1939: The Balance Sheet: Paradoxes and Imponderables -- Part 4
It's hard to understand how a huge military force could assemble on Russia's borders and still be surprised.
Stalin was warned about the gathering invasion force many times, but he dismissed the warnings as a result of the continued efforts of Britain and France to instill distrust in his Nazi ally.
It took him a long time to recover from the shock of defeat.
3 million Red Army troops were killed, wounded or captured in the first hundred days of battle.
Many of the captured would die of exposure to the elements, war wounds, and starvation in the Nazi prisoner-of-war camps.
Thousands of the Red Army's leaders were shot.
The quality of military leadership, weapons, troop training, and battlefield tactics of the Germans were more important than the raw numbers of the opposing armies.
The Red Army had twice as many planes and three times as many tanks as the German-led forces, but their leadership was still inexperienced, and much of their weaponry was of inferior quality.
By November 1941 Nazi forces had driven to within twenty miles of Moscow, and the conclusion was only natural that Germany's legendary military had prevailed, as they had from 1914 to 1918, over Russian forces that were larger in numbers but of inferior quality.
The conclusion that Nazism was now demonstrating an even more decisive superiority to Soviet Communism was widely accepted.
Observers throughout Europe were impressed by Germany's string of battlefield victories.
When news came that the Nazi invaders were being welcomed as liberators in many areas of Soviet Russia, there was little surprise.
The horrors of collectivization were still fresh in the memory of the Ukrainian population, whereas the German military forces that had occupied the area three decades before were generally favorable.
The only recent example of the Red Army battle-readiness had been in the Winter War of 1939-40, and, for European observers who thought in racial terms, and many did, it was a case of predictions now being confirmed: Soviet Russia, a Slavic realm run by fanatical Jews.
For much of 1941 and 1942, Hitler's Reich dominated Europe more oppressively than Napoleon's empire had.
The New Order in Europe, a united states of Europe, including several categories of states, were ruled over by the Third Reich.
Despite being neutral, Sweden and Switzerland continued to deliver vital raw materials to Germany during the war.
The hope that Germany could be defeated by blockade was dashed by the resources now available to the Greater German Reich.
Britain could not seriously entertain the idea of invading the Continent on its own.
The history of Europe might have been different had Hitler decided to pull back to secure defensive lines for the winter and concentrate on his gains.
It didn't include contingency plans for war extending throughout the winter and for a war of attrition over several years.
Germany's troops were exhausted in the late autumn and their supply lines were dangerously overextended.
German motorized units were not prepared for the cold of the Russian winter, and German soldiers were not supplied with winter clothing.
Planes and tanks were often frozen up.
Napoleon's defeat was the result of many factors, including overconfidence, overextended lines, and the refusal of Russia's generals to accept defeat.
Stalin regained his composure and the Red Army launched a major counteroffensive in the first week of December 1941, driving the Germans back from Moscow.
The German war machine had met its first major blow, similar to the blow it took in the air battle over Britain.
The two armies were exhausted by January.
December 1941 is considered to be a major turning point.
The Japanese launched an air attack on the US navy at Pearl Harbor.
Four days later, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States.
Hitler and his military advisers did not believe that the United States could mobilize quickly enough to make a difference in Europe's war, which is why they made that declaration.
Without a declaration of war by Germany, the United States might have avoided or postponed direct engagement in the European conflict, concentrating on the defeat of Japan.
Roosevelt and his advisers made a major strategic decision: to make the defeat of Germany its highest priority, which meant a massive increase in aid to Britain, since if the British Isles fell into Nazi hands the notion of an eventual invasion of Germany by the United States would have appeared futile.
Americans were against entering another European war.
After the shock of the Nazi-Soviet Pact and Germany's declaration of war against Poland, the ranks of the Americans who admired Nazi Germany waned.
By the time of the Battle of Britain, American sympathies were against the Nazis, even if most Americans still wanted to avoid another world war.
By the summer of 1941, the American government had begun preparing for war by drafting over a million men and launching a major program of ship-building.
After Germany attacked Russia in 1941, the lease was extended to Russia.
It was suggested that Hitler's alleged triumph of the will was due to a triumph of reasonable decisions over his impulsive ones.
Under Nazi rule, the German reputation for efficiency was less deserved.
The Third Reich and the New Order were plagued by rivalries between competing agencies and people who had taken over ill-defined positions of power.
After the Red Army's December counteroffensive, Hitler began to give orders that implied planning for a longer war, but for some time Germany's economy and society remained less fully and efficiently mobilized for war than was Britain's.
In spite of the country's staggering losses in the summer and autumn of 1941, the Soviet economy was able to rebound, eventually producing materials for war more effectively than the German New Order did.
The Soviets began putting weaponry in the field that countered the reputation of Russian or Communist products, even in terms of quality.
The success of Russia's counteroffensive was not determined by the Russian winter.
Something closer to equality began to emerge as the battle-readiness of the Red Army grew, as newly placed Soviet generals found their footing.