Thursday, January 19, 2006

General Frost

A couple of years ago I talked with one British intellectual about WWW2. As almost all British intellectuals younger than 50 he soon started talking about General Frost that saved Soviets from imminent catastrophe. I asked him, “What about Admiral Channel? If England were not separated from the Continent by English Channel it would’ve taken German tanks only a couple of weeks to roll over streets of Glasgow.” He went mad. Totally mad. He started raving about British patriotism, bravery, tenacity, professionalism, superb command, etc. etc. Admiral Channel saved Hitler, he said, as it also prevented Brits from rolling over Berlin in a week or so.

People who talk about General Frost somehow forgot that Russians are not superhuman and suffer from frost exactly the same way as Germans. Only Russians know Russians winters are cold but Germans (and French and Swedish before them) somehow forgot about it. It speaks a lot about German military professionalism.

General Frost defeated Soviets. Admiral Channel saved Brits. Colonel Tropical Rain devastated Americans in Vietnam. Mayor Heat supports Iraqi terrorists. Sergeant Nasty Balls prevented Johnny from becoming a dancing star.

PS. It’s -35F outside. Such a pity there are no enemies at the gate of Moscow. Frosts are wasted.

18 comments:

writersbloc gal said...

one of the ways russians knew how to attack the germans was by studying the german maps, that were so exact, they even indicated the placement of latrines.. my father's great uncle fought in the war and was a cartographer. we got all kinds of stories from him on some of the most interesting things about german idiosyncracies.

W. Shedd said...

I had always thought that the Russians defeated the Germans by General Casualty, not by General Frost. If you stack enough dead Russian soldiers in the way of the advancing Germans, eventually they have to slow down. I am not try to sound cavalier with real peoples lives, but it was something like 2 to 3 Russians killed for every German. This isn't to say that Russians were not valiant or resolute in their battle to protect Rodina .. in fact, for sheer persistence in the face of near imminent defeat, the Soviet Union is to be given great, great credit. Very few, if any, nations in human history were willing to sacrifice so much to prevent being conquered. And certainly the great extent of losses that the CCCP suffered in World War II colors Russian politics even to this very day.

But it wasn't Russian technology or industry or military strategy that won the Great Patriotic War. They played a part, to be sure. But the Germans just simply couldn't kill every Russian ... and every Russian was willing to lay down their life. The Eastern Front of WWII was the most costly battle in human history, and the Russians were on the receiving end of most of it.

Certainly General Frost paid a part of it, but it was less of a part than Napoleon and the French had to face. You can never discount the role of the elements in warfare. In the U.S. Civil War, it was the same. Disease and gangrene played a large part. Industrial and weapons technology at that time had advanced beyond medical technology. The best way to fight gangrene from a gunshot wound was amputation. To say that General Gangrene didn't play a part would be rather silly. But it wasn't the only part.

As for German idiosyncracies and cartography .. that is all well and good and I have no doubt it is true. But there it no denying the fact that many, many more Russians died than Germans. If the Russians were superior militarily, these deaths would not be required.

In the end it was essentially a battle of numbers and a battle of wills. I think it is a very Russian way to win a battle ... to simple suffer more than your enemy is willing to suffer, and then beating them with persistence.

W. Shedd said...

By the way, the Brit who thinks that geography (General Channel) didn't play a part in WWII is simply foolish. It was a barrier that both the Germans, the Brits, and the US had to overcome. It is why D-Day is a singular accomplishment; it is why the Brits were able to withstand the German offensive. Do you think the Germans stopped with France just because they liked croissants? Of course not, it was the geography and the Channel that stopped their advance. It is why the Germans developed rocket technology, it is why they bombed the UK in an attempt to force submission. Tanks don't work very well underwater.

Anonymous said...

As a French (sorry for my poor English) living in Germany, I heard both versions, that of Russian perseverance in France, (what about French perseverance with a Fascist Petain at its head) and that of General Frost in Germany (ever seen the German movie "Stalingrad"?).

I think that it is not correct to talk of a war as of a sporting event. After all, a national army defended its territory, freed it from invaders, and destroyed the attackers.

One thing is certain, I can still see nowadays ***fear*** in the eyes of the Germans when speaking of Russia or Russians, while there is instead very much ***respect*** in France for Russia and Russians.

The Great Patriotic War was the most important event in this Cold War, which started in 1917 and is obviously not over yet. If you just look at it this way, you will see continuity explains many things in today's policies.

For those reading Russian, or English, here are both versions of an interesting series of interviews of historian and former Soviet ambassador to West Germany in 1971-78, Valentin Falin with RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin:

1) ЯЛТА 1945 - ШАНС, КОТОРЫМ МЫ НЕ ВОСПОЛЬЗОВАЛИСЬ
http://rian.ru/analytics/20050201/14865855.html

CRIMEAN CONFERENCE: A CHANCE THE WORLD MISSED
http://en.rian.ru/onlinenews/20050202/39701121.html

2) ВОЙНА МОГЛА БЫТЬ ЗАКОНЧЕНА В 1943 ГОДУ
http://rian.ru/analytics/20050315/39522674.html

WAR COULD HAVE ENDED IN 1943
http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20050322/39700060.html

3) БЕЗ ШТУРМА БЕРЛИНА РОССИЮ ЖДАЛА БЫ ТРЕТЬЯ МИРОВАЯ ВОЙНА
http://rian.ru/analytics/20050322/39555512.html

RUSSIA WOULD HAVE FACED WORLD WAR III HAD IT NOT STORMED BERLIN
http://en.rian.ru/onlinenews/20050328/39700657.html

4) ПОТСДАМ - ПРОЩАЛЬНЫЙ САЛЮТ СОТРУДНИЧЕСТВУ
http://rian.ru/analytics/20050627/40769409.html

Potsdam: Farewell to the Allies
http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20050630/40824482.html

5) СССР ЖДАЛА УЧАСТЬ ХИРОСИМЫ, ИЛИ ЗАКУЛИСНЫЕ ТАЙНЫ ПОТСДАМА
http://rian.ru/analytics/20050628/40776301.html

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT POTSDAM?
http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20050628/40788517.html

Andy said...

I absolutely agree (as an Englishman aged under 50) that Admiral Channel was probably the largest single factor that kept Britain in the war after Hitler had rolled over the rest of Western Europe. The 'academic' you spoke to was clearly not very bright.

I'd agree that Russian and German troops faced the same obstacles when it came to the cold - the difference is that the Russian's were more experienced in living and working (and, yes, fighting) in harsh winter conditions, and therefore better placed to take advantage of them. The weather in Moscow this weeks gives a pretty good parallel.

Over in Sibiera, temperatures of -30 or -40 are pretty common, but cities like Irkutsk don't really grind to a halt. The reason being, they are more used to the weather conditions that Moscow. For the same reasons, people in Moscow would cope much better with a light dusting of snow than those in Britain, where the whole country shuts down the moment the first snowflake hits the ground.

Tim Newman said...

Yeah, this Brit under 30 is in no doubt that the English Channel - or to be precise, the weather over it - prevented Hitler invading and permanently postponed the launch of Operation Sealion.

Regarding General Frost, I always assumed that it didn't effect the Russians to the same extent post-Stalingrad because the Russians were better supplied, in comparison to the Germans who were left bereft of any warm clothes or food.

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Anonymous said...

to say Russia won the war because of "general frost" is shameless and an insult to all the millions of people who gave their lives for the fatherland. the germans on the other hand had the effect of SURPRISE which was the only one reason for the giant losses of the USSR. the majority of the Soviet people didn't die in a battle, but afterwards during the countless massacres the Germans had committed. but i see, there are still tons of ignorance left in this world...

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