Friday, January 4, 2019

October 13, 1941: Attack on Moscow

Monday 13 October 1941

Moscow defense 13 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Women digging tank ditches on the Mozaysk Defense Line outside of Moscow ca. 13 October 1941.
Eastern Front: Different sources give different dates for the actual beginning of the Battle of Moscow during Operation Typhoon. A good starting date is 13 October 1941, because it is on this date that the German panzers first encounter the Mozhaysk (Mozhaisk) defense line that forms a half-circle around the Soviet capital.

Bolton, England bomb damage, 13 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bomb damage on Punch Street in Bolton, Lancashire, England following a Luftwaffe raid on the night of 12-13 October 1941.
On Sunday, Army Group North commander Field Marshal Fedor von Bock sends his worn and weary troops east in a final dash along the main road to Moscow. The leading elements on the main road, SS Obergruppenfuhrer Paul Hausser’s SS-Infanterie-Division (mot.) ‘Reich’ from XLVI.Armeekorps (mot.) reinforced with a Kampfgruppe from 10. Panzer Division set out from the vicinity of Gagarin, which is still about 180 km east of Moscow. On Monday the 13th, the panzers encounter the Mozhaysk line, which Western Front commander General Georgy Zhukov has hastily assembled with about 90,000 troops. At noon, the Luftwaffe supports this movement by sending Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers escorted by Bf 109 fighters to attack Soviet positions at Borodino Field, site of the famous Napoleonic battle.

Infantry of the Queen's Royal Regiment 13 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Infantry of the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) on the march with messenger dogs near Barham, Kent, 13 October 1941" (© IWM (H 14688)).
Assuming that there is a massive Soviet force to defend the capital, the Germans branch off the main road to the north and south. The nebulous plan is to encircle Moscow, with the first objectives being Kalinin (Tver) to the northeast and Kaluga and Tula to the southeast. The distances to be covered are immense by western European military standards, 180-200 km cross-country in each direction, but Russia is a large place and the Wehrmacht is forced to think in larger orders of magnitude than it is used to.

Bolton, England bomb damage, 13 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Punch Street following a Luftwaffe raid on the night of 12-13 October 1941. There were 11 people killed and 64 injured. Bolton, Lancashire, England (Bolton Remembers the War).
While the Germans are tested by the distances to be covered, they still hold the initiative. The Soviet situation, by contrast, is almost catastrophic. Resistance at Vyazma dies out as encircled Soviet troops either break out through swampy areas or surrender. General Rokossovsky and his HQ group abandon the area and slip out. General Yeremenko (Eremenko), in command of Bryansk Front, is wounded, evacuated, and relieved of command. Another disaster strikes at Rzhev, where Soviet 30th Army is eliminated. In an unusual turn of events for the Soviets, they are low on troops, so not only does the Red Army scrounge for any available men in the Moscow region and send them to the Mozhaysk Line, but they also draft 600 women to serve as soldiers. The Soviet 5th Army under General Leliushenko anchors the center of the Mozhaisk Defensive Line on the highway. However, the line itself is still under construction by about 250,000 Moscow women.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 13 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Pearl Harbor Naval Base on Oahu, Hawaii on 13 October 1941. Note battleship row at the upper right and the submarine base at lower left. Visible at the top are (left) USS Oklahoma (BB-37) and (right) USS Arizona (BB-39) (US Navy 80-G-451131).
There is one bright spot for the Soviets. Based upon intelligence received from Richard Sorge in mid-September, Stalin has recalled seven Siberian divisions to the defense of Moscow. In addition to being fit, fresh, and well-trained troops, the Siberian troops also are experienced in and equipped for winter warfare. Considering that it already is snowing in the area, this is a major skill to have. These troops are beginning to arrive at the Moscow railway stations just at the right time. The 32nd Siberian Rifle Division under Colonel Polosukhin, supported by three tank brigades and the cadets from a Moscow military college, move up the highway to Borodino.

Norwegian freighter SS Roy, sunk by an E-boat off Cromer on 13 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
1768-ton Norwegian freighter SS Roy (formerly the Danae), sunk by torpedo from S-53 (Block) on 13 October 1941 along with 1537-ton British freighter Chevington (sunk by torpedo from S-105 (Howaldt). This was an E-boat (Schnellboot) action off Cromer.

2019

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