Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia


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Initial offensive

The Soviets had held them off longer than had been expected. Soviet weather intervened with heavy rains that made roads nearly impassable.

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The Soviets counterattacked the Germans at the gates of Moscow, forcing them to retreat with severe casualties. The Germans had also overstretched their supply routes and began living off the land. Both sides kept pushing each other as the fight for Moscow led to a standoff. Germany was fighting on two fronts, and Hitler knew he could not win the war in against the Soviet Union.

This page was last updated on January 12, By Victor Kiprop. Your Chicago Citation Copy to Clipboard. Your Harvard Citation Remember to italicize the title of this article in your Harvard citation. The Wehrmacht was just as guilty of genocide, deportations, and the general depravity their government is now known for. What was it about German warfighting that failed? Why did it fail? And how deeply rooted were those failures in the mentality of the Prussian-German military? While the Germans of World War II were masters of operational warfare — mobile tank pincers and division-level movement — they lacked coherent strategy.

Robert Citino , who taught at the U. This was by no means a new idea to German officers in the s and s. To achieve this, Frederick relied on rapid maneuver around enemy flanks like at Leuthen and Rossbach. Despite this, Frederick fell afoul of his own advice and nearly paid with his life and his kingdom.

The German defeat at the Marne led to nearly four years of trench stalemate, just the type of war Germany had little chance of winning.

Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia by Robert Kirchubel

While the Germans of World War II were masters of operational warfare — mobile tank pincers and division-level movements — they lacked coherent strategy. German units invading the Soviet Union in the opening months of Barbarossa struck at will, with high aggression and minimal coordination. Like a man breaking through a wall, the Germans stumbled upon their own success. An army dedicated to grand offensives cannot last long when pressed hard by a foe willing and able to play the long game. While this operational scheme worked on smaller nations such as Poland, Denmark, and France, it created chaos and logistical problems in a nation as massive as the USSR.

The Germans, despite their love of grand maneuver, often forgot that logistics and intelligence were crucial to a successful campaign. This is truly hard to understand. Any toddler can inform you that when the food runs out, things get bad. The depleted German units were exhausted and frozen into inactivity in the deep snow. On 5 December the Soviets launched a surprise counter-offensive.

The Germans were forced into a retreat, despite Hitler's call to defend every foot of ground. Guderian and several other senior generals who advised withdrawal were sacked. The Russians succeeded in crushing various German formations in encirclements of their own.

The Luftwaffe struggled to operate but performed vital work ferrying supplies to cut off units and harrying the Russian advance. Army Group Centre was pushed back up to miles from Moscow. The graves of German dead are marked with a simple cross and their steel helmets. The Germans suffered over , casualties during Operation 'Barbarossa', with some , men killed. By comparison, 30, died during the campaign in the west in Operation 'Barbarossa' had clearly failed.

Despite the serious losses inflicted on the Red Army and extensive territorial gains, the mission to completely destroy Soviet fighting power and force a capitulation was not achieved. One of the most important reasons for this was poor strategic planning. The Germans had no satisfactory long-term plan for the invasion. They mistakenly assumed that the campaign would be a short one, and that the Soviets would give in after suffering the shock of massive initial defeats.

Hitler had assured the High Command that 'We have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten edifice will come tumbling down'. But Russia was not France.

German motorcyclists pass one of the seemingly endless columns of Russian prisoners. Approximately 2.


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It was one of the most shocking acts of human atrocity in history. Hitler's input has been heavily criticised, not least by his generals at the time. Moscow was always a more important objective to the German High Command than it was to Hitler, who was more concerned with destroying Soviet field armies and capturing vital industrial resources.

His switching of the main thrust from the central front to Leningrad in the north and Ukraine in the south was to an extent militarily sensible given the weakness of Army Group Centre after the Smolensk battles and the threats to its flanks. But it also threw away Germany's only real chance of outright victory. The early capture of Moscow would have had an undeniable psychological impact and may have been the tipping point. Guderian in particular believed that using the panzers in traditional encirclement battles played into Russian hands and gave them chances to bring forward fresh reserves.

He had advocated an all-out drive on the capital. But when Hitler resumed the assault with Operation 'Typhoon' it was too late. The German Army was now fatally weakened, the weather had worsened and Soviet reinforcements had arrived.


  1. Why Did Operation Barbarossa Fail?.
  2. Operation Barbarossa.
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  4. Posed photo of Russian troops wearing snow camouflage, purportedly taken during the counteroffensive in December Over a million Soviet troops were deployed for this attack, which confounded the Germans who believed Stalin's forces to be close to collapse. German intelligence failures played a large part on several levels. Soviet industry was deemed incapable of producing modern weapons. Most importantly, Russian troop numbers and fighting strength were continually underestimated, so that despite the losses inflicted in early encirclement battles, the Germans always faced yet more reinforcements.

    The High Command had only considered the Soviet western army groups in their planning, and the presence of reserve forces and uncommitted formations in the Russian interior or on the eastern borders were disregarded. Even after Operation 'Typhoon' ground to a halt in early December, the Germans still chose to believe that the Soviets had nothing left to stage a counterattack.

    This is Why You Don't Invade Russia in the Winter

    While the Germans underestimated the military potential of their opponents, they also exaggerated the capabilities of their own forces, most significantly the four Panzer Groups. The panzer divisions were the principal weapon of Blitzkrieg and at that time were far superior to the Soviets in training, leadership and tactical ability. But they were relatively weak in numbers and equipment. German tank strength had been halved in so that the number of divisions could be doubled.

    And there were virtually no reserves available. Hitler had so far refused to fully mobilise the German economy and so weapons production was inadequate. Even in mid only new tanks were being built each month, insufficient to properly equip the army on the eve of a major new campaign, or keep up with the inevitable mechanical and combat losses. Hitler even chose to divert some of these to France and other theatres, when the demand was greatest in Russia. The vast majority of the 10, or so Russian tanks facing the Germans in June were light BT series tanks or obsolete T models.

    Huge numbers were destroyed in poorly planned and executed counterattacks. But Soviet tank development and production was already superior to that of the Germans. A new generation of tanks had entered service, namely the T and KV It had sloping armour - which effectively doubled its strength - and a powerful Its reliable diesel engine gave it a good range and turn of speed, and its wide tracks could cope with mud or snow.

    Russian industry was already gearing up to turn it out in huge numbers. Less than a thousand Ts were available at the start of 'Barbarossa' and most were squandered in piecemeal actions by half-trained crews.

    This WWII map taught Americans to sympathise with the Soviets

    But the Red Army could absorb significant losses of equipment as well as men. This huge logistical undertaking was already bearing fruit. It meant that despite the early defeats, the Soviet Union was far better prepared for a long war than the Germans, whose own production of tanks and other weapons would be feeble by comparison. Logistics was another hugely important factor in the German defeat.

    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
    Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia

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