Operation Bagration: The “Unknown” D-Day
At the Tehran Conference, the first World War II conference amongst the Big Three: the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom the final plan to defeat Nazi Germany was agreed upon in unison. As promised at the Tehran Conference at the end of 1943, as the United States revealed the date for their Western offense, the Red Army began planning a powerful offensive to coincide with it. Operation Bagration, the main summer offensive of 1944 carried out by the Soviets on the Eastern front was to overshadow with the allied landing in Normandy set for the 6th of June 1944. (Axell p.97) Its goal was to “recover soviet territory, destroy German forces, liberate other European countries, and conduct strategic operations sequentially rather than simultaneously.” (Connor p. 5) This research paper intends to discuss the often-overlooked importance of Operation Bagration in the demise of the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. I will concentrate on how Soviet military strategy and deception was able to hinder German forces. Moreover I will analyze the extent to which this military setback and demoralization of the German Wehrmacht aided the success of D-day that same month. I hope to bring to light the far-reaching achievements and contributions of this often forgotten operation, and its significance to the ultimate demise of Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Taking place during the often-termed third period of the Second World War, the period between January 1944 and May 1945, Operation Bagration took place during the height of Soviet military superiority. At the launch of Bagration in 1944 the Red Army was superior of German forces both in manpower and production. This allowed the Soviets for the first time since the start of the war to successfully take the initiative against the Germans. Germany had the upper hand between 1941 and 1943, as demonstrated by the Soviet’s defeat at the Battle for Moscow, and their subsequent defeat by March 1943 in the Stalingrad campaign. By the end of 1944 however, the Russians had learned from their mistakes, and developed a mature military doctrine. Furthermore, they also began to reap the benefits afforded them by their two powerful allies the United States and the United Kingdom. They Soviets were able to build up their manpower losses of the winter campaign. By the time of Operation Bagration the 2,400,000 men on battle alert for Stalin significantly exceeded the 1,200,00 men available to the German High Command. (Connor p. 13) The German shortage of manpower would continue to worsen as they lost territories to the Soviets, making their prospects for replacements more difficult.
The Soviets were also faring better than the Germans in production, due in part to the reinforcements they received through the Lend-Lease agreement with the United States. The United States greatest contribution to the Red Army was the “trucks, of four and six wheel drive construction”. (Parker p. 193) These trucks helped tank and mechanized corps by allowing large quantities of infantry to be motorized and therefore able to keep up with the tanks. The trucks also had cross-country mobility, making it easier to get supplies to those units beyond the reach of the railroads. Though German production also increased at this time it could never compete with the high quantity production of the Soviets and its allies. The quality of certain machinery like tanks and trucks were also superior on the Soviet side, contributing to the Soviets ease in maneuverability. (Glantz and House p. 179- 181)
The practice of deep battle, the formation of combined arms armies, and the flexibility afforded Soviet commanders further advantaged the Red Army. The Red Army organized its forces into assault groups made up of combined arms armies and mobile groups. The assault group “suitably reinforced and task organized’’ made the initial attack and tactical breakthrough, while the mobile...
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