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tv   American Artifacts World War II Soviet Army  CSPAN  April 6, 2020 6:01pm-6:31pm EDT

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thank you for coming to visit us today. >> army heritage days is an annual event held in may at the u.s. army heritage and education center in carlisle, pennsylvania. hundreds of living history hobbyists are selected by the centers to conduct demonstrations and talk to the
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public about military subjects, ranging from the american revolution to the war on terror. the theme this year was the 75th anniversary of d-day. next, on american artifacts, we visit an exhibit about world war ii soviet soldiers.
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. . . >> my name is craig hall. i basically consider myself an amateur military historian. i do various impressions. this impression here today is to represent the contribution of the soviet union as an ally of the americans and the british, to helping them win world war ii. we have to give equal credit to our allies. some would say, we couldn't have done it by ourselves, but the point is -- and people asked me why do i do this impression. i think because the reason is that we need to tell the story about the eastern front. if you don't understand what happened on the eastern front, you don't understand world war ii. the soviets made a significant
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contribution to winning that w ar. now, for example, what i normally do is, on my display on the table over here, i have a national geographic magazine dated may, 1944. the first article in it has to do with the liberation of the ukraine. the point being, the significance of that is that, of course, one month later, we had d-day. and the point -- the relationship of the soviet contribution is that, as of that date, when we push -- when you liberate the ukraine, you effectively push the germans out of your country. by that point in time, one month before d-day, we had been occupying 65% maybe of the best german troops fighting us. if we hadn't done that, if they hadn't failed -- if we have failed in moscow or stalingrad or cursed, all of those trips could have well been on normandy beaches and it could've have been a different outcome. that's a significant contribution to winning the war that needs to be, if you will, explained to us as americans.
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we all contributed. there's nothing wrong with supporting, as we all do -- my father fought in world war ii. our contribution, but we have to understand the war as a total picture. and the eastern front, that's where we need to do it. as well as that strategic advantage, just the numbers, the sacrifice is a story that needs to be told. there were something in the area of 20 million to 22 million people who died on the eastern front, half of whom they allege may be military. even if you don't like those numbers, if you were to cut them in half, that's a lot of people. and when it comes to the soviets, for example, at least half -- i'm sorry. about as many red army soldiers died in one battle in stalingrad as all the americans killed in action in the entire war. we can see that's a significant contribution, a part of the story that needs to be told. when it really comes to the soviet contribution, the interesting thing that i find, that i tried to communicate to people, is the differences, if you will, in the soviet contribution, as opposed to the british and the americans. and i find there are three significant differences.
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one of them has to do with the partisan movement. the partisan movement in the soviet union as a resistance-type function is totally different than all of the other resistance in france o r belgium. all of those were underground, ok? they did good things, no doubt about it. for example, the french bombed a lot of -- got a lot of american airmen back to london. but in the soviet union, the partisan movement was big, well-organized, organized in the military fashion. there were, as i say, not only numbers, but because of geography of that place, they could obviously hide, if you will, from the germans. >> and for action behind the german lines, a new army was formed.
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an army without uniforms whose home was the forest, whose front was the enemy's rears. a guerrilla army. a minimum of lori -- glory and a maximum of a minimum of glory -- glory and a maximum of determination. their achievements were seldom recorded. look well at these faces. you will never see them again in the ranks of war prisoners or read their names over heroes'graves. ahead of them lay nothing but the road and the horror, but they stayed fighting. their only goal was merciless destruction. >> the partisan movement began in 1941, basically, in terms of its composition. when stalin made his first speech to the people, ok, he reminded them and urged them to become partisans, to rise up like the russians did when napoleon invaded russia,
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referencing back to the history of russia. >> this war is not an ordinary war. it is the war of the entire russian people. not only to eliminate the danger hanging over our heads, but to aid all people, groaning under the yoke of fascism. >> when he said that, he probably didn't really mean it, because for the first year, the only partisans that were allowed in the partisan movement were either red army soldiers who were caught behind the lines or communist party members. in many cases, that wasn't a bad deal, because you weren't getting a lot of other volunteers, especially in places like the ukraine, which were behind the lines. because the ukrainians were initially, when the germans first invaded the ukraine, the ukrainians welcomed them. thinking, like in world war i, when the germans came into ukraine, and made them an independent nation, that they would again be an independent nation. i think after about a year they
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began to realize that they had two devils, stallin on the one hand, because they don't like the soviet system. they don't like the fact that it cost them tens of thousands of people who died of starvation because of that system. but, oh, by the way, we also see that today. that juxtaposition in terms of the ukraine and the russians, and the animosity they have. what happened is that now they realized there was hitler and the nazis. they killing people who are just -- just because they are slavs, because they are on the lowest total pole of -- totem pole of the racial identities the nazis protest. we were able to get people to join the partisan movement. in the soviet union, moscow,
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the leader of the partisan bureaucracy finally convinced stalin that he should actually issue an order that woul dnow -- would now open the partisan movement all people of the soviet union, whether they were red army or communist army members. they began to increase in numbers through that pure map of -- that pueriod of time. most everything they did as an organized group was support the regular army, the red army. so, for example, four different things as a partisan movement.
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three of them in adjunct to or support of the red army. one was to provide intelligence. now, again, on my table over here, we have a picture, ok? and this picture depicts one of those elements, a red army scout, dressed in the camouflage uniform, is consulting with partisan members. moving back over here to this display, we then see parts of the uniform and equpipment that he would have worn. it's a camouflage outfit, a leaf pattern, as opposed to what they call the amoeba pattern. he doesn't have a helmet. he has a soft cap, a bag with a few items in it. that's his map case. he has binoculars. he has a canteen. he has a belt. and his compass. his weapon is the pps-41. again, lightly dressed.
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this is what he does. he provides intelligence. also, i have another element that he would be carrying. this is a scout knife. very few red army soldiers were provided with knives of any sort, unlike the americans, who had things like the k bar or whatever. the scout knife was provided to scouts by the soviet army. the unique thing about it, of course, is if ti -- it's used in a particular way -- as you can see, the knife has a blade edge and a non-blade edge. but a scout is actually trained to use it in one particular way. if you see the hilt, the way it fits my fingers, it is designed for two motions. one motion is across the neck from behind. the other one is from the
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bottom and up. it's designed to be lethal, quick, and silent, which is the role of the scout. not to be discovered. taking his intelligence back to the main red army, unobserved. the other thing that partisan state--partisans did were raids, sabotage, the things we normally think of guerrilla fighters being involved in. one of the more significant ones was what they called the railroad war, as part of the battle of kursk. the partisan movement is being directed from moscow. there's a bureaucracy in moscow. they knew about the battle of kursk. they knew they were going to be attacked. they were defending against it. orders went out to all the various units of the partisans, that they should begin attacking the germans'communications, the supply, and whatever.
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and that's what they did. those would be small unit operations, in which you would have, let's say, a half-dozen or a dozen men with munitions to go out and blow things up, attack convoys, and whatever. the other thing they did is raids, which were different in the sense of the size and purpose. for example, the ukrainian partisans were actually directed by stalin, the boss. they should conduct a raid down to the carpathian mountains. this would be a unit involving something like 700 partisans, a substantial number of arms, mortars, light machine guns, to draw out the germans away to chase them. that was the idea of the raid, as opposed to the sabotage. so, those are the three things, for example, that the partisans did in support of the army itself. the other thing the partisans
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did is they represented the government of the soviet union to the people behind the lines. for example, one of the directives, by the way, as an aside -- over again to my display. you will note a number of weapons on this other display. most of them are german. one of them is italian, an axis ally, or an ally of the germans. even the belt buckle is german. the point is that the directive was that we were supposed to be self-sufficient. one way to do it was to capture arms from the germans. we use the germans'supply chain to supply the partisans, even including the belt buckle, but we adopted it to the soviet union partisan group by covering the swastika with the soviet star.
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so, you're -- now, that doesn't mean we weren't provided supplies by the soviet union. we were. but we supplemented them, if you will, to try to be as self-sufficient as possible. when it came to food, though, then you had to go to the collective farms. you went to the collective farms and the theory would be, you would bring along your political officer, and he would talk to the people. he would say, you must give food to the partisans, because they are fighting to support the motherland, just like your motherland. and, by the way, a speech of giving support, if you will, and motivation and confidence to the people about the fact that the war will be won and comrade stalin is still in moscow and we are going to win.
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but then also a -- a directive. a warning. do not give aid to the germans. if you collaborate and give aid, you might be given permanent discipline. and we know permanent discipline would involve a firing squad, and sometimes the partisans did have to exercise that kind of discipline in representing the government. the partisans continued on until 1944, the last operation, in which, as it indicates in that article we saw, ukraine was liberated. they were pushed out of the soviet union. now there is no need for partisans anymore, because there are no lines to fight behind. most of the units were disbanded. they were amalgamated into the regular red army units. one of those units that i portray -- one of the other things that i find that's interesting about the soviet
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contribution is -- one of them was the partisans. the other one was cavalry. so, i represent the cavalry, in my case the cavalry sergeant. my uniform is a fairly standard late-war uniform, we'll call it. i have my red stripe on my pants to represent the cavalry movement. my hat also, of course, has various combinations of colors. the idea being, the blue on my epaulets, and the symbol with the crossed sabers. i'm carrying a saber. that's hearkans -- harkens back to the coasssacks. calvary were lightly armored. the point here -- the advantage, the interesting thing about the
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soviet military in terms of cavalry is that they had these large numbers of mounted cavalry groups. for example, i might represent the fourth cavalry corps. a guard has this mdeda -- medal. as the war progressed, things changed in the military. part of the change was to adopt a -- a pre-war set of medals and uniforms. and so, in the times of the czars, there were elite guard units. when you were a unit that did something very good, notable, probably heroic, you would then be distinguished as a guard unit and you would be given better pay and better supplies.
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let's say i'm the fourth guard. the point being though, we would take that large mounted force, again, all they're armored with his pistols, swords -- is pistols, swords, a submachine gun. maybe mortars. maybe light submachine guns. they would then take that corps or division and they would combine it with a mechanized division. so, the two of them were a group that worked in tandem. they were armored with the soviet -- and also some american tanks, that were provided under land. lease. the cavalry would perform a function which cavalry has been providing since the american revolutionary war -- intelligence, reconnaissance. calvary is sent out. they gain information and bring it back to the commander to use. when they are going to mount an operation, the theory of their working together is that the
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cavalry first will come in on the flanks and then get into the rear. they will interject supply, attack headquarters, cause turmoil in the rear. as they are doing that, again trying to extricate themselves, because they are many times outnumbered and outgunned, then the mechanized part of the team hits the front. that causes the germans to respond to that, giving time for the cavalry to escape. then therefore accomplishing their purpose of surprise and causing turmoil in the rear. that's the theory. it didn't always work. there were certain battles where, unfortunately, the mechanized group didn't get there quickly enough and cavalry units were mauled. outside of the polish cavalry and the german cavalry in world war ii, a country that used large groups of mounted cavalry is in a somewhat very effective
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manner. the other big or important thing about the soviet contribution is the use of women in combat. and with that, i will turn it over to -- you want to introduce yourself? >> yes, my name is sheryl williams, and i am representing the female contribution to the soviet effort in world war ii. just to start out, just to let you know, the soviets were actually unique at that time in their desire and ability to include women in combat. the women served as medics. . they served as tank drivers and pilots. they were called, not quite affectionately by the germans, the night witches. the fellas would bomb the germans during the day, and the ladies would come in and bomb the germans at night, therefore they were called the night witches. there were the soviet women snipers. they were lethal and very effective.
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one of them went on tour with eleanor roosevelt during the war to raise money. it was a war bond tour. that is the female contribution, soviet contribution to world war ii. >> how do you do this portrayal? >> it is something that isn't done a lot. it's a story that hasn't been told. craig and i enjoy doing things that are little bit different. people seem to respond very well to it. these events are always well attended. to me, it's an interesting story, and it's something that doesn't get told a lot. >> get from the public? >> we get a lot of vote i didn't know that and quite honestly conversely i learn something every time i do this and i learned from my partner here, i learn something every time i do one of these. we get a lot of questions about the spam.
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>> the spam represents on our table the fact that we, of course, were an ally, the united states and britain. it represents lend lease. everything from spam to tanks or locomotives. the interesting thing about the spam -- we also like to add a little humor to our presentation. i will tell you the bad joke. for example, we say some mornings the cook will come to the troops and say, i have good news and bad news. and we will say, what is the good news. he will say, well, we have potato soup all week. what is the bad news? he will say, no potatoes. thank you, america, for spam, to help us substitute for the potato soup during the week. again, this is part of our display. the interesting thing, i kind of touched on it a little bit
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about the regular red army. our goal here is not to describe the red army in detail. there are many reenactors or living historians like myself who could give a lot of information about the red army. this book, for example, down here on my display, emphasizes -- obviously, a picture of the red army soldier. over here we have the life magazine 1944. that's a red army soldier in the life magazine. again, we were allies, even to the point of being in the movies. you've probably heard of this fellow, gregory peck. this is his first movie, and it's about red army partisans. and of course, he dies a noble death fighting for the soviet union. and then over here is another one called "the northstar, " which again depicts partisans to some degree, containing many of the famous actors and
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actresses of the 1940's. 1945, we have to say, after 1945, things change. the soviets became our enemies. we saw them very suddenly in the movies. until the soviet union fell. then, all of a sudden, we began to see. movies again. for example. we began -- then, all of a sudden, we began to see movies. -- again. when the red army was first organized in the 1920's by trotsky, one thing he wanted to do was eliminate the uniform of the past, of the czarist regime. under the czars, uniform of a regular soldier in many cases looked very much like the one i'm wearing. the difference being, they would have the raised collar
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and they would have epaulets. trotsky took the red army and said, i want to make it a working man's army. when you go to work, you don't wear a suit that has a raised collar and epaulets. you have a suit that has a laydown collar. on will -- as we saw on the front of that book, that was the early war uniform. it was a simple smock. the rank was on the collar. as the war progressed, there was more and more reference to the past, to the heoroics of the military achievement under the czars. so, a lot of the changes were made to kind of encourage that, to reinforce that. so, later on during the war, the uniform was now changed back to, in a sense, the czarist-type looking uniform. again, the medals came back.
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medals were prolific. the guard medals, the idea that there were famous cz arist units. now we were going to have elite red army units to raise morale and encourage the men to fight. so, i guess i would like people to take away from this -- i'll say, for example, that c-span is a source of much of the information that we use in our hobby. and i've heard numerous occasions, on various historical presentations made on c-span by the professional historian. we downplay or we don't say enough about the soviet contribution to winning world war ii. and the story of the soviets in world war ii. and with that, i guess i would like people to take away that story and understand that it was a significant contribution, both in terms of its strategic
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impact on winning the war, as well as the toll and great sacrifice that the soviets incurred in winning that war. ♪ ♪ >> the war in russia enters its third year with soviet armies pounding the nazis from the black sea to the baltic. [bombing] >> retaking town after town, soviet forces find the ravaged country left by the nazis. the price was more than 5,000,000 nazi soldiers.
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>> army heritage day is an annual event held in may at the heritage education center. hundreds of living history hobbyists are selected to duct


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