Operation Barbarossa : Failures Of Operation Typhoon

Operation Barbarossa : Failures Of Operation Typhoon

Operation Barbarossa Midway through the year 1941 Nazi Germany began the invasion of the Soviet Union, under the codename ‘Operation Barbarossa’. 

This invasion saw the likes of fighting never seen before: an estimated 5.5 million personnel and tens of thousands of machinery from both sides. 

The German offensive scored great initial success in pushing deep into the Soviet homeland

In addition, by October of 1941 the Germans were preparing a massive push to take the capital city of Moscow, under the codename ‘Operation Typhoon’. 

It is at this point that the tide of the war on the Eastern front sees a massive change — and by the end of Operation Typhoon German advances had completely halted and the devastating Soviet counterattack began. This paper will examine what went wrong during Operation Typhoon, and discuss possible other outcomes of the doomed offensive.

Before Operation Typhoon even began.

There was already disagreement on how Operation Barbarossa should transition into Operation Typhoon amongst German high command. The German army was pushing into Russian with three ‘prongs’ — army groups north, center, and south.

Russians burned their own homes so that the invading Germans would not be able to find food or provisions.

Army group center was having the most success in gaining ground, and thus outpaced their counterparts to the north and south. By the time the army group center was closing in on the Russian capital, their flanks were left slightly exposed by the other lagging army groups. 

The German Army Commander-in-chief Walther von Brauchitsch, along with many other top military generals opted to continue pushing to Moscow.

Furthermore, to keep up the momentum of the army group center.
Generaloberst Walther von Brauchitsch, Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres. Jan. 1939

Although this would mean having exposed flanks, Walther von Brauchitsch believed that if they could swiftly topple Russian forces in Moscow and take the city it would deal a huge blow to the Russian morale before they could respond effectively. 

However, Hitler overrode this plan and instead rerouted army group center to aid in army group north and south’s efforts and to protect the flanks. Hitler’s plan proved to be quite effective, and soon German forces completed in taking interests in such as Leningrad in the North and Kiev in the South.

Despite these successes. The extra time spent to take these key cities meant that the calendar was approaching the winter months.

Soon the ground turned into mush which bogged down vehicles and slowed the German army down considerably. 

Furthermore the German army did not have the proper equipment for the cold Russian winter. As a result of ineffective supply lines.

This meant the advance was halted until more supplies arrived at the front. To add to the severity of the Germans’ situation. The Red Army had finally been reorganized and resupplied, now with T-34 tanks and other supporting vehicles.

When the German finally remobilized winter had begun, and conditions were brutal. The plan to take Moscow revolved around a massive pincer movement. With German forces pushing from the North and South to encircle the city and squeeze out all defending forces. 

However the fighting was fierce and German forces had difficulty breaking through the Soviets, who had dug a defensive line in front of the city. Once again the German offensive was halted, and one the same day the Soviets launched a counterattack that pushed the Germans further back. The German army would never again get as close to Moscow as they did in this offensive.

Many argue that had Hitler listened to his generals and given the green light for the army group center to attack Moscow with their momentum instead of rerouting them. Moreover, that they could have taken Moscow. 

While this is true, if army groups north and south hadn’t pushed up in time the rapidly mobilizing Soviet army could have performed an encircling movement on their own capital and isolated any German defenders. 

Additionally, Hitler was hoping that pushing quickly into Soviet territory would eventually force a Soviet surrender, which never happened. Many believe that even if the Germans had successfully taken Moscow, a Soviet surrender would be highly unlikely.

Russians defending their homeland.
Hitler murdered the Russian resistance that was not officially conscripted in the Red Army.

Although we may never know what might have conspired. If the German high command organized Operation Typhoon differently. It is important we acknowledge the heavy loss of life that occurred throughout the offensive. 

Estimates peg about 1 million Russian casualties, and about 200,000 German casualties.

Operation Barbarossa Written by Tony Cao


According to the historians: David Stahel, Craig Luther and Robert Citino & James Stewart’s interpretation of their work, regarding Operation Barbarossa:

The article again goes with the seasonal changes and the lack of winter clothing, also the move South to take Kiev, and the disagreement between Hitler and his senior officers. The reasons go much deeper than the article suggests. The German effort had shot its bolt as early as late August. The casualties sustained by the Germans were crippling and their victory at Kiev was more down to Stalin’s interference. And demand that the city must be held. Was in the face of all military logic and advice.

Furthermore, the winter uniforms did not exit certainly not for the number of troops fighting in Russia. For in October the war was meant to be over and Russia to be defeated.

Moreover, the German logistics system was totally overstretched and had broken down.

Furthermore, their fleet of transport trucks had largely become disabled lack of spare parts, servicing, oil and basic maintenance had gone by the board.

The Panzer divisions became reduced to a fraction of their original strength. And needed repositioning to resume the advance on Moscow. Everything was at the end of its tether both men and machines, the advance on Moscow was a desperate last throw of the dice. Intelligence wise the Germans had failed and the Russians had replaced their losses and could do so whilst the Germans could not.

There was a major reality gap between what OKW imagined was going on and what the remains of the Army could achieve.

Post-war the mud, snow, and Hitler became blamed by the army commanders. In reality, they too were complicit in the failure of Typhoon. Barbarossa achieved none of its objectives and in the process had become so damaged that it would never fully recover. The Red Army although seriously weakened had not fallen apart. “The door had been kicked”. In but “the whole rotten structure” had not fallen down, nor would it.

Much ground had been taken.

But with it came an extended front which the Axis lacked the men and resources to defend the further into Russia they went the more diluted their strength had become. And to attack in strength forces had to be shifted over major distances consuming scarce fuel to do so.

Within the Army there was no unity of command.

Eg Guderian was demanding more and more resources. Hitler finally agreed to release new tank production to the front. But it would in the main be the same troops that started off in Western Poland. And who would be asked to take Moscow. Or rather those that were still alive. By October 1941 the German Army and her very disheartened allies were in no position to reach, isolate Moscow and much less assault, or fight for the city. Typhoon was an illusion, one which OKH, OKW, and Hitler had fully invested in. Bore no reality to the demands being made on an Army. One which was exhausted. Depleted. And completely worn down. “Iron will” it was imagined would and could overcome all difficulties and any problems. T

Lastly, the German leadership now ordered the wretched remains of the invasion force which had for four months had marched and fought its way across Russia, pointed it towards Moscow and whilst they their collective heads in the sand.

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