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Battle of Moscow

From Academic Kids

Template:Battlebox The Battle of Moscow refers to the defense of the Soviet capital of Moscow and the subsequent counter-offensive against the German army, between October 1941 and January 1942 on the Eastern Front of World War II.

Contents

The German invasion

On 22 June 1941 Germany and its Axis allies invaded the Soviet Union, taking the Soviets by surprise. Having crushed most of the Soviet air force on the ground, German forces quickly advanced deep into Soviet territory using Blitzkrieg tactics. Armoured units racing forward in pincer movements trapped and destroyed entire Soviet armies. While the German Army Group North moved towards Leningrad, and Army Group South went on to conquer the Ukraine, Army Group Centre was to advance towards Moscow.

The Soviet defence conditions were catastrophic, and the casualties were enormous. In early August 1941 the Germans captured the city of Smolensk, an important stronghold on the road to Moscow, but the engagement in the Smolensk area blocked the German advance until mid-September, effectively disrupting the blitzkrieg. On October 2 1941, Army Group Centre under Fedor von Bock finally launched its attack against Moscow, code-named Operation Typhoon.

The Soviet forces of the Western Front, Reserve Front, Bryansk Front and Kalinin Front, defending the Moscow area, suffered heavy casualties but kept fighting fiercely. On October 10, Georgi Zhukov took charge of the Western Front and the defence of Moscow.

The defence of Moscow

Missing image
Eastern_Front_1941-06_to_1941-12.png
The eastern front at the time of the Battle of Moscow

The city now started to become the target of German air raids. The population was ordered to build barricades in the city's streets, even in the proximity of the Kremlin itself. The Soviet government was evacuated east to the city of Kuybyshev, (modern-day Samara), yet the Soviet leader Stalin remained in Moscow. To set an example of determination for the soldiers and increasingly despairing civilians, he ordered the traditional military parade on 7 November, commemorating the anniversary of the Revolution, to be conducted on the Red Square, in spite of the danger of German bombardment. The troops paraded along the Kremlin and then marched directly to the battlefront.

Meanwhile, German progress was already slowing down. The Germans had been almost paralysed when the autumn rains set in, turning roads into stretches of mud. When the frost set in early November, the Germans could use the roads again, but faced the problem of not being equipped for winter warfare, as Hitler had anticipated a quick victory in the summer. Warm clothing and white camouflage suits were lacking, and more and more tanks and other vehicles were immobilised as temperatures dropped below zero degrees. Indeed, the winter of 1941-1942 was unusually cold even by Russian standards.

Soviet defence on the approaches to Moscow grew increasingly desperate. The Soviets sent in thousands of recruits and volunteers, even women's batallions into German machine-gun fire. It was in front of Moscow that the term Panfilovec was coined: I.V. Panfilov, commander of the Soviet 316th Rifle Division, died in fierce self-sacrificing infantry combat against German tanks. Only a handful of heavily wounded Soviet soldiers survived the carnage; large numbers of German soldiers were killed as well.

By November 27, the Germans had finally advanced to the eastern-most positions they would reach. An advance patrol overran a suburban Moscow train station within sight of the towers of the Kremlin 27 km away before Soviet defenders drove them off.

The Soviet counter-offensive

Missing image
Eastern_Front_1941-12_to_1942-05.png
The Soviet winter counter-offensive, 5 December 1941 to 7 May 1942

On 5 December 1941, Zhukov launched a massive Soviet counter-attack against the German army. The offensive unfolded on all sectors in the Moscow area on 6 December. During the autumn, Zhukov had been transferring fresh and well-equipped Soviet forces from Siberia and the Far East to Moscow, but holding them back until the set date of the counter-offensive. He had been relying on intelligence data by Richard Sorge, who told him Japan would not attack in the east, after he already precisely foretold Operation Barbarossa. Now with the enemy too close to the center of Moscow to ignore, he threw the reinforcements against the German lines, along with freshly-built T-34 tanks and Katyusha rocket launchers. The new Soviet troops were prepared for winter warfare, and they included several ski batallions. The exhausted and freezing Germans were routed and driven back 100 to 250 km by 7 January 1942. The Soviets consolidated their positions in April 1942, having definitely pushed the German threat out of reach of Moscow. The victory in the battle of Moscow provided an important boost for Soviet morale, as the German army had now lost its aura of invincibility. Having failed to defeat the Soviet Union in a quick strike, the Germans had to prepare for a long and bloody struggle. The Blitzkrieg didn't happen.

According to various credible Western and Eastern sources (http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/battles.htm#Battles), about 700,000 Red Army troops were either killed, wounded or missing during the defensive phase and counter-offensive and about 250,000 Axis soldiers were either killed, wounded or missing during the entire battle. For the heroism of the city's defenders, Moscow was awarded the title Hero City in 1965, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the eventual Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

See also

he:הקרב על מוסקבה pl:Bitwa pod Moskwą sr:Московска битка

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