Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin : biography
Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin ( 16 December 1901 – 15 April 1944) was a Soviet military commander during World War II.
- Vatutin is supposedly related to a KGB officer in Tom Clancy's novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
- The battle of the Korsun Salient is the basis for the award-winning computer wargame Decisive Battles of World War II: Korsun Pocket.
- David Glantz, "Vatutin" in Harold Shukman, ed., Stalin's Generals (NY, 1993, pp. 287–298).
- David Glantz, Jonathan M. House, When Titans Clashed. How the Red Army Stopped Hitler (Lawrence, KS, 1995).
- David Glantz, Jonathan M. House, The Battle of Kursk (Lawrence, KS, 1999).
- David Glantz, The Battle for Leningrad, 1941-1944 (Lawrence, KS, 2002).
Before World War II
Vatutin was born in Chepuhino village near Valuiky in Voronezh Governorate (now Vatutino in Belgorod Oblast), into a Russian peasant family. Commissioned in 1920 to the Red Army, he fought against the Ukrainian peasant partisans of Nestor Makhno. The following year, he became a member of the Communist party, and served diligently in junior command positions. Starting in 1926, he spent the next decade alternating service with studies in the elite Frunze Military Academy and the General Staff Academy. The 1937–1938 purge of Red Army commanders opened the road to promotion – in 1938, he received the rank of Komdiv, and was appointed Chief of Staff of a key Kiev Special Military District. Throughout this period, Vatutin combined military service with intensive Party activities.
In 1939, Vatutin planned operations for the Soviet invasion of Poland with Germany, and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army Southern Group. In 1940, under the command of Georgy Zhukov, this group seized Bessarabia from Romania. As a reward for these non-combat campaigns, Stalin promoted Vatutin to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed him to the critical post of Chief of the Operational Directorate of the General Staff. Vatutin was however, not up to his new appointment: while innovative and hard-working, he lacked any combat experience and his knowledge of operational art and strategy was too abstract. Still, his peasant roots, relative youthful age, and party zeal made him one of Stalin's few favorites in the Soviet military. Vatutin, together with the rest of the Red Army high brass, failed to prepare the army for the German attack of 22 June 1941.
On 30 June 1941, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the North-Western Front, (see Soviet Fronts in World War II) which showcased his better qualities. Vatutin did not try to claim success for himself in the battles, but rather focused on discerning and promoting others' talent. Another of his remarkable qualities was his audacity. At that stage of war, most of the Soviet generals, shattered by defeats, were reluctant to carry out offensive operations but Vatutin thrived on attack.
Voronezh and Stalingrad
From early May to July 1942, Vatutin served briefly as deputy of the Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army until the German Army Group South embarked on its huge strategic offense, "Operation Blau". Initially, the German assault focused on Voronezh, they wanted to breach the Soviet front line at the Battle of Voronezh and then attack the Soviet Southern Front and Southwestern Front from the rear. On 1 July 1942, Stalin sent Vatutin as an all-powerful Stavka representative, to the critical Bryansk Front, which within a few days was renamed as Voronezh Front and placed under Vatutin's command.
During the battle, Vatutin again met Ivan Chernyakhovsky, now the newly appointed commander of the 18th Tank Corps of the 60th Army. The massive German attack was on the verge of breaching the Soviet front line when Cherniakhovsky's corps arrived by train. Cherniakhovsky unloaded one of his brigades and, without waiting for the rest of his troops, led that brigade against the numerically superior German forces, throwing them back. After this action, Vatutin asked Stalin to give command of the 60th army to Cherniakhovsky. Initially, Stalin opposed the request, mostly because he had reservations about appointing such a young general to lead a field army. However, Vatutin finally convinced Stalin to promote Cherniakhovsky, who would rapidly rise to become one of the major Red Army field commanders.
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