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74 CHAPTER FIVE Soviet Response The German invasion forced the Soviet regime to do far more than redeploy its armies. During the first weeks of the war, Moscow made fundamental changes in its command and control, unit organization, and military industrial plant. In the crisis, the Soviets temporarily modified or abandoned many of their prewar concepts, making the first of numerous painful but effective adjustments to the reality of modern war. COMMAND AND CONTROL During the first six weeks, the nomenclature and organization of the Soviet Union’s national command structure underwent frequent changes, most of which had little practical effect on the day-to-day conduct of the war.1 On 23 June, the War Commissariat’s wartime staff, equivalent to a national security council, was activated as the Main Command Headquarters (Stavka Glavnogo Komandovaniia); War Commissar Timoshenko was the designated chair of this council, which also included Stalin, Foreign Affairs Commissar V. M. Molotov, and the most senior commanders such as Zhukov and Budenny. After a bewildering series of changes in name and membership, the council emerged on 8 August as the Supreme High Command (Stavka Verkhovnogo Glavnokomandovaniia, or Stavka VGK), with Stalin as titular commander in chief. In practice, the term Stavka was used loosely to describe both the Supreme High Command council itself and the General Staff that served that council. In theory, the State Committee for Defense (Gosudarstvennyi Komitet Oborony, or GKO) was the highest body, overseeing the Stavka VGK as well as the General Staff. The various special staff directorates —artillery, armor, engineer, and so forth—of the People’s Commissariat of Defense (NKO) provided technical expertise and staff supervision under GKO control. A separate Air Force Command (Komanduiushchii VVS Krasnoi Armii) sorted out the wreckage of the Red Air Force.2 During the first few days of the war, there was no strong central control , although contrary to later criticisms Stalin did not have a breakdown. Instead, he conferred constantly with his subordinates, making as many as twenty significant decisions on 22 June alone.3 However, he did not personally Soviet Response 75 broadcast to the nation until 3 July, when he called for guerrilla resistance and for the destruction or evacuation of anything useful to the invader. Already in this speech, Stalin began to stress Russian nationalism instead of loyalty to the Soviet state, an emphasis that the regime continued throughout the war. The problem lay not in the ability to make decisions but rather in assembling information and communicating the resulting decisions. Stalin’s military advisers fanned out from the capital as soon as the war began, in a frantic attempt to learn what was happening and establish some control of the situation. Timoshenko, Zhukov, Vasilevsky, Budenny, and others traveled extensively, visiting numerous headquarters. By August, a rough system evolved in which the ailing Boris Shaposhnikov served (until his health gave way in the spring of 1942) as chief of the Red Army General Staff in Moscow and the other senior commanders who enjoyed Stalin’s trust acted as theater commanders or troubleshooters. These latter men, soon designated as “representatives of the Stavka,” frequently changed location to provide emphasis to crisis areas. Part of the new system was the creation on 10 July of three theater-level, multi-front commands known as Main Commands of Directions (Glavnye Komandovaniia Napravlenii).4 Originally, these new headquarters were headed by Marshal Voroshilov (Northwestern Direction, including the Baltic and Northern Fleets), Marshal Timoshenko (Western Direction), and Marshal Budenny (Southwestern Direction, including the Black Sea Fleet.) The political officers, or “members of the council,” for these directions were three future leaders of the Communist Party, A. A. Zhdanov, N. A. Bulganin, and N. S. Khrushchev, respectively. In practice, Stalin and the Stavka frequently bypassed the three directions to give orders directly to subordinate front, fleet, and army headquarters. In fact, this layer of command proved to be super fluous and ineffective, and it was eliminated during 1942, to be replaced by designated Stavka representatives. In the best Stalinist tradition, the initial defeats brought renewed authority to the political commissars, who assumed coequal status with force commanders and chiefs of staff. Many career officers were released from prison to fight the invaders, and others took their places in a general atmosphere of suspicion.5 General Pavlov was not the only commander to face summary execution. The Stalinist state simply made no allowance for either the fortunes of war or the psychology of fear...


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