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Operation Barbarossa   >   Battles   >   Operation Typhoon

   
 

Operation Typhoon


Russian troops defending Moscow
After victories in the frontier battles and the Battle of Smolensk, the way seemed open for the Germans to capture the Soviet capital, Moscow, and German Generals Generals Halder, Bock and Guderian all wanted to immediately proceed with an attack towards this objective. However, Hitler was concerned about the apparently exposed salient that Army Group Center had apparently placed in, and the large concentration of undefeated Soviet forces in the vicinity of Kiev.

As a result, Army Group Center was required to loan the 2nd Panzer Group (Panzergruppe 2) to Army Group North, and the 3rd Panzer Group (Panzergruppe 3) to Army Group South. These moves, did leave to further German advances, and a major victory in the Battle of Kiev, but they also delayed the attack on Moscow, until the weather had begun to worsen: the "final" attack on Moscow, Operation Typhoon, began only on October 2nd.

At first the fighting appeared to go relatively well for the Germans, with them yet again surrounding a large pocket of Soviet troops, this time around Vyazma and Bryansk. However, unlike in previous battles, the surrounded Soviet troops did not surrender but instead fought on, tying down large number of German troops which were needed for the offensive, and in some cases, even managing to escape in small groups back to Soviet lines.

The first snow began to fall on October 7th. It quickly melted, but as the Autumn rasputitsa began, the roads turned to mud, greatly slowing the German advances.

Additional difficulties for the Germans were caused by fierce Soviet resistance, Soviet counterattacks, and the arrival of new Soviet T-34 tanks which were almost imprevious to the guns on the German Panzer IV tanks.

Nevertheless, the Germans gradually began to close in Moscow. As a result, Stalin ordered the evacuation of much of the Soviet government to Kuibyshev (today known as "Samara") on October 15th, and defensive fortifications were rapidly thrown up around Moscow by 250,000 civilians (mostly women and teenagers).

Russian civilians building fortifications around Moscow:
Russian civilians building fortifications around Moscow

On November 7th (Revolution Day), the traditional Soviet military parade took place in Red Square. Troops marched past the Kremlin, and then directly to the frontline.

By On November 15th, the ground had frozen, and the mud was gone, and the Germans attempted to resume their advance. The Germans even managed to (briefly) seize a bridgehead over the Moscow-Volga Canal and come within 22 miles (35 kilometers) of the Kremlin, but by now they were exhausted, whereas the Russians were receiving a steady stream of replacements.

Russian replacements arriving in Moscow:
Russian replacements arriving in Moscow

Temperatures continued to fall, and on November 30th fell to -45°C (-49°F); conditions that the Germans were completely unprepared for, having neither Winter clothing, nor equipment designed for use in such conditions. The German forces suffered more than 130,000 cases of frostbite (in many cases requiring amputations), frozen grease had to be removed from shells, and vehicle engines had to be heated for hours before they could be used.

Gradually the German offensive petered out: Moscow would not fall in 1941. German General Heinz Guderian wrote in his diary: ""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."

Map of Operation Typhoon


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