Monday, December 24, 2018

September 30, 1941: Operation Typhoon Begins

Tuesday 30 September 1941

Hiroshi Hamaya 30 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Original caption: “Hiroshi Hamaya photographing the tank corps in Chiba, September 30, 1941. ” Hamaya was a Japanese photographer, perhaps the most famous one of World War II. He passed away in 1999.
Eastern Front: On 30 September 1941, the Wehrmacht begins its great drive on Moscow. With the codename Operation Typhoon (Unternehmen Taifun), this attack is viewed by many in the German Army as the rightful focus of Operation Barbarossa. After much hesitation, and only when it appeared that the other two main objectives of the invasion, Leningrad and Kiev, were in hand, Hitler finally agreed. Reinforced by strong units from both Army Group North and Army Group South, Army Group Center under Field Marshal Fedor von Bock now has to race against the changing seasons to accomplish the key objective of the campaign during 1941.

German machine gun squad member 30 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A member of a German machine gun squad sometime during the opening stages of Operation Typhoon ca. 30 September 1941.
Field Marshal von Bock disposes of 70 divisions for Operation Typhoon and it begins two days earlier than previously scheduled. General Heinz Guderian's Panzer Group 2 has finished the conquest of Kiev earlier than some had expected, and now it has reoriented itself to attack in the opposite direction - to the northeast - in a matter of days. While recent reports suggest that Guderian's panzer forces are only at 20% of pre-war effectiveness, they face a Red Army that just lost almost a million troops in the fighting at Kiev. There isn't an army in the world that can just shrug off the loss of a million men along with their leaders and equipment and the economic resources of a major city... or is there.

Piqua (Ohio) Daily Call 30 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Somewhat ironically on a day that the Germans launch their "final" offensive on Moscow, the outside world is being reassured that the Red Army holds the initiative. Of course, note the much smaller headline, "Report Reds are Set Back in The Ukraine," which is a classic understatement considering the recent loss of Kiev. This is the Piqua (Ohio) Daily Call of 30 September 1941. 
While the Red Army has been greatly weakened, there are several factors which count in its favor. For one, while the weather remains good for campaigning, that won't be the case for much longer. The German troops have no experience with the Russian Rasputitsa or rainy season, but it is just around the corner. While the Germans find the ubiquitous peasant carts, or Panjes, somewhat odd-looking with their giant wheels and watertight construction like boats, they are built like that to survive the twice-yearly Rasputitsa. The German trucks are not built for those conditions, which should begin to appear within about a month or even less.

A 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun covers a road as troops pass by in coaches during Exercise 'Bumper', 30 September 1941.
Another Soviet advantage is that master spy Richard Sorge in Tokyo has assured Joseph Stalin that the Japanese are not interested in attacking the Soviet Union. This allows him to pull seven fresh Siberian Divisions west to the defense of Moscow. It will take time to get them through four or five time zones to Moscow, but they are experts at winter warfare and accomplished skiers. The lengthening German supply lines over deteriorating railroads and dirt roads, their worn equipment from three months of constant battle, and heavy losses also blunt the Wehrmacht's effort.

Japanese munitions workers 30 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese munitions workers inspecting empty shells in a factory in Japan on September 30, 1941.
Still, despite all the issues, it is not too late in the season to get started. General Guderian's panzers head east at 06:35. They achieve surprise, as the Soviets expect them to take longer to digest Kiev (this may be in part because the attack starts earlier than OKH planned, and the Soviets may know this from intelligence sources). Two panzer corps lead the attack, followed by infantry and motorized divisions. Panzer Group 2 heads back to the northeast and heads toward Moscow without regard to its flanks. The panzers smash through five Soviet divisions of Major General’s Arkadii Ermakov’s operational group (three infantry, two cavalry, and two tank brigades) at Glukhov, then open a wedge into Soviet 13th Army under front commander Lieutenant General Yeremenko (Eremenko).

A victim of the Babi Yar massacre, Velvele Valentin Pinkert, 30 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A victim of the Babi Yar massacre, Velvele Valentin Pinkert, which concludes today with over 30,000 people dead (Yad Vashem Photo Archives 5027/461).
While all seems rosy for the Germans, they have some unpleasant surprises. The Soviets use their new Katyusha rockets against the 3rd Panzer Division with good effect, though they are perhaps most effective now for their surprise value. In addition, the Soviets have trained dogs laden with explosives to run under German tanks, where they explode.

Matilda Tank in England 30 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A Matilda tank, army lorries and troops pass through a town during Exercise 'Bumper', 30 September 1941." © IWM (H 14343).
Many panzers are stopped by virtually undetectable antitank mines in wooden cases. The Germans, however, make good ground on the first day of the offensive, covering over ten miles. Everything is going according to plan, and the Germans plan to encircle Yeremenko's forces by closing a pocket at Bryansk. It is to be another giant battle of annihilation, and the Germans are confident that they will soon be chasing the fleeing remnants of the Red Army back toward Moscow.

Pic magazine 30 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Pic magazine, 30 September 1941, has the headline, "What Lindbergh's Home Town Thinks of Him." Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh has spent the year giving speeches for the America First Committee which urge the United States to stay out of the "European war."

September 1941

September 1, 1941: Two Years In
September 2, 1941: Germans Pushed Back at Yelnya
September 3, 1941: FDR Refuses to Meet with Japanese
September 4, 1941: Hitler Furious at Guderian
September 5, 1941: Germans Evacuate Yelnya
September 6, 1941: Japan Prepares for War
September 7, 1941: Hitler Orders Drive on Moscow
September 8, 1941: Leningrad Cut Off
September 9, 1941: Germans Attack Leningrad
September 10, 1941: Guderian Busts Loose
September 11, 1941: Convoy SC-42 Destruction
September 12, 1941: Starve Leningrad!
September 13, 1941: Zhukov at Leningrad
September 14, 1941: Germany's Growing Casualties
September 15, 1941: Sorge Warns Stalin Again
September 16, 1941: Soviets Encircled at Kiev
September 17, 1941: Iran Conquest Completed
September 18, 1941: Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in Action
September 19, 1941: Germans Take Kiev
September 20, 1941: Death at Kiev
September 21, 1941: Raging Soviet Paranoia
September 22, 1941: Defense of Nickel Mines
September 23, 1941: Air Attacks on Leningrad
September 24, 1941: Japanese Spying Intensifies
September 25, 1941: Manstein at the Crimea
September 26, 1941: Kiev Pocket Eliminated
September 27, 1941: Massacre at Eišiškės
September 28, 1941: Ted Williams Hits .400
September 29, 1941: Babi Yar Massacre
September 30, 1941: Operation Typhoon Begins

2018

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