November 2, 2016

1943. How Big is the War in the Soviet Union?

Map of the Eastern Front as of November 23, 1943
Approximate map covering the stretch of the Wehrmacht's Panther-Wotan defensive line as of November 23, 1943. Map by Marc R. Fore in Newsweek, December 6, 1943 (Click to enlarge)

From Newsweek, December 6, 1943, p. 23:

Fighting Fronts
How big is the war in Russia? Look at the map above. It has been deliberately drawn not to show the ebb and flow of the great battles. Instead, only the action reported in the Soviet and German communiqués of a single day has been illustrated, with the most important passages quoted for each section of the battle line. To read these communiqués side by side and superimposed on a map is one of the few ways for the ordinary mind to comprehend the unending nature of the struggle—and some of the discrepancies in the opposing accounts.

It may eventually turn out that this very continual fighting will be the key to Germany's final defeat. The Nazis badly need a rest this fall and winter. But the Red Army has kept the entire front in a state of violent action ever since July. The Germans have never had that "operational pause" in which they probably thought they could establish a line and reorganize their battered forces.

It is true that the German retreat has been very skillful and the Wehrmacht has escaped several potential Stalingrads. The Nazis still have all the old Prussian skill at military movement. But they have never been able to maneuver away from the fighting. The trouble with the entire German Army is that nearly every day has been another Nov. 23.

Last week the Red Army continued to roll on triumphantly. The most dangerous offensive from the German point of view was that directed at closing a great pincers behind the forces retreating from captured Gomel (the Germans still held it on Nov. 23). Here the Nazis were on their way back to Minsk and the old Russian-Polish border. On the Ukraine front, too, the Germans appeared about ready to resume their retreat after launching a series of violent counterattacks west of Kiev—counterattacks the Wehrmacht probably didn't want to make but was forced to undertake in order to extricate troops farther east.