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We clearly underestimated the Red Army in the beginning of the war...
Material posted: Publication date: 06-05-2013

We clearly underestimated the Red Army in the beginning of the war. But this underestimation was not a mistake solely of our General staff and of the Department "Foreign armies East". As the General staff and the German military attache in Moscow, General Kostring together with our Ambassador Schulenburg does not have a shortage of material for quite competent and exhaustive evaluation.

Nevertheless, Hitler pushed aside all the reports and all the doubts of experts. With his characteristic arrogance, he declared the Soviet military leaders "defective". Blitzkrieg in Poland and France fatally pushed all scales of time and ideas about war.

If you want to defeat the enemy, you must know its capabilities and tactics. The establishment of this premise in time of peace with the help of intelligence agencies and is one of the main tasks of the senior military leadership. And here it should be recognized that German intelligence directed to the East, was entirely insufficient in terms of collecting data about Russia and its social, economic and climatic conditions. Therefore, in many battles the German soldier had to pay dearly for this bitter knowledge.

The experience gained on the Eastern front, made our soldiers, to some extent, "experts on Russia", experts on offensive on Soviet positions and repel the Soviet attacks, masters of improvisation, experts in the fight against cold, snow, and mud. I'm from the spring of 1942 a fairly good understanding of the command and troops of the red Army. The battles of Rzhev, Orel, Bryansk, Gomel and Orsha, on the lake Ilmen, near Narva, on the river, Romania and Hungary, in which I participated as a division commander, corps commander, army commander and army group, taught me a lot.

During the war I watched the Soviet command became more experienced. Some military commentators argue that the Red Army allegedly adopted the German tactics. You can argue with that, but of course, that the Soviet side is still partly applied the principles of our driving forces.

It was true that the Soviet high command since the battle of Stalingrad was often exceeded our expectations. It is masterfully performed a quick maneuver and movement of troops, the transfer of the direction of the main attack, showed skill in creating bridgeheads and equipping the research Institute on them initial positions for a subsequent transition to the offensive.

Sometimes the Russians lacked the necessary initiatives for rapid and extensive development achievements, tactical or operational, although with their inexhaustible human resources and their abundant weaponry, especially artillery and tanks, they were all able to do it. They risked little and often did not use this opportunity. Russians are not always able to develop tactical operational breakthrough; being misled by our "on-duty" groups and improvisations, they were often suspended its promotion. As demonstrated during the fighting in Romania and Hungary, it sometimes played us.

The reason for this constraint operational and tactical leadership, apparently, like us, was the strong dependence of Soviet front-line commanders from their high command.

Soviet troops were quite heterogeneous. There were also good and defective parts and connections. For the rest, the Russians, for that matter, and we, the troops were the mirror of their commanders. Soviet soldiers fought for their political ideas consciously and, I must say, even fanatically. This was the key difference between the entire red Army, and was particularly the case with young soldiers. Not right, those who writes that they did their duty only out of fear to drive their political Commissars, who in most cases have themselves fought bravely. I saw with my own eyes how young the soldiers on the battlefield, got into a hopeless situation, undermined themselves with hand grenades. It was really despising death soldiers!

At least a strong party of the Soviet soldiers was enormous tenacity and extreme simplicity. Russian soldiers slept where, regardless of whether he has a roof over his head. Deprivation of any kind did not play any role for him. So, in fact, it made no sense to destroy the settlements during the retreat of German troops. The sacrifice of Soviet soldiers in the battle knew no bounds. The so-called small war, particularly during the fighting in the forests, the Russians showed exceptional ingenuity and resourcefulness. They were able to perfectly disguise. Their "cuckoo" (snipers in the trees) and the guerrillas caused in our ranks a great loss. Their plain uniforms were very useful on the battlefield. Great art was shown and the Russians are seeping in through our positions before beginning his major offensive.

The successes of the red Army was due not least good equipment of armies by heavy arms: tanks, heavy artillery and invariably causing us fear "Katyusha" guards mortars, which, incidentally, is skillfully used. The Russians very cleverly and successfully used their artillery. Their aviation we feared less.

Over time, the Soviet command had become better to ensure the actions of his infantry on the battlefield due to the massing of fire and use of tanks. Surprisingly well established Soviet T-34 tank, who had a great degree of maneuverability and agility. Mnogomernoi in the tanks the Russians had, and it was a great advantage, as it gave them an opportunity to unify the supply tank troops with spare parts and ammunition. We had in service approximately 26 different types of tanks. Hence, naturally, arose a great difficulty. T-34 tank was unfailing everywhere on any terrain. Russian tanks could operate where by our standards it was considered impossible. The armament of the T-34 was also extremely effective. For the Soviet infantry he was a great plotter ways and very effective means of support.


Hans Friesner

Source: G. Prisner "Lost battles", Transl. with it. I. Glagoleva, V. Crivoi. - M: Veche, 2011, 2011. - 288 S. : ill. - (World war II. The sight of the enemy).


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