Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
5th February, 2016
The Red Army’s number of available weapons in the army, in June 1941, was superior to the Wehrmacht, despite the fact that Germany seized the arms of all its conquered countries of Europe, including the arms of France, with its enormous number of tanks, guns and aircraft. On the number of troops in the armed forces, Germany surpassed the USSR by 1.6 times, namely 8.5 million people in the Wehrmacht and a little over 5 million people in the worker-peasant Red Army.
This balance of forces occurred despite the fact that, in preparation to repel aggression, the USSR only in the period from 1937 to 22nd June 1941 increased the strength of the Red Army from 1,433 million people to 5.1 million people. But when we speak about our defeats in 1941, the power that came upon us during that terrible time is mentioned only in passing. After all, it wasn’t just the power of Germany, but the huge “country” of Europe. It far exceeded our strength and capabilities in peacetime.
It took infinite power of all the forces of the Soviet people for a period of 4 years to defeat the enemy who attacked our country. Workers often slept in the shops, saving working time, and the soldiers and officers of the Red Army, tens of thousands were killed in fierce continuous battles with the enemy.
So let’s look at the question of enemy strength. 8.5 million German armed forces with 1.2 million person civilian staff entered, which were hired from all countries of Europe, and possibly in non-European countries. From the 8.5 million people, land forces amounted to about 5.2 million people. The 8.5 million number does not include the number of those in the armies of the European allies of Germany: Italy, Hungary, Romania, Finland. And this is no small force, for example, the armed forces of the Kingdom of Romania alone numbered from 700,000 to 1,100,000 people, and the Finnish defence forces – 560,000-605,000.
If we assume that on average the army of these allies consisted of 625,000 people, and this is the minimum possible number, we see that actually on 22.06.1941, Germany’s allies had at least 11 million trained, armed officers and soldiers, and Germany could very quickly compensate for the loss of their army by strengthening their troops.
Our Red Army, totalling 5 million people in 1941, resisted the armies subordinate to Germany, with a total number no less than 11 million people. Only when the number of German troops, which exceeded the number of Soviet troops by 1.6 times, merged together with the forces of European allies, did it exceeded the number of Soviet troops by at least 2.2 times.
This is such a monstrously huge force which the Red Army resisted. That’s why Krebs told Halder: “Russia will do everything to avoid war. Will go to any concessions, including territorial”.
The fact is that the number of “new Germany” troops, i.e. United Europe, was more than 300 million people, and by 1941, more than 1.5 times the population of the USSR, which at that time was 194.1 million people.
The question may arise: why did the USSR not bring the strength of their army up to 11 million people before the war? You have to understand that these 11 million men had to withdraw from the national economy at a time when industry and agriculture treasured each pair of workers, it was necessary to arm and train the military, with clothes, shoes, and to ensure a normal power supply.
We had just risen to our feet after two devastating wars, Russia had no funds to pay the armed forces, which was equal in numbers to the armed forces of the rich and huge number of states of United Germany in Europe. Upon the outbreak of war the company switched to work with an extended working day under martial law, some workers and specialists were called into the army, and women and children replaced them at the machines of factories, usually performing work that did not require high qualification. Skilled workers continued to work. The vast majority of peasants were not provided with armor.
The 8.5 million people of the German army were armed with 5639 tanks and assault guns, more than 10 thousand combat aircraft, more than 61,000 guns and mortars. The Navy, in June 1941, consisted of 217 warships of main classes, including 161 submarine. On June 22nd 1941, 5.5 million soldiers and officers of Hitler’s Germany and his satellites crossed the Soviet border and invaded our land. Of the 5.5 million soldiers, no less than 800 thousand people were allies.
During the war the number of troops allied with German states increased. During the war the only prisoners we had taken were 752,471 Romanian, Hungarian, Italian and Finnish troops. The 5.5-million army in Europe attacked the USSR with about 4,300 tanks and assault guns, 47,200 guns and mortars, 4980 combat aircraft and more than 190 warships.
The number of Soviet Armed forces by June 1941 amounted to more than 5 million people (5,080, 977 people): in the ground forces and the air defense forces – more than 4.5 million people in the air force – 476,000, in the Navy – 344,000 people. The Red Army consisted of more than 67 ,000 guns and mortars, 1860 new tanks and more than 2700 (3719 PCs, according to G.K Zhukov) combat aircraft of new types. In addition, the army had a large number of outdated armored vehicles and aircraft.
The Navy had 276 warships of main classes, including 212 submarines. The number of troops that attacked us exceeded the number of all the armed forces of the USSR by about 500,000. But we must bear in mind that in June 1941, the war with Germany did not involve armed forces in the far East in case of an attack by Japan, in the Caucasus in case of an attack by Turkey, and other hazardous areas. I believe that the deployment in these areas was not less than one million servicemen.
Thus, the number of troops of the Red Army who intended to attack Germany with its allies, on 22.06.1941, was no more than 4 million people, compared to 5.5 million troops of Germany and its satellites. In addition, Germany since the first weeks of the war had redeployed a fresh division from Europe to the Eastern front.
As can be seen from the above data, the Red Army, at the beginning of the war, compared to the forces of Germany and her allies who attacked the USSR, had 19,800 more guns and mortars, more than 86 units of combat ships of the basic classes, but also a superior number of guns to the attacking enemy.
Combat characteristics of small arms, guns of all calibers and mortars were not only not inferior, but in many cases were superior to the weapons of Germany.
As for the armored and air forces, our army had them in quantities far exceeding the number of the pieces of equipment available to the enemy at the beginning of the war. But the bulk of our tanks and planes, compared to Germany, were a weapon of the “old generation”, obsolete. The tanks mostly just had bulletproof armor, a considerable percentage of aircraft and tanks were faulty and had to be written off.
However it should be noted that, before the war, the Red Army had 595 units of heavy tanks KB and 1225 units of medium tanks T-34 and 3719 new types of aircraft: YAK-1, LaGG-3, MiG-3, bombers Il-4 (DB-ZB), PE-8 (TB-7), PE-2, Il-2.
Basically we had designed and produced specific new, expensive and high-tech equipment in the period from early 1939 until mid-1941, that is, for the most part during the action of the 1939 Treaty of non-aggression “Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact”. During the 19 peaceful pre-war years, the Soviet Union built 11,500 large industrial enterprises. With the outbreak of war most of these companies had started to work for the front, for victory. Before the war most of the weapons were manufactured thanks to newly built plants and factories: blast furnaces and open-hearth furnaces for smelting steel, production of guns, planes, tanks, ships, submarines and other enterprises of the military-industrial complex.
The presence of a large number of weapons allowed us to survive and to win. Even with the huge losses of weapons in the initial period of the war, we still had a sufficient number of weapons for the resistance during the retreat and for the onset, near Moscow. Short-term shortages of artillery, small arms, automatic weapons could be felt on some parts of the front, causing a lack of ammunition, delayed emergence of artillery units in the right direction, and irregularities in the supply, delivery of weapons and ammunition to the troops.
As a result of the bloody battles and the retreat of the army, aircraft and tanks, especially, were lost. Many tanks were lost due to the lack of fuel. Very often tanks were left due to our troop’s exit from the encirclement. We lost planes in the fighting and on airfields. But I must say that in 1941, the German army had no equipment, similar to our KB heavy tanks, armored attack aircraft Il-2 and rocket artillery type BM-13 (Katyusha).
To be continued…