The largest invasion in human history begins. 4 million men supported by 600,000 vehicles and 750,000 horses attacked 3,000 kilometer-long front line. Photo: German soldiers crossing the USSR border (June 22, 1941)


Photo: Russian I-16 fighters destroyed at the airport near Minsk, Belarus (June, 1941)

The German attack was a complete surprise, and initial Soviet losses were catastrophic. After the first 9 days of war the Luftwaffe destroyed 1,400 Soviet airplanes in the air and 3,200 on the ground (40% of the entire USSR air force), while losing only 330 aircraft. By mid-August, the Soviets had lost 3,300 tanks, while the Germans lost 220, an astonishing 15:1 ratio.


Photo: Soviet soldiers surrendering (Belarus, July 1941)

But the most devastating were human losses. By December of 1941, the USSR had lost 2.7 million soldiers killed and 3.3 million captured – its entire pre-war army. For every German soldier lost, the Soviets lost 20.