|The Red Army Attacks|
On December 6, 1941, the Russians launch a counteroffensive all along the 500-mile Moscow sector. The Soviet objective is to quickly drive two wedges deep into Army Group Center, isolate the Germans, and then beat them in detail. From the beginning the attacks meet with success; the Germans are exhausted and overextended. A counteroffensive in the Leningrad sector also meets with success. In many places, German resistance is fierce, but the Soviets have too many fresh troops and the Germans continue to give ground.
Enraged by the turn of events on the Eastern Front, Hitler replaces both Rundstedt and Bock. Now he dismisses Brauchitsch as Commander in Chief of the German Army; Hitler himself takes the post. From this point forward, he will personally direct the German army.
At first he makes a wise move: He commands all units in Russia to stand fast and defend their ground. This stiffens resolve and prevents the Red Army from routing the Germans, who are able to fall back and establish defensive positions they will hold until spring. But this success leads Hitler to believe that his commanders are worthless; from this point forward he will often disregard their advice.
By Christmas, total German strength is down to 75 percent of what it was in June. Guderianís panzer group is down to 40 tanks; other panzer divisions have less than 15.
By yearís end, the losses on the Eastern Front are staggering. The Red Army has endured at least 5 million casualties and the Germans have taken 3 million prisoners. The loss of materiel is also immense - 30,000 guns and 20,000 tanks. The Wehrmacht has also suffered huge losses. The difference is that the Germans have not destroyed the Sovietís ability to rearm, both from within and through Lend-Lease shipment from the United States. The Germans have prevented a Soviet breakout, and the Soviets have used up the resources husbanded through the fall for the winter counteroffensive.
The Beginning of the End