The Moscow Campaign - Operation Typhoon

The Moscow Campaign - Operation Typhoon

27 September - 7 December 1941

Stages of the campaign:

* The breaching of the first defensive line: 27 September - 10 October

* Breaching the second defence line: 13 - 15 October Panic in Moscow: 16 – 19th October

* Fighting on the last defence line: October 18th- December 2

* The German halt on 20th.

The Russian counterattack: 2 - 5 December

The global transformation: December 7, 1941(Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and entry of the United States into the war).

Operation "Typhoon" began on September 27, 1941. This operation marked the beginning of the Battle of Moscow and the last German offensive in 1941. Despite the balance of forces favourable to the Russians, the Germans managed to break through the first Russian defence line of Moscow and advanced between 150 and 250 km in less than two weeks. Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group advanced at times at a pace of about 50 kilometres a day. Under these circumstances, and with the collapse of the Bryansk salient (the strongest in the defence line), the Russians lost control of the situation and the commanders of the western fronts (Koniev) and the reserve (Budenny) were repelled.

Zhukov was rushed from Leningrad to take command of all the forces in Moscow's defence. He coordinated the withdrawal and focused on strengthening and reinforcing the second defence line. On 10th October breakthrough of the first defence line was completed and the Germans continued their advance towards Moscow.

The second line of defence was deployed around the defences of Bryansk-Vyazma-Kaluga, about 100 kilometres west of Moscow, and the Germans began to breach this defensive line on October 13. In fact, they executed a breach through movement in order to allow the Russians as little time as possible to deploy themselves.

Despite Zhukov's efforts and the backing he enjoyed from the Supreme Command, this defensive line too was also not able to withstand the German onslaught. Even the addition of 150,000 soldiers and more than 1,000 tanks under the command of the most experienced Russian commanders was not enough. Within five days, this line of defence was penetrated and all of its resistance centres were overcome. Even Zhukov failed and was unable to stop the Germans. On October 18, Zhukov was in effect dismissed as the overall commander of Moscow's defence effort and the zone was divided in two, with his deputy Koniev was given command of half of the zone which was established as a new front - Kalinin.

On October 13th, with the start of the German offensive on the second defence line, the Russians began to evacuate the government offices and diplomatic corps from Moscow to Kuybyshev. In Moscow panic broke out and the people began to run away on their own. There was so much panic that they had to publish officially on the 17th that Stalin was in Moscow. On 19th October, Moscow was declared a besieged city. Officially, 2 million people were evacuated from the city but many fled independently. The city was full of looters and was in a state of anarchy that demanded extreme measures, emergency field courts were set up, and spies and looters were shot on the spot by the NKVD units who were charged with the responsibility for law and order in the city.

At the same time, the construction of Moscow's urban defence zone of a radius of 30-40 kilometres around the city center was begun on October 12th 450,000 citizens were employed to build the fortifications of this defensive line, which was based on the Moscow River and the Volga Canal. Every neighbourhood established a volunteer battalion with a total of 40,000 people organized into four divisions.

On October 18 the Germans were 80 kilometres from the city after moving 600 kilometres in three weeks and fighting began over the last line of defence, which was also the weakest. However, between October 20 and November 14 the German offensive sank in the autumn rains. During this critical period, the Germans did not succeed in advancing almost at all, and the ground became a bog that blocked any possibility of advance.

Only when the ground began to freeze in mid-November did the Germans begin three weeks of their last effort to end the war on the Eastern Front in 1941. Despite the difficulties of the terrain and the weather, the Germans managed to break through the city's defence belt and the Russians threw in their last reserves in order to block the gaps. On December 1st, the last attack of the German 4th Army, which lasted for three days, began and stopped in Kubina (a suburb of Moscow). On December 2nd, however, the Russians launched a counterattack with fresh reserves which had arrived from Siberia - mainly Kuznetsov's 1st Army. In this counterattack with their last reserves, the Russians managed to repel the Germans in several places. However, the counterattack petered out after three days later and was stopped on 5th December.

On December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and the World situation was completely changed. From a situation in which all Europe was under German control, England isolated and besieged by the German submarine fleet, with Russia in the last agonies of death, Germany suddenly found itself fighting the United States, Russia, and England–a situation which contained the seeds of her final defeat.