01 January 2011
Michael Heidler looks at solutions to beat the freezing conditions in Russia ...
“Spring 1941… operation makes sense only if we defeat the state in one go. Gaining of certain space is not suffi cient. A stop in the winter is precarious.” General chief of staff Franz Halder noted these words in his diary after a discussion with Hitler on 31st July 1940.
When they let three million German soldiers march eastward at daybreak on 22nd June 1941, Hitler and his generals believed that they could wrestle down the colossus Russia within a few months. And the early successes seemed to prove them right. After the first victorious battles, Halder wrote in his diary on 3rd July 1941: “It is probably not saying too much, if I state that the campaign was won within 14 days.”
Even General Paulus found no one willing to heed his warnings and suffered a rebuff from Hitler: “I no longer want to hear this prattle over troops in the winter. Feeling concerned about it is absolutely unnecessary. There will be no winter campaign.”
The consequence of all this was that the German troops trekked towards the east without the least preparation for a winter war.
And so it came, as it had to come: at the end of October the mud period began, followed by the onset of winter. Without winter clothing for the troops and without antifreeze for the engines, the dash of the early advance diminished. The victory, believed within
reach, slipped into far distance. The homeland began to collect winter clothes, in great haste the technical designers tried to keep the war machine running by technical improvements and the magazine Von der Front Für die Front (From the Front for the Front) became filled with words of advice and construction manuals for all kinds of aids for weapons and equipment. As a result many interesting and little known accessories for hand-held weapons and machine guns were created.
Additional pictures to the printed article
It wasn't only the men who suffered in the snow.
Time for some R&R building a snowman
MG winter trigger factory made
Demonstrating the strength of the MG underlayer in the snow
Fighting in the Russian winter called for equipment adaptations