Germans In Russia.

by Daniel Russ on September 9, 2018

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The Wehrmacht was so successful at Operation Barbarossa, that the Red Army, large as it was, was beaten back mercilessly. For the first six months tooked absolutely out of their element under the relentless pressure of the German armored advance.  Russians were so overcome by the force of the strikes, their lines dissolved and became lost, shambolic units wandering around in search of their regiments. These make shift pockets of resistance  were easily surrounded and captured. The Russians seemed to take one beating after another, fall back and destroy anything in their retreat that might be useful to the Germans. It was a scorched Earth policy that should have been a warning to the Germans. These ‘animal’ Bolsheviks would destroy all that they had built rather than give in. This was distinctly not like France and some of the Baltic countries that stopped fighting to save lives. Not the Russians. The attack was so fierce, the atrocities so unfettered that the Russian gave no quarter and would give no quarter until they were finally victorious. Bridges, office buildings, civic structures, electrical and power infrastructure, roads, rails, telephones, guns, homes, hotels, anything that the Germans could possible use was turned to dust.

For Germans the experience must have been surreal. After six months they had traveled as far as a 1200 miles inside this massive country and there was no end in sight for the end of the fight.  The further they went, the tougher it became. The supply line supporting the invasion was legendary. The Germans were divided into three massive army corps, Army Group North, Army Group Center, Army Group South. Each group needed 30 train loads of resupply a day, and most of this was just ammunition and food all for front-line troops.

Rasputita was the name given by the Russians for the syrupy impassable mud during the rain season. It slowed German divisions down from miles day to hundreds of yards a day. This was the two and a half month hell the Germans could barely punch through, and it was followed by the Winter of 1941, one of the worst in Russia’s history. It killed tens of thousands of people on both sides, and it put Germans in difficult positions because they did not plan for a long campaign. They did not pack winter clothes at the German Army Chief of Staff, Alfred Yodel’s behest. That would indicate to soldiers leaving in the 3rd week of June that they would be fighting through the next Winter. You see the Germans were all playing along to this pre-chewed fantasy that Hitler portended when he said, “All we have to do is kick the door in and the whole rotten thing will come down.”

It did.

On them.

When the winter of 1941 hit Russia, it was a struggle just for the Germans to stay in the fight. Every 200 to 350 miles the entire German Army had to stop, resupply, and repair. It put a limited range on future operations in Russia. It was so cold that German gun grease froze, munitions wouldn’t ignite. Firing pins shattered. Add to that mess the gauge of the rail skeining through the country had to be altered for the German trains.

German forces in the east in general had to fall back for the first time since the invasion.

Germany got back into the fight and eventually laid siege to Moscow, engaged the Russian armored divisions at Kursk. It was a remarkable turnaround for Germany. But they discovered something difficult. This land they would never really conquer. Every time they destroyed a Russian division, they saw two more behind it. They saw the Russians built a cheap, reliable and effective tank, the T-34. The first version had a 76mm high velocity gun that could stop most panzers. The second version had an 85mm gun on it that could stop all panzers. And it had sloped armor which made it hard to penetrate and allowed the tank to be made relatively  and in large numbers.

When the Germans captured Stalingrad and invested troops in it, it was a because the city bore Stalin’s name, and the city itself was a strategically important. It was on the Volga River and it produced weapons of war. The German 6th Army and the Germans in general shot themselves in the foot. First they bombed Stalingrad until the shattered landscape made a perfect hiding place for snipers and partisans. Next, they forgot that the Russians had no reason to run. This was their home. That said, the Russians were fighting like they were ready to fight to the finish. The Germans were still hoping to go home. Fighting was house to house, room to room, and often hand to hand and many large civic buildings changed hands several times. Much of the fighting was with flame throwers, gas and grenades.

A Russian Army surrounded the 6th Army until Field Marshal Von Paulus surrendered. This was news so big, it could not be hidden or ameliorated. Stalin had 50,000 Germans marched through the streets of Moscow to humiliate them. 90,000 or more were capture and of the Army Corps sized group that was captured, only 5,000 made it back to Germany.

After Kursk, the line pushed back all the way across the steppes to the Oder River. Germany’s Army in Russia never got back on its feet again. The scorched Earth that destroyed Russia was visited upon the people by both sides. It didn’t do anything to mitigate the misery of war.


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