5-038 To General of the Army Alexey I. Antonov, February 20, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 20, 1945

Subject: World War II

To General of the Army Alexey I. Antonov1

February 20, 1945 [Radio No. WAR-40408.] Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

For Deane’s eyes only from Marshall.

Please pass the following personal repeat personal message from me to General Antonov:

“From a wide variety of sources which I have carefully checked myself, our information here indicates a German effort to build up two groups for counteroffensive purposes, one of about 18 divisions, to reach that strength sometime between March 1st and 15th, in the general region of Pomerania, and the other of about 42 divisions in the general Vienna-Mahrisch-Ostrau region in about the same period of time. The southern concentration would include the Sixth Panzer Army of five or six armored divisions.

The assembly areas are of a conventional pattern for a pincer attack directed from the north towards Thorn and from the south towards Lodz. It would appear from our information here that Soviet occupation of Stettin would nullify the German counteroffensive capabilities from the north. A Soviet thrust through to Mahrisch-Ostrau would probably prevent the attack from the south.

It appears that Model2 may direct the counteroffensive from the south. There is evidence that the German buildup is following the general pattern of that preceding their Ardennes offensive. There is also rather clear evidence of the attendant security precautions which preceded the Ardennes action. The propaganda pattern is generally similar. Information we have intercepted from Japanese sources in Berlin tends to confirm the foregoing. How much of this last is a German plant to hold Japanese confidence must be a matter of conjecture but other indications tend strikingly to confirm the plan outlined above. This plan appears likely as the Germans have little alternative. They must make such a counteroffensive or lose all.

Please treat the foregoing as extremely confidential between the two of us. Any further details I will transmit to you immediately myself.”3

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. Antonov was chief of staff of the Red Army.

2. German Field Marshal Walther Model commanded Army Group B.

3. A week later General Marshall reported that “reliable intelligence indicates difficulties due to continual German withdrawal and the effect of Allied air attacks against production and communications, principally ammunition and oil, will delay German counteroffensive efforts.” (Marshall to Deane for transmission to Antonov, February 27, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

On March 30 Antonov, on behalf of Stalin, rejoined that while Marshall’s information was “at variance with the actual course of events on the Eastern Front in March,” the Soviets had obtained correct data that enabled them to meet the German offensive in the Lake Balaton area, southwest of Budapest. Perhaps certain sources of the information sought to “bluff both Anglo-American and Soviet Headquarters and divert the attention of the Soviet High Command from the area where the Germans were mounting their main offensive operation on the Eastern Front. Despite the foregoing, I would ask General Marshall, if possible, to keep me posted with information about the enemy. I consider it my duty to convey this information to General Marshall solely for the purpose of enabling him to draw the proper conclusions in relation to the source of the information.” (Correspondence Between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. and the Presidents of the U.S.A. and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, volume 2, Correspondence with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman [August 1941-December 1945] [Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1957], pp. 210-11.)

Generalissimo Stalin later expressed his regret to General Eisenhower that he had been unduly rude by sending the message to Marshall. On August 16, Eisenhower wrote that after dinner in the Kremlin, Stalin took him aside and “specifically and earnestly requested that I repeat to you the following: `About last February we (the Russians) received from General Marshall certain information involving intentions of the Germans. Based on this information we made battle dispositions, and when later the information proved to be incorrect, we had considerable difficulty in readjusting our forces to meet the threat. When this occurred, I personally, and on the spur of the moment, sent General Marshall a telegram which was rude, and I have always regretted sending it. Please tell General Marshall that I have always considered him one of the great soldiers and great men of this war and that my opinion of him was not in the least affected by this occurrence. I want him especially to know that I regret the rudeness of my telegram to him.’” (Papers of DDE, 6: 286.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 53-54.

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