Sunday, January 27, 2019

November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade

Friday 7 November 1941

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941
Stalin overseeing the military parade through Red Square on 7 November 1941.
Soviet Government: World War II is a war of parades. All of the victorious powers have them, from the joint Soviet-German parade in Brest-Litovsk on 22 September 1939 until the US Military parade down Fifth Avenue in New York City by the 82nd Airborne Division on 12 January 1946. On 7 November 1941, Joseph Stalin outdoes them all and presides over the most important and memorable parade of the 20th Century. It is a massive display of Soviet military might through Red Square with the Wehrmacht standing almost within sight of Moscow. It is more than a parade, it is a demonstration of will and steel.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941
The 331st Rifle Division of the Red Army marches in Red Square, 7 November 1941.
The occasion is the Anniversary of the October Revolution. On the night before this 7 November 1941 military parade, Stalin gives a rare and odd radio address in which he begins by talking about the peacetime successes of the first half of 1941, gives a somewhat, um, "nuanced" summary of the current situation, and then launches into a weird attack on his western allies for not helping enough. Today is the main event, with two Soviet divisions taken from their duties on Moscow's defense line marching past Red Square.

Soviet Propaganda Poster, 7 November 1941
A typical Soviet propaganda poster of World War II, showing Soviet soldiers heroically defending civilization from invading barbarians. The Soviet military parade of 7 November 1941 was a real-life demonstration of this theme.
It is an overcast day, which is fortunate because the clouds keep the Luftwaffe away. Stalin arrives at his reviewing podium in a special train at 07:00, stepping out first to obligatory applause before the members of his retinue follow along behind him. The thunderous applause lasts for ten minutes, long enough for Stalin to climb the podium's steps and arrange his politburo and Moscow city authority minions around him. This is Stalin's first public appearance since the May Day parade, and some observers feel that Stalin looks older and wearier - but nobody would dare to say that publicly. Then, everyone awaits the tramping soldiers.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941
Soviet cavalry marching in Red Square on 7 November 1941. Horses played a big role on both sides of the Eastern Front. Particularly in difficult weather and rough terrain, horses provided an advantage over vehicles during the fighting. In addition, horses were necessary to transport supplies.
The actual parade begins promptly at 08:00. Troops, tanks, and artillery whose barrels are still hot from action against the panzers roll past the reviewing stand, through Red Square, beside Lenin's (now empty) mausoleum, and on past St. Basil's Cathedral. Their final turn is to the west, as they do not stop before rolling back to their positions on the front lines opposing the German 4th Army. The parade is possible in part because the 4th Army has dug trenches and assumed a defensive winter posture.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941
Soviet tanks during the 7 November 1941 Moscow military parade.
After the vast array of men and machines is gone, Stalin begins to speak. The speech is basically a rehash of his radio broadcast of the night before, complete with the phony casualty figures that appear to have been made up out of whole cloth and some vague generalizations about how the Germans had underestimated the Red Army. The event is a propaganda sensation, not just in the USSR, but around the world. Stalin succeeds in establishing to a skeptical world that it is still business as usual in Moscow, that he is still there, that the Red Army still has time for parades, and that the Germans still have a lot of work left to do to win the war. In essence, Stalin ignores as beneath contempt the artillery just over the horizon and the Luftwaffe planes that could have ruined the whole thing. He demonstrates to the world how inconsequential the German threat really is. The parade of 7 November 1941 becomes the finest, and perhaps only, shining moment in Stalin's reign of tyranny and cruelty.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941
U-129 (Kptlt. Asmus Nicolaus (Nico) Clausen at Lorient, France. This picture officially is dated 7 November 1941. However, it may be misdated because that falls right in the middle of U-129's third patrol. Still, the official German site says it is 7 November 1941, so 7 November 1941 it is, maybe it briefly returned to port (Meisinger, Rudolf, Federal Archive Picture 101II-MW-3956-18A).
Eastern Front: The war does not stop just because Stalin decides to hold a celebration of survival. The German 8th Panzer Division continues approaching Tikhvin and beats off a sharp and disastrous counterattack by 14 Soviet tanks of the 60th Tank Division. After losing all but two of their tanks, the Soviets withdraw and General Harpe's division continues advancing until it is only seven kilometers from Tikhvin. Much further south, in the Black Sea, one of the great tragedies of the war unfolds when a single Heinkel He 111 from KG 26 torpedoes hospital ship Armenia at 11:29. The ship rolls over and sinks within four minutes, killing over 7000 wounded soldiers and civilians. This is a virtual companion piece to the tragic sinking of the military transport Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945, but few remember the tragedy of hospital ship Armenia.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941
Soviet troops marching past the reviewing stand at the 7 November 1941 military parade. Comrade Stalin watches with approval.
There is little question that on 7 November 1941, the entire invasion of the Soviet Union is at a critical point. The Wehrmacht stands just outside Moscow but has lost its momentum. The last thing the Germans want is to have to camp out in the fields and forests through a savage Russian winter. General Guderian notes in his diary that his men are beginning to suffer from severe frostbite. There is one bright spot for the Germans, however, because along with all its problems, the winter cold is making the ground hard again. Trucks and tanks and horses and men are regaining the ability to move without getting stuck in the mud. There may be one last chance for a run at key objectives before the blizzards shut down major operations until the spring.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941
Soviet tanks in Red Square, 7 November 1941.

November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack


No comments:

Post a Comment