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Stalin's General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov

This is a great biography of one of the great generals of the Second World War, by the British historian Geoffrey Roberts. Buy it at Amazon.com. My notes are below, with "location" numbers for the Kindle edition. -- Dan Ford

From a force five million strong the Red Army declined to about half a million [in the 1920s] (loc 724)

The Bolshevik Party ... changed its name to Communist in 1918 (loc 744)

The Red Army ... official title was the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (loc 754)

regular army of about 500,000 plus a number of territorial divisions of mainly part-time soldiers required to serve for a couple of months each year. The regular armed forces were concentrated in border districts, while the territorial divisions were generally located in the safer interior of the country. But even the so-called regular troops were mostly two-year conscripts. (loc 779

By the early 1930s the Red Army had formulated and adopted the dual doctrine of "deep battle" and "deep operations." Under this doctrine, successive waves of combined arms forces would penetrate the full depth of enemy defenses and then exploit the breakthrough by envelopment of enemy forces from the rear. Warfare would consist of a consecutive series of such operations, utilizing what the Soviets called "operational art"-the sophisticated management of "combined arms"-the different branches of the armed forces-in pursuit of deep battle and deep operations. The idea was similar to the German concept of Blitzkrieg being developed around the same time, i.e., breakthrough on a narrow front by concentrated columns of tanks, which would then encircle the enemy from the rear. However, the Soviets were less tank-centric than the Germans and emphasized the importance of combined arms operations in which tanks would play a supporting as well as an independent role. They were also more mindful than the Germans of the importance of coordinating and synchronizing tank action with that of artillery, infantry, cavalry, and air forces. (loc 896)

In accordance with its new doctrine the Red Army established the world's first mechanized corps in 1932-two formations, each consisting of several hundred tanks and armored cars, supported by infantry, artillery, and air detachments-that would act as the central strike force of the army in the event of war. By 1936 there were four mechanized corps as well as six separate mechanized brigades, and six separate tank regiments. (loc 901)

The key figure in the doctrinal and practical development of the interwar Red Army was Mikhail N. Tukhachevsky (loc 908)

the Temporary Field Service Regulations of 1936 ... set out the principles of the Red Army's approach to battle and operations as an offensive-oriented army that would deploy combined arms (loc 917)

attack the enemy in depth: Modern means of neutralization, primarily tanks, artillery, aviation and tank-borne infantry raids, employed on a large scale, make it possible to organise the simultaneous attack on the enemy throughout the entire depth of his positions, with the aim of isolating, completely encircling and destroying him. (loc 919)

Two main lessons seemed to emerge from the Spanish conflict: tanks were vulnerable to artillery and antitank weapons, and tank units would incur large losses in open battle; and, second, that it was difficult for tanks to achieve decisive results without close infantry support. This led to an increased emphasis in Soviet doctrine on the importance of combined arms operations (as opposed to independent tank manuevers) and on the tank's role in infantry support. The Spanish experience also contributed to the decision in November 1939 to disband the mechanized corps and to instead group tanks in smaller formations distributed throughout the armed forces. (loc 930)

In the early 1930s the Red Army grew to nearly a million strong and by the end of the decade had a complement of over four million. (loc 1018)

1939 the USSR was producing more than 10,000 planes a year, nearly 3,000 tanks, more than 17,000 artillery pieces and 114,000 machine guns. (loc 1021)

The origins of this massive rearmament program dated back to a war scare in 1927 when the Soviets believed the British and the Poles were plotting a combined attack. The Soviets examined their defenses and found them to be highly vulnerable. That review coincided with the launch of the first five-year plan for the industrialization of the USSR, which promised to provide the Red Army with the technical resources to build up its war machine. In 1931 Japan's invasion of the northeastern Chinese province of Manchuria provoked further anxieties about the state of Soviet defenses. The Soviets had many interests in China, not least border security, and feared the Japanese attack could develop into a wider regional conflict into which they would be drawn. Also, in January 1933 Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany. (loc 1027)

By the time the purge had run its course more than 34,000 officers had been dismissed from the armed forces. Among the victims was Rokossovsky, who was arrested and imprisoned in August 1937. While some 11,500 officers were eventually reinstated (among them Rokossovsky), the great majority were either executed or died in prison. Among those who perished were three marshals (Tukhachevsky, Yegorov, and Blukher); sixteen officers of general-level rank; fifteen admirals; 264 colonels; 107 majors; and seventy-one lieutenants. (loc 1049)

anti-Comintern pact ... November 1936. Ostensibly directed against the activities of the Communist International-established by the Bolsheviks in 1919 to foment world revolution-the pact was in fact directed against the Soviet Union and contained a secret agreement that Japan and Germany would maintain a benevolent neutrality should either become involved in war with the USSR. The pact reinforced Stalin's belief that Japanese spies and saboteurs had penetrated Siberia. He responded with mass arrests of indigenous Koreans and Japanese living in the region. (loc 1157)

Defense Commissariat newspaper, Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) (loc 1275)

The Poles put up little resistance to the Soviet invasion but it was by far the Red Army's biggest operation since the civil war. (loc 1389)

Finland in the winter of 1939-1940. During that conflict the Red Army suffered 200,000 casualties, including nearly 50,000 dead. (loc 1392)

The Soviets even entertained delusions that the Finnish working class would rise in revolt and welcome the Red Army as socialist liberators. (loc 1403)

expelled from the League of Nations for aggression-a fate Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, and fascist Italy all had avoided by leaving the organization of their own accord. (loc 1406)

1.2 million troops, supported by 1,500 tanks and 3,000 aircraft. (loc 1410)

a commission was established to further distill the lessons of the Finnish war. The work of this commission contributed to a series of reforms of the Soviet armed forces. In May the government restored the titles of general and admiral (loc 1426)

Stalin reinstated thousands of purged and disgraced officers. (loc 1428)

July 1940 a decree established nine mechanized corps, consisting of more than 1,000 tanks each, supported by motorized infantry, signal, and engineering units. (loc 1435)

decisions were made to produce the models of many of the tanks, guns, and planes that were to become the mainstay of the Soviet armed forces during the Great Patriotic War, including the famous T-34 tank. (loc 1436)

Another person who made Zhukov's acquaintance in Kiev was Nikita Khrushchev, then party secretary in Ukraine. (loc 1514)

The Soviet decision to plump for a southern concentration was fateful. When the Germans attacked in June 1941 the bulk of Soviet forces and armor were located in the southwest. (loc 1571)

Three aspects of these war games and their outcome are revealing. First was the assumption that the Germans would initiate hostilities and the Soviets would counterattack after a period of frontier battles lasting about two weeks. Second, both games confirmed the advantages conferred by a strategic counterinvasion in the southwestern sector-thus reinforcing the decision of the October war plan to concentrate Soviet forces in that area of operations. Third were the projected troop losses the Red Army could be expected to incur when war broke out, estimated at 120,000 a month-a figure that proved to be a gross underestimate. (loc 1676)

It must have been Zhukov's performance during the games, as well as at the conference, that persuaded Stalin to appoint him chief of the General Staff (CGS) in place of Meretskov, notwithstanding his lack of General Staff experience. Other factors working in his favor were Timoshenko's patronage and Zhukov's detailed knowledge of both the Belorussian and the Kiev Military Districts. Important, too, was Zhukov's strong commitment to the doctrine of offensive action expressed in the Soviet war plans. The Soviets intended to fight an offensive war against Germany and Zhukov was seen by Stalin as the man to orchestrate the Red Army's attacks. (loc 1684)

THE SUMMER OF 1941 THE RED ARMY ENDURED A SERIES OF DEFEATS greater than that experienced by any other army in history. (loc 1701)

[Z's] Yel'nya offensive of August-September 1941 was an early turning point in the Soviet-German war. The Red Army's first major victory over the Wehrmacht, it delayed the German advance on Moscow for a vital several weeks. (loc 1711)

Stalin supported Hitler's call for peace after the German conquest of Poland, while the fhrer lent political support to the Soviets during the Winter War with Finland. German U-boats were allowed to establish a base on Soviet territory north of Murmansk. (loc 1730)

Relations between Stalin and Hitler began to sour in summer 1940 when Germany conquered France. Stalin had assumed the Second World War would be a rerun of the First World War, with the Germans and the British and French bogged down in a protracted struggle in Western Europe. Now Stalin found himself faced with a partner who dominated continental Europe and threatened to overwhelm Britain, too. (loc 1733)

In response to the magnified German threat in July 1940 the Soviets occupied the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and expanded into Romania (loc 1736) This move was rebuffed by Hitler, who extended his protection to Romania and called a halt to further Soviet territorial encroachments. (loc 1739)

Hitler, however, considered Soviet actions aggressive and they prompted him to revive his plans to seek Lebensraum in the east-German expansion into, and the colonization of, Russia. (loc 1741)

Reports of a coming German attack had been trickling into Moscow since mid-1940 from a variety of sources-military, political, and diplomatic. In early 1941, when the Germans began active preparations for invasion, the trickle of information became a stream and then a deluge. (loc 1746)

the Soviets had begun with an exaggerated view of the overall strength of the German army, which they estimated to have reached 300 divisions by spring 1941, when the actual figure was nearer 200. From that perspective the 120 divisions the Soviets estimated to be ranged against them was neither disproportionate nor at the level to be expected on the eve of an invasion. (loc 1777)

MP-41-Mobilizatsionnyi Plan 1941. Dating from mid-February 1941, this was a plan to expand the number of troops in the Red Army from just over four million to more than eight million. Included among the 300 planned divisions would be 60 tank and 30 motorized divisions, which would be organized into 30 three-division mechanized corps. The bulk of this force (6.5 million troops) would be located in the USSR's western military districts. The mobilization plan involved the call-up of nearly five million reservists, including 600,000 officers and 885,000 NCOs. It is not clear when the Soviets expected to complete the mobilization, but certainly not before the end of 1941. (loc 1783)

total military personnel fell a million short of the target. A little under three million troops were deployed in the western districts, the bulk in the southwest where 97 divisions, including 27 tank divisions, were located. (loc 1786)

The March plan estimated the Germans had 260 divisions, about 110 deployed against the Soviet Union. However, the assumption was that after the end of the war with Great Britain the Germans would be able to deploy 200 divisions against the USSR supported by 70 divisions from Romania, Hungary, and Finland. To meet an attack by this force the Soviets planned to deploy at least 250 divisions in their western districts. Crucially, the March plan, like the October plan, assumed that the main German attack would come in the south, although an attack in the north from East Prussia was not ruled out. The planned Soviet response was to be a massive counteroffensive from the Ukraine into southern Poland. It would seem that in mid-May 1941 yet another version of the Soviet war plan was prepared.... [In] essence the May plan was the same as the October 1940 and March 1941 plans: absorb the German attack and then counterattack in the main theater of operations with the aim of destroying the bulk of enemy forces and fighting the war on foreign soil. But there was a new element in the May plan that has been the subject of much discussion-a proposal for a preemptive strike (loc 1801)

On June 15 the latest GRU summary report confirmed there had been a massive transfer of German forces eastward and that the Wehrmacht now had 120-122 divisions deployed along the Soviet border, a good number of them concentrated in the southwest. (loc 1893)

the most important reason for Stalin's refusal to heed warnings of an imminent German attack was that he did not believe it mattered much if he miscalculated and Hitler caught him by surprise. Neither Stalin nor the General Staff believed the Germans would attack with massive military force from day one of the war. (loc 1908)

Like Stalin, Zhukov and the Soviet General Staff fully expected their frontier defenses to hold during this initial period of the war, thus buying time to complete the mobilization of the rest of the Red Army for the planned counteroffensive. (loc 1912)

continued in part 2

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