Thursday, June 14, 2007

Operation Barbarossa - Doomed from the Start

As the 66th anniversary of Nazi attack on the Soviet Union approaches, the blog is taking a look into history, and finding some facts which have not appeared in many Russian textbooks, or Western documentaries. A particular book by Geoffrey Megargee titled "War of Annihilation" is dedicated to the events of the year 1941 on the Eastern front; the author attempts to shed light on the true involvement of the German army's high command in the atrocities committed on the Eastern front, as many German generals have often shifted this blame toward the leadership of the Reich and the the heads of the SS.

A brief segment of the book highlights the obvious miscalculations that the German military planning committed in the wake of the invasion. It is often accepted by many that the German army was invincible going into the Soviet Union, yet the level of preparation for the invasion in June of 1941 gave the Nazi machine little chance of a quick success, even before they met their foes. The result would be a disastrous four year war that would bring down the Nazi state itself.

The successful work of Soviet counterintelligence prevented Nazi Germany from ever getting their hands on much material. Its agents were constantly flanked by Soviet security service members and any aerial reconnaissance revealed army formations only very close to the border. This left the military strategists to make large-scale assumptions that would fit with the general directions coming out of the High Command.

The result was disastrous. The number of Soviet men under arms was estimated at two million, when the real number was four million. The number of tanks was underestimated by a factor of 2.5, and the Soviet new T-34 tanks that were far superior than most German equipment were not even considered. The German planners also overestimated the number of units staged close to the border, thus underestimating the time it would take for the encirclement and destruction of the Soviet army in the Blitzkrieg.

In addition, the assumption that the Soviet Union could shift production to the Urals and beyond (which it did in the autumn of 1941), which had already been industrialized, was quickly scratched. The biggest assumption of the Nazi planners - that the Soviet regime would collapse in a matter of months after the attack was not backed up at all:

As for the expectation that the Soviet regime would collapse, the generals could only base that upon the broadest assumptions - assumptions that are interesting indeed, coming from men who served a totalitarian regime themselves. The fact was that the Germans went forward despite a general lack of information about their enemy, and in the face of some facts that should have called their plan into question.

If those problems were not enough, the German industry was not fully shifted to focusing on land-based military production, as the assumption of a quick campaign against the USSR meant that a sea-based campaign against Britain was still a short-term perspective. The shortages that the German army faced in men, munitions, and equipment for such a vast campaign was obvious. Some planners forecast that rubber tires and gasoline would run short as early as July; that by early October the supply of trained replacement soldiers would run out, and that the army was starting the campaign with a serious shortage of officers.

The shortage of supplies meant that the army would have to live off the land at the expense of the people living on it. Operation Barbarossa assumed thus the starvation of millions in the Western part of the USSR. And this was an unplanned atrocity. The planned atrocities we all know of. None of these facts should deny the unprecedented effort of the Soviet people to defeat Nazi Germany, it only shows that the Soviet Union had other given advantages in its hands before the war even started.

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