Russian WWII Offensive of 1941

It was devastatingly cold in the Russian winter of 1941,

during the peak of the German offensive against Moscow. Just as it

had Napoleon's armies in the century before, the Russian winter

conditions had stopped the advance on Moscow. Hitler had not planned

on a winter war, and thus had not properly equipped his troop

frostbite, and thousands of them died of exposure. Indeed, it was this

biting winter which had provided the Russians with an opportunity to

gather themselves, and prepare for one of the most heroic

counter-offensives of World War II - known to the Russian people as

"The Great Patriotic War."

It would be wrong to attribute the German failure at this time

solely to the harsh winter; the main failure was that of misjudgment

and mistiming. The offensive had been launched too late in the year,

at a season where the weather was due to break up. The Germans had

underestimated the effects of the harsh weather and terrain on their

motorized units, and had poorly rationed their resources - too much

had been asked of the German troops, and strengths had been allowed to

drop too low.

Despite a few more victories by German forces in November and

December, they would never again subeztially advance into the areas

surrounding Moscow. On October 28th, the German 3 Panzer group, under

the command of Field-Marshal Von Kluge, had again tried to penetrate

into the northern area of Kalinin, and failed. Hitler called in 9

Army to join the 3 Panzer, and moved them towards the northeast area

above Moscow. Russian resiezce had been uneven, but in the front of

Tula and on the Nara, where new formations were arriving, it had been

the most determined and tough. The Red Army had fallen back to within

forty miles of Moscow, but was sustained by massive Muscovite power, a

continuing flow of troops to the front line.

During the months of October and November, nine new Russian

armies had been trained, and were being deployed throughout the

fronts. Two complete armies and parts of another three were to reach

the Moscow area towards the end of November. Many of the divisions in

these armies were raised from newly inducted recruits, but some were

well trained and equipped and had been withdrawn from the military

districts in Central Russia, and Siberia.

In October and early November, a few German battalions still

fighting had brought all Red Army motor vehicles (except tanks) to a

stop, and the Russian Quarter-master-General Khrulev, was forced to

switch his troops to horses and carts. He was criticized by both his

own troops and Stalin, but was granted permission to form 76 horse

transport battalions. The problems caused by the transport shortage

and weather were recognized by the Soviet High Command, and fuel

refills were sent to the front lines. Defenses were restored and

thickened up, and Moscow awaited the second stage of the German

offensive, which is described in detail in the German Offensive

section of this report. By November however, German casualties had

reached 145,000 troops.

The German position in the South, between Tula and Voronezh

was both confusing and disquieting, as on October 26, German 2 Panzer

leader Guderian had suddenly been attacked by the renewed Russian

forces on the east flank, and was fighting to hold his ground. The 2

Panzer had been meant to surround Moscow, but was so weak in armor,

and with the addition of several infantry corps, its mobile strength

was greatly decreased.

As the German drive against Moscow slackened, the Soviet

commander on the Moscow front, General Georgy Koneztinovich Zhukov,

on December 6 inaugurated the first great counteroffensive with

strokes against Bock's right in the Elets (Yelets) and Tula sectors

south of Moscow and against his center in the Klin and Kalinin sectors

to the northwest. Levies of Siberian troops, who were extremely

effective fighters in cold weather, were used for these offensives.

There followed a blow at the German left, in the Velikie Luki sector;

and the counteroffensive, which was sustained throughout the winter of

1941-42, soon took the form of a triple convergence toward Smolensk.

Before the end of the year Kinzel (the head of the Foreign

Armies East intelligence), was to issue a rewrite of the German Army

handbook on the Soviet Armed forces which