A German tank rolls into Russia as a Soviet tank burns on the roadside
If Hitler's plan for an invasion of the Soviet Union was to succeed he could not afford to have hostile forces operating on the southern flank in the Balkans. He initiated a campaign in the Balkans which became a success in itself but lasted longer than planned. Operation Barbarossa was originally set for May 15, 1941 but was delayed because of the extension of the Balkan campaign. The effects of this delay will appear later on when the Germans are faced with a Russian winter.
Hitler's over-confidence in the campaign taking only eight to ten weeks convinced him that most of the Army would be back home long before the arrival of winter. Therefore, winter clothing was ordered for only one-fifth of the invasion force. The German soldiers were equipped with light clothing and accustomed to nothing like the bitter Russian winter. Weapons, food, and flesh froze. Still, Hitler said there would be no retreats. The Russians, however, were equipped for winter. The front-line troops held Germans at arm's length. Prevented by the Fuhrer's order from withdrawing and regrouping, German generals found it difficult to meet stiffening Russian resistance. The Nazis became sitting ducks as the Russians began their counterattack. A huge reserve of troops were being built up in the rear. On December 6, 1941, Marshal Georgi Ahukov sent the Soviet force surging forward against Germany. This sent the Germans back about 200 miles.