Operation Barbarossa Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:25:56
1259 words
5 pages
printer Print
essay essay

Category: World War II

Type of paper: Essay

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Hey! We can write a custom essay for you.

All possible types of assignments. Written by academics

Operation Barbarossa, the code name given to Hitlers invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, would come to be considered one of Nazi Germanys greatest follies in the Second World War, and would play a monumental role in bringing an end to Hitlers regime just a few years later. Though the operation itself lasted less than six months it resulted in four years of harsh fighting on the Eastern Front, marked by an enormous casualty toll for both the Russians and the Germans and countless battles fought in the cruel conditions of Russian winter.

All of this despite the fact that both countries had engaged in a mutual non-aggression pack two short years earlier. In 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a series of agreements regarding how both countries would split the territory separating them and share the resources therein. Signing of the pact created strong political and economic ties between the two nations, at least on the surface.

Historians, however, argue that the pact was doomed to fail long before it was even signed, as Hitler had long harbored a disgust for the Soviet Unions Slavic peoples, which he viewed as sub-human. Couple this racial prejudice with the extremely different political ideologies governing both countries and it becomes clear that the relationship between Germany and the Soviet Union was merely one of temporary convenience. Despite the volatile nature of the German-Soviet relationship, it still struck many as incomprehensible why Hitler should choose to invade Russia in 1941, with war already raging in the west.

One can only judge that Hitler, in a misplaced display of ego, believed the west to already be won, with France effectively crushed and England standing as the only viable opponent on that front, struggling hopelessly to maintain a foothold on the European mainland. Believing the western front was theirs, Germany sought to expand her influence and complete her domination of Europe by conquering the resource-rich eastern countries- including the powerhouse of the Soviet Union.

Preparations for the invasion began in April of 41, as Germany began to secretly amass troops on her eastern borders. The plan involved a three-pronged Blitzkreig attack that would simultaneously strike northern Russia with the object of taking Leningrad, while a second group struck toward Moscow and a third took a southern route through the Ukraine. By doing this, Hitler believed that the Russians would be caught completely off guard and would be unable to mount an effective defense in so many places at once. Hitlers plan, however, contained a number of fatal flaws.

Firstly, he greatly underestimated the numbers and strength of the Soviet military, which had effectively doubled its number of troops, artillery pieces and aircraft since the outbreak of war in western Europe. Though not all of this strength was situated in the western part of Russia, where Hitler planned to strike, significant advances had also been made in Soviet infrastructure (most significantly, their railroad system) such as allowed for more efficient movement of troops and supplies, and therefore faster mobilization.

Also, the German superiority in armor, which had served them so well in their western blitzkrieg was lost to them here- Soviet tanks, though less technologically advanced at this point in the war, actually outnumbered German tanks approximately four-to-one. The one advantage inarguably held by the Germans was troop quality. The German army was well trained, well equipped and led by experienced and educated officers. The Soviet army, in contrast, were untested by battle and overwhelming led by incompetent officers, many of whom had been given their commissions in exchange for political favors.

The vast majority of Soviet officers had less than one year of experience, as many of the older and more experienced commanders had been executed or imprisoned during Stalins Great Purge between 1936 and 1938. When Operation Barbarossa began in the pre-dawn hours of June 22nd, 1941, Germany initially made fantastic gains. Approximately three million German soldiers, supported by armor and the Luftwaffe swarmed across the border, advancing more than 200 miles in the next 5 days.

The only solid resistance they were met with in the first few days of the attack came in the south, where Soviet commanders reacted quickly and were able to organize an effective defense. The central and northern arms of the German advance, however, met little resistance and charged ahead at full speed- a factor that would later return to haunt them. Armored divisions of the German army actually advanced too quickly, putting them well ahead of the infantry divisions meant to support them.

This forced Hitler to call the Panzer divisions to a halt for nearly a week to allow their accompanying infantry troops time to catch up- a week that was used by the Soviets to amass troops ahead of the German advance and fortify target cities such as Stalingrad. By the time the order was given to resume the advance, heavy rainstorms struck which greatly slowed the progress of German tanks attempting to slog down muddy roads. With their advance slowed and the element of surprise expired, the Germans faced ever-strengthening resistance from the Soviet army.

In a decision that would prove disastrous, Hitler ordered the central arm of the attack to call-off its march for Moscow and redeploy to the north and south, strengthening the other two prongs of the invasion in hopes of quickly capturing the rich oil fields in the south and the Soviet stronghold of Leningrad in the north. This had mixed results, as the southern wing of the attack was eventually successful in capturing Kiev, and with it an approximate 600,000 Soviet troops, but the advance in the north stalled as heavy resistance was met in Leningrad.

The southern wing, after completing its advance through the Ukraine, resumed the march toward Moscow, ultimately coming within 15 miles of the Soviet capital before the Soviets greatest ally came to their aid- the harsh Russian winter. As had been the case for Napoleon more than a hundred years earlier, the Russian winter proved disastrous to the unprepared German troops. Expecting a quick victory, the German army had not bothered to supply its men with winter uniforms, and as the snows set in many found themselves facing temperatures well below zero wearing little more than light cotton summer clothing.

Frostbite, pneumonia and other side effects of the horrendous cold mercilessly ate away at the German divisions, which were already weakened by months of hard fighting. To make matters worse the cold prevented use of German tanks in many instances, which froze solid in the fields, and high winter winds and snow flurries grounded the Luftwaffe, preventing air support. The Soviets in contrast, well accustomed and prepared for the hardships of winter, took the opportunity to launch a massive counter attack which robbed the Germans of most of their earlier gains, pushing them back over 200 miles and removing the pressure on Moscow.

Never again would the Germans make it so deep into Russian territory, though the war continued on and countless more men would die in the years to come. The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved disastrous to Hitlers Reich, which lost huge numbers of valuable and experienced troops and vast amounts of material that would have proved invaluable to them later in the war. They also awoke the military beast that was Soviet Russia and forced themselves to actively wage war on two fronts, a strain that would eventually prove too much for Germany as Allied efforts redoubled in the west with the entrance of the United States into the conflict.

Warning! This essay is not original. Get 100% unique essay within 45 seconds!


We can write your paper just for 11.99$

i want to copy...

This essay has been submitted by a student and contain not unique content

People also read