April 29, 2015

1943. The Leadup to May Day

Joseph Stalin's Order of the Day
Soviet World War II propaganda poster: "The spirit of the great Lenin and his victorious banner inspires us to fight the Patriotic War..." (Joseph Stalin) —— "ДУХ ВЕЛИКОГО ЛЕНИНА И ЕГО ПОБЕДОНОСНОЕ ЗНАМЯ ВДОХНОВЛЯЮТ НАС ТЕПЕРЬ НА ОТЕЧЕСТВЕННУЮ ВОЙНУ... (И. Сталин)" (source)
The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons.

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

CBS Moscow

April 29, 1943

The Polish Ambassador Tadeusz Romer and his Moscow staff leave by train today for Kuybyshev to join other members of the Polish embassy. The entire group, numbering about a hundred persons, will then leave next week for Iran.

Admiral Standley, the United States ambassador, and Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, the British ambassador, will extend the usual diplomatic courtesy to a departing ambassador and see Mr. Romer off at at the station.

All was more or less quiet on the Russian front last night. Nothing of importance happened.

However, this morning's Red Star for the first time gives a definite hint of what the Soviet command expects to happen in Russia this summer.

An editorial said that the spring lull at the front is not fooling anyone. "This is the lull before the storm—before great battles which will not wait much longer."

Then the newspaper said, "The Germans undoubtedly will attempt to use the summer to improve their positions...Naturally, the power of the German military machine is considerably undermined by the defeats dealt by the Red Army. However, the Germans undoubtedly will launch new adventures."

The army newspaper said that the Germans continue to send remnants of their reserves to the Soviet-German front and are accumulating military equipment.

"We must not only frustrate the adventurous plans of the Hitlerians," the newspaper continues. "But we must deal the enemy such powerful blows that they will decide the issue of the war. We must be prepared for decisive battles."

This has been the realistic tone of the Soviet command since the German defeat at Stalingrad. If the expectations expressed in today's Red Star editorial come true, the Germans are going to have another try at conquering Russia this summer.

Sitting here in Moscow, it's hard to figure out where on the front that the Germans could strike and gain any sort of decision. However, it is obvious they are going to have to hit the Red Army somewhere, somehow. Hitler simply cannot afford to let this front remain quiet and allow the Soviet armies to pile up a superiority of men and equipment against him.

You will notice that the editorial did not mention any plans for a Russian offensive. However, there is a hint that maybe the Soviet high command has some plans of its own for this summer, but it's only a hint.

Red Star said "The ousting of the enemy from Russia has only started."

You can be sure that the Red Army will continue the process through the summer months.

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 30, 1943

Joseph Stalin is expected to commemorate Russia's May 1st holiday with a special order of the day to the Red Army. It has been May 1st in Moscow for just two hours now, and such an order of the day has not yet reached the hands of reporters here.

But Stalin usually does not let such national occasions pass without some sort of official mention. You remember Stalin's last order of the day was issued on the Red Army anniversary on February 23.

At that time, he reviewed the 20 months of Russia's struggle against the Nazi and Fascist invaders and announced that the Soviet armed forces had put nine million Germans out of action, including four million killed.

Exactly 67 days have passed since Stalin's last order of the day. Since that time the tremendous Russian winter offensive has wound up. There was the new offensive west and northwest of Moscow which resulted in the capture of Rzhev and Vyazma and Demyansk. There was the early spring which bogged these offensive as they drove toward Smolensk and Staraya Russa. And the winter offensive was officially ended. (A special communiqué issued at this time declared that the four month and 20 day winter offensive had cost the Germans thousands of tanks, thousands of planes, and 1,193,000 men killed and captured.)

Then came the German counteroffensive west and southwest of Kharkov and in the Donbass. The Red Army lost the city of Kharkov on March 15, and were pushed back to the Donets river. However, the Russians still hold about one third of the Donbass.

On the political front, since the last order of the day Russia has sent a food mission to the United States to discuss postwar food problems. (This is the first move made by the Russian government towards postwar collaboration with her allies on postwar problems.)

And the most important development has been the severance of relations with the Polish government. This has raised an entirely new set of problems for the United Nations and still is the hottest diplomatic question among the Allies.

Yes, if Joseph Stalin issues his expected order of the day, he will have plenty of scope for discussing the developments in Russia during the 67 days since his last order was made public.

It is a document worth watching for.

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 30, 1943

(This morning's Russian communiqué only mentions the fighting west and northwest of Moscow. There were only local engagements on the Smolensk front and, south of Lake Ilmen, Russian artillery shelled a German infantry concentration, inflicting big losses.)

It was revealed this morning just how desperately the German command is trying to stave off Soviet preparations to kick the last of the Nazis out of the Northern Caucasus. The German aircraft have again attempted mass raids on Krasnodar, the capital of the Kuban. (It is the second time in the past ten days that Krasnodar has been the goal of the Luftwaffe.) On Wednesday and Thursday 116 German planes were shot out of the air by Russian fighters. The Russians have definite air superiority in this sector, and after the serious German losses, succeeded in an aerial counterattack. This morning's report said these planes inflicted serious losses on the enemy. The Soviet losses for the two days of fighting were 45 planes.

All of Russia today is preparing for the May 1st celebrations. Moscow has assumed what almost seems to be a holiday atmosphere—that is, as much of a holiday atmosphere as the capital of any country can have after almost 23 months of the most sanguinary fighting in history. It's a little hard to have dancing in the streets and riotous laughter here during a war in which several million Russians have died.

But the red flags are out all over the city. Every building displays a picture of Stalin and Lenin and Molotov and Voroshilov and other Soviet leaders. Red banners carrying the many slogans for May 1st are draped on every official building in Moscow. Mr. Molotov's foreign office building has the Allied slogan on it. It reads, "Long live the victory of the Anglo-Soviet-American union over the enemies of mankind, the German-Fascist enslavers."

Up on Red Square, big red banners six stories high are spread on the buildings opposite the Kremlin. It is these banners that carry the main theme of the May Day celebrations. In the past, the theme of International Labor Day has been the slogan "Workers of the World Unite," and these big banners used to carry the slogan written in all languages of the world.

However, today these banners carry only one slogan written in Russian. This slogan is, "Under the banner of Lenin and under the leadership of Stalin, forward to the routing of German occupiers and their ousting from our fatherland."

This morning's newspaper editorials say that this May 1st is the day of the review of the fighting forces of the workers. And on the Red Square there is the slogan written in Russian saying, "Workers of all countries unite for the fight against the German-Fascist invaders."

But the feeling of Russia on the eve of May Day is best expressed by the newspaper Izvestia. It says that the Russian people this May are expressing their ardent love for their country—and a sacred hatred of the enemy.

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 1, 1943

Joseph Stalin's order of the day is probably the most cheering and optimistic statement to come from the Kremlin since Russia entered the war.

This fact is all the more significant when you consider that Stalin is no military Pollyanna. He's still the same hardheaded realist that held Russia together through a year's fighting retreat before turning on Hitler to deal Germany the most terrible blow that that nation ever suffered.

Consequently, when Stalin says that the "German-Italian Fascist camp is undergoing a great crisis and is now standing before catastrophe," he's not talking through his hat.

The other significant fact in this order of the day is that the Soviet supreme commander-in-chief for the first time has given full marks to his allies. (You remember all other of Stalin's war statements complained that the Soviet Union was bearing the full burden of the war.)

Today's document has nothing but praise for the Allies and their fighting in North Africa and in the air over Western Europe. These blows by Russia's allies, Stalin says, foretell the formation of a second front in Europe.

The entire order of the day reflects the assurance and confidence of a man sure in his allies and agreed on their common strategy. (It is a welcome change of tone.)

Stalin also gave a clear answer to those outside of Russia who might have fears as to the intention of the Soviet Union after the Germans have been ousted from this country. He rejected potential Axis peace agreements and asked, "Is it not quite clear that only the full routs of the Hitlerian army and the unconditional capitulation of Hitlerian Germany could bring a peace to Europe?"

The Stalin plan for victory set down in his order of the day. He says that only "two or three more powerful blows from the east and the west are necessary" to knock Germany and Italy out of the war. He means such powerful blows as the one at Stalingrad and the Axis defeat in Africa. But he warns that these blows are going to be bitter, bloody, and expensive for both Russia and her Anglo-American allies.

The order of the day has created great, good feeling for Russia's allies here in Moscow. It must be creating some great worries and a good deal of concern in Berlin and Rome.

It is serving as a great pep talk for the hard-worked and hard fighting Russian people. It is also great ammunition for the war of nerves against the Axis.