Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk was a Second World War engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk in the Soviet Union, during July and August 1943. The battle began with the launch of the German offensive, Operation Citadel, on 5 July, which had the objective of pinching off the Kursk salient with attacks on the base of the salient from north and south simultaneously. After the German offensive stalled on the northern side of the salient, on 12 July the Soviets commenced their Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Kutuzov against the rear of the German forces in the northern side. On the southern side, the Soviets launched powerful counterattacks the same day, one of which led to a large armoured clash, the Battle of Prokhorovka. On 3 August, the Soviets began the second phase of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev against the German forces in the southern side of the Kursk salient; the battle was the final strategic offensive that the Germans were able to launch on the Eastern Front.
Because the Allied invasion of Sicily had begun, Adolf Hitler was forced to have troops training in France diverted to meet the Allied threat in the Mediterranean, rather than use them as a strategic reserve for the Eastern Front. Hitler canceled the offensive at Kursk in part to divert forces to Italy. Germany's extensive losses of men and tanks ensured that the victorious Soviet Red Army enjoyed the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war; the Germans hoped to weaken the Soviet offensive potential for the summer of 1943 by cutting off the forces that they anticipated would be in the Kursk salient. The Kursk salient or bulge was 250 kilometres long from north to south and 160 kilometres from east to west; the plan envisioned an envelopment by a pair of pincers breaking through the northern and southern flanks of the salient. Hitler believed that a victory here would reassert German strength and improve his prestige with his allies, who were considering withdrawing from the war, it was hoped that large numbers of Soviet prisoners would be captured to be used as slave labour in the German armaments industry.
The Soviet government had foreknowledge of the German intentions, provided in part by the British intelligence service and Tunny intercepts. Aware months in advance that the attack would fall on the neck of the Kursk salient, the Soviets built a defence in depth designed to wear down the German armoured spearhead; the Germans delayed the offensive while they tried to build up their forces and waited for new weapons the new Panther tank but larger numbers of the Tiger heavy tank. This gave the Red Army time to construct a series of deep defensive belts; the defensive preparations included minefields, artillery fire zones and anti-tank strong points, which extended 300 km in depth. Soviet mobile formations were moved out of the salient and a large reserve force was formed for strategic counter-offensives; the Battle of Kursk was the first time in the Second World War that a German strategic offensive was halted before it could break through enemy defences and penetrate to its strategic depths.
The maximum depth of the German advance was 8–12 kilometres in the north and 35 kilometres in the south. Though the Red Army had succeeded in winter offensives their counter-offensives following the German attack at Kursk were their first successful strategic summer offensives of the war; as the Battle of Stalingrad ground to its conclusion, the Red Army moved to a general offensive in the south, in Operation Little Saturn. By January 1943, a 160 to 300 km wide gap had opened between Army Group B and Army Group Don, the advancing Soviet armies threatened to cut off all German forces south of the Don River, including Army Group A operating in the Caucasus. Army Group Center came under significant pressure as well. Kursk fell to the Soviets on 8 February 1943, Rostov fell on 14 February; the Soviet Bryansk and newly created Central Fronts prepared for an offensive which envisioned the encirclement of Army Group Center between Bryansk and Smolensk. By February 1943 the southern sector of the German front was in strategic crisis.
Since December 1942 Field Marshal Erich von Manstein had been requesting "unrestricted operational freedom" to allow him to use his forces in a fluid manner. On 6 February 1943, Manstein met with Hitler at the headquarters in Rastenburg to discuss the proposals he had sent, he received an approval from Hitler for a counteroffensive against the Soviet forces advancing in the Donbass region. On 12 February 1943, the remaining German forces were reorganised. To the south, Army Group Don was placed under Manstein's command. Directly to the north, Army Group B was dissolved, with its forces and areas of responsibility divided between Army Group South and Army Group Center. Manstein inherited responsibility for the massive breach in the German lines. On 18 February, Hitler arrived at Army Group South headquarters at Zaporizhia just hours before the Soviets liberated Kharkov, had to be hastily evacuated on the 19th. Once given freedom of action, Manstein intended to utilise his forces to make a series of counterstrokes into the flanks of the Soviet armoured formations, with the goal of destroying them while retaking Kharkov and Kursk.
The II SS Panzer Corps had arrived from France in January 1943, refitted and up to near full strength. Armoured units from the 1st Panzer Army of Army Group A had pulled out of the Caucasus and further strengthen
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo
Operation Iskra was a Soviet military operation during World War II, designed to break the Wehrmacht's Siege of Leningrad. Planning for the operation began shortly after the failure of the Sinyavino Offensive; the German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 had weakened the German front. By January 1943, Soviet forces were planning or conducting offensive operations across the entire German-Soviet front in southern Russia, Iskra being the northern part of the wider Soviet 1942–1943 winter counter offensive; the operation was conducted by the Red Army's Leningrad Front, Volkhov Front, the Baltic Fleet from 12 to 30 January 1943 with the aim of creating a land connection to Leningrad. Soviet forces linked up on 18 January, by 22 January the front line was stabilised; the operation opened a land corridor 8–10 kilometres wide to the city. A railroad was swiftly built through the corridor which allowed more supplies to reach the city than the Road of Life across the frozen surface of Lake Ladoga reducing the possibility of the capture of the city and a German–Finnish linkup.
The success led to Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda less than two weeks which aimed to decisively defeat Army Group North, lifting the siege altogether. The operation was a failure. Soviet forces made several other attempts in 1943 to renew their offensive and lift the siege, but made only modest gains in each one; the corridor remained within range of German artillery, the siege was not lifted until a year on 27 January 1944. The Siege of Leningrad started in early autumn 1941. By 8 September 1941, German and Finnish forces had surrounded the city, cutting off all supply routes to Leningrad and its suburbs. However, the original drive on the city failed and the city was subjected to a siege. During 1942 several attempts were made to breach the blockade but all failed; the last such attempt was the Sinyavino Offensive. After the defeat of the Sinyavino Offensive, the front line returned to what it was before the offensive and again 16 kilometres separated Leonid Govorov's Leningrad Front in the city from Kirill Meretskov's Volkhov Front.
Despite the failures of earlier operations, lifting the siege of Leningrad was a high priority, so new offensive preparations began in November 1942. In December, the operation was approved by the Stavka and received the codename "Iskra"; the operation was due to begin in January 1943. By January 1943, conditions were improving for the Soviets; the German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad had weakened the German front. The Soviet forces were planning or conducting offensive operations across the entire front in southwestern Russia. Amidst these conditions, Operation Iskra was to become the first of several offensive operations aimed at inflicting a decisive defeat on Germany's Army Group North; the area south of Lake Ladoga is a forested area with many wetlands close to the lake. The forest shielded both sides from visual observation. Both factors hindered the mobility of artillery and vehicles in the area, providing a considerable advantage to the defending forces; the Sinyavino heights were a key location, with terrain 150 meters higher than the surrounding flat terrain.
Because the front line had changed little since the blockade was established, German forces had built an extensive network of interconnected trenches and obstacles, interlocking artillery and mortar fire. The Neva River was frozen, allowing infantry to cross; the Germans were well aware that breaking the blockade was important for the Soviet side. However, due to the reverse at Stalingrad and the Soviet offensive at Velikiye Luki to the south of Leningrad, Army Group North was ordered to go on the defensive and was stripped of many troops; the 11th Army, to lead the assault on Leningrad in September 1942, which had thwarted the last Soviet offensive, was transferred to Army Group Center in October. Nine other divisions were reassigned to other sectors. At the start of the Soviet offensive, the German 18th Army, led by Georg Lindemann consisted of 26 divisions spread across a 450 kilometres wide front; the army was stretched thin and as a result had no division-level reserves. Instead, each division had a tactical reserve of one or two battalions, the army reserves consisted of portions of the 96th Infantry Division and the 5th Mountain Division.
The 1st Air Fleet provided the air support for the army. Five divisions and part of another one were guarding the narrow corridor which separated the Soviet Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts; the corridor was only 16 kilometres wide and was called the "bottleneck". The German divisions were well fortified in this area, where the front line had been unchanged since September 1941, hoping to repel the Soviet offensive; the plan for Operation Iskra was approved in December. With the combined efforts of the Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts, defeat the enemy in the area of Lipka, Dubrovka and thus penetrate the Leningrad blockade. Finish the operation by the end of January 1943; this meant opening a 10 kilometres corridor to Leningrad. After that, the two fronts were to rest for 10 days and resume the offensive southward in further operations; the biggest difference from the earlier Sinyavino Offensive was the location of the main attack. In September 1942 the Soviet forces were attacking south of the town of Siniavino, which allowed them to encircle several German divisions, but left the army open to flanking attacks from the north, it was this which caused the offensive to fa
Baltic Sea campaigns (1939–45)
The Baltic Sea Campaigns were conducted by Axis and Allied naval forces in the Baltic Sea, its coastal regions, the Gulf of Finland during World War II. After early fighting between Polish and German forces, the main combatants were Germany and Finland, opposed by the Soviet Union. Sweden's navy and merchant fleet played important roles, the British Royal Navy planned Operation Catherine for the control of the Baltic Sea and its exit choke point into the North Sea. While operations included surface and sub-surface combat, aerial combat, amphibious landings, support of large-scale ground fighting, the most significant feature of Baltic Sea operations was the scale and size of mine warfare in the Gulf of Finland; the warring parties laid over 60,000 naval mines and anti-sweep obstacles, making the shallow Gulf of Finland one of the most densely mined waters in the world. The Finnish Navy was a small professional force. Naval strength in 1941 consisted of: Two coastal defence ships Five submarines Four sloops Three minelayers 12 minesweepers Seven motor torpedo boatsThe Finnish Navy used several other vessels during the wars: Four sloops — used as escorts and minesweepers Six cutters — smaller vessels used as escorts and minesweepers 17 VMV-class patrol boats — used as small torpedo boats, gun boats, sub hunters and in other roles.
The German Reichsmarine—the Kriegsmarine's pre-war name—suffered from the limitations imposed by post-World War I treaty obligations. The name Kriegsmarine was adopted the same year. Though a large and professional force, it had to divide its assets between several theaters of war limiting the number and size of the ships it was able to deploy in the Baltic Sea. At the start of the Operation Barbarossa on 21 June 1941 German naval forces in the Baltic Sea consisted of 28 Schnellboote 5 submarines 10 minelayers 3 squadrons of M-class minesweepers 3 squadrons of requisitioned minesweepers 2 squadrons of R-boats 2 squadrons of patrol boats 3 Sperrbrecher 2 depot ships for minesweepers Various naval tugs and other auxiliariesIn September 1941 Germany formed the provisional Baltenflotte, which consisted of the battleship Tirpitz, cruisers Admiral Scheer, Emden, Köln, Leipzig and Nürnberg, destroyers Z25, Z26, Z27 and the 2nd torpedo boat squadron, it had been tasked with destroying the Soviet Baltic Fleet should it try to escape to neutral Sweden.
As this did not happen, aerial reconnaissance showed severe damage to the remaining ships of the Soviet Baltic Fleet, the Baltenflotte was disbanded before October 1941. The small Polish Navy suffered from lack of funds, but still managed to field, at the outbreak of war: Four large destroyers Five submarines One large minelayer Various smaller vessels The Soviet Baltic Fleet was the largest of the four fleets which made up the Soviet Navy during World War II, was commanded by Vladimir Tributs throughout the war. Though having bases only in the eastern corner of the Gulf of Finland, the Red Banner Baltic Fleet was the largest naval power in the Baltic Sea; as World War II progressed, it was able to make use of naval bases in Estonia and Lithuania, first under the terms of agreements forced by the Soviet Union in autumn 1939 by direct access to the bases following the occupation of the Baltic states in spring, 1940. Gains from the peace treaty after the Winter War further helped the Baltic Fleet, as it acquired a base at Hanko, Finland, as well as the coast of the Karelian Isthmus.
Liepāja and Tallinn were the main naval bases of the Baltic Fleet prior to Operation Barbarossa. The Swedish Navy was the third largest in the Baltic Sea. Though Sweden stayed neutral during the war, its naval vessels escorted and protected convoys inside Swedish territorial waters, at times attacking hostile submarines with depth charges. Estonia and Lithuania all had small naval forces before World War II. During the occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union in 1940 these were attached to the Soviet Baltic Fleet; the Polish Navy participated in the Battle of Gdańsk Bay and Battle of Hel in 1939. A few of its surface ships were evacuated to continue the war from Britain, but most vessels remained in Poland and were sunk by German forces. Polish submarines operated in the Baltic until either internment in Sweden or escape to Britain in the Autumn of 1939. German naval losses during the invasion amounted to a minesweeper; the Winter War and the occupation of the Baltic states had left the Red Banner Baltic fleet in a strong position.
It was the largest navy on the Baltic Sea with bases all along the Baltic coast as well as in Hanko. In particular, the long and vulnerable southern coast of Finland was now exposed to the Soviet navy for its full length; the Finnish Navy had two branches, the old but well-maintained coastal fortifications built by the Russians before World War I, the actual navy, consisting of two coastal defence ships, five submarines and a number of smaller craft. The Kriegsmarine could provide only a small part of its naval force, as it was tied up in the battle of the Atlantic. Germany's main concern in the Baltic sea was to protect the routes through the Archipelago Sea which supplied its war industry with vital iron ore imported from Sw
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process; the official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire and the German Empire; the Nazi regime ended. Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, on 30 January 1933; the NSDAP began to eliminate all political opposition and consolidate its power. Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934 and Hitler became dictator of Germany by merging the offices and powers of the Chancellery and Presidency. A national referendum held 19 August 1934 confirmed Hitler as sole Führer of Germany.
All power was centralised in Hitler's person and his word became the highest law. The government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions struggling for power and Hitler's favour. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Nazis restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment using heavy military spending and a mixed economy. Extensive public works were undertaken, including the construction of Autobahnen; the return to economic stability boosted the regime's popularity. Racism antisemitism, was a central feature of the regime; the Germanic peoples were considered by the Nazis to be the master race, the purest branch of the Aryan race. Discrimination and persecution against Jews and Romani people began in earnest after the seizure of power; the first concentration camps were established in March 1933. Jews and others deemed undesirable were imprisoned, liberals and communists were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. Christian churches and citizens that opposed Hitler's rule were oppressed, many leaders imprisoned.
Education focused on racial biology, population policy, fitness for military service. Career and educational opportunities for women were curtailed. Recreation and tourism were organised via the Strength Through Joy program, the 1936 Summer Olympics showcased Germany on the international stage. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels made effective use of film, mass rallies, Hitler's hypnotic oratory to influence public opinion; the government controlled artistic expression, promoting specific art forms and banning or discouraging others. The Nazi regime dominated neighbours through military threats in the years leading up to war. Nazi Germany made aggressive territorial demands, threatening war if these were not met, it seized Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939. Germany signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR, invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, launching World War II in Europe. By early 1941, Germany controlled much of Europe. Reichskommissariats took control of conquered areas and a German administration was established in the remainder of Poland.
Germany exploited labour of both its occupied territories and its allies. In the Holocaust, millions of Jews and other peoples deemed undesirable by the state were imprisoned, murdered in Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps, or shot. While the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was successful, the Soviet resurgence and entry of the US into the war meant the Wehrmacht lost the initiative on the Eastern Front in 1943 and by late 1944 had been pushed back to the pre-1939 border. Large-scale aerial bombing of Germany escalated in 1944 and the Axis powers were driven back in Eastern and Southern Europe. After the Allied invasion of France, Germany was conquered by the Soviet Union from the east and the other Allies from the west, capitulated in May 1945. Hitler's refusal to admit defeat led to massive destruction of German infrastructure and additional war-related deaths in the closing months of the war; the victorious Allies initiated a policy of denazification and put many of the surviving Nazi leadership on trial for war crimes at the Nuremberg trials.
The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945, while common English terms are "Nazi Germany" and "Third Reich". The latter, adopted by Nazi propaganda as Drittes Reich, was first used in Das Dritte Reich, a 1923 book by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck; the book counted the Holy Roman Empire as the German Empire as the second. Germany was known as the Weimar Republic during the years 1919 to 1933, it was a republic with a semi-presidential system. The Weimar Republic faced numerous problems, including hyperinflation, political extremism, contentious relationships with the Allied victors of World War I, a series of failed attempts at coalition government by divided political parties. Severe setbacks to the German economy began after World War I ended because of reparations payments required under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles; the government printed money to make the payments and to repay the country's war debt, but the resulting hyperinflation led to inflated prices for consumer goods, economic chaos, food riots.
When the government defaulted on their reparations payments in January 1923, French troops occupied German industrial areas along the Ruhr and widespread civil unrest followed. The National Socialist German Workers' Party (National
Battle of the Dnieper
The Battle of the Dnieper was a military campaign that took place in 1943 on the Eastern Front of World War II. It was one of the largest operations in World War II, involving 4,000,000 troops at a time stretched on a 1,400 kilometres long front. During its four-month duration, the eastern bank of the Dnieper was recovered from German forces by five of the Red Army's fronts, which conducted several assault river crossings to establish several lodgements on the western bank. Subsequently, Kiev was liberated in the Battle of Kiev. 2,438 Red Army soldiers were awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, more than had been awarded since the award's establishment and never again was there such a large number of laureates. Following the Battle of Kursk, the Wehrmacht's Heer and supporting Luftwaffe forces in the southern Soviet Union were on the defensive in the southern Ukraine. By mid-August, Adolf Hitler understood that the forthcoming Soviet offensive could not be contained on the open steppe and ordered construction of a series of fortifications along the line of the Dnieper river.
On the Soviet side, Joseph Stalin was determined to launch a major offensive in Ukraine. The main thrust of the offensive was in a southwesterly direction; the operation began on 26 August 1943. Divisions started to move on a 1,400-kilometer front that stretched between Smolensk and the Sea of Azov. Overall, the operation would be executed by four Tank and five Air Armies. 2,650,000 personnel were brought into the ranks for this massive operation. The operation would use 2,400 tanks and 2,850 planes; the Dnieper is the third largest river in Europe, behind the Danube. In its lower part, its width can reach three kilometres, being dammed in several places made it larger. Moreover, its western shore—the one still to be retaken—was much higher and steeper than the eastern, complicating the offensive further. In addition, the opposite shore was transformed into a vast complex of defenses and fortifications held by the Wehrmacht. Faced with such a situation, the Soviet commanders had two options; the first would be to give themselves time to regroup their forces, find a weak point or two to exploit, stage a breakthrough and encircle the German defenders far in the rear, rendering the defence line unsupplied and next to useless.
This option was supported by Marshal Zhukov and Deputy Chief of Staff A. I. Antonov, who considered the substantial losses after the fierce battle of Kursk; the second option would be to stage a massive assault without waiting, force the Dnieper on a broad front. This option left no additional time for the German defenders, but would lead to much larger casualties than would a successful deep operation breakthrough; this second option was backed by Stalin due to the concern that the German "scorched earth" policy might devastate this region if the Red Army did not advance fast enough. Stavka chose the second option. Instead of deep penetration and encirclement, the Soviet intended to make full use of partisan activities to intervene and disrupt Germany's supply route so that the Germans could not send reinforcements or take away Soviet industrial facilities in the region. Stavka paid high attention to the possible scorched earth activities of German forces with a view to preventing them by a rapid advance.
The assault was staged on a 300-kilometer front simultaneously. All available means of transport were to be used to transport the attackers to the opposite shore, including small fishing boats and improvised rafts of barrels and trees; the preparation of the crossing equipment was further complicated by the German scorched earth strategy with the total destruction of all boats and raft building material in the area. The crucial issue would be heavy equipment. Without it, the bridgeheads would not stand for long. Central Front, commanded by Konstantin Rokossovsky and accounted for 579,600 soldiers 2nd Tank Army, led by Aleksei Rodin / Semyon Bogdanov 9th Tank Corps, led by Hryhoriy Rudchenko, Boris Bakharov 60th Army, led by Ivan Chernyakhovsky 13th Army, led by Nikolay Pukhov 65th Army, led by Pavel Batov 61st Army, led by Pavel Belov 48th Army, led by Prokofy Romanenko 70th Army, led by Ivan Galanin / Vladimir Sharapov / Aleksei Grechkin 16th Air Army, led by Sergei Rudenko Voronezh Front, commanded by Nikolai Vatutin and accounted for 665,500 soldiers 3rd Guards Tank Army, led by Pavel Rybalko 1st Tank Army, led by Mikhail Katukov 4th Guards Tank Corps, led by Pavel Poluboyarov 1st Guard Cavalry Corps, led by Viktor Baranov 5th Guards Army, led by Aleksei Zhadov 4th Guards Army, led by Grigory Kulik / Aleksei Zygin / Ivan Galanin 6th Guards Army, led by Ivan Chistyakov 38th Army, led by Nikandr Chibisov / Kirill Moskalenko 47th Army, led by Pavel Korzun / Filipp Zhmachenko / Vitaliy Polenov 27th Army, led by Sergei Trofimenko 52nd Army, led by Konstantin Koroteev 2nd Air Army, led by Stepan Krasovsky Steppe Front, commanded by Ivan Konev Southwestern Front, commanded by Rodion Malinovsky Southern Front, commanded by Fyodor To
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow was a military campaign that consisted of two periods of strategically significant fighting on a 600 km sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942; the Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, the capital and largest city of the Soviet Union. Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union; the German strategic offensive, named Operation Typhoon, called for two pincer offensives, one to the north of Moscow against the Kalinin Front by the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies severing the Moscow–Leningrad railway, another to the south of Moscow Oblast against the Western Front south of Tula, by the 2nd Panzer Army, while the 4th Army advanced directly towards Moscow from the west. According to Andrew Roberts, Hitler's offensive towards the Soviet capital was nothing less than an'all-out attack': "It is no exaggeration to state that the outcome of the Second World War hung in the balance during this massive attack".
The Soviet forces conducted a strategic defence of the Moscow Oblast by constructing three defensive belts, deploying newly raised reserve armies, bringing troops from the Siberian and Far Eastern Military Districts. As the German offensives were halted, a Soviet strategic counter-offensive and smaller-scale offensive operations forced the German armies back to the positions around the cities of Oryol and Vitebsk, nearly surrounded three German armies, it was a major setback for the Germans, the end of the idea of a fast German victory in the USSR. Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch was excused as commander of OKH, with Hitler appointing himself as Germany's supreme military commander. Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion plan, called for the capture of Moscow within four months. On 22 June 1941, Axis forces invaded the Soviet Union, destroyed most of the Soviet Air Force on the ground, advanced deep into Soviet territory using blitzkrieg tactics to destroy entire Soviet armies; the German Army Group North moved towards Leningrad, Army Group South took control of Ukraine, Army Group Centre advanced towards Moscow.
By July 1941, Army Group Center crossed the Dnieper River, on the path to Moscow. In July 1941, German forces captured an important stronghold on the road to Moscow. At this stage, although Moscow was vulnerable, an offensive against the city would have exposed the German flanks. In part to address these risks, in part to attempt to secure Ukraine's food and mineral resources, Hitler ordered the attack to turn north and south and eliminate Soviet forces at Leningrad and Kiev; this delayed the German advance on Moscow. When that advance resumed on 30 September 1941, German forces had been weakened, while the Soviets had raised new forces for the defence of the city. For Hitler, the Soviet capital was secondary, he believed the only way to bring the Soviet Union to its knees was to defeat it economically, he felt. When Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, supported a direct thrust to Moscow, he was told that "only ossified brains could think of such an idea". Franz Halder, head of the Army General Staff, was convinced that a drive to seize Moscow would be victorious after the German Army inflicted enough damage on the Soviet forces.
This view was shared by most within the German high command. But Hitler overruled his generals in favor of pocketing the Soviet forces around Kiev in the south, followed by the seizure of Ukraine; the move was successful, resulting in the loss of nearly 1,000,000 Red Army personnel killed, captured, or wounded by 26 September, further advances by Axis forces. With the end of summer, Hitler redirected his attention to Moscow and assigned Army Group Center to this task; the forces committed to Operation Typhoon included four infantry armies supported by three Panzer Groups and by the Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 2. Up to two million German troops were committed to the operation, along with 1,000–2,470 tanks and assault guns and 14,000 guns. German aerial strength, had been reduced over the summer's campaign. Luftflotte 2 had only 549 serviceable machines, including 158 medium and dive-bombers and 172 fighters, available for Operation Typhoon; the attack relied on standard blitzkrieg tactics, using Panzer groups rushing deep into Soviet formations and executing double-pincer movements, pocketing Red Army divisions and destroying them.
Facing the Wehrmacht were three Soviet fronts forming a defensive line between the cities of Vyazma and Bryansk, which barred the way to Moscow. The armies comprising these fronts had been involved in heavy fighting. Still, it was a formidable concentration consisting of 1,000 tanks and 7,600 guns; the Soviet Air Force had suffered appalling losses of some 7,500 to 21,200 aircraft. Extraordinary industrial achievements had begun to replace these, at the outset of Typhoon the VVS could muster 936 aircraft, 578 of which were bombers. Once Soviet resistance along the Vyazma-Bryansk front was eliminated, German forces were to press east, encircling Moscow by outflanking it from the north and south. Continuous fighting had reduced their effectiveness, logistical difficulties became more acute. General Guderian, commander of the 2nd Panzer Army, wrote that some of his destroyed tanks had not been replaced, there were fuel shortages at the start of the operation; the German attack went according to plan, with 4th Panzer Group pushing through the middle nearly unopposed and