Unstoppable advance

A mittlere geländegängige Personenkraftwagen Kfz. 12 (medium cross-country passenger car) makes its way across a temporary bridge. A dispatch rider on a BMW R12 is following. It’s the summer of 1941, Operation Barbarossa is in full swing, and the retreating Red Army has blown the road bridge in the hope of slowing the German advance. A bridging unit from a pioneer battalion has thrown a temporary bridge across the shallow river, a task that probably took about half an hour. As the river appears to be rather narrow, no pontoons are needed, something that speeds up the bridge-building. The car has a swastika flag across the hood as a means of making identification from the air easier, lessening the risk of attacks by own aircraft. “Friendly fire isn’t”, as someone put it.

The first, heady weeks of Operation Barbarossa saw German units drive deep into Soviet territory. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners were taken, and nothing appeared to be able to stop millions of German soldiers that had crossed the border on 22 June. A few months later the Wehrmacht experienced a severe reality check…


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