** World War II : Operation Barbarossa campaign

Operation Barbarossa: Campaign (June-December 1941)

Figure 1.--The Wehrmacht launched what was at the time the most massive offensive in history . The front line was shattered and the Red Air Force destroyed. German Panzers raced eastward carrying out sweeping encirments of whole Soviet armies. Here is a phoytgraph taken by the conquering German soldiers. Here are some Soviet boys watching the Germans drive east. It is maked only "Russisch Jugend"--Russian youth. Unfortunately we know nothing about the circumstances. I'm guessing that the German soldier who took the photograph gave the boys the cigarettes.

The nature of the War changed decisevely in the second half of 1941. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, launching the most sweeping military campaign in history. About 3 million men and 3,3000 tanks drove into the Soviet Union. The Soviets were surprised and devestated. Hitler predicted, "The world will hold its breath." He was correct. The Luftwaffe scored a major victory in essentially destroying the Red Ait Force during the first 2 days of the Operation Barbarossa. German panzer armies penetrated deep into Soviet lines, moving rapidly into the Soviet Union and taking large numbers of prisoners. The Germans drove toward Kiev and the Dnieper in the south and the Baltics and Leningrad in the north. Stalin was at first stunned and did not even speak on Radio to the Soviet people. Stalin announced a scorched earth policy to confront the NAZIs in a radio broadcast (July 3). The most important of the German Panzer comanders, General Guderian, presses the attack of Army Group Center. General Kluge attempted to restrain him. The Germans cross the Dnieper River (July 10). Driving toward Moscow, they seized Smolensk (July 15). Another 300,000 Soviet soldiers are taken prisioner--over 40 Soviet divisions. Hitler concerned about the lack of progress in the south took control of Barbarossa away from the generals. He was convinced that he understands tactics and strategy better than the generals. He ordered Guderian to drive south toward Kiev. The Germans achieve a specyacvular success in the south, taking Kiev and 650,000 Soviet prisoners. The delay buys time for the Soviets. Stalin places Zukov in charge of the defense of Moscow. The Japanese decide to strike at America rather than coordinating an attack on the Sovoiets with the Germans. Siberian troops rushed west mount a massive Winter offensive which not only stops the Germans, but devestates the Wehrmacht.

German Barbarossa Plan

The success of Barbarossa was predicated on destroying as much of the Red Army as close to the start line as possible. Here the German forces could be easily supported by the excellent German rail system. To the ceast this was no longer possible as the rail limnes were destooyed and a different gage. Supplies had to be moved ny truck and horse-drawn carts. New rail liners could be built, but this took time. As a result, the German were mkost effective close to the start line and less effetive as they moved east where their logistical problems would mount. The German plan was to destroy the Red Army in the western reaches of the Soviet Union during a massive summer Blitzkrieg camapign. Anf here Stalin played into NAZI hanfs by moving massive forces into the border areas seized during the period he was allied with Hitler (large areas of Finalnd, the Balticcs, eastern Poland, and eastern Romania). Hitler's assumption was that massive victories achievable during the summer would cause the whole Soviet structure to collapse. There was no plam B. Hitler and OKW knew that Germany did not have the resources and capabilities conduct a long war of attrition and pursue the Red Army deep into the interior and fighrt pitched winter battles there. Hitler'sorder were to prepare an invasion plan and as the planners realized, the Germans only had the resources for a successful summer campaign in the western Soviet territory. The great gamble of the War was Hitler's decesion to stake all on the sucess of Barbarossa and his blief that the Soviets could be defeated in one hard blow. [Weinberg, p. 265.] As Hitler would tell his intimates and military commanders, the Soviet Union wa a house of cards that would quickly collaps.

Invasion (June 22)

The nature of the War changed decisevely in the second half of 1941. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941). This would be the key to the War. The Soviet Union had everything the Germans lacked for their war economy. Hitler launched the most sweeping military campaign in history. About 3 million men and 3,3000 tanks organized into three field armies drove into the Soviet Union. The Soviets were surprised and devestated. The Luftwaffe destroyed about half of the 10,000 Red Air Force planes on the first day. [Fest, p. 648.] By the second day the Luftwaffe reported destroying 2,000 Soviet planes. Panzers penetrated deep into Soviet territory. Stalin had ignored warnings from his own inteligence services as well as the Americans and British who as a result of Ultra had details on the German preparations. Stalin was still convinced that they were trying to draw him into the War and until the actual attack could not believe that Hitler would attack him. The attack was an enormous tactical success. In part because Stalin had massed the Red Army and Air Force close to the border in unprepared defenses, thus not allowing the Red Army its best tactic of a defense in depth. The Soviet Air Force was destoyed, largely on the ground. German armies slashed into the Soviet Union in three gigantic formations. Army Group North from East Prussia attacked into the former Baltic Republics aiming for Lenningrad. They were supported by the Finnish Atmy to the north attempting to regain the territory seized by Stalin in 1939. Army Group Center moved through what was formerly eastern Poland toward Moscow. Army Group South moved into the Ukraine. Despite the enormity of Barbarossa, it was an invasion on a shoe string. Planners were ordered not to question the plan, only to design a plan that assumed success in a quick summer campaign. Equipment especially trucks from the defeated countries in the West were an important part of the invading force.

Destruction of the Soviet Air Force (June 22-23)

The Luftwaffe scored a major victory in essentially destroying the Red Air Force during the first 2 days of the Operation Barbarossa. This was a enormous accomplishment by the Luftwaffe. It was one of the most important tactical strike of the War. It is what the Luftwaffe had hoped to achieve over Britain. The Soviet Air Force had been the largest in the world. Much of it was destroyed on the ground. The came about because of both surprise, Luftwaffe technical competance, and the superiority of the German aircraft. Given the fact that the Soviets had ample warning of the attack, the Luftwaffe never should have been able to achieve such a stunning success. The reason that they did was due to the fact that Stalin refused to believe the intelligence reports and prepare for the NAZI attack. The Soviet Commander of Russian Aviation, General Rychagov, was shot for 'treasonable activity'. The result of the Luftwaffe victory was that for most of Barbarossa, the Germans had air superority over the battle field. Thus even lumbering Stuka dive bombers could be freely deployed to support Wehrmacht operations.

Barbarossa Results

The fearsome power of Blitzkrieg was unleased by the Germans. The primary German objective was not to overun territory. It was to destroy the Red Army. Once this was accomlished, the Germans could have all the territory they wanted. The idea was to envelop and destry Red Army units with sweeping movements, armored thrusts creating kessels (pockets) in which Soviet armies could be destroyed by bombing, artillery, and well trained and expeienced infantry. The world was stonished throughout the beginning of the campoaign by the massive German successes--sucesses that comnvinced the German commanders that they had won the War. The endless lines of dejected Red Army POWs blinded OKW ro the fact that while Army Group Center had largely succeeded with huge kessels that destroyed major Soviet armies, the smaller formnations of Army Group North and South had mostly driven the opposing Soviet forces bhack, but not destroyed them as was the goal of the Barbarossa planners. There were heavy losses all over the the huge front, but the Red Army was not only not destroyed, but resisting more fiercely as the Germans drove east. No other army in history has suffered the losses inflicted on the Red Army and remained a fighting force in the field. The Germans would thus eventually be forced to fight pitched battles deep in the Soviet unioin in a potracted war of attrition. Precisely what they did not want to do. No sooner had they destroyed one Soviet Army than a another Soviet Armny wouls appear. The Germans serious underestimated the Soviet capability to form amd equip new units.

First Weeks (June)

German Panzer armies penetrated deep into Soviet lines, moving rapidly into the Soviet Union and taking large numbers of prisoners. Army Group South with Romanian allies drove toward Kiev and the Dnieper. Despite rapid advances, progress was disappointing because Stlain had concentrated his armor here. Army Group Center captured Minsk in only a week (June 28). Army Group North smacshed into the Baltics aiming at Leningrad. Lithuanian fell in a few days. The germans moved over 200 miles in a week. The advancing Panzer armies surrounded 15 Soviet divisions which surrendered. Within 2 weeks the Wehrmacht had reached the Dnieper in the South. Not only divisions, but whole Soviet Armies surrendered, often without meaningful resistance. Wehrmacht generals were amazed at the seemingly endless lines of dejected Soviet POWs as they plunged deep into the Soviet Union. Much of the land seized in the first weeks was the territory seized by Stalin in the Baltics and Poland (1939-40) or the restive Ukraine. This was not yet the Russian hearland. Many of the people in these areas as a result of brutal Soviet represion could have been turned into German allies. Flush with victory, however, Hitler ordered the occupation authorities to make it clear that the Wehrmacht had not come as libertors. Whermacht commanders had seen similar scenes on a smaller scale in the West. They were convinced that they were seeing a defeated eneny. And the Soviet Union looked to the world as one more country that the NAZIs would roll over in another Blitzkrieg campaign. Many Western military analysts gave the Soviets only a few months. Hitler was jubilent. Stalin was stunned and withdrew to his dakha, refusing to speak to the Soviet people.

The Campaign (July)

Stalin was at first stunned and did not even speak on Radio to the Soviet people. Stalin announced a scorched earth policy to confront the NAZIs in a radio broadcast (July 3). The Germans cross the Dnieper River (July 10). The most important of the German Panzer comanders, General Guderian, presses the attack of Army Group Center. General Kluge attempted to restrain him. Kluge is concerned about deep Panzer penetrations without infantry support. Guderian convinced Kluge to allow him to press the attack. Kluge told him, "your operations always hang by a thread." The NAZI attack was devestaing, but despite massive losses the Soviets continued to resist. Army Group South in particular experienced difficulties. The Soviets had anticipated a German strike into the Ukraine, rather than a massive assault all along the border and had much of their armour in the south to protect the Ukraine. The successes of Army Group central were spectacular. Driving toward Moscow, they seized Smolensk (July 15). Another 300,000 Soviet soldiers were taken prisioner--over 40 Soviet divisions. Army Group Center's advances brought Moscow within range of the Luftwaffe. Hitler was anxious to get on with the job of destroying the Soviet capital and ordered Luftwaffe Chief G�ring to begin bombing the city (July 8). The first raid was staged (July 21). The Germans temporarily halted their advance to allow the infantry and supplies to catch up to the Panzers (July 22). Smolensk opened the way to Moscow. It was at this time, however, that Hitler made the key decession which would doom Barbarossa. Wehrmacht Commanders after Smolensk wanted to drive on directly to the Soviet capital--Moscow. At the time Soviets forces defending the city were relatively unprepared. The Soviet Union was a highly centralized state and Moscow was its nerve center. Communications and transportation was centralized on Moscow. In addition, the Wehrmact offensive had up to this point seized the Baltics, Eastern Poland, and Belorussia. The advance into Russia proper has still been limited. Seizing Moscow would have had a huge impact. Hitler disappointed with the lack of progress by Army Group South, however, ordered elements of Army Group Center needed to drive on Moscow be diverted south. Hitler ordered Guderian's Panzers to turn south, away from Moscow (July 27). At the time, there is little doubt that Guderian's Panzers could have seized Moscow. Hitler had, however, been disappointed by the lack of progress of Army Group South. He was also attracted by the riches of the Ukraine. This was the productive agricultural lands that he coveted for Germany's Lebensraum. Hitler took control of Barbarossa away from the generals. He is convinced that he understands tactics and strategy better than the generals. He ordered Guderian to drive south toward Kiev. He remamed Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army ArmeeGruppe Guderian to honor the Panzer general's startling syccesses. Hitler also gives Guderian independence from Kluge, he now is directly under the command of Bock, Commander of Army Group Center. Despite the promotion, Guderian disagrees with the orders to divert his Army froim Moscow.

The Campaign (August)

Guederian did not immediately divert his Army from the drive on Moscow. He disobeys orders and gets involved with fighting at Roslavl (August 3). Hitler was, however, insistent. Guderian had no choice but to begin the drive south toward Kiev (August 7). August 7. Stalin also assumes command over his country's military forces. He takes the title of Supreme Commander of military forces. German advances continue. The Germans in the north under von Leeb succeed cutting off Leningrad in the north (August 19). Meanwhile Guderian still desires to renew the drive on Moscow. He flew to a conference with Hitler to personally convince him of the need to immediately renew the drive on Moscow (August 22). Hitler adamently refuses, commenting, "My generals know nothing about the economic aspects of war." Guderian has to continue the drive south. Military historians debate this major pont in the development of Barabrossa. Some believe it was a major blunder on Hitler's part and in the end doomed Barbarossa and the Wehrmacht. They argue that an immediate, concerted deive by Army Group Center against Moscow would have given the Germans the opportunity to have destroyed the Red Army before the onset of the Russian Winter. [Stolfi] This is not the unanimous opinion by military historians, but it is the opinion of quite a number. Wehrmact commanders were staggered at the scale of the Soviet reverses. OKW estimated that 5-6 million Soviets soldiers had been wounded, killed, or caoptured. (Most of the PIWs would die in the dreadfull conditions of NAZI camps.) About 5,000 airplanes had been destroyed as well as most of the Soviet tank force, huge numbers of trucks and artillery pieces, and massive amunition dumps. Japanese Ambassador Oshima flem to Hitler's Rastenburh headquarters where he had long meetings with Ribentropp and Keitel and received detailed information on the campaign (August 23). His report to Tokyo was pivked up by the American Magic intercepts. These and other intercepts caused General Marshall and American analysts to be very pesimistic as to whether the Soviets could hold up to the NAZI onslaught. [Boyd, p. 29.] The Germans, despite their successes, began to have disquieting thoughts. OKW registers concerns over acts of disobedience by forward commanders. Hitler begins to worry and in particular bothered by thoughts of Napoleon's debacle. He told Guderian, "Had I known Russian tank strength ... I would not have started this war."

The Campaign (September)

The first snow of the coming Winter occurred (September 12). It is only a minor hinderence, but the weather became a major factor in the campaign. With the situation becoming desperate, Stalin assigns his leading commander, General Zhukov to organize the defense of Leningrad (September 13). Zukov has Lenningrad citizens dig anti-tank ditches and other defenses creating multiple lines of defense to protect the city. The Wehrmacht achieved one of the most stunning victories in military history. The Germans took Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, destroying seven Soviet armies (September 19). Over 650,000 Soviet prisioners are taken--the largest tally in any battle in history. Hitler called it, "the gratest victory of all time". Stalin had assured the British and Americans that the Germans would be stopped at Kiev. He was shocked when whole Soviet Armies surrendered.


Leningrad was one of the two major cities of the Soviet Union. Army Group North (AGN) was assigned the task of seizing the city. ANG struck toward Leningrad and during July made rapid progress through the Baltic Republic where they were received as liberators. Then the Germans were slowed by the boggy, forested country between Lakes Peipus and Ilmen. ANG planned its final drive to Leningrad (August 10). It was here that the German offensive was first blunted. The drive on Lenningrad was part of a pincer movement. The Finns had joined the German invasion in an effort to regain the territory seized by Stalin in 1939-40. The Finns reached their pre-1940 border on the Karelian Isthmus 30 miles north of Leningrad (August 31). Army Group North to the Souh arrived at the Neva River 10 miles (August 31). southeast of the city. The Finns launched an offensive east of Lake Ladoga toward the Svir River, hoping to join up with Army Goup North driving from the southwest (September 4). Army Group North took Shlisselburg on Lake Ladoga. This severed Leningrad's land links with the rest of the country. Soviet resistance was stiffening, but Lennigrad at this time was within the Hitler's grasp. A confluence of factors, however, combined to save the city. Hitler vascilated as to what was the priority target and where forces should be concentrated. Hitler determined that Leningrad was to be surrounded to avoid costly street fighting. (Later at Stalingradhe changed tactics.) At Liningrad this forced Army Group North into the narrow isthmus to the east, reducing its tactical advantage. Finninsh Field Marshal Baron Carl G. E. Mannerheim, refused to cross the border and close in from the north. Mannerheim apparently decided that Finland was not going to persue the War beyond retrieving lost Finnish trritory. Then Hitler in on of his many vassilations redeployed Army Group North's panzers (second week of September. This was a critical decession. Hitler left Army Group North only one motorized corps, and ordered that it be held in reserve. In the savage fighting which followed. The Soviets managed to stop the Germans. Lenningrad was, however, cut off from food and fuel. Some supplies could be brought in on an ice road after Lake Ladoga froze, but Stlain refused for several months to evacuate the children. Many were to starve that first Winter. Available food was given primrily to combat troops. The people of the city were put on starvation rations. Refugees without Lenningrad ration cards were left to starve. The Germans ubjected the city to incessent artillety fire and Luftwaffe bombing. The German seige lasted more than 2 years. Finally the Red Army opens its offensive to relieve the city (January 15, 1944).

German Situation (September)

The Germans by September had scored stunning successes. Whole Soviet armies had been enveloped and destroyed and the major cities of the western Soviet Union were in German hands. Yet the Germans faced growing difficulties. Soviet Ressistance was stiffening, especially the forces around Lenningrad commanded by Marshall Zukov. Army Group Center having been diverted south had made little progress east of Smolensk toward Moscow. Logistical problems were becoming increasingly severe. The Wehrmacht was not a fully mechanized army. There was still horse drawn artillery. Supply lines were straeched and Soviet partisans had begun to form in rear areas. Although still encountered in only small numbers, the Wehrmacht was horrified to learn that the new T34 Soviet tank was superior to the vaunted NAZI panzers. Unlike the campaign in the West, the Germans could not bring the full force of the Luftwaffe to bear aginst the Soviets. Plans and crews had been lost in the Battle of Britain, and substantial forces had to be maintained in France and Germany against Britain which continued to bomb Germany. The Soviets in addition had succeeded in moving whole armament plants east beyond the Volga and Urals where the Luftwaffe without long range bombers could not reach them. All throughout the campaign, Soviet factories continued to out produce German industry and were beginning to produce the T34 tank in numbers. The German resources although emense were not unlimited and in the end did not match Hitler's avarice.

The Campaign (October)

More than a million well-trained and by now very experienced Grman troops took position along the frontline facing Moscow (late-September). They were now only 180-mile west of the Soviet capital. [Zetterling and Frankson] This was to be the defining engagement of the War--the great turning point. Hitler ordered the resumption of the attack on Moscow (October 2). After their great victory at Kiev, the Wehrmacht resumed the drive of Army Group Center to Moscow. There was was juggling of units. Panzer Groups were renamed Panzer Armies. The 2nd Panzer Army took Orel (October 7). The initial engagemnents did not go ell for the Red Army. Guderian reached Orel so quickly that his Panzers ran into trams still operating normally. Here there was a paved road. The 2nd Panzer Army used it push forward to the Oka river at Plavskoye. The 4th Panzer Army (transferred from Army Group) and the 3rd Panzer Army managed to trap Red Army forces in two huge pockets at Vyazma and Bryansk. Army Group North was unable to storm the city, but struck east and cut the rail link at Tikhvin. Lenningrad was cut off and this began the terrible 900-day siege. Lenningrad's resistance ties up substantial German forces that could not be used in the drive east. In the far north, a joint German-Finnish force drove east in an attempt to take the vital port of Murmansk. The Soviets stopped them at the Litsa river. The battles were the largest ever fought north of the Arrctic Circle. The Germans were still, however, advancing toward Moscow. German commanders reported that Soviet resistance was notably stiffening. The Red Army was also becoming more skillful. This is a basic maxim of warfare. The longer you fight an opponent, the more he learns about you and learns to counter your moves. The French had been defeated bore this happened. The Soviets and British had not. Large numbers of Red Army soldiers had surrendered in the Vyazma and Bryansk pockets, but mamy fought tenaceously. Others had managed to fight their way out and regroup. The Wehrmacht was now reporting substantail losess of its own. Also the Russian weather was worsening. In October the rains came. There were no autobauns in Russia and few paved roads. The dirt roads became quamires. The movement of trucks, tanks, personnel carrier, and artillery slowed considerably. Unlike the campaign in the west, in the east the distances were emense and the roads dreadful unpaved tracks. Logistical problems increased becoming chromic. There is only limited time before the harsh Russian winter "General January" assisted the Red Army. Some argue the delay in attacking Moscow cost Germany the war. With the Wehrmact renewing the drive on Moscow, Stalin ordered Zhukov, who has successful stopped the Germans at Leningrad to assume command of the Moscows defenses (October 21). Despite the weather and stiffening Sioviet resistance, the Wehrmact moved steadily closer to Moscow. The Wehrmacht took Krakov and with it another entire Soviet Army Group (October 24).

The Campaign (November)

The winter came early to Russia in 1941. Freezing temperatures were reported in early November. Russia experienced one of the worst winters in recent history. The Germans and Soviets were forced to fight in bitter freezing conditions. The fighting was fierce. Colonel General Heinz Guderian wrote, "The war was by now total enough for everyone." Up to this point the Germans have benefitted from superior equipment and weapons. This advantage begins to shift as the temperarures plummit. German equipment was not made to function in sub-freezing conditions nor were the German soldiers equipped with Winter clothing. It is often said that Hitler refused to equip them. There is no ecidence of this. In fact the Wegemacht did have Winter clothing. They simply did nor distrubute it to the frontline troops. Here a fasctor was the seious supply problems as the Wehrmact moved forward and worsened by the weather. The Germans, however, continue to push toward Moscow. The Wehrmacht launched Operation Typhoon--meant to be the final drive on Moscow (November 25). Forward German elements advance to within 20 miles of Moscow before they are finally stopped by the Red Army.


The sea of mud which engulfed the Wehrmacht was not overcome until the roads began to freeze. The cold weather, however, broiught, a whole new set of problems for the Wehrmacht. The Winter of 1941-42 was one of the most severe in Russian history. The Wehrmacht was totally unprepared. Barbarossa was premissed on victory before the Winter set in. The German troops fought in light summer uniforms. There were no winter uniforms available for the troops when the weather turned cold. Nor was their equipment built for winter operations. The mud clogged roads caused by the Fall rains amnd then the early onset of Winter denied the Wehrmacht one of its key advantages--mobility. As the temperatures fell, German tanks could not even been started without first building a fire underneath to heat the engines. Part of the problem was the lubrucants used. Guns froze. The Russians on the otherhand were prepared for winter weather and had tactics and equipment for it. Russian resistance was stiffening by October-Decenber, but the cold winter weather which enveloped the Wehrmacht by late November had a devestating impact on fighting efficency and the operation of German equipment. The Wehrmact desperately rushed available supplies of warm clothing and winter lubricants to the front, but they proved inadequate and hard to deliver. The Wehrmacht was at the extreme limit of its supply routes and the winter weather proved to be an insurmountable problem. A HBC reader reports, "Talking to Germans just after the war, they indicated it was the bitter cold that stopped them. They could not start their tanks or fire their weapons. They were not prepared for this type of Winter warfare. The NAZIs called for the German population to donate and send heavy clothing to their troops. Loads of Winter clothing were sent to the Eastern front. Very little, however, reahed thectroops in time. Many German soldiers froze to death during the fierce fighting before Moscow."

Russian Counter-Offensive Before Moscow (December)

Hitler is finally forced to abandon the attack on Moscow (December 5). The Japanese decission to strike America, allowed the Soviets to shift Siberian reserves west to stop the Germans. The failure of the Axis to coordinate strategy doomed Barbarossa. A Japanese spy in Tokyo had informed Stalin well before the actual attack on Pearl Harbor. The Soviet Siberian forces were well trained in Winter warfare, Zukov launched his winter offensive stopping the Whermacht at the gates of Moscow (December 6). German intelligence failed to pick up any indication of the Soviet preparations. The Wehrmacht was stuned at the extent of the Soviet offensive, assuming that the staggering victories in the Summer had crippled the Red Army. There were no preparations made such as winter clothing or assessing the performance of weapons in extemely cold winter conditions. Hitler had assummed that the camapign would defeat the Soviets in a summer campaign before the onset of Winter. The Soviets inflict staggering losses of men and material--irreplaceable losses. Hitler demanded that the Whermacht stand and fight. He even replaces Guderian for disobeying his order not to withdraw (December 20). (Guderian was reportedly only rearranging his front line in order to shorten and make it more defensible.) Hitler's obstinancy may have saved the Wehrmacht from an even greater dissater than what ocurred. An entire Germany Army, the 16th Army of more than 90,000 men, was essentially cut off and only supplied with an enormous effort by the Luftwaffe. A land corridor was not restablished until April 1942. The massive Axis army that invaded the Soviet Union had by January 1942 lost a quarter of its strength amd huge quantities of tanks, artillery, and supplies. These losses of men and material by the Wehrmacht were especially grevious and Germany did not have the manpower resources or industrial capacity to fully repace and reequip a new army. Most accounts of World War II point to Stalingrad as the turning point of world war II. The Soviet stand before Moscow may have been the decisive action of the War. It certainly meant that Germany had lost its best opprtunity to destroy the Soiviet Union and Red Army. What many historians fail to note is that while the Wehrmct had occupied large areas of the Soviet Union, they were still, on the perifery of Russia. What they had occupied was the Baltics, Poland, Belarus, and areas of the Ukraine. Russia, much of the Soviet arms industry, and key resources like oil was still in Soviet hands.


Barbarossa had achieved some starteling successes. Panzer arimies had spaerheaded ememse encircling maneuvers that had killed or taken over 6 million Red Army soldiers. Great quantities of military equipment had been destroyed or captured. An emense swath of European Russia was in German hands. Even so, it had failed in its principal objectives--the destruction of the Red Army. Not only had the Red Army not been destroyed, but Soviet war industries continued to produce. The Wehrmacht by 1942 had been seriously weakened. The War had been turned into a war of attrition and Hitler had added America to the countries at war with Germany. There were no longer any prospects of lighting strikes against unprepared enemies. Germany now faced increasingly well-armed adversaries which could field armies in far greater numbers than Germany could muster. It was the failure of Barbarossa to destroy the Red Army in a swift, Summer campaign that doomed NAZI Germany. Not only did Hitler now face the prospect of a two-front war, but a war against opponents with much greater resources than the Reich. The demands of Barbarossa and the success of the Soviet Winter offensive meant that the Wehrmacht would only be able to launch a much less powerful offensive in 1942, one that could only be conducted with force in the South and which culminated at Stalingrad. The battle for Stalingrad is normally seen as the turning point in World War II. In actuality the Soviet Winter offense was the battle which turned the War from a seies of Blitzkrieg campaigns to a war of attrition that Germany could not win.

Balance of Forces

German intelligence proved disastrous in Barbarossa. The Germans significantly under estimated the size of the Red Army. Thus after smashing whole Soviet Armies and taking millions of Soviets prisioner, the Germans concluded that the Red Army was desimated. Front line soldiers could hve yold them differently. German commanders concluded, however, that the Red Army was no longer capable of mounging a major offensive. Even more disastrously, German intelligence badly underestimated the Soviet ability to mobilize and equip new units. The Wehrmascht had fought Barbaossa on relatively equl terms. This would never again be the case. The rapid assembly of new units by the Soviets would mean that that the Red Army in 1942 would deploy units increasing numbers that would increasingly outnumber the Wehrmact. And these units would be much better equipped and by 1943 have adequate air support. The Soviets were rapidly setting up their arms plants in the east beyond the reach of German bombing and these plants would out produce German war production. In addiion, The Soviets received vital equipment and supplies through the Americam Lend Lease program. The supplies did not reach the Soviets in time to assist in stopping the NAZIs. They did reach the Soviets in time to assist with the geat Soviet offensives driving west. Hitler and the NAZIs had a chance to win the War in 1941. Hitler had gambled all on the success of Barbarossa--and lost. The failure before Moscow and the staggering losses of men and material, losses that could not be replced, essentially meant that German had lost the War. And that the Japanese who struck America just as the Soviets were preparing their counter strike, had lost the war even before the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.


Boyd, Carl. Hitler's Japanese Confidant: General Oshima Hiroshi and Magic Intelligence, 1941-1945 (Lawrence: Kansas University Press, 1993), 271p.

Fest, Jaochim C. Hitler (Vintage Books: New York, 1973).

Stolfi, R.H.S. Hitler's Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted.

Zetterling, Niklas & Anders Frankson. The Drive on Moscow, 1941 (202), 321p.


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Created: 6:00 PM 2/15/2005
Last updated: 1:17 AM 5/29/2019