740.0011 European War 1939/20497: Telegram

The Second Secretary of Embassy in the Soviet Union (Thompson) to the Secretary of State 43

76. I find a wide divergence of opinion among observers here with respect to the present military situation. There is general agreement that the Germans have been forced to draw upon their reserves both of men and materials to meet the Soviet winter offensive and that the German preparations for a spring offensive have been seriously affected. Some even consider that the Germans have suffered so heavily that they are incapable of launching a major attack and German air strength in particular is said to have been vitally weakened. A British officer informs me that a Russian Admiral told him yesterday that because of the heavy losses on both sides he did not believe that the present struggle could be long continued and added that contrary to their expectations that machines and matériel would decide the issue, it now appears that the determining factor will be manpower.

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On the other hand many observers point to the failure of the Russians to destroy the German armies or make any important breakthrough under the winter conditions most favorable to them and consider that the Germans will be able to deliver crippling if not vital blows as soon as weather conditions permit. General MacFarlane recently informed me that he finds the Russians themselves to be confident of their strength but fully aware that they have a bitter struggle ahead of them. MacFarlane said in strict confidence that his own opinion was that if the Germans concentrated their forces, they would be capable of making serious breaks in the Russian defenses, but said that it was difficult to estimate the extent to which they would be able to exploit these successes. In general he is not inclined to be optimistic.

2. Have been informed in the strictest confidence by what I consider to be the best informed foreign observer in Russia that the military situation is most grave. He said that Russian losses have been, extremely heavy and that while the Germans have been pushed back some distance the Russians have been unable to achieve any important tactical much less strategical success. He is convinced that the Russians are incapable of maintaining their offensive after the end of winter conditions and said that from his own observations Russian transport is in deplorable condition. He emphasized most strongly, however, the seriousness of the food situation and said that famine conditions already exist in many parts of the country and that within a very short time, possibly 2 or 3 months, this situation may become catastrophic.44 He said that there is already great bitterness among the civilian population but pointed out that as long as sufficient food and munitions continued to reach the front the army would remain loyal and that the civilian population alone is powerless. He referred to the well known fact that Russian cities and Moscow in particular receive preferential treatment so far as food is concerned but said that within a few weeks he thought the gravity of the food shortage would become evident throughout the country. (Apart from bread the only food issued on an “employee’s” food card in Moscow so far this month has been 200 grams of salt and 200 grams of fish.) My informant believes that the Germans have been forced to draw heavily upon their reserves but thinks that they are capable of making a strong attack and doubts whether the Russians will be able to hold the Caucasus if the Germans make this their objective.

As my informant could readily be identified here I respectfully request that this report be given only the most guarded dissemination.

  1. In acknowledgment by telegram No. 77 on March 24, 1942, the Department stated that it was “very glad” to have this telegram because it was “extremely helpful.”
  2. A decree had been published on March 13, 1942, describing measures to be taken to increase communal livestock on collective (kolkhoz) and state (sovkhoz) farms, and the personal livestock of collective farmers.