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Europa Games and Military History

Tag: Soviet Union

The long dark night

Happy season holidays, whatever you might celebrate, if you do! Posting here is kind of ironic, considering the message of love and all that. But I thought I’d drop some new reading material for the long winter days,  after the family chaos has subsided a bit and everyone finds some quiet time for themselves. So without further ado, more treasures for your gaming pleasure:

An Essay about the Soviet Armored Forces during the Second World War by Scott Boston Through The Furnace of War.

 

Selected Bibliography

Boyd, Alexander. The Soviet Air Force since 1918. New York: Stein and Day, 1977.

Erickson, John. “Alexander Alexandrovich Novikov.” In Stalin’s Generals, ed. Harold, Shukman, 155-174.   New York: Grove Press, 1993.

Hardesty, Von.  Red Phoenix, the Rise of Soviet Air Power, 1941-1945.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982.

Kozhevnikov, M. N.  The
Command and Staff of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.
Moscow: Nauka, 1977, Soviet Military Thought, no. 17. Translated by United States Air Force. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, n.d.

Miller, Russell.  The Soviet Air Force at War.  The Epic of Flight. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life
Books, 1983.

Victory and Disgrace

Marshal Novikov participated in many further operations, but continued to operate in much the same capacity, that of Stavka air representative, often commanding and coordinating air resources for multiple fronts.  A list of his battles includes the Kuban, Kursk, and Kiev (1943); Korsun, Ternopol, the relief of Leningrad, the Karelian campaign, and operation ‘Bagration’ (1944); the Vistula-Oder operation, Konigsberg, Berlin and the campaign against Japan (1945).  This constant presence of Novikov was recognized with another promotion, to Chief Air Marshal, on 21 February 1944.[23]  Among his many honors, Alexander Alexandrovich Novikov was twice named a Hero of the Soviet Union.[24]

After the war Marshal Novikov began working to bring his air force into the jet age.  Sadly, before the first Yak-9 was flight-tested he was arrested on the order of Stalin.  This occurred on 23 February 1946, and Novikov was far from the only senior military officer caught in Stalin’s ‘purge of the victors’. Stripped of title, rank and decorations, he was left to the tender mercies of Lavrentii Beria’s prisons for almost six years.[25]  Novikov was released in May 1953, two months after Stalin’s death.  By June, with rank and decorations restored, he was again in a place of honor as Commander of Long-Range Aviation and Air Force Deputy Commander-in-Chief.  Novikov also found a new wife, Tamara Potapovna Fomina, an aeronautical engineer and graduate of the Military Academy.[26]  Soon however, manned bombers gave way to missiles, and Novikov was likewise retired due to his health.  He was given the position head of the Higher Civil Aviation School in Leningrad, which he held from 1956 to 1967.[27]

On 3 February 1976 Air Chief Marshal Alexander Novikov passed from this earth. Yet how much do we know of his personality?  The fact that at least one child was with him in Leningrad in 1941 indicates that he did discharge some family responsibilities. Anecdotes contained in the referenced sources indicate he was a drinking man.  First the reprimand as a tippler, then a note that he gave American Lieutenant-General Ira Eaker advice that an apple eaten before vodka toasts would absorb the alcohol,[28] and finally a quote of Krushchev “He drank more than was probably good for him.”[29] Yet Krushchev, who knew him from Stalingrad, also said, “He was a dedicated, honest and honorable man”,[30] and in that time, under those pressures, a great many men drank more than they should.  That this twice Hero of the Soviet Union was betrayed by Stalin, a man he had served for so many years, is not an indictment.  He was certainly a hard worker, and could not have risen to such a high military position or survived the war if he had not been an extremely competent leader.  The reforms he instituted in tactics and organizational structures greatly aided the Red Air Force in coming to grips with Germany’s Luftwaffe, and his personal direction of many key aerial campaigns in the greatest war of the air age marks him as one of history’s preeminent air commanders.


Footnotes

[23] Kozhevnikov, 234; Erickson, 168-9.

[24] Kozhevnikov, 180, 208

[25] Erickson, 173-4; Hardesty, 213; Boyd, 216-7.

[26] Erickson, 174.

[27] Erickson, 174; Hardesty, 213.

[28] Miller, 156.

[29] Miller, 110.

[30] Ibid.

During the Great Patriotic War

From the very beginning of the war with Germany Major-General Novikov skillfully used the forces available to him.  As early as 25 June 1941 Novikov launched offensive raids against German and Finish airfields.[9]  Although Novikov’s airmen flew 16,567 sorties in 22 days[10], nothing seemed to slow the Axis advance.  As German and Finnish forces closed in on Leningrad our air commander found himself with fewer and fewer operational aircraft.  Zhukov arrived on 10 September, and by the time he left in early October the city was surrounded.  But the city was held; though hundreds of thousands would die during the siege.  Novikov’s own young son was flown out over the ‘air bridge’.[11]

On 3 February 1942 Novikov met with Stalin and was given the job of Air Force First Deputy Commander.  He was immediately sent to Western Front to plan and coordinate air operations for Zhukov.[12]  Further assignments to key operations quickly followed.  In these operations Novikov stressed the importance of one central authority over air assets, so that they could be massed and coordinated.  Previously, Soviet aircraft had often been dispersed and lacked meaningful coordination.

Alexander Novikov was named Commander of the Soviet Army Air Force on 11 April 1942 and concurrently promoted to Lieutenant-General. With the new commander came a new senior staff.[13]  The structure and tactics of the air force were also changed by what were known as the “Novikov Reforms”.  Certain ideas were copied from the Germans while others were of Soviet origin.  A new long-range aviation organization (ADD) was created.  The Air Army replaced frontal aviation.  Except for some liaison and reconnaissance aircraft, army level commanders lost their aviation assets.  Reserve formations were organized into Air Corps of two or more Air Divisions, with a strength of 120-270 aircraft.  Several Air Corps would be given to an Air Army for critical operations, then moved to another sector on an as needed basis.[14]  Further reform measures covered rear services, lower level organizational structures, training, and other areas.

The new Air Armies and reserve Air Corps gave the Soviet Air Force (VVS) a strategic mobility, which it had lacked. This new ability was demonstrated in the Stalingrad campaign.  During the Axis advance to Stalingrad and stubborn defense the VVS didn’t seriously challenge the Luftwaffe. This allowed the Soviets to conserve strength, adapt to the new organizational structure, and gain experience with the large numbers of new aircraft coming into inventory.[15]  Once the Soviets decided to go over to the offensive this quickly changed.

General Novikov continued to be a key player in the Soviet command team, and he was sent as a Stavka (Headquarters, Supreme High Command) representative to various parts of the front.  General Novikov arrived at Stalingrad in November 1942, once again at the request of Zhukov, who said, “We work well together.”[16]  Novikov concentrated 1,414 aircraft in three Air Armies to support operation ‘Uranus’.[17]  The expansible nature of the new Air Armies is demonstrated by the inclusion of four Air Corps from Stavka Reserve.[18]  When the attack began poor weather limited the Luftwaffe to 150 sorties over four days. In contrast the VVS flew 1,000 sorties, mostly ground support.[19]

Much of the massed Soviet air power was sent against 6th Army and the German ‘air bridge’.  Several hundred obsolete Soviet planes were used as night harassment bombers.  Novikov concentrated his own efforts on organizing a blockade based on hitting the German airfields within and without the pocket, strong antiaircraft defenses along likely routes, and interceptors directed by ground stations.[20]  The combination of poor weather and a more effective Red Air Force did not stop the Luftwaffe, but they inflicted heavy losses and kept the rate of supply well below the required level.  During the period 19 November 1942 through 2 February 1943 the Soviets flew 35,920 sorties.[21]  For his exploits General Novikov was named the Soviet Union’s first ever Air Marshal on 17 March 1943.[22]


Footnotes

[9] Kozhevnikov, 41; Erickson, 161.

[10] Kozhevnikov, 44

[11] Erickson, 162.

[12] Erickson, 162; Kozhevnikov, 68.

[13] Kozhevnikov, 234; Alexander Boyd, The Soviet Air Force since 1918, (New York: Stein and Day, 1977), 140; Erickson, 163; Von Hardesty, Red Phoenix, the Rise of Soviet Air Power, 1941-1945, (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982), 83-85.

[14] Boyd, 141; Hardesty, 87; Kozhevnikov, 72-74.

[15] Hardesty, 91-2; Boyd, 159; Russell Miller, The Soviet Air Force at War, The Epic of Flight, (Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1983), 117.

[16] Erickson, 165.

[17] Erickson, 165; Kozhevnikov, 95; Hardesty, 105.

[18] Kozhevnikov, 95.

[19] Miller, 123.

[20] Hardesty, 124; Kozhevnikov, 97-98.

[21] Kozhevnikov, 100.

[22] Kozhevnikov, 234; Erickson, 166.

The Wings of Revolution: Youth and Civil War

Born into a peasant home in November 1900, Alexander Novikov was noted as a diligent student.  Rather than work the fields, he became a teacher, and it appears he was quite satisfied with that profession.  It wasn’t until 1917 that the war caught up with his family.  His father had been a NCO in the Tsar’s army and was called to serve in the Red Army.  Two years later Alexander found himself called to duty, with the 27th PriVolga Regiment.  Evidently he drew the attention of his superiors, for in 1920 he has selected to attend a course for junior infantry commanders at Nizhni Novgorod.  On 24 May 1920 he was admitted into the Communist Party.[1]

Novikov’s Civil War service took him first to the northern front, and then to Petrograd, where he arrive just days after the Kronshtadt mutiny.  Novikov was soon attached to Tukhachevsky’s 7th Army staff, and saw the tiny Red Air Force in action against the mutineers. After the campaign was resolved young Novikov was posted back with the infantry.[2]  An instructor from his infantry leaders’ course had become Chief of Staff of the Independent Caucasus Army and got Novikov posted to the south. Once there, this benefactor convinced Novikov to apply for further schools.  He was accepted at the Higher Rifle School for Commanders where he won a drawing for a fifteen-minute flight. Novikov was immediately smitten with a strong desire to fly, but could not gain the permission of his superiors to become an aviator.[3]

After the war ended Novikov was assigned command positions at the company and battalion level. By 1925 Alexander had a wife Militsa and son Lev, and in 1927 he entered the Frunze Academy which he graduated in 1930 near the top of his class. He was then posted to Smolensk as head of reconnaissance with 11th Rifle Corps. Though thousands of heretofore ground officers were being transferred into the Air Force during the thirties, Novikov’s vision had not considered good enough for an aviator.  It took arm twisting by his Military District commander, but Novikov was reassigned as chief of staff of the 450th Aviation Brigade.  Initially assigned as a non-flyer, by 1933 he passed his pilot’s examination.[4]

In 1935 Alexander Novikov accepted a demotion to command a bomber squadron. This personal triumph was mixed with tragedy due to the death of his wife.  Left with three young children and now a squadron to command, Novikov had many responsibilities.[5] Promoted to Colonel in 1936, Novikov was caught up in the purges of 1937, relieved of command, and issued a reprimand. Luck had it that Colonel Novikov was found “neither a tippler nor an associate of women of dubious virtue”[6] and the reprimand was withdrawn.[7]

A former brigade commander was named air commander for the Leningrad Military District and asked for Novikov as Chief of Staff.  Holding this post during the Finish war, Novikov came in for some criticism when the ill-trained Soviet Air Force failed to live up to expectations.  Most of the blame fell on his commander and one time benefactor, Ptukhin, who was transferred to Kiev. Surprisingly, Stalin appointed Novikov as air commander for the district effective July 1940.[8]


Footnotes

[1] John Erickson, “Alexander Alexandrovich Novikov,” In Stalin’s Generals, ed. Harold Shukman, 155-174, (New York: Grove Press, 1993), 155-156.

[2] Erickson, 156.

[3] Erickson, 155, 157.

[4] Erickson, 157-8; M. N. Kozhevnikov, The Command and Staff of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945. Moscow: Nauka, 1977, Soviet Military Thought, no. 17. Translated by United States Air Force. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, n.d.), 68.

[5] Erickson, 158.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Erickson, 160; Kozhevnikov, 68.