WW2 Anniversary

|   22 June 2011

The biggest invasion in history

Six weeks to get to Moscow?

Today is the 70th anniversary of the largest invasion in the history of the world. Just before dawn on 22 June 1941 over three million German soldiers and their allies pushed forward in three massive thrusts into the Soviet Union. Army Group North, commanded by Field Marshal Leeb, headed for the Baltic States and Leningrad; Army Group Centre, led by Field Marshal Bock, pushed straight into the Soviet Union on the Minsk/Smolensk/Vyazma axis; and Army Group South, under Field Marshal Rundstedt, advanced into the rich agricultural land of Ukraine.

The decision to invade the Soviet Union is now looked on as one of the craziest moves ever taken – everyone knows how this story turned out. A Germany broken and split and more than 30 million dead in this one war – 27 million of them Soviet citizens. But important as all of that is, it’s not what I think we should only focus on today. What we should remember as well is a fact many find surprising – which is that much of the smart money 70 years ago today was on a swift German victory. The assistant secretary of the US navy, for instance, told President Roosevelt that Stalin would likely be beaten in just six weeks. And the BBC was also told by the British War Office not to give the impression that Soviet resistance would last more than a few weeks. The Red Army was thought to be all but incompetent and incapable of defending the Soviet Union.

It’s an important reminder that we shouldn’t read history backwards, from the end result. At the time, many people believed that invading the Soviet Union was the sensible option for the Nazis. The crazy decision, in the consensus of the time, had been Hitler’s decision to invade France in 1940 – but look how that turned out, with a swift Nazi victory.

So today, along with the appalling destruction, let’s remember the view of many in the German High Command – summed up by General Jodl, who said: ‘The Russian colossus will be proved to be a pig’s bladder. Prick it and it will burst.’

Some pig’s bladder, eh?

One Response to “The biggest invasion in history”

  1. Nicked says:

    Oh how convenient hindsight is! And it’s so easy to criticise after the event, we know that but we do it all the time.