Diletant.media continues the series of publications in the “Price of Victory” column. Today, Vitaly Dymarsky and Dmitry Zakharov, the presenters of the same name on the Echo of Moscow radio station, recall the events that took place in the first days, weeks, and months on the fronts of World War II.
Fully read and listen to the original interview can be on the link.
Operation Barbarossa, that is, the invasion of the Soviet Union, was planned to be carried out by the Wehrmacht not on June 22, but on May 15, 1941. However, it was postponed because the Germans had to move to the Balkans, where the Italians were quite inefficient in order to secure their southern flank. Accordingly, it took some time, so the plans to attack the USSR were postponed to June 22.
The plans included the following: the “Southern Group”, headed by Rundstedt, (four armies and one tank group under the command of Kleist) was to go to Kiev and into the valley of the Dnieper and, accordingly, to capture and destroy our forces between the Pripyat swamps and the Black Sea. Army Group "Center", commanded by Bock, (two army and two tank corps, Guderian corps and Goth corps) had to go the traditional way of the conquerors, that is, Warsaw-Smolensk-Moscow, and these armored ticks were to converge in the upper reaches of the Dnieper, then to seize Moscow. The Northern Group, commanded by Leeb (two army groups and the 4th Goepner Armored Group) was to move to Leningrad, destroying our forces in the Baltic Sea zone.
As for Finland, it was a formal ally of Germany, but it didn’t take any particularly active steps to deepen our territory. The only thing that interested them was the Kola Peninsula. And, accordingly, the group of General Falkenhorst, the so-called “Norwegian army”, remained far to the north. Her task was to cut off the line of communications Leningrad - Murmansk.
The initial attack on the USSR was planned for May 15, 1941.
In total, the Germans allocated 162 ground divisions for the implementation of their plans, which is about 3 million people. Usually, Luftwaffe ground personnel, every single infantryman in the satellite countries, a communications man, a telephone operator and anyone else, are attached to them, and then the personnel number is adjusted to 4,300,000. But in fact, it is clear that ground crews of the Luftwaffe with rifles did not run, it is clear that not all forces were in the advanced group, and the actual situation on June 22 was as follows: on our border there were 101 infantry divisions of Germans, 10 motorized infantry, 4 mountain, 1 cavalry and 5 SS divisions. A total of 128 divisions or 3 million 562 thousand people.
What was opposed to them? We can, again, consider the Red Army (Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army) with those units that were not deployed in the western districts that were in the interior of the country and in the Far East. Then we will have 5 million 774 thousand people, but in reality the balance of forces on the western border was such that we had 3 million 289 thousand 851 people. That is, the grouping is absolutely comparable to what the Germans opposed to us.
Accordingly, our tanks and assault guns in the western directions had 15 thousand 687, the Germans had 4 thousand 171, this is with self-propelled guns. And we only had 10 thousand 743 airplanes in the western districts-fronts, the Germans had a total of 4 800 if the Romanian, Hungarian, Finnish were added. There were fewer than 4 thousand pure German, of which 60% were bombers and less than 30% were fighters, that is, somewhere on the order of less than a thousand pieces. If you add two-engined fighter-bombers to them, then they pull up to a thousand, in fact there were about 640 “Messerschmitts”, which, in fact, intercepted and destroyed air vehicles. That was the situation.
Map of the plan "Barbarossa" on June 22, 1941
Who opposed the Germans? Accordingly, along the western borders in the annexed regions of Poland, Bessarabia and the Baltic States south of the Pripyat swamps, there was a group of the South-Western Front commanded by Marshal Budyonny, north of the swamps and further along the Lithuanian border was a group of the Western Front commanded by Marshal Timoshenko, North-West the western front was headed by Marshal Voroshilov, who was stationed in the Baltic States.
By the way, since it was about the north-west direction and the retreat, in the first days of the war, the corps of Manstein passed 255 kilometers from the border to Daugavpils in four days, that is, the average rate of advance was about 64 kilometers per day. The Reinhardt Corps passed from the border to the town of Krustpils on the Zapadnaya Dvina in five days, with an average pace of 53 kilometers a day.
At the same time, our mechanized corps, I must say, also walked, only in the other direction, even with greater speed: they roughly went directly for a hundred kilometers a day. At the same time, we lost a huge number of tanks and other equipment without combat contact with the enemy precisely because the “man-weapon” system did not work, that is, people simply did not know how to exploit the equipment that was in their hands.
In the short period between June 22 and July 10, the war began on a front of about 3 thousand 200 kilometers from north to south. Army Group "Center" by July 10, already took Minsk into armored ticks, while at the same time capturing about 300 thousand prisoners, 2.5 thousand tanks, which were, in general, whole and practically unharmed (with the exception of mechanical damage from some of them), a huge number of aircraft, 1,400 guns. Further, from 10 to 19 July, - Smolensk. Slammed trap and around it. Another 100 thousand are taken prisoner, another 2 thousand tanks, 1900 guns, again we are losing a huge number of aircraft. One of the Boca strike groups was only 300 kilometers from Moscow on the banks of the Belaya River. But this is only the middle of July ...
At the beginning of the war, the Red Army surpassed the Wehrmacht in a number of parameters.
By mid-July, to sum up, the troops of the Western and North-Western fronts (this is more than 70 divisions) were defeated and for the most part captured. About a month. The enemy occupied Lithuania, Latvia, almost all of Belarus, forced the Western Dvina, Berezina and Dnieper. July 16, the Germans occupied Smolensk. In general, the Germans occupied, or rather, passed, ran, as Viktor Astafyev said, an area of about 700 thousand square kilometers, which, by the way, is about three times the territory of Poland that the Wehrmacht occupied in September 1939.
The mobilization plan No. 23 for 1941, developed by the General Staff, envisaged the loss of three million people before the end of the year, and also in the case of the creation of a wartime army, the mobilization of 8,900,000 people. According to the plan, this mobilization was to be carried out in a month, and, what is most interesting, after the war began, the mobilization also began to be implemented fairly quickly.
July 19 - August 21. This is the moment when, as a matter of fact, the further fate of the war was decided thanks to the part-nationalos Hitler. The Fuhrer changes plans and, in order to spur off the offensive of slowly moving flanking armies, contrary to the protests of the General Staff, he gives the tank army from Army Group Center (Guderian Tank Group) and the second army of Maximilian von Weichs, who were to support the South Army under new order which went to Kiev.
Accordingly, the third tank group, commanded by Goth, was to join the Army Group North, so that it also moved more initiative. That is, this erosion of forces, which occurred between July 19 and August 21, fortunately, played into our hands to a great extent, because some de-radiotation took place, and the “fist” that existed in the central direction was significantly weakened.
Wehrmacht troops cross the USSR border on June 22, 1941
A few words about our equipment: from January 1939 to June 1941, 7,500 tanks were built. More than 1.5 thousand of these tanks were KV and T-34. For the period, again, from January 1939 to June 1941, more than 17 thousand aircraft were built, of which more than three thousand new types. With all these aircraft, the total number of which was close to 26 - 27 thousand, 600 - 640 fighters dealt with.
In September, the Germans left 295 fighters on our front, because they had to urgently transfer one fighter division to Sicily and part, two regiments, they transferred to Africa, because the situation was quite hot there. In total, during the war years on our front, they lost 4 thousand fighter pilots, on the Western front - 13 thousand fighter pilots.
As for our loss of weapons and equipment, by the end of September 1941, the Red Army alone lost 15.5 thousand tanks, almost 67 thousand guns and mortars, nearly 4 million small arms during the seven main strategic operations. By the end of July, aviation losses reached 10,000 combat aircraft. And on September 3, 1941, Stalin already wrote to Churchill: “Without these two types of assistance,” the talk was about disembarking the British to France and supplying the USSR with 400 airplanes and 500 tanks a month, “the Soviet Union will either suffer a defeat or lose long actions on the front of the fight against Hitlerism ".
Here, for example, is an illustration of what happened, in particular, with aviation. The 165th Fighter Regiment flew the LaGG-3. After three battles under Yelnya the regiment was completely destroyed. From July to October 1941, the regiment was beaten out five times. This was recalled by Sergey Dmitrievich Gorelov, Hero of the Soviet Union, who shot down 27 aircraft. 10th Fighter Regiment: by the end of June 22, 1941, 12 entire aircraft remained in it. The 122nd Fighter Regiment for the first four days of the war lost almost all of its aircraft. 31st Fighter Wing: by the end of the day on June 22, 6 airplanes were left. This is a real picture of what really happened. This is remembered by veterans who have experienced all this themselves.
Let us say a few words about panic and desertion, because there is too much evidence that in the first months, especially in the western direction, these phenomena literally became widespread. On July 17, Mikhailov, the head of the political propaganda department of the South-Western Front, reported: “In parts of the front there were many cases of panic flight of individual servicemen, groups, subunits. Panic was often transferred by self-seekers and cowards to other parts. The number of deserters is extremely high. Only in one 6th rifle corps, for the first ten days of the war, deserters were detained and 5 thousand people returned to the front. According to incomplete data, detachments detained during the war period about 54 thousand people who lost their units and lagged behind them, including 1,300 officers. ”
Training Soviet soldiers before being sent to the front. Moscow, August 1941
And all in all, during the war, 376,000 servicemen were convicted of desertion, and another 940,000 people were called up again. This strange term “second call” designated those fighters and commanders of the Red Army who, for various reasons, lost their military unit and remained in the territory occupied by the Germans. And in 1943-1944, they were re-put under the gun.
There is one more figure: "In total, on the territory temporarily seized by the enemy, - this is from a collection released by military historians about 1941, - 5,663,600 people from the mobilization resources of the Soviet Union were left." These are the Baltic states, the Western Military District, that is, they are people who could be called up but were not called up. Probably someone for some reason objective, but someone for others.
There is another very unpleasant topic concerning the fact that the population of the western regions of the Soviet Union, especially the western regions of Belarus and Ukraine, met the Germans, no matter how painful it sounds, quite cordially, seeing in them liberation from collective farm slavery, from that life in which it existed under Soviet rule. Of course, soon everyone understood that another misfortune had taken the place of one misfortune, and that the theory of racial superiority was no more humane, to say the least, the theory of class struggle.
Desertion and surrender - the reasons for the losses of the Red Army in the summer of 1941
And if you run according to the chronology of the surrender, then from June 22 to July 10, 290 thousand people surrendered, in Smolensk another 100 thousand people, in Kiev, who fell on September 19, a group of 665 thousand people, after that, under Vyazma, the Germans took another 650 thousand person. And this happened literally day after day, as Tippelskirch, Manstein and many others wrote about in their memoirs. That is, people, paradoxically, did not offer serious resistance.
Whether it was a state of panic, or whether it was the result of an absolutely ineffective management and the fact that people couldn’t fight, because they didn’t really learn anything - either to shoot, to fly, to control tanks, to use artillery, or a combination of these factors But the fact remains: the losses as a result of being captured were huge, and they far exceeded the losses directly during the hostilities. Such is the sad statistic.