Operation Barbarossa (named for Frederick Barbarossa, the medieval German ruler) was the code name for Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a 2,900 km front. In addition to the large number of troops, it also involved 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses.
Planning for Operation Barbarossa started on 18 December 1940; the secret preparations and the military operation itself lasted almost a year, from spring to winter 1941. The Red Army repelled the Wehrmacht’s strongest blow, and Adolf Hitler did not achieve the expected victory, but the Soviet Union’s situation remained dire. Tactically, the Germans had won some resounding victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the country, mainly in Ukraine.
Despite these successes, the Germans were pushed back from Moscow and could never mount an offensive simultaneously along the entire strategic Soviet-German front again. Operation Barbarossa’s failure led to Hitler’s demands for further operations inside the USSR, all of which eventually failed, such as continuing the Siege of Leningrad, Operation Nordlicht, and Battle of Stalingrad, among other battles on the occupied Soviet territory.
Did you know that?
Each German invasion of a foreign country had an official musical theme that was frequently played for the purposes of Nazi propaganda over the totally government controlled radio stations after the invasion was officially announced to whip up enthusiasm for the military operation among the German population. The theme song for Operation Barbarossa was Les preludes by Franz Liszt.
The main battles:
- Battle of Białystok–Minsk
- Battle of Raseiniai
- Battle of Brody (1941)
- Operation München
- Battle of Smolensk (1941)
- Battle of Uman
- Battle of Kiev (1941)
- Operation Typhoon – Battle of Moscow
- Operation Nordlicht – Siege of Leningrad
- Operation Silberfuchs
- Before you read or see anything else, I strongly recommend the Annual Issue 2010 of Against the Odds, which addresses the ultimate question “Why Did Barbarossa Fail?“, and examines closely 10 of the most common myths about this ambitious assault of the IIIrd Reich on Stalinian Russia.
- Interesting, the Allies propaganda film by Franck Capra, “The Battle of Russia“
- Barbarossa, a Youtube trailer
Key games covering Barbarossa:
This theatre of war has been extremely rich, and and board games and computer games available are countless. A selection:
- Hearts of Iron series is one of the best games to revive Barbarossa on a strategic-operational scale. Strategic Command 2 and Commander Europe at War will offer similar pleasures.
- War in the East from Gary Grigsby is certainly the super star on Computers, and Barbarossa is the first of 4 scenarios covering each of the years of the Russian Campaigns: 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944.
- Avalon Hill’s Panzerblitz has pioneered the WW2 Eastern Front for boardgames., and several scenarios cover Barbarossa. At tactical level, Squad Leader has delivered its fair share.
- Panzergruppe Guderian form SPI is for me one of the best simulations for the Battle for Smolensk.
- The Russian Campaign, a remarkable production from our dear mate John Edwards and his Jedko Company, and recently republished by L2 Design Group
- Other games:
. ATO has published 4 interesting games in its 2010 Annual, “4 roads to Moscow”
. MOSCOW ’41 by HPS Simulations is a strategic simulation of Barbarossa
. ADVANCE OF THE REICH by HPS Simulations provides several scenarios at Tactical level
. World War II Barbarossa 1941 – Zvezda – 2010