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June 22, 1941 – George Putnam News – Special Report – NBC Red Network – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
June 22, 1941 – The headlines spelled out Germany Invades Russia and all eyes turned east. In what was claimed by German radio as the “most extensive continuous battle-line in the history of warfare”, a two thousand mile stretch, from the Arctic North to the Black Sea. In the first 24 hours, Germany claimed numerous victories. German fighters downed some 40 Soviet planes, a German U-Boat sank a 4,000 ton Russian freighter in Russian waters and the Luftwaffe were staging an all-out air assault on the Black Sea city of Sebastopol. By all accounts, and from many observers, the conflict could well develop into the greatest war in history.
The upshot of this dramatic move indicated Hitler was giving up any chance of a quick invasion of Britain any time soon while also saying this episode of the war dwarfed any German assault on the British Empire.
Italy joined ranks with Germany, saying it was “the modern crusade against Bolshevism”. The invasion also recruited soldiers from the ranks of Finnish as well as Rumanian forces.
Because of the size and scope of the invasion was so vast, news was scant and scattered. In addition to the assault on Sebastopol there was also word of a major aerial assault on Kiev was taking place. In contrast, Russian airforce planes encountered German aircraft and there were several aerial battles over Eastern Prussia.
But for the most part, strict censorship prevented anything other than the broadest stories to be reported. But it also was hard keeping up since the invasion was taking place so quickly. German Radio sources were quoted as saying the Eastern campaign would take “no more than a month” before Russian completely capitulated.
Sides were being drawn – Japan, although one of the Axis powers, wouldn’t take part in the invasion. Sweden swore strict neutrality after issuing a call for all Swedish ships to return to port, a move usually associated with a country about to become a belligerent, but not so in this case. Turkey also maintained neutrality while Spain expressed sympathy for Germany.
Many felt the German drive east was to capture important raw materials in order to renew its projected full-scale assault on Britain. The coming weeks and months would spell it all out. It was only the beginning and it was the first 24 hours.
And that’s what happened, this June 21st 1941 as reported by NBC Radio’s RCA News Program with George Putnam and a roundup of Editorial comment on the conflict wired to NBC from newspapers around the country.