'Rail War'

Large-scale guerrilla operations during the Great Patriotic War were offered by Colonel Starinov, a subversive demolition man, on the enemy's railway communications. His ideas were supported by Lieutenant-General Ponomarenko, head of the TsSPP (Central Staff for the Partisan Movement) , who presented them to Stalin and received approval for their implementation.

A large-scale partisan sabotage was called "Operation Rail War". It was decided to hold it before the most important strategic battle on the Kursk Bulge. On the eve of this battle the ratio of the forces of opponents was approximately equal. The outcome of the battle depended to a large extent on how successfully the maneuver was conducted by the troops, the reserves were used, and, most importantly, the conditions were provided for supplying the army with everything necessary.

"Rail War" - it was a prepared event. In the training centers and partisan schools, the number of trained demolition specialists and instructors has increased.

To disable the entire railway infrastructure of the enemy on the scale in which it was planned, it required a huge number of fuses and the explosives themselves, which the partisans did not have. The supply of detachments was carried out with the help of long-range aviation.

The "rail war" was planned for implementation at the front, the length of which was one thousand kilometers from north to south and seven hundred and fifty kilometers from west to east in depth. The sabotage was supposed to be in three stages, each of which was supposed to last fifteen to thirty days.

"Rail War" began in 1943, the third of August. Seventy-four thousand guerrillas hit the enemy's communications simultaneously.

Ponomarenko, using the ideas of Starinov, later developed his own plan for subversive activities. Ponomarenko believed that risky attacks on enemy echelons were inexpedient. In his opinion, it was enough to strike point hits on the railway itself, undermining the rails with the help of small charges. Thus, it was planned to create a deficit of railroad tracks for the Germans and a collapse of the transport system ahead of the Battle of Kursk.

Starinov, in turn, defended his point of view, arguing that it was the enemy's echelons that had a strategic purpose. While the destroyed rails are easy enough to restore in comparison with replenishing the damage from the wreck of the train. This would lead to much more large-scale destruction and interruptions in traffic.

As a result, Starinov was sent to the Ukrainian headquarters, and Ponomarenko continued to implement his plan.

It was not without the traditional Soviet formalism. Ponomarenko established a definite plan for partisan detachments in terms of the number of broken rails. It should be noted that this approach has brought more harm. The order referred to the undermining of not only basic, but also spare, as well as poorly or not at all protected paths. As a result, many commanders preferred to blow off insignificant ways, unexploited branches.

At the same time, the Germans quickly learned to restore "point damage", which, I must say, were usually no more than 30-35 centimeters. They invented a "rail bridge", which was superimposed on the destroyed site. The Nazis compensated for the shortage of the canvas from the rarely used Belgian, Dutch branches.

Thus, the "Rail War" at the first stage caused more damage to the Red Army by different estimates than to the Germans.

During the second and third stages, the leadership of the partisan movement took into account the errors. This time, not single "point" explosions were carried out, but the rails exploded in large areas, and the sleepers were destroyed. In December 1943, the third stage was completed.

Despite the mistakes made, "Rail War" allowed to reduce the main cargo flow, which went from Europe to the East, by more than 30%.

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