Jonathan sent me this post from Jim Miller’s blog. Miller discusses a very good NYTimes article entitled “A Job for Rewrite: Stalin’s War.” Miller, and the NYTimes note the incredible fact that the military disaster known as Operation Mars is barely known in the West. The NYTimes gives particular credit to Col. David M. Glantz for bringing the murky history of the Soviet Side of World War II to light. I have read several of Col. Glantz’s books. (e.g. this one and this one and this one.) He is the master in English of the Soviet war effort. Mars was a colossal disaster — the Red Army lost more men in a few weeks than the USA lost in the entire war. The fact that the Mars defeat could be totally erased from history shows what type of regime Communist Russia really was: monolithic, Orwellian, a pyramid of corpses and lies.
Glantz’s main lesson is that the Red Army was not a blunt instrument — it got better and better as the war went on. It didn’t just bleed all over the Germans, it learned its lessons from them, then turned around and treated the Wehrmacht to fiercer blitzkriegs than it had ever dished out itself. My adolescent belief that “Patton could have pushed them back to Moscow” has been amply demonstrated in the ensuing years to be utter fancy. Glantz’s books prove the immense skill and quality attained by the Red Army by the end of the war. Again, I will ride my hobby horse and praise Franklin Roosevelt, our third greatest president. FDR was, as usual, right in how he handled the end of World War II: grab as much as you can, cut the best deal you can, bullshit the Russians, and lie low. Compared to the Red Army of 1945, what the Americans and British Commonwealth had on the ground was totally inadequate. FDR seemed to be better aware of that than some of his own generals. The idea of even the up-gunned Sherman and a handful of the new Pershings, with their 90mm guns, could have gone up against armadas of T-34-85s and Stalin IIs with their 122mm gun does not bear thinking about. And by the time the Allies and the Red Army had come into contact, the Soviets were just introducing the Stalin III, which to this day looks futuristic. Our people would have been eaten alive. The Red Army would have been on the English Channel. We got out of World War II very well indeed, with the best half of Europe in our hands, and virtually all of the fighting and dying having been done by the Russians. Anyway, that is all make believe stuff. The Japanese were still not beaten, they were fighting like tigers, no one knew if the atom bomb would work, and no rational person on the American side was seriously contemplating taking on the Russians.
Molotov thought FDR was a clever bastard who played his cards very well. He ought to know.