*Includes soldiers' accounts of the fighting
*Includes a bibliography for further reading
In the warm predawn darkness of June 22, 1941, 3 million men waited along a front hundreds of miles long, stretching from the Baltic coast of Poland to the Balkans. Ahead of them in the darkness lay the Soviet Union, its border guarded by millions of Red Army troops echeloned deep throughout the huge spaces of Russia. This massive gathering of Wehrmacht soldiers from Adolf Hitler's Third Reich and his allied states - notably Hungary and Romania - stood poised to carry out Operation Barbarossa, Hitler's surprise attack against the country of his putative ally, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Today, everyone remembers the most famous consequences of Hitler's choice, particularly the fighting at Leningrad and Stalingrad, but the invasion was so comprehensive that it also involved fighting in the barren lands near the Arctic Circle, bringing fierce combat to the taiga and tundra. In fact, Arctic combat occurred in both the Pacific and European theaters of the war, and in both cases the operations were related in some measure to external lines of supply to the USSR.
Meanwhile, the Wehrmacht and the Red Army also met in the boreal pine forests, bogs, and tundra of Lapland and far northern Russia during the Barbarossa campaign of 1941. Fighting separately from the other Army Groups of the Third Reich, elite German Gebirgs (mountain) division soldiers and tough, resourceful Finns clashed with relatively determined and experienced Red Army soldiers in the forbidding terrain east of Finland's border. This campaign bore the elegant operational tile of Silberfuchs, or "Silver Fox." Aiming for Murmansk, a key Soviet port, or at least to sever the rail lines connecting it to points south and east, the Germans found themselves contending with the rugged, unfamiliar landscape, tough Soviet resistance, and as all too frequently occurred, the half-baked strategic meddling of Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the Third Reich.
Fought over bitterly cold flecks of rock and tundra scattered across the remote waters marking the boundary between the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the Aleutian Islands campaign represented one of the strangest encounters of World War II. Curving southwestward from the southwest coast of Alaska like the tail of a stingray, the rugged, volcanic Aleutians belong to both the United States and Russia. The westernmost island, Attu, lies much closer to Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula than to Alaska; the distance to Anchorage, Alaska measures approximately 2,000 miles.
For the Japanese, the secondary operation to the Aleutian Islands proved more successful than the main thrust at Midway Island. In a triumph of cryptanalytic skill and poker-player daring, codebreaker Joseph Rochefort and his team at "Hypo" cracked Japanese messages proving the main effort aimed at Midway. The U.S. Navy intercepted Yamamoto's fleet at Midway and smashed its carriers in one of the most decisive actions of the Pacific Theater on June 3rd to 7th, 1942.
The Aleutians invasion, on the other hand, gave Japan a foothold on American territory that required almost a year to dislodge. In the end, however, by one of the ironies of war, the Japanese attempt to prevent land-based bombers from striking at Japan from the Aleutians backfired. Once the U.S. Army finally evicted the IJA from the islands, the Americans built considerably larger airfields there, from which regular sorties struck the Japanese-held Kurile Islands and shipping along the northern Japanese coast.
World War II in the Arctic: The History of the Aleutian Islands Campaign and Nazi Germany's Arctic Invasion of the Soviet Union chronicles two of the most unique campaigns of World War II. Along with pictures of important people and places, you will learn about the Aleutian Islands Campaign and Operation Silver Fox like never before.