Man of the Year, 1942
The year 1942 was a year of blood and strength. The man whose name means steel in Russian, whose few words of English include the American expression ‘tough guy’ was the man of 1942. Only Joseph Stalin fully knew how close Russia stood to defeat in 1942, and only Joseph Stalin fully knew how he brought Russia through.
But the whole world knew what the alternative would have been. The man who knew it best of all was Adolf Hitler, who found his past accomplishments turning into dust.
Had German legions swept past steel-stubborn Stalingrad and liquidated Russia’s power of attack, Hitler would have been not only man of the year, but he would have been undisputed master of Europe, looking for other continents to conquer. He could have diverted at least 250 victorious divisions to new conquests in Asia and Africa. But Joseph Stalin stopped him. Stalin had done it before--in 1941--when he started with all of Russia intact. But Stalin’s achievement of 1942 was far greater. All that Hitler could give he took--for the second time.
Men of Good Will. Above the heavy tread of nations on the march, above the staccato uproar of the battlefields, only a few men of peace were heard in 1942.
Britain’s William Temple, who made his pilgrimage to Canterbury in 1942 and became the new Archbishop, was one of them. His church-approved programme of reforms brought religion closer to the centre of British national life than at any time since Cromwell’s Roundheads. Temple challenged all Britain’s well-established institutions of economic privilege, espoused the cause of mankind’s economic freedom (which Britain loosely calls socialism), probably to leave a lasting mark on British history.
Another man who may leave a similar mark is Henry J. Kaiser, the man who launched one of his Liberty ships in four days and 15 hours and, more important, preached as a practical businessman ‘full production for full employment.’ His gospel challenged U.S. industry to lead the post-war world out of depression.
A third man who left a mark was Wendell Willkie, whose world-circling trip as the politician without office had an effect perhaps more lasting than the U.S. yet realizes on U.S. relations with Russia and the Orient.
But Willkie’s accomplishment was dimmed by his failure to command the firm support of his party, and the plain fact was that in 1942, a year of war, men of good will had no achievements to match those of men of arms and men of power.
Men of War. Flamboyant Erwin Rommel and cold-mouthed Fedor von Bock were Germany’s two top generals in a year whose laurels were reserved primarily for fighting men. Rommel, who drove to within 70 miles of Alexandria before he was stopped by the British, established himself as one of the great virtuosos among field commanders. Bock directed a brilliant campaign which reached the west bank of the Volga, but the final spark that would have meant victory was not in him.
The greatest military conquests of the year--although not against the greatest forces--were those of frog-legged Tomoyuki Yamashita, who blasted the British out of Singapore, the Dutch out of the Indies and the U.S. out of Bataan and Corregidor. Yamashita in one year successfully seized a great empire for his country. On his side were advantages in numbers, in preparation, in the stupidity of the Allied nations, but Yamashita successfully capitalized on them.
Quite different were the military triumphs of Yugoslavia’s General Draja Mihailovich, who capitalized on a conquered nation’s unconquerable urge for freedom to fight when fighting seemed impossible. But before the year was out thousands of his countrymen, probably distrusting the Yugoslav Government in Exile more than they did Mihailovich, supported the rival Partisan guerrillas who were carving out their own fighting front. From high on the crags of southern Serbia, Mihailovich, a great fighter, saw, instead of the unification of his country, a preview of rival aims and clashing ideologies which may bring out a rash of civil wars in post-war Europe.
As for the military men of the U.S., 1942 offered them few opportunities for great achievement. General Eisenhower’s able occupation of North Africa only placed him on the threshold of his real test. Douglas MacArthur, whose brilliant skill and courage raised him to the rank of hero while he fought an inevitably losing fight, still lacked the means to win the crown of a great victory. Outstanding among Americans for accomplishment in battle stood the name of Admiral William Halsey, who, not once but again & again, took his task force into swift encounters against the Japs to deal them telling blows.
Yet no military man from Rommel to Halsey was the man of 1942 for a good sufficient reason: there was no military victory of the year which showed signs of being conclusive.
Men of Power. There was perhaps no more unlikely place to look for a Man of 1942 than in prostrate France. Yet two Frenchmen, both of whom the U.S. disliked and distrusted, rose to the top of a soiled political heap. One of them was Pierre Laval, who rose to the honour of a meeting with Hitler to which the tragicomic Benito Mussolini was not invited. If Hitler wins, Pierre Laval may yet be a successful man. Jean Francois Darlan’s deal with General Eisenhower might have profited him eventually, but his award was an assassin’s bullet.
A far greater step to power was taken by a Japanese. From behind his horn-rimmed glasses and the ack-ack of his cigar smoke, Premier Hideki Tojo emerged as a character worthy of his nickname: The Razor. He, like Stalin, was tough. So were his people. He took the major political risk of the year in tackling Britain and the U.S., and, for the year, it turned out to be a good speculation. His armies conquered Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies and Burma. Never in history had one nation conquered so much so quickly. Seldom had any nation’s fighting abilities been underestimated so badly. Tojo, or Emperor Hirohito, in whose name all Japanese wage holy war, might well have been the man of the year, if the explosive Japanese campaigns had not shown signs of burning out.
For the great leaders of the United Nations 1942 was another story. China’s Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek struggled on stubbornly against China’s internal problems and the invading Japanese. Britain’s Winston Churchill, Man of 1940, delivered victory in Egypt after standing on the verge of defeat. Franklin Roosevelt, Man of 1941, shouldered mountainous problems, solved some, left others still crying to be solved. He successfully brought the weight of the U.S. to bear against the Axis. But the 1942 accomplishments of Chiang, of Churchill and of Roosevelt will not bear fruit till 1943. And, worthy though they may prove, they inevitably pale by comparison with what Joseph Stalin did in 1942.
At the beginning of the year Stalin was in an unenviable spot. During the year before he had sold over 400,000 miles of territory at the price of saving most of his army. Gone was a big fraction--how large only he knew--of the precious tanks, planes and war equipment which he had been hoarding for years against the Nazi attack. Gone was roughly one-third of Russia’s industrial capacity, on which he depended for replacements. Gone was nearly half of Russia’s best farmland.
With all this gone, Stalin had to face another full-weight blow from the Nazi war machine. For every trained soldier the Germans had lost in the previous year’s battles, he had probably lost as many and more. For every bit of valuable experience which his soldiers and commanders had gained, the Germans had had the opportunity to gain an equal amount.
Stalin still had the magnificent will to resist of the Russian people--who had as much claim to glory as the British people had when they withstood the blitz of 1940. But a strong people had not prevented the loss of White Russia and the Ukraine. Would they be any better able to prevent the conquest of the Don basin, of Stalingrad, of the Caucasus? The strongest will to resist can eventually crack under continued defeat.
Only one new resource had Stalin for 1942: the help of the U.S. And, as events were to prove, that was to come late and to be bottlenecked by German attacks on the North Sea route and the Caucasus.
With these reduced resources, Stalin tackled his problem, trying to pick abler leaders for his Army, trying to improve its resistance, trying to maintain the morale of his underfed people, trying to extract more aid from his Allies and to get them to open a second front.
Only Stalin knows how he managed to make 1942 a better year for Russia than 1941. But he did. Sevastopol was lost, the Don basin was nearly lost, the Germans reached the Caucasus. But Stalingrad was held. The Russian people held. The Russian Army came back with four offensives that had the Germans in serious trouble at year’s end.
Russia was displaying greater strength than at any point in the war. The general who had won that overall battle was the man who runs Russia.
The Man. In his birch-paneled office within the dark-towered Kremlin, Joseph Stalin (pronounced Stal-yn), an imponderable, soberly persistent Asiatic, worked at his desk 16 to 18 hours a day. Before him he kept a huge globe showing the course of campaigns over territory he himself defended in the civil wars of 1917-20. This time he again defended it, and mostly by will power. There were new streaks of grey in his hair and new etchings of fatigue in his granite face. (Stalin was 63 on Dec. 21, a date not recorded in the Soviet Encyclopaedia and not mentioned in the Soviet press for the past three years.) But there was no break in his hold on Russia and there was long-neglected recognition of his abilities by nations outside the Soviet borders.
The problem for Stalin the statesman was to present the seriousness of the plight of Russia as an ally to Western leaders long suspicious of Stalin and his workers’ State. Stalin, who had every reason to expect the city named for him to fall shortly after its heroic siege began on Aug. 24, desperately wanted aid from his allies. Stalin the politician made these desires the hope of the Russian people. He made them think that a continental second front had been promised to them, and thereby strengthened their will to hang on.
For his armies Stalin coined the slogan Umeraite No Ne Otstupaite (Die, But Do Not Retreat). It had been shown at Moscow that a strongly fortified city can be held as a strong point against attack by mechanized forces. Stalin chose to make Stalingrad another such point. While Germans and Russians were booting each other to death in the bomb-pocked streets, Stalin was organizing the winter offensive which burst into the Don basin with the fury of the snowstorms that accompanied it.
To keep his home front intact, Stalin had only work and black bread to offer. He added a promise of victory in 1942 and called to his people to sacrifice collectively to preserve the things they had built collectively. Children and women foraged in the forests for wood. A ballerina cancelled one performance because she was stiff from chopping wood. Production norms were increased, apartments went unheated, electricity was turned off four days a week. At year’s end the Russian children had no new toys for the New Year’s celebration. There were no red-cloaked wooden replicas of Dyed Moross (Granddad Frost). There was no smoked salmon, no pickled herring, no goose, no vodka, no coffee for the grownups. But there was rejoicing. The Rodina (Motherland) had been saved for the second time in two years and now victory and peace could not be too far off.
The trek of world dignitaries to Moscow in 1942 brought Stalin out of his inscrutable shell, revealed a pleasant host and an expert at playing his cards in international affairs. At banquets for such men as Winston Churchill, W. Averill Harriman and Wendell Willkie, Host Stalin drank his vodka straight, talked the same way. He sent Foreign Minister Viacheslav Molotov to London and Washington to promote the second front and jack up laggard shipments of war materiel. In two letters to Henry Cassidy of the A.P., Stalin shrewdly used the world’s headlines to state the Russian case for more aid.
Stalin did not get his continental second front in 1942, but when a new front was opened in North Africa he publicly approved. On the 25th anniversary of the Bolshevist Revolution, Stalin, in his big state speech of the year, reviewed the past and for the future struck the note of statesmanship.
The Past. The Revolution that was begun in 1917 by a handful of leather-coated working men and pallid intellectuals waving the red flag, by 1942 had congealed into a party government that has remained in power longer than any other major party in the world. It began under the leadership of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, on Marxist principles of a moneyless economy which challenged the right to accumulate wealth by private initiative.
The world reviled and caricatured the early Bolsheviks as bush-whiskered anarchists with a bomb in each hand. But Lenin, faced with hard facts and a war-beaten, superstitious, illiterate people, compromised with Marxism. Stalin, succeeding him, compromised still further, concentrated on building socialism in one state. Retained through the years of Russia’s great upheaval was the basic conception that the ownership and operation of the means of production must be kept in the hands of the state.
Within Russia’s immense disorderliness, Stalin faced the fundamental problems of providing enough food for the people and improving their lot, through 20th-Century industrial methods. He collectivized the farms and he built Russia into one of the four great industrial powers on earth. How well he succeeded was evident in Russia’s world-surprising strength in World War II. Stalin’s methods were tough, but they paid off.
The Present. The U.S., of all nations, should have been the first to understand Russia. Ignorance of Russia and suspicion of Stalin were two things that prevented it. Old prejudices and the antics of U.S. communists dangling at the end of the Party line were others. As Allies fighting the common enemy, the Russians have fought the best fight so far. As post-war collaborators, they hold many of the keys to a successful peace.
The two peoples who talk the most and scheme the biggest schemes are the Americans and the Russians. Both can be sentimental one moment, blazingly angry the next. Both spend their money freely for goods and pleasures, drink too much, argue interminably. Both are builders. The U.S. built mills and factories and tamed the land across a continent 3,000 miles wide. Russia tried to catch up by doing the same thing through a planned programme that post-pioneer Americans would not have suffered. The rights as individuals that U.S. citizens have, the Russians want and believe they eventually will receive. Some of the discipline that the Russians have, the U.S. may need before the end of World War II.
The Future. In his 25th-anniversary speech Stalin emphasized that the most important event in foreign affairs, both for war and peace, was Allied collaboration. ‘We have the facts and events,’ he said, ‘pointing to a progressive rapprochement among the members of the Anglo-Soviet-American coalition and their uniting in a single fighting alliance.’ This was a frank approach to the post-war world, as realistically sensible as Stalin’s expressed ideas on dealings with Germany. ‘Our aim,’ he said, ‘is not to destroy all armed force in Germany, because any intelligent man will understand that this is as impossible in the case of Germany as in the case of Russia. It would be unreasonable on the part of the victor to do so. To destroy Hitler’s army is possible and necessary.’
What other war aims Stalin has are not officially known, but there are reports in high circles that he wants no new territories except at points needed to make Russia impregnable against invasion. There is also a story in high places that, in keeping with the ‘tough-guy’ tradition, credits Stalin with one other desire: permission from his allies to raze Berlin, as a lesson in psychology to the Germans and as a burnt offering to his own heroic people.
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