These disputes are fierce because they are politicized - relations between the Allies deteriorated soon after the war, which explains their different views on its events. As a result, almost four years of fighting on the Soviet-German front, or the Great Patriotic War - from June 22, 1941 to May 9, 1945 - have been assessed very differently. Soviet experts certainly viewed this front as the most important of all, but their Western colleagues regarded it as simply an important one.
These disputes are even more emotional because of the unprecedented cruelty, with which the Nazi troops treated POWs and civilians on the occupied territories. The Nazis were consistently exterminating both categories, and as a result the Soviet Union sustained unprecedented losses. The war became a real struggle for survival, and the emotional tensions still remain in the nation's mentality.
But let's leave emotions aside, and analyze the importance of the Soviet-German front without bias, using figures and the opinions of the Allies' leaders.
First of all, we should emphasize the enormous scale of fighting on this front. For quite some time, it was not comparable to other battlefields. In the Second Battle of El Alamein (October 23 - November 4, 1942), which Western experts consider as important as the Battle of Stalingrad, a 220,000-strong Allied force was confronted by 116,000 Axis troops. The losses of the former and the latter were 13,600 and 38,000 respectively.
When the Soviet forces launched a counteroffensive on Stalingrad on November 19, 1942, it had three fronts with more than 1.1 million troops. The Axis troops were of almost a similar strength - the German Army Group B, comprising two German, two Romanian, one Italian and one Hungarian armies, had 1,011,000 officers and men. Soviet losses in the counteroffensive were almost 486,000, including more than 150,000 dead. All in all, during the Battle of Stalingrad from the summer of 1942 to February 2, 1943, about 750,000 of Soviet troops were killed, wounded, or missing. The Axis powers, which sustained an unprecedented defeat, lost more than 850,000. More than 110,000 of them were taken prisoner.
Another enormous battle unfolded on the Soviet-German front the following summer - the Battle of the Kursk Bulge. Hoping to break Soviet defenses and return the strategic initiative, the German army started Operation Citadel, involving more than 800,000 people. The number of Soviet troops reached 1.3 million. The aggregate Soviet losses during the battle's defensive and offensive stages reached 600,000, including 180,000 killed in action. Germans lost about half a million officers and men.
The Allied landing on Sicily, conducted at the same time, involved about 160,000 people, while the confronting Axis troops had 300,000 Italian and about 40,000 German officers and men. All in all, more than 24,000 Allied men were killed, wounded, or missing while 29,000 Axis troops were killed or wounded, and more than 140,000 were taken prisoner - the Italian army began to surrender en masse.
The ratio of the scale of battles was the same after the Allied landing in Normandy in the summer of 1944. The Allies had about 200,000 officers and men in Operation Cobra in July; the strength of the confronting German troops was about the same.
In the meantime, the Soviet Union launched Operation Bagration, a strategic offensive in Belarus with more than 2.3 million officers and men against a 800,000-strong German force. Total Soviet losses in this operation were 765,000 officers and men, including 178,000 dead. Total German losses were more than 400,000, including about 300,000 dead.
The importance of a theatre of military operations is determined not only by the strength of the troops involved and sustained losses, but also by its impact on the course of the entire war. There is no doubt that the Soviet-German front was the main theatre of WWII - it involved from 60% to 80% of Germany's ground forces, half of its air force, and at least a third of its navy. Allied leaders repeatedly confirmed this fact themselves. These two excerpts from the correspondence between the Soviet and Allied leaders need no comment.
"Received on February 23, 1943
F. ROOSEVELT TO J.V. STALIN
On behalf of the people of the United States I want to express to the Red Army on its twenty fifth anniversary our profound admiration for its magnificent achievements unsurpassed in all history. For many months in spite of many tremendous losses in supplies, transportation and territory, the Red Army denied victory to a most powerful enemy. It checked him at Stalingrad, at Moscow, at Voronezh, in the Caucasus, and finally at the immortal battle of Stalingrad the Red Army not only defeated the enemy but launched the great offensive, which is still moving forward along the whole front from the Baltic to the Black Sea... Such achievements can only be accomplished by an army that has skilful leadership, sound organization, adequate training and above all determination to defeat the enemy no matter what the cost in self-sacrifice. At the same time I also wish to pay tribute to the Russian people from whom the Red Army springs and upon whom it is dependent for its men, women and supplies. They, too, are giving their full efforts to the war and are making the supreme sacrifice. The Red Army and the Russian people have surely started the Hitler forces on the road to ultimate defeat and have earned the lasting admiration of the people of the United States."
"Received on February 23, 1945
PERSONAL MESSAGE FOR MARSHAL STALIN FROM MR. CHURCHILL
The Red Army celebrates its twenty-seventh anniversary amid triumphs which have won the unstinted applause of their allies and have sealed the doom of German militarism. Future generations will acknowledge their debt to the Red Army as unreservedly as do we who have lived to witness these proud achievements. I ask you, the great leader of a great army, to salute them from me today, on the threshold of the final victory."
Excerpts are quoted from the correspondence between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the Presidents of the U.S.A. and Prime Ministers of Great Britain during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, Moscow, Foreign Language Publishing House, 1957,volume one pgs. 305-306, volume two pgs. 57-58.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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