Chapter 3.1. Arithmetic of history

On the 17th of September, 1939 troops of the Byelorussian and Ukrainian fronts of the Red Army invaded Poland. Thus, the Soviet Union entered World War II directly with a treacherous attack against a country with which it had a Non-aggression pact in effect (signed in 1932, prolonged till 1945 in 1937). Two years later, end of summer of 1941, many people – both friends and enemies of the USSR among them – thought the war was almost over for the country.

           The objective assigned to the Wehrmacht according to the "Barbarossa" plan ("the main part of Russian land forces in Western Russia is to be destroyed in brave offensives through deep and rapid advancement of tank spearheads...") was reached by middle July, 1941. Troops of the Baltic and Western military districts (more than 70 divisions) were defeated, flung back 350-450 kilometers to the East from the border, scattered in forests or captured.

           A little bit later the same thing happened to the new 60 divisions assigned to the North-Western and Western fronts from June 22 till July 9. The enemy took Lithuania, Latvia, most part of Byelorussia, cut across rivers Bug, Neman, Western Dvina, Berezina and Dnieper. The Germans took Pskov on the 9th of July and Smolensk on the 16th of July. Two thirds of the total distance from the western border to Leningrad and Moscow were covered in less than a month. Troops of the South-Western front retreated in chaos across the former Soviet-Polish border; in the middle July, 1941 Wehrmacht tank units took Zhytomir and Berdichev and approached Kiev suburbs.

         What the Soviet historians gave a delicate name of a "reverse in a frontier battle" was in fact complete defeat of the Forward strategic echelon of the Red Army (which exceeded any European army by the number of divisions and all of them taken together – by the number of tanks). Almost all equipment and heavy arms of troops in the western districts were lost. By July 6-9 troops of the North-Western, Western and South-Western fronts lost 11.7 thousand tanks, 19 thousand guns and mine throwers, more than 1 million of small arms (35. page 368). The most heavy casualties (virtually irretrievable ones) fell upon armored forces. On the 15th of July, 1941 the rest of the mechcorps were officially disbanded.

          From June 22 till July 6-9 troops of the North-Western, Western and South-Western fronts lost 749 thousand men killed, wounded and missing in action (35, page 162-164). This figure does not include casualties of units and formations of the Rear strategic echelon which participated in combat actions at the start of July; neither does it include casualties of the Northern front (Leningrad military district) and Southern front (Odessa military district) which entered active combat on the 29th of June and 2nd of July 1941 respectively. One can only understand the true meaning of these horrifying figures compared to casualties in personnel of the Wehrmacht.

          The famous "War diary" of the Chief of Staff of the German land forces F.Galder contains the following figures on the total losses (killed, wounded and missing in action) of the Wehrmacht in the Eastern front:

- 64,132 men by July 6, 1941

- 92,120 men by July 13, 1941

          So, the ratio of casualties of the Wehrmacht on the offensive (a very successful offensive of 20-30 km a day) and the Red Army on the defensive is about 1 to 10. Ratios of combat equipment losses are just as well expressive. As mentioned above, the Red Army lost 11.7 thousand tanks by July 9, while permanent losses in the Wehrmacht tank divisions by the end of July 1941 only made up 503 tanks. One could also add the loss of 21 Stug-III "assault guns". And 92 Pz-I tankettes more. Even in this case the permanent losses ratio of the sides is 1 to 19

           This is a "miracle" out of any canons of the military science. Common sense – and all the praxis of wars and military conflicts – tells us that casualties of the attacking party must exceed casualties of the defending party. The 1 to 10 ratio is only possible with white colonizers who came to Africa with cannons and rifles attacking aborigines being on the defense with spears and hacks. But the situation was quite different in summer 1941 on the western Soviet frontier: the party on the defensive yielded to the enemy neither in numbers nor in weaponry, and outnumbered the enemy significantly in powerful counteroffensive military equipment, i.e. tanks and aircrafts. Besides, it could build up its defense upon a system of strong natural obstacles and permanent defensive works.

          By July 10-15, 1941 the Germans took (or "passed" would be a more exact word) the territory of 700 thousand square kilometers which was about three times as large as Poland occupied by the Wehrmacht in September 1939 and six times as large as Belgium, the Netherlands and a piece of Northern France taken by the Wehrmacht in May 1940 (battle actions of May 1940 took place on a "patch" in Normandy and Flanders, with the front being 300 km wide and 350 km deep; this territory generally matches the territory of Lithuania taken by one of the three army groups, namely the smallest "North" army group, in a week of June 1941).


         By the end of September 1941 the Red Army lost 15,500 tanks, 66,900 guns and mine throwers, 3.8 mln units of small arms in only seven main strategic operations (35, page.368). Aircraft casualties made up 10,000 battle planes by the end of July. It can not be compared to enemy losses: the Wehrmacht simply did not have so much of heavy weaponry.

          On the 3rd of September, 1941 Stalin attempted to both scare Churchill and move him to pity, as he addressed him the following letter: "Without these two kinds of help (landing of the English in France and 400 aircrafts and 500 tanks being delivered monthly to the Soviet Union) the Soviet Union will either be defeated or... lose an ability for active operations at the German front for a long time"  (72, page 233). In ten days Stalin made something what tens of thousands victims of the Great Terror had been accused of and executed for: he called for the "British imperialists" to invade the country of the victorious proletariat. On the 13th of September he already asked Churchill to "land 25 to 30 divisions in Archangelsk or send them to southern Soviet regions through Iran" (72, page 239).  Shaken by this turn, Churchill wrote to Roosevelt: "We could not help the feeling they (the Soviet leaders. – M.S.) could probably be thinking of separate peace…".

          Who knows – if Hitler had listened to a clever piece of advice from many of his sidekicks and finished the war with the Soviet Union on the terms similar to a cease-fire with France signed on June 24, 1940 (that is, reducing the army down to 10 infantry divisions, disarmament of French air and naval forces and demilitarization of economy), the history of the Old World could make a turn.

          Soviet troops lost 1,934,700 units of small arms of all types (i.e. rifles, (sub)machine guns and handguns) throughout the first three months of war (June 22 to September 26) in the southern scene of operations only. The total number of small arms lost by the Red Army in 1941 was 6,290,000 (35, page 367). Technically, this figure alone gives an exhaustive answer to the question about the notorious "1941 secret". The readers outraged by the author’s mean allusions should be reminded that this figure comes from the "Secrecy label removed" collection of statistical documents composed by officers of the General Staff of the Russian Army under the general superintendence of Colonel General G.F.Krivosheyev.

         Page 367 of this collection of documents lets everyone know that 40,600 guns of all types and 60,500 mine throwers were lost in six month of 1941 on all fronts altogether. Actually, these casualties still can be explained. A gun is a heavy thing. Even the lightest one (a 76mm regiment gun model 1927) weighed almost a ton. A long-range 152mm gun model 1935 weighed 17 tons. How to drag it out of encirclement if the tractor is down or left without fuel in chaotic retreat?  And how to take this monster across the very first creek? It'll get stuck in the shallow, while the bridge is hard to find – and not every bridge would bear 17 tons.

          The loss of tens of thousands of tanks and aircrafts has been easily explained by Soviet historians since long ago: old unreliable "coffins" burning like candles with no fuel and spare parts... Nothing to discuss, is it? But where did millions of small arms go? The most popular "small arms" unit of 1941 was the Mosin rifle. This rifle has always been an unequalled piece of reliability and durability. It could be sunk in a swamp, buried in sand or dropped down into salty seawater – and it would still be able to shoot over and over again. The weight of this pure masterpiece of engineering is 3.5kg without ammo. It means that any young and able man (which actually comprised the Red Army in summer of 1941) could easily take 3 or 4 rifles away from the battlefield. And the most shabby kolkhoz horse in harness of a simple farm wagon could bring rearward a hundred rifles left from soldiers killed and wounded in the battlefield.

           And something else. Rifles are not handed out just to anyone. Each one has its own individual number and is handed out personally under signed receipt. Each soldier – including first-year rookies – was explained he would be court-martialed for losing his personal weapon.

          Nevertheless, let us not oversimplify. War is war. It is not always possible to gather every single rifle from the battlefield. Not every truck or weapon carriage reaches its destination in battle conditions. Finally, some rifles and machine guns could in fact be destroyed with fire, explosions or polar cold. The same page 367 of the "Secrecy label removed" documents collection reads that 1.04 million units were lost in four months of 1945 and 2.81million in 12 months of 1944.

         Does it mean that the "normal" loss rate of small arms for the Red Army in six months of 1941 would be about 1.5 million units? (The similar rate in the Wehrmacht was incomparably lower.) No, this would be a false and hasty judgment. In 1944 and 1945 the size of the acting army was twice as large as in 1941 (6.4 million versus 3.0 million (see page 153 of the same documents collection)). More people and more weapons increase the numbers of weaponry lost. Let’s count it another way: in 1941 one million of soldiers "lost" 36 thousand units of small arms a months, which makes "normal" loss of about 650 to 700 thousand units in six months of 1941. With 6.3 million lost in fact.

         So, the "above-level" loss in 1941 was more than 5.5 million units of small arms. Remember this figure, my dear reader. We'll see it once again soon. And now let’s try to estimate the "above-level" losses in other types of arms.

         Hitler’s "Blitzkrieg" was mainly a tank war. The principal means of anti-tank defense of that time were anti-tank guns. The Red Army listed 14900 45-mm anti-tank guns by June 22, 1941 (in fact, there were even more of them, as the authors of the "Secrecy label removed" documents collection did not take into account for some reason 76-mm and 85-mm guns which were in the inventory of anti-tank artillery brigades). Industry handed over to the army 2500 anti-tank guns more in six months of 1941. It makes 17400 in total, of which 70% (12,100 guns) were lost.

        Compare this figure to 5500 guns lost in 1943 (the twelve months of the year!), which only made 14.6% of the total number. The 1943 example was not taken by chance. This was the year of colossal tank battles on the Kursk Bulge, the year when the Germans put the "Tiger" and "Panther" heavy tanks into mass production, with our "forty-fives" (making 95% of the total resource in 1943) absolutely helpless against them. And nevertheless, the Red Army used to lose about 460 guns each month in 1943 – and 2000 per month in 1941, when every two of three German tanks at the Eastern front were light vehicles with bulletproof armor. It's 4.5 times as much.

          The loss ratio in field artillery is equally as "expressive". In 1943 5700 guns (9.7% of the total amount) were lost, with 24400 in the six month of 1941 (56% of the total amount). Relative "monthly average" losses in 1941 were 8.5 times as high as in 1943. There is only one "bright spot" against this gloomy background: the loss ratio of heavy major caliber guns (203mm and more) in 1941 was only 9.1% of the total amount. The answer is very simple. We see a good example of what is called a "prove-the-rule exception".

          Heavy artillery (which was heavy indeed – 17 to 45 tons) was brought deeply rearwards from the western military districts in the very first days of war. Marshal N.D.Yakovlev (head of the Central Office of Artillery in the years of war) recalls the following:

"…The greatest event which makes me proud even today was the categorical order of the Staff to draw all the superheavy and very heavy artillery into the rears – made under my advice. And the withdrawal was to be immediate and without any reference to the extremely bad situation of the first days of war… All the 203mm and 280mm guns, as well as 152mm long-range guns (with only few of them lost) together with their staff were timely brought deeply rearwards…" (170, page 92).

          It's hard to say if this decision is worth being proud of, but it was definitely implemented, so the guns brought "deeply rearwards" turned to be out of the chaos and panic retreat of the first war months. Which actually let them survive.

         Theoretically, the most reliable kind of firearms is a mine thrower. A tube always remains a tube – there is just nothing to get broken in it: no breech mechanism, not a single movable part, and the "tube" itself (unlike the barrel of an artillery gun) faces almost no pressure from powder gases. And nevertheless, the loss ratio of 50mm mine throwers in the second half of 1941 made up 64% of their total amount (60% in 82mm and 51% in 120mm mine throwers). The very same mine throwers almost stopped going down in 1943: 12.5%, 9.2% and 8.6% of the total number of 50mm, 82mm and 120mm mine throwers respectively were lost in 12 month of 1943.

           Here is the main question: were all these pieces of weaponry (mine throwers, machine guns, tanks, rifles, aircrafts) lost in action – or simply left by Red Army soldiers and commanders scampered away deep into forests and fields?      



         Chapter 3.2. Much – and as much again


         On the 17th of July, 1941 Mikhailov, Chief of the Office of political propaganda at the South-Western Front, reported the following:

"... There have been a lot of incidents of panic retreat of individual servicemen, groups and units from the battlefield. Panic was often spread by self-seekers and cowards onto other units, thus disorienting higher headquarters on the actual situation at the front, on the combat and numerical strength, as well as on casualty figures.
         The number of deserters is extraordinary great. 5000 deserters were intercepted and brought back to the ranks in the first 10 days of war in the 6th infantry corps only…
         According to incomplete data, anti-retreat units intercepted about 54000 men who had lost and fell behind their units, with 1300 senior officers among them…"

         These are the "incomplete data" figures – and only those men who were intercepted in three week of the general collapse of the South-Western front...

          One can estimate the number of deserters NOT caught by the following casualty rates at the South-Western front from June 22 to July 6 (according to the "Secrecy label removed" collection of documents):

–  65,755 of wounded and sick

– 165,452 of killed – and missing in action.

        The "and" word allowed authors of this collection to hide deserters handily in the irrecoverable losses – but with the wounded-to-killed ratio of 3 to 1 (which is stable for all the armed conflicts of the 20th century) one can assume that about 140 thousand men (ten divisions!) went on the run or yielded themselves prisoners. And this is the figure for one single front for the first two weeks of war.

         Those who were caught and someway brought back to the front made only a part (and a small one, as we are going to see later) of the total number of "deserters". Quotation marks are here not by chance. The situation in the Red Army in summer of 1941 makes it rather difficult to use common terms to describe it.

        The "common plan" of a Red Army unit being defeated and disbanded (according to the mass of memoirs, books and documents) was the following:

        Point one. Loss of command. Reasons could vary: killed or wounded in action, left for a higher headquarters to develop the situation, shot himself, simply fled away. This list can be complemented with "killed by subordinates" item applicable to the western ("liberated") Soviet regions. Loss of command was a common (although not the only) "push" to a rash collapse of a military unit. The push could also be a flanking or rear breakthrough of enemy tanks, gunfire made by a small group of German motorcyclists, or even someone's howl: "We are trapped!"  

        Point two. Junior commanders who have taken command of the headless unit decide to "battle through to the East". The saving simplicity of this decision is misleading. It is impossible to get away from a motorized enemy, while transport and fuel in a military unit left without communications and supplies end up quickly. Troops which have left their field fortifications and most of heavy weapons turn into a helpless target for enemy aircrafts and artillery. Finally, the atmosphere of retreat itself, the feeling of weakness in the face of enemy is extremely demoralizing for the troops.

         Point three. Following a few unsuccessful attempts to battle through, survivors decide to "withdraw in small groups". That's all. This is the end. In a few days (or even hours) a former battalion (regiment or division) falls into ashes.

         Point four. A great number of lone "strangers", having spent some time wandering in fields and forests to no avail and purpose, come into villages to meet people. And villages are taken over by the Germans. Further options are very few: a soft-hearted widow, a POW camp, or service in the Polizei. And that's all.

         What should we call these people? Deserters, traitors, soldiers fallen behind their units, missing in action, yielded themselves – or captured – as prisoners? What are the scales or rulers to measure the main component in this scheme: "no skill to fight" or "no wish to fight"? And is it possible at all to separate these two categories – skill and wish, qualification and motivation – in such a specific kind of activity as war, which requires a man to suppress the self-preservation instinct basic for any species every other minute?

         Not pretending to substitute law courts and make personal judgments, let us just try to estimate the scale of this phenomenon.


          Chronologically, the first (and probably the most mass by character) kind of desertion was beating the mobilization draft on the first days and weeks of war. The reader who was born in the postwar USSR and brought up upon endless stories about crowds of senior scholars besieging military enlistment offices would take this formula alone as malicious slander. But it was already in 1992 when certain quite official military historians (authors of the "1941 – lessons and conclusions" monograph) announced the following figures:

         "The total numbers of Soviet mobilization base left on the territory occupied by the enemy was 5,631,600 men... with 810,844 men in the Baltic special military district (SMD), 889,112 men in the Western SMD, 1,625,174 men in the Kiev SMD and 813,412 men in the Odessa SMD..." (3, page 114).

         It's obvious that not each of these 5.6 million servicemen failing to arrive to a recruiting station should be considered an intentional draft evasion. It was pretty often that a recruiting station disappeared even before its conscripts could reach it. But one should not overestimate the importance of Wehrmacht's rapid advance and turn it to be the main reason for the multi-million losses of conscripts.

          Geography and arithmetic here are extremely simple. The Western SMD covered the whole Byelorussia and Smolensk region of the RSFSR. The Germans occupied most of this territory only by the end of July, 1941. Kiev SMD is the whole Right-Bank (Dnieper river) Ukraine and part of the Left-Bank Ukraine within the Kiev region. The Germans only crossed Dnieper in September. Odessa military district was not limited to the Odessa region alone, but also included Nikolayev, Kherson, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhie regions of Ukraine, Moldavia and the Crimea. Occupation of these vast lands of the Black Sea and Azov Sea regions was only over by late autumn of 1941.

         If several months were not enough to gather all the conscripts who were to be gathered in a matter of days, then the use of the "beating the draft" expression seems to be quite reasonable and righteous. One should also remember that far from all of those who arrived to the military commissariat later came to the army. These "far from all" figures in the Eastern (mostly Russified) Ukraine (Kharkov region today) were the following: by the end of October, 1941 the number of deserters among the conscripts made up 30% in the Chuguyev regional military commissariat, 35% in the Stalino and 45% in the Izyum regional commissariats. This is Eastern Ukraine. According to the data from modern Ukrainian historians, the absolute majority of conscripts in the Western Ukraine stayed in the territory occupied by the Germans.

         As to the desertion directly from military units, NKVD rear area security took 638 thousand men in custody for possible desertion throughout the second half of 1941. The total number of people condemned for desertion in wartime (according to the "Secrecy label removed" collection of documents) was 376 thousand servicemen (35, page 140). 940 thousand men more were "called up for the second time" (35, page 338). This strange term denotes Red Army servicemen and commanders who had "lost" their military units for some reason and stayed in the territory occupied by the Germans, and were put under arms in 1943 and 1944 for the second time. Moreover, those were not only kolkhoz peasants wearing soldier's uniform, but also two generals: artillery commander of the 24th Army Moschenin and commander of the 189th rifle division Chichkanov. One should also keep in mind that the initial number of the "lost" ones was much higher: not everyone survived these two or three years of misery, hunger, firing, executions, raids and bombing...  

         Summary figures across all categories of personnel that left the action scene (killed, died, missing in action, captured, condemned and sent to GULAG (not to a penal battalion which is a part of army), mustered out due to a wound or a sickness, and "other") differs from the total amount of men "departed from the armed forces for various reasons" (to be found in the previous page) by 2,343,000 men. Authors of the documents collection themselves call this discrepancy a "significant number of deserters not found".

          Stalin administration attempted to stop this flow of runaways with the only method it knew and was used to: mass executions. 10,201 servicemen were executed under sentence of military courts and special NKVD departments throughout the first four incomplete months of war (from June 22 to October 10, 1941) The total number of Soviet servicemen condemned during the war by martial courts alone was 994 thousand men, of which 157,593 people were executed (118, page 139).  TEN DIVISIONS executed!


  ... What happened to the Red Army in summer and autumn of 1941 passes the limits of what can be imagined. The history of wars had never faced anything like that before.  Let's open the "Secrecy label removed" collection of statistical documents once again, this time at pages 234 to 246. One can see casualty figures at the acting fronts in 1941. What is unique about the above-mentioned pages (I would like you, my dear reader, forget the tragedy behind these figures for a moment and focus your attention on plain and clear arithmetic) is that figures of men killed and missing in action are not combined into a single figure with a wily "AND" word, but are rather shown individually. Let us put all the data available into just another table to make it even clearer:



Total losses, thousand men / %%



Sanitary losses, %%

Missing in action, non-combat losses and other %%

Northern front

    148  /   100




North-Western front

    270  /   100




Western front

 1,298  /   100




South-Western front

    852  /   100




Southern front

    312  /   100




Central front

    143  /   100




Bryansk front

    198  /   100





         As we can see, the number of men missing in action is 5 to 10 times greater than the number of those killed everywhere except for the far northern flank of the war scene (Northern front). In other words, it was mass surrender and desertion which made the main part of irrecoverable losses in the Red Army in 1941. The situation in the Northern front matches the definition of the "prove-the-rule-exception". Landscape and the poor Finnish army's weaponry prevented it from conducting large encirclement operations. Combat action was actually like slowly "pushing out" Red Army units back to the line of the 1939 border. Nevertheless, this "push-out" operation let the Finns take 64,188 Soviet soldiers as prisoners. (32)

         The terrifying figures above are significantly underestimated. Reality was even more terrible and disgraceful. The fact is that according to the "Secrecy label removed" collection of documents the total number of men missing in action at all the fronts in 1941 should have "only" been 2,335 thousand men (35, page 146).  At the same time, Wehrmacht High Command reported 3,886 thousand men captured only (without deserters the number of which the Germans count not know), with 113 thousand men in June and 2,369 thousand men in the second quarter of 1941.

        Enemy's military propaganda?  Who knows… the Germans used to be quite accurate and reserved in this matter. Thus, on the 11th of December, 1941 Hitler announced in the Reichstag that the Red Army had lost 21 thousand tanks, 17 thousand aircrafts, 33 thousand guns and 3,806,865 men captured (115). As we can see, the number of casualties in military equipment does not generally exceed official figures of modern Russian war history, with losses in guns being even lower! A similar figure of 3.6 million captives left alive by the end of February, 1942 appears in correspondence between Keitel and Rosenberg which was confidential and not intended to be used in propaganda. (74)

          It was already by the end of July, 1941 that the flood of war prisoners exceeded Wehrmacht's capabilities to guard and keep them. On the 25th of July, 1941 order N 11/4590 was issued by the General Quartermaster according to which mass release of captives of certain nationalities (Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Balts) began. During the order duration period (that is, up to November 13, 1941) 318,770 of former Red Army soldiers (mainly Ukrainians – 277,761 men) were set free.

          And the Soviet command found it necessary to respond in some way to this incredible behavior of its nationals. On the 16th of August the well-known Order N 270 of the Staff named "About incidents of cowardice and surrender and measures to prevent such actions" was issued. To make it even more convincing, Order N 270 was signed by Stalin, Molotov, Budyonny, Voroshilov, Timoshenko, Shaposhnikov and Zhukov. There has hardly been another document like that in the history of civilized countries.

        "I order the following:

1. Commanders and political instructors tearing off their badges of ranks in combat and deserting rearwards or surrendering to the enemy to be considered malicious deserters whose families are to be arrested as families of oath violators and deserting traitors. All higher commanders and commissars are to shoot such deserting officers in sight.

2. Troops surrendered by the enemy to fight selflessly to the bitter end, to preserve materiel like the apple of their eyes, break through enemy rears back to friendly troops defeating fascist dogs on their way.

         Each serviceman regardless of his or her rank to be obliged to require from senior officers (if the unit is surrendered by the enemy) to fight to the bitter end trying to break through to friendly troops, and those officers and Red Army units preferring to surrender instead of repulse to be destroyed with any means available, both from land and from air, with families of Red Army servicemen surrendered to the enemy to be deprived of state benefits and help…

        The order is to be announced to all companies, (air) squadrons, batteries, crews and staffs." (6, page 479).

        The fact extremely important to understand the way of thinking of Comrade Stalin is that he did not consider possible or necessary even to mention the high motives like "protection of the October gains" or "saving the humanity from fascist barbarians" in this fundamental order. He did not bother mentioning Dmitriy Donskoy,  Aleksander Nevsky or Russia's millennial history. Red Army servicemen were reminded in plain and simple words of the fact that their families – those staying on territories under control of NKVD – were hostages of their behavior at the front.

         Alas, even such measures were unable to awake the "love of Soviet people for war" once celebrated by Voroshilov. Red Army men kept abandoning their weaponry and dispersing over forests in great amounts. Not a month from the day when Order N270 was issued the Staff adopted Directive N 001919 prescribing to create anti-retreat units (not less than a company per each rifle regiment). The first lines of this Directive read literally the following:

         "Combat experience against the German fascism has demonstrated that there are a lot of panic and directly adverse elements in our rifle divisions who drop their weapons, start crying "we are surrounded" and bear other soldiers along with them at the first sign of enemy pressure (highlighted by me. – M.S.). The result of that is the division stampeding and abandoning materiel, and later leaving forest man by man. This is what happens at all fronts..." (5, page 180).

        By the moment this Directive was issued more than one and a half million Red Army soldiers and commanders were captured by the Germans (1,493 thousand men by the end of August). On the 14th of September, 1941, just two days after the Staff adopted Directive 001919, foremost troops of the 1st and 2nd Tank Groups of the Wehrmacht tightened assault on the giant "Kiev trap". A huge group of Soviet troops amounting to half a million men stopped organized resistance in less than a week. Wehrmacht's High Command reported 665 thousand men, 3718 guns and 884 tanks being captured.

         October of 1941 started with the major forces of the Western, Reserve and Bryansk fronts (67 rifle divisions, 6 cavalry divisions and 13 tank brigades) being caught in two greatest "traps" near Vyazma and Bryansk. According to the Wehrmacht's High Command, 658 thousand men, 5396 guns and 1241 tanks were captured. The October catastrophe (which is certainly impossible to attribute to the "surprise attack" and the notorious "non-mobilized army") was much greater in scale than the defeat of the Western front in June, 1941. Another qualitative difference of the "Vyazma trap" from the trap under Minsk was a great number of generals of the highest rank csaptured by the Germans. Among them the following: 19th Army commander Loukin, 20th Army commander Yershakov, member of the Military Council of the 32nd Army Zhilenkov, 32nd Army commander Vishnevskiy, 19th Army executive officer Malyshkin, 24th Army artillery commander Moshenin, 20th Army artillery commander Prokhorov…


        … Getting back to the event of year 1941 and not pretending to have figures that would be absolutely correct (the nature itself of deserting and surrender makes it impossible to enlist these people by names) lets try to estimate the total number of captives and deserters.

         On the 1st of May, 1942 head of the administrative and planning Department of the Red Army General Staff colonel Yefremov signed the "About the Red Army personnel strength, replacement and losses since the beginning of war and up to the 1st of March, 1942" document (published with reference to the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defence, f.38, op.113, d.1, 228-238 in the book by S.N.Mikhailov "Man-power losses in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945: statistical research", Krasnoyarsk, 2000). This most important document includes a number of figures (some of which will be discussed later) and ends with the following two sentences:

"The total number of personnel in the Red Army in respect to losses should be 14,197,000 men.      

The actual number of personnel in the Red Army (according to the Department`s data) by the 1st of March, 1942

 is 9,315,000."

        Period. Date. Signature. Colonel Yefremov gives no comments as to the obscure lack of almost five million servicemen (4,882 thousand, to be exact). The original figure of 14,197 thousand men is the result of the "balance accounting method" (which is actually known to every student at an example of a "water pool" mathematical problem with water getting in through one pipe and out through another one), namely the following:

- the personnel strength of the Red Army by the start of war (which is estimated by Yefremov as 4,924 thousand men)

- is added the total number of men mobilized (12,490 thousand men, including 11,790 thousand conscripts drafted by the end of 1941)

- and is subtracted irrecoverable losses (3,217 thousand men)

        We should note at once that the number of men mobilized in 1941 shown in Yefremov's report is significantly (2.2 million men) lower than the one stated by the authors of the "1941: lessons and conclusions" monograph. According to their data, the total number of men mobilized by the end of 1941 was 14 million (3, page 110).

        Irrecoverable losses are people killed in action, died of wounds in hospitals, dismissed from service due to wounds. And those "missing in action". Yefremov's report does not distribute irrecoverable losses across categories, either exactly or approximately, but instead contains an informative phrase: "The total number of wounded and contused, frost-bitten and diseased (since the beginning of war) is 1,665,000 men, the number of those sent back to the ranks according to the data of the department of sanitation is approximately 1,000,000 men."
         It's actually figures of wounded soldiers who arrived to hospitals that the author considers to be most reliable. The order was kept better in the deep rears, and records there were at least double (at entry and at release). Having in mind the killed-to-wounded ratio of 3 to 1 which is highly stable throughout all the wars in the 20th century, one can assume that the number of 1,665 thousand men wounded corresponds to approximately 555 thousand men killed.           665 thousand men ( 1.665 - 1.000 ) made up irrecoverable losses (died in hospitals or demobilized due to wounds). Thus, the total amount of irrecoverable losses BY THE RECORDS (let's underline this word with three heavy lines) includes almost two million men "missing in action":

        3.217 - 555 - 665 = 1.997

        The number of killed by Krivosheyev's collection of documents gives us 1,811 thousand men missing in action.

        And 4,882 thousand servicemen more lost without a trace according to reports of unit staffs. This makes more than six and a half million men gone clean.

         Actually, we do know where they went. No miracles – everything is clear:

- 3.8 million men captured by the Germans

- not less than 1 to 1.5 million men who "fell behind their units" thus avoiding front and imprisonment

- arithmetical difference of 1 to 1.5 million men are people wounded and left at panic retreat and those killed and not recorded in reports from the front.

         Let's open the "Secrecy label removed" collection of documents once again and see page 152 which reads that the monthly average number of the Acting Army at the start of war was 3,334 thousand men. Many other publications (with a clear intention to demonstrate enemy's advantage in numbers) make the number of servicemen in western districts by the 22nd of June, 1941 even smaller. But even with 3.3 million men taken as basis, we have the number of captives and deserters in 1941 being almost twice as high as the initial numbers of the Acting Army.

        And what's most astonishing is that Soviet "historians" never considered these terrifying facts to be one of the reasons (even the least significant one) of what they delicately called "temporary reverses of the Red Army". 

        A poor oil filter in tank diesels – that's definitely an important reason for being defeated which is much written about; obsolete machine-gun doors in pillbox ports of the Kiev fortified region are worth wasting tons of paper… The speed of artillery tractors was too slow (slower that enemy's advance), and not each armored train was equipped with a radio set… All these things have been discussed for years. And the fact that millions of Red Army soldiers dropped their weaponry and dispersed in forests, tons of tanks, guns and armored vehicles abandoned, 6.3 million of small arms "lost" – these are insignificant details from outside the box having no relation to the science of war historiography...

Mark Solonin became the first who dared to say: But the emperor has no clothes! The very first step, the simplest comparison of the number of airplanes, announced as being destroyed on land (800 units), with the total number of Soviet AF, deployed on the Western USSR borders (more than 8.500 units), as well as a comparison of the number of airfields being attacked (66) with the total number of airfields in the Western military districts (613), knocks over like skittles. However, the content of a 600-page long research "At the Airfields That Seemed to Be Asleep is much deeper; questions which the author is asking, are much more complex than unmasking of obvious nonsense.
Every step, every try as well as a documented, fair and unprejudiced answer to these three issues lead the researcher to a deadlock of unsolvable, at first sight, contradictions. Why Stalins empire, after years of preparation for the Big War, having concentrated all resources of the richest country in the world, and, finally, having amassed the biggest army size in the world, suffered a crushing defeat in the summer of 1941? Why Stalin, who didnt believe his closest comrades, did believe to Ribbentrops signature in the non-aggression pact? Why the Soviet Union utterly militarized totalitarian empire found itself to be the only participant of the WWII, which started mobilizing its Armed Forces not before the start of combat actions (as did everybody else) and not even on the date of Hitlers invasion, but only on the second day of the war, on June 23, 1941? Why hours before the German invasion fighter regiments of Soviet AF received a day-off, while surface-to-air divisions were withdrawn to the far home front airfields? These are among the questions that will be addressed in my book.
Copyright Mark Solonin
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