November 6 in Russian history. The "Second Front" in WWII.


During the meeting of the Moscow Council of Deputies with communist party organizations Stalin delivered a speech, devoted to the anniversary of the October revolution. Among other things, he said something that later annoyed the Western allies:

How can we explain the fact that the Germans managed to seize the initiative and to have victories on our front? The explanation is that they managed to collect all their reserves, throw them to the Eastern front and to build a numerical advantage on one of the directions. There's no doubt that without these measures they wouldn't reach their goals on our front.

But why did they succeed in building this advantage? Because the absence of the second front in Europe allowed them to to do so avoiding any risk.


Suppose, there would be a second front in Europe, as there was one during the First World War, and it would distract about 60 German divisions and about 20 divisions of the German allies. What would the situation look like then? It would become the beginning of the end of the German army, because the Red Army would have been somewhere near Pskov, Minsk, Zhitomir and Odessa instead of where it is now. It means that this summer the German-fascist army would have faced a catastrophe. But it did not happen because there was no second front in Europe.


In the First World War, when Germany fought on two fronts, 85 of 220 German divisions fought against Russia. If we add 37 Austrian divisions, 2 Bulgarian and 3 Turkish divisions, there will be 127 divisions. The remaining German forces fought against mostly British and French armies and served in the occupied countries.

Now, in total, 240 divisions are fighting now against us on the Eastern front. The other divisions are located in the occupied countries and some of them are fighting against England in Lybia and Egypt, and only 4 German and 11 Italian divisions are fighting on the Lybian front.

So, we have 240 divisions instead of 127 in the First World War, and instead of 85 German divisions we have 179.

This is the main cause of the tactical successes of the German-fascist army in this summer.

Earlier, in the beginning of 1942, during the public opinion poll in Britain the majority of participants voted for the beginning of the offensive operation on the continent. In April, President Roosevelt wrote to Churchill:

Your people and mine demand the establishment of a front to draw off pressure on the Russians, & these peoples are wise enough to see that the Russians are today killing more Germans & destroying more equipment than you & I put together.

On 22 May 1942, Soviet foreign minister Molotov on a meeting with Churchill, Attlee, Eden and others reported on the upcoming extremely important and large scale battles on the Eastern front. He asked whether the allies will be able to distract at least 40 German divisions to Europe. If they will, said Molotov, Germany may be defeated in this year. Churchill gave no answer.

On 29 May, Roosevelt told Molotov that by the end of the year the USA will have an army of 4 million people and a fleet with 600,000 people and in 1942 they will be ready to open the second front. It was too late, but Roosevelt also promised to discuss with the general staff the possibility of sending 6 to 10 divisions to France in 1942. On the next day, during a meeting with general Marshall, admiral King and Harry Hopkins, Molotov said that postponing the opening of the second front till 1943 will present a risk to the USSR and be dangerous for USA and Britain, too. Molotov asked for the clarification of the allies' position. Roosevelt answered that "We want to open the second front in 1942. This is our hope." On 30 May Molotov reported to Moscow that "Roosevelt and Marshall said that they want to open the second front, but the actions are stalled by the lack of transport ships".

On 28 May Churchill sent a telegram to Roosevelt, explaining the reasons why the opening of the second front doesn't seem possible in 1942. George Marshall was also skeptical on the dates. However, on 1 June Present Roosevelt repeated that he hoped to open the front in 1942. On the same day, the British general staff voted down the operation Sledgehammer.

On 11-12 May a joint Soviet-American communique was published, where both sides said that they agreed on necessity of opening the second front in Europe. The same statement was in the British-Soviet communique. A bit later Roosevelt said to King and Marshall that he just wanted to raise hopes of the Soviet government. Churchill said that the British government does not commit itself to doing so on any certain date.

In July, the governments of USA and Britain decided that instead of landing in France, they will open operations in North Africa. In August 1942, 62% of Americans said in poll that they believed that the second front in Europe will be opened in two or three months.

Well, it went on and on and by November the Soviets were really tired waiting and in on 6 November Stalin continued his speech:

People often ask, whether there will be the second front. Yes, earlier or later, it will be formed. Not only because we need it, but because our allies need it. Our allies understand that after the defeat of France the absence of the second front against Germany might end badly for all freedom-loving countries, including the allies themselves.

The second front was not opened till 6 June 1944, when the Soviets liberated a large part of Russia and Ukraine, including Novgorod, Leningrad, Odessa, Sevastopol and began the offensive that would not stop anymore.


On a similar meeting with the deputies of the Moscow Soviet, Stalin mentioned for the first time "The ten blows of the Soviet army", which were promptly renamed into "Stalin's ten blows":

From Wikipedia:

1. Leningrad-Novgorod Strategic Offensive (14 January - 1 March, 1944). This, the second chronologically of the offensives, fully relieved the siege of Leningrad, which had started on August 30, 1941. Although the Germans resisted fiercely at first, having had years to prepare defensive rings including pillboxes and minefields around Leningrad, once the initial defenses were broken Soviet forces easily reached the border of Estonia. In Stalin's speech he called it the Lifting of the Leningrad Blockade. It was conducted by the Leningrad Front and the Volkhov Front.

2. Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive (24 January 1944 - 17 April 1944). This offensive was launched on Christmas Eve, 1943, the first chronologically of the 1944 offensives. It involved the clearing of Axis forces from Ukraine. It also resulted in the isolation of the German-controlled Crimea. It was called the Liberation of the Right-Bank Ukraine in Stalin's speech, and involved the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukrainian Fronts, and the 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts.

3. Odessa Offensive (26 March 1944 - 14 April 1944) which begun the third blow, and the Crimean Offensive (8 April - 12 May, 1944) which completed it. The third offensive cleared the Crimea of German and Romanian forces, and recaptured Sevastapol. Adolf Hitler had refused to allow Axis forces to evacuate, believing that retention of the Crimea was vital to maintaining Turkish neutrality. The Red Army attacked over the Perekop Isthmus, and quickly drove the German and Romanian forces back to Sevastopol, which surrendered on 8 May. Although Hitler had finally given permission for evacuation, the majority of soldiers were unable to escape in time and surrendered and went into captivity. Due to heavy casualties suffered by the Romanian forces, this battle was a major factor in their surrender. Stalin called it the Liberation of Odessa and Liberation of the Crimea in his speech. It was conducted by the 4th Ukrainian Front.

4. Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive (9 June - 9 August, 1944). This offensive against Finland recaptured the Karelian Isthmus and Vyborg. After having reached the 1940 border, the Soviet forces stopped voluntarily. It was successful in territorial gains, but due to Finnish fortifications, and German reinforcements was not as great a success as hoped by the Stavka. However, it was an cause of the eventual Finnish surrender on 19 September. Stalin dubbed it the Liberation of Karelia-Finland Soviet Republic. It was carried out by the Leningrad Front and the Karelian Front.

5. Operation Bagration (22 June - 29 August, 1944) Started exactly three years after the invasion of the Soviet Union, and named after Pyotr Bagration, a Russian general during the Napoleonic Wars, this drove the last remaining German forces from Soviet territory, recapturing all of Belarus. It inflicted extremely heave casualties upon the German Army Group Center, to the point of being called "The Destruction of Army Group Center,"and was undoubtedly one of Germany's worst defeats of the war. Soviet forces advanced past the Bobruisk-Mogilev-Vitebsk line, and nearly reached Warsaw before stopping. Almost 30 German divisions were encircled near Minsk, and the prewar border of East Prussia was reached. The Lublin–Brest Offensive is considered part of this operation. Stalin called the operation the Belorussian Operation, and liberation of Lithuania and significant parts of allied Poland, and advance to the borders of Germany." It was conducted by the 1st Baltic Front, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Belorussian Fronts.

6. Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive (13 July - 29 August, 1944). This offensive to the south of and concurrent to Operation Bagration advanced through Poland and past the Bug River. Although it made little progress at first, eventually it became successful, capturing Brody, Lvov, and Sandomierz. Called the Liberation of western Ukraine and crossing of the Vistula, it was carried out by the 1st Ukrainian Front. and, in conjunction with Operation Bagration, destroyed the German Army Group Centre

7. Jassy-Kishinev Offensive (19 August - 14 October, 1944). This offensive, beginning with the Jassy-Kishinev Offensive from 20 August to 29 August, and overlapped with the ninth victory by including the abortive East Carpathian Offensive. This offensive and its follow-ups were mainly conducted in the Balkans, and were targeted at German and Romanian formations in Army Group South Ukraine. About 15 or 16 German divisions were encircled with several Romanian divisions during the course of the Soviet advance. These operations, directly caused the capitulation of Romania and Bulgaria. It decimated the formations of Army Group South Ukraine, and Soviet forces advanced deep into Romania. In Stalin's speech, he referred to it as the "Forcing out of the war of Romania and Bulgaria, advancing to the borders of Hungary, and the possibility of offering assistance to allied Yugoslavia." It was carried out by the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts.

8. Baltic Offensive (14 September - 20 November, 1944). Recapturing the Baltic states, including most of Latvia and Estonia, this offensive isolated the Courland Pocket, where 30 divisions of Army Group North were cut off from Army Group Center till the end of the war in Europe. Stalin's speech called the offensive the Liberation of Estonia and Latvia, surrounding of Germans in Courland, and forced exit of Finland from the war. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Baltic Fronts, along with the Leningrad Front carried out this attack.

9. East Carpathian Offensive (8 September 1944 - 28 September 1944), Budapest Offensive (20 October, 1944 - 13 February 1945), and the Belgrade Offensive (14 September 1944 - 24 November 1944). These, the final of the successful 1944 offensives, resulted in the capture of Budapest, on 13 February 1945. Budapest was surrounded by Soviet forces on 26 December, 1944, and, after brutal street fighting, fell. The three offensives were regarded, and planned as a single continuous strategic advance that was also imbued with great political significance due to the participation of the Yugoslav communist forces in its final phase. Stalin called it the crossing of the Carpathian mountains, liberation of Belgrade and offering of direct help to Czechoslovakia, destruction of the Budapest group of Axis forces, and Liberation of Belgrade. It was conducted by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukrainian Fronts.

10. Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive (7 October - 29 October, 1944). This, the first and only large-scale Arctic military operation started after German forces did not evacuate from Finnish territory by 15 September, as dictated in the terms of the Moscow Armistice. It involved Soviet forces chasing retreating Germans into Norway, and was very successful for the Soviet Union. It led to the occupation of the nickel mines in Pechenga, which had been producing metal vital for the German war effort. Stalin called it the Removal of the threat from German forces to the Soviet northern shipping port of Murmansk and entry into Norway. It was conducted primarily by the Karelian Front, with assistance from Soviet naval forces.

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