The Russia During the Second World War Part 4

The Moscow maneuver. – According to, the indecisive battle of Smolensk had halted the advance on Moscow. The German general staff prepared the resumption of the offensive by reinforcing the von Böck group of armies. The maneuver had to be carried out in two stages: in the first stage, the armored troops had to envelop the Soviet troops deployed there in the Vyazma region; subject to the result of this operation, carry out the wide-ranging enveloping of the entire region close to Moscow, including the city. The maneuver with a smaller radius was able to be accomplished from 2 to 20 October. Bryansk, Vyazma, Orel, Kalinin, Možajsk, Malojaroslavec, Kaluga fell into the hands of the Germans; but on the front marked by these cities, the vigorous reaction of the Soviets halted any further progress, so that the Germans stopped about a hundred kilometers from the Russian capital (, in this App.). After a stop of about a month, on November 16, the von Böck resumed the action, which should have succeeded in breaking through, but which in reality did not change the situation even though it brought the German troops to only 20 km. from the capital. They never managed, however, to conquer it.

The Soviet winter counter-offensive. – The German general staff was convinced that the winter would bring a halt to large operations and that the troops could organize themselves to defend themselves against the severity of the climate. The Soviet general staff, on the other hand, had prepared its winter campaign and had placed great trust in it. It aimed above all to remove the enemy threat from Leningrad and Moscow; then to recapture Smolensk, the main base of the German central front, the most threatening; finally, the reconquest of the dominion of the Black Sea lost with the German occupation of the Crimea and the Kerč peninsula.

The operations in progress, except in the central sector, where the last phase of the battle of Moscow was fought (5-20 December), in which General Žukov resumed the Germans Velikie-Luki, Kalinin, Možajsk and Kaluga and repulsed them for 200 km. from the capital, they did not assume vast proportions. To the north, the Soviets merely attacked in the Valdai, recapturing them; in the Leningrad sector the Germans were forced to partially abandon the block, retreating for about fifty kilometers. On the southern front, the successes were more modest: the struggle rather took on the character of a war of attrition, which in the Charkov sector lasted until the end of February. The situation remained substantially unchanged except in Izjum. In this region, on January 21, the Soviets broke the front of the 17th Army, penetrated for about 100 km. within the enemy line-up, creating a salient in it that threatened the strategic railway of Dnepropetrovsk-Stalino and the entire southern German front. In order to avert such grave danger, the first armored army, with the concurrence of the 17th and 16th respectively south and north of Izjum, at the end of January went to the counter-offensive. The struggle with ups and downs lasted until March and was suspended shortly after due to the thaw. The resumption, after a few weeks, ended favorably for the Germans towards the end of May. This good success affected the development of operations around Kharkov, easing the Soviet pressure which had already intensified in May. Also in this sector the struggle ended in favor of the Germans at the same time as that of Izjum. In these operations, framed in the 1st armored army, the Italian corps cooperated, which, once the operations were completed, became dependent on the 17th army.

During the winter, important operations took place in Crimea, where the Germans, with the help of the 3rd Romanian army, forced the defenses of the Isthmus of Perekop on 19 October, invaded the peninsula, conquered the city of Kerč and placed the siege of Sevastopol. The Soviets landed 7 divisions on the Kerč peninsula, reoccupying it, but on May 15, 1942, General von Mannstein took it back by surprise. In conclusion: by the end of the winter of 1941-42 the threat to Soviet capital cities, except Kiev, had been eliminated; the German army had suffered very heavy losses – more than half a million men – for which the Wehrmacht had emerged worn out of the struggle and had, at the moment, only scarce, residual reserves.

The great German offensive of the summer of 1942. – The Germans began the offensive by passing the Donets between Izjum and Slavijansk on May 17, falling to the left flank of the Russian salient of Charkov. The Soviets, surprised, withdrew and on the 24th the city that Timošenko had already cleared, was occupied by the Germans. Then the group of B armies entered into action on a front of 100 km. from Orel to Charkov on the Kursk-Voronež sul Don route and, further south, the group of armies A, flanked by the first. The imposing mass, which exceeded half a million men, reached and passed Oskol in 48 hours and on 5 July stood at the Don, between Voronezh and Belogore. Rossoš was occupied by the 4th armored army which, proceeding rapidly, reached the Don in Selistovka, followed by the 6th army, which extended the front as far as Serafimovič (11 July).

The Russia During the Second World War 4

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