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A Two Front War

Until 1945, Soviet reluctance to fight a two-front war and Japanese acquiescence to the movement of vital lend-lease supplies to the Soviet Far East ensured Soviet neutrality in the Pacific War. A frustrated U.S. government, which had sought basing rights for heavy bombers in Siberia, finally secured Soviet agreement at the Yalta Conference, in February 1945, to enter the war by pledging U.S. military support and territorial concessions to the Soviet Union. In Project HULA, from April to September, a special U.S. Navy detachment trained Russian officers and men in handling the naval vessels scheduled for transfer to the Soviet Pacific Ocean Fleet. This top-secret operation brought Russian and American sailors together in the largest and most ambitious lend-lease program of World War II. Its unique purpose was to equip and train Soviet amphibious forces for the climactic fight against Japan.

According to Norman Davies, fighting between 400 German and Soviet divisions on the Eastern Front went on for four years. The front itself spanned 1,600 km. In the meantime, the fighting on the Western Front involved 15-20 divisions at most. The German army suffered 88% of its casualties on the Eastern Front. It was the Soviet troops who broke the will and the capacity of the German army to carry out massive front offensives in 1943. The Battle of Kursk that is the name historians must remember! Norman Davies writes that the key role of the Soviet army in WWII will be so obvious to future historians that they will merely credit the US and Great Britain with providing a vitally important support.

The official Soviet view was that World War II, the bloodiest in the history of mankind, was initiated by Nazi Germany with the instigation of the reactionary circles of the United States, Great Britain and France. It brought to imperialism completely unexpected results. Instead of eliminating the world's first socialist state there was the enormous growth of the prestige and influence of the Soviet Union on the international scene and instead of the strengthening of the positions of imperialism there was a weakening of the leading European capitalist powers, the rise of the socialist system and the collapse of the colonial empires.

Some Soviet soldiers saw the end of the war as time to pay back what the Germans had done to Soviet citizens with destruction, looting and rape. Historians estimate that at least 2 million German women were raped at the end of World War II. That figure is based on German hospital and abortion clinic records. The violent excesses perpetrated by the Red Army in the eastern half of the country, where brutality, gang rapes and incidents of looting have dominated the public perception of the Soviet occupation. Another estimate, stemming from US criminology professor Robert Lilly, who examined rape cases prosecuted by American military courts, arrived at a number of 11,000 serious sexual assaults committed by November, 1945. Rape was denounced as a war crime by the Responsibilities Comnission at Paris in 1919; and this classification was adopted by the United Nations War Crimes Commission.

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