The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Thurston) to the Secretary of State

No. 568

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that an editorial published in Krasnaya Zvezda of June 23, 1940, reported that the People’s Commissar for Defense58 of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has issued an order in accordance with which all Soviet soldiers on or off duty must salute their superiors, and officers of equal rank must salute each other.

The editorial in question points out that the salute will be a sign of discipline and respect for a superior. Saluting will permit individual cases of violation of military procedure to be “uprooted decisively”. Familiarity between officers and soldiers and “false democracy”, which are stated to have impaired the army’s capacity for fighting, must be ended forever, according to this editorial, and the desire of an officer to display his “democracy” is characterized as a crime against his service duties.

The recent restoration in the Soviet army and navy of the titles of general and admiral has been reported to the Department, and the present order represents a further step toward the elimination of “military communism” as well as of the duality of command which has been thought by most military observers in Moscow to have constituted a most serious handicap to the effectiveness of the Soviet army as a fighting unit.

Respectfully yours,

Walter Thurston
  1. Marshal Semen Konstantinovich Timoshenko, since May 7, 1940.