Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II.
The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany’s ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans, using Slavic minorities, especially Poles, as a slave-labor force for the evil war effort, and to seize the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.
German Nazi forces achieved major victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union, mainly in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties.
Almost 25 million Russians were killed during WW II, while 4 million Nazi soldiers also blew their last breathe.
Despite these great successes, the German offensive stalled during the Battle of Moscow and the subsequent Soviet winter counteroffensive pushed German troops back. The Wehrmacht never again mounted a simultaneous offensive in WW II.
The failure of the operation drove Hitler to demand further operations of increasingly limited scope inside the Soviet Union and the rest of occupied northern Europe, such as Case Blue in 1942 and Operation Citadel in 1943 – all of which eventually failed.
The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved a turning point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Atlantic Defenses in France and Mediterranean positions in Italy and Greece weakened, making it possible for D-Day to become a relatively easy successful landing.
The Eastern Front became the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, and highest casualties for Soviet and Nazi units alike, all of which influenced the course of both World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century.
Stalin’s reputation as a brutal dictator contributed both to the Nazis’ justification of their assault and their faith in success.
Before WW II, many competent and experienced military officers were killed in the Great Purge of the 1930’s, leaving the Red Army with a relatively inexperienced leadership compared to that of the Zio-Nazi death squads.
On 5 December 1940, Hitler received the final military plans for the invasion on which the German High Command had been working since July 1940 under the code name “Operation Otto”.
Hitler, however, was dissatisfied with these plans and on 18 December issued Fuhrer Directive 21, which called for a new battle plan, now code-named “Operation Barbarossa”.
The operation was named after medieval Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire, a leader of the Third Crusade in the 12th century. The invasion was set for 15 May 1941, though it was delayed for over a month.
The Germans deployed one independent regiment, one separate motorized training brigade and 153 divisions for Barbarossa, which included 104 infantry, 19 panzer and 15 motorized infantry divisions in three army groups.
These were equipped with 6,867 armored vehicles, of which 3,350–3,795 were tanks, 2,770–4,389 aircraft (that amounted to 65% of the Luftwaffe), 7,200–23,435 artillery pieces, 17,081 mortars, about 600,000 motor vehicles and 625,000–700,000 horses.
At the start of the invasion, the manpower of the Soviet military force that had been mobilized was 5.5 million, and it was still increasing as the Soviet reserve force of 14 million, with at least basic military training, continued to mobilize.
The Red Army was dispersed and still preparing when the invasion commenced. Their units were often separated and lacked adequate transportation.
While transportation remained insufficient for Red Army forces, when Operation Barbarossa kicked off, they possessed some 33,000 pieces of artillery, a number far greater than the Germans had at their disposal.
The Soviet Union had some 23,000 tanks available of which only 14,700 were combat-ready. Around 11,000 tanks were in the western military districts that faced the German invasion force.
The Soviet Air Force (VVS) held the numerical advantage with a total of approximately 19,533 aircraft, which made it the largest air force in the world in the summer of 1941.
Hitler later declared to some of his generals, if I had known about the Russian tank strength in 1941, I would not have attacked.
However, on June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler launched his armies eastward in a massive invasion of the Soviet Union: three great army groups with over three million German soldiers, 150 divisions, and three thousand tanks smashed across the frontier into Soviet territory.
The invasion covered a front from the North Cape to the Black Sea, a distance of two thousand miles. By this point German combat effectiveness had reached its apogee; in training, doctrine, and fighting ability, the forces invading Russia represented the finest army to fight in the twentieth century.
Barbarossa was the crucial turning point in World War II, for its failure forced Nazi Germany to fight a two-front war against a coalition possessing immensely superior resources.
Moscow seemingly lay open to a German advance, but at this point Russian weather intervened with heavy rains that turned the roads into morasses.
The Germans struggled to the gates of Moscow where Soviet counterattacks stopped them in early December.
In desperate conditions, they conducted a slow retreat as Soviet attacks threatened to envelop much of their forces in a defeat as disastrous as that which befell Napoleon’s Grand Army in 1812.
In the end the Soviets overreached, and the Germans restored a semblance of order to the front; the spring thaw in March 1942 brought operations to a halt. But Barbarossa had failed, and Nazi Germany confronted a two-front war that it could not win.
History. com / ABC Flash Point News 2020.