Saturday, 11 July 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Armchair Generals

In the years of the Great Patriotic War, officers of the General Staff tasked with studying the experience of war were like pearl hunters in muddy waters. Numerous letters arrived addressed to them with suggestions on how to sooner defeat Germany. Many of them were odd or curious. Here are some excerpts from secret suggestions in 1942.

More forces, new and interesting ones

Major-General Pulko-Dmitriyev of the Tashkent Intendant Academy found, as he thought, a flawless plan of fighting German tanks. In his words "a fascist tank division would break upon" a special anti-tank battalion armed with 300 AT rifle crews. According to the author, such a division contained 300 tanks.

The officer that received this letter wrote in the margins that a German tank division does not have this many tanks. The main idea that every enemy tank needs a dedicated AT rifle was not commented upon.

Comrade Yagudin from Baku wrote that the era of flying tanks is close, same with fortress tanks and mosquito tanks (the author does not mention if they were just very small or were also capable of flight). Until these tanks were made, it was important to organize the forces correctly. The author wanted a motorized brigade, consisting of tank, airborne, artillery, and motorized infantry groups. A brigade is not the largest unit, consisting of about 50 tanks, but Yagudin came up with a 500 vehicle monster which could easily be classified as a corps or even an army.

With this brigade, he proposed "an offensive in the Bryansk-Smolensk-Gomel-Minsk direction, developing success on flanks, and at the same time moving up the remainder of the front, especially the flanks (Baltic and Black Sea shores)"

Saving the best for last, Captain Matyevosyan from the 22nd Army proposed "Amphibian tanks that could carry tank riders and fly up to 25 meters in the air over a range of 10-20 kilometers". The General Staff did not appreciate this proposal, as the phrase about 25 meters is thickly underlined and there is a short message in the margin: "Science fiction"

How to Defeat Germany for Dummies

A burning desire to defeat the enemy is not enough. One also needs knowledge and experience, otherwise these attempts will look silly. For instance, comrade Kargopolov from Stalingrad attempted to grasp the theory and practice of modern warfare and came to the following conclusion: "Do we need this idea of battle, why seek a meeting with dynamic armed enemy forces? When one thinks about it, one must admit that we do not." Instead of fighting the German army, the author proposed to concentrate as many armoured and mechanized forces in the direction of Smolensk-Minsk as possible and move them forward. In 6-7 days, they will be at the walls of Berlin. Secondary offensives would be aimed in the direction of Rzhev-Riga and Elets-Kursk-Kiev.

The author did not forget about the Allies, proposing that they move their tank forces by air and, without worrying about France or Belgium, aim towards the Rhine to meet the Soviet tank armies somewhere in the middle of Germany.

Sergeant Fedorov had an original idea, attacking from the rear. He proposed waiting for long Arctic nights on the Leningrad Front and sneak by with "transport like northern dogs, reindeer, skiers". Fedorov imagined that this will bring unparalleled success. He also cursed lazy scientists and demanded that doctors and chemists develop sleeping gas.

Military Engineer Second Class Malyuk of the Siberian railroad also had grandiose ideas. He invented "strategic triangles" and "strategic trapezoids" to strike suddenly at the German forces, as they would allow to "with relatively few losses, move forward and discover the intentions of the enemy". This "military geometry" was built upon a strike force of 9-10 divisions (a good 100,000 men). This was only the beginning, Malyuk started making plans for groups of 25-30 divisions. According to his prognosis, a successful execution of this plan would allow these units to reach the Baltic in 10-15 days, and Bucharest and the Danube in 20-25, surrounding all enemy armies. After that, as the author logically concluded, "Hitler has one way out, the noose."

Political Chief Kovalev's Red Vice

The plan of a breakthrough and defeat of German armies developed by reservist political chief Kovalev was largely born from a surplus of red pencils, paper, and spare time.


The massive red pincers in this drawing were Kovalev's plan. The first "armoured breakthrough group" was supposed to attack in the direction of Stalino (Donetsk), Dnepropetrovsk, and Kirovograd. When they reached the Ukrainian steppes, they would split up into two parts that would join up around Ploesti.

In order to realize this plan, "only" 15 tank divisions and 16 motorized divisions were needed. According to Kovalev, this would cut off Germany from Romanian oil and prevent German control over the Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian armies. As a result, "the armies would no doubt quarrel".

Many parts of Kovalev's plan were unclear. For instance, where would the Red Army get tank divisions in 1942? At that time, the tank forces have not yet recovered from the heavy losses of 1941 and the largest tank unit was a brigade (60 tanks). Even if all tanks, including light T-60s, were gathered up, there would not be enough vehicles. The political chief also did not mention what would prevent the Germans from communicating with their allies via radio.

The reply from the General Staff stated that the plan does not consider the current situation in our armies and is "in general, a fantasy".

One can only be surprised by the patience and professionalism of the General Staff that, during the very difficult year of 1942, wrote over and over: "The data you have communicated in the letter will be considered. In the future when developing suggestions, please:
  • Consider the situation at hand.
  • Back up your suggestions with calculations of forces and supplies that they require.
  • When composing plans and suggestions, do not depart from reality."
Original article available here.

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