The drive on Moscow - dubbed Operation Typhoon - begins on October 2. Colonel General Heinz Guderian’s Second Panzer Group, along with the Second Army, turns back north to assist in the drive to Moscow. Guderian is already making good progress when Gen. Hermann Hoth’s and Gen. Erich Hoeppner’s panzer groups start hammering their way toward Moscow. However, the fall rains begin and turn the unpaved Soviet roads into a quagmire. German mobility begins to falter. By October 14, Kalinin is in German hands, but Soviet resistance begins to stiffen.
In Moscow, diplomats and government officials begin leaving the city on October 16. On the same day, Soviet forces are evacuated from Odessa. Three days later, Stalin announces that he will stay in Moscow. Work on the city’s defenses continues at a feverish pace.
The autumn rain has made movement by tanks and other vehicles nearly impossible; the approaches to Moscow are seas of mud. At night the severe frost disheartens German troops, who are inadequately equipped for the cold, and halts their vehicles. At the end of the month, the Germans suspend the offensive until the frozen ground of winter provides some semblance of mobility.
To the north, the noose around Leningrad continues to tighten. There are Soviet counterattacks, but they accomplish little except causing heavy Soviet casualties. Army Group South continues to make progress. In early November, the German commanders meet to discuss the attack on Moscow. General Franz Halder presents a plan calling for the attack to continue. The plan is met with little enthusiasm from the commanders who must carry it out, but their opposition is not vehement, and the plan is adopted.
The main thrust of the attack is to come from Guderian’s Second Panzer Group from the south and the Third and Fourth Panzer Groups from the north. Infantry units on the flanks will attack to hold down Soviet troop movements. However, German units are far under strength from six months of fighting. More importantly, it is the coldest winter on record in the Soviet Union. Motor oil freezes solid and rifle bolts become so brittle they break. The German soldiers’ clothing is inadequate in the bitter cold.
The Red Army is content to fight a holding action. Reinforcements are arriving daily from Siberia; tanks, guns, and supplies have been hoarded for the counteroffensive Stalin longs to launch.
When the Germans renew their attack, they make small gains in the center. Then, on November 18, Guderian’s forces are hit by the first counterattack. Red Army troops fresh from Siberia slam into the Germans several times over the next few days, blunting the German drive on Moscow.
By November 27, the Germans push to within 30 miles of Moscow, but Guderian can push no farther without reinforcements. Two days later, tank forces under the command of General Reinhardt fight their way across the Moscow-Volga Canal. By December 2, some German infantry units enter the northern suburbs - they are less than 20 miles from the Kremlin, but the weather grows colder and there are blizzards. Finally, on December 5 Hitler agrees with his commanders - he must suspend the offensive against Moscow.
The Red Army Attacks
The Beginning of the End