The Western Allies had about 200,000 officers and men in Operation Cobra -- their great breakout attack that liberated much of France -- in July 1944; the strength of the confronting German troops was about the same.
In the meantime, on June 22, 1944, the Soviet Union launched Operation Bagration, a strategic offensive in Belarus with more than 2.3 million officers and men against an 800,000-strong German force. Total Soviet losses in this operation were 765,000 officers and men, including 178,000 dead. Total German losses were more than 400,000, including about 300,000 dead. The entire German Army Group Center was annihilated.
The importance of a theater of military operations is determined not only by the strength of the troops involved and sustained losses, but also by its impact on the course of the entire war. There is no doubt that the Soviet-German front was the main theater of World War II: It involved 60 percent to 80 percent of Germany's ground forces, half of its air force and at least a third of its navy.
Allied leaders repeatedly confirmed this fact themselves. Winston Churchill, Britain's war prime minister, wrote to Soviet leader Josef Stalin on Feb. 23, 1945: "Future generations will acknowledge their debt to the Red Army as unreservedly as do we who have lived to witness these proud achievements. I ask you, the great leader of a great army, to salute them from me today, on the threshold of the final victory."
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to Stalin on Feb. 23, 1943: "On behalf of the people of the United States, I want to express to the Red Army on its twenty-fifth anniversary our profound admiration for its magnificent achievements unsurpassed in all history. For many months in spite of many tremendous losses in supplies, transportation and territory, the Red Army denied victory to a most powerful enemy.
"It checked him at Stalingrad, at Moscow, at Voronezh, in the Caucasus, and finally at the immortal battle of Stalingrad. The Red Army not only defeated the enemy but launched the great offensive, which is still moving forward along the whole front from the Baltic to the Black Sea. ... Such achievements can only be accomplished by an army that has skillful leadership, sound organization, adequate training and above all determination to defeat the enemy no matter what the cost in self-sacrifice."
(Ilya Kramnik is a military commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
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