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Operation Barbarossa - The German Invasion of the Soviet Union Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 12/23/2014

After successes throughout Europe, in the Balkans, and on Crete, Hitler's attention inevitably turned to the invasion of the Soviet Union.

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In accordance with Hitler's grand vision, the Soviet Union and its varied peoples were to be subdued if a new "German Empire" was to be realized. The captured lands would serve to feed Army advances and slave labor would provide Germany with the necessary manpower for victory and a long-standing existence after the war. On June 22nd, 1941, Operation Barbarossa was launched to begin the East Front - the German invasion of the Soviet Union.


The invasion plans were optimistic: it was thought that Axis forces - through surprise, strength, and optimizations of the "blitzkrieg" - could reach and capture the Soviet capital of Moscow in little more than eight weeks. A massive land and air campaign was drawn up that involved everything from tanks, cars, aircraft, artillery, supply trucks, and some 600,000+ horses. Personnel were pulled from all ranks of the Axis powers - Germany, Romania, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, and Finland with manpower numbering 3.8 million against the Soviet strength of 2.9 million fighting men and women.


Three Axis army groups were pushed into the assault - "Army Group North" (Field Marshal Leeb), "Army Group Center" (Field Marshal Bock), and "Army Group South" (General Rundstedt). Army Group North was charged with control of the Baltic and taking the city of Leningrad, Army Group Center was to drive on the city of Smolensk and, ultimately, Moscow, and Army Group South was headed to the Ukraine and the Caucasus.


With the element of surprise, momentum, and weather on its side, the German Army made tremendous gains. In their wake were either dead foes or beleaguered enemies though several resisting pockets sprung up to cause some alarm. The operation would span from June 1941 to December 5th, 1941 and, at the end of it all, the invaders went no further then Smolensk with the offensive stalling just outside of Moscow. A lull in the fighting brought on by poor winter weather and stressed supply lines for the attackers allowed the Soviets to recoup and rearm, beginning about the Battle of Moscow (October 1941 - January 1942). The full drive on Moscow, something encouraged heavily by German commanders, was halted by Hitler who now looked to control the important industrial capacities of the Soviet Union - satisfied to defeat his enemy through economic strangulation while being left discouraged by the masses of Soviet troops escaping his pincer movements on the battlefield.


Early returns in the massive operation were promising for Germany, faring comparatively well to early invasions schemes. However, Adolph Hitler had inevitably underestimated Soviet defiance with this statement:


"You only have to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down."


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There are a total of 24 Operation Barbarossa, the German Invasion of the Soviet Union Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1941
Sunday
June 22nd

Operation Barbossa is put into effect - the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

1941
Sunday
June 29th

General Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 meets General Hoth's Panzergruppe 3 in Minsk.

1941
Sunday
June 29th

Russian army forces are encirlced at key cities across the Soviet Union.

1941
Tuesday
July 1st

Panzergruppe 2 and Panzergruppe 3 cross the Berezina River west of Minsk, heading towards Smolensk and Vitebsk.

1941
Thursday
July 3rd

Panzergruppe 2 and Panzergruppe 3 now form up as part of General Gunther von Kluge's 4th Panzer Army.

1941
Wednesday
July 9th

Soviet defenses at Brest-Litovsk, Bialystok, Volkovysk, Gorodishche and Minsk fall to the invading German Army.

1941
Wednesday
July 9th

Panzergruppe 3 continues north to Vitebsk.

1941
Wednesday
July 9th

Gurderian's army moves south towards Mogliev.

1941
Thursday
July 10th

Guderian's forces cross the Dniepr River 50 miles outside of Smolensk.

1941
Sunday
July 13th

Defenses across Smolensk are prepared under the direction of the Soviet 16th Army.

1941
Sunday
July 13th

The Soviet 19th Army makes its way into Smolensk.

1941
Sunday
July 13th

The Soviet 20th Army arrives in Smolensk.

1941
Wednesday
July 16th

Smolensk falls to the German 29th Motorized Division.

1941
Wednesday
July 16th

Panzergruppe 3 heads towards Yartsevo.

1941
Wednesday
July 16th

Marshal Timoshenko and his 4th and 13th Armies near the Sohz River counterattack the Germans at Smolensk.

1941
Tuesday
July 22nd

The Soviet counterattack at Smolensk is driven back by Guderian's forces.

1941
Tuesday
July 22nd

The German Army begins to encircled in Soviet Army pockets held up outside of Smolensk, Vitebsk and Mogilev.

1941
Thursday
July 17th

The German Army begins to tighten the noose around the encircled Soviet forces numbering some 25 divisions.

1941
Thursday
July 24th

The German encirclement of Soviet forces is completed.

1941
Tuesday
July 22nd

A Soviet offensive meant to break the German stranglehold fails due to poor coordination.

1941
Saturday
July 19th

A German High Command directive calls for the army to complete the destruction of Soviet forces around Smolensk and then head south to tackle forces in Kiev instead of marching on Moscow herself - this decision is viewed as the turning point to Germany's defeat in Russia.

1941
Tuesday
August 5th

The Soviet defense of Smolensk is obliterated and falls taking with it the end of the Soviet 16th and 20th Armies.

1941
Tuesday
August 5th

300,000 Soviet prisoners, 3,200 tanks and 3,100 artillery guns are captured by the Germans at Smolensk.

1941
Tuesday
August 5th

The drive to Smolensk nets a total of 600,000 Russian prisoners of war, 5,700 tanks and 4,600 artillery pieces.