in the number of projectiles per one barrel. And in the latter parameter the resource ratio of the parties was multiple.

         Not for nothing, we used here the words "resource ratio" rather than a brief word "advantage". Many shells per one barrel – it is not good and not bad. This is different approaches to planning war. Several thousand projectiles per gun provide an opportunity to fight for a long time conducting one operation after the other. Great number of "barrels" with small number of shells for each of them is the capability to carry out one brief but crushing blow. Hitler, as anyone and his brother knows, was readying his army to the "Blitzkrieg", lightning speed war. To what - if to judge by the numbers in Table 4 – was Stalin preparing?

        However, the most correct criterion for evaluating the number of the accumulated ammunition is a comparison of the number of shells not with barrels but with set tasks. For instance, under the norms established by the end of war based on practical experience (these norms numerously exceeded the prewar concepts!), for the destruction of all fire means of Wehrmacht’s infantry division it was necessary to "unload" 50 thous. 122-mm howitzer shells. By the beginning of the war directly in five western border districts (not counting reserves the center allocated for them) were concentrated 3.38 million rounds of ammunition[23] for 122-mm howitzer (on average, 10 allowances of ammunition per gun). Thus, the available reserve of rounds must have been sufficient, with excess, for crushing 60 divisions, i.e., half of the German invasion army.

        The destiny of the second half was no better – beside 3.38 million 122-mm rounds in the western districts were accumulated 2.79 million much more powerful rounds to 152-mm howitzers and howitzers-cannon. And for the final "mopping up the terrain" – 7.2 million more of the rounds to 76-mm regimental, mountain and division cannon. And in case these were insufficient, there were also 6.1 million rounds to 82-mm mortars.

        Enemy tanks have also not been forgotten. Overall, in the five western border districts were listed 6,870 "forty-fivers" (from other sources, 7520). There were on average 373 armor-piercing rounds for each o them. This number varied between 149 in the Odessa and 606 in the Western district. If we count the most minimum amount (without the Leningrad and Odessa districts), by the morning of 22 June 1941 for fighting three thousand German tanks were prepared 2.3 million armor-piercing 45-mm rounds. On average - 700 per one tank.

       234 thousand rounds for 203-mm howitzer B-4, delivered in border districts, also deserve most intense attention. In 1944, in the course of grand scale offensive operations the Red Army expended "only" 168 thous. such shells. One and a half times fewer. The 203-mm howitzer throwing a 100-kg projectile to a distance of 18 km was intended for the destruction of especially strong defensive facilities (special concrete-piercing shell punched through a 1.5 m thick bunker cover). Cyclopic mountains of concrete-piercing shells in the border districts (12 allocations of ammunition per gun) tacitly but firmly indicates exceptionally serious intents of Com. Stalin…


        Alas, some serious mistakes were also made in the matter of the Red Army provision with the ammunition. One such error is impossible to explain reasonably: the forces had few armor-piercing rounds for 76-mm cannon. Just 132 thous. units. The shortage of armor-piercing 76-mm rounds to a substantial extent devalued two military-technical advantages of the Red Army. Those were: the presence on the armament of rifle divisions of 16 long-barrel cannon capable of punching through the front armor of any German tank; and almost the same "three-incher" in tanks of the new types (-34 and KV). In the absence of armor-piercing shells, most modern Soviet tanks "slid" to the level of a German Pz-IV with short-barrel 75-mm "cigarette end".

        This was definitely bad. However, the word "few" always demands clarification – few compared with what? There were very few armor-piercing 76-mm rounds compared with real capabilities of the Soviet economy. After all, it accumulated by June 1941 12 million armor-piercing 45-mm rounds, 16 million fragmentation-high explosive 76-mm and 5 million flak (i.e., much more complex and expensive) 76-mm rounds. Looking at these numbers it is difficult to understand - what prevented mass production of 76-mm armor-piercing rounds? There was enough time: -34 and KV tanks were placed of the Red Army inventory 19 December 1939; the division 76-mm cannon F-22 was put on the inventory even earlier, in 1936.

       The picture becomes not so hopeless if comparing the number of armor-piercing shells with the task, for the decision of which they were used. The armor-piercing shells were not used for "saturation shooting", for placing "barrage fire", they did not need to be expended in millions. In a situation of a "tank - cannon" duel the cannon simply does not have time to shoot many times... As of 22 June 1941, the German invasion army had about 1,400 targets, which deserved a three-inch armor-piercing shell. Strictly speaking, even fewer as among medium tanks Pz-IV included in this number were some machines of earlier series with 30-mm front armor. Having divided really available shells by this number, we are getting an impressive result: 95 units of 76-mm armor-piercing projectiles per one medium German tank or SAU[24] with the fortified front armor. And this is quite a number!

        Certainly, war is no solitaire game. It is impossible at war to ask the enemy to drive medium tanks to the firing positions of 76-mm division cannon and the other lightly armored “change” – closer to antitank "forty-fivers". But the combat circumstances sometimes force expending deficient 76-mm armor-piercing shells on any armored track machine, which appeared in the sight (the Wehrmacht had on the Eastern no more than 4 thousand such machines including machine gun whippets and light SAU). Even in this case, in simple arithmetic the Red Army forces had available 33 sells per one target. At skilful use quite enough for guaranteed hit.

        Not all this incontroversial arithmetic, unfortunately, accounts for the main thing, the "human factor", which showed up in the way the available resources were distributed and used. Two months before the war, 24 april 1941 deputy Narkom for the defense, head of GAU[25] Marshall  Kulik sent into the western border districts telegrams saying: "76-mm armor-piercing rounds will be directed to the forces as follows: per each cannon in infantry divisions, 6; in cavalry divisions, 12; motorized divisions, 12; fortified areas, 12; armored trains, 10; casemate guns, 20; caponier guns, 10; on KV tanks, 25; on -34 tanks, 13". (TSAMO, fund 48, list 3408, case 7, pg. 106). And next to it one more, very interesting phrase: "The calculation is for the combat structure by 1.1.1942 based on the actual availability of armor-piercing rounds as of 1.7.1941." It means that the calculation was based on real of armor-piercing rounds (with a small error due to difference in dates between 24 April and 1 July). But there were many more "barrels" included ("for combat structure by 1.1.1942.")

        In order to load 25 armor-piercing shells into each heavy tank KV and 13 into each tank -34 were needed (only for the western districts) 27 thous. 76-mm armor-piercing shells. It is exactly one fifth of the available resource of shells. It would appear, what kind of problems could occur in complying with an order of a Marshall, deputy to the Narkom for the defense? Alas, it turned impossible to master the Soviet "human factor". 

         16 May 1941 the same Marshall Kulik sent to head of the Western OVO artillery in Minsk the following telegram: "I am ordering immediately, by operative transport outside of the regular transportation plan to direct armour-piercing rounds to the forces, first of all to the tank divisions". A month expired plus four days. 20 June, at 15:30 Marshall Kulik is sending the next telegram (number 1543) in Minsk: "According to a report by one of PTABR (antitank artillery brigade) commanders, the district is not issuing to the brigade allotments of artillery rounds. I am ordering immediately to issue to all PTABRs allotments of ammunition including entitlement armour-piercing rounds. Telegraph 21 June your order and explanation of the cause of unacceptable delay with issuing allotment of ammunition". (TSAMO, fund 48, list 3408, case 7, pg. 175, 262).

        Two days later the war began. It was too late to telegraph about the cause...


                    FORTIFIED AREAS


        There is some set of "facts", in quotation marks, which are known in our country to anyone who is at least slightly interested in the history of the Great Patriotic War. One rifle for three, plywood Soviet fighter planes, hopelessly outdated tanks... On the same level is the legend of how on the eve of war the fortification line along the "old border" was blown up but there was no time to build anything sensible on the new border. As is supposed with any myth, this poppycock satisfies some important psychological demand of the society, in this case it supplies an easy, for the national pride of Great Russians, explanation of causes of the horrible military catastrophe in the summer of 1941. As any myth, this one lives its own life, not requiring documental support and not even a bit weakening when encountering the facts.

       Still, the history about "they blew up there and did not build here" is conceptually different from other, similar and demonstrably false fabrications. The number of rifles and antitank cannon in the Red Army is some abstraction; it is impossible to feel it with a hand. The reader is forced to either trust what seasoned scientists are saying from the screen of state television or waste his own money and well-earned vacation for a trip and work in the archives in the capital (which no reasonable person would do). At the same time, "unbuilt bunkers" do exist. Yes, the Germans blew them up and the Soviets blew them up. There were attempts to raze them in the 1940s and 1950s. However, they were so numerous and built so sturdy that even today many bunkers remain. One can see them, touch them and enter them. Both in our country and in Poland (most of the fortified areas in the Western OVO after the end of war were in the territory returned to Poland) there are numerous groups of "explorers" who climbed over almost every bunker. There are specialized Internet-sites with hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs. But the myth lives its own life...


       The words "fortified area" in the Soviet military lingo were used to denote two notions. It is both the area equipped with a system of defense facilities, of which the major are reinforced concrete long-term firing positions (bunkers); and military unit, which occupies these facilities and conducts combat from them. The facilities are defensive, the military units in a fortified area take up defensive positions and conduct a defensive engagement. But these facts have nothing to do with the selection of defensive or offensive strategy. Exactly as antitank cannon and weapons of antiaircraft defense (flak machine guns and cannon) are absolutely necessary for the advancing army, the fortified areas play their important role in an offensive operation. Which is directly and clearly stated in the Red Army Field Book: "Arresting the enemy along their entire front, they create the opportunity for the concentration of large forces and means for carrying out crushing blows on the enemy on other theaters". (PU-39, Chapter 2, p. 33).

        The keystone of the trade of war is the concept of concentration. "It is impossible to be equally strong everywhere" – maintains with rigid military laconism p. 11 of the aforementioned Field Book. "The overwhelming part of forces and means must be used in an offensive engagement on the theater of the main strike". It is easy to say but difficult to do. By concentrating most forces in a narrow offensive corridor, we unavoidably weaken vast adjoining areas. If the enemy is not a coward and not an idiot – mind you, combat books are developed exactly for the case of encountering such enemy, - he will try to carry out the counterstrike on the weakened area of our front. And it is exactly in such situation that the role and value of fortified areas are hard to overestimate.

        A schematic map based on the real map, signed 6 April 1941 by the deputy head of General headquarters Operative directorate Major General[26] Anisov (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 244), shows how this theory was planned to apply in practice (Fig. 1). It is clearly seen that a dangerous gap between the flanks of two Southwestern Front strike groupings (5th army advancing along the line Kovel, Helm, Lyublin, and 6th army advancing along the line Lvov, Bilgoray, Ltublin) is covered by three fortified areas: Vladimir-Volynsky (UR No. 2), Strumilov (UR No. 4) and Rava-Russky (UR No. 6). On the northern "point" of the Lvov salient the main strike group of the front is unfolded, so there are no fortified areas there.

        The strike group’s southern flank is covered by the Peremyshl fortified area (UR No. 8). Further south, upstream of the San River, the border runs in the Carpathian Ranges impassable for large masses of forces. North of Kovel the territory of the Kiev OVO is naturally covered by impassable massif of a swampy forest (the Ukrainian Woodlands). Still, a decision was made to strengthen even this area with fortifications of the Kovel UR[27]. But its construction was on the very early stages by June of 1941.

        The schematic map demonstrably shows another significant feature of 20th century fortified areas. As opposed to the Great Wall of China, they did not form a single continuous line. The URs cover only small portion of the entire border length. And if we switch from the schematic map to the military topographic map, it will be clear that even within the fortified area corridor there is nothing like a continuous chain of bunkers. Defensive facilities are concentrated in several groups quite accurately called "defense nodes". Each such node includes 10 and more bunkers (the Rava-Russky UR had defense nodes with 17 bunkers; the Brest UR – near Semyatyche village – had a defense node with 20 bunkers). Eventually each defense node formed some semblance of a medieval fortress. Only its "walls" were not of stone but of lead: not a single bunker could have been approached without turning out under the torrent of fire from its neighbors.

        These "fortresses" were built exactly where fortresses were installed in ancient times – next to roads, bridges and crossings. Armies of the WWII epoch, as never before or after, were tied to the roads. They needed transportation of huge amounts of heavy hardware (first of all, artillery and ammunition) and still have not changed to cross-country track transport carriers and helicopters. Powerful UR defense nods "locked" major transport arteries[28]. That unavoidably arrested the advance of the entire enemy army.  Only a group of reconnaissance people-saboteurs but not a Wehrmacht’s division could move without roads, through mountain passes and forest paths.

          It was planned to construct 13 such nodes-fortresses in the Rava-Russky UR per 90 km of the front, and 10 – in the Brest UR. And this was very modest. On the right (northern) flank of the Western OVO, within the corridor of the assumed defense (the strike group of the front concentrated on the front’s left flank was supposed to advance on Warsaw and the left flank) were being constructed the Osovets UR (22 defense nods, on average 27 bunkers each) and Grodno UR (28 nodes, 606 bunkers). (Semidetko, 1989). 

In the territory of Lithuania, it was planned to construct 1,641 bunkers in four URs (Telshyay, Shaulyay, Kaunas and Alitus). This was eight times (!) the number of bunkers in the renowned "Mannerheim line". Overall, the system of fortified areas along the new border between the Baltics and the Black Sea must have included about 5 thous. bunkers (different sources quote numbers from 4,737 to 5,807; the scatter is due to the fact that the program continuously expanded, decisions were made of creating ever new fortified areas).

         In April 1941, with the advent of spring warmth, the work on UR construction became a round the clock building emergency. Beside construction units proper and unavoidable in such deal camp inmates, tens of thousands of local residents were brought on the construction. Later even that was considered too little, and for the construction were sent several infantry battalions from each district division. From Moscow were flying one after another threatening telegrams, lashing up the tempo rabid even without it. For instance, in Western OVO during two spring months of 1941 were cast in cement 217 defence facilities, which was 128% of the initial plan. The available documents (TSAMO, fund 48, list 3408, cases 19-21, outgoing telegrams of General headquarters) show that in last days of peace the top military leadership worked as the management of a huge construction trust. The main subject of correspondence - cement, rebars, plan fulfilment percentages...

        How many bunkers did they have time to construct next to the new border? The accurate number is unknown to anybody (in particular, because many facilities have been really built but not yet officially accepted by the client, and the last pre-war reports are, as a rule, dated by 1 June). At that, there are many options of the response. The most "incorrect" (i.e., admitting a tremendous number of constructed facilities) answer is given in his renowned book "Recollections and reflections" by Marshall Zhukov: "By the beginning of the war it was possible to construct about 2,500 reinforced concrete facilities. Out of those 1,000 were armed by the UR artillery, and the remaining 1,500 only by machine guns" (Zhukov, 2002, p. 233). Zhukov’s memoirs is one of the most read books on the history of the Great Patriotic War. It was reprinted 12 times. Over one million copies were published. Many of those who believes in a mantra "there was no time to build anything on the new border" read these words (or at least saw them). Of course, what can we ask from the general public if some doctors of historical sciences literally in the adjacent paragraphs of the same article quote both Zhukov’s 2.5 thousand bunkers and known to the specialists, three times lower, numbers (Khorkov, 1987).

        Modest estimates are as follows. In three districts (Baltic, Western and Kiev) over 800 bunkers were built. Out of those, 550 were equipped with the armament and special systems. The most reliable, in my view, should be considered a report prepared in February of 1942 by the German land force Supreme Command headquarters. After months of study in the occupied territory the Germans discovered 1,113 bunkers on the "Molotov line" at the new border (that is where "there was no time to build anything") and 3,096 bunkers on the "Stalin line" (that is where "everything was blown up") (Krupennikov, 1998).

        One thousand at the new border. Three thousand at the old one. Is that much? Cognition comes through comparison. The "Mannerheim line" included about 200 bunkers. Five times less than the "Molotov line". Of course, this quantitative difference does not reflect even to a small extent the main thing – the principal difference in the technical level of Finnish and new Soviet fortifications.


        "Generals are preparing to the previous war". This aphorism in the best way possible describes the way the "Mannerheim line" was built. In the first half of 1920s 120 bunkers were built. Each of them was a stumpy reinforced concrete barn with hole in the wall. From the hole stuck the barrel of a mounted machine gun (the embrasures did not have even simplest armoured shutters). The removal of gunpowder smoke was entrusted to the natural draft, through the embrasure hole and the grid in the entrance door. Because of the extreme poverty of a young Finnish republic, the bunkers were constructed of 350-450 grade concrete. (The Soviet standard required the use in fortification facilities of 750 and higher grade concrete). They also had "flexible armouring", i.e., wire was used instead of strong rebars. As a result, in engagements of breaking through "Mannerheim line" some bunkers were destroyed by shells of the division 152-mm howitzer. More than half of all "Mannerheim line" bunkers belonged to this "barn-cave" level. And even this was considered at that time a sufficient obstacle capable of stopping the enemy infantry and cavalry offensive.

        Finnish bunkers of the second construction train were substantially better: normal concrete, 2-3 machine guns, shutters in embrasures and even such miracle of technology as manually operated ventilation installation. At last, in 1937-1939 have been constructed several (different sources state different numbers - 5 to 8) large forts (so-called "bunkers-millionaires"). Each of them included several machine guns and 1-2 cannon. Approximately of such level (or slightly better) were Soviet bunkers of the "Stalin line". The difference was only in the number. For instance, the Letichev UR included 363 bunkers, the Korosten UR, 455.

        The combat actions in the first year of the Second World War showed that such bunkers could be relatively easily put out of commission by artillery, tanks and aviation of the offending party. The lesson was taken in. Fortified areas along the new USSR border, whose construction began in the summer of 1940, were based on absolutely different technical concept. Bunkers of the new generation were no more similar to their predecessors than a modern large truck is similar to a village waggon (Fig. 2)

       A large, complicated geometry facility with one (sometimes with two) underground storeys. The walls and overhead protection, two meter thick and thicker, were made of a high-strength concrete. They could sustain (which was really confirmed in June 1941) single hits of the concrete-busting shells of 210-mm howitzers. The front wall was solid, without a single orifice. Embrasures of the flank fire were in bunkers’ side walls. They were invisible to the advancing forces and were impossible to destroy by a distant artillery fire. In the embrasures were imbedded cast armoured boxes, which could hold a direct hit by a shell from an antitank cannon. Inside the box, on hermetically sealed ball mount was 45-mm cannon paired with a machine gun or the 76-mm tank cannon. Usually the bunker had one cannon and two machine gun installations (although there have been some facilities with 5-6 embrasures). Periscopes, filtration-ventilation installations, radio and telephone communications, underground covers for the garrison. Such was totally equipped bunker of the “Molotov line". However, even without most of the specialized technology, even at the stage of completed by construction concrete bunker it provided a better protection for the garrison than a typical bunker from the "Mannerheim line".

        Now, let us listen to those who had to storm these fortresses. This is how the Germans describe defensive facilities in the southern sector of the Peremyshl area: "Bunkers are very favourably placed on the terrain and totally dominate the road Salyuzh-Sanok and the lowlands in front of it to San River... The concrete cover reaches two meters, the walls are about the same thickness. The bunkers are closed from the outside by one or several lattice doors. This way it was possible to protect them from blowing off by the explosion blast. Behind them, there are several steel doors, which open to the internal rooms. Some bunkers are armed with two 76 mm guns, and some, by several mounted machine guns. Antitank guns and rapid fire machine guns are placed behind thick steel embrasures, which are highly resistant to artillery shooting. Targeting the guns is done with help of aiming device providing for the safety of the aimers in case of enemy artillery shooting (he is writing about the use of periscopes – M.S.)... In front of cannon or machine gun embrasures there is a 1.5 meter ditch with a concrete hedge, which makes plugging or blowing up the embrasure impossible; at least, it is very difficult..." (Ukrainian historical-fortification forum at http://relicfinder.info/forum/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=326).

        And here are the recollections of one of those who saw the Germans storming the Peremyshl UR through the sight slit. Junior Sergeant Molchanov Ivan Ivanovich is narrating: "It was a mighty fortification armed in 4 embrasures with two 76-mm cannon and 2 mounted Degtyarev machine guns... At a briefing, we were told by the commander that we had to not just occupy it but sit in defence 6 month not going out. Or until such time when blown up together with the bunker. The food and ammunition must have been enough for half year. The bunker was of two storeys, strong, reinforced concrete walls 3.5 meters thick (this, most likely, is an exaggeration – M.S.). While we were occupying it, the Germans took our side of Peremyshl; they opened strong fire on the bunker but shells bounced from the bunker as peas from the wall..."

        Contrary to a common (i.e., intensely brodcast) fallacy, bunkers of the "Molotov line" were not positioned two steps from the borders, "as a result of which the Germans could capture them in the very first hours of the invasion". We will remind for starters that Zambruv, Brest, Vladimir-Volynsky, Strumilov, part of the Rava-Russky and the Peremyshl fortified areas were next to the banks of border rivers (Bug, Solokiya and San). Wehrmacht’s storm groups by any stretch of imagination could not "step over" these rivers, all with cannon, firethrowers and explosive charges. Secondly, in actuality between the borders and UR defense nodes was equipped the so-called "forefield corridor" several kilometres deep. In his well–known to specialists monograph Vladimirsky (as of the beginning of the war - deputy head of Southwestern Front 5th army headquarters operative department) without special emotion states: "In the Vladimir-Volynsky UR also was equipped the security zone 1 to 4 km deep. It included ten battalion field type areas built along the right bank of Bug River. Readiness: 80-90 percent" (Vladimirsky, 1989).

        The word "also" relates here to the preceding description of the forefield corridor of the Kovel fortified area[29] where, based on the words of the same Vladimirsky, "in every battalion area, in the UR security zones were built 130-135 field-type defense facilities each, actually, earth-and-timber emplacements and trenches, and several bunkers each. The facilities of each [battalion] area included: 3-4 reinforced concrete casemates for 45-mm cannon and mounted machine guns, 6-9 earth-and-timber emplacements – semi-caponiers for mounted machine guns, 6 anti-fragmentation machine gun nests, 12-15 hiding fire positions (SOT), 6 anti-fragmentation dugouts for 45-mm and 76-mm cannon..." Just small change. Nothing was properly built... 


        Of course, everything that some people have built some other people can break. A fortress does not exist, which cannot be taken by storm or siege. "Molotov line" bunkers did not present any insoluble problem for the advancing Germans, it was just a matter of resources including absolutely irreplaceable resource - time. It would require plenty of resources for the destruction of a thousand bunkers. In order to make the word "plenty" more specific, we will turn to the history of the Red Army breaking through the incomparably weaker "Mannerheim line".

        General chronology of the events is well known. 7-10 days was expended for overcoming 30-40 km of the "forefield" and coming to the main line of fortifications, then two weeks of fruitless and bloody attempts on the breakthrough. After that – a month and a half of operative pause. 11 February 1940 the offensive began, which early in March ended up in a final breakthrough of the Finnish fortified area and the Red Army approaching Vyborg.

         To achieve such result, into the forces of the northwestern Front, unfolded on the Karelian Isthmus, were included 13 regiments and 4 artillery battalions of great and special power (these are not epithets but the terminology). By the beginning of March in the front structure were listed 7 thous. guns and mortars and over 3 thous. tanks. The advancing grouping expended 46 thous. of 203-mm howitzer rounds and 6 thous. rounds to special power artillery systems. Overall (i.e., not only on the Karelian isthmus) in three months of war was expended 79.7 kiloton (!) of artillery ammunition. Of course, it turned out to be insufficient, and the aviation added another 22.6 kiloton of bombs including 12,890 FAB-250 and 1,677 FAB-500 (Certificate ... TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 209, pg. 58, 59, 125).

         Using a calculator we find out that on average 260 heavy howitzer projectiles (203-mm and greater) were expended per one "Mannerheim line" bunker. By modest estimate (taking that half of heavy high explosive aviation bombs was used for the bombardment of Finnish cities, which is a clear exaggeration), 36 large caliber bombs were dropped on each bunker. Against this background, 104 thous. aviation bombs FAB-100, 1.8 million shells to 122-mm and 152-mm howitzers and also 127 million rifle cartridges expended in the course of the "winter war" simply do not deserve mentioning.

        With such expenditure of material resources, the breakthrough of the "Mannerheim line" took a month. The losses of Northwestern Front personnel were 40 thous. killed and 150 thous. wounded (approximately half of total Red Army losses in the Finnish war) (Krivosheyev, 1993).

        At that time Komandarm 1st rank (future Marshall) S.. Timoshenko commanded the Northwestern Front. In May 1940, he became Narkom for the defense of the USSR. One of the two Northwestern Front armies was commanded by . Meretskov, who became after the "winter war" an Army General and head of the Red Army General headquarters. Exactly these two people on the eve of the Great War were responsible for the development of the most major, strategic plans of the Red Army. For them, the quoted numbers were not just characters on paper – this knowledge was given them as the clearest perception. They saw through their own eyes mountains of Soviet soldiers’ bodies on the approaches to Finnish bunkers. They heard through their own ears eery roar of the artillery cannonade. Is it surprising that they expected something comparable from an incomparably mightier "Molotov line"?


                   TANK FORCES


       Wars are not won by fortified areas only, by the defense only. The Red Army Field Book phrased this idea without a shadow of a doubt: "Only decisive offensive in the main theater with the encirclement and incessant chase results in a total annihilation of the enemy forces and means. An offensive engagement is the major type of RKKA[30] actions" (PU-39, par. 10). For land armies of mid-20th century tank forces became the major instrument in the conduct of an offensive engagement, chase and encirclement of the enemy.

        No other country in the world applied such huge efforts - and achieved such huge success – in creating this strike component of the armed forces as the Soviet Union. No other major military power in the world had such obstacles and experienced such difficulties in creating of tank forces as Germany, which was banned under the peace treaty of Versailles from manufacturing tanks or purchasing them abroad. At the time (early 1930s), when the Soviet Union had already unfolded mass production of tanks and created first in the world large tank groupings, the German Reichswehr conducted field drills with cardboard dummies of nonexistent tanks. What were the results in the tank forces creation the enemies achieved by June 1941?


        The elementary components, from which tank forces are composed (but which are not at all their entire content!), are armored track machines, tanks. At the initial stage of the Second World War a tank was quite miserable machine (compared with what appeared just 3-4 years later): no strong armor, no fire comparable with the fire of division or at least regimental artillery, no real capability to move off road. "They were poorly maneuverable and vulnerable against the artillery fire, they used gasoline, therefore, easily were inflammable and they had insufficiently strong armor". Absolutely correct, realistic and sober evaluation. It is impossible to disagree with the Marshall of the Victory in this case. However, with one important clarification: Zhukov wrote this about Soviet tanks and forgot to add that German tanks were much worse.

        In the Polish campaign (September 1939) the most common Wehrmacht "tank" was Pz-I. This was field firing 5-ton whippet, armed with two machine guns of the rifle caliber. It went into production during first years after Hitler came to power as a replacement for the cardboard dummies, with which the cadre of future tank forces was earlier trained in Germany. In May 1940 a 9-ton Pz-II became the most common tank in Wehrmacht’s combat units (in the structure of 10 tank divisions having had then crushed France and her allies were 880 tanks of this type). The second most common was the same miserable whippet Pz-I (643 units).

        In its armor the "twain" was quite consistent with the Soviet -26. It had similarly thin (14.5 mm) armor, which was easily punched through by any antitank cannon and from close distances, by antitank rifle or short-barrel regiment cannon. The engine used gasoline. It was, in expert view of the Marshall, "easily inflammable. It had narrow tracks and quite tentative passability on mud-locked roads. But the most important was surprisingly weak armament. Pz-II was armed with a 20-mm submachine gun "cannon" (it is noteworthy that in Soviet documents of the first weeks of war this tank was regularly described as "light tank with large caliber machine gun"). 20 mm is a typical calibre of aviation cannon, and it is sufficient to punch through a thin duralumin sheet of the enemy shell. In the Soviet Union of the 1930s it never entered designers’ heads to arm this way tanks or heavy armored vehicles. The fragmentation-high explosive action of a 20-mm shell (weight 90-130 g) is minuscule, it is capable of defeating something only at a direct hit.

       "Germany entered the World War II with a ridiculous number of bad tanks" (V. Suvorov). It is hard to say in better. And exactly with such tanks the Wehrmacht in several weeks totally crushed the French army (not the weakest in Europe) and her allies. How could it be possible? The answer to this question is well known. It is very important to emphasize: known way before Hitler’s "Blitzkrieg". This answer is written into all combat field books, a graduate of the short-time 6 month-long course of junior commanders had to learn it by rote. 

        Concentration of forces and interaction of force branches. Old as Adam, irrevocable by any technological miracles, fundamental principles of the military art. The Germans expertly used their "ridiculous number of bad tanks".

        At the strategic level the Germans showed their adherence to the idea of concentration of forces by putting to war with France and her allies 136 out of 156 divisions they had. On huge expanses of Denmark, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany proper remained only 13 divisions (plus 7 divisions conducted combat activities in Norway). At the operative level, the concept of concentration of forces was implemented with the same unswerving resolution: within the corridor of the main strike, on a 130 km front from Liege to Sedan were concentrated 7 tank divisions out of 10 and 5 motorized divisions out of 5. Moreover, on the 15th of May into the breakthrough area 2 more tank divisions were redeployed from Belgium. At the tactical (individual engagement) level Wehrmacht’s tank division (in May 1940 it included about 270 tanks) was advancing on the front area just a few kilometers wide, i.e., within the defense corridor of the enemy’s infantry regiment.

        On such front, the French could have one antitank battery, in the best case a battalion. At the moment of a tank attack, the position of the antitank battalion (12-18 guns whose crews were protected only by the tunics) was avalanched by a squall of fire. Sure, the fire was from very weak 20-mm cannon. But it was coming from two hundred of them. And then the cannon and crews were squashed into the ground by "light tanks", i.e., by 10-ton steel hulks... Even if the battalion commander and personnel showed suicidal courage and high combat skills, they would be able to knock down one or two dozen tanks (after all, the tanks’ armour is almost "cardboard"). But they had not a single chance to stop the tank division.

        Incidentally, it is not at all necessary to lose dozens of expensive tanks. The advancing party has one more "trump card" - interaction. The defenders’ antitank artillery can be and has to be suppressed even before the tank attack begins. The term "suppress" has in the artillery skills quite specific content: to force the crew of an enemy’s gun to discontinue the fire and hide (the physical destruction of the hardware and personnel is a "super-task"). The tank attack is always fast moving - even a Pz-II tank barely crawling on the wet soil needs only 5 minutes to cross the last kilometre separating it from a firing position of the antitank battalion. Thus, it is sufficient to suppress the enemy’s antitank artillery for a very short time.

        Of course, before shooting, the camouflaged enemy cannon must be discovered, and this is done by the reconnaissance. The reconnaissance data must be transferred to artillerymen, so reliably operating communications are needed. To organize the interaction, a competent and energetic commander is needed – the very major "part" of the military machine. If all the above is available and working, the tank division, even armed with weak light tanks, will go through the defenses of the enemy infantry regiment as a knife through butter.

        And after that, after breakthrough by the tanks of the first defense line, the main thing begins. The results of a tank division tactical success may be everything or nothing. The following chapters of this book will be documental descriptions of this "everything or nothing". I can right away reveal their brief content: in the summer of 1941, even in those rare, rarest cases when Red Army tank divisions and corps achieved local success, it ended up in "nothing". Not even once, not at a single point of the front was it possible to evolve the tactical breakthrough into the operative one. The Germans cool-headedly pulled in the antitank and flak artillery, called for the aviation, used all "impromptu resources" – from heavy howitzers to grenade clusters. Finally, in one or two days, the offensive of the Soviet tank units, which lost any control, ended up in their total crush.

        Moreover, almost always the very first success of the German tank groupings resulted in the collapse of the entire system of enemy defense. The attacked forces at a breakneck speed were turning into an armed mob, and this mob took a powder. But it is difficult to run away from a tank, even the slowest one. Roads and bridges have limited throughput capacity. Havoc and panic numerously decrease even this limited throughput capacity. And there the Germans began interaction at the next level – entered the aviation. Human crowds encumbering roads, flocking at bridges and crossings were an ideal target for bomb strikes. Chaos and confusion turned into the stage of collective madness, the crowds threw away weapons and scattered each his own way. After that, what was required from the advancing party was only to prod the fleeing. That could be successfully done by any tank; its tactical-technical parameters no longer had any substantial significance.

        That was exactly what happened in France in May-June 1940. The same, only many times greater in scale happened in 1941 on the Eastern (for the Germans) front. And repeated again in the summer of 1942. But then something changed. The Red Army stopped scattering - and Wehrmacht’s "tank spearheads" were immediately jammed. The tactical-technical parameters of German tanks radically improved, meager Pz-I, Pz-II and Pz-38(t) were forgotten, mighty "Tigers" and "Panthers" rolled onto the battlefields. But in 1943 and 1944 they were unable to implement even one lightning-speed tank burst similar to what the Germans performed one after another in the first year of war. Sure, there were episodes of successful engagements, even successful operations conducted by the German tank groupings. But eventually everything ended up in "nothing". Unless one considers huge losses of tanks as the result.

        The general conclusion: the availability of a large number of wonderful tanks is a desirable but not at all mandatory condition for efficient action of the tank forces. The fighting is conducted with what it available. If shabby tanks are combined with very high quality "human factor", plus total chaos on the enemy side, it is possible to achieve tremendous operative success even with "cardboard tanks".


        Such is the theory. Now let us turn to practice. The practice of combat actions in the first weeks of the Soviet-German war found its reflection in reports of the commanders of the Red Army tank units and groupings. Plenty of these reports are preserved in archives.When reading them, it is desirable to remember who, where and when wrote them. The documents quoted below were mostly put together in the beginning of August 1941. They are signed by commanders of regiments, divisions and mechanized corps put to rout. Many of them wrote these reports having escaped from the encirclement, having lost all hardware and up to 90% of the personnel. These people did not know then whether they would be forgiven the results of such wonderful leadership or would be "put up against the wall". It would appear, who else but they would say about mighty, indestructible German tanks, about multiple numerical advantage of the enemy, about outdated and unreliable own tanks, etc. – along the entire list of "objective causes" successfully contrived by two generations of the Soviet historians. But the commanders of 1941 are saying something totally different:

        24th tank division (10th mechanized corps, Northern then Northwestern front).

       "Motorized enemy units operate only on the roads, boldly dive into the rear and position themselves in the settlements... Thus, the enemy is tied to the roads, the speed of his motion depends on road quality... The actions of enemy motorized units come to a total impudence, at withdrawal [of our forces] he is looking for the weakest flanks. At an unsuccessful attack he immediately switches to artillery barrage, when KV tanks appear, he concentrates all means against  them..." (TSAMO, fund 38, list 11360, case 1, pg. 65).

        11th mechanized corps (Western front).

       "In the very first attack of our tanks the enemy suffered great losses of tanks and in subsequent engagements at the appearance of our tanks he withdrew behind his defending infantry... [The enemy] is preparing offensive with aviation, by bombing and shooting from machine guns. After artillery softening up and shooting from mortars are conducted for 2-3 hours, the tanks advance 300-500 meters in front of the infantry. In the rugged and forested area, tanks do not participate in the attack. Tanks in the attack in the depth of the defence do not tear away far from the infantry, and only when the defenders (in the original - "defense") begin to withdraw rapidly, they wedge in among the retreating and chase them..." (TSAMO, fund 38, list 11360, case 2, pg. 290, 291).

        7th tank division (6th mechanized corps, Western Front).

       "The Germans use tanks mostly in small detachments: platoon, company, battalion in the interaction with other branches of the forces (motorized infantry and cavalry)... At the appearance of our tanks, enemy tanks did not accept the fight and hurriedly withdrew. The German system of antitank defense is quite developed, at that noteworthy is that, beside 37-mm antitank guns, the entire large calibre semiautomatic artillery is commonly applied... Personally came over four antitank areas in KV and -34. In one machine, the driver’s hatch door was knocked out, in the other – sight-range meter apple. It is important that mostly cannon and machine guns are put out of commission, otherwise -34 beautifully survives hits from 37-mm guns, say nothing about KV" (SBD No. 33, pg. 118).

        114th tank regiment (non-integrated 57th tank division, Southwestern, then Western Front).                                     

       "In the regiment corridor on the enemy side was used up to one battalion of light tanks, up to a company of medium tanks. Besides, the enemy used whippets and armoured vehicles. Not in a single our tank attack, enemy tanks did engage our tanks, they operated either on the flanks of their units or came on the flanks of our units. But in case our tanks withdrew, enemy tanks hustle on our tail and chase. Most commonly enemy tanks were used in small groups for coming to the flank and rear of our units, and also in chasing... There was the case of a frontal attack by enemy medium tanks, but barely two enemy tanks were put out of commission as the entire combat order withdrew and after some time returned from a different direction...

        Conclusion: enemy tanks are, as a rule, the means of breakthrough and demoralization of the rears and flanks (emphasis added - M.S.), so our units should never forget about setting up antitank defences. In all cases our tanks, armed with cannon, can be used as antitank defenses (-26 tanks)..." (TSAMO, fund 38, list 11360, case 2, pg. 330, 331).

        17th tank division (5 mechanized corps, Western Front).

       "During the entire period of engagements, 7.7 through 5.8.1941, detachments of the 17th division conducted (illegible - 1, 4 or 7) tank attacks on enemy tanks. Ones, enemy tanks were attacked in the number of 60 tanks. In all cases the enemy avoided attacks, always evading equal forces and even smaller ones. During engagements, which lasted a month, it was established: good interaction of the [enemy] units, especially land forces with the aviation, well operating communication services. The enemy especially commonly uses light-and-signal communications..." (TSAMO, fund 3431, list 1, case 1, pg. 39).

        8th tank division (4 mechanized corps, Southwestern front).

      "Enemy tanks operating in the area Staro-Konstantinov and other areas have the following parameters. Medium tank: armament – one short-barrel 75-mm cannon, two machine guns (from the description - Pz-IV, which in most other reports is called "heavy" – M.S.)... Armour to 25 mm. Running gear: narrow tracks, weak rollers and beams. Tank passability is weak, outside of roads does not work...

       Enemy tanks, [even] if more numerous than our tanks, usually do not engage in the attack, only in one case in the area Staro-Konstantinov, [when] up to a tank battalion went into attack, and our tanks destroyed 22 units, the rest withdrew not accepting the fight. Offensive of tanks and infantry is usually preceded by long artillery softening and strong mortar bombardment over a large area. The offensive is organized with close interaction of all branches of forces. Very quickly on call the aviation shows up..." (TSAMO, fund   38, list 11360, case 2, pg. 148-152),

        37th tanks division (15th mechanized corps, Southwestern front).

       "It was established in engagements that when our forces resisted (emphasis added - M.S.), the advancing enemy units withdrew or went around the resistance areas. It needs to be noted that in case of withdrawal of our units, the enemy organized chase and tried to intercept the withdrawal roads of our forces on parallel roads...

        Enemy tanks did not engage our tanks and did not accept attacks but tried to disorganize our tank attacks from start. The armor protection of [German] tanks is weak and is punched through not only by armour-piercing shells of a 45-mm cannon but also by fragmentation shells... Enemy tanks have weak armor protection and are used in limited numbers, probably to save the tanks proper, and also the fuel. As opposed to enemy means of fighting, our tank and artillery means of fighting are superior [to theirs] and are advanced (strong armor protection, high fire capacity and mobility)..." (TSAMO, fund 38, list 11360, case 2, pg. 91 92).

        The 32nd tank division (4 mechanized corps, Southwestern front).

       "The armor of our tanks [new types] is not punched through by 37-mm German cannon; there were cases when a KV tank had up to 100 hits but the armor was not penetrated. The -26, B-7 tanks and armoured vehicles (light and heavy) are penetrated both by large-caliber machine guns and 37-mm cannon of the enemy. The fire from our tanks after first two-three rounds destroyed an enemy tank. Very often enemy tanks go up in flames from fire of our 76-mm tank cannon..." (SBD No. 33, pg. 188).

        Report of combat activities by 104th tank division between 21 and 30 July (Western front).

"After engagements, tanks KV and -34 have large number of hit notches by armour-piercing shells. No penetrating action by shells on the armor of stated machines was discovered. Division command highly evaluates combat and technical parameters of tanks KV and -34 brought to light in the process of fighting... The march of -34 and especially KV is slow because of unprepared poorly passable portions of roads. These tanks should be accompanied by sappers or trained infantry..."  (TSAMO, fund 38, list 11353, case 5, pg. 112).

        Report by the assistant head of GABTU[31] headquarters Major Sirotin: "Activities of German army tank units. From experience of engagements of the Red Army tank groupings between 22.6 and 1.9.1941."

       "The armor of all German tanks withstand only small arms fire and is punched through by shells of our antitank artillery. When the armor of engine compartment is penetrated by shells and bullets from large-caliber machine guns, all German tanks go up in flame.

       Air ducts are positioned on top of the tank body over the engine compartment. The turret roof of German tanks has ventilation hatch. The burning liquid from a bottle[32] thrown on the roof or engine compartment would freely penetrate inside the tank. Recently dense metal mesh was added to the air ducts for protection from flame... Our antitank and tank artillery, sniper fire on the eye slits and hatches, antitank mines and grenades, bottles with combustible fluid are efficient means of fighting the German tanks..." (TSAMO, fund 38, list 11360, case 1, pg. 4, 5).

        To a vigilant reader such coincidence – not only in contents but almost verbatim – in reports written independently by different commanders, may seem suspicious. May be the perfidious author hid from the readers other reports, with different estimates? I understand these apprehensions. However, I do not know how to help. I cannot show the reader "all documents" – all documents take in the archive storage several multistory buildings. The only remaining thing is to wait until young historians of the right ideological orientation, without minimum engineering knowledge but briskly chirping about "cemented chromium-molybdenum armor", present the public with other documents containing different estimates and conclusions...


        Was the Red Army Command aware of the need in concentrating the forces and interaction of the force’s branches? It is a snide question, one could rightly say – an idiotic question. However, we have to discuss even this question. The reason is that the gullible public are told at every corner about some "Blitzkrieg technology", some secret knowledge, which opened itself to the Germans "based on the experience of two years of the World War". (Incidentally, where was it that the Wehrmacht had time to fight two years before 22 June 1941? The Polish, French and Balkan campaigns together did not take even three months). Now listen, Gentlemen, the "Blitzkrieg" (lightning-speed war) is not technology, not a method, not a secret mantra. Hitler’s Blitzkrieg of 1940-41 is a result. A consequence, not a cause. The result of many causes acting together, in particular, of expert use by Wehrmacht’s commanders of the fundamental principles of the operative art.

        These principles have not only been known to the Red Army Command but were included into combat field books. Most categorically: "Interaction between the branches of forces is a major precondition of success in an engagement... only in joint application and united effort all branches of the forces provide for achievement of the victory... No action by the forces in the battlefield are possible without the support of artillery and are unacceptable without itTank application must be massed... Tank attack on the frontline must be in all cases provided with the artillery support and is not acceptable without it…"

        Moreover, whereas the German Command both in theory and in practice intended possible use of tank groupings in the very beginning of an operation in the first echelon, for breaking through enemy defenses, the Soviet military school was in this respect much more circumspect. "Tank groupings for independent actions are used together with cavalry, motorized infantry and aviation for building up the breakthrough through a split-open enemy defenses (emphasis added - M.S.) and are mostly top Command’s means for achieving the decisive result in offensive." (PU-39, par. 264). In the course of the known December (1940) Meeting of the Red Army top command this subject – the introduction of tank grouping in an opening, broken by the infantry and artillery – became a subject of the most intent review. It is noteworthy that Army General Pavlov (a tanker, participant in the Spanish war, then head of Red Army GABTU), who presented the main report on the subject, described the German contribution to the theory of a "deep operation" so: "The Germans did not invent anything new. They took what we had, slightly improved and applied".

        Theory is good but even most highly educated architect cannot build a house without the bricks and construction workers. Did the Red Army tank forces Command have "bricks", which could be massively applied? Was there anything to organize the interaction with? Answers to these questions will be even shorter and simpler. It was already mentioned about the artillery: the Red Army had half as many non-integrated artillery regiments as the Germans had non-integrated battalions. As for the number of tanks, in this parameter Stalin’s empire was ahead of the entire planet.

        As of 1 January 1934, the Soviet tank park had 7,574 machines (sure, this number includes also machine gun whippets, but the Germans at that time trained with cardboard dummies). Three years thereafter, 1 January 1937, 17,280 tanks were already listed in the Red Army – more than in all European countries combined. 1 January 1939 on the Red Army inventory were (this time without counting lightly armored machine gun small change) 11,600 tanks armed with 45-mm cannon or flamethrowers (-26, B-5, B-7) and about 550 tanks armed with 76-mm cannon (the so-called "artillery" B-7 and heavy multi-turret -28 and -35) (Meltyukhov, 2000, pg. 601, 604). It is six time the amount in the Wehrmacht as of the beginning of the World War (1 September 1939 .) - if we count as tanks 1,223 Pz-II with its 20-mm "cannon".

        Huge number of tanks – together with a clear understanding the concept of concentration of forces – allowed starting to create the first in the world large tank groupings. In 1930 (when Europe nonchalantly danced foxtrot) was formed the 1st non-integrated mechanized brigade. In 1932, this mechanized brigade was expanded into a mechanized corps. In the same year was adopted the Instruction "The introduction of independent mechanized groupings in the engagement". By the end of 1935 RKKA already had 4 mechanized corps and 18 tank brigades. The next, 1936 year the number of tank brigades grew to 30. The Wehrmacht at that time had three tank divisions and the fourth one was in formation.

        The names, structure and combat composition of motorized Red Army groupings continuously changed. Tank, rifle-machine gun, motorized armored and motorized brigades were created. At last, in the summer of 1940 a decision was made of the formation of mechanized corps with the following structure: two tank divisions, one motorized division, motorbike regiment and corps detachments (communications battalion, engineering battalion, etc.). Strictly speaking, mechanized corps had not two but three "tank" divisions as the Soviet motorized division by its structure corresponded with the German tank division (one tank, one artillery and two infantry regiments), and by the organization chart number of tanks (275 units) exceeded it.

        By 1 December 1940 1the formation of nine mechanized corps and two non-integrated tank divisions was finished – but at that in the Red Army structure were also preserved 45 (!) tank brigades (Meltyukhov, 2000, pg. 592). The decision of disbanding tank brigades adopted in February-March 1941 became the last point on the way of the organization-structural concentration of tank forces. Such "small" structures were considered outdated. Now only large groupings (mechanized corps) capable of independently solving tasks on the operative scale had to remain in the Red Army. It was intended to unfold 30 (thirty) mechanized corps, 1 thous. tanks and 36 thous. personnel each.

       A million people in the tank forces. 100 thousand people directly in tanks – this is more than there were horsemen in Genghiz-Khan’s hordes.


        In the late 1930s the designer and technological capacity accumulated in the USSR military industry enabled the creation of new, conceptually better "bricks" for the construction of tank forces: medium tank -34 and heavy tank KV (both were included on the Red Army inventory 19 December 1939). Anti-shell armouring, powerful armament (long-barrel 76-mm cannon), diesel engine, wide tracks, high passability and great fuel range in combination meant qualitatively new instrument of war. And I, alas, am not the first one to have understood that. And not Victor Suvorov. In a far-away 1954, in a classical work by Muller-Gellibrand, which became the Bible of each military historian, was written:

            "By the beginning of the campaign on the Red Army inventory came new tank -34, to which the German land forces could juxtapose neither a similar tank nor the corresponding defensive means. The appearance of -34 tank was a nasty surprise as, due to its speed, high passability, stronger armour protection, armament and mostly the long-barrel 76-mm cannon with heightened shooting accuracy and penetration capacity of shells at a great, previously unreachable distance, was absolutely new type of tank weapon" (Muller-Gillibrand, 2002).

       -34 and KV in many situations could independently, without the help from field artillery, destroy enemy fire means on the front line and then, by a powerful fire, support the infantry in a breakthrough of the enemy defences for the entire tactical depth. A division armed with such tanks could not only chase the fleeing but also overcome dogged enemy resistance. Heavy tank KV was really capable of operating under the torrent of shells from the German division artillery. We will quote one, quite documented episode: early in August 1941 a KV tank from the 107th tank division (crew Commander - Lieutenant Kapusta Vasily Dmitriyevich) suppressed a battery of enemy antitank guns. It got 200 direct hits, not even single one penetrating through the armour (TSAMO, fund 38, list 11353, case 5, pg. 110, 132).

       The following structure was set for tank divisions armed with tanks of the new type: two tank regiments (4 battalions each – a battalion of heavy tanks , two battalions of medium tanks -34, a battalion of fire-throwing tanks -26); artillery howitzer regiment (2 battalions) and a moto-infantry regiment of typical 3-battalion structure. Besides, the division included reconnaissance battalion, communications battalion, flak battalion, pontoon-bridge battalion, repair and medical detachments. The division structure clearly shows strive to provide it with maximum autonomy, capability to independent actions in enemy defences’ operative depth, in isolation from the major mass of own forces.

         The basic armament of a mechanized corps - tanks and armoured vehicles – were distributed as follows (Table 5):


                                                                                  Table  5



Tank division

Tank division


Mechanized corps

German tank













30  Pz-IV






106  Pz-III












65  Pz-II






8  Pz.Bef

   Total tanks:



















       Note: besides armoured hardware in the division structure, tanks and armoured vehicles were also on the inventory of corps units and management of mechanized corps.


        Thus, a Red Army mechanized corps (counting also 40 track tow-trucks "Komsomolets") was supposed to have under the organization chart 1,337 units of armed armoured hardware. 1,058 units of armed armoured hardware (tanks V, -34, B-7, -26 and armoured vehicles B-10) were armed with cannon of calibre 45-mm and greater.

        Cognition comes through comparison. But for a correct comparison it was desirable first of all to determine - what are we comparing with what and why? Previously, in the review of structure and armament of infantry groupings, we compared a Red Army rifle division with Wehrmacht’s infantry division. This approach was understandable: rifle (infantry) divisions of both parties had comparable tasks, total number of divisions in the USSR and Germany was comparable (approximately 200 on one side, 170 on the other side), and their numbers in June 1941 on the front were also almost equal (100-90 divisions).

        However, the arithmetic with tank groupings was totally different: 17 Wehrmacht’s tank divisions against Red Army[34] 20 mechanized corps. At that, under all pre-war plans mechanized corps were supposed to be used in an "undivided format", as a unique tank grouping, whose tasks were exactly on the same scale, which the Wehrmacht had to solve by tank divisions. Comparison of the structures and armament of a pair "German tank division - Soviet mechanized corps" would be, in my view, most fair. However, too simple and obvious. It is clear even without long calculations that a mechanized corps even equipped to half-force in all quantity parameters would exceed Wehrmacht's tank division. So, we’ll go traditional way by comparing a division with a division.


        The structure of Wehrmacht’s tank divisions numerously changed, and always in one direction – toward contraction of its tank core. First three divisions formed in the end of 1935 had two tank regiments each, two battalions in each regiment, total of 561 tanks. By the start of the French campaign, the number of tanks in a battalion was shrunk to 74 units. The total (together with divisions’ management) must have been 316 tanks. However, in the divisions proper (6th, 7th and 8th) were only three tank battalions. At the stage of preparation to the USSR invasion, the number of Wehrmacht’s tank divisions was doubled (from 10 to 20). Simultaneously, however, their structure radically changed – now just one tank regiment remained in a tank division.

       There was no single organization chart structure for such tank regiment. There were variants of 2- and 3-battalion structure. Out of 17 tank divisions concentrated by 22 June 1941 on the Eastern front, 8 had tank regiments of the 2-battalion structure (on average 154 tanks per division). Only one, 17th tank division (2nd Tank group, Army Group "Centre") was close to the full 3-battalion organization chart structure (exactly this organization chart structure is shown in Table 5).

        Not a single military theorist (except for PhD in history Isayev) and, which is much more important, practitioners, spotted anything good in this forced shrinkage of divisions’ tank core. Perhaps, the most renowned and successful Wehrmacht practitioner Heinz Guderian, appointed in 1943 as the Inspector General of Germany tank forces, prepared for Hitler a detailed report. Therein he described the situation and mapped out measures needed for its improvement. The following was said regarding the structure of tank divisions:

        "The tank division is considered totally battle ready in a case when the number of its tanks is in the appropriate proportion to the other combat means and machines... If the number of tanks becomes much fewer than 400, the servicing apparatus (number of people and wheeled machines) will not be corresponding with the real strike force of the division... It is better to have fewer full-fledged divisions rather than great number of poorly equipped groupings. The latter require disproportionally many automobiles for their equipment, expend plenty of fuel and personnel without the due effect (emphasis added - M.S.), make it difficult to control and purvey, and create jams on the roads."  Further on, Guderian recommended to return to the pre-war system where a tank division included 4 tank battalions (Guderian,1999, pg. 408-409).

        In 1956 was published a book now well-known to specialists. It was authored by E. Middeldorf (during war years - combat officer, then a referent for synthesis of the tactical experience in Germany’s land force General headquarters) and entitled "The Russian campaign: tactics and armament". The book summarized:

       "Although the German tank forces made a revolution in the period of the last war in the method of the conduct of combat activities, their organization was not an advanced one. As early as in 1940 armored machines composed a small part of tank divisions. At that time for 300 tanks were about 3,000 unarmored wheeled machines incapable of moving without roads. Instead of strengthening the tank core of divisions before attacking Russia, Hitler insisted on shrinking the number of tanks in a division to 200 units. In 1944 an attempt was made to right this error..." As a counterweight to this Middeldorf highly values the organization structures in tank forces of the Red Army: "A specific feature in the organization of the Russian tank groupings is a strong tank core... A Russian tank division, with the personnel of 10 thous. people had twice the number of tanks compared to a German tank division with its about 15 thous. people" (Middeldorf, 2000, pg. 60,63).

        It is not for nothing that practitioners remember so often about "wheeled machines incapable of moving without roads". Out of 17 tank divisions on the Eastern front, 3 did not have even one APC for the infantry. Most (12 divisions) had one motorized infantry company on APC’s. One company out of twelve. A conspicuous number of semi-track APC’s was only in the 10th tank division (one motorized infantry battalion out of four) and in the 1st tank division (two battalions on APC’s) (http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Zusatz/Heer/Panzerdivision41.htm). The automobiles used for moving the motorized infantry in Wehrmacht’s tank divisions were not at all three-axel "Studebakers", and even less so – the present-day diesel "Urals". Rolling eastward was an avalanche of mismatched automobiles, including captured French autobuses and bread vans. Even in the summer of 1941, after the first rain (or without rain but on sandy forest roads in Belorussia and Lithuania) the motorized infantry lagged behind the tank avant-garde, and that made organization of interaction in an engagement highly difficult.

        Let us now return to Table 5. Types of the German tanks are placed there under only one criterion: cannon calibre and weight of the fragmentation shell[35]. And it is not at all the matter of equating Pz-IV with -34 for different criteria. As we can see, in the number of tank "barrels" a Soviet tank division of the organization chart composition exceeded a German one by the factor of 2.4 (321 against 136). And as there were many more "three-inch barrels" in Soviet divisions (273 against 30), in the weight of the tank cannon aggregate salvo it exceeded a German one by the factor of 5. And all that - without considering 56 armored automobiles B-10 armed with 45-mm cannon. 

Striking advantage of the Red Army tank divisions in the number and calibre of the tank cannon makes the absence in its structure of antitank artillery battalion understandable and logical. Wehrmacht’s tank divisions had an antitank battalion of a standard 3-company structure (36 cannon, calibre 37-mm; by the beginning of the USSR invasion one company of 37-mm "knockers" was replaced in some divisions by 9 cannon, calibre 50-mm). In the Soviet divisions a battalion of towed 45-mm antitank cannon would look funny next to 273 much more powerful 76-mm cannon protected by the tank armor. As for the motorized divisions – the Soviet analog of the Wehrmacht’s tank divisions – their structure included the standard antitank battalion (18 "forty-fivers"), plus 12 antitank cannon in two moto-infantry regiments of the divisions. Besides, it was possible to involve in rebuffing the attack of enemy tanks 8 long-barrel 76-mm cannon from the artillery regiment of the motorized division, four 76-mm flak cannon and 18 armored automobiles B-10.

        The only parameter, in which the fire capability of German tank divisions was higher, was the ratio of the numbers in artillery regiments. In the Red Army tank divisions there were two battalions (twelve 122-mm and twelve 152-mm howitzers), and in Wehrmacht’s tank divisions artillery regiment – three battalions (twenty four 105-mm and twelve 150-mm howitzers). The Germans had half as many barrels but taking the weight of 105-mm and 122-mm howitzer shells (15 and 22 kg) into account the advantage in aggregate weight of artillery salvo becomes minimal (876 and 744 kg). Hardly these two figures may serve reasonable grounds for asserting "underutilization of division artillery by Soviet tanks". Incidentally, even this miserly advantage disappeared in the cases when four 150-mm howitzers in the heavy artillery battalion of German divisions were replaced by four 105-mm cannon.




Ratio of the numerical strength, armament and armored protection of new Soviet tanks (V and -34) and best German ones (latest modifications of Pz-III with 50-mm cannon) left Germans a small chance of success in a tank duel. It is not for nothing that Red Army commanders in their reports unanimously note: "enemy tanks do not enter engagements with our tanks". Madness of the courageous was not encouraged in the Wehrmacht, and the tank forces were used – at least in all those situations when the Germans could impose their initiative on the enemy – for the solution of the main task ("Tanks are the means of breakthrough and demoralizing rears and flanks").

        On the other hand, the Red Army mechanized corps – although in theory and in the pre-war plans they were treated as the main instrument of carrying out counterstrike on the broken through enemy tanks groupings – in most cases were fighting with the German infantry. In particular, out of the five mechanized corps equipped with substantial number of new type tanks (3rd mechanized corps, 6th mechanized corps, 4th mechanized corps, 8th mechanized corps and 15th mechanized corps), three were smashed into smithereens after colliding with Wehrmacht’s infantry. Only the 3rd mechanized corps took part in an encounter tank battle (with the same result). In order to understand the course and results of these engagements a detailed review of the infantry capability for antitank defences in the early period of WWII is necessary.

        First of all, we must clarify the specific meaning of the already numerously used in this book term "anti-shell armouring". Shells are very different. A 122-mm shell from the Soviet cannon -19 from a distance of 1 km punched through a 180 mm armour plate (two times thicker than the "Tiger" front armour). And the cannon of 122-mm calibre is not at all the limit of barrel artillery capabilities – heavy cruisers and battleships carried "barrels" of 250-350 mm calibre with mindboggling energy parameters. However, battleships usually do not fight tanks. Thus, the "anti-shell armour" of tanks is their capability to withstand a direct hit by shells from a certain list of artillery systems.

        Exactly which systems? There are two mutually complementary approaches to determining this list. The most common, simple and understandable one: any artillery systems on the armament inventory of the enemy infantry (rifle) divisions - and nothing else. The logic here is quite obvious – during the time while the division commander is asking for and getting support from the corps or army artillery, tanks will "flatten out" his division and penetrate the operative depth of the defences. 

        A second approach is based on that for a successful duel with the tank, the antitank cannon must have not only sufficient penetrating capability but also small size and weight. The former enables cannon to be reliably camouflaged and this way to win "the right of first round", and the latter (small weight) allows for numerous changes of the firing position during an engagement by physical force of the gun crew. As the practice of the war had showed, maximum weight of antitank cannon should not exceed 1.5 ton. The most mass systems of the final period of the Second World War fit this range: German 75-mm Pak-40, Soviet 57-mm ZiS-2 and 76-mm "division gun" ZiS-3).


       Therefore, as applied to June 1941 the notion "anti-shell armouring" means specifically: for a Red Army tank – the capability to withstand a hit by a shell from German 37-mm cannon Pak-36, for a Wehrmacht’s tank – the capability to withstand a hit by a shell from 45-mm antitank and 76-mm division cannon. We are intentionally not discussing 50-mm Pak-38 and flak 76-mm cannon, very few of which were available in some German and Soviet infantry divisions, and talk only of typical, most common situations.

        Before beginning to page through the corresponding reference books, it is useful to realize that the very concept of "armour penetration" is quite complex and polysemantic. What should be considered penetration? Minuscule fracture on the back side of armour plate ("module of rear rupture" in the professional language)? Or a hole, through which the entire armour-piercing shell got through ("limit of through perforation")? Or a basketball size rupture in the armour? At last, the very process of interaction between a shell and an obstacle is probabilistic, i.e., shell from the same manufacturing lot and shot from the same gun may penetrate the target and may not. Incidentally, the testing standards in the USSR were among the most severe – the transfer through an obstacle of more than 90% of the shell mass in 75% of hits. All these distinctions in the evaluation techniques result in that armour-piercing parameters of antitank cannon quoted in different sources substantially differ. That was taken into account when putting together Table 6


                                                                                                                      Table  6



37-mm Pak-36

 45-mm, vintage 1937

76-mm USV cannon

Weight of armor-piercing shell, kg




Distance 100 m (mm)

50-38 / 42-31

58-47 / 43-40

80-74 / 69-65

Distance 500 m (mm)

48-35 / 36-27

50-43 / 44-32

75-70 / 61-55


Note: incidence angle with armour 90 deg / incidence angle 60 deg


        Plenty of numbers but conclusions from them are flat-out simple. “Old type” Soviet tanks (-26, B and -28) had 15-22 mm thick armour. Such armour was penetrated by German 37-mm cannon always, from any real distance of aimed shooting. German tanks of 1938-40 (and also included on Wehrmacht’s inventory light Czech tanks) had 15-30 mm thick armour. Such armour was penetrated by Soviet antitank cannon always, at any real distance of aimed shooting. It could be called total "equality in misery", and still the German tanks were "more equal than the others" as they had to encounter heavier Soviet armour-piercing shells. There is substantial difference in the after-penetration effect of a shellkin weighing 680 g and a shell weighing 6.2 kg.

        By the end of 1940 – beginning 1941 the future enemies began working on strengthening the armour protection of their tanks. The “entire Europe” worked for Hitler (an interesting “entire Europe” without Great Britain, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden, and the German resources had to be spent for armament of Italy). But it worked poorly, not in Stalin’s way. The result of these joint efforts was steel pads screwed on (or welded to) the front sheets of tanks Pz-III and Pz-IV. Thus, the thickness of the front armour increased to 50-60 mm, which exceeded the armour-piercing capability of the "forty-fiver"[36]. Then, in the subsequent modifications armouring of the turret’s front was strengthened to 50 mm. The flanks and rear of the body and turret on all German tanks remained with 20-30 mm anti-bullet armour.

        On the battlefield, the tank not always moves strictly along the straight line. It exposes to the antitank fire not only its "forehead". Not for nothing, the tank turret was made revolving (although it caused a bunch of technical and layout problems). At any turn, a German tank exposed thin flank of the turret to the antitank fire. Nevertheless, the most mass-produced 45-mm cannon (a reminder: they were also the armament of light Soviet tanks and armoured vehicles B-10) became "restrictedly suitable" for fighting Wehrmacht’s medium tanks. Now the 76-mm division cannon had to be used against them, and they were relatively scarce (16 per division), and there were none directly in a rifle regiment.

        Incidentally, tanks with "steel pads" were not very numerous. Nobody knows their exact number as of 22 June 1941 on the Eastern front. It is customary to include on this list all Pz-III with 50-mm cannon (707 units) and some fuzzy "larger part" of the total number (439 units) of Pz-IV tanks. Even with this approach, it comes up to one third of the total number of tanks in Wehrmacht’s grouping (at that, in 6 out of 17 tank divisions there were no "triads" at all). However, familiarity with documents of the Red Army headquarters makes one doubt correctness of this estimate. In most cases at the description of encounters with enemy tanks armed with 75-mm and 50-mm cannon the thickness of their armour is estimated at 25-30-40 mm. It could have been explained by haste. After all, in a fight there is no time for using the micrometre. But the summary prepared at GABTU (judging by the “in” date - 28.1.1942), the "triad" is described as the tank with the armor "frontal, flank and turret - 30 mm"; about the "tetrad" it says: "the frontal armour 40-50 mm, the flank one, 20-40 mm and the turret 20 mm" (TSAMO, fund   38, list 11360, case 1, pg. 3).


        Stalin was preparing to war seriously and had for this substantial raw material and labour resources. The "pads", by-the-way, also have not been forgotten (triple-turret tank T-28 was protected by additional armour). However, the main thing was that by 1 June 1941 the Red Army included almost fifteen hundred tanks of "new types" (545 KV and 969 -34). These machines set almost insoluble challenge before the German infantry divisions’ antitank defences. The body and turret of a heavy tank KV had 75 mm armour (in some modifications the "forehead" was strengthened to 90 mm). 37-mm German cannon could penetrate this under no circumstances.

        The body of a medium tank -34 was welded out of armour sheets "only" 40 and 45 mm thick. But these millimetres were set at great angles. The front sheet of the body was inclined at 60 degrees to the vertical. This almost guaranteed rebound of an armour-piercing shell[37]. Flank sheets of the body (40 mm) were installed at angle 40 degrees, the flank of the turret (52 mm thick) was inclined at 30 degrees. At such incidence angles of the shell with the armour, the 37-mm German cannon was practically useless even at the closest distances (for that, it was dubbed by Wehrmacht’s soldiers by a derogatory sobriquet "knocker"). Certainly, the vertical 45-mm flank sheet of the body was a vulnerable place on the "thirty four" but in order to hit it, it was necessary to drive a shell into a gap between track rollers – a trick not for faint hearted...

        We are reminding again that no other cannon (analogue of the Soviet long-barrel 76-mm "division cannon" and flak cannon) were on the armament of Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions. Most up to date (at the time) 50-mm antitank cannon Pak-38 were delivered only to one out of four Eastern front infantry divisions, and even that was just two units per infantry regiment. It enabled knocking out several "errant" tanks, but Wehrmacht’s infantry division could not on its own rebuff mass attack by -34 and KV.

       "Antitank defence, without doubt, is the saddest chapter in the history of the German infantry. The via dolorosa of the German infantry in its fight against the Russian -34 tanks goes from the 37-mm antitank gun dubbed in the army «knocker» through 50-mm to 75-mm antitank cannon with automotive power. Apparently, it will remain unknown to the end why in three and a half years after the appearance of -34 tank in August 1941 to April 1945 acceptable antitank infantry gun had not been created" (Middeldorf, 2000, pg. 16),

        There are remarkable things in this well-known quotation from Middeldorf’s book. In particular, the words that -34 tank ostensibly showed up on the front only in August 1941 (it means that almost a thousand of these tanks, which were in the western districts in June of 1941, remained unnoticed). As for the lingering for many years rearmament of the infantry with adequate antitank cannon, one of the causes of such failure became an attempt to solve the problem "quick and dirty" – by upgrading the shell to the available small-calibre antitank gun. 


        Armour-piercing shells are different. In its design this "solid shot", a "dummy" is not as simple as some may think it is. In the end of 1930s the so-called "subcaliber" shell was invented and put on large-scale production. It had relatively complex design, which included very hard armour-piercing core surrounded by a cover ("envelope") looking similar to a thread spool. Light aerodynamic shroud was installed in the nose part of the shell. When the shell hit a target, the shroud was instantaneously crushed and the core penetrated the armour.

        Such design enabled approximately halving the weight of the shell and substantially increasing its initial velocity. For instance, the subcaliber shell to a 37-mm cannon had initial velocity 1,020 m/s (compared with 760 m/s for a regular armour-piercing-shell) and the subcaliber shell to a 50-mm Pak-38 was accelerated to the velocity 1,200 m/s (against 830 m/s for a regular one). A result was that in the armour penetration Tables appeared overwhelming figures. A standard German 37-mm cannon from a distance of 100 metres punched by a subcaliber shell through a 75-80 mm armour (and this was the armour protection level of a KV heavy tank), and a 50-mm Pak-38 was so good as to punch through 120 mm of the armour from 100 metres. It may be assumed that somebody was strongly impressed by these Tables, so the German factories manufactured in 1940 319 thous. subcaliber 37-mm shells (Hahn, 1986).

        After these shells met the new Soviet tanks, it was found that "all is not gold that glitters". It was found so clearly that in 1941 manufacturing of 37-mm subcaliber armour-piercing shells shrunk to 16 thousand and then was completely discontinued. Why?

        First of all because tank is no toy balloon, which it is sufficient to punch with a needle. The very fact of a thru hole in the armour is no guarantee of the tank destruction. One typical example. The proving ground shooting of a light -26 from an antitank rifle showed that out of 39 bullets, which penetrated the tank armour, only one damaged the "leg" of one of the three dummies monkeying the crew. Serious damage was caused by two hits of the petrol tank. The subcaliber shell to a 37-mm cannon was no more than a thick hard "nail", which could put the tank out of commission only in case of the accidental hit of a particularly vulnerable aggregate. The situation was even more aggravated by the fact that the "new type" Soviet tanks (-34 and V) had diesel engines. Within them by definition could be no gasoline vapours capable of flaring up from the very first spark.

        It is not for nothing that the "normal" shells were supplied with an explosive charge (120 to 155 g in Soviet armour-piercing shells to the 76-mm cannon) and with a tail fuse. An explosion inside a closed tank volume put the crew out of commission, could cause flare up of the motor section and the detonation of the stowage. But a subcaliber shell by default had no explosive charge.      

        Furthermore, under the inviolable law of physic[38] a light subcaliber shell lost its initial velocity sooner. As a result at a distance over 600-700 m the subcaliber shell efficiency declined to the level of a regular "dummy". But that was not all. Long and relatively thin hard core crumbled having encountered the inclined armour sheet of a "thirty four". For instance, the aforementioned inspection of 154 knocked out -34’s in the fall of 1942 showed that only 20% of subcaliber shell hits resulted in penetration of the frontal body sheet (although according to the Table such shell was supposed to punch through the 45 mm armour as a cardboard sheet).


        The last in order (but not in significance!) drawback of subcaliber shells was that the hard core was made of tungsten carbide. Tungsten is expensive exotics. Germany could not throw around (in the most direct sense of the word) a scarce raw material needed for the electronics and for making special steels in the course of a protracted war. The manufacturing of subcaliber 50-mm shells declined from 644 thous. in 1941 to 40 thous. in 1943 and then was totally discontinued. The real and, alas, quite efficient means of fighting the Soviet tanks could become only the 75-mm antitank cannon Pak-40 with a "normal" calibre shell. The defeat percentage reached 90% in case the shell hit a tank.


        The force concentration concept, which we discussed in great detail as applied to the tank forces, is also valid in the organization of antitank defences. Not surprisingly, both parties (Germany and the USSR) created special antitank units in the structure of their armed forces. The Wehrmacht had as the basic instrument of strengthening the antitank defences a standard battalion (36 cannon, calibre 37-mm) with mechanic (automobile) towing, exactly as in any infantry division. With the same restrictions of combat efficiency created by the appearance on the battlefield of tanks -34 and V. By 22 June 1941 there were 6 (six) such battalions on the entire Eastern Front. Overall 216 additional "knockers" on the front from the Baltics to the Black Sea.

        But that was not the end of it. There was also the "entire Europe", from which Hitler got a couple hundred antitank 47-mm cannon "Skoda", vintage 1938, captured in Czechoslovakia. This system in the weight of the armour-piercing shell and its initial energy by 15-20% exceeded our "forty-fiver"). A primitive and outdated design of the wheeling gear in the Czech cannon did not allow for transport at a speed over 15 km/h. So the Germans decided to pile up this cannon on the chassis of a light whippet Pz-I. So, a surprising "device" was born and proudly dubbed "fighter plane tanks" (Panzerjäger I).

        If we try to find an analogue to this contraption among the Red Army armored hardware, we would have to imagine a light tank -26 with cut away roof and back of the turret (the cannon on German "fighter plane" was placed in the open armoured cabin). In their armouring (13-15 mm), engine power (90-100 hp) and armament they were quite comparable. But the main difference was in that the chassis of the German light whippet (suspension, transmission) was not initially designed for such load. We will not waste words and will switch to a document – the report by commander of the 643rd fighter plane antitank battalion who participated in engagements in France:  

       "... Joint marches with infantry detachments resulted in the hardware breakdown. Especially common were breakdowns of coupling and differentials. Joint marches with tank units resulted in similar destructive results... Stops were needed every half-hour on the first 20 km of the march for cooling down the engine, inspect the hardware and if necessary to conduct lubricating and repairs. After that, stops were needed each 30 km....

        Lookout from the cabin is extremely poor. One can look ahead over the upper edge of the cabin panel, and a result may be "Kopfschuesse[39]" (may be translated as "head hew-off"). In a street fight, the crew practically have no possibility to observe the battlefield... A courageous enemy infantryman can easily destroy the crew by throwing a hand grenade from the flanks or back...

        The armoured chassis is inadequate. Shell for French antitank cannon, calibre 25-mm, penetrate the armour even from a large distance. The cabin armour is punched through even by armour-piercing bullets of the rifle calibre... High cabins of our fighter plane tanks made work of the machines on the battlefield highly dangerous..." (http://pro-tank.ru/blog/456-pravda-o-panzerjager).


Only 202 such wonder-machines were manufactured. Equipped with them were non-integrated fighter plane antitank battalions. There were eight such battalions on the Eastern Front 22 June 1941 (2 in the Army Group "North", 5 in the Army Group "Center" and 1 in the Army Group "South"). Under the organization chart each battalion had to have 3 companies, 9 machines each, but actually there were fewer of them, on average 20 per battalion. Two more companies were listed in the 900th motorized brigade and brigade SS "Leibstandard Adolf Hitler". On the eve of invasion into the USSR, the Germans set up manufacturing of the subcaliber 47-mm shells. That improved armor-piercing of the self-propelled gun – with all aforementioned provisos. The practice of combat application of the "Panzerjager" on the Eastern Front confirmed earlier deserved reputation. The 521st battalion Commander reported in June 1941:

       "In the attack on enemy positions equipped with antitank cannon and artillery, as it was at Mogilev and Rogachev, the high turret became a good target, and the "Panzerjäger" was destroyed even before it could enter the fight. At a close explosion of a heavy artillery shell, the fragments punched through the thin armor as it happened at Rogachev. The Russian 45-mm antitank cannon penetrated the armor at a distance of 1,200 m. The 1st company lost in these engagements 5 machines, out of which it was possible to restore only 2..."

        The German "fighter plane tank" was doomed from the very start. An antitank cannon must be light, compact and inconspicuous - or it has to be mounted on the chassis of medium (even better - heavy) tank and protected by the armor. The armor must be exceptionally strong, allowing to enter the duel with any enemy tank. Antitank cannon on the chassis of a light whippet and with bullet-proof armoring is a notorious absurd.


        A different way was selected in the USSR. For fortifying the antitank defenses were intended not battalions and not even regiments. A CC VKP(b)[40] and SNK[41] USSR decree of 23 April and the corresponding directives of NKO of 26 April 1941 formalized the decision of forming 10 antitank artillery brigades in the Reserve of the Supreme Command (five in Kiev OVO, three in the Western OVO and two in the Baltic VO). The war began earlier than Stalin intended, and actually most PTABR's by 22 June were not totally equipped. Still, it makes sense to review this structure in some detail in order to evaluate the scale and seriousness of intents by the Soviet military-political leadership.

       Under the approved organization chart, the PTABR structure included 2 artillery regiments, 5 battalions each, total of 10 battalions, 120 antitank guns per a brigade. The smallest caliber of antitank armament in a brigade was 76-mm cannon F-22. It had somewhat greater initial shell velocity and armor-piercing than USV cannon shown in Table 6. Such guns were on the inventory of 4 battalions, and for the next two years, before the appearance of the "Tigers" and "Panthers", it was sufficient for the defeat of any Wehrmacht’s tank.

        However, those who worked out the organization chart for PTABR treated their duty more seriously. Another 4 battalions in the brigade were armed with 85-mm flak cannon 61-, vintage 1939. The use of this gun was "excessive cruelty" as the flak cannon could penetrate a 110 mm thick armor sheet from a distance of 1 km, and the Germans had nothing similar even as a design. But even this appeared too little, and 2 battalions of 107-mm cannon were included into the structure of PTABR!

        Experience of the German "Blitzkrieg" in France showed that the offensive of Wehrmacht’s tank divisions was continuously supported by dive-bombers. So, in the PTABR structure was included extremely great number of antiaircraft means: 16 rapid-fire 37-mm flak cannon and 36 large caliber machine guns DShK. Besides, the brigade included the mine-sapper and automobile transport battalions. Total headcount in the brigade should have been 5,322, with 11 cars, 707 trucks and specialized automobiles and 165 track tow-trucks.


       "Who is given plenty, is asked for a lot". The Red Army Command lay great hopes on PTABR's. This is clearly supported by the document: the "Provisional guidelines for the combat preparation, combat use and building combat orders of PTABR" approved 3 June 1941 by head of Kiev OVO headquarters (TSAMO, fund 28, list 11627, case 41, pg. 45-53).

        The combat use is viewed as follows. On the front area 3-4 km wide the PTABR had to stop the offensive of 400-500 enemy tanks (this is not a typo). It was expected that the steel avalanche will be advancing "in consecutive waves of 20-30 tanks per a kilometer of the front, i.e., approximately five waves", at a speed of 15 km/h (250 m/min). Combat order of the brigade was suggested in two echelons. In the first one, 4 battalions of 76-mm cannon and one battalion of 107-mm cannon on the most threatened direction, 4 battalions of 85-mm cannon and 1 echelon of 107-mm (i.e., more powerful guns) were moved to the reserve of the brigade commander for the elimination of heavy tanks broken through into the defense depth.

        Activities of the first echelon are described as follows: "Each gun from a distance of 1,200 m is capable of minimum 3-4 aimed rounds per minute, out of those, 1 round puts the tank out of commission (taking the might of the used guns into account, the estimate is quite realistic - M.S.). Therefore, the first and second tank echelons are put out of commission 100%, before having reached 200 meters to the firing positions". In other words, it was suggested that one cannon must put out of commission four enemy tanks before the tanks roll onto the firing position. The further events were not described in the “Provisional guidelines". Perhaps it was expected that after such slaughter the enemy would stop the attack or the most stubborn would be shot by guns of the brigade’s second echelon. 


        That was an army, which was being constructed in the USSR in early 1940. Huge and armed with mountains of most modern weapons. Did not these thousands and tens of thousands of tanks, cannon and mortars give hope of a crushing success in war?

        The correct answer is - no. Cannon do not fight, the people fight. The Red Army Field Book clearly elucidated this trivial but most important thought: "Most valuable in the RKKA is a new person of the Stalin epoch. A decisive role belongs to him in a battle. Without him, all hardware is dead, in his hands it becomes a terrible weapon. The entire RKKA personnel is being brought up in the spirit of Bolshevik activity, bold initiative, unshakable squall, indestructible tenacity and continuous strive to defeat the enemy." (PU-39, par. 6). Incidentally, in the authoritative opinion of the Narkom for the defense of the USSR (and later – Chairman of the Committee for the Defense at SNK) the people burst to go into action without any upbringing. In his speech at the 1st of May parade of 1939 Com. Voroshilov stated the following, verbatim: "The Soviet people not only knows how but also likes to fight!" ("Izvestiya", 4 May 1939).

        The following question. Was there among Generals and Marshalls, Narkoms and party secretaries around Stalin at least one who could tell him approximately the following: "Koba, half the country hate you with visceral hatred, the rest survive as they can. With the very first rounds of a real, great war all your "invincible army" will scatter in the forests or surrender into captivity". The correct answer is - no. There were no people so courageous. Not a single one. That is why Com. Stalin and his Marshalls were developing bold plans, which will be discussed in the following chapter.



                    Chapter 1.2.  GREAT GAME


         After the publication of V. Suvorov’s "The Icebreaker" the issues of military planning in the USSR of 1939-41 have become (and still remain) one of the hottest subjects of public discussion. For the "Soviet patriots[42]" rabid, with froth on the mouth denial of the Red Army plans of invading Europe became a matter of valour, honour and heroism. They intend to deny it to the very end, ignoring any arguments and facts, with obtuse obstinacy of the character in a known series of jokes, in which a dud with his pants down was discovered in somebody else’s bedroom... Everything that I wanted and could say on this subject is set forth in the articles "Three plan of Comrade Stalin" and "First strike" (Solonin, 2010, 2012). Whoever is willing, can take a look. Despite all these, the subject is far from exhausted. In particular, the chronological framework needs to be broadened (quite a number of "wonderful discoveries" are waiting us, for instance, in the study of the issue of the USSR participation in the "Sudeten crisis" of 1938). We will not be encumbering the pages of this book by a large discussion on the "Suvorov theme" and will right away switch to the basic facts and conclusions based on them.





       Currently at least 13 text documents are available, generated in the period from the summer of 1940 through May of 1941, which directly reflect the development process of a war plan against Germany. These are:

-  Memorandum of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR and head of the Red Army General headquarters to the CC VKP(b) I.V. Stalin and V.M. Molotov "On the fundamentals of strategic unfolding of the USSR Armed Forces in the West and East", w/o number, no later than 15 August 1940 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 239, pg. 1-37).

-  A document with similar name, number No.103202 of 18 September 1940 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 239, pg. 197-244).

-  Memorandum of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR and head of the Red Army General headquarters to the CC VKP(b) I.V. Stalin and V.M. Molotov No.103313 of October 1940 .(this document is usually called "Updated October plan of strategic unfolding") (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 242, pg. 84-90).

-  Directive of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR to the Commander of Leningrad VO for development of the plan of operative unfolding, w/o number, of 25 November 1940 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case .237, pg. 118-130).

-  Directions of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR for development of the plan of operative unfolding of the armies of Kiev OVO, w/o number, of 28 November 1940 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case .225, pg. 1-17).

-  Memorandum of head of Kiev OVO headquarters about the decision of the Southwestern Front Military Council on the plan of operative unfolding, w/o number, no later than December 1940 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case .239, pg. 245-277).

-  Directive of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR for the development of a plan of operative unfolding of armies of the Baltic OVO, w/o number, no later than January 1941 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 241, pg. 86-97).

-  Memo on the action plan of the Western Front, w/o number, no later than February 1941. (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 218, pg. 1-45).

-  Directive of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR for the development of a plan of operative unfolding of armies of the Baltic OVO, w/o number, of 3 March 1941 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 241, pg. 75-84).

-  Memorandum of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR and head of the Red Army General headquarters to the CC VKP(b) I.V. Stalin and V..Molotov "Updated plan  of the strategic unfolding of the USSR Armed Forces in the West and East", w/o number, of 11 March 1941 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 241, pg. 1-55).

-  Directive of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR for the development of a plan of the operative unfolding of the forces of the Western OVO, w/o number, April 1941 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 237, pg. 48-64).

-  Directive of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR for the development of a plan of the operative unfolding of forces of Leningrad VO, w/o number, of 11 April 1941 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 241, pg. 101-117).

-  Considerations on the strategic deployment plan of the USSR Armed Forces for a case of war with Germany and her allies, w/o number, May 1941 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 237, pg. 1-15).


Thus, we have five versions of general Red Army strategic plan and two text documents, each reflecting the development of the operative unfolding plans for the forces of each four western districts/fronts. It is exceptionally important to note that the six documents, in their format and contents are orders (directives) by the Narkom for the defence of the USSR; these are not at all "draft designs of proposals" but mandatory orders of the top military leadership of the country.

        Several dozens of work maps are declassified (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, cases 240, 244, 245). They reflect in the graphical format the aforementioned plans and directives and some intermediate stages of their development. In particular, there are maps dated 24 February and 6 April, which does not coincide with the dates of composition of the known documents. Besides, the structure of the Red Army force grouping indicated on the maps is not always totally coinciding with the text documents).   

        At least since September 1940 through May 1941 all known versions of the Great plan – as well as operative plans of districts/fronts detailing it – are in fact a single document, which changes from one month to the next only in small details. There is not only notional but a clear textual similarity of all these "considerations", "memoranda" and "directives". The maps discovered in archives are similar as nested dolls – today they are quite ready for a known test for observance "find five distinctions" (Fig. 3 and 4).

        All documents are descriptions of a plan of the preparation and conduct of a large-scale offensive operation outside the international borders of the USSR. Strategic defence on own territory is not considered in them even as one possible option of the actions[43]. Nobody found any other plans. Taking into account that we have numerous persons willing "to fend off hostile intrigues", and at their disposal were and are all archives of the country, it is possible with the probability of 99.99 % to suppose that no other plan existed.


        As for the concept of the offensive operation, it is immutably formulated so: "Most favourable is unfolding of our main forces south of Pripyat River for the purpose of, by powerful strikes on Lyublin, Radom and Krakow, smashing main German forces and at the very first stage of war cutting Germany from the Balkan countries, depriving her of important economic bases and decisively influencing the Balkan countries in the issues of their war against  us" (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 241, pg. 16,17). Main strikes had to be carried out by the forces of the Southwestern Front interacting with the left (southern) flank of the Western Front with the objective "to carry out a decisive defeat to the Lyublin, Radom, Sandomir, Kracow enemy grouping, to cross Vistula River, take Krakow and Warsaw and come to the front Warsaw, Lodz, Kreizburn, Oppeln, Olomuz (cities in Poland and Slovakia at the distance of 250-350 km west the then USSR borders - .S.).    

        The March (1941) version[44] of the plan set the following offensive tempo. On the 3rd day to take by mobile units (i.e., tank and motorized divisions) Lyublin and on the 8th day of the operation - Krakow, to come with the "main forces" to Vistula River on the 10th day of the operation (i.e., even for the infantry was planned offensive tempo about 10-12 km per day). The March version is also noticeable in that in it appeared the sacred word, without which the very intent to "crush the main forces of the Germans" is hanging in the air. "Subsequent strategic objective for the main forces of the Red Army depending on circumstances may be set: to expand the operation through Poznan on Berlin (emphasis added - M.S.) or to operate on the southwest, on Prague and Vienna, or to carry out [the strike] north, on Torun and Danzig with the objective to circumvent East Prussia".


        What do I want to “prove" by this? Nothing at all as there is no controversial thesis requiring proof. Offensive trend of the Red Army military doctrine is an incontestable fact. This is not a hypothesis, this is a directive enunciated as early as in the second paragraph of the Field Book PU-39. "If the enemy forces war on us, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army will be the most attacking from all ever attacking armies. We will be conducting the war offensively, with the most decisive goal of total crush of the enemy in his own territory". Equally inarguable is also that the offensive direction of the plans and of the combat training system of the armed forces can in no way serve as proof of the aggressive foreign policy of the state. The army in any country, even most peaceful, is created for the victory. The most efficient way to solve this problem was, is and will be offensive. "Offensive" and "aggression" are different words, from different dictionaries, and far from always they are synonyms.

        Unfailing aggressiveness of Stalin’s empire also does not need any proof. This aggressiveness found its expression not in clauses of the Field Book and not in red arrows on operative maps. It cannot be covered by a "fig leaf" of words like "If the enemy forces war on us..." Irrepressible strive to global expansion was frozen in the State Seal of the USSR where the sickle with hammer covered the entire globe and the borders of the "proletarian state" were not indicated even by the thinnest line.

        The Declaration of the creation of the USSR (30 December 1922) directly stated that the new country "will serve a faithful stronghold against world capitalism and a new decisive step on the way of uniting labourers of all countries into the World Socialist Soviet Republic."  All spheres of life in the USSR of 1930’s[45] were permeated with quite official war propaganda. Directly in Moscow was located the nerve centre of a global subversive organization (Comintern), which, ignoring state borders and norms of international law, tried (fortunately - unsuccessfully) to plant Stalin-controlled dictatorship in many countries of the world. And at last, strive to the expansion found its direct expression in expanding borders of the empire between 1922 and 1953.

        Only the ideological “wrapping” was changing. Everything began with a furious messianic outburst ("as a swirled cavalry, the world is rushing to a new coast"). It began with the dream of a new land and new skies, under which there will be no room for such outdated foolishness as international borders ("to live as a united human social life in a world without Russias and Latvias"). It began with the faith (sincere in some people) that the entire world is waiting to be converted into a huge Stalin barn ("When the last border sign / is brushed away by our soldiers from the face of the earth / The red flag will be triumphant everywhere / Flowers will open for everybody / And the people of the world / Following you, one sixth of the world / Will come to the feast as winners / To declare the great victory")[46].

        Flowers of the revolutionary enthusiasm quickly faded. The last attempt to design something like an "uprisal of labourers" was undertaken 1 December 1939. That time, during the first days of invasion in Finland was announced the appearance of some "people’s government of democratic Finland". However, making monkey out of themselves for the entire world to see, as head of this mythical government was appointed Com. Kuusinen, a member of CC VKP(b) since 1918, residing in Moscow. That was the last time Stalin so disgraced himself. All subsequent "liberations" were conducted on a rigid scheme: first - military occupation and only after that – spontaneous meetings, in which "the entire working people unanimously..."

        By summer of 1941 the Soviet propaganda finally cast away any camouflage. Early in June personally CC VKP(b) Secretary Shcherbakov prepared a Directive "On the state of military-political propaganda". It was composed in such phrases: "Foreign policy of the Soviet Union has nothing in common with pacifism, with strive to reach peace at any price…Leninism teaches that the country of socialism, using favourable international situation, should and must take upon itself the initiative of offensive military operations..." ("Russia – XXth century…, 1998, pg. 303).


           THE LAST OPTION


       Early in May appeared the next version of "Considerations on the strategic deployment plan". From the position of the operations’ design this fifth in succession (since August 1940) variant of a plan of war against Germany was no different from its predecessors. The tasks, directions of main strikes, proportions of the force distribution between individual fronts, timing and geographical lines in the May "Considerations" almost verbatim repeat "Updated plan of strategic unfolding" of 11 March 1941. Planned again are: "to crush of the main forces of the German army unfolded south of Demblin, and come on the 30th day of operation to the front Ostrolenka, Narev River, Lovich, Lodz, Kreizburg, Oppeln, Olomouts. To set as the subsequent strategic objective: in the offensive from the Katovitse area north or northwest to crush large forces of the Centre and Northern flank of the German front and take the territory of the former Poland and East Prussia. The nearest task is to crush the German army east of the Vistula River and in the Krakow theatre, come to the rivers Narev, Vistula and take the Katovitse area..."

        No less immutable remains total ignorance of the "Considerations" developers regarding plans of the enemy. Alas, "Hitler’s secret on Stalin’s desk" are good only in the contraptions of retired kegebists. Actually, enemy’s intents in May "Considerations" are described so:

"Most likely, the main forces of the German army, including... will be unfolded south of the line Brest-Demblin for carrying out a strike in the direction Kovel, Rovno, Kiev. This strike will apparently be accompanied by a strike in the north from East Prussia on Vilno and Riga, and also by brief concentric strikes from the side of Suvalki and Brest on Volkovysk, Baranovichi. In the south should be anticipated strikes: ) in the direction of Zhmerinka – by the Rumanian army supported by German divisions; b) in the direction of Munkach (currently Mukachevo – M.S.), Lvov; c) Sanok, Lvov".

        There is not even a distant similarity here with real Germans plans. The main forces of the Wehrmacht (army group "Centre") were unfolding not south but north of the Woodlands swamps ("Brest-Demblin line"). The most powerful 2nd Tank group concentrated at Brest had the objective of carrying out the main strike to a depth of 300-400 km on Minsk and Bobruysk, not at all a brief auxiliary strike on Baranovichi. In the corridor of Army Group "South" the main strike would be carried out by the 1st Tank group, although not through swampy forest near Kovel but 50-60 km to the south, in the corridor Ustilug, Krystynopol (currently Chervonograd). In the Carpathians ("in the theatre Munkach, Lvov; Sanok, Lvov") there were no German forces at all (not counting two so-called "protection" or "guard", i.e., police divisions). The strike under the southern base of the "Lvov salient" ("in the direction of Zhmerinka") was carried out. But it happened three weeks after the beginning of war, under then absolutely different operative environment.


        However, this very erroneous estimate of the enemy intents to a certain extent boiled down to nothing because the "Considerations" developers had no intent to provide the enemy with an opportunity to implement his (enemy’s) offensive plans. "Taking into account that Germany currently is maintaining her army mobilized, with unfolded rears, she has an opportunity to forestall us in the unfolding and to carry out a sudden strike. In order to prevent this I consider it necessary in no case to give action initiative to the German Command. I consider it necessary to forestall the enemy in the unfolding and to attack the German army at the moment when it is at a stage of unfolding and had no time yet to organize the front and the interaction between branches of the forces".


        It makes sense as much as possible to fine-tune the chronology of composing and discussing this document. Like all others, this version of the plan was written in the hand of the deputy head, Operative directorate of the General headquarters Major General Vasilevsky. The document is on the letterhead of the Narkom for the defence of the USSR, only the month (May) is indicated, there is no specific date. Stalin, to whom the "Considerations" are addressed, is called this time SNK Chairman. It means that the document could not have been composed before 5 May1941. There is also the work map signed by Vasilevsky 15 May 1941 (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 245, pg. 12 (map) (see Fig. 16).

        We will now turn to such well-known source as "Journal record of persons received by Comrade Stalin". For the convenience of the reader, we will contract the information into Table 8, which shows with who and how long the Narkom for the defence Timoshenko and head of the General headquarters Zhukov spent in Stalin’s office:


                                                                                                   Table  8



Also present were:


10 May

Molotov, Malenkov

 1 hour 50 min.

12 May

Molotov, Kaganovich, Voznesensky

 1 hour 35 min.

14 May


 1 hour 55 min.

19 May

Molotov, Vatutin

 1 hour 25 min.

23 May

Molotov, Kaganovich

 2 hour 20 min.


Note: actually, 23 May Timoshenko with Zhukov were in Stalin’s office 2 h. 55 min but the last 35 min. were devoted to a conference with a group of the aviation armament designers.   


       The picture, in my view, is quite clear. On the 10 May in the Master’s office is gathering in its totality (and without a single odd person) exactly the group, which represents the numerously mentioned "top military-political leadership of the USSR". Molotov is the formal deputy to Stalin in the government and in fact "the second person" in the country. Malenkov is a CC Secretary, member of the Main military council. Plus two top managers of the military department (Timoshenko and Zhukov). Troika, which nominally had the right to sign the main Directives, and Stalin with Molotov - two persons who really made main political decisions.

       There are all reasons to suggest that exactly then, on the 10th of May, the "Considerations" were for the first time presented to Stalin. Then, 12 and 14 of May the war plan against Germany was worked out in detail. Quite demonstrative was the participation in two conferences of the Narkom of the lines of communication Kaganovich. He had no direct bearing on the solution of strictly military, operative issues. However, it was not a matter of plans for a distant future but of quite practical actions of the strategic unfolding of the Armed Forces. And here it is impossible to get by without railways. At this stage steam engines and railway cars are incomparably more important than tanks. The appearance (very brief, just for 15 minutes) of the USSR Gosplan Chairman Voznesensky was also not coincidental - if it was a matter of strategic unfolding, then its part is the mobilization unfolding (mobilization), which unavoidably disrupts regular rhythm of economic activity.

        Then, between 14 and 19 of May, there was a pause in conferences. Exactly at that time, Vasilevsky signed the map of 15 May. Then on the 19th of May in Stalin’s office gathered the entire troika of the plan developers including a deputy head of the General headquarters Vatutin – a quite rare visitor of Stalin’s office. There are all reasons to suggest that under discussion was the updated plan of strategic unfolding with clarifications and changes introduced after the conferences of 10, 12 and 14 of May. At last, on the 23 May this updated variant could have been again (and very carefully - 2 hours and 20 minutes) discussed with the participation of the "main railway man" Kaganovich. 

        24 May 1941 occurred clearly highly unusual multi-hour conference. First in Stalin’s office came Molotov, Timoshenko, Zhukov and Vatutin. 50 min. thereafter they were joined by forces' Commanders of the five western border districts, members of the Military councils and Air Force Commanders of these districts, and also head of the Red Army Main Air Force directorate Zhigarev. In this broad composition, the conference lased 2 h. 30 min. Nothing similar happened in several months prior to 24 May or after this date and up to the beginning of war.

        That is all that is known today about the conference of 24 May. Soviet official historiography did not breathe a word about the discussed subject and decisions made 24 May. A few Conference participants who survived Stalin’s death said nothing about it in their memoirs. The Special Folders of the Politbureau CC VKP(b) meetings’ protocols for May 1941 (RGASPI, fund 17, list 162, case 34-35) declassified early in 21st century also do not include even a slightest mention of this conference. No help from the German archives – not a single participant of the Conference was in the German captivity. What remains is to state that the very fact of total blackout of anything connected with the Conference of 24 May says a lot: if the subject of the discussion were the country defense, the preparation to rebuff Hitler’s invasion, the corresponding quotations would be included in all high school textbooks...

        Chronologically last of the currently available succession of the pre-war documents on the strategic planning is "Information about the unfolding of the USSR armed forces for a case of war in the West", w/o number, of 13 June 1941 ("Russia – XXth century..., 1998, pg. 358-361). The document is in Vatutin's handwriting. It does not include any plans of combat activities, timing and lines of the offensive. Only very long succession of numbers of divisions, corps and armies.

        In and of itself this document is no big help in understanding Stalin’s intents and military plans – but together with the map of 15 May 1941 it finally "puts everything in their proper places". The "Information about the unfolding of the USSR armed forces for a case of war in the West" of 13 June is describing exactly the grouping of the Red Army forces, which is shown on the map of 15 May. Everything is the same: numbers of the armies, their combat structure, the number of mechanized corps, and the transfer scheme of groupings from the internal district to the border districts/fronts. With these two documents we may reasonably assume that exactly that war plan, which is included into the May "Considerations" - with amendments and changes introduced in the process of five discussions in Stalin’s office – remained the effective document. No other plan of the strategic unfolding appeared – at least until 13 June 1941.





       At dawn of 22 June 1941, Hitler carried out a first strike. The initiative turned out to be in the hands of the German Command. Why? There is hardly any other question, which was discussed for half a century with such passion. Not daring "to break covers" and to uncover "the whole truth", we will try to collect together and systematize few known documents and facts.

       For starters, we will define the very substance of the question: what actually happened 22 June 1941? Happened not in the view of our current knowledge but in the opinion and estimate of high-placed contemporaries of the events. The archive funds declassified in the beginning of the 21th century give a specific and exact answer to a question of how the top Red Army Command viewed the day of 22.


"Operative summary No. 01
of the Red Army General Headquarters
as of 10:00 22.06.1941.

At 0400 hours 22.6.1941 the Germans without any pretext committed the assault on our airdromes and cities and crossed the border with their land forces... (following further is a detailed, on three pages, summary of information from locations of the first engagements that came by that time to Moscow – M.S.). Fronts’ Commanders enacted the cover plan and are trying by active actions of mobile forces to destroy the enemy units, which crossed the border.

      The enemy, forestalling our forces in the unfolding (emphasis added – M.S.), forced Red Army units to accept the engagement in the process of occupying starting positions under the cover plan. Using this advantage, the enemy was able on some theaters to reach partial success" (TSAMO, fund 16, list 1071, case 1, pg. 2-5). Period. End quote.

        The operative summery No. 01 signed head of the General headquarters Army General Zhukov. The operative summery No. 02 was issued late at night of 22 June[47] and signed, instead of Zhukov (who has already flown out to the Headquarters of the Southwestern Front in Tarnopol) by a deputy head of the General headquarters Lieutenant General Malandin. The events were summarized as follows: "The German regular forces during 22.6.1941 conducted engagements with the USSR border guard units and had insignificant success on some theaters. During the second half of the day, as the forward units of the Red Army field forces arrived, the German forces’ attacks along the prevailing length of our border were rebuffed with losses for the enemy" (TSAMO, fund 16, list 1071, case 1, pg. 6).

        At 9 p.m. 22 June Directive No.3 was sent to the fronts’ command. The Main Military Council (Timoshenko, Zhukov and Malenkov) stated again: "the enemy, having suffered large losses, achieved small successes on the stated theaters..." Further, the Directive set the task of "by powerful concentric strikes to encircle and destroy" the enemy, which had broken through into the Soviet territory, to cross the border and by the end of the day 24 June take Suvalki and Lyublin ("Russia – XXth century, Documents. Year 1941", Book 2, Moscow, Fund "Democracy", 1998, pg. 440).

       At night 22 June the next summary of the General headquarters Intelligence Directorate was also put together. This document is even more interesting:


"Intelligence summary No.1/660724 of the Red Army RU GSh [Intelligence Directorate of the General headquarters].

As of 20-00 22.6.1941:

1. As a result of combat activities during the day of 22.6.1941 the data available as of 20.6 were factually confirmed about the following enemy grouping positioned directly at the USSR border... (a long list of seven pages follows – M.S.).

CONCLUSION: The enemy brought into action during 22.6. considerable forces, namely: 37-39 infantry, 5 motorized and 8 tank, overall 50-52 divisions. These, however, are only approximately 30% of the enemy forces concentrated on the front" (TSAMO, fund 16, list 1071, case 38, pg. 1-8).

       Yes, exactly so. Head of the Red Army General Headquarters’ Ingtelligence Directorate Lieutenant General Golikov begins the summary for 22 June 1941 with the feeling of pride for the job well done by his department ("were factually confirmed the data..."). Com. Golikov does not see reasons even for a slight confusion in the events of 22 June. He unfortunately also does not see the real enemy grouping. Under even the most accurate and conservative estimate[48] the Germans introduced into combat in the first day of war 72 divisions (59 infantry, 11 tank, 1 motorized and 1 cavalry), which was about 60% of the total strength of the three Wehrmacht’s Army Groups on the Eastern front.

       In the next summary the General Headquarters’ Intelligence Directorate somewhat raised the estimate of the operating enemy grouping ("The total number of enemy forces introduced into action by the end of 23.6 is 62-64 divisions"). But it ended the document quite optimistically: "Taking into account the overwhelming advantage of the enemy forces compared to our cover divisions in the theaters of its main strikes, the actions of our forces 22 and 23 June should be evaluated overall as quite positive, and the enemy advance tempo should be recognized as low" (TSAMO, fund 16, list 1071, case 38, pg. 10-14). Such estimates were produced at the moment when the Germans on a wide front crossed the Neman, approached Vilnius, took Grodno, Kobrin and Pruzhany, and no more than the numbers remained from the 11th and 4th Armies on the theaters of the enemy’s main strikes...

        To make the picture complete, the Directive No.2 should be recalled. It was issued at 0715 hours 22 June. Formally, the document was issued on behalf of the Main Military Council and signed by Timoshenko, Zhukov and Malenkov. However, the entire triad were at that moment in the meeting in Stalin’s office. He, arguably, was its real author:

      "22 June 1941 at 04 oclock in the morning the German aviation without any pretext carried out raids on our airdromes and cities along the western border and subjected them to bombardment. Simultaneously in various places, the German forces opened artillery fire and crossed our border. In connection with the unheard-of in its insolence assault by Germany on the Soviet Union, I AM ORDERING:

1. To our troops, by all forces and means to descend on the enemy forces and destroy them in the areas where they violated the Soviet border.

2. To the reconnaissance and combat aviation, to establish the concentration areas of the enemy aviation and of its land force grouping. By powerful strikes of the bomber and storm aviation to destroy the aviation on the enemy airdromes and bomb-destroy the grouping of its land forces. To carry out the aviation strikes in the depth of the German territory of up to 100-150 km. To bomb-destroy Königsberg and Memel.

Until special direction not to conduct any air raids on the territory of Finland and Rumania ("Russia – XXth century…, 1998, pg. 432).


Neither in its form nor its content Directive No.2 fits the Field Book norms. "Unheard-of insolence", "without any pretext" – this is not the way military orders are written. There is the standard, it must be complied with. This standard  was established not by somebody’s literary preferences but by Article 90 of the Field Book PU-39 ("In the first paragraph of an order is given a brief description of actions and general grouping of the enemy …The second paragraph indicates the tasks of the neighbours and border with them. In the third paragraph is given a general formulation of the grouping’s task and the decision of a commander giving the order…") From a position of these Field Book requirements Directive No.2 is no more than emotional scream. But it is not at all a wail of desperation! It is rather – thunderous roar of an enraged lion...

        That is how our “collective Stalin” spent the day of 22 June 1941. It was a show day. Stalin demonstrated to his "close circle" the indignation of insulted virginity. Demonstrated to those, with whom he spent dozens of hours over operative maps of planned invasion of Europe, who knew for certain that "unheard-of in insolence" Hitler’s attack only just beat Stalin’s attack. Generals and Marshalls demonstrated a sprightly optimism, thinly alluded that the genius clairvoyance materialized ("the available data got factual confirmation... the enemy introduced into the engagement only 30% of the forces concentrated before the front...") and promised in the nearest three days to fix the befalling embarrassment (to move the combat actions on the enemy territory).




       In actuality, there were no grounds at all for optimism. There were few forces next to the border, and they did not have adequate situation plan for a defensive operation. The last statement needs to be reviewed in slightly more detail.

       The Red Army did not have a plan to rebuff a sudden attack – because there could have never been such a plan. A mobilization army is in principle incapable of immediate start of a fight (total duration of the mobilization process was 30-35 days; the complete mobilization, concentration and unfolding main mass of the combat units required, depending on their battle readiness in time of peace and dislocation, 5-10 days). With equal success, one may ask whether the Narkomat of armament had a design of tank perpetuum mobile and who (Stalin or traitors-generals) is at fault that there was no such design... But in order for an enemy attack not to be for the army and country an overwhelming "surprise", the top military-political leadership had to perform a great amount of diversified work.

       Continuous and reliable intelligence of the intents and actions of the potential enemy is only one (and not even the very major) component. First of all, it is necessary to build such foreign politics of the state, such economic, diplomatic and military relationships with the neighbours, under which the issue of an attack does not emerge at all. In the specific conditions of 1939-41, it meant that if Stalin did not engage in petty marauding but reached mutual understanding with Finland, Poland and Rumania, the "sudden attack" on the USSR by Germany would have been absolutely impossible.

       However, even after Stalin together with Hitler destroyed the Polish "separation barrier" it was still possible substantially to decrease the likelihood and negative consequences of a "sudden attack". And not a single country in the world had such opportunity to do it as Stalin’s USSR. Such was our geography. For Poland, a retreat of 250 km from borders with Germany meant the loss of Warsaw; for France a retreat of 200 km from the Belgian border meant the loss of Paris. Whereas the Soviet Union could afford using 200-300 km of the western provinces as a huge "forefield" of the main defence corridor[49].

       There was absolutely no need to drive the forces into a trap of the Bialystok and Lvov "salients". In consideration of natural river obstacles a potential defence line could have been created along the rivers Neman, Shchara, Styr, Seret, i.e., along the line Grodno, Slonim, Pinsk, Lutsk, Ternopol, Chernovtsi. West of this line, there was not a single important industrial or agricultural area whose temporary loss could weaken the country’s defence potential. For the inter-war Poland (2nd Rzeczpospolita) that was backwards neglected fringe, for the Soviet Union – a "problematic", politically and economically undeveloped region. In that territory could be (and needed to be) held small but totally manned under the war time organization chart cover units, which with the beginning of combat actions would be tasked with mobile defence[50]. Withdrawing east from a line to a line, they could destroy behind themselves roads, bridges and crossings. Under such option of events, the Wehrmacht would not have been able to come to the main corridor of the Red Army defences earlier than in the 5-7th day of offensive, and the issue of a "sudden attack" would have been finally removed.




       Was it possible in the 70 postwar years to find even one document related to such plan of strategic defense? No.

       Is it possible to discover any traces of something similar in real practical actions of the "collective Stalin", in dislocation of forces, in the objectives set for them? No.

       Everything was happening exactly the other way around. Defensive facilities of the "Molotov's line" were being constructed directly in the border corridor. Forces of the western districts already in the time of peace were concentrated on the territory of the "salients". Those groupings, which have not yet had time to get into the trap, were being redeployed to the borders in the last prewar days. Especially impressive is a map of the dislocation for the main Red Army strike force – mechanized corps. Please keep in mind that the scheme shows the prewar dislocation, and with the start of the unfolding everything was beginning to move west ( Fig. 8).

       "I consider it my duty to report some USSR western borders defence issues on the territory of the Western OVO... The border outline is very favorable to the enemy and highly unfavorable for us... It creates conditions for outflanking of our units... As a result of even small success by the Germans the rears of the 3rd and 4th armies would be immediately cut, and at a large success the entire 10th army would be cut... All these positions were reported in more detail and worked on in the General headquarters, all agreed but no real measures were undertaken. Besides, the tasks were always assigned to work out variants of offensive operation with a clear mismatch of real forces..." (Adamushko et al., 2007).

       This memo was submitted 19 July 1941 by a former Member of the Western Front Military Council, corps commissar Fominykh to head of the Red Army Main Political Directorate Com. Mekhlis. The Western Front Commander Pavlov and head of the front headquarters Klimovskikh have at that time already been arrested and were waiting trial. The sentence was in no doubt. The life of Commissar Fominykh himself was hanging by a thin thread. That is why it is not worth it to be surprised by the intonations of "naïf surprise", with which he is describing the dislocation of district forces, "inaction" of the General headquarters and continuous assignments "to work out the options of an offensive operation". During the last pre-war year Mekhlis was the Narkom of State Control, he did not have access to the development of strategic plans[51], and Fominykh decided not to make his situation worse by divulging the very main military secret of the USSR.


        I understand the indignation, which must overfill an erudite reader regarding this page: "How come there were no defense plans? And what about the cover plan developed in each district?" Despite the obvious answer, this issue deserves to be discussed as this subject was thoroughly befogged by multi-year efforts of the falsifiers of history (without quotation marks).

        The operation "of covering the total mobilization, concentration and unfolding forces" (that is exactly how it was called in Directives of the Narkom for the defense received early in May 1941 by Commanders of the western border districts) and a strategic defensive operations are different operations. Different in name, in objectives, in timing and - what is the most important in this case – in the scale of involved forces and means.

        A cover operation of mobilization, concentration and unfolding forces is conducted always, with the beginning of each unfolding, regardless of its (unfolding) objectives and possible (expected, anticipated, most probable) enemy reaction. Correspondingly, the cover plan was unalienable component part of the general list of documents of war operative plan. This procedure was directly prescribed by the corresponding directive documents (Decree… - TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 209, pg. 230;  Operative plans … - TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 209, pg. 221). The exact analog is an armed guard, which every day and every night takes duties of protecting military camp. Even if this camp is in Siberian taiga, thousands of miles to the closest probable enemy.

      One typical example may be the April (1941) Directive from the Narkom for the defense for the development of operative unfolding plan for the forces of the Western OVO, mentioned in the previous chapter. A reminder: the left (southern) flank of the front (the 13th and 4th armies) must have advanced on Warsaw and Lyublin, the center and the right flank had a task for the defense. So, the Directive from the Narkom prescribed to develop: "a plan of cover and defense for the entire concentration period; a plan of concentration and unfolding of the front forces; a plan of accomplishing the first operation by 13th and 4th armies and a plan of the defense by 3rd and 10th armies". As we see, the compilers (and executors) of the Directive with absolute clarity separate the notions "cover plan" and "defense plan".

        A cover operation has a rigidly restricted time framework. According to the directives of the Soviet Command, the operation was beginning in the first day of mobilization ("-1" in the documents)[52] and continued for 15 days (up to "-15"). After that the forces, which completed the concentration and unfolding, initiated the performance of the main (for the forces of the Southwestern and left flank of the Western Front - offensive) operation.    


        A cover operation is always defensive in its objectives. However, this is in no way associated with the nature and objectives of the main operation, in whose interests total mobilization, concentration and unfolding of forces are conducted. A need to cover the unfolding was assumed also at the stage of preparation to the offensive operations.

        Thus, in the plan of the crush of Finland[53] of 18 September 1940 the decisive and unequivocal tasks[54] are preceded by a guidance to provide "strong cover of our borders during the period of concentration of forces" (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 237, pg. 138-156).


        On the eve of the Soviet forces’ invasion of Iran, i.e., clear-cut offensive operation, at that, against the enemy whose resistance was considered unlikely, the Supreme Command Directive No.001196 set the following objectives for the forces of the Middle Asia VO: "Before 27.08.1941, to provide with cover units the border with Iran, not allowing an enemy breakthrough on our territory (emphasis added - M.S.). To devote especial attention to the theaters... Upon the end of concentration of the army’s main forces in the morning of 27.08.1941 to cross the borders of Iran and by 1.09.1941 occupy... Subsequently, to be ready for the offensive on Tehran. In case of armed resistance by the Iranian forces, to destroy enemy forces and hardware, not allowing their withdrawal to Tehran" (TSAMO, fund 148, list 3763, case 110, pg. 10-13).


        The need to cover the concentration and unfolding process (and caused by that setting of defensive objectives) is also reflected in documents of the German Command. In addition, mind you, the offensive nature of the operation "Barbarossa" did not cause doubts in anybody. Also, as in the Red Army, there was no a general cover plan (PP) for the entire Wehrmacht’s grouping being concentrated at the borders. The needed plans and orders were put together at the level of armies, corps and divisions.

        First mentions of "Bertha plan" were discovered in documents of the 6th army (Army Group "South"). They are dated 23 April 1941. In documents of the 8th army corps (9th Army, Army Group "Center") the "Bertha plan" appears 6 May 1941 (NARA, T 314, R 1138, f. 545; BA-MA, RH 24-8/42). In subsequent days, the documents on this subject are ever increasing in number.

        Thus, in Wehrmacht’s 4th army (the largest in the entire grouping; it was being unfolded at the southern outline of the "Byalostock salient" with a task of offensive through Brest, Baranovichi on Minsk and Bobruysk) 5 June, signed by head of the army headquarters Major General Blumentritt, was issued a Directive No.0355/41 "Regarding the operation "Attention Bertha". The anticipated enemy actions were described so: "Based on the coinciding data, the Russians further continue to redeploy their forces into the border corridor. Despite strengthening of Russian groupings positioned next to borders, the assault appears unlikely. If it still occurs, a sudden attack by the Russians with the use of the air force, paratroop drops and glider drops should be expected". After that the task of own forces was formulated: "In connection with these, by the order of the land forces Supreme Command, must be undertaken all measures for unconditional cover of the border corridor, first of all, of army storages... The corps of the 4th army are defending on the German – Russian border and by immediate counterattack are repelling the invading enemy..."

        15 June 1941, signed by the 4th army Commander General-Fieldmarshall von Kluge, was issued order No.0450/41 "On the measures against possible Russian offensive". The estimate of the situation became more alarming: "The general situation, our own preparations and the strain increasing [due to] these do not allow to consider impossible that the Russians, having in the first echelon the aviation (and also paratroop forces), and in part by ground attacks and by sudden diversions will be able to hamper our preparations and disrupt the unfolding. In this, still possible, case enemy efforts in offensive will be directed, first of all, against large bridges over the Vistula, Bug, Narev Rivers, and also against purveyance storages. The anticipated attacks may be conducted not only by day but first of all by night" (BA-MA, RH 20 - 4/1182).

Further, there were specific directions to army groupings, expounded typewritten pages. Especial concern, as can be judged from this document, was associated with a possibility of sabotage and/or airdrops on bridges of strategical importance for Wehrmacht’s unfolding.

        The closest to unveiling the secret intents of the Soviet Command approached the Command of the 1st Tank group (Army Group "South"). 16 June they mused, at last, over a threat created by the presence of two west-facing salients of the border (Fig. 9). However, in this case the possibility of a preemptive strike by the Red Army was estimated as quite dubious: "The advance of the Russian [forces] in our direction may suggest that an assault on us is being prepared. The offensive [by the enemy] may be assumed from the area of two salients west of Lvov and Byalostock with the front (directed) to the San and Vistula. Although it appears unlikely that the Russians would be inclined to such decision, still we must not miss (sleep away) anything here... In case of such development the arriving [currently] mobile groupings must be constantly combat ready. In such a case, it is important to have battle ready combat units at our disposal as soon as possible. They must be capable of coming toward enemy’s mobile groupings on the main roads, especially on the road Lvov-Peremyshl..." (NARA, T 314, R 1138, f. 696).

        What is noteworthy is that if in many other documents it is allowed to shoot at Soviet airplanes only "when their intent to attack by onboard weapons and bombs is absolutely clear ", in the order for the 1st Tank Group of 16 June it is allowed "to open fire on all reliably identified enemy planes 5 km west of the border".

                Despite certain similarity with the PP of the Soviet Command, "Plan Bertha" had substantial differences. We will mark two of them. First, the German PP version is strictly situational, a reaction to a possible enemy attack; if the enemy is idle, the actions of the German forces are restricted only to a strengthened observation and reconnaissance. Second, the assumed enemy actions do not go beyond a large-scale diversion, an airdrop, an aviation raid. Therefore, a force detail involved in the cover operation is quite limited. For instance, in the 28th infantry divisions (a unit of the aforementioned 8th army corps) for "taking the border defense line on the signal "Attention: Bertha" was assigned a fortified intelligence battalion and fighter plane-antitank battalion. They, according to the plan, "subsequently withdraw in view of the exceeding enemy forces into the area of 7th and 49th infantry regiments".


        The Red Army Command took the planning of a cover operation incomparably more seriously. In the operation were involved the forces of western border districts almost in their totality. At that, directly in the first cover echelon, in the corridor 20-30 km from the borders it was intended to unfold (in different districts) 50-60% of the total number of infantry divisions. ("Military-historic magazine", No. 2-6 /1996). With such forces, especially taking into account border rivers and thousands of "Molotov's line" bunkers, it was possible to stop not only the diversion (sabotage) groups but even a breakthrough attempt by large enemy groupings.

        Going further. The PP of all western districts included direction of active, not restricted by international borders actions of the aviation: "By powerful strikes on main force groupings, railway nods, bridges and runs to disrupt and delay enemy forces concentration and unfolding". These words were no empty declaration – aviation strikes on the enemy transportation network were worked out in detail. For instance, in the PP of the western OVO the calculation of aviation force detail (dive and so-called "horizontal" bombers separately) takes three pages of text. Specific directions are provided on the bomb-dropping elevation, types of bombs, needed (in view of the document compilers) number of the airplane links and hits (in particular, the railway node at Allenstein - 60 links, 170 hits, Warsaw railway node - 60 links, 80 hits, Torun - 40 links, 70 hits; overall proposed - 320 links, i.e., almost a thousand bombers) (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 243, pg. 173-176).

        Moreover, active offensive actions were suggested not only in the air but also on the ground. The Directives by the Narkom for the defense for the PP development of western border districts set the following objective. "Under favorable conditions all defending forces and army and district reserves must be ready on the order from the Supreme Command to carry out lightning speed strikes for crushing enemy groupings, to transfer combat actions on the enemy territory and to capture favorable lines" ("Russia – XXth century…, 1998, pg. 229, 235, 241, 285). Thus, a defensive (in theory) operation of covering the mobilization, concentration and unfolding forces smoothly escalated into a first phase of the major, offensive operation.

        Of course, the top military-political leadership kept to themselves a decision to begin the defense so "active". Any independent activities - even at the level of district Commanders with General’s ranks – were categorically prohibited. "The cover plan is enacted upon the receipt of enciphered telegram signed by me, a Member of Main Military Council, head of the General headquarters, of the following content: "Start implementing cover plan 1941." ("Russia – XXth century …, 1998, pg. 233). With this standard phrase ended up all Directives for the development of the cover plan sent by the USSR Narkom for the defense to military districts. Commanders of armies, corps and divisions even had no right on their own initiative to open the "red envelope", which contained directions for the actions in a cover operation including prepared in advance Order No 1[55].


        Coming back to the comparison of a cover operation with armed protection of a military camp, we have to emphasize a principal difference in the procedure of enaction of a PP (as it was understood in the Red Army) and Manual of guard duty. Each soldier knows (and reminded incessantly, each time he begins his guard duty) that in case of an attack on the guarded object the sentinel has the right and must independently make the decision to apply weapon. Only after the attack was repelled, the attackers destroyed or detained may a report be written for the superior Command, which in their turn will report up the line of command, and so the alarm wave will roll to Moscow. The enaction procedure of the PP was exactly the other way around.

         There is no accident here and no error. The thing is that at last the time has come to understand and recognize that the cover plan was in no way a "plan of rebuffing the aggression" but was a plan of the active armed support for unfolding of the Red Army. An unfolding, which would begin earlier than unfolding by the enemy and would end up in carrying out a crushing first strike on the German forces. If such conclusion still needs some additional confirmations, such confirmations appeared in July of 2009. At that time were declassified a number of executive documents related to the cover plan of the 5th army units. It was in Kiev district, subsequently Southwestern front. The list of documents was signed 4 June 1941 by deputy head of the 5th army headquarters Lieutenant Colonel Davydov (TSAMO, fund 131, list 12507, case 30). The declassified documents were the same Order No 1. They were placed in the "red envelopes" in the safe of the commander of each division. All orders begin with a standard phrase: "The enemy is threatening the western borders. By the decision of the Soviet government and the party, the cover units are being advanced to the international border". Moreover, not a single word about a war begun by the enemy attack!

        The order of the cover plan enactment ("from up down", on the order from Moscow and not as a response reaction for the German invasion) was an important but not the only aspect making PP practically useless in the situation of a sudden attack. A second one was in the PP-set procedure (technique, tactics) of the solution of the defence task: "By a dogged defence along the line of the international border and the line of fortified areas that are being created to repel the  enemy offensive and to ensure the total mobilization, concentration and unfolding of the district forces". Exactly such phrase, without the slightest variations, was present in the PP of each western district.

       In this case, the word combination "dogged defence" is a military term and not just the adjective "dogged" next to the noun "defence". Translated from the specific military language into newspaper terminology, "dogged defence" means "Not a step back! Stay to the death!" In a specific situation of June 1941 it meant the proscription to withdraw forces from the trap of the Byalostock and Lvov "salients", a hopeless attempt to defend the border, "whose outline was very favourable for the enemy and extremely unfavourably for us". Incidentally, in a situation of the real enemy attack all that had to be understood very rapidly. As soon as in the fourth day of war, at 1540 hours 25 June the Western Front Command issued an order of withdrawal of all armies on the line of the Shchara River (on the line Lida, Slonim, Pinsk). 26 June the Southwestern Front Command allowed the withdrawal of the 6th army from the Lvov salient on the line Pochayev, Zolochev (75 km east of Lvov) (TSAMO, fund   208, list 2511, case 206, pg. 44, Collection of documents No. 36, pg. 32).

Vladimirsky (on the war eve - deputy head of the 5th army and Kiev OVO headquarters’ operative department) is perplexed and resentful: "The cover plan envisioned only one option of unfolding the army forces – on the border defence line. The possibility of enemy attack was absolutely not considered  (emphasis added - M.S.) prior to taking this line by our forces, for this case have not been envisioned and prepared reserve lines in depth and possible variants of unfolding on them army forces" (NARA, T 313, R 15, f.f. 490-498).

        Was the decision "to provide the unfolding of forces with dogged defence on the line of the international border" an error? No. An error (in the best case) is a dogged unwillingness to see the difference between PP and plan of rebuffing aggression. PP was part of the general operative plan and as such could not but be subordinated to the solution of main tasks. And if the main task was the offensive on Warsaw, Lyublin and Kraków, then the major strike grouping with unavoidability concentrated within the border corridor. Only there it could be (and must be) covered. Within the framework of the Red Army general offensive plan it was impossible even in theory to invent another PP, assuming, for instance, the defence along the eastern bank of the Dnieper.

        The last in succession (and the very first in importance) difference between PP and an aggression rebuffing plan is the composition of a cover grouping. A cover operation is always conducted by only part of forces. This is unavoidable. It is as unavoidable as sending to a guard detail only small portion of personnel of the guarded military camp. As unavoidable as participation in operations of the emergency medical services of only small part of doctors and nurses in a city. And now let us turn from metaphors to specific numbers and maps. (Figs. 10, 11, 12)

        The maps show border districts’ force grouping in the cover. At that, not in the first day (-1) of the cover operation but sometime in the last days (first cover force echelons completed the concentration within the indicated in the PP areas during -3/-4, second echelons were concentrated during -3 through -13). What do we see? Total in the border corridor from the Baltic shore to Bessarabia in the first cover echelon (including units of the Western OVO on the east bank of Bebzha River) is 40 infantry and 3 cavalry divisions[56]. We will emphasize again that there will be "so many" of them only by -3/-4. But let us be really strict, i.e., without inclusion of the so-called "depth divisions", which were not present at the border in the first day of war, and without inclusion of 7 divisions at the southern edge of the "Lvov salient" (where the Germans did not conduct offensive actions in the first days of war). In such a case, it so happens that 29 infantry and 3 cavalry divisions could enter the first engagement. Overall 30.5 "estimated divisions".

        What kind of tasks could have been solved with such forces? According to p. 105 of the Field Book PU-39, an infantry division can conduct dogged defence on the front of 8-12 km. At the defence in the corridor of a fortified area it was considered possible to double the front width, i.e., to 20-25 km at the maximum. In actuality, one division of the first echelon had 35-40 km of the border. But even these numbers, "average for the hospital", do not reflect the entire tragedy of the situation. The cover units were stretched along the border in almost uniform "chain", whereas the Germans advanced massing their forces within narrow breakthrough corridors. For instance, on a 45-km defence front of the 128th rifle division (south flank of the Northwestern Front) the border was crossed 22 June by 3 tank and 2 infantry Wehrmacht divisions.


        What was it? An error, stupidity, crime, "generals’ conspiracy"? Not at all. The PP’s were quite real - if used for the intended purpose, i.e., in the case of timely enacting of the cover plan. And “timely” for such PP could only be the time prior to the beginning of unfolding of the enemy’s army. For instance, let us imagine the situation when the "day " was 22 May 1941 (this day is noticeable in that exactly then the German railways were transferred to the regime of maximum military transportation, and the large-scale redislocation of German forces to the east began).

        In the morning of 22 May the cover plan is enacted, and groupings of the first echelon in an orderly way (not under enemy bombs) take indicated for them defence corridors. Under PP, that takes 6-12 hours[57]. What can the enemy counter it with? Right within the border corridor, the Germans 22 May have no forces at all (except for border guards). To the depth of 100 km from the border to the Vistula are scattered about 45 infantry divisions. It would take them 3-4 days only to get to the border. The time is also needed to estimate the situation, to recognize the fact of the mobilization begun in the border districts of the USSR and to make some decision.

        Even if this decision is a desperate attempt to throw all available forces into offensive not waiting for the concentration of the grouping envisioned by the plan "Barbarossa", the ratio of the number of divisions west and east the border will be about 1.5 to 1. Plus border rivers, bridges over which have already been successfully blown up. Plus a thousand of bunkers. Plus "deep" infantry divisions arriving during -5 to the borders (we do not even remember about 14 mechanized corps). Plus mighty strikes of the Soviet aviation "on the main force groupings, railway nodes, bridges and runs". And the task for the "eastern" becomes absolutely real...



        What, then, obstructed the timely (in the aforementioned sense of the word "timely") beginning of the mobilization and enactment of cover plans? The answer to this question is flat out simple: the top military-political leadership of the USSR had no idea about real plans of the enemy, especially about the specific date of the beginning of operation "Barbarossa". That is the entire secret. Certainly, in the pages of contraptions by Soviet historians-propagandists everything is much more interesting. Some of the histories invented by the historians are absolutely amazing.

        For instance, in 1995, under the auspices of FSB and SVR[58] was published a document collection with the overwhelming title "Hitler’s secrets on Stalin’s desk". Number one on the list was emblazoned with the label "top secret" report... about a press-conference of the English ambassador in Moscow S. Cripps. The next "Hitler’s secrets" was a report by the NKGB USSR "about a reaction in the circles of the diplomatic corps on the issue of conclusion a treaty between the USSR and Yugoslavia" ("Hitler’s secrets at Stalin’s desk" — Moscow, Mosgorarkhiv, 1995). In the recent years, books of a similar slant came in a swarm. Detailed lists were put together: "forty unchallengeable intelligence warnings", "one hundred and forty warnings..." One of the "unchallengeable" is a border guard report about the Polish village broads who yelled from the western bank of the Bug: "Russians! Beware! The Germans will soon attack you..."

        A wonderful French adage says: "even most beautiful girl cannot give more than she has". The contents and reliability of reports by the Soviet (and any other) intelligence services was determined first of all and mostly by the availability of "sources", i.e., recruited carriers of secret information. All the others, all these enigmatic Stirlitzes and radio-operators Kats only could with greater or smaller distortions and delays transmit to Moscow the information obtained from the "sources"; to transmit, not to generate. There is not even the slightest sense to discuss in the context of the "mystery of 22 June" forty or one hundred forty informations obtained from constantly hungry journalists, corrupt deputies, travelling salesmen and the wife of the German ambassador. Such "sources" did not have even a slightest access to documents of Germany’s top military-political leadership. What could they say except for various grapevine, including disinformation from German special services, intentionally spread in a similar milieu?

        As for German generals and officers recruited by the Soviet intelligence, their list will not take too much room. This is one and only person, Ober Lieutenant Harro Schulze-Boysen, a member of the Luftwaffe headquarters intelligence department[59]. The senior lieutenant tried over the top but due to his service position, he was too far from the offices where decisions were made. In fact, he gathered and handed to the Soviet intelligence rumours circulating in the corridors of the Luftwaffe headquarters. Sometimes (especially on strictly aviation issues) these rumours reflected real events. But with the same frequency Schulze-Boysen became a "source", through which disinformation from German special services in a river poured in Moscow.


        Early in the 21st century "FSB nightingales" shook up and informed gullible public with pride that previously they were pulling leg to the public by fairy tales about momentous messages from Richard Sorge ("you understand, comrades, it was not an easy time, not everything could be said directly..."). But now they remembered and would tell the Whole Truth. It turns out that there was a competent "source", and there was a reliable information about the date of the "Barbarossa" beginning. 19 June 1941 a Gestapo officer, Hauptsturmführer Willy Lehman (agent’s sobriquet "Breitenbach") met with a representative of the Soviet intelligence and told him that the war would start 22 June at 3 o’clock in the morning. The tiniest details were related to the public: where the meeting was taking place, which prearranged signals were used, how Lehman was dressed that day ("tired, in a dingy shirt"), etc.   

               Nevertheless, the questions remain. A first question – where did Lehman learn it from? Tortured an army Colonel to the death? There is a simple and unshakeable rule: secret information is given only to those who needs to know for the performance of service duties, and only in the amount necessary for the performance of service duties. A Gestapo Hauptsturmführer (this rank corresponds to a Wehrmacht captain) W. Lehman took care of the counterintelligence support of the defence industry factories. Simply speaking, his duty was to make sure that nothing was blown up at a military factory and no secret drawings were taken from the factory. His "invisible front" lay hundreds of kilometres from the Bug and Neman. What for, for which purpose would he need the information about a day (even more so – an hour!) of the beginning of the offensive on the Eastern front?

       It is getting even more interesting the farther we go. It turns out that no Russian archive has the cryptogram with the Lehman’s information. And you know why? "It was sent through Ambassador Dekanozov by NKID[60] channels, caused indignation by Beria (what relation did Beria have to NKID, which was headed by Molotov – nominal deputy to Stalin and in fact the second most important person in the country’s leadership?) and was lost somewhere either in the MID[61] archives or in Beria papers". Curtain falls. I cannot tell anything about Beria papers but I happened to work in the MID archive. I am testifying – there are even the 70 years old papers kept there with the schedule of meeting the ambassador of a third-world Asian country. And the only documental confirmation of a success of the Soviet intelligence "was lost"? No documental traces of W. Lehman information are present also in the military archives (we’ll put it more precisely – nobody considered it necessary to find them). After this there is no surprise that "Breitenbach" informed 25 April 1941 the Soviet intelligence about the preparation to the invasion of Yugoslavia (this invasion occurred 6 April), and "in 1935 he was personally present during a test of the first German liquid fuel rocket V-1 on the proofing ground in Penemunde..."[62]


       Let us now turn to real facts and real dates. Since December 1940 and through March-April 1941 the development of the plan "Barbarossa" was going on in a very narrow circle (one or two dozen people) of Germany top military-political leadership. To penetrate it is a fabulous dream of a spy. So it is no surprise (and even more – no reason to be indignant) that our Stirlizes were unable to perform this miracle.

        By 1 of May the plan is finally formed, the date of the operation is set - 22 June 1941 ("Russia – XXth century…, 1998, pg. 147). From this moment on the circle of those admitted to the information about the "Barbarossa" begins slowly but steadily to widen. Some (not at all pretending to be the final diagnosis) idea of this process is given by documents of Wehrmacht’s units (translations are presented on my personal site http://www.solonin.org/docs). The earliest discovered date is 4th of May. On that day, the command of the 48th Tank corps[63] received the "Directions regarding coming to the starting line under the plan "Barbarossa" (Aufmarschanweisung Barbarossa)". Two days thereafter the corps headquarters prepared "the order for reconnaissance, which included first reconnaissance tasks for divisions, artillery and sapper headquarters". (NARA, vol. 314, r. 1138, f. 473). Of course, directions regarding coming to the starting line are not yet an operation plan; it no longer mentions the specific date of the beginning of the offensive.

       During a period from end May through 10-13 June 1941 in numerous documents of corps and divisions is mentioned the appearance of the "order of offensive" and conferences with subordinated commanders of regiments and non-integrated battalions. In aggregate it means that the invasion plan became known to approximately one thousand Wehrmacht’s officers (in its part related to them). The exact date of the beginning of "Barbarossa" is still unknown to them. But the very fact  of familiarizing commanders of the tactical link with such information uniquely indicates that the assault is planned not at all for 1942-43 and subsequent years ("after the victory over England") but for nearest weeks or even days.

       Since mid-June also a circle of persons admitted to the "Third Reich’s" main military secret – the information about the day of the operation’s start – begins to widen. 10 June Oberkommando Wehrmacht informs about this its directly subordinated army and army group headquarters ("Russia – XXth century…, pg. 341). Three groups, seven armies, in each of them – the commander, head  of headquarters, head  of operative department of headquarters, plus generals and Fieldmarshalls of Wehrmacht‘s central apparatus. This is already about half a hundred persons. 15 June the following record appears in the Combat action ledger of the 3rd tank division (2nd Tank group): "Commanders of divisions, heads of the operative and rear departments, commanders of breakthrough groups and sapper battalions take part in a war game at the headquarters of the 24th Tank Corps. In the process of the game the upcoming operation is played in all detail... 16 June is declared "Day V minus 6". (NARA, 3 Panzerdivizion, KTV, f. 037). In subsequent three days, records of a similar content appear in the documents of many other groupings.


        Thus, by 17-19 June the exact date of the beginning of the invasion is known to corps’, divisions’ and regiments’ commanders, heads of the corresponding headquarters and departments. The most modest estimate – about one thousand people. There is not a single documental confirmation that the Soviet intelligence could discover this fact. Certainly, it could have been stated more cautiously: "as of this moment, nobody published corresponding documents" but I view such finesse as extraneous. If there were something to publish, the compilers of collections "Hitler’s secrets on Stalin’s desk" wouldn’t have denied themselves a pleasure to amend the reports about press-conferences with something weightier...




        A deplorable failure of the Soviet intelligence ("overslept Hitler’s attack") does not say at all that early in the summer of 1941 the "collective Stalin" immersed in a peaceful sleep. Nothing like it. The work was boiling. From the end of May 1941, the Red Army switched to a special, irregular status not fitting peace-time norms. An operative summary by the General headquarters No.01 without unnecessary freaks calls it "unfolding" ("The enemy, having preempted our forces in the unfolding, forced the Red Army units..."). The first one to have paid attention to this circumstance, a quarter century ago, was Victor Suvorov. Then some "status" Russian historians (in particular, P. Bobylev and M. Meltyukhov) joined the view that the Red Army was in the state of strategic unfolding. On the other hand, many experts voice a reasonable judgment that strategic unfolding separate from the mobilization is impossible in principle, so it is more correct to say not about "unfolding" but about the conduct in may-June 1941 of "large-scale pre-mobilization measures".

       Personal view of the author of this book is that I absolutely do not care what THIS should be called. More interesting and much more important is to find out when THIS started, and what has been done by 22 June 1941. should bne calleds

      It is not easy to answer the first question. Strictly speaking, the entire life of Stalin’s empire was one big, unending "mobilization measure". A thesis of "unavoidability of military collision of the world’s first state of workers and peasants with the forces of rotting capitalism" was hardwired into the Bolshevist "article of faith". Any Soviet person knew (must have known), that the enemies, as hungry wolves, were prowling at the USSR borders. Speaking more specifically, one should agree with V. Suvorov who attributes the beginning of unfolding process to August of 1939. Since that moment, drastic growth in the numerical strength of the USSR armed forces had begun. As a result, by April 1941 – i.e., even before the start of "large-scale pre-mobilization measures" – the personnel numbers (including the navy and air force) approached 4.7 million. Not a single European and American country had peacetime army of such numbers, and the military time army of greater numbers was only in Hitler’s Germany.

        According to the mobilization plan "MP-41", after mobilization under the "western option" (i.e., without the total mobilization of Far-Eastern and Southern districts) the numerical strength of the Armed force should have reached 7.85 million ("Russia – XXth century, Documents. Year 1941", Book 2, Moscow, Fund "Democracy", 1998, pg. 614). In other words, under this war scenario in the process of open mobilization it was supposed to draft "only" 3.2 million reservists[64] (and this is indeed little considering that in other European countries the size of army after mobilization increased several times). One forth of this quantity (802 thous. people) were drafted under the cover of "training drill" in May-June 1941. Eventually by 22 June in the Armed forces were listed about 5.7 million people, including 5.1 million in the land forces (out of those, in the western border districts 2,692 thous., in armies and non-integrated RGK groupings 618 thous.) (Combat composition …, 1994).


        Purely arithmetically, this number of people would be sufficient to man totally, to the last soldier, all 303 Red Army divisions including the groupings dislocated in the deepest rear. The reality of constructing armed forces is much more complex. Beside divisions of the active armies, there are also corps, army and front units and detachments, plus beside the active army there are in the armed forces huge in numbers, up to 30-40% of the total numerical strength, rear (training, medical, scientific-technical) structures. For this reason by the moment the war began, in divisions of the western border districts actually were 9 to 14 thous. people each, in most cases – around 10-11 thous. Clearly fewer than the organization chart numbers. This is an incontestable fact. However, it may be evaluated differently.

       Traditional Soviet historiography (however, not warning about it the readers directly) evaluated the situation in the categories of a fist fight or a brawl between two primeval tribes: if the tribe put up 160 duds with cudgels and the tribe - only 120 with the same cudgels, has obvious numerical advantage, which makes the defeat of unavoidable. We, however, will not hurry with conclusions and will equip ourselves (thank God, primeval times are behind us) not by a cudgel but by a calculator.

       In order for an artillery weapon to be able to conduct aimed fire, two persons are absolutely necessary: the crew commander and the aimer. A third one is very desirable – the loader (in order for the first two not to be distracted from the observation of the battlefield and target). Those, who may see such statement as questionable, could look at any photograph of any WWII period tank. In its turret are 2, sometimes 3 people, at that a 76-mm (and by the end of war also 85-mm) cannon is shooting, shooting and shooting. In the turret of a Soviet giant KV-2 was installed even a 152-mm howitzer, which was handled by 3 persons (the fourth one was tank commander doing his duties). However, the crew of a 76-mm division cannon set up in the organization chart of April 1941 includes 6 persons, the crew of a 122-mm division howitzer includes 9 persons and of a 152-mm howitzers - 10 persons.

        Going farther. For the total manning of crews of all artillery regiment guns in a rifle division (eight 122-mm howitzers and sixteen 76-mm cannon) only 168 persons are needed. But under the organization chart of April 1941 this regiment had to have 1,038 people. Out of six soldiers of the artillery regiment, only one is next to the guns. What are the rest of them doing?

       Smaller portion are performing the main job requiring high qualification and lengthy training: they are providing for the management and communications, reconnoitering, correcting the fire and preparing calculation data for the shooting. Quantitatively most of the soldiers perform jobs not requiring high qualification: they roll, dig, pull, unload, clean and feed horses, wash and feed people, read political information to them, accept and distribute letters and money allowance... Exactly these people – unconditionally needed and not at all extraneous – are drafted by the summons from military registration and enlistment office. And mind you, in June 1941, in the "first wave" of open mobilization, were drafted not the yesterday schoolboys (a beloved subject of the Soviet "engineers of human souls"), but the reservists, i.e., men who had served compulsory military service and gotten necessary set of knowledge and experience.


       The same proportions are also maintained in any other detachments and groupings. Under the organization chart, three infantry regiments of a rifle division have 9.5 thous. personnel. Out of those, directly shoot on the enemy from rifles and machine guns only 4.5 thousand (this number includes also "second numbers" of machine gun crews). In tank divisions out of every seven persons, only one is in the tank, etc. These figures (perhaps, strange for a person remote from the trade of war) explain the empirically observed fact that at the final stage of war, in 1944-1945 an infantry division successfully began an operation having in the best (!) case 7-8 thous. people. That was the numerical strength, with which the Red Army victoriously came to Berlin and Prague.

        It is appropriate to compare a Red Army division in a state of mobilization unfolding with a lean person. This person is quite alive, with hands, legs, eyes and head. Sure, he is incapable from day to day of doing the job, which can be handled by a satiated hunky-chunk. Sure, he needs a sanitarium with high calorie diet. But in case of the extreme need (for instance, when his house is on fire) he can work a couple of hours not waiting for sanitarium. Exactly the same way, if there is willing, a division can fight several days in 10-thousand strength, with uncleansed horses, not working field post, without the propaganda room, field State Bank pay office and even – at war is as at war - without a kitchen with hot meal.

       Worse – but not at all hopeless – was the situation with army equipment by the hardware: automobiles and tractors (artillery tow-trucks). As of 15 June 1941 (i.e., even before the beginning of open mobilization!) the Red Army had 272 thous. automobiles (all types) and 42.9 thous. tractors (tow-trucks) (TSAMO, fund   38, list 11373, case 67, pg. 97-116, quoted from http://mechcorps.rkka.ru/files/spravochnik/docs/d_gabtu_003.html). If we compare these numbers with those under MP-41 (respectively, 595 and 90.8), we see that half of the required numbers are absent. This, undoubtedly, is bad. But if we compare with the organization chart numbers of 110 infantry divisions, 20 mechanized corps and 10 PTABR in the five western border districts, the available numbers turn out to be twice the required for the tractors and 1.6 times for the automobiles. And this, please note, under the organization chart norms when in the howitzer regiment of a regular rifle division there were two tow-trucks per one gun.

        Thus, the problem was not the shortage of the people and hardware per se but the shortage of some quantity of the people and hardware at the time of need in some places. As for the "time", there was in Stalin’s calendar some date, unknown to us, in the interval between mid-July and end August[65]. In any case, it had nothing to do with 22 June 1941. As for the "place", the large-scale redislocation of the Red Army forces began in the end of May, 1941. It began and continued quite irregularly - "hind foremost". First of all, started to move forces of the internal districts, then – second echelons of the border districts. The turn of the first echelon of border districts has not come – the war started.        

22 1941 loading into echelons began in Transbaikal and in Mongolia of groupings of the 16th army and 5th mechanized corps. Taking into account a tremendous distance and preserved peace-time railway operating schedules, they had to arrive to the Ukraine, in the area Berdichev, Proskurov, Shepetovka between 17 June and 10 July.

       Approximately at the same time (exact dates are impossible to state as the process was covered by curtain of secrecy unheard-of even in the Soviet Union), a decision was made to form four new armies on the basis of the Command and forces of the internal districts. Those were the 19th (North Caucasus district), 20th (Orel district), 21st (Volga district) and 22nd (Urals district). Besides, into the stated armies were included groupings of the Moscow and Kharkov military districts. Somewhat later, in mid-June, formed the 24th Army (Siberian district) and 28th Army (Archangel district).

        So, the forces of seven armies, having boarded at nighttime at neglected way stations, the cars nailed up with plywood boards, have moved west. Exactly where to – the decision about it was numerously fine-tuned and had radically changed after what happened 22 June. The very initial decision (reflected in the aforementioned Vatutin’s "Information…" of 13 June) assumed the following. The 22nd army is concentrated in the rear of the Western Front in Vitebsk area; the 19th, 20th and 21st concentrated in the depth of the Souhwestern Front in the corridor from Chernigov to Cherkassy. The 24th and 28th armies unfolded, respectively, southwest and northwest of Moscow. The deadline for completing all these transportation (which is about 3 thous. railway echelons) was 3-10 July (Nelasov, 1992).

        The forces of RGK armies (Second Strategic echelon) began the concentration ahead of the First echelon. Moreover, they got more reservists drafted under the cover of "training drills" than border districts. For instance, the certificate "On the conduct of muster military service registration of the personnel of rifle divisions in 1941" compiled 20 May by the Red Army Mobilization Directorate provides the following numbers. In the four border districts were drafted 134 thous. people, and in those internal districts, which were converted into RGK armies, - 322 thous. persons[66] (however, it should be kept in mind here that the certificate does not include the data for the Baltic OVO) (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 242, pg. 195-201). That enabled raising the numerical strength of infantry divisions in the RGK armies as early as in the course of "large-scale pre-mobilization measures" to the organization chart level (or close to it).


         On the 9 June in Stalin’s office was held the next conference (the previous ones were 3, 6 and 7 June) of the top military-political leadership. It was absolutely record in its length (total of 6 hours and 25 min.) Beside the permanent faces (Timoshenko, Zhukov, Vatutin and Malenkov) were summoned Marshalls Voroshilov and Kulik, air force commander Zhigarev, Gosplan head Voznesensky, head of the Mobilization-Planning department at SNK Safonov, Narkoms of the aviation and tank industries Shakhurin and Malyshev. No decision of the beginning of open mobilization, which would be quite expected from such conference, was made. However, they did not confer that day for nothing.

       11 June Vasilevsky in his own handwriting writes on the blank sheet of the Narkom for the defense the text of a Directive for Commander of the Western OVO as follows. "For increasing the combat readiness of the district forces, to redeploy all depth infantry divisions and managements of infantry corps with corps units in camps in the areas envisioned for them by the cover plan[67] (NKO Directive No.503859). Leave in place border divisions (emphasis added - M.S.), keeping in mind that their move to the border into their assigned areas in case of need will be done on a special direction... Complete the redislocation of the stated forces by 1 July 1941" (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 242, pg. 132). Next day a directive of a similar content was sent to the Kiev OVO.

         The Directive sent to Kiev stated: "Keep movements of the forces completely secret. Conduct marches with tactical drills, by night" ("Russia – XXth century, Documents. Year 1941", Book 2, Moscow, Fund "Democracy", 1998, pg. 357). The "Minsk" Directive did not include such words but extreme measures to maintain the strictest secrecy were undertaken there as well. The events of last prewar days are described in the ledger of the Western Front combat actions[68] as follows. "The forces were being brought up to the borders according to the directions of the Red Army General headquarters. Written orders were not issued to corps and divisions. The division commanders got directions verbally (emphasis added - M.S.) from head of the district headquarters Major General Klimovskikh. The personnel were explained that they were going for a large drill. Forces took with them training objects (devices, targets, etc.)"  (TSAMO, fund   208, list 2511, case 206, pg. 8). It is noteworthy that reports of the advance of "depth divisions" were coming from Minsk to Moscow in the format of operative reports. Their sequential numbers in the middle of the year turned out to be 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (number one was not found in the archive) (TSAMO, fund   48, list 3408, case 46, pg. 72, 87, 103, 130, 150).

        If the thesis that the Red Army was preparing to strike a sudden first blow on the enemy needs any additional proof, such surprising procedure of unfolding the forces in and by itself may serve exhausting proof. For the preparation to repel aggression the forces of the first echelon in border districts first of all should have been mobilized and moved to combat positions. Then – the so-called "depth divisions" and only after that - if the fate gives a chance – to deal with the mobilization and advancing the forces of internal districts westward. In the real June 1941 everything was done exactly the other way around. A passionate desire "not to frighten Hitler away before time" undividedly possessed consciousness of the "collective Stalin".


Another manifestation (if anything, most incredible of all really having taken place) of the desire "not to frighten away" became maintaining of the peacetime railway traffic regime. The Germans, as we remember, introduced special regime of military transportation a month prior to the invasion (22 May 1941). In the process of the Red Army unfolding before the war with half-ruined Poland, railways in the European USSR were transferred to special operating regime 12 September 1939, five days before the beginning of the operation (Meltyukhov, 2000, pg. 110). In June of 1941, despite huge amount of expected transportation, nothing similar has been done. The military transportation regime was introduced not on the 22nd, not even on the 23rd but only at 1800 hours on the 24th June, on the third day of war! (TSAMO, fund   48, list 3408, case 22, pg. 177).




  Interrogation protocols of the Western Front Commander Army General D.G. Pavlov have been preserved and are declassified. Certainly, veracity of his testimony may be disputed – the doomed general attempted to present his actions in the best light. On the other hand, Marshall Timoshenko (about a telephone conversation with him - later) as of the time of Pavlov’s arrest was quite alive and held still the same high position, so to make wrongful accusations against him for Pavlov was, as the saying goes, "more trouble than it was worth". So, Pavlov’s version was that at 1:00 a.m. in the morning of 22 June he reported to the Narkom that "during a day and a half German motorized mechanized convoys were continuously coming into the Suvalki salient", and according to a report by the 3rd army Commander "in many places from the German side the barbed wire obstacle was removed". To that Marshall  Timoshenko’s response, ostensibly, was: "Be quiet and don’t panic, summon the headquarters this morning just in case, maybe something unpleasant will happen, but be careful, do not go for any provocation" ("Russia – XXth century…, 1998, pg. 457). An interesting phrase. "Something unpleasant". Is that about the invasion of a 3-million strong army and the brutal enemy? It is hard not to notice that the Narkom for the defense is either still in doubt regarding the unavoidability of the attack or is pulling his subordinate’s leg. What for?

        It would be possible to discount one such casus. But it is far from one! Outgoing documents of the Narkomat for the defense and General headquarters for the last days of peace are shocking in their inadequacy. This book is not made of rubber but it is worth it to include several examples.

        18 June the Narkom for the defense signed Order No. 0039 "On the construction status of operative airdromes under the main construction plan of 1941" (TSAMO, fund   48, list 3408, case 3, pg. 251, 252). Four days before the enemy invasion, airdrome construction in border districts should have been stopped. Not only did the great construction created hindrance for flying but it also unmasked airdromes. Within 50 km from the border it was wise to begin destroying the airdromes, as under the then current correlation of forces their capture by the enemy was more than probable. However, the order by Marshall Timoshenko is about something totally different. It is noted in the acknowledging part that the construction is conducted unacceptably slowly. After which the Narkom orders: "To Military Councils of districts: immediately unfold the airdrome construction by the wide front with the goal of finishing the flight field construction no later than 1 of August and completion of the airdromes no later than 1 October (emphasis added - M.S.). Present me the work schedule no later than 25.6.41..."


        18 June in Stalin’s office was held the next conference with military leadership. Molotov, Malenkov, Timoshenko, Zhukov and deputy to the Narkom of the state security Kobulov were in attendance. The conference was quite lengthy (2 h. 45 min). Judging by the currently known facts and documents, no principal changes occurred in the conduct of "large-scale pre-mobilization measures" (i.e., secret strategic unfolding of the Red Army). Requests of district/front commanders about accelerating the advance (about this is writing in the aforementioned report memo by Member of the Western Front Military Council Fominykh) were rejected. Such matured and long overdue measure as evacuation of the command personnel families from the border (actually – already the front) corridor was directly prohibited. And mind you, the procedure of such evacuation, the timing, transportation means, boarding and deboarding places were detailed in the attachments to the districts’ cover plans (TSAMO, fund 16, list 2951, case 238).

        19 June at 10:45 Lieutenant General Konev, Commander of the 19th army, which was being formed on the basis of the command and forces of the North Caucasus military district, sent the following telegram to the Narkom for the defense. "I am asking your permission to go for 3-5 days to Rostov on Don for the solution of urgent issues in district’s matters". Konev’s Army since 10 June was being concentrated in the area of Cherkassy and was the strategic reserve of the Supreme command in the rear of the Souhwestern Front. 20 June at 1957 hours the response enciphered telegram was sent: "I allow travel to Rostov on Don for 3-5 days. Timoshenko" (TSAMO, fund   48, list 3408, case 46, pg. 192). At least to 24 June the RGK army remains without the Commander – but the Narkom for the defense does not see a reason to forbid this trip. As for the "urgent issues in district’s matters", this urgency evaporated in the night on 22 June, and Konev flew by plane (!) back to Cherkassy, to the army headquarters.

        20 June 1941 late at night, at 2325 hours deputy head of the General headquarters Lieutenant General Sokolovsky telegraphed Odessa VO Commander: "According to intelligence data, the German aviation headquarters is strongly interested in the disposition of tank units’ headquarters in Kishinev. It is assumed that some diversion is conjured. Head of the general Headquarters ordered to warn you about it" (TSAMO, fund 48, list 3408, case 22, pg. 36). Diversion. Possibility that the German aviation headquarters introduces the last fine-tuning in the bombing target list is not suggested. 

        21 June, at 1848 hours Wehrmacht’s grouping, unfolded on the Eastern front, initiated "open fulfilling of orders". Innumerable force convoys moved to the borders, company commanders (i.e., tens of thousands of people!) received the text of order – address of the "Fuhrer" to soldiers. They would read it in their detachments late at night (as may be judged from the available documents – between 20 and 22 o’clock, Berlin time). At that very moment General Sokolovsky is sending out two telegrams to the Western OVO and Baltic OVO: "Head of the General headquarters ordered to allow the Goscontrol[69] representatives Com. Ponomarev, Kozamanov and Leontyev to check the construction of fortified areas not touching on the operative-tactical side of the issue" (TSAMO, fund 48, list 3408, case 22, pg. 54-56). Who would argue, accounting and control are very important, it was the right time to check that not a single bag of the people’s cement was stolen.


        Late at night, 21 June. In Stalin’s office is being compiled the text of the unhappy memory Directive of the Main military council. The very same, which began with words: "In the course of 22-23.6.1941 a surprise attack by the Germans is possible (!!!)". And even this, tragically-absurd in the real situation word "possible", is disavowed by the demand: "The task of our forces is not to yield to any provocative actions, which could cause large complications".

        This Directive was doubtlessly issued. The corresponding archive case was declassified in May of 2002. Looking at the hand-written original (in Zhukov’s hand, on three pages), we can see and evaluate the corrections introduced in the text in the course of the discussion. (Fig.13). In particular, the words "during the night on 22.6.41" in the final version were replaced by less specific "during 22-23". The words "and field facilities" were removed from the phrase "during the night on 22.6.1941 secretly occupy firing positions of fortified areas and field facilities on the international border". The field facilities (foxholes, trenches, covers, earth-and-timber emplacements) in the forefield of fortified areas were positioned directly next to the border, and the Directive compilers, apparently, still were afraid to scare away the Germans before the right time.

        By-the-way, about the time. Timoshenko and Zhukov exited Stalin’s office at 22-20 hours but the text of the Directive was turned into the enciphering department of the General headquarters only at 23-45 hours. It is not that the black "Packard" rushed through the centre of a night Moscow at a rabid speed... And nevertheless, several hours still remained from the moment of transferring the Directive to the squall of artillery fire on the border. A deserter crossed the Bug - Wehrmacht Gefreiter Alfred Liskov (in memoir literature are encountered mentions of two more deserters who swam over the border rivers in the night 21 on 22 June). Humble heroes tried at the last minute to save "the motherland of the world proletariat". And what was being done at that time in the USSR Narkomat for the defense?

        There is committed to paper description of Stalin’s reaction to the information about German invasion. It belongs to one of the major participants in the events - Marshall Zhukov. 19 May 1956 composed and turned to Khrushchev for the approval was the draft report to a Plenum of CC VKP(b). The Plenum did not take place but the text of the undelivered Zhukov’s speech was preserved in the archive to our days: "Stalin, heavily breathing into the hand-set, could not speak for a few minutes, and answered to the repeated questions: "this is a provocation by the German military. Do not open fire in order not to unleash broader activities Stalin confirmed again his thought of a German provocation when he arrived in the CC. The information that the German forces in some areas have already broken onto our territory did not convince him that the enemy began war, real and prepared in advance" ("Georgy Zhukov. Stenogram…”, 2001, pg. 140). It is worth mentioning that his report to the Plenum Zhukov was supposed to read in the presence of a live witness (in the spring of 1956 Molotov was still a member of the CC). This gives serious reasons to trust that this version is plausible.


        21 June 1941 head of the Comintern Executive committee Com. Dimitrov recorded in his diary: "Called Molotov in the morning. Asked to speak with Ios. Vissarionovich about the situation and necessary directions for the Communist parties. Molotov: "Situation unclear. A great game is going on. Not everything depends on us..." ("Russia – XXth century…, 1998, pg. 417). "Great game". Could it be that the words "a great fight is going on" would be a more correct description?

        Great, terrible fight was boiling in the head of the main person in the Country of the Soviets. He was no fool and could not but understand what means a flow of reports endlessly multiplying in the last hours before 22. On the other hand, he very much did not want to be distracted from the beloved vocation (the preparation of carrying out a crushing strike at the back of his Berlin competitor), and the experience, personal practical experience fortified Stalin in his thought that no person can, no person dares to oppose his will. Common sense and logic (of which he was so proud) hinted that it would be erroneous and dangerous to compare Hitler with such nonentities as Bukharin, Zinovyev or Yezhov. The morbidly inflated conceit made psychologically impossible even indirect, even tacit admission of own errors, and especially spasmodic attempts to correct them. Engulfed in such excruciations Com. Stalin unusually early, at 23-00 hours left his Kremlin office[70].

        Tomorrow the war began. The Soviet people will have to pay dearly for Stalin’s loss in the game.














[1] I.I. Ivlev conducted a giant study of primary documents about the North Front personnel and found that the losses as of 9 July they were 260 thousand. Three times of Krivosheyev’s.

[2] Contrary to stubbornly spread, and successfully integrated into the popular consciousness, fallacy, in the first «mobilization wave» were drafted not schoolboys but reservists who earlier served in the military. They included 505 thousand reserve officers.

[3] Not included are divisions and non-integrated regiments of the so-called «people’s volunteer corps»; 2 cavalry divisions or 2 brigades are counted as one «estimated division»; five airborne corps are included as two «estimated divisions».

[4] 19 August, 1941 head of the RKKA [Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army] General headquarters, Army General  G.K. Zhukov sent a report to Stalin: "I believe that the enemy is very well familiar with the entire system of our defenses, entire operative-strategic grouping of our forces and knows our nearest opportunities. Perhaps, the enemy has his own people among our major personalities who closely know the general situation..." (Russian Archive, vol.16, The Great Patriotic, Supreme Command. Documents and materials, 1941. Moscow, "TERRA", 1965, pg. 361).

[5] Four-star general.

[6] Federal Security Service.

[7] Aggregate bullet allowance in Wehrmacht’s infantry battalion was 58 thus. bullets for hand and mounted machine guns and only 24 thous. bullets for rifles. Soviet 1938 standard "of the ammunition use per day of a strenuous engagement" was 20 bullets per rifle and 620 bullets per a hand machine gun. Thus, already in a squad section, a machine gunner expended three times the number of bullets used by all shooters together; in an infantry battalion, taking into account its mounted machine guns with the normative of 1,400 bullets per a day of engagement, the preponderance of machine gun fire over the rifle one is even more obvious.


[8] Com. Stalin, speaking 17 April 1940 at a meeting of top Red Army Commanders, said: "A soldier with 10-charge rifle will shoot three times the number of bullets than a person with our rifle. A soldier with semi-automatic rifle equals three soldiers...."

[9] Actually, 198 infantry and 31 motorized; 13 cavalry divisions, based on their personnel number, are counted as 7 infantry divisions.

[10] An infantry division of the so-called "1st wave" (a quarter of the total number of Wehrmacht’s infantry divisions on the Eastern Front as of June 1941) had 50-mm antitank guns, 2 units per an infantry regiment. However, this had no significant practical effect because such gun could punch through the KV armor with a standard armor-piercing shell only if shooting point-blank).  

[11] The reader perhaps knows from books, memoirs and movies that the "forty-fiver" was on the Red Army inventory through the very end of the war. However, this was a DIFFERENT cannon. With the same caliber (45-mm) the new antitank cannon -42 had a much longer barrel (60 calibers instead of the previous 46) and fortified propellant charge. A result was increased initial shell velocity (from 760 to 870 m/s) and armor piercing to 60 mm at close distance.

[12] A multiannual discussion is going on: what in this case is the right translation of a German word Abteilung. As applied to artillery, it is usually translated "". But it is rather strange to call battalion a structure armed with 36 guns. Still, in this book we assume the translation as "battalion"; Correspondingly, its subdivisions are called "companies" rather than "batteries".

[13] As of 22 June 1941 forces of Kiev OVO/Southwestern Front had 1,142 tow-trucks "Komsomolets" whereas the organization chart number was 874 units. (TSAMO, fund 229, list 157, case 20, pg. 6 and 9). OVO is Special Military District; TSAMO is Central Archive of the Ministry for the Defense.

[14] Mechanized corps

[15] The said does not mean at all that "the aviation was invented for nothing." Aviation radically exceeds the barrel artillery at least in three parameters: distance of "shooting", weight of unit ammunition and operative mobility. Aviation can solve tasks, which artillery is incapable of solving in principle. But in the matter of direct fire support of land forces, the decisive role of artillery in WWII is beyond doubt.

[16] Actions improving one side of something at the expense of degrading the other side.

[17] Of course, it is a matter of mass systems delivered on the inventory in thousands; we are not talking unique samples, for instance, excellent in its tactical-technical parameters German 150-mm cannon (101 units manufactured in 4 years). 

[18] In the Wehrmacht, they were called "mortars", although by the barrel length (31 caliber) and max shell velocity (565 m/s) those were rather heavy howitzer-cannons.

[19] The most glorious saboteur, by the efforts of this propaganda, became a poor girl who tried to burn a stable in the German-occupied village, the best known flyer – the team commander of a bomber shot down in the very first sorties, the most known sample of the Soviet warriors’ courage – invented from beginning to end story "about 28 Panfilovites and 50 tanks". But hundreds of real examples of heroic and successful actions by the Red Army soldiers and commanders turned out hopelessly forgotten.

[20] Literally, "smoke thrower". The system was initially developed for the delivery of chemical weapons and setting smokescreen, i.e., as a munition not requiring high-precision delivery.

[21] For instance, the initial (as of 29 October, 1939) plan of defeating the Finnish army in the Karelian Isthmus included the following ammunition usage: 1 allowance for engagements in the border corridor, 3 allowances for breaking through the fortified area (“Mannerheim line”) and 1 allowance for the subsequent chasing of the retreating enemy.

[22] In the Soviet terminology, the 152-mm howitzer ML-20 with high initial shell velocity and other 152-mm howitzers. 

[23] Here and thereafter – unless stated otherwise – the numbers are from a reference book "Artillery purveyance in the Great Patriotic war 1941 -1945".

[24] Self-propelled artillery installation.

[25] Main artillery directorate

[26] Brigadier General.

[27] Fortified Area.

[28] The aforementioned defense node of the Brest UR (fortified area) at Semyatyche covered the only highway on a 140-km area of the border from Brest to Zambruv running from the territory of German-occupied Poland through Belsk to Belostock. 

[29] With the forefield of the Kovel UR is associated one of very common legends. Ostensibly, proactive local commanders in mid-June ordered to take the forefield of the UR but a stupid Stalin (another version – a mean satrap Baria) ordered to withdraw the forces and punish the commanders. Fortunately for the historians, a telegram from military Council of the Kiev OVO sent to Moscow 10 June was preserved: "To Head of the Red Army General Headquarters Com. Zhukov. Per No. 59/NGSh [Head of the General Headquarters] I am reporting that the reinforced concrete facilities and part of earth-and-timber emplacement of battalion areas No.7,8,9,10 (field construction of 1940 for Kovel UR) are taken by the personnel of two battalions of the Kovel UR in compliance with cyphergram signed by Com. Vatutin (here and thereafter emphasis added - M.S.) No. 9/485 of 4.6.41. In all other URs field facilities are nowhere taken... I am asking for the directionswhether to continue taking by garrisons the firing facilities on the front line of the Vladimir-Volynsk, Strumilov, Rava-Russky and Peremyshl URs." (TSAMO, fund 48, list 3408, case 46, pg. 13).

[30] Workers’ and peasants’ Red Army.

[31] Main Tank Directorate.

[32] Molotov’s cocktail.

[33] Mechanized division

[34] This list does not include 10th MC of the Leningrad VO (military district), which did not take active part in combat actions of the first weeks of war, and also 17th and 20th mechanized corps of the Western OVO at the state of formation.

[35] Soviet flame thrower tanks and light German Pz-II placed on the same line as bearers of atypical armament capable of solving a narrow circle of specific tasks.

[36] Nevertheless, there are documentally supported cases of punching through the spaced armor of German medium tanks from 45-mm cannon. The explanation may be either general statistical uncertainty of the interaction between shell and armor or by that in case of several direct hits, the "spacing screen" could have been torn away from the tank body.

[37] Digressing from chronology of our book, we’ll note that in October of 1942, when the 50-mm Pak-38 became Wehrmacht’s main anti-tank cannon, an inspection of 154 damaged T-34 tanks provided the following statistics: the front armor was punched through by only 11% of the 50-mm shells, the flank armor – by 62 %.

[38] After the shell leaves the cannon barrel, its only moving force is the "force of inertion" (high school teachers do not like this term). For this reason decrease of the shell mass with the preservation of its geometric dimensions, therefore also its aerodynamic resistance (or even its increase in the absence of an aerodynamic shroud) will result in a rapid loss of velocity.

[39] Literally head shoot-off.

[40] Central Committee of VKP(b).

[41] Council of People’s Commissars (the government)

[42] The author is actually using the expression “Patriots of the scoop”, the scoop in Russian being consonant with Soviet.

[43] It is noteworthy that in the recent history of Russia there was a brief moment when even acknowledged luminaries of the official historical science agreed with this obvious conclusion. For instance, non other than .. Gareyev in July of 1991 wrote: "The concentration direction of major efforts were selected by the Soviet Command not in the interests of a strategic defensive operation (such operation simply was not envisioned and not planned), but as applied to totally different methods of actions".

[44] The text of the document was composed 11 March. 17 March the Narkom for the defense Timoshenko, head of the General headquarters Zhukov, member of the Main military council Malenkov (this troika nominally had the right of signing the most major directives) and Chairman of the Defense Council at the SNK Voroshilov spent six (!) hours in Stalin’s office, 17:15 to 23:30. It is an absolutely unusual phenomenon for the lapidary style of the "Master’s" work.  

[45] "Heigh-ho, in about twenty years, after a good war, to come out and take a look at the Soviet Union — maybe out of thirty or forty republics. Bloody well!" These wonderful words pronounces in the movie "Great citizen" its main character, a party leader Shakhov (whose prototype was S.. Kirov). It is known for certain that Stalin not simply familiarized with the movie script but also approved it ("composed unquestionably politically correctly") and left numerous remarks on the margins. By a historic sarcasm, the Stalin prize was awarded to the film creators in 1941, close to the beginning of the "good war..."

[46] By a poet Valentin Losin:

, —
, ,
, .


[47] The summary is formally dated "as of 2000 hours 22.6.41" but marks on the original show that the document was submitted to the General headquarters encoding department in the morning of 23 June.

[48] A reminder: under the traditional version of the Soviet historiography, perfidious and sudden attack was conducted by 190 divisions of Germany and her allies.

[49] It is noteworthy that exactly such variant of enemy action was considered by the German Command most unfavorable for themselves. Available documents testify that in winter-spring of 1941, in the meetings devoted to fine-tuning the "plan Barbarossa" concerns were continuously expressed that "the Russians, having recognized our operative objectives, after a first defeat would organize a large-scale retreat and would switch to defenses beyond some line in the east".

[50] The Field Book PU-39 so defined this term: "Mobile defense pursues the objective – at the expense of loss of space to gain time needed for the organization and defense at a new line… Forces defending the intermediate line must carry out losses on the advancing enemy, force him to turn around, lose time for organization for the advance and, not entering a dogged engagement with him, to slip out from the strike".

[51] Head of Glavpur (which position was equal to the status of a deputy Narkom for the Defense) Mekhlis was appointed to this position 21 June 1941. Before that, during the entire 1941, he only once (13 of March, in a large meeting with industry leaders) was in Stalin’s office.

[52] In the prewar documents, the number indicating day was separated from the letter by a dash; thus, the record "-3" means "third day of the mobilization" and not "third day BEFORE THE BEGINNING of the mobilization. The Wehrmacht had a different system, and the record "-5" in German documents mean "fifth day before the beginning of operation"

[53] "Consideration on the unfolding of the Red Army armed forces for the case of war with Finland".

[54] "By the strike of main forces of the Northwestern Front to invade the central Finland, to crush there main forces of the Finnish army and secure the central part of Finland; to combine this strike with the strike on Helsinki from the side of Hango Peninsula".

[55] However, it is necessary to keep in mind here that grouping commanders participated in the PP (cover plan) designing in what related to the actions of their entrusted forces; thus, the "secret" sealed with wax in the "red envelope" was well familiar to them (at least in general features).

[56] And where were all the rest of them? 35 infantry, 1 cavalry division, 1 infantry brigade in the second echelon and Command reserve of the three mentioned districts (Baltic, Western and Kiev); 28 infantry and 3 cavalry divisions in the Leningrad and Odessa districts; 37 infantry divisions in the five armies of the RGK (Reserve of the Supreme Command). Plus 58 infantry divisions in the internal districts, in the Trans-Caucasus and in the Far East.

[57] For the rise on combat alarm was assigned: for infantry, artillery and cavalry units - 2 hours in summer and 3 hours in winter, for tank (mechanized) - 2 h. in summer, 4 h. in winter, for on duty detachments - 45 min. Rest of the time was spent for moving the units into the unfolding area and occupying combat positions.

[58] Service of International Intelligence.

[59] The word ”recruited” next to this name looks both indecent and wrong. A diehard anti-Fascist, Schultze-Boyzen on his own was insistently looking for a contact with the Soviet intelligence and subsequently cooperated with it not for money but out of ideological considerations.

[60] People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs.

[61] Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

[62] V-1 was an unmanned airplane ("cruise missile") with air jet engine. The ballistic rocket with liquid jet engine was called V-2. Testing of both systems began in 1942.

[63] Similar groupings were called in Wehrmacht’s documents "army (motorized) corps". Here and thereafter they will be called "tank corps" - according to their real composition, solved tasks and to distinguish them from mechanized corps of the Red Army. It is noteworthy that such denoting system was accepted also in traditional Soviet military-historical publications.

[64] Actually, in the open mobilization of 1941 was drafted four times this number. It was due to: first, hysteric which engulfed the "collective Stalin", and second, the need to compensate colossal losses exceeding any pre-war forecasts.

[65] As was previously noted, there is nothing among the currently declassified documents, which would allow to state the exact date of the planned Red Army offensive. Taking into account that the concentration of RGK armies ("Second strategic echelon") was planned to be complete by 10 July, it may be assumed that mid-July is the earliest of possible dates for the start of the operation. Natural and climatic conditions in the SE Europe make it desirable to complete a combat action before November. Thus, August-September may be stated as the "upper limit" for possible timing of beginning the invasion.

[66] In Leningrad VO - 20 thou., in the Western OVO - 24 thou., Kiev OVO – 65.55, Odessa VO - 24 thou. In Moscow district - 60 thou., in Kharkov – 58.55, North Caucasus - 48, Orel - 42, Volga - 42, Siberian - 36, Uralian - 30, Archangel - 5

[67] The text of the direction included some changes – compared to the Cover Plan (PP) – in the positions of force dislocations; in particular, in the Baranovichi area were concentrated four infantry divisions instead of one.

[68]  It must be noted that the Western Front ledger of combat actions was put together after the fact, after the arrest and shooting of the previous Front Command, assumedly – in August/September of 1941.

[69] Narkomat of the State Control.

[70]  I suggested several times (in the book "23 June – day ", in the articles "Three plans of Comrade Stalin" and "Last days of peace") that possibly exists a "missing link", which would allow for tying together so contradictory, irrational from the first sight actions by Stalin. Such "link" is the suggestion of planned for 22-23 June large-scale provocation – staging of the attack by the Germans (artillery shooting and/or bombardment of living quarters in border towns). At that, a planned provocation may not have been known even to Timoshenko and Zhukov. Stalin  gave them only one task: not to respond to provocations, and they in good faith tried to attain it (and succeded!) with their subordinates. I do not have direct documental support of this hypothesis, and the chance to discover them in Russian archives are nil. By the way, nobody have seen electrons, protons and neutrons; the certainty of their existence is only due to that this theoretical model provides an opportunity to explain a tremendous number of really observed phenomena.

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Mark Solonin - June, 1941. Final diagnosis.
At dawn of 22 June, 1941 troops of Hitlers Germany invaded the USSR. Three weeks thereafter, German generals could state that a first task set in the plan Barbarossa (Major Russian land forces deployed in the Western Russia must be destroyed in bold operations by way of deep rapid advance of tank spearheads. The retreat of battle-capable enemy forces into the wide expanses of the Russian territory must be prevented) was mostly accomplished.
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