(3 of 6)
For the great leaders of the United Nations 1942 was another story. China's Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek struggled on stubbornly against China's internal problems and the invading Japanese. Britain's Winston Churchill, Man of 1940, delivered victory in Egypt after standing on the verge of defeat. Franklin Roosevelt, Man of 1941, shouldered mountainous problems, solved some, left others still crying to be solved. He successfully brought the weight of the U.S. to bear against the Axis. But the 1942 accomplishments of Chiang, of Churchill and of Roosevelt will not bear fruit till 1943.
And, worthy though they may prove, they inevitably pale by comparison with what Joseph Stalin did in 1942.
At the beginning of the year Stalin was in an unenviable spot. During the year before he had sold over 400,000 miles of territory at the price of saving most of his army. Gone was a big fractionhow large only he knewof the precious tanks, planes and war equipment which he had been hoarding for years against the Nazi attack. Gone was roughly one-third of Russia's industrial capacity, on which he depended for replacements. Gone was nearly half of Russia's best farmland.
With all this gone, Stalin had to face another full-weight blow from the Nazi war machine. For every trained soldier the Germans had lost in the previous year's battles, he had probably lost as many and more. For every bit of valuable experience which his soldiers and commanders had gained, the Germans had had the opportunity to gain an equal amount.
Stalin still had the magnificent will to resist of the Russian peoplewho had as much claim to glory as the British people had when they withstood the blitz of 1940. But a strong people had not prevented the loss of White Russia and the Ukraine. Would they be any better able to prevent the conquest of the Don basin, of Stalingrad, of the Caucasus? The strongest will to resist can eventually crack under continued defeat.
Only one new resource had Stalin for 1942: the help of the U.S. And, as events were to prove, that was to come late and to be bottlenecked by German attacks on the North Sea route and the Caucasus.
With these reduced resources, Stalin tackled his problem, trying to pick abler leaders for his Army, trying to improve its resistance, trying to maintain the morale of his underfed people, trying to extract more aid from his Allies and to get them to open a second front.
Only Stalin knows how he managed to make 1942 a better year for Russia than 1941. But he did. Sevastopol was lost, the Don basin was nearly lost, the Germans reached the Caucasus. But Stalingrad was held. The Russian people held. The Russian Army came back with four offensives that had the Germans in serious trouble at year's end (see p. 28).
Russia was displaying greater strength than at any point in the war. The general who had won that overall battle was lhe man who runs Russia.