The Unknown D-Day - Poem by Paul Hartal
D-Day, the landings in Normandy
on 6 June,1944, is part of the British
and American national memory.
Codenamed Operation Neptune,
the landings were the military overture
of Operation Overlord,
the largest seaborne invasion in history.
It led to the liberation of France
and western Europe from Nazi control
and played a significant role in the defeat
of the Third Reich.
But there was also another D-Day
in the eastern front,
which remains virtually unknown.
Even historians might overlook it.
And so, Operation Bagration,
the decisive Red Army attack
on Hitler’s armies that opened the door
to Berlin, is missing, for example,
from the pages of William Shirer’s
famous bestseller, “The Rise and Fall
of the Third Reich”.
It was on the night of 21-22 June 1944,
three years to the day
after the German Army invaded
the Soviet Union,
that the Russians launched
their sweeping summer offensive
codenamed Operation Bagration.
The strategic offensive operation
was named after the Georgian Tsarist general
Prince Pyotr Bagration,
a hero of the Napoleonic Wars
who died in 1812 after he received
a mortal wound in the Battle of Borodino.
In Operation Barbarossa in1941
Hitler achieved total surprise
and the Wehrmacht encirled millions
of Red Army soldiers.
Then the German Army advanced rapidly
towards Moscow and Leningrad.
Yet three years later,
the tables were turned.
Stalin’s Red Army hit the German forces
with no warning. And in five weeks
the Soviets advanced 700 kilometers,
destroying totally, or mauling severely,
some seventy German divisions.
Operation Bagration delivered
Even a greater defeat to the Wehrmacht
than the Battle of Stalingrad. Completely
wiped out divisions, disappearing forces,
a chaotic and collapsed front
where generals shot themselves in despair,
a defeat of unprecedented proportion
in the history of the German army
priding itself for Prussian discipline.
It was a German disaster in which
Stalingrad paled in comparison.
The Red Army punched
a 400 kilometer wide hole
in Hitler’s Army Group Center
and drove through Minsk straight
to the suburbs of Warsaw.
Operation Bagration ended
on 19 August,1944. It achieved its goal
before General Eisenhower’s armies
broke across the German lines in France.
The Western Allies liberated Paris
only on August 25,1944.
Hitler tried to avoid a two- front war
in Europe, but operations Overlord
and Bagration ruined his plans
and delivered the fatal blow to his dream
of the Thousand-Year Old Reich.
During the Second World War
The Red Army employed maskirovska,
deception and camouflage in order
to inflict surprise on the Wehrmacht.
In Operation Bagration
the German intelligence failed
to determine the actual target
of the expected Soviet offensive.
The Germans also underestimated
the morale of the Red Army.
Operation Bagration dwarfed
the campaign in Normandy.
More than 2.3 million Russian troops
fought in the campaign,
supported by 5,200 tanks,
36,400 artillery pieces and 5,300 aircraft.
They were opposed
by the German Army Group Center
with 700,000 Wehrmacht men,900 tanks
and 1,350 airplanes.
Mind you, in the first phases
of the D-Day landings in Normandy
about 175,000 Allied troops fought
against 80,000 German soldiers.
Compared with the horrible battles
On the Russian front,
the Anglo-American and Canadian
invasion of German-occupied France
was merely a sideshow.
In the war against Nazi Germany
The Soviet Red Army played
The decisive role. On 2 May 1945
Russian soldiers raised the Soviet flag
atop the Reichstag building.
The red banner,
with its gold-emblemed star,
hammer and sickle, flew over
the smoldering ruins of Berlin,
symbolizing the Russian Victory.
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