European Front


IF THE Anzio beachhead failed, how can AngloAmerican troop landings on the west coast of Europe result in anything but a series of Dunkirks? Thus does Goebbels, fighting for every advantage, attempt to spread pessimism by press and radio.

The long pause on most of the 92-mile Italian front during the struggle at its western end, the switchover of the Eighth Army troops, the departure of American and Canadian forces on other assignments, the quiescence of the British Ninth and Tenth Armies in the Middle East, the absence of the American Seventh Army from Italy — these answer in strategic terms the German propaganda. The Italian campaign has been costly to the Germans as to us. But there is not much similarity between the problems in Italy and those awaiting the Allies over the Channel.

The supply situations are in no way comparable: in Southern Italy, Sicily, and North Africa, the Allies have no close, gigantic, industrialized base such as exists in England and Northern Ireland. In the Western Mediterranean they have no such abundance of port facilities as Britain provides. Nor can they muster in Africa or Italy any such prodigious accumulations of air, ground, and sea power as they have concentrated close to the coasts of Western Europe.

The topography of Italy is dominated by the continuous spine of the Apennines all the way north to the Po, beyond which rises the gigantic barrier of the Alps. The western coasts of Europe, from Denmark to Bordeaux, present no such continuity of obstacles. They vary from sandy flat shores to undulating plains, swamps, river estuaries, coastal bluffs, rugged capes, and rolling uplands.

The divisional strength is different. In Italy, the nineteen German divisions on the line across the peninsula provide defense forces averaging about one division for every four and one-half miles. German forces as dispersed along the Atlantic Wall, from Denmark to the Spanish border, do not exceed one division for every twenty-five miles. If lower Norway and the Mediterranean shores of France are added, there is an immense territorial coverage demanded of the approximately forty German divisions in the West.

In Italy positional warfare is almost inevitable. In Western Europe, given the overwhelming Allied superiority, a war of maneuver becomes possible the moment the Atlantic Wall is pierced in any one of the possible assault points. Even the flooding of large areas of the Low Countries, which is expected by the Germans to disable invasion of these regions, may work to our advantage. It could provide the Allies, who have vast numbers of shallow-draft amphibious invasion craft, with a series of water highways directly into the heart of the countryside, ideally suited for commando forces operating under heavy air cover.

Russia cuts into the Balkans

Russia’s grand strategy emerges with the clarity of a blueprint, now that disaster has broken the armies of Mannstein and Kleist in the Ukraine and Bessarabia. Nearly fifty divisions of the Wehrmacht have paid forfeit to the superior generalship, fighting spirit, and manpower of the Russians since New dear’s. Close to 700,000 are dead, missing, or prisoners.

Losses of tanks, heavy mobile guns, transport, and food stores gravely impair the resources available to the battered Wehrmacht. These enormous subtractions in equipment need to be emphasized. Their importance is primary. They explain Germany’s frenzied new search for slave labor.

HE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, SUBSCRIBERS’ EDITION, May, 1944, Vol. 173, No, 5. Published monthly. Publication Office, 10 Ferry St., Concord, N. H. Editorial and General Offices, Arlington St., Boston 16, Mass. 40ȼ a copy, $5.00 a year. Unsolicited manuscripts should be accornpanied by return postage. Entered as second-class matter July 15, 1918, at the Post Office, .‘oncord, N. H., under the Act of March 3, 1879. Printed in the U.S.A. Copyright 1944, by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights, including translation into other languages, reserved y the Publisher in the United States, Great Britain, Mexico, and all countries participating in the International Copyright Convention and the Pan-American Copyright Convention.

The climactic campaigns of the war impend in Eastern Europe. Russia’s primary objectives are those she has pursued throughout the winter and spring: destruction of the armies of the Third Reich; destruction or capture of the supplies and equipment upon which they immediately depend; seizure of sources of raw materials, supply bases, and industrial production centers whence Germany’s war equipment derives, and the cutting of communications lines over which it must travel to battle.

The Russian offensive fans out in the three great combat zones of the north, central, and southern fronts. The Baltic armies seek to reach the Gulf of Riga, to lop off the Baltic States, isolate their defense forces, destroy them, and then wheel through Lithuania to East Prussia.

Marshal Zhukov’s huge First Ukrainian Army, reaching around Lwow to seize the only important oil fields Germany controls outside Rumania, seeks to sever communications between Warsaw and Czechoslovakia, to breast the passes of the Carpathian Mountains, and to deploy above the great plain of Hungary.

In the South the Russians are coördinating operations from captured Odessa to the Eastern Carpathians for a powerful thrust toward the Danube. Ahead, on the Rumanian plain below the Transylvanian Alps, lie the rich Ploesti oil fields and the Iron Gate, which controls the whole lower Danube valley.

Russia’s master plan still pivots on the Balkans. That explains the weight of the attack mustering along the central and southern fronts. Success, either in the smash toward the Hungarian plain or along the valley of the lower Danube, would sever Bulgaria, Greece, and most of Yugoslavia from German control. It would deprive Hitler of indispensable oil, cut off Germany’s mineral supplies from Greece, halve Nazi imports of chrome, dry up German imports from Turkey completely, subtract more than 40 per cent of Germany’s remaining copper supply, bring her war plants in Czechoslovakia within reach, and threaten the rail lines from the upper Adriatic, over which Germany hauls 45 per cent of her nickel and all her parachute silk from Northern Italy.

Will Russia by-pass Turkey?

A victorious Balkan advance, in addition to dislodging the Axis from most of the Balkan Peninsula (and isolating German garrisons in the Aegean), implies a Russian outlet to the Mediterranean after the war. It would certainly overturn the unpopular reactionary government of Bulgaria and convert that Slav state to a policy of coöperation. Similarly it would fortify Marshal Tito’s position in Yugoslavia. Thus it might pave the way for the long-debated federation of the Southern Slavs, enable Russia to by-pass Turkey at the Straits, and consolidate Russian influence all the way to the Adriatic.

This is no fantasy. Marshal Tito’s foreign minister, accompanied by a corps of experts, has lately traveled via Naples to Algiers, where he conferred with the French Committee of National Liberation. Thereupon this party headed for London. Meantime the French have sent M. Pierre Cot to Moscow “on a cultural mission ” — which indicates strengthening of ties between General de Gaulle and Russia. Turkish diplomacy, suddenly alert, is staging a feverish campaign for friends in the Balkans.

Defeat by starvation

Germany’s loss of her rich Russian granaries is a grim portent for Occupied Europe. The prospect of an enormous deficit in food supplies, which forced sharp reduction in the food ration of the Third Reich during February, compels German policy to new extremes.

The seizure of Hungary and Rumania was motivated as much by the urgency of the food problem as by the military logic of the Balkan situation. Both these countries are large producers of agricultural products. Until late March, neither country had been pillaged so thoroughly as the occupied states of Western Europe. Both are now being stripped clean to make up for the loss of the Ukraine and the simultaneous flight back into Central Europe of thousands of transplanted Axis farm “colonists.”

The German Food Ministry is pushing a frantic “battle of the harvest” all over Europe. Every occupied country has orders to organize for this struggle at once. German farm managers driven from Russia are being posted in France and Northern Italy to speed and intensify agricultural serfdom for the vanquished. Swarms of “food purveyors” pour into every subject state, to impose new food levies upon the pitiful victims of a policy which long since inaugurated slow starvation.

Europe is suffering famine such as it has not known in modern times. The Norse have not tasted meat since August, and their main daily subsistence consists of five slices of bread made of ersatz flour, plus half a pint of skimmed milk for each adult every eighth day. Hunger is a grim reality in Belgium. The looting of the Baltic States of food supplies proceeds ruthlessly as the German Army prepares for new retreats. In Estonia, the diet is down to an average of but 950 calories a day.

In Northern Italy, food is so scarce that short rations were one of the three chief causes of the twelve-day strike of 6,000,000 workmen. Starvation and malnutrition in France threaten the future of the nation. The flooding of agricultural areas in the Netherlands adds another terrible chapter to this nightmare tale. By this action, Germany is wrecking the subsistence base of the nations. Biologically she is bleeding Europe white.

Slaves have nimble fingers

Along with the policy of man-made famine among her victims, Germany is employing a new policy of kidnaping. From Czechoslovakia, Austria, Holland, France, and Belgium, the Nazis have begun to collect boys and girls of eleven, twelve, and upwards for forced labor in German war industries. “Children have nimble fingers,” quotes the German Minister of Labor. The Czech underground reports thousands of these youngsters in a single camp in Southern Germany, where they are being instructed for work in munitions factories. Many of those factories are targets for our bombs.

Street raids are the order of the day in Poland, where Nazi press gangs who previously seized men and women for slave labor now round up children for the same purpose. The herding of Belgian girls of fifteen into war plants, has elicited bitter denunciation from the Catholic Bishop of Liége.

The neutrals walk on eggs

Turkey’s case at the far end of the Mediterranean is complex. Already in default on her pre-war mutual defense treaty with Greece, Turkey’s position is perilously close to default in her treaty with Great Britain also. Ankara is aware that Germany is losing the war, and that Britain is predominant in the Mediterranean. Yet the Turk is unwilling to commit himself, because he observes political trends which urge caution: correctly or not, he suspects British influence behind the proposal for an Arab Federation in the Near East.

In the proposal for an American oil pipeline through Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean, the Turks see signs of a post-war Anglo-American alliance. But Russia’s demonstrated military power is a fact in their immediate neighborhood, and Britain is distant. The Russian army in the Caucasus is a fact, not a theory. These factors have to be fitted into Turkey’s equation of policy somehow.

Finally, there remains the question of the Straits. Will that finally be determined by Russian influence or by joint Allied policy? Memories of a fruitful twenty-year alliance with Russia prior to this war linger in Ankara. Russian help in framing the Montreux Convention governing the Straits, and British opposition, are not forgotten. Russia’s attitude toward Turkey is milder lately. Turkey balances facts — and waits.

Switzerland reads the signs of the times and hastens by vote of her government to promise Moscow recognition — after the war. Meantime she defies Hermann Göring’s brother, who asks in vain that a Swiss village be erased to permit enlargement of his electric power plant in Switzerland just over the border. The village voted not to liquidate itself. To this extent Switzerland feels secure in her rocky cantons. Hitler cannot afford to detail precious divisions to police her.

The Swedes keep their powder dry

Sweden remains the logical inner highway over which Germany might decide to pour troops for defense of Norway and the Baltic gate. Invasion alarms in Western Europe accentuate this fact today. So there is sharp deterioration of Swedish-Nazi relations as the crisis of the war approaches. What did Winston Churchill mean, two months ago, when he declared that the grand attack on Germany would be delivered from the East, the South, the West, and the North? Germany would like to know.

Whatever Churchill meant, Hitler is taking no chances. Barracks have sprung up in Northern Norway, close to the Swedish frontier — presumably to house the six Nazi divisions that may retreat from Finland. New airfields emerge in Central Norway, close to the Swedish border. German warships and planes step up their violations of Swedish territorial waters. Hitler makes no effort to conceal his wrath at King Gustav and Swedish Prime Minister Hansson, for the part they have played in inducing Finland to heed Russian peace offers.

So the Swedes are again on the alert. Elaborate maneuvers of the Swedish Army close to the frontier of Norway in the Arctic counter evidences of German threat. Sweden’s entire air force is on the qui vive day and night. Every incoming ship’s hold is investigated by the shore police. The Navy stands by under emergency orders. Some influential papers are boldly demanding that neutrality and isolation be dropped. A distinctly friendly policy toward Russia is evolving at Stockholm. Sweden, like Turkey, weighs not only the risks of war but the riddles of peace.


1. The development of Allied bombing aimed at dispersed small industrial plants and food stores.

2. Possible invasion pressure on the western Balkan shore of the Adriatic —especially if the Russian advance maintains its tempo.

3. Development of Russian naval activity in the Baltic against German supply shipping from Sweden.