Monday, December 10, 2018

September 12, 1941: Starve Leningrad!

Friday 12 September 1941

Napoleon versus Hitler cartoon 12 September 1941
It is not exactly a secret to anyone that another former Corporal once tried to invade Russia. On 12 September 1941, the British papers publish an irreverent little visual that mimics a famous illustration (or pictograph) of Napoleon's drive into Russia. This time, however, it notes that Hitler "falls behind in the stretch" as he approaches Moscow - which Napoleon actually captured. There's actually more than a little truth in this cartoon.
Eastern Front: For the first time in the war on 12 September 1941, the Germans must prioritize their operations in a way that affects the overall strategy. To date, priorities have been set but with the belief that everything can be accomplished given enough time. However, regarding Leningrad, decisions are made today that will have a lasting impact.

The day starts off well in Army Group North. The Luftwaffe has spent the last couple of days softening up the Leningrad defenses, and a morning attack by 1 Panzer Division (Lieutenant General Friedrich Kirchner) makes good progress. The panzers advance through Krasnoe Selo and are only stopped at the southwestern suburb of Pulkovo. Prospects for an advance into the built-up areas of Leningrad look good. With no chance of effective resupply by the Soviets, the city should fall without too much trouble.

Soviet soldiers surrendering on 12 September 1941
Soviet troops surrender to the Germans, 12 September 1941.
However, as he has begun to do more frequently, Adolf Hitler intervenes. He abruptly halts the attack and orders the panzers and other armored vehicles and VIII Air Corps south toward Moscow. This is in accordance with his recent Fuehrer Directive calling for an offensive against Moscow, but it still comes as a shock to the Army Group. Hitler announces:
Leningrad will be starved into submission.
And, just like that, the attack on Leningrad is over.

Field Marshal von Leeb is furious. He telephones OKH Chief of Staff General Franz Halder and insists "vehemently" that he be allowed to capture Leningrad. Halder lamely notes in his daily war diary:
Of course, we shall always give him the means to bring his operation to a successful close, but the build-up for the new operation in Center must have priority.
There actually is no "of course" about it. Everyone knows that once sent away, armored troops are a long time coming back, especially from an operation on Moscow that is sure to draw rabid Soviet defensive fighting.

Colonel-General Eugene Ritter von Schobert last flight 12 September 1941
Colonel-General Eugene Ritter von Schobert and his pilot (to the left) before their last flight on 12 September 1941. Schobert, commander of the 11th Army, and his pilot perished when this Fieseler Storch observation plane crashed in a Soviet minefield.
As to whether Leningrad actually will starve, that is not at all far-fetched. Today, the Soviets cut the daily bread ration in Leningrad to 500 grams for manual workers and 300 grams for office workers and children under 12. That is not nearly enough to live on, but it may be more than the authorities actually can provide.

In the Army Group Center sector, General Guderian's Panzer Group 2 continues its breakout from the Desna River and drives further south to Kyiv. The Soviets evacuate Chernihiv, just north of Kyiv, in the face of Guderian's onslaught.

In the Army Group South sector, General von Kleist also continues his drive east of Kyiv from Kremenchuk in the south. The Romanians also renew their attack on Odessa, where they have been stalled for several weeks.

There is one glimmer of hope for the Soviets. Unexpectedly, light snow comes down across much of the front. The panzer crews, frustrated by the mud created as the snow melts, break off their attacks.

Colonel-General Eugene Ritter von Schobert last flight 12 September 1941
Schobert and his pilot prepare to fly off to their fate, 12 September 1941.

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


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