World War II The battle of Moscow

The Battle for Moscow – June 22nd, Germany broke the non aggression pact and invaded Russia. The Germans code named it ‘Operation Typhoon’ – started on October 2nd 1941. The capture of Moscow, Russia’s capital, was seen as vital to the success of ‘Operation Typhoon‘. Hitler believed that once Russia's heart, Moscow, had been cut out the whole nation would collapse. The German army were successful in the early stages of the battle, 28 Russian divisions were put out of action in just three weeks and more than 70 divisions lost 50% or more of their men and equipment. Hitlers belief that the Red Army would fall was slowly coming true.

However, the Germans had also suffered in their attacks on Russia. By one month into Typhoon, the Germans had lost over 100,000 men, 50% of their tanks and over 1,200 planes. With its army split between east and west Europe, these were heavy casualty figures. Hitler’s belief that the Red Army would be crushed also meant that there had been little consideration of the Russian winter and very many of the "Wehrmacht" in Russia had not been equipped with proper winter clothing. Ironically for an army that was to suffer from the Russian winter, ‘Operation Typhoon’ started off in ideal weather conditions on October 2nd, 1941. or the attack, Hitler had at his disposal 1 million men, 1,700 tanks, 19,500 artillery guns and 950 combat aircraft – 50% of all the German men in Russia, 75% of all the tanks and 33% of all the planes. To defend Moscow, the Russians had under 500,000 men, less than 900 tanks and just over 300 combat planes.

On November 13th, senior German commanders met at Orsha. It was at this meeting that the decision was taken to start a second assault on Moscow. During the stalemate, the Russians had sent 100,000 more men to defend Moscow with an extra 300 tanks and 2,000 artillery guns.The Germans got as far forward as 18 miles from Moscow’s center (the village of Krasnaya Polyana) but the Russian defense line held out. It is said that German reconnaissance units actually got into the outskirts of the city but by the end of November the whole forward momentum of the Germans had stalled. By December, the Russians had started to counter-attack the Germans. In just 20 days of the second offensive, the Germans lost 155,000 men (killed, wounded or a victim of frostbite), about 800 tanks and 300 artillery guns. Whereas the Germans had few men in reserve, the Russians had 58 infantry and cavalry divisions in reserve.

Hitler's army was pushed back between 60 and 155 miles in places and by January 1942, the threat to Moscow had passed. Hitler’s response to this was to move 800,000 men from the west of Europe to the Eastern Front – thus ending forever any chance, however very small it may have been, of ‘Operation Typhoon‘ being carried out. He also dismissed 35 senior officers as well – including the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Brauchitsch, and the three army commanders. Russia remains inconquorable to this day.

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