by Vladimir KISELEV, Cand. Sc. (Military)
Sixty years ago, on April 16 - May 8, 1945, the Soviet armed forces carried out a crucial strategic offensive, the Berlin Operation, which was entered into the Guinness Book of Records as one of the most blood-letting battles of our time. The fall of Third Reich capital plus success scored by our troops on other fronts meant the shipwreck of the Hitler "Neue Ordnung"; it meant the liberation of European peoples from the Nazi yoke. World civilization was saved.
Germany was in dire straits on the eve of 1945. Her allies deserted Hitler and even turned their arms against him. Only a part of Hungarian and Italian contingents stuck to their guns in support of the Wehrmacht. The Anglo-American forces had reached the Third Reich's western frontiers and, having recovered from the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes (launched in December 1944), were poised for attack across the Rhine. The Red Army had fought its way as far west as East Prussia, and crossed into Poland and Hungary. The Fuhrer was pinning hopes on a separate peace with the West which could enable him to throw all of his forces against the Red Army in the east. That is why Nazi troops continued fighting back in northeastern France till late January in a bid to make the Western Allies agree to a truce.
The Red Army command planned to mount an all-out offensive on the Soviet-German front which by 1945 had contracted to 2.2 thousand km. This was to be accomplished in two stages. First, by smashing the enemy within 15 days in East Prussia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria, and cutting as far ahead as Poznari in Poland and the Austrian capital, Vienna. Next, our supreme command aimed to capture Berlin and Prague, and then, joining hands with the British and the Americans, complete the Wehrmacht's destruction. The Anglo-American command intended to pierce En defenses on Germany's western frontier, force the Rhine and push ahead toward Berlin in the east.
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