Operation Barbarossa

– Hitler’s Russian Offensive Essay, Research Paper

The Russians Would never have joined the war if it weren?t for the German invasion of 1941 ? Operation Barbarossa. This parallels the USA intervention ? they only joined because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour.

Operation Barbarossa commenced on the 22nd June, 1941. Just over 3,000,000 German troops invaded the USSR. Stalin doubted the country ability to perform well on the battlefield since the Finnish War, refused to counteract the Germans preparations, for fear of provoking them into war. The Russians concluded that the German form of attack ? The Blitzkrieg ? would not be possible on Russia. The German infantry outnumbered the Russian, but the Russians had more artillery and aviation forces. The Russian infantry was told that it was not to retreat, do was destined to become destroyed or captured.

The Germans set up 3 army groups, and assigned them to 3 different areas:-

North -Leningrad

Central – Moscow

South -Kyyiv

The generals agreed that they had to lock the Russian forces into battle, in order to prevent them escaping into the rest of the vast country. However, they disagreed on how to do this. The majority of them thought that they would sacrifice everything to protect Moscow; the capital; the centre of industry; the centre of all the networks and transport. Hitler disagreed. He believed that the Ukrainian area ? for its resources ? and the oil of the Caucasus were much more crucial. A compromise was made. Army Group Centre would march towards Moscow. The victory was predicted for ten weeks ahead. This timing was crucial because it would be impossible to fight once the short Russian summer had ended.

Things seemed to happen a lot faster. In the first month Germans had already encircled Bialystok and Minsk, and on August 5th, the Germans crossed the Dnepr River, the last natural obstruction to Moscow. The group defeated a small force in Smolensk, capturing another 300,000. When it had reached Smolensk, it was two-thirds of the way there.

Hitler decided to change plan. He sent the group north to help the other two groups, ignoring the generals? protests, thereby stopping the advance to Moscow.

On September 8th Army Group North had, together with the Finnish army, brought Leningrad to siege. On September 16th Army Group South had captured Kyyiv, with 665,000 prisoners. After this, Hitler re-ordered the advance to Moscow.

After nothing for six weeks, Army Group Centre carried on on 2nd October. By the 16th, 663,000 more prisoners had been taken. The autumn rains started, turning the Russian roads to slippery, wet mud, and the advance was halted for about a month.

Halfway through November the ground froze and the German officials were faced with a choice. They could either send the troops home, make them dig camps where they were, or carry on to some victory at Moscow. They chose to march on.

The Germans had formed two ?spearheads? going towards Moscow. On December 5th however, the forces were stopped because the troops had lost the will to fight and the machinery was freezing up.

On December 6th, General Georgy Zhukov counter-attacked the halted German army. Within a few days the Germans were retreating, abandoning all of the now useless machinery and weapons.

After the counter-attack, they began a counter-offensive, and attacked the German front. The Germans had poor defences, and could not make any now, because the ground was frozen. Although the Russians did considerable damage to the German front, the threat on Leningrad and Moscow still hung.


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