Ranks Left to Right ROA.
· Second Lieutenant
· Senior lieutenant
· Lieutenant Colonel
· Major General
The ROA did not officially exist until autumn of 1944, after Heinrich Himmler persuaded a very reluctant Hitler to permit the formation of 10 Russian Liberation Army divisions.
On 14 November in Prague, Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov, Commander of the ROA, read aloud the Prague Manifesto before the newly created Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia. This document stated the purposes of the battle against Stalin, and spelled out 14 democratic points which the army was fighting for. German insistence that the document carry anti-Semitic rhetoric was successfully parried by Vlasov’s committee; however, they were obliged to include a statement criticising the Western Allies, labelling them “plutocracies” that were “allies of Stalin in his conquest of Europe”.
Prague Manifesto, which states:
1. The equality of all peoples of Russia and a real right for national development, self determination, self rule, and governmental independence.
2. The confirmation of a popular worker front, before which the interests of the government are subordinate to the goals of raising the well-being and development of the nation.
3. The preservation of peace and the establishment of peaceful relations with all nations of the world, an all round development of international collaboration.
4. Wide ranging government actions for the strengthening of the family and marriage. A true equality for women.
5. The liquidation of forced labor and the granting to the laborers a real right to free labor which creates their material well-being, the confirmation of a wage for all types of labor in an amount that can support an appropriate standard of living.
6. The liquidation of collective farms, the free return of land to the private ownership of farmers. The freedom to determine labor land usage. The freedom to use the products of one’s personal labor, the abolishment of forced requisitions, and the cancellation of all debts to the Soviet government.
7. The establishment of protected private labor ownership. The reestablishment of trade, crafts, domestic industry, the granting of the right of private initiative and an opportunity for it to participate in the economic life of the nation.
8. Granting the intelligencia the opportunity to freely create for the well-being of their people.
9. Granting social justice and defense of laborers from any exploitation, regardless of their origin and former activities.
10. The creation for all without exception the real right for free education, medical care, vacation, and senior welfare.
11. The destruction of the regime of terror and force. Liquidation of forceful repopulations and mass exiles. The establishment of a true freedom of religion, conscience, speech, assembly, press. A guarantee of the protection of person, property, and home. The equality of all before the law, the independence and clarity of the court.
12. The liberation of political opponents of Bolshevism and the return to the motherland from the jails and camps of all who were repressed for their battle against Bolshevism. No revenge and persecution for those who stop their battle for Stalin and Bolshevism, regardless of whether this was done by necessity or by conviction.
13. The reestablishment of national property ruined during the war – cities, villages, factories, and plants at cost to the government
14. Government support of invalids of the war and their families.
By February 1945, only one division, the 1st Infantry (600th German Infantry) was fully formed, under the command of General Sergei Bunyachenko. Formed at Münsingen, it fought briefly on the Oder Front before switching sides and helping the Czechs liberate Prague.
A second division, the 2d Infantry (650th German Infantry), was incomplete when it left Lager Heuberg but was put into action under the command of General Mikhail Meandrov. This division was joined in large numbers by eastern workers which caused it to nearly double in size as it headed on its march south. A third, the 3rd Infantry (700th German Infantry), only began formation.
There were about 113 battalions serving under Vlasov, 42 (Roughly 14,000 people) of these were later sent to Poland, Italy, Belgium, Finland, the Balkans and most notably, France where a number of them fought against the allies on the battle of D-Day. On the Eastern Front, two divisions were already created those being the 600th German Infantry led by Sergei Bunyachenko and the 650th German Infantry led by Mikhail Meandrov.
An air force was also created during the RLA’s existence as a division of the Luftwaffe. The RLA air force was led by Aviation Colonel Viktor Ivanovich Maltsev, who personally selected pilots, radio specialists, mechanics, and navigators to be a part of the air division. In the beginning, the RLA’s air force was used for three purposes: delivery of newly-made planes from factories to airfields, repair (The engineer team consisted of about forty people.), and conducting tests with Soviet aircraft, but would later participate in hostile actions against the Soviets, mostly over Belarus.
This is when the air force was divided into the fighter, light bomber, and reconnaissance (Flak regiment, parachute battalion, and signal battalions, respectively.) Figures estimate 5,000 Vlasovites were involved in the air force. The technology the air force was given was mostly captured Soviet planes from an airfield in 1941 or whatever was claimed from the German invasion. This was beneficial in two ways: the first was it gave the Germans the ability to get to know the Soviet Union’s aerial technology and fighting qualities at a closer distance and the second reason being the volunteers were already familiar with the planes from their time prior to being captured.
The Luftwaffe had also donated several of their old planes which were more of a danger than the damaged Soviet ones, most were out-of-date models such as the Gotha Go-145 A (This was actually a wooden biplane used for training, it became obsolete even before the war had begun.), Heinkel Не-50, Heinkel He-46, or Fokker C.V. which is actually a Dutch model rarely used by the Luftwaffe themselves. Despite this, relations between the German Luftwaffe and the Russians were very warm, and they would often come together for what they called “beer meetings”.
Several other Russian units, such as the Russian Corps, XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corps of General Helmuth von Pannwitz, the Cossack Camp of Ataman Domanov, and other primarily White émigré formations had agreed to become a part of Vlasov’s army. However, their membership remained de jure as the turn of events did not permit Vlasov to use these men in any operation (even reliable communications was often impossible).
The only active combat the Russian Liberation Army undertook against the Red Army was by the Oder on 11 April 1945, done largely at the insistence of Himmler as a test of the army’s reliability. The Russian Liberation Army only saw one major battle against the Soviets on the River Oder swamp where the first division was sent to attack a Soviet entrenchment covered by mortars and mounted guns. The battle ultimately ended in defeat After three days, the outnumbered first division had to retreat.
Vlasov then ordered the first division to march south to concentrate all Russian anticommunist forces loyal to him. As the army, he reasoned, they could all surrender to the Allies on “favorable” (no repatriation) terms. Vlasov sent several secret delegations to begin negotiating a surrender to the Allies, hoping they would sympathise with the goals of ROA and potentially use it in an inevitable future war with the USSR.
The now-combined armies of the ROA were caught in the Prague uprising where several Czech insurgent groups were fighting against the Nazi occupation. Bunyachenko, leading the army, requested Vlasov to give permission to fight the Occupation and change sides once again. A definite reason was not given as to why the RLA switched sides once again, it may have been the fact that Bunyachenko had heard of the cries for help from the Czech people or it may have been his dislike of the national socialist ideology.
For the next three days, The RLA fought its last battle with a total force of three T-34-72’s (2 1942 models, 1 1940 model, two of those were lost during the battle), two Panzer IV ausf. H’s, three Hetzers (One of these were lost), two Panzerjager model I’s (one of these were destroyed in battle as well), one StuG IV, one AMD 35 Panhard, four Sd.Kfz. 250’s, one Sd.Kfz.263, two Sd.Kfz.232’s, one Sd.Kfz.234 Puma, two BA-20’s (One of which was destroyed), one BA-64, one BA-11, one Wespe, around ten loading trucks (A fifth of these were lost in the fighting) , and roughly the same number of light vehicles and jeeps at their disposal, a number of machine guns and artillery placements were also available. The battle later ended in victory for the Czech people and the Vlasov’s delegates returned without a definite answer. Not knowing this, Bunyachenko and his troops began leaving the city to escape to escape capture from the Communist partisans in the hope of being aided by the US Third Army.
The composition of the VS-KONR forces were as follows:
600th Panzergrenadier Div.
650th Panzergrenadier Div.
I. Ostfliegerstaffel (russische) (1st Eastern Squadron-Russian) (1943-1944)
II. Störkampfstaffel (Night Harassment Squadron) 8 (1945)
KONR Air Force
Two former Soviet Air Force ace pilots, Semyon Trofimovich Bychkov and Bronislav Romanovich Antilevsky, defected and became part of the ROA Air Force. The air force was later disbanded in the July of 1944.