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Soviet Night Operations in World War II

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by Maj. Claude R. Sasso, Leavenworth Paper No. 6, Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, December 1982, 66 pages, 11 maps. During World War II, the Red Army displayed a predilection for night operations that can be traced back to its military campaigns against the Ottoman Turks, 1877-78, and the more recent campaigns of World War I and the Russian Revolution. In 1941 night operations were largely withdrawal operations and small-scale counterattacks designed to preserve Soviet manpower against superior German armor and air power. As the war progressed, however, and the Soviets moved to a primarily offensive mode of operation after Stalingrad, they came to rely increasingly on night operations to achieve surprise and to pursue the withdrawing Germans more relentlessly. Though the impetus of this gradual evolution could often be traced to the Stavka, a great measure of the initiative rested in the hands of senior Soviet commanders. The later years of the war witnessed the changeover from limited tactical missions by relatively small units at night, which were common among World War II combatants, to uniquely Soviet large unit operations by armies and fronts. In the process, the Soviets learned to deal successfully with many complex control and coordination problems. This study traces this development, examines the three stages of the German-Russian conflict, and ends with the lightning campaign in Manchuria against the Japanese Kwantung Army. In some respects, this last campaign represents the highest achievement of Soviet night operations and even today is touted by the Soviets for lessons learned. A Merriam Press Military Archives PDF file.
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