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WWII German Casualty Project: Operation Barbarossa

Sometimes research on one project leads to discovery of new data that sparks research into unexpected places. 

A treasure trove of archival data

In 2019, while conducting research for OPMAPS at the U.S. National Archives, FORCES Operations Officer and Outreach Director Rob Kirchubel encountered a gold mine of primary source data. Now, FORCES staff are analyzing German officer losses during Operation Barbarossa. Thirteen periodic personnel reports by Army Group Center, spanning June 22-Sept. 10, 1941 list officer casualties: those killed in action or accidentally, those wounded and those missing. These deaths were listed by 10 criteria, including the officer's name, rank, title, position, unit and date.

Current methods

Kirchubel and Research Assistant Andrew Ephlin are currently entering the data, digitizing nearly 250 pages of text covering more than 5,000 individuals. Once this essential step is complete, analysis and writing will begin.By  comparing our new 50,000 data points to the various stages of the campaign, we expect to come up with some fantastic data correlation. Already at these early stages of the project, Kirchubel can see trends:

  • tremendous losses among lieutenants, especially in the infantry (no surprise in either);
  • high casualties in one division during an engagement but very few to its neighbor;
  • some days where a single company lost its commander and two of three platoon leaders;
  • high numbers of physicians, dentists, pay officers among the victims.

An early, cursory look at these data are eye opening, and FORCES is excited to be engaged in this research project. It should be worth the time and effort!

Link to assassination attempt revealed

The item seventh from the bottom of the page reports the wounding of Lieutenant Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg on June  26, while serving as a platoon leader in the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division. Fast forward 35 months: Alexander's older brother Claus attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb, is apprehended, and is executed.

Alexander’s wounds, suffered east of Bialystok, were serious enough to result in his discharge from the army. He returned to his civilian career as university professor of ancient history.

July 9 casualty report page