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Heavy_Weather
05-02-2004, 01:31 PM
On 18 December 1940, Hitler ordered that preparations be made for the so-called 'Operation Barbarossa', as the battle for 'lebensraum' (living space) in Eastern Europe came to be known. After the lightning victory ('Blitzcrieg') over France, there was enormous euphoria in Germany over the "greatest warlord of all time". The German Reich was now in control of the continent from the North Pole to the Spanish border. Hitler was not to be halted, and in the future he was to become more and more involved in the operational leadership of the 'Wehrmacht' (German armed forces).

The battle with Russia was planned as a war of annihilation from the very beginning. As Hitler explained in a discussion with the Chief of Staff of the Wehrmacht High Command, Alfred Jodl, "The coming campaign is more than merely a battle of arms; it will become a conflict between two different philosophies". Hitler also stated that the war was to be waged with uncompromising severity - according to one order, Soviet volunteers were to be liquidated "mercilessly", regardless of whether they were in combat or trying to run away.
On 22 June 1941, the German armed forces entered the Soviet Union, thus breaking the German-Soviet non-aggression pact, which Hitler and Stalin had signed on August 23 1939. National Socialist propaganda declared that the Russian campaign was "in defense of Europe against Bolshevism" and hoped for another lightning victory - Hitler planned to conquer Russia in its entirety in only eight weeks. The army was divided into three groups - one to conquer Leningrad, which would then in turn join forces with the second group in the assault on Moscow. The third group was to march towards Kiev in order to gain control of the oil fields in the south. Many historians consider Hitler's insistence on splitting his forces into three relatively weak army groups a first step to Germany's ultimate defeat.

The German Luftwaffe had a decisive part to play in this plan, destroying many Soviet aircraft before they even got off the ground. Nevertheless, the initial successes of the Luftwaffe could not hide the fact that it was not equipped for a long-running battle. Over-hasty mass production of machines that had hardly been tested and the adaptation and misuse of proven models meant that many promising aircraft were not used to their full potential.

The German army marched in with over three million soldiers, including 75 percent of the field troops and 61 percent of the Luftwaffe. The invading forces counted no less than 153 divisions among their number, including 19 of the total 21 tank divisions. Altogether there were 600,000 vehicles, 3,580 tanks, 7,184 guns and 1,830 aircraft involved in the Russian campaign. The Soviet forces were represented at the European front by 4.7 million soldiers.

Stalin was unprepared for the German assault and had played down all the obvious signs which suggested that an attack was likely, treating them as "mere provocation". The announcement that the Fascist "monstrous cannibal" had attacked caught him unawares. It was however not a surprise for many Soviet commanders, including some generals of the high command. An order was issued just a few hours before the invasion, warning front-line commanders about imminent "provocation attempts". It didn't reach its recipients in time.

Nevertheless, although the Germans soon captured Smolensk and Kiev, attacked Leningrad and took 1.5 million prisoners of war, the Soviet Union as a whole refused to fall in with Hitler's plans and capitulate by the time winter arrived. The non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Japan enabled Stalin to call on reinforcements from the east. Not only that, but the Soviets succeeded in evacuating over 1,500 production centers and around 10 million civilians to the east. Hitler had not expected an operation of this scale at all. Moreover, the German troops, ill-equipped for the harshness of winter at the Eastern Front and stretched to their limits, were finding it more and more difficult to organize supplies. Hitler had completely underestimated the determination and might of the Soviet forces, their strength in numbers and the potential of their armaments.

Hitler ignored the advice of his army's High Command to pool the German forces and finally press on towards Moscow. Instead he ordered the capture of Leningrad and the occupation of the Ukraine. The first German troops did not reach the outskirts of Moscow until 2 October 1941, and Hitler instructed them to hold position. His Chief of Command Walther von Brauchitsch advised the withdrawal of troops to more favorable winter positions, but Hitler again remained firm, showing no hesitation in taking overall control of the army himself. The notion of a speedy victory was thus dispelled.

Admittedly, the Germans succeeded in capturing parts of the Soviet supply areas, but this did not lead to a decision in the Caucasus or in Stalingrad during the offensive mounted in summer 1942. The German sixth army was surrounded on 10 November 1942 at Stalingrad and surrendered on 31 January 1943. Between 1942 and 1943, the German Wehrmacht lost almost a million soldiers. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill held a summit in Yalta to discuss their post-war policies and strategies for achieving a "just and lasting peace". The Red Army captured Berlin and Hitler committed suicide. On May 8 1945, Germany capitulated, thus putting an end to the war in Europe.

The first major encirclement of Soviet forces took place in the area of Bialystok-Minsk. But Hitler already feared that the ring with which the Soviet troops had been surrounded could be too large and therefore wanted to stop the tank groups earlier than planned. At this stage, his general staff were still able to get their way, however. Their tactics proved to be successful, as once Minsk had been captured on 26 June 1941, the Wehrmacht's High Command were able to register the following successes: 400,000 prisoners of war and 600 guns had been captured, 2,233 tanks and 4,107 planes had been destroyed, all at a cost of only 150 German aircraft losses. The sheer numbers given here should have provided clear indication of the enormous military strength in the Soviet Union as a whole, but Colonel-General Franz Halder was already predicting that the campaign would be won in two weeks' time.

After the first major battle of encirclement at Bialystok and Minsk, the central army group advanced from the north towards Smolensk, 'the gateway to Russia', and the Second Panzer Group made its way from the south in an attempt to encircle the Soviet troops at the city's western front in a pincer movement. The troops then planned to advance towards Moscow in a concentric tank wedge. Meanwhile, the Soviet High Command in the Smolensk area was pulling 42 divisions together to prevent the German troops from getting any further towards Moscow, which was around 400 kilometers away. This defensive maneuver ended in failure as the mobile German troops succeeded in evading the Red Army's defensive strongholds of the Dniepr crossings Mogilev and Orsha south-west of Moscow. After heavy street battles, the city fell into German hands on 16 July 1941.

In spite of the baking summer sun and the huge dust clouds which hampered their armored vehicles, the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups and the infantry divisions of the Second Army managed to trap 15 Soviet divisions of the Second Army by 24 July. Between Smolensk and Orscha, the Red Army lost around 3,000 tanks and over 300,000 soldiers, who then became prisoners of war after the battle came to an end on 5 August.

Despite the triumph at Smolensk, the German military leadership found itself in a severe crisis. Walther von Brauchitsch, commander-in-chief of the army, and Chief of the Army General Staff Halder pleaded for a swift advance by the central army group towards Moscow. Hitler, on the other hand, favored conquering the Ukraine first, pointing to the fact that its oil and raw material deposits were of immense strategic importance for Russia. Hitler got his way and ordered units of the Second Army to proceed to the south for the battle of Kiev.

The Second Army of the central army group first succeeded in capturing Gomel and then managed to create a cohesive front at the Dniepr with the southern army group. The 17th army of the southern group captured the bridgehead at Krementchug, creating a base from which to advance northwards to Kiev, 250 kilometers away. Together they encircled five armies of the Soviet southern front in a pincer movement. At the same time, the Sixth Army under the command of Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau was attacking from the west. The ring was closed and Kiev was brought under German control. On September 8 the fighter squadron 51(JG 51) commanded by Werner M├┬Âlders announced air victory number 2000. The battle of encirclement in the east of Kiev was to continue until 26 September and led to the surrender of 665,000 Soviet soldiers. The Germans also seized over 880 tanks and 3,700 guns. The morale in the army was high and the Wehrmacht's High Command had every hope that they would be able to advance into the Caucasus before the onset of winter.

1941: Moscow
'Operation Typhoon': The March to Moscow
2 October 1941: the mild Autumn weather was still kind to the German troops - 'Operation Typhoon' could begin. On the evening of 3 October the tanks of GeneralOberst Heinz Guderian surprisingly took control of Orel at the Oka River, thus cutting off the rail connection between Moscow and Kharkov. At the same time, the Sixth Army under Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau was marching on Kharkov. In the Vyasma-Bryansk area, German troops trapped Moscow's defenders in their pincer attack - yet another battle of encirclement was underway.

With the support of the dive bombers, the units of the 4th Panzer Group broke through the great Moscow defenses between Tver and Kaluga, overcoming concrete bunkers, anti-tank barriers, minefields and stationary flamethrower batteries - not to mention the first Siberian troops from Vladivostok. German troops also succeeded in breaking through Soviet defenses in Mozhaisk and Volokolamsk and at the river Nara to the east of Mozhaisk, destroying enemy rocket launcher batteries en route.

So far so good, as far as the German troops were concerned - until the first snowfalls came, that is. These first signs of the bitterly cold Russian winter were followed by another natural obstacle in the shape of mud. The German advance soon ran into difficulties, not only due to the absence of warm winter clothing, but also because the supply of fuel fell victim to the elements, plunging the campaign into a transport crisis. The Soviet rail system provided an additional burden - the Germans first had to adapt the width of the tracks to German standards - Russian tracks were too narrow for German trains.

On 16 October the Germans, now with help from the fourth Rumanian Army, encircled four Soviet infantry armies and took 100,000 Red Army soldiers prisoner. Just one day later, the battle of encirclement at Vyasma-Bryansk came to an end. The Wehrmacht's High Command was able to declare the following as either destroyed or vanquished: 67 artillery divisions, six cavalry, seven tank divisions and six tank brigades! To the south, the Germans captured Stalino in the Donez basin, taking the number of Soviet divisions destroyed up to 300. Nevertheless, the Russians kept on coming back with stronger guns - as well as the superb T-34 tank and the Katyusha rocket launcher known to the Germans as the 'Stalin's organ' were being used more and more frequently.

29 October 1941: The attempt to capture Tula, approximately 80 km outside of Moscow, ended in failure. The German tanks came under heavy fire from the anti-tank defenses and flak guns around four kilometers away from the city boundary. Capturing the city from the other direction also failed, which was no wonder given the fact the 4th Panzer Group was literally stuck in the mud at the Moscow marshes and at the Smolensk-Moscow ridge.

Between 6 and 12 November 1941, the muddy period was drawing to an end and being replaced by frost on all fronts. To begin with, this allowed the German troops to resume their assault, but it was only a matter of time until the merciless Russian winter seized the Germans in its icy grip.

Stalin now made the decision to send Siberian and Cossack divisions into battle, using the fact that these troops were more than prepared for the harshness of the elements to his advantage. The scene was now set for the final battle for the second Moscow defense position. The German plan was as follows: to start off by capturing Klin, then turn to the south-east, cut off Moscow from the north and then cut through the connection between Moscow and Leningrad.

The German troops were gradually moving forward. Meanwhile, the members of the Antikomintern Pact held a summit in Berlin on 25 November. The German Reich, Italy, Japan, Spain and Manchuria extended their pact for an additional five years; Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Croatia, Rumania, Slovakia and China also joined the pact, giving Hitler's advisor Joachim von Ribbentrop the confidence to declare the "bolshevist colossus" to be already in ruins. At this stage, the German troops were still about 30 kilometers away from the Russian capital.

A day later, the Red Army launched its first major counter-offensive at Rostov. The German troops evacuated the town and General Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt asked that they should be allowed to retreat, but Hitler had no intention of agreeing to his request. This spelled Von Rundstedt's departure, and Hitler replaced him with Field Marshal Hermann von Reichenau.

At temperatures of minus 38 degrees Celsius and with only their summer uniforms to keep out the cold, the troops' morale was sinking by the day. Many troops froze to death, starved or slaughtered their own horses in order to stay alive. Fuel was becoming scarce and tanks were getting stuck as a matter of course. Not only that, but many engines were giving up the ghost in any case due to the lack of anti-freeze.

By the middle of December many units had switched from attack to defense. There were loud cries for a retreat to winter positions - positions which, in fact, did not exist. But Hitler had no time for any signs of weakness or surrender. Instead of sending winter equipment to the front, he sent his soldiers ammunition. By this stage Hitler had assumed overall command of the army himself, trying to combine running the state and the military whilst refusing to take any advice whatsoever. Hitler was more committed than ever to holding on, in spite of the phenomenal drain on his men and their resources and in apparent denial of the failure of the Blitzkrieg strategy.

Back home, winter clothing was being donated and collected for the troops in the east, but the transport crisis meant that it was impossible to get these supplies to where they were needed. Tank production was increased from 125 to 600 units a month, but this extra production was at the expense of the air armaments program. The fact that the air armaments industry had also been dragged into the crisis put a seal on this disastrous state of affairs for the German forces.

The German advance finally came to a standstill 30 kilometers outside Moscow. Chaotic planning, diverging strategic concepts and inadequate preparation were now taking their toll. 'All or nothing' was now Hitler's war cry, with which he hoped to force a swift conclusion after the failure of his overall war plan in the Autumn of 1940. The next step was clear - Stalingrad or bust.

1942: Stalingrad
Bitter hand-to-hand fighting in a city under siege

If there was one thing that the two arch enemies agreed upon, it was that the winners of the battle of Stalingrad would also emerge victorious in the battle for Russia. The battle of encirclement at Stalingrad, logistically the most important center in the Caucasus and, with its tank factories, the industrial heart of Russia, was a human and material battle the like of which had never been seen before. The trench and positional warfare that marked the battle of Stalingrad led Russian propaganda of the time to speak of the conflict as a 'Russian Verdun'.

The Sixth Army, Hitler's elite troops under the leadership of General Friedrich Paulus (who was eventually promoted to Field Marshal later), were the main combatants in this, the biggest battle of the Eastern campaign. They were supported by sections of the 4th Panzer Army who had arrived from the south.

10 August 1942: The first waves of German troops broke through as far as the outlying districts of Stalingrad. Nine days later, Paulus ordered the attack. On 23 August, the first German attack troops reached the banks of the Volga, supported in their quest by the aircraft of the VIII Air Corps of General Martin Fiebig. By October, they had managed to capture 90% of the city. The battle was by no means over, though - the ruins of the city provided an ideal hiding place for Soviet sharp-shooters, and many machine gun positions were tucked away in its dark alleys. The conflict was becoming more and more gruesome, the soldiers battling it out with bayonets, rifle butts and even spades as attack followed attack.

The enormous psychological burden was compounded by worries over reinforcements and the cruel Russian winter. As early as September, General Paulus tried to persuade Hitler that Stalingrad could not be conquered. "I cannot change this, it goes beyond the means of human strength," yet Hitler stuck to his guns and his officers refused to give up. They motivated their men to their limits - and beyond. By the middle of October, the German troops had occupied the whole of north Stalingrad.

Nevertheless, fresh waves of Soviet troops were already preparing themselves for 'Operation Uranus'. Paulus pleaded with Hitler to allow the German troops to retreat, but to no avail. On 19 November 1942, the Red Army attacked as anticipated. Soviet soldiers encircled the German troops from the north and the south, absolutely determined to force the Germans to surrender. 300,000 men were thus trapped in Stalingrad. Hitler ordered them to hold position and promised sufficient help from the air and General Paulus happily agreed, his faith in the Fuhrer's promise not faltering for a moment.

This was a promise which Hitler had great difficulty in keeping, as not only did the German Luftwaffe have an insufficient number of planes, the aircraft which they did have were weakened by the strength of Russian anti-aircraft defenses. Air fleet 4 did what it could, however. Transport planes from Tunis and Sicily were called up and adapted from summer to winter conditions as quickly as possible. By December, about 200 Ju-52 aircraft and 100 He-111 bombers with empty bomb compartments had been organized as transports, and by January 1943 the number had grown to 467 aircraft in all. Sixth Army demanded 700 tons of supply per day, every day. The Luftwaffe at this stage was barely capable of delivering 350 tons, and only for a short period of time - even that estimate completely discounting any Soviet opposition.

The Russians were tightening their grip on the city and the German troops were fast running out of food and ammunition. At temperatures of up to 40 degrees below zero, they stuck out the siege as best they could. In the words of one officer: "At the end we were so exhausted that we did not even have the strength to stand at our machine guns. We tied shoelaces and pieces of string to the trigger and hung on to them with all our might whenever we had to shoot. In any case, we only fired if we really had to, as we were afraid of blowing our cover."

On 12 December, German LVII Panzer Corps set off towards Stalingrad to liberate their besieged comrades. But 'Operation Winter Storm' was a failure and the tank units gave up two weeks later, leaving the Sixth Army under siege and without reinforcements. The situation was becoming more and more hopeless, and the German troops froze to death, starved or died in battle. The troops in the Kette were not made aware of the rescue operation's failure. Besieged Germans kept listening for distant engine sounds hoping they were of the liberating SS Panzers for many months to come.

On 10 January 1943, the Red Army pressed the powerless Wehrmacht back even further in a major attack, and the German troops could only look on and watch as the Red Army made the most of its guns and 'Stalin's organs'. At 10:00 precisely, they opened up the heaviest barrage of fire of the war in Russia.

On January 21, Paulus radioed the F├╝hrer's headquarters with the following message: "Troops without ammunition or food. Signs of disintegration on the southern, northern and western fronts. 18,000 wounded without the most basic dressings or medicine. Front broken up in many places due to major setbacks. Further defense pointless. Army requests permission to surrender in order to save lives." A little later, the Gumrak airfield also fell into Russian hands and with it any hope of supplies. On 31 January, Paulus and his officers surrendered to the Russian forces.

Between 24 November 1942 and 31 January 1943, 488 aircraft along with 1,000 men were lost in supplying Stalingrad alone. This amounted to five squadrons - more than an entire flying corps. Of the 300,000 German soldiers who had set off to capture Stalingrad, 145,000 died. 45,000 troops, some wounded, some essential specialists, were flown out in time. 90,000 more were taken prisoner by the Russians. Years later only 6,000 of these returned home.

On 15 April 1943, Hitler gave the order for 'Operation Citadel', the pincer attack on the Kursk bulge (also referred to as the Kursk salient), which was to become the biggest tank battle of the Second World War. The Russian front in the Kursk area which had advanced 100 kilometers to the west was to be encircled by the central and southern army groups and the Red Army troops there destroyed. In a second stage of the operation, it was planned that the army groups should then advance into the depths of Russia.

The Soviet High Command had got wind of Hitler's plans and had decided as early as March to fend off the German attack and then to go on the offensive. Within three months the Red Army set up eight strongly consolidated and mined lines of defense, running to a total depth of no less than 300 kilometers. In the main defense strip alone, 434,667 tank mines and 7,000 kilometers of wire obstacles were laid.

900,000 soldiers of the German Wehrmacht were faced with 1,337,000 Red Army troops. 10,000 German guns were up against 19,300 on the other side. The Germans had 2,700 tanks and submachine guns at their deposal, the Russians 3,300. And as far as fighter planes were concerned, the Germans were again outnumbered 2,650 to 2,000. The Messerschmitt Bf-109 G fighter plane was one of the improved models now available, with its new, powerful 1,700 hp Daimler-Benz engine. The Focke-Wulf FW-190 was also a major presence at Kursk. The eighth flying corps included 68 ground attack aircraft of the Hs 129 model, whose weaponry was most useful for anti-tank combat - hence their nickname 'flying can openers'.

It was plain to see that the Russian side was far stronger, even disregarding the 573,000 soldiers, 7,401 guns and 1,551 tanks and self-propelled weapons at the Steppe Front. In addition, the German panzer division had already incurred serious losses in terms of men and materials. Hitler put his trust in the introduction of new tank models such as the 'Panther', 'Tiger' and 'Elefant'. Yet his favorite, the 'Panther' was not yet considered ready for action as it had not been tested adequately. So the German position coming into 'Operation Citadel' could hardly have been worse. In spite of this, early in the morning of 5 July 1943, panzer, panzer grenadier and infantry divisions of the Central and Southern army groups embarked on the operation, which was fought out bitterly on both sides.

The German air fleets 4 and 6 started off by attacking the hinterland and then focused on ground combat to clear a path for their tanks. The Germans were to have control of the Kursk bulge for only a matter of days, as it was no time at all before they were complaining of fuel shortages. They succeeded in taking a heavily fortified key position at Oboyan in the south, but their assaults on the heights of Ponyri and Teploye ended in failure. The Red Army reacted extremely quickly, leading to fierce tank battles in the rolling steppes of the south in particular. The number of German tanks was decreasing by the day, and General Model was wavering. As early as 9 July he spoke of a war of attrition, saying that the massive deployment of tanks was of little real use. To top it all, the Red Army drew on its reserves and the news of the Soviets' partial attacks in the Orel bulge reached Model on 11 July. One day later, the Soviets went on to the offensive and plunged the second Panzer army into a deep crisis. Model had to put a stop to his attacks in order to bolster German defenses in the Orel bulge and to prevent the worst from happening.

This was typical of the whole operation - the Wehrmacht was only able to form attack groups at narrow sections of the front and in brief bursts, whilst at the same time other areas suffered. What made life difficult for the German troops was not only that they were outnumbered by the Soviets, the means at their disposal were inadequate and they were fighting on unknown terrain with poor roads. Under these circumstances it was little wonder that morale was slipping by the day.

The battles continued nevertheless. The tank battle at Prochorovka on 12 July 1943 was undoubtedly the most significant of the Kursk battles. 850 Russian and 500 German tanks met, quite unexpectedly for both sides, on the narrowest of battlefields. A second Russian counteroffensive began at Belgorod and Kharkov, the double battle of Donetz and Mius to win back the Donetz basin began on 17 July. On 3 August, Orel was surrendered by the Germans. Three days later Belgorod, the second prong of the German offensive, was lost. As the battles mounted up, the might of the Red Army grew, whilst at the same time the German tanks and weapons grew weaker and weaker. The withdrawal began at the beginning of September - the Soviet troops had emerged victorious.

Looking back, the battle in the Kursk bulge is often seen as one huge tank conflict, but this was not the case. The conflict should, instead, be seen as a series of individual battles and operations. Opinions also differ strongly over the length of the battle. The Russians speak of 50 days, the Germans on the other hand talk of no more than nine. The numbers of losses on both sides are also a matter of debate. The Russians lay claim to having destroyed 4,605 German armored vehicles and to having captured 521, but the Russian figure of 'Tigers' destroyed in the Kursk bulge (146) greatly exceeds the number of these tanks actually deployed by the Germans. Germany reported a total loss of 33 'Tiger 1' tanks. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to track down reliable figures on Soviet losses, as the USSR was always extremely reluctant to have its military strength questioned. One thing is for sure, however, the personnel and also material losses of the Red Army far exceeded those of the Germans.

1944: The Crimea
From the War in the Crimea to the Red Army's March into Berlin

The Ukraine had already been lost. The 17th Army, which had been completely cut off since 1 November 1943 and supplied via the sea route, was alone in defending the isolated bastion of the Crimea. Hitler was furious and blamed the two army High Commanders General Field Marshal Erich von Manstein and General Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist, who were promptly dismissed to the 'second division' of German military leaders.

The 4th Ukrainian Front commenced its dual offensive in April 1944 with the aim of liquidating this German outpost. On 9 May, the Russians regained Sebastopol. 'Admiral Black Sea' Vice Admiral Brinkmann and 'Sea Commander Crimea' Rear Admiral Schulz ordered the evacuation far too late, and coastal batteries blew up their guns on the sea voyage to Rumania.

This was followed by a break in fighting. On 22 June 1944, the skies were filled with a mighty cacophony: hundreds of bombers and fighter planes were pounding the German artillery positions, and thousands of 'Stalin's Organs' filled the air with their wailing. The Red Army's breakthrough at Vitebsk split apart the 3rd Army Front and divided it into two parts, making all attempts at escape futile.

The Russian tank units continued with their advance and the gateway on onto Belarus was wide open as vast gaps in the Front appeared. Once the Fronts had been penetrated, the Russian advance came up against very little opposition. Nevertheless, Hitler clung on to his insistence on defending German lines even though he had already long lost his overview of what was happening. Yet even he soon realized that he was no longer in a position to lead, but instead merely to patch things up at the edges. To add insult to injury, in July 1944, 50,000 German prisoners of war were marched though the streets of Moscow as evidence of the victory over the 'fascist German forces of occupation'.

By July 1944, the Soviet troops had advanced as far as the Vistula. Despite this, Hitler took additional defense measures in September, calling on all men between 16 and 60 to join the so-called 'Volkssturm', or German Territorial Army. They were given a crash course in operating bazookas as German cities were fortified. Every man available had to join up or face the death penalty. Meanwhile, the Soviet advance continued relentlessly, and the first Soviet troops made it into East Prussia in October.

Both German and Soviet high command regarded the Crimean peninsula as an important tactical objective, while in reality it may not have been. In his decision to defend Crimea, Hitler pointed out it's importance as a potential staging point of air attacks against Romanian oil fields - but Soviet tanks were already advancing towards those fields in Romania itself! The main objectives of the war lay far away from Crimea. It was nevertheless a sore spot on both sides' maps, and both committed to full-out war there with tremendous personnel losses. The gain to these losses is questionable at best, especially for the Germans.

1945: Berlin

When Soviet and American soldiers shook hands at Torgau on the river Elbe on 25 April 1945, the symbolic effect was clear - it was only a matter of time until the end of the war in Europe. The Red Army had already made it as far as the center of Berlin, and Adolf Hitler committed suicide on 30 April. He had nominated Grand Admiral Karl D├┬Ânitz as his successor, who planned to offer a partial surrender to the western forces. D├┬Ânitz hoped that the Germans would then be able to continue the battle against the Red Army if the Western powers allied themselves with the Germans against the Soviet Union. His hope was in vain. At midnight On 8 May 1945, a ceasefire was declared. Germany capitulated unconditionally to the allied forces. The German Reich lay in ruins, the terrible nightmare of world domination had been brought to an end after 12 years of the most appalling human rights abuses perpetrated by the National Socialist regime. Putting an end to the terror had, however, involved an enormous cost to the whole of the world.

"To fly a combat mission is not a trip under the moon. Every attack, every bombing is a dance with death."
- Serafima Amsova-Taranenko: Noggle, Ann (1994): A Dance with Death.

Heavy_Weather
05-02-2004, 01:31 PM
On 18 December 1940, Hitler ordered that preparations be made for the so-called 'Operation Barbarossa', as the battle for 'lebensraum' (living space) in Eastern Europe came to be known. After the lightning victory ('Blitzcrieg') over France, there was enormous euphoria in Germany over the "greatest warlord of all time". The German Reich was now in control of the continent from the North Pole to the Spanish border. Hitler was not to be halted, and in the future he was to become more and more involved in the operational leadership of the 'Wehrmacht' (German armed forces).

The battle with Russia was planned as a war of annihilation from the very beginning. As Hitler explained in a discussion with the Chief of Staff of the Wehrmacht High Command, Alfred Jodl, "The coming campaign is more than merely a battle of arms; it will become a conflict between two different philosophies". Hitler also stated that the war was to be waged with uncompromising severity - according to one order, Soviet volunteers were to be liquidated "mercilessly", regardless of whether they were in combat or trying to run away.
On 22 June 1941, the German armed forces entered the Soviet Union, thus breaking the German-Soviet non-aggression pact, which Hitler and Stalin had signed on August 23 1939. National Socialist propaganda declared that the Russian campaign was "in defense of Europe against Bolshevism" and hoped for another lightning victory - Hitler planned to conquer Russia in its entirety in only eight weeks. The army was divided into three groups - one to conquer Leningrad, which would then in turn join forces with the second group in the assault on Moscow. The third group was to march towards Kiev in order to gain control of the oil fields in the south. Many historians consider Hitler's insistence on splitting his forces into three relatively weak army groups a first step to Germany's ultimate defeat.

The German Luftwaffe had a decisive part to play in this plan, destroying many Soviet aircraft before they even got off the ground. Nevertheless, the initial successes of the Luftwaffe could not hide the fact that it was not equipped for a long-running battle. Over-hasty mass production of machines that had hardly been tested and the adaptation and misuse of proven models meant that many promising aircraft were not used to their full potential.

The German army marched in with over three million soldiers, including 75 percent of the field troops and 61 percent of the Luftwaffe. The invading forces counted no less than 153 divisions among their number, including 19 of the total 21 tank divisions. Altogether there were 600,000 vehicles, 3,580 tanks, 7,184 guns and 1,830 aircraft involved in the Russian campaign. The Soviet forces were represented at the European front by 4.7 million soldiers.

Stalin was unprepared for the German assault and had played down all the obvious signs which suggested that an attack was likely, treating them as "mere provocation". The announcement that the Fascist "monstrous cannibal" had attacked caught him unawares. It was however not a surprise for many Soviet commanders, including some generals of the high command. An order was issued just a few hours before the invasion, warning front-line commanders about imminent "provocation attempts". It didn't reach its recipients in time.

Nevertheless, although the Germans soon captured Smolensk and Kiev, attacked Leningrad and took 1.5 million prisoners of war, the Soviet Union as a whole refused to fall in with Hitler's plans and capitulate by the time winter arrived. The non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Japan enabled Stalin to call on reinforcements from the east. Not only that, but the Soviets succeeded in evacuating over 1,500 production centers and around 10 million civilians to the east. Hitler had not expected an operation of this scale at all. Moreover, the German troops, ill-equipped for the harshness of winter at the Eastern Front and stretched to their limits, were finding it more and more difficult to organize supplies. Hitler had completely underestimated the determination and might of the Soviet forces, their strength in numbers and the potential of their armaments.

Hitler ignored the advice of his army's High Command to pool the German forces and finally press on towards Moscow. Instead he ordered the capture of Leningrad and the occupation of the Ukraine. The first German troops did not reach the outskirts of Moscow until 2 October 1941, and Hitler instructed them to hold position. His Chief of Command Walther von Brauchitsch advised the withdrawal of troops to more favorable winter positions, but Hitler again remained firm, showing no hesitation in taking overall control of the army himself. The notion of a speedy victory was thus dispelled.

Admittedly, the Germans succeeded in capturing parts of the Soviet supply areas, but this did not lead to a decision in the Caucasus or in Stalingrad during the offensive mounted in summer 1942. The German sixth army was surrounded on 10 November 1942 at Stalingrad and surrendered on 31 January 1943. Between 1942 and 1943, the German Wehrmacht lost almost a million soldiers. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill held a summit in Yalta to discuss their post-war policies and strategies for achieving a "just and lasting peace". The Red Army captured Berlin and Hitler committed suicide. On May 8 1945, Germany capitulated, thus putting an end to the war in Europe.

The first major encirclement of Soviet forces took place in the area of Bialystok-Minsk. But Hitler already feared that the ring with which the Soviet troops had been surrounded could be too large and therefore wanted to stop the tank groups earlier than planned. At this stage, his general staff were still able to get their way, however. Their tactics proved to be successful, as once Minsk had been captured on 26 June 1941, the Wehrmacht's High Command were able to register the following successes: 400,000 prisoners of war and 600 guns had been captured, 2,233 tanks and 4,107 planes had been destroyed, all at a cost of only 150 German aircraft losses. The sheer numbers given here should have provided clear indication of the enormous military strength in the Soviet Union as a whole, but Colonel-General Franz Halder was already predicting that the campaign would be won in two weeks' time.

After the first major battle of encirclement at Bialystok and Minsk, the central army group advanced from the north towards Smolensk, 'the gateway to Russia', and the Second Panzer Group made its way from the south in an attempt to encircle the Soviet troops at the city's western front in a pincer movement. The troops then planned to advance towards Moscow in a concentric tank wedge. Meanwhile, the Soviet High Command in the Smolensk area was pulling 42 divisions together to prevent the German troops from getting any further towards Moscow, which was around 400 kilometers away. This defensive maneuver ended in failure as the mobile German troops succeeded in evading the Red Army's defensive strongholds of the Dniepr crossings Mogilev and Orsha south-west of Moscow. After heavy street battles, the city fell into German hands on 16 July 1941.

In spite of the baking summer sun and the huge dust clouds which hampered their armored vehicles, the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups and the infantry divisions of the Second Army managed to trap 15 Soviet divisions of the Second Army by 24 July. Between Smolensk and Orscha, the Red Army lost around 3,000 tanks and over 300,000 soldiers, who then became prisoners of war after the battle came to an end on 5 August.

Despite the triumph at Smolensk, the German military leadership found itself in a severe crisis. Walther von Brauchitsch, commander-in-chief of the army, and Chief of the Army General Staff Halder pleaded for a swift advance by the central army group towards Moscow. Hitler, on the other hand, favored conquering the Ukraine first, pointing to the fact that its oil and raw material deposits were of immense strategic importance for Russia. Hitler got his way and ordered units of the Second Army to proceed to the south for the battle of Kiev.

The Second Army of the central army group first succeeded in capturing Gomel and then managed to create a cohesive front at the Dniepr with the southern army group. The 17th army of the southern group captured the bridgehead at Krementchug, creating a base from which to advance northwards to Kiev, 250 kilometers away. Together they encircled five armies of the Soviet southern front in a pincer movement. At the same time, the Sixth Army under the command of Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau was attacking from the west. The ring was closed and Kiev was brought under German control. On September 8 the fighter squadron 51(JG 51) commanded by Werner M├┬Âlders announced air victory number 2000. The battle of encirclement in the east of Kiev was to continue until 26 September and led to the surrender of 665,000 Soviet soldiers. The Germans also seized over 880 tanks and 3,700 guns. The morale in the army was high and the Wehrmacht's High Command had every hope that they would be able to advance into the Caucasus before the onset of winter.

1941: Moscow
'Operation Typhoon': The March to Moscow
2 October 1941: the mild Autumn weather was still kind to the German troops - 'Operation Typhoon' could begin. On the evening of 3 October the tanks of GeneralOberst Heinz Guderian surprisingly took control of Orel at the Oka River, thus cutting off the rail connection between Moscow and Kharkov. At the same time, the Sixth Army under Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau was marching on Kharkov. In the Vyasma-Bryansk area, German troops trapped Moscow's defenders in their pincer attack - yet another battle of encirclement was underway.

With the support of the dive bombers, the units of the 4th Panzer Group broke through the great Moscow defenses between Tver and Kaluga, overcoming concrete bunkers, anti-tank barriers, minefields and stationary flamethrower batteries - not to mention the first Siberian troops from Vladivostok. German troops also succeeded in breaking through Soviet defenses in Mozhaisk and Volokolamsk and at the river Nara to the east of Mozhaisk, destroying enemy rocket launcher batteries en route.

So far so good, as far as the German troops were concerned - until the first snowfalls came, that is. These first signs of the bitterly cold Russian winter were followed by another natural obstacle in the shape of mud. The German advance soon ran into difficulties, not only due to the absence of warm winter clothing, but also because the supply of fuel fell victim to the elements, plunging the campaign into a transport crisis. The Soviet rail system provided an additional burden - the Germans first had to adapt the width of the tracks to German standards - Russian tracks were too narrow for German trains.

On 16 October the Germans, now with help from the fourth Rumanian Army, encircled four Soviet infantry armies and took 100,000 Red Army soldiers prisoner. Just one day later, the battle of encirclement at Vyasma-Bryansk came to an end. The Wehrmacht's High Command was able to declare the following as either destroyed or vanquished: 67 artillery divisions, six cavalry, seven tank divisions and six tank brigades! To the south, the Germans captured Stalino in the Donez basin, taking the number of Soviet divisions destroyed up to 300. Nevertheless, the Russians kept on coming back with stronger guns - as well as the superb T-34 tank and the Katyusha rocket launcher known to the Germans as the 'Stalin's organ' were being used more and more frequently.

29 October 1941: The attempt to capture Tula, approximately 80 km outside of Moscow, ended in failure. The German tanks came under heavy fire from the anti-tank defenses and flak guns around four kilometers away from the city boundary. Capturing the city from the other direction also failed, which was no wonder given the fact the 4th Panzer Group was literally stuck in the mud at the Moscow marshes and at the Smolensk-Moscow ridge.

Between 6 and 12 November 1941, the muddy period was drawing to an end and being replaced by frost on all fronts. To begin with, this allowed the German troops to resume their assault, but it was only a matter of time until the merciless Russian winter seized the Germans in its icy grip.

Stalin now made the decision to send Siberian and Cossack divisions into battle, using the fact that these troops were more than prepared for the harshness of the elements to his advantage. The scene was now set for the final battle for the second Moscow defense position. The German plan was as follows: to start off by capturing Klin, then turn to the south-east, cut off Moscow from the north and then cut through the connection between Moscow and Leningrad.

The German troops were gradually moving forward. Meanwhile, the members of the Antikomintern Pact held a summit in Berlin on 25 November. The German Reich, Italy, Japan, Spain and Manchuria extended their pact for an additional five years; Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Croatia, Rumania, Slovakia and China also joined the pact, giving Hitler's advisor Joachim von Ribbentrop the confidence to declare the "bolshevist colossus" to be already in ruins. At this stage, the German troops were still about 30 kilometers away from the Russian capital.

A day later, the Red Army launched its first major counter-offensive at Rostov. The German troops evacuated the town and General Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt asked that they should be allowed to retreat, but Hitler had no intention of agreeing to his request. This spelled Von Rundstedt's departure, and Hitler replaced him with Field Marshal Hermann von Reichenau.

At temperatures of minus 38 degrees Celsius and with only their summer uniforms to keep out the cold, the troops' morale was sinking by the day. Many troops froze to death, starved or slaughtered their own horses in order to stay alive. Fuel was becoming scarce and tanks were getting stuck as a matter of course. Not only that, but many engines were giving up the ghost in any case due to the lack of anti-freeze.

By the middle of December many units had switched from attack to defense. There were loud cries for a retreat to winter positions - positions which, in fact, did not exist. But Hitler had no time for any signs of weakness or surrender. Instead of sending winter equipment to the front, he sent his soldiers ammunition. By this stage Hitler had assumed overall command of the army himself, trying to combine running the state and the military whilst refusing to take any advice whatsoever. Hitler was more committed than ever to holding on, in spite of the phenomenal drain on his men and their resources and in apparent denial of the failure of the Blitzkrieg strategy.

Back home, winter clothing was being donated and collected for the troops in the east, but the transport crisis meant that it was impossible to get these supplies to where they were needed. Tank production was increased from 125 to 600 units a month, but this extra production was at the expense of the air armaments program. The fact that the air armaments industry had also been dragged into the crisis put a seal on this disastrous state of affairs for the German forces.

The German advance finally came to a standstill 30 kilometers outside Moscow. Chaotic planning, diverging strategic concepts and inadequate preparation were now taking their toll. 'All or nothing' was now Hitler's war cry, with which he hoped to force a swift conclusion after the failure of his overall war plan in the Autumn of 1940. The next step was clear - Stalingrad or bust.

1942: Stalingrad
Bitter hand-to-hand fighting in a city under siege

If there was one thing that the two arch enemies agreed upon, it was that the winners of the battle of Stalingrad would also emerge victorious in the battle for Russia. The battle of encirclement at Stalingrad, logistically the most important center in the Caucasus and, with its tank factories, the industrial heart of Russia, was a human and material battle the like of which had never been seen before. The trench and positional warfare that marked the battle of Stalingrad led Russian propaganda of the time to speak of the conflict as a 'Russian Verdun'.

The Sixth Army, Hitler's elite troops under the leadership of General Friedrich Paulus (who was eventually promoted to Field Marshal later), were the main combatants in this, the biggest battle of the Eastern campaign. They were supported by sections of the 4th Panzer Army who had arrived from the south.

10 August 1942: The first waves of German troops broke through as far as the outlying districts of Stalingrad. Nine days later, Paulus ordered the attack. On 23 August, the first German attack troops reached the banks of the Volga, supported in their quest by the aircraft of the VIII Air Corps of General Martin Fiebig. By October, they had managed to capture 90% of the city. The battle was by no means over, though - the ruins of the city provided an ideal hiding place for Soviet sharp-shooters, and many machine gun positions were tucked away in its dark alleys. The conflict was becoming more and more gruesome, the soldiers battling it out with bayonets, rifle butts and even spades as attack followed attack.

The enormous psychological burden was compounded by worries over reinforcements and the cruel Russian winter. As early as September, General Paulus tried to persuade Hitler that Stalingrad could not be conquered. "I cannot change this, it goes beyond the means of human strength," yet Hitler stuck to his guns and his officers refused to give up. They motivated their men to their limits - and beyond. By the middle of October, the German troops had occupied the whole of north Stalingrad.

Nevertheless, fresh waves of Soviet troops were already preparing themselves for 'Operation Uranus'. Paulus pleaded with Hitler to allow the German troops to retreat, but to no avail. On 19 November 1942, the Red Army attacked as anticipated. Soviet soldiers encircled the German troops from the north and the south, absolutely determined to force the Germans to surrender. 300,000 men were thus trapped in Stalingrad. Hitler ordered them to hold position and promised sufficient help from the air and General Paulus happily agreed, his faith in the Fuhrer's promise not faltering for a moment.

This was a promise which Hitler had great difficulty in keeping, as not only did the German Luftwaffe have an insufficient number of planes, the aircraft which they did have were weakened by the strength of Russian anti-aircraft defenses. Air fleet 4 did what it could, however. Transport planes from Tunis and Sicily were called up and adapted from summer to winter conditions as quickly as possible. By December, about 200 Ju-52 aircraft and 100 He-111 bombers with empty bomb compartments had been organized as transports, and by January 1943 the number had grown to 467 aircraft in all. Sixth Army demanded 700 tons of supply per day, every day. The Luftwaffe at this stage was barely capable of delivering 350 tons, and only for a short period of time - even that estimate completely discounting any Soviet opposition.

The Russians were tightening their grip on the city and the German troops were fast running out of food and ammunition. At temperatures of up to 40 degrees below zero, they stuck out the siege as best they could. In the words of one officer: "At the end we were so exhausted that we did not even have the strength to stand at our machine guns. We tied shoelaces and pieces of string to the trigger and hung on to them with all our might whenever we had to shoot. In any case, we only fired if we really had to, as we were afraid of blowing our cover."

On 12 December, German LVII Panzer Corps set off towards Stalingrad to liberate their besieged comrades. But 'Operation Winter Storm' was a failure and the tank units gave up two weeks later, leaving the Sixth Army under siege and without reinforcements. The situation was becoming more and more hopeless, and the German troops froze to death, starved or died in battle. The troops in the Kette were not made aware of the rescue operation's failure. Besieged Germans kept listening for distant engine sounds hoping they were of the liberating SS Panzers for many months to come.

On 10 January 1943, the Red Army pressed the powerless Wehrmacht back even further in a major attack, and the German troops could only look on and watch as the Red Army made the most of its guns and 'Stalin's organs'. At 10:00 precisely, they opened up the heaviest barrage of fire of the war in Russia.

On January 21, Paulus radioed the F├╝hrer's headquarters with the following message: "Troops without ammunition or food. Signs of disintegration on the southern, northern and western fronts. 18,000 wounded without the most basic dressings or medicine. Front broken up in many places due to major setbacks. Further defense pointless. Army requests permission to surrender in order to save lives." A little later, the Gumrak airfield also fell into Russian hands and with it any hope of supplies. On 31 January, Paulus and his officers surrendered to the Russian forces.

Between 24 November 1942 and 31 January 1943, 488 aircraft along with 1,000 men were lost in supplying Stalingrad alone. This amounted to five squadrons - more than an entire flying corps. Of the 300,000 German soldiers who had set off to capture Stalingrad, 145,000 died. 45,000 troops, some wounded, some essential specialists, were flown out in time. 90,000 more were taken prisoner by the Russians. Years later only 6,000 of these returned home.

On 15 April 1943, Hitler gave the order for 'Operation Citadel', the pincer attack on the Kursk bulge (also referred to as the Kursk salient), which was to become the biggest tank battle of the Second World War. The Russian front in the Kursk area which had advanced 100 kilometers to the west was to be encircled by the central and southern army groups and the Red Army troops there destroyed. In a second stage of the operation, it was planned that the army groups should then advance into the depths of Russia.

The Soviet High Command had got wind of Hitler's plans and had decided as early as March to fend off the German attack and then to go on the offensive. Within three months the Red Army set up eight strongly consolidated and mined lines of defense, running to a total depth of no less than 300 kilometers. In the main defense strip alone, 434,667 tank mines and 7,000 kilometers of wire obstacles were laid.

900,000 soldiers of the German Wehrmacht were faced with 1,337,000 Red Army troops. 10,000 German guns were up against 19,300 on the other side. The Germans had 2,700 tanks and submachine guns at their deposal, the Russians 3,300. And as far as fighter planes were concerned, the Germans were again outnumbered 2,650 to 2,000. The Messerschmitt Bf-109 G fighter plane was one of the improved models now available, with its new, powerful 1,700 hp Daimler-Benz engine. The Focke-Wulf FW-190 was also a major presence at Kursk. The eighth flying corps included 68 ground attack aircraft of the Hs 129 model, whose weaponry was most useful for anti-tank combat - hence their nickname 'flying can openers'.

It was plain to see that the Russian side was far stronger, even disregarding the 573,000 soldiers, 7,401 guns and 1,551 tanks and self-propelled weapons at the Steppe Front. In addition, the German panzer division had already incurred serious losses in terms of men and materials. Hitler put his trust in the introduction of new tank models such as the 'Panther', 'Tiger' and 'Elefant'. Yet his favorite, the 'Panther' was not yet considered ready for action as it had not been tested adequately. So the German position coming into 'Operation Citadel' could hardly have been worse. In spite of this, early in the morning of 5 July 1943, panzer, panzer grenadier and infantry divisions of the Central and Southern army groups embarked on the operation, which was fought out bitterly on both sides.

The German air fleets 4 and 6 started off by attacking the hinterland and then focused on ground combat to clear a path for their tanks. The Germans were to have control of the Kursk bulge for only a matter of days, as it was no time at all before they were complaining of fuel shortages. They succeeded in taking a heavily fortified key position at Oboyan in the south, but their assaults on the heights of Ponyri and Teploye ended in failure. The Red Army reacted extremely quickly, leading to fierce tank battles in the rolling steppes of the south in particular. The number of German tanks was decreasing by the day, and General Model was wavering. As early as 9 July he spoke of a war of attrition, saying that the massive deployment of tanks was of little real use. To top it all, the Red Army drew on its reserves and the news of the Soviets' partial attacks in the Orel bulge reached Model on 11 July. One day later, the Soviets went on to the offensive and plunged the second Panzer army into a deep crisis. Model had to put a stop to his attacks in order to bolster German defenses in the Orel bulge and to prevent the worst from happening.

This was typical of the whole operation - the Wehrmacht was only able to form attack groups at narrow sections of the front and in brief bursts, whilst at the same time other areas suffered. What made life difficult for the German troops was not only that they were outnumbered by the Soviets, the means at their disposal were inadequate and they were fighting on unknown terrain with poor roads. Under these circumstances it was little wonder that morale was slipping by the day.

The battles continued nevertheless. The tank battle at Prochorovka on 12 July 1943 was undoubtedly the most significant of the Kursk battles. 850 Russian and 500 German tanks met, quite unexpectedly for both sides, on the narrowest of battlefields. A second Russian counteroffensive began at Belgorod and Kharkov, the double battle of Donetz and Mius to win back the Donetz basin began on 17 July. On 3 August, Orel was surrendered by the Germans. Three days later Belgorod, the second prong of the German offensive, was lost. As the battles mounted up, the might of the Red Army grew, whilst at the same time the German tanks and weapons grew weaker and weaker. The withdrawal began at the beginning of September - the Soviet troops had emerged victorious.

Looking back, the battle in the Kursk bulge is often seen as one huge tank conflict, but this was not the case. The conflict should, instead, be seen as a series of individual battles and operations. Opinions also differ strongly over the length of the battle. The Russians speak of 50 days, the Germans on the other hand talk of no more than nine. The numbers of losses on both sides are also a matter of debate. The Russians lay claim to having destroyed 4,605 German armored vehicles and to having captured 521, but the Russian figure of 'Tigers' destroyed in the Kursk bulge (146) greatly exceeds the number of these tanks actually deployed by the Germans. Germany reported a total loss of 33 'Tiger 1' tanks. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to track down reliable figures on Soviet losses, as the USSR was always extremely reluctant to have its military strength questioned. One thing is for sure, however, the personnel and also material losses of the Red Army far exceeded those of the Germans.

1944: The Crimea
From the War in the Crimea to the Red Army's March into Berlin

The Ukraine had already been lost. The 17th Army, which had been completely cut off since 1 November 1943 and supplied via the sea route, was alone in defending the isolated bastion of the Crimea. Hitler was furious and blamed the two army High Commanders General Field Marshal Erich von Manstein and General Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist, who were promptly dismissed to the 'second division' of German military leaders.

The 4th Ukrainian Front commenced its dual offensive in April 1944 with the aim of liquidating this German outpost. On 9 May, the Russians regained Sebastopol. 'Admiral Black Sea' Vice Admiral Brinkmann and 'Sea Commander Crimea' Rear Admiral Schulz ordered the evacuation far too late, and coastal batteries blew up their guns on the sea voyage to Rumania.

This was followed by a break in fighting. On 22 June 1944, the skies were filled with a mighty cacophony: hundreds of bombers and fighter planes were pounding the German artillery positions, and thousands of 'Stalin's Organs' filled the air with their wailing. The Red Army's breakthrough at Vitebsk split apart the 3rd Army Front and divided it into two parts, making all attempts at escape futile.

The Russian tank units continued with their advance and the gateway on onto Belarus was wide open as vast gaps in the Front appeared. Once the Fronts had been penetrated, the Russian advance came up against very little opposition. Nevertheless, Hitler clung on to his insistence on defending German lines even though he had already long lost his overview of what was happening. Yet even he soon realized that he was no longer in a position to lead, but instead merely to patch things up at the edges. To add insult to injury, in July 1944, 50,000 German prisoners of war were marched though the streets of Moscow as evidence of the victory over the 'fascist German forces of occupation'.

By July 1944, the Soviet troops had advanced as far as the Vistula. Despite this, Hitler took additional defense measures in September, calling on all men between 16 and 60 to join the so-called 'Volkssturm', or German Territorial Army. They were given a crash course in operating bazookas as German cities were fortified. Every man available had to join up or face the death penalty. Meanwhile, the Soviet advance continued relentlessly, and the first Soviet troops made it into East Prussia in October.

Both German and Soviet high command regarded the Crimean peninsula as an important tactical objective, while in reality it may not have been. In his decision to defend Crimea, Hitler pointed out it's importance as a potential staging point of air attacks against Romanian oil fields - but Soviet tanks were already advancing towards those fields in Romania itself! The main objectives of the war lay far away from Crimea. It was nevertheless a sore spot on both sides' maps, and both committed to full-out war there with tremendous personnel losses. The gain to these losses is questionable at best, especially for the Germans.

1945: Berlin

When Soviet and American soldiers shook hands at Torgau on the river Elbe on 25 April 1945, the symbolic effect was clear - it was only a matter of time until the end of the war in Europe. The Red Army had already made it as far as the center of Berlin, and Adolf Hitler committed suicide on 30 April. He had nominated Grand Admiral Karl D├┬Ânitz as his successor, who planned to offer a partial surrender to the western forces. D├┬Ânitz hoped that the Germans would then be able to continue the battle against the Red Army if the Western powers allied themselves with the Germans against the Soviet Union. His hope was in vain. At midnight On 8 May 1945, a ceasefire was declared. Germany capitulated unconditionally to the allied forces. The German Reich lay in ruins, the terrible nightmare of world domination had been brought to an end after 12 years of the most appalling human rights abuses perpetrated by the National Socialist regime. Putting an end to the terror had, however, involved an enormous cost to the whole of the world.

"To fly a combat mission is not a trip under the moon. Every attack, every bombing is a dance with death."
- Serafima Amsova-Taranenko: Noggle, Ann (1994): A Dance with Death.

Dmitri9mm
05-02-2004, 01:44 PM
Yes I know that, why??? http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/blink.gif

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We don't need no Ponys let the ************ burn. Burn ************! BURN!

Hartford688
05-02-2004, 01:47 PM
Give over, really? Did all that happen? They should do an Eastern Front campaign for FB...

Heavy_Weather
05-02-2004, 01:56 PM
you b|tches prolly cant even read, school isnt out yet, get back to your homework, lets go , chop chop http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

"To fly a combat mission is not a trip under the moon. Every attack, every bombing is a dance with death."
- Serafima Amsova-Taranenko: Noggle, Ann (1994): A Dance with Death.

crazyivan1970
05-02-2004, 02:29 PM
This is rather interesting summary

V!
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Kozhedub: In combat potential, the Yak-3, La-7 and La-9 fighters were indisputably superior to the Bf-109s and Fw-190s. But, as they say, no matter how good the violin may be, much depends on the violinist. I always felt respect for an enemy pilot whose plane I failed to down.

Chuck_Older
05-02-2004, 04:12 PM
Where have I read this before? http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

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VW-IceFire
05-02-2004, 04:18 PM
Got it saved in a DOC so I can read it properly later. Great summary!

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eddie_slovik
05-02-2004, 04:19 PM
imagine having that lot as a sig !

LEXX_Luthor
05-02-2004, 05:39 PM
well its better than reading his DXDiag http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

SeaFireLIV
05-02-2004, 05:55 PM
Well I knew all this ages back, but I guess they`re a lot of IL2 flyers who don`t. I hope every FB fan reads it (unlikely).

SeaFireLIV...



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VVanks
05-02-2004, 10:40 PM
If only Hitler was a woman, then WW2 would've lasted as long as he wanted to.

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SithSpeeder
05-02-2004, 11:39 PM
A good summary. But I feel it is missing some balance. Most of the early part of the summary speaks strictly from the German perspective. Having just completed _Russia's War_ by Richard Overy (which I highly recommend, BTW), the war run by Stalin was equally distubing. Stalin, like Hitler, basically did not give the option for retreat for his forces (on penalty of death). Truly, the only ones harder on the Russians than the Germans were the Russians themselves (led by Stalin and his NKVD police force). In the beginning of the war, he thought that he could run the whole show better than his generals. He had political officers playing a major part in the leadership all the way down the ranks. But being a ruthless politician does not make one a good general. His lack of understanding and willingness to throw his troops around (the only thing he had more of than the Germans in the beginning) proved to be Russia's downfall in the beginning of the war. (well, that and the fact that he believed that Hitler wouldn't attack in spite of all the signs and reports--he dismissed his rather good intelligence from his spies in Germany).
But as the war went on and his useless and costly attacks failed and the defenses continued to fall, he began giving up control to his generals. He finally gave the defense of Moscow to his most trusted general, who came through. This was the exact opposite of Hitler who originally left things to his generals but as the war went on, he took more and more direct control. Yes, Stalin did elevate himself to Marshall of the military as the war went on, but it was more in title (for the political benefits)--the actual responsibility was much heavier on the Generals.
I highly recommend Overy's book (I actually listened to the unabridged version on audio cassette from my local library). It's both fascinating and, well, sickening I guess. The butchery, atrocities, and loss of life just drilled home how truly terrible war is. We hear very little about the actual Russian side of things here in the West. This is a must read if you have any interest in history.
I'm not sure who was worse, Stalin or Hitler, but that's another topic to be covered some other time.

* _54th_Speeder *

***
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-- George Santayana
***

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tttiger
05-02-2004, 11:57 PM
Did you, perhaps, think anyone here doesn't know this stuff? Or, perhaps, that it isn't readily available?

One of the side benefits of flying IL-2/FB/AEP has been learning about the Eastern Front. I now have a whole library (all of it read) on the Eastern Front and dozens of web links.

This also is written entirely from a German point of view. It's about German units, German generals, German casualties, etc. with hardly a mention of what was going on over on the Soviet side.

It's a nice summary, but, uh, what's the point?

Did you write this? If not, you should credit the source.

ttt

"I want the one that kills the best with the least amount of risk to me"

-- Chuck Yeager describing "The Best Airplane."

Dmitri9mm
05-03-2004, 12:06 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by SithSpeeder:
I'm not sure who was worse, Stalin or Hitler, but that's another topic to be covered some other time.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

That is perhaps one of the biggest and most pointless discussions concerning WWII.
A much more valid question could be: What was worse, German nazism or the Soviet version of socialism? And I surely do not hope that you're in doubt there my friend!
It's all part of the general tendency towards a perception of history totally based on the individual. A perception that couldn't be more wrong in my oppinion.
You can't give Hitler sole responseblility for WWII just as well, as you can't blame the deaths of millions of russians on Stalin.
If you do this, then you haven't learned your lesson, you have just said: "Well, those were very bad men!" Always take a look behind the individuals when analysing history.

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The n00b, the n00b, the n00b is on fire.
We don't need no Ponys let the ************ burn. Burn ************! BURN!

clint-ruin
05-03-2004, 12:18 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by SithSpeeder:
A good summary. But I feel it is missing some balance. Most of the early part of the summary speaks strictly from the German perspective. Having just completed _Russia's War_ by Richard Overy (which I highly recommend, BTW), the war run by Stalin was equally distubing. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I've recommended Russias' War here before, it's a good read. Not particularly in-depth in any one area, but as a short and well written overview it is hard to beat.

http://users.bigpond.net.au/gwen/fb/leninkoba.jpg

Slush69
05-03-2004, 04:49 AM
All of this really happened? Wow, I had no idea. http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_rolleyes.gif

/slush

http://www.wilcks.dk/lort/Eurotrolls.gif

RIPelliottsmith
05-03-2004, 05:16 AM
Here's an alternative version: Germany invaded the Soviet Union without fully mobilizing their nation. They used a rapid manoeuvrist approach against "subhumans" who would simply collapse in stupid panic when encircled and Moscow had fallen.

Surprise, surprise, Soviets were not subhuman, and they mobilized their ENTIRE nation very quickly and fought harder than anyone thought they could. Manoeuvre failed. Germany still did not fully mobilize, and was defeated by raw attrition.

What's the obsession with second-guessing Hitler with perfect hindsight, or going on about the weather?

No mention of Bagration? How many army groups does a Soviet offensive have to destroy to get noticed?

clint-ruin
05-03-2004, 05:44 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by RIPelliottsmith:
What's the obsession with second-guessing Hitler with perfect hindsight, or going on about the weather?

No mention of Bagration? How many army groups does a Soviet offensive have to destroy to get noticed?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

The one thing that remains fairly consistent about people is that they tend to look out for their own interests. With Hitler gone and the Soviets remaining fairly uncommunicative [to say the least], I'm sure it's very easy to point fingers anywhere but your own chest if you're a member of the German war command. The writeup in the first post is very typical of what was written about the EF before the locks came off the russian archives. Reads like colonial era diaries of people fighting "the natives" - they're given no names, no rationale, absolutely no understanding from the occupier.

I agree that the obsession with the weather and "if only we had taken moscow" line don't tend to bear up to much critical analysis. The weather hampered the soviets attempts at reorganisation as well, and gaining another Stalingrad scale urban fight in an empty shell of a city is never actually explained well as a war-winning strategy. Begs the response "if they thought that'd work then no wonder they bloody lost" :&gt;

The amount of handicaps placed on the Soviet troops at the outbreak of the war - troops stuck halfway into their new positions further west, no ammo, outdated equipment, total failure to prepare for combat, and no response from high command for over a week after the invasion! were pretty harsh and it's hard to imagine any kind of circumstances under which the Germans could have performed better.

They were stopped anyway.

Says a lot about how realistic a proposition the conquest to the east was to start with.

http://users.bigpond.net.au/gwen/fb/leninkoba.jpg

[This message was edited by clint-ruin on Mon May 03 2004 at 06:24 AM.]

Slush69
05-03-2004, 06:51 AM
What said RIP and Clint said. I could hardly agree more.

cheers/slush

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TgD Thunderbolt56
05-03-2004, 07:16 AM
Like others, I knew the vast majority of this information already. It's an interesting read nonetheless.

Thanks for the post.

TB



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tfu_iain1
05-03-2004, 10:26 AM
also try 'Barbarossa' by Alan Clark

lots of interesting information, such as the insane political architecture of the nazi system, explaining many ****-ups. also the reason for there being no german pullout from stalingrad is not as clear-cut as 'no surrender! not a step back!' rather hitler was being told different things by different generals- Paulus himself supported holding out until they were relieved, whereas manstein and guderian (who usually never agreed) were saying they could not butcher their way all the way to stalingrad and needed paulus to meet them halfway. equally, the sixth army didnt have enough fuel to get all its vehicles out of stalingrad - guderian suggested abandoning equipment, and manstein believed the troops were lying about the real amount of fuel they had -as german panzer divisions usually did (as the divisional commanders knew that high command would drive them till they ran out, so they kept their own reserve off the books)

and theres so much more to be learned, such as the Kursk battle plan was loathed by hitler, who after 42 allowed the generals a near free rein in 43, and his generals made more ****-ups than he did... bear in mind that in 39, 40, 41, and 42 hitlers advice had usually been CORRECT and that his generals would ignore his orders... only to find the 'madman' had a particular talent for overall strategic thought as well as detailed micromanagment.

read the book, its great.

LEXX_Luthor
05-03-2004, 10:44 AM
The Generals' idea that Moscow was the key to victory was also wrong. Here, Hitler was correct about Ukraine, or at least no more wrong than his generals. Moscow was already evacuated by winter. Most of the industry, civilians, and government was gone but Stalin stayed and gave his speech--probably the only thing he did right in 1941 after getting over his nervous breakdown of June lol.

there's that June again http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/11.gif


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crazyivan1970
05-03-2004, 10:45 AM
If you guys know it, doesn`t mean everyone else does. I think it`s a not a bad summary after all. Based on discussions i`v seen here for the last couple of years, quiet a few people have slightest idea, so they should read it.

Not everything here is mentioned, but it`s a base, at least.

V!
Regards,

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Heavy_Weather
05-03-2004, 11:09 AM
thank you Crazy, this is the only reason i posted this. not everyone knows this. i still love reading it, even though i've read it a hundred times http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

"To fly a combat mission is not a trip under the moon. Every attack, every bombing is a dance with death."
- Serafima Amsova-Taranenko: Noggle, Ann (1994): A Dance with Death.

crazyivan1970
05-03-2004, 11:12 AM
So you put it together yourself, or there is a source? Or you just posted observation of something?

V!
Regards,

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VFC*Crazyivan aka VFC*HOST

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http://www.rmutt.netfirms.com/vfc/home.htm

Kozhedub: In combat potential, the Yak-3, La-7 and La-9 fighters were indisputably superior to the Bf-109s and Fw-190s. But, as they say, no matter how good the violin may be, much depends on the violinist. I always felt respect for an enemy pilot whose plane I failed to down.

CaptainGelo
05-03-2004, 11:13 AM
its not SEbastopol, its Sevastopol....grrr.. cant u spell http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif Lived most of my life there, great town.. http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' '''
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'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' '''


plane is 2slow, guns are 2weak and DM suck?...Then click here (http://www.hmp16.com/hotstuff/downloads/Justin%20Timberlake%20-%20Cry%20Me%20A%20River.mp3) | Fear british army. (http://216.144.230.195/Videos/Medium_WMP8/British_Attack.wmv)

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Heavy_Weather
05-03-2004, 11:35 AM
yep, copied and pasted from our very own:

http://www.il2sturmovik.com/the_game/background.php

gooday sir http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

"To fly a combat mission is not a trip under the moon. Every attack, every bombing is a dance with death."
- Serafima Amsova-Taranenko: Noggle, Ann (1994): A Dance with Death.

Heavy_Weather
05-03-2004, 11:50 AM
its quite sad that some are so hell bent on proving their point over another that they forget, these are tragic events that took place, that war was not a game it was a tragedy. these are things we in modern times take for granted. these people were people just like us who just happen to live in unfortunate times. i salute those who have fallen in those wars, allied or axis, they were all people, humanity, lets not forget that at least http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

"To fly a combat mission is not a trip under the moon. Every attack, every bombing is a dance with death."
- Serafima Amsova-Taranenko: Noggle, Ann (1994): A Dance with Death.

Chuck_Older
05-03-2004, 12:28 PM
Was I really the only one who knew this was in manual? http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/35.gif

*****************************
The hillsides ring with, "Free the People",
Or can I hear the echoes from the days of '39?
~ Clash

tttiger
05-03-2004, 12:40 PM
LOL, a clean kill for Chuck!

It is in the original IL-2 manual (in that pale grey type I can hardly read) http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

Wonder why they took it out of the FB Manual...

Great catch, sir!

S!

(still laffing http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif)

ttt

"I want the one that kills the best with the least amount of risk to me"

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Chuck_Older
05-03-2004, 01:18 PM
http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/images/smiley/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

*****************************
The hillsides ring with, "Free the People",
Or can I hear the echoes from the days of '39?
~ Clash