Białystok and Minsk
Sea of Azov
Barvenkovo and Lozovaya
Toropets and Kholm
Rzhev, Summer 1942
Bombing of Gorky
Lvov and Sandomierz
Petsamo and Kirkenes
Vistula and Oder
Sea of Azov
Bombing of Gorky
The Battle of
Moscow (Russian: Битва за Москву,
translit. Bitva za Moskvu) 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 of the Union
of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Soviet Union's largest
Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives
Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union.
The German strategic offensive, named Operation Typhoon (German:
Unternehmen Taifun), called for two pincer offensives, one to the
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
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".
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.
2 Initial German advance (30 September – 10 October)
2.2 The Battles of
Vyazma and Bryansk
Mozhaisk defense line (13–30 October)
Wehrmacht at the gates (1 November – 5 December)
4.1 Wearing down
4.2 Final pincer
4.3 Artificial floods
5 Soviet counteroffensive
8 See also
11 External links
Further information: Operation Barbarossa
The eastern front at the time of the Battle of Moscow:
Wehrmacht advance – to 9 July 1941
Subsequent advances – to 1 September 1941
Encirclement and battle of
Kiev to 9 September 1941
Wehrmacht advance – to 5 December 1941
Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion plan, called for the capture
Moscow within four months. On 22 June 1941,
Axis forces invaded the
Soviet Union, destroyed most of the
Soviet Air Force
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
Army Group South
Army Group South took control of Ukraine, and Army
Group Center advanced towards Moscow. By July 1941, Army Group Center
Dnieper River, on the path to Moscow.
In August 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 30th September 1941, German forces had
been weakened, while the Soviets had raised new forces for the defence
of the city.
Map of the Vyazma-
Bryansk double encirclement (in German).
Initial German advance (30 September – 10 October)
Further information: Battle of
Moscow order of battle
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
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.
With the end of summer, Hitler redirected his attention to
Army Group Center to this task. The forces committed to
Operation Typhoon included four infantry armies (the 2nd, 4th, 9th and
6th) supported by three Panzer (tank) Groups (the 2nd, 3rd and
4th) and by the Luftwaffe'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
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.
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
7,500 to 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. Guderian
wrote that some of his destroyed tanks had not been replaced, and
there were fuel shortages at the start of the operation.
The Battles of
Vyazma and Bryansk
The German offensives during Operation Typhoon
The German attack went according to plan, with
3rd Panzer Army
3rd Panzer Army pushing
through the middle nearly unopposed and then splitting its mobile
forces north to complete the encirclement of
Vyazma with 4th Panzer
Army, and other units south to close the ring around
conjunction with 2nd Panzer Army. The Soviet defenses, still under
construction, were overrun and spearheads of the Second and Third
Panzer Groups met at
Vyazma on 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
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
provided time for the Soviet high command to reinforce the four armies
Moscow (the 5th, 16th, 43rd and 49th Armies). Three rifle
and two tank divisions were transferred from East Siberia with more to
In the south near Bryansk, initial Soviet performance was barely more
effective than at Vyazma. The Second Panzer Group executed an
enveloping movement around the city, linking with the advancing 2nd
Army and capturing Orel by 3 October and
Bryansk by 6 October.
The mud of the rasputitsa before Moscow, November 1941
But the weather began to change, hampering the Germans. By 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,
4th Panzer Division
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
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. 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 mm guns could only explode a
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 only lost 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.
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
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, on 10
October the Germans arrived within sight of the
Mozhaisk line west of
Moscow, they encountered another defensive barrier manned by new
Soviet forces. That same day, Georgy Zhukov, who had been recalled
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, he ordered the
concentration of all available forces on a strengthened
a move supported by Vasilevsky. The
Luftwaffe still controlled the
sky wherever it appeared, and Stuka and bomber groups flew 537
sorties, destroying some 440 vehicles and 150 artillery
On 15 October, Stalin ordered the evacuation of the Communist Party,
the General Staff and various civil government offices from
Kuibyshev (now Samara), leaving only a limited number of officials
behind. The evacuation caused panic among Muscovites. On 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.
Mozhaisk defense line (13–30 October)
By 13 October 1941, the
Wehrmacht had reached the
line, a hastily constructed set of four lines of fortifications
protecting Moscow's western approaches which extended from Kalinin
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.
With all the men at the front,
Moscow women dig anti-tank trenches
around their city in 1941
Barricades in a
Moscow street, October 1941
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
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 13 October 1941 (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,
Maloyaroslavets on 18 October,
Naro-Fominsk on 21
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.
Wehrmacht at the gates (1 November – 5 December)
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.
A 7 November 1941 parade by Soviet troops on
Red Square depicted in
this 1949 painting by
Konstantin Yuon vividly demonstrates the
symbolic significance of the event.:31
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 offensive's only notable success
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
Soviet poster proclaiming, "Let's make a stand for Moscow!"
From 31 October to 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 combat
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
Group intended to bypass Tula, still held by the Red Army, and advance
Kashira and Kolomna, linking up with the northern pincer at
Noginsk. The German 4th Field Army in the center were to "pin down the
troops of the Western Front.":33,42–43
German soldiers tend to a wounded comrade near Moscow,
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.
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 trying to make
their way through the fortifications.
The Third Panzer Army captured Klin after heavy fighting on 24
November, and by 25 November,
Solnechnogorsk as well. Soviet
resistance was still strong, and the outcome of the battle was by no
means certain. Reportedly, Stalin asked
Moscow could be
successfully defended and ordered him to "speak honestly, like a
Zhukov replied that it was possible, but that reserves
were urgently needed. By 28 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 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.
German soldiers west of Moscow, December 1941
In the south, near Tula, combat resumed on 18 November 1941, with the
Second Panzer Army trying to encircle the city. The German forces
involved were extremely battered from previous fighting and still had
no winter clothing. As a result, initial German progress was only
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 violent 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.
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. On the same day, 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
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 farthest advance of German forces on
Red Army ski troops in Moscow. Still from documentary
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
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, typical for the
season, hit the Soviet troops, but they were better prepared.
The Axis offensive on
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 (ru) 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 (ru),
Iksha (ru), Pyalovskoye (ru), Pestovskoye (ru),
Pirogovskoye (ru), and Klyazma (ru) reservoirs), as well as
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.
The Soviet winter counter-offensive, 5 December 1941 – 7 May
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
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 von
Richthofen took place the same day, and both commanders agreed that
the current front line could not be held. On 14 December, Franz
Günther von Kluge
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
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.:42
A Soviet machine gunner covers attacking infantry near Tula, in
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.
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
against the Second Panzer Army near Tula, 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 XXXIX
Corps, protecting Guderian's Second Panzer Army's southern flank.
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
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)
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
contributed enormously to the survival of Army Group Center. 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
In the center, Soviet progress was much slower. Soviet troops
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 Center
in front of Moscow, but the Red Army was exhausted and overstretched
and they failed.
See also: Battles of Rzhev
Medal "For the Defence of Moscow": 1,028,600 were awarded from 1 May
The Red Army's winter counter-offensive drove the
Moscow, but the city was still considered to be threatened, with the
front line relatively close. Because of this, the
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 Center. 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
Center was decisively repulsed from the
Smolensk landbridge and from
the left shore of the upper
Dnieper at the end of the Second Battle of
German soldiers surrender: still from the documentary
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
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
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
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
2001 Russian stamp for the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Moscow
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.
Both German and Soviet casualties during the battle of
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 Erickson and 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 Center
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.
Panfilov's Twenty-Eight Guardsmen
German war crimes during the Battle of Moscow
8th Guards Motor Rifle Division
78th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
^ Zetterling & Frankson 2012, p. 253.
^ Mercatante (2012). Why Germany Nearly Won: A New History of the
Second World War in Europe. p. 105.
^ Stahel (2013). Operation Typhoon: Hitler's March on Moscow, October
1941. p. 45. ISBN 9781107035126.
^ Stahel, David (2011).
Kiev 1941. p. 339.
^ Glantz (1995), p. 78.
^ Liedtke 2016, p. 148.
^ a b Bergström 2007 p.90.
^ Williamson 1983, p.132.
^ Both Sources use
Luftwaffe records. The often quoted figures of
900–1,300 do not correspond with recorded
returns. Sources: Prien, J./Stremmer, G./Rodeike, P./ Bock, W. Die
Jagdfliegerverbande der Deutschen
Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945, Teil 6/I
and II; U.S National Archives, German Orders of Battle, Statistics of
^ a b Bergström 2007, p. 111.
^ Roberts, Andrew (2009). The Storm of War. A New History of the
Second World War. London. p. 175.
^ Heinz Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten (Memoirs of a soldier),
Smolensk, Rusich, 1999, p. 229.
^ Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Moscow, 1973–1978, entry "Battle of
^ Guderian, pp. 267–272.
^ a b c Alan F. Wilt. Hitler's Late Summer Pause in 1941. Military
Affairs, Vol. 45, No. 4 (December 1981), pp. 187–191
^ a b c Flitton 1994.
^ Niepold, Gerd (1993). "Plan Barbarossa". In David M. Glantz. The
Initial Period of War on the Eastern Front, 22 June – August 1941:
Proceedings of the Fourth Art of War Symposium, Garmisch, FRG, October
1987. Cass series on Soviet military theory and practice. 2.
Psychology Press. p. 67. ISBN 9780714633756.
^ a b Stahel, David (2014). Operacja "Tajfun". Warsaw: "Książka i
Wiedza". p. 89. ISBN 978-83-05-136402.
^ Bergstöm 2007, p. 90.
^ Guderian, pp. 307–9.
^ Hardesty, 1991, p.61.
^ Bergström 2007, p.118.
^ Bergström 2007, p. 90–91.
^ Guderian, p. 307
^ Clark Chapter 8,"The Start of the
Moscow Offensive", p.156
(diagram)"name="GlantzVAB">Glantz, chapter 6, sub-ch. "Viaz'ma and
Briansk", pp. 74 ff.
^ a b c Vasilevsky, p. 139.
^ a b c d Glantz, chapter 6, sub-ch. "Viaz'ma and Briansk", pp. 74 ff.
^ Guderian, p. 316.
^ Clark, pp. 165-166.
^ Guderian, p. 318.
^ David M. Glantz. When Titans Clashed. pp. 80, 81.
^ Zetterling & Frankson 2012, p. 100.
^ Bergström 2007, p.91.
^ Geoffrey Jukes, The Second World War – The Eastern Front
1941–1945, Osprey, 2002, ISBN 1-84176-391-8, p. 29.
^ Jukes, p. 31.
^ Glantz, When Titans Clashed p. 336 n15.
^ Smith, Howard K. (1942). Last Train from Berlin. Knopf.
^ The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970–1979). 2010 The
Gale Group, Inc.
^ a b c d e f Zhukov, Georgy (1974). Marshal of Victory, Volume II.
Pen and Sword Books Ltd. p. 7,19. ISBN 9781781592915.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, p. 10.
^ Plocher 1968, p. 231.
^ Bergström 2007, p.93
^ a b c d e Jukes, p. 32.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, p. 17.
^ Marshal Zhukov's Greatest Battles p.50.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, p. 18.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, p. 22.
^ Braithwaite, pp. 184–210.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, p. 24.
^ Guderian, pp. 329–30.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, pp. 23–5.
^ a b c d e f g h Glantz, chapter 6, sub-ch. "To the Gates", pp. 80ff.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, p. 27.
^ Klink, pp. 574; 590–592
^ a b Zhukov, tome 2, p. 28.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, p. 30.
^ Guderian, p. 345.
^ Guderian, p. 340.
^ Erickson, 'The Road to Stalingrad,' p.260
^ A.P. Belov,
Moscow is behind us, Moscow, Voenizdat, 1963, p. 97.
^ Belov, p. 106.
^ Beyda, Oleg (7 August 2016). "'La Grande Armeé in Field Gray': The
Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism, 1941". The Journal of
Slavic Military Studies. 29 (3).
^ Henry Steele Commager, The Story of the Second World War, p. 144
^ Christopher Argyle, Chronology of
World War II
World War II Day by Day, p. 78
^ Lejenäs, Harald (1989). "The Severe Winter in Europe 1941-42: The
large scale circulation, cut-off lows, and blocking". Bulletin of the
American Meteorological Society. 70. pp. 271–281.
^ Chew (1981), p. 34.
^ Raus (2009), p. 89.
^ a b Glantz, ch.6, subchapter "December counteroffensive", pp. 86ff.
^ a b Moss (2005), p. 298.
^ a b Chew (1981), p. 33.
^ Guderian, pp. 354–5.
^ a b c Iskander Kuzeev, "
Moscow flood in autumn of 1941", Echo of
Moscow, 30 June 2008
^ Iskander Kuzeev, "
Moscow flood in autumn of 1941", Sovershenno
Sekrento, №7/230, July 2008
^ Mikhail Arkhipov, "Flooding north of
Moscow Oblast in 1941", Private
blog, 2 October 2007
^ Igor Kuvyrkov, "
Moscow flood in 1941: new data",
channel, 23 February 2015
^ Operational overview of military activities on Western Front in year
1941, Central Archive of the Soviet Ministry of Defence, Stock 208
inventory 2511 case 1039, p. 112
^ Goldman p. 177
^ Zhukov, tome 2, p. 37.
^ Guderian, pp. 353–5.
^ Guderian, p. 354.
^ Guderian, pp. 360–1.
^ Guderian, pp. 363–4.
^ Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Moscow, 1973–78, entry "Battle of
^ a b Guderian, p. 359.
^ Glantz and House 1995, pp. 88–90.
^ a b Bergstrom 2003, p. 297.
^ Bergström 2007, p. 112–113.
^ Bergström 2003, p. 299.
^ Glantz and House 1995, p. 91–97.
^ Roberts, Cynthia A. (December 1995). "Planning for war: the Red Army
and the catastrophe of 1941". Europe-Asia Studies. Taylor &
Francis. 47 (8): 1293–1326. doi:10.1080/09668139508412322.
JSTOR 153299. 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
^ Guderian, p. 365.
^ Zhukov, tome 2, pp. 43–4.
^ a b T.S. (17 August 1942). "Movie Review:
Moscow Strikes Back (1942)
Moscow Strikes Back,' Front-Line Camera Men's Story of Russian
Attack, Is Seen at the Globe". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March
^ Rodric Braithwaite, "
Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War", p.
^ a b John Erickson, Barbarossa: The Axis and the Allies, table 12.4
^ a b Glantz, Table B
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"Operation Typhoon": Video on YouTube, lecture by David Stahel, author
of Operation Typhoon. Hitler's March on
Moscow (2013) and The Battle
Moscow (2015); via the official channel of USS Silversides Museum
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