The enormity of the task facing General Keating has finally been borne in upon him, and the confident tone of earlier despatches has quite disappeared. He considers the timetable set by OKH to be completely unrealistic, and unachievable by any commander. Keating does not believe that he has made many mistakes, though he does admit one regarding the attacks on the southern Dnepr.
Notwithstanding this pessimism, the Wehrmacht still remains overwhelmingly powerful on the battlefield, and can still punish any Russians it catches up to (see above). SMOLENSK is now irretrievably surrounded, and must surely fall soon. The Russians have used up a lot of men defending SMOLENSK and its approaches, perhaps Keating can punch through elsewhere to important objectives like VYAZMA and ROSLAVL, though first he must take MSTISLAVL and YARTSEVO.
Comrade General Trout reports the destruction of yet another Recon unit (see above), this time in the far north of the battlefield. There is a nasty dogfight going on up there, where German superiority is much less marked than at the critical battlefield sectors. The terrain favours the defenders, and Trout can play the numbers game any time he feels safe enough to divert men from other areas.
Token defenders have been left in MSTISLAVL and YARTSEVO.
Perhaps Trout is making good a promise that they will be defended to the last
man, though if Stalin finds out that there was only one man to start with, he
won’t be happy. Trout is promising an all out effort to defend VYAZMA.