Model of a field kitchen during the war in the Prokhorovskoye Pole Museum-Reserve (photo from Wikipedia)
The topic of the nutrition of our soldiers at the final stage of the Great Patriotic War is one of the least covered in historical and special literature. This is not surprising, since, raising it, it is in no way possible to ignore the issue of trophies and similar moments, which in Soviet times were hushed up in the most careful way, as if they at least belittle the feat of the soldiers and commanders of the Red Army, which paid millions of lives for the liberation of that very Europe , having entered which they were finally able to at least eat their fill.
It must be said that by the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army approached with rather generous norms of food supply for personnel. The soldiers’ food, and even more so the nutrition of the command personnel, was quite satisfying and varied: without delicacies, of course, but more than sufficient so that young men in conditions of increased physical exertion could not only satisfy their hunger, but also maintain their proper shape.
The treacherous attack of the Nazis and their allies confused the cards in this matter too. 70% of mobilization reserves from the western regions of the country went to the invaders. Almost half of the cultivated area was lost. There is nothing to say about the losses in agricultural machinery and working hands of grain growers. As a result, the volume of grain harvested in 1941-1942 did not even reach 40% of the pre-war level.
Nevertheless, the norms of the ration of units and subunits on the front line have practically not changed. The principle “Everything for the front, everything for the victory!” worked here to the fullest. The food norms for other categories of servicemen were cut (four of them were introduced in accordance with the decisions adopted in September 1941 by the decisions of the State Defense Committee and the NKO of the USSR), which, in fact, meant one thing: the further from the “front end”, the worse the feeding … They ate poorly in training and spare parts, and did not spoil the cadets of military schools. However, it was harder for the civilian population, especially those who were on “dependent” cards …
Another question is that it was far from always possible to feed the fighters according to the established norms due to a huge number of objective reasons. After all, it was a war, and not a game “Zarnitsa” or even army exercises in peacetime. The improvement in the nutrition of the fighters, who, as you understand, did not fatten too much in combat units, began with the victorious advance of the Red Army to the West. Despite the fact that, leaving the occupied territories, the Nazis tried to cleanly take out or at least destroy all the food supplies available there, they did not always succeed. According to the recollections of the front-line soldiers, it became “better with feeding” after the liberation of Ukraine and Moldova. And then before our soldiers lay a well-fed Europe, which in 1941 came to conquer and conquer us.
And, please, no bigotry: we, who were born and raised in peacetime, who never knew real hunger, have no right to judge the heroes from the Leningrad Front, who inserted their teeth that fell out of scurvy and chewed pine needles with our hands to save ourselves from this disease. caused by the lack of elementary vitamins and nutrients in the body. Those who suffered from “night blindness”, which sometimes mowed down entire units and happened again from monotonous food, poor in fresh vegetables and fruits (such things in some parts of the country have not been seen for months, or even six months). Those who ate fallen horses and gathered barely broken wheat sprouts under fire in the fields …
People who survived the horrors of war, passed through their own country, utterly devastated and plundered by the invaders, did not “loot”, as some gentlemen allow themselves today, but simply diversified their own menu. First of all, naturally, at the expense of the meat that wandered around the surroundings. A genuine letter from a certain lieutenant from Germany has survived, saying that his subordinates “are already putting a whole cow into the cauldron.” Some of the front-line soldiers modestly and briefly reported home that “the food had improved significantly”, and some with gusto described how “they train, who will cook the cow better”, otherwise they just “got fed up” with sausage and chicken.
It must be said that this abundance was not at all the “initiative” of individual servicemen. Quartermaster units reported that for the first time since the beginning of the war, they began to “put 600 grams of meat per person in the porridge.” The soldier’s ration was significantly increased and improved at the expense of local products, which to many soldiers (and officers too), natives of the provinces, seemed unprecedented delicacies. However, again, according to the recollections of the front-line soldiers, they more than generously shared food not only with the inhabitants of the liberated territories of Eastern Europe, but also with the Germans – especially with children and women. So feeding the failed “Aryans” from the field kitchens of the Red Army is not fiction or propaganda, but quite a vital thing. They fed them, where to put them …
Europe nevertheless tasted our borscht, kulesh and porridge with meat (these three dishes were the basis of the diet of a Red Army soldier throughout the Great Patriotic War). But not as a conqueror, but as a vanquished, whom the merciful and magnanimous Soviet warrior fed out of mercy.