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The first day of Berlin Operation

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  • The first day of Berlin Operation

    Some words from V. Chuikov's memoir: "The End of the Third Reich"

    ".. 05:00 hours Moscow time, 03:00 hours Berlin time. The command was given to the men in the trenches to bring forward the coulours. All was done quietly. Deep darkness shrouded out positions.
    The second hand of the Front Commander's watch completed its sweep, and in an instant it became light as day. In the flashes of artillery fire, we saw the unfurled Guards colours moving forward along the trenches to the assault positions.
    The volcanic rumble resounded as 40,000 guns began to fire. The Oder valley seemed to rock. Fountains of dust and smoke shot up the sky.
    In the zone of the 8th Guards Army the glow of the artillery fire was so bright that from my command post we missed the moment when the searchlights were switched on. The Front Commander and I even asked what had happende, and were surprised to hear that the searchlights were already on.
    I must say that though we admired the effect of the searchlights at the testing ground, we could not foresee how the ploy would work in practice, on the battlefield. I saw the intense beams lighting up the swirling screen of fume, dust and smoke whipped up cover the enemy positions. The searchlight did not penetrate this screen, and it was difficult for us to watch the battle. To make things worse, there was a strong head wind. As a result, an impenetrable cloud of dust soon enveloped Height 81.5 where I had my command post. Visibility was down to nil and we had to rely on radio telephone communications and messengers in exercising troop control.
    The dense cloud of smoke and dust also handicapped the actions of the advancing troops.
    During the first 30 minutes of the offensive, there was hardly any fire from the enemy whose command and observation posts and firing positions had been destroyed by our shelling and air force. Only a few machine guns and artillery pieces sheltered im stone buildings and trenches responded to our fire. Our infantry and tanks covered the first 2km successfully if slowly under cover of fire barrage. But when they came to the numerous streamsand canals , the tanks and self-propelled guns began to fall behind. Coordination between artillery, infantry and tanks was disrupted. The barrage fire, accurately scheduled beforehand, had to be stopped, and shelling was shifted to support infantry and tanks by concentrating on successive targets. The surviving enemy guns and mortars came to life at dawn and began to shell the roads packed with our troops and equipment. In some regiments and battalions troops control was disrupted. All this slowed down the rate of advance.
    The enemy offered particularly strong resistance along the Haupt Canal which skirts the foot of the Seelow Heights. The spring floods had turned it into an impassable barrier for our tanks and self-propelled guns. The few bridges in the area were kept under enemy artillery and mortar fire from beyond the Seelow Heights and from dug-in panzers and self-propelled guns, all well camourflaged.
    Our advance slowed down even more. The troops were unable to move until the engineers had set up crossings. Any manoeuvring by troop carriers or tanks was impossibe for the road were congested, and the heavily mined marshy valley was impassable.
    It was our air force that saved the day. Controlling the sky over the battlefield, our bombers, fighters and attack aircraft silenced the enemy batteries at the back of the German defence area. Finally, the Haupt Canal was crossed, and our troops began storming the Seelow Heights.
    By noon the 8th Guard Army had crashed through the first two lines of
    of enemy defences and reached the third, but failed to take it on march..."
    "My only desire is that all of our Party and people, closely united in struggle, construct a peaceful, unified, independent, democratic and prosperous, and make a valiant contribution to the world Revolution" - Ho Chi Minh's will

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