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Old 03-24-2012, 08:26 PM
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raketenjagdpanzer raketenjagdpanzer is offline
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Default Question/discussion about a book: WWIII: The Untold Story

...by Sir John Hackett.

There was a matter in the book regarding the Soviets' final offensive to cut off a major portion NATO's forces (IIRC it failed) and during the planning for the operation, when the map was revealed a middle-echelon artillery officer voiced his approval, but noted that for maximum effectiveness of his rocket bombardment he'd have to shift his launchers back 1km and a little laterally against the grain of the main line of resistance. Without missing a beat a KGB general pointed at him and said "That man is guilty of retreating in the face of the enemy, place him under arrest and have him shot." and BAM, they dragged the guy out of the planning session.

Now I read the book when I was just a little mugwump and that scene always stuck with me, but was it really that bad in the Red Army? I've read Inside the Soviet Army by Viktor Suvorov, but that's about it. Now that scene, in reflection, seems patently absurd but if anyone would care to share any insight or thoughts...?

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Old 03-24-2012, 10:22 PM
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Webstral Webstral is offline
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One should bear in mind that the Soviet leadership preferred an Army of first-rate loyalty (obedience) and second-rate combat effectiveness to the inverse. The political officers were there to ensure obedience to the State. Some of the political officers no doubt gained some military savvy during their tenure, but their promotion and even survival weren’t based on military competence. They survived and prospered based on their rigid adherence to doctrine, both political and military. Doctrine demanded that units go forward until sent to the rear under orders. No doubt, the political officer in question considered the awful consequences for himself if his own superiors got wind of a unit under his supervision moving to the rear without orders to withdraw in accordance with established doctrine. At that point, it’s either the commissar or the artillery chief. Not a hard choice to make, really.

The grip of the political officers loosened considerably when the poor performance of the Red Army threatened the existence of the State in WW2. As soon as the war was won, the power of the political officers was restored. At the beginning of WW3, the political officers still would have great power.

Now an interesting question is how strong the commissars would be in the Group of Soviet Forces Germany (GSFG) in late 1996. I’m willing to accept as a tautology that the influence of the zampolit on the performance of the Army in China would be almost entirely negative. After a year of fighting in China, how much would the grip of the commissars be loosened, if at all. How much would any loosening transfer to Eastern Europe? If the commissars are in control in the DDR, then we should expect that the West Germans would have taken a terrible toll of the Soviets, who would have won by sheer force of numbers.
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Old 03-24-2012, 11:14 PM
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raketenjagdpanzer raketenjagdpanzer is offline
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Interesting thoughts, Leg, thanks for the insight. I can see the overall lesson of that scene being "There's a dozen more people who can draw arrows on a grease-board map and know basic trig, men are dying at a rate of 8 minutes after they enter the battlezone, you're nothing special. NEXT."
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Old 03-25-2012, 03:16 AM
95th Rifleman 95th Rifleman is offline
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The problem with political officers and their ilk, is they are picked, trained and promoted for idealogy not military thinking.

Hell, even most professional infantry, cavalry and armour officers tend to fall into the thinking that "I call for arty, arty lands, i do my job" and rather fail to understand the complexities of the artilleryman's calling.

While this situation strikes me as a bit of black-and-white, west is good and east is bad thinking. I can easily imagine the artilleryman's suggestion being thrown out.
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Old 07-24-2015, 12:48 PM
Silent Hunter UK Silent Hunter UK is offline
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Considering that we're approaching the '30th anniversary' as it were, it might be worth bumping this thread.

I own both books in the series, as well as Team Yankee; all very good reads, although arguably of their time.

Indeed, I actually wrote a long post on my blog about the book - it's still my most visited article by quite some margin.
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Old 08-08-2015, 05:55 PM
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I never knew there was a second WW III book. I loved the first one as a young boy, read it about five times. Thanks, I'll definitely check out "The Untold Story"!
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Old 08-08-2015, 06:19 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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I have the book, and you can tell Suvorov's input, especially when he's talking about that Soviet company commander, the initial Soviet plan (nuclear from the outset) that was rejected, and other touches.

One incident that a divisional commander reflected on: Day one, two battalions from one of his tank regiments facing VII Corps were set upon by A-10s. All they had to do was pull back into some woods and wait for the attackers to withdraw. That simple solution was forbidden by the KGB, and when the A-10s left, those two battalions had lost 80% of their armor.
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Old 08-08-2015, 06:35 PM
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I remember wondering if Suvorov was the source for some of the parts behind Soviet lines, once I'd read his works.
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Old 08-08-2015, 10:16 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Officially, the Zampolits were removed from any kind of command influence. The "Dual Command" had been reinstated in 1941 and dropped in late '42. If you read David Isby's books on the Soviet military, he interviewed a number of Soviet defectors who had served in the Red Army, and many had good things to say about their political officers. Sure, they were the eyes and ears of the Party, but they also had to be trained in the specialty of whatever unit they were assigned: Motor-Rifle, airborne, armor, artillery, etc. And many saw that when their unit went into the field, the Zampolit was willing to get his hands dirty just like the others.

Though for every good Zampolit, there were the bad ones: Viktor Belenko loathed the party hack in his MiG-25 Regiment, and if you read the book Hostile Waters, which is the story of the missile sub K-219, everyone on the boat loathed the Zampolit, even the KGB Security Officer! The crew respected the latter because he'd gone to sub school and qualified as a watch officer-taking his turn as Officer of the Watch. And when the abandon-ship order was finally given? The skipper ordered the officers to be the last to leave the boat. The Zampolit showed he was a coward, by being one of the first into a raft! And it's obvious that Suvorov had no use for political officers. Neither did Marshal Zhukov: supposedly the real reason he was sacked as Defense Minister was that he wasn't just satisfied with having the Zampolits out of the way of unit commanders, he wanted to get rid of them entirely.

How would the Zampolits have done in a war in the '80s? We'll never know.
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Old 08-10-2015, 12:44 PM
Silent Hunter UK Silent Hunter UK is offline
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I've also got a copy of Suvorov's Inside the Soviet Army, which comes across as very "precious bodily fluids" at times, if you know what I mean.
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Old 04-13-2017, 07:01 AM
James Langham2 James Langham2 is offline
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I recently reread Red ARmy by Ralph Peters that has a really good example of a zampolit in the airborne who is a good example of a dedicated political officer and how he is seen by career soldiers.
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