If early summer 1940 brought Hitler an unimagined, easy triumph over France, it also brought unanticipated strategic problems. Hitler had expected the British to recognize their hopeless situation and sue for peace. He seems, however, to have given almost no thought to what options Germany possessed should Britain reject his offer.1 The unrealistic optimism that characterized the air offensive against the British Isles marked the German approach towards their strategic problems throughout the 1940-41 period. As Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano noted after a visit to Munich in June 1940, Hitler resembled a successful gambler who "has made a big scoop and would like to get up from the table, risking nothing more."2 Ciano's description was most apt, for Hitler did, indeed, wish to escape a war against Britain. He calculated, quite correctly, that those who stood most to gain from a British defeat were the Japanese and the Americans and not the Germans.3 Thus, the road that policymaking within Germany travelled up to the beginning of "Barbarossa" led (1) from a direct air offensive on Britain to persuade the British of their hopeless position and to allow an unhindered move against Russia; (2) to a search for an indirect strategy to defeat the British; (3) to increasing interest in attacking the Soviet Union to remove a major buttress in Churchill's strategic policy; and, finally, (4) to the decision to invade Russia as the basis for realizing Hitler's long-term ideological goals.4

What the Germans misread, however, was the real significance of the victory over France in 1940. Their success did not mean that Germany had won the war, as Jodl's memorandum of June 30, 1940, suggested.5 Rather, it meant that Germany had acquired the economic and raw material resources to fight a long war. The nature and direction that a protracted war might take would depend on the strategic choices that the Germans were now to make; nevertheless, no matter what strategy Hitler and his advisers chose, the Reich was in for an extended and difficult struggle. The refusal of Germany's political and military leaders to recognize that fact destroyed whatever small chance Germany had to realize her inordinate goals and contributed directly to the catastrophe of 1945. Above all, this failure in grand strategy reflected the unwillingness of the German military to comprehend the nature of warfare between the great powers in the modern age. This led to the unrealistic belief that victory over France represented a return to the era of the short war.

With Britain's rejection of peace, Hitler sensed the strategic basis for Churchill's decision. As he suggested to Halder, the British hoped that both the Soviet Union and the United States would intervene in the war against Germany.6 In this Hitler


was correct, for Churchill had indeed based his hard line on the belief that Russia and America could not, in their own self-interest, allow Germany to dominate Europe.7 With that strange mixture of intuition and ignorance that characterized Hitler's makeup, the Führer urged on his military advisers the possibility of a quick, late summer campaign against the Soviet Union to remove that prop from British policy. His military advisers eventually were able to persuade him that such a campaign, late in the year, made no sense.8

Yet, Hitler's interest in a possible strike against Russia in the summer of 1940 does not indicate that he had firmly set Germany's course for the following summer.9 Rather as it became clear by mid-September that the RAF would hold its own and that "Sea Lion" was no longer a viable option, Hitler turned to the peripheral strategy which Jodl had urged in June. In the early fall of 1940, Hitler approached Spain and Vichy France about helping Fascist Italy attack British interests in the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East. Such an approach might have worked in the early summer of 1940 when the Wehrmacht's reputation was at its highest. But having suffered defeat in the skies over Britain, it was not so easy to forge an alliance among powers whose interests and appetites were mutually exclusive. Hitler fully recognized the diplomatic difficulties when he commented before meeting with Franco and Pétain that the need of the hour was a gigantic fraud.10

Conversations with the French and particularly the Spanish led nowhere, and upon return to Berlin Hitler remarked that he would sooner have "three or four" teeth pulled than face another conversation with Franco. Hitler had missed the bus.11 In the early summer in the full flush of victory, he might well have persuaded Spain to participate. After Mers-el-Kebir, had he granted substantial concessions to France in terms of the eventual peace treaty, he might also have enlisted Vichy support. However, with the Wehrmacht's overwhelming success, he felt no need to cut Spain in on the loot or to mitigate the onerous terms he wished to impose on France. Now in the fall of 1940, it was too late; the Spanish and the French recognized that the war was not over. The former made impossibly high demands concerning the price for Spain's entrance into the war; the latter decided to wait on further events despite bitterness against the British for Mers-el-Kebir.

There remained only the Russians as a means of pressuring the British. Since Hitler had hoped to end the war in the west so that he could solve the eastern question, one can wonder how seriously the Führer ever considered the possibility of a closer alliance with Russia. Nevertheless, in November 1940, the Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, arrived in Berlin to explore further cooperation between the dictatorships. The Russians overplayed their hand. Stalin seems to have believed his diplomatic position was stronger than, in fact, it was. Thus, Molotov was at his most truculent, brushing aside German suggestions that the Soviets interest themselves in the Persian Gulf, Iran, and India. While such goals were not entirely out of the range of Soviet expectations, Molotov emphasized more concrete and immediate aims in Europe. Among other items, he suggested that Finland, the Balkans, and the Dardanelles all lay within the Soviet sphere of


interest. What undoubtedly made the Germans choke was Molotov's proposal that a two-nation commission control the Skagerrak, entrance and exit to the Baltic--the proposed nations being the Soviet Union and Denmark. Adding further to the German discomfort were Molotov's tactless contradictions of the Führer and his justly famous rejoinder to Joachim von Ribbentrop's (the German Foreign Minister) comment that Britain was finished; why then, he asked, were they in an air raid shelter?12

Molotov's behavior, typical of Soviet diplomatic practices that have subsequently worked so well in dealings with the West, made a disastrous impression on his hosts and undoubtedly contributed to the German decision to settle matters with the Soviets that coming summer. There had been, moreover, a general deterioration in relations between the two powers since the summer of 1940.13 Stalin had taken advantage of German preoccupation in the west to incorporate Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the Soviet Union. More threatening to German interests was the Russian move against Rumania in July 1940, when the Soviets forced their neighbor to surrender not only the province of Bessarabia (covered by the Nazi-Soviet Non Aggression Pact) but the province of Bukovina as well (not covered by the agreement).

Hitler's reply to what he regarded as a threat to German interests in the Balkans, particularly Rumanian oil, was direct and forceful. Complicating the diplomatic situation was the fact that Hungary and Rumania were on the brink of war over the province of Transylvania.14 To the Germans, such a disruption of Balkan relations was unacceptable. Under pressure from both Ribbentrop and Ciano, the Rumanians surrendered substantial territory to Hungary.15 With that difficulty cleared up, the Germans turned to bolster a Rumanian regime badly shaken by a serious diplomatic defeat. The Germans moved with their usual speed. In early September, they supported the establishment of a pro-German military regime under General Ion Antonescu. At the end of the month, they sent a military "mission" consisting of a motorized infantry division, supported by flak and air units, to protect the oil region and to demonstrate German support for the new regime. One of the "mission's" major tasks was: "In case a war with Soviet Russia is forced upon us, to prepare for the commitment of German and Rumanian forces from the direction of Rumania."16

These German moves, all without consultation, elicited a vigorous response from the Russians. They protested strongly against the Vienna Accords that had settled the difficulty between Rumania and Hungary, and the movement of German motorized troops into Rumania could not have contributed to a Soviet sense of well-being.17 Equally disturbing, in view of Soviet interests in the Baltic, was a Finnish-German agreement that allowed the Germans to transport substantial forces through Finland to northern Norway. Of the 4,800 troops involved in the move, 1,800 remained in Finland for a considerable period. Under these circumstances, the Russians had every right to be suspicious.18 Given these frictions, the rapacious nature of the two dictators' appetites, as well as Hitler's belief that only in the east could Germany achieve the living space she needed, the


conflict between Russia and Germany was indeed inevitable. Had Molotov been more tactful and tractable, it is still unlikely that the Russians could have delayed the coming confrontation for long.

Nevertheless, Molotov's visit did precipitate a quick decision by Hitler. Within a little over a month, Hitler issued Directive No. 21, "Operation Barbarossa," to the armed forces. It stated: "The German Wehrmacht must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign even before the conclusion of the war against England."19 The directive itself reflected a culmination of the planning process that had begun during the preceding summer.20 Before examining the outlines of German military and strategic planning, one need only note that Hitler had set the final direction to German grand strategy. From this point forward, the Germans began serious preparations to destroy the Soviet Union in a swift, fast-moving campaign in which the Wehrmacht would drive into the heart of the Eurasian continent.


Unfortunately for the Germans, difficulties now arose in the south. In June 1940, believing that the war was over and the time propitious to loot the British and French empires, the Italians joined the war. Most Italians, particularly those in the upper classes--the military and Royalist circles, as well as the Fascists--wildly applauded Mussolini's war declaration, a declaration that Franklin Roosevelt so aptly described: "On this tenth day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger has stuck it into the back of its neighbor."21 The Italian armed forces, however, were woefully unprepared for any military commitments. The army possessed obsolete equipment, a faulty doctrine, and a thoroughly inadequate table of organization. The navy was acquiring an up-to-date battle fleet but had no desire to use its ships in combat. The Italian air force, supposedly heirs of Douhet, could not provide an accurate count of the aircraft at its disposal.22 These deficiencies, which became so glaringly obvious in coming months, had nothing to do with the bravery of the Italian people; rather, they had to do with military organizations that did not exist to fight. As General Ubaldo Soddu described his military career: " . . . when you have a fine plate of pasta guaranteed for life, and a little music, you don't need anything more."23

The Germans soon paid for their belief that Mussolini had reformed the capabilities of the Italian military. The Reich assigned the Italians the task of pinning down British forces in the Mediterranean. Hence, the Italian characterization of their Mediterranean effort as a "parallel war." That was an apt description for, in fact, there was little military cooperation between the Axis powers until the following winter when the Germans had to take over because of Italian military ineptitude.

Disaster came soon enough. Despite an explicit German warning in late September not to stir up trouble in the Balkans, the Italians blithely went their own way.24 In October 1940, in an effort to parallel the German move into Rumania,


they attacked Greece. With little preparation, no strategic planning, and at the onset of bad weather, Mussolini launched his forces into the highlands of northern Greece. The result was a military defeat with serious strategic implications. Italian incompetence had upset the Balkans and had provided an entree into the region for the British.

Worse news soon followed. In November, "Swordfish" torpedo bombers, flying off the carrier Illustrious, attacked the Italian fleet in the harbor of Taranto. By the time two strike forces of 12 and 9 aircraft had completed their mission, they had sunk 2 new and 2 older Italian battleships and had altered permanently the Mediterranean naval balance in the Royal Navy's favor.25

The collapse of Italian ground forces in North Africa in December 1940 completed the catalogue of disasters. Beginning on December 9, British mechanized units within the space of two months destroyed an Italian army that had invaded Egypt and moved forward into Libya to capture Bardia, Tobruk, and Benghazi, and by the beginning of February the British threatened to drive the Italians entirely from North Africa. With the fall of Tobruk on January 12, 1941, the British had captured well over 100,000 Italian troops and destroyed nearly the entire Italian army in North Africa.26 The Italians, with their "parallel war," had wrecked the Axis' strategic position not only in the Balkans but also in the Mediterranean.

The Germans now had no choice but to restore stability to the southern flank before "Barbarossa." As early as August 1940, they had considered sending a panzer corps to Libya to aid in the drive to Suez, but the Italians had rebuffed the offer.27 The destruction of much ofthe Italian battle fleet at Taranto and the military disaster in Greece forced Hitler to stronger action. On November 20, after pointed recriminations at the lack of diplomatic discipline and military incompetency of Italy, the Führer proposed that Germany send strong air units to Sicily to make long-range attacks on the British fleet in the eastern Mediterranean.28 The Italians, in no position to refuse any offer of help, speedily acquiesced. By the beginning of January 1941, Fliegerkorps X, mostly drawn from units operating in Norway, had arrived at bases in Sicily. By mid-January, nearly 200 German bombers and long-range fighters were operating against the Royal Navy and its lines of communications in the central and eastern basins of the Mediterranean. The impact of the Luftwaffe on naval and air operations in the Mediterranean theater was immediate and direct.29

The disasters that overtook Italian ground forces in Libya forced Hitler to increase the level of aid. By the end of December, the military situation looked so bleak that the German Embassy in Rome suggested that only a joint Mediterranean command, dominated by German officers, could save the situation.30 For political reasons, Hitler rejected the proposal to take over directly the Italian war effort. Nevertheless, he could not escape the need to bolster Italy in North Africa with significant ground forces. On January 11, he ordered the army to prepare a blocking force for service in Libya. At the same time, he allowed Fliegerkorps X to move to North Africa to support Axis ground forces.31 By mid-February, Hitler had added a


panzer division to an initial commitment of one light division. Commander of the new German forces in Africa was a recently promoted lieutenant general, Erwin Rommel.

The emphasis on the North African campaign by many Anglo-American historians should not obscure the fact that the Mediterranean remained a strategic backwater for Hitler--an area in which the Germans consistently minimized the forces committed.32 Rommel's task was to prevent an Italian collapse and to pin down as many Commonwealth forces as possible; he was notably successful in this endeavor. Moreover, criticism of his capabilities as a strategist missed the point that Rommel never received the resources necessary for a wide ranging strategic campaign. Although Rommel's surge into Egypt in the spring of 1942 was not, as it turns out, capable of overturning Britain's Middle Eastern position, it did manage to unbalance the British so thoroughly that not until the following October were they able to utilize their overwhelming superiority in the theater. For the Luftwaffe, the Mediterranean represented a peripheral theater from January 1941 through the fall of 1942. The Luftwaffe's mission in the Mediterranean largely involved attacks on the island of Malta, support for the Africa Corps, attacks on the British fleet, an increasing commitment to protect the tenuous supply lines between Africa and Europe, and support for the ineffective Italians. As German liaison officers noted early in the war, the Italians had neither the personnel nor the production rate to support a sustained air war.33

Because the Germans were using a defensive strategy in the Mediterranean, they had to restore order to the Balkans before "Barbarossa" could begin. British aid to Greece, in the form of RAF squadrons, alarmed Hitler who particularly feared air attacks on the oil fields and refineries of Rumania.34 Further Wehrmacht deployments into Rumania in the late fall initiated preparations both for "Barbarossa" and the elimination of Greece as an opponent. However, both geographic and diplomatic difficulties hindered the buildup; bad weather in December 1940 and January 1941, combined with Rumania's primitive transportation system, caused serious delays. Moreover, Bulgaria, worried about Turkey, hesitated to allow German troops access to its territory. Not until the end of February did the Germans assuage Bulgarian fears, and only on March 1 did their troops cross the Danube to begin deployment against Greece.35

As the German army prepared to invade Greece, Hitler pressured Yugoslavia to join the Axis and to provide additional routes for the offensive. Here the truculence that has marked much of Serbian history stymied Hitler's objectives. Shortly after the Regent acceded to German demands, Serbian officers overthrew his regime. Unfortunately, the plotters proved surprisingly hesitant to accept British support; they failed to recognize that their actions had so antagonized Hitler that war was inevitable.36 Furious, Hitler was not the sort to hesitate. Afraid that the Yugoslavs represented a threat to the southern flank of German armies invading Russian, not to mention the attack on Greece, Hitler determined to remove Yugoslavia from the list of independent Balkan nations.


The spring 1941 campaign heralded the return of major air operations for the Luftwaffe after the period of relative calm lasting from December 1940 through March 1941. However, the onset of this new campaign differed from that of the year before. This time, the Luftwaffe would face increasing commitments with no recuperative periods until its final defeat in 1945. Hitler's anger at what he regarded as a Yugoslav betrayal insured that the Luftwaffe received a mission well beyond a role of strict military utility. On March 27 in War Directive #25, he emphasized that "Yugoslavia, even if it makes initial professions of loyalty, must be regarded as an enemy and beaten down as quickly as possible. " The Luftwaffe's first objective would be: "As soon as sufficient forces are available and the weather allows, the ground installations of the Yugoslav air force and the city of Belgrade will be destroyed from the air by continual day and night attacks [my emphasis]."37

German military planning exhibited its usual adaptability to changing circumstances. As Halder admitted later, the OKH had already prepared the theoretical groundwork for an attack on Yugoslavia; all that remained was to solve the practical difficulties of moving troops and supplies for the expanded campaign.38 In little more than a week after the coup, the Germans had altered Twelfth Army's dispositions in Bulgaria to include Yugoslavia in its mission and had established the Second Army in southern Austria and Hungary along the Yugoslav frontier. Armored forces from the two armies, one advancing from the north and the other from the south, would strike deep into Yugoslavia at Belgrade. Meanwhile, Twelfth Army would bypass Greek defenses by swinging through Yugoslavia to take the Greeks in the flanks and rear.39 Along with these new deployments went an extensive redeployment of the Luftwaffe. Nearly 600 aircraft moved from various bases within the Reich to support the extension of the campaign to Yugoslavia; some units were deployed from bases as far away as southern France. Luftwaffe strength for the coming offensive now exceeded 1,000 aircraft.40 The reasons behind such a drastic increase in aircraft strength become readily apparent in reviewing the orders directing the air attacks on Yugoslavia. The campaign's strategic plan specifically excluded bombing either industrial plants or the transportation network, since the Germans hoped to utilize the Yugoslav economy as soon as possible for their own needs. However, the major task, concurrent with achieving air superiority, was "the destruction of Belgrade through a great air attack." That attack would begin in the morning with a direct bombing of the city's center with 75 percent high explosives and 25 percent incendiaries; after a quick turnaround, the bombers would return that same afternoon with 40 percent high explosives and 60 percent incendiaries. The change in bomb load reflected a desire to cause as many fires as possible "to ease the problem of marking the city for the night attack." Night bombers would drop 50 percent high explosives and 50 percent incendiaries. Further bombings of Belgrade would occur on D+1. The code word for the operation was "Punishment,"41 an accurate description of Hitler's feelings. By the time the Germans had completed their attacks on a city that the Yugoslavs had declared open, 17,000 people had died.42 Hitler had exacted his measure of revenge.


The campaign was a stunning repetition of the success the previous spring. Within less than a week, German mechanized forces had captured the ruins of Belgrade. German spearheads supported by the Luftwaffe sliced through the land.43 By April 17, organized resistance had ended with the surrender of the remnants of the Yugoslav army.44 The drive to the south against the Greeks and British did not last much longer. The sweep through Yugoslavia not only outflanked Allied forces facing Bulgaria but also cut off the Greek's First Army fighting the Italians in Albania. By April 22, German armored and air units had broken through the pass at Thermopylae, and the remainder of the campaign was a race to see whether the Royal Navy could evacuate British troops before German armor could cut off their escape.45 There was one climactic clash to the campaign. On May 20, German airborne forces dropped on Crete. However, they met an unexpectedly warm reception. In fact, on the basis of the first day's operation, it looked as if the Germans might fail entirely. Not only did the paratroopers not capture a landing strip but the survivors were isolated and under great pressure. Only faulty leadership and coordination around the Malene airfield allowed the Germans to seize that airbase and to fly in reinforcements. Air superiority gave the paratroopers critical support and prevented the Royal Navy from bringing to bear its full weight.46 Despite the successful outcome, the Germans indeed had received a bloody nose in Crete. Altogether, their losses totalled nearly 4,000 men or one-quarter of the attacking force. Out of the 500 transport aircraft, the Luftwaffe had to write off 146 as total losses, while a further 150 were damaged.47 Because of the operation's high cost, Hitler considered the day of large paratrooper operations as finished.

In retrospect, the Balkan campaign was only a footnote in the war. It did not significantly postpone the invasion of Russia. The delay in the Russian campaign resulted more from supply and organizational difficulties and poor ground and weather conditions associated with the late spring than from the attack on Greece and Yugoslavia.48 At the most, Balkan operations affected the freshness and staying power of units transferred from operations in the south to the Russian campaign. Ironically, the campaign in the Balkans succeeded too well. The advance of armored spearheads had been so quick and the collapse so sudden that the Germans were not able to round up thousands of Greek and Yugoslav soldiers left in the backwater areas of those countries. Rapid redeployment of German units to "Barbarossa" assignments allowed those soldiers to roam the countryside; they soon formed the basis for the considerable guerilla movements throughout the area. By 1942, these guerrillas were tying down large numbers of Germans and were preventing the Reich from fully utilizing the resources of the southern Balkans.

For the Luftwaffe, the spring of 1941 offered the last easy campaign. Nevertheless, even before "Barbarossa," aircraft losses were rising ominously. Operations in the Balkans, as well as an increased effort against British cities to disguise the redeployment to the east, pushed the loss rate (all aircraft) from 2.6 percent (written off) in January 1941 to 7.2 percent in April, and to 7.5 percent in May.49 The loss rate for bombers (written off) climbed in the same period from 4.8 percent in January, to 5.5 percent in February, to 8.6 percent in March, to 10.6


percent in April, and to 12 percent in May. Thus, the strain on resources was already mounting before operations in the east began. Furthermore, official German reaction among the ruling hierarchy to the loss rate suggests a general indifference to the potential impact that such losses might have in sustained combat operations in Russia.


The decisive campaign of the Second World War was the German invasion of Russia in 1941. The defeat of that effort reflected the failure of German leaders to prepare the economic and productive capacity of the Reich and western Europe for war on a continental rather than a western European scale. Thus, in a certain sense, the production and industrial decisions made by the German leadership in the summer of 1940 represented a decisive turning point in World War II. In effect, Germany's leadership had sealed her fate before the campaign opened.

Hitler had turned to Russia in the summer of 1940 as a possible solution to the British dilemma. While the idea of a fall 1940 campaign had to be shelved temporarily, contingency planning for an invasion of Russia began almost at once. By the end of July 1940, serious planning was underway in the OKH. On August 5, General Erich Marcks presented a strategic study that sketched in outline a framework for the proposed campaign. Marcks posited as the main strategic aim the destruction of Soviet armed forces. The Wehrmacht would advance at least as far as the line Archangel-Gorki-Rostov to prevent the possibility of bomber attacks against Germany. The main thrust would occur north of the Pripyat marshes and attempt the capture of Moscow. Subsidiary drives in the north and south would protect the flanks of the advance on the capital and prevent a Soviet spoiling attack on Rumanian oil resources. Marcks suggested that the decisive battles would occur in the first few weeks with the armored drive playing the critical role; these penetrations would hopefully destroy the main body of the Red Army in the border areas. The study estimated a slight numerical advantage in favor of the Wehrmacht and certainly a decisive qualitative superiority. Once German troops had pierced the Red Army's forward lines and had begun the exploitation phase, Marcks believed that the Soviet command and control system would collapse, allowing the Germans to destroy Soviet armies piecemeal. The study suggested that a period of between nine and seventeen weeks would be necessary to achieve the campaign's objectives.50

Further studies in the fall of 1940 followed the direction that Marcks had suggested. While certain problems emerged in the war gaming of operations, such as the distances involved in Russia, most officers concurred with the proposed strategy with its emphasis on gaining a swift military victory by advancing on Moscow. However, Hitler did not agree fully, and the Führer emphasized that after the capture of the border areas, the advance on Moscow would not proceed until German forces had captured Leningrad.51 The emphasis in Hitler's strategy was on gaining Soviet economic resources as quickly as possible. Thus, right from the beginning, there was a dicotomy in German strategy between Hitler's emphasis on


capturing economic spoils and the army's preoccupation with strictly military factors. This was the first direct interference by the Führer in "Barbarossa's" planning process; as in France, he would involve himself deeply in operational matters.

There are several elements in the planning process that require amplification. The first is that, while Hitler and the OKH held somewhat different views as to the proper strategy for the campaign's later stages, all substantially underestimated the Red Army's numerical strength, Soviet industrial resources, and the inherent logistical difficulties involved in waging a campaign on a continental scale.52 There were, of course, reasons for such underestimations of the Red Army; the pernicious effect of the purges as well as the depressingly poor showing of Soviet military forces in Poland and Finland were all too obvious. Moreover, the Germans found it difficult to build an accurate picture of Soviet industrial potential. In Stalin's police state, intelligence agents did not last long. For security reasons, Hitler forbade deep reconnaissance flights into the Soviet Union until shortly before the invasion, and the Luftwaffe did not possess reconnaissance aircraft with the range to reach the Urals.53 Nevertheless, there were glimpses behind the curtain of Soviet security. Shortly before "Barbarossa," the Russians allowed several German engineers to see the new aircraft factories in the Urals and the extensive production that was already underway; their reports went unheeded.54

This underestimation of Russian capabilities lay not only in misreadings of Soviet resources but in the nature of the war that Hitler was launching. This war was more than a political or strategic struggle. It was an ideological war, a crusade, waged to encompass not simply the defeat of an enemy nation but the utter destruction and subjugation of a whole people. The purposes for this campaign in Hitler's eyes were to (1) capture the Lebensraum (living spaces) for the Germanic peoples, (2) destroy the Jewish-Bolshevist regime, (3) root out and destroy the Jewish population (along with several other unfortunate nationalities), (4) reduce the Russian people to a servile mass, and (5) capture the resources to conduct a war against the Anglo-Saxon powers. It is now clear that the German military, with few exceptions, concurred with the ideological framework within which Hitler determined to wage "Barbarossa."55 From the first, the Führer made clear to his commanders that the coming campaign

was a battle of extermination . . . . Annilhilation of Bolshevik commissars and communist intellectuals . . . . The struggle must be conducted against this poison. There is no question of the laws of war . . . commissars and members of the secret police are criminals and must be treated as such [i.e., shot].56

Shortly before the beginning of "Barbarossa," the head of the Luftwaffe's air mission in Rumania returned from meeting Göring to report to his leading subordinates that "the Reichsmarschall has clearly ordered that among Russian prisoners each Bolshevik functionary is to be immediately shot without any judicial proceedings. That right [to shoot communists] every officer possesses."57 If there


were some opposition to the "commissar order," it was not widespread. As the head of the army's Rumanian mission suggested, war had returned to the religious and ideological basis of the Thirty Years' War: Germany's opponents were the financiers, Freemasonry, and the financial and political power of the World Jewry.58 Far too many officers acquiesced in outrages, such as the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews by SS commando teams (Einsatzgruppen), while the starvation of literally hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of prisoners was directly attributable to Wehrmacht authorities.59

The widespread acceptance of Hitler's goals and attitudes throughout the officer corps made possible the terrible atrocities that occurred. It was not merely a matter of Hitler and the SS. On the political side of the invasion, the scale of criminality quickly disabused disaffected Russians and Ukrainians of the notion that the Germans might be their liberators. German atrocities rallied the population to the defense of a thoroughly unpopular and vicious regime. On the military side, a sense of a racial and cultural superiority, shared by most German officers, contributed to an underestimation of Russia's powers of resistance. As sophisticated a general officer as Günther Blumentritt could claim in 1941 that "Russian military history shows that the Russian as a combat soldier, illiterate and half-Asiatic, thinks and feels differently.60 Given such attitudes, it is not surprising that many German soldiers, as well as their leader, expected that once they kicked in the door, the structure--ruled by Jewish subhumans--would collapse.61

One of the more glaring defects in mapping out the preinvasion strategy was the scant attention the Germans paid to the logistical difficulties of supporting troops deep inside Russia. The general assumption seems to have been that the first great rush of mechanized forces would carry to Smolensk and destroy the Red Army in the border areas. Thereafter, depending on railroads, German troops would exploit the initial success to finish the campaign. Surprisingly, the units scheduled to repair railroads leading to Smolensk lay at the bottom of army priorities--a reflection of an unduly optimistic approach to logistics.62 Compounding this casual attitude towards logistics was the failure to appreciate the distances involved in traversing Russia. The push to Smolensk and from there to Moscow represented a logistical problem on a vastly different scale from the campaign in the west against France.

For the Luftwaffe, the awesome geographic size of Russia presented comparable logistical difficulties. What is more, the major commitments occupying the air force from June 1940 on had allowed almost none of the periods of rest the army had enjoyed to conserve and rebuild strength. Göring claimed after the war that he had opposed the invasion; but his remarks to General Georg Thomas, head of the OKW's economic section, that such a war was simply a "problem of the necessary supply organization" suggests that he was as overconfident as the rest.63 Hitler's Directive #21 stressed that the Luftwaffe's first task was to eliminate the Russian air force and to prevent it from interfering with the advance on the ground; after gaining air superiority, the Luftwaffe was to support the army. Interestingly, the directive explicitly ruled out attacks on the enemy's armament industry "during the main operations. Only after the completion of the mobile operations may such


attacks be considered--primarily against the Ural region."64 The assumption was that ground operations would proceed so rapidly that the Wehrmacht would soon occupy Soviet industrial centers; thus, it made no sense to destroy what would soon be in German hands. No one considered or even thought it possible that the Soviets would transfer much of their military industrial complex behind the Urals.

The extension of the war to Russia meant that the Luftwaffe now faced the prospect of war on two fronts (three fronts if one considers the Mediterranean a separate theater).65 What should have alarmed senior German military and civilian officials was that, despite a drastic increase in commitments, there had been virtually no change in the number of aircraft in the force structure from the previous year. (See Table XII.66)

German Aircraft Strength

  May 11, 1940 June 21, 1941

Close Recce 335 440  
Long-Range Recce 322 393  
Single-Engine Fighters 1,356 1,440  
Night Fighters   263  
Twin-Engine Fighters 354 188  
Bombers 1,711 1,511  
Dive Bombers 414 424  
Ground Attack 50    
Coastal 240 223  

TOTAL 4,782 4,882  

A revealing statistic in Table XII is the fact that the Luftwaffe began the invasion of Russia with 200 fewer bombers than it had possessed at the start of operations against the West; German bomber production had not kept pace with losses over the course of the year.

The OKL (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, German air force high command) detailed three air fleets to cooperate directly with the three army groups in the subjugation of the Soviet Union. Two thousand seven hundred seventy aircraft, or 65 percent of the frontline strength of the Luftwaffe, moved east against the Russians; through the spring of 1943, the bulk of the Luftwaffe would remain tied to the eastern front.67 Facing the Germans was a Soviet air force estimated at 8,000 aircraft, with somewhere around 6,000 deployed in European Russia.68 Like the army, the Luftwaffe believed that after the first day's operations had broken the back of the Soviet air forces, the Russians would not recover. Moreover, Russia seemingly offered an opportunity to replicate the victorious effort against France with none of the frustrations of the aerial assault on the British Isles. Thus, Jeschonnek's remark "at last a proper war" represented more than just the relief of an air staff that had suffered the only German defeat thus far in the war. Flight crews also were glad to terminate increasingly dangerous and ineffective night missions over Great Britain.69 By February 1941, RAF countermeasures had so neutralized


German blind bombing devices that scarcely 20 percent of bombs dropped were falling near their targets. The rest were landing in the countryside.70

In retrospect, considering the opposing force structures, the difficulties and extent of the theater and the overconfidence within the high command, the Germans did better than they should have. Their enormous tactical successes through the fall of 1941 were as much the result of Stalin's incompetence as of German military brilliance. In his search for internal security, the soviet dictator had quite literally destroyed his army's officer corps in a purge that lasted from 1937 through 1939.71 Unfortunately, the purge had hit hardest at those in the high command who possessed the most realistic sense of operational and tactical matters, including the strategic difficulties that Russia would face in a major European war.72

Stalin compounded the problems facing his armies in his reaction to the German victory over France. The Russians overplayed their diplomatic hand in the fall of 1940; then when ominous signals accumulated as German troops deployed to the east, Stalin lost control of the situation. He disbelieved the evidence that pointed to a German invasion. Admittedly, the Germans threw considerable misinformation at the Soviets, and the cover plan for "Barbarossa" was a carefully worked out attempt to throw the Russians off the scent.73 The last minute deployment of air units to operating bases in East Prussia and along the frontier also helped deceive the Soviets. Not until June 19 did Fliegerkorps VIII move to East Prussia from deep inside Germany where it had replenished supplies and drawn new aircraft and crews.74

Finally on the evening of June 21, Stalin allowed his high command to issue a strategic warning to troops on the frontier. The warning from Moscow came so late that it reached few frontline units.75 Surprise was almost complete, and the dispairing signal of a border patrol--"We are being fired on, what shall we do?"--indicates the level of unpreparedness. The reply from higher headquarters--"You must be insane, and why is your signal not in code?"--points out the disadvantages under which the Soviets began the campaign.76


In the early morning hours of June 22 from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Wehrmacht stormed across the frontier. German aircraft, crossing the frontier at high altitudes in order not to alert Soviet defenses, dropped to attack altitude and pulverized Russian airfields. Still unalerted, Soviet air units had their aircraft lined up in neat rows facilitating the Luftwaffe's task. Those few aircraft that managed to scramble soon fell to the guns of German fighters. The extent of the surprise is shown by Fliegerkorps IV, which on the first day reported destroying 142 enemy aircraft on the ground and only 16 in the air.77 By noon of the 22nd, the Russians had lost 528 aircraft on the ground and 210 in the air in the western district. For the entire front, Russian losses totalled no less than 1,200 planes in the first eight and one-half hours.78


The situation on the ground forced the Soviets to commit their remaining air resources in a desperate effort to stabilize the collapse. Ill-trained, ill-equipped, and ill-prepared, Soviet aircrews floundered in impossible formations and in obsolete aircraft;79 the slaughter of Soviet aircraft resembled the destruction of the Japanese fleet air arm in the "Mariana's turkey shoot" of 1943. The attacks on Soviet airbases and ground support organizations led to a general collapse of the Russian air force's ability to control its units. Desperate appeals, radioed in clear text from air units to higher headquarters, gave the impression of a thoroughly chaotic situation.80 Milch recorded in his diary the destruction of 1,800 Soviet aircraft on the first day, followed by 800 on June 23, 557 on the 24th, 351 on the 25th, and 300 on the 26th.81 Whether, in fact, the Luftwaffe had managed to destroy that many aircraft is beside the point; a defeat of immense proportion had overtaken the Red Air Force--a catastrophe overshadowed only by events on the ground.

On the main battlefronts, aided by Luftwaffe close air support and interdiction missions, German armies surged forward against a collapsing opponent. Within four days, Manstein's panzer corps had advanced nearly 200 miles to the Dvina River; and by the end of the month, the entire Russian position in the Baltic region was in shreds. The greatest disaster occurred, however, on the central front in an enormous double envelopment around the cities of Bialystok and Minsk. When the armored pincers of Panzer Groups 2 and 3 met behind Minsk, they inclosed elements from four Soviet armies. By the time that mopping-up operations had finished on July 9, the Germans had claimed 287,704 prisoners and destruction of 2,585 tanks.82 Probably another quarter of a million Soviet soldiers had died or been wounded in operations leading up to this final collapse. The German drive, however, did not remain stationary. As the infantry hurried forward to encompass and destroy the pocket, mechanized forces from Panzer Groups 2 and 3 swung out again to meet on July 19 at Smolensk to complete another envelopment of Soviet forces. By the time that they had reduced the Smolensk pocket, the Germans had captured a further 100,000 prisoners, 2,000 tanks, and 1,900 guns.83 Only in the south did the Germans fail to gain a significant success. Nevertheless, even there Army Group South closed up on Kiev and was breaking into the big bend of the Dneper River. On July 3, Halder noted optimistically:

On the whole, one can already say that the task of destroying the mass of the Russian army in front of the Dvina and Dneper has been fulfilled. I believe the assertion of a captured Russian general to be correct that we can calculate on meeting east of the Dvina and Dneper only disjointed forces which alone do not possess the strength to hinder German operations substantially. It is, therefore, truly not claiming too much when I assert that the campaign against Russia has been won in fourteen days. Naturally, it is not yet ended. The extent of the theater and the tenacity of resistance that will be conducted with every means will still claim many weeks.84

Yet, the advance to Smolensk stretched supply lines to the breaking point. As the Smolensk cauldron died down at the end of July, the Germans found it almost


impossible to supply their forward spearheads. The distance to the railheads, the movement of infantry to support the mechanized forces, and the exhaustion of the motorized supply system created a logistical nightmare. Further complicating the serious supply situation were Soviet attacks launched from within and without the Smolensk pocket to break through the German encirclement. The intensive fighting made heavy demands on ammunition stocks of divisions in the forward lines so that the transportation system had to bring up ammunition, and thus there was no opportunity to stockpile fuel for the next advance.85 By July 23, Halder admitted that the existing situation where frontline units were living a "hand-to-mouth" existence in terms of their supplies was making it impossible to build up stockpiles for the next push.86 Thus, the infamous August pause during which the German army remained virtually stationary at Smolensk and in the north resulted not only from disagreements within the high command as to the next objective and the need to refresh exhausted mechanized units but also from a logistical system that could barely supply frontline forces, much less build up reserves.87

The demands placed on the frontline units reflected the grievous underestimation that the Germans had made of Russian strength. Often badly led and consisting of ill-equipped and ill-trained troops, Russian counterattacks strained the entire German structure. Halder admitted on August 11 that:

[The] whole situation shows more and more clearly that we have underestimated the colossus of Russia--a Russia that had consciously prepared for the coming war with the whole unrestrained power of which a totalitarian state is capable. This conclusion is shown both on the organization as well as the economic levels, in the transportation, and above all, clearly in infantry divisions. We have already identified 360. These divisions are admittedly not armed and equipped in our sense, and tactically they are badly led. But they are there; and when we destroy a dozen, the Russians simply establish another dozen.88

These Soviet attacks on Army Group Center failed to gain any appreciable tactical success and clearly expended an immense number of Russian lives. Yet, in the long run, they had an important strategic impact. The wear-and-tear on German units, attacked in the Yel'nya and Smolensk battles, was perhaps of greater importance than any tactical victory Soviet forces might have gained. The battle of attrition had begun with a terrible vengeance. Having advanced as far as they had in the entire French campaign, the Germans discovered the geographical difference between continental distances and those in Central Europe. The Russians possessed strategic depth; and even if they had not fully utilized it in the first months, it was an inevitable strategic advantage.

For the Luftwaffe, these same factors were operative. The deeper that flying units moved into Russia, the more precarious became their supply situation. By mid-July, air units were crying for fuel and ammunition; and within the jumble moving forward to support the spearheads, the Luftwaffe's logistical system functioned no more efficiently than that of the army. Fliegerkorps VIII reported as early as July 5 that fuel was lacking even though the corps had already limited its missions.


Laconically, Richthofen noted: "Supply is for us the greatest difficulty in this war."89 The funnel-shaped nature of the theater also operated against the Luftwaffe. As the Wehrmacht moved deeper into Russia, the front widened. As a result, the Luftwaffe had to cover greater distances with forces that weakened as losses mounted. Moreover, as the army spread out, the tendency became more pronounced to use air units as fire brigades to patch up frontline difficulties. Air force commanders were not necessarily happy with such a state of affairs but often had no choice other than to use their air resources to support the army.90 This should not suggest that the Luftwaffe involved itself solely in aiding ground forces. In late July with the seizure of bases near Smolensk, it launched major raids against the Russian capital.91 Richthofen, Commander of Fliegerkorps VIII, expected great results from these attacks and noted hopefully on July 13 that the first massed attack (erster grosser Angri) on Moscow "could cause a catastrophe. All the experts calculate that a famine exists in the 4 million population of the capital."92 When transferred to the north in August, Richthofen ordered a firebomb attack on Leningrad; the next day, he noted that two small and one large conflagrations, 1.5 kilometers wide, burned in the city's center with smoke clouds reaching great height.93 Nevertheless, for the most part, the demands and tempo of ground operations kept the Luftwaffe sufficiently occupied to preclude significant aerial attempts at city busting.

The air losses suffered by Fliegerkorps VIII in twelve days (August 10 to 21) while supporting I Army Corps in its effort to cut the main Moscow-Leningrad railroad dramatizes the impact of attrition on Luftwaffe strength. In this period supporting the advance of one army corps, Fliegerkorps VIII lost 10.3 percent of its aircraft (destroyed or written off as the result of operations), with 54.5 percent of its aircraft damaged but reparable. During this action, the air corps had 3.9 percent of its flying personnel killed, 5.7 percent wounded, and 2.9 percent listed as missing for a 12.5 percent total casualty rate.94

Aiding the Luftwaffe in its support of the army's advance was the flexible supply and maintenance system already discussed in relation to the French campaign. Units moved forward rapidly behind advancing spearheads; and as the campaign's emphasis shifted from one front to another, bomber and fighter units moved swiftly to new bases and areas of operation. Such flexibility allowed the Luftwaffe to give maximum support to the armored drives and helped the army push ever deeper into Russian territory.95 Nevertheless, the continual movement of units across the Russian landscape was not without cost. These shifts strained the maintenance and supply system to the breaking point so that by late fall 1941, operational aircraft ready rates were way down, thereby having a negative impact on the whole force structure.

After considerable argument between Hitler and his generals and after a modicum of resupply had occurred, forward movement began again at the end of August. In the north, Field Marshal Ritter von Leeb's forces, supported by mechanized units detached from the central front, drove to the suburbs of Leningrad and isolated that city except for a tenuous link across Lake Ladoga. Hitler forbade Leeb from taking


the city and ordered him to starve it into submission. By the end of the winter, 1 million civilians within Leningrad had died of famine.96 In the south, a more immediate disaster threatened the Russians. Thanks largely to Stalin's military ineptitude, Guderian's Panzer Group 2 broke loose from the central front and drove almost straight south to link up with General Ewald von Kleist's Panzer Group 1.97 Behind the encompassing arms of the panzer armies lay a vast pocket of Soviet troops around Kiev. By the time that cleanup operations had ended, the Germans claimed to have taken 655,000 prisoners. The Soviets asserted after the war that only 677,000 Russian soldiers had been in the region at the end of August and that 150,000 managed to escape before resistance collapsed.98 The figures are meaningless; they can only symbolize a human tragedy of unimaginable extent. What is clear is that the Germans had torn to ribbons the entire southern theater of operations; German troops could now move forward as fast as their vehicles, supplies, and weather conditions would permit.

Map 3
The Invasion of Russia


The catalogue of Russian disasters was not yet complete. Satisfied that his decision to divert strength from Army Group Center to the army groups on the wings had paid dividends, Hitler returned to the strategy his generals had urged in August: a great offensive aimed at destroying Russian armies lying in the center and at capturing Moscow. The operation's code name was "Typhoon." Setting the tone for the coming weeks, Hitler issued a proclamation demanding that attacking troops complete the work of the campaign and end twenty-five years of Bolshevism in Russia--a system of rule equalled only by capitalistic plutocracy. ("The support of these systems is also the same in both cases: the Jew and only the Jew.")99 German armored strength concentrated again on the central front, and again the Soviets allowed wishes to delude their view of reality. The German halt in the center after July, the diversion of armored forces to the north and south, as well as the lateness of the season persuaded the Russians that they need not worry about an offensive against Moscow. However, Guderian's Panzer Group 2 hustled up from the Ukraine. On September 30, two days before the other armies, Guderian began his drive towards Orel. On October 2, the other German armies attacked, supported by 1,387 aircraft.100 The offensive caught the Red Army unaware; two panzer armies blasted through the forward positions and moved swiftly to exploit the breakthrough. On October 3, German tanks, surprising Russian defenses and passing trams that were still operating, drove into Orel. So fast had the Germans moved that the Russians could not even begin evacuation of that town's industrial plant. By October 6, Bryansk had fallen, and Russian command and control over the entire central front collapsed.101

The advance came so swiftly and the collapse so suddenly that Moscow received its first indications of disaster through Hitler's speech on October 5 that spoke of a "final decisive offensive." The Russians had no specific knowledge of what Hitler was speaking except for the fact that communications no longer existed with the Western Army Group.102 On October 5, Russian reconnaissance pilots reported a German armored column some 25 kilometers long advancing on the great highway from Smolensk to Moscow. Despite efforts by the NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) to arrest the pilots as "panic mongers," their reports gave Moscow its first indication of the extent of the collapse.103 The Germans had ripped open Soviet frontlines from Bryansk to Vyazma and were encircling two vast groupings of Russian armies: the first of three armies around Bryansk and the second of five armies around Vyazma. Officially, the Germans claimed 658,000 prisoners in the double encirclements.104 Again, the totals are meaningless. One can only note that for the second time within a little over a month, an immense disaster had overtaken the Red Army. So great was the booty in prisoners and matériel that the Reich's press chief, at the instigation of Hitler and Goebbels, announced that the Soviet Union was finished and the war virtually over.105

Despite these catastrophes, the situation was by no means hopeless. The Germans had begun "Typhoon" with a minimum of supplies.106 Even more telling was the onset of poor weather in the fall; the German advance slowed to a crawl in the last half of October, while Luftwaffe support almost ceased. Flying off primitive


dirt strips located at the end of long supply lines, air units found it as difficult to provide the army with close air support as the army found it to advance. From a level of over 1,000 sorties per day before the onset of bad weather, the sortie rate fell to 559 on October 8 and to 269 on the 9th.107

The threat to Moscow persuaded Stalin to bring Marshal Georgi Zhukov from Leningrad to defend the capital. With a firm hand in control, the Soviets reknit their defenses with surprising swiftness as the enemy advance bogged down in autumn mud. Nevertheless, the onset of bad weather should not obscure the fact that there was nothing unusual about such weather; if anything, the period of mud lasted for a shorter period than usual.108 In retrospect, the Germans should have shut down the campaign after the victory of Bryansk/Vyazma. The supply situation had become so difficult that barely enough resupply got through to keep the advance moving. Consequently, there was no leeway to build up reserves or to send forward the critical winter clothing and equipment that the troops would desperately need when winter struck.109 The offensive continued. The German high command, in the face of steadily worsening weather, turned reality upside down. It would push the last battalion of reserves into the front. Unlike the Marne campaign of World War I, German generals assured themselves, this time they would not withdraw.110 While those at Army Group Center and in the field were too close to conditions to underestimate the difficulties of future operations, Hitler and the OKH planned wide ranging operations deep behind Moscow for which neither troops nor supplies existed. This undoubtedly resulted from a poor appreciation for condition in the field that, in turn, led to a general overconfidence as to the capabilities of German forces and a complete underestimation of Russian forces.111 For the frontline troops advancing under dreadful conditions, Hitler's overconfidence showed itself not only in impossible demands but with the mid-November withdrawal of much of Luftflotte 2 for service in the Mediterranean. Thus, support for the drive on Moscow almost entirely devolved on the shoulders of Richthofen's Fliegerkorps VIII.112

At the beginning of November, the arrival of cold weather brought an end to the mud, and the advance began again. By now, however, under Zhukov's inspiring (and ferocious) leadership, the Russians had recovered. Militia units, divisions pulled from quiet segments of the front, and Siberian reinforcements trundled through Moscow in a desperate effort to keep the Germans at bay outside the capital. The clawing resistance bought precious time until full winter conditions set in, thus weakening German strength further. By the beginning of December, the Germans had reached Moscow's suburbs; that was as far as they got. On December 5, Zhukov counterattacked, and in appalling winter weather the entire German front threatened to come apart.

The Luftwaffe played a decreasingly important role as the Battle of Moscow approached. Conversely, the Red Air Force, once thought destroyed, mounted increasingly effective attacks supporting the Moscow defenders. A primary reason was that the fighting on the eastern front had brought the Luftwaffe to desperate straits. Operational ready rates for combat aircraft throughout the force structure sank towards dangerous levels; and in conditions of mud, bad weather, and


increasing cold (not to mention the difficulties in supply), maintenance personnel found it almost impossible to maintain aircraft. By the beginning of October, the in-commission rate for the Luftwaffe's bomber force had sunk below 40 percent, while only 58 percent of single-engine fighters were in commission. The rate for all aircraft hovered near 53 percent.113 Further complicating the Luftwaffe's problem of flying missions at the end of tenuous supply lines was the fact that its aircraft were flying off primitive dirt strips, while the Red Air Force was using more permanent facilities in the vicinity of Moscow.

Hitler's gamble to conquer Russia in one summer had failed. Germany now faced immense commitments in the east with an army and air force that through attrition during the summer and fall had lost their cutting edge. In fact, it was only at this point that the Germans, faced with the possibility of massive defeat in Russia, began to mobilize their economy and the national economies of their already subjugated foes for the long pull.

To add to his difficulties in the east, Hitler gratuitously declared war on the United States after the Japanese had destroyed the American battle fleet at Pearl Harbor. In doing this, he made it virtually certain that American resources and military power would appear in Europe at the earliest possible hour and would add to Wehrmacht requirements in Russia, in the Mediterranean, and in the west. Why Hitler extended German strategic responsibilities at the desperate hour when his forces in front of Moscow were collapsing is hard to fathom. It seems most likely, as is so often the case in human affairs, that Hitler's decision was an instinctive, illogical reaction to a desperate situation.114 With events in Russia slipping beyond his control, America offered Hitler a psychological object at which to strike. Undoubtedly contributing to Hitler's mood was a sense of frustration that he had felt over the summer and fall of 1941 as the US Navy increasingly intervened in the Battle of the Atlantic. Now in December 1941, the United States, humiliated at Pearl Harbor, presented an inviting and vulnerable target for his navy's submarine force. The declaration of war on December 10, however, allowed the Roosevelt administration to present America's entry into the war in a wider context than merely the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, somewhat diverting the public's clamor for revenge against Japan. Thus, it was Hitler's actions that provided the political basis for Roosevelt's decision to support a "Germany first" strategy.


Between July 1940 and December 1941, the Germans lost the air war over Europe for 1943 and 1944. Ignoring the severe attrition that had occurred even in the Battle of France, they paid little attention to the fact that their aircraft industry had changed neither its approach nor its production rate substantially from what it had been during the opening months of the war. The negative impact of this situation needs no great elaboration considering the fact that aircraft loss and replacement rates for 1941 were approximately equal. The impact of aircraft and crew losses on the Luftwaffe's force structure, the strain of sustained operations on


the maintenance and supply systems, and the difficulties encountered in attempting to escalate the Luftwaffe's involvement had a synergistic effect that placed the Luftwaffe in a precarious situation by the winter of 1941-42. Moreover, these interrelated factors largely determined the Luftwaffe's fate in the upcoming air battles of 1943 and 1944.

The greatest strain on the Luftwaffe in 1941 resulted from operations conducted in the east beginning on June 22. Unlike the Battle of France or the Battle of Britain, attrition in Russia involved low loss rates combined with sustained operations over an extended period. The cumulative effect of these small "acceptable" losses was no less decisive in its impact than was the Battle of Britain. Table XIII115 gives a detailed picture of the cumulative impact of those losses through the fall of 1941 on the eastern front.

Crew and Aircraft Losses on the Eastern Front--June 22-November 1, 1941

Monthly Losses:
and Destroyed
Percent Average
Percent Percent
Loss: Four-

Close Recce 323 92 28.5 539 51 9.5 38  
Long-Range Recce 238 54 22.7 270 31 11.5 46  
Single-Engine Fighters 661 240 36.3 800 73 9.1 36.4  
Twin-Engine Fighters 77 22 28.6 84 11 13.1 52.4  
Bombers 836 268 32.1 901 126 14 56  
Stukas 293 60 20.5 345 24 7 28  
Coastal 34 5 14.7 24 2 8.3 33.2  

TOTAL IN EAST 2,462 741 30.1 2,963 318 10.7 42.8  

Yet, the losses in Russia through November 1941 only reflect a part of the severe burden that the Luftwaffe experienced in 1941 (see Tables XIV,116 XV,117 XVI,118 and XVII119). Due to the "Blitz" against the British Isles in the winter of 1941, the Balkan campaign, and air commitments in the Mediterranean as well as "Barbarossa," the Luftwaffe had gone through its entire inventory of aircraft in just twelve months. (See Table XVII.)


Table XIV
German Aircraft Losses 1941 (All Types)


Table XV
German Bomber Losses 1941


Table XVI
German Fighter Losses 1941


German Losses, All Causes--1941 (Not Including November)

Aircraft Written Off

Jan 1941
Due to
Not Due
to Enemy
Total Percent of

Close Recce 372 384 165 98 263 68.5  
Long-Range Recce 276 356 195 95 290 81.5  
Single-Engine Fighters 1,202 841 622 705 1,327 157.8  
Twin-Engine Fighters 435 384 246 217 463 120.6  
Bombers 1,715 1,339 1,154 644 1,798 134.  
Stukas 467 456 225 141 366 80.3  
Transport 444 415 159 155 314 75.7  
Liaison 200 *    40 56 9 *     
Coastal 162 122 43 42 85 69.7  

TOTAL 5,273 4,297 2,849 2,153 5,002 115%  

* Data not available.

Aircraft Damaged, 1941 (Not Including November)

  Not Reparable at
Unit Level
  Reparable at
Unit Level
  Due to
Not Due
to Enemy
Total Due to
Not Due
to Enemy
Total Total

Close Recce 21 26 47 76 108 184 231  
Long-Range Recce 16 28 44 20 94 114 158  
Single-Engine Fighters 166 463 629 80 350 430 1,059  
Twin-Engine Fighters 38 77 105 23 119 142 257  
Bombers 187 439 626 130 538 668 1,294  
Stukas 29 56 85 27 74 101 186  
Transport 9 54 63 38 112 150 213  
Liaison 7 48 55 5 87 92 147  
Coastal 2 2 4 3 10 13 17  

TOTAL 475 1,193 1,658 402 1,492 1,894 3,562  


By the end of 1941, German aircraft production and crew training programs could no longer keep up with losses; and by January 1942, conditions forced frontline units to rob transition schools of crews a month before their scheduled course completion. By February, the quartermaster general no longer knew how many aircraft he would receive due to chaotic conditions in the aircraft industry.120 Thus, by late winter, the general staff could not accurately forecast either how many aircraft or crews the Luftwaffe would receive in the next month, not to mention succeeding months.121 From this point forward, the staff would squeeze out of industry and out of transition schools as much as possible each month and shove new crews with decreasing skill levels and new aircraft into the frontline units.

Compounding the difficulties was a supply and maintenance system that revealed little capacity for functioning over the long distances that the Luftwaffe now covered. What had sufficed within the limited frontiers of prewar Germany could not meet the needs of an air force committed from the Bay of Biscay to the gates of Moscow and from the North Cape to North Africa. The supply system, particularly in Russia, no longer functioned effectively. Milch in a visit to the eastern front discovered that hundreds of inoperable aircraft were lying about on forward airfields. They had either broken down or been damaged in combat, and spare parts were not flowing forward to repair these aircraft.122 Because supply and maintenance were separate from operational units, a wide gulf had grown up between frontline units and their logistical support establishment in the Reich. Furthermore, the Luftwaffe's organizational structure divorced supply and maintenance from operations, thereby hindering vital communications between these two divisions. More often than not, the special needs of one were not meaningfully addressed by the other.123

The pressure of continuous air operations on the Luftwaffe's maintenance infrastructure also had its effect. Over the winter of 1940-41, the Germans experienced a considerable period without combat in which to reconstitute and to rebuild flying units strained by the fighting in 1940. The bombers, however, with their heavy commitments in the night offensive against British cities, did not enjoy such recuperation. But beginning in April 1941, with the campaign in the Balkans, the demands of far-flung campaigns burdened the entire structure. The result was a slow but steady decline in the Luftwaffe's "in-commission" rates to a nadir in the winter of 1941-42 (see Table XVIII124).

Besides maintaining aircraft "in commission," the Luftwaffe had the concomitant problem of filling cockpits. The loss rate, as already suggested, had reached the point where the Luftwaffe pushed pilots out of training schools as rapidly as possible to bring aircrew strength to acceptable levels. What now happened was that operational units completed what the schools could no longer finish. The process in many units involved working new pilots into squadron operations on a gradual basis while hopefully minimizing their exposure to hazardous missions. Then as experience increased, squadrons assigned the pilots to more dangerous tasks until they were fully combat-ready.125 Such a system was undoubtedly the only one that frontline units could follow given the state of pilot


Luftwaffe "In-Commission" Rates 1941


training. It had, however, two pernicious side effects. The first was that it maximized the exposure to danger of experienced aircrews, thus increasing their losses. This, in turn, led to higher percentages of untrained or partially trained personnel in the combat units. The second, and equally disastrous, effect was that untrained pilots in the dangerous and primitive conditions of frontline airfields had a higher accident rate than normal. The normal rate was high enough given a lax attitude towards flying safety throughout the war.126 But the combination of a weak flying safety program along with untrained and unskilled pilots flying off primitive airstrips was deadly. As Table XVII indicates, the Luftwaffe was destroying three of its own aircraft for every four destroyed by the enemy, and the number of damaged aircraft from noncombat accidents was an intolerable burden on an already overstrained maintenance system.

The attrition over the summer and fall of 1941 led to a steady deterioration in the experience level of aircrews. From the summer of 1941, the Luftwaffe entered a period in which losses proceeded at such a pace that a recovery in terms of crew flying experience could only come with a long halt to operations. However, failure in Russia in 1941 virtually insured that the Luftwaffe would never receive a respite. In fact, the increase of Allied air efforts in the Mediterranean and west meant that the demands on the German air force would continually increase, thus exacerbating an already serious situation. This deterioration of aircrew skill level shows up most clearly in Table XIX127 in the two column summarizing losses not due to enemy action.

The most dangerous trend in 1941 was a production program that one can perhaps best describe as inadequate. The Germans had entered the war with a surprisingly low production rate. However, given the resource limitations under which they worked, production levels reflected economic reality. The victories of 1940, however, fundamentally altered Germany's strategic and economic situation. Not only had the Germans captured large stockpiles of raw materials in France and the Low Countries but the modern industrial plant of those nations was now under their control. Moreover, the success in the west made Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, more amenable to cooperation with the Reich; finally the occupation of France gave the Germans direct access to Spanish and Moroccan raw material resources (particularly tungsten and iron ores).

With these resources at their disposal, the Germans were in a position to organize the new conquests in tandem with their own war economy in order to increase drastically their armament production. They did no such thing.128 There were several basic reasons for this failure. This omission did not, one must stress, result from a belief in a so-called "Blitzkrieg" strategy. Rather, the Germans now allowed themselves to be deluded by the speed of the first victories over Poland and France into believing that they could continue armament production at the prevailing low level. The overconfidence marking the approach to "Seal Lion" and "Barbarossa" were symptomatic of a wider malaise: Nothing was impossibe for the rulers of the Third Reich! The issue here is not that the Germans built tanks or artillery pieces at the expense of aircraft, but rather they made minimal alterations


Table XIX
% of Fully Operational Crews, July 1941-January 1942


in the production of all major weapon systems after the fall of France in spite of a radically different raw material and industrial situation. Symptomatic of this situation in the summer of 1940 was the Army ordnance office's rejection of Hitler's proposal that tank production be increased from 100 to 800 per month because such a level would be too expensive and require too many skilled workers.129 But as late as February 1941, a major economic journal noted that "Germany is entering the final struggle with so overwhelming a superiority of armament capacity that the result can no longer be in doubt."130

Certainly, the losses in tanks and aircraft in the French campaign should have raised serious doubts as to existing rates of production; the same could be said for the Battle of Britain. However, no one in the Luftwaffe, with the possible exception of Milch, became particularly worried over the continuing lag in production. Only the failure of the Russian campaign spurred Hitler to reorganize the economy prompting a dramatic expansion of production. Nevertheless, the Führer himself was not completely at fault, since few senior officials had pushed for major increases in production.

Further complicating a rational utilization of Europe's economic resources were the ideological perceptions of the German leadership. Göring indicated the ideological basis coloring the Nazi approach to economic problems when he stated in 1942:

Basically, I consider all of occupied France as a conquered country. It seems to me that in earlier times the thing was simpler. In earlier times, you pillaged. He who had conquered a country disposed of the riches of that country. At present, things are done in a more humane way. As for myself, I still think of pillage comprehensively.131

The problem was that such an approach was counterproductive. Göring's positions in the Reich (as the Air Minister and Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe, as Minister of the Four-Year Plan, and as a leading confidant of the Führer) increased the probability that his views guided German economic policy. Thus, exploitation of the French economy involved a looting expedition in which competing military authorities (in France the army got the largest share of the loot as its troops were first on the scene), civil authorities, and industrial firms divided the booty. Captured raw materials went straight to the Reich along with considerable numbers of machine tools.132 In the latter case, such transfers made no economic sense,133 for the movement of machine tools to Germany could not possibly increase productive capacity as the aircraft industry was already underutilized with most factories on 8-hour shifts, once a day. The looted machine tools went into storage facilities. Ironically, under the pressure of Allied air attacks in 1943 and 1944, the Germans attempted to disperse the aircraft industry into occupied countries; the looting of 1940 and 1941, however, proved a severe hindrance as many tools were no longer available.134 Moreover, the failure to use factories in occupied countries in 1941 and


1942 meant that when the Germans reopened plants, they discovered machinery and facilities in poor condition.

The badly thought-out looting of occupied countries stands in contrast to the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. When the Germans seized Prague in March 1939, economic authorities refused to allow the transfer of raw material stockpiles to the Reich, since this would allow Germany to maintain Czech production and to utilize Czechoslovakia's industrial potential to the fullest. They were correct in that assumption, for not only did Czech industry substantially aid German armament but it also earned substantial foreign exchange up to the outbreak of war.135 Similarly, the Luftwaffe found Czechoslovakia extremely useful in supporting its own production plans. By the end of 1939, Udet had placed orders for 1,797 Czech aircraft. Indeed, the Czech aircraft industry proved useful in serving its new masters.136

In the case of France, however, things worked out quite differently. In all of 1941, the French aircraft industry produced only 62 aircraft for the Luftwaffe (Holland only 16), while Czech plants produced 819.137 The reason is quite apparent. In the case of Czechoslovakia, the Germans were still in a difficult strategic and economic situation, and they, therefore, eagerly incorporated Czech potential into their economic system. The euphoria after victory over France, however, led most of the Luftwaffe's leadership to disregard the low production figures for German industry and to ignore the possible integration of western European economies, including France, into the German war effort.

Exacerbating all of the production problems was a major labor shortage. With so many German men mobilized for service with the army, a large deficit existed in manpower available for industry. In Britain, women filled many of the shortages caused by the rapid expansion of the armed forces.138 However, Germany's ideology interfered directly with economic good sense--Hitler refused to allow the widespread use of women in the factories as had occurred in World War I. The result was that in the summer and fall of 1941, an acute shortage of workers existed throughout the armament industry. There were not enough German men to go around. While the Germans had millions of prisoners of war captured in the Polish and western campaigns, most of those worked in the countryside to keep German agricultural production at acceptable levels.

But there was a manpower pool of enormous potential in the summer of 1941: the hundreds of thousands of prisoners that were falling into German hands as the Wehrmacht surged into Russia. However, ideology intervened with a vengeance. Hitler refused to allow the transfer of any of these prisoners to the Reich for work either on farms or in factories.139 Thus, while German industry was desperately short of workers, hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers were starving to death in inadequate Wehrmacht prisoner of war camps. By February 1942, of the 3,900,000 Russian soldiers that the Germans claimed to have captured, only 1,100,000 remained alive; of these, only 400,000 were capable of being moved to the Reich to work in industry.140 Ciano recorded in his diary in late November 1941 Göring's macabre sense of humor about this terrible situation:


Göring told me that hunger among the Russian prisoners had reached such an extreme that in order to start them toward the interior it is no longer necessary to send them under armed guard; it is enough to put at the head of the column of prisoners a camp kitchen, which emits the fragrant odor of food; thousands and thousands of prisoners trail along like a herd of famished animals.141

As Germany's chief economic czar, the Reichsmarschall was cognizant of the shortages in the work force. His remarks underline the callous attitudes toward the "Untermensch" and a frivilous approach to Germany's dangerous economic situation.

The basic cause of the Luftwaffe's production problems in 1941 lay not only in the dilettantism of the higher Nazi leadership but also with a military leadership that did not understand the difficulties involved in producing modern weapons in large numbers and who evinced little worry about enemy production capabilities. As mentioned in Chapter I, Göring in 1937 and 1938 had largely removed Milch from control over the production and technical aspects of the Luftwaffe. Udet, Milch's replacement, possessed neither the temperament nor the technical background to handle his new responsibilities. Jeschonnek, on the general staff side, showed little interest in the dull nonoperational requirements of planning and carrying through a production program. Thus, even before the war the plans of the general staff and of Udet's production planners had diverged. Now in a war in which Luftwaffe commitments were widening, production figures remained virtually stationary. Table XX142 indicates the extent of Germany's aircraft production.

Production of German Aircraft--1939-1941

  Fighters Bombers Transports Trainers Others Total

1939 1,856 2,877 1,037 1,112 1,413 8,295  
1940 3,106 3,997 763 1,328 1,632 10,826  
1941 3,732 4,350 969 889 1,836 11,776  

The impact of these levels of aircraft production on frontline units became obvious as the war continued. German industry was not producing aircraft at a rate sufficient to replace losses at the front and in accidents. As a result, the difference between the number of aircraft authorized and actually present increased as operations attrited frontline strength. In September 1939, combat units had possessed virtually a full complement of aircraft. As production failed to keep up with loss rates, it became ever more difficult to sustain authorized levels, and even the most favored organizations had to operate well below authorized strength (see Table XXI143).


Authorized Actual Strength, Combat Aircraft
September 1939-March 1942

  Authorized Actual Percent of Authorized

September 1939 2,950 2,916 98.9  
December 1939 3,313 3,258 98.3  
March 1940 4,034 3,692 91.5  
June 1940 3,714 3,327 89.6  
September 1940 3,547 3,015 85.0  
December 1940 3,792 3,050 80.4  
March 1941 4,100 3,853 94.0  
June 1941 4,228 3,451 81.6  
September 1941 4,318 3,561 82.5  
December 1941 4,344 2,749 63.3  
March 1942 4,623 2,876 62.2  

When combined with the operational ready rates for late 1941, the figures in Table XXI present a thoroughly depressing picture of the Luftwaffe's combat strength. One aircraft type in particular, the bomber, had reached the point where the Luftwaffe had hardly any capability left. In December 1941, the bomber force possessed only 47.1 percent of its authorized strength; only 51 percent of that force was in commission. Thus, from an authorized strength of 1,950 bombers, the Luftwaffe had only 468 in commission on December 6, 1941, or 24 percent of authorized aircraft.144

The cause of this shortfall lay directly at the door of Udet's poor administration, with a sizeable portion of the blame also to be shared among Göring, Jeschonnek, and the aircraft industry. Udet had possessed neither the capability nor background to assume responsibility for technical development and production. At one point, he admitted that he understood nothing of industrial processes and even less about the engineering of large aircraft.145 The result of such a situation was that for a three-year period, the Air Ministry provided little leadership or guidance to manufacturers. Udet's offices became involved in producing a series of production plans that bore no relationship to what was occurring in industry. After each demand for an increase in production, his staff invariably revised downwards plans to reflect the results.146 Moreover, introduction of new aircraft types or new models of existing aircraft "meant that the large planned increases were subject to sudden and sharp revision downwards, even when strategy demanded otherwise."147

Yet, the top leadership also bears responsibility for the production crisis of 1941. Hitler, despite occasional interest in technical matters, intervened hardly at all in Luftwaffe production during the early war years. Contrary to his relations with the army, Hitler delegated much authority over air force matters to Göring; and while he did set industrial priorities, he was poorly informed about what was going on with Luftwaffe production. While it suited Göring to keep the Führer uninformed, he himself also possessed little knowledge through the spring of 1941 of what was happening. Udet did provide a scapegoat for subsequent production failures,148 but


Göring and his staff deserve a full measure of blame for their concurrence with production levels during this period.

The crisis came to a head in the summer of 1941. Udet's office could no longer hide the growing disparity between planned and actual production totals when Luftwaffe strength in the field reached scandalously low levels. To help overcome this industrial shortfall, Göring reinserted Milch into the production process. Shortly before the beginning of "Barbarossa," Göring granted the State Secretary wide powers over the aircraft industry that included the right to close or to requisition factories, to confiscate raw materials, to transfer or dismiss designers, and in general to reorganize industrial production. As with previous orders from the Reichsmarschall, Milch was to quadruple production.149 This time, however, Göring had given the brief to a man who did understand modern production methods and industrial practices.150

Over the summer of 1941, Milch supplanted Udet and assumed control of the technical offices that Udet had controlled.151 The gradual exclusion of Udet from the centers of power within the Air Ministry as well as Milch's less-than-tactful behavior contributed to the former's suicide in the fall of 1941. Undoubtedly, the nightmarish situation that Milch discovered in industry and within these offices contributed to Udet's death. But before his death, Udet, with Milch's backing, produced a plan in July 1941 calling for a radical restructuring of German industry to accelerate production.152 A more detailed, longer-range plan came out in September under Milch's guidance. Based on a change in priorities after the completion of "Barbarossa,"153 Milch's production projection demanded nearly 50,000 aircraft from industry by March 1944. For 1942, the so-called "Göring plan" asked for approximately 33 percent more aircraft than had been produced in 1941. For fighter aircraft, the Göring plan asked for a 61.1 percent increase in monthly fighter production in 1942 and a 20.5 percent increase in bomber production. By the end of 1943, Milch foresaw a rise in the monthly production rate for fighters to 625 (a 101 percent rise over the 1941 average) and for bombers to 656 (an increase of 81.2 percent over 1941 production).154

Unlike Udet who had gloomily assumed in June 1941 that given the resources, the work force, and the industrial capacity then available, the aircraft industry could not substantially increase production.155 Milch took a different line. In a speech to the aircraft industry's chief industrialists, Milch outlined the production increases enumerated in the new plan. He demanded that the industrialists judge what was possible and what was not. Further, he refused to allow industry to proceed with serial production of new aircraft, because he demanded the mass production of existing types.156 Delays imposed by the search for quality were a major factor in minimizing aircraft production. Indeed, the quality versus quantity dilemma was a factor Milch never succeeded in reconciling with the German industrial system. Right through 1,944, German aircraft possessed the finest upholstered crew seats; thousands of man-hours were wasted in machining bulkheads and minor fittings, while parts taking no strain or requiring no precision were finished to close tolerances. The completed aircraft represented a finely


finished product compared to their American and British counterparts; but where there were hundreds of the latter, one found only tens of the former.157

One of the major excuses that aircraft manufacturers had presented for the low rate of aircraft production in the first war years was a lack of raw materials, especially in the light metals sector so essential to an increase in production. Sending out inspectors to check on industrial procedures, Milch discovered widespread waste of raw materials throughout the aircraft industry: The production of one type aircraft engine was wasting approximately 1,500 pounds of aluminum. Moreover, industry had built up large stockpiles, and Messerschmitt factories were even using aluminum to build tropical shelters and ladders for use in vineyards.158 Milch was able to put a stop to many of these practices, and it was soon apparent to those in charge of the aircraft industry that a firm hand had now grasped control. The change of responsibility within the Air Ministry had, fortunately for Germany's opponents, come too late. For 1941, the Western Powers had outproduced Germany's aircraft industry by a wide margin (see Tables XXII,159 XXIII,160 and XXIV161).

In fighters alone, Anglo-American production totals for the last quarter of 1941 were nearly 400 percent greater than Germany's; in twin-engine aircraft, the lead was 169 percent; and in four-engine aircraft, a whopping 4,033 percent.162 The levels for 1941, however, only reflected a small portion of Germany's problem. The British and Americans had been planning major increases in production since the summer of 1940. Considering the potential of American industry, those preparations had been on a far grander scale than Germany could ever consider. Now in the summer of 1941, the Germans began to change their approach, but it was only after Udet's suicide in November 1941 that Milch gained general authority.

Most of the leadership remained blissfully ignorant of the terrible danger facing the Reich. With great glee, Goebbels recorded every Anglo-American disaster in early 1942, while dismissing as idle Yankee boasting the American production figures.163 Göring casually replied to warnings of the industrial potential of the United States that Americans "could only produce cars and refrigerators."164 The German Embassy in Washington sent a number of warnings during 1940 that while America's national defense was still woefully lacking in nearly every respect, production would represent a serious threat by 1941 and increasingly each year thereafter. The cautionary forebodings made little impression.165 Milch was not so sanguine having seen American industry at work,166 but only in late 1941 had he gained full control of aircraft production.


For the second year in a row, the Luftwaffe had lost nearly its entire complement of aircraft. The German air force could not look forward, as it had in 1940 after the Battle of Britain, to a period of recuperation. The failure in front of Moscow meant


Table XXII
Average Monthly Production by Half Years: Fighters


Average Monthly Production by Half Years: Twin-Engine Aircraft


Table XXIV
Average Monthly Production by Half Years: Four-Engine Aircraft


that the war in the east would continue with its ever-vaster commitments and its interminable distances. In the west, after a year and half of frustration, the British were beginning to acquire the capability needed to savage German cities by night, while the first units of the American Army Air Forces would soon appear over the daytime skies of Western Europe. In the Mediterranean, the Germans had virtually lost control of the skies over the Africa Corps. Thus, everywhere Germany faced increasing commitments with forces that barely reached prewar levels.

The reasons for this dangerous situation are not hard to find. A failure to draw objective conclusions from the attrition rates of 1940, overweening pride and arrogance after the early victories, and a refusal to recognize the fact that modern war ever since the time of the American Civil War has been a struggle of industrial production as well as a conflict on the battlefield all converged to weaken the Luftwaffe fatally. Combined with these failings went a regime, the criminal inclinations of which have rarely been equalled in history. Whatever political opportunities existed in the campaign against Russia which, combined with military success, might have threatened Stalin's government never came to fruition. Germany now faced a worldwide coalition with an army near defeat in Russia and an air force that was already in serious trouble. The fact that the Reich recovered from this situation and managed to hold on for the next three and one-half years is a remarkable comment on the staying power of the German people and their military institutions, if not their good sense. Nevertheless, the defeat in front of Moscow represented the decisive military turning point of World War II. From this point on, Germany had no chance to win the war; and with her inadequate production, she faced enemies who would soon enjoy overwhelming numerical superiority in the air and on the ground.



1. Andreas Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, Politik und Kriegführung, 1940-1941 (Frankfurt, 1965), p. 144.

2. Galeazzo Ciano, The Ciano Diaries, 1939-1943 (New York, 1946), p. 266.

3. Halder, Kriegstagebuch, entry for 13.7.40., Vol. II, p. 21.

4. See Halder, Kriegstagebuch, entry for 30.6.40., Vol. I, p. 375. This is the partially subjective view of the author, but one must note that unlike the French campaign, unlike the Balkan campaign of 1941, and every succeeding campaign, Hitler took virtually no interest in the day-to-day operations of the Luftwaffe and the planning preparations for "Sea Lion." This does suggest that "Sea Lion" operation aimed largely at putting pressure on the British to end the war. See also Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, p. 171.

5. IMT, TMWC, Vol. XXVIII, pp. 301-03.

6. Halder, Kriegstagebuch, entry for 13.7.40., Vol. II, p. 21.

7. J. R. M. Butler, Grand Strategy, Vol. II, September 1939-June 1941 (London, 1957), pp. 209, 239-41; Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Vol. II, Their Finest Hour (Boston, 1948), pp. 119-72.

8. Jodl's testimony, IMT, TMWC, Vol. XV, p. 428.

9. Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, note 6, p. 146.

10. Halder, Kriegstagebuch, entry for 3.10.40., Vol. II, p. 124.

11. Galeazzo Ciano, Ciano's Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p. 402.

12. For details of the meeting between Molotov and Ribbentrop, see DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Docs. #325, 13.11.40.; #326, 16.11.40.; #328, 15.11.40.; #329, 18.11.40.

13. For a full discussion of Soviet foreign policy and motives during this period, see Adam Ulam's brilliant work Expansion and Coexistence (New York, 1974); see also Gerhard Weinberg, Germany and the Soviet Union, 1939-1941 (Leiden, 1954).

14. DGFP, Series D, Vol. X, Docs. #384, #393.

15. Ibid., Doc. #413.

16. DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Doc. #84, 21.9.40.

17. Ibid., Docs. #1, 1.9.40.; #7, 3.9.40.

18. Ibid., Docs. #91, 23.9.40.; #142, 2.10.40.; #148, 4.10.40.; #178, 14.10.40.; #197, 19.10.40. The Germans did claim that the 1,800 troops remaining in Finland would be reduced to 100 men as soon as the move had finished.

19. Ibid., Doc. #532, 18.12.40.

20. See the discussion in Klaus Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, Das Scheitern der Strategie Hitlers im Winter 1941/42 (Stuttgart, 1972), pp. 16-17.

21. Franklin D. Roosevelt, The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (London, 1941), p. 263. For the best discussion of those military and political factors involved in wartime Italy, a country that rivaled the Third Reich and Stalin's Russia in mendacity if not in competence, see Bernard M. Knox's brilliant dissertation, "1940. Italy's 'Parallel War'," Yale University dissertation (1976).

22. This generalization on the state of Italian preparation is drawn from Knox, "1940. Italy's 'Parallel War'," pp. 21-77, and my dissertation, "The Change in the European Balance of Power," Chapter 7. For the inability of the Italian air force to report its numbers accurately, see Knox, p. 57. The air force Chief of Staff reported to Mussolini in April 1939 that the air force possessed 3,000 aircraft; the navy's intelligence service, spying on the air force, could only locate 982.

23. Bernard M. Knox, "Fascist Italy Assesses Its Enemies, 1935-1940," a paper delivered at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, July 1980.

24. DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Doc. #73, 20.9.40.

25. Captain S. W. Roskill, The War at Sea, Vol. I (London, 1976), pp. 300-01.

26. Major General I. S. O. Playfair, The Mediterranean and the Middle East, Vol. I, The Early Successes Against Italy (London, 1974), pp. 272-93.

27. Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, (KTB OKW), Vol. I, ed. by Hans-Adolf Jacobsen (Frankfurt am Main, 1965), entry for 9.8.40., p. 17. See also Walter Warlimont, Inside Hitler's Headquarters (New York, 1964), p. 110. For the Italian rebuff of German offers of help, see DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Doc. #149, 4.10.40.; and note p. 462.

28. DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Doc. #369, 20.11.40.

29. Playfair,The Mediterranean and the Middle East, pp. 315-21.

30. DGFP, Series D, Vol. IX, Doc. #583, 30.12.40.; see also #597, 2.1.41.


31. Trevor-Roper, Blitzkrieg to Defeat, Directive #22, pp. 53-54.

32. See, in particular, B. H. Liddell Hart, History of the Second World War (New York, 1971), who devotes 103 pages to the North African campaign in 1941-42 and only 53 pages to the German campaign in Russia in 1941-42.

33. BA/MA, RL 2 II/38, Verbindungsstab zur italienischen Luftwaffe, Nr 2212/41, 11.2.41., "Kriegsgliederung der italienischen Fliegertruppe. Stand 11.7.41."

34. DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Doc. #368, 20.11.40.

35. Martin L. van Creveld, Hitler's Strategy 1940-1941, The Balkan Clue (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 114-30.

36. J. R. M. Butler, Grand Strategy, Vol. II, September 1939-June 1941 (London, 1957), p. 449.

37. Trevor-Roper, Blitzkrieg to Defeat, Directive #25, p. 61.

38. van Creveld, Hitler's Strategy 1940-1941, p. 145.

39. For the best concise history of the war in the Balkans, see George Blau, The German Campaigns in the Balkans (Spring 1941) (Washington, 1953).

40. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 123.

41. BA/MA, RL 7/657, Luftflottenkommando 4, Führungsabteilung Ia op Nr 1000/41, Wein, 31.3.41., "Befehl für die Luftkriegführung Jugoslawien."

42. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 118.

43. For the effect of air operations on the Yugoslav army, see BA/MA, RL 7/656, Auszug aus dem Tagebuch der jugosl. Obersten Heeresleitung.

44. KTB OKW, Vol. I, entry for 18.4.41., p. 382.

45. See Blau, The German Campaign in the Balkans.

46. See Hans-Otto Mühleisen, Kreta 1941, Das Unternehmen 'Merkur' (Freiburg, 1968).

47. Ibid., p. 102.

48. For an interesting discussion of this point, see van Creveld, Hitler's Strategy 1940-1942, pp. 172-78.

49. BA/MA, RL 2 II/1025, Genst. 6.Abt. (III A), Front-Flugzeug-Verluste. May's loss rate was distorted and considerably higher than shown because the transport losses in the Crete operation had not yet been reported.

50. George E. Blau, The German Campaign in Russia--Planning and Operations (1940-1942) (Washington, 1955), pp. 6-12.

51. DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Doc. #532, 18.12.40.

52. Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, pp. 210-11.

53. Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, p. 19.

54. Blau, The German Campaign in Russia, p. 42. See also Guderian, Panzer Leader, p. 143, for his remark that a tour of German tank production facilities during which the Russians had claimed that the Germans were hiding both their latest tank designs and other factories had alarmed him.

55. I am indebted to Jörgen Förster of the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt for discussing his work with me in this field. His work will appear in the fourth volume of the Forschungsamt's history of World War II. For a summary of this work, the reader should consult "Hitler's War Aims Against the Soviet Union and the German Military Leaders," Militärhistorisk Tidskrift (Stockholm, 1979).

56. Halder, Kriegstagebuch, entry for 30.3.41., Vol. II, p. 337.

57. BA/MA, RL 9/85, Kommandeurbesprechung vom 18.6.41., Deutsche Luftwaffenmission in Rumänien.

58. BA/MA, R 31-1/24. Der Befehlshaber der deutschen Heeres-Mission in Rumänien, Stabsbesprechung, 9.10.40.

59. See, in particular, Förster's "Hitler's War Aims Against the Soviet Union and the German Military Leaders." For the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war, see: Christian Streit, Keine Kameraden, Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941-1945 (Stuttgart, 1978).

60. Quoted in: Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, p. 21.

61. Ibid., p. 27. What is so surprising about all of this is that in the First World War, it had taken the German army three years of hard fighting to beat the Russians; they had, thus, been there before, and post-war protestations about having been surprised by conditions in Russia are not credible considering the German experience in World War I.

62. For an interesting discussion of the problems of logistics and supply in the Russian campaign, see Martin van Creveld, Supplying War (Cambridge, 1977), Chapter V.

63. Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, p. 25.

64. DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Doc. #532, 18.12.40.


65. Göring admitted as much. See the speech of the head of the Air Mission in Rumania briefing senior officers in that country on the contents of a meeting of senior German air force generals at Karinhall. BA/MA, RL 9/85, Kommandeurbesprechung vom 18.6.41. Deutsche Luftwaffenmission in Rumänien.

66. "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945," AHB, Translation No. VII/107.

67. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 165; see also for similar figures: Olaf Groehler, "Stärke, Verteilung und Verluste der deutschen Luftwaffe im zweiten Weltkrieg," Militärgeschichte, 1978, pp. 322-23.

68. Blau, The German Campaign in Russia, p. 42.

69. By fall 1941, losses in night operations by He 111's had reached the point where He 111's were pulled off of operations even at night in the west. BA/MA, RL 3/50, Kommando der Erprobungsstellen der Luftwaffe, Nr 15520/42 g. Kdos "Gedanken über das mittlere Kampfflugzeug."

70. See the discussion in Hinsley, British Intelligence in the Second World War, Vol. I, pp. 326-28.

71. For a fuller description of the course of the purges, see Robert Conquest, The Great Terror, Stalin's Purge of the Thirties (London, 1968), Chapter VII.

72. See John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad (New York, 1975), Chapter 1.

73. For an interesting and informed discussion of the intelligence background to "Barbarossa," see Barton Whale, Codeword Barbarossa (Cambridge, 1973).

74. BA/MA, RL 8/49 Russland-Feldzug 1941: VIII Fliegerkorps. See also Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 162-65, for the movement of German air units to the east.

75. Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, pp. 101-35.

76. Seymour Freiden and William Richardson, eds, The Fatal Decisions (New York, 1956), p. 56.

77. BA/MA, RL 8/31 Generalkommando des IV. Fliegerkorps Abt. Ic, "Lagebericht v. 22.6.41."

78. Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, p. 118-19.

79. Albert Kesselring, A Soldier's Record (New York, 1953), p. 90.

80. BA/MA, RL 8/31 Generalkommando des IV. Fliegerkorps Abt. Ic, "Lagebericht v. 22.6.41."

81. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 123.

82. Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, pp. 150-59. Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, p. 28, gives the following figures: 330,000 prisoners, 3,000 artillery pieces, and 3,332 tanks. Halder, Kriegstagebuch, Vol. III, p. 56, gives 289,874 prisoners, 2,585 captured and destroyed tanks, 1,449 artillery pieces, and 246 aircraft.

83. Blau, The German Campaign in Russia, p. 49.

84. Halder, Kriegstagebuch, Vol. III, p. 38.

85. van Creveld, Supplying War, pp. 168-69.

86. Halder, Kriegstagebuch, Vol. III, p. 106.

87. See, in particular, van Creveld, Supplying War, pp. 167-80.

88. Halder, Kriegstagebuch, Vol. III, p. 170.

89. BA/MA, RL 8/49 Russland-Feldzug 1941: VIII Fliegerkorps.

90. Ibid.

91. BA/MA, RL 10/17 Auszug aus dem Frontflugbuch des ehem. StffFw. Fritz Hoyer, Stabsstaffel Kampfgeschwader 2 vom 24. Juni bis 29.10.41.

92. BA/MA, RL 8/49 Russland-Feldzug 1941: VIII Fliegerkorps.

93. v. Richthofen Tagebuch, entries for 8.9.-9.9.41.

94. BA/MA, RL 8/47 Generalkommando I. A. K., Abt, Ia 545/41, 16.9.41., "Einsatz des Fliegerkorps VIII vom 10.-21.8.41.," Appendix I, Tätigkeit des VIII. Fliegerkorps bei der Unterstützung des Durchbruchs des I. A. K. bis zur Eisenbahnlinie Leningrad-Moskau vom 10.8.41.-21.8.41.

95. For the movement of Luftwaffe units on the eastern front, see particularly Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, pp. 167-70. See also BA/MA, RH 1911/661D, "Der Feldzug gegen die Sowjet Union: Kriegsjahr 1941: Bearbeitet in der Führungsabteilung des Oberkommandos der Heeresgruppe Nord"; and also Auszug aus dem Frontflugbuch des ehem. StffFw. Fritz Hoyer, Stabsstaffel Kampfgeschwader 2.

96. Harrison Salisbury, The 900 Days, The Siege of Leningrad (New York, 1969), p. 582.

97. Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, pp. 198-210.

98. Ibid., p. 210.

99. BA/MA, RH 19 III/6561 D, "Der Feldzug gegen die Sowjet Union: Kriegsjahr 1941: Bearbeitet in der Führungsabteilung des Oberkommandos der Heeresgruppe Nord."

100. Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, p. 67.


101. For a more complete discussion of the Kryansk/Vyazma disaster, see Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, pp. 67-74; and Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, pp. 214-19.

102. Lieutenant General K. F. Telegin, "German Breakthrough," quoted in Stalin and His Generals, ed. by Seweryn Bialer (New York, 1969), p. 273.

103. Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, pp. 68-69; and Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, pp. 216-17.

104. Blau, The German Campaign in Russia, p. 79.

105. Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, pp. 74-75.

106. Ibid., pp. 56-57.

107. Ibid., p. 73.

108. Ibid., pp. 78-79.

109. van Creveld, Supplying War, p. 174.

110. Kurt Assmann, Deutsche Schicksalsjahre (Wiesbaden, 1951), p. 275.

111. Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, pp. 84-86, 93.

112. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 172-73. See also Kesselring, A Soldier's Record, pp. 107, 115-17. Fliegerkorps VIII was scheduled to follow Luftflotte 2 to the Mediterranean.

113. Air Historical Branch, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945," Translation No. VII/107.

114. For another view of Hitler's decision, see Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, pp. 553-54.

115. BA/MA, RL 2111/715, Gen. Qu. 6.Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände," 1.11.41.

116. BA/MA, RL 2111/1025, Genst. 6.Abt. (III A), Front-Flugzeug-Verluste, 1941.

117. Ibid.

118. Ibid.

119. Ibid.

120. BA/MA, RL 2111/717, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."

121. BA/MA, RL 2111/718, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."

122. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 131.

123. Air Division, Control Commission for Germany, British Element, "A Study of the Supply Organization of the German Air Force, 1935-1945," (June 1946).

124. Air Historical Branch, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945," Translation No. VII/107.

125. Conversation with Lieutenant General Hannes Trautloff, a.D., Baden Baden, Federal Republic of Germany, November 7, 1980.

126. Letter from Major General Hans W. Asmus, February 6, 1981.

127. The following percentages are drawn from RL 2111/715, 716, 717: Gen Qu. 6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."

128. For a fuller discussion of the economic inadequacies of German production in the 1940-1941 period, see the discussion in Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, Chapter 1. Reinhardt accepts the "Blitzkrieg" theory, but his analysis of the actual production situation is excellent.

129. Guderian, Panzer Leader, p. 114.

130. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), The Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy (Washington, 1945), p. 151.

131. A. S. Milward, The New Order and the French Economy (Oxford, 1970), p. 77.

132. For the most detailed examination of the Luftwaffe's failure to utilize properly the economic resources of Europe, see Richard Overy's outstanding article, "The Luftwaffe and the German Economy 1939-1945," Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen 2/79.

133. One must note that in terms of Nazi ideology, such actions made excellent sense given the purposes for which Hitler had waged this war.

134. For a fuller discussion of these points, see Overy, "The Luftwaffe and the German Economy," pp. 66-67.

135. Deist, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. I, pp. 333-34.

136. Overy, "The Luftwaffe and the German Economy," p. 55.

137. Ibid., p. 59.


138. Although there were limits to what one could do with this expedient, by 1943 the British had virtually exhausted all their sources for workers. See John Ehrman, Grand Strategy, Vol. V, August 1943-September 1944 (London, 1956), p. 41.

139. Reinhardt, Die Wende vor Moskau, p. 104.

140. Ibid., p. 188.

141. Ciano, The Ciano Diaries, p. 411.

142. USSBS, The Effects ofStrategic Bombing on the German War Economy, Appendix Table 102, p. 277.

143. These figures are drawn from Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. IV, Appendix xxviii, pp. 501-04.

144. The above calculations are based on figures drawn from Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. IV, Appendix xxviii, p. 502; and AHB, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945," Translation VII/107.

145. E. Heinkel, He 1000 (London, 1965), p. 180.

146. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 120.

147. Overy, "German Aircraft Production, 1939-1942," p. 34. Overy's Cambridge University dissertation is the most careful examination of the failures involved in the production of aircraft in the early war years. All of the points discussed in the above analysis are examined in greater detail in this admirable work.

148. Göring conference, 9.10.43., Milch Documents, Imperial War Museum, Vol. LXIII, p. 6309.

149. Göring to Milch, June 1941, Milch Documents, Imperial War Museum, Vol. LVII, p. 3213. See also Richard Suchenwirth, "Command and Leadership in the German Air Force" (Air University, 1969), pp. 99-101.

150. Conversation with Generalleutnant Hannes Trautloff, a.D., Baden Baden, November 7 and 8, 1980. Trautloff, who was on the fighter staff with Milch in 1944, described Milch as "the only general director we had--the only senior officer who understood the problems of modern industry."

151. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, Chapter VIII.

152. Overy, "German Aircraft Production, 1939-1942," pp. 43-44.

153. Trevor-Roper, Blitzkrieg to Defeat, Directive #32a, 14.7.41.

154. Figures based on USSBS, ESBGWE, Appendix Table 102, "Number of German aircraft produced by types, annually 1939-1944 and monthly 1941-1944," and BA/MA, RL 3/999 C Amts-Programm, "Lieferplan," 15.9.41.

155. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 124.

156. Overy, "German Aircraft Production, 1939-1942," pp. 45-46.

157. Conversation with Oberstleutnant i. G. Werner Geissinger, GAF, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, March 10, 1981.

158. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 126.

159. The above figures are based on Appendix xxxiv, Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. IV, p. 497.

160. Ibid.

161. Ibid.

162. Ibid.

163. Goebbels, The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943, ed. by L. Lochner (New York, 1948), pp. 41, 65, 104, 169, 251.

164. Asher Lee, Goering, Air Leader (New York, 1972), p. 58.

165. See among others DGFP, Series D, Vol. XI, Doc. #60, 14.9.40.

166. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 127.


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