July 16, 2015

1942. The Russian Winter as Described by Larry LeSueur

"Winter Belongs to Russia"

Bill Downs relieved Larry LeSueur as the CBS Moscow correspondent in December 1942.

Larry LeSueur


November 8, 1942

WINSTON BURDETT: And now you will hear Larry LeSueur, who has just come here from Moscow.

: I've come to Cairo from another world. I came into a world of bright tropical sunshine, well-dressed people, and food aplenty. I left behind a world of drab, gray monotone—of people in old clothes with set faces. A cold land of rain and snow squalls. The world that is called Moscow, and Russia.

Moscow and Cairo have at least one thing in common. They both believe that their war is the war. When they hear I come from Russia, everyone I meet from officials to taxi drivers asks me how the war in Russia is going. And as soon as I start to tell them, they break in to tell me about the war which is nearest to them: the war in the desert. Today's new war, the American landing in French North Africa, was such a well-kept secret here that it came as a great surprise, and the ordinary man on the Cairo streets hasn't begun to grasp its implications yet.

Up in Moscow, the Russian people probably haven't learned about the American landing. When they do, which will no doubt be tomorrow morning on their internal radio system with its loudspeaker in every house, they'll be pleased in a mild way. They'll be pleased to know the American war preparations have reached such a stage that we are able to take the offensive somewhere fairly near Europe.

But there'll be no dancing in the streets of Moscow, because nothing will really please the Russian people except an actual Allied offensive in Egypt, [inaudible] in Europe. Something they can really feel is taking the main burden of the German army off their backs.

When I left Moscow after a year in Russia, I could see some bitterness. They really thought there was going to be a second front this year. The Soviet newspapers hinted at it constantly, and undoubtedly the average Russian feels let down. But there's still a good deal of sympathy for America's position.

But underlying this feeling of disappointment there's a fierce pride—a burning pride which has much to do with the incredible Russian resistance at Stalingrad. That pride is going to go a long way toward holding up the morale of Russian civilians this winter, and it's going to be a tough winter. They're going to be short of food. Some people are going to go hungry. A lot of people are going to be cold.

I left Moscow in a driving, wet snow squall, but the heat hadn't yet been turned on in any Moscow apartment house. The people are going to be short of clothes, but by patching up their coats they'll make them last another winter. They're going to be very short of shoes. More and more often I heard the clack-clacking of wooden-soled shoes on the Moscow pavement. Everything is going to the Red Army.

Prices of rationed food are strictly controlled in Moscow, but in the public market, governed only by the laws of supply and demand, prices of unrationed food have soared. A day's pay for a couple of pounds of potatoes. Almost a month's pay for a couple of pounds of butter. But of course this gives the workers something to spend their rubles on. You see, every factory in Russia is turned to war production. There's very little a civilian can buy except in the secondhand stores.

Yet a few things are being done to make the Russian capital more cheerful this winter. Moscow has been dolled up with a new set of streetlights that go far to dissipate the gloom of the long winter night. There'll be more entertainment and shows this year because Moscow is now considered safe.

The military situation is good. The Russian armies are intact all the way from Leningrad to Stalingrad. The main reserves of the Red Army were not used this summer in the small diversion offenses. Russia will have another opportunity this winter to train more reserves. More women will enter the war factories to relieve men for the front. But there's no getting away from the fact that Russia has lost an appreciable part of its ability to produce war machines with the loss of the Don Basin and the destruction of the huge factories at Stalingrad. Unless they can get a lot more tanks from America and England, it will be very difficult for them to launch a major offensive next year. But the Red Army has not lost its ability to engage a lot of German troops.

The Battle of Stalingrad will reach a precarious point for both sides in about two or three weeks when the Volga freezes up. And the fight in the Caucasus has a long time to go on. But the Russians have a saying: "Russia and summer don't get along well together." But the Red Army will be in action this winter because winter belongs to Russia.