So Close to Nature

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Despite their uninspired tactics, von Mellenthin says, the Russian infantry fully maintained the great traditions of Suworov and Skobeleff:

In spite of tremendous technical changes in warfare the Russian infantryman is still one of the most important military factors in the world; he is so formidable because he is so close to nature. Natural obstacles simple do not exist for him; he is at home in the densest forest, in swamps and marshes as much as the roadless steppe. He crosses broad rivers by the most primitive means; he can make roads anywhere. In a few days he will lay miles of corduroy road across impenetrable marshland; in winter, columns ten men abreast and a hundred deep will be sent into forest deeply covered in snow; in half an hour these thousand men will stamp out a path, and another thousand will take their place; within a few hours a road will exist across ground deemed inaccessible by any Western standard. Unlimited numbers of men are available to haul heavy guns and weapons across any sort of terrain; moreover, Russian equipment is admirably adapted to their needs. Their motor vehicles are of the lightest pattern and are reduced to the indispensable minimum; their horses are tough and need very little care. They are not encumbered with the impedimenta which clogs the movements of all Western armies.

Despite the fact that they’re born scouts, von Mellenthin says, Russian soldiers lack the inquisitive nature and initiative for proper reconnaissance.


  1. T. Beholder says:

    Not entirely wrong, but he veers into romantic territory.

    The Red Army he have seen emerged from several iterations of intense debugging. It was not just experience of WW I and Civil War, and then “let’s prepare for the last war”.

    Not counting misadventures of Tukhachevsky in Poland… But in Spain, Winter War, Soviet-Japanese war? Early performance was scrutinized, and when anything wasn’t good enough, improvements in tactics, training, equipment and organization made ASAP. Testing new equipment in real conditions, too. In particular, several competing heavy tank prototypes were field-tested in Finland, air MRLS in Far East (as a fighter shock weapon, but this helped with ground attack planes later).

    As to the equipment, part of the reason is that the top level specifications weren’t generated by committee, and proper feedback was enforced when possible. Stalin not only paid attention, he invited the lead military hardware designers for a personal audience, one by one. A CMM-5 grade process.

Leave a Reply