Bombing of Gorky in World War II
The bombing of Gorky by the German Luftwaffe was the most destructive attack on Soviet war production on the Eastern Front in World War II. It lasted intermittently from October 1941 - June 1943, with 43 raids carried out; the main target was the Gorky Automobile Plant, manufacturing T-60 light infantry tanks. Defences proved inadequate, though a full-size dummy model of the main factory, a ‘false village’ of painted images on the ground, caused some confusion to enemy pilots; the whole plant was destroyed, an inquiry demanded by Stalin. The plant was reconstructed in four months. Gorky is now known as Nizhny Novgorod; the destruction of Gorky's industry was in operation Barbarossa from the beginning. It was one of the largest suppliers of weapons for the Red Army. Germany planned to capture and occupy the city during the second half of September 1941; the city was the main center of the entire Volga region and in it was concentrated the main industry and state power over the regions. Occupation of Gorky meant for Germany complete control over the Volga region.
First, the Germans were to destroy the defense industry of the city - Gorky Automobile Plant, Krasnoe Sormovo and the Dvigatel Revolyutsii. After the occupation of the city, the General District of Gorky or the General District of Nizhny Novgorod was to be created, included in the Reichcommissariat Moskowien. Gorky Machine-Building Plant was planned to be converted to the production of German military equipment. On October 31, 1941, Stalin ordered GAZ to increase the production of T-60 tanks; the leadership of the city knew. It was necessary to strengthen the city's air mask factories, but the necessary measures were not brought to an end. Nikolay Markov, commander of the Gorky Brigade Air Defense District, was appointed in October 1941. Arriving in Gorky, he noticed. In it there were only about 50 antiaircraft guns and few searchlights. At the same time, Gorky was densely built up with the most important strategic objects. Reconnaissance flights over Gorky began in the autumn of 1941. German planes flew at high altitude, braking over GAZ.
The first plane scout Ju 88 appeared in the sky above the city on Thursday, October 9. At first the Luftwaffe bombed the suburbs; the main blow fell on warehouses near Dzerzhinsk. Followed two large raids on Gorky, he 111 aircraft of the 100th bomber squadron Viking were involved. The first raid of Tuesday, November 4 to Wednesday 5, UK Guy Fawkes Night, began at 4:30 pm. According to air defense estimates, about 150 aircraft participated in it and 11 aircraft flew to the city; the planes approached individually and in groups of 3-16 at an interval of 15–20 minutes. The bombing lasted all night. In addition to bombs, leaflets were dropped. GAZ, Nitel and the Dvigatel Revolyutsii factory were struck, 55 people died, 141 were wounded. According to German data, 15 planes participated in this raid; the first aircraft dropped bombs. They began to shoot people from machine guns running along the streets. From the direct hit in the main building of the Nitel and part of leadership died. During the night bombing, the main impact occurred on secondary objects, residential urban areas and the field in the Stakhanovsky village.
The incendiary and high-explosive bombs weighing from 70 to 250 kg and heavy bomb-mines BM-1000 weighing 871 kg were dropped. The second raid on the night of November 5 to Thursday, 6. An air alert was announced. At 23:34 pm, the power lines from the Balakhna power plant to the city were damaged by a bomb strike; some of the industrial regions were temporarily de-energized. At 01:47 am the raid on Gorky began, the main impacts were GAZ, Krasnoe Sormovo and residential buildings; the antiaircraft batteries rendered counteraction, so bombing was less precise. According to air defense data, 14 aircraft flew into the city. In the GAZ area, 5 people died, 21 were wounded. According to the results of two raids, the main office of GAZ, a garage, a smithy, a stamping building, a professional technical factory, an archive, experimental workshops, a repair and mechanical workshop, a mechanical workshop No. 2, a power plant No. 2, a wheel workshop, a motor workshop No. 2, a foundry workshop of gray cast iron, press workshop, residential area of the district were damaged.
The building of the administration of the Dvigatel Revolyutsii was destroyed. In several places there was a panic; this contributed to the large number of refugees who filled the city, part of the population began to leave the urban areas. The plants stopped production; the absence of antiaircraft guns allowed German aircraft to conduct sighting bombing from a low altitude. A total of 127 people died, 176 were injured 195 were wounded. A large number of the deceased were refugees from Moscow, resettled in the Avtozavodsky City District. No German aircraft were shot down. On Saturday, November 8, 1941, the Gorky Brigade Air Defense District was reinforced by the 58th and 281st separate anti-aircraft artillery divisions, the 142nd Fighter Aviation Division and the 45th anti-aircraft search belt. On the same day, at 3:20 am, a reconnaissance aircraft Ju 88D flew over Gorky, and from Wednesday, November 12 to Tuesday, 18, 1941, the Germans launched a series of raids by single-seat aircraft with the main purpose of destroying the Kanavinsky Bridge, but missed.
On the night of February Tuesday, 3 to Wednesday, 4, a single a
Operation Little Saturn
Operation Saturn, revised as Operation Little Saturn, was a Red Army operation on the Eastern Front of World War II that led to battles in the North Caucasus and Donets Basin regions of the Soviet Union from December 1942 to February 1943. The success of Operation Uranus, launched on 19 November 1942, had trapped 250,000–300,000 troops of General Friedrich Paulus' German 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army in Stalingrad. To exploit this victory, the Soviet general staff planned a winter campaign of continuous and ambitious offensive operations, codenamed "Saturn". Joseph Stalin reduced his ambitious plans to a small campaign codenamed "Operation Little Saturn"; the offensive succeeded in smashing Germany's Italian and Hungarian allies, applied pressure on the over stretched German forces in Eastern Ukraine and prevented further German advances to the relief of the entrapped forces at Stalingrad. Despite these victories, the Soviets themselves became over extended, setting up the stages for the German offensives of the Third Battle of Kharkov and the Battle of Kursk.
On 17 May 1942, German Army Groups A and B launched a counteroffensive against advancing Soviet armies around the city of Kharkov, resulting in the Second Battle of Kharkov. By 6 July, General Hermann Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army had taken the city of Voronezh, threatening to collapse the Red Army's resistance. By early August, General Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist's First Panzer Army had reached the oil center of Maykop, 500 kilometres south of the city of Rostov, taken by the Fourth Panzer Army on 23 July; the rapid German advance threatened to cut the Soviet Union off from its southern territories, while threatening to cut the lend-lease supply lines from Persia. However, the offensive began to peter out, as the offensive's supply train struggled to keep up with the advance and spearhead units began to run low on fuel and manpower. Operation Uranus was the codename of the Soviet strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army and Fourth Romanian armies, portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army.
The operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced as early as September 1942, was developed with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and German forces in the Caucasus; the Red Army took advantage of the fact that German forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched around Stalingrad, using weaker Romanian armies to guard their flanks. These Axis armies were deployed in open positions on the steppe and lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor. Operation Winter Storm, undertaken between 12–23 December 1942, was the German Fourth Panzer Army's attempt to relieve encircled Axis forces during the Battle of Stalingrad. In late November, the Red Army completed Operation Uranus, which resulted in the encirclement of Axis personnel in and around the city of Stalingrad. German forces within the Stalingrad Pocket and directly outside were reorganized under Army Group Don, under the command of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein.
As the Red Army continued to build strength, in an effort to allocate as many resources as possible to the eventual launch of the planned Operation Saturn, which aimed to isolate Army Group A from the rest of the German Army, the Luftwaffe had begun an attempt to supply German forces in Stalingrad through an air bridge. However, as the Luftwaffe proved incapable of carrying out its mission and it became more obvious that a successful breakout could only occur if it was launched as early as possible, Manstein decided to plan and launch a dedicated relief effort. After the defeat of the Romanian Army around Stalingrad and the successful encirclement of the German Sixth Army, Stalin started a counter-offensive nicknamed "Operation Little Saturn" in order to enlarge the area controlled by the Soviet Army in eastern Ukraine until Kharkov and Rostov. Zhukov states the South-Western Front was assigned a mission in which the 1st and 3rd Guard armies and the 5th Tank Army "were to strike out in the general direction of Morozovsk and destroy the enemy grouping in that sector."
They would be supported by the 6th Army of the Voronezh Front. The first stage — an attempt to cut off the German Army Group A in the Caucasus — had to be revised when General Erich von Manstein launched Operation Winter Storm on 12 December in an attempt to relieve the trapped armies at Stalingrad. While General Rodion Malinovsky's Soviet 2nd Guards Army blocked the German advance on Stalingrad, the modified plan Operation Little Saturn was launched on 16 December; this operation consisted of a pincer movement. General Fyodor Isidorovich Kuznetsov's 1st Guards Army and General Dmitri Danilovich Lelyushenko's 3rd Guards Army attacked from the north, encircling 130,000 soldiers of the Italian 8th Army on the Don and advancing to Millerovo; the Italians resisted the Soviet attack for nearly two weeks, although outnumbered 9 to 1 in some sectors, but with huge losses. Manstein sent the 6th Panzer Division to the Italians' aid: of the 130,000 encircled troops, only 45,000 survived after bloody fighting to join the Panzers at Chertkovo on 17 January.
To the south the advance of General Gerasimenko's 28th Army threatened to encircle the 1st Panzer Army and General Trufanov's 51st Army attacked the relief column directly. In a dar
Soviet evacuation of Tallinn
The Soviet evacuation of Tallinn called Tallinn disaster or Russian Dunkirk, was a Soviet operation to evacuate the 190 ships of the Baltic Fleet, units of the Red Army, pro-Soviet civilians from the fleet's encircled main base of Tallinn in Soviet-occupied Estonia during August 1941. Soviet forces had occupied Estonia in June 1940. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union began on 22 June 1941, German forces advanced through the Soviet-occupied Baltic states, by the end of August the Estonian capital of Tallinn was surrounded by German forces, while a large part of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet was bottled up in Tallinn harbour. In expectation of a Soviet breakout, the Kriegsmarine and the Finnish Navy had started on 8 August 1941 to lay minefields off Cape Juminda on the Lahemaa coast. While Soviet minesweepers tried to clear a path for convoys through the minefields, German coastal artillery installed a battery of 150 mm guns near Cape Juminda and the Finnish navy gathered their 2nd Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla with patrol boats VMV9, VMV10, VMV11 and VMV17.
At the same time the German 3. Schnellbootflottille with E-boats S-26, S-27, S-39, S-40 and S-101 was concentrated at Suomenlinna outside Helsinki. German Junkers Ju 88 bombers from Kampfgruppe 806 based on airfields in Estonia were put on alert. On 19 August the final German assault on Tallinn began. During the night of 27/28 August 1941 the Soviet 10th Rifle Corps disengaged from the enemy and boarded transports in Tallinn; the embarkation was protected by smoke screens, the mine-sweeping in the days before the evacuation began was ineffective due to bad weather, there were no Soviet aircraft available for protecting the embarkation. This, together with heavy German shelling and aerial bombardment killed at least 1,000 of the evacuees in the harbour. Twenty large transports, eight auxiliary ships, nine small transports, a tanker, a tug, a tender were organized into four convoys, protected by the Soviet cruiser Kirov, with Admiral Vladimir Tributs on board, two flotilla leaders, nine destroyers, three torpedo boats, twelve submarines, ten modern and fifteen obsolete minehunters, 22 minesweepers, 21 submarine chasers, three gun boats, a minelayer, thirteen patrol vessels and eleven torpedo boats.
On 28 August KG 77 and KGr 806 sank the 2,026 grt steamer Vironia, the 2,317 grt Lucerne, the 1,423 grt Atis Kronvalds and the 2,250 grt ice breaker Krisjanis Valdemars. The rest of the Soviet fleet were forced to change course; this took them through a mined area. As a result, 21 Soviet warships, including five destroyers, sank. On 29 August, the Luftwaffe, now reinforced with KG 76, KG 4 and KG 1, accounted for the transport ships Vtoraya Pyatiletka and Leningradsovet sunk. In addition, the ships Ivan Papanin, Saule and the Serp i Molot were damaged by I./KG 4, which sank three more. Some 5,000 Soviet soldiers died; that evening the armada was attacked by Finnish and German torpedo boats, the chaotic situation made organized mine sweeping impossible. Darkness fell at 22:00 and the Soviet armada stopped and anchored at midnight in the mined water. Early on 29 August Ju 88 bombers attacked the remains of the convoys off Suursaari, sinking two transports. Meanwhile, the undamaged ships made best speed to reach the safety of the Kronstadt batteries.
The damaged merchant ship Kazakhstan disembarked 2300 men of the 5000 on board before steaming on to Kronstadt. In the following days ships operating from Suursaari rescued 12,160 survivors; the Soviet evacuation of Tallinn succeeded in evacuating 165 ships, 28,000 passengers and 66,000 tons of equipment. At least 12,400 are thought to have drowned in circumstances little known outside the former Soviet Union; the event was long. The evacuation may have been the bloodiest naval disaster since the battle of Lepanto. On 25 August 2001, a memorial was unveiled at Juminda. Latvian Icebreaker Krišjānis Valdemārs Soviet Submarine S 5 - 28 August 1941, Gulf of Finland Soviet Submarine S 6 Soviet Submarine Shch 301 - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Soviet Destroyer Yakov Sverdlov - 28 August 1941, off Mohni island Soviet Destroyer Kalinin - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Soviet Destroyer Artem - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Soviet Destroyer Volodarski - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Soviet Destroyer Skoryi - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Patrol vessel Sneg - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Patrol vessel Tsiklon- 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Gunboat I-8 - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Gunboat Amgun Minesweeper No. 71 - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Minesweeper No. 42 - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Minesweeper T-214, off Cape Juminda Minesweeper T-216, off Cape Juminda Minelayer TTS-56 Minelayer TTS-71 Minelayer TTS-42 Netlayer Vyatka Netlayer Onega Guard ship Saturn Submarine chaser MO 202 Motor torpedo boat TK 103 25 large and 9 smaller merchantmen, including: Estonian transport SS Eestirand - 24 August 1941, off Prangli Island VT -511/ALEV VT-512/TOBOL VT-547/JARVAMAA EVERITA VT-518/LUGA VT-512/KUMARI BALKHASH JANA VT -584/NAISSAAR VT -537/ERGONAUTIS VT -530/ELLA AUSMA Tanker TN-12.
Mines damaged destroyer Minsk, destroyers Gordy and Slavnyi, minesweeper T-205 and other ships. List of shipwrecks in August 1941 Bergstrom, Christer. Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chevron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2. Mati Õun: Juminda miinilahing 1941 – maailmasündmus meie koduvetes (Juminda sea battle
Battle of Brody (1941)
The Battle of Brody was a tank battle fought between the 1st Panzer Group's III Army Corps and XLVIII Army Corps and five mechanized corps of the Soviet 5th Army and 6th Army in the triangle formed by the towns of Dubno and Brody between 23 and 30 June 1941. It is known in Soviet historiography as a part of the "border defensive battles". Although the Red Army formations inflicted heavy losses on the German forces, they were outmanoeuvred and suffered enormous losses in tanks. Poor Soviet logistics, German air supremacy as well as a total breakdown in Red Army command and control ensured victory for the Wehrmacht despite overwhelming Red Army numerical and technological superiority; this was one of the most intense armored engagements in the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa and recent scholarship considers it the largest tank battle of World War II, surpassing the more famous Battle of Prokhorovka. 1st Panzer Group, led by Generaloberst Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist, was ordered to secure the Bug River crossings and advance to Rovno and Korosten with the strategic objective of Kiev.
It deployed two corps forward and advanced between Lviv and Rovno in an attempt to cut the Lviv–Kiev railway line, thus driving a wedge along junction point between the Soviet 5th and 6th Armies. The Southwestern Front, under the command of General Mikhail Kirponos, had received incomplete intelligence on the size and direction of the German attack, they were surprised when Stavka ordered a general counter-attack under the title of "Directive No. 3" on the authority of Chief of General Staff Georgy Zhukov. Most of the headquarters staff were convinced that the strategy would be to remain in a defensive posture until the situation clarified. Hovhannes Baghramyan, a staff officer of the front headquarters who wrote the initial report to Moscow, said that "our first combat report to Moscow was full of generalities and unclear instructions." The general orders of Directive No. 3 read: While maintaining strong defense of the state border with Hungary, the 5th and 6th armies are to carry out concentric strikes in the direction of Lublin, utilizing at least five mechanized corps and aviation of the Front, in order to encircle and destroy the enemy group of forces advancing along the Vladimir-Volynski-Krystonopol front, by the end of June 24th to capture the vicinity of Lublin.
By the end of 22 June, Zhukov was on his way to the Southwestern Front headquarters at Ternopil along with Nikita Khrushchev, the former head of the Organizational Department of the Ukrainian Communist Party's Central Committee, to ensure these orders were carried out. Six Soviet mechanized corps, with over 2,500 tanks, were massed to take part in a concentric counter-attack through the flanks of Panzer Group 1; the intention was to attempt a pincer movement from the north and south that met west of Dubno in order to trap units of the 6th and 17th German Armies on the northern flank of Army Group South. To achieve this, the 8th Mechanized Corps was transferred from the command of the 26th Army, positioned to the south of the 6th Army, placed under the command of N. I. Muzychenko's 6th Army; this brought all the mobile assets of the Southwestern Front to bear against the base of von Kleist's thrust toward Kiev. The primary German infantry formation operating on this sector of the front, IV Army Corps of the 17th Army were advancing south-east with the objective of cutting Lviv-Kiev railway line.
At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, German armor was composed of a mix of Czech and German tanks, as well as small numbers of captured French and British tanks. Furthermore, nearly 50% of the tanks deployed by the Wehrmacht were the obsolete Panzer I and Panzer II light tanks. Of the 4000 armored vehicles available to the Wehrmacht, only 1400 were the new Panzer III and Panzer IV. In the first few hours of the invasion, German commanders were shocked to find that some Soviet tanks were immune to all anti-tank weapons in use by the Wehrmacht. During pre-war exercises, Heinz Guderian noted that on their own, tanks were vulnerable to infantry. Furthermore, he noted that tanks lacked the heavy caliber weapons needed to knock out reinforced concrete bunkers and fortified positions, a role that could only be performed by heavy artillery or air strikes. While dispersing tanks among infantry formations solved many of the tank's weaknesses, it negated some of their strengths. Therefore, German military theorists concluded that to reach their full potential, armored units needed to be concentrated in their own formations and integrated with mobile artillery, mobile infantry, close air support.
Lastly, Guderian concluded that in order for tanks to be at their peak effectiveness, all armored vehicles must be equipped with radios so that each tank commander could hear instructions from the unit commander allowing each tank to work with all others in an organized fashion. At the beginning of June, the Red Army included over 19,000 tanks in their inventory, most of them light tanks such as the T-26 or BT-7; the front armor of the T-26 was just 15mm thick, the BT-7, just 22mm, offering no protection against any anti-tank weapon at any range. Furthermore, the poor design of Soviet shells meant that most rounds shattered on contact, rather than penetrating. More modern tanks, such as the KV-1 and the T-34, were only beginning to roll off production lines and were not available in anywhere near the numbers that were needed to throw back the German advance. During the interwar years, far sighted military theorists such as Mikhail Tukhachevsky came to similar conclusions as Heinz Guderia
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe, Southeast Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties; the battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War constituted the largest military confrontation in history. They were characterized by unprecedented ferocity, wholesale destruction, mass deportations, immense loss of life due to combat, exposure and massacres; the Eastern Front, as the site of nearly all extermination camps, death marches and the majority of pogroms, was central to the Holocaust. Of the estimated 70-85 million deaths attributed to World War II, over 30 million, the majority of them civilian, occurred on the Eastern Front.
The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the outcome in the European theatre of operations in World War II serving as the main reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis nations. The two principal belligerent powers were Germany and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies. Though never engaged in military action in the Eastern Front, the United States and the United Kingdom both provided substantial material aid in the form of the Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union; the joint German–Finnish operations across the northernmost Finnish–Soviet border and in the Murmansk region are considered part of the Eastern Front. In addition, the Soviet–Finnish Continuation War may be considered the northern flank of the Eastern Front. Germany and the Soviet Union remained unsatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Soviet Russia had lost substantial territory in Eastern Europe as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where the Bolsheviks in Petrograd conceded to German demands and ceded control of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and other areas, to the Central Powers.
Subsequently, when Germany in its turn surrendered to the Allies and these territories were liberated under the terms of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 at Versailles, Soviet Russia was in the midst of a civil war and the Allies did not recognize the Bolshevik government, so no Soviet Russian representation attended. Adolf Hitler had declared his intention to invade the Soviet Union on 11 August 1939 to Carl Jacob Burckhardt, League of Nations Commissioner, by saying: Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine as happened in the last war; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939 was a non-aggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union. It contained a secret protocol aiming to return Central Europe to the pre–World War I status quo by dividing it between Germany and the Soviet Union.
Finland, Estonia and Lithuania would return to the Soviet control, while Poland and Romania would be divided. The Eastern Front was made possible by the German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement in which the Soviet Union gave Germany the resources necessary to launch military operations in Eastern Europe. On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. On 17 September, the Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland, and, as a result, Poland was partitioned among Germany, the Soviet Union and Lithuania. Soon after that, the Soviet Union demanded significant territorial concessions from Finland, after Finland rejected Soviet demands, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War – a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty on 13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing its eastern parts in Karelia. In June 1940 the Soviet Union illegally annexed the three Baltic states; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact ostensibly provided security to the Soviets in the occupation both of the Baltics and of the north and northeastern regions of Romania, although Hitler, in announcing the invasion of the Soviet Union, cited the Soviet annexations of Baltic and Romanian territory as having violated Germany's understanding of the Pact.
Moscow partitioned the annexed Romanian territory between the Ukrainian and Moldavian Soviet republics. Adolf Hitler had argued in his autobiography Mein Kampf for the necessity of Lebensraum: acquiring new territory for Germans in Eastern Europe, in particular in Russia, he envisaged settling Germans there, as according to Nazi ideology the Germanic people constituted the "master race", while exterminating or deporting most of the existing inhabitants to Siberia and using the remainder as slave labour. Hitler as early as 1917 had referred to the Russians as inferior, believing that the Bolshevik Revolution had put the Jews in power over the mass of Slavs, who were, in Hitler's opinion, incapable of ruling themselves but instead being ruled by Jewish masters; the Nazi leadership, saw the war against the Soviet Union as a struggle between the ideologies of Nazism and Jewish Bolshevism, ensuring territorial expansion for the Germanic Übermensch, who according to Nazi ideology were the Aryan Herrenvolk, at the expense of
Battle of Smolensk (1941)
The First Battle of Smolensk was a battle during the second phase of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, in World War II. It was fought around the city of Smolensk between 10 July and 10 September 1941, about 400 km west of Moscow; the Wehrmacht had advanced 500 km into the USSR in the 18 days after the invasion on 22 June 1941. The German army encountered unexpected resistance during the battle, leading to a two-month delay in their advance on Moscow. Three Soviet armies were encircled and destroyed just to the south of Smolensk, though significant numbers from the 19th and 20th armies managed to escape the pocket; some historians have asserted that the losses of men and materiel incurred by the Wehrmacht during this drawn-out battle and the delay in the drive towards Moscow led to the defeat of the Wehrmacht by the Red Army in the Battle of Moscow of December 1941. On 22 June 1941, the Axis nations invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. At first, the campaign met with spectacular success, as the surprised Soviet troops were not able to offer coordinated resistance.
After three weeks of fighting, the Germans had reached the Dvina and Dnieper rivers and planned for a resumption of the offensive. The main attack aimed at Moscow, was carried out by Army Group Centre, its next target on the way to the Soviet capital was the town of Smolensk. The German plan called for the 2nd Panzer Group to cross the Dnieper, closing on Smolensk from the south, while the 3rd Panzer Group was to encircle the town from the north. After their initial defeats, the Red Army began to recover and took measures to ensure a more determined resistance and new defensive line was established around Smolensk. Stalin placed Field Marshal Semyon Timoshenko in command and transferred five armies out of the strategic reserve to Timoshenko; these armies had to conduct counter-offensives to blunt the German drive. The German high command was not aware of the Soviet build-up until they encountered them on the battlefield. Facing the Germans along the Dnieper and Dvina rivers were stretches of the Stalin Line fortifications.
The defenders were the 13th Army of the Western Front and the 20th Army, 21st Army and the 22nd Army of the Soviet Supreme Command Reserve. The 19th Army, was forming up at Vitebsk. In Soviet histories, the battles around Smolensk are divided into phases and operations to halt the German offensive and the pincers Battle of Smolensk Smolensk Defensive Operation Smolensk Offensive Operation Rogechev-Zhlobin Offensive Operation Gomel-Trubchevsk Defensive Operation Dukhovschina Offensive Operation Yelnia Offensive Operation Roslavl-Novozybkov Offensive Operation Prior to the German attack, the Soviets launched a counter-offensive; the result was a disaster, as the offensive ran directly into the anti-tank defenses of the German 7th Panzer Division and the two Soviet mechanized corps were wiped out. On 10 July, Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group began a surprise attack over the Dnieper, his forces overran the weak 13th Army and by 13 July, Guderian had passed Mogilev, trapping several Soviet divisions.
His spearhead unit, the 29th Motorised Division, was within 18 km of Smolensk. The 3rd Panzer Group had attacked, with the 20th Panzer Division establishing a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dvina river, threatening Vitebsk; as both German panzer groups drove east, the 16th, 19th and 20th armies faced the prospect of encirclement around Smolensk. From 11 July, the Soviets tried a series of concerted counter-attacks; the Soviet 19th Army and 20th Army struck at Vitebsk, while the 21st and the remnants of the 3rd Army attacked against the southern flank of 2nd Panzer Group near Bobruisk. Several other Soviet armies attempted to counter-attack in the sectors of the German Army Group North and Army Group South; this effort was part of an attempt to implement the Soviet prewar general defense plan. The Soviet attacks managed to slow the Germans but the results were so marginal that the Germans noticed them as a large coordinated defensive effort and the German offensive continued. Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group drove north and east, parallel to Guderian's forces, taking Polotsk and Vitebsk.
The 7th Panzer Division and 20th Panzer Division reached the area east of Smolensk at Yartsevo on July 15. At the same time, the 29th Motorized Division, supported by the 17th Panzer Division broke into Smolensk, captured the city except for the suburbs and began a week of house-to-house fighting against counter-attacks by the 16th Army. Guderian expected that the offensive would continue towards Moscow as its main focus and sent the 10th Panzer Division to the Desna River to establish a bridgehead on the east bank at Yelnya and cleared that as well by the 20th; this advanced bridgehead became the center of the Yelnya Offensive, one of the first big coordinated Soviet counter-offensives of the war. This objective was 50 km south of the Dnepr and well clear of the objective of liquidating the armies trapped at Smolensk. Under Fuhrer Directive 33 issued on July 14, the main effort of the Wehrmacht was re-orientated away from Moscow
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis 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, to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort, to murder the rest, to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories. In the two years leading up to the invasion and the Soviet Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes; the German High Command began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1940, which Adolf Hitler authorized on 18 December 1940. Over the course of the operation, about three million personnel of the Axis powers – the largest invasion force in the history of warfare – invaded the western Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer front. In addition to troops, the Wehrmacht deployed some 600,000 motor vehicles, between 600,000 and 700,000 horses for non-combat operations.
The offensive marked an escalation of World War II, both geographically and in the formation of the Allied coalition. Operationally, German forces achieved major victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties. Despite these Axis successes, the German offensive stalled in the Battle of Moscow at the end of 1941, the subsequent Soviet winter counteroffensive pushed German troops back; the Red Army absorbed the Wehrmacht's strongest blows and forced the Germans into a war of attrition that they were unprepared for. The Wehrmacht never again mounted a simultaneous offensive along the entire Eastern front; the failure of the operation drove Hitler to demand further operations of limited scope inside the Soviet Union, such as Case Blue in 1942 and Operation Citadel in 1943 – all of which failed. The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved a turning point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Most the operation opened up the Eastern Front, in which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history.
The Eastern Front became the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, highest World War II casualties, all of which influenced the course of both World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century. The German armies captured 5,000,000 Red Army troops, who were denied the protection guaranteed by the Hague Conventions and the 1929 Geneva Convention. A majority of Red Army POWs never returned alive; the Nazis deliberately starved to death, or otherwise killed, 3.3 million prisoners of war, as well as a huge number of civilians. Einsatzgruppen death-squads and gassing operations murdered over a million Soviet Jews as part of the Holocaust; as early as 1925, Adolf Hitler vaguely declared in his political manifesto and autobiography Mein Kampf that he would invade the Soviet Union, asserting that the German people needed to secure Lebensraum to ensure the survival of Germany for generations to come. On 10 February 1939, Hitler told his army commanders that the next war would be "purely a war of Weltanschauungen... a people's war, a racial war".
On 23 November, once World War II had started, Hitler declared that "racial war has broken out and this war shall determine who shall govern Europe, with it, the world". The racial policy of Nazi Germany portrayed the Soviet Union as populated by non-Aryan Untermenschen, ruled by Jewish Bolshevik conspirators. Hitler claimed in Mein Kampf that Germany's destiny was to "turn to the East" as it did "six hundred years ago". Accordingly, it was stated Nazi policy to kill, deport, or enslave the majority of Russian and other Slavic populations and repopulate the land with Germanic peoples, under the Generalplan Ost; the Germans' belief in their ethnic superiority is evident in official German records and discernible in pseudoscientific articles in German periodicals at the time, which covered topics such as "how to deal with alien populations". While older histories tended to emphasize the notion of a "Clean Wehrmacht", the historian Jürgen Förster notes that "In fact, the military commanders were caught up in the ideological character of the conflict, involved in its implementation as willing participants."
Before and during the invasion of the Soviet Union, German troops were indoctrinated with anti-Bolshevik, anti-Semitic, anti-Slavic ideology via movies, lectures and leaflets. Likening the Soviets to the forces of Genghis Khan, Hitler told Croatian military leader Slavko Kvaternik that the "Mongolian race" threatened Europe. Following the invasion, Wehrmacht officers told their soldiers to target people who were described as "Jewish Bolshevik subhumans", the "Mongol hordes", the "Asiatic flood", the "Red beast". Nazi propaganda portrayed the war against the Soviet Union as both an ideological war between German National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism and a racial war between the Germans and the Jewish and Slavic Untermenschen. An'order from the Führer' stated that the Einsatzgruppen were to execute all Soviet functionaries who were "less valuable Asiatics and Jews". Six months into the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen had murdered in excess of 500,000 Soviet Jews, a figure greater than the number of Red Army soldiers killed in combat during that same time frame.
German army command