Saturday, December 8, 2018

September 7, 1941: Hitler Orders Drive on Moscow

Sunday 7 September 1941

National Day of Prayer 7 September 1941
"The Commander in Chief Western Approaches, Admiral Sir Percy Noble, KCB, CVO, taking the salute during the march past at the conclusion of the Parade Service at a home port." Day of National Prayer, 7 September 1941 (© IWM (A 5312)).
Eastern Front: One of the continuing problems besetting the Germans during Operation Barbarossa had nothing to do with the Red Army. It was a perpetual lack of focus and direction. On 7 September 1941, Adolf Hitler tries to resolve the ambiguity once and for all with Führer Directive 35.

Directive No. 35 provides that the Soviet forces standing in front of Moscow "must be defeated and annihilated in the limited time which remains before the onset of winter weather." The Directive is extremely detailed in terms of unit movements, specifying not only the units to be used for specific purposes but the days on which they are to attack.

The Directive provides that an attack toward Moscow is to begin "at the earliest possible moment (end of September)." A general pincer movement past Smolensk "in the general direction of Vyazma" is to destroy the Soviets' "Army Group Timoshenko." Once that is done, Army Group Center can then "begin the advance on Moscow with its right flank on the Oka River and its left on the Upper Volga River."

Yellow Star of David badge 7 September 1941
Yellow Star of David must be worn by all Jews over the age of six within the Reich (7 September 1941 NY Times).
The important thing about Directive No. 35 is that it finally, though belatedly, officially recognizes Moscow as an important Wehrmacht objective. This is cheering to Field Marshal von Bock at Army Group Center and many other generals who feel that Moscow is the key to the entire campaign. They felt that Moscow was the obvious objective for the campaign and should have been the priority from the beginning. The remaining question is whether there is enough time before blizzards begin to reach the Soviet capital.

The main issue with Directive No. 35 which makes it somewhat problematic is that by its own terms an advance on Moscow depends upon first destroying the Soviet forces in front of that city. On 7 September 1941, the Red Army is actually advancing west through Yelnya and is hardly defeated. The Soviets will have something to say about when and how Moscow is attacked.

In any event, Directive No. 35 is well-reasoned and tactically sound despite its limitations. It is one of the few Hitler Directives which will be carried out almost exactly as stated under the codename "Operation Typhoon." However, the eventual outcome may not be as the Germans wish.

Lieutenant Colonel Hans von Ahlfen and other officers in the Ukraine, 7 September 1941
Lieutenant Colonel Hans von Ahlfen and other German officers conversing in Ukraine near Kremenchuk, 7 September 1941 (Federal Archive B 145 image-F016205-25).

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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