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The Führer's Russian Miscalculation

Pictured: Part 2 of a 6-part series of articles by Marshal V. I. Chuikov titled “The Beginning of the Road” in the Polish-language magazine Panorama, 13 November 1960.

After his request to return to Russia in early 1942 from his duty in China was approved, General Chuikov quickly found himself in the position of working out the weaknesses of a stalwart enemy. A learned leader and gifted military analyst, he scrutinized German blitzkrieg patterns and determined they were inflexible in their methods and fought according to a template and schedule. However, the tactics that worked for the Germans in France and Poland—swiftly moving Army groups with a fully coordinated attack plan—did not work in Stalingrad, which was a brutal battle of attrition that descended into bloody hand-to-hand combat. Years after the end of the Battle for Stalingrad, Vasily Ivanovich wrote copiously about his experiences in the Great Patriotic War. An excerpt from his series of articles appearing in the Polish magazine Panorama in 1960 shared his observations and an insightful interview with an enemy pilot:

“I noticed weaknesses in their tactics. In terms of intensity and organization, the preparatory artillery fire was quite weak. The artillery strikes and mine throws were not concentrated, not penetrating in-depth, but limited only to the front lines. The German tanks did not start with the attack without infantry and without air cover. There was no bravery of the German tankers on the battlefield, nor the boldness and surprising actions that only the Western press wrote about. On the contrary. Their actions were lethargic, too cautious and hesitant. […]

Believing in the infallibility of their tactical and operational methods, the Nazis continued to follow the pattern followed behind the Don [River]: air force, artillery fire, infantry, followed by tanks. The Germans did not know any other order during the attack. And when our scouts and observers saw a concentration of German infantry, artillery and camps in front of the defense lines on the evening of 5 August [1942], there was no need to think about what all of this meant. It was known that the opponent would proceed to offensive actions according to the established order.

Once, a Nazi airman was brought to me, who, hit by a bullet, was forced to land north of the Novomaksimovsky chute. The prisoner of war stated that the German airmen were not afraid of the Soviet fighters, because the combat superiority of the Messerschmitts was obvious. […] However, as soldiers, he valued our airmen very highly for their bravery, endurance, and courage.

‘The decisive advantage in the fight is the air force,’ claimed the captive. ‘Not only do they believe in aviation themselves, aviators but also land forces. If we did not have such aviation, we would not be able to boast similar successes in the West and in the East.’ But when I asked him what he thought about the end of the war, he shrugged his shoulders and replied: ‘As for Russia, the Führer miscalculated. Neither he nor many Germans expected such busy resistance. That's why it's hard for me to say something on the outcome of the war.’”


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