Mark Albertson believes that the Second World War was just a continuation of the First World War and that it was the battles on the eastern front between Germany and the Soviet Union that finally brought it to its conclusion.
Mr. Albertson cited a plethora of facts and figures to support his premise. Among these are comparisons of the impact on the populations of those nations that fought the war. The British lost 1.1% of their population. The U.S. lost 1/3 of 1% of its population. But the Soviets lost 23-27 million out of a population of around 162 million at the beginning of the war.
When Hitler invaded the Soviet territory his goal was to destroy the Red Army and devastate much of its territory to eliminate the Soviets ability to resist the German advance. And they had significant success in the early stages of the war to the extent that the Soviets lost more fighters in the first two weeks of fighting than the U.S. did during the entire war. Plus, the Soviet losses were not confined to personnel alone. It also lost 2000 aircraft in the first two days of the German onslaught.
At that point the Soviets were looking at a very bleak future, but they rallied behind young skilled officers, amazing industrial capability, an almost endless supply of troops and the Soviet winter to turn things around. Marshall Zhukov called upon the men of the Eastern Army that had been posted in the eastern Soviet Union to reinforce the depleted troops in the west. Originally this army was posted to meet any Japanese attack. He was aided by the Soviet winter that dropped to 40 degrees below zero annihilating the horses that the German Army relied on for transportation. Winter also devastated the German troops, many of whom were only equipped with summer uniforms.
The turning point of the war, Mr. Albertson claims was Dec 7, 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor. This, says Albertson, turned a European war into a global war, joining the industrial capacity and man power of the U.S. to that of the Soviet Union. Together they completely outmatched the capabilities of Germany, Japan and their allies.
But in spite of the advantages the Soviets continued to pay a terrible price. By 1942, the Soviets had lost 4 ½ million men with losses amounting to more millions as the war progressed.
The Soviets concentrated on the land war leaving the naval engagements and air war up to the U.S. and Great Britain. This concentration resulted in their producing massive numbers of superior tanks and artillery compared to the western allies. It also resulted in their cataclysmic numbers of soldiers and civilians killed. The Soviet culture under Stalin found such losses perfectly acceptable as was the marching of penal battalions across mine fields to clear them.
According to Albertson, Stalin knew he was winning the war by 1943 and had his eyes focused on taking over as much of Eastern Europe and Western Europe to recompense him for the losses the Soviet Union had suffered and to act as a security buffer against future invasions. Two weeks after the Normandy invasion, Stalin launches a 450 mile front counter-offensive against Germany that is the beginning of the Soviet steamroller. This steamroller crushes the German Army it faces and begins to take over Eastern Europe, which Stalin has no intention of ever leaving. Albertson believes that had it not been for the Normandy invasion, the Soviet troops would have kept going past Germany and occupied all of Western Europe
Q. What was the rationale for Germany declaring war on the U.S.?
A. I believe it was Hitler’s attempt to show affinity for the Japanese and encourage the Japanese to attack the Soviet Union.
Q. Can you comment on the industrialization of the Soviet Union?
A. In 1914 Russia was the least industrialized, least educated, least developed and least prepared of any major country. Stalin recognized that this had to change and put tremendous emphasis on building up the capabilities of the Soviet Union. By 1940, it was the second leading industrial power in the world.
Q. Can you recommend any Stalin biographies?
A. Robert Service has a good one.
Q. How many troops and Civilians did Germany lose to the Eastern Front?
A. Germany lost about five million to the Eastern Front and about 7-8 million troops and civilians by war’s end. But it is very hard to get any accurate figures.
Q. Why couldn’t Germany attack the Soviet factories?
A. Germany did not have a strategic air force. It had an excellent tactical air force, but lacked the long range bombers to reach the Soviet factories especially when the Soviets moved much of their industrial capability to the east.
Q. What effect did the Soviet purge of officers in 1937 have on the war?
A. It had a great effect. Stalin purged some of his most brilliant officers. He was fortunate that the junior officers who stepped up turned out to be very capable.
Q. Are we still in a cold war with Russia and what are Putin’s goals as you see them?
A. The cold war is still going on. After the war and Soviet collapse, NATO came into the countries that used to be under the Soviet thumb. Putin wants them back as a security measure and certainly does not want Ukraine to become a member of NATO.
Q. How did Leningrad get tanks to fight the Germans?
A. They built many of them in Leningrad itself. In 1944 the Soviets broke the siege and managed to supply the city, but at one point 3-4 thousand people a day were dying in Leningrad.