.. nquest of France, or the speed of it (six weeks). The Balkan campaign which followed lasted only 18 days, and again with the armed forces of two states and a quality British Expeditionary Force routed, with light German casualties, (6,000). Germany had no reason to believe that the Russian campaign would last past its planned period (six to twelve weeks). When Germany attacked, they had assembled three million personnel, of which almost two million were battle formations.
The Russians had two and half million soldiers all in battle formations, within 100 miles of the border. The Germans prepared 120 divisions, 17 armoured, and called upon five Finnish divisions, 14 Rumanian, and two Hungarian: a total of 141 divisions. The Russian army, directly across the border, consisted of 144 divisions, of which 35 were armoured divisions. The Red Army, in total, within 350 miles of the border to counter the Germans, had 245 infantry divisions, 74 aroured divisions, 13 motorized, and nine cavalry divisions: a grand total of 342 divisions to counter Germanys invasion force of 144 divisions. To examine the order of battle is to understand the depth of planning and Hitlers belief in a victory. Hitler chose his best-suited generals, units and formations for the tasks laid out in the invasion strategy.
The order of battle was broken into three groups: Army Group North, Center, and South. Army Group North, led by Field Marshall Ritter von Leeb, was by far the smallest force (29 divisions) and was aided by a Finnish Army attacking from Finland. The Russians had at the boundary, 24 divisions, four of which were tank divisions to counter the initial invasion. Their objective was to drive at a blitz pace to Leningrad (the spiritual capital of Russia), seize the city, destroy the Pacific fleet stationed there, and secure themselves east of the Balkans. Army Group South, led by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, consisted of 42 divisions. They were aided by 14 Romanian divisions and two Hungarian divisions, which were almost entirely infantry units used as support and security. Army Group South faced a superior mass of Soviet forces and had to at the minimum, pin down and deny operational freedom of maneuver to those forces. Army Group South, and its 58 divisions, faced 62 divisions in the Ukraine, over 15 of which were armored divisions.
Army Group Center was the centerpiece of the battle and key force. It was led by Germanys best general (at the time) Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, and perhaps the greatest tank leader in history, Heinz Guderian. The Russians had clogged the border with battle formations, (58 divisions, of which 16 were armoured divisions) directly opposing Army Group Center. Their mission was to destroy the Russian army and advance towards Moscow. ARMY GROUP NORTH: 29 divisions; 3 Armoured, 2 Motorized Commander: Field Marshal Ritter von Leeb 16th Army: Col. General Busch 18th Army: Col.
General von Kuechler Panzergruppe IV: Col. General Hoeppner(570 tanks) ARMY GROUP CENTER: 49 divisions; 9 Armoured, 6 Motorized Commander: Field Marshal Fedor von Bock 4th Army: Field Marshal von Kluge 9th Army: Col. General Strauss Panzergruppe II: Col. General Guderian (930 tanks) Panzergruppe III: Col. General Hoth (840 tanks) ARMY GROUP SOUTH: 42 divisions; 5 Armoured, 3 Motorized Commander: Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt 11th Army: Col. General Schubert 17th Army: Col. General Stupnagel 6th Army: Field Marshal von Reichenau Panzergruppe I: Col. General von Kleist (750 tanks) The immense numbers and fighting quality of the Soviet armed forces in the Ukraine and Belorussia remains an interesting question in World War II.
Many historians, especially Russian, have held and protected the stance that Russia was playing for time as early as August 1939. Using this defensive logic, they seek to explain the vast territories seized in Eastern Europe 1939-1941, as a supposed buffer zone against Nazi Germany. Hitler is portrayed as the aggressor in the invasion of Russia, yet the Soviet aggression and troop build-up leads to many unanswered and unsatisfactory questions. Were the Russians planning an attack on Germany? Were the Russians militarily and economically prepared for a war with Germany? The Russians had seized 180,000 square miles: half of Poland, the Baltic republics, most of Finland, and Bessarabia, as a buffer against Germany. The Soviet manpower, resources, and weaponary dwarfed Germany and therefore, could do more than just protect itself. The Russian tanks had superior firepower, stronger armor, traveled faster and were easier to repair. (See Spreadsheet #1: Comparison of German-Russian Armor) Not only did the Germans have inferior artillery and tanks, but they were simply outnumbered, over 6/1.
(See Graph #1: Tanks Available Operation Barbarossa) If the Germans were so vastly outnumbered and outgunned, why would they attack in 1941, if only for military and ideological reasons? The Russian defensive posture does not ring true, as their aggressive nature of 1939-1941 attests. The Russians were not playing for time, they consistently did business with Nazi Germany economically and politically. The Soviets were bargaining with the Nazis and Italians into forming an alliance, yet they sought more war booty than their adversaries were willing to give. The massing of the Soviet Red Army directly on the border as a defensive measure is not supported by fact. After the invasion, the German forces found no real fortifications, trenches, tank traps or defenses of any sort on the Russian side. The best trained and experienced Soviet Army at the border had all of the latest equipment and weaponary.
The heavy tanks (KV-1 and KV-2) all had fuel drop tanks for long distances. The only explanation for the troop concentration was a planned invasion of Romania in late 1941. However, that offensive was seven months away, it was too early for a mobilization. Also, the size of the invasion force was ludricrous, the entire Romanian army had less than forty divisions of substandard troops and equipment, with little armor. The gas tanks on the heavy tanks were not needed for the short invasion of Romania and the Soviet rail line was more than adequate for the resupply of the proposed invasion. The Russians had not supposedlyfallen prey to the Nazis as had other countries; they knew full well that Germany would not stand stagnant. They not only took advantage of the opportunities and gifts Germany and Hitler gave to them, they asked for more.
At the German-Italian Pact of Steel negotiations, Germany had stated their case and their ultimatum. Ribbentrop, the German diplomat stated on his last visit to Moscow before the invasion Either stand with us or stand against us, the Fuehrer doesnt mind. The Germans who had gained so much in so little time did not see standing pat as a victory. Rightfully so, the Germans knew that in order to win the war they needed either Britain or Russia out of it. When Russia did not stand firm on the Pact of Steel, Germany no longer trusted its neighbor. Envisioning great wealth and opportunity in Russia, Hitler knew that without Russia, Britain was lost. However, if Britain was conquered, Russia would still exist and would pose a greater threat.
If Hitler had not acted first, would the Soviets have launched an attack against him? The facts that are uncovered definately point to this possibility. However, history has shown that Germany did attack before these questions were to be answered.