12 Generals You Won't Believe Switched Sides and Defected to the Enemy
12 Generals You Won’t Believe Switched Sides and Defected to the Enemy

12 Generals You Won’t Believe Switched Sides and Defected to the Enemy

Khalid Elhassan - November 15, 2017

12 Generals You Won’t Believe Switched Sides and Defected to the Enemy
Andrey Vlasov, right, and SS leader Heinrich Himmler. Wikimedia

Andrey Vlasov

Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov (1900 – 1946) was one of Joseph Stalin’s favorite Red Army generals, who turned on the Soviet dictator during WWII and switched sides after his capture by the Germans in 1942. Throwing in his lot with the Nazis, Vlasov turned coat and fought with the Germans against the Soviet Union at the head of the so-called Russian Liberation Army.

Vlasov had been drafted into the Red Army in 1919 and fought in its ranks during the Russian Civil War, during which he distinguished himself. Rising steadily through the officer ranks, he earned a reputation for his ability to whip poor units into shape. In 1930, Vlasov gave his career a boost by joining the Communist Party, and in 1938, he was sent to China as a Soviet military advisor to its generalissimo, Chiang Kai-Shek.

When the Nazis invade the USSR in 1941, Vlasov was a mechanized corps commander in the Ukraine and was one of the few generals who managed to get his unit to safety, as he successfully fought his corps out of multiple encirclements. His skill and aggressiveness brought him to Stalin’s attention, who summoned him in November of 1941 and promoted him to command an army in Moscow’s defenses.

Vlasov and his army played a key role in keeping the Germans out of Moscow, and in January, 1942, he spearheaded the counteroffensive that pushed the Germans 100 miles from the Soviet capital. He earned decorations and acclaim in so doing, plus Stalin’s admiration, who promoted him to deputy commander of the Volkhov Front, 300 miles northwest of Moscow.

Later, he was put in charge of the 2nd Shock Army after its commander fell ill, but it got cut off and encircled as it advanced towards Leningrad, and was destroyed in June 1942. Vlasov escaped temporarily but was captured 10 days later. In captivity, he agreed to switch sides. Taken to Berlin, he and other Soviet traitors began drafting plans for a Russian provisional government and for recruiting a Soviet turncoat army.

In 1943, he wrote an anticommunist leaflet, millions of copies of which were dropped on Soviet positions. Using Vlasov’s name, the Nazis recruited hundreds of thousands of Soviet defectors, forming them in a so-called Russian Liberation Army, but although they were nominally under Vlasov’s command, they were kept strictly under direct German control, with Vlasov exercising little or no authority.

His only combat against the Red Army took place while in charge of a turncoat division near the Oder river in February of 1945, during the war’s closing stages, after which he was forced to retreat to German-controlled Czechoslovakia. There, in May of 1945, a few days before war’s end, Vlasov’s division turned coat once again, this time against the Germans and in support of a Czech uprising.

At war’s end, he attempted to escape to the Western Allies’ lines but was captured by Soviet forces, who discovered him hiding under blankets in a car. He was flown to Moscow and held in its dreaded Lubyanka prison, where he underwent torture for months. He was tried for treason in the summer of 1946 along with 11 of his leading subordinates. All were found guilty and sentenced to death, and on August 1st, 1945, Vlasov and his fellow turncoats were hanged.