The choice of start

            It often happens, and perhaps it is a law of history of science, that upon discovery new knowledge solves old questions but then arouses new ones, even more puzzling than ever. After the veil of “outnumbering forces of Wehrmacht had fallen, the investigation of true reasons of the unprecedented military catastrophe became more actual and tricky.

            So to say, the investigation (and the consequent discussion) started many years before the dusk of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. Russians are not that “lazy and lacking curiosity” as Pushkin once said, and among thousands of live witnesses of the dramatic events there were people who questioned absurd official propaganda. Some facts, figures and documents found their way into publicity in times of Hrushev’s "ottepel" (“the Thaw”) and it became no longer acceptable to go on with the old lies. It is necessary to mention here Dashichev’s “The Bankruptcy of the German fascism”, the book which was entirely dedicated to the history of Germany and any possible comparisons with the Soviet Union were carefully avoided, but nevertheless it did disillusion an attentive reader about Wehrmacht’s outnumbering tank forces and aviation”.

            Nekritch and Grigorenko ventured further. They wrote a thousand excuses and hundreds of misleading remarks but in the end they plainly stated that Wehrmacht had no advantage in numbers over the Red Army. A little later one of the authors became persona non grata in the USSR and the other was jailed in a specialized psychiatric hospital of the Ministry of Internal affairs.

            In the epoch of the “new thought” their cause was furthered by unsuspecting Victor Suvorov. Gifted with the ability to write non-fiction and the burning desire to express the sole truth he had found, Suvorov destroyed the myth of peaceful and unarmed Stalin’s empire with his trilogy (“Ice crasher”, “Day-M”, “The last republic”). It is amazing and admirable that without access to massive document storage which was declassified later in the early 90-es, Suvorov uncovered and demonstrated the long-term preparation for the Big European Campaign which was the aim and purpose of Stalin’s foreign and domestic policy.

         It is hard to understand what did he do it for, but V. Suvorov had filled his books with plenty of details which were hasty, light-headed and – most importantly – had nothing to do with his basic idea. All these “attack tanks”, “super-bombers SU-2”, “blown-up pillboxes of the old Soviet border” made Suvorov’s books extremely vulnerable to malevolent and prejudiced critique. Nevertheless, in spite of many particular mistakes and inaccuracies, V.Suvorov had written the books which were UNDERSTOOD BY ALL.

          Millions of readers understood them and put to rest a discussion on tovarish Stalin’s plan. Old Soviet and presently Russian historians understood them and almost made Suvorov their personal enemy to discredit at any cost. Western-European and North-American university professors, whose only job is to rewrite old memos understood the books and their scientific reputation and titles were threatened with devaluation when “Ice-breaker” had been published.

It is not surprising that these “priests of historical science” were not able to maintain an open discussion and formed a rather unsuccessful conspiracy of silence against Suvorov’s books.

           True, one has to admit that while Suvorov destroyed the old myths of the communist propaganda, he replaced them with new ones in a crucial point. It turned out that the Red Army had been great and powerful – but only until morning of the 22nd of July, 1941. The next day it became weakened and staggering from a sudden attack of Hitler’s forces. Suvorov’s trilogy simply creates a Hymn for the First Disarming Strike. “At the sudden attack all soviet tank crews were gunned down even before they reached their vehicles. The machines were destroyed or captured... A sudden strike against the landing fields blinds tank platoons at all times … Soviet surveillance planes just couldn’t rise into the sky… Our Cyclops had lost his eye, he’s blind. He swings his fists of steel without a target and roars in powerless anger…” And so on, and so forth.

To make this stuff more convincing Suvorov introduced his own vision why such confusion could happen: he proposed that the Red Army had been preparing to attack and forgot all care. In comparison with the idiotic version of the communist “historians” (that fearful and naive Stalin was afraid to give Hitler “a reason for invasion”) Suvorov’s hypothesis seems reasonable and solid.

It should be noted, that this variant of the myth was not invented by Victor Suvorov. The abovementioned Grigorenko wrote in 1967 that the “stupid” people’s commissar for defense Timoshenko followed “stupid” Stalin’s order and sent all the artillery to the west on the 22nd of July. The armies didn’t wait till dark and left the shelters during the daytime. Right at the moment they were attacked by the enemy’s airplanes and destroyed: the whole lot of them, all sixty thousand cannons and mortars. Looks like that each German bomber, soaring above the earth like a Scandinavian Valkyrie shredded an artillery platoon in an eyewink. Wow!

A little further on, in the second part of the present book we’ll discuss in detail the things German aviation could do and the things it possibly couldn’t. At present, let us turn to common sense for consideration of two matters.

Firstly, why “Hitler’s hawks” themselves know nothing about their great accomplishment? There have been written piles of books on the history of the Luftwaffe, abundant works on the use of every single plane type, researches that follow the life of separate squadrons: with every single plane manufacturer’s number detailed and pilot’s rank mentioned, all with characteristic German attention to detail. But somehow historians forgot to mention the feat in which they disarmed the whole Red Army on the 22 of July 1941. Even liar Goebbels would never boast of that.

Secondly, there is the question why Soviet “hawks” never accomplished a similar thing. Not that they could do it in June of 1941, when their planes were simply “coffins, outdated beyond recognition” and the pilots themselves "had 6 hours flight experience at best". But in the 1943-1945 when the number of planes reached a thousand, and the USSR had complete air superiority, why wasn’t Wehrmacht disarmed, bereaved of its tanks, artillery and supplies on a single day by a mighty air strike? And the history of British Air Forces knows not such a deed, neither do the French or Americans. The US air forces, in a matter of fact, bombed Germany for months. And the country’s territory is quite small compared to a part of the theatre of War in Russia - Western military district or Kiev military district. Americans peppered their targets with several kilotons of bombs a go, and during the D-Day landing in Normandy on the 6th of June 1944 every allied division was supported by 260 planes. That was 10 times as many as a Wehrmacht division could hope for on the 22nd of June 1941. Nevertheless 10 months after the bombardment Germany was keeping up the fight, and it had armor, not Molotov cocktail bottles.

It is absurd to go on with this. To destroy or disrupt with a preventive air strike an army of 198 infantry divisions, 13 cavalry, 61 tank, 31 motorized divisions, 16 paratrooper and 10 anti-tank brigades was absolutely impossible in pre-nuclear times. Even with modern weaponry fulfilling such a task would require an unthinkable concentration of nuclear bombardment, taking in consideration that the Soviet forces were scattered on huge territory.

In reality, of all weapons Germans had in summer of 1941 the most potent was the artillery. Calibers: 75, 105, 150, 210 mm. Maximum range: 10 to 20 kilometers. This figures show the real possible depth of the first strike. On the 22 of June 90% of the Soviet corps and divisions were based 50-500 to 1500 km away from the border, out of the reach of Germans. Thus, they couldn’t have been destroyed neither on the 1st, nor the 2nd, the 3rd day of the war, even in theory. It is worth mentioning that even devilish Fuehrer did not demand such a mighty feat from his army. “Blitzkrieg” plan suggested months to complete, not days. And its essence was to break the Soviet army with “bold tank attacks” not “a single valiant Junkers flight”.

The absurdness of an Army-which-can-only-attack idea is rather obvious and requires no further proof. It doesn’t help to graduate the General Staff Academy to know that offence is a much more difficult type of strategy than defense, because it requires a better system of command and communications to provide quick and flexible response to the situation which develops dynamically. It would be absurd to imagine officers who can organize a swift and successful offensive, but are unable to set positions for the defense on their own territory, which they know to the last twig. It is just as hopeless as trying to find a jazz virtuoso who cannot play the simplest tune without taking his eyes off the note staff. In the end, an “offensive army” equipped with “offensive tanks” can use the best traditional way of defense: counterattack. One of the most vivid examples is the Defense Army of Israel. It never actually attempted a defensive action, which would be suicidal under Israel’s geographic conditions (according to UN 1947 resolution, the country’s minimal width is 18 kilometers). In 1967 and 1973 the strategic goal of protecting the country against outnumbering enemy forces was achieved by counterattacking. Once (1973) it was done without delay as the attempts to hold the advance of the Egyptian army near the Suez canal had proved unsuccessful.

Now, the question is whether it was possible that the Red Army tried to act likewise in 1941?

Yes, of course.

Even the official history is bound to accept that the “fascist strategy of blitzkrieg was responded not with defense, including mobile maneuver and counterattacks, but with the strategy of lightning-fast defeat of the invader” (3). Victor Suvorov expressed the same thought in his usual picturesque manner. “The response of the Red Army was not a response of a hedgehog, which faces the enemy with spikes, but a response of a crocodile which tries to attack ignoring the blood gushing from its wounds”.

That hits the bull’s-eye.

The chain of Red-Army counterattacks in North-Western direction (Shaulay, Douvgaupils, Velikiye Luki, Staraya Rusa,) continued since the beginning of the war to the middle of August of 1941. Countless attempts to counterattack were made in the Western strategic direction, along the railway line Minsk-Smolensk-Moscow. This chaos continued almost nonstop all summer until the 10th of September, when the armies of the Western, the Reserve and the Brjansk fronts were ordered to go into strategic defense.

It isn’t for the present work to analyze those offensives in detail. On the other hand, the result of those counterattacks should be known to any Russian pupil: nothing. No positive result had been achieved with these counterattacks, except loss of hundreds of divisions, tens of thousands tanks and planes. The Red Army turned out to be as useless for offence as for positional defense at natural protective ridges, such as the rivers Neman, Dnepr, Dnestr, Uzny Bug and Western Dvina. The statement of this fact easily concludes any discussion about "defensive tanks and offensive airplanes".

But a detailed analysis of the first Red Army counterstrikes could lead us to understanding of the true reasons of its defeat. That’s why I decided to start the book with a careful study of the two offensives which were the most powerful and well-equipped with both armor and command.


0.3 No sudden breakthrough


         Haste makes waste, and this proverb applies to war history as well: careful analysis requires patience both to write and to read. There will be no hasty statements in this book, no instant answers to key questions… There will be neither notorious “sensational documents” which nobody have ever seen, nor stunning “revelations” of Stalin’s ex-minions (recorded by persons unknown and under conditions unspecified) or other tabloid stuff.

          Files which were declassified and put into circulation in 80-90-es formed the documental basis for the present book. The reference list contains almost two hundred items, five off which are key information sources:

- “Griph Secretnosti snjat” (“Declassified”) is a statistics study by a General Staff military history service Head, colonel-general G.F. Krivosheev. Published in 1993.

- Four volumes (NN33-36) from a declassified series “SBD” (“Sbronik boevikh documentov Velikoy Otechestvennoy Voiny”), “The Great Patriotic war documents collected”, prepared by Soviet military historians in 1956-1958.

- Two-volume document packet “Rossiya – XX vek. Documenty. 1941 god” (“Russia, the XX century. Documents. 1941”), published in 1998.

- Document packet “Sovetskaya aviatsiya v Velikoy Otechestvennoy Voine v tsifrakh” (“Soviet Aviation during the Great Patriotic war, in numbers”), which was collected by a large group of military historians in 1962.

- Multi-author study of military historians “1941 – uroki i vivody” (“1941 – lessons and conclusions”), published in 1992 under the aegis of CIS unified military General Staff.


       The source basis for my book has flaws: it is not complete, it’s fragmented and written mostly by the same individuals who had to hide the truth about the catastrophic defeat of the Soviet army alleging to their state posts or party affiliations. On the other hand, an obvious and undisputed advantage of these sources is their availability and provability. Strictly speaking, the book contains no new facts or documents. In a normal setting that would be a death sentence for research, but in Russia everything is special, and thus using those documents the communists themselves dared to preserve and publish is a great advantage.

        I’d like to stress once again that a great amount of reader’s mental labor is ahead. Several hundreds pages of complex text, stuffed with facts, figures and detail is what lies ahead of you. Time and time again we’ll dig through the “common knowledge”, study textbook data and other myths of propaganda. Our objective is to learn the truth behind the veil.


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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