Operation Barbarossa started on June 22nd, 1941. German forces, reinforced with their Axis allies (Romania, Finland, Slovakia, Italy, Hungary), attacked the Soviet Union with the largest invasion force ever assembled in the history of warfare.
What was the aim of the operation? There were several goals made years before the war started. German nazi ideology considered the territory of the Soviet Union as a future territory for German expansion – Lebensraum doctrine. ” Generalplan Ost” was supposed to implement vast areas of fertile land, massive reserves of resources, which were necessary for the development of utopian nazi society. Slavic “Untermensch” was supposed to be a slave labor material, “Hunger plan” was designed to decimate people incapable of hard work, others would be expelled to Siberia. Also, the communist threat would be exterminated. Well, at least they had thought so.
Interesting fact, before Barbarossa has started, Germany and the Soviet Union were more than allies. Dividing of Poland (Ribbentrop – Molotov agreement) and exchange of food, resources, and other materials, cooperation on many levels, couldn’t show any intention of the future clash. There were some disagreements and suspicions, but nothing specific to worry about.
Preparations for the invasion had begun months before, it was very hard to deploy such massive force in secrecy. Invasion on Yugoslavia and Greece delayed the attack for a few weeks but didn’t have such great influence on realization, originally, it was planned for 15th May. They deployed 153 divisions (104 infantry, 19 panzers, 15 motorized) in three army groups, one separate motorized training brigade, one independent regiment, nine divisions for suppressing resistance in conquered territories, four divisions in Finland, two reserve divisions. These divisions contained 6867 armored vehicles ( around 3500 were tanks), 2770-4389 airplanes, 7200-2340 artillery pieces, 17000 mortars, 600 000 motor vehicles had around 600 000 horses. Entire forces contained around 3.8 million personnel.
The Soviet Union military forces, after the division of Poland, were consisted of around 316 divisions ( around 5,7 million personnel), 117 600 guns and mortars, 25 700 tanks, 18700 aircraft). On the western frontier, there were around 186 divisions, in four military districts, supported by 51 divisions in the second strategic echelon ( German intelligence didn’t know about this and later on, it became a serious obstacle in advancing). When you look at sheer numbers, no one sane would attack the Soviet Union, but the truth was that more than half of the tanks were not operable, not well equipped, there were serious shortages in equipment and other materials needed for full-scale operations.
The German attack was divided between three army groups: North, Center, and South army groups. North army group was strengthened with Northern Theatre group. NAG was supposed to go for Leningrad, CAG to Moscow, SAG to Ukraine, and later on the Caucasus.
22nd of June, around 01:00, one German soldier, Alfred Liskow, was sympathetic for the communist cause, breakthrough lines, and informed the Soviets about the incoming attack, but the response was disbelief and suspicion.
Codeword “Dortmund”, around 03:15 in the morning, was the sign for the beginning of the greatest invasion of all times. Surprise attack, well prepared, massive as it was, caught Soviets unprepared, disorganized. Great Patriotic War has begun.
In the first hours of the invasion, Luftwaffe made devastating damage to Soviet airforces, other stationed units in front and rear lines, infrastructure, and communication. Blitzkrieg’s military doctrine, already proven in France, has taken its toll. Molotov announced unwanted news that day, Stalin was in disbelief, his first words to the people were announced on July 3rd.
The results of this operation were unspoken in the history of mankind. A number of dead soldiers, especially dead civilians, war crimes, and atrocities were beyond disbelief, never countered before.
We will explain separately following battles, commanders, courses of German and Soviet advancing in following posts.