June 22nd 1941: Operation Barbarossa begins
On this day in 1941 during the Second World War, the German invasion of Soviet Russia (codenamed Operation Barbarossa), began. Over three million German troops, armed with 3,000 tanks, 2,500 aircraft and 7,000 artillery pieces, crossed the border, making it the largest invasion in the history of warfare. The operation, pushed for by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, was driven by the Nazi leader’s fears of the Soviets (with whom the Nazis had made a non-aggression pact in 1939) joining forces with Britain and her allies. The invasion and the tactic of blitzkrieg was initially successful, allowing the Germans to take hundreds of miles of land and decimate the Russian military forces. Russia was taken by surprise by the invasion and unprepared for war, with a vast but unorganised army and a lack of coherent leadership as Stalin had purged 2/3 of senior army officials during the 1930s. However the Soviets reorganised and the Germans began to lose, most famously at the Battle of Stalingrad where German soldiers froze in the sub-zero temperatures lacking winter clothing. Thus ultimately the Axis powers failed, and Allied victory was effectively secured. Barbarossa is remembered as a major turning point of the war but also as one of the largest military operations in history.
"When Barbarossa commences, the world will hold its breath and make no comment"
- Adolf Hitler