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The Moral Significance of a Commander's Behavior in Battle

Pictured: Personnel review for the period from July 1948 to October 1949 for the head of the printing department of the 9th Mechanized Division of the 3rd Guards Mechanized Army, Colonel Ivan Vasilievich Zhibrik; The final signature page of the attestation with signatures by Army General V. I. Chuikov (top, dated 29 November 1949) and Marshal of the Armed Forces S. I. Bogdanov (bottom, dated 5 January 1950); Generals Chuikov and Bogdanov in Berlin, 1945.

An excerpt from the review: In the position of the head of the political department of the 9th mechanized cadre regiment and the 9th mechanized division, [Zhibrik] has been working since July 1948. During this period of time, he proved himself to be able-bodied… However, in practical work, he has not yet achieved the elimination of emergencies and the reduction of various immoral phenomena, which continue to remain in large numbers in the division… Demanding to himself and his subordinates, he correctly combines his exactingness with concern for the needs and demands of officers and soldiers. In work, he knows how to find the main thing and bring the work started to the end. He approaches the solution of issues in principle and solves them promptly and correctly…

Conclusion: The position of the Chief of the Political Department of the mechanized division corresponds. In view of the lack of a complete political education, it is necessary to send [him] to higher courses...

Translated by Igor Musienko

Marshal Chuikov often spoke of his soldiers’ valor and hailed his subordinate officers and troops and their significant contributions to achieving a massive victory over the Germans in the Great Patriotic War. Marshal of the Armed Forces Bogdanov was no exception, and he and Chuikov forged a close partnership as the Red Army pushed closer to Berlin. Vasily Ivanovich admired his fighting comrade Semyon Ilych, and had the kind of relationship where Bogdanov referred to his Commander as “Vasya,” a diminutive of Vasily, in personal conversation.

During the Great Patriotic War, Colonel-General Bogdanov served as Commander of the 2nd Tank Corps, and was an active, fighting general who was with his troops, mirroring the example of Colonel-General Chuikov. During the offensive in Poland, Soviet tanks broke into Lublin's eastern suburb during the morning of 23 July 1944, clearing it quickly but meeting heavy resistance along the River Vyszczicsa, which splits the city. Under heavy fire from Soviet tanks, numerous German soldiers intent on escaping were killed; the commandant of Lublin was taken prisoner as well. The 3rd Tank Corps had taken control of the northwest suburbs, as well as the Lublin-Warsaw Road, but German resistance continued in the southeast suburbs. John Erickson wrote the following in his book titled The Road to Berlin:

“[Semyon Ilych] Bogdanov decided to go to Maj.-Gen. Vedeneyev’s HQ [3rd Tank Corps] to see for himself, and he learned that only tanks were in action here; Vedeneyev intimated that until the infantry from 57th Brigade came in he could not get the German machine-gunners out of their lairs in the strongly built stone houses. Bogdanov thought that Vedeneyev was dragging his feet, that he overestimated German powers of resistance. He invited him to take a little tour of the town, with a single tank for escort leading the two jeeps holding Bogdanov, Vedeneyev, adjutants, and intelligence officers. Nothing stirred as the tiny convoy moved down deserted streets past burning tanks and smashed German trucks: no shots, no sign of life in any house.

A few yards further on, however, an anti-tank weapon opened fire and disabled the lead tank, killing the crew. Bogdanov gave orders to turn back, but when the jeeps swung round they at once came under more fire which brought Bogdanov’s own jeep to a halt; the Army commander got out and then slumped to the pavement, his shoulder smashed by an explosive bullet. After they had walked more than a mile and a half, the remaining officers fighting off German attempts to trap the party, a Soviet truck picked up the general, whose command passed to Maj.-Gen. A. I. Radzievsky, Chief of Staff to the 2nd Tank Army.”

Marshal Chuikov shed more light on the situation Bogdanov found himself in at Lublin and their brief conversation after his severe injury in his work titled From Stalingrad to Berlin:

“The fact that Bogdanov found himself in the heat of battle was not a surprise to me. This is in his nature: to see everything with his own eyes and lead the troops directly on the battlefield, and not from the deep rear. I did not condemn Bogdanov. The commander will only correctly assess the situation, especially in modern highly maneuverable combat, when he feels the pulse of the battle. Well, sometimes you have to take risks, but it pays off in saving the lives of many soldiers, and success comes with less bloodshed.

We must also take into account the enormous moral significance of a commander's behavior in battle. The fighters, seeing him next to them in the most intense moments, are imbued with greater confidence in victory. The soldiers love such a commander, they are ready to cover him […] and follow him into the most furious fire because they see that he shares all the difficulties with them.

I found Semyon Ilyich at the army hospital north of Lublin. He was about to be evacuated. I asked: ‘Semyon, how are you?’ He, overcoming severe pain, cheerfully responded: ‘Nothing, Vasya, I'll be back soon, and we'll definitely go to Berlin together.’ About two months later he actually returned, and we again moved forward to the Oder, and then to Berlin.”

Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Bogdanov was promoted to Marshal of the Armored Troops on 1 June 1945, and he continued to work together with Chuikov. After the war, he served in Berlin and remained the Commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army for a time. He was eventually reassigned to command the 7th Mechanized Army in Belarus before retiring in 1956.


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