Saturday 2 May 2015

Meeting at Elbe

"To the commanders of the 61st, 47th, 3rd and 5th Shock, 8th Guards, 3rd, 69th, 33rd, and 1st Polish Armies
To the commanders of the 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Divisions
To the commander of the 16th Air Army
To the commanders of the 2nd and 7th Guards Cavalry Corps

Copies: chiefs of artillery and armoured forces of the Front, chief of the engineering forces of the Front, chief of Front communications, Front political chief.

In accordance with decree #11075 issued on April 23rd by the Stavka of the Supreme Command, I order that:

When meeting American or English forces, follow these guidelines:
  1. The senior commander in the area where the meeting occurs must immediately contact the senior American or English commander and establish a border in accordance with Stavka decrees outlined in my directive #00583 issued on April 21st, 1945. Do not tell them any information about our plans or combat missions.
  2. Do not initiate any organization of friendly meetings.
    When meeting allied forces, be friendly. If American or English forces wish to organize a celebration or friendly meeting, do not refuse and send our representatives. Immediately report any such invitation up the chain of command and only reply positively with the permission of a senior commander no lower than a corps commander. After such a meeting, you may invite representatives from the American or English armies to meet with us.
    Organize such a meeting with the permission of a senior commander no lower than a corps commander. Carefully instruct officers and generals chosen to serve as representatives for a friendly meeting with American or English representatives on their manners and behaviour towards the latter, keeping in mind this directive and military secrecy. 
  3. Our forces must, in all cases, be an example or order and discipline. All generals and officers must keep to uniform standards and look presentable. This is demanded of all forces that can have contact with American or English forces.
    If their representatives visit us, direct your utmost attention to precise order and organization during  their visit. Do not receive them in HQ buildings, but organize a separate building especially for this purpose.
  4. When encountering allied forces, report to the Front HQ with the place, time, and number of the unit.
Commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, Marshall of the Soviet Union, G. Zhukov
Member of the 1st Belorussian Front Military Council, Lieutenant-General Telegin
HQ Chief of the 1st Belorussian Front, Colonel-General Malinin
April 24th, 1945"

"To the Chief of the Political Directorate of the 1st Ukrainian Front, Major-General comrade Yashechkin

Report from the Political Department of the 5th Guards Army
Contents: On the meeting with representatives of the 69th and 104th Infantry Divisions of the 1st American Army

On April 23rd, an infantry battalion from the 173rd Guards Infantry Regiment, 58th Guards Order of the Red Banner Krasnograd Infantry Division, commanded by Captain Neda, reached the eastern shore of the Elbe river near the city of Torgau (west of the river) and fortified near a bridge.

On April 25th, during the day, and American soldier on the bell tower of a church in Torgau wavef flags and yelled something unintelligible. Not knowing the language, our men assumed it was a German. Lieutenant Selvashin attempted to speak to him in German, but received no answer. Our soldiers fired several shots at the bell tower.

A non-Russian soldier exited the bell tower and yelled two words in Russian: "Moscow - America". That is when we discovered that these were American soldiers and demanded that one of them come over. The American soldier that came told us that he was a part of an American scout group that was sent to discover the position of Russian forces. He was soon followed by an American officer, which told us that the scouts were from the 69th Infantry Division of the 1st Army and asked for one of our officers to accompany him to their HQ, saying that his battalion was located 15 kilometers from there.

According to the invitation, at 23:30 on April 25th, 1945, our regimental representatives, consisting of the deputy commander Major Ilarionov, commander of the second battalion, Captain Neda, Guards Lieutenant Selvashina, and Guards Sergeant Andreev arrived at the American divisional HQ, which was located 40 km west of the river. Neither American nor German forces were encountered on the way, only small groups of Germans that asked the Americans where the POW gathering places were.

Upon arrival at the HQ of the 69th Infantry Division, our representatives were met by an American Major. American soldiers met them with hostility, thinking they were prisoners, but when they discovered that these were Soviet officers, they applauded, yelled various greetings to the Red Army and the Soviet people, tore stars off the officers' shoulderboards and cut off their buttons, each trying to get a souvenir. Then the officers were received by the commander of the 69th American Infantry Division, Major-General Reinhardt. 

The meeting was very friendly. The General and his officers took photos with our representatives, and agreed on another meeting, after which General Reinhardt and Brigadier General Marest accompanied them with an escort on 13 Willys Jeeps to Torgau.

On April 26th, at 11:00, the commander of the 69th Infantry Regiment met with commander of the 173rd Guards Infantry Regiment Major Rogov (as asked by the American officer). The meeting was held on the bridge across the Elbe at Torgau. Both officers were accompanied by other officers from the regiments. Comrade Rogov and the American commander exchanged brief greeting speeches. Both stressed the importance of friendship between the two peoples and armies and their mutual efforts to bring about the defeat of Hitler's Germany. The American commander asked: "What are your orders?" Comrade Rogov replied that his orders were to reach the Elbe and wait for further orders. He then invited the Americans for breakfast. The American officers behaved freely. Each one aimed to obtain some souvenir, taking stars from shoulderboards, trading their rank insignia, exchanging watches and handkerchiefs.

In the afternoon, a meeting was held between the commander of the 58th Guards Infantry Division, Major General comrade Rusakov and the commander of the American 69th Infantry Division, Major-General Reinhardt. Present from our side: HQ chief Guards Lieutenant-Colonel Rudnik, commander of the 173rd Guards Infantry Regiment Major Rogov, and other officers. General Reinhardt was accompanied by his deputy, Brigadier General Marest and HQ Chief Colonel Pilinch. About 70 journalists were present from American, English, French, and Soviet newspapers, as well as several film crews. TASS representative at the 1st American Army Zhdanov and writer Konstantin Semenov were also present. The meeting was held at the governor's house on the eastern shore of the Elbe in the area of the second battalion of the 173rd GIR.

Major-General Rusakov and Major General Reinhardt exchanged greeting speeches. In his speech, the American General declared:

"These are the happiest days of my life. I am proud and happy that my division was the first to meet with the heroic Red Army. Two great Allied armies meet on German soil. This meeting will bring the final defeat for the German army."

In his response, Major-General Rusakov said:

"Today is a long awaited and joyous day. Two great armies meet in Germany. The heroic Red Army made its journey of fierce battle and glorious victory. We are glad to meet American forces on enemy territory. The meeting of the two allied armies is a historical event in the fight against Hitler's Germany. Let this meeting be the cornerstone of final defeat of Hitler's army and a lasting peace."

Major General Reinhardt presented Major-General Rusakov with the American national flag.

The celebration arranged by Major-General Rusakov to commemorate the meeting of two great armies elapsed in a friendly and warm environment. Major General Reinhardt, Brigadier General Marest, and accompanying officers of the 1st Army congratulated the officers of the 58th Guards Infantry Division with their glorious victories and expressed joy and awe at the heroism of the Russian army.

Major General Reinhardt made a toast to the health and glory of the Soviet leader and inspiration behind the victories of the Red Army, Marshall of the Soviet Union, comrade Stalin.

On April 26th, at 18:00, a meeting between our forces and allied forces occurred in the sector of the 118th Infantry Division, west of the Elbe and south-west of the city of Priesitz. Our representatives in this meeting were the commander of the first infantry company of the 527 Regiment, 118th Division, Captain Ushakov, and the commander of the first platoon in that company, Lieutenant Kondrashev. 5 American soldiers led by Lieutenant Shink with a raised flag approached our unit in a Willys. They were met by our soldiers, and then Ushakov and Kondrashev. These were scouts from the American 104th Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Ellen. The warriors of the two armies first greeted each other in an official manner, and then with an unofficial handshake. Today, here, beyond the German river of Elbe, Ushakov, a veteran of Stalingrad, shakes the hand of Lieutenant Shink as though he was his own brother.

Our soldiers and officers that were present behaved themselves well and acted in a disciplined fashion. On the other hand, the Americans were somewhat relaxed.  

The soldiers compared their uniforms. One of our Sergeants said that "Our generals are easy to spot from afar, they are clothed in a distinct uniform. Your generals are hard to tell apart from a soldier. The Red Army uniform is better, from common soldier to general."

There were no incidents during this meeting.

Today, on the right shore of the Elbe, near the sector of the 173rd Guards Infantry Division, the commander of the 34th Guards Infantry Corps Guards Major-General Baklanov met the commander of the American 5th Corps.

Political Department Chief of the 5th Guards Army, Guards Major-General Katkov."

Other meetings in the area went about the same. Lots of vague noncommittal statements of peace and victory from both sides (really, you could swap the PR departments and no one would notice), inscriptions of some slogans in both languages, concerts and dinners, lots of reporters scurrying around, interviewing Soviet soldiers and taking photos. One correspondent from the Saint Louis newspaper Post Dispatch attempted to leave the meeting and wander around in the Soviet rear, but was stopped and sent back across the Elbe.

Much like an American flag was given in the above scenario, Baklanov gave a flag to the Americans that was carried to the Elbe from Stalingrad. 

There were also various discussions on military matters. The Americans wished to build a bridge across the Elbe, asked about Soviet unit composition and T-34 technical characteristics. 

Some notable people that were present at the celebrations were included in the reports, largely Eastern European immigrants to America, or Soviet prisoners freed from German camps. American treatment of German civilians was discussed, including their tendency to leave existing civil administration in charge. 

Observations were made that American officers (including fairly senior ones) were seen demanding wine from the locals at Torgau and looting their belongings. An incident was recorded where a German doctor told some Russian officers that he had some medication that he wanted them to take lest it fall into the hands of the Americans, and then told the same thing to the Americans. His attempt to cause a conflict between the two forces failed, however, and he was escorted out of the building by some Americans. Upon their return, they were asked what happened to the doctor, but the only response was a "wave of the hand and a whistle".

Among all the unofficial exchanges of knick-knacks and souvenirs, an official exchange of awards was performed.

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