Battle of Moscow

Battle of Moscow

Overview
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a 600 km (372.8 mi) sector of the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's attack on Moscow, capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the largest Soviet city. Moscow was one of the primary military
Strategic goal (military)
A strategic military goal is used in strategic planning to define desired end-state of a war or a campaign. Usually it entails either a strategic change in enemy's military posture, intentions or ongoing operations, or achieving a strategic victory over the enemy that ends the conflict, although...

 and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

.

The German strategic offensive named Operation Typhoon was planned to conduct two pincer offensives
Pincer movement
The pincer movement or double envelopment is a military maneuver. The flanks of the opponent are attacked simultaneously in a pinching motion after the opponent has advanced towards the center of an army which is responding by moving its outside forces to the enemy's flanks, in order to surround it...

, one to the north of Moscow against the Kalinin Front
Kalinin Front
The Kalinin Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. This sense of the term is not identical with the more general usage of military front which indicates a geographic area in wartime, although a Soviet Front may operate within designated boundaries.The Kalinin Front was...

 by the 3rd and 4th Panzer Groups, simultaneously severing the Moscow-Leningrad railway
Moscow-Saint Petersburg Railway
The Moscow to Saint Petersburg Railway is a railway running between the two largest Russian cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and through four oblasts: Moscow, Tver, Novgorod and Leningrad...

, and another to the south of Moscow Oblast
Moscow Oblast
Moscow Oblast , or Podmoskovye , is a federal subject of Russia . Its area, at , is relatively small compared to other federal subjects, but it is one of the most densely populated regions in the country and, with the 2010 population of 7,092,941, is the second most populous federal subject...

 against the Western Front, south of Tula
Tula, Russia
Tula is an industrial city and the administrative center of Tula Oblast, Russia. It is located south of Moscow, on the Upa River. Population: -History:...

 by the 2nd Panzer Army, while the 4th Army advanced directly towards Moscow from the west.
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Encyclopedia
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a 600 km (372.8 mi) sector of the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's attack on Moscow, capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the largest Soviet city. Moscow was one of the primary military
Strategic goal (military)
A strategic military goal is used in strategic planning to define desired end-state of a war or a campaign. Usually it entails either a strategic change in enemy's military posture, intentions or ongoing operations, or achieving a strategic victory over the enemy that ends the conflict, although...

 and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

.

The German strategic offensive named Operation Typhoon was planned to conduct two pincer offensives
Pincer movement
The pincer movement or double envelopment is a military maneuver. The flanks of the opponent are attacked simultaneously in a pinching motion after the opponent has advanced towards the center of an army which is responding by moving its outside forces to the enemy's flanks, in order to surround it...

, one to the north of Moscow against the Kalinin Front
Kalinin Front
The Kalinin Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. This sense of the term is not identical with the more general usage of military front which indicates a geographic area in wartime, although a Soviet Front may operate within designated boundaries.The Kalinin Front was...

 by the 3rd and 4th Panzer Groups, simultaneously severing the Moscow-Leningrad railway
Moscow-Saint Petersburg Railway
The Moscow to Saint Petersburg Railway is a railway running between the two largest Russian cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and through four oblasts: Moscow, Tver, Novgorod and Leningrad...

, and another to the south of Moscow Oblast
Moscow Oblast
Moscow Oblast , or Podmoskovye , is a federal subject of Russia . Its area, at , is relatively small compared to other federal subjects, but it is one of the most densely populated regions in the country and, with the 2010 population of 7,092,941, is the second most populous federal subject...

 against the Western Front, south of Tula
Tula, Russia
Tula is an industrial city and the administrative center of Tula Oblast, Russia. It is located south of Moscow, on the Upa River. Population: -History:...

 by the 2nd Panzer Army, while the 4th Army advanced directly towards Moscow from the west. A separate operational German plan, codenamed Operation Wotan
Operation Wotan
Operation Wotan was a codename for the German tank operation with the goal of capturing Moscow during the World War II, developed mainly by Hitler. The name refers to Wotan, a Germanic god....

, was included in the final phase of the German offensive.

Initially, the Soviet forces conducted a strategic defence
Strategic defence
A Strategic defence is a type of military planning doctrine and a set of combat activities used for the purpose of deterring, resisting and repelling a strategic offensive, conducted as either a territorial or airspace invasion, or a naval offensive to interrupt shipping lane traffic as a form of...

 of the Moscow Oblast by constructing three defensive belt
Defence in depth
Defence in depth is a military strategy; it seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space...

s, and deploying newly raised reserve armies
Military reserve force
A military reserve force is a military organization composed of citizens of a country who combine a military role or career with a civilian career. They are not normally kept under arms and their main role is to be available to fight when a nation mobilizes for total war or to defend against invasion...

 as well as bringing troops from the Siberian
Siberian Military District
The Siberian Military District was a Military district of the Russian Ground Forces. In 2010 it was divided between the two newly formed Central and Eastern Military Districts.- History :...

 and Far Eastern Military District
Far Eastern Military District
The Far Eastern Military District was a military district of the Russian Ground Forces. In 2010 it was merged with the Pacific Fleet and part of the Siberian Military District to form the new Eastern Military District....

s. Subsequently, as the German offensives were halted, a Soviet strategic counter-offensive
Counter-offensive
A counter-offensive is the term used by the military to describe large-scale, usually strategic offensive operations by forces that had successfully halted an enemy's offensive, while occupying defensive positions....

 and smaller-scale offensive operations were executed to force German armies back to the positions around the cities of Oryol
Oryol
Oryol or Orel is a city and the administrative center of Oryol Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River, approximately south-southwest of Moscow...

, Vyazma
Vyazma
Vyazma is a town and the administrative center of Vyazemsky District of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Vyazma River, about halfway between Smolensk and Mozhaysk. Throughout its turbulent history, the city defended western approaches to the city of Moscow...

 and Vitebsk
Vitebsk
Vitebsk, also known as Viciebsk or Vitsyebsk , is a city in Belarus, near the border with Russia. The capital of the Vitebsk Oblast, in 2004 it had 342,381 inhabitants, making it the country's fourth largest city...

, nearly surrounding three German armies in the process.

German planning


The original German invasion plan, which the Axis called Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, called for the capture of Moscow within four months. However, despite large initial advances, the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

was slowed by Soviet resistance, in particular during the Battle of Smolensk
Battle of Smolensk (1941)
The Battle of Smolensk was a largely successful encirclement operation by the German Army Group Centre's 2nd Panzer Group led by Heinz Guderian and the 3rd Panzer Group led by Hermann Hoth against parts of four Soviet Fronts during World War II...

, which lasted from July to August, 1941. At this stage, Moscow was vulnerable, but Hitler ordered the attack to turn south and eliminate Russian forces at Kiev which resulted in a huge triumph for the Germans. Their advance on Moscow was resumed on 2 October 1941, with an offensive codenamed Typhoon. Participating in it were three out of four panzer armies on the eastern front: the German 2nd, 3rd and 4th (or Groups as they are sometimes referred to) along with the 2nd, 4th and 9th infantry armies. This was to be the knockout blow of the campaign.

The initial advance resulted in two huge encirclements around the towns of Vyzama and Briansk which pocketed 660,000 Russian troops. But by mid-October, the Russian rainy period commenced, turning the roads and countryside into muddy quagmires. The German tank forces were reduced to a crawl, often unable to move two out of every three days. Through the great forests which lie in front of Moscow, only the narrow trails were negotiable and it required only small Russian forces to block these. Their cavalry became very active during this period, frequently moving through the woods and getting behind German lines where they laid mines and ambushed supply columns.
Even before the poor weather arrived , however a series of Soviet counter-blows along the entire front helped to stabilize the situation . Perhaps the most effective of these blows fell on Guderian’s 4th Panzer Division as it approached Mtsensk on 6 October .
Here two Soviet officers who later gained fame as superb battlefield commanders cooperated to ambush the Germans. Major-General D.D. Leliushenko’s 1st Guards Rifle Corps had rushed to the scene to block the advance of Second Panzer Group.
Leliushenko’s troops included two tank brigades , the 4th and 11th and two airborne brigades, the 10th and 201st of 5th Airborne Corps , flown in to a nearby airfield. Colonel M.E. Katukov’s 4th Tank Brigade , equipped with newly produced T34s, displayed a tactical ability that the invaders had not encountered before. Katukov concealed his armour in the woods whilst the German advance guard rolled by.
Leliushenko’s patchwork collection of infantry and airborne troops blocked 4th Panzer from the front , after which Katukov ambushed the Germans from the flanks. The under-gunned, under armoured German Mark IV’s attempted to break out of the ambush by maneuvering around Katukov but were quickly halted by short counter-attacks. By the end of the day , most of the 4th Panzer Division’s armour had been reduced to smoking hulks. This shock to Second Panzer Group , which had just been re-designated Second Panzer Army , was so great that a special investigation was conducted. Even Guderian grudgingly acknowledged that his opponents were learning.
(from the book When Titans Clashed by David M. Glantz , pages 80, 81.)

Meanwhile, the Soviet command led by General Georgi Zhukov began creating a reserve around Moscow by taking what was left of the shattered divisions from the Vyazma-Briansk battles (mostly on the flank and unengaged). These were bolstered by scraping up units from other nearby Soviet commands such as Timoshenko's Southwest Front. Moscow was placed under martial law. The civilian population dug several rings of anti-tank trenches around the city and many were incorporated into the militia.

With the onset of cold weather and the freezing of the ground, Axis forces began to move once more. But the change in weather brought new problems for them. Most of the German troops lacked winter clothing resulting in over 100,000 cases of frostbite. Many Axis vehicles could not withstand the cool temperatures, resulting in cracked engine blocks. Tank crews had to maintain small fires under their vehicles to protect them. Perhaps most serious was the effect on their air force, which was grounded much of the time.

Of the two German armored prongs, the 2nd Panzer Army under General Heinz Guderian operating to the south of Moscow got as far as the city of Tula where it finally ground to a halt. In the north, the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies pushed across the frozen Moscow-Volga canal, but no further.

By early December, some leading German units were able to see some of Moscow's buildings with binoculars. On 5 December 1941, fresh Soviet Siberian troops constituting 18 divisions and prepared for winter warfare—attacked along with new and reconstituted units of the Red Army. By January 1942, they had driven the Wehrmacht back 100–250 km (62.1–155.3 mi), ending the immediate threat to Moscow. It was the closest that Axis forces ever got to capturing the Soviet capital.

The Battle of Moscow was one of the most important battles of World War II, primarily because the Soviets were able to prevent the most serious attempt to capture their capital. The battle was also one of the largest during the war, with more than a million total casualties. The Wehrmacht had been forced to retreat before, during the Yelnya Offensive
Yelnya Offensive
The Soviet Army's Yelnya Offensive operation was part of the Battle of Smolensk during the initial period of the German-Soviet War....

 in September 1941 and at the Battle of Rostov
Battle of Rostov (1941)
The article is about the German Army Group South Sea of Azov Offensive Operation commanded by General Gerd von Rundstedt, the Soviet Rostov Defensive Operation by the Southern Front commanded by General-Colonel Yakov Cherevichenko, and the Rostov Offensive Operation executed by the...

. However, Moscow marked a turning point, as it was the first time since the Wehrmacht began its conquests in 1939, that it had been forced into a retreat from which it did not recover the initiative.

Background



On 22 June 1941, German, Romanian and Slovak troops invaded the Soviet Union, later also joined by Hungary (following the bombing of the Hungarian city Kassa
Košice attack
The Kassa attack was the June 26, 1941 aerial bombing of the city of Kassa, today Košice , then a part of Hungary. This attack became the pretext for the government of Hungary to declare war on the Soviet Union, on 27 June 1941....

), effectively starting Operation Barbarossa. Having destroyed most of the Soviet Air Force
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

 on the ground, German forces quickly advanced deep into Soviet territory using blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

tactics. Armored units raced forward in pincer movement
Pincer movement
The pincer movement or double envelopment is a military maneuver. The flanks of the opponent are attacked simultaneously in a pinching motion after the opponent has advanced towards the center of an army which is responding by moving its outside forces to the enemy's flanks, in order to surround it...

s, pocketing
Salients, re-entrants and pockets
A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

 and destroying entire Soviet armies. While the German Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

 moved towards Leningrad, Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

 was to take control of Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, while Army Group Center advanced towards Moscow. The Soviet defenses were overwhelmed and the casualties sustained by the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 were significant.

By July 1941, Army Group Center had managed to encircle several Soviet armies near Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

 during the Battle of Białystok-Minsk, creating a huge breach in Soviet lines—one that the Soviets could not immediately fill, as no reserves were available—and destroying the Soviet Western Front
Soviet Western Front
The Western Front was a Front of the Red Army, one of the Red Army Fronts during the Second World War. This sense of the term is different from the more general usage of military front which indicates a geographic area in wartime, although a Soviet Front usually operates within designated...

 as an organized force. Thus, the Wehrmacht was able to cross the Dnieper river, which barred the path to Moscow, with only minimal casualties.

In August 1941, German forces captured the city of Smolensk, an important stronghold on the road to Moscow. Smolensk was historically considered the key to Moscow because it controlled a landbridge located between the Dvina
Dvina
Dvina may refer to:* Daugava river, also known as "Western Dvina", a river in Russia, Belarus, and Latvia.* Northern Dvina, a river in northern Russia.* R-12 Dvina, a theatre ballistic missile from the Soviet Union....

, Dnieper, and several other rivers, allowing for a fast advance by ground troops without the necessity of building major bridges across wide rivers. The desperate Soviet defense of the Smolensk region lasted for two months, from 10 July-10 September 1941. This intense engagement, known as the Battle of Smolensk, delayed the German advance until mid-September, effectively disrupting the blitzkrieg and forcing Army Group Center to use almost half of its strategic reserves (10 of 24 divisions) during the battle.

Elsewhere, the German advance was also bogged down. Near Leningrad
Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

, Army Group North was held up by the Luga
Luga
Luga is a town and the administrative center of Luzhsky District of Leningrad Oblast, Russia, located on the Luga River south of St. Petersburg. Population:...

 defense line for almost a month before eventually overrunning it. In the south, Army Group South—which included many Hungarian and Romanian units that were less well-trained, equipped and experienced than the Wehrmacht—faced several serious counterattacks and was stopped. The Wehrmacht now faced a dilemma; Army Group Center was still strong enough to reach Moscow, but such an advance would create a bulge in the German lines, leaving it vulnerable to Red Army flanking attacks. Moreover, according to Hitler, Germany needed the food and mineral resources located in Ukraine. Thus, the Wehrmacht was ordered to first secure the Donbass region and to move towards Moscow afterwards. Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

's Panzer Army was turned south to support Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war....

's attack on Kiev, which inflicted another significant defeat on the Red Army. On 19 September 1941, Soviet forces had to abandon Kiev after Stalin's persistent refusal to withdraw forces from the Kiev salient, as recorded by Aleksandr Vasilevsky
Aleksandr Vasilevsky
Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Vasilevsky was a Russian career officer in the Red Army, promoted to Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1943. He was the Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces and Deputy Minister of Defense during World War II, as well as Minister of Defense from 1949 to 1953...

 and Georgy Zhukov
Georgy Zhukov
Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov , was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played a pivotal role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Union and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation...

 in their respective memoirs. This refusal cost Zhukov his post of Chief of the General Staff, but his prediction of German encirclement was correct. Several Soviet armies were encircled and annihilated by the Wehrmacht in a double pincer movement, allowing the German forces to advance in the south.

Although a decisive Axis victory, the Battle of Kiev
Battle of Kiev (1941)
The 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. It is considered the largest encirclement of troops in history. The operation ran from 23 August – 26 September 1941 as part of Operation...

 set the German blitzkrieg even further behind schedule. As Guderian later wrote, "Kiev was certainly a brilliant tactical success, but the question of whether it had a significant strategic importance still remains open. Everything now depended on our ability to achieve expected results before the winter and even before autumn rains." Hitler still believed that the Wehrmacht had a chance to finish the war before winter by taking Moscow. On 2 October 1941, Army Group Center—under Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock was a German Generalfeldmarshall who served in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber"...

—launched its final offensive towards Moscow, code-named Operation Typhoon. Hitler said soon after its start that "After three months of preparations, we finally have the possibility to crush our enemy before the winter comes. All possible preparations were done...; today starts the last battle of the year..."

Plans


For Hitler, Moscow was the most important military and political target, as he anticipated that the city's surrender would shortly afterwards lead to the general collapse of the Soviet Union. As Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, head of the Oberkommando des Heeres
Oberkommando des Heeres
The Oberkommando des Heeres was Nazi Germany's High Command of the Army from 1936 to 1945. The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht commanded OKH only in theory...

(Army General Staff), wrote in 1940, "The best solution would be a direct offensive towards Moscow." Therefore, the city was a primary target for the large and well-equipped Army Group Center. The forces committed to Operation Typhoon included three armies (the 2nd, 4th and 9th) supported by three Panzer Groups (the 2nd, 3rd and 4th) and by the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

s Luftflotte 2
Luftflotte 2
Luftflotte 2 was one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. It was formed February 1, 1939 in Braunschweig and transferred to Italy on November 15, 1941...

. Overall, more than one million men were committed to the operation, along with 1,700 tanks and 14,000 guns. German aerial strength had been radically reduced. Since 22 June, the Luftwaffe had lost 1,603 aircraft and 1,028 damaged. As a result, Luftflotte 2 had only 549 serviceable machines, including 158 medium and dive-bombers and 172 fighters. The attack relied on standard blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

tactics, using Panzer groups rushing deep into Soviet formations and executing double-pincer movements, pocketing Red Army divisions and destroying them.

The initial Wehrmacht plan called for two initial movements. The first would be a double-pincer performed around the Soviet Western Front and Reserve Front
Soviet Reserve Front
The Reserve Front was a Front, or roughly Army group-sized military formation, of the Soviet Army during the Second World War.-First Formation:...

 forces located around Vyazma
Vyazma
Vyazma is a town and the administrative center of Vyazemsky District of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Vyazma River, about halfway between Smolensk and Mozhaysk. Throughout its turbulent history, the city defended western approaches to the city of Moscow...

. The second would be a single-pincer around the Bryansk Front
Bryansk Front
The Bryansk Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during the Second World War.General Andrei Yeremenko was designated commander of the Front when it first formed in mid-late August 1941, comprising, in Erickson's words, 'on paper two armies, 50th and 13th, with eight rifle divisions each, three...

 to capture the city of Bryansk
Bryansk
Bryansk is a city and the administrative center of Bryansk Oblast, Russia, located southwest of Moscow. Population: -History:The first written mention of Bryansk was in 1146, in the Hypatian Codex, as Debryansk...

. From that point, the plan called for another quick pincer north and south of Moscow to encircle the city. However, the German armies were already battered and experiencing some logistical issues. Guderian, for example, wrote that some of his destroyed tanks had not been replaced, and that his mechanized troops lacked fuel at the beginning of the operation.

Facing the Wehrmacht were three Soviet fronts formed from exhausted armies that had already been involved in heavy fighting for several months. The forces committed to the city's defense totaled 1,250,000 men, 1,000 tanks, 7,600 guns. The Soviet Air Force
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

/Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS) had suffered appalling losses of some 7,500 or 21,200 aircraft. Extraordinary industrial achievements had begun to replace losses, and the VVS had 936 aircraft, 578 of which were bombers for the defense of the capital. Even with reinforcements, air strength was down to about ¼ of pre-war strength. Troops and weaponry, while presenting a significant threat to the Wehrmacht based on their numbers alone, were poorly located, with most of the troops deployed in a single line, and had little or no reserves to the rear. In his memoirs, Vasilevsky pointed out that while immediate Soviet defenses were quite well prepared, these errors in troop placement were largely responsible for the Wehrmacht's initial success. Furthermore, many Soviet defenders were seriously lacking in combat experience and some critical equipment (such as anti-tank weapons), while their tanks were obsolete models.
The Soviet command began constructing extensive defenses around the city. The first part, the Rzhev-Vyazma defense setup, was built on the Rzhev
Rzhev
Rzhev is a town in Tver Oblast, Russia, southwest of Staritsa and from Tver, on the highway and railway connecting Moscow and Riga. It is the uppermost town situated on the Volga River. Population:...

Vyazma
Vyazma
Vyazma is a town and the administrative center of Vyazemsky District of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Vyazma River, about halfway between Smolensk and Mozhaysk. Throughout its turbulent history, the city defended western approaches to the city of Moscow...

Bryansk
Bryansk
Bryansk is a city and the administrative center of Bryansk Oblast, Russia, located southwest of Moscow. Population: -History:The first written mention of Bryansk was in 1146, in the Hypatian Codex, as Debryansk...

 line. The second, the Mozhaisk defense line, was a double defense stretching between Kalinin
Kalinin
Kalinin , or Kalinina , is a Russian surname, derived from the word kalina , and may refer to:People with the surname...

 and Kaluga
Kaluga
Kaluga is a city and the administrative center of Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River southwest of Moscow. Population: It is served by Grabtsevo Airport.-History:...

. Finally, a triple defense ring surrounded the city itself, forming the Moscow Defense Zone. These defenses were still largely unprepared by the beginning of the operation because of the speed of the German advance. Furthermore, the German attack plan had been discovered quite late, and Soviet troops were ordered to assume a total defensive stance only on 27 September 1941. However, new Soviet divisions were being formed on the Volga, in Asia and in the Urals, and it would only be a matter of a few months before these new troops could be committed, making the battle a race against time as well.

Vyazma and Bryansk pockets


Near Vyazma, the Western and Reserve fronts were quickly defeated by the highly mobile forces of the 3rd and 4th Panzer groups that exploited weak areas in the defenses and then quickly moved behind the Red Army lines. The defense setup, still under construction, was overrun as both German armored spearheads met at Vyazma on 10 October 1941. Four Soviet armies (the 19th
19th Army (Soviet Union)
The 19th Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army, formed in 1941 and active during the Second World War. It was disbanded in 1945 or 1947.-First Formation:...

, 20th
20th Army (Soviet Union)
The 20th Army was a field army of the Red Army that fought during the Great Patriotic War.-First formation:The Army was first formed in the Orel Military District in June 1941...

, 24th and 32nd) were trapped in a huge pocket just west of the city.

Contrary to German expectations, the encircled Soviet forces did not surrender easily. Instead, the fighting was fierce and desperate, and the Wehrmacht had to employ 28 divisions to eliminate the surrounded Soviet armies, using forces that were needed to support the offensive towards Moscow. The remnants of the Soviet Western and Reserve Fronts were able to retreat and consolidate their lines around Mozhaisk. Moreover, the surrounded Soviet forces were not completely destroyed, as some of the encircled troops escaped in groups ranging in size from platoons to full rifle divisions. Soviet resistance near Vyazma also provided time for the Soviet high command to quickly bring some reinforcements to the four armies defending the Moscow direction (namely, the 5th, 16th, 43rd and 49th), and to transport three rifle and two tank divisions from the Far East.

In the south near Bryansk, initial Soviet performance was barely more effective than near Vyazma. The Second Panzer Group executed an enveloping movement around the whole front, linking with the advancing 2nd Army and capturing Orel by 3 October and Bryansk by 6 October. Luftflotte 2 flew 984 combat missions and destroyed some 679 vehicles on 3 October. On 4 October, a mixture of 100 dive bombers and medium bombers destroyed rail lines and hampered Soviet troop movements in the Sumy-Lgov-Kursk area, severing communications between the Bryansk and South-Western Fronts. The Soviet 3rd and 13th Armies
13th Army (Soviet Union)
The 13th Army was a name given to several field armies of the Soviet Union's Red Army, first created during the Russian Civil War...

 were encircled but, again, did not surrender, and troops were able to escape in small groups, retreating to intermediate defense lines around Poniry and Mtsensk
Mtsensk
Mtsensk is a town in Oryol Oblast, Russia, located on the Zusha River northeast of Oryol. It stands on the Moscow–Simferopol highway. Population: 28,000 ....

. By 23 October, the last remnants had escaped from the pocket.

By 7 October, the German offensive in this area was bogged down. The first snow fell and quickly melted, turning roads into stretches of mud, a phenomenon known as rasputitsa
Rasputitsa
The rasputitsa refers to the biannual seasons when unpaved roads become difficult to traverse in parts of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The word may be translated as the "quagmire season" because during this period the large flatlands become extremely muddy and marshy, as do most unpaved roads...

in Russia. German armored groups were greatly slowed and were unable to easily maneuver, wearing down men and tanks. The 4th Panzerdivision fell into an ambush set by Dmitri Leliushenko's hastily-formed 1st Guards Special Rifle Corps
1st Guards Special Rifle Corps
The 1st Guards Special Rifle Corps was a hastily formed Red Army blocking formation active briefly in 1941, during the German advance on Moscow....

, including Mikhail Katukov
Mikhail Katukov
Marshal of the Armored Troops Mikhail Efimovich Katukov served as a commander of armored troops in the Red Army during and following World War II. He is viewed as one of the most talented Soviet armor commanders.-Pre-War:...

's 4th Tank Brigade, near the city of Mtsensk
Mtsensk
Mtsensk is a town in Oryol Oblast, Russia, located on the Zusha River northeast of Oryol. It stands on the Moscow–Simferopol highway. Population: 28,000 ....

. Newly-built T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

 tanks were concealed in the woods as German panzers rolled past them; as a scratch team
Scratch team
A scratch team is a team, usually in sport, brought together on a temporary basis, composed of players who normally play for different sides. A game played between two scratch teams may be called a scratch match....

 of Soviet infantry contained their advance, Soviet armor attacked from both flanks and savaged the German Panzer IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

 formations. 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 new Soviet T-34s were almost impervious to German tank guns. As the general wrote, "Our T-IV tanks
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

 with their short 75 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." Luftflotte 2 flew 1,400 attacks against Soviet positions to support the 4th Panzerdivision, destroying 20 tanks, 34 artillery pieces and 650 vehicles of various kinds.

Elsewhere, massive Soviet counterattacks had further slowed the German offensive. The 2. Armee operating to the North of Guderian's forces with the aim of trapping the Bryansk front became faced with a strong Soviet counter-attack. The Soviets supported the assault with heavy air-support. Despite being numerically inferior, the Luftwaffe inflicted heavy losses to the VVS. 152 Stuka sorties and 259 medium bombers blunted the Soviet attack while another 202 Stuka and 188 medium bomber strikes were flown against supply columns in the Brynask area. Soviet Forces were caught in the open, with the Luftwaffe destroying 22 tanks and over 450 vehicles; the Soviet attack had been routed.

The magnitude of the initial Soviet defeat was appalling. According to German estimates, 673,000 soldiers were captured by the Wehrmacht in both pockets, although recent research suggests a significantly lower—but still enormous—figure of 514,000 prisoners, reducing Soviet strength by 41 %. The personnel losses (permanent as well as temporary) calculated by the Soviet command are smaller but still enormous, namely 499,001. The desperate Red Army resistance, however, had greatly slowed the Wehrmacht. When, on 10 October 1941, the Germans arrived within sight of the Mozhaisk line, they found a well-prepared defensive setup and new, fresh Soviet forces. That same day, Georgy Zhukov
Georgy Zhukov
Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov , was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played a pivotal role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Union and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation...

 was recalled from Leningrad to take charge of the defense of Moscow. He immediately ordered the concentration of all available defenses on a strengthened Mozhaisk line, a move supported by Vasilevsky. The Luftwaffe still controlled the sky whenever it appeared in strength. The Stukageschwader and Kampfgruppen (Stuka and bomber groups) flew 537 sorties destroying some 440 vehicles (mainly motor vehicles and trucks) and 150 artillery pieces.

On 13 October, Stalin ordered the evacuation of the Communist Party, the General Staff and various civil government offices from Moscow to Kuibyshev (now Samara
Samara, Russia
Samara , is the sixth largest city in Russia. It is situated in the southeastern part of European Russia at the confluence of the Volga and Samara Rivers. Samara is the administrative center of Samara Oblast. Population: . The metropolitan area of Samara-Tolyatti-Syzran within Samara Oblast...

), 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 October – 30 October)


By 13 October 1941, the Wehrmacht had arrived at the Mozhaisk defense line, a hastily constructed double set of fortifications protecting Moscow from the west and stretching from Kalinin
Kalinin
Kalinin , or Kalinina , is a Russian surname, derived from the word kalina , and may refer to:People with the surname...

 towards Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk is a town and the administrative center of Volokolamsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Gorodenka River, not far from its confluence with the Lama River, northwest of Moscow. Population: -History:...

 and Kaluga. However, despite recent reinforcements, the combined strength of the Soviet armies manning the line (the 5th, 16th
16th Army (Soviet Union)
The 16th Army was a Soviet field army active from 1940 to 1945.-First Formation, 16th Army:Before Operation Barbarossa, HQ 16th Army was formed in July 1940 in the Transbaikal Military District . General Lieutenant М. F. Лукин took command...

, 43rd and 49th armies) barely reached 90,000 men, hardly sufficient to stem the German advance. In light of the situation, Zhukov decided to concentrate his forces at four critical points: Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk is a town and the administrative center of Volokolamsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Gorodenka River, not far from its confluence with the Lama River, northwest of Moscow. Population: -History:...

, Mozhaisk, Maloyaroslavets
Maloyaroslavets
Maloyaroslavets is a town in Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located on the right bank of the Luzha River , southwest of Moscow and northeast of Kaluga. Population: 21,200 ....

 and Kaluga
Kaluga
Kaluga is a city and the administrative center of Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River southwest of Moscow. Population: It is served by Grabtsevo Airport.-History:...

. The entire Soviet Western Front
Soviet Western Front
The Western Front was a Front of the Red Army, one of the Red Army Fronts during the Second World War. This sense of the term is different from the more general usage of military front which indicates a geographic area in wartime, although a Soviet Front usually operates within designated...

—almost completely destroyed after its encirclement near Vyazma—was being recreated from scratch.

Moscow itself was transformed into a fortress. 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 transformed into military complexes: the automobile factory was turned into a submachine gun
Submachine gun
A submachine gun is an automatic carbine, designed to fire pistol cartridges. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun with the cartridge of a pistol. The submachine gun was invented during World War I , but the apex of its use was during World War II when millions of the weapon type were...

 armory, a clock factory was manufacturing mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

 detonators, the chocolate factory was producing food for the front, and automobile repair stations were repairing damaged tanks and vehicles. However, the situation was very dangerous, as the Soviet capital was still within reach of German panzers. Additionally, Moscow was now a target of massive air raids, although these caused only limited damage because of extensive anti-aircraft defenses
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 and effective civilian fire brigades.

On 13 October 1941 (15 October 1941, according to other sources), the Wehrmacht resumed its offensive. At first, the Germans were unwilling to assault the Soviet defenses directly and attempted to bypass them 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 this initial success, the Germans conducted a frontal assault against the fortified line, taking Mozhaisk and Maloyaroslavets
Maloyaroslavets
Maloyaroslavets is a town in Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located on the right bank of the Luzha River , southwest of Moscow and northeast of Kaluga. Population: 21,200 ....

 on 18 October, Naro-Fominsk
Naro-Fominsk
Naro-Fominsk is a town and the administrative center of Naro-Fominsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, situated southwest from Moscow, on the Nara River. The Moscow – Kiev railway passes through the town. Population: -History:...

 on 21 October, and Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk is a town and the administrative center of Volokolamsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Gorodenka River, not far from its confluence with the Lama River, northwest of Moscow. Population: -History:...

 on 27 October, after intense fighting. Because of the increasing danger of flanking attacks, Zhukov was forced to fall back and withdraw his forces east of the Nara River
Nara River
Nara River is a river in the Moscow Oblast and Kaluga Oblast in Russia. It is a left tributary of the Oka River. The length of the river is 158 kilometres. The area of its basin is 2030 km². The Nara River freezes up in November-December and stays under the ice until April. The cities of...

.

In the south, the Second Panzer Army was moving towards Tula with relative ease, since the Mozhaisk defense line did not extend that far south, and because there were no significant concentrations of Soviet troops to slow down the advance. The bad weather, fuel problems, and damaged roads and bridges greatly slowed the Germans; Guderian reached the outskirts of Tula only by 26 October 1941. The German plan initially called for an instant capture of Tula and for a pincer move around Moscow. However, the first attempt to capture the city failed, as German panzers were stopped by the 50th Army and civilian volunteers in a desperate fight. Guderian's army had to stop within sight of the city on 29 October 1941.

Wearing down


As David Glantz
David Glantz
David M. Glantz is an American military historian and the editor of the Journal of Slavic Military Studies....

 pointed out in his book When Titans Clashed, by late October the Wehrmacht and the Red Army could be compared to "punch-drunk boxers, staying precariously on their feet but rapidly losing the power to hurt each other." The German forces were worn out, with only ⅓ of their motor vehicles still functioning, infantry divisions at ⅓ to ½ 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
Siege of Warsaw (1939)
The 1939 Battle of Warsaw was fought between the Polish Warsaw Army garrisoned and entrenched in the capital of Poland and the German Army...

 in 1939.

In his study of the Nazi economy, Adam Tooze
Adam Tooze
Adam Tooze is a British historian and was Reader in Modern European Economic History at the University of Cambridge. In 2002, he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for Modern History. As of Summer 2010, he is a professor of history at Yale University.He is currently best known for his economic...

 contends that the very survival of the Red Army as a fighting force indicated that the Germans had lost the conflict in Russia, and thus the war, as moving east of Smolensk meant stretching German supply lines beyond their effective limit. He highlights that the colossal loss of material on the eastern front – without having won a decisive victory – was bleeding the German economy to death – reaching "a total impasse". He concludes "It was through the achievement of Lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

on American scale that the Third Reich hoped to achieve both the standard of affluence and the encompassing reach of global power already attained by Britain and the United States. As events between June and December 1941 made clear, Nazi Germany lacked both the time and the resources to take this first step."
To stiffen the resolve of both the Red Army and boost the civilian morale, Stalin ordered the traditional military parade on 7 November to be staged in Red Square
Red Square
Red Square is a city square in Moscow, Russia. The square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod...

. Soviet troops paraded past the Kremlin and then marched directly to the front. The parade had a great symbolic significance in demonstrating the Soviet resolve and was invoked as such frequently in the years to come. However, despite such a brave show, the Red Army was actually in a very precarious position. Although 100,000 additional Soviet troops had reinforced Klin
Klin
Klin is a town and the administrative center of Klinsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located northwest of Moscow. The M10 highway connecting Moscow to St. Petersburg and the Moscow-Saint Petersburg Railway run through the town. It was home to Klin air base during the Cold War. ...

 and Tula
Tula, Russia
Tula is an industrial city and the administrative center of Tula Oblast, Russia. It is located south of Moscow, on the Upa River. Population: -History:...

, where new German offensives were expected, Soviet defenses were still relatively thin. Nevertheless, Stalin wanted several preemptive counteroffensives to be launched against the German lines, despite protests from Zhukov, who pointed out the complete lack of reserves. The Wehrmacht was able to repel most of these counteroffensives, depleting the Red Army of men and vehicles that could have been used for Moscow's defense. The offensive was only successful west of Moscow near Aleksino
Aleksino
Aleksino may refer to:*Aleksino, Istrinsky District, Moscow Oblast, a village in Istrinsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia*Aleksino, Naro-Fominsky District, Moscow Oblast, a village in Naro-Fominsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia...

, 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.

At of the beginning of November, the Wehrmacht high command prepared the launch for a second offensive towards Moscow. Although Army Group Centre still possessed a considerable amount of troops on paper, its fighting strength had thoroughly diminished, as the troops were worn out and there were only few replacements. The Germans were aware of the continuous influx of Soviet reinforcements from the east, as well as the presence of large reserves in the back, but given the tremendous Soviet casualties they did not expected the Soviets to be able to establish a determined defense. Soviet troops strength had in fact been reduced to about 500,000 men and 890 tanks at Moscow. However, compared to October, Soviet rifle divisions occupied much better defensive positions, a triple defensive ring surrounding the city, and some remains of the Mozhaisk line still in Soviet hands 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
Sapper
A sapper, pioneer or combat engineer is a combatant soldier who performs a wide variety of combat engineering duties, typically including, but not limited to, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences, general construction and building, as well as road and airfield...

 teams were also concentrated along major roads that German troops were expected to use in their attacks. There were also a large number of Soviet troops still in reserve armies behind the front available. 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 were unleashed, with the goal of encircling Moscow and linking up near the city of Noginsk
Noginsk
Noginsk is a town and the administrative center of Noginsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located east of the MKAD ring road on the Klyazma River. Population:...

, east of the capital. In order to achieve this objective, the German Third and Fourth Panzer groups needed to concentrate their forces between the Moscow reservoir and Mozhaisk, then proceed to Klin and Solnechnogorsk
Solnechnogorsk
Solnechnogorsk is a town in Moscow Oblast, Russia, the administrative center of Solnechnogorsky District. It is situated on the Moscow-Saint Petersburg Highway and the Moscow-Saint Petersburg Railway, on the coast of Senezh Lake, north-west from Moscow. Population: Originally, there was a village...

 to encircle the capital from the north. In the south, the Second Panzer Army intended to bypass Tula, still in Soviet hands, and advance to Kashira
Kashira
Kashira is a town and the administrative center of Kashirsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River south of Moscow. Population:...

 and Kolomna
Kolomna
Kolomna is an ancient city and the administrative center of Kolomensky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, situated at the confluence of the Moskva and Oka Rivers, southeast of Moscow. The area of the city is about . The city was founded in 1177...

, linking up with the northern pincer at Noginsk.

Final pincer


On 15 November 1941, German tank armies began their offensive towards Klin
Klin
Klin is a town and the administrative center of Klinsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located northwest of Moscow. The M10 highway connecting Moscow to St. Petersburg and the Moscow-Saint Petersburg Railway run through the town. It was home to Klin air base during the Cold War. ...

, where no Soviet reserves were available because of Stalin's wish to attempt a counteroffensive at Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk is a town and the administrative center of Volokolamsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Gorodenka River, not far from its confluence with the Lama River, northwest of Moscow. Population: -History:...

, which had forced the relocation of all available reserves forces further south. Initial German attacks split the front in two, separating the 16th Army from the 30th. Several days of intense combat followed. As Zhukov recalls in his memoirs, "The enemy, ignoring the casualties, was making frontal assaults, willing to get to Moscow by any means necessary." Despite the Wehrmachts 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 finally 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 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 desperately 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 (21.7 mi) from the Kremlin; but a powerful counterattack by the 1st Shock Army
1st Shock Army
The 1st Shock Army was a field army established by the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II.The 1st Shock Army was created in late 1941 and fought in the northern areas of Russia and the Baltic States until the defeat of Germany in 1945...

 drove them back across the canal. Just northwest of Moscow, the Wehrmacht reached Krasnaya Polyana, little more than 20 km (12.4 mi) from Moscow; German officers were able to make out some of the major buildings of the Soviet capital through their field glasses. However, both Soviet and German forces were severely depleted, sometimes having only 150–200 riflemen—a company's full strength—left in a regiment.

In the south, near Tula, battle 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, making chances of success "less than certain" according to Guderian. Moreover, it exposed the German tank armies to flanking attacks from the Soviet 49th and 50th armies, located near Tula, further slowing the advance. However, Guderian was still 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 panzers approached Kashira
Kashira
Kashira is a town and the administrative center of Kashirsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River south of Moscow. Population:...

, 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. 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, the Wehrmacht attempted, on 1 December 1941, a direct offensive from the west, along the Minsk-Moscow highway near the city of Naro-Fominsk
Naro-Fominsk
Naro-Fominsk is a town and the administrative center of Naro-Fominsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, situated southwest from Moscow, on the Nara River. The Moscow – Kiev railway passes through the town. Population: -History:...

. However, this offensive had only limited tank support and was forced to assault 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 2 December a Reconnaissance-Battalion managed to reach the town of Khimki—some 8 km (5 mi) away from Moscow—and captured its bridge over the Moscow-Volga Canal as well as its railway station, which marked the farthest advance of German forces on Moscow.

According to Glantz
David Glantz
David M. Glantz is an American military historian and the editor of the Journal of Slavic Military Studies....

 by early December, the temperatures dropped as low as twenty to fifty below zero. The German troops, who still had no winter clothing, were freezing, and their vehicles were not designed for such severe weather. 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 Axis offensive on Moscow stopped. As Guderian wrote in his journal, "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."

Soviet counteroffensive


Although the Wehrmachts 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 fresh divisions from Siberia and the Far East, relying on intelligence from his spy, Richard Sorge
Richard Sorge
Richard Sorge was a German communist and spy who worked for the Soviet Union. He has gained great fame among espionage enthusiasts for his intelligence gathering during World War II. He worked as a journalist in both Germany and Japan, where he was imprisoned for spying and eventually hanged....

, which indicated that Japan would not attack the Soviet Union. 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. However, 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 started on the Kalinin Front. After two days of little progress, Soviet armies retook Krasnaya Polyana and several other cities in the immediate vicinity of Moscow.

The same day, Hitler signed his directive number 39, ordering the Wehrmacht to assume a defensive stance on the whole front. However, 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
Hans Schmidt
Hans Schmidt is the name of:* Hans Schmidt , American Roman Catholic priest executed for committing murder* Hans Schmidt , stage name of Guy Larose, Canadian wrestler* Hans Schmidt , German bobsledder...

 and Wolfram von Richthofen
Wolfram von Richthofen
Dr.-Ing. Wolfram Freiherr von RichthofenIn German a Doctorate in engineering is abbreviated as Dr.-Ing. . was a German Generalfeldmarschall of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War...

 took place the same day, and both commanders agreed that the current front line could not be held. On 14 December, Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

 and Günther von Kluge
Günther von Kluge
Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

 finally gave permission for a limited withdrawal to the west of the Oka river
Oka River
Oka is a river in central Russia, the largest right tributary of the Volga. It flows through the regions of Oryol, Tula, Kaluga, Moscow, Ryazan, Vladimir, and Nizhny Novgorod and is navigable over a large part of its total length, as far upstream as to the town of Kaluga. Its length exceeds...

, 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. (The Soviets were also suffering large losses from the freezing cold but nevertheless had better equipment for the cold than the Germans.) Nevertheless, Hitler insisted on defending the existing lines, and Guderian was dismissed by Christmas, along with generals Hoepner and Strauss, commanders of the 4th Panzers and 9th Army, respectively. Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock was a German Generalfeldmarshall who served in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber"...

 was also dismissed, officially for "medical reasons." Walther von Brauchitsch
Walther von Brauchitsch
Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch was a German field marshal and the Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres in the early years of World War II.-Biography:...

, 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 Konev, attempted to envelop any German forces remaining. Zuhkov 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 1943. In the south, the offensive went equally well, with Southwestern Front forces relieving Tula
Tula, Russia
Tula is an industrial city and the administrative center of Tula Oblast, Russia. It is located south of Moscow, on the Upa River. Population: -History:...

 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.

The Luftwaffe was paralysed in the second half of December. The weather, recorded as −42°, was a meteorological record. Logistical difficulties and freezing temperatures created technical difficulties until January 1942. In the meantime, the Luftwaffe 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. Two 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
Junkers Ju 52
The Junkers Ju 52 was a German transport aircraft manufactured from 1932 to 1945. It saw both civilian and military service during the 1930s and 1940s. In a civilian role, it flew with over 12 air carriers including Swissair and Deutsche Luft Hansa as an airliner and freight hauler...

 transports were deployed from Luftflotte 4
Luftflotte 4
Luftflotte 4 was one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. It was formed on March 18, 1939 from Luftwaffenkommando Österreich in Vienna. The Luftflotte was redesignated on April 21, 1945 to Luftwaffenkommando 4, and became subordinated to Luftflotte 6. It was the...

(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 Center. Between the 17 December 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 center, 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 (62.1–155.3 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. This victory provided an important boost for Soviet morale, with the Wehrmacht suffering its first defeat. Having failed to vanquish the Soviet Union in one quick strike, Germany now had to prepare for a prolonged struggle. Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 had failed.

Aftermath



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 still relatively close. Because of this, the Moscow direction 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 level the Rzhev salient
Battles of Rzhev
Rzhev Battles is a general term for a series of World War II offensives launched during January 8, 1942—March 31, 1943 by the Soviet Red Army in the general directions of Rzhev, Sychevka and Vyazma against a German salient in the vicinity of Moscow, known as the "Rzhev meat grinder" for...

, held by several divisions of Army Group Center. Immediately after the Moscow counter-offensive, a series of Soviet attacks (the Battles of Rzhev
Battles of Rzhev
Rzhev Battles is a general term for a series of World War II offensives launched during January 8, 1942—March 31, 1943 by the Soviet Red Army in the general directions of Rzhev, Sychevka and Vyazma against a German salient in the vicinity of Moscow, known as the "Rzhev meat grinder" for...

) were attempted against the salient, each time with heavy losses on both sides. Soviet losses are estimated to be between 500,000 and 1,000,000 men, and German losses between 300,000 and 450,000 men. By early 1943, however, 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 Smolensk
Battle of Smolensk (1943)
The second Battle of Smolensk was a Soviet strategic offensive operation conducted by the Red Army as part of the Summer-Autumn Campaign of 1943...

.

Furious that his army had been unable to take Moscow, Hitler dismissed his commander-in-chief, Walther von Brauchitsch
Walther von Brauchitsch
Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch was a German field marshal and the Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres in the early years of World War II.-Biography:...

, on 19 December 1941, and took personal charge of the Wehrmacht, effectively taking control of all military decisions and setting most experienced German officers against him. Additionally, Hitler surrounded himself with staff officers with little or no recent combat experience. As Guderian wrote in his memoirs, "This created a cold (chill) in our relations, a cold (chill) that could never be eliminated afterwards." This increased Hitler's distrust of his senior officers and severely reduced the German advantages due to their superior military leadership.
German General Staff
The German General Staff was an institution whose rise and development gave the German armed forces a decided advantage over its adversaries. The Staff amounted to its best "weapon" for nearly a century and a half....

 Germany now faced the prospect of a war of attrition
Attrition warfare
Attrition warfare is a military strategy in which a belligerent side attempts to win a war by wearing down its enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and matériel....

, something it was not prepared for and bound to lose in the long run. Overall, the battle was a stinging defeat for the Axis, though not necessarily a crushing one, and it ended German hopes for a quick and decisive victory over the Soviet Union.

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 counteroffensive, which would be staged simultaneously near Moscow, Leningrad and in southern Russia. This plan was accepted over Zhukov's objections. However, low Red Army reserves and Wehrmacht tactical skill led to a bloody stalemate near Rzhev, known as the "Rzhev meat grinder
Battles of Rzhev
Rzhev Battles is a general term for a series of World War II offensives launched during January 8, 1942—March 31, 1943 by the Soviet Red Army in the general directions of Rzhev, Sychevka and Vyazma against a German salient in the vicinity of Moscow, known as the "Rzhev meat grinder" for...

", and to a string of Red Army defeats, such as the Second Battle of Kharkov
Second Battle of Kharkov
The Second Battle of Kharkov, so named by Wilhelm Keitel, was an Axis counter-offensive against the Red Army Izium bridgehead offensive conducted from 12 May to 28 May 1942, on the Eastern Front during World War II. Its objective was to eliminate the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets, or the...

, the failed attempt at elimination of the Demyansk pocket
Demyansk Pocket
The Demyansk Pocket was the name given for the encirclement of German troops by the Red Army around Demyansk , south of Leningrad, during World War II on the Eastern Front. The pocket existed mainly from 8 February-21 April 1942. A much smaller pocket was simultaneously surrounded in Kholm, about ...

, and the encirclement of General Vlasov
Andrey Vlasov
Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov or Wlassow was a Russian Red Army general who collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II.-Early career:...

's army near Leningrad in a failed attempt to lift the siege of the city
Siege of Leningrad
The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

. Ultimately, these failures would lead to a successful German offensive in the south and to the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

.

Nevertheless, 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
Hero City
Hero City is a Soviet honorary title awarded for outstanding heroism during the German-Soviet War of 1941 to 1945. It was awarded to twelve cities of the Soviet Union. In addition the Brest Fortress was awarded an equivalent title of Hero-Fortress...

" in 1965, on the 20th anniversary of Victory Day
Victory Day
Victory Day is a common name of many different public holidays in various countries to commemorate victories in important battles or wars in the countries' history.- April 30 in Vietnam :...

. A Museum of the Defence of Moscow was created in 1995

Casualties


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 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. Other historians, who include the Rzhev and Vyazma operations in the scope of the battle (thus making the battle end in May 1942), give higher casualty numbers.

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 Great Soviet Encyclopedia, published in 1973–1978, estimates 400,000 German casualties by January, 1942. Another estimate available is provided in the Moscow Encyclopedia, published in 1997; its authors, based on various sources, give a figure of 145,000 German and 900,000 Soviet casualties for the defensive phase, along with 103,000 German and 380,000 Soviet casualties for the counteroffensive until 7 January 1942. Many of the Soviet casualties, however, consisted of captured men. Therefore, total casualties between 30 September 1941, and 7 January 1942, are estimated to be between 248,000 and 400,000 for the Wehrmacht (GSE / Moscow encyclopedia estimate) and between 650,000 and 1,280,000 for the Red Army (Erickson / Moscow encyclopedia estimate).

Regardless of these disagreements, the Battle of Moscow is considered among the most lethal battles in world history
Most lethal battles in world history
The following is a list of the casualty count in battles in world history. The list includes both sieges and civilian casualties during the battles. Large battle casualty counts are almost impossible to calculate precisely...

.

External links