November 10, 2014

1943. The Advent of Spring in Russia

Two Censored Reports

The text below is from the scripts typed up by Bill Downs for the broadcasts featured in this post. The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons and thus did not make it to air.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

March 21, 1943

There probably will not be any official Russian reaction to Adolf Hitler's memorial day speech in Berlin (a few hours ago). Foreign correspondents listening to the speech here in Moscow this afternoon checked each other's impressions of the speech and came to the conclusion that Hitler's words were so barren that it's hard to get any kind of reaction at all. Except, of course, the standard feeling of disgust.

(However, it's nice to know that Germany's Fuehrer really is seriously concerned that his enemies are going to overrun Europe. It wasn't many months ago that he was boasting about doing all the overrunning.)

Another army is on the march in Russia today under special orders from the Kremlin. This army is composed of Russia's farmers who are preparing to dig in for the most desperate battle for food that the Soviet Union's collective and state farm system has ever faced.

As it is in America, this year's crops probably rank as the most important harvest the world's farmers have had to produce. (Never in the history of the world has the man behind the plow been so important.)

Especially is this true of Russia (—for Russia's millions of soldiers, armaments workers, and farmers this coming year more than ever before need enough food to keep the people living, working, and fighting under more stringent conditions than they have ever faced in their history.)

(Thus it is that a special agricultural decree from the government concerning this year's crop ranks in importance with the order from the Soviet high command which directed the Red Army's winter offensive.)

Russia has substantially the same problems facing her wartime agricultural industry as America—only many times more so.

There is a labor shortage. There is the problem of transport. There is the difficulty of rationing and delivering fuel for tractors and seed for the larger farms.

From the wording of (the 1943) a special decree for the Soviet state plan of agricultural development, you can get some idea of the way Russia is tackling her farming problems.

One section of the decree reads: ("Within the next ten days, state farms, executives, and party committees shall work out plans for the farms and machine tractor stations...") "During the next ten days we shall organize brigades on the collective farms, diminish the number of farmers doing administrative or auxiliary work, organize the horses and machines, work out tractor and field brigades for the preliminary spring work, and arrange for a sharing of the work between tractors and horses of collective farms." ("...They should organize socialist competitions to fulfill the harvest plan and test the preparedness of these organizations for two weeks before beginning the spring field work.")

(Russia has had a hungry winter. You can see it in the faces of the people anywhere you go in the country.) The Soviet government is determined that the next winter will be as nutritive as possible.

That is what is behind the note of urgency in the government agricultural decree. It concerns every phase of the collective farm life, from the organization of nurseries for the children of women who will work on the farms this summer to the construction of field garages for the repair of harvesters and tractors.

(Thousands of schoolchildren with their teachers are preparing to go to the fields. Farmers are taking census of their livestock, and those milk cows who have lowest production this spring will find themselves pulling a wagon.)

(The army has taken not only the man from the Russian farms, but it also has taken the horses. So the Soviet government is determined that women will replace the men—and cows will replace the horses as draft animals.)

(The government plan for this year calls for an increase of more than 15,800,000 acres over last year's cultivated lands. And the way this decree outlines the plan, Russia will accomplish this—and more.)

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 23, 1943

(Josef Stalin is giving a Kremlin banquet tonight for President Roosevelt's special emissary, former Ambassador Joseph Davies. As a matter of fact, the banquet should just about be in full swing right now. It began about seven o'clock this evening Moscow time —which is noon New York time—and if this banquet is like most of those given by genial Joe Stalin, it will go far into the night with scores of toasts ringing out in the ancient halls of the Kremlin.)

(The American and British ambassadors, the military missions as well as Mr. Davies' party are attending. It's the first big party in the Kremlin given for any foreigner since Wendell Willkie visited the country.)

Former Ambassador Joseph Davies as yet has not received an answer from Mr. Stalin to President Roosevelt's letter. (It is possible that he may get an answer during the banquet tonight.)

For the past two weeks, I and every other correspondent here in Moscow have been telling you to expect heavy fighting this spring and summer on the Russian front. The Russian press and Soviet military leaders have been telling the people of this country the same thing.

That fighting has failed to materialize. Although you might be getting mighty tired of hearing of it, I want to repeat—there is every indication that the Red Army may have to undergo its supreme test in the next twenty weeks.

You remember Winston Churchill in his speech to the American Congress the other day called it "Hitler's supreme gambler's throw." The Fuehrer has picked up the dice of destiny and he's rattling them. But he's hesitating about throwing them out.

This year's spring fighting already is ten days behind the schedule set by the start of last year's hostilities. Last year it was the Red Army who made the first one. On May 13 of last year, Marshal Timoshenko led an (unsuccessful) offensive in the direction of Kharkov.

(Thus the time is right, right now, for large-scale fighting. It is not the weather or the terrain that is holding up big scale operations—it is the decision of the opposing high commands.)

A year ago today, the Russian communiqué spoke of the Red Army fortifying its gains in the Kharkov direction—it also announced that 15,000 Germans were killed in three days fighting on the middle reaches of the Donets river.

Today the story is much different—there is only local scouting and artillery skirmishing. (The opposing air forces are plastering each other's ground communications and supply centers with bombs.)

There are many reasons for the delay in the summer's fighting—reasons which grow out of the tremendous sacrifices which both the Germans and the Russians suffered in last winter's fighting.

We are told it is almost a certainty that Hitler will start the fighting this spring. But he is hesitating because this time he feels he must not fail. He must get this campaign rolling before he has to organize another to protect his "European fortress" from a second front.

Yes, Adolf Hitler has just about completed placing his bets on the Russian front—and the Red Army is covering all of them.