Warfare History Network
The thousand year reich ended up not even making twenty years.
It began with what a German colonel called “a dull, continuous roar of thunder from the east.” The Soviet bombardment was so immense in Berlin’s eastern suburbs, houses shook, pictures fell from walls, and telephones rang. Berlin civilians heard the rumbling, saw the shaking buildings, and knew the hour had come. On ration queues, women and girls listened “in dread to the distant sounds of the front,” and asked each other if the Americans would get to Berlin ahead of the Soviets.
It was April 16, 1945. The rumbling was the sound of 8,983 Soviet artillery pieces, up to 270 guns every kilometer, hurling a stockpile of seven million shells (1.2 million on the first day alone) at the German defenses on the Oder-Neisse River line. The last and most consequential battle of World War II in Europe was starting—the battle for Berlin.
“Who Will Take Berlin? Us or the Allies?”
After a breather to finish off the “Oder balcony” in East Prussia and to bring up supplies, the Soviet Army was finally ready to attack Berlin and end the war. To Russia’s tyrannical and paranoid ruler, Josef Stalin, nothing mattered more than beating the British and American forces to Berlin. Not only did his prestige demand it, so did vengeance for the bloody trail of atrocities and destruction sown by the Germans all the way to Moscow and Stalingrad.
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“Who will take Berlin? Us or the Allies?” Stalin asked his two top commanders, Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, and Marshal Ivan Koniev, head of the 1st Ukrainian Front, who faced Berlin, in a Moscow conference on April 1.
“We will, and before the Allies,” answered Koniev.