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Empowering Others to Take Charge in the Leader’s Absence

Pictured: Red Army sappers removing mines from the grounds around Stalingrad, 1943

After the final surrender of the Germans in Stalingrad, Lieutenant-General Chuikov was granted a short leave to visit his family. Historian Jochen Hellbeck includes details of this brief trip in his volume titled Stalingrad: The City that Defeated the Third Reich. News of the stunning victory at Stalingrad spread across the globe, and the Commander of the 62nd Army had already achieved a legendary status. Chuikov shared about the experience of an outing with his family in an interview from March 1943:

“In 1943, with comrade Stalin’s permission, I took a plane to see my family in Kuybyshev (modern day Samara). It coincided exactly with the anniversary of the Red Army on 23 February 1943. I was invited to the theater. They persuaded me to give a short speech. Marshal of the Soviet Union B. M. Shaposhnikov was there. Many people spoke, and they were greeted cordially but when the last of them gave me the floor, I stood there like an idiot for five minutes. Every time I opened my mouth, they’d interrupt with applause. I could sense how well they understood our situation and our struggle…” (290).

While Chuikov was away from his soldiers, Major-General Krylov served as interim Commander of the 62nd Army, which was tasked with clearing sections of Stalingrad of mines, weapons, and ammunition left over from months of heavy combat. Nikolai Ivanovich was more than capable of organizing and leading the clean-up effort, which was necessary for the city to be habitable again. Effective leaders prepare their subordinates to step into a leadership role when needed, which often leads to future promotions. This is one example of how Chuikov empowered and entrusted his staff to successfully carry out dangerous operations in his absence. The collection of documents and materials titled Stalingradskaya Gruppa Voysk: Fevral – Mai 1943 G. provides the detailed orders for 23 February 1943, a portion of which is included here.

“Pursuant to the order of the NKO of the USSR dated 22.2.1943, No. 0/78[0/st] ‘minefields clearance and the elimination of unexploded shells and air bombs in the mountains. Stalingrad and the region’ orders:

On the territory of the mountains, Stalingrad and all its environs completely remove all the remaining minefields, land mines and subversive surprises set by both our troops and the enemy, as well as destroy unexploded ordnance, bombs, mines, and hand grenades. To carry out these works, supply the 5th and 8th engineer-mine brigades of the RGK, 326, 327 army engineer battalions, 47 separate engineer-mine company and division sapper battalions. […]

Responsible for mine clearance to my deputy chief of engineering troops under Colonel Comrade Tkachenko V.M. to provide the working parts with tools, accessories, and documentation on minefields, as well as to establish a procedure for reporting on mine clearance, ensuring the personal responsibility of each performer for his work. Simultaneously with demining work, collect abandoned weapons, ammunition and other property in their areas and hand them over to trophy teams at the direction of the head of the rear.

To my deputy for rear services, release fuels and lubricants [materials] to the working units at their request; select from the trophy five serviceable thrust for minesweeping; organize the reception and removal of weapons, ammunition and other property collected during mine clearance.

The chief of communications of the army to provide work by telephone and radio communications.

Report on the progress of work to be submitted every day through the operational department by 1900 hours” (32-33).

Commander of the 62nd Army, Major-General Krylov

Member of the Military Council, Lieutenant-General Gurov

Deputy Chief of Staff of the 62nd Army, Major-General Eliseev


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