“It is necessary to deprive the German command of all initiative, forestall the adversary, and to attack the German army when it is still in the deployment stage and has no time to organise the distribution of forces at the front,” wrote the Soviet commanders to Joseph Stalin. The day on which they did so is by far the most surprising part of the document: 15 May 1941, one month and one week before Hitler attacked the USSR. In the spring of 1941, the Soviets considered attacking the Germans first, writes Sean McMeekin in his latest book, Stalin’s War.
The grand mistake? The only useful way of defending against an armoured invasion being defence in depth? The one thing Stalin absolutely forbade?