Russian troops moving 
through ruined city.

- Project 60: A Day-by-Day Diary of WWII - 

Remembering the First Fight Against Fascism

German infantry heading east.
Russian POWs heading west.


July 15
| July 16 | July 17 | July 18 | July 19 | July 20 | July 21   
July 8-14
| July 1-7 | June 24-30 | June 19-23

Hot Links: Barbarossa Map

July 15, 1941

The Red Army uses the Katyusha Rocket launcher for the first time in combat in a counter-attack at Orsha. This turned out to be a remarkable effective weapon in delivering 320 132mm rockets on target in 25 seconds. The weapon became known as "Stalin's Organ". The modern day equivalent of this system is the US Army MLRS.

Heavy city fighting erupts in Smolensk as German infantry attempt to storm the city. 

The Red Army officially gave the responsibility for "preventing panic, and dealing with cowardice and treachery" to the political commissars. This gave these Communist party apparatchik the power to summarily execute anyone in their command. 

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July 16, 1941

Smolensk falls to the Germans. The Germans are now 200 miles from Moscow. However, Soviet resistance is becoming more fierce and supplies of fuel and ammunition for the far flung panzer divisions are becoming scarce.

Stalin's son, fighting as a lieutenant in the Red Army is captured by the Germans in the fighting around Smolensk.

The Japanese government falls as hard-liners insist on not dealing with Washington. 

The peculiar pre-war practice by the Red Army of "dual command" was reestablished. This scheme placed political commissars and field commanders on an equal command level, in effect each formation had two leaders - military and political. Red Army officers now not only had to deal with Germans to his front but the Commissar to his back.

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July 17, 1941

Panzer forces from 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups meet east of the city, surrounding nearly 300,000 men from in several small pockets. However, the ring around the surrounded troops was so full of holes that the bulk of the troops were able to escape in reasonably good order.

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July 18, 1941

A new Japanese government is formed, which is nearly identical to the last hard-line government.

The counter-attack near Sotsy by the Russians against Manstein's 56 Panzer Corp (Army Group North) ends. Although the Germans did escape from a small encirclement, their 8th Panzer Division did take serious losses in the four-day battle.

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July 19, 1941

The US Navy is ordered to escort any nation's shipping to and from Iceland.

Stalin makes his first (of many) requests to open up a second front against the Germans. In this case he asks for a combined operation (naval and ground forces) to be used in the Artic and an immediate invasion of northern France. Either action is, of course, pure fantasy, but Churchill does dispatch a sizable naval force from Scapa Flow to harass the Germans in Norway.

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July 20, 1941

Stalin orders all units to "purge unreliable elements". Part of this order was to detain any officers and men who escaped German encirclements so that they could be interrogated by the NKVD (early version of the KGB) to weed out "German spies". So after defying death at the hands of the Germans, these lucky few would be turned over to the no so tender mercies of their own countrymen. 

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July 21, 1941

The Vichy government, completely unable to do anything about it, gives the Japanese permission to occupy military bases in French Indochina. The Japanese now have air bases capable of staging bombers in range of Singapore. 

German bombers hit Moscow for the first time in the war. The attack is a fiasco as Moscow had one of the most extensive anti-aircraft defense systems of any city in the world at that time. The raid also showed a severe weakness in the German arsenal - they had no long range, heavy, four engine strategic bomber. They were completely unable to stage the kind of mass destruction the British and, later the Americans could with their massive bombers.

US authorities temporarily stopped shipping through the Panama Canal today as "maintenance work"  was needed. Interestingly enough, several Japanese ships were forced to divert around South America because of the action. Coincidence, I'm sure.

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War, Glory, Honor and Remembrance

War is a brutal and savage insult on human society. For nations it is the destruction of the resources needed for the enrichment of its citizens. For families, it is the loss of loved ones and the horrors held by the survivors. For the individual, it is the loss of precious time and ultimately, life itself.

There is no honor or glory in war. The sacrifice of a generation of humans cannot be seen in anyway to be glorious. Platitudes like "just cause" and "noble purpose" are meaningless to the person whose body has been blown to bits. If there is honor, it is in survival. If there is glory it is returning to your families, friends and community.

What we, the people who did not have to experience war, must do, is remember those who gave so much for our freedom. We must redouble our efforts so that their sacrifice is not in vane, so tyranny will not threaten our world again, so no more young men and women of any nation, need be surrendered to the insanity of war again.

D. A. Friedrichs



The Complete Collection

June 19-23, 1941

June 19, 1941

Germany and Italy order U.S. diplomats out of their countries by July 15. This was in retaliation to a similar action by the Americans (anybody remember those Russian diplomats Shrub ditched).

Heavy fighting continues in the Middle East as Vichy French forces stop Allied advances on Damascus (the players change but the fighting never seems to end).

U.S. stops authorizing visas for aliens with relatives in the German occupied territories.

German forces continue their concentration of forces on the Soviet border in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Heavy artillery begins moving into firing positions and bridging equipment begins to arrive. German U-boats proceed to war stations in the Baltic while mine laying operations commence. Stalin still insists that the invasion is not immanent.

British forces  continue their retreat back into Egypt after Rommel defeats Operation Battleax.

June 20, 1941

President Roosevelt calls Germany an "outlaw nation" because of the sinking of the Robin Moore by a German U-Boat on May 21.

The USS Texas , while on a "neutrality patrol," is dogged by the German submarine U-203 between Newfoundland and Greenland. The German skipper thought the Texas was a lend lease vessel and therefore fair game for his attack.

June 21, 1941

Australian forces occupy Damascus after Vichy French forces withdraw.

General Wavell having utterly failed to relieve Tobruk in Operation Battleax, is sacked by Churchill as commanding officer of the Commonwealth troops in the Middle East. 

Commonwealth forces enter Iraq in order to secure oil supplies for the war effort (things really never do change do they?).

Hitler signals to his eastern troops that the invasion of the Soviet Union is on for the next day. 

German commandos, the Brandenburgers, begin operations, infiltrating across the border, move to secure bridges and other important facilities in the Russian rear area in preparation for the invasion.

June 22, 1941 - BARBAROSSA! The Invasion of Russia Begins

At 3:00 A.M., three million battle hardened soldiers of German Wehrmacht, struck the ill-prepared Soviet army, starting one of the single most devastating and titanic struggles in history. Three German Army Groups, North, Center and South, struck for their respective goals of Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev.

German aircraft pounded targets deep in Russia. Airfields were a primary target and by days end, 500 Soviet planes were destroyed, mostly on the ground. Russian border forces were quickly overrun after brief but vicious fights. One notable exception, the fortress of Brest-Litovsk on the Bug River, holds against ferocious German attacks. Efforts to mobilize defensive countermeasures were chaotic as reinforcing columns are harassed by constant air attacks. By days end, German ground forces advance 15-25 miles. 

Hitler declared that when he unleashed his armies to the east, "The world will hold its breath". This was one of the few statements he made that was absolutely correct. 

Churchill declares Britain will assist the Soviets saying, "Any man or State who fights against Nazism will have our aid. Any man or State who marches with Hitler is our foe." One hopes these words would be remembered today.

June 23, 1941

Hungry joins Germany, Rumania, Italy, Slovakia and Croatia by declaring war on the Soviet Union.

The relentless advance in Russia continues as shattered Soviet forces flood east pursued by the German invaders. German panzer units begin to meet Soviet tank formations rushing to the front. The Soviet columns are badly organized and depleted because of constant air attacks. On the approaches to Vilnius, German tank columns bypass pockets of resistance and drive deep into the Soviet rear areas. Further to the south, German forces are met by strong resistance and a fierce tank battle develops around Dubno.

British forces advance to Palmyra in Syria against strong Vichy French resistance.


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June 24-30, 1941

June 24, 1941

The Germans continue to advance in pursuit of the retreating Russian forces. In the north, the destruction of the Soviet armored reserves is completed and the German columns begin to break into the clear. In the center, Soviet resistance is shattered as German tank columns enter Vilnius. Heavy fighting is still reported in the south as German forces make marginal gains toward Kiev. The Germans gain air superiority over the front as 2000 Russian planes have now been destroyed since hostilities started.

Roosevelt orders all Soviet assets released and promises aid to the beleaguered nation.

June 25, 1941

German troops confront the Soviet KV-I and KV-II heavy tanks in battle. The German anti-tank guns and panzers are unable to cope with these behemoths and resort to using the 88mm anti-aircraft gun and 100mm field artillery to stop the beasts. This was a very rude surprise to the Germans.

Forces of Army Group Center (3rd Panzer Group) capture Vilnius. Army Group South meets stiff opposition as the Soviet Southwest Front concentrates large tank formations in front of the advancing 1st Panzer Group. Soviet counter attacks around Grodno continue but begin to falter. In the far north, Soviet defenses stiffen around Murmansk, stopping the Germans short of their goal. The Germans would never capture the vital supply port.

Finland joins the Axis nations by declaring war on the U.S.S.R. 

Sweden, although technically neutral, allows armed German troops to move through their nation on the way to Russia.

Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8802 which calls for the " Full Participation In The Defense Program By All Persons, Regardless Of Race, Creed, Color, Or National Origin" (he knew he'd need everybody's help to crush fascism). Also, the (thrice elected in an honest vote) president, declared that the Siberian port Vladivostok, would be exempt from the neutrality statutes so supplies could flow to Russia. 

June 26, 1941

Organized Soviet resistance in the fortress town of Brest-Litovsk comes to an end after four days of extremely heavy fighting. The Germans finally pummeled the defenders into submission with massive air strikes and heavy artillery bombardment. 

In Army Group North, tanks of von Manstein's 4th Panzer Group capture the Dvina River bridges at Daugavipils intact. Hitler orders these forces to stop, consolidate, gather supplies and wait for the infantry forces, far to the rear, to catch up. Many "historians" have indicated that this decision was fatal for the swift capture of Leningrad. This opinion, however, ignores the terrain on the approach, the Red army, and the appalling logistics situation for the Germans.   

In Army Group Center, the 7th Panzer Division (Rommel's old unit from France) driving north of Minsk, cuts the Minsk-Moscow highway, the main supply route for the Soviet West Front. Further to the south, Guderian's 2 Panzer Group is driving hard to complete the encirclement of the Soviet forces around Minsk.

In Army Group South, the Soviets launch fresh and very strong counterattacks against the German spearheads. These attacks fall particularly hard on the 16th Panzer Division in the area around Ostrov. Further to the north, 11th  Panzer Division is blocked in it's advance at Dubno. The advance of the this army group is temporarily stopped.

June 27, 1941

In Army Group Center, Guderian's Panzer Group 2 and Hoth's Panzer Group 3 meet east of Minsk, completing the first major encirclement of soviet forces. Some 200,000 men from the Russian 3rd, 10th and 13th Armies are cut off in the west of Minsk.

In Army Group South's sector, Soviet counter attacks north of Dubno begin to sputter as uncoordinated Soviet battle groups are destroyed by the more coordinated German efforts. However, the attacks approaching from south of Dubno are more successful and create some confusion in the German attacks. Meanwhile, 11 Panzer division drives east of Dubno, breaking through the Soviet defenses and capturing Ostrog, 30 kilometers in the Soviet's rear.

June 28, 1941

 Rioting breaks out in the newly "liberated" city of Kaunas. The German military authorities stand by as 3800 Jews are killed by the angry mobs.

Soviet counter-attacks in the Dubno region collapse. Russian forces are now withdrawing on all fronts. 

The Finns begin their advance into Russia.

The Germans capture Minsk as the death grip on the encircled Soviet armies tightens. The Gestapo also enters the city, ordering all men from 15 to 45 years of age to appear at the registration point. Thousands obey and are marched off  to Drozdy camp.

June 29, 1941

The Soviet government tells the people to leave nothing for the Germans, ordering " the removal of all rolling stock, leaving not a single locomotive, not a truck, not a kilogram of bread, not a liter of fuel. Collective farms must drive away their cattle . All property of value, any, including ferrous metals, bread and fuel which cannot be taken away, must, without exceptions be destroyed." This was the famous "Scorched Earth" policy.

Soviet marines and elements of the 67th Rifle Division defending the Libau naval base far to the rear of the Germans run out of ammunition and time. The city and base are surrendered after inflicting heavy losses on the Germans.

German troops attempted to take Riga by storming the railroad bridge over the Dvina River. They were successful in establishing a foothold on the eastern bank, but counter-attacking Russian forces destroyed the invaders.

The German advance out of Norway, directed at the vital northern port of Murmansk is stopped by determined Soviet defenses.

The Finns under Mannerheim begin a major offensive on the Karelian Isthmus north of Leningrad.

Forces of Army Group South eliminate pockets of resistance, consolidate their forces, regroup for the continued advance toward Kiev.

June 30, 1941

In heavy fighting, Army Group South captures (the formerly Polish city of) Lvov.

Stalin begins executions of the commanders who failed to stop the invasion (conveniently forgetting that he was the one who kept on ignoring reports from the frontier and his own spies that the invasion was coming). Pavlov, commander of the Western Front was most notable among those who "lost their jobs".

Vichy France decides to break diplomatic ties with the USSR (a mortal body blow to the Russians - ha).

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Week of July 1-7, 1941

July 1, 1941

Elements of Army Group North capture Riga, Latvia

The Axis nations of Japan, Germany and Italy recognize the pro-Japanese government of  Henry P'u Yi (remember the movie "The Last Emperor"). They would be the only ones who would.

The U.S. Army strength reaches 1.4 million men, up from 250,000 just one year before. 

July 2, 1941

German Einsatzgruppen units in Lvov murder 7000 Jews in the city.

RAF planes attack Brest, France. In the raid the German cruiser Printz Eugen is severely damaged.

July 3, 1941

Stalin, after not being seen or heard in public since the beginning of the German invasion, makes an address to his nation. He calls for patriotic fervor and fanatic resistance to the Nazi invaders. He also reiterates the "Scorched Earth" policy announced on June 29.

German General Franz Halder, echoing the opinion of most German commanders writes in his diary, "... I assert that the Russian campaign will be won within 14 days." German intelligence reports indicate the the Soviets are down to 30 effective divisions. The euphoria of victory infects the German high command.

Soviet strength continues to build after the disasters on the frontier. Despite loosing scores of divisions and tons of supplies and equipment, the Russians have 180 divisions at or in the immediate vicinity of the front. I guess the Germans were a tad overconfident.

Allied forces occupy Palmyra in Syria after the Vichy defenders withdraw.

July 4, 1941

Josip Broz, better known as Tito, general secretary of the Yugoslav Communist Party announces that he would lead a resistance movement in his country.

Ostrov falls to the panzer forces of Army Group North. The Germans are now less than 200 miles from their goal of Leningrad as they advance across the 1939 Polish-USSR border.

July 5, 1941

The Soviets launch a major counter attack between Ostrov and Pskov on the approach to Leningrad. The attacking force is heavily reinforced with heavy KV-I and KV-II tanks. The defending Germans of the 1st and 6th Panzer Divisions are hard pressed. 

3rd Panzer Group (Army Group Center) establishes a bridgehead over the Dvina River.

July 6, 1941

RAF Bomber Command starts a three day terror bombing of Munster, Germany. In the end, a quarter of the city would be gutted.

Soviet forces counter-attack the 3rd Panzer Group bridgehead over the Dvina. The attacks would end in three days, with heavy losses to both sides.

July 7, 1941

U.S. Marines occupy Iceland, Trinidad and British Guiana. This action by the U.S. was intended to safeguard these important naval and air staging areas to prevent "the occupation by Germany ... for eventual attack against the Western Hemisphere" . It also just happened to free up British troops for use in defense of England and in the Middle East.

Churchill sends his first personal note to Stalin offering to forge an alliance between Britain and Russia.

In Army Group South, 11 Panzer Division takes Berdichev. The Germans are now less than 100 miles from Kiev.

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Week of July 8-14, 1941

July 8, 1941

Jews in the recently occupied Baltic States were ordered to wear the Star of David.

July 9, 1941

The Minsk and Vitebsk pockets were declared officially eliminated today. Although some 300,000 men were trapped in these pockets, some 100,000 escaped. However, the loss of tanks, trucks and artillery was severe.

In Army Group North, Pskov falls to the 36 Motorized Infantry Division. The Germans are 150 miles from Leningrad. 

Soviet attacks against Army Group Center's 3rd Panzer Group collapse, but the heavy losses taken by the Germans force a temporary halt to their advance.

July 10, 1941

In Army Group south, Zhitomir falls and elements of the 13th Panzer Division, racing for Kiev, reach the Iprev River. The Germans are now 10 miles from the capital of the Ukraine. 

Elements of the 20th Panzer Division take Vitebsk and are now only 250 miles from Moscow.

Stalin relieves Timoshenko as commander of the Red Army, taking the job for himself. Timoshenko is placed in command of the forces opposing the German drives on the Moscow axis. 

The Soviets launch heavy counter-attacks in the Korosten-Malin area against the advancing forces of Army Group South.

Relations between the Germans and Japanese become strained as, after many requests by the Germans to attack Russia from their positions in China, the Japanese inform their allies that they will not be attacking the Soviet Union.

July 11, 1941

Guederian's 2nd Panzer Group reaches the Dniepr River in the Smolensk area.

The Russian 3rd Mechanized Corp joins in the strong counterattacks on the approaches to Kiev. The Red Army uses a large body of its new T-34 main battle tank for the first time. The Germans are stunned by the effectiveness of the new tank and tactics.

July 12, 1941

A treaty of mutual assistance is signed between the British and Russians in Moscow. Britain no longer stands alone against Nazi Germany.

 The Vichy French government fails to gain Turkish permission to send military supports to their forces in Syria.  With this last hope gone, the forces still in Syria seek a truce with the Allied forces.

Fourth Panzer Group, attempting to advance beyond Pskov toward Leningrad, calls a halt to their advance to allow the infantry to catch up. Since taking Pskov three days ago, the German tankers have made less than 10 miles of advance into the dismal swamp land of northern Russia against an ever strengthening Red Army.

July 13, 1941

RAF Bomber Command continues its raids on German ports. Over 100 bombers attempted to hit Bremen.

July 14, 1941

The Nazi government seized the property of all Christian Science churches in Germany.

German forces reach the Luga River, less than 100 miles from Leningrad.

Vichy forces in Syria and Lebanon surrender leaving the two Arab states occupied by British and Free French forces. Most of the Vichy forces were allowed to leave as part of the armistice agreement.

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