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Why did Operation Barbarossa fail ?

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe October 1939 to February 1943' started by KiwiTT, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. KiwiTT

    KiwiTT Member

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    I have read dozens of books on WWII, and I need to refine my knowledge on this. Some say the winter and others say the lack of strategic direction consistency, e.g. go for Moscow, go for the Ukraine Fields, prior to winter, etc. Also, what if any on the Russian side caused it to fail.

    So I thought I would ask the question here amongst WWII "experts", to provide valuable information to refine my game.
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Simply because the operation was not to last longer that some 8-12 weeks as Hitler expected that the USSR would collapse simply because of the attack. The Red Army also fought back with courage but the fact that the war did not end as Hitler expected meant that he was in deep trouble, as his army and production facilities were not prepared for a long war. The human losses on both sides were appalling but for Germans this was more crucial as well as the loss of artillery pieces, tanks etc.
     
  3. Urban Fox

    Urban Fox Member

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    Well the quick answer was it had too many goals tying to secure Ukranie, Leningrad and Moscow in one 12 week campaign was unfeasible from the start, it could never work the Germans were very luck to get as far as they did. Any further advance was unrealistic.

    I’ve always thought had the Germans reached Moscow for example and started to fight their way into the city. (lacking the manpower to just encircle and bypass it) in fall/winter 1941 then they’d be in a much worse position come the inevitable Soviet counter-attack. Those half million Siberian troops come into battle at some point after all. The 1941 ''battle in Moscow'' could be like Stalingrad a year early;).

    Barbarossa failed because the plan was about as unworkable as Sealion.
     
  4. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Those 'Siberian' troops are one of the countless myths on WW II which will never die :they formed only some 10 % of the Russian frontstrength in december 1941 ;you can finf detailed information (with a list of the divisions ) on Axis History Forum .
     
  5. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Barbarossa was a good plan :the Germans had resources for a short campaign only,thus they planned a short campaign,they had to win before the SU could mobilise its superior manpower and industrial resources(the German assumption was that it would take at least 10 weeks for the Russians to mobilise ),but the Russian mobilisation started immediately and the Russians obtained immediately numerical superiority .
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Was it? It failed to take into account the strength of the oppostion and the logistics problems that the operation entailed and failed as a consequence. A plan based on the fact that you can only fight a short war is not necessarily a good plan if all indications are there will be no short war.
     
  7. JeffinMNUSA

    JeffinMNUSA Member

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    Hi;
    Serbia; Hitler's most catastrophic mistake
    Without the decision to invade Yugoslavia and Greece that spring of 1941 Hitler would have had more time to attack Moscow before the rasputitza and the deep Winter. Could he have indeed taken Moscow? Could he have held it against the counter attacking Russian forces? All great "Whatifs?".
    JeffinMNUSA
     
  8. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Even if the Germans could capture Moscow (very doubtfull ),there is no proof that the fall of Moscow would have caused the collapse of the SU .
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    And even if the Soviet resistance collapsed Eastern Europe is going to be a huge drain on the German military for some time. How far east do they go for instance? Since a lot of Soviet industry is on the far side of the Urals the Soviets can rearm and reform there unless the Germans go after them and the resistance is unlikly to stop just because the Soviet Union has collapsed.

    However as pointed out even if Moscow falls Hitlers actions have pointed out that there is little or nothing to be gained by surrendering.
     
  10. tovarisch

    tovarisch Member

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    Barbarossa, I think, was highly idealised by the German command, they wanted to get hold of a huge amount of territory in a minimal amount of time, hoping to have conquered Moscow before the wintertime, and by doing so, disabling the whole USSR, forcing it to surrender. I know that history shouldn't have it's 'what ifs' because what happened can't be changed and all that, but if Hitler had taken Moscow by winter, if all had went to plan, the Wehrmacht still would have lost, the Soviet forces would have regrouped out East, all the factories and munitions production utilites were moved to the Urals or even further, so there would have been no problems with supplies, and the Wehrmacht would have still met the same kind of resistance everywhere it went on Russian (or Soviet) soil.

    So really, knowing the winter weather conditions in Russia, attacking in late June wasn't a specifically bright idea. Also, stretching supply lines and not paying enough attention to partisan activity, which was superbly organised and extremely dedicated, by the way, also brought down Barbarossa. In essence, Hitler and his command had made the same mistake as Napoleon by attacking too late in the year. The German army succeded with the first phase of the operation though, but giving the troops 20 days rest to regroup and resupply before the final push in all 3 destionations was a big mistake as well. That time gave the Soviet Army a chance to bring in the Siberian divisions, renew their tactics, resupply and greatly strengthen the defences of the country's capital, Moscow, Germany's prime objective.
     
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  11. KiwiTT

    KiwiTT Member

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    Thanks for your feedback. It has given me good food for thought.
     
  12. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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  13. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    The plan took into account (the right expression ? )the weaknesses of the German army and wareconomy ,the logistic problems that were to expected and the (flawed ) information the Germans had on the Red Army .
    If you are planning to attack an opponent,who is much stronger but slow (flawed assumption ) to mobilise,you got to defeat him before he is mobilised .
    The plan failed because of the Russian capacity to send 3 million men to the front in 10 weeks,otherwise Russia was done .
    The information that could the plan make to succeed was wrong .
    I don't think that the Germans had indications that there would be no short war .Of course you could call the German attitude ,rightfully,wishfull-thinking .:)
    And,had the German leadership another option to win the war than to try out the impossible ?
    BTW :this had not yet discussed (nowhere ?) :why was the German intelligence (responsible -or coreponsible ?) of the failure of Barbarossa ,so deficient ?I don't think there has been such exemples of intelligence failures ,maybe the Suez expedition,or the NV Tet offensive in 1968 ?
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It did not take into account some of the logisitcs problems that they should have forseen.
    It also failed because of poor logistics and the fact that the Germans created opositoin where they could have had support. Any two of these are probably enough to defeat them all three certainly were.
     
  15. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    Almost all German Generals, Field Marshalls, and even Nazi officials, including Herman Goerring (second in command only to Hitler) were against Barbarossa from the start. Hitler agonized about the decision for months but in the end, decided that Stalin would attack him later if he did not attack now. (And while not mentioned in a lot of history books, there is considerable evidence that stalin was in fact planning to attack Germany in 1943 - New Evidence on the 1941 'Barbarossa' Attack -- Why Hitler Attacked Soviet Russia When He Did (review))
    So with an open mind to new evidence, one can see why, against the advice of all the German experts, Hitler decided to launch Barbarossa.

    Hitler was nothing if not a gambler. (Goerring once exclaimed to Hitler, "you've got to stop going for broke!" Hitler replied, "I've gone for broke my whole life!") After a long string of German victories, over Poland, France, Norway, Greece, and Crete, the German forces seemd invincible to almost everyone including Hitler. Combine that with Hitler's perception of the communist enemy to the east (Hitler and the Nazis fought the communists over leadership of Germany in the 20's and 30's, remember - the first thing Hitler did when he took power in 1933 was to ban the hated communist party from Germany.) So from Hitler's point of view, invading Russia seemed not only a great idea, it seemed a necessity.


    The Germans knew their only hope for victory against Russia was a short war, a very short war. The entire German armed forces had been from the start organized towards this end, since German planners knew Germany lacked the resources for a protracted battle with anybody. After Barbarossa sputtered in the winter of 1941-42, many perceptive Germans realized that any chance for victory against Russia was now gone. Even worse, Germany was now at war with the USA, now fighting two very large nations with huge industrial capacity that dwarfed Germany's. The end was of course defeat for Germany - but there are many reasons for failure of Barbarossa:

    1. Hitler misjudged Russian patriotism and the Russian fighting man. The "untermenschen" that he scorned as inferior largely turned out to be a lethal, determined, and fearless enemy. Referring to Stalin's purges of the Russian officer corps in the 1930's, he told all the doubters "We need only kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down." So it did at first, but Stalin rallied the Russian people in the name of defending the Rodina (motherland) and this was sufficient motivation to get many of them to fight to the death.

    2. Hitler over-estimated German capabilities. Once the short war became a long one, German industry simply could not cope. Although Germany came up with many revolutionary weapons (the me-262 fighter, the Tiger 1 and 2 and Panther tanks, the V1 and V2 rockets, Mp-44 sturmgewehr assault rifle), German industry was incapable of producing enough of them to make any long-term difference in the war. One example:
    Germany:
    Tiger tanks built, 1942-45: 1,200
    Panthers (1943-45): 5,000
    King Tiger (1944-45): 450
    Russian T-34's built: 1940?-1945)50,000
    US Sherman tanks built: (1942 - 1945) 40,000

    3. Hitler did not factor in war with the USA before he attacked Russia. Hitler had never been outside the continent and certainly never to the USA, but he did have some appreciation for American industrial capacity. As a veteran of 4 years of fighting at the front in World War 1 (he won the iron cross twice), Hitler also must have remembered the effect of American intervention in 1917. However, Hitler figured that the war with Russia would be over long before the USa entered the war - and before Pearl Harbor, Hitler went to great lengths NOT to provoke the americans into entering the war. But Hitler's decision to declare war on the USA after Pearl Harbor (which the Germans knew nothing about beforehand) was simply foolish. There was no reason to do this since nothing in the pact with Japan said he was obliged to (only if Japan were attacked, not if they were doing the attacking.) His decision to declare war on the USA gained Germany nothing, and may have cost Hitler the war.

    4. Hitler made one of the most basic tactical and strategic blunders it is possible to make: He attacked Russia with an active enemy still in his rear.
    After effectively losing the Battle of Britain, Hitler simply cancelled Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of Britain). Hitler decided the British could be neutralized by combined air and u-boat attacks (and indeed from 1940 to 1942 the German u-boats came very close to strangling Britain of food, raw materials and everything else they needed to wage war - in 1941-42 the highly efficient German subs were sinking British shipping faster than it could be built.) Hitler also thought deep down the British would eventually see things his way and sue for peace. This didn't happen, of course, and instead the British launched an aggresive night bombing campaign against German cities that would soon see thousands of American heavy bombers added to the campaign and destroy much of German industrial capacity, and a lot of Germany itself.
     
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  16. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    About your point 4 :I should say :He attacked Russia with an active enemy in the rear,that he could not eliminate,but that was fighting (in Hitler's mind )hoping on the intervention from Russia .
     
  17. tovarisch

    tovarisch Member

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    Marc780, I couldnt agree more. Great post.
     
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  18. British-Empire

    British-Empire Member

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    It would of had a much better chance of working had Mussolini not invaded Greece and if he persuaded Japan to either stay neutral or only go to war against Britain or the USSR.
     
  19. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    Japan was at war with China in 1931, long before Hitler came to power. The pact the Germans made with the Japanese was basically a written understanding of mutual moral and ideological support; and a promise to come to each others aid, insofar as possible, if one country were attacked, and not much more.

    The result of this pact was very little for either side, the two countries were simply too far apart geographically to help each other very much. There was some small amount of shared technologies, for example the Japanese built one of their fighters using shared German designs, but this sort of thing was minimal. the Germans rarely shared their war plans with the Japanese or vice versa - when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hitler was probably as surprised as Roosevelt was. But Hitler and the Nazis had practically no influence on the Japanese, or vice versa. Maybe one of the best example of how little aid Germany and Japan gave each other is illustrated by the results of the German attack on Moscow.

    When the German armies were foundering in the Moscow snow during Operation Typhoon in December 1941, Hitler very much wanted Japan to attack Soviet forces in Mongolia and Siberia, in order to tie up Russian troops, and he sent diplomatic feelers requesting as much to Japan. The Japanese though had already fought the Red Army under Zhukov at Khalkin Gol, Mongolia in mid 1939, and had been very badly defeated. Since the Japanese had just declared war on the USA, and with Khalkin Gol fresh in their memories, the Japanese refused to take on the Soviets again. Once Stalin realized this, he immediately sent the thousands of Siberian troops being held in reserve, to the Moscow front, and launched a winter counter-attack that drove the Germans from the gates of Moscow.
     
  20. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Marc, your posts make a great deal of sense. I admit I'm far from an expert on the Ostfront, but it would seem that many of Hitler's decisions were based on his belief that he would only have to "kick in the door" for the whole country to collapse. While the plans for Barbarossa might have been fine, many experienced military folk on this site would agree that no plan survives first contact. Too many goals and a lack of focus on what could be accomplished seemed to doom Barbarossa almost from the outset. The Soviets managed to move many of their military production facilities behind the Urals, and I'm just not sure Hitler had a clear idea of how deep an incursion he was prepared to make if Russia didn't surrender. Hindsight shows just how disastrous most of Hitler's decisions were.
     

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