The Battle of Moscow was a military campaign that consisted of two periods of strategically significant fighting on a 600 km (370 mi) sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, the capital and largest city of the Soviet Union. Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union.
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), Poland and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.
The German strategic offensive, named Operation Typhoon, called for two pincer offensives, one to the north of Moscow against the Kalinin Front by the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies, simultaneously severing the Moscow–Leningrad railway, and another to the south of Moscow Oblast against the Western Front south of Tula, by the 2nd Panzer Army, while the 4th Army advanced directly towards Moscow from the west. According to Andrew Roberts, Hitler's offensive towards the Soviet capital was nothing less than an "all-out attack": "It is no exaggeration to state that the outcome of the Second World War hung in the balance during this massive attack".
The pincer movement, or double envelopment, is a military maneuver in which forces simultaneously attack both flanks (sides) of an enemy formation. Another usage for a pincer movement is to envelop an opposing army into a pocket, eliminating it as the movement progresses.
The Kalinin Front was a major formation of the Red Army active in the Eastern Front of World War II. It was formally established by Stavka directive on 17 October 1941 and allocated three armies: 22nd, 29th Army and 30th. In May 1942, the Air Forces of the Kalinin Front were reorganised as the 3rd Air Army, comprising three fighter, two ground attack, and one bomber division.
The 3rd Panzer Army was a German armoured formation during World War II, formed from the 3rd Panzer Group on 1 January 1942.
Initially, the Soviet forces conducted a strategic defence of the Moscow Oblast by constructing three defensive belts, deploying newly raised reserve armies, and bringing troops from the Siberian and Far Eastern Military Districts. As the German offensives were halted, a Soviet strategic counter-offensive and smaller-scale offensive operations forced the German armies back to the positions around the cities of Oryol, Vyazma and Vitebsk, and nearly surrounded three German armies. It was a major setback for the Germans, the end of the idea of a fast German victory in the USSR.Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch was excused as commander of OKH, with Hitler appointing himself as Germany's supreme military commander.
Strategic defence is a type of military planning doctrine and a set defense and/or combat activities used for the purpose of deterring, resisting and repelling a strategic offensive, conducted as either a territorial or airspace, invasion or attack; or as part of a cyberspace attack in cyberwarfare; or a naval offensive to interrupt shipping lane traffic as a form of economic warfare.
An oblast is a type of administrative division of Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union and Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Defence in depth is a military strategy that seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space. Rather than defeating an attacker with a single, strong defensive line, defence in depth relies on the tendency of an attack to lose momentum over time or as it covers a larger area. A defender can thus yield lightly defended territory in an effort to stress an attacker's logistics or spread out a numerically superior attacking force. Once an attacker has lost momentum or is forced to spread out to pacify a large area, defensive counter-attacks can be mounted on the attacker's weak points, with the goal being to cause attrition or drive the attacker back to its original starting position.
Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion plan, called for the capture of Moscow within four months. On 22 June 1941, Axis forces invaded the Soviet Union, destroyed most of the Soviet Air Force on the ground, and advanced deep into Soviet territory using blitzkrieg tactics to destroy entire Soviet armies. The German Army Group North moved towards Leningrad, Army Group South took control of Ukraine, and Army Group Centre advanced towards Moscow. By July 1941, Army Group Centre crossed the Dnieper River, on the path to Moscow.
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans (Lebensraum), to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort and to annihilate the rest according to Generalplan Ost, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.
Blitzkrieg is a method of warfare whereby an attacking force, spearheaded by a dense concentration of armoured and motorised or mechanised infantry formations with close air support, breaks through the opponent's line of defence by short, fast, powerful attacks and then dislocates the defenders, using speed and surprise to encircle them with the help of air superiority. Through the employment of combined arms in manoeuvre warfare, blitzkrieg attempts to unbalance the enemy by making it difficult for it to respond to the continuously changing front, then defeat it in a decisive Vernichtungsschlacht.
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation, commanding a grouping of field armies during World War II. The German Army Group was subordinated to the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH), the German army high command, and coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics, including the Army Group North Rear Area.
In July 1941, German forces captured Smolensk, an important stronghold on the road to Moscow.At this stage, although Moscow was vulnerable, an offensive against the city would have exposed the German flanks. In part to address these risks, in part to attempt to secure Ukraine's food and mineral resources, Hitler ordered the attack to turn north and south and eliminate Soviet forces at Leningrad and Kiev. This delayed the German advance on Moscow. When that advance resumed on 30 September 1941, German forces had been weakened, while the Soviets had raised new forces for the defence of the city.
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River, 360 kilometers (220 mi) west-southwest of Moscow. Population: 326,861 (2010 Census); 325,137 (2002 Census); 341,483 (1989 Census).
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and most populous city of Ukraine, located in the north-central part of the country on the Dnieper. The population in July 2015 was 2,887,974, making Kiev the 7th most populous city in Europe.
For Hitler, the Soviet capital was secondary, and he believed the only way to bring the Soviet Union to its knees was to defeat it economically. He felt this could be accomplished by seizing the economic resources of Ukraine east of Kiev.When Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, supported a direct thrust to Moscow, he was told that "only ossified brains could think of such an idea". Franz Halder, head of the Army General Staff, was also convinced that a drive to seize Moscow would be victorious after the German Army inflicted enough damage on the Soviet forces. This view was shared by most within the German high command. But Hitler overruled his generals in favor of pocketing the Soviet forces around Kiev in the south, followed by the seizure of Ukraine. The move was successful, resulting in the loss of nearly 1,000,000 Red Army personnel killed, captured, or wounded by 26 September, and further advances by Axis forces.
Walther Heinrich Alfred Hermann von Brauchitsch was a German field marshal and the Commander-in-Chief of the German Army during World War II. Born into an aristocratic military family, Brauchitsch entered army service in 1901. During World War I, he served with distinction on the corps- and division-level staff on the Western Front.
Franz Halder was a German general and the chief of the Oberkommando des Heeres staff from 1938 until September 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler. During the invasion of the Soviet Union, Halder insisted on focusing on Moscow, despite Hitler's objections. Halder's war diary during his time as chief of OKH General Staff has been a source for authors that have written about such subjects as Hitler, World War II, and the Nazi Party. After the war, Halder was employed as a consultant for the U.S. Army Historical Division.
The German General Staff, originally the Prussian General Staff and officially Great General Staff, was a full-time body at the head of the Prussian Army and later, the German Army, responsible for the continuous study of all aspects of war, and for drawing up and reviewing plans for mobilization or campaign. It existed unofficially from 1806, and was formally established by law in 1814, the first general staff in existence. It was distinguished by the formal selection of its officers by intelligence and proven merit rather than patronage or wealth, and by the exhaustive and rigorously structured training which its staff officers undertook. Its rise and development gave the German armed forces a decisive strategic advantage over their adversaries for nearly a century and a half.
With the end of summer, Hitler redirected his attention to Moscow and assigned Army Group Centre to this task. The forces committed to Operation Typhoon included four infantry armies (the 2nd, 4th, 9th and 6th 's Luftflotte 2. Up to two million German troops were committed to the operation, along with 1,000–2,470 tanks and assault guns and 14,000 guns. German aerial strength, however, had been severely reduced over the summer's campaign; the Luftwaffe had lost 1,603 aircraft destroyed and 1,028 damaged. Luftflotte 2 had only 549 serviceable machines, including 158 medium and dive-bombers and 172 fighters, available for Operation Typhoon. The attack relied on standard blitzkrieg tactics, using Panzer groups rushing deep into Soviet formations and executing double-pincer movements, pocketing Red Army divisions and destroying them.) supported by three Panzer (tank) Groups (the 2nd, 3rd and 4th) and by the Luftwaffe
Facing the Wehrmacht were three Soviet fronts forming a defensive line between the cities of Vyazma and Bryansk, which barred the way to Moscow. The armies comprising these fronts had also been involved in heavy fighting. Still, it was a formidable concentration consisting of 1,250,000 men, 1,000 tanks and 7,600 guns. The Soviet Air Force (Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily, VVS) had suffered appalling losses of some 7,500to 21,200 aircraft. Extraordinary industrial achievements had begun to replace these, and at the outset of Typhoon the VVS could muster 936 aircraft, 578 of which were bombers.
Once Soviet resistance along the Vyazma-Bryansk front was eliminated, German forces were to press east, encircling Moscow by outflanking it from the north and south. Continuous fighting had reduced their effectiveness, and logistical difficulties became more acute. General Guderian, commander of the 2nd Panzer Army, wrote that some of his destroyed tanks had not been replaced, and there were fuel shortages at the start of the operation.
The German attack went according to plan, with 4th Panzer Group pushing through the middle nearly unopposed and then splitting its mobile forces north to complete the encirclement of Vyazma with 3rd Panzer Group, and other units south to close the ring around Bryansk in conjunction with 2nd Panzer Group. The Soviet defenses, still under construction, were overrun, and spearheads of the 3rd and 4th Panzer Groups met at Vyazma on Friday, 10 October 1941.Four Soviet armies (the 19th, 20th, 24th and 32nd) were encircled in a large pocket just west of the city.
The encircled Soviet forces continued to fight, and the Wehrmacht had to employ 28 divisions to eliminate them, using troops which could have supported the offensive towards Moscow. The remnants of the Soviet Western and Reserve Fronts retreated and manned new defensive lines around Mozhaisk.Although losses were high, some of the encircled units escaped in small groups, ranging in size from platoons to full rifle divisions. Soviet resistance near Vyazma also provided time for the Soviet high command to reinforce the four armies defending Moscow (the 5th, 16th, 43rd and 49th Armies). Three rifle and two tank divisions were transferred from East Siberia with more to follow.
In the south near Bryansk, initial Soviet performance was barely more effective than at Vyazma. The 2nd Panzer Group executed an enveloping movement around the city, linking with the advancing 2nd Army and capturing Orel by Friday, 3 October and Bryansk by Monday, 6 October.
The weather began to change, hampering the Germans. On Tuesday, 7 October, the first snow fell and quickly melted, turning roads and open areas into muddy quagmires, a phenomenon known as rasputitsa in Russia. German armored groups were greatly slowed, allowing Soviet forces to fall back and regroup.
Soviet forces were able to counterattack in some cases. For example, the 4th Panzer Division fell into an ambush set by Dmitri Leliushenko's hastily formed 1st Guards Special Rifle Corps, including Mikhail Katukov's 4th Tank Brigade, near the city of Mtsensk. Newly built T-34 tanks were concealed in the woods as German armor rolled past them; as a scratch team of Soviet infantry contained their advance, Soviet armor attacked from both flanks and savaged the German Panzer IV tanks. For the Wehrmacht, the shock of this defeat was so great that a special investigation was ordered. mm guns could only explode a T-34 by hitting the engine from behind." Guderian also noted in his memoirs that "the Russians already learned a few things." In 2012, Niklas Zetterling disputed the notion of a major German reversal at Mtsensk, noting that only a battlegroup from the 4th Panzer Division was engaged while most of the division was fighting elsewhere, that both sides withdrew from the battlefield after the fighting and that the Germans lost only six tanks destroyed and three damaged. For German commanders like Hoepner and Bock, the action was inconsequential; their primary worry was resistance from within the pocket, not without.Guderian and his troops discovered, to their dismay, that the Soviet T-34s were almost impervious to German tank guns. As the general wrote, "Our Panzer IV tanks with their short 75
Other counterattacks further slowed the German offensive. The 2nd Army, which was operating to the north of Guderian's forces with the aim of encircling the Bryansk Front, had come under strong Red Army pressure assisted by air support.
According to German assessments of the initial Soviet defeat, 673,000 soldiers had been captured by the Wehrmacht in both the Vyazma and Bryansk pockets,although recent research suggests a lower—but still enormous—figure of 514,000 prisoners, reducing Soviet strength by 41%. Personnel losses of 499,001 (permanent as well as temporary) were calculated by the Soviet command. On 9 October, Otto Dietrich of the German Ministry of Propaganda, quoting Hitler himself, forecast in a press conference the imminent destruction of the armies defending Moscow. As Hitler had never had to lie about a specific and verifiable military fact, Dietrich convinced foreign correspondents that the collapse of all Soviet resistance was perhaps hours away. German civilian morale—low since the start of Barbarossa—significantly improved, with rumors of soldiers home by Christmas and great riches from the future Lebensraum in the east.
However, Red Army resistance had slowed the Wehrmacht. When the Germans arrived within sight of the Mozhaisk line west of Moscow on Friday, 10 October, they encountered another defensive barrier manned by new Soviet forces. That same day, Georgy Zhukov, who had been recalled from the Leningrad Front on 6 October, took charge of Moscow's defense and the combined Western and Reserve Fronts, with Colonel General Ivan Konev as his deputy.On 12 October, Zhukov ordered the concentration of all available forces on a strengthened Mozhaisk line, a move supported by General Vasilevsky of the General Staff. The Luftwaffe still controlled the sky wherever it appeared, and Stuka and bomber groups flew 537 sorties, destroying some 440 vehicles and 150 artillery pieces.
On 15 October, Stalin ordered the evacuation of the Communist Party, the General Staff and various civil government offices from Moscow to Kuibyshev (now Samara), leaving only a limited number of officials behind. The evacuation caused panic among Muscovites. On Thursday and Friday, 16–17 October, much of the civilian population tried to flee, mobbing the available trains and jamming the roads from the city. Despite all this, Stalin publicly remained in the Soviet capital, somewhat calming the fear and pandemonium.
By 13 October 1941, the Wehrmacht had reached the Mozhaisk defense line, a hastily constructed set of four lines of fortificationsprotecting Moscow's western approaches which extended from Kalinin towards Volokolamsk and Kaluga. Despite recent reinforcements, only around 90,000 Soviet soldiers manned this line—far too few to stem the German advance. Given the limited resources available, Zhukov decided to concentrate his forces at four critical points: the 16th Army under Lieutenant General Rokossovsky guarded Volokolamsk, Mozhaisk was defended by 5th Army under Major General Govorov, the 43rd Army of Major General Golubev defended Maloyaroslavets, and the 49th Army under Lieutenant General Zakharkin protected Kaluga. The entire Soviet Western Front—nearly destroyed after its encirclement near Vyazma—was being recreated almost from scratch.
Moscow itself was also hastily fortified. According to Zhukov, 250,000 women and teenagers worked building trenches and anti-tank moats around Moscow, moving almost three million cubic meters of earth with no mechanical help. Moscow's factories were hastily converted to military tasks: one automobile factory was turned into a submachine gun armory, a clock factory manufactured mine detonators, the chocolate factory shifted to food production for the front, and automobile repair stations worked fixing damaged tanks and military vehicles.Despite these preparations, the capital was within striking distance of German tanks, with the Luftwaffe mounting large-scale air raids on the city. The air raids caused only limited damage because of extensive anti-aircraft defenses and effective civilian fire brigades.
On Monday, 13 October 1941 (Wednesday, 15 October, according to other sources), the Wehrmacht resumed its offensive. At first, the German forces attempted to bypass Soviet defenses by pushing northeast towards the weakly protected city of Kalinin and south towards Kaluga and Tula, capturing all except Tula by 14 October. Encouraged by these initial successes, the Germans launched a frontal assault against the fortified line, taking Mozhaisk and Maloyaroslavets on 18 October, Naro-Fominsk on 21 October, and Volokolamsk on 27 October after intense fighting. Because of the increasing danger of flanking attacks, Zhukov was forced to fall back,withdrawing his forces east of the Nara River.
In the south, the Second Panzer Army initially advanced towards Tula with relative ease because the Mozhaisk defense line did not extend that far south and no significant concentrations of Soviet troops blocked their advance. However, bad weather, fuel problems, and damaged roads and bridges eventually slowed the German army, and Guderian did not reach the outskirts of Tula until 26 October.The German plan initially called for the rapid capture of Tula, followed by a pincer move around Moscow. The first attack, however, was repelled by the 50th Army and civilian volunteers on 29 October, after a fight within sight of the city. On 31 October, the German Army high command ordered a halt to all offensive operations until increasingly severe logistical problems were resolved and the rasputitsa subsided.
By late October, the German forces were worn out, with only a third of their motor vehicles still functioning, infantry divisions at third- to half-strength, and serious logistics issues preventing the delivery of warm clothing and other winter equipment to the front. Even Hitler seemed to surrender to the idea of a long struggle, since the prospect of sending tanks into such a large city without heavy infantry support seemed risky after the costly capture of Warsaw in 1939.
To stiffen the resolve of the Red Army and boost civilian morale, Stalin ordered the traditional military parade on 7 November (Revolution Day) to be staged in Red Square. Soviet troops paraded past the Kremlin and then marched directly to the front. The parade carried a great symbolic significance by demonstrating the continued Soviet resolve, and was frequently invoked as such in the years to come. Despite this brave show, the Red Army's position remained precarious. Although 100,000 additional Soviet soldiers had reinforced Klin and Tula, where renewed German offensives were expected, Soviet defenses remained relatively thin. Nevertheless, Stalin ordered several preemptive counteroffensives against German lines. These were launched despite protests from Zhukov, who pointed out the complete lack of reserves.The Wehrmacht repelled most of these counteroffensives, which squandered Soviet forces that could have been used for Moscow's defense. The only notable success of the offensive occurred west of Moscow near Aleksino, where Soviet tanks inflicted heavy losses on the 4th Army because the Germans still lacked anti-tank weapons capable of damaging the new, well-armored T-34 tanks.
From Friday, 31 October to Thursday, 13/Saturday, 15 November, the Wehrmacht high command stood down while preparing to launch a second offensive towards Moscow. Although Army Group Centre still possessed considerable nominal strength, its fighting capabilities had thoroughly diminished because of wear and fatigue. While the Germans were aware of the continuous influx of Soviet reinforcements from the east as well as the presence of large reserves, given the tremendous Soviet casualties, they did not expect the Soviets to be able to mount a determined defense.But in comparison to the situation in October, Soviet rifle divisions occupied a much stronger defensive position: a triple defensive ring surrounding the city and some remnants of the Mozhaisk line near Klin. Most of the Soviet field armies now had a multilayered defense, with at least two rifle divisions in second echelon positions. Artillery support and sapper teams were also concentrated along major roads that German troops were expected to use in their attacks. There were also many Soviet troops still available in reserve armies behind the front. Finally, Soviet troops—and especially officers—were now more experienced and better prepared for the offensive.
By 15 November 1941, the ground had finally frozen, solving the mud problem. The armored Wehrmacht spearheads, consisting of 51 divisions, could now advance, with the goal of encircling Moscow and linking up near the city of Noginsk, east of the capital. To achieve this objective, the German Third and Fourth Panzer Groups needed to concentrate their forces between the Volga Reservoir and Mozhaysk, then proceed past the Soviet 30th Army to Klin and Solnechnogorsk, encircling the capital from the north. In the south, the Second Panzer Army intended to bypass Tula, still held by the Red Army, and advance to Kashira and Kolomna, linking up with the northern pincer at Noginsk. The German 4th Field Army in the centre were to "pin down the troops of the Western Front." 33,42–43:
On 15 November 1941, German tank armies began their offensive towards Klin, where no Soviet reserves were available because of Stalin's wish to attempt a counteroffensive at Volokolamsk, which had forced the relocation of all available reserve forces further south. Initial German attacks split the front in two, separating the 16th Army from the 30th.Several days of intense combat followed. Zhukov recalled in his memoirs that "The enemy, ignoring the casualties, was making frontal assaults, willing to get to Moscow by any means necessary." Despite the Wehrmacht's efforts, the multi-layered defense reduced Soviet casualties as the Soviet 16th Army slowly retreated and constantly harassed the German divisions which were trying to make their way through the fortifications.
The Third Panzer Army captured Klin after heavy fighting on Saturday, 23 November, and by Sunday, 24 November, Solnechnogorsk as well. Soviet resistance was still strong, and the outcome of the battle was by no means certain. Reportedly, Stalin asked Zhukov whether Moscow could be successfully defended and ordered him to "speak honestly, like a communist." Zhukov replied that it was possible, but that reserves were urgently needed. 35 km (22 mi) from the Kremlin; but a powerful counterattack by the 1st Shock Army drove them back. Just northwest of Moscow, the Wehrmacht reached Krasnaya Polyana, little more than 18 mi (29 km) from the Kremlin in central Moscow; German officers were able to make out some of the major buildings of the Soviet capital through their field glasses. Both Soviet and German forces were severely depleted, sometimes having only 150–200 riflemen—a company's full strength—left in a regiment.By 27 November, the German 7th Panzer Division had seized a bridgehead across the Moscow-Volga Canal—the last major obstacle before Moscow—and stood less than
In the south, near Tula, combat resumed on 18 November 1941, with the Second Panzer Army trying to encircle the city. 5–10 km (3.1–6.2 mi) per day. Moreover, it exposed the German tank armies to flanking attacks from the Soviet 49th and 50th Armies, located near Tula, further slowing the advance. Guderian nevertheless was able to pursue the offensive, spreading his forces in a star-like attack, taking Stalinogorsk on 22 November 1941 and surrounding a Soviet rifle division stationed there. On 26 November, German tanks approached Kashira, a city controlling a major highway to Moscow. In response, a Soviet counterattack was launched the following day. General Belov's 2nd Cavalry Corps, supported by hastily assembled formations, which included 173rd Rifle Division, 9th Tank Brigade, two separate tank battalions, and training and militia units, halted the German advance near Kashira. :35–36 The Germans were driven back in early December, securing the southern approach to the city. Tula itself held, protected by fortifications and determined defenders, both soldiers and civilians. In the south, the Wehrmacht never got close to the capital.The German forces involved were extremely battered from previous fighting and still had no winter clothing. As a result, initial German progress was only
Because of the resistance on both the northern and southern sides of Moscow, on 1 December, the Wehrmacht attempted a direct offensive from the west along the Minsk-Moscow highway near the city of Naro-Fominsk. This offensive had limited tank support and was directed against extensive Soviet defenses. After meeting determined resistance from the Soviet 1st Guards Motorized Rifle Division and flank counterattacks staged by the 33rd Army, the German offensive stalled and was driven back four days later in the ensuing Soviet counteroffensive. 30 km (19 mi) away from the Kremlin in central Moscow reaching its bridge over the Moscow-Volga Canal as well as its railway station. This marked the closest approach of German forces to Moscow.On the same day, the French-manned 638th Infantry Regiment, the only foreign formation of the Wehrmacht that took part in the advance on Moscow, went into action near the village of Diutkovo. On 2 December, a reconnaissance battalion came to the town of Khimki—some
The European Winter of 1941-1942 was the coldest of the twentieth century.On 30 November, von Bock reported to Berlin that the temperature was −45°C (−49°F). General Erhard Raus, commander of the 6th Panzer Division, kept track of the daily mean temperature in his war diary. It shows a suddenly much colder period during 4–7 December: from −36 to −38°C (−37 to −38°F). Other temperature reports varied widely. Zhukov said that November's freezing weather stayed around −7 to −10°C (+19 to +14°F) Official Soviet Meteorological Service records show the lowest December temperature reached −28.8°C (−20°F). These numbers indicated severely cold conditions, and German troops were freezing with no winter clothing, using equipment that was not designed for such low temperatures. More than 130,000 cases of frostbite were reported among German soldiers. Frozen grease had to be removed from every loaded shell and vehicles had to be heated for hours before use. The same cold weather hit the Soviet troops, but they were better prepared.
The Axis offensive on Moscow stopped. Heinz Guderian wrote in his journal that "the offensive on Moscow failed ... We underestimated the enemy's strength, as well as his size and climate. Fortunately, I stopped my troops on 5 December, otherwise the catastrophe would be unavoidable."
Some historians have suggested that artificial floods played an important role in defending Moscow.They were primarily meant to break the ice and prevent troops and heavy military equipment from crossing the Volga river and Ivankovo Reservoir. This began with the blowing up of the Istra waterworks reservoir dam on 24 November 1941. On 28 November 1941, the water was drained into the Yakhroma and Sestra Rivers from six reservoirs (Khimki , Iksha , Pyalovskoye , Pestovskoye , Pirogovskoye , and Klyazma reservoirs), as well as from Ivankovo Reservoir using dams near Dubna. This caused some 30-40 villages to become partially submerged even in the severe winter weather conditions of the time. Both were results of Soviet General Headquarters' Order 0428 dated 17 November 1941. Artificial floods were also used as unconventional weapon of direct impact.
Although the Wehrmacht's offensive had been stopped, German intelligence estimated that Soviet forces had no more reserves left and thus would be unable to stage a counteroffensive. This estimate proved wrong, as Stalin transferred over 18 divisions, 1,700 tanks, and over 1,500 aircraft from Siberia and the Far East.The Red Army had accumulated a 58-division reserve by early December, when the offensive proposed by Zhukov and Vasilevsky was finally approved by Stalin. Even with these new reserves, Soviet forces committed to the operation numbered only 1,100,000 men, only slightly outnumbering the Wehrmacht. Nevertheless, with careful troop deployment, a ratio of two-to-one was reached at some critical points.
On 5 December 1941, the counteroffensive for "removing the immediate threat to Moscow" started on the Kalinin Front. The South-Western Front and Western Fronts began their offensives the next day. After several days of little progress, Soviet armies retook Solnechnogorsk on 12 December and Klin on 15 December. Guderian's army "beat a hasty retreat towards Venev" and then Sukhinichi. "The threat overhanging Tula was removed." 44–46, 48–51:
On 8 December, Hitler had signed his directive No.39, ordering the Wehrmacht to assume a defensive stance on the whole front. German troops were unable to organize a solid defense at their present locations and were forced to pull back to consolidate their lines. Guderian wrote that discussions with Hans Schmidt and Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen took place the same day, and both commanders agreed that the current front line could not be held. 42On 14 December, Franz Halder and Günther von Kluge finally gave permission for a limited withdrawal to the west of the Oka river, without Hitler's approval. On 20 December, during a meeting with German senior officers, Hitler cancelled the withdrawal and ordered his soldiers to defend every patch of ground, "digging trenches with howitzer shells if needed." Guderian protested, pointing out that losses from cold were actually greater than combat losses and that winter equipment was held by traffic ties in Poland. Nevertheless, Hitler insisted on defending the existing lines, and Guderian was dismissed by 25 December, along with generals Hoepner and Strauss, commanders of the 4th Panzer and 9th Army, respectively. Fedor von Bock was also dismissed, officially for "medical reasons". Walther von Brauchitsch, Hitler's commander-in-chief, had been removed even earlier, on 19 December. :
Meanwhile, the Soviet offensive continued in the north. The offensive liberated Kalinin and the Soviets reached Klin on 7 December, overrunning the headquarters of the LVI Panzer Corps outside the city. As the Kalinin Front drove west, a bulge developed around Klin. The Soviet front commander, General Ivan Konev, attempted to envelop any German forces remaining. Zhukov diverted more forces to the southern end of the bulge, to help Konev trap the Third Panzer Army. The Germans pulled their forces out in time. Although the encirclement failed, it unhinged the German defenses. A second attempt was made to outflank Army Group Centre's northern forces, but met strong opposition near Rzhev and was forced to halt, forming a salient that would last until March 1943. In the south, the offensive went equally well, with Southwestern Front forces relieving Tula on 16 December 1941. A major achievement was the encirclement and destruction of the German XXXV Corps, protecting Guderian's Second Panzer Army's southern flank.
The Luftwaffe was paralysed in the second half of December. The weather, recorded as −42 °C (–44 °F), was a meteorological record. Logistical difficulties and freezing temperatures created technical difficulties until January 1942. In the meantime, the Luftwaffe had virtually vanished from the skies over Moscow, while the Red Air Force, operating from better prepared bases and benefiting from interior lines, grew stronger. On 4 January, the skies cleared. The Luftwaffe was quickly reinforced, as Hitler hoped it would save the situation. The Kampfgruppen (Bomber Groups) II./KG 4 and II./KG 30 arrived from refitting in Germany, whilst four Transportgruppen (Transport Groups) with a strength of 102 Junkers Ju 52 transports were deployed from Luftflotte 4 (Air Fleet 4) to evacuate surrounded army units and improve the supply line to the front-line forces. It was a last minute effort and it worked. The German air arm was to help prevent a total collapse of Army Group Centre. Despite the Soviets' best efforts, the Luftwaffe had contributed enormously to the survival of Army Group Centre. Between 17 and 22 December the Luftwaffe destroyed 299 motor vehicles and 23 tanks around Tula, hampering the Red Army's pursuit of the German Army.
In the centre, Soviet progress was much slower. Soviet troops liberated Naro-Fominsk only on 26 December, Kaluga on 28 December, and Maloyaroslavets on 2 January, after 10 days of violent action. Soviet reserves ran low, and the offensive halted on 7 January 1942, after having pushed the exhausted and freezing German armies back 100–250 km (62–155 mi) from Moscow. Stalin continued to order more offensives in order to trap and destroy Army Group Centre in front of Moscow, but the Red Army was exhausted and overstretched and they failed.
The Red Army's winter counter-offensive drove the Wehrmacht from Moscow, but the city was still considered to be threatened, with the front line relatively close. Because of this, the Moscow theater remained a priority for Stalin, who at first appeared to be in shock due to the initial German success.In particular, the initial Soviet advance was unable to reduce the Rzhev salient, held by several divisions of Army Group Centre. Immediately after the Moscow counter-offensive, a series of Soviet attacks (the Battles of Rzhev) were attempted against the salient, each time with heavy losses on both sides. By early 1943, the Wehrmacht had to disengage from the salient as the whole front was moving west. Nevertheless, the Moscow front was not finally secured until October 1943, when Army Group Centre was decisively repulsed from the Smolensk landbridge and from the left shore of the upper Dnieper at the end of the Second Battle of Smolensk.
Furious that his army had been unable to take Moscow, Hitler dismissed his commander-in-chief, Walther von Brauchitsch, on 19 December 1941, and took personal charge of the Wehrmacht,effectively taking control of all military decisions. Additionally, Hitler surrounded himself with staff officers with little or no recent combat experience.
For the first time since June 1941, Soviet forces had stopped the Germans and driven them back. This resulted in Stalin becoming overconfident and deciding to further expand the offensive. On 5 January 1942, during a meeting in the Kremlin, Stalin announced that he was planning a general spring offensive, which would be staged simultaneously near Moscow, Leningrad, Kharkov, and the Crimea. This plan was accepted over Zhukov's objections.Low Red Army reserves and Wehrmacht tactical skill led to a bloody stalemate near Rzhev, known as the "Rzhev meat grinder", and to a string of Red Army defeats, such as the Second Battle of Kharkov, the failed attempt at elimination of the Demyansk pocket, and the encirclement of General Andrey Vlasov's army in a failed attempt to lift the siege of Leningrad, and the destruction of Red Army forces in Crimea. Ultimately, these failures would lead to a successful German offensive in the south and to the Battle of Stalingrad.
A documentary film, Moscow Strikes Back , (Russian : Разгром немецких войск под Москвой, "Rout of the German Troops near Moscow"), was made during the battle and rapidly released in the Soviet Union. It was taken to America and shown at the Globe in New York in August 1942. The New York Times reviewer commented that "The savagery of that retreat is a spectacle to stun the mind." As well as the Moscow parade and battle scenes, the film included images of German atrocities committed during the occupation, "the naked and slaughtered children stretched out in ghastly rows, the youths dangling limply in the cold from gallows that were rickety, but strong enough."
The defense of Moscow became a symbol of Soviet resistance against the invading Axis forces. To commemorate the battle, Moscow was awarded the title of "Hero City" in 1965, on the 20th anniversary of Victory Day. A Museum of the Defence of Moscow was created in 1995.
In the Russian capital of Moscow, an annual military parade on Red Square on November 7 in honor of the October Revolution Parade and as substitute for the October Revolution celebrations that haven't been celebrated on a national level since 1995. The parade is held to commemorate the historical event as a Day of Military Honour. The parade includes troops of the Moscow Garrison and the Western Military District, which usually numbers to close to 3,000 soldiers, cadets, and Red Army reenactors. The parade is presided by the Mayor of Moscow who delivers a speech during the event. Prior to the start of the parade, an historical reenactment of the Battle of Moscow is performed by young students, volunteers, and historical enthusiasts.
The parade commands are always given by a high ranking veteran of the armed forces (usually with a billet of a Colonel) who gives the orders for the march past from the grandstand near the Lenin Mausoleum. On the command of Quick March! by the parade commander, the parade begins with the tune of Song of the Soviet Army , to which the historical color guards holding wartime symbols such as the Banner of Victory and the standards of the various military fronts march to. Musical support during the parade is always provided by the Massed Bands of the Moscow Garrison, which includes various military bands in the Western Military District, The Regimental Band of the 154th Preobrazhensky Regiment, and the Central Military Band of the Ministry of Defense of Russia.
Both German and Soviet casualties during the battle of Moscow have been a subject of debate, as various sources provide somewhat different estimates. Not all historians agree on what should be considered the "Battle of Moscow" in the timeline of World War II. While the start of the battle is usually regarded as the beginning of Operation Typhoon on 30 September 1941 (or sometimes on 2 October 1941), there are two different dates for the end of the offensive. In particular, some sources (such as Ericksonand Glantz ) exclude the Rzhev offensive from the scope of the battle, considering it as a distinct operation and making the Moscow offensive "stop" on 7 January 1942—thus lowering the number of casualties.
There are also significant differences in figures from various sources. John Erickson, in his Barbarossa: The Axis and the Allies, gives a figure of 653,924 Soviet casualties between October 1941 and January 1942.Glantz, in his book When Titans Clashed, gives a figure of 658,279 for the defense phase alone, plus 370,955 for the winter counteroffensive until 7 January 1942. The official Wehrmacht daily casualty reports show 35,757 killed in action, 128,716 wounded, and 9,721 missing in action for the entire Army Group Centre between 1 October 1941 and 10 January 1942. However, this official report does not match unofficial reports from individual battalion and divisional officers and commanders at the front, who record suffering far higher casualties than was officially reported.
Marshal Georgii K. Zhukov, who had pressed Stalin on several occasions to alert and reinforce the army, nonetheless recalled the shock of the German attack when he noted that 'neither the defence commissariat, myself, my predecessors B.M. Shaposhnikov and K.A. Meretskov, nor the General Staff thought that the enemy could concentrate such a mass of ... forces and commit them on the first day ...
The Battle of Kursk was a Second World War engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk in the Soviet Union, during July and August 1943. The battle began with the launch of the German offensive, Operation Citadel, on 5 July, which had the objective of pinching off the Kursk salient with attacks on the base of the salient from north and south simultaneously. After the German offensive stalled on the northern side of the salient, on 12 July the Soviets commenced their Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Kutuzov against the rear of the German forces in the northern side. On the southern side, the Soviets also launched powerful counterattacks the same day, one of which led to a large armoured clash, the Battle of Prokhorovka. On 3 August, the Soviets began the second phase of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev against the German forces in the southern side of the Kursk salient.
The Third Battle of Kharkov was a series of battles on the Eastern Front of World War II, undertaken by the German Army Group South against the Red Army, around the city of Kharkov between 19 February and 15 March 1943. Known to the German side as the Donets Campaign, and in the Soviet Union as the Donbas and Kharkov operations, the German counterstrike led to the recapture of the cities of Kharkov and Belgorod.
Operation Citadel was a German offensive operation against Soviet forces in the Kursk salient during the Second World War on the Eastern Front that initiated the Battle of Kursk. The deliberate defensive operation that the Soviets implemented to repel the German offensive is referred to as the Kursk Strategic Defensive Operation. The German offensive was countered by two Soviet counter-offensives, Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev and Operation Kutuzov. For the Germans, the battle was the final strategic offensive that they were able to launch on the Eastern Front. As the Allied invasion of Sicily began, Adolf Hitler was forced to divert troops training in France to meet the Allied threats in the Mediterranean, rather than use them as a strategic reserve for the Eastern Front. Germany's extensive loss of men and tanks ensured that the victorious Soviet Red Army enjoyed the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war.
Moritz Albrecht Franz Friedrich Fedor von Bock was a German field marshal who served in the German army during the Second World War. Bock served as the commander of Army Group North during the Invasion of Poland in 1939, commander of Army Group B during the Invasion of France in 1940, and later as the commander of Army Group Center during the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941; his final command was that of Army Group South in 1942.
Konstantin Konstantinovich (Xaverevich) Rokossovsky was a Soviet and Polish officer who became Marshal of the Soviet Union, Marshal of Poland, and served as Poland's Defence Minister from 1949 until his removal in 1956 during the Polish October. He was among the most prominent Red Army commanders of World War II, especially renowned for his planning and executing of Operation Bagration, one of the most decisive Red Army successes of the war.
The Second Battle of Kharkov or Operation Fredericus was an Axis counter-offensive in the region around Kharkov against the Red Army Izium bridgehead offensive conducted 12–28 May 1942, on the Eastern Front during World War II. Its objective was to eliminate the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets or the "Barvenkovo bulge" which was one of the Soviet offensive's staging areas. After a winter counter-offensive that drove German troops away from Moscow but depleted the Red Army's reserves, the Kharkov offensive was a new Soviet attempt to expand upon their strategic initiative, although it failed to secure a significant element of surprise.
The First Battle of Kiev was the German name for the operation that resulted in a very large encirclement of Soviet troops in the vicinity of Kiev during World War II. This encirclement is considered the largest encirclement in the history of warfare. The operation ran from 7 August to 26 September 1941 as part of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. In Soviet military history, it is referred to as the Kiev Strategic Defensive Operation, with somewhat different dating of 7 July – 26 September 1941.
The First Battle of Smolensk was a battle during the second phase of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, in World War II. It was fought around the city of Smolensk between 10 July and 10 September 1941, about 400 km (250 mi) west of Moscow. The Wehrmacht had advanced 500 km (310 mi) into the USSR in the 18 days after the invasion on 22 June 1941. The German army encountered unexpected resistance during the battle, leading to a two-month delay in their advance on Moscow.
Case Blue was the German Armed Forces' name for its plan for the 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and 24 November 1942, during World War II.
The Battles of Rzhev were a series of Soviet operations in World War II between January 8, 1942 and March 31, 1943. Due to the high losses suffered by both sides, the campaign became known by veterans and historians as the "Rzhev Meat Grinder".
The Western Front was a front of the Red Army, one of the Red Army Fronts during World War II.
The Yelnya Offensive was a military operation by the Soviet Army during the Battle of Smolensk during Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began the German-Soviet War. The offensive was an attack against the semi-circular Yelnya salient which the German 4th Army had extended 50 kilometres (31 mi) south-east of Smolensk, forming a staging area for an offensive towards Vyazma and eventually Moscow. Under heavy pressure on its flanks, the German army (Heer) evacuated the salient by 8 September 1941, leaving behind a devastated and depopulated region. As the first reverse that the Heer suffered during Barbarossa and the first recapture of the Soviet territory by the Red Army, the battle was covered by Nazi and Soviet propaganda and served as a morale boost to the Soviet population.
The 4th Panzer Division was an armored division in the German Army, the Wehrmacht, during World War II, established in 1938.
Semyon Moiseevich Krivoshein was a Soviet tank commander, who played a vital part in the World War II reform of the Red Army tank forces and in the momentous clash between German and Soviet tanks in the Battle of Kursk.
The Battle of Białystok–Minsk was a German strategic operation conducted by the Wehrmacht's Army Group Centre under Field Marshal Fedor von Bock during the penetration of the Soviet border region in the opening stage of Operation Barbarossa, lasting from 22 June to 9 July 1941.
Operation Kutuzov was the first of the two counteroffensives launched by the Red Army as part of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation. It commenced on 12 July 1943, in the Central Russian Upland, against Army Group Center of the German Wehrmacht. The operation was named after General Mikhail Kutuzov, the Russian general credited with saving Russia from Napoleon during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Operation Kutuzov was one of two large-scale Soviet operations launched as counteroffensives against Operation Citadel. The Operation began on 12 July and ended on 18 August 1943 with the capture of Orel and collapse of the Orel bulge.
The Battle of Bryansk was a twenty-day battle during World War II conducted in the Bryansk Oblast as a part of the overall Moscow campaign. Returning from the Kiev operation, Heinz Guderian attacked in an unexpected direction capturing Bryansk and Oryol with few casualties thereby encircling two Soviet formations, the 13th Army and 3rd Army. A third Soviet formation, the 50th Army was encircled by infantry of the German 2nd Army north of Bryansk. However the encircled Red Army units continued fighting, delaying the drive on Moscow for two weeks. This delay, as well as the casualties taken by the Wehrmacht liquidating the pockets contributed to the German collapse at the gates of Moscow. See also: Vyazma and Bryansk pockets. As a result of this battle, the Germans occupied Bryansk until they were expelled by the Red Army on September 17, 1943 as a part of the Smolensk campaign.
The Battle of Rzhev in the Summer of 1942 was part of a series of battles that lasted 15 months in the center of the Eastern Front. It is known in Soviet history of World War II as the First Rzhev–Sychyovka Offensive Operation, which was defined as spanning from 30 July to 23 August 1942. However, it is widely documented that the fighting continued undiminished into September and did not finally cease until the beginning of October 1942. The Red Army suffered massive casualties for little gain during the fighting, giving the battle a notoriety reflected in its sobriquet: "The Rzhev Meat Grinder".