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Authors: John Erickson

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The Road to Berlin

BOOK: The Road to Berlin
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The Road to Berlin

Stalin’s War with Germany
Volume Two



To my late father Harry who gave his utmost and my father-in-law Branko who gave his life, fighting for the cause of all good men:
Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu


Title page





‘Surrender is Ruled Out’: The End at Stalingrad


The Duel in the South: February–March 1943


Breaking the Equilibrium: Kursk and its Aftermath


The Drive to the Western Frontiers: October 1943–March 1944


Breaking the Back of the
April–August 1944


Soviet Liberation, Soviet Conquest: August–December 1944


The Assault on the
January–March 1945


No Time to Die: April–May 1945

References and Sources


Author Biography

By John Erickson



Operations in the North Caucasus, January–April 1943
, Stalingrad, January–February 1943
The Soviet drive on Kharkov, February 1943
Kursk, July–August 1943
The Prokhorovka tank battle, July 1943
The drive to the Dnieper, August–December 1943
The Belorussian offensive: 1944 General Staff planning map
, June–August 1944
Lvov-Sandomierz operations, July–August 1944
Jassy-Kishinev operations, July–August 1944
The Soviet drive into the Baltic states, July–November 1944
Overall Soviet offensive operations in eastern Europe, 1944
The Budapest operation, October 1944–February 1945
From the Vistula to the Oder, January–February 1945
The Berlin operation, 16 April–8 May 1945
The Soviet drive on Prague, May 1945

Note on abbreviations

The following abbreviations have been used in the maps. For the Soviet side: A = Army, ShA = Shock Army, TA = Tank Army, GA = Guards Army, GTA = Guards Tank Army, AA = Air Army, PolA = Polish Army, RA = Rumanian Army, CavMechGp = Cavalry Mechanized Group, MechC = Mechanized Corps.

On the German side, roman numerals in bold type have been used for the Armies. Thus, for example,
= Ninth Army,
= Second
Army, etc.


Not very long ago a Soviet colleague, remarking on
The Road to Stalingrad
which preceded this present study, wagged an admonitory finger in my direction, deploring and disparaging any talk of ‘Stalin’s war with Germany’. The ‘Great Patriotic War’, which lasted from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945 and spanned 1,418 days, could not and should not, he said, be so personalized. On the contrary, it was the saga of the Soviet people and a fiery vindication of the resilience of the Soviet state, a record of sacrifice and achievement (coupled with the exertions of the Communist Party) whereby the burden of this, the most gruelling of all wars, was carried through to a triumphant end. The record speaks for itself. In the course of 1,320 days of active military operations (93 per cent of the entire wartime period) the Red Army destroyed or disabled 506.5 German divisions in the east, while Germany’s sullen satellites lost a further 100 divisions as the price of participating in the war against the Soviet Union. Out of the grand total of Germany’s losses of 13,600,000 killed, wounded, missing and made prisoner, Soviet military statisticians reckon that no less than 10,000,000 men met a grim fate on the Eastern Front.

The horrendous carnage was also accompanied by a mighty clash of war machines, the Red Army claiming the battlefield destruction of 48,000 enemy tanks, 167,000 guns and almost 77,000 aircraft, while Soviet war industry, having carried through the greatest enforced industrial migration in history, furnished the battlefronts with no less than 78,000 tanks and 16,000 self-propelled guns, 108,028 combat aircraft, 12 million rifles and carbines, 6 million sub-machineguns, almost 98,000 field guns and 110,000 lorries. By these demonstrations, whatever the scale of measurement, the decisive role in defeating the ‘Fascist bloc’ was played by the Soviet Union. Superiority over the enemy was finally attained but this was no mere matter of numbers, for true superiority lay in Soviet economic performance, in the Soviet political system and in the ideology of socialist society, with the Communist Party playing its vital role as ‘leader, organizer and inspirer’. So runs the Soviet argument.

None can gainsay the gigantic effort by Soviet society nor gloss over the grievous hurts inflicted upon it, that numbing catalogue of bestiality, devastation, hardship and illimitable private griefs. Yet in these seemingly bloodless recapitulations of what was the bloodiest of conflicts, the name of Stalin is used sparingly,
if at all. Ironically, the suppression of one form of personalization, ‘Stalin’s war’, was largely engineered and exploited to pander to other vanities and to bolster other pretensions, producing ‘Khrushchev’s war’ followed in turn by ‘Brezhnev’s war’, hence the thriving trade in manufactured memoirs and dubious adjustments to historical narratives. With the demise of Leonid Brezhnev, we might expect yet more versions, though ‘Andropov’s war’ would appear to be somewhat improbable.

The doctoring of history notwithstanding, the significance of Stalin as a war leader cannot be so easily erased from any appraisal of the Great Patriotic War or even the Second World War as a whole. His is perforce the ghost at any feast of retrospective reputations, whether it is the Party preening itself as the focus of national unity—when Stalin himself acknowledged almost at the outset that the Russian people were not fighting ‘for us’, only for Mother Russia—or the military first salvaging, then embellishing, its honour or indeed any individual usurpation of status. That any evaluation of Stalin as war leader must inevitably involve either panegyric or apologia has been brilliantly belied by Averell Harriman in a recent publication,
, edited by G.R. Urban; here is historical reality, which shuns melodrama and makes no recourse to pseudo-psychological explanation.

I do not see that formal recognition of Stalin’s role as war leader must necessarily diminish any collective achievement or repudiate any individual sacrifice. On the contrary, the very singularity of Stalin’s style in operating the system (one largely fashioned at his own behest) tends rather to magnify many aspects of Soviet performance at the front and in the rear alike. Not least, the overall ‘command and control’ of the entire war machine as well as the particular resolution of strategic issues was frequently degraded or distorted as a result of those chillingly brusque, characteristically brute interventions by Stalin, generated by what Professor Leonard Schapiro has called an ‘inordinate suspiciousness’, be it of persons, plans or proposals. Yet action was forthcoming, even to the point of near impossible achievement in the field or in the workshops, when Stalin sent out signals of such terrifying import: ‘I demand more. This is my last warning.’ ‘More’ usually materialized.

BOOK: The Road to Berlin
4.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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