World War II: Operation Barbarossa
|JUL 24, 2011 | 53|
On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany and its Axis allies began a massive invasion of the Soviet Union named Operation Barbarossa -- some 4.5 million troops launched a surprise attack deployed from German-controlled Poland, Finland, and Romania. Hitler had his eyes on Soviet resources even after Germany and the USSR signed a non-aggression pact in 1939. Both sides had long been suspicious of one another and the agreement merely gave them more time to prepare for a probable war. The Soviets were unprepared for the sudden blitzkreig attacks across a border that spanned nearly 2,900 km (1,800 mi), and suffered horrible losses. Within a single week, German forces advanced 200 miles into Soviet territory, destroyed nearly 4,000 aircraft, and killed, captured, or wounded some 600,000 Red Army troops. By December of 1941, Germany had advanced to within sight of Moscow, and laid siege to the city, but the notorious Russian winter set in (nicknamed "General Winter"), and German advances came to a halt. At the end of this, one of the largest, deadliest military operations in history, Germany had suffered some 775,000 casualties, more than 800,000 Soviets had been killed, and an additional 6 million Soviet soldiers were wounded or captured. The operation was also a failure for Germany -- despite massive advances, Hitler's plan to conquer the Soviet Union before winter had failed, at great cost, which would prove to be a turning point in the war. (This entry is Part 6 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos]
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Evidence of the fierce fighting on the Moscow sector of the front is provided in this photo showing what the Germans claim to be some of the 650,000 Russian prisoners which they captured at Bryansk and Vyasma. They are here seen waiting to be transported to a prisoner of war camp somewhere in Russia, on Nov. 2, 1941.
(AP Photo) #
A man, his wife, and child are seen after they had left Minsk on August 9, 1941, when the German army swarmed in. The original wartime caption reads, in part: "Hatred for the Nazis burns in the man's eyes as he holds his little child, while his wife, completely exhausted, lies on the pavement."
(AP Photo) #
German officials claimed that this photo was a long-distance camera view of Leningrad, taken from the Germans' seige lines, on October 1, 1941, the dark shapes in the sky were identified as Soviet aircraft on patrol, but were more likely barrage balloons. This would mark the furthest advance into the city for the Germans, who laid seige to Leningrad for more than two more years, but were unable to fully capture the city.
(AP Photo) #
German infantrymen in heavy winter gear march next to horse-drawn vehicles as they pass through a district near Moscow, in November 1941. Winter conditions strained an already thin sup