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Operation Groza
Dioramartin
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New South Wales, Australia
Joined: May 04, 2016
KitMaker: 1,476 posts
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Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - 01:03 AM UTC
Never heard of it? Operation Groza (Thunderstorm) was the fully resourced plan involving a two-pronged Red Army invasion of western Poland & Rumania (the sole source of Germany’s oil) and then on to Germany and - depending on the season – France & the Low Countries. When? Anytime from May 1941 onwards, partly depending on when/if Britain sued for peace with Germany. If it did, the imminent release of German forces to the east would trigger the pre-emptive invasion. If Britain fought on, Stalin was content to continue building up his invasion force to invade in the Spring of 1942.

So Hitler’s invasion of the USSR launched in June 1941 really was a pre-emptive strike, one of the rare times he spoke the truth.

Soviet Assets in April 1941 (German assets in brackets): 300 divisions (153), 27,500 armoured vehicles (7,000), and 32,628 aircraft (4,000), albeit many somewhat obsolete. The original plans signed by Marshal Timoshenko on September 18th 1940 (3 months before the birth of Barbarossa plans) were updated & signed off by Marshal Zhukov in February 1941. Surviving documents in Russian archives include Doc # 103202/06 in which Zhukov renamed the plan “Mobilisatsyonni Plan 41”, they escaped the archival purge of evidence that contradicted the official line that Barbarossa was a surprise/treacherous attack on a peace-loving Soviet Union.

Further evidence from Owen Matthew’s “An Impeccable Spy - Richard Sorge – Stalin’s Master Agent” publ 2019 (pp256-7):

“It seems Berlin knew of (Operation Groza’s) existence as early as March 1941 when Walter Schellenberger (head of foreign intelligence at the Reich Main Security Office) and Vladimir Dekanozov (Soviet Ambassador to Germany) discussed Groza over drinks in Berlin. Dekanozov asked Schellenberger directly about “a plan called Barbarossa which means a German assault against us”. The RHSA chief remained quiet for a while before replying “This is correct, this plan exists and it was elaborated with great thoroughness. We communicated this plan through secret channels to the Americans and the British, to make them believe we were preparing to attack you. If they believe it, we have a good chance to succeed with our Operation Sealion (to occupy Great Britain) - but we also know about your plan (Groza)”. Indeed the existence of Operation Groza – and the Soviet General Staff’s planning for an invasion of Germany, not the defense of the Motherland – has been cited as one of the reasons for the USSR’s unpreparedness for invasion in June 1941. Units along the frontier had been equipped with maps of German territory, but not of the Russian rear.”

Obviously Schellenberger had to think quickly to pass Barbarossa off as a bluff. Sealion was probably always a bluff to force an armistice with Britain and it certainly had become so by early 1941, renamed Operation Harpoon. Unfortunately his lie about Sealion meshed with Stalin’s delusion that all the warnings of an imminent German invasion were ruses emanating from Britain & America designed to break the Nazi/Soviet non-aggression pact and drag the USSR into the war, thus saving Britain from imminent defeat. Most of the intelligence warnings were delivered to Stalin but always edited and discredited first by his Intelligence chief Golikov, who had strong reasons for telling Stalin only what he wanted to hear – the five predecessors in his job had all been shot during the late 1930’s purges.

How successful Groza might have been is moot. If Rumania had been taken quickly the German war machine would have run out of fuel within a few weeks (their synthetic oil production provided only about 30% of requirements in 1941) and sheer weight of numbers would then have probably overwhelmed the Wehrmacht, who were as unprepared for a defensive campaign as the Russians were. France, Belgium & the Netherlands were in no position to resist a second occupation either. Italy & Spain would have had to come to terms, in the unlikely event Stalin offered any.

It’s worth reflecting how different the past 75 years might have been if Golikov had risked his neck to show Stalin the unadulterated evidence of the Nazi build-up during the early months of 1941 – in some ways better (e.g. no Holocaust), but still bleak in terms of an inevitably repressive communist occupation of Europe instead of a Nazi one. So as we enter the 80th anniversaries of WW2 events, if anyone’s looking for an unusual what-if diorama idea (or even a Campaign) how about a couple of T34s on the beach at Dunkirk amongst some rusting BEF and fresh panzer wrecks? Or some Von Braun A4 rockets with red stars painted on them ready to launch amongst some Normandy bocage…
varanusk
Staff MemberManaging Editor
ARMORAMA
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Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain / Espańa
Joined: July 04, 2013
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Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - 09:25 PM UTC
Thanks Tim, very interesting reading of a subject I was not aware.

Digging a bit more on it, seems that historians do not agree whether this was real or not... there are no clear evidences of the operation was ever planned, but it can't be discarded either!

As said, quite interesting anyway
Dioramartin
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New South Wales, Australia
Joined: May 04, 2016
KitMaker: 1,476 posts
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Posted: Wednesday, July 01, 2020 - 01:32 AM UTC
Hi Carlos

No more aware than I was, until I read the Sorge book referred to above – which I can’t rate highly enough, if you only read one book this year make it that one, it’ll blow your mind. I’m not sure which historians don’t believe it, perhaps those who hadn’t previously dug into the surviving Soviet-era archives as much as Russian-speaking Matthews has? There certainly is evidence the operation was planned. His book was only published last year, here’s what he says in the paragraph preceding the one I quoted above:

“This tale of German defence against Soviet aggression was not entirely bluff. The truth is that Stalin did indeed have a plan in place for invading German-occupied Poland and the Reich itself, if the need arose, known as Operation Groza. In today’s Russia the very existence of this plan remains deeply controversial, as it contradicts the official historiography of the innocent Stalin double-crossed by Hitler. But the document can be found in a so-called “osobaya papka”, or special file, in the Russian Defence Ministry archive (103202/06).”

It’s not hard to imagine how most Groza documentation would have been destroyed in the latter stages of WW2 and/or during the Cold War and/or after the fall of communism – in fact at no stage to this day would its publication have cast Russia in a particularly good light. In any case it would be beyond belief if Stalin HADN’T prepared such a plan. Communism became the driving force behind the USSR’s breakneck-speed industrialisation to create a military force large enough to prevent yet another invasion from the West, as had happened most recently during WW1. When the scale of his numerical superiority became clear in the late 1930’s – and its future potential – all Stalin had to do was wipe out any real or imaginary internal risks (the Purges) and then pick his moment. The non-Aggression pact over Poland in 1939 should (on paper) have bought him plenty of time. The reason he went to ground in his dacha for over a week after Barbarossa started was because he couldn’t believe Hitler had beaten him to the drop with such inferior numbers, and that there were so few defensive plans in place. When a deputation of ministers arrived to plead with him to come back and lead the country, his first words were “So you haven’t come to shoot me?” Instead he shot his Generals.

Probably even more USSR inhabitants died between 1918 and 1941 as victims of Communism than died between 1941 and 1945 fighting Nazism. Yet without the communist resistance to Hitler it’s unlikely anybody in Western Europe would have lived under any kind of democracy for the past 75 years. So we had 30? 40? 50? million dead Russians to thank for that but nobody ever did because Operation Groza threatened to complete its mission for decades after. Some might say the reason few archival operational documents survive is because they’re with Russia’s High Command today. Hopefully NATO has an up-to-date copy too