How One Legendary Russian General Saved Moscow from Hitler

Warfare History Network

Smolensk Russia, Headquarters, German Army Group Center (AGC), December 3, 1941; Army Group commander, 61-year-old Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock is a troubled man.

The day before, he had told his field army commanders who were attacking Moscow that the enemy was close to breaking. Today he wasn’t so sure. Today the Army Group’s 4th Army, directly west of Moscow, had gone over to the defensive. The army commander, 59-year-old Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge, halted the attack because his troops were simply exhausted and could go no farther.

General der Panzertruppen Georg-Hans Reinhardt’s 3rd and Generaloberst Erich Hoepner’s 4th Panzer Armies north of Moscow, as well as Generaloberst Heinz Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army south of Moscow, were similarly idled. Panzer Groups One and Two had been renamed Panzer armies in October; Panzer Groups Three and Four would be renamed as such in January 1942. For clarity, all are here referred to as Panzer Army.

Motors would not turn over, the oil in their crankcases turned to ice; machine guns would not fire, their mechanisms frozen solid. At night the temperature hovered around -20 degrees Fahrenheit, and there was a blizzard blowing around the capital. What the Red Army had not been able to accomplish, “General Winter” did. The German advance on Moscow had literally stopped cold.

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