Saturday, January 19, 2019

October 30, 1941: Guderian Stopped at Tula

Thursday 30 October 1941

Battle of Tula 30 October 1941
Soviet troops wielding AT rifles defend a crossroads at Kommunarov and Sovetskaya streets in Tula. 30 October 1941.
Eastern Front: After a breakneck advance over the past five days from Mtsensk to Tula, a distance of about 140 km, General Heinz Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army troops are on the outskirts of Tula as 30 October 1941 begins. Blasting through the muddy Rasputitsa weather, the panzers' advance was reminiscent of the heady days of the Blitzkrieg in France, befitting Guderian's "Fast Heinz" nickname. Oberst (Colonel) Heinrich Eberbach uses the entire armored strength of the 2nd Panzer Army to blow through all opposition. As planned, after a good night's rest, Eberbach instructs his Kampfgruppe Eberbach, the reinforced 5th Panzer Brigade in XXIV Panzer Corps (General Geyr von Schweppenburg) to attack the city's defenders at 05:30. The goal is to quickly overcome Tula's ragtag defenders and continue north to Moscow.

A Soviet ZiS-30 tank destroyer 30 October 1941
A Soviet ZiS-30 tank destroyer based on the T-20 tractor. The main gun is a 57mm ZiS-2. It was knocked out in Kaluga, southwest of Moscow in October 1941.
Tula is an important center of armaments production and controls the highway north to Moscow, a straight run 184 km to the north. However, it's only real value on 30 October is as an obstacle to General Guderian's continued advance to the north. Key objectives in Tula include the Tula Arms Plant and the Klokovo airbase. The 2nd Panzer Army's quick advance from Mtsensk has caught the Red Army by surprise, so it is only defended by a few regular army units of 50th Army, commanded by Maj. Gen. Arkadii Nikolaevich Ermakov, and a 1500-man local volunteer battalion (the Tula's Worker's Regiment). Early on 30 October, the headquarters of the reconstituted 260th Rifle Division (Colonel N.V. Revyakin), arrives at Tula along with units of the 732nd Air Defense Regiment (Major M.T. Bondarenko). The entire commander is under General Vasilii Stepanovich Popov.

German infantry in Russia, 30 October 1941
German infantry marching past a burning house in Russia, October 1941 (Federal Archive Bild 146-1989-030-27).
While the Tula Defense Zone has been hurriedly assembled, the defenders are amply equipped with anti-aircraft artillery. The recently formed Tula Defense Committee under the command of First Secretary of the Party of the Tula District, V.G. Zhavoronkoy, and garrison commander Colonel Ivanov have mobilized all inhabitants between the ages of 17 and 50 to build entrenchments, antitank ditches, minefields, and strong points. However, this work has been in progress for barely a week.

Sd Kfz 251, 30 October 1941
A medium armored infantry support vehicle (Sd Kfz 251) driving by soldiers on a Russian road. October 1941. (Böhmer, Federal Archives Bild 101I-268-0178-08).
The German artillery begins firing at 05:30 in a cold autumn rain. Then, the panzers of the 3rd Panzer Division and the Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland (Colonel Walter Hörnlein) begin to advance, supported by infantry. The attack hits the workers' area of Krasny Perekop and the battle soon degenerates into hand-to-hand combat. The panzers lose their effectiveness in the quarter's narrow streets and it falls to infantry to battle it out. The advantage seesaws throughout the day, with the defenders holding a defensive line in a park and behind cemetery walls while they await reinforcements.

Panzer IVs in Russia, 30 October 1941
A column of Panzer IV tanks in the Soviet Union, October 1941 (Böhmer, Federal Archive Bild 101I-268-0185-03A).
The problem for the Germans is that they have used all of their armor to make this push. Thus, they have nothing nearby left to bring forward as reinforcements. The Red Army, however, does. The Soviets push the Germans back at 15:30 when tanks from Colonel I. Yuschuka’s 32nd Tank Brigade arrive. A renewed German attack at 16:00 advances to the Vsekhsviatsky Cemetery, which is successfully defended by the workers' militia, and then to the Tula Weapons-Technical School. Due to a lack of progress, Eberbach is forced to end the attack at dusk. The Germans pull back and build defensive lines of their own.

Stuck truck in the fall mud, 30 October 1941
Forcing a truck through the muddy Russian roads of the fall Rasputitsa, October 1941 (Böhmer, Federal Archive Bild 101I-268-0176-34).
The Tula attack is very costly for both sides but is a clear Red Army defensive victory. The Soviets claim to knock out about 30 Wehrmacht panzers, with both sides losing hundreds of men. The Soviets continue to reinforce Tula throughout the night, with their tank strength growing to seven T-34s, five heavy KV-Is, and 22 older T-60s. The Soviets also bring up Katyusha rocket launchers and the 413th Rifle Division (Major Gen. Aleksei Dmitrievich Tereshkova). The Germans never again seriously challenge Soviet control of Tula. Tula is named a Hero City by the Soviet government in 1976 due to the stand made on 30 October 1941.

Robertson Stadium in Houston under construction, 30 October 1941
Construction upon Public School Stadium (now known as Robertson Stadium) in Houston on the present-day campus of the University of Houston (Elwood M. Payne of Peralta Studios (photography), Harry D. Payne (architecture), Fretz Construction Company (construction)).
American Homefront: Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh addresses 20,000 people at an America First rally in Madison Square Garden. Lindbergh continues his familiar refrain, claiming that President Roosevelt is using "dictatorship and subterfuge" to draw the United States into the "European War." The isolationist position continues to attract a large segment of the US population which not only wants to remain at peace but also wants the draft to end.

October 1941

October 1, 1941: Germans and Finns Advance in USSR
October 2, 1941: Operation Typhoon Broadens
October 3, 1941: Air Battles Near Moscow
October 4, 1941: Stalin Contemplates Defeat
October 5, 1941: Hoth Goes South
October 6, 1941: First Snowfall After Dark
October 7, 1941: Stalin Gets Religion
October 8, 1941: FDR Promises Stalin Aid 
October 9, 1941: FDR Orders Atomic Bomb Research
October 10, 1941: Reichenau's Severity Order
October 11, 1941: Tank Panic in Moscow
October 12, 1941: Spanish Blue Division at the Front
October 13, 1941: Attack on Moscow
October 14, 1941: Germans Take Kalinin
October 15, 1941: Soviets Evacuate Odessa
October 16, 1941: Romanians Occupy Odessa
October 17, 1941: U-568 Torpedoes USS Kearny
October 18, 1941: Tojo Takes Tokyo
October 19, 1941: Germans Take Mozhaysk
October 20, 1941: Germans Attack Toward Tikhvin
October 21, 1941: Rasputitsa Hits Russia
October 22, 1941: Germans Into Moscow's Second Defensive Line
October 23, 1941: The Odessa Massacre
October 24, 1941: Guderian's Desperate Drive North
October 25, 1941: FDR Warns Hitler About Massacres
October 26, 1941: Guderian Drives Toward Tula
October 27, 1941: Manstein Busts Loose
October 28, 1941: Soviet Executions
October 29, 1941: Guderian Reaches Tula
October 30, 1941: Guderian Stopped at Tula
October 31, 1941: USS Reuben James Sunk


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