Monday, April 23, 2012
The Truman Committee
PROCEEDINGS OF THE SENATE SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE THE NATIONAL DEFENSE PROGRAM
(THE TRUMAN COMMITTEE)
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11TH, 1946
The hearing met at 9 a. m.
General Earl Orbison, U. S. Army, Active duty, and his counsel and assistant counsel and aide.
Senators George Malone, Harry Caine, Homer Fergusson, Claude Pepper, Harry Kilgore and their respective staffs. See attached
Major Charles O. Manner. U. S. Army Reserve, took seat as reporter and was warned that the oath previously taken was still binding.
No witnesses not otherwise connected with the proceedings were present.
A witness called by the examining officer entered and was informed of the subject matter.
Record Page 57.
The witness was duly sworn.
"Thank you for all coming once again and without further ceremony let's proceed. May I remind everyone that this is a closed session and everyone attending has the security clearance needed to hear the expert witness's testimony. General Orbison you are still under oath and are free to give your candid opinion on the subject matter at hand. Let's begin where we left off yesterday...I believe we were discussing how the Soviets are keeping their forces supplied and how reality differs with the JCS pre-war assessments of their inability to accomplish exactly what they have accomplished.
Senator Pepper I believe we adjourned while you had the floor. Please proceed."
"Thank you Mr. Chairman. General Orbison please enlighten us on exactly how the Soviets are amassing this huge air armada on the Channel Coast and how they are keeping them supplied. From all the pre-war information this sub-committee received the authors of the plans were confident that such a feat was beyond their capabilities until at the earliest 1948."
"Thank you Senator Pepper for this opportunity. Previous to 1944 that Soviets and most other modern nations and their armies have been able to advance no further than 350 miles in a continuous operation against significant opposition. Supplies have to be stockpiled well in advance in supply depots, bridge and railroad laying equipment pre-positioned, fuel and fuel trucks, spare parts...etc. had to all be ready fairly close to the line of debarkation..."
"Excuse me General but what does that term refer too"
"Basically Senator it refers to the jumping off point for the attack. Usually close to the current frontline."
"Thank you General. If you could please keep the military jargon to a minimum for my benefit. I'm new to the committee and understand the terms we used in the Great War but have not caught up yet with newest terms and phrases."
"Of course Senator. As I was saying: all these supplies have to be stationed ahead of time near the frontline and be instantly ready to follow the troops and tanks in their advance. Historically in modern times most major attacks could only advance 300 miles or so because of this supply bottle neck. If you will recall Patton was severely restricted in his advance through France and Germany because of the lack of fuel and spare parts for his tanks to put it simply. He had nothing but green grass and a few school boys a number of times between the 3rd Army and Berlin but he was out of fuel. The same is even more true for air units. Not only do they have to have fuel, spare parts, mechanics etc. they have to have a safe place to land which requires the foot soldier to capture, repair or construct airfields.
All of these restrictions have traditionally held most modern armies to a distance of 350 miles they could physically advance before they had to call a halt to the operation and regroup and resupply. The time period depended on the opposition but essentially it was from 10 to 30 days at the most for many of the historic successful advances or less than 11 miles per day on average. This is of course a rule of thumb and not set in stone.
The longest and fastest advance was 520 miles in 10 days..."
"And who accomplished that feat General? Was it Patton or Rommel?"
"No Senator it was Soviet Marshal Vasilevsky in Manchuria against the Japanese in August of 1945."
"How is it possible General? In testimony after testimony before this sub-committee we have been told that the Soviets were still using horses and were on foot and where unable to advance in great leap and bounds. That they were inept and relied on human wave attacks and overwhelmed their adversaries with sheer brute strength and were incapable of any kind of sophisticated operations or planning."
"Unfortunately Senator there are a number of racial or cultural stereotypes abounding in the US military. I'm sure you are aware and were probably briefed on the capabilities of the Japanese before Pearl Harbor. I'm sure they never gave credence to the grave threat the Japanese eventually posed to our national defense. Slant eyed, emperor worshiping fanatics without the ability to make a decent car much less run a modern navy and air force and all that kind of attitude. Well I would suggest that we were wrong about them and now we are wrong about the Soviets and their capabilities in certain areas including supply.
Essentially the Soviets are the inventors of what we now call the Blitzkrieg. They called it "Deep Battle" or "Deep Operations". They published a manual on it on 1936. It did differ from the German version in that the Soviets created multiple breakthroughs and exploited them while the Germans usually counted on one large breakthrough. If properly done the Soviet Deep Battle is much more devastating than the Blitzkrieg as the Red Army had demonstrated from 1944 on. Our forces in Western Europe were victims of this devastating operational strategy.
In addition to their proven abilities to transport large numbers of troops far distances and to keep them supplied we unwittingly gave them a gift. A gift of almost a dozen of the largest supply depots the world has ever seen spaced our quite nicely all throughout France, Germany and even Hungary. We did not have the personnel nor the foresight to destroy those huge depots before they were captured."
"And why is that General?"
"There were very few actual US troops at the depots. The vast majority of the personnel at the sites were German POWs."
”Could you elaborate General? How was it possible that all this military equipment was basically unguarded and not destroyed?"
"Certainly Senator. Give me a few seconds to find the statistics... ah here. 108,890 POWs supervised by 1038 US officers and 12,560 service men.
In some cases the Soviets used airborne units to outright capture the depots. In other cases French Communist forces marched into the depots disguised as regular French troops and just took them over and cut communications to the outside. Quite frankly no one was thinking about those depots when the Red Army was minutes behind you. As you have seen from numerous reports and in particular the inspector General's scathing report of January, 1946, the US troops in Western Europe in May 1946 were ill trained and ill led. They were for the lack of a better term "glorified policemen."
"But how General are the Reds keeping their armies and planes in supply 4 months after the start of the war in a land that is starving, has had its roads and bridges bombed and destroyed by planes, overrun by armies, it's transportation hubs blown up...? How are the Soviets able to repair and then transport everything they need to supply their troops and in particular their air force?"
"Let's think of it in a kind of reverse order. The US armed forces is second to none in repairing and constructing roads, bridges, airfields, train tracks. No one but the British even comes close to our prowess in these areas. That is one of the major reasons we were able to win the war. We had to rebuild enough bridges, roads and tracks to supply our own very large forces all the way to the East German border. We had to build enough capacity in the system to re-supply our troops under full combat conditions.
The Soviets traditionally use far fewer supplies per trooper than we do. Combined with our perchance for over building and given the fact that the Soviets have themselves have been repairing and enhancing our work for the last 3 months, it's pretty easy to see how they have supplied their forces to date.
As you know our air forces have not been able to penetrate their air defenses in any appreciable numbers. Their ground to air missiles combined with their huge air force has kept us at bay for the time being. Every attempted attack on the infrastructure has been met with massive force and very, shall we say, creative measures. Our losses have been unsustainable and we are pausing to regroup and reassess our options.
In May there were over 60 bridges over the Rhine alone. When we demobilized we left behind all the rolling stock, trucks, train engines that we brought from the factories of the US behind and were in the process of selling much of that equipment to our former allies and even Germany. The tracks and roads we rebuilt were in place and are now being used by the Reds to supply their forces. They are using our trains, railroad cars, trucks and even toilet paper. Instead of the traffic going just East it now goes East as well as West.
The Soviets are very familiar with our equipment as a result of Lend Lease. We actually hosted tens of thousands of Soviet mechanics and engineers here in the US and trained them here on how to repair and even manufacture our equipment. There were huge training schools on the East coast training our future adversaries in how to not only use but how to defeat our own equipment.
If you will recall from earlier testimony that they have had 3 fully functional B29s since 1944 to study and take apart. The B29 is our most advanced weapons system and they have it and have been working on how to defeat it for over 2 years.
They are systematically stripping what we left behind in Europe and sending it back to the USSR along with any equipment that the Europeans might have as well. For example Germany was actually producing more steel in April 1946 than it needed internally and asked permission to export it. France south of Paris was virtually untouched by the war and is being stripped bare as we speak. "
"General in previous testimony we were led to believe that the Reds were totally dependent on us for high octane fuel for their air force. Is this not the case? If not how are they able to make this technological leap in such a short time?"
"This is kind of out of my area of expertise Senator but I'll give you what I know. Think of it this way. If you had limited resources and if one of those resources was being supplied by someone else. Why would you spend your money and time on developing that resource as long as someone else was providing it to you for free?
Now as to why they caught up in this area so fast. From what I know of this subject the Soviets were actually leaders in this field during the 20s and 30s. I believe it's called "cracking" because you have to crack open the molecules in order to form other compounds. From what I understand if you wanted to get the best education and learn from the most knowledgeable experts you went to school in Russia.
The leading expert in cracking was a Soviet citizen. The vast of majority of the research into high octane fuel and other additives was being done in the USSR. The person most responsible for the process of inexpensive high octane fuel here in the US was a former Soviet scientist who was taught everything he knew in Russia. So as you can see once the Reds decided that they needed to make their own fuel it was not hard for them to do so.
So senators here it is in a nutshell. The Reds are using our own supplies, transported by our own vehicles and trains, over tracks , roads and bridges we repaired or built, along with the knowledge that we taught them, in addition to their own vast capabilities developed after the 1941 attack by Germany. They are well supplied and until something is done to change that situation it will remain that way. In time they will have all the supplies and raw materials they need to continue this war within the continent of Europe, which if the situation continues they will have total control of within 2 more months and then daresay they will be looking at the Mideast and the Mediterranean next.
And that about sums up the situation."