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." ©www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com
There are a total of (24) entries in the Timeline of Operation Barbarossa: The Axis Invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22nd - December th, 1941). Entries are listed below by earliest date to latest date.