Autumn 1941

Hitler then decided to resume the advance to Moscow, re-designating the panzer groups as panzer armies for the occasion. Operation Typhoon, which was set in motion on 30 September, saw 2nd Panzer Army rush along the paved road from Orel (captured 5 October) to the Oka river at Plavskoye, while the 4th Panzer Army (transferred from Army Group North to Centre) and 3rd Panzer armies surrounded the Soviet forces in two huge pockets at Vyazma and Bryansk. Army Group North positioned itself in front of Leningrad and attempted to cut the rail link at Mga to the east. This began the 900-day Siege of Leningrad. North of the Arctic Circle, a German-Finnish force set out for Murmansk but could get no further than the Zapadnaya Litsa River, where they settled down. Wehrmacht soldiers pulling car from the mud during rasputitsa period, November 1941 Army Group South pushed down from the Dnieper to the Sea of Azov coast, also advancing through Kharkov, Kursk, and Stalino. The 11th Army moved into the Crimea and took control of all of the peninsula by autumn (except Sevastopol, which held out until 3 July 1942). On 21 November, the Germans took Rostov, the gateway to the Caucasus. However, the German lines were over-extended and the Soviet defenders counterattacked the 1st Panzer Army's spearhead from the north, f rcing them to pull out of the city and behind the Mius River; the first significant German withdrawal of the war. Soviet gun crew in action at Odessa in 1941 The onset of the freeze of winter saw one last German lunge that opened on 15 November, when the Germans attempted to throw a ring around Moscow. On 27 November the 4th Panzer Army got within 30 km (19 mi) of the Kremlin when it reached the last tramstop of the Moscow line at Khimki. Meanwhile, the 2nd Panzer Army, despite its best efforts, failed to take Tula, the last Soviet city that stood in its way of the capital. After a meeting held in Orsha between the head of the Army General Staff, General Franz Halder, and the heads of three Army groups and armies, it was decided to push forward to Moscow since it was better, as argued by head of Army Group Center, Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, for them to try their luck on the battlefield rather than just sit and wait while their opponent gathered more strength. However, by 6 December it became clear that the Wehrmacht was too weak to capture Moscow and the attack was put on hold. Marshal Shaposhnikov thus began his counter-attack, employing freshly mobilized reserves,[43] as well as some well-trained Far-Eastern divisions transferred from the east following the guarantee of neutrality from Japan.