2 October 1941 - 7 January 1942

The Battle of Moscow was an unsuccessful attempt by Nazi Germany to conquer the Soviet Union's capital during World War 2.

Preparations for the Battle of Moscow

Operation Barbarossa had been partially successful in early months. Leningrad was besieged, Kiev conquered, and the Germans had approached Moscow threateningly after the victory at Smolensk.

The Germans were preparing an offensive against Moscow with three panzer groups. The Luftwaffe had about the same number of serviceable aircraft as the Soviet Air Force, although the Soviets had lost much more. The Russians were making extensive preparations for the defense of Moscow, raising three defensive lines, which they built including using women and teenagers.

Operation Typhoon

The Battle of Moscow began in early October 1941 by Operation Typhoon - a German offensive which aimed to conquer the capital of the Soviet Union. Operation Typhoon had initial success, the panzer groups of Army Group Center managing to break through the Soviet defenses and, by 10 October, 500,000 Soviet soldiers had been captured in Vyazma and Bryansk pockets.

By the end of October, the Wehrmacht had overcome the Mozhaisk defense line, but the offensive momentum was already extinguished. The autumn rains had turned the Russian roads into muddy surfaces impassable for wheeled vehicles. To this was added the increasing distance of the supply lines, which led to logistic difficulties for the Germans.

On 15 November, after the ground had frozen, Army Group Center resumed the offensive towards Moscow. The German plan was that the two panzer groups which were attacking from the northwest, and the panzer group which was attacking from the south, to make junction behind the Soviet capital.

The Soviets opposed a strong resistance, and the losses suffered until then by both sides severely depleted the two armies. Worse for the Germans was that many soldiers had not received winter clothing yet, while the cold of the Russian winter  began to show its teeth.

In early December, the German offensive came to a stop, although a reconnaissance battalion had reached only 5 miles (8 km) from Moscow.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-140-1220-17A / Cusian, Albert / [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Soviet Counteroffensive

Meanwhile, the Soviets had a greater recovery capacity. The production of tanks and airplanes had replaced the losses, and a series of reinforcements, among which Siberian divisions, well equipped for winter, were brought to the front of Moscow. On December 5, 1941, the Soviet counteroffensive began, this being the final act of the battle. The Soviets broke through the German front-line, seeking to encircle as much as possible of Army Group Center. The Germans, except for an Army Corps, retreated timely, avoiding a major disaster.

The Germans eventually managed to stabilize the front, organizing a strong defense, especially around the town of Rzhev. The Soviet counteroffensive was successful, the front line being moved 110 miles (175 km) westwards on average.

The Battle of Moscow represented the failure of Operation Barbarossa and the consecutive series of German blitzkrieg victories in Europe.

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