Why Operation Barbarossa failed

RX-79G

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Has there ever been an invasion of Russia that didn't fail? Bad weather and disposable citizens are a powerful defense.
 

Venusian Broon

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Well, you could argue that the Mongols successfully invaded in the thirteenth century - although I'll admit there could be a debate about the state of 'Russia' at the time. It was still a Slavic people and Rus was up and running...

Going back even further the Vikings were very successful and didn't really fail when they pushed into the territory and a bit like their influence in the UK they helped form and develop future Rus. Possibly it would be wrong to call them an 'invasion' in the same way that Napoleon's march was.

In more modern times the German/'Austro-Hungarians forced Russia to capitulate in 1917 which I would definitely count. Of course they had no time to capitalise on their victory as they had more pressing matters in the West to try and deal with.
 

BAYLOR

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There is simply no way Germany could have conquered and occupied Russia, it's way too big, even had they captured Moscow , It would made no difference at all. They were stretched to thin as it was from the conquest of Europe. And once the Russian winter set in , they were done because they made no preparations for it. Their tanks, trucks , weapons and soldiers didn't operate well in the extreme cold . The Russians and their equipment did operate and they far greater manpower then did the Germans.

One the biggest shocks to Wehrmacht and the German high command was the Soviet T34 Tank which packed more firepower and was ore robust then anything the Germans had at that time. And the Russians could out produce the Germans in factories that were out rage Germany's bombers.

What also didn't help was the fact that the Luftwaffe after the Battle of Britain had lots many of it best pilots and was weakened.
 
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Foxbat

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If you want to be given shivers that last for months, read 'Stalingrad' by Antony Beevor. The best account I've ever read of Barbarossa - phenomenal research, but reads so easily.
Then read the same author's book on the fall of Berlin for the other side of the coin. Harrowing stuff.
 

Venusian Broon

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For a first hand account of Blitzkrieg and Barbarossa you might be interested in Heinz Guderian's account of the war - Panzer Leader.

It's a bit dry in parts and it's written with hindsight with an eye to the US, so I do think he fudges some important issues and perhaps expands the importance of others, nevertheless it is still first hand. I'd go and get Von Manstein's memoirs, but I have at least 15 history books next to my bed that need to be read, maybe sometime in 2019...
 

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My own take is that WW2 was essentially a battle of factories. Blitzkrieg is fine as a quick-kill technique provided you don't have too large an enemy and much terrain to cover. The Wehrmacht did brilliantly in Russia during the first few months - caught the enemy napping, lots of pincer encirclements, hundreds of thousands of prisoners bagged. But German tanks could move only so far and so fast before wearing out. By the time the Germany army reached Moscow it had lost half its armor through sheer wear and tear. And no matter how much the Germans took, the Russians still had millions of recruitable citizens in the rear along with most of their factories. This gave them time to learn Blitzkrieg tactics, counter them (no Russian army was encircled during the 1942 German offensive) and eventually master them. In the end it came down to a slugfest, who could outproduce who, and once the US entered the war it was all over for Germany.

On the subject of the battle of Berlin, The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan is well worth a look.
 

Foxbat

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My own take is that WW2 was essentially a battle of factories. Blitzkrieg is fine as a quick-kill technique provided you don't have too large an enemy and much terrain to cover. The Wehrmacht did brilliantly in Russia during the first few months - caught the enemy napping, lots of pincer encirclements, hundreds of thousands of prisoners bagged. But German tanks could move only so far and so fast before wearing out. By the time the Germany army reached Moscow it had lost half its armor through sheer wear and tear. And no matter how much the Germans took, the Russians still had millions of recruitable citizens in the rear along with most of their factories. This gave them time to learn Blitzkrieg tactics, counter them (no Russian army was encircled during the 1942 German offensive) and eventually master them. In the end it came down to a slugfest, who could outproduce who, and once the US entered the war it was all over for Germany.

I agree with your assessment and would simply add that, as soon as Russia was attacked, the country went into a total war footing. It was 1943 before Germany reached that status (Hitler felt it important that the Home Front be as unaffected as possible by the war) so, not only was it a war of factories, it was also a war of priorities.
 

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I'd recommend Lost Victories by von Manstein. It's a tad self-serving in places but his description of how Hitler conducted 'grand strategy' (it was neither grand nor strategic) makes it clear Germany could never have won under his leadership. If nothing else his wilful disregard for (or inability to grasp) the limitations imposed by logistics exacerbated an already precarious supply situation.
 

BAYLOR

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Even had Hitler taken Moscow and the oilfields in the south , there is just no way he could occupied the vast expanse that his Russia.
 

Foxbat

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I read an article a while back (can't remember where) about the psychological effects advancing through Russia had on the German infantryman. From what I remember, the vast, unchanging terrain in the south in particular had a pretty detrimental effect on their mental health. So, even if everything else went well for Hitler, the plummeting morale (and susequent loss of unit efficiency) may have been something that was impossible to predict or plan for.
 

reiver33

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Even had Hitler taken Moscow and the oilfields in the south , there is just no way he could occupied the vast expanse that his Russia.
Check out the Landkreuzer P1000, obviously the inspiration for some of the monsterous vehicles in Thunderbirds. (It was to be powered by 2 U-boat engines)
 
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Venusian Broon

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I read an article a while back (can't remember where) about the psychological effects advancing through Russia had on the German infantryman. From what I remember, the vast, unchanging terrain in the south in particular had a pretty detrimental effect on their mental health. So, even if everything else went well for Hitler, the plummeting morale (and susequent loss of unit efficiency) may have been something that was impossible to predict or plan for.

It hadn't been planned for, because they (honestly, or perhaps more accurately awash with the glow of massive hubris after conquering most of Europe) expected to knock Russia out of the war after about 10 weeks. Despite quotes from many stating that they would not repeat the same mistakes as Napoleon....this is exactly the same reason Napoleon failed in 1812, he too expecting Russia to captivate quickly after an overwhelming invasion.

And perhaps the biggest failing was an almost total lack of correct strategic thinking - their intelligence on other nations was bad or just plain wrong. By their original expectations and understandings of the capacities of the Soviet Union, they should have wiped out the Soviet air force, armoured forces, armament production, troop morale etc. Yet they had severely underestimated Russian production as well as the length's the USSR would take to relocate factories. This was also a function of the level of determination of the Soviets, which again they badly underestimated.

In 1942 the invasion of the Caucasus looked reasonable on paper - it's purpose was to take Soviet oil resources for their own - yet again it was with little understanding of the actual extent of Soviet natural resources. They did indeed manage to overwhelm a great deal of the region, hence stopping a lot of the areas oil production, yet actually total Soviet oil production rose during the same time period despite the disruption. Added to this fact was the extremely effective action the Soviets took in destroying their own oil wells in the region. I believe in the end, over the entire campaign period, the Germans only managed to extract ~4000 tons of oil - a piddling amount for the vast effort and sacrifice.
 

Edward M. Grant

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I read an article a while back (can't remember where) about the psychological effects advancing through Russia had on the German infantryman.

While I'm sure that's true, I doubt it was as bad as the psychological effects of so many of them being addicted to crystal meth (I forget the name the Nazis used for the drug they were feeding to soldiers, but the contents were pretty much the same as the drug modern meth addicts use).
 

The Ace

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I still remember an historian discussing the contrast between the two campaigns;

In France, the separate forces involved converged on Paris, in the USSR, the three Army Groups diverged as they advanced, denying mutual support.

German tanks ran on petrol, and in France, just about any village had a petrol station - if they got low on fuel, the crew could easily acquire it. In the USSR, fuel had to be transported to the Front, with attendant logistical problems.

Coupled with this, the invasion of France was feasible (if difficult), while over-confidence and slapdash planning made invasion of the USSR a very different proposition.
 

paranoid marvin

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The German high command chose to believe their own propaganda and thought the Soviets were so inferior that they would simply roll over. There was also the paranoia that Stalin would sneak attack Germany if they game him time and that now was a great time to attack seeing as Stalin had murdered all of his experienced officers. Besides, Germany desperately needed the oil.

And they almost pulled it off. Stalin was on the verge of fleeing Moscow and if he had and perhaos fled East across the Urals then Western Russia would have been at the mercy of the Nazis. But the Soviets dug in , and a freezing winter coupled with an enormous effort on behalf of the Russian people to produce tanks and planes in vast quantities turned Barbarossa into a war of attrition from which there could only ever be one winner.
 

BAYLOR

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The German high command chose to believe their own propaganda and thought the Soviets were so inferior that they would simply roll over. There was also the paranoia that Stalin would sneak attack Germany if they game him time and that now was a great time to attack seeing as Stalin had murdered all of his experienced officers. Besides, Germany desperately needed the oil.

And they almost pulled it off. Stalin was on the verge of fleeing Moscow and if he had and perhaos fled East across the Urals then Western Russia would have been at the mercy of the Nazis. But the Soviets dug in , and a freezing winter coupled with an enormous effort on behalf of the Russian people to produce tanks and planes in vast quantities turned Barbarossa into a war of attrition from which there could only ever be one winner.

Then there was the T 34 Tank which outclassed to the Panzers mach I though 4. The Germans didn't believe the Russians could come with such a tank or how many of them that they could turn out in a month.
 
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