By Lyubov Tsarevskaya
In 1944 Hitler and his inner circle still hoped that the recent bloody operations would weaken the Soviet Army might. But German Intelligence thought differently. It provided top-secret analytical reports for a limited group of German leaders to point out the Soviet Army's growing strength and its ability to defeat Germany on its own. The German Intelligence Service warned that if Russia were not contained in Belarus, Lvov and further north, then the German Army Group "CENTRE" would face a critical situation.
But German Intelligence was hardly aware of the fact that the Soviet General Staff was drawing up a top-secret plan for the operation "BAGRATION". The operation was named in honour of Pyotr Bagration, a prominent Russian military leader during Russia's war of 1812 against Napoleon. The plan sought to deliver a powerful strike at Nazi troops in Belarus. The main problem was the particular place where the Soviet Army should strike. When the plan was discussed at Supreme Commander-in-Chief Joseph Stalin's, the Commander of the First Belarussian Front Konstantin Rokossovsky suggested delivering two blows at a time. But Stalin objected on the grounds that this would lead to a dispersal of forces. He said it would stand to reason to breach the enemy defences by one powerful blow. And then added peremptorily that it should be one blow. But Rokossovsky insisted that by striking in two places the Soviet troops would gain major advantages. First, this would call for committing at once the main group of troops on the right wing. Secondly, we would deprive the enemy of any possibility to manoeuvre. And thirdly, even if only one strike proved successful, the enemy situation would become critical.
But Stalin didn't like Rokossovsky's doggedness, so he told the Front Commander to walk out into the neighbouring room to ponder over his, Stalin's, proposal. Rokossovsky obeyed, thought it all over again, then returned and again started defending his own plan. Stalin got angry and told him to leave the room for a second time and think about it again. After a while Rokossovsky returned but said he continued to stick to his two-strike plan. A clash with Stalin did not augur well for anybody, and few people could afford to ignore Stalin's wrath. But Rokossovsky showed no signs of fear as he continued to insist on the two-strike plan. Stalin at last agreed and approved the plan. Subsequent developments proved that Rokossovsky was absolutely right.
The Soviet Army launched an offensive in Belarus three years to the day after war broke out in late June 1941. And now it was for the German troops to suffer heavy losses on the very same battlefields where three years before they demonstrated their supremacy. The Soviet Army units surrounded huge and powerful Wehrmacht formations. The Russian military historian Anatoly Utkin writes in his book "The Second World War": "History rarely repeats itself in these forests, north of Minsk, where the Soviet troops suffered a horrible shock in late June 1941, and where in late June 1944 the huge numbers of the aggressor-country troops were awaiting their Doomsday. Part of the Germans tried to force their way westwards, and more than 40,000 of them died in senseless forest fighting. What was left of the Army Group "CENTRE" were a mere eight badly battered divisions that could not cover the 400-kilometre wide breach of the Soviet Army's breakthrough."
On July 17th 1944 Muscovites saw a column of 57,000 German prisoners of war walking along city streets. The Germans, taken prisoner in the course of the operation "BAGRATIOIN", were a sorry sight. Huge crowds of Muscovites gathered on the pavements to severely and silently watch the prisoners pass by.
The Wehrmacht's disaster in Belarus blew up the German troops' organized resistance on the Eastern Front. The Soviet Army went over to the offensive at all fronts.
Source:The Voice of Russia