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The Battle for Poznań and the Supply Chain Situation

Pictured: An award list for Colonel Sergey Borisovich Vil’din, a Belarussian who served in Lieutenant-General Pozharsky’s artillery of the 8th Guards Army; the second page of the award list, which includes Colonel-General V. I. Chuikov’s signature to the left (the original month for the signature was anticipated as being January 1945, but it appears that Chuikov wrote ‘February’ over it, indicating a date of 24 February 1945, following the taking of Poznań); photos of Colonel-General Chuikov commanding the 8th Guards Army at the front near Germany.

A popular course of study in US colleges and universities focuses on Supply Chain Management (SCM). Planning, procurement, manufacturing, fulfillment, inventory management, logistics, returns from suppliers, and returns from consumers are all components of the supply chain. These are the operational components which are responsible for receiving and filling orders for replenishment. Logistics and the supply chain not only apply to for-profit businesses, but an effective system is also crucial to a nation’s military needs. During the Great Patriotic War, the swift movement of the Red Army and the necessity for supplies put a constant strain on the Soviet supply chain. Marshal Chuikov made sure to recognize the stalwart efforts of the supply chain workers, especially for the railway transportation of tanks and artillery to keep the soldiers at the front ready for combat conditions.

Western Poland was no exception—before the advance on Germany, one of the Nazi strongholds to be conquered was the Polish citadel of Poznań. This German-occupied military fortress was difficult to overcome as there were 3 times more enemy soldiers there than previously realized. However, the final assault on the citadel took place on 22 February 1945, and divisions from Chuikov’s 8th Guards Army took an active role in the Battle for Poznań. He shared about the heroes of the supply chain in his book titled From Stalingrad to Berlin:

“The battles for Poznań only partly delayed, slowed down our forward movement. The main trouble was in the supply. The lack of fuel and shells was not replenished by courage and audacity. Heroic efforts were made by our Soviet railway workers to establish an uninterrupted supply of the front. The scale of transportation of military cargo was grandiose. When I had to meet a man in a railway uniform, I looked at him as a front-line soldier, as a fighter from the front line. […]

We entered the bands of the most powerful fortifications. Only the most powerful artillery could bring us victory, only the interaction of infantry and armor could suppress the firepower of the enemy. We needed shells, shells ... The logic of military operations is merciless, [as] it does not accept any excuses, any good reasons, if in battle the rear service failed to provide the fighter with everything necessary.

The rear service of the 1st Belorussian Front was just a rear service and acted in accordance with the instructions of the Military Council of the front. The January offensive operation, as we already know, was planned by the front headquarters for 10-12 days, with a depth much less than what actually happened.

Reorienting the rear service to a more accelerated advance of troops and to a deeper one is not an easy task. Within a few days, the supply arm for the troops was significantly lengthened. Vehicles have lengthened the mileage. The run time was multiplied by the increased fuel consumption. In a word, the front, the battle at the front, required the strict fulfillment of obligations by the suppliers, and another mistake, inaccuracy could cost the lives of thousands of soldiers...

The offensive demanded, no matter what—no matter what the circumstances... But the closer we moved to the Oder [River], the deeper we penetrated into the heart of Germany, the more difficult the supply situation became. Especially began to lag behind the means of reinforcement—artillery, engineering units, aviation. […] For the sake of saving gasoline, half of the vehicles returning empty from the front were transported on trailers. All captured fuel was taken into account and spent under strict control. The alcohol we captured was mixed with other ingredients and used as fuel. We collected captured guns and shells and used everything that was fit and serviceable to fight the enemy.”


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