Assault on the Soviet capital Moscow | The Second World War

(November 12, 2021) This week, 80 years ago, the Wehrmacht Armeegruppe Center renewed its assault on the Soviet capital. After the astonishing successes of summer and early fall, Axis leaders believed that the Red Army must surely be on the verge of collapse and another good push would capture the capital. Soviet. And certainly the capture of the Soviet capital by the Armeegruppe center would be quite an accomplishment for its commander, Marshal Fedor von Bock.

However, in retrospect, the tide was starting to turn against the Axis. The autumn rains had turned the roads into rivers of mud. Efforts to move the equipment under these conditions dramatically increased fuel consumption, further straining the already overloaded German supply system.

The new T-34 tanks were starting to appear on the battlefield in large numbers and were almost impervious to everything except the 88s. General Heinz Guderian, Commander of the Second Panzerarmee, said: “Our Mark IV (the most heavy German), with their short 75mm guns, could only deactivate a T-34 by hitting the engine from behind ”and with wider tracks the T-34s were able to move more easily in muddy conditions .

Partisan activity was starting to have an effect. The homeland’s supply lines stretched over a thousand miles. German tanks and other equipment were exhausted after six months of the campaign. New Soviet troops continued to appear.

Now, having been brought from Leningrad on October 10, was General Georgi Zhukov, to command the defense of Moscow. He was helped by his brilliant Chief of Staff, Vasili Sokolowski, and future Marshals Ivan Koniev and Andre Yeremenko.

The German effort to conquer the Soviet capital was called “Operation Typhoon” and began on October 1. The effort would involve more than a million soldiers, 1,700 tanks and 14,000 guns. From Armeegruppe North, the fourth Panzergruppe, commanded by Erich Hoepner, was added to Marshal von Bock’s Armeegruppe center for the final push.

In addition to General Hoepner’s Fourth Panzergruppe, Marshal von Bock’s Armeegruppe included the Second Army, commanded by Colonel General Reichsfreiherr Maximilian von Weichs; General Guderian’s Second Panzerarmee; Fourth Army, commanded by Marshal Günther von Kluge; Ninth Army, commanded by Colonel General Adolf Strauß; and the third Panzergruppe, commanded by Colonel General Hermann Hoth.

The Luftwaffe Luftflotte Two, commanded by Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, was attached to the Armeegruppe Center. But there were only 549 planes left.

To defend the city, Zhukov had 1,250,000 soldiers, 1,000 tanks and 7,600 cannons. The Voenno-Vozdoushnye Sily – VVS – had 936 devices.

Shortly after the start of the operation, Hitler declared: “After three months of preparations, we finally have the possibility of crushing our enemy before winter. All possible preparations are made. Today begins the last battle of the year.

Except that winter arrives very early in Russia. The first snow fell in September! German soldiers did not have winter clothing, and German equipment was not built to withstand the kind of prolonged cold it would soon encounter. Russia’s historic ally – “General Winter” – was about to make an appearance.

Although the Red Army suffered devastating defeats, what it did was buy time. With this dearly purchased weather, the Soviets had built several defensive bands around the capital, as 250,000 women and adolescents dug trenches and built defenses. In addition, 106,000,000 cubic feet of earth have been moved by hand.

Orel, located 229 miles southwest of Moscow, was captured on October 3. Today, it has 300,000 inhabitants. The Soviet Union held its annual parade in Red Square, celebrating the anniversary of the October Revolution, on November 7, 1941. As the troops marched past Stalin in Red Square, they continued to march straight towards the forehead. It was the date that an optimistic Field Marshal von Bock had set for the capture of the Soviet capital!

The ground froze on November 15, allowing the offensive to gain momentum. The Chief of Staff of the Army, Colonel General Franz Halder, wrote in his diary on November 18 that the enemy, “… had nothing left behind, and its situation is probably even worse than ours. “

During a visit to the front on November 20, Field Marshal von Bock was able to see the city through his binoculars. The 7th Panzer Division, commanded by Baron Hans von Funck, crossed the Moscow-Volga Canal on November 28. It was the last major obstacle before the Soviet capital and was within 35 km of the Kremlin. But the First Shock Army, commanded by Vasilii Ivanovich Kuznetsov, pushed it back.

On December 2, another unit captured a bridge over the canal in the village of Khimki, eight kilometers from Moscow. The place is marked by a monument in the form of a giant tank trap on the road from Sheremetyevo airport to the city.

It was the high water mark of the Wehrmacht. A band of hastily armed Soviet workers rushed out of town and pushed the Germans back across the canal. On the same day, General Halder noted that “… the defense of the enemy has reached its peak. More reinforcements available.

The losses in this battle cannot be given with precision. One of the reasons for this is to determine a beginning and an end. The minimum estimates are 650,000 Soviet and 250,000 German casualties.

Field Marshal von Bock would later say that: “All along, I asked the High Command for permission to shoot down the enemy while they were wavering. We could have finished off the enemy last summer. We could have destroyed it completely. Last August the road to Moscow was opened. We could have entered the Bolshevik capital in triumph and in summer weather. The Fatherland’s top military leadership made a terrible mistake in forcing my army group to take a defensive stance last August. Now we are all paying for this mistake.

From May 1, 1944, the Soviet government issued over a million medals for the defense of Moscow. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Victory Day, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR honored Moscow with the designation of “City of Heroes”. It joins Leningrad, Stalingrad, Sebastopel and Odessa. For “the courage, endurance and mass heroism, shown by the defenders of the City and of the struggle for the freedom and independence of the Fatherland”, Orel and Belgorod were named Cities of Military Glory on the 27th. April 2007 by President Vladimir Putin.

Next week: Bir-el-Gubi – The stand in the sand

Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those charged with criminal and traffic offenses, and those who have suffered bodily harm through no fault of their own. . He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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