** war and social upheaval: World War II Eastern Front -- Red Army offensive before Moscow








World War II: Red Army Offensive before Moscow (December 6, 1941)


Figure 1.--Here women and children in an area retaken from the Germans in December 1941 find bodies of their relatives murdered by the Germans. Some appear to have been hostages executed because of guerilla attacks. But many others were whole villages destroyed and the inhabitants killed for no apparent reason. Source: Soviet newsreel footage.

Zhukov had been building up his reserves. Zhukov strategy was to bleed the Wehrmacht as it drove toward Moscow, build up a powerful force, and then strike when the Wehrmacht had been weakened. This was a stategy that he used successfully on several occassions. Here he made full use of the Russian Winter that was handing a terrible impact on the unprepared German soldiers. The Soviet Siberian forces were well trained in Winter warfare. The Soviet buildup was completely indetected by German intelligence. Particularly important was the arrival of Siberian reserves which were withdrawm from the forces facing the Japanese in Manchuria. Zhukov launched his winter offensive against the Whermacht that had been stoped at the gates of Moscow and which had been severly affected by the cold weather. The Red Army struck (December 6). The resulting battle was probably the most important of the War. The Wehrmacht was stuned at the extent of the Soviet offensive, assuming that the staggering victories in the Summer had crippled the Red Army. There were no preparations made such as winter clothing or assessing the performance of weapons in extemely cold winter conditions. Hitler had assummed that the campaign would defeat the Soviets in a summer campaign before the onset of Winter. The Soviet offensive was a shock to the Germans who had thought that victory was within their grasp. The Soviets attacked with their Siberian veterans as well as new largely untested divisions. They were supported by artillery, T-34 tanks, and Katyusha rocket launchers. The Soviet armor unlike their German counterparts did not freeze up in the cold weather. For the first time in the War, The Soviets had the advantage of armor and mobility.

Zukov's Strategy

Zhukov had been building up his reserves. Zhukov strategy was to bleed the Wehrmacht as it drove toward Moscow, build up a powerful force, and then strike when the Wehrmacht had been weakened. This was a stategy that he used successfully on several occassions. Particularly important was the arrival of Siberian reserves which were withdrawm from the forces facing the Japanese in Manchuria.

Final German Drive


The Weather

Zhukov made full use of the Russian Winter that was handing a terrible impact on the unprepared German soldiers. The Soviet Siberian forces were well trained in Winter warfare.

German Military Intelligence

The Soviet buildup was completely indetected by German intelligence. The Germans were totally unprepared for a Soviet offensive. This was perhaps the greates intelligence failure of the War. This was the first in a devestating series of intelligence failures (Stalingrad, Torch, Sicily, D-Day, an Bragation). Not to mention the failure to preceice the Allied cracking of the Enigma machine. It is difficult to understand how German inteligence was so unsuccessful during the War. A range of factors appers to have been involved. Perhaps the most important was German arrogance and failure to appreciate the capabilities of their adversary. The Germans seeminly were common to believe NAZI master rave doctrine. Here a factor was the seemingly endless line of Soviet POWs. It is easy to see how many Germans would have thought that the Red Army was a defeated force. Another factor was the resources devoted to intelligence. Of course it must be recognized that the Red army was very effective in masking their preparations. Ye in battle after battle, German military inteligence failed. The reasons for this apaulling failure in perhaps the most profesional military force ofvtheWar has never been fully explained.

Attack on Army Group Center

Zhukov launched his winter offensive against the Whermacht that had been stoped at the gates of Moscow and which had been severly affected by the cold weather. The Red Army struck (December 6). The Wehrmacht was stuned at the extent of the Soviet offensive, assuming that the staggering victories in the Summer had crippled the Red Army. There were no preparations made such as winter clothing or assessing the performance of weapons in extemely cold winter conditions. Hitler had assummed that the campaign would defeat the Soviets in a summer campaign before the onset of Winter. The Soviet offensive was a shock to the Germans who had thought that victory was within their grasp. The Soviets attacked with their Siberian veterans as well as new largely untested divisions. They were supported by artillery, T-34 tanks, and Katyusha rocket launchers. The Soviet armor unlike their German counterparts did not freeze up in the cold weather. For the first time in the War, The Soviets had the advantage of armor and mobility. The weather negated the advantage of the Luftwaffe. The Red Army attack resulted in masive German casualties and large numbers of prisoners as well as the destruction of vast quantities of equipment. The Soviets drove the Wehrmacht back 60-150 miles, the distance varying at different points of the front. And for the first time, the Germans surrendred or broke and ran in large numbers. One author writes, "The riflemen were in wild flight all along the line., hunted by the Russian tanks. The other tank from my company had been knocked out. By then, we were moving past another knocked out tank. We no longer had any way on our tank to provide aimed fire .... Eight riflemen were cowering on the front of my tank. Bunvhes of them were hanging off the sides. Despite that, more and more were attempting to climb up on the rear deck while we were moving. Many of them had been wounded by all the shrapnel flying about. But being wojnded meant nothing at that point., when you smelled an opportunity to escape the inferno." [Sch´┐Żufler] This ended the immediate threat to Moscow. The Soviets pushed the Germans back 100-250 km (60 to 150 miles) in the front before Moscow (January 7, 1942). Zhukoc then organized a secobnd offensive (late January). His goal was to drive a gap between Army Groups North and Center around Lake Seliger and Rzhev. Another attack advanced from Kaluga to the south-west of Moscow. The plan was a joint drive on Smolensk. The Germans managed to stop the advance, creating a salient at Rzhev. The Soviets launched a parachute assault on Dorogobuzh. The Soviet attacked failed and the parachtists who survived joined the partisans behind German lines.

Northern Operations

The Soviets further north surrounded German units at Demyansk. The Luftwaffe supplied the cut off units by air for 4 months. The Soviets launched a more limited offensive in the south.

Southern Operations

The Sovies crossed the Donets River at Izyum and carved out a 100-km (60-mile) deep salient. The Soviet plan was to drive the Germans back to the Sea of Azov (northern branch of the Black Sea). The weather broke in the south, however, allowing the Germans ro regain the initiative. The Germans defeated over-extended Soviet units in the Second Battle of Kharko.

Discoveries

The Red Army offensive before Moscow was the first Allied offensive to regain territory lost to the NAZIs. Reports had been received of NAZI attrocities in occupied cpuntries, especially in the East. These had been impossible to confirm. There was some skepticism among the American public because World War I reports of German attroicities had been widely overstated. And the Russians had been invaded by the Germans in World war I and the Germans had behaved sternly, but not barbarically. As the Red Army advanced, however, the hideous, auful truth emerged. They found burned villages and butchered populations. In some cases the Germans killed civilians as reprisals to guerilla actiins. The Soviets, however, found whole villages destroyed ahnd the inhbitants shot for no apparent reason. The Wafen SS was not yetr a major factor. Many of these attrocities appear to have been committed by Wehrmacht units. We do not yet know just who was responsible or why the Whrmacht begaved so barbarically. I do not yet know if any historian had addressed this. The subject of killing Jews has been addressed in details, but the Red Army duscovered wide-spread attrocities aimed at non-Jewish civilians. As the war swung back and forth on the Eastern Front, Hitler and the NAZIs had what they wanted, a war of anialation. Neither side would give the other any quarter and German soldiers feared more than anything falling into Russian hands. While the Red Army was used to supress the occupied countries and there was widespread rape and looting, the Soviets never committed the attrocities rourinely committed by the Germans.

Sources

Sch´┐Żufler, Hans. Panzer Warfare on the Eastern Front (2012), 288p.







CIH -- WW II







Navigate the CIH World War II Section
[Return to Main Moscow page]
[Return to Main World War II campaign page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to the Main World War II page]




Created: 6:16 AM 3/9/2007
Last updated: 9:45 PM 5/21/2012