Kirponos was Commander of the Southwest Front (Kiev District) in June 1941 when the German invasion of the USSR began. He was able to hold up the advance of the German Army Group South at the Polish border with his tank units, but once these had been overrun, his forces withdrew to Kiev. In September he sought STALIN’s permission to withdraw further but Stalin demanded that he hold Kiev. As the High Command debated the next step, time ran out for the men in Kiev and Kirponos and his staff were killed while trying to break out of encirclement. Some 500,000 Soviet prisoners were taken by the Germans in this debacle.