Wednesday 15 August 2018

Too Little, Too Late

"Received on June 22nd, 1:45 am
Send on June 22nd, 2:25 am, 2:35 am

To the commanders of the 3rd, 4th, 10th armies, I pass on the order of the People's Commissar of Defense for immediate execution.
  1. A sudden German attack is possible on June 22nd or 23rd on the Leningrad Military District, Baltic Military District, Western Military District, Kiev Military District, and the Odessa Military District. The German attack might begin with provocations.
  2. Our goal is to resist any provocation that could result in complications. At the same time, forces of the  Leningrad Military District, Baltic Military District, Western Military District, Kiev Military District, and the Odessa Military District must remain ready to meet a sudden attack by the Germans or their allies.
  3. I command you to:
    1. Secretly take positions along the state border on the night of June 22nd.
    2. Before dawn on June 22nd, spread out aircraft on field airstrips, including military aircraft, and carefully camouflage them.
    3. All units must be ready for combat without additional calling up of personnel. Prepare blackout measures for cities and objects.
Take no other actions without special orders.



  1. Can anyone translate the second image on the source page, the one that's all scrawled, hand-written notes? I could do it, given enough time, but I'm so slow at reading handwriting ...


    1. "June 22nd, 1941, 07:15
      On June 22nd, 1941, at 04:00 German aircraft, without any reason, attacked our airports and cities on the Western border and bombed them. At the same time, German forces opened artillery fire and crossed the border in several places. In connection with this unprecedentedly brazen attack on behalf of Germany, I order that:
      All forces and all measures must be used against the enemy forces to destroy them in areas where the Soviet border was violated. Until special orders are given, do not cross the border.
      Recon and combat aircraft must locate enemy aircraft concentrations and ground formations.
      With powerful strikes of bomber and ground attack aircraft, destroy enemy aircraft at airstrips and enemy ground forces. Strikes should be delivered at a depth of up to 100-150 km into enemy territory. Bomb Koenigsberg and Memel.

      Do not perform any sorties against Finnish and Romanian territory until special orders are given.


      Next page, blue pencil:

      "Comrade Vatutin: bomb Romania"

      Gray pencil instructs to bomb Romanian and Finnish territory. No date, but there was a meeting at 8:10 am mentioned at the top of the page, so probably as a result of that.

  2. Replies
    1. The name sounds *very* vaguely familiar but quick search of the Usual Suspects (ie. Google and Wiki) turned up nothing, can you give a short summary?

    2. Rezun (a Soviet defector) who argued that Stalin was planning his own surprise attack on Germany in 1941 and that Hitler's attack only pre-empted Stalin. Most historians (especially David Glantz) consider Rezin's argument specious and his evidence highly circumstantial, given the disarray in Soviet readiness, organization, and logistics in the summer of 1941.

    3. Ah, The Artist Better Known As Suvorov. Haven't read his work firsthand (I have SOME standards for my expenditure of free time) but the parts I've seen referenced here and there screamed "patently tendentious bullshit" and making far too much of blindingly obvious generalities like "having your enemies beat each other up is nice" to speak nothing of having basically no credible sources whatsoever to draw upon. (That the guy has "reinvented himself as a professional armchair Cold Warrior" written all over him doesn't particularly help.)

      Don't quite see how this is relevant to his claims one way or the other, though? Purported offensive preparations in no way rule out being caught flat-footed by a surprise attack yourself after all.

  3. Purported offensive preparations in no way rule out being caught flat-footed by a surprise attack yourself after all.

    Yeah, but when, say, your tanks have *no* ammunition whatsoever (some units, such as the 41st Tank Division, had none, their KV-1s ended up having to run over German AT guns because other than machine gun bullets they had no ammo of any kind for their main gun) that indicates a situation where you are unprepared equally for defensive or offensive warfare. That is the most severe example, what was more common was that some tank units had no ammo at all of certain types (some units had no AT rounds) and overall there was only 1/10th the 76.2 mm ammo at-hand that units should have had. For the new T-34 and KV-1 tanks most crews had received no training. The same situation was true for the Soviet air force.

    The Red Army was also in the midst of instituting a new organization, that would require say, 3500 KV-1 tanks to complete, and they didn't have enough resources to fill this. Ergo, some Red Army divisions are only a bit more than paper units (the 37th tank division had *one* KV-1 tank).

    Now when was Barbarossa launched? June 22rd? Well, according to Rezun, the Soviets are going to iron out all these problems, and more, and launch their own sneak attack July 6th, 1941. Hordes of ammo-less tanks manned by crews unfamiliar knowing how to operate them will cross the frontier, and the Germans will run in terror from units that exist mostly on paper. Uh-huh.

    The truth is, the Red Army in mid-1941 was not only ill-prepared for an offensive, it was ill-prepared for to fight defensively. Most historians agree that Stalin foresaw war, and was preparing for it, but maybe on the 1942 timeframe or later. And of course, such plans could have included offensive options, I'll give Rezun that crumb. But the sad truth is that the Red Army's problems in June 1941 were so severe that even if the Red Army had been properly alerted in time for Barbarossa, the difference in outcome may have only been marginal better.

  4. Why is the "Received" time earlier than the "Sent" time? Differences in time zones between Stavka and the army HQs?

    1. Received is when the request to send the message came into the telegraph station, send is when it was sent out.

    2. Ah, that's the opposite from what I'm used to seeing in Royal Navy telegraphs.