German declares war on USSR
Sunday, June 22, 1941 www.onwar.com
On the Eastern Front... Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on the Soviet Union, begins. Despite the massive preparations spread over many months and the numerous indications Stalin receives from many sources, the Soviet forces are taken almost completely by surprise and lose very heavily in the first encounters. The Germans have assembled almost 140 of their own divisions, including 17 Panzer and 13 motorized divisions. These forces are organized in three army groups: Army Group North (Field Marshal Leeb), Army Group Center (Field Marshal Bock) and Army Group South (Field Marshal Rundstedt). Altogether, the Germans deploy over 3,000,000 men, 7100 guns, 3300 tanks, 625,000 horses and 2770 aircraft. The Red Army has 230 divisions (170 of which are in the west, 134 facing the Germans). The Soviet forces are organized into Northwest Front (Kuznetsov), West Front (Pavlov), Southwest Front (Kirpono) and South Front (Tyulenev). They include 24,000 tanks and 8000 aircraft. On the first day of the attack almost everything goes the German way. The attack begins at 0300 hours with advances on the ground and simultaneous air strikes. The Luftwaffe begins its operations very early in order to be over the Soviet bases exactly at zero hour. By noon the Soviet Air Force has lost around 1200 planes. The land battle is equally successful. The panzer spearhead Army Group North advances 40 miles during the day and Army Group Center captures most of the Bug River bridges intact. Army Group South forces based in Hungary and Romania do not attack during the day.
From London... Churchill broadcasts saying that help will be given to the Soviet Union. He says, “Any state who fights Nazism will have our aid... It follows therefore that we shall give whatever help we can to Russia.”
In Syria... There is heavy fighting in and around Marjayoun (June 22-29th) in which the Australians eventually drive the Vichy French forces into retreat.
June 22nd, 1941
UNITED KINGDOM: London: In a broadcast speech, Churchill promises to give all possible technical and economic help to the USSR. He says: “Any state who fights nazism will have our aid ... It follows therefore that we shall give whatever help we can to Russia.”
Figures published today reveal that since the start of the war the British armed forces have lost 18,627 killed, whereas civilian casualties are 35,756 killed. Proportionally the RAF has lost more than either the army or navy, and that its ration of killed is higher than that of other categories of casualties. The toll for the air force is 6,326 dead, 1,338 wounded, 1,879 missing and 408 prisoners.
Minesweeping trawler HMS Beech sunk by German aircraft off Scrabster, Scotland. (Dave Shirlaw)
The Wehrmacht High Command announced:-
Since the early morning hours of today, we have been engaged in hostilities along the Soviet Russian border. An attempt by enemy aircraft to fly into East Prussia, has been repelled with heavy losses. German fighter planes shot down large number of Red bombers. In the struggle against the British Isles, powerful German aerial formations bombed the harbour installations of Southampton last night. Extensive fires broke out in the docks, warehouses and food manufacturing works. Further air attacks were aimed at airfields in northern Scotland and the Midlands. A large British freight vessel was severely damaged by bombs north of Sunderland. Yesterday afternoon a small number of British bombers with powerful fighter cover flew against the French Channel coast. German fighter planes shot down 26 British aircraft in violent dogfights. German flak and naval artillery brought down two more enemy aircraft. [German ace] Lt. Col. Galland won three air victories in these struggles.
U-467 laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)
MOSCOW: The NKVD requests all members of the German Embassy to leave their private residences and to assemble in the embassy chancellery. (Greg Kelley)(274 pp. 337-338)
SLOVAKIA severs diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
ROMANIA: 12 He 112s of Royal Romanian Air Force Grupul 5 escort a flight of Potez 63 light bombers on attacks on the Soviet airfields of Bolgrad and Bulgarica early in the morning.
During this attack Sublocotenent Aviator Teodor Moscu became Romania’s first fighter hero of the War, shooting down two Polikarpov I-16 fighters with credit for a third “probable”; Moscu’s Heinkel was badly shot up in the ensuing air battle where the Romanians were outnumbered nearly three to one, making a wheels-up emergency landing from which he walked away from. Moscu soon added a pair of additional victories to his aerial score, while his Heinkel was eventually repaired and returned to frontline service with Escadrila 51. (Greg Kelley)
FINLAND: Officially Finland is neutral in the Russo-German war, but in all practical respects Finland has committed herself to join the Barbarossa. Finnish Defence Forces are fully mobilized and stationed along the eastern border. In northern Finland German ground forces are already operating against the Soviets, and Luftwaffe is freely using designated Finnish airfields to attack Soviet targets.
But Finns are not just waiting for a proper excuse to start military operations. Early tonight, Finnish submarines lay mines in the Gulf of Finland. One infantry regiment and a light artillery battalion occupy the demilitarized Ahvenanmaa (Aland) islands in the Baltic Sea. Soviet planes attack the Finnish armored ships in nearby waters, but make no damage.
A sixteen-man Finnish long-distance patrol, clad in civilian clothing, is flown by two German He 115’s to the Soviet rear. Their mission is to destroy locks in the Stalin canal. The locks prove too well guarded, but on its way home the patrol cuts the Murmansk railway. It returns back to the Finnish lines on 11 July, with losses of two men. (Mikko Härmeinen)
U.S.S.R.: Operation Barbarossa: The German attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, begins. The Soviets are taken almost completely by surprise. The Germans have 140 of their own divisions, including 17 Panzer and 13 motorized divisions.
There are also 14 Rumanian, two Hungarian, and 21 Finnish divisions. Facing them are the 230 division of the Soviet Army. 170 divisions are in the western part of the Soviet Union and 134 are directly opposing the Germans. The attacks today begins at 0300 hours with ground and air attacks. Most German operations run according to plan.
A most significant setback is the taking of the citadel within the town of Brest Litovsk. This slows the use of the German communications network planned to be centered here.
The Finnish Army in June 1941 comprised of 16 (infantry) divisions, three brigades (two light infantry and one cavalry), and numerous independent units, among them two infantry regiments. (Mikko Härmeinen)
Moscow: Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov made the following declaration in the name of the Soviet Government. (Entire speech)
At 4:00 A.M. German Fascist and Rumanian forces crossed our borders without any notification of cause and without a declaration of war. Kiev, Sevastapol, Kovno and other cities were bombed. More than 200 people have been killed or wounded according to reports so far.
Germany attacked the Soviet Union along an 1,800 mile front from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The Germans have thrown 151 divisions into the battle, accompanied by tanks, guns and aeroplanes.
Stalin, despite the warnings given to him by Churchill and his own spies, seems to have been taken completely by surprise. The first that the Russians knew of the invasion was when the guns fired. At 4.00 A.M. Vladimir Dekanozov, the Soviet ambassador to Berlin, was called to the Wilhelmstrasse to be told that Germany had entered Russia in response to “border violations”.
In fact, the invasion is the culmination of months of planning by the German general staff, acting on Hitler’s orders. Operation Barbarossa is designed to destroy the Soviet Union and Bolshevism. Hitler is certain of success. he has told General Alfred Jodl: “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.” In a proclamation broadcast this morning Hitler boasted that the German army’s movements were “the greatest the world has ever seen.” First reports indicate that the Finns and Romanians are fighting alongside the German.
Six transport Gruppen are allocated to provide the Luftwaffes air transport component.
1., 2., and 3 Staffel of the OKL’s Aufklarungsgruppe are present with the high-alititude Ju 86Ps.
7 Stukagruppen are placed at the disposal of II. and VIII. Fliegerkorps, II. and III./St.G 1 with 70 aircraft, I. and III./St.G 2 with 83 aircraft, and the whole of St.G 77 with 122 aircraft. In addition, IV.(St)/LG 1 is operational in northern Norway with 42 Ju 87Bs.
The Luftwaffe’s fighter force consists of JG 3 under Maj Gunther Lutzow equipped with the Bf 109F; II and III./JG 27 under Maj Wolfgang Schnellmann with the Bf109E; JG 51 under Molders with the Bf109F, II and III./JG 52 under Maj Hans Trubenbach with the Bf109E; JG 53 under Maj Gunther von Maltzahn with the Bf 109F; JG 54 under Maj Hannes Trautloft with the Bf109F; and JG 77 under Maj Bernhard Woldenga with the Bf109E. There is a single Bf110 equipped Zerstorergeschwader, ZG 26 Horst Wesel.
The Luftwaffe claims 1,811 Soviet aircraft for the loss of 32 of its own machines.
The attack started at 03.15 hr with strikes against Russian airfields in an attempt to wipe the Red Air Force out on the ground. The airfields were so widely dispersed that it is only possible to allocate three bombers to attack each. Many of the Ju88s and Do17s carry 2kg SD 2 and 10kg SD 10 fragmentation bombs, the latter being dropped from high altitudes in bundles of four. These prove extremey effective against aircraft and personnel but have an unfortunate habit of failing to release from the aircraft’s bomb racks. The bombs would become fused and a slight jolt would cause them to detonate and blow the aircraft to pieces.
The initial attack on the Soviet airfields is followed by the bombing of Moscow, by Ju88s of KG 3 and KG 54 and He 111s of III./KG 26, part of KG 28, KG 53 and Kgr 100. 127 bombers take part in the raid dropping 104 tons of HE and 46,000 indenciary bombs.
Romanians enter Bessarabia to retake it. Making a maximum effort, the Romanian Air Force also loses 11 planes on this day. Specifically four Blenheims, two SM-79Bs, two PZL P.37s, one Potez 63, one IAR-37 and one IAR-39. The Romanians in turn claim eight Soviet aircraft plus three to their anti-aircraft artillery and claim 37 Soviet aircraft destroyed on the ground. (Mike Yaklich)
ITALY: Rome: Italy declares war on the Soviet Union.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA: A surface encounter takes place during the night between the Vichy French super-destroyer GUEPARD and the light cruiser HMS LEANDER. The GUEPARD is damaged by a 6” shell from LEANDER. (Peter Beeston)
SYRIA: After evacuation of Damascus, Colonel Keimes weary French force of V/1st Moroccan, I and III/17th Senegalese, III/24th Colonial and I and III/29th Algerian battalions withdraw through the mountains to the Barada Gorge, dominating the Beirut-Damascus Road. At Palmyra, Habforce (4 Cav Bde, 1/Essex and Arab Legion) is under persistent French air attack. Maj-Gen Clark calls for urgent air support. Nine Gladiators arrive but airfield cannot be defended and they withdraw to Iraq. On the central axis, 6th Aust Cav have formed a horsed troop from captured French cavalry horses, which patrols from Merdjayoun. (Michael Alexander)
CANADA: Corvette HMCS Saskatoon arrived Halifax from builder Montreal, Province of Quebec. (Dave Shirlaw)
NEWFOUNDLAND: US Marines sail from Argenta bound for occupation duty in Iceland. (Dave Hornford)
U.S.A.: In baseball, the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees complete their three game series at Yankee Stadium in New York. Yankee star Joe DiMaggio goes 2-for-5 against Tiger pitchers Hal Newhouser and Bobo Newsom. DiMaggio’s home run and single extend his hitting streak to 35-games. (Jack McKillop)
At 0329, the Calabria, dispersed from Convoy SL-76, was torpedoed and sunk by U-141 about 100 miles 280° from Inishtrahull lightship.
At 2236, the weather ship Arakara was torpedoed and sunk by U-77 east of St John’s. The U-boat misidentified the ship as the Greek steam merchant Alexandra. The master, 32 crewmembers and 12 Admiralty personnel were lost. (Dave Shirlaw)