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Zhukov described to Eisenhower the Russian way to cross minefield in WW2: “Our infantry attacks exactly as if it were not there”


In his book of wartime memoirs Eisenhower: Crusade in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower recollects his conversation with Marshal Zhukov, which shocked him: “During our hours on the plane Marshal Zhukov and I frequently discussed the campaigns of the war… Highly illuminating to me was his description of the Russian method of attacking through mine fields. The German minefields, covered by defensive fire, were tactical obstacles that caused us many casualties and delays. It was our laborious business to break through them, even though our technicians invented every conceivable kind of mechanical appliance to destroy mines safely. Marshal Zhukov gave me a matter-of-fact statement of his practice, which was roughly ‘There are two kinds of mines; one is the personnel mine and the other is the vehicular mine. When we come to a minefield our infantry attacks exactly as if it were not there. The losses we get from personnel mines we consider only equal to those we would have gotten from machine guns and artillery if the Germans had chosen to defend that particular area with strong bodies of troops instead of with minefields. The attacking infantry does not set off the vehicular mines, so after they have penetrated to the far side of the field they form a bridgehead, after which the engineers come up and dig out channels through which our vehicles can go.”

I had a vivid picture of what would happen to any American or British commander if he pursued such tactics, and I had an even more vivid picture of what men in any one of our divisions would have had to say about the matter had we attempted to make such a practice a part of our tactical doctrine. 

Americans assess the cost of war in terms of human lives, the Russians in the over-all drain on the nation. As far as I could see, Zhukov had given little concern to methods that we considered vitally important to the maintenance of morale among American troops: Systematic rotation of units, facilities for recreation, short leaves and furloughs, and, above all, the development of techniques to avoid exposure of men to unnecessary battlefield risks, all of which, although common practices in our Army, seems to be largely unknown in his.”

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