8 August 1942 year
Members of the State Defense Committee and the Supreme Command Headquarters, as well as several people additionally invited to the meeting, gathered in a spacious office behind a long, covered with a green cloth table. At the head of the table, carefully filling the pipe with a tobacco, was the Supreme Commander himself. Joseph Vissarionovich lit a match and, slowly, lit his pipe, addressed the audience.
“Now the commander of the Volkhov front, Comrade Meretskov, will report to us the plan of an offensive operation near Leningrad, which should finally allow our troops to reach the city,” with a gesture of a hand in which he held the phone, Stalin invited Kirill Afanasyevich to a large map hanging on the wall.
Everyone at the table turned to the speaker. On their faces was a genuine interest in the plans of the command of the Volkhov front in breaking the blockade of Leningrad. Meretskov took a long pointer and came closer to the map.
“We propose to select the location of the operation to be the so-called Schlisselburg-Sinyavino ledge, formed as a result of the German troops’s departure to the southern coast of Lake Ladoga in September 1941,” he began. “The advantage of choosing this direction is that it will allow our troops to reach the Neva and Leningrad from the south-east in the shortest possible way,” the front commander guided the proposed direction of attack.
“But the terrain on which you are planning to carry out the operation is extremely unsuitable for the deployment of offensive actions,” said A. Vasilevsky, recently inaugurated as Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army, “Solid forests with large swamps difficult for even infantry, dramatically hamper the maneuver of the troops and will create benefits just for the defending side. In addition, on the path of your planned strike direction are Sinyavino heights, from which the enemy has a circular view of several kilometers.
“Yes, Comrade Colonel-General,” Meretskov admitted. “Moreover, the enemy, in the eleven months that it has taken up its positions, created here strong defensive fortifications with a multitude of resistance points and strong points. Artillery and mortar batteries are located in the center of the resistance centers, and the density of anti-tank guns is seven to eight pieces per kilometer of front. The enemy covered the front edge with wire and mine-explosive barriers, and the personnel are housed in strong dugouts, - Kirill Afanasyevich stopped, noticing Stalin’s gaze on himself. “However,” he continued, “assembled,” we nevertheless decided to choose precisely this direction for our offensive. First, only this direction will give us the opportunity to reach the Neva within two or three days, - the front commander showed on the map the intended throw to the river. - Because the operation, which will last longer than this period, we simply do not have enough strength. And, secondly, and more importantly, by launching an offensive where the enemy is not waiting for him, we will ensure the surprise of the initial strike and seize the initiative. As for the locality - where to find a locality in our North, better than this? The swamps and forests cover all the space here, from Lake Ladoga to Novgorod ...
Those present at the meeting, exchanging glances, finally nodded approvingly, agreeing with the commander of the Volkhov front. Stalin, who had listened attentively to the speaker, was puffing on his pipe and kept silent. Meretskov continued.
“The operation is planned as joint actions by the right wing of the Volkhov Front and the Nevskaya Operational Group of the Leningrad Front,” Kirill Afanasyevich looked at the man who was sitting at the table, Commander of the Leningrad Front, Lieutenant General L.A. Govorova. He rose from his seat, but, obeying the gesture of Stalin, sat down again at the table.
- Leningraders want to force the Neva, but they don’t have the strength and means to do this. We think that the main burden in the upcoming operation should again lie on the Volkhov Front. The Leningrad Front will assist Volkhovsky with its artillery and aviation. Therefore, I now propose not to dwell on the auxiliary operation of the Leningrad Front separately, ”Stalin explained his decision. - Continue, Comrade Meretskov.
- The main attack by the troops of our front will be carried out on the 16-kilometer stretch, in the direction of Otradny. At the same time, we will have to break through the enemy’s defenses south of Sinyavino, defeat his Mginsky-Sinyavino grouping, and, coming to the Neva, unite with parts of the Leningrad front, - the commander of the Volkhov front indicated the appropriate lines of action of his troops. - For the operation involved two armies: 8-I and 2-I shock. The 8 Army is already taking up defense in the area of a future offensive and will act in the first echelon. The units of the 2 shock army, which have broken through from the environment, have so far been withdrawn to the reserve, where they put themselves in order and are replenished with people and equipment.
Despite the fact that throughout the Great Patriotic War, the Supreme Command Headquarters was located in Moscow, in the city of Kuybyshev (at present, in the city of Samara), a special bunker was built as its backup location. In the photo - one of its premises, intended for meetings. The interior of this hall was made in the most similar style to the one in which the Supreme Command Headquarters meetings were held in the capital.
- Did you know, comrade Meretskov, that the 8 and 2 shock armies, according to your plan, will have to move in the same way as the Russian troops, who had driven the Swedes from our land, before? - suddenly asked the Supreme.
“Yes, Comrade Stalin - 240 years ago, during the Northern War, this was exactly how the regiments of Peter the Great walked,” answered Kirill Afanasyevich in the affirmative.
- It would be good to remind the fighters before the offensive about those glorious events that culminated in the victories of the Russian weapons- said Stalin.
- I agree with you, Joseph Vissarionovich. We will definitely carry out such work, ”Meretskov assured, after which he continued. - Between the 8 th army and the 2 th shock army that developed it, we plan to deploy the 4 th Guards Rifle Corps in the second echelon. Thus, the first two echelons will be designed to break through the defense of the Germans to the full depth, and the task of the third will be reduced to the destruction of enemy reserves already at the final stage of the operation. This will allow us to avoid the shortcomings of the 1941 / 42 winter battles, when we could not provide massing forces and assets in the crucial direction. Now, having a different structure of troops, we expect to make our way to the Neva at a high rate before German reinforcements from other sectors arrive there.
- And what forces can oppose you in this direction? - asked the member of the Supreme Command, V.M. Molotov.
“According to our calculations, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich, we are confronted by ten enemy divisions,” Meretskov replied. - Our reconnaissance in the area of alleged offensive actions and in the vicinity of it did not reveal any other enemy formations, as well as transfers from other sectors of the front.
There was a pause. At this moment, rising from the table, the Supreme Commander said:
- Well then. I think the Supreme Command may approve the plan of operation provided by the command of the Volkhov front - Stalin with a gesture invited Meretskov to sit down in his place. Joseph Vissarionovich himself slowly moved along the table along a wide red carpet. Having made a couple of puffs from his pipe on the move, he continued:
- To replenish weakened connections, we will provide the Volkhov Front with a sufficient number of marching companies, tanks, guards mortar units, shells and other material and technical means, - after these words, Stalin’s hand described the arc, and the movement of the tube seemed to put an end to this sentence. - This year, we have successfully completed the restructuring of all sectors of the national economy on a war footing. The troops, unlike the winter company of 1941/42, now in many ways will no longer feel a lack.
Pausing, Stalin turned to the commander of the Volkhov front.
- How many automata and rifles do you need, comrade Meretskov? - he asked.
Kirill Afanasyevich again rose from his chair, which he had just occupied at the table.
“We ask from three to five thousand machine guns and five thousand rifles, Comrade Stalin,” called Meretskov, in his opinion, the most minimal figure.
“We'll give twenty thousand,” Stalin replied, and then added. “Now we have not only enough rifles, but also automatic ones ...”
In 1942, the troops began to receive more and more new equipment. In the photo - “thirty-three”, overcoming the difficult terrain of the Leningrad region (1942).
Leaving Moscow, Kirill Afanasyevich noted with satisfaction that, despite the difficult situation on the fronts, the country's leadership confidently holds the levers of its management. In the rear, mass production of the types of armaments and materiel necessary for the front takes place, large reserve formations and formations are being formed. “Sooner or later, quantity should go into quality,” he thought.
With this thought, he hurried to the troops of his front — too much still needed to be done to prepare for the upcoming offensive ...
12 August 1942.
Crimea, 11 headquarters of the German army
Returning from a holiday to Romania in the position of his army, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein was in excellent spirits. On the epaulettes of his uniform, a silver pair of marshal's wands with fine engraving was now flaunted, carefully prepared almost immediately after its production to the new rank by the Major General Staff Eisman, with the help of one Simferopol Tatar - goldsmith. In general, after winning the battle for Sevastopol, Manstein received a lot of congratulations and expensive gifts. Thus, the German crown prince sent him a heavy gold cigarette case, on the lid of which the plan of the fortress of Sevastopol with all its fortifications was skillfully engraved. One Russian priest, who had escaped from the revolution in France and now lived in Vichy, presented him in gratitude for “liberation of Crimea from the Bolsheviks”, as he wrote in his accompanying letter, a cane from a knotted vine, which had a topaz , and on a narrow metal ring there was an inscription in Russian. Among the gifts there was even such an exotic edition as the memoirs of a certain General von Manstein, who during the time of Empress Anna, while in the Russian service, fought under the command of Field Marshal Minich on the shores of the Black Sea. The successfully developing large offensive of the southern wing of the German army inspired Manstein with the hope that he would receive even greater honors as soon as the rested 11 army joined the conquest of the Caucasus.
When the field marshal, driving up to the headquarters building, got out of his car, he was met by the head of the operational department of the army headquarters, Colonel Busse.
- Heil Hitler, Mr. Field Marshal! - Colonel threw up his hand, welcoming Manstein.
Having answered the same and shook hands with Busse, Manstein immediately inquired about the affairs in the army.
- Colonel, how are you preparing for the crossing of the Kerch Strait, the preparations for which you reported to me so often during my vacation?
“Mr. Field Marshal,” began Busse, somewhat embarrassed. - The fact is that we have received a new order. According to him, the 11 army must be urgently placed at the disposal of Army Group North. In this regard, our heavy artillery has already been sent near Leningrad.
- And who will now force the passage? - Manstein asked, clearly perplexed by such a drastic change of command plans.
- The task of forcing the Kerch Strait is now assigned to the 42 corps and the 42 division, together with the Romanians. - replied the head of the operations department. - We were also ordered to organize the transfer to the north of the rest of the army units, upon completion of their recruitment, as well as the headquarters of the 54 and 30 buildings.
Field Marshal thought. Apparently, after success in the storming of Sevastopol, now they want to set him the task of taking Leningrad. “But how appropriate is it for this purpose to remove the 11 Army from the southern wing of the Eastern Front? - he thought. “Regardless of whether the army will be involved in forcing the Kerch Strait or not, it could become a powerful operational reserve in the south, where decisive battles are now taking place.” It is necessary to discuss all this in the Führer General Headquarters, with the chief of the general staff of the ground forces. ”
- Good. Busse, prepare the necessary orders, Manstein ordered. - Unfortunately, apparently, we all really soon will have to dramatically change the climate ...
CHAPTER 6. FIRE RADIANCE OF THE NORTH
24 August 1942.
Ukraine, 8 kilometers from Vinnitsa.
Hitler's Werewolf Bet (8).
(8) - Werewolf "- from the German Werwolf - a werewolf that can turn into a wolf.
The chief of staff of the Wehrmacht Army High Command looked out the window of his office - a thick forest was flooded with the rays of the still warm summer sun. A light breeze, breaking into the half-open window, brought a pleasant smell of pine needles and local forest herbs. Halder was pleased with the premises of the Fuhrer Headquarters - “Werewolf” prepared for him and his staff. Unlike the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia, here in Ukraine, the main offices of the staff of the Army, communications and service personnel were not housed in raw bunkers, but in wooden houses hidden by tall pine trees growing around them. Special bunkers, with a multimeter thickness of walls and overlappings of reinforced concrete, extending over several floors in depth, were provided only for Hitler himself, as well as for senior Reich officials and general staff officers.
Keitel, Hitler, Halder (from left to right in the foreground) on the territory of the Werewolf Headquarters (July 1942)
The headquarters was transferred here in mid-July 1942, and has already managed to settle in a new place. Some difficulties for guard duty created large intervals between houses, but this was offset by the good opportunities that appeared for the work of all departments and the mild Ukrainian climate.
Halder was expecting Field Marshal Manstein. Realizing that Hitler’s demand for the transfer of the 11 Army to attack Leningrad, which appeared in the late July of July, is extremely unexpected for Manstein, he wanted to personally speak with him before he went to the Führer to get this new task. The Chief of the General Staff of the Wehrmacht Ground Forces himself was against further dispersal of German forces until the assigned tasks of seizing Stalingrad and the Caucasus were completed. In Manstein, he wanted to acquire an ally so necessary to him that would help him, if not dissuade Hitler from this undertaking, then at least make him doubt its timeliness. On the table rang the phone.
“Mr. Colonel-General, the plane to Field Marshal has landed at our airfield,” the duty officer reported to Halder.
- Good. - He answered and hung up.
Halder looked at his watch. Before the scheduled meeting time, the Fuhrer had even more hours left. This time should be enough to meet in time with the arrived commander of the 11 army and discuss the necessary issues ...
Wooden houses bets "Werewolf". The total number of such buildings on its territory was about eighty. Among them were a special telephone station, a canteen, a gymnasium with a swimming pool, a sauna, a hairdresser and even a casino.
Manstein's plane landed on the airfield, located near the location of the "Werewolf". When the car was already finished taxiing and its engines finally stopped, the field marshal, who appeared in the doorway, saw that a car was already waiting near the ramp. The chained escort soldiers threw up their hands in a Nazi salute. Their well-trained bearing and perfect appearance were immediately noticeable, on the uniforms there were personalized sleeve cuffs with the inscription “Großdeutschland” and the monogram “GD” on shoulder straps (9).
(9) - “Großdeutschland”, or “Grossdeutschland” - (“Great Germany” - German)
They were soldiers of one of the most elite formations - the motorized SS division "Great Germany". Spring 1942g. she was deployed to the division of the eponymous motorized infantry regiment and took part in the summer battles on the southern wing of the German Eastern Front in a new capacity. After heavy fighting and the losses suffered near Voronezh and Rostov, in early August the division was taken to the reserve of the ground forces' high command for restyning and rest. From his chief of staff, Manstein knew that after replenishment, the High Command planned to transfer it to reinforce its 11 Army.
The so-called "Fuhrer escort battalion", to which these soldiers belonged, was separated from the division and was responsible for the protection of Hitler's first perimeter.
“Mr. Field Marshal,” the guard platoon commander turned to him. - All posts are notified of your arrival, but I apologize in advance for the inevitable checks along the direction of travel - the security measures in the Fuhrer Bet are different from those in the layout of our usual parts.
“I understand everything, Mr. Untersturmführer, do not worry,” answered Manstein, getting into the car.
Driving through numerous checkpoints, an experienced field marshal's eye noted a large number of hidden pillboxes, artillery and anti-aircraft positions that make up the line of defense rates. Observation points were equipped and well disguised on tall trees. Finally, the car stopped at one of the wooden buildings. The familiar figure of the chief of the general staff of the land forces, Franz Halder, appeared at the door of the building.
“Greetings, Mr. Field Marshal,” he said, shaking hands with Manstein. “I’ve been waiting for a cup of coffee with you and discuss our current tasks.”
“Of course, Mr. Colonel-General,” Manstein answered him courteously. - I will be glad to take advantage of your hospitality and the opportunity to discuss these issues ...
When building Werewolf shelters, the surrounding terrain was used to the maximum.
In the photo - one of the bunkers of the Fuhrer Stakes.
After about half an hour, having interviewed and coordinating some of the positions before the meeting, Mantshane and Halder entered Hitler's office. In the "Werwolf" this room, unlike other residences of the Fuhrer, did not differ in huge size, but it was quite spacious. From the wide windows, which reached the height practically to its ceiling, bright sunlight poured into the room, if necessary supplemented by the lighting of a large ceiling lamp located in the center of the room. Directly above the cards lying on a long table were several hinged lamps with flexible fixings. Another pair of table lamps stood near the spot where Hitler used to sit.
In addition to the Führer himself, in the office were General Head Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of Staff of the Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces, and General of Infantry Rudolf Schmundt, who served as Hitler’s military adjutant.
Smiling broadly, Hitler rose from the table and went out to meet the newcomer. The generals threw up their hands almost simultaneously.
- Heil Hitler!
“Greetings, Mr. Field Marshal,” he said, extending his hand to Manstein. “Well, the conqueror of the southern stronghold of the Russians will now be destined to deliver a crushing blow to them in the north, so that no one else could doubt the strength of German weapons!” - Hitler patted Manstein on the shoulder and gestured to the table.
- My Fuhrer, I want to immediately express my doubts, is it advisable now to remove my 11 army from the southern wing of the Eastern Front, when the battles in the Caucasus and in the Stalingrad region are not yet completed? - Manstein tried to immediately start a discussion about the plans for the further use of his army. - After all, now we are looking for solutions to our fate in the south of the Eastern Front, and for this, no amount of forces will be superfluous in this direction ...
“Let us leave this question for now, Manstein,” Hitler interrupted him. - We will discuss it a bit later. And now we will listen to Halder's report on the current situation on the fronts.
The chief of the general staff of the land forces obediently approached the table, laid out on it updated maps of the current situation on the fronts. Hitler stood beside him.
“In the south, near Novorossiysk, our 17 army achieved local tactical successes,” Halder began the report. - The 1 Tank Army, which received the order to deploy the 16 th motorized division in the direction of Elista, had minor changes in the situation. The 4-I tank army defeated the enemy standing in front of it and is now regrouping to advance to the north in order to make its way to Stalingrad from the south. The 14 tank tank corps of the 6 Army, which had broken through to the Volga near Stalingrad, were seriously pressed by the enemy as a result of the Russian tanks' counter attack, but after pulling in fresh forces, they managed to defuse the situation there, left to the Volga. “On the Don front, the situation has not changed, except for several attacks with limited goals,” Halder paused and looked at Hitler. The Fuhrer was silent, and the colonel-general decided to continue. - On the central front, the Russians inflicted serious blows on the positions of the 2, 3 and Tank armies and the 9 armies, where in a few areas the insignificant withdrawal of our troops was again noted. Despite the arrival of the 72 Division, forced by the 11 Army transferred to the north and transferred directly “from the wheels” to Army Group Center, the situation there remains tense. In this regard, part of the “Great Germany” division, as previously promised to Field Marshal Mantshtein and already sent near Leningrad, were stopped in Smolensk and transferred to Bely as additional reserves — after these words, Halder exchanged views with Manstein. At the same time, the colonel-general spread his hands to the sides and shook his head, thereby once again showing the field marshal the absence of another way out of the situation there.
- How long will the Russians violate my plans with impunity, Halder ?! - sharply attacked the speaker, Hitler. - Why, instead of destroying the 3's Russian armies in the cauldron under Sukhinichy, as envisaged by the Virbelwind Operation Plan (10), we had to drop the divisions that we planned to transfer to Manstein to take Leningrad?
(10) - Operation "Wilberwind" ("Virbelwind" - "Smerch", German). - The operation of the Germans in the West direction, with the aim of encircling and destroying 10, 16 and 61 of the Soviet armies of the Western Front in the Sukhinichsky ledge To participate in this operation, the German command attracted 11 divisions, including 5 tank.In the operation, which was scheduled to begin on 7-August, the Germans wanted to cut off Sukhinichsky ledge with two counter blows - the 9 army of the Model from the north and 2 Schmidt’s tank army from the south, however, which began in August, Pogorelo-Gorodishche The n operation of the Soviet troops put the 9 th army of the Germans in an extremely difficult position, as a result of which she was unable to take part in the operation "Smerch". Then on August 11, the Germans attempted to carry out the operation with only the 2 tank army. As a result, meeting stubborn resistance and soon being under strong counterattacks of the approached Soviet reserves, the German offensive choked, turning into serious losses for them.
After all, it was only quite recently, at the end of July, that you demanded to transfer the “Center” to the Army Group, from the Stalingrad sector, just replenished 9-th and 11-th tank divisions? How long will this go on? Divisions of Army Group "Center" so late in defense that they have completely forgotten how to fight? - Hitler's face turned red.
“My Führer,” Halder tried to explain. - the troops have long been overworked, have suffered significant losses in the officer and noncommissioned officers, this can not affect their condition and combat capability.
- You would think that our troops in the south are less overworked and do not suffer any losses! - Hitler shouted again.
Halder paused for a while, hoping that the Führer would calm down a bit. Then he again tried to bring his arguments to explain the situation at the front of Army Group Center.
“My Führer,” the colonel general began as calmly as possible. - As you know, in order to misinform the enemy about the direction of our offensive, we conducted an operation "Kremlin", as a result of the successful implementation of which we managed to convince the enemy that the main blow of the summer campaign we will put on Moscow.
Hitler, indeed calming down a bit, reluctantly nodded his head in agreement.
“As a result,” continued Halder, “the Soviet command gathered its main reserves in the Moscow sector, thanks to which we were able so successfully to launch the main offensive in the south. Now, realizing their mistake, the Russian command was faced with a choice - either to begin redeploying reserves accumulated in the western direction to the south, thereby weakening the Moscow direction - while still not having time to help Stalingrad or the troops in the Caucasus with great risk, or try to create for us a serious crisis on the front of the Army Group Center, having launched an offensive here. As we see, they chose the second option.
- Tell me, Halder, why do I need the chief of the general staff of the ground forces, who alone does what punctually summarizes the course of current events? - A new outburst of Hitler was even stronger than the previous one. - Is it not your task to prevent such situations, especially since for this you and other generals simply need to follow my instructions! Because I, unlike you, can judge all of this much better, because in World War I I fought as an infantryman at the front, while you were not even there !!!
“My Führer,” Manstein suddenly intervened. “Allow me to leave the meeting until my personal presence is necessary,” he no longer wanted to listen to such unjust reproaches and threats of Hitler addressed to the chief of the general staff.
“Okay,” Hitler said dully, not turning around to him. - You will be called at the right time.
Field Marshal General left the office. Only now he realized how bad was the relationship between Hitler and his chief of general staff. Halder’s serious considerations, presented in an exclusively businesslike manner, had absolutely no effect on Hitler. "It is unlikely that they will be able to work together for a long time," he thought.
Only twenty minutes later, Manstein was again invited to the office. When the field marshal entered the room, the Führer, who had already clearly become hot from his outburst of anger, was again sitting at the head of the table.
“Well, it's time for us to move on to the main issue of today's meeting, Mr. Field Marshal,” said Hitler, gesturing for him to sit down beside him. When Mantstein took the place offered to him, the Führer continued. - So, Mr. Field Marshal, you are entrusted to perform one of the main tasks set out in my directive No. 41, namely, take Leningrad and connect with the Finns by land (11).
(11) - Hitler's directive No. 41 from 05.04.1942. was the basic general plan of action of the Wehrmacht for the period following the end of the winter battles of the 1941-1942 of the year. According to this document, the main goal of the upcoming campaign was the final destruction of manpower, which remained at the disposal of the Soviet command and depriving the USSR of the greatest possible number of the most important military-economic centers. For this, it was prescribed to conduct a major offensive, with the aim of destroying the Soviet troops west of the r. Don and the subsequent seizure of the oil regions of the Caucasus, as well as passes through the Caucasus range. The other main task specified in the directive was to strike in the north, as a result of which it was necessary to achieve the fall of Leningrad and unification with the Finnish army. Interestingly, according to the plan of operations set forth in the document in the south, the Führer was not originally planning to seize Stalingrad - the city was asked only to "try to reach" or, at least, to exert fire influence to such an extent that it ceased to serve as a military-industrial and transport center.
“But it is precisely in this directive that it is unequivocally stated that the said operations in the north should be carried out only after Russian forces can be destroyed in the south and capture the oil regions of the Caucasus,” said Manstein.
“Our successes in the south give reason to believe that the Russians here no longer have sufficient forces to stop our divisions in the foothills of the Caucasus or at Stalingrad,” said Hitler with confidence in his voice. - I think that in the course of the next few weeks we will achieve all our goals. Halder, do you agree with me that we can do without the 11 Army in the south? - turning to the colonel-general, asked Hitler.
- Yes, my Fuhrer. I think we will be able to manage the forces we have there, Halder replied surprisingly quickly. - As a last resort, we can transfer necessary forces from France or other quiet sites. Moreover, after the unsuccessful landing in Dieppe, the British are unlikely to organize any attempts to create a "second front" (12) in the course of the next year.
(12) - 19 August 1942, British and Canadian forces attempted an amphibious assault on the French coast of the English Channel, in order to capture the port of Dieppe. The operation ended in complete failure - with the order of 6000 soldiers, the landing forces lost more than 3600 people killed, wounded or captured during several hours of the battle, the losses of British aviation amounted to more than 100 aircraft.
“Stalin is putting pressure on Churchill on the opening of the“ second front, ”Hitler grinned,“ so the British have to demonstrate in this way at least some kind of “activity” in this matter. There will be no “second front” this year in Europe, it is clear to everyone, even to Stalin. So, Manstein, have we managed to dispel your doubts? - The Fuhrer again turned to the commander of the 11 th army.
- My Fuhrer, I am ready to fulfill any order that will serve Germany.
- But these are the words of a real German officer! Hitler exclaimed approvingly. “Manstein, for more than a year now a whole group of armies, dozens of our divisions — veterans of the Eastern Front, have been bound under this damned Russian capital of the north!” - after these words, Hitler jumped up from his place and with quick steps began to measure the room. - We tried to storm this city in the fall of 1941, to strangle it with hunger in the winter of 1942, to raze aviation and artillery from the face of the earth, but still have not been able to achieve its fall. As a bone in the throat sticks out with us, this bastion of Russians on the Neva, covered by their Baltic fleet, which also must be finally captured or destroyed. ”He nervously clenched his fists, the Fuhrer’s face distorted a grimace of hatred.
Then, turning to Mantshtein, he said in an imperious tone:
- I charge you, the conqueror of the fortress of Sevastopol, to end our battle in the north of the Eastern Front. We will call the operation to capture Leningrad "Nordlicht" (13).
(13) - "Nordlicht" - "Northern Lights" (German)
This fiery glow should pave the way for our troops and lead them to a well-deserved victory - Hitler exclaimed pathetically, as if speaking in front of a huge audience. “And it’s not for me to explain to you, Mr. Field Marshal,” added Hitler, “what prospects will open up for us after connecting with the Finns on the Karelian isthmus and releasing dozens of divisions of Army Group North.” By delivering several powerful blows by these divisions in the southeast direction, the entire northern flank of the Russian front can be brought down. Having lost the Caucasus and received the same blow in the north, the Soviets will no longer be able to continue the war - this will be our final victory on the Eastern Front!
Manstein, listening attentively to Hitler, rose from his chair.
“My Führer, my headquarters is on its way to Leningrad.” Immediately upon arrival, assessing the situation, we immediately begin to develop a detailed plan of the operation.
“I believe in you, Field Marshal,” Hitler put his hand on Manstein’s shoulder. - We understand that we were forced to deprive you of several divisions, so necessary for you. But do not be discouraged. According to our orders, since the beginning of July, a thousand people are being sent daily to the Leningrad station to reinforce our troops. For the operation will also be concentrated about two hundred artillery batteries with eight hundred guns.
“The possibilities of artillery shelling near Leningrad are not as favorable as in Sevastopol, and the infantry forces for attacking the Karelian Isthmus are insufficient,” said Manstein.
- To help you, we are deploying additional air formations near Leningrad - the 8 th air corps, the pupils of your good Crimean friend - Colonel General Baron von Richthofen. In addition, it was decided to hand over the company of our newest Tiger tanks to you. They will help you to crack any Russian defense! - enthusiastically said Hitler. “No Soviet anti-tank gun can penetrate their armor even from close range!” And their 88-millimeter guns will smash any tanks and enemy fortifications from a distance of more than a kilometer. continued Hitler. - You are given complete freedom in the actions, Mr. Field Marshal. However, remember one thing - after taking Leningrad, it must be wiped off the face of the earth! - and he punched the table hard.
Продолжение следует ...