No. 21June 8, 2019
Attempts to Sow
All Those Who Fought Together to
Allied casualties are helped ashore on the beaches of Normandy, France
Operation Bagration, D-Day of
the Eastern Front
- John Wight -
• The Road
- Stan Winer -
75th Anniversary of D-Day
June 6 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6,
Britain and the U.S. opened a second front against Nazi Germany with a
massive amphibious assault on the beaches of Normandy in occupied
France. The Soviet Union, fighting with incredible resilience and
sacrifice to the east, had long-awaited this development promised
by its allies. It made its own contribution to D-Day with the
coordinated Operation Bagration on the eastern front.
This year, the representatives of Britain, the U.S.,
France, Canada and others attending the main ceremonies in France, were
more boorish than ever in assigning the victory over fascism to
themselves and making no mention of the Soviet Union whatsoever. Their
refusal to acknowledge all those who contributed to the defeat of
fascism in World War II, conspicuously ignoring the role of the Soviet
Union and the Red Army, brings them no honour. Nay more, it causes
great offence to all those who sacrificed so much to defeat fascism in
their own countries as well.
For his part, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who attended the
ceremonies in Europe, issued a D-Day statement that referred to the
Allied forces, but totally omitted any mention of the Soviet Union, a
key member of the Allies. The statement concluded, without irony, with
the line "Lest we forget."
These attempts to sow divisions today dishonour all
fought against fascism, a victory that was only possible because of the
tremendous sacrifice of the Soviet peoples acting together with the
U.S., Britain and others, a victory that was hastened by D-Day. Such
disinformation is not only self-serving but constitutes malicious
by the Anglo-American imperialists, intended to portray their
present-day imperialist war and aggression as akin to the anti-fascist
struggle, and the essential factor for world peace and stability.
At the same time, the peoples of the former Soviet
proudly celebrate their unparalleled contributions to the defeat of
fascism on Victory Day, May 9, in a magnanimous spirit in which
everyone's contributions are acknowledged and everyone is invited to
take part in the worldwide marches of the Immortal Regiment. This is
portrayed by bourgeois media, especially in the U.S., as "pro-Russian"
and "militaristic," and therefore unacceptable.
The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the Nazi aggression
War II. Who if not the Red Army veterans and their descendants have a
right to have these sacrifices acknowledged and commemorated?
As TML Weekly
pointed out on the occasion of V-E Day, "Today it is commonplace to
hear the Anglo-American and European imperialists dismiss the feats of
the Soviet peoples in defeating Hitler, while claiming that it was the
historic landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944, which broke Hitler's
back. This makes it possible to claim that the United States played the
decisive role in saving the world from Hitlerism and describing current
U.S. wars of aggression and occupation as wars of liberation. All U.S.
military interventions since the landing at Normandy are said to oppose
dictatorships and tyrannies similar to Hitler's, thus faithfully
following in the tradition of the landing at Normandy."
In light of the unacceptable disrespect to the Soviet
and Red Army veterans that unfolded at the commemoration of the 75th
anniversary of D-Day, remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
in a June 5 article in Foreign Affairs Magazine, are all the
more pointed. He noted:
"Bitter as it is to witness, we see the attempts to
heroes, to artificially generate doubts about the correctness of the
path our ancestors followed. Both abroad and in our country we hear
that public consciousness in Russia is being militarized, and Victory
Day parades and processions are nothing other than imposing bellicose
militaristic sentiment at the state level. By doing so, Russia is
allegedly rejecting humanism and the values of the 'civilized' world.
Whereas European nations, they claim, have chosen to forget about the
'past grievances,' come to terms with each other and are 'tolerantly'
building 'forward-looking relations.'
"Our detractors seek to diminish the role of the Soviet
World War II and portray it, if not as the main culprit of the war,
at least as an aggressor, along with Nazi Germany, and spread the
theses about 'equal responsibility.' They cynically equate Nazi
occupation, which claimed tens of millions of lives, and the crimes
by collaborationists, with the Red Army's liberating mission. Monuments
are erected in honour of Nazi henchmen. At the same time, monuments to
liberator soldiers and the graves of fallen soldiers are desecrated and
destroyed in some countries. As you may recall, the Nuremberg Tribunal,
whose rulings became an integral part of international
law, clearly identified who was on the side of good and who was on the
side of evil. In the first case, it was the Soviet Union, which
sacrificed millions of lives of its sons and daughters to the altar of
Victory, as well as other Allied nations. In the second case, it was
the Third Reich, the Axis countries and their minions, including in the
"We hold sacred the contribution of all the Allies to
Victory in that war, and we believe any attempts to drive a wedge
between us are disgraceful. But no matter how hard the falsifiers of
history try, the fire of truth cannot be put out. It was the peoples of
the Soviet Union who broke the backbone of the Third Reich. That is a
Posted below are articles presenting a
the Red Army's Operation Bagration, notable events at this year's
commemoration of D-Day, as well as an item that details the
prevarications and ulterior motives that characterized the U.S. and
British participation throughout World War II, including D-Day.
Map of Operation Bagration, showing the massive westward thrust of the
Operation Bagration was the D-Day of the Eastern Front.
size, scale and impact, it was a remarkable feat of arms unmatched in
Crucially, Overlord (D-Day) and Bagration were planned
undertaken as part of a coordinated effort on the part of the Grand
Alliance to break the back of German resistance in Europe with a
determination that was equally held by the Soviets, British and
Americans to force the unconditional surrender of Hitler's Germany.
In his book Stalin's
Wars, Geoffrey Roberts reveals
plans for Operation Bagration were closely co-ordinated with
Anglo-American preparations for the launch of the long-awaited Second
Front in France. The Soviets were informed of the approximate date of
D-Day in early April and, on 18 April, Stalin cabled Roosevelt and
Churchill that, 'as agreed in Tehran, the Red Army will launch a new
offensive at the same time so as to give maximum support to the
Though both operations were of immense military and
importance, Bagration dwarfed Overlord. It began on June 22, the third
anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, with air
attacks on enemy artillery positions and concentrations, guided by
partisan units operating behind German lines.
The main offensive began on June 23 along a 500-mile
front, involving close to two million troops.
Operation Bagration was designed to complement D-Day,
to effect the
liberation of the Soviet territory from the Nazis and destroy the
Wehrmacht as a serious fighting force in the East. It achieved all
three of these objectives and more.
As British historian and author David Reynolds points
out: "In five
weeks the Red Army advanced 450 miles, driving through Minsk to the
outskirts of Warsaw and tearing the guts out of Hitler's Army Group
Centre. Nearly 20 German divisions were totally destroyed and another
50 severely mauled -- an even worse disaster than Stalingrad."
He goes on: "This stunning Soviet success occurred while Overlord was
still stuck in the hedges and lanes of Normandy."
The famed Soviet journalist and author, Vasily
collection of wartime journalism, A
Writer At War, is a classic work
that should be required reading for those interested in the reality of
war and conflict, describes with customary force and power the human
toll of the Soviet offensive:
"Sometimes you are so shaken by what you've seen," he
writes in one
report from the front, "blood rushes from your heart, and you know that
the terrible sight that your eyes have just taken in is going to haunt
you and lie heavily on your soul all your life." He continues:
"Corpses, hundreds and thousands of them, pave the road, lie in
ditches, under the pines, in the green barley. In some places, vehicles
have to drive over the corpses, so densely they lie upon the ground."
Despite the coordination of Operation Bagration with
despite the former's ineffable military and strategic importance, not
one mention was made of it during the 75th D-Day anniversary
commemorations in Northern France. Such a glaring and unconscionable
omission stands as just one of many shameful examples of historical
amnesia on the part of Western governments and ideologues in recent
years -- people more concerned with politicizing history than they are
with respecting it.
Left: Tanks and other vehicles are abandoned by the Nazis as they flee
the Red Army during Operation Bagration in Belarus, July 1944. Right:
Some 57,000 German prisoners of war, captured during an encirclement
east of Minsk are paraded through Moscow, July 15, 1944.
The valour and courage of the 156,000 troops who landed
Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944 is not in question, nor is that of the
thousands of sailors, airmen, and airborne troops who also took part in
D-Day. Operation Overlord was, and will likely remain, the largest
amphibious military assault ever mounted. In terms of its ambition,
planning and the coordination of the combined military forces of the
multiple nations involved, it deserves the place in military history
that it commands.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin more than understood the
achievement of D-Day, which he set out in a congratulatory telegram to
Roosevelt and Churchill at the time:
"As is evident, the landing, conceived on a grandiose
succeeded completely. My colleagues and I cannot but admit that the
history of warfare knows no other like undertaking from the point of
view of its scale, its vast conception, and its masterly execution."
Wind things forward 75 years and the parlous quality of
statesmanship in the West, with the open violation of the spirit of the
Grand Alliance between East and West that is enshrined in Stalin's
telegram, has never been more lamentable. For example, French President
Emmanuel Macron served up a speech in commemoration of D-Day that
drew deep from the well of Western exceptionalism. In lauding NATO and
the European Union as positive achievements of the war, he confirmed
how deeply entrenched the malaise of historical amnesia runs in Western
The notion that the men who gave their lives on D-Day,
thereafter in Europe on the way to war's end in 1945, did so in order
to give birth to a continent dependent on Washington and in fear of
Moscow, is preposterous. The devastation that Russia suffered in the
war, moreover, the magnitude of losses the country incurred, demands
respect and reverence of everyone interested in drawing the right
lessons from this epic struggle of world-historical importance.
It is for this reason that the decision not to extend
to Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the 75th D-Day
anniversary celebrations is both a travesty and evidence of the gulf
that exists between those for whom history is a guide and those for
whom it is a weapon.
A Europe liberated from fascism but divided by a Cold
shattered forever the hopes for a lasting and enduring peace of equals
-- for global stability and cooperation reflected in the war's Grand
Alliance between East and West -- is nothing to celebrate. It reminds
that, although so much was sacrificed and won by so many during the
war, so much was thrown away and lost by so few after it.
Operation Bagration and Operation Overlord should never
of separately. Both were mounted at the same stage in the war by a
Grand Alliance that contained within it the seeds of a future that, if
it had come to pass, would've met the scale of the sacrifice needed to
The last word goes to Vasily Grossman: "Nearly everyone
that good would triumph, that honest men, who hadn't hesitated to
sacrifice their lives, would be able to build a good and just life."
John Wight has written for a variety of newspapers
including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch,
London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal.
1. Operation Bagration was named
after Pyotr Bagration (1765-1812), a Russian general of Georgian
origin. He was known for being innovative and creative in his tactics
to find the particular approach required by a given situation, as well
as for the great importance he gave to the training, education and
discipline of troops, and to ensuring their well-being.
Excerpted from "If Truth Be Told:
Subversion in an Age Turned Unheroic"
British commandos land at Gold Beach on D-Day.
With the invasion of Normandy on D-Day on June 6, 1944
terms of warfare in occupied France ceased to be ostensibly those
of Hitler and became clearly those of the Allied Expeditionary
Force. The cross-channel build-up provided it with at least twice
the number of men, four times the number of tanks, and six times
the number of aircraft available to the enemy.
On D-day itself the Germans had mustered only 319
against 12,837 of the Western Allies whose military strength soon
increased to the point where they had effective superiority of 20
to one in tanks and 25 to one in aircraft. Yet, despite its vast
numerical superiority and other advantages in its favour, the
offensive of the Allied Expeditionary Force was characterised by
restraint. Compared with the Russians, who still bore the brunt
of fighting on the eastern front, the invading force was merely
playing about. It had 91 full-strength divisions facing Germany's
60 weak divisions whose overall strength was roughly equal to
only 26 complete divisions. The invasion force, consisting of
British, American and Canadian troops, thus engaged less than a
third of the total number of German divisions in France, while
the Red Army engaged 185 enemy divisions in the east. For every
German division engaged by the Western armies, the Red Army met
three. In terms of armoured units alone, of the roughly 5,000
tanks available to Germany, more than 4,000 were deployed on the
eastern front. So
obvious was the disparity, most of the German divisions having
been deployed to fight Russia on the eastern front, that in real
terms a western front hardly even existed.
The invading force's lethargic ground offensive was
characterised by such obvious restraint as to cause bitter
resentment within some of the top-most British military echelons.
In the words of Major General John Kennedy, then Assistant Chief
of the General Staff: "For six weeks or so, (after the invasion)
the Germans did not attempt or even desire to move their
divisions in the Pas de Calais or elsewhere towards the scene of
action in Normandy." The
West's failure to launch a concerted ground attack on the enemy
was similarly noted by the British Vice-Chief of General Staff,
General Sir David Fraser: "For a little while -- a few weeks of
August and September (1944) -- the Western Front was open, and a
determined effort on our part might have finished the war, with
incalculable strategic and political consequences, and with a
saving of the huge number of casualties suffered later ... it was
the last chance to seize this great strategic opportunity. It
failed, and the war went on."
In Holland, General Montgomery's stated objective in
1944 was for British and American tanks and paratroopers to
capture bridges across various canals and rivers. But crucial
intelligence derived from Ultra intercepts and decrypts, and from
agents providing detailed reports of enemy movements and
reinforcements in the area, was either ignored or did not reach
Montgomery. On September 17 two American and one British airborne
divisions were dropped as an "airborne carpet" between Eindhoven
and Arnhem. A ground link-up was to have been affected with
Montgomery's 21st Army Group within two to three days. The agreed
plan was that once the lower Rhine was crossed, operations would
then be expanded against the Ruhr to bring an early end to the
war. Over 7,000 men, more than two thirds of the 1st Airborne
Division, were dropped in the Arnhem area, where British
intelligence had indicated only a maximum opposition of brigade
strength. The enemy's reaction was one of astonishment at their
good fortune. Arnhem and its environs had been chosen by the
Germans as a suitable place in which to refit two entire
divisions of the 2nd SS Panzer Corps, which were available
immediately to contest the landings. Their reaction was swift and
without mercy: At the key Arnhem bridge, 1,200 British
paratroopers -- the cream of the British Army -- were killed and
more than 3,000 taken prisoner.
An Overall Debacle in Holland
Allied paratroop drop in the Netherlands, part of Operation Market
That was only the start of an overall debacle in
resulting in a total Allied loss exceeding 17,000 killed, wounded
and missing in action.
Scarce air transport resources had been diverted from useful
operations elsewhere to the disastrous paratroop drop at Arnhem.
The Commander in Chief of 2nd Tactical Air Force, Air Marshal
Arthur Coningham complained bitterly that "the freezing of air
transport during a week of fine weather, with ample ground
suitable for landings, when the American and British armies were
only halted through lack of fuel and ammunition supply, was the
decisive factor in preventing our armies reaching the Rhine
before the onset of winter." A
further eight months would pass before Arnhem
was finally captured -- just a month before the war in Europe
ended. Montgomery, soon to be promoted to Field-Marshal and for
the sake of immediate press reaction, described the disaster at
Arnhem as "a 90 per cent success" -- drawing from Prince Bernhard
of the Netherlands the bitter retort: "My country can never again
afford the luxury of a Montgomery success."
There were similar "successes" occurring elsewhere along
western front. In Belgium, where the stated intention of Supreme
Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) was to capture
the crucial maritime port of Antwerp, SHAEF disregarded explicit
intelligence warnings that the Germans were about to secure the
approaches to the port. The invading force, failing to move
swiftly on the offensive before the Germans completed defence
preparations, ended up with Antwerp rendered entirely useless to
them for the next six months. This made it impossible for an
immediate advance on the Ruhr or on Berlin, which would have been
practicable only if Montgomery's 40 divisions could be supplied
Virtually the same kind of deliberate stalling,
and prolongation of the war had occurred months earlier at Anzio
in Italy, where the Germans were wholly unprepared for amphibious
landings. Excellent conditions had existed here for providing
substantial relief to the Red Army on the eastern front by
launching a determined Allied thrust northwards through Italy.
SHAEF clearly ignored available intelligence showing conditions
to be ideal for an immediate and unopposed advance on Rome.
Instead, the military command waited until the Germans had
organised an effective defence and counter-attack. The New
Zealand and Indian contingents of the landing force took
particularly heavy casualties, with the enemy then retiring north
of Rome in good order. There the Germans established a new and
unyielding line in Tuscany where the Italian campaign would drag
on for at least another year, at a cost of many more courageous
Allied lives sacrificed on the altar of deception.
The Battle of the Bulge
U.S. troops at the Battle of the Bulge.
A final debacle in the patterned distribution of epic
intelligence "failures" and unheroic command decisions occurred
in December 1944, when the invading force failed to anticipate
the December 1944 German offensive in the Ardennes -- the Battle
of the Bulge, where the Germans inflicted major casualties on the
Anglo-American armies and nearly halted the Allied advance in its
tracks. Field Marshal Albrecht Kesselring was later to reveal
that Germany's 10th Army, the defending force in Italy, was so
unprepared that it would have been virtually annihilated had the
Western Allies immediately advanced their attack once a
beach-head was established.
With the command structure of the Allied Expeditionary
thus masquerading as "liberators" while actually prolonging the
war, Churchill was busily engaged behind the scenes in
intervening persistently in the Anglo-American nuclear weapons
project. He continually spurred the Los Alamos scientists to more
vigorous efforts in producing an atomic bomb before the Russians
single-handedly won the war in Europe. Churchill could count on
the unwavering support of Roosevelt who was fully prepared,
hopeful even, to use the atomic bomb against Germany. The Red Army's momentous
breakthrough into eastern Germany, and its inexorable advance on
Berlin, then in progress, threatened to turn into reality not
only the worst fears of Hitler but also those of the Western
leadership. Britain's Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden had in 1941
already warned that Russian prestige at the end of the war would
be so great that "the establishment of communist governments in
the majority of European countries would be greatly
fears had also been conveyed to Churchill by his South African
ally, General Jan Smuts, who complained in 1943:
"I have the uncomfortable feeling that the scale and
our land operations leaves much to be desired ... Almost all the
honours on land go to the Russians, and deservedly so,
considering the scale and speed of their fighting and the
magnificence of their strategy on a vast front. Surely our
performance can be bettered and the comparison with Russia
rendered less unflattering to us? To the ordinary man it must
appear that it is Russia who is winning the war. If this
impression continues, what will be our post-war world position
compared with that of Russia? A tremendous shift in our world
status may follow, and leave Russia the diplomatic master of the
world. This is both unnecessary and undesirable, and would have
especially bad reactions for the British Commonwealth."
Similar fears had been expressed to Roosevelt in
his Chiefs of Staff who warned the American president in August
1944: "The end of the war will produce a change in the pattern of
military strength more comparable ... with that occasioned by the
fall of Rome than with any other change during the succeeding
fifteen hundred years."
The Destruction of Dresden
Neither Smuts nor the American Chiefs of Staff would
aware, as Churchill and Roosevelt were, of the secret nuclear
weapons project then nearing completion, and which would
guarantee for them the achievement of post-war political goals in
Europe. The atomic bomb, however, had not yet been tested, and
with few urban dwellings left to set on fire in western Germany,
Churchill and the bomber barons needed another means by which to
demonstrate at close quarters to the Russians an uncontested
margin of military if not moral superiority over them. The fate
of Dresden was sealed. Although the city was only of very minor
importance to the overall German war effort, it lay conveniently
across the Red Army's direct line of advance to Berlin. Famous
for its china and architecture, Dresden was also the largest of
very few civilian areas remaining intact in the whole of
Germany. It also
happened to be crowded with large numbers of civilian refugees
who had fled from bombing in other parts of Germany, its
population of 600,000 having more than doubled to 1,250,000.
Since January 26, 1945 special trains had delivered thousands of
evacuees to the city, most recently on the afternoon of February
12, while thousands more arrived on foot or in horse-drawn
carts. What followed
was to be one of the most senseless acts of savagery ever known
In the early hours of February 14, Ash Wednesday, a
778 RAF heavy bombers began the attack. The following day the
Americans attacked with almost as many aircraft again. They
somehow managed to overlook the fact that 26,000 Allied prisoners
of war were imprisoned in the suburbs of Dresden. When the last
of the bombers departed, the open spaces on the banks of the Elbe
were piled with the bodies of civilians who flocked to the river
in search of escape from the heat and then drowned. The bodies of
many others were glued to the surface of streets where the tarmac
had melted and then solidified as the firestorm engulfed 11
square miles -- an area much larger than that destroyed at
Hamburg. About 75 per cent of all property was gutted completely
as temperatures soared to around 1,000 degrees
Centigrade. Apart from
the many victims it incinerated immediately, thousands more died
in air raid shelters as the firestorm sucked out oxygen which was
replaced with poisonous fumes. About 50,000 civilians were killed
-- around 10,000 more than those who perished in the Hamburg
firestorm, and 20,000 more than those killed during the entire
eight-months "blitz" on Britain. Countless numbers of people were
rendered homeless. Bomber Command casualties were negligible --
Germany's earlier loss of France to the Allied Expeditionary
Force had created a gaping hole in Hitler's early-warning radar
system, providing the RAF with unchallenged operational
Astonishingly, almost unbelievably, Dresden was attacked
on March 2, this time by the Americans alone. Mustang fighter
escorts machine-gunned fleeing civilians while the heavy B-17s
achieved the singular distinction of sinking a hospital ship on
the Elbe, filled with injured from the earlier raids.
Aftermath of the 1945 bombing of Dresden, Germany by Allied forces.
Dresden did not contain any oil refineries or synthetic
plants, unlike Brux to the south, or Bohlen, Ruhland and Politz
which remained untouched, to the north and west of the doomed
city. Nor did Dresden appear on any list of priority targets
issued weekly by the Combined Strategic Targets Committee. Any
military justification for the American and the British raids was
non-existent, damage in terms of "war production" being confined
solely to the German cigar and cigarette industry. Nor did the destruction of
Dresden disrupt or delay the Red Army's continued, rapid advance
on Berlin from the east. This probably came as something of a
disappointment to Royal Air Force Marshal Sir Arthur Harris who had
issued briefing notes to Bomber
Command aircrews stating modestly that an "incidental" purpose of
the massed aerial attack on Dresden was to show the Russians,
then just a few miles from Dresden, "what Bomber Command can
do." The inference to
be drawn from this is that Harris, at the behest of Churchill,
wished to convey to the Russians a vivid impression of the West's
overwhelming superiority in long-distance aerial bombardment and
the ability of British and American aircraft to demolish an
entire city in the space of just a few hours. Indeed, the
demolition of Dresden may be interpreted as an act of outright
intimidation stopping just short of direct military operations
against the USSR.
The destruction of Dresden had been recommended by
"with the particular object of exploiting the confused conditions
which are likely to exist ... during the successful Russian
advance." Before the
massacre, No.1 Group, Bomber Command, had been told during
pre-flight briefing that Dresden was to be bombed because it was
"a railway centre"; No.3 Group was duped into believing it would
be attacking "a German army headquarters"; No.6 Group was
misinformed that Dresden was "an important industrial area,
producing chemicals and munitions"; some squadrons were
deceptively assured that Dresden contained a Gestapo headquarters
and a large poison-gas plant; another Group was given the
impression that the bombers would be breaching the defences of a
"fortress city" essential to the Germans in their fight against
the advancing Russians.
Whatever impression the Russians themselves might have
from taking possession of a ruined city after having witnessed at
close quarters the destructive potential of the West's
long-distance bombers, this was probably not what the Red Army
had in mind when on February 4, 10 days before the Dresden
atrocity, it had conveyed to the Western Allies an urgent
request. The Red Army's Deputy Chief of Staff, Marshal Antonov
had specifically asked the Western Allies as a matter of urgent
priority to cripple the transportation system in eastern Germany.
The request was reiterated by Marshal Khudyakov, Chief of the
Soviet Air Staff. Both commanders urgently wished to prevent
enemy troop movements toward the eastern front, particular
reference being made by Khudyakov to the necessity of preventing
the movement by road and rail of German reinforcements from
Italy. The request was
ignored. Dresden's crowded Dresden-Klotzsche airfield remained
unscathed, and the railway marshalling yards were similarly
Yet highly advanced and extremely accurate ground-attack
fighter-bombers and dive-bombers of the Anglo-American 2nd
Tactical Air Force, then dispersed at various airfields in newly
liberated Belgium, Holland and France, were readily available for
such a task. Armed with rockets, light bombs and heavy machine
guns, they had the easy capability to destroy German road and
rail communications and generally harass the German armed forces
deep in eastern Germany, without indiscriminately slaughtering
civilians. So under-utilised was 2nd Tactical Air Force during
these closing stages of the war that many of its aircraft were
left neatly parked next to unprotected runways in Allied occupied
territory where they were systematically destroyed on the ground
by remnants of the Luftwaffe. In just one such raid, 200
brand-new fighter-bombers of the 2nd Tactical Air Force were
destroyed at an airfield in Belgium, without any loss to the
The highly-decorated 2nd Tactical Air Force commander,
Chief-Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, was at the centre of a
bitter row with Britain's war planners over the merits of
combined tactical operations in support of Allied ground forces,
and "strategic" bombing conducted independently of combined
argument came to an abrupt end shortly after the destruction of
Dresden, when Sir Trafford was suddenly transferred to the Far
East. He was mysteriously killed when the aircraft that was
transporting him to India crashed in the French Alps. The exact
cause of the crash was never officially established.
Churchill warned him to be "very careful ... not to
we ever did anything not justified by the circumstances..."
As for events in eastern Germany immediately after the
attacks, a blinding deference for the official version ensured
that the British Broadcasting Corporation reported on 14 February
that RAF and American bombers had "raided places of utmost
importance to the Germans in their struggle against the Russians,
notably at Dresden."
One press officer at Supreme HQ Allied Expeditionary Force was
rather more forthcoming. In an "off the record" comment to war
correspondents, a certain Air Commodore Grierson confirmed for
the first time that the Allied plan in eastern Germany was to
"bomb large population centres and then to prevent relief
supplies from reaching and refugees from leaving them".
Associated Press swiftly cabled this news to the world at large.
The British censors reacted promptly, imposing a general
clampdown on the report.
A massacre of such magnitude as occurred at Dresden,
was difficult to hide indefinitely. During a debate in the House
of Commons on 6 March, the irrepressible Labour MP for Ipswich,
Richard Stokes, quoted the Associated Press report and a German
account which had appeared in the previous day's Manchester
Guardian. For the first time the expression "terror bombing" was
used in Parliament when Stokes complained:
"... you will find people in the Army and Air Force
against this mass and indiscriminate slaughter from the air ...
Leaving aside strategic bombing, which I question very much, and
tactical bombing, with which I agree if it is done with a
reasonable degree of accuracy, there is no case whatever under
any conditions in my view, for terror bombing." Air Minister Sir Archibald
Sinclair left it to his deputy to reply to the debate. The
relatively obscure Under-Secretary assured the House: "We are not
wasting bombers or time purely on terror tactics. It does not do
the Honourable Member justice to ... suggest that there are a lot
of Air Marshals or pilots ... sitting in a room thinking how many
German women and children they can kill."
Barely a week later on March 11, more than 1,000 of
bombers carried out a heavy daylight raid on Essen, unleashing
4,700 tonnes of bombs which destroyed the city almost completely.
On 12 March, Dortmund became the target of the heaviest of all
raids in Europe so far when 1,107 bombers dropped 4,851 tonnes of
bombs on the already almost completely destroyed city. German war production in the
period between January and the time of Germany's capitulation in
May was reduced by a mere 1.2 per cent.
British Intelligence analysts would have been
well aware of this anomaly, given that Ultra had since 1944 been
providing them with a great deal of reliable information about
the German economy.
While these final atrocities were taking place under the
banners of "halting German war production" and "helping the
Russians", Churchill took great pains to obscure the fact that
the true fulcrum of air power lay neither with the Directorate of
Bombing Operations, nor with the Air Ministry or the Chiefs of
Staff, but solely with himself, Harris and a small cabal of
handpicked confidants. Official documents suppressed for many
years in the British archives but now available to researchers,
contain a reproachful minute dated March 28 from Churchill to the
Chiefs of Staff in which he deftly shifted all blame for the
terror bombing onto the hapless Chiefs of Staff. It was they,
according to Churchill, who had been principally responsible for
"increasing the terror, though under other pretexts." In a worried "most private and
confidential" message to Harris, Churchill warned him to be "very
careful ... not to admit that we ever did anything not justified
by the circumstances and the actions of the enemy in the measures
we took to bomb Germany."
The Red Army Strikes
Meanwhile, undeterred either by the measures of
Harris or by the circumstances and the actions of the enemy, the
Red Army continued its inexorable advance on Berlin's heavily
defended Reichstag, the symbolic heart of Nazidom. A few months
earlier, in January 1945 the Red Army and the Western Allied
armies were still approximately the same distance away from
Berlin, even though the disparity of enemy forces facing them was
heavily in favour of the Anglo-Americans. But by mid-April it was
the Red Army that arrived first in Berlin and began engaging its
defending troops in close combat. Street by street, building by
building, and finally staircase by staircase and cellar by
cellar, Soviet soldiers inched their way forward through the
city, taking heavy casualties in the fierce fighting. Finally, on
30 April a red flag bearing the hammer and sickle fluttered over
the Reichstag. Three days later Berlin fell. After more than
1,000 days and nights of war along a front thousands of miles in
length, as well as behind enemy lines in the occupied
territories, a victorious Red Army marched through the
The price paid by the Russians for defeating Hitler on
principal and decisive front of the war was enormous. Every
minute of the war the Russians lost nine lives, 587 lives every
hour and 14,000 lives every day, with two out of every five
persons killed during the war being Soviet citizens. Hundreds of
Russian towns and cities were devastated. Well over 20 million
Russians, half of them civilians, had died -- many more than the
combined total military casualties of Germany and the Western
April 30, 1945: The
Soviet Victory Banner is raised over the German Reichstag in Berlin by
Red Army soldiers, shortly before the surrender of German forces in the
city and the
decisive victory over the fascists on May 9, 1945.
1. The figures are
from: Churchill, op cit, Vol IV, p.832; John Kennedy, op cit,
p.325; Paul Kennedy, op cit, pp.352, 354; Liddell Hart, op cit,
p.559; Zhukov, Vol II, pp.307, 344; US Army newspaper Stars
and Stripes, 15 May 1945.
2. John Kennedy, ibid.,
3. David Fraser, And We Shall
Them: The British Army in the Second World War, London:
Hodder and Stoughton 1983, p.348.
4. The account of the Arnhem
draws on: Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge Too Far, London: Hamish
Hamilton, 1974; Ralph Bennett, "Ultra and Some Command
Decisions," Journal of Contemporary History, Vol 16, 1981,
pp.145-6; Richard Lamb, Montgomery in Europe 1943-45, London:
Buchan and Enright 1983, p.227.
5. PRO AIR 37/876, Arthur
"Operations Carried out by the Second Tactical Air Force between
6th June 1944 and 9 May 1945," p.23.
6. Ryan, op cit, p.454.
7. Bennett, op.cit, "Ultra and
Command Decisions," p.135; Liddell Hart, op cit, p.536.
8. The account of the Italian
draws on: Martin Blumenson, Anzio: Philadelphia: Lippencott,
1963: Peter Calvocoressi and Guy Wint, Total War: Causes and
Courses of the Second World War, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1986,
511-2; Bennett, Ultra and Mediterranean Strategy, p.264; Fraser,
op cit, p.282.
9. Albrecht Kesselring, Memoirs,
Greenhill 1988, p.193.
10. Leslie Groves, Now It Can
Told, New York: Harper and Row 1962, p.184.
11. Elizabeth Barker, op cit,
12. Letter from Smuts to
dated 31 August 1943, quoted in Churchill, The Second World War,
Vol V, p.112.
13. Chiefs of Staff quoted in
Balfour, The Adversaries: America, Russia and the Open World
1941-1962, London: Routledge, Kegan Paul 1981, p.9.
14. SAO, Vol III, p.252.
15. SAO, Vol III, p.108; David
Irving, The Destruction of Dresden, London: Kimber 1963,
16. Hastings, op cit, pp.340-4;
Irving, Destruction of Dresden, pp.173-7, 206, 225-32, 236;
Middlebrook and Everitt, op cit, pp.663-4.
17. Richards and Saunders, Vol
p.270; Irving, Destruction of Dresden, pp.173, 206; SAO,
Vol III, p.109.
18. Janusz Piekalkiewicz, The
War 1939-1945, Poole: Blandford 1985, p.402.
19. See United States Strategic
Survey, "Area Studies Division Report No.1", Washington:
Government Printers 1945, pp.235-40, Alan S. Milward, War,
Economy and Society, London: Allen Lane 1982, p.302.
20. Hastings, op. cit.p.342.
21. Churchill memorandum to Air
Minister Sinclair, 26 January 1945 quoted in SAO, Vol III, p.103;
Deputy Air Minister Sir Norman Bottomley to Harris, 27 January
1945 quoted in SAO, Vol III, p.103.
22. Longmate, op cit, p.335.
23. SAO, Vol III, pp.105-6.
24. Hastings, op cit, p.342;
Irving, Destruction of Dresden, pp. 148, 158, 206;
op cit, p.402.
25. See PRO AIR 37/876, Air Chief
Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, "Operations Carried Out by
Second Tactical Air Force, 6 June 1944 to 9 May 1945".
26. Longmate, op cit, p.342.
27. SAO, Vol III, pp.113-4.
28. Hansard, House of
30. Richards and Saunders, op
cit, Vol III, p.268.
31. Hastings, op cit,
Piekalkiewics, op cit, pp.403-5.
32. See Hinsley, op cit,
Appendix 5, pp.671-2.
33. SAO, Vol III, pp.113-4.
34 Randolph S. Churchill and
Martin Gilbert, Winston S
Churchill, (8 vols), London: Heinemann, 1954-1988, Vol VIII,
35. The capture of Berlin is
in Zhukov, op cit, Vol II, p.347 et al.
36. See generally Alexander
Werth, Russia at War
1941-1945, New York: Avon 1965; John Erickson, Stalin's War
With Germany, (2 vols) London: Grafton, 1985 where individual
campaigns are listed at Vol II, p.1181. Total losses of the
German Wehrmacht were 72 per cent of its officers and men. Most
died on the Soviet-German front.
Stan Winer is an international journalist with 30
experience specialising in military-political and geo-strategic
affairs. His articles have appeared in a wide range of specialist
journals, newspapers and periodicals around the world. He has
also worked for the information departments of various United Nations
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