Operation Barbarossa: Day 4

Posted: June 25, 2012 in military history
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A very, very brief situation report on this day in history: June 25, 1941, four days into the German offensive against the Soviet Union. [NB: the confusion of verb tense is intentional]  If you are interested in examining what  the U.S. Army was reading about the war at this time, consult the Military Review (such as the April, 1942 vol. 22, no. 84 issue, which discusses the Battle of Rossieny, mentioned below), published by the Command and General Staff College. War-time issues contain accounts from German and Russian commanders about specific tactical and operational experiences from Operation Barbarossa, and make fascinating reading.

There is also, at armchairgeneral, a great listing of “Soviet Wartime Compositions.”  And for the be-all-end-all map of dispositions on June 22, 1941, see this Russian map, which may take a while to load.

Anyway, an extremely brief and episodic summary:

Panzergruppe 3 captured Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, yesterday.  Rear-area arrangements are already being set up. Among other troops deployed was the 403rd Security Division, which was awaiting the arrival of the SD Sonderkommando assigned to their district.

Guderian and Hoth’s armored units are approaching Minsk; meanwhile, the siege of Brest-Litovsk continues, despite frequent German broadcasts that the fortress has fallen (The 45th Infantry Division was responsible for many of these, perhaps in an effort to undermine Soviet resistance). The original time table had called for the city to be reduced in eight hours. The pocket around the Polish city of Białystok will be reduced in the next couple of days, with immediate horrific consequences for the Jewish community there.

Soviet mechanized formations–such as the III (at Vilnius), XII (Siauliai), IX (Kiev district), and XIX Mechanized Corps (Zhitomir, Kiev District), had long and often confusing marches to attempt, and their counter-attacks were generally uncoordinated and piecemeal. For a complete listing of Soviet Mechanized formations as of June 22, see Orbat.com, and for a quite decent summary of material from Glantz, Zaloga, and House, see the War and Tactics forum.

The largest armored engagement, starting June 24, continuing today and ending tomorrow on the 26th, was in the north, the battle of Rossieny. The Soviet 2nd Tank Division, equal in strength to the XXXXI Panzer Corps, missed the LVI Panzer Corps, but hit the XXXXI with around 300 tanks. Hoepner, commander of Panzergruppe 4, decided to let the XXXXI handle the situation on its own, and not divert the LVI to assist. The battle is currently ongoing.

German tank crews have already met Russian KV and T-34 tanks, and it is interesting to read the range of reactions they had afterward–from dismissal and coolly downplaying the effect of these tanks, to what Kershaw terms “more honest” appraisals, which describe the “crisis” and panic sparked by the sudden realization that the Soviets had superior equipment.  Soviet veterans recall the confidence inspired in their own ranks by the T-34, but at the same time they were getting exhausted four days of non-stop moving and fighting. As Stephan Matysh, artillery commander in the 32nd Tank Division near Lvov, put it, “We desperately needed a rest.”

In the Third Reich, on June 25 there is as yet no public announcement on the course of the war. In the Soviet Union, there is still no sign of Stalin…

[Select sources: Robert Kershaw’s War Without Garlands, Hannes Heer’s article “Killing Fields: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belorussia, 1941-42”, Fritz’s Ostkrieg, and the web sources linked.]


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