The Battle for Moscow – Part 2

As October ended the German IV Army advanced along the Oka River north of Aleksin to the Nara River above Serpukov. The goal was to form along the Naro-Fominsk/Volokolamsk line. IX Army established a front north of Rzhev. II Panzer Army advanced from Mtsensk along the road from Orel to Tula but the road broke down forcing soldiers to lay a log road enabling transportation of supplies and reinforcements. II Army covered the assault’s right flank reaching Kursk with their left wing at Yefremov.

On 30 October II Panzer Army was attacked by cavalry. During several days of intense combat the Germans were stopped just short of Tula.

At the beginning of November the temperature dropped below zero degrees Celsius. With firmer roads transportation became more mobile.

Lack of supplies, including warmer clothing for the soldiers forced several generals to suggest falling back to the Smolensk area for the winter. Hitler prohibited such action.

A new plan was formulated. IV Army on the north, halted by Soviet counter attacks, was to send III and IV Panzer Gruppen forward to the Volga Canal. IX Army was to advance to the Volga Dam southeast of Kalinin. To the south II Panzer Army was to occupy Kolomna on the Moskva River.

The German Chiefs of Staff met on 13 November. IX Army and III Panzer Gruppe’s attacks were to jump off on 15 November while IV Panzer Gruppe and II Panzer Army were to attack on 17 November.

During the German pause the Soviet Army added infantry, cavalry, and tanks on the Western Front including 100,000 men, 300 tanks, and 2,000 guns. By mid-November the Germans exceeded Soviet strength 2.5 – 1 in guns, and 1.5 – 1 in tanks. The Soviet Air Force outnumbered the Luftwaffe 1.5 – 1.

The German attacks kicked off on time, but on 18 November temperatures dropped to -20 degrees Celsius. On 25 November XVII Panzer Division reached Kashira. On 27 November II Panzer Division was 30 kilometers from Moscow. VII Panzer Division gained a bridgehead over the Volga south of Dmitrov. II Army reached a line marked by Tim, Yelets, and Yefremov.

During this period the Luftwaffe suffered a serious fuel shortage complicated by problems with starting the aircraft engines, and the freezing of machine guns and cannon due to frozen lubricant.

By contrast the Soviet Air Force flew 9,400 sorties in the Kalinin region, Volokolamsk, Mozhaisk, Tula, and Yefremov. Dozens of German tanks were destroyed.

On 29 November Bock filed a report to the Chiefs of the General Staff confessing the German Army had failed to achieve strategic success. On 4-5 December German high command approved a withdrawal to the Istra/Klin line for III and IV Panzer Gruppen. II Panzer Army fell behind the Don – Shat line and IV and IX Armies took defensive positions.

The Germans had 800,000 men, 10,000 guns and mortars, 1,000 tanks and 600 aircraft at the beginning of November. Soviet Forces included 719,000 men 5,700 guns and mortars, 720 tanks, and 1,170 aircraft. Kalinin and Western Front’s offensive action began on December 5/6.

Sources: “Battle for Moscow: The Soviet View,” Colonel D. Proektor, History of the Second World War Magazine, 1970s

“Battle for Moscow: The German View,” Generalmajor (AD) Alfred Phillippi, History of the Second World War Magazine, 1970s The Soviet Air Force in World War II, Edited by Ray Wagner, Translated by Leland Fetzer, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY, 1973

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