The Day M: Stalin’s Mobilization to Attack Germany
By Wilhelm Mann & Carolyn Yeager
If there is any proof strong enough to correct and revise the traditional “court” historiography of World War II, which names Adolf Hitler’s regime in Germany as the sole aggressor, it can be found in Victor Suvorov’s excellent book The Chief Culprit (Der Tag M in its German publication)1. It follows Suvorov’s first book Icebreaker, published in 1990, which became a sensation in Russia, Germany and also in Israel.
In both books he outlines how Stalin and his General Staff, well
in advance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, planned to attack
Germany. New detail and documentary evidence have been brought into Chief Culprit.
“M-Day”—the mobilization—fell on June 13, 1941, but the preparations went back to early February the same year, and
even further back into 1939 and 1940 when, shortly after the end
of Germany’s campaign in Poland, the Soviet army occupied the eastern part of that country.
Marshal G.K. Zhukov and Marshal A.M.Vasilevsky—both major generals at that time—and staff officers at high army commands were planning, on Stalin’s orders and in deep secrecy, the attack on Germany.
Suvorov quotes Vasilevsky: “Since May 1940, the deputy head of the Operations Directorate of the General Staff worked on the operational part of a plan of strategic deployment of Soviet armed forces in the northern, northwestern and western directions.”2 That meant war preparations against Germany.
If Maj. Gen. Vasilevsky worked on such plans at that time for his operational section, from the Baltic Sea to the Pripet marshes in White Russia, one has to assume—and Suvorov indicates it—that similar plans were developed at the other four military districts on the Russian west border. At the Kiev Military District, one of special importance because of its strategic position vis-à-vis the new eastern borders of Germany, those military operations are described in detail.
On “M-Day” (June 13), orders marked “Top Secret, Special Importance”3 were received at the Kiev military district for the
“transfer (of) all deep-rear divisions and corps commands with
the corps formations to new camps closer to the state border.”
It was signed by Marshal Timoshenko and Maj. Gen. Zhukov.4
Immediately, massive troop movements of the First Strategic
Echelon, consisting of 170 divisions, began. Fifty-six divisions moved clandestinely all along the five military districts from the Baltic to Odessa, mostly at night, to areas within 20 km of the borderline, in
an operation camouflaged as summer maneuvers. The remaining
114 divisions moved into the deeper territories of the western border area, fully equipped and ready to attack.
In the meantime, forces of the Second Strategic EchelonFar-East in the Siberian Baikal andAltai military districts, received similar “Top Secret, Special Importance” orders to move to new camps westward. It was an immense logistical task—thousands of railway cars transported those masses of rifle, tank and artillery corps, and
with or behind them their ammunition, food, sanitary and
But not only the army moved; the airplanes of the Russian air forces —not an independent branch of the Soviet forces but attached to army units—flew in, landed and parked on fields close to the border, cramped and looking like busy ant hills. Also the navy submarines and mine sweepers, destroyers and torpedo boats left the ports of
Kronstadt and Narva, taking positions farther west.
This gigantic deployment was nearly completed when, in the early morning hours of June 22, Hitler executed his preventive masterstroke. The military disaster for the Soviet forces that followed within the next four weeks brought the worst that can happen to a deploying, marching force: encirclement. The Blitzkrieg pincer movements of the Heeresgruppe North in the Riga-Luga-Staraja areas, the Heeresgruppe Middle in Bryansk-Minsk-Smolensk region and the Heeresgruppe South at Kiev-Uman smashed the Soviet armies.
More than three-quarters of a million prisoners were taken; 10,000 tanks, artillery pieces, trucks, machine guns and thousands of tons of ammunition were destroyed or taken over. Yet, in spite of this auspicious beginning, the massive size, huge population, raw materials and great industrial strength of the Soviet Union eventually asserted themselves—as Suvorov insists they were destined to do from the start.
1. Suvorov,Viktor, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to StartWorldWar II,
Naval Institute Press, Maryland, 2008.
2. VIZh=Voenno-istorichesky Zhournal (“Military History Journal”), Marshal
A.M.Vasilevsky,VIZ7 (1979), p. 43.
3. Only one classification was higher than “Top Secret, Special Importance”—that
was “Top Secret, Special File,” which meant that only one copy was produced and could not leave the premises of the Kremlin. Thus Top Secret, Special Importance was the highest level of secrecy used beyond the Kremlin. (Culprit, p. 208.)
4 Culprit, pp. 208-9.