Vintage Saturday: Femme Fatale

Women of the Red Army with a DP28 LMG
Women in combat? Preposterous!

Leningrad, 1942, with a DP28 light machine gun. Women served the Red Army in substantial numbers as pilots, snipers, and machine gunners. In light of the controversy over US women moving into combat roles, this seems like it might be a relevant part of the conversation.

89 Comments

  1. I hear they weren’t near so prudish about the troops getting it on, but getting preggers was a bullet to the head.

    That solves a whole buncha objections to women in combat right there.

    And creates a whole bunch more…

  2. How many Red Army women were captured? How many survived that captivity? How many gave birth during captivity? I’d be interested to find out. I know the Russians and Germans weren’t very nice to each others prisoners, and I think this would be a relevant issue to discuss, given proposed military policy changes. I really don’t have a problem with females and males serving together, just as long as everyone knows the score up front.

    • CJ women POWs had horrible fates at the hands of the Soviets. The Germans usually outright shot snipers and those who were seen dangerous. The Red Army had many women on the front line. In the hands of Japanese military women were raped murdered or used as test subjects at Ping Fan Biowar lab. The US and British were fair to the German women who fought. The French were not so nice but the Allies were better than the Reds or the Germans where women POWS were concerned.

    • The Germans didn’t intend to have any of their Slavic POWs survive the war. In the sort term they used them as forced labourers in the coal mines and similar jobs, but the long term plan was to eventually exterminate all Slavs in eastern and central Europe as “sub-humans” and replace them with “pure Aryans”.

      • Actually, I think the plan was to:

        Coopt the non-Russian POWs into foreign SS legions and the like.
        Get rid of most of the Russian POWs, although there was a vocal minority of German officers who wanted to coopt anti-Soviet Russions like Vlasov.
        Reduce the civilian populace to agricultural serfs, essentially owned by German colonists.

        • The 14th SS were from the Ukraine. They were promised a free nation for their fight against the Reds. Then there were the “Banduras” who wore brown and terrorized anyone associated with the Soviets.They were unofficial and “expendable” to the Nazis. Then there were Cossack “Bands” who fought for themselves and against the Reds and against the Italians who were mercenaries that were not trusted by the Germans. After the war many Ukrainian soldiers and their families were in Austria and many were sent back to the Russians to face execution.(there is a story about a train of refugees that jumped unto a gorge rather than face Russian retribution) there were Croatian “Blue” division SS and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem has his own pseudo SS division. All were promised things after the war. It is doubtful if the promises would have been kept. The Nazi Eugenics movement(read US author Margaret Sanger for ideas on which the Nazis based their ideas of racial purity and extermination of “undermenchen”; Ms Sanger went on to found Planned Parenthood…strange bedfellows) Yes the Nazis wanted serfdom in the occupied countries Japan did the same in China

          • The Germans could have won the hearts and minds if only their racial superiority attitude hadn’t gotten into their way…the Ukrainians brought them gifts of bread and salt as they crossed into that part of the Soviet Union – The Ukrianians, especially, were victim of the Stalinist manufactured famine and initially saw the Germans as liberators…the more I read the history of Barbarossa the more I appreciate my M/N collection and the two Soviet capture Kar98ks that I own…

            CB in FL

          • On that issue, you are quite correct. Many peoples of the Soviet Union initially welcomed the Germans as liberators after Stalin’s brutal pogroms but, as you have pointed out, they were soon dissuaded by the idiotic and discriminatory ethnic policies of the Nazis.

            One thing that I have always found to be the height of irony is the fact that the Waffen SS had little hesitation in incorporating non-German volunteers into well-organized ethnic SS units, eg., the 33rd Waffen SS Grenadier Division “Charlemagne” ( French ), 23rd SS Division “Nederland” ( Netherlands ), 28th SS Division “Wallonien”, 5th SS Division “Wiking” and the Latvian Legionnaires. While it is obvious that Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, et.al., were deeply ensconced in their notions of the “Ubermensch”, they still appeared to be cognizant of the practical political and military need to incorporate non-Aryans into the ranks of the fighting forces — or perhaps the officer corps of the Waffen SS, who were usually professional soldiers who personally mostly did not subscribe to the politics and racial overtones of their superiors but nevertheless had to acknowledge, live and work with what they had been given ( or else be cashiered and shot for treason ), were astute enough to recognize the potential and persuade said superiors otherwise.

          • Alsao the Bosnian Moslem Division – “Handschar’ – they wore a fez as par of their dress uniform…that always amazed me too…they recruited all volunteers – no ‘racial purity’ concerns whatsoever (I believe it was more for the propaganda value’….if you ever find any memorabilia from the British SS volunteer units you have something worth a BUNCH of money…they had few members and what members there were were quickly hung when captured….a bud of mine many years ago in NJ found a sterling silver presentation cup given to a member of that organization (pre-Blitz, obviously) – it was being used as an ashtray in an antique shop…

            CB in FL

          • “The Germans could have won the hearts and minds if only their racial superiority attitude hadn’t gotten into their way”

            That was the nice thing about Hitler. When things looked at their darkest, he always found a way to bail you out… if you were on the other side.

            From swerving an army group across the paths of two others in the Soviet Union, to declaring war on the United States without the slightest obligation to do so, he repeatedly saved the day… for the other side.

            I wonder what FDR would have done if instead of declaring war on the U.S. after Pearl Harbor, Hitler had sent the United States a letter of condolence and promised to give the Japanese a “stern talking to”. Things would have gone badly sooner for the Japanese and MUCH better for the Germans.

            I suspect that had the Hindenburg and Ludendorff of 1917 been in charge instead of Hitler, the Wehrmacht would have marched victoriously into Moscow behind a massive anti-Stalin army of Russians and Ukrainians.

          • Pre US entry to the war, Sanger even gave Hitler’s head of Eugenics a guest editorial in her newsletter.

            I think it was in 1968 that she addressed the KKK.

            the likes of Sanger are always ammongst us, searching for opportunities for power.

          • On the subject of letters of condolence, it was Devalera, who sent a letter of condolence to the German Embassy in Dublin when he heard of Hitler’s death.

            Hitler’s Brother lived out his life as a waiter in one of the Dublin hotels. Apparently he’d had his little brother over when he worked in Liverpool in the 1920s

            It’s tempting to wonder what if: he’d got hi kid brother a proper job and got him to stick with it…

            trouble is, with the Weimar republic’s entitlement schemes and the money printing used to pay for them – the hyper inflation and the jackboots which followed its crash (both sides of the pond) were sure to throw up “strong leaders”

          • “trouble is, with the Weimar republic’s entitlement schemes and the money printing used to pay for them – the hyper inflation and the jackboots which followed its crash (both sides of the pond) were sure to throw up “strong leaders””

            They don’t call Versailles “the Peace to End all Peace” for nothing.

            Versailles was just harsh enough to leave the Germans bitter and vengeful, but not harsh enough to prevent them from acting on their resentments.

  3. In Britain, once the prisoners of war had been vetted, those who were thought to be reliable were offered the possibility to work on nearby farms etc.

    Wage rates were fixed at or above the rate for a local worker (didn’t want to upset the unions), and what nationality of prisoner you got depended on what the local camp was caging.

    My paternal grandparents had two Germans. The first got a bit creepy and was sent back, the second, had been wounded on the eastern front – by a female sniper (I don’t know how he knew that bit).

    after he’d recovered (he still carried the bullet with him) he must have been posted to the western front, where he was captured.

    Apparently the Germans considered the Russian males to be a bit of a joke – but they were absolutely terrified of the Russian women.

    Poor guy, the next door neighbour’s wife took a fancy to him, so, to preserve good neighbour relations, he went back to the camp too.

    After the war, some of the former prisoners stayed on. My mother knows the local second generation Italians – having grown up with them.

    • German POWs also worked on farms and in the forests in Canada as well. My father worked with some as a child (he was too young for the army), and he remembers most of them as being fairly descent fellows.

      The German POWs had to be repatriated at the end of the war, but quite a few emigrated back to Canada afterwards as they had fond memories of their time there.

      By the way, one German POW did escape from Canada and made it back to Germany in WWII. He was in eastern Ontario and made it across the border to the US (who were neutral at the time). He got his picture in the US papers and was a celebrity there for a short while. The German ambassador met him and arranged his fare home. He went by ship from the US to Japan, and then to the eastern USSR, and then by train back to Germany where he received a hero’s welcome.

      • There were a few Germans who stayed on in Britain, I’m not sure whether they had to visit Germany before coming back (The terms of the Morganthau plan were hardly better than Hitler’s plans for the people living in the eastern lebensraum).

        My maternal grandparents had Italians working for them I think well into the 1960s. I think my uncle is still in contact with one of the families.

        Those from Stalin’s plantation who were captured fighting for the Hitlerites, were all supposed to be returned before Stalin would return British PoWs who had come into Soviet control.

        I don’t know what happened to those returnees (I’m guessing they were summarily shot) as even true believers who’d been captured or had had any contact at all with foreigners were sent to the GULag.

        There were all sorts of other interesting groups;

        In around 1946 or 47, my paternal grandparents had a group of “displaced persons” I think from Lithuania, spent the summer with them – they were being housed in the former PoW camp. I don’t know what happened to them – my grandparents and father really liked them, but I guess there was some big centrally planned “solution” awaiting them somewhere.

        • I sincerely hope those Lithuanians did not become part of someone else’s “Final Solution” on the stage of post-war global politics.

        • I’ve spoken to my father and checked out some dates and details, he’s a bit sketchy as he was under 10 years old at the time.

          Their German had gone by the bad winter of 1947, however there was still a German working on a farm a few miles down the valley, who squirrelled away all of the other farms’ milk churns, to use when the roads were blocked with snow.

          Apparently that mans daughter (her mother was married to someone else at the time) is still living in that village…

      • The most noted German escapee was Franz von Werra, a Luftwaffe pilot. The One That Got Away by Kendal Burt and James Leasor tells his story. He advised the Luftwaffe on the superior PoW handling techniques of the British, and later was killed in a non-combat flying accident.

    • Locking flaps looks similar, but not sure about Дегтярёв copying it.
      There was also Mauser self loading rifle (model of 1913) and series of pistols with similar locking mechanism. I read a lot of pre-war books and articles, there was no mentions about Kjellmann, but some info about mausers was avaible.

  4. I seem to recall that some of the best snipers in the Soviet Army were women, eg., Lyudmila M. Pavlichenko, who was born and raised in the Ukraine, and who was by most accounts credited with 309 officially confirmed kills, including 36 German snipers. Reliable sources put her real total score at closer to 500, close to Finnish sniper Simo Hayha’s 542 confirmed total. Pavlichenko was a remarkable woman who was in her fourth year as a student at the prestigious University of Kiev when war broke out in June 1941. She immediately volunteered for service and was posted to the Red Army’s 25th Infantry Division.Her first two kills as a sniper were reportedly scored outside Belyayevka with a Tokarev SVT-40 and 3.5-power scope, although her use of the SVT-40 is debatable. What is not in question, however, is the fact that she achieved the vast majority of her kills using a Mosin-Nagant M91/30 equipped with a PE 4x scope.

    As best as I can tell, after the war, she completed her studies at the university and became a historian, then research assistant to the Chief Of Staff of the Soviet Navy’s headquarters. Interestingly, venerated American folk singer Woody Guthrie memorialized her in a song he composed during the war years. She was also celebrated in two sets of Soviet postage stamps, one issued in 1943 and another in 1976.

    Apart from the usual Wikipedia-based sources, there is also a concise but informative article about Pavlichenko at http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2012/06/during-wwii-lyudmila-pavlichenko-sniped-a-confirmed-309-axis-soldiers-including-36-german-snipers/.

  5. CJ’s question about the survival rate in captivity of women who served in the Soviet Army brings up some interesting questions. Of the 2000 or so female snipers in the ranks, approximately 500 survived the war.

    • I doubt if the euphemism “friendly fire” stretches far enough to cover this unfriendly water incident:

      According to the recent sources,[23] at least 1,650 people were killed: around 70 in the Eder Valley, and at least 1,579 bodies were found along the Möhne and Ruhr rivers, with hundreds missing. 1,026 of the bodies found downriver of the Möhne Dam were foreign prisoners of war and forced-labourers in different camps, mainly from the Soviet Union. Worst hit was the city of Neheim (now part of Neheim-Hüsten) at the confluence of the Möhne and Ruhr rivers, where over 800 people perished, among them at least 493 female forced-labourers from the Soviet Union. (Some non-German sources erroneously cite an earlier total of 749 for all foreigners in all camps in the Möhne and Ruhr valleys as the casualty count at a camp just below the Eder Dam.[19])
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Chastise

      • You’re referring, of course, to the “Dambusters” raids conducted by Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s 617 Squadron against the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe Dams. It is most unfortunate ( such are the so-called “fortunes” of war ) that so many prisoners perished in the process, but there was little that the RAF could do to alleviate this problem, even if it had known ahead of time. And this is but one illustration of the sheer barbarity of war, any war — that innocents and those who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time often have to be sacrificed in weighing up any good the final result may bring.

        • Many US and Allied prisoners perished during urban bombing of Germany and especially Japan. There was a POW camp (a small one) at or near Hiroshima, IIRC. Many more were drowned in the holds of torpedoed Japanese ships. Fortunes of war indeed.

          The Russian female sniper thing appears to have been part agitprop, and part truth. It almost takes a Russian to deal with Soviet era sources (although Robert Conquest was remarkably skilled at it), because some numbers are reliable and some numbers bogus, and as a foreigner reading this kind of primary document, lots of luck determining which is which. (Solzhenitsyn and Conquest’s works on the political prison system were vilified when published, but held up very well when sensitive archives were briefly opened in 1992).

          One interesting fact is that, after the war, the Russians never did this again, and restricted women to “traditional” women’s roles. No more fighter pilots, no more snipers. (The west used women pilot volunteers as ferry pilots, but not in combat, and also desisted after the war).

          The Soviet ineptitude Chris Morton mentions had two causes. The first was the same problem every Army had — weeding out the peacetime duds and identifying the combat performers. The second was peculiar to the USSR — the consequences of purges. They not only whacked the talented Tukhachevsky, but all his talented proteges, and functionally all generals and marshals and almost all colonels, in 1936-38. They also whacked the bulk of their overseas intelligence officers. This was great from the standpoint of consolidating Stalin’s power, but it kind of stank from the standpoint of keeping the Panzers out of Russian fields, or even knowing that they might be coming. New talent arose but it took a couple of years.

          The Women in Combat thing in the US is driven by careerism among women officers, full stop, and by a public whose ideas of combat are formed by Hollywood and Black Ops II. Careerism is just as ugly in women as it is in men, and officers afflicted with this pathogen tend to suck up and $#!+ down.

          There are some special operations missions and tasks that can be done by women, and some where women are positively beneficial. There are others that are less flexible. Unfortunately, the current guidance is that the standards across the board will be lowered to meet the women, but it will be done in advance so that there is plausible deniability that any standards changed. The real problem is not the few women through these courses (who will be marked-for-promotion officer dilettantes seeking a ticket punch, a type whose male cognate already clogs the training pipeline) but the many men who will only meet the new, lower standard, and will then need to be employed somewhere without crippling their units.

          • In summary, an excellent and in-depth analysis on your part, Kevin. You have certainly given it much thought. The part about U.S. POW’s being inadvertantly lost when the Japanese vessels they were being transported in were torpedoed by USN submarines reminds me of the fact that every American submarine captain had this constant, nagging worry in the back of his mind when targeting an enemy vessel. Legendary commanders such as Dudley “Mush” Morton of U.S.S. Wahoo fame, Sam Dealey of U.S.S. Harder, Howard Gilmore of U.S.S. Growler and Richard O’Kane of U.S.S. Tang, all had or have admitted in one form or the other how much this terrible prospect often preyed on their minds. There was simply no way to know if the targeted vessel was carrying Allied POW’s, and the over-riding priority was to sink enemy vessels, period. The same can be said of virtually every submarine captain, Allied or Axis, who served during the war. It is probably something few of us today could live with day-in and day-out, so one can imagine what it must have done to those charged with such a task.

          • Hi earl and Kevin

            Few ship or submarine captains could deal with the aftermath even then.

            a distant relative of mine was in command of the British vessels stuck up the Yangtze by Maoist shelling – he gave the order to shoot their way out, loosing half or the crews in the fight along the way.

            He had confided to another relation before he died, that he’d wondered how he could ever fit back into family life again.

          • Keith, I’m terribly sorry to hear about your family member’s experiences. I can only imagine what he must have had to live with until his dying day. I hope you will forgive me the analogy, but it reminds me a great deal of what happened to Lieutenant-Commander George Ericson in Nicholas Montsarrat’s classic, “The Cruel Sea”. Please understand that no offence or presumption is meant by this.

            For those few readers on this site ( if any ) who have not read that evocative story, closely based on the author’s real-life experiences as a corvette commander in the Battle of the Atlantic, I would strongly recommend that you do so. It will forever change your mind about the meaning of war and what it entails, if nothing else.

            On another note, Alistair MacLean’s best-seller, “HMS Ulysses”, a similar story about the Murmansk convoys ( fictional, but close to life ), does not spare the reader the terrible details of that ordeal. MacLean has implied that he drew much from the experiences of his own brother, Master Mariner Ian MacLean, but when one reads the book closely, one also realizes that there is a distinct parallel to the earlier book, “The Cruel Sea”.

          • On one hand there is a need for a gender neutral set of physical standards. It doesn’t matter what a person’s gender is, but they do need to be physicallyable to drag an incapacitated person from their unit out of fire.

  6. As ineptly carried out as the first year of the war was for the Soviets, and in view of their ongoing profligacy regarding casualties, Stalin couldn’t afford to turn down too many people willing to die for him.

    “Moscow 1941” and “Ivan’s War” are real eye openers as to the sheer train wreck that was the post-purges Soviet defense establishment. Just about the only effective defense the first day of the war came from the Soviet Navy, which hadn’t completely distributed Stalin’s order on German “provocations”. Rather than just sit there and take it like the border guards, the Air Force, Air Defense Force, and the Red Army, the Sovet Navy put out of port and engaged the enemy, achieving considerable success against German aircraft.

    Whole regiments of actual volunteers were raised, marched to the front and disappeared into oblivion.

    I wonder what it’s like to be in as much danger from your leadership as the “enemy”…

    • Good point, Chris — the first years of the war went so badly for the Soviet Union that even a demagogue like Stalin had to privately admit that the peoples of his nation would definitely not be inspired to resist the German invasion as strenuously as possible if he had couched his exhortations in terms of defending the Party, Communism and all it ostensibly stood for. Instead, the apparatchiks came up with the insightful idea of propagandizing the struggle in terms of defending Mother Russia, which worked quite well.

      One thing Westerners and others outside the boundaries of the Soviet Union ( and now Russia ) have consistently failed to understand is that in spite of all the abuses the old system had heaped upon its citizenry, and despite the seeming relative lack of “free” Westernized opportunity, the average Russian is deeply loyal to the country itself and its sense of place in history, that is at once far greater than the individual yet is on a level plane with the heart and soul of that individual at the same time. Stalin and his supporters realized this and capitalized on it to mobilize and inspire resistance to the German invasion.

      I seem to remember that I had commented once before about this characteristic that is ingrained in the Russian soul, and mentioned it on another FW post ( I forget which one ) where I recommended reading Ralph Peters’ “Red Army” ( Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1989 ) to really understand this deep-rooted complexity.

      • Before and at the start of the war, Stalin’s approach was 99% stick and 1% carrot. A number of top commanders (who survived the initial German attack) were executed, essentially for having obeyed Stalin’s directive on “provocations”, and for merely having been in charge when the consequences of Stalin’s politico-military ineptitude manifested themselves. Of course Stalin could NEVER leave the common man in peace, so he had it made a crime not only to be captured by the enemy, but to be RELATED TO somebody captured by the enemy.

        As time went on, it got to about 80% stick and 20% carrot. Still tens of thousands of repatriated Soviet POWs were executed or sent to camps. And that’s not counting the ones who joined the Vlasov Army and other anti-Soviet formations within the German military.

        I knew an ethnic Kalmuck at Ft. Knox in the ’80s who was an Armor officer in the New Jersey Army National Guard. His father had started the war in 1941 as a Soviet soldier and finished it fighting under German command. The Kalmucks were the lucky ones. Most of the Cossacks who went over to the Germans ended up in British hands in Italy and were returned to the Soviets, and subsequently shot.

        • Exactly. And Stalin’s brilliance in mobilizing the people of the Soviet Union against the German invasion lay to a large extent in convincing them that they were fighting for Mother Russia and not him or the Party. If it had been the latter, it would have failed, given that by that time there were doubtless many, many Russians who would dearly have loved nothing more than to kill him and his minions for all the excesses they had committed.

          • The truly amazing thing is that he wasn’t deposed immediately after the German attack. In fact, he appears to have been expecting that, and to have resigned himself to it.

            Apparently his policy of surrounding himself with mediocrities utterly dependent upon him paid off in the failure of any one to assert himself at Stalin’s weakest point.

        • The Stalin story is one which could do with a critical re-evaluation.

          After the famines and chaos resulting from “war communism (the first stage which Marx foretold, and which through dialectics would magically negate itself to create its opposite – true communism)” between 1917 and 1919, Lenin and Trotsky were pragmatic enough to re-instate money.

          Stalin, contrary to popular belief, seems to have been more of an idealistic marxist than Lenin and Trotsky, and launched back into trying to create the workers paradise on earth.

          Once the available means are committed to one action, they cannot be simultaneously used in another action.

          Stalin had committed all available means to the workers paradise project. Inter war Poland seemed to have little difficulty in annexing parts of Belarus.

          The pact with Hitler seems to have been entered sincerely.

          Stalin clearly allowed the Nazi forces to break Polish resistance before the Soviets entered to take up their allocation.

          The attempted re taking of Finland seems to have been the first real test of the Soviet military – and the results of Stalin’s choices showed clearly.

          It’s interesting that Stalin studiously avoided opening a second front with Japan, until the Japanese surrender was a certainty within a few days. Chan and Halliday’s “Mao the untold story” state that the reds – although supposedly in temporary alliance with the nationalists, do not appear to have been active in fighting the Japanese occupation.

          Chan and Halliday interpret that as being the Red’s choice to spread their structure while the nationalists were distracted

          I wonder whether it wasn’t also partly Moscow’s doing – in order to avoid antagonizing the Japanese and having them cross the border into Russia?

          Hitler was stupid enough to open a second front – resources committed to one action cannot be simultaneously used in a different action, but even so, if his Italian ally hadn’t arrived fashionably late, the results might have been very different before the Russian winter entered the conflict.

          The Soviets had previously shown themselves willing to negotiate peace on very adverse terms. Would Stalin have given up the Caspian oil fields and Ukrainian wheat fields in order to continue his social experiment?

          • A very different and interesting perspective on history, Keith — definitely worth exploring further. Marxist idealist or not, Stalin was a pretty canny individual who would not have given away something unless he thought he could gain as much or more in return.

          • Hi Earl,

            I don’t think there is much doubt that Stalin had a sharper mind than either Churchill or FDR.

            Churchill found him easier to deal with than Lenin and Trotsky had been.

            FDR seems to have identified Stalin as a fellow progressive, and at Tehran took pleasure in showing off and belittling Churchill in front of him.

            Stalin certainly knew how to wring a good deal out of the pair of them, a prime example is the soviets finally getting around to invading Manchuria on August 8th 1945

            Hiroshima had been nuked the day before, Nagasaki was nuked 2 days later.

            for that minimal outlay Stalin gained North Korea.

          • There is a very good book on the first ten days of the German invasion “Stalin’s Folly” written by Constantine Pleshnakov…Uncle Joe was a virtual recluse during that time with NO IDEA what was happening…he had planned to attack the Germans within possibly a year of the Germans invading them, but Hitler struck first..

            CB in FL

          • “Uncle Joe was a virtual recluse during that time with NO IDEA what was happening…he had planned to attack the Germans within possibly a year of the Germans invading them, but Hitler struck first..”
            The latter is a contention subject to much speculation and debate.

            On the one side, you have Viktor Suvorov and his “Icebreaker” which posits a detailed plan by Stalin to preemptively strike the Germans. As evidence, he cites the dismantling of the pre-war border defenses and the induction of Gulag prisoners before the German attack. It’s an interesting book.

            On the other side, you have “Stumbling Colossus” which puts things down to simple incompetence and organizational chaos due to the purges. This is also backed up by “Moscow 1941” and “Ivan’s War”.

            Stalin’s problem was that he was an absolute genius at manipulating people WITHIN the Soviet system. That was essentially his ONLY “gift”. When dealing with actual technical matters, either of the military or the economy he was utterly out of his depth. And unlike Hitler, he didn’t fire people for contradicting him. He SHOT them. His patronage of Lysinkoism left Soviet agriculture in an unrecoverable shambles which lasted until the fall of the Soviet Union.

            Stalin’s saving grace was that unlike Hitler, he actually learned to let the military run the war on a day to day basis. It took a LOT of lost battles and literally millions of lost lives (about which he cared less than nothing), but he did increasingly learn from his mistakes.

          • Hi Chris,

            My understanding is that stalin hid under his bed clothes for about a week after Barbarossa crossed into soviet territory.

            Marx was very big on obstetric analogies

            I think we have sufficeint evidence to be pretty sure that Stalin saw himself as the Midwife of the workers paradise

            a project for which the cost in human lives was irrelevant – individuals did not matter, only the collective of “man”.

            At the height of the pre war purges, the annual figure for deaths requires a daily average of 12,000 to 13,000 murders, seven days a week

            on that basis, having the axis powers pay for the bullets and the labour of doing the shooting was a positive benefit to stalin’s project.

          • “My understanding is that stalin hid under his bed clothes for about a week after Barbarossa crossed into soviet territory.”

            The story goes that when Molotov(?) came to confer with him for the first time after the German attack, Stalin was convinced that he’d come to place him under arrest. It was probably only an even greater fear of Beria which prevented that. They feared Stalin. They LOATHED Beria. After Stalin’s death, the FIRST priority was the arrest and liquidation of Beria.

            Alex de Jonge’s “Stalin” is an EXTREMELY fascinating portrait. According to him, Stalin’s only loyalty was to Stalin, and during the revolutionary period, he acted as an informant for the Okhrana, denouncing his rivals and those whom he believed slighted him to the Tsarist secret police.

            Regarding the purges, I believe that it was Conquest who said that left to progress to their logical mathematical conclusion, the purges would have eventually consumed every man woman and child in the Soviet Union except Stalin. Since everyone with even a trivial connection to someone who’d been arrested then automatically became a potential target, everyone would have eventually been shot or in camps, including the executioners and guards themselves. Only Stalin himself, hovering god-like over the proceedings was immune. At that point, even Stalin began to perceive a point of diminishing returns.

            That’s the aspect of the purges that most people don’t seem to comprehend. The purges weren’t about actual guilt or innocence, or even eliminating a tangible threat. They were a statistical exercise. Millions of people were killed, imprisoned or worked to death on no basis more substantial than a parking ticket quota. Regional NKVD organizations had quotas of “spies” and “wreckers”. Those who failed to meet their quotas went in their places. But then they usually eventually went anyway, as the security apparatus itself was sifted repeatedly.

            The purges weren’t intended to root out any specific activity, but rather to preclude it by leaving Soviet society in such a state of terror and uncertainty that the populace was too busy either furthering the process of blindly (and futilely) attempting to avoid it. Since almost nobody was actually “guilty”, innocence could never be assumed. The populace was left trying to GUESS the rules in a game with no rules at all. It’s VERY difficult to construct a conspiracy under such conditions.

            As the Chinese say, “Kill the chicken to scare the monkey”…

  7. The Russians tended not to employ women in the front ranks. The proof of the effectiveness of women was that the Russians ceased to employ them once the war ended. They remained in auxilliary positions as they have in most militaries but not in the combat arms.

  8. Veritas hit it spot-on. The desperate situation Stalin faced in ’41 and ’42 called for desperate measures. Much like sending unarmed infantry into combat with rifles. Since it is highly unlikely the U.S. will ever face such an extreme plight, why would we even consider throwing away our women in wars fought for profit and questionable politics? It’s bad enough we do it to our sons and fathers.

  9. The Soviets were desperate – they needed warm bodies behind the weapons – it didn’t matter male or female – the Nazi’s were rolling right over them like the proverbial steamroller….Desperate time require desperate measures….it’s not the same situation in the USA – YET – although if things keep goin’ the way they are it just MAY BE, but, please God, it won’t come to that….Soviet women were snipers – Ludmilya Pavlichenko – and fighter pilots – the Night Witches – Lilya Litvyak, They kept the Soviet State from being over run my the German Juggernaut….not that I have ANY sympathy for Stalin or his thuggish sycophants – ya gotta admire the Russian shtoonks that became cannon fodder for Stalin’s Folly…

    CB in FL

  10. Bill Lester has an excellent point. I am personally all for women’s rights and equality between the sexes, but I will be the first to admit that I have reservations about exposing women to the exigencies of warfare except in a last-ditch situation. This is not because of sexism, parochialism or any sort of gender-based bias, but simply because, while my head tells me one thing in terms of pure logic, my natural instincts as a male in feeling more protective towards women say otherwise. It is genetically programmed into all of us by countless millennia of evolution and there is no denying it.

  11. A movie was made about the ONLY German POW to escape from North America – “The One that Got Away” (1957) – with a young Hardy Kruger as Franz von Werra – the only German to escape captivity on the North American Continent….and the only way he did it was because he escaped at a time before the US got involved in the war – the USA was a ‘neutral’ country at the time…

  12. Sometimes, the best part of this page is how fascinating the threads of comments on Ian’s posts get. For myself, I have some experience with a Polish Semi-Auto DP-28. TONS of fun to shoot, but I find I have trouble depressing the grip safety. (Something my Gorilla handed buddy Harry, the fella who actually owns it doesn’t have.) It’s remarkably accurate. And whenever we bring it out to our local range, it’s the one gun that ends up with a line of people (especially kids!!)..politely asking if they can take a shot, or 2. Sadly, it will be moving out of state soon, as the peoples republic of New York has deemed it too dangerous for the likes of Peasants like Harry or I to own…

  13. You realize Marxism is supposed to be inherently gender blind right, granted some of this was lost in “translation” for the Leninist and Stalinist regimes (insert animal farm quotation here) but it was not out of desperation but philosophy that they allowed women to participate in combat. The current feminist train wreck will be the result of that classic “equality right up until it becomes inconvenient” logic so beloved by our left and not the any inherent weakness in the female gender.

    • Excellent comment….It will be lauded and applauded until the first C-17s carrying the remains of female soldiers start coming into Dover AFB…then both the press and the left (as if there was any difference) will start whining and the taxpayers will foot the bill for a multi-agency task force that will ‘look into’ WHY women are being committed into combat’…if George W Bush is still alive HE will be blamed!!!

      CB in FL…even iof he’s dead and buried he will still be blamed…

    • women should be allowed to serve in combat but only after meeting the same standards of phiscal and mental proficancy. the fact that we call women marines who have gone through a version of boot camp in which their is no pullup but a hang on the pullup bar reqirment is shamefull

  14. I remember a documentary about Spanish Civil War where a member of the Republican militia told a story of an air battle over Jarama Valley. A number of Polikarpovs of the loyalist Air Force where retreating after being outnumbered by German and Italian Nationalist Planes, but one of the “Polis” turned around for a bit of dogfighting, covering their retreating comrades. It shot down 2 enemy planes before being hit. I don´t know how, but the narrator told that the pilot was able to take land, albeit seriously wounded: It was a russian girl.

    • The irony of course is that if she survived, that pilot ran a VERY serious risk of either being shot or sent to the Gulag upon her return to the Soviet Union.

      Stalin had this quirk of sending people abroad, then oppressing them for having gone abroad and being “contaminated” with their experience of the West.

      Soviet Richard Sorge refused his orders to return to the Soviet Union. Had he obeyed them and returned, he might have been shot and his spy operation in Japan ended before it truly began.

      • Yeah, sadly that was the fate of most of them: dead in action or purged by Stalin when returning home. But it was almost the same for all the foreigners that fought in Spain against fascism: Either they had no country to go back or they suffered prosecution (in the best case). Americans included.
        There was also many spanish republicans who were dated by Stalin in Moscow to “discuss about strategies” and there vanished into thin air

  15. If anyone is familiar with Al Stewart’s song “Roads to Moscow” it’s about a Soviet soldier who was taken prisoner and is returned to the Soviet Union and thence put on a special train and taken to one of those prisons for those suspected (stalin’s paranoia) of disloyalty for being captured…it’s one of my all time favorites.

    CB in FL

    • Excellent song, Chris. Stewart at his impressionistic best: “Two broken Tigers on fire in the night… flicker their souls to the wind.” The whole album is good (Past, Present and Future; its conceit originally was a song for every decade of the 20th Century, to date – 1974 or so). Stewart is still around and still recording AFAIK, but he’s better known as a wine critic!

      It’s thinking man’s pop music. There’s always some of it around. It’s never on the radio!

      Stewart was referring to the systematic imprisonment of returning POWs, which was made public in the West in Solzhenitsyn’s GULag Archipelago a year or so before the release of that album. This book struck right after the US made a big deal out of the repatriation of its Vietnam POWs in 1973.

      • Thanx, Kev-o….leave it to another Irishman to take me to school….I wasn’t aware of the background – thanx!!!

        CB in FL

      • Al Stewart is probably still ( in spite of his fame ) under-rated as a folk balladeer and story teller. Reminds me of a modern-day version of Woody Guthrie in many ways.

        • Earl and Chris, I believe Past Present and Future also has a story about running guns to the Spanish Civil War (presumably to the Republicans, as the Nationalists weren’t hurting for arms AFAIK). “On the Border.” But I may be munging my Stewart albums.

          • A couple of years ago there was an article in :Men at Arms” on the markings on Czech VZ24 Mausers that were bought by Stalin’s government and sent to the Republicans…it consisted of a ‘waffle pattern’ strikeout of the Czech acceptance mark – a member of my collecting club in West Palm Beach, FL had a VZ for sale with that mark – i kept my mouth shut until it was mine…it’s in amazingly superb condition fotr such a rifle – numbers (including the stock!!!) match…evidently it never masde it to it’s intended destination.

            CB in FL

  16. Today Israel may be the best example of the full integration of women into military units.Most of NATO the US and UK/Commonwealth (with exceptions) are bringing women into combat roles or are planning to do so. This is more of a political solution to the trends in changing of gender roles. In the past women became warriors because of necessity; 50% of the population is an excellent force multiplier. Today women who want to serve in a professional army are generally welcomed as equals and given ever increasing roles in service.

    • Good point, Andrew. Come to think of it, there have always been women warriors who have led from the front throughout history, not only in matriarchally-based societies but even in traditionally male-dominated ones, as witness Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, as well as Joan Of Arc.

    • But they’re NOT fully integrated. By all accounts women hven’t been used in front line service sience the 1948 war. Thye’re not allowed forward of brigade rear bouadaries, and the “Caracal” battalion is more if an Border Police unit than a true Infantry battalion. The wimen that Isreal has in comabat arms positions are usually instructors, freeing men for the fighting units.

    • Luke’s already corrected you on today’s IDF. I would note that the IDF in early (Haganah) days, like the Red Army, was a service with a strong political sensibility, that included socialism and levelling equality. The first decades of Israel were under permanent Labor government, and the Revisionist Zionism didn’t see power until Labor screwed the pooch in 1973, IIRC. Someone more versed in Izzy politics may correct me. The point of my comment is, that Israel had a political and philosophical desire to see women fully equal to men, including in combat. After 1948, they rolled that back a bit but every Israeli knows that the day may come when their backs are to the sea and everyone must take arms.

      One very interesting war in which women fought in ground combat is the Lopez War of 1865-70. After the male population of Paraguay was nearly annihilated by a quixotic war against ALL the states bordering the country, women were drafted, trained, and committed to the front also. The final collapse came soon after this, but the women are not to blame — Lopez and his mistress are.

      One of the terms of the treaty required the victors (largest of which was of course Brazil) to station troops in Paraguay, in part to repopulate the country by replacing the dead men in the beds of the surviving women!

      I recall looking at the cemetery at Lagerlechfeld in about 1986, and noting that one of the graves was a multiple interment of “Flakfilherinnen” — women working admin/fire control type duties in a Flak bunker that took a direct hit during a 1944 bombing. Most of them were 16 to 18 years old. They were doing the same job as the women you see moving symbols on a large situation map in Britain — there was just an unimaginable difference in the aerial firepower of 1944 vice 1940 bombing.

      Which brings me to collateral damage. As in our discussion above about sub warfare: in WWII a level of collateral damage was tolerated that is unimaginable today. Every one of our guys who popped a Taliban in the last few years, actually has a criminal investigation opened on him until they’re sure it’s a good shoot. In 2013 there’s a hue and cry when a terrorist gets whacked by a drone and has his wife and kids with him. In 1943 we thought nothing of erasing entire neighborhoods and suburbs trying to get the Messerschmitt plant in Augsburg-Haunstetten or the bearing plants in Schweinfurt. I suppose this is progress.

      • RE : Your Last Paragraph

        Very good point, Kevin. Not to mention the deliberate wholesale bombing of entire population centers by RAF Bomber Command against Germany and by the USAAF’s 20th Air Force against Japan in an attempt to not only destroy embedded military and industrial targets, but also to annihilate the civil and human infrastructure tied to those targets.

        • Remember – by the end of ’44, beginning of ’45, the American People were tired of the war and saw no end…they knew that Japan would be invaded and wanted the all the Japs “Dead for a ducat…DEAD, DEAD, DEAD!!!” They didn’t care how, who or what…it was a different mindset/time…three plus years of war, sacrifice and American dead with no end in sight…the whiners/revisionists of today have NO IDEA of what it was like during the war years (rationing, shortages, air raid drills)…those of us who grew up with a dad who fought (mine was stationed at Great Ashfield with the 385th Bomb Wing) heard the stories and how GLAD they were when it ended…Curtis LeMay’s strategy of burning Japan to the ground was overshadowed by the spectacular events of 6 & 9 August, 1945 – actually his firebombing killed and destroyed far more than did the two nukes – but it ended the war and the killing – for a while…until the Cold War. It’s easy to criticize from today’s POV but we must STILL understand “Historical Perspective”.

          CB in FL

          • Most of the most strident criticism of Allied conventional bombing of Germany and Japan that I’ve seen seems to come from poorly educated people (often teenagers) who think that GPS guided munitions were invented some time around 1935. Almost INVARIABLY, when you tell them what the REAL accuracy of aerial bombing was, and ask them what THEIR alternative was, they refuse to answer. A tiny minority will say that we just shouldn’t have bombed AT ALL.

            At the same time, those very same people seem NEVER to have heard of the bombings of Shanghai, Chungking, Rotterdam, or Coventry… nevermind the Rape of Nanking.

            For the most part (outside of neo-Nazi circles) there has been MUCH less of an impulse to paint NSDAP Germany as a “victim” than to similarly treat militarist Japan. Apart from some VERY out there academics in Canada, the major example is Pat Buchanan. Of course he’s got an agenda visible from space…

          • Chris, thanks for your personal input. I am already fully aware of and quite understand the historical precedents and the implications thereof that you are getting at. The point I am making is that the Allies ( specifically ourselves and the British ) made the hard-headed and seemingly logical conscious decision at the time to directly involve the civilian populations of Germany and Japan in the travails of total warfare in the hope that it would actually bring the war to an end sooner through the wholesale destruction of the civil infrastructure and the people involved. This was based on the concept that the whole was made up of the sum of its parts, i.e., the military-industrial complexes were still built upon, and therefore largely dependent upon, the broader civil infrastructure.

          • I totally agree, my friend – I was not trying to counter or otherwise argue with your point – merely adding to it….today, in hindsight When many folks see the 2nd ‘Great War’ as ancient history, those of us who grew up in its aftermath (I’m 63 – born Nov ’49) have to ‘set the record straight’ with these revisionists who, understanding nothing, question WHY???…and refuse to accept the ‘historical perspective’ as a valid answer.

            CB in FL…I remember in college being told to always consider the ‘historical perspective’ when researching a particular period of history – today’s crop of ‘thinkers’ have a flase sense of moral (AND TECHNOLOGICAL) superiority over previous generations…i.e. How could the ancients build such massive structure that have stood the test of time, without some kind of ‘Alien support’???…and believe this with their entire beings…..Duh

          • No offense taken, Chris. In fact, I’m very much in agreement with your thinking concerning this.

            Hope you have a great Fourth Of July holiday tomorrow! 🙂

          • Fidel, that is an excellent example of precisely what I was referring to. We are all aware of the other, more publicized raids against Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Nagoya, etc., which followed a similar trend on a much larger scale.

  17. While we are all on the subject of Josef Stalin, there is a series of fascinating articles on http://www.npr.org ( National Public Radio ) regarding the life and connections of Svetlana Stalina a.k.a. Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin’s daughter, who rebelled against her own father and defected to the United States in 1967. She fell in love with and was first married to Brijesh Singh, a prominent member of the Indian Communist Party, who died not long after, and later to William Wesley Peters, a protege of famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. She took the name of Lana Peters upon her second marriage, and by all accounts lived a quiet and dignified life in Wisconsin until her death in 2011 at the age of 85 years. Links to her story can be found by simply entering “Stalin’s daughter” in your Internet search box and then clicking on the various links.

    There is a certain parallel here with the saga of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s son, Sergei, who eventually also became a U.S. citizen, although the circumstances were different, given a later era in modern history and its attendant circumstances.

  18. Something to lighten the mood, here is another lady with a gun: http://www.sistersofreparation.org/blog.html

    Regarding women in war, in a true all-out war the side with the most war material wins, or at least has a decided advantage. In WWII Germany did not send it’s women to work in factories, they stayed home and sabotage prone slave labor was used. In the US women went to the factories, and also some minorities who had previously been excluded from certain jobs, and the US had, hour for hour, three times the productivity of Germany and nine times the productivity of Japan. Not to take one iota of credit away from the GI’s, but the decisive factor in the war were the factories, again, staffed with a lot of women. If for every Arisaka the other side just made nine Garands, it is only a matter of time. Now if only the railway tunnels between Detroit and the eastern sea ports had been wide enough to carry a real heavy tank…

    Stalin moved industry to the East of the Ural mountains, and without heavy, long range bombers, Hitler could not touch it. I recall seeing news reel footage of women in Soviet factories. With no apparent shortage of troops, but chronic shortages of material, it would have been in Joes best interest to put the men on the field, the women in the factories. Putting some women in combat roles may have been PR, they put the first woman in space too, etc.

  19. One other thought, was the Soviet use of women in combat publicized in the West at the time? It could have been a plot for more lend-lease material, i.e., demonstrate how desperate they were.

    • Yes, it was, and quite extensively too. For example, Lyudmila Pavlichenko did a tour of the United States and Canada as part of the Allied war effort, and was personally received by President Franklin Roosevelt, apparently the first time in history a Soviet citizen had been received by a United States president. Eleanor Roosevelt, well-known for her social causes, invited her to tour the country to relate her experiences. She was given a Colt M1911 pistol as a special gift before she departed the U.S.

      In Canada, she was greeted by thousands of people at Toronto’s Union Station and honored with a customized Winchester rifle that is reportedly still on display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow.

      Pavlichenko traveled to Great Britain in November 1942, focusing mostly on Coventry and Birmingham. The former visit was of great significance as Coventry had suffered much destruction from the Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign during the Blitz ; Coventry workers presented her with donations to pay for three field X-ray units for the Red Army.

      I also remember watching Pathe newsreels from the war that would sometimes feature Soviet women in combat settings. Allowing for the obvious propaganda slant, this was still nevertheless a significant nod to their active role in the front lines.

    • I’m sure (as was the wont of the Soviet propaganda machine) that much of this was strictly for it’s propaganda value…”BEHOLD, The Heroes & Heroines of the Soviet Union”…much of the exploits of Vasily Zaitsev was for just that – propaganda…as was Colin Kelly at the beginning of our involvement – strictly for propaganda value…

      CB in FL – having said that – I’m not detracting from their contributions to the war effort – merely trying to put it in perspective

  20. Hello

    I have just come across this site and find it both interesting and informative.

    Having read a few books on the eastern front I remember reading about the 1077th AA Regiment in the battle of Stalingrad that should, by logical rules of battle (being exposed with no infantry or artillery cover), have withdrawn in the face of the advance of the 16th Panzer Division. But instead they depressed their AA guns to the lowest depression and engaged the advancing Panzer units exchanging shot for shot with German Armour. The fire from the AA guns ceased only when every single gun was either destroyed or over run.

    The astounded German soldiers found that the crews of these guns were mostly young women.

    This is not taken Verbatim from the book but it is the gist of it. There is also a fair bit of info on the net about this unit.
    All my books are in storage and I can’t remember the name or the author but will have try and find it if any one is interested.

    Regards

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