12160181055?profile=RESIZE_584xThe discourse amongst historians has revolved around identifying the turning points of World War II, spanning from 1941-42 to the spring of 1943. Winston Churchill considered the Battle of Kursk in 1943 following Stalingrad as the decisive moment. Richard Overy, on the other hand, believes that the years between 1942 and 1944 had several turning points, and specifically, 1943 and the Battle of Stalingrad. In his subsequent work, Overy acknowledges the significance of the Battle of Kursk that took place in July 1943 as the turning point of the War. Alternatively, Klaus Reinhardt argues that it was the Siege of Moscow that led to the ultimate failure and collapse of the Wehrmacht. Notably, regardless of one's stance in this debate, the Battle for Moscow holds tremendous importance in World War II's historic narrative, given its epic scale and impact. (Stahel 2009, 24-25)

The German invasion of Russia, known as Operation Barbarossa, began in June 1941. The Germans entered Russia with a force of over four million soldiers and had a clear objective of capturing Moscow within four months. In the early stages of the invasion, the German army destroyed most of the Soviet Air Force on the ground, which gave them a significant advantage. The Germans used a strategy known as blitzkrieg, which involved rapid movement and overwhelming firepower to destroy entire Soviet armies.

The Battle of Moscow, code named Operation Typhoon, was a pivotal fight for Germany and the Soviet Union. Fought between October 1941 and January 1942, the German army was on a mission to capture Moscow, the heart of the Soviet Union. However, the Soviet defense effort halted their advance, resulting in a strategic counter-offensive that changed the course of the war. By July 1941, the Germans had advanced deep into Soviet territory and had reached the Dnieper River. The German army was divided into three groups, with Army Group North moving towards Leningrad, Army Group South controlling Ukraine, and Army Group Centre advancing towards Moscow. The German Army Group Centre captured the city of Smolensk on 15 July 1941, an important stronghold on the road to Moscow.

Hitler's lack of confidence in his leaders at the Eastern Front was a consistent and persistent issue throughout the course of World War II. His distrust in his high-ranking military officials stemmed from his belief in his own military genius and his micromanaging tactics. Hitler was known for his strategy of direct control of the military, which greatly impacted his relationship with his subordinates.

Hitler's chief of staff, Franz Halder, was responsible for the overall planning of the Battle of Moscow. Halder was a highly competent military strategist, and he played a crucial role in the German military's initial success in the battle. However, as the battle wore on, Halder grew increasingly disillusioned with Hitler's leadership, and he eventually became a vocal critic of the Nazi regime. Walther von Brauchitsch was the commander-in-chief of the German army during the Battle of Moscow, and he was responsible for overseeing the operations of the Wehrmacht. In December 1941, von Brauchitsch was dismissed as commander-in-chief and replaced by Hitler himself due to his inability to take the city. Fedor von Bock was the commander of the Army Group Center, which was responsible for the main German offensive against Moscow and he eventually resigned from his post.

12160212864?profile=RESIZE_584xHeinz Guderian commanded the Panzer forces, and played a crucial role in the early success of the Wehrmacht in the battle. Guderian was an innovator in armored warfare, and his tactics helped to break through Soviet defenses. However, as the battle progressed, Guderian became increasingly disillusioned with Hitler's leadership, and he eventually resigned from his post. Walter Model was a senior Wehrmacht commander who led and fought in the battle, and known for his tactical brilliance and his ability to improvise on the battlefield. Model played a critical role in the German army's early victories against the Soviet Union, but as the battle wore on, he found himself increasingly at odds with Hitler and Halder over strategy.

On the Soviet side, Joseph Stalin played a crucial role in the Battle of Moscow. Stalin was heavily involved in the strategic planning of the battle, and he made critical decisions that helped to turn the tide of the conflict. Georgy Zhukov was one of the most important Soviet military leaders in the battle. Zhukov was responsible for overseeing the defense of the city, and he played a key role in coordinating the Soviet counter-attacks against the Wehrmacht. Zhukov's leadership was instrumental in the Soviet Union's success in repelling the German offensive. Aleksandr Vasilevsky was responsible for planning and coordinating the Soviet counter-attacks against the Wehrmacht, and his leadership helped to turn the tide of the battle in favor of the Soviet Union. Ivan Konev played a key role in the defense of Moscow. Konev was responsible for organizing the defense of the city, and he played a critical role in stopping the German advance.

Army Group Centre formed the backbone of the Wehrmacht force that assaulted the Soviet capital in the winter of 1941-1942. It consisted of four panzer armies and two regular armies - the 2nd Panzer Army, 3rd Panzer Army, 4th Panzer Army, 2nd Army, 4th Army, and 9th Army. The Western Front, a smaller unit, was also assigned to the battle of Moscow. This force was highly trained in the art of fast, mechanized warfare, and had amassed impressive victories in earlier campaigns.

Against these determined and battle-hardened German units were arrayed the Soviet forces, which were equally diverse in their structure and composition. The Red Army units fighting in and around the Moscow area included the 16th Army, 19th Army, 20th Army, 22nd Army, 29th Army, 30th Army, Cavalry Groups "Dovator" and "Belov," the Reserve Front, and the Bryansk Front.

Of these units, the 16th and 19th Armies mustered around 300,000 troops and led the counter-offensive against the German forces after they encircled Moscow from late October to early December 1941. The Soviet command was determined to prevent the German advance and consolidate their positions, even as they sustained heavy casualties. Meanwhile, the 20th, 22nd, 29th, and 30th Armies were deployed on the south-western axis of the city, faced with the difficult task of fending off the German mechanized thrust. These units were also supported by the cavalry groups, which used their mobility and speed to exploit gaps in the German lines and inflict damage to their flank and rear areas.

12160228267?profile=RESIZE_584xThe Reserve Front, which comprised the 24th, 31st, 32nd, and 43rd Armies, played a critical role in providing reserves and reinforcements to the struggling Soviet formations. They were tasked with seeing off possible German attacks and maintaining supply lines in the rear. Finally, there was the Bryansk Front, which consisted of the 3rd Army, 13th Army, and 50th Army. This force was focused on containing German advances in the south-western part of Moscow and subsequently launched the counteroffensive against the German flank from mid-November.

Moscow was vulnerable, but the Germans did not immediately attack the city. This was due to the risks involved in such an offensive, which would have exposed the German flanks. Instead, Hitler ordered the German army to turn north and south to eliminate Soviet forces in Leningrad and Kiev. This delay in the German advance on Moscow allowed the Soviet Union to regroup and prepare for the defence of the city.

When the German advance on Moscow resumed on 30 September 1941, the German army was weaker, while the Soviet Union had raised new forces for the defence of the city. The Germans faced fierce resistance from the Soviet army and were unable to capture Moscow. The Soviet Union was able to repel the German invasion, marking a significant turning point in the war.

The German strategic offensive involved two pincer offensives against the Kalinin and Western Fronts, while the 4th Army advanced directly towards Moscow. The Soviet forces responded with a defensive effort that included the construction of three defensive belts, deploying newly-raised reserve armies, and bringing troops from the Siberian and Far Eastern Military Districts. Despite this, the German army managed to penetrate the first two defensive lines, but they were halted at the third, leading to a strategic counter-offensive by the Soviet Union.

The Soviet forces launched a series of smaller-scale offensive operations, forcing the German army to retreat to the cities of Oryol, Vyazma, and Vitebsk. The counter-offensive was a significant setback for the Germans, leading to the dismissal of Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch as supreme commander of the German Army. Hitler took personal charge of the Wehrmacht, resulting in inexperienced staff officers surrounding him, leading to an eventual end of their belief in a quick victory over the USSR.

The Red Army's winter counter-offensive drove the Wehrmacht from Moscow, but the city was still considered to be threatened. In particular, the Rzhev salient, held by several divisions of Army Group Centre, proved difficult to reduce. A series of Soviet attacks failed, leading to heavy losses on both sides. By early 1943, the Wehrmacht had to disengage from the salient as the whole front was moving west.

In The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II, Andrew Nagorski details the staggering losses incurred as a result of the battle "The battle for Moscow was arguably the most important battle of World War II and inarguably the largest battle between two armies of all time. Combining the totals for both sides, approximately, seven million troops were involved in some prtion of this battle. Of those seven million, 2.5 million were killed, taken prisoner or wounded badly enough to require hospitalization--with the losses far heavier on the Soviet than the German side. According to Russian militray records, 958,000 Soviet soldiers 'persihed,' which included those killed missing or taken prisoner. Given the treatment they received at the hands of their captors, most Soviet POWs were, in effect, condemned to death. Another 938,500 soldiers were hospitalized for their wounds, which brought overall Soviet losses to 1,896,500. The corresponding number for German forces wwas 615,000." (Nagorski 2007, 2) Nagorski notes by comparison that Gallipoli combined losses were roughly 500,000; the battle for Somme total losses were 1.1 million. (Nagorski 2007, 2-3)



Nagorski, Andrew. The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Stahel, David. Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Wilson, Peter H. Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples Since 1500. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2023.


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