Operations & Battles

Battle of Moscow 1941- Defensive Battles

Battle of Moscow

Battle for Moscow, September 30, 1941 – April 20, 1942) – military operations of Soviet and German troops in the Moscow direction. It is divided into 2 periods: defensive (September 30 – December 4, 1941) and offensive, which consists of two stages: the counteroffensive (December 5, 1941 – January 7, 1942) and the Soviet offensive (January 7 – March 30, 1942). In Western historiography, the battle is known as Operation Typhoon.

The battle unfolded in an area whose borders in the north ran along the Volga River from Kalyazin to Rzhev, in the west – along the rockad railway line Rzhev  – Vyazma  – Bryansk, in the south – along the conditional line Ryazhsk  – Gorbachevo  – Dyatkovo.

At the defensive stage of the battle, the following operations were carried out: Oryol-Bryansk, Vyazemskaya, Mozhaisk-Maloyaroslavetskaya, Kalinin, Tula, Klinsko-Solnechnogorsk and Naro-Fominsk front – line operations.

On December 5, 1941, the Red Army launched a counteroffensive along the entire front near Moscow, carrying out a number of successful front-line offensive operations and threw the Germans back 150-300 kilometers from the capital.

The battle for Moscow is one of the turning points in the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War.

Battle of Moscow
The war with the Soviet Union despite the initial victories, developed for the German command in a slightly different scenario than with Poland or Western European countries. The blitzkrieg plan (Operation Barbarossa) assumed the capture of Moscow during the first 10-12 weeks of the war. However, despite the successes of the Wehrmacht in the first days of the offensive, the increased resistance of the Red Army and a number of objective reasons prevented its implementation.


Only the Battle of Smolensk in July-September 1941 delayed the advance of the invaders to Moscow for two months. German strategists were unable to fully foresee all the costs associated with a significant expansion of the front, wear and tear of the material part of strike groups and a drop in the offensive spirit of soldiers and officers in the event of unforeseen stubborn resistance from the enemy.

By the beginning of September 1941, the Moscow direction remained the objective for the German High Command. In a telegram from the OKH of July 31, 1941, Army Group Center was ordered to continue to “prepare for an attack on Moscow”.

On September 6, 1941, the OKW directive number 35 was brought to the German units: the command planned to conduct two major operations in the near future. The first – to defeat the South-Western Front of the Red Army by the forces of Army Groups “Center” and “South”, and the second – a decisive offensive by troops on Moscow, but after removing the threat to the southern flank of GA “Center”. From the moment this directive was issued, the direct preparation of the operation to seize the Soviet capital began.

In the preamble, Hitler explained the reasons for his decision:

Initial successes against enemy forces located between the inner flanks of Army Groups “Center” and “North”, from the point of view of encirclement of Leningrad, creates the preconditions for decisive operations against the leading offensive of Army Group Timoshenko. It must be destroyed before winter comes. To do this, it is necessary to bring up and concentrate all the forces of the aviation and ground army, which can be dispensed with on the flanks.

Reproduced according to the text of the article: M. Yu. Myagkov “Battle of Moscow”, 2010

The general plan of the offensive in September was finalized and formalized in the form of orders, in which the tasks of each military formation were detailed. On September 19, the operation was codenamed Typhoon. The idea was quite simple and classic for the German strategy: with powerful blows from large groups concentrated in the regions of Dukhovshchina (3rd Panzer Group), Roslavl (4th Panzer Group) and Shostka (2nd Panzer Group), encircle the main forces of the Red Army, covering the capital, and destroy them in the regions of Bryansk and Vyazma. and then swiftly bypass Moscow from the north and south in order to capture it.

The attack on Moscow was preceded by detailed aerial reconnaissance of both the city itself and the surrounding area. Reconnaissance flights were carried out by the 1st long-range reconnaissance squadron of the Reconnaissance Air Group under the commander- in -chief of the Luftwaffe (the so-called “Rovel Group”) – 1. (F) /Ob.dL.

The first massive German raid on Moscow was undertaken on the night of July 22, 1941. The first raid was followed by two, almost as powerful. Then the total number of bombers taking part in the attacks on the city was reduced. The peak of the raids on Moscow fell in November 1941 – 45 air raids per month. But the bombing did not cause significant damage to the city. In July 1941 – January 1942, only 229 of the 7146 enemy aircraft broke through to the capital.

On September 26, Fyodor von Bock signed order No. 1620/41 on the attack of the Center GA on Moscow. Neighboring army groups ” North ” and ” South ” were supposed to cover the main attacks in the Moscow direction, advancing in an easterly direction. The 2nd Air Fleet of Albert Kesselring was tasked with destroying Soviet aviation in front of the front of the advancing troops and supporting the offensive with all available forces, in connection with which the massive bombing of industrial enterprises was postponed.

Start of Operation Typhoon

7By the end of September 1941, a situation had developed in which the likelihood of a quick capture of Moscow by enemy tank and motorized units in the Maloyaroslavets and Mozhaisk directions was very high. The German command firmly held the strategic initiative in their hands. The operational density of the grouping of Soviet troops as a whole was low, especially in artillery, only 12 guns and mortars per 1 kilometer of the front, there was a shortage of ammunition for 76-mm and 152-mm guns, 122-mm howitzers. 82-mm and 120-mm mortars… It was not necessary to count on the effectiveness of the effective destruction of the enemy in defense.

German strike forces occupied the initial areas one or two days before the start of Operation Typhoon. On September 30, the 2nd Panzer Group of General Heinz Guderian went on the offensive from the Shostka area. and in the early morning of October 2, the 9th and 4th field armies.

The 3rd and 4th tank groups attacked the positions of the Red Army in the southwestern Moscow direction and simultaneously in several sectors of the front. Adolf Hitler. confident in the quick and inevitable capture of the Soviet capital, in an order to the soldiers and officers of the Eastern Front on October 2, 1941, said:

In a few weeks, the three most important industrial regions will be completely in our hands… The preconditions have finally been created for the last huge blow, which, even before the onset of winter, should lead to the destruction of the enemy. Today begins the last big, decisive battle of this year!

Cited according to the text of an article in the newspaper ” Pravda ” dated 01.22.1942.

The Moscow strategic defensive operation began, which lasted 67 days, from September 30 to December 5, 1941.

By the end of October 2, units of the 3rd Panzer Group of General Hoth had broken through the front at the junction of the 19th and 30th Soviet armies, and the 4th Panzer Group of General Göpner  – in the defense zone of the 43rd Army south of Varshavskoe Highway.

All the efforts and attention of the Soviet High Command at that moment were concentrated on the Oryol direction and in the Kharkov area  – the German 2nd Panzer Group Guderian in two days deepened 120 kilometers into the Bryansk Front’s defense zone.



Battle of Moscow

Three rifle divisions and two tank brigades of the 43rd Army of the Reserve Front could not withstand the massive attack of twelve divisions of the 4th Panzer Group. On the same day, Göpner’s forward formations struck at the second echelon of the front, 40 km from the front edge of the defense, which was occupied by the divisions of the people’s militia. Having scattered the troops of the Bryansk and Reserve fronts, the tank and motorized divisions rushed north along the Warsaw highway.

The advanced units of Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Group captured Oryol on October 3 and developed an offensive on Mtsensk and Tula.

A gap formed between the 30th and 19th armies of the Western Front. 30-40 km wide. Motorized formations of the Wehrmacht and SS. broke through to Vyazma. By the end of October 4, the divisions of Gotha and Göpner were already 60 – 70 km from the city.

On October 3-4, in the zone of the 24th and 43rd armies of the Reserve Front, units of the 4th German tank group rushed in the direction east of Vyazma, to the rear of the troops of the Western Front.

On the morning of October 5, the enemy captured Yukhnov on the move (approximately 195 kilometers south-west of Moscow). The Headquarters learned about the capture of the city only in the afternoon. The head of the PDS of the Air Force Directorate of the Western Front, Captain I.G. Starchak. who commanded an airborne detachment of several hundred people, on his own initiative took up defensive positions on the Ugra River beyond Yukhnov. By blowing up the bridge, the paratroopers were able to hold back the advance of the 57th Motorized Corps of the Wehrmacht for one day. Soon, an advanced detachment. formed from cadets of the PPU and PAU, arrived to the aid of the paratroopers.with artillery, which moved on 24 vehicles to Yukhnov from Podolsk  in the evening of the same day, the 17th tank brigade from the Stavka reserve and the 95th separate motorized rifle battalion of Captain NK Maslennikov. Soon it was possible to reinforce the detachment with fighters from the Medyn Fighter Detachment and the 108th Reserve Rifle Regiment of the Moscow Military District.

The operational situation on the distant approaches to Moscow changed very quickly and not in favor of the Red Army. Headquarters were confident that the front line was 280-350 kilometers from Moscow, because on the morning of October 4, the city of Spas-Demensk was still occupied by our troops. All fortified areas that were part of the Mozhaisk line of defense were not yet provided with troops at that time. The positions were occupied by hastily deployed, small units.

On September 30, 1941, from the Shostka area. in the direction of Orel  – Tula. the 2nd tank group of the Wehrmacht went on the offensive. and on October 2, the 9th and 4th field armies, the 3rd and 4th tank groups attacked the positions of the Soviet troops in the Moscow direction in several sectors of the front and rapidly developed an offensive on Maloyaroslavets. Vyazma. Gzhatsk and Kaluga. OKH embarked on his main plan in 1941 – “Operation Typhoon “.

Heinz Guderian, commander of the 2nd Panzer Group, decided to advance two days earlier than everyone else. This made it possible for him to use large air forces in the offensive. which had not yet been involved in other sectors of the front in the operations of the army group “Center” and good weather, which was established at the end of September 1941 in the offensive zone of the 2nd Panzer Group.

On September 30, when the German offensive had already begun, A. I. Eremenko, at that time the commander of the Bryansk Front. scheduled for October 3 a counterattack on the flanks of the “tank wedge driven into the front’s defenses” by the forces of the 13th Army and the group of General Ermakov. The forces of the 2nd Panzer Group that had gone over to the offensive were assessed by the front command as an attack by several divisions in the direction of Sevsk.

In addition, the direction of the enemy’s main attack was determined incorrectly: Eremenko was expecting an attack on Bryansk and kept his main reserves in the city area. On September 30, not several divisions, but three motorized corps went on the offensive. Against Ermakov’s group the enemy concentrated two or three times more forces. The divisions assigned for the counterattack could only inflict weak “pin pricks” on the flanks of the 2nd Panzer Group.

From the direction of Sevsk, the well-equipped 42nd Tank Brigade  Major General NI Voeikov was to strike. But two days later, units of the 24th Motorized Corps captured Oryol. When the advanced units of the German 4th Panzer Division burst into the city, trams still ran through the streets, and boxes with industrial equipment intended for evacuation were scattered everywhere.

By the end of October 5, the Bryansk Front was ordered to withdraw its troops to the second line of defense on the lines along the Desna River and hold Bryansk. On October 6, the 17th Panzer Division reached the city from the rear and captured it. Karachev was captured by the 18th Panzer Division on the morning of the same day. AI Eremenko was forced to order the armies to break through to the east “with an inverted front”.

The 3rd. 13th and 50th Soviet armies were encircled near Bryansk : 27 divisions, 2 tank brigades, 19 artillery regiments of the RGK, directorates of the 50th, 3rd and 13th armies of the Bryansk front. The commander of the 50th Army, Major General M.P. Petrov, was killed. On October 13, during a raid by German aviation, Eremenko himself was wounded and at night by plane was flown to Moscow, and his duties began to be performed by the chief of staff of the front, General GF Zakharov. At the same time. the 1st Guards Rifle Corps and the Moscow people’s militia divisions directed at Mtsensk, were able to hold back the enemy’s advance for several days, without giving him the opportunity to seize Tula on the move.

6On October 2, the offensive of the main forces of Army Group Center began on the Moscow strategic direction. Having created an overwhelming advantage in narrow areas, German troops broke through the Soviet defense front in the area of Yelnya and Spas-Demensk. By the end of October 4, Spas-Demensk and Kirov were captured. on October 5, Yukhnov. On the same day, the enemy went to the Vyazma area.

As well as at Bryansk, the command was unable to determine the direction of the enemy’s main attack. It was assumed that the tank and motorized groupings of the Germans would deliver the main blow along the axis of the Minsk highway. in the defense zone of the 16th Army of K. K. Rokossovsky. A strong echeloned defense was created here. For example, the 112th Infantry Division defended a front of 8 kilometers with a number of 10 thousand people, the neighboring 38th Infantry Division occupied a front of 4 kilometers, with the same number and high density of guns and mortars.

The Germans delivered their main blow north of the Minsk highway  – as usual, at the junction between the sectors of the 30th and 19th armies. Here, against two Soviet rifle divisions, four corps went on the offensive – the 41st and 56th motorized (each of which was assigned one infantry division over the state) of the 3rd Panzer Group of G. Gotha. as well as the 5th and 6th army corps. The 8th Army Corps was advancing to the south. In total, the strike group consisted of about 16.5 divisions, including three tank (more than 420 tanks) and two motorized ones. A few hours later, the defense zone of the 30th Army was broken through and the enemy began to develop an offensive in depth and towards the right flank of the 19th Army.

For a flank counterattack on the advancing group, the front group of IV Boldin was created. However, as a result of a tank battle in the area south of Kholm-Zhirkovsky, Soviet troops were defeated. On October 7, the German 7th Panzer Division of the 3rd Panzer Group and the 10th Panzer Division of the 4th Panzer Group closed the circle of encirclement of the troops of the Western and Reserve fronts in the Vyazma region. Four armies of the Red Army (19th. 20th. 24th and 32nd) fell into the encirclement.

On October 9, the forward detachment of the motorized SS division “Reich”. consisting of 10 tanks with motorized infantry (according to German data), captured Gzhatsk. Thus, an outer ring was formed around the Soviet armies surrounded at Vyazma. The Minsk highway and the Vyazma-Syzran and Moscow-Smolensk railways were cut.

By the end of October 7, the defenses on the distant approaches to Moscow had actually collapsed. 37 divisions, 9 tank brigades, 31 artillery regiment of the RGK and the command and control of the 19th, 20th, 24th and 32nd armies of the Western and Reserve fronts were in the “cauldrons” or semi-encirclement in the western direction. And near Bryansk. 27 divisions, 2 tank brigades, 19 artillery regiments of the RGK and the command and control of the 50th, 3rd and 13th armies of the Bryansk front were in complete encirclement. Seven directorates of the armies (out of 15 in the direction), 64 divisions (out of 95), 11 tank brigades (out of 13) and 50 artillery regiments of the RGK (out of 64) were surrounded. These formations and units were part of 13 armies and one operational group. Nevertheless, later the remnants of 16 divisions of the Red Army managed to fight their way to their own from the encirclement.

Until October 11, the encircled troops made attempts to break through, only on October 12 it was possible to break through for a short time, which was soon closed again.

In total, at Vyazma and Bryansk, more than 688 thousand Soviet soldiers and officers were taken prisoner, only about 85 thousand managed to get out of the encirclement. The commander of the 19th Army, Lieutenant General M.F. Lukin, and the former commander of the 32nd Army, Major General S.V. Vishnevsky. who were sent to help him. were captured in the Vyazma “cauldron”; the commander of the 24th Army, Major General. was killed K. I. Rakutin. In total, in the first two to three weeks of fighting near Moscow, the Red Army lost up to 1 million people, of which (according to German sources) about 688 thousand people were captured.

Courageous, but not always skillful resistance of the soldiers of the Red Army could not stop the German tank formations. Many divisions of the Reserve and Western Fronts were recruited from militias who fought heroically, but did not have the necessary experience and training. The Germans made the most of their advantage in firepower and mobility. Field commanders of the Wehrmacht received radio intercepts of communications between Soviet headquarters and used radio deception.

M. Yu. Myagkov “Battle of Moscow”, 2010

Aviation actions


Numerical superiority and a favorable airfield base created good conditions for the fascist German troops to maintain air supremacy. From the second half of September, the Luftwaffe sharply increased the bombardment of railway junctions, stations, bridges, troops and airfields.

The intensity of German aerial reconnaissance increased. which sought to reveal the grouping of our troops, to determine the nature of the defense, to reveal the condition of the roads and to establish the basing areas of aviation.

Before the start of the offensive, the Germans did not manage to open the group of Soviet aviation and undermine its potential with air strikes. This was helped by the good camouflage of our airfields, the dispersal of aircraft on them and the high activity of Soviet fighter aircraft. At the same time, German aviation, even in the process of concentrating on the main airfields, was subjected to attacks by Soviet aviation and suffered significant losses.

In the 20th of September 1941, Soviet air reconnaissance established the basing of German aviation at the airfields of Smolensk, Shatalov, Borovskaya, Orsha, Vitebsk, Kamenka, Zubovo. The Air Force of the Western Front intensified its bombing strikes on enemy troops and airfields. The Military Council of the Western Front decided to intensify aviation operations to disrupt the prepared German offensive.

To strike at a large enemy grouping, preparing for an offensive, in addition to the existing 206 serviceable aircraft, the Headquarters of the Supreme Command allocated an additional 400 aircraft for several days. The task was to bomb and destroy concentrated groupings of German troops by attack aircraft.

To defeat the strike group of the Germans, aviation from other fronts was involved. Long-range bomber aviation of the Main Command and Air Force of the Moscow Military District. At the same time, front aviation was actively operating at enemy airfields, bases and communications. During September, she made 4101 sorties and dropped 831 tons of bombs on enemy targets.

In the last days of September, the Germans intensified their aerial reconnaissance, and massive strikes against the most important defense enterprises and facilities in the nearest front-line rear became more frequent. In August, in the zone of the Moscow Corps Air Defense District. 1998 aircraft overflights of fascist aviation were recorded. Several groups of enemy bombers carried out raids on large defense facilities on the near approaches to Moscow. All this indicated that the fascist German command was preparing for an offensive on the capital.


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