In June 1941, during World War II, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa to storm and capture Moscow, thereby invading the Soviet Union. With Germany’s typical Blitzkrieg tactic, it was only weeks before they were few miles from Moscow. The speed and force of that attack had put the large Soviet Army in a state of shock and Stalin himself had temporarily gone into withdrawal.
Due to change in strategy, Hitler had ordered a diversion of his forces to strategic targets which delayed the invasion of Moscow. This meant that by the time the German forces were on the gates of Moscow, it was December. The harsh Russian winter had now arrived to which the locals were well-accustomed. However, the German army which had begun the expedition during the summers, was now stuck unprepared and underdressed.
This gave the Soviet Army the opportunity to prepare themselves to not only drive the Germans away from their homeland, but launch a counter-offensive to chase them all the way back to Berlin and eventually hoist their flag on the German parliament building in 1945.
It was the Germans’ bad luck that the poor weather bamboozled their invasion plans.
Three years after the launch of Operation Barbarossa, in 1944, Germany’s rivals in the war – the allied powers were planning to launch their largest combined land offensive. They were to take their troops across the sea to secure the beachheads of German occupied France. This was no mean task – the Germans had been preparing to counter this for years and the allied powers did not have the equipment to get such a large force of artillery and troops to cross over the English Channel. If not for proper planning and execution by the Allies, the beaches of France would become a duck-hunting ground for the German defenders.
General Eisenhower of the U.S Armed Forces was the overall commander of this initiative and they had been preparing since months to launch this offensive which would later liberate all of France and cross most of Germany to knock on Berlin’s door. However, on the day of the offensive, the weather over the channel was extremely poor. The airforce would be able to provide only limited support due to lack of visibility and the navy would have a hard time getting the troops across.
After a long, raging debate among the senior leaders if they should delay this elaborately planed offensive to a day with better weather, Eisenhower stood up and said “Let’s go”. And so it happened. A year later, Hitler was dead and Germany had surrendered.
Luck, good or bad, is an extremely powerful force. However, it cannot be controlled and can only be prepared for and responded to.
What can be controlled are the decisions before and after the intervention of luck. What we do before the intervention of luck is the preparation and what we do after is the response. The response could either be move or fall back and recover – both are acts of extraordinary courage given the overwhelming.
Germany had multiple chances to withdraw their forces from the Soviet Land after their plan fell file. They refused to do so and continued their siege on Leningrad in the North and Stalingrad in the south. In both these places, the German forces suffered miserably. Many German troops died and even more were taken prisoners. Even after multiple interjections by senior commanders to withdraw forces from the Soviet land, Hitler refused to take a step back. This is where the downfall of the German forces began.
General Eisenhower’s confidence on their preparation and understanding that surprise element of the attack maybe in jeopardy if they rescheduled, his response to the interjection of bad luck was to launch the assault. Further, he did not issue any last many change in strategy to confuse his troops. As ‘luck’ would have it, the German Commander in the region and one of their most celebrated officers, General Erwin Rommel, had taken the opportunity to visit his family because “who would attack in such a terrible weather!”
Before the German leaders could get their wits together and by the time Hitler woke up for his morning tea, the Allied forces had secured multiple beach-heads and were miles deep in France.