Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The website of the TV channel “Tvzvezda” has published a series of articles on the great Patriotic war of 1941-1945 by writer Leonid Maslovsky, based on his book “Russkaya Pravda”, published in 2011.
In his opinion articles, Maslovsky reveals “the myths of the imaginary foe, Russia, and the events of the great Patriotic war, showing the greatness of our Victory.” The author notes that in his articles he is going to “show the US’ unhelpful role in West Germany’s preparations for war with the USSR”.
In July, 1942, German troops continued their offensive along the Western (right) bank of the Don and sought to reach by all means the big bend of the river. Soviet troops were retreating to the natural boundaries where they could gain a foothold.
In the middle of July the enemy captured Valuyki, Rossosh, Boguchar, Kantemirovka, and Millerovo. Before them the Eastern road began to open – to Stalingrad, and the South road – to the Caucasus.
The battle of Stalingrad is divided into two periods: defensive, from 17th July to 18th November, and offensive, culminating in the elimination of a huge group of the enemy, from 19th November, 1942, to 2nd February, 1943.
The defensive operation began on the distant approaches to Stalingrad. From 17th July the advance of the units of the 62nd and 64th armies during six days gave the enemy a stiff resistance on the boundaries of the Chir and Tsimla Rivers.
Stalin determined in advance where the decisive battles would take place, and told Golovanov at the beginning of July: “The Germans turned to the South. I think, because they were without success at Voronezh, they will go to Stalingrad. Caucasus will not give them anything, there they will not decide the outcome of the war. They want to find the key to Moscow in Stalingrad. I think, there, in that direction, the fate of the war will be decided.”
By the way, Yury Mukhin, on the basis of the fact that the decision taken on 23.01.1942 to build a railroad from Ulyanovsk to Stalingrad, came to the conclusion that Stalin, already in January 1942, decided to lure the Germans into Stalingrad and destroy them there. But this after all is just assumption, although rather reasonable. It is possible to unambiguously say that Stalin foresaw the development of military operations in 1942 and took the appropriate measures to ensure the defeat of the divisions of Germany and her allies at Stalingrad. Construction of a new railroad to Stalingrad was one of the measures taken.
How is it possible, at what point is it necessary to not understand, to not love Russia, to not respect, to seek to lead to oblivion the heroic history of their country, by renaming Stalingrad as Volgograd! Because Stalingrad in 1942 stood in the way of the German hordes as a fortress that was impossible to bypass.
Whether the German forces turned right, to the Caucasus, or to the left, up along the Volga to Moscow, our troops would have hit the Germans in the rear, cutting communication, which likely would have ended in the defeat of the enemy armies. And for the Germans, before being certain to go right or left, it was necessary to first go straight ahead and take Stalingrad. Here such a city bearing the name of Stalin appeared on their way. Like the epic Russian Vityaz, it stood at the crossroads and was guarding the Russian land.
And they were forced to go straight ahead, increasing and increasing their forces along the way. And this road passed through the Don, which was defended by Soviet troops.
In the direction of Stalingrad the Supreme Command of the Stavka, in addition to the existing troops, sent the 62nd, 63rd, and 64th armies from the reserve forward. And on July 12th the Stalingrad front was created under the command of the Marshals of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko, and from 23rd July – the Colonel-General V. N. Gordov.
“In the middle of July, troops of the Stalingrad front were deployed for the defense: the 63rd army of Lieutenant-General V. I. Kuznetsov – on the left bank of the Don from Pavlovsk to Serafimovich; the 21st army of Major-General A. I. Danilov – from Serafimovich to Kletskaya; the 62nd army, Major-General V. Ya. Kolpakchi (soon he would be replaced by Lieutenant General A. I. Lopatin) – to the West of the Don at its big bend on the 100-mile front from Kletskaya to Surovikino.
On the boundary from Surovikino to Verkhne-Kurmoyarskaya, approximately along the meridian directly from the North to the South, the units of the 64th army Lieutenant-General V. I. Chuikov (Chuikov at that time was Deputy commander of the 64th army) arrived, urgently transported by rail from the region of Tula. Further along the Don the 51st army of the southern front, which retreated after 28th July under the command of Major-General T. K. Kolomyets to the North-Caucasian front, took place at the front.
Thus, the Supreme Command in fact had to create a new front on the 500-kilometer strip from Pavlovsk to Verkhne-Kurmoyarskaya in order to stop the enemy and to cover the Stalingrad direction. For this a significant part of the strategic reserves was spent,” wrote A. M. Vasilevsky.
The main forces of the troops of the front were concentrated on the great bend of the Don, where the 62nd and the 64th armies held the defence. The task of the front was to prevent the enemy from crossing the river and to breakthrough by the shortest route towards Stalingrad. The enemy outnumbered Soviet forces in men by 1.7 times, in artillery and tanks – 1.3, in aircraft – more than 2 times.
All attempts by German forces to break through our defenses were destroyed by our defending armies. The fight for the main line of defense on the 520 kilometer-long front, where 62nd and the 64th armies were holding the defence, began on 23rd July 1942.
On the evening of 23rd July, Stalin sent a telegram to Gordov: “The enemy, by dropping its units in the area of Tsimla, diverted our attention to the South, while at this time they slowly brought its main force to the right flank of the front… Don’t pay attention to diversions and tricks of the enemy in the region of Tsimla, transfer all strike forces to the right flank of the front… Keep in mind, if the enemy break through the right flank and approaches the Don in the region of Gumrak or more to the North, it will cut your railway connection with the North. Therefore, the right flank of your front I consider now to be decisive.”
The Germans tried by smothering the attacks on the flanks of our Soviet troops on the great bend of the Don to surround them, to reach the area of Kalach, and from the West to break through to Stalingrad.
On the 23rd of July, the chief of the Headquarters Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Vasilevsky was sent to the Stalingrad region as a representative of the Stavka, and on the same day arrived at the Stalingrad front.
But the battle did not develop in our favor: on 25th July, German forces broke through the defences on the right flank of the 62nd army, came to the Don in Kamenskaya, surrounded our three infantry divisions and a tank brigade, and threatened the capture of the crossings over the Don, and the surrounding of all the troops of the 62nd and 64th armies.
On the night of July 26th, Stalin sent via returning to Moscow Vasilevsky a warning to Gordov: “Stavka categorically demands from the Military Council of the front… to do everything in order to immediately eliminate the enemy that broke through and restore the situation.”
On the same day, Stalin once again issued a Directive Gordovo: “The actions of the commandment of the Stalingrad front evokes the indignation of the Supreme Command of the Stavka… Stavka demands that in the nearest days the Stalingrad boundary – defensive line from Kletskaya to Kalmyk – to be unconditionally restored, and that the enemy is driven back behind the line of the River Chir. If the Military Council of the front is not capable of this, let them say so directly and honestly.”
On the 27th of July, Stalin prepared the text of the famous order No. 227. On the 28th of July, 1942, order No. 227 of the people’s Commissar of defense of I. V. Stalin was signed and immediately sent to the troops.
A.M. Vasilevsky wrote: “Order No. 227 – one of the most powerful documents of the war years by its deep patriotic content, by the degree of emotional tension… In this order we were primarily attracted to its social and moral content. It drew attention to the severity of truth, by its impartiality of the conversation of the people’s Commissar and the Supreme Commander I. V. Stalin with Soviet soldiers, ranging from ordinary soldiers to commanders.
Reading it, each of us thought about if we give all our forces to fight. We were aware that the rigidity and the categoricalness of demands of this order was on behalf of the Motherland, the nation. And it was important not what measure of punishment will be introduced, though this had importance, but the fact that it raised the consciousness of the responsibility of soldiers for the fate of their socialist Fatherland. And those disciplinary measures that were imposed by the order ceased to be an indispensable and imperative necessity already before the transition of Soviet troops in the counteroffensive at Stalingrad and the encirclement of the German-fascist groups on the banks of the Volga.”
Volumes of blasphemous inventions about this order were written, and honest researchers were so intimidated that almost none of them publish its complete contents, probably believing that its full contents discredits the Soviet government, Stalin, and our victory. I can’t agree with such an opinion.
This order shows the severity of the situation in July 1942, the Soviet government’s honesty, sincerity in conversation with the nation, the unity of the people in their aspirations, ability in the final hour to summon fighters to stand to the death and to insist to stand to the death for their Motherland, even cowards and unscrupulous men. So here is the full text of the order, and let the reader themselves appreciate this severe document.
At the time when this order was being written, in Siberia they were digging huge pits and the oil from the wells of Maikop, Grozny, and Baku were being poured in them, because we were not sure we will be able to defend these cities. And without oil, as is known, the army could not fight, because the cars, tanks, planes, and other equipment would cease to work. But it is unlikely that the activities to accumulate oil reserves could save the army and Motherland.
In July and in subsequent months in the defense of Stalingrad, the fate of the whole country was being decided, of the whole nation, of the whole war. I think that in case of victory the Germans wouldn’t leave any of the citizens of the USSR alive. They would bring slaves from other countries, because Russian slaves would always remember whose land it is.
In my opinion, this order was awaited also in the army. Someone had to tell the truth and to take measures on increasing the level of discipline in the army. And the measures taken by the Soviet government in relation to the retreating army, on its level of severity do no compare with the measures taken by the government of Germany during the retreat of the German troops in the winter of 1941–1942.
“Not one step back!” – how the order was called among the people. In order No. 227 of the people’s Commissar of defense of the USSR of I. V. Stalin stated: “Each commander, Red Army soldier and political commissar should understand that our means are not limitless. The territory of the Soviet state is not a desert, but people – workers, peasants, intelligentsia, our fathers, mothers, wives, brothers, children. The territory of the USSR which the enemy has captured and aims to capture is bread and other products for the army, metal and fuel for industry, factories, plants supplying the army with arms and ammunition, railroads.
After the loss of Ukraine, Belarus, Baltic republics, Donetzk, and other areas we have much less territory, much fewer people, bread, metal, plants and factories. We have lost more than 70 million people, more than 800 million pounds of bread annually and more than 10 million tons of metal annually. Now we do not have predominance over the Germans in human reserves, in reserves of bread. To retreat further – means to waste ourselves and to waste at the same time our Motherland.
Therefore it is necessary to eliminate talk that we have the capability endlessly to retreat, that we have a lot of territory, that our country is great and rich, that there is a large population, and that bread always will be abundant. Such talk is false and parasitic, it weakens us and benefits the enemy, if we do not stop retreating we will be without bread, without fuel, without metal, without raw material, without factories and plants, without railroads. This leads to the conclusion, it is time to finish retreating.
Not one step back! Such should now be our main slogan. It is necessary to defend each position, each meter of our territory, up to the last drop of blood, to cling for each plot of Soviet land and to defend it as long as possible.
Our Motherland is experiencing hard days. We must stop, and then to throw back and smash the enemy regardless of cost. The Germans are not so strong, as it seems to the panic-mongers. They strain their last forces. To withstand their impact now, means to ensure our victory in some months.
Can we withstand the impact, and then throw back the enemy to the west? Yes we can, because our factories and plants in the rear are fine and our army receives ever more and more airplanes, tanks, artillery and mortars.
What are we missing? There is no order and discipline in companies, battalions, regiments, in tank units and air squadrons. This is our main deficiency. We should establish in our army the most stringent order and solid discipline, if we want to salvage the situation, and to keep our Motherland.
It is impossible to tolerate commanders and commissars permitting units to leave their positions. It is impossible to tolerate commanders and commissars who admit that some panic-mongers determined the situation on the field of combat and carried away in departure other soldiers and opened the front to the enemy.
The panic-mongers and cowards should be exterminated on the spot. Henceforth the solid law of discipline for each commander, Red Army soldier, and commissar should be the requirement – not a single step back without order from higher command.
Company, battalion, regiment and division – commanders and appropriate commissars, who retreat without orders from higher commanders, are betrayers of the Motherland.
These are the orders of our Motherland. To execute this order – means to defend our lands, to save the Motherland, to exterminate and to conquer the hated enemy. After the winter retreat under pressure of the Red Army, when in German troops discipline became loose, the Germans for recovery of discipline imposed severe measures which resulted in quite good outcomes.
They formed 100 penal companies from soldiers who were guilty of breaches of discipline because of cowardice or bewilderment, put them at dangerous sections of the front and commanded them to redeem their sins by blood. They have also formed approximately ten penal battalions from commanders guilty of breaches of discipline through cowardice or bewilderment, deprived them of their decorations, transferred them to even more dangerous sections of the front and commanded them to redeem their sins.
Finally, they have formed special squads and put them behind unstable divisions and ordered them to shoot panic-mongers in case of unauthorized retreats or attempted surrender. As we know, these measures were effective, and now German troops fight better than they fought in the winter. And here is the situation, that the German troops have good discipline, though they do not have the high purpose of protection of the Motherland, and have only one extortionate purpose – to subdue another’s country, and our troops have the higher purpose of protecting the abused Motherland, and do not have such discipline and so suffer defeat.
Is it necessary for us to learn from our enemies, as our grandparents studied their enemies in the past and achieved victory? I think it is necessary.
The Supreme General Headquarters of the Red Army commands:
1. Military councils of the fronts and first of all front commanders should:
a) Unconditionally eliminate retreat moods in the troops and with a firm hand bar propaganda that we can and should retreat further east, and that such retreat will cause no harm;
b) Unconditionally remove from their posts and send to the High Command for court-martial those army commanders who have allowed unauthorized troop withdrawals from occupied positions, without the order of the Front command.
c) Form within each Front from one up to three (depending on the situation) penal battalions (800 persons) where commanders and high commanders and appropriate commissars of all service arms who have been guilty of a breach of discipline due to cowardice or bewilderment will be sent, and put them on more difficult sectors of the front to give them an opportunity to redeem by blood their crimes against the Motherland.
2. Military councils of armies and first of all army commanders should;
a) Unconditionally remove from their offices corps and army commanders and commissars who have accepted troop withdrawals from occupied positions without the order of the army command, and route them to the military councils of the fronts for court-martial;
b) Form within the limits of each army 3 to 5 well-armed defensive squads (up to 200 persons in each), and put them directly behind unstable divisions and require them in case of panic and scattered withdrawals of elements of the divisions to shoot in place panic-mongers and cowards and thus help the honest soldiers of the division execute their duty to the Motherland;
c) Form within the limits of each army up to ten (depending on the situation) penal companies (from 150 to 200 persons in each) where ordinary soldiers and low ranking commanders who have been guilty of a breach of discipline due to cowardice or bewilderment will be routed, and put them at difficult sectors of the army to give them an opportunity to redeem by blood their crimes against the Motherland.
3. Commanders and commissars of corps and divisions should;
a) Unconditionally remove from their posts commanders and commissars of regiments and battalions who have accepted unwarranted withdrawal of their troops without the order of the corps or division commander, take from them their orders and medals and route them to military councils of fronts for court-martial;
b) Render all help and support to the defensive squads of the army in their business of strengthening order and discipline in the units.
This order is to be read in all companies, cavalry squadrons, batteries, squadrons, commands and headquarters.”
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