Archive for December 4th, 2008

It’s cold here today, and that’s put me in an “Operation Barbarossa” state of mind.  So let’s take a few minutes today and see how the German army was faring against its Soviet rival on this day in 1941.  When we last visited Army Group Centre, they had just captured Smolensk.  But the fighting for that city had been intense and, with the German supply lines already measuring in the hundreds of miles, it was decided that a rest was needed.

So Army Group Centre rested…for nearly two months.  And then Operation Typhoon, begun on October 2, 1941, sent them off again.  This offensive was to be the final push to Moscow.  On arrival, the Germans planned to, much like Army Group North would attempt at Leningrad, surround the city and force its surrender.

But it was October, and the weather began to play a factor.  Many roads in Russia were mere dirt tracks, and early snowfall with warm ground turned them to impassable mud bogs, slowing the Germans.  But the sustained colder weather (at least initially) then served to help the Germans as it eventually froze the ground, allowing vehicles to move.  On October 18th, Mozhaysk fell to the Wehrmacht, putting Russia’s enemy just 62 miles from Moscow.

The German advance was slowing, but still progressing.  Supply lines were now outrageously long.  Troops were again exhausted, with many units operating at one-third strength.  Only one vehicle in three was still running.  And the German leadership (operating under the assumption that Moscow would fall earlier) still had not provided its soldiers with winter garments.

And then we arrive at December 4, 1941.  Army Group Centre, having pushed 600 miles in less than 6 months, was now on the brink.  Some formations were just 15 miles from Moscow’s center.  Commanders with good binoculars could see the buildings.  I mentioned it before, but in the wee morning hours of the 4th, a daring German rode his motorcycle through the streets of the capital before being shot down…just two miles from the Kremlin.

The German army would need some time to rest, refuel, rearm, and warm up.  Maybe Moscow would need to be surrounded for the entire winter.  Who knew for sure?  Regardless, Moscow was all but theirs…or so they thought.

Recommended Reading: When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler

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