Sunday 18 February 2018

Red Army losses

Madam – I am pleased that Mr McGurk and Mr Gallagher (Letters, Sunday Independent, June 16, 2013) sought fit to reply to my letter regarding the Second World War and I would like to make a quick reply to their points.

I do not trivialise the heroic contribution of the Soviet people and Red Army to the Allied victory. I am not denying for an instant that the Red Army did the main job of breaking the Wehrmacht, nor that the vast bulk of German casualties were sustained on the Eastern Front. But the 29 million Red Army casualties, including nine million Red Army fatalities, does not in and of itself tell the whole story. A lot of this suffering was due to the Red Army's incredible incompetence and brutality towards its own personnel in 1941-43. Even in 1943-45, when the Red Army became more competent (and at times brilliant), it spent its men like water – right until the very end of the war. For example, in 1944, when the Wehrmacht was increasingly outnumbered and crippled, it still inflicted 6.5 million casualties on the Red Army in that one year alone.

My point was that the Soviet Union could not have won the war on its own. I am well aware that Stalin shifted thousands of factories to the east to save them from the Germans, but after 1941, for the rest of the war, the Soviet Union's effective GNP was reduced to the size of Britain's. With this, and an unoccupied population pool of 120 million, there is no way that, on its own, the Soviet Union could have beaten Germany – a much more advanced country of 80 million people which also controlled most of Europe. The USSR's economic losses to the German invasion were so devastating that the country did not really recover until the Fifties.

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