J. C. S. Files
Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
Marshal Stalin asked the President to open the meeting.
The President said that he was very happy to open such a historic meeting in such a lovely spot. In view of the conveniences and comforts that had been provided the visiting delegations, he wished to thank Marshal Stalin for all that he had found time to do in this regard in the midst of the prosecution of the war. He said that the United States, British and Russian delegations would understand each other better and better as we go along. We could therefore proceed informally to discuss frankly and freely among ourselves the matters necessary to the successful prosecution of the common cause in which [Page 581] we all are engaged. There was much that required discussion, the whole map in Europe in fact. Today, however, the conversations by common agreement would be concerned with Germany. In this connection he felt sure that the British and American people were viewing with a satisfaction as deep as must be that of the Soviet people themselves the successful advances of the Soviet armies against the common enemy.
Marshal Stalin said that Colonel General Antonov, Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, would outline the situation existing on the Eastern Front.
General Antonov made the following statement:
Soviet forces from the 12th to the 15th of January went into attack on the front from the Niemen River to the Carpathians, a distance of 700 kilometers. Forces of General Cherniakhovsky advanced towards Koenigsberg; forces of Marshal Rokossovsky, along the north bank of the Vistula cutting off East Prussia from central Germany; forces of Marshal Zhukov, south of the Vistula against Poznan; forces of Marshal Konev, against Chenstokhov-Breslau; forces of General Petrov, in the area of the Carpathians against Novo Targ. The greatest blow was delivered by the army groups of Rokossovsky, Zhukov, and Konev on the Ostrolenka-Crakow front, 300 kilometers.
Because of the unfavorable weather conditions, this operation was to commence at the end of January when weather conditions were expected to improve. Since the operation was planned and prepared as an operation in full strength, it was hoped to carry it out under the most favorable conditions possible. Nevertheless, in view of the difficult circumstances on the Western Front in connection with the German attack in the Ardennes, the High Command of the Soviet Army gave an order to commence the attack not later than the middle of January, not waiting for improvement in weather.
The enemy grouping, after the Soviet forces reached the Narev and Vistula Rivers, was the most concentrated on the central sector of the front, since striking from this sector led our troops out along the shortest route to the vital centers of Germany. In order to create for ourselves more advantageous conditions for attack, the Supreme Soviet Command decided to extend it to the central group of the enemy. For this purpose this operation was conducted as a subsidiary against East Prussia, and the advance in Hungary toward Budapest was continued. Both of these attacks were for the Germans very painful, and they quickly reacted to our attack by a swift transfer of power onto the flank at the expense of the central sector of our front; thus, out of 24 tank divisions on our front, representing the principal German striking power, 11 tank divisions were drawn in to the Budapest sector, 6 tank divisions on the East Prussian (3 tank divisions were located in Courland), and thus on the central part of the front there [Page 582] remained only 4 tank divisions. The aim of the High Command was accomplished.
On the front from Ostrolenka to Crakow, that is, in the area of our greatest attack, the enemy had up to 80 divisions. We set up a grouping calculated on having a superiority over the enemy: in infantry, more than double; in artillery, tanks and aviation, a decided superiority.
The massing of artillery on the sectors of the break-through amounted to 220–230 guns (from 75 mm. and above) on one kilometer of the front.
The advance was begun under extremely unfavorable weather conditions—low visibility and fog, which completely ruled out the possibility of air operations and limited artillery observation to several hundred meters.
Due to good preliminary reconnaissance of the enemy positions and a powerful artillery advance, the fire power of the enemy was overwhelmed and his fortifications destroyed. This situation permitted our troops during the first day of the advance to move forward 10 to 15 kilometers, that is, to completely break through the entire tactical depth of the enemy defense.
The following results were achieved:
a. During the 18 days of the advance, the Soviet troops moved forward up to 500 kilometers in the direction of the main offensive.
Thus the average speed of forward movement was 25–30 kilometers per day.
b. The Soviet troops came out onto the Oder River on the sector from Kyustrin (north of Frankfurt) and south and seized the Silesian industrial area.
c. They cut across the main roads and cut off enemy groups in East Prussia from central Germany; thus, in addition to the Courland group (26 divisions) isolated 27 divisions of the enemy group; a series of divisional groupings were surrounded and annihilated in the region of Lodz, Torne, Poznan, Shneidmul and others, an approximate total of up to 15 divisions.
d. Break-throughs in force of long duration of German defensive positions in East Prussia in the Koenigsberg and Latvian directions.
e. Destroyed 45 German divisions against which we sustained the following losses:
|Prisoners||—about 100,000 men|
|Casualties||—about 300,000 men|
|Total||—approximately 400,000 men.|
Probable enemy action:
a. The Germans will defend Berlin for which they will try to hold up the movement of the Soviet troops in the area of the Oder River, setting [Page 583] up the defense here at the expense of withdrawn troops and at the expense of reserves being moved over from Germany, Western Europe and Italy.
For the defense of Pomerania they will try to use their Courland grouping, moving it over by sea beyond the Vistula.
b. The Germans will probably cover the direction leading to Vienna more strongly, strengthening this sector at the expense of troops now in action in Italy.
The shifting of enemy troops:
a. On our front there have already appeared:
|From the central regions of Germany||—9 division|
|From the Western European Front||—6 divisions|
|From Italy||—1 division|
|Total 16 divisions|
b. In the process of being shifted:
|4 tank divisions|
|1 motorized division|
c. It is probable that there will yet be shifted up to 30–35 divisions (at the expense of the Western European Front, Norway, Italy, and reserves located in Germany).
In this manner there can appear on our front an additional 35 to 40 divisions.
Our wishes are:
a. To speed up the advance of the Allied troops on the Western Front, for which the present situation is very favorable:
- To defeat the Germans on the Eastern Front.
- To defeat the German groupings which have advanced into the Ardennes.
- The weakening of the German forces in the West in connection with the shifting of their reserves to the East.
It is desirable to begin the advance during the first half of February.
b. By air action on communications hinder the enemy from carrying out the shifting of his troops to the East from the Western Front, from Norway, and from Italy.
In particular, to paralyze the junctions of Berlin and Leipzig.
c. Not permit the enemy to remove his forces from Italy.
The President asked whether the Russians proposed to change the gauge of the railroad rolling stock captured from the Germans or to widen the gauge of the lines.
General Antonov replied that much of the equipment was unfit for use. At present the Russians are widening the gauge of those lines [Page 584] that are most vital to supply. These lines were being widened only as a matter of necessity as, manifestly, the available resources are not sufficient to widen all the railroads in Germany. The greater part of the German lines will remain intact.
The Prime Minister stated that the British Delegation would have a number of questions to address to the Russians. As these were of a technical and military nature, he thought it would be more advantageous if they could be brought up between the military staffs.
The Prime Minister then suggested that General Marshall explain to Marshal Stalin the impending operations on the Western Front.
The President pointed out the increasing necessity for coordinating the operations of the three Allies now that the British and American armies are getting so close to the Russians. By reason of the short distance separating the Western and Eastern Fronts the Germans are now able to transfer their reserves quickly from one front to the other.
General Marshall then gave a résumé of the operations planned for the Western Front. He said that the German bulge in the Ardennes had now been eliminated and the Allied forces have advanced in some areas beyond the line originally held. During the past week General Eisenhower has been regrouping his forces and conducting operations designed to eliminate enemy pockets in the southern part of the line north of Switzerland. At the same time he has been maintaining pressure in the Ardennes area in order to determine whether the Germans were present in sufficient forces to resist a movement northeast towards Bonn. Because of the resistance encountered, it was decided four days ago to cease operations and to transfer divisions further north. In the southern end of the line, operations were being directed towards the elimination of the German positions in the vicinity of Mulhausen and Colmar. Colmar has now been occupied but the advance of the First French Army north of Mulhausen has been very slow.
North of Strasbourg the small German bridgeheads across the Rhine are being eliminated. As soon as the Rhine is reached it will be possible to reduce the number of divisions in the front line and release them for other employments. Some released divisions are even now moving north in preparation for the larger operations.
Field Marshal Montgomery, in command of the 21st Army Group and Ninth U. S. Army, is preparing an operation designed to strike towards the southeast in order to reach the line of the Rhine from Düsseldorf north. A complementary operation has been planned in a northeast direction towards the same objective, which it is hoped can be launched about a week later than the first operation. By means of these two operations it is hoped to drive the Germans east of the Rhine north of Düsseldorf and then to cross the river north of the Ruhr. This crossing will constitute the main effort of the British and [Page 585] American armies and into it will be put all of the divisions which it is logistically possible to support. In addition, airborne troops in large numbers will land east of the Rhine.
From the standpoint of weather, the passage of the Rhine is considered possible after 1 March. A crossing will be attempted as soon as the river is reached, but it is recognized that ice will make hazardous any crossing prior to 1 March. Three good crossing sites are available for the operation and a fourth may be attempted. However, the front of the assault will accommodate initially only five divisions.
Plans have been made for a secondary effort in the vicinity of Frankfurt which can be exploited if the main effort in the North should fail to go through. The troops composing the left of the American First Army are now conducting an operation designed to capture the two dams controlling the water in the Roer River. As long as these dams are in the hands of the Germans, there is a danger that the bridges established for the river crossing may be swept away by the release of the impounded water.
The opening of the port of Antwerp has relieved the limitation on operations on the Western Front imposed by a lack of supplies. It is now possible to bring in from 75,000 to 80,000 tons of dry cargo a day. The Germans have realized the importance of Antwerp in the Allied supply scheme and have made a continuous effort to interfere with the operations of that port through the use of robot bombs and rockets. This constitutes a danger as there is, of course, always a chance of a lucky hit being made against the Antwerp lock gates. Only scattered attacks have been made by air.
United States and British fighters and light bombers supporting the ground troops have destroyed a great deal of German transport. Considerable effort has been directed against trains operating in the vicinity of Cologne and on the east bank of the Rhine. Although definite final reports have not yet been received, there is every indication of severe damage having been done to panzer divisions withdrawing from the Ardennes.
The heavy bombers have been employed primarily against German oil supplies in order to reduce the German supply of fuel for airplanes and motor transport. Present data indicate that these operations have resulted in a reduction of German oil production to 20 percent of the former capacity. The heavy bombers have also been used against German rail communications and assembly yards and a continuous effort has been maintained to destroy German fighter forces. These planes have also struck heavily at tank factories. The air forces in these operations include United States heavy bombers operating from the Italian Front. When weather prevents profitable operations in the Po Valley, they are directed against communications leading into Germany.[Page 586]
There are now about 32 enemy divisions on the Italian Front, 27 German and 5 Italian. The number of Allied divisions is approximately equal. The Allied forces have great superiority in fighter airplanes and these, in good weather, are able to ravage the Po Valley. The destruction of rail lines and rolling stock has been heavy.
Indications point to a serious resumption of the German submarine war as the result of technical developments which are making the detection of the submarines increasingly difficult. The submarines have developed considerable skill in operating in shallow waters where the tide makes it difficult for ASDIC to locate them. In order to counter this submarine resurgence, heavy bombers are being employed to strike at submarine assembly points whenever these operations do not interfere with the bombing of the German oil supplies.
In concluding, General Marshall said he would be glad to have Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke amplify his remarks in any way he thought desirable.
The Prime Minister stated he would be very glad for Field Marshal Brooke to do this and stated that he would like for Admiral Cunningham also to say a word about the submarine operations.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Danzig is the place where much of the assembling of the submarines is done and expressed satisfaction in the thought that the city is now not far from the Russian front lines, which are daily drawing closer.
In answer to a question from Marshal Stalin, the Prime Minister said that other submarine assembling points were Kiel and Hamburg.
Field Marshal Brooke said that General Marshall had fully covered the situation now existing on the Western Front and the operations which are contemplated for the future. He said that the British Chiefs of Staff were in full accord with the plan for the future operations which General Marshall had outlined.
The Prime Minister stated that both the British and Americans have amphibious branches in their services. The officer commanding the British amphibious branch is at present in Argonaut and he, the Prime Minister, would like very much to have him meet with the Russian amphibious experts and obtain from them any information which the Russians would be kind enough to provide.
In reply to a question from Marshal Stalin, General Marshall explained that the front of the main effort in the impending operations covered three crossings over a distance of 25 or 30 miles and afforded room for not more than five divisions. The front eventually would extend all along the Rhine down as far as Düsseldorf, a total of some 50 or 60 miles. He pointed out that, as was the case in Normandy, it will be necessary to assault initially on a narrow front but this front would be expanded as rapidly as possible. He said that the Ruhr was very heavily fortified and for that reason would [Page 587] be by-passed. However, troops attacking on this front would soon get into good tank country.
In answer to a question from Marshal Stalin, General Marshall said the reserves available for the proposed attack were believed to be ample.
Marshal Stalin said that he asked the question because in the Russian central campaign 9,000 tanks were used up. He would like to know how many tanks the Allies expected to employ.
General Marshall said that roughly one in every three divisions employed would be a tank division. He said that on March 1st General Eisenhower will have 89 divisions at his disposal to cover the front from the Mediterranean to Holland, not including Italy; nine of these were French and all the remainder were either British or American.
Through answers to his questions it was made clear to Marshal Stalin that there are nearly 10,000 Allied tanks in the European Theater. The British divisions number 18,000 men, the American divisions 14,000, and armored divisions contain 10,000. There will be available 4,000 heavy bombers, each carrying up to 3,000 pounds of bombs.
Marshal Stalin explained that in their attack on the central German position, the Russians employed 100 divisions, which was 20 more than the Germans had. He was interested in the preponderance that the British and Americans would have over the Germans.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the British and American forces had overwhelming preponderance in airplanes and armored troops but not great preponderance in infantry. He stressed the necessity of exploiting to the full such superiority in strength as existed.
Marshal Stalin said that the British and Americans had asked the Russians to express their wishes. He would like to know now what the wishes of the British and Americans were.
The Prime Minister said that his greatest wish was to express profound gratitude and admiration as he witnessed the marvelous advance of the Russian troops. He said the British and Americans recognized the hard and difficult task lying before them in their impending operations but had full confidence in their power to execute it. All they could ask from the Russians was that the Russians continue to do as they are doing now.
Marshal Stalin said there had been no demand from the British and Americans for the Russian winter offensive and no pressure was exerted by them to bring it about.
The President had asked that information of the offensive be given to General Eisenhower in order to assist him in his planning and Air Marshal Tedder, who came to Moscow as General Eisenhower’s [Page 588] representative, had requested that the Russian offensive continue to the end of March but this was understood to be a request from the military leaders.
Marshal Stalin said they had staged their winter offensive because they felt it to be their duty as Allies to do it. They greatly appreciated the attitude manifested by both the President and the Prime Minister in this matter.
The Prime Minister said the reason that neither the British nor Americans had made any attempt to bargain with Marshal Stalin was because of their faith in him and in the Russian people and the realization that they could be depended on to do the right thing. It was his opinion that regardless of the discussions which had been held with Air Marshal Tedder, matters should be fully discussed now by the three Staffs in order to determine what is the best course to pursue with respect to the coordinating of the action on the Western and Eastern Fronts. It was imperative that the two offensives should be integrated so as to get the best results.
Marshal Stalin agreed that the offensives had not been fully synchronized at first and that action should be taken to do this now. He thought it would be well also to consider a summer offensive as he was not at all certain that the war would be over by that time.
Admiral Cunningham said that he would like to add something to General Marshall’s statement on the submarine warfare. He said while the submarine threat was potentially great it was not very serious at the moment. The point is, however, that the Germans are building large numbers of new types of U-boats. As these will have high underwater speed and embody all the latest technical devices, it will be very difficult for the Allied air and surface craft to deal with them. In Bremen, Hamburg and Danzig the new submarines were being built by prefabrication methods. His greatest wish as a naval man was for the Russians to take Danzig as quickly as possible for in that city about 30 percent of the U-boats were being constructed.
In answer to a question by the President, Marshal Stalin stated that Danzig was not yet within artillery range of the Russian guns but it was hoped that it soon would be.
Discussion then turned upon the time and place of the next meeting. After discussion, it was agreed that the Staffs of the three nations would meet at 1200 on Monday, 5 February, at the headquarters of the Russian Delegation.