Monday 6 January 2020

To The Death

"Order to the units of the Western Direction #07
July 25th, 1941
Acting Army

On all fronts, the Red Army is offering staunch resistance to the enemy, showing examples of heroism and bravery, delivering crushing defeats to the enemy armies.

However, in several units and formations of the Western Direction there have been isolated examples of cowards, panic-mongers, and those who seek to save their own skin who fled from the battlefield out of imagined fear of enemy aircraft and tanks, without resistance and without engaging the enemy, betraying the army and our great Motherland.

Cowards and panic-mongers cannot be allowed to abandon their weapons and flee from the battlefield, sowing panic in our companies, battalions, and regiments, weakening the units who are fighting.

The parties guilty of these great crimes have been judged and executed.

I order that:
  1. All political command staff and soldiers who value the interests of our Motherland must ruthlessly combat these shameful traitors and explain that leaving one's weapons and leaving the battle without them is a terrible crime. The political command staff must inspect weapons constantly and daily, and promote conscious protection of weapons and military vehicles.
  2. Political command staff are warned that they are now responsible for the condition of weapons and vehicles. Commanders and commissars of units and formations that allow a loss of weapons or vehicles without due cause will face a military tribunal.
  3. Not a single cannon, not a single tank, not a single car, not a single machine gun, not a single rifle can be left to the enemy. No matter how hard the situation is, all personnel must strive to preserve weapons and vehicles. It is not allowed to give in to panic and destroy materiel needlessly. Cannons are powerful and fearsome weapons that must be used in battle fully and to the end. It is only in a completely hopeless situation when weapons and vehicles are about to fall to the enemy that measures to evacuate cannons and vehicles are to be taken. If this is impossible, the cannons and vehicles must be destroyed so that they cannot fall into enemy hands no matter what.
  4. Abandoning a tank must be considered treason. It is better to die in the tank than to leave the battlefield without it.
  5. All commanders of units and formations must form teams to collect weapons. Commanders of divisions, commanders of corps, and commanders of armies must provide conditions in which this order can be carried out.
  6. Military prosecutors of the Western and Central Fronts are instructed to present anyone that violates this order to the military tribunal.
  7. The order should be read and explained to all companies, batteries, squadrons, and crews.
Supreme Commander of the Western Direction, Marshal of the Soviet Union S. Timoshenko
Member of the Military Council of the Western Direction, Bulganin
Chief of Staff of the Western Direction, Marshal of the Soviet Union B. Shaposhnikov"


  1. "Abandoning a tank must be considered treason. It is better to die in the tank than to leave the battlefield without it" how regularly and strictly was this enforced? It seems contrary to execute trained, expensive and scarce tankers for abandoning a burning tank.

    1. I've never seen this policy enforced in practice. Theoretically, leaving a perfectly good tank on the battlefield and hoofing it is desertion, but I've seen enough award orders for crews whose tank was destroyed and that broke out of an encirclement, so as long as you could credibly claim that your tank was lost in battle you would be fine.

      There were certainly cases of tankers convicted of intentional disablement of their own vehicles to avoid battle, that was a pretty serious crime too.