1946-1954 - Postwar Years
Certain gains which were to result in the greatly increased prestige of the military began to appear as early as July 1953. This may have been partly due to the support of the military in the Beria affair, but may also have been due to the general conciliatory policy of the Malenkov regime. These gains took various forms: a certain relaxation of security within the armed forces; the introduction of a new military personnel policy; the granting of honors; a limited increase in the number of Officers in government and party positions; the rehabilitation of disgraced officers; and the unfreezing of promotions and reassignments.
The new military personnel policy apparently introduced about July 1953 aimed primarily at correcting the abuses prevalent under Stalin by stabilizing and standardizing induction methods, service, and de-mobilization measures. There had been gross violations o f the 1939 Universal Military Service Law, which provided that army privates and junior officers (NCO's), after serving a two- and three-year term respectively, could be held in service only in case of need and for no more than a 2-month period. Many enlistees in fact had served four to six years.
A tendency to glorify the military forces becqme increasingly evident durfng the entire post-Stalin period. This flattery was undoubtedly intended to give the armed forces a sense of close identification with the regame and its political goals. This was revealed by Voroshilov, who, while handing out awards on one occasion during 1953, stated, "The awarding to you of orders and medals is graphic testimony of the love and concern with which our people, party, and government surround their armed forces, and a manifestation of profound confidence in your staunchness and steadfastness," Although efforts were made by the Malenkov regime to appease other groups by the granting of awards, their honors were in no way as spectacular as those heaped upon the military. As a contrast to the Stalin period of slighting the military, this rising prestige took on added significance.
A further manifestation of rising prestige was the fact that the uniform was made the special prerogative of the army. An order of August 1954 put civilians back into mufti. Army and air officers made their appearapces in new uniforms of operatic splendor.
The regime's attempt to correct some of the wrongs suffered under Stalin was probably responsible for the rehabilitation of a number of military officers, some of whom were known to have undergone imprisonment, Stalin's jealousy of the glory justly earned by the military durlng the war led him to degrade, on various charges, the outstanding leaders of all services. Although Stalin's death brought Zhukov's public reappearance in Moscow and restored the naval chief Kuznetsov to his original rank of fleet admiral, the most remarkable restoration in favor occurred in the case of air officers. At the end of World War II, practically all the top commanders of the various air forces had been sent into obscurity. During 1953 apd 1954, various disgraced air officers, with their original ranks restored, were given awards and medals "for long years of service."! The Defense Ministry, as all sectors of the Soviet government, was affected by the reorganization instituted by the Malenkov government after Stalin's death. This program attempted to reduce expenditures, to improve efficiency, and to transfer an estimated million workers from the administrative to the productive sectors of the economy. The first changeg in tbe military services took the form of consolidation of certain administrative headquarters, with resulting reduction of functions and personnel; Four of the 24 military district headquarters, an intermediate echelon headquarters, and a fleet headquarters were abo1ished. Even before war's end, the Stavka began analyzing the lessons its forces gleaned during the final year of war so as to adjust its military force structure and operational techniques to the political and physical realities of the postwar world. The most important physical reality was the geographical configuration of the central European theater of military operations, within which Soviet armies were likely to operate in future warfare. Red Army experiences in the Berlin offensive operation clearly indicated that the army needed to restructure its forces to operate effectively in the more urbanized, rougher, and more heavily forested region.
In 1946 Marshal of Tank Forces P. A. Rotmistrov, the Chief of GOFG's (the Group of Occupation Forces, Germany) armored forces, chaired a commission that analyzed the Red Army's performance in the Berlin operation and recommended appropriate force structure changes. These changes included full integration of armored and mechanized forces into every level of the army's force structure, the formation of more powerful combined-arms armies, the conversion of tank and mechanized corps into tank and mechanized divisions, and the transformation of tank armies into mechanized armies.
In many ways, the new mechanized armies replicated the configuration of the 6th Guards Tank Army in the Manchurian offensive. They consisted of two mechanized and two tank divisions with improved fire and logistical support, and its component tank and mechanized divisions were more capable of conducting sustained operations in central European terrain than the older tank-heavy tank forces. The new combined- arms armies were also considerably more durable than their wartime counterparts. Each consisted of two rifle corps made up of two rifle divisions. Each rifle corps also contained a mechanized division, and each rifle division a tank and self-propelled gun battalion. In addition, Soviet industry created a new generation of tanks and armored personnel carriers to improve the survivability of operational and tactical maneuver forces.
The operational and tactical techniques that this reformed force structure adopted closely resembled procedures that Red Army mobile forces employed during the final two years of war. Offensive operational maneuver by mobile groups remained the most critical ingredient for achieving offensive success. As expressed by one contemporary Soviet source, "Mechanized troops are used for the exploitation of success into the depth of the operational area."
A wartime front commander, with two to four combined-arms armies and one or two mechanized armies under his control, employed the combined-arms armies' rifle corps to conduct the penetration operation. The rifle corps' mechanized divisions supported the penetrating rifle divisions and, if possible, began the operational exploitation. The combined-arms army commander then committed his mobile group, which consisted of one or two tank or mechanized divisions, into combat on the first or second day of the operation, with the mission of exploiting tactical success into the shallow operational depths. Thereafter, but probably on the second or third day of the operation, the front commander was to commit his mobile group(s), the one or two mechanized armies, into combat to extend the exploitation to even greater depth. The Soviets expected these operational maneuver forces to advance to a depth of up to two hundred kilometers within five to seven days.
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