The Corner

It Was Snowing Then, Too

Last weekend, when things were, shall we say, a trifle slower, some readers and I got going on a nice historical riff about Vietnam and World War II. For all those who would like to take a break from New Hampshire for another little sip of history:

“You quoted a correspondent as follows:

“‘The Brits fought in Greece due to principle. Even though they

lost that battle, their sacrifice caused the Nazis to postpone

their invasion of Russia from late April to late June.’”

“This is not true (the part about causing postponement). I used

to think so myself, but have since learned that…

“Only a small part of the German army was diverted from the

preparations for Operation BARBAROSSA to carry out

Operation MARITA (Yugoslavia and Greece).

“Aside from the paratroop corps which fought in Crete in late

May, the Germans were back in place on the Soviet border by


“What held up the invasion was not the diversion to the Balkan

theater, it was the muddy and impassable condition of roads

and countryside in the USSR. The spring thaw in Russia is

called the ‘rasputitsa.’ When it happens, everything turns

into glop, and nothing moves except on paved roads. In 1942

and 1943, campaigning shut down for months when the rasputitsa

arrived. (It’s possible to campaign in winter, because the

ground is frozen.)

“In 1941 there were almost no paved roads in Russia, and the

Germans had to wait till the ground was dried out. The spring

of 1941 was unusually rainy, and so the rasputitsa lasted

longer than usual.

“It should be noted that Operation BLAU, the German offensive

of 1942, began on June 28, six days later than BARBAROSSA.

The 1943 offensive, Operation ZITADELLE, began on July 5.

“Yours in hope of striking a head off the Hydra of popular

historical error.”