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Fedor von Bock : Nazi Germany

Fedor von Bock : Nazi Germany


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Fedor von Bock was born in Kustrin, Germany, on 3rd December, 1880. He joined the German Army and during the First World War won the Pour le Mérite. By 1918 Bock had reached the rank of major.

Blomberg remained in the army and unlike a large number of senior officers was not purged by Adolf Hitler and in March 1939 led German troops into Czechoslovakia. Promoted to the rank of Generaloberst and was involved in the invasions of Poland and France. Bock was shocked by the way the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) treated Jews in Poland but decided against an official protest. In 1940 he was one of twelve new field marshals created by Hitler.

During Operation Barbarossa Bock was given the task of capturing Moscow. In July 1941 his AG centre troops captured Minsk and three weeks later he had reached Smolensk. Bock was now only 225 miles from Moscow but Adolf Hitler took the decision to divert some of his army to Leningrad and Kiev. It was not until October that Bock was able to resume his advance on Moscow.

Bad weather forced Bock to halt his advance on Moscow in December, 1941. Hitler replaced Bock by Gunther von Kluge but after only a month's rest, he was sent once again to the Soviet Union to take control of AG South after the death of Walther von Reichenau.

Hitler told Bock to destroy Soviet forces west of the Don and to gain control of the Caucusus oil fields. He initially had success at Voronezh but disappointed with his slow progress, Hitler replaced Bock with Zur Glon Weichs.

In 1944 Bock was approached by his nephew Henning von Tresckow, about the possibility of joining the July Plot against Adolf Hitler. Bock refused but did not pass details onto the Gestapo. Fedor von Bock and his wife and daughter were killed on 4th May 1945 during an Allied air raid on Hamburg.


World War II Database


ww2dbase Fedor von Bock was born in Küstrin, Germany, with blood relations (on his mother's side) with former Prussian war minister Erich von Falkenhayn. He completed cadet training in 1898. He was a decorated veteran of WW1 (awarded Pour le Mérite in 1918 for bravery during Picardie offensive) who achieved the rank of major by the end of the war. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he was one of the few officers who was not purged out of the German Army and replaced by Hitler's own supporters. In 1939, he led German troops into Sudetenland when the region was annexed by Nazi Germany. He was promoted to the rank of generaloberst (colonel general) immediately before he led Army Group North to participate in the invasion of Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, and France at the conclusion of the Poland invasion, he was awarded the Knight's Cross (30 Sep). Bock was one of the many German professional military men who despised Nazism but, also like many others, decided against protesting the Nazi genocide (he did, however, file a complaint by means of his subordinate later, during his tenure in Russia) this marked a dark spot on his conscience, but it also guaranteed a good career in the Nazi-controlled German Army. He reached the pinnacle of his career on 19 Jul 1940 when he was named field marshal. In Oct that year he became the commander-in-chief of all German forces in Poland.

ww2dbase During Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, Bock was charged with capturing Moscow. His troops routed Russian defenses at Minsk and Smolensk in summer 1941 and prepared to move for Moscow, but from Berlin Adolf Hitler decided to pull part of his troops for action in Leningrad and Kiev, which delayed Bock's move against Moscow until October. This delay put him at the mercy of the brutal Russian winter, which expectedly put Bock's advances to a near-halt when he reached as close as about 20 miles to Moscow. Many of his men, equipped with nothing heavier than fall jackets, froze in the -22º F weather and unable to counter the offensive mounted by Russian Georgi Zhukov. Hitler, ignoring the weather factor, blamed the missed opportunity to capture Moscow on Bock, and replaced him with Gunther von Kluge on 12 Dec 1941 Bock was installed as the head of Army Group South a month later. Army Group South was charged with taking the oil fields at the Caucasus. He was removed from that position on 15 July 1942 after his progress slowed, and retired from the German Army.

ww2dbase Early in 1944, Bock's newphew Colonel Henning von Tresckow approached him to solicit his support for a scheme to overthrow Hitler. Bock refused out of his professionalism, but he did not alarm the Gestapo. When the conspirators attempted to assassinate Hitler and failed, Bock publicly denounced the assassination attempt as a crime.

ww2dbase On 3 May 1945, during an Allied air raid on Hamburg, Bock sustained serious injuries. He died in the naval military hospital at Oldenburg on the next day. His wife Wilhelmine and daughter were also killed during that attack.

ww2dbase Sources: DHM, the Jewish Virtual Library, Spartacus Educational, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jul 2005

Fedor von Bock Interactive Map

Fedor von Bock Timeline

3 Dec 1880 Fedor von Bock was born.
12 Oct 1939 Fedor von Bock was appointed the commanding officer of the German Army Group B (Heeresgruppe B).
17 Dec 1941 Fedor von Bock was relieved as the commander-in-chief of German Army Group Center the official reason was health concerns.
18 Jan 1942 Feldmarschall Fedor von Bock succeeded Walther von Reichenau as the head of German Armeegruppe Süd fighting in Ukraine.
1 Jun 1942 Hitler traveled to Poltava to confer with Feldmarschall von Bock on the next offensive.
13 Jul 1942 Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, commanding officer of German Army Group South, was fired from his command by Wilhelm Keitel for moving two Panzer divisions to assist the embattled 9th Panzer without Hitler's direct authority.
4 May 1945 Fedor von Bock passed away.

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Feder von Bock

Field Marshal Fedor von Bock was a senior German Army officer in World War Two. Bock commanded units that fought in Poland, then in France and eventually in the Soviet Union.

Bock was born on December 3 rd 1880. He joined the 5 th Regiment of Prussian Foot Guards – considered one of the best in Germany – and served with distinction in World War One. As a junior officer, he was awarded the Pour le Mérite, Germany’s highest military decoration and one that was awarded usually to senior officers as opposed to juniors.

Bock stayed in the army after the end of the war. He spent his time training the truncated army in modern military tactics. Spurred on by memories of the horrors of trench warfare, Bock wanted the German Army, as small as it was, to make up for its deficiencies in numbers by embracing new weapons and new military strategy.

In 1932, Bock was appointed commander of the 2 nd Infantry Division and one year later was given the command of the 3 rd Gruppenkommando based in Dresden. At the outbreak of the war, Bock commanded the 1 st Army Group.

Bock commanded Army Group North in the actual attack on Poland on September 1 st 1939. He also commanded with distinction Army Group B in the attack on Western Europe. Hitler promoted Bock to field marshal in recognition of his command.

On April 1 st 1941, Bock was given command of Army Group Centre for ‘Operation Barbarossa’ – the attack on Russia. The euphoria that greeted the initial successes of Barbarossa soon gave way to a more realistic assessment as the winter set in. Bock failed to take Moscow – his primary target as commander of Army Group Centre. After years of referring to the Russian military in the most derogatory of terms, this was an unacceptable situation for Hitler. Used to victories, the failure to capture the Russian capital was a slap in Hitler’s face. He held his generals accountable. On December 18 th 1941, Bock was dismissed as commander of Army Group Centre.

From January 18 th 1942 to July 15 th 1942, Bock commanded Army Group South when he was placed on the retired list aged 61.

Bock lived quietly in retirement but was killed in an Allied air raid on Schleswig-Holstein on May 4th 1945, just days before the war ended.


Fedor von Bock

Ranks:
Generalfeldmarschall19 July 1940
Generaloberst 15 March 1938
General der Infanterie 1 March 1935
Generalleutnant 1 February 1931
Generalmajor 1 February 1929
Oberst 1 May 1925
Oberstleutnant 18 December 1920
Major 30 December 1916
Hauptmann 22 March 1912
Oberleutnant 10 September 1908
Leutnant 15 March 1898

Decorations:
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Commands:
Heeresgruppe Nord
Takes command on 27 August 1939
Ends command on

Heeresgruppe B
Takes command on 25 January 1945
Ends command on

Heeresgruppe Mitte
Takes command on June 1941
Ends command on

Heeresgruppe Süd
Takes command on 1942
Ends command on

Other: Personnel
Articles:

Fedor von Bock is best known for commanding Operation Typhoon, the ultimately failed attempt to capture Moscow during the winter of 1941. The Wehrmacht offensive was slowed by stiff Soviet resistance around Mozhaisk, and also by the Rasputitsa, the season of rain and mud in Russia. Once the full fury of the Russian winter struck, which was the coldest in over 50 years, the German armies quickly became unable to conduct further combat operations, with more casualties occurring due to the cold weather than from battle. The Soviet counteroffensive soon drove the German army into retreat, and Fedor von Bock who recommended an earlier withdrawal was subsequently relieved of command by Adolf Hitler.

A lifelong officer in the German military, Fedor von Bock was considered to be a very by the book general. He also had a reputation for being a fiery lecturer, earning him the nickname Holy Fire of Küstrin. Fedor von Bock was not considered to be a brilliant theoretician, but possessed a strong sense of determination, feeling that the greatest glory that could come to a German soldier was to die on the battlefield for the Fatherland.

A monarchist, Fedor von Bock personally despised Nazism, and was not heavily involved in politics. However, he also did not sympathize with plots to overthrow Adolf Hitler, and never filed official protests over the treatment of civilians by the Schutzstaffel (SS). Fedor von Bock was also uncommonly outspoken, a privilege Adolf Hitler extended to him only because he had been successful in battle. Fedor von Bock along with his wife and only daughter were killed by a strafing British fighter-bomber on 4 May 1945 as they traveled by car toward Hamburg.

Fedor von Fedor von Bock was born in Küstrin, a fortress city on the banks of the Oder River in the Province of Brandenburg. His full name given at birth was Moritz Albrecht Franz Friedrich Fedor.

He was born into a Prussian Protestant aristocratic family whose military heritage is traceable to the time of the Hohenzollerns. His father Karl Moritz von Bock commanded a division in the Franco-Prussian War, and was decorated for bravery at the Battle of Sedan. His great-grandfather served in the armies of Frederick the Great, and his grandfather was an officer in the Prussian Army at Jena. His mother Olga Helene Fransziska Freifrau von Falkenhayn von Bock was of both German and Russian aristocratic heritage. Fedor von Bock was related to Erich von Falkenhayn who was his father's brother-in-law.

At the age of eight, Fedor von Bock went to Berlin to study at the Potsdam and Gross Lichterfelde Military Academy. The education emphasized Prussian militarism, and he quickly became adept in academic subjects such as modern languages, mathematics, and history. He spoke fluent French, and to a fair degree English and Russian. At an early age, and largely due to his father, Fedor von Bock developed an unquestioned loyalty to the state and dedication to the military profession. This upbringing would greatly influence his actions and decisions when he commanded armed forces during World War II. At the age of 17, Fedor von Bock became an officer candidate in the Imperial Foot Guards Regiment at Potsdam he received an officer's commission a year later. He entered service with the rank of Sekondeleutnant.

The tall, thin, narrow-shouldered Fedor von Bock had a dry and cynical sense of humor he seldom smiled. His manner was described as being arrogant, ambitious, and opinionated he approached military bearing with an unbending demeanor. While not a brilliant theoretician, Fedor von Bock was a highly determined officer. As one of the highest ranking officers in the Reichswehr, he often addressed graduating cadets at his alma mater. His theme was always that the greatest glory that could come to a German soldier was to die for the Fatherland. He quickly earned the nickname Holy Fire of Küstrin.

In 1905, Fedor von Bock married Mally von Reichenbach, a young Prussian noblewoman, whom he had originally met in Berlin. They were married in a traditional military wedding at the Potsdam garrison. They had a daughter, born two years after the marriage. A year later, Fedor von Bock attended the War Academy in Berlin, and after a year's study he joined the ranks of the General Staff. He soon joined the patriotic Army League and become a close associate of other young German officers such as Walther von Brauchitsch, Franz Halder, and Gerd von Rundstedt. In 1908, he was promoted to the rank of Oberleutnant.

By the time World War I began in 1914, Fedor von Bock was a Hauptmann. He served with the 4th Foot Guards Regiment as a battalion commander in January and February 1916, and was decorated with the coveted Pour le Mérite for bravery. Major von Fedor von Bock was assigned as a divisional staff officer in von Rupprecht's army group on the Western Front and became a friend of the Crown Prince of Germany. Two days before the Armistice, he met with Kaiser Wilhelm II at Spa, Belgium, in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Kaiser to return to Berlin to crush the mutiny at Kiel.

After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, limiting the German Army to 100,000 troops, Fedor von Bock stayed on as an officer of the post-treaty Reichswehr, and rose through the ranks. In the 1920s, Fedor von Bock was together with Kurt von Schleicher, Eugen Ott, and Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord a member of a secret group known as Sondergruppe R selected by and responsible to Hans von Seeckt that was in charge of helping Germany evade the Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, which had disarmed Germany.The officers of Sondergruppe R formed the liaison with Major Bruno Ernst Buchrucker, who led the so-called Arbeits-Kommandos (Work Commandos), which officially a labor group intended to assist with civilian projects, but in reality were thinly disguised soldiers that allowed Germany to exceed the limits on troop strength set by Versailles.Buchrucker's so-called Black Reichswehr became infamous for its practice of murdering all those Germans whom it was suspected were working as informers for the Allied Control Commission, which was responsible for ensuring that Germany was in compliance with Part V. The killings perpetrated by the Black Reichswehr were justifed under the so-called Femegerichte (secret court) system. These killings were ordered by the officers from Sondergruppe R. Regarding the Femegerichte murders, Carl von Ossietzky wrote:

Lieutenant Schulz (charged with the murder of informers against the Black Reichswehr) did nothing but carry out the orders given him, and that certainly Colonel von Fedor von Bock, and probably Colonel von Schleicher and General Seeckt, should be sitting in the dock beside him.

Several times Fedor von Bock perjured himself in court when he denied that the Reichswehr had anything to do with the Black Reichswehr or the murders they had committed. On 27 September 1923, Buckrucker ordered 4,500 men of the Black Reichswehr to assemble outside of Berlin as the first preparatory step toward a putsch. Fedor von Bock who was Buckrucker's contract with the Reichswehr was enraged, and in a stormly meeting berated Buckrucker for mobilizing the Black Reichswehr without orders. Fedor von Bock stated the Reichswehr wanted no part in Buckrucker's putsch and that If von Seeckt knew you were here, he would screw his monocle into his eye and say Go for him! Despite Fedor von Bock's orders to demobilize at once, Buckrucker went ahead with his putsch on 30 September 1923, which ended in total failure.

In 1935, Adolf Hitler appointed General von Fedor von Bock as commander of the Third Army Group. Fedor von Bock was one of the officers not removed from his position when Adolf Hitler reorganized the armed forces during the phase of German rearmament before the outbreak of World War II. He remained a monarchist, and was a frequent visitor to the former Kaiser's estate. Adolf Hitler reportedly said of him, Nobody in the world but Von Fedor von Bock can teach soldiers to die. Fedor von Bock himself told his troops, The ideal soldier fulfills his duty to the utmost, obeys without even thinking, thinks only when ordered to do so, and has as his only desire to die the honorable death of a soldier killed in action.

General von Fedor von Bock commanded the invasion of Vienna in March 1938 for the Anschluss and then the invasion of Czechoslovakia, before leading German armies into World War II.

By 25 August 1939, Fedor von Bock was in command of Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) in preparation for the invasion and conquest of Poland. The objective of Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) was to destroy the Polish forces north of the Vistula. Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) was composed of General Georg von Küchler's 3rd Army, and General Günther von Kluge's 4th Army. These struck southward from East Prussia and eastward across the base of the Polish Corridor, respectively.

In just five weeks, Poland was overrun by German and Soviet forces and Fedor von Bock had linked Germany back to East Prussia. Following the success in Poland, Fedor von Bock returned to Berlin to begin preparations for the upcoming campaign in the West.

Shortly after the conquest of Poland, on 12 October 1939 Fedor von Bock was given command of Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B), with 29½ divisions, including three armoured divisions. These were tasked with advancing through the Low Countries and luring the northern units of the Allied armies into a pocket. Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) consisted of the 18th and 6th Armies. While his units were overrunning the Netherlands, in May 1940, Fedor von Bock attempted to call on the exiled former Kaiser Wilhelm II at Doorn, but Fedor von Bock was unable to gain admittance: the German troops guarding the residence having been instructed to prevent such visits.

Fedor von Bock participated in the Armistice with France in late June 1940. On 18 July 1940, Fedor von Bock was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall during a reception held by Adolf Hitler. For much of the summer of 1940, Fedor von Bock alternated his time between his headquarters in Paris and his home in Berlin. At the end of August, Army High Command transferred Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) to East Prussia this included Günther von Kluge's 4th Army. On 11 September, Fedor von Bock relinquished command of his occupation area in France to Generalfeldmarshall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb.

Invasion of Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa)

On 2 February, Fedor von Bock met with Adolf Hitler and questioned whether the Russians could be forced to make peace even if the Red army was brought to battle and defeated, Adolf Hitler airily assured Fedor von Bock that Germany's resources were more than sufficient and that he was determined to fight. In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, on 1 April 1941 Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) was re-designated as Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) in an official order from Army High Command which defined the organization of the invasion force. Deployed in Poland, Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) was one of the three army formations which were to lead the invasion of the Soviet Union. It included the 4th and 9th Armies, the 3rd and 2nd Panzer Armies and Luftflotte 2. On the left flank of Fedor von Bock's Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) was Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North), commanded by Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb on the right flank was Heeresgruppe Süd, commanded by Gerd von Rundstedt.

Initially, the main objective of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) was to follow Napoleon's route north of the Pripyat Marshes straight to Moscow. However, against the strong vocal opposition of von Fedor von Bock, Adolf Hitler altered the original invasion plan, one of many changes he would make, both before the invasion and after it had already begun. Von Fedor von Bock opposed any changes to the invasion plan of Moscow, because he wanted to occupy Moscow as soon as he could, hopefully before the onset of cold weather, so that his troops would be in warm quarters during the winter. The failure to do this caused the failure of the whole Soviet campaign.

The new task of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) was to drive towards the cities of Minsk and Smolensk, and in great encirclements destroy the Soviet Armies stationed there. Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) would then drive toward Leningrad, and along with Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) destroy the remnants of the Soviet Armies in the Baltic states and seize valuable ports for the supply of the campaign. Only after the bulk of the Soviet army was destroyed in Western Russia would Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) then drive toward the Soviet capital. Adolf Hitler made this change conscious of the fact that despite capturing Moscow, Napoleon was defeated because he did not destroy the Russian army.

At 03:15 on 22 June 1941, the first shots of Operation Barbarossa were fired Germany invaded the Soviet Union without formally declaring the war. At the outset of the campaign Fedor von Bock remained at his desk in his headquarters waiting for the first reports from the front. Within an hour of the attack, the first reports began to arrive at Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) headquarters. Elements of Heinz Guderian's force had crossed the Bug River and were bypassing the city of Brest-Litovsk. Hermann Hoth's tanks were heading for Grodno on the Nieman River to seize the important river crossings. Several reconnaissance units from the 4th and 9th Armies had already crossed the Bug and Desna Rivers.

At 07:00, Fedor von Bock flew from Posen to an advance airfield near the headquarters of XIII Infantry Corps. There, Lieutenant General Erich Jaschke gave Fedor von Bock a summary of the progress of the invasion. Following this meeting, Fedor von Bock visited Heinz Guderian's forward command post at Bokhaly. Heinz Guderian's Chief of staff Colonel Kurt Freiherr von Liebenstein greeted Fedor von Bock, as Heinz Guderian had already crossed the Bug River several hours earlier with the 18th Panzer Division. Fedor von Bock then visited Joachim Lemelsen, who gave an agitated report from the front. The roads on the Soviet side of the Bug River were already becoming too soft to support the weight of tanks. As a result, several tank columns had to be rerouted to cross a bridge farther south at Koden. This rerouting caused severe traffic congestion, as some ten thousand vehicles converged on this single crossing. Despite this, the first day of the invasion had been spectacularly successful. Soviet resistance was reported as being light and complete surprise was achieved. All along the front rapid progress was being made.


On the second day of Barbarossa, Fedor von Bock crossed the Bug River. Escorted by Major General Gustav Schmidt, he made his way to a company command post from where he observed German artillery firing on Soviet positions near Brest-Litovsk. Despite the fact that German panzers had already crossed deep into Soviet territory, the defenders of the city were holding out stubbornly. Later that day Fedor von Bock was presented with reports that Soviet resistance was stiffening all long the front, especially on Heinz Guderian's southern flank. Meanwhile, Hermann Hoth's forces were advancing with much more ease through the Baltic states and Belarus. The first two days of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) advance proved to be highly successful.

Hermann Hoth's armies advanced so quickly that Fedor von Bock immediately contacted Walther von Brauchitsch, requesting the bypassing of Minsk in favor of attacking toward Vitebsk so that a drive could be made for Moscow. Initially, the change in plan was accepted but it was soon overruled by Adolf Hitler, who favored the encirclement and destruction of the large Soviet armies near Minsk. Fedor von Bock wrote in his diary:

The envelopment of Minsk is not decisive. Besides, I am sure that the enemy expects us to attack Minsk, the next natural objective, and will concentrate defense forces there.
Differences between Fedor von Bock's strategic intent and the intent of High Command repeatedly surfaced. Fedor von Bock continued to favor a direct drive toward Moscow, bypassing Soviet armies and leaving them to be destroyed by infantry, which advanced well behind tank columns. Fedor von Bock argued that if encirclement was truly necessary then instead of diverting his tanks north and south to encircle and destroy smaller Soviet armies, a larger encirclement should be made eastward toward the Dvina-Dnieper River basins. Adolf Hitler decided against this plan, and insisted that the pockets containing Soviet armies must be destroyed before advancing deeper into Russia.

Fedor von Bock, enraged by this decision, was quoted as saying:

We are permitting our greatest chance of success to escape us by this restriction placed on our armor!
He hesitantly gave the order to abandon the drive toward Vitebsk and assist in the destruction of the pockets. On 25 June, Fedor von Bock moved his headquarters from Posen to Kobryn, a town about 15 mi (24 km) northeast of Brest-Litovsk. On 30 June, the 4th and 9th Armies met each other near Slonim, trapping thousands of Soviet soldiers. However, many Soviet soldiers managed to escape eastward. Fedor von Bock soon gave the order to disengage from the encirclement and prepare for a full-scale drive to the east. This order once again caused a confrontation between Fedor von Bock and Walther von Brauchitsch.

On 3 July, Fedor von Bock's forces were once again advancing eastward, with Heinz Guderian's tanks crossing the Beresina and Hermann Hoth's tanks crossing the Duna. This day marked the furthest distance covered by Fedor von Bock's troops in a single day, with over 100 mi (160 km) traveled. Four days later, Heinz Guderian's tanks crossed the Dnieper, the last great obstacle before Smolensk. However, Heinz Guderian was soon ordered by Günther von Kluge to withdraw back across the river. Fedor von Bock soon reversed this order, and Heinz Guderian was allowed to re-cross the river. Fedor von Bock protested Günther von Kluge's actions to High Command, to no avail.On 11 July, Fedor von Bock moved his headquarters again to Borisov, a Soviet town near the Beresina River.

Operation Typhoon

On 9 September, Army High Command instructed Fedor von Bock to prepare an operational order for the assault on Moscow. Operation Typhoon was the code-name given to this new attack, which was to begin no later then 30 September. Fedor von Bock carefully supervised the planning and preparation of the operation, and a few days later it was approved by the High Command.

As part of the preparation for Operation Typhoon, Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) would be reinforced and replenished with men and vehicles it would be composed of three infantry armies (the 2nd, 4th, and 9th) and three tank armies (2nd, 3rd, and 4th Panzers). Colonel General Erich Hoepner would command the 4th Panzer Army, while the former two were outgrowths of Hermann Hoth's and Heinz Guderian's original Panzer Groups. The replenishment of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) for Operation Typhoon caused it to increase greatly in size: with almost 1.5 million soldiers, it was now larger than it was at the outset of Operation Barbarossa. Fedor von Bock spent most of the remainder of September on inspection tours of his reinforced Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre). On one occasion, Fedor von Bock along with Albert Kesselring flew over Moscow.

On 29 September, Fedor von Bock held a conference with his senior commanders Adolf Strauss, Hermann Hoth, Günther von Kluge, Weichs, Erich Hoepner, Heinz Guderian, and Albert Kesselring. During the meeting the main operational plan was reviewed, with Fedor von Bock again stressing that Moscow must be taken by 7 November, before the onset of the Russian winter, and to coincide with the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The following day, Operation Typhoon began with attacks from Heinz Guderian's and Hermann Hoth's armored forces. Several days later, the infantry armies began to move toward Moscow. With less than 100 miles between the most advanced troops and Moscow, Fedor von Bock estimated that his troops would enter the city in three to four weeks.

Almost immediately, Fedor von Bock's forces encountered stiff Soviet resistance on the road to Moscow. The previous diversions of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) allowed the Soviets to reinforce the area between Smolensk and Moscow with the Russian 3rd, 10th, 13th, and 20th Armies, as well as elements of three other armies. German forces were outnumbered almost two to one. However, the superior tactics and training of the Wehrmacht along with an element of surprise resulted in significant gains despite the increasingly desperate measures employed by the Russians to stop the advance.

The 2nd Panzer Army along with the XLVIII Panzer Corps attacked important rail junctions near Oryol and Bryansk. Erich Hoepner's 4th Panzer Army soon crossed the Desna River and gained access to deep Russian territory. Meanwhile, Hermann Hoth's 3. Panzerarmee (3rd Panzer Army) struck toward Rzhev on the Volga River.

On 3 October, Guderian's forces captured Orel and subsequently gained access to a paved highway which led to Moscow, some 180 mi (290 km) away. Meanwhile, elements of the 2nd Panzer Army reported that they had bypassed Bryansk and were heading toward Karachev. Fedor von Bock ordered Heinz Guderian to press on toward Tula, but within hours this order had been reversed by High Command. The reversal of the order called for Heinz Guderian to attack Bryansk where along with Vyazma two massive encirclements of Soviet forces were occurring. Fedor von Bock argued that the area between Orel and Tula remained relatively free of Soviet forces and that Tula could be captured within hours. Ultimately, Fedor von Bock agreed to divert Heinz Guderian's tanks toward Bryansk.

Cold rain soon began to fall over the northern sectors of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) front, and the roads soon turned into quagmires as part of the Rasputitsa. Virtually the entire front became stuck the only vehicles capable of negotiating the mud were tanks and other tracked vehicles. However, these moved at a snail's pace (sometimes less than 2 mi (3.2 km) per day), and fuel consumption soared. This further aggravated the problem of already poor supply lines. Trucks soon became stuck in the mud, as soldiers tried desperately to free them. As the temperature continued to drop, Heinz Guderian requested a supply of winter clothing and anti-freeze for the vehicles. However, the increase in partisan activity behind the lines, along with the deteriorating weather conditions, made it increasingly difficult for these vital supplies to reach the front. In one two-day period, partisans made over sixty attacks on German truck convoys, outposts, and railway lines.


Slight improvements in the weather soon made it possible for Fedor von Bock's forces to continue to seal the pockets around Bryansk and Vyazma. The dual encirclements of Soviet forces around Vyazma and Bryansk yielded some of the largest Soviet casualties since the beginning of Operation Barbarossa: some 650,000 prisoners were taken during these two encirclements, after which the Soviet armies facing Fedor von Bock's Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) no longer had the advantage of superior numbers.

The weather soon deteriorated again, with the roads once more turning into impassable, muddy quagmires. Since 30 September, Fedor von Bock had lost some 35,000 men, 250 tanks and artillery pieces, and several hundred other vehicles, many of which were mired in the mud. Fuel and ammunition supplies became dangerously low. Despite these problems, the advance toward Moscow continued as Adolf Hitler became increasingly impatient. When advance units of the 4th Panzer Army reached Kaluga and Maloyaroslavets, German forces were within 40 mi (64 km) of Moscow. Heinz Guderian's advance in the south was much slower. An attempt by his forces to capture Tula had failed, with considerable losses of men and tanks. However, other units captured Stalinogorsk and Venev, indicating the possibility of bypassing Tula.

As Fedor von Bock's forces pressed on toward Moscow, panic struck in the capital. Hundreds of thousands of civilians began to evacuate the city while others were forced into emergency volunteer units. Martial law was instituted as looting and pillaging of deserted stores increased. Marshal Semyon Timoshenko was relieved of command in favor of Georgy Zhukov, who had been organizing the defense of Leningrad. The main bulk of the Soviet government was evacuated to Kuibyshev, 500 mi (800 km) southeast of Moscow however, Stalin remained in the capital after being reassured by Zhukov that the capital would not fall.

The further Fedor von Bock's forces advanced, the stiffer Soviet resistance became. The paved roads leading to Moscow became craters under constant Russian artillery fire, rendering them impassable. This forced the German troops into the mud and Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) soon became stuck once again. The goal of capturing Moscow by mid October could no longer be achieved. However, the sheer weight of the German advance could not be fully stopped, and on 21 October units of the 9th Army captured Kalinin.

As November arrived the mud soon turned into ice as temperatures dropped to -20 °F. While the ground hardened sufficiently enough to support vehicles, the cold weather added to the miseries of the German soldiers as many had not received winter clothing. Frostbite soon took its toll many soldiers were severely affected and had to be evacuated.

On 20 November, Fedor von Bock moved his field headquarters to an advanced forward position near the front lines. There he visited an artillery command post, where he could see the buildings of Moscow through his field glasses. Several days later, German forces crossed the Moscow-Volga Canal and reached Khimki but soon fell back due to Soviet resistance. On 29 November, elements of the 4th Panzer Army reached the western suburbs of Moscow. On 4 December, units of the 2nd Army reached Kuntsevo, a western suburb of Moscow. Several units of Heinz Guderian's army bypassed Kolomna and reached the Moscow River. Meanwhile, the 3. Panzerarmee (3rd Panzer Army) once again fought into Khimki. These were the last advances made by Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) under Fedor von Bock's command.

On 6 December, with the temperature at -50 °F, fresh Russian troops commanded by Zhukov launched a huge counterattack. All along the front near Moscow German troops retreated, destroying whatever equipment they could not salvage. Several days later, High Command ordered a halt to all offensive operations. Fedor von Bock wrote in his diary:

All along, I demanded of Army High Command the authority to strike down the enemy when he was wobbling. We could have finished the enemy last summer. We could have destroyed him completely. Last August, the road to Moscow was open we could have entered the Bolshevik capital in triumph and in summery weather. The high military leadership of the Fatherland made a terrible mistake when it forced my army group to adopt a position of defense last August. Now all of us are paying for that mistake.
By 13 December, German forces had retreated more than 50 mi (80 km) from the capital. On 18 December, Fedor von Bock was relieved of his command of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre). The official pretext of this decision was health problems. However, this was just one case out of some 40 high-ranking officers being relieved of their command following the failure to capture Moscow. Fedor von Bock's command of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) marked the closest the German army ever got to Moscow never again would the Soviet capital be threatened.

When Fedor von Bock asked for permission to withdraw his exhausted troops in December 1941, he was dismissed from his post as Commander of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre), to be reassigned to lead Heeresgruppe Süd in January 1942, when Generalfeldmarshall Walter von Reichenau died of a heart attack.

On 28 June 1942, Fedor von Bock's offensive split the Russian front into fragments on either side of Kursk. Three armies (Weich's 2nd Army, Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer, and Paulus' 6th Army) along with 11 Panzer Divisions fanned out toward Voronezh and the Don River. Paulus' Panzer Divisions reached the Don on either side of Voronezh on 5 July. The Russians created a Voronezh Front under Vatutin, who reported directly to Moscow. Fedor von Bock wanted to eliminate Vatutin's forces before extending his own flank too deeply into the yawning void created by the strength and speed of the German offensive. Adolf Hitler was not pleased with Fedor von Bock's plan to delay the push toward Stalingrad. On 15 July, Adolf Hitler would blame him for the failure of Operation Braunschweig, the second part of the German offensive in Russia, and retire him indefinitely. The command of Army Group South was given to Maximilian von Weichs.

While privately opposing the atrocities being committed against Soviet civilians, Fedor von Bock never protested directly to Adolf Hitler, although at one time, he had a subordinate file a formal complaint (Meine Herren, ich stelle fest: Der Feldmarschall von Fedor von Bock hat protestiert! gentlemen, I state: The field marshal von Fedor von Bock has protested).His nephew, Henning von Tresckow, tried in vain to win him for the military resistance against the Adolf Hitler regime. When his staff officers planned the assassination of Adolf Hitler during a visit to his Army Group, Fedor von Bock intervened.On the other hand, he did not report the conspirators either.

One of the reasons for Fedor von Bock's dismissal is believed to have been his expressed interest in supporting the Russian Liberation Movement, which Adolf Hitler was categorically against.

As an involuntarily retired Field Marshal, Fedor von Bock felt he was made a scapegoat for the problems of Stalingrad. He was approached to join a coup against Adolf Hitler, but he believed any such move not supported by Heinrich Himmler who controlled the Waffen-SS was bound to fail he refused to move against the Führer.

With the Russians closing in on Berlin in 1945, Fedor von Bock was informed by Erich von Manstein that Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz was forming a new government in Hamburg. Fedor von Bock started off for that city immediately, perhaps hoping for a new command. On 4 May 1945, only a week before the war's end in Europe, Fedor von Bock's car was strafed on the Kiel road by a British fighter-bomber he was killed along with his wife and daughter.

At age 64, Fedor von Fedor von Bock became the only one of Adolf Hitler's Field Marshals to die from enemy fire.


Moritz Albrecht Franz Friedrich Fedor Von Bock

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About Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock

Moritz Albrecht Franz Friedrich Fedor von Bock (3 December 1880 – 4 May 1945) was a German Field Marshal who served in the German army during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber" (literally, ambiguously, and ironically: "The Dier"). Bock served as the commander of Army Group North during the Invasion of Poland in 1939, commander of Army Group B during the Invasion of France in 1940, and later as the commander of Army Group Center during the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 his final command was that of Army Group South in 1942.

Bock is best known for commanding Operation Typhoon, the ultimately failed attempt to capture Moscow during the winter of 1941. The Wehrmacht offensive was slowed by stiff Soviet resistance around Mozhaisk, and also by the Rasputitsa, the season of rain and mud in Russia. Once the full fury of the Russian winter struck, which was the coldest in over 50 years, the German armies quickly became unable to conduct further combat operations, with more casualties occurring due to the cold weather than from battle. The Soviet counteroffensive soon drove the German army into retreat, and Bock — who recommended an earlier withdrawal — was subsequently relieved of command by Adolf Hitler.

A lifelong officer in the German military, Bock was considered to be a very "by the book" general. He also had a reputation for being a fiery lecturer, earning him the nickname "Holy Fire of Küstrin". Bock was not considered to be a brilliant theoretician, but possessed a strong sense of determination, feeling that the greatest glory that could come to a German soldier was to die on the battlefield for the Fatherland.

A monarchist, Bock personally despised Nazism, and was not heavily involved in politics. However, he also did not sympathize with plots to overthrow Adolf Hitler, and never filed official protests over the treatment of civilians by the Schutzstaffel (SS). Bock was also uncommonly outspoken, a privilege Hitler extended to him only because he had been successful in battle. Bock — along with his wife and only daughter — were killed by a strafing British fighter-bomber on 4 May 1945 as they traveled by car toward Hamburg.

Fedor von Bock was born in Küstrin, a fortress city on the banks of the Oder River in the Province of Brandenburg. His full name given at birth was Moritz Albrecht Franz Friedrich Fedor.

He was born into a Prussian Protestant aristocratic family whose military heritage is traceable to the time of the Hohenzollerns. His father — Karl Moritz von Bock — commanded a division in the Franco-Prussian War, and was decorated for bravery at the Battle of Sedan. His great-grandfather served in the armies of Frederick the Great, and his grandfather was an officer in the Prussian Army at Jena. His mother — Olga Helene Fransziska Freifrau von Falkenhayn von Bock — was of both German and Russian aristocratic heritage. The Prussian general Erich von Falkenhayn, the Chief of the General Staff during the first two years of World War One, was his maternal uncle.

At the age of eight, Bock went to Berlin to study at the Potsdam and Gross Lichterfelde Military Academy. The education emphasized Prussian militarism, and he quickly became adept in academic subjects such as modern languages, mathematics, and history. He spoke fluent French, and to a fair degree English and Russian. At an early age, and largely due to his father, Bock developed an unquestioned loyalty to the state and dedication to the military profession. This upbringing would greatly influence his actions and decisions when he commanded armed forces during World War II. At the age of 17, Bock became an officer candidate in the Imperial Foot Guards Regiment at Potsdam he received an officer′s commission a year later. He entered service with the rank of Sekondeleutnant.

The tall, thin, narrow-shouldered Bock had a dry and cynical sense of humor he seldom smiled. His manner was described as being arrogant, ambitious, and opinionated he approached military bearing with an unbending demeanor. While not a brilliant theoretician, Bock was a highly determined officer. As one of the highest-ranking officers in the Reichswehr, he often addressed graduating cadets at his alma mater. His theme was always that the greatest glory that could come to a German soldier was to die for the Fatherland. He quickly earned the nickname "Holy Fire of Küstrin".

In 1905, Bock married Mally von Reichenbach, a young Prussian noblewoman, whom he had originally met in Berlin. They were married in a traditional military wedding at the Potsdam garrison. They had a daughter, born two years after the marriage. A year later, Bock attended the War Academy in Berlin, and after a year′s study he joined the ranks of the General Staff. He soon joined the patriotic Army League and become a close associate of other young German officers such as Walther von Brauchitsch, Franz Halder, and Gerd von Rundstedt. In 1908, he was promoted to the rank of Oberleutnant.

By the time World War I began in 1914, Bock was a Hauptmann. He served with the 4th Foot Guards Regiment as a battalion commander in January and February 1916, and was decorated with the coveted Pour le Mérite for bravery. Major von Bock was assigned as a divisional staff officer in von Rupprecht′s army group on the Western Front and became a friend of the Crown Prince of Germany. Two days before the Armistice, he met with Kaiser Wilhelm II at Spa, Belgium, in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Kaiser to return to Berlin to crush the mutiny at Kiel.

After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, limiting the German Army to 100,000 troops, Bock stayed on as an officer of the post-treaty Reichswehr, and rose through the ranks. In the 1920s, Bock was together with Kurt von Schleicher, Eugen Ott, and Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord a member of a secret group known as Sondergruppe R selected by and responsible to Hans von Seeckt that was in charge of helping Germany evade the Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, which had disarmed Germany. The officers of Sondergruppe R formed the liaison with Major Bruno Ernst Buchrucker, who led the so-called Arbeits-Kommandos (Work Commandos), which was officially a labor group intended to assist with civilian projects, but were in reality thinly disguised soldiers that allowed Germany to exceed the limits on troop strength set by Versailles. Buchrucker′s so-called "Black Reichswehr" became infamous for its practice of murdering all those Germans who were suspected of working as informers for the Allied Control Commission, which was responsible for ensuring that Germany was in compliance with Part V. The killings perpetrated by the "Black Reichswehr were justifed under the so-called Femegerichte (secret court) system. These killings were ordered by the officers from Sondergruppe R. Regarding the Femegerichte murders, Carl von Ossietzky wrote:

"Lieutenant Schulz (charged with the murder of informers against the "Black Reichswehr") did nothing but carry out the orders given him, and that certainly Colonel von Bock, and probably Colonel von Schleicher and General Seeckt, should be sitting in the dock beside him".

Several times Bock perjured himself in court when he denied that the Reichswehr had anything to do with the "Black Reichswehr" or the murders they had committed. On 27 September 1923, Buckrucker ordered 4,500 men of the Black Reichswehr to assemble outside of Berlin as the first preparatory step toward a putsch. Bock, who was Buckrucker's contract with the Reichswehr, was enraged, and in a stormly meeting berated Buckrucker for mobilizing the Black Reichswehr without orders. Bock stated the Reichswehr wanted no part in Buckrucker′s putsch and that "If von Seeckt knew you were here, he would screw his monocle into his eye and say "Go for him!"" Despite Bock′s orders to demobilize at once, Buckrucker went ahead with his putsch on 30 September 1923, which ended in total failure.

In 1935, Adolf Hitler appointed General von Bock as commander of the Third Army Group. Bock was one of the officers not removed from his position when Hitler reorganized the armed forces during the phase of German rearmament before the outbreak of World War II. He remained a monarchist, and was a frequent visitor to the former Kaiser′s estate. Hitler reportedly said of him, "Nobody in the world but Von Bock can teach soldiers to die." Bock himself told his troops, "The ideal soldier fulfills his duty to the utmost, obeys without even thinking, thinks only when ordered to do so, and has as his only desire to die the honorable death of a soldier killed in action."

General von Bock commanded the invasion of Vienna in March 1938 for the Anschluss and then the invasion of Czechoslovakia, before leading German armies into World War II.

By 25 August 1939, Bock was in command of Army Group North in preparation for the invasion and conquest of Poland. The objective of Army Group North was to destroy the Polish forces north of the Vistula. Army Group North was composed of General Georg von K࿌hler′s 3rd Army, and General Günther von Kluge′s 4th Army. These struck southward from East Prussia and eastward across the base of the Polish Corridor, respectively.

In five weeks, Poland was overrun by German and Soviet forces and Bock had linked Germany back to East Prussia. Following the success in Poland, Bock returned to Berlin to begin preparations for the upcoming campaign in the West.

Shortly after the conquest of Poland, on 12 October 1939 Bock was given command of Army Group B, with 29½ divisions, including three armoured divisions. These were tasked with advancing through the Low Countries and luring the northern units of the Allied armies into a pocket. Army Group B consisted of the 18th and 6th Armies. While his units were overrunning the Netherlands, in May 1940, Bock attempted to call on the exiled former Kaiser — Wilhelm II — at Doorn, but Bock was unable to gain admittance: the German troops guarding the residence having been instructed to prevent such visits.

Bock participated in the Armistice with France in late June 1940.[19] On 18 July 1940, Bock was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall during a reception held by Adolf Hitler. For much of the summer of 1940, Bock alternated his time between his headquarters in Paris and his home in Berlin. At the end of August, Army High Command transferred Army Group B to East Prussia this included Kluge′s 4th Army. On 11 September, Bock relinquished command of his occupation area in France to Generalfeldmarshall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb.

Invasion of Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa)

On 2 February, Bock met with Hitler and questioned whether the Russians could be forced to make peace even if the Red army was brought to battle and defeated, Hitler airily assured Bock that Germany′s resources were more than sufficient and that he was determined to fight. In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, on 1 April 1941 Army Group B was re-designated as Army Group Center in an official order from Army High Command which defined the organization of the invasion force. Deployed in Poland, Army Group Center was one of the three army formations which were to lead the invasion of the Soviet Union. It included the 4th and 9th Armies, the 3rd and 2nd Panzer Armies and Luftflotte 2. On the left flank of Bock′s Army Group Center was Army Group North, commanded by Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb on the right flank was Army Group South, commanded by Gerd von Rundstedt.

Initially, the main objective of Army Group Center was to follow Napoleon′s route north of the Pripyat Marshes straight to Moscow. However, against the strong vocal opposition of von Bock, Hitler altered the original invasion plan, one of many changes he would make, both before the invasion and after it had already begun. Von Bock opposed any changes to the invasion plan of Moscow, because he wanted to occupy Moscow as soon as he could, hopefully before the onset of cold weather, so that his troops would be in warm quarters during the winter. The failure to do this caused the failure of the whole Soviet campaign.

The new task of Army Group Center was to drive towards the cities of Minsk and Smolensk, and in great encirclements destroy the Soviet Armies stationed there. Army Group Center would then drive toward Leningrad, and along with Army Group North destroy the remnants of the Soviet Armies in the Baltic states and seize valuable ports for the supply of the campaign. Only after the bulk of the Soviet army was destroyed in Western Russia would Army Group Center then drive toward the Soviet capital. Hitler made this change conscious of the fact that despite capturing Moscow, Napoleon was defeated because he did not destroy the Russian army.

At 03:15 on 22 June 1941, the first shots of Operation Barbarossa were fired Germany invaded the Soviet Union without formally declaring the war. At the outset of the campaign Bock remained at his desk in his headquarters waiting for the first reports from the front. Within an hour of the attack, the first reports began to arrive at Army Group Center headquarters. Elements of Heinz Guderian′s force had crossed the Bug River and were bypassing the city of Brest-Litovsk. Hermann Hoth′s tanks were heading for Grodno on the Nieman River to seize the important river crossings. Several reconnaissance units from the 4th and 9th Armies had already crossed the Bug and Desna Rivers.

At 07:00, Bock flew from Posen to an advance airfield near the headquarters of XIII Infantry Corps. There, Lieutenant General Erich Jaschke gave Bock a summary of the progress of the invasion. Following this meeting, Bock visited Guderian′s forward command post at Bokhaly. Guderian′s Chief of staff — Colonel Kurt Freiherr von Liebenstein — greeted Bock, as Guderian had already crossed the Bug River several hours earlier with the 18th Panzer Division. Bock then visited Joachim Lemelsen, who gave an agitated report from the front. The roads on the Soviet side of the Bug River were already becoming too soft to support the weight of tanks. As a result, several tank columns had to be rerouted to cross a bridge farther south at Koden. This rerouting caused severe traffic congestion, as some ten thousand vehicles converged on this single crossing. Despite this, the first day of the invasion had been spectacularly successful. Soviet resistance was reported as being light and complete surprise was achieved. All along the front rapid progress was being made.

On the second day of Barbarossa, Bock crossed the Bug River. Escorted by Major General Gustav Schmidt, he made his way to a company command post from where he observed German artillery firing on Soviet positions near Brest-Litovsk. Despite the fact that German panzers had already crossed deep into Soviet territory, the defenders of the city were holding out stubbornly. Later that day Bock was presented with reports that Soviet resistance was stiffening all long the front, especially on Guderian′s southern flank. Meanwhile, Hoth′s forces were advancing with much more ease through the Baltic states and Belarus. The first two days of Army Group Center′s advance proved to be highly successful.

Hoth′s armies advanced so quickly that Bock immediately contacted Walter von Brauchitsch, requesting the bypassing of Minsk in favor of attacking toward Vitebsk so that a drive could be made for Moscow. Initially, the change in plan was accepted but it was soon overruled by Hitler, who favored the encirclement and destruction of the large Soviet armies near Minsk. Bock wrote in his diary:

The envelopment of Minsk is not decisive. Besides, I am sure that the enemy expects us to attack Minsk, the next natural objective, and will concentrate defense forces there.

Differences between Bock′s strategic intent and the intent of High Command repeatedly surfaced. Bock continued to favor a direct drive toward Moscow, bypassing Soviet armies and leaving them to be destroyed by infantry, which advanced well behind tank columns. Bock argued that if encirclement was truly necessary then instead of diverting his tanks north and south to encircle and destroy smaller Soviet armies, a larger encirclement should be made eastward toward the Dvina-Dnieper River basins. Hitler decided against this plan, and insisted that the pockets containing Soviet armies must be destroyed before advancing deeper into Russia.

Bock, enraged by this decision, was quoted as saying:

We are permitting our greatest chance of success to escape us by this restriction placed on our armor! He hesitantly gave the order to abandon the drive toward Vitebsk and assist in the destruction of the pockets. On 25 June, Bock moved his headquarters from Posen to Kobryn, a town about 15 mi (24 km) northeast of Brest-Litovsk. On 30 June, the 4th and 9th Armies met each other near Slonim, trapping thousands of Soviet soldiers. However, many Soviet soldiers managed to escape eastward. Bock soon gave the order to disengage from the encirclement and prepare for a full-scale drive to the east. This order once again caused a confrontation between Bock and Brauchitsch.

On 3 July, Bock′s forces were once again advancing eastward, with Guderian’s tanks crossing the Beresina and Hoth′s tanks crossing the Duna. This day marked the furthest distance covered by Bock′s troops in a single day, with over 100 mi (160 km) traveled. Four days later, Guderian′s tanks crossed the Dnieper, the last great obstacle before Smolensk. However, Guderian was soon ordered by Günther von Kluge to withdraw back across the river. Bock soon reversed this order, and Guderian was allowed to re-cross the river. Bock protested Kluge′s actions to High Command, to no avail. On 11 July, Bock moved his headquarters again to Borisov, a Soviet town near the Beresina River.

On 9 September, Army High Command instructed Bock to prepare an operational order for the assault on Moscow. Operation Typhoon was the code-name given to this new attack, which was to begin no later than 30 September. Bock carefully supervised the planning and preparation of the operation, and a few days later it was approved by the High Command.

As part of the preparation for Operation Typhoon, Army Group Center would be reinforced and replenished with men and vehicles it would be composed of three infantry armies (the 2nd, 4th, and 9th) and three tank armies (2nd, 3rd, and 4th Panzers). Colonel General Erich Hoepner would command the 4th Panzer Army, while the former two were outgrowths of Hoth′s and Guderian′s original Panzer Groups. The replenishment of Army Group Center for Operation Typhoon caused it to increase greatly in size: with almost 1.5 million soldiers, it was now larger than it was at the outset of Operation Barbarossa. Bock spent most of the remainder of September on inspection tours of his reinforced Army Group Center. On one occasion, Bock — along with Albert Kesselring — flew over Moscow.

On 29 September, Bock held a conference with his senior commanders Strauss, Hoth, Kluge, Weichs, Hoepner, Guderian, and Kesselring. During the meeting the main operational plan was reviewed, with Bock again stressing that Moscow must be taken by 7 November, before the onset of the Russian winter, and to coincide with the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The following day, Operation Typhoon began with attacks from Guderian’s and Hoth’s armored forces. Several days later, the infantry armies began to move toward Moscow. With less than 100 miles between the most advanced troops and Moscow, Bock estimated that his troops would enter the city in three to four weeks.

Almost immediately, Bock′s forces encountered stiff Soviet resistance on the road to Moscow. The previous diversions of Army Group Center allowed the Soviets to reinforce the area between Smolensk and Moscow with the Russian 3rd, 10th, 13th, and 20th Armies, as well as elements of three other armies. German forces were outnumbered almost two to one[citation needed]. However, the superior tactics and training of the Wehrmacht — along with an element of surprise — resulted in significant gains despite the increasingly desperate measures employed by the Russians to stop the advance.

The 2nd Panzer Army — along with the XLVIII Panzer Corps — attacked important rail junctions near Oryol and Bryansk. Hoepner′s 4th Panzer Army soon crossed the Desna River and gained access to deep Russian territory. Meanwhile, Hoth′s 3rd Panzer Army struck toward Rzhev on the Volga River.

On 3 October, Guderian′s forces captured Orel and subsequently gained access to a paved highway which led to Moscow, some 180 mi (290 km) away. Meanwhile, elements of the 2nd Panzer Army reported that they had bypassed Bryansk and were heading toward Karachev. Bock ordered Guderian to press on toward Tula, but within hours this order had been reversed by High Command. The reversal of the order called for Guderian to attack Bryansk where — along with Vyazma — two massive encirclements of Soviet forces were occurring. Bock argued that the area between Orel and Tula remained relatively free of Soviet forces and that Tula could be captured within hours. Ultimately, Bock agreed to divert Guderian′s tanks toward Bryansk.

Cold rain soon began to fall over the northern sectors of Army Group Center′s front, and the roads soon turned into quagmires as part of the Rasputitsa. Virtually the entire front became stuck the only vehicles capable of negotiating the mud were tanks and other tracked vehicles. However, these moved at a snail′s pace (sometimes less than 2 mi (3.2 km) per day), and fuel consumption soared. This further aggravated the problem of already poor supply lines. Trucks soon became stuck in the mud, as soldiers tried desperately to free them. As the temperature continued to drop, Guderian requested a supply of winter clothing and anti-freeze for the vehicles. However, the increase in partisan activity behind the lines, along with the deteriorating weather conditions, made it increasingly difficult for these vital supplies to reach the front. In one two-day period, partisans made over sixty attacks on German truck convoys, outposts, and railway lines.

Slight improvements in the weather soon made it possible for Bock′s forces to continue to seal the pockets around Bryansk and Vyazma. The dual encirclements of Soviet forces around Vyazma and Bryansk yielded some of the largest Soviet casualties since the beginning of Operation Barbarossa: some 650,000 prisoners were taken during these two encirclements, after which the Soviet armies facing Bock′s Army Group Center no longer had the advantage of superior numbers.

The weather soon deteriorated again, with the roads once more turning into impassable, muddy quagmires. Since 30 September, Bock had lost some 35,000 men, 250 tanks and artillery pieces, and several hundred other vehicles, many of which were mired in the mud. Fuel and ammunition supplies became dangerously low. Despite these problems, the advance toward Moscow continued as Hitler became increasingly impatient. When advance units of the 4th Panzer Army reached Kaluga and Maloyaroslavets, German forces were within 40 mi (64 km) of Moscow. Guderian′s advance in the south was much slower. An attempt by his forces to capture Tula had failed, with considerable losses of men and tanks. However, other units captured Stalinogorsk and Venev, indicating the possibility of bypassing Tula.

As Bock′s forces pressed on toward Moscow, panic struck in the capital. Hundreds of thousands of civilians began to evacuate the city while others were forced into emergency volunteer units. Martial law was instituted as looting and pillaging of deserted stores increased. Marshal Semyon Timoshenko was relieved of command in favor of Georgy Zhukov, who had been organizing the defense of Leningrad. The main bulk of the Soviet government was evacuated to Kuibyshev, 500 mi (800 km) southeast of Moscow however, Stalin remained in the capital after being reassured by Zhukov that the capital would not fall.

The further Bock′s forces advanced, the stiffer Soviet resistance became. The paved roads leading to Moscow became craters under constant Russian artillery fire, rendering them impassable. This forced the German troops into the mud and Army Group Center soon became stuck once again. The goal of capturing Moscow by mid-October could no longer be achieved. However, the sheer weight of the German advance could not be fully stopped, and on 21 October units of the 9th Army captured Kalinin.

As November arrived the mud soon turned into ice as temperatures dropped to � ଏ. While the ground hardened sufficiently enough to support vehicles, the cold weather added to the miseries of the German soldiers as many had not received winter clothing. Frostbite soon took its toll many soldiers were severely affected and had to be evacuated.

On 20 November, Bock moved his field headquarters to an advanced forward position near the front lines. There he visited an artillery command post, where he could see the buildings of Moscow through his field glasses. Several days later, German forces crossed the Moscow-Volga Canal and reached Khimki but soon fell back due to Soviet resistance. On 29 November, elements of the 4th Panzer Army reached the western suburbs of Moscow. On 4 December, units of the 2nd Army reached Kuntsevo, a western suburb of Moscow. Several units of Guderian′s army bypassed Kolomna and reached the Moscow River. Meanwhile, the 3rd Panzer Army once again fought into Khimki. These were the last advances made by Army Group Center under Bock′s command.

On 6 December, with the temperature at � ଏ, fresh Russian troops commanded by Zhukov launched a huge counterattack. All along the front near Moscow German troops retreated, destroying whatever equipment they could not salvage. Several days later, High Command ordered a halt to all offensive operations. Bock wrote in his diary:

All along, I demanded of Army High Command the authority to strike down the enemy when he was wobbling. We could have finished the enemy last summer. We could have destroyed him completely. Last August, the road to Moscow was open we could have entered the Bolshevik capital in triumph and in summery weather. The high military leadership of the Fatherland made a terrible mistake when it forced my army group to adopt a position of defense last August. Now all of us are paying for that mistake. By 13 December, German forces had retreated more than 50 mi (80 km) from the capital. On 18 December, Bock was relieved of his command of Army Group Center. The official pretext of this decision was health problems. However, this was just one case out of some 40 high-ranking officers being relieved of their command following the failure to capture Moscow. Bock′s command of Army Group Center marked the closest the German army ever got to Moscow never again would the Soviet capital be threatened.

When Bock asked for permission to withdraw his exhausted troops in December 1941, he was dismissed from his post as Commander of Army Group Center, to be reassigned to lead Army Group South in January 1942, when Generalfeldmarshall Walter von Reichenau died of a heart attack.

1942 Summer Offensive, Eastern Front

On 28 June 1942, Bock′s offensive split the Russian front into fragments on either side of Kursk. Three armies (Weich′s 2nd Army, Hoth′s 4th Panzer, and Paulus′ 6th Army) — along with 11 Panzer Divisions — fanned out toward Voronezh and the Don River. Paulus′ Panzer Divisions reached the Don on either side of Voronezh on 5 July. The Russians created a "Voronezh Front" under Vatutin, who reported directly to Moscow. Bock wanted to eliminate Vatutin′s forces before extending his own flank too deeply into the yawning void created by the strength and speed of the German offensive. Hitler was not pleased with Bock′s plan to delay the push toward Stalingrad. On 15 July, Hitler would blame him for the failure of "Operation Braunschweig", the second part of the German offensive in Russia, and retire him indefinitely. The command of Army Group South was given to Maximilian von Weichs.

While privately opposing the atrocities being committed against Soviet civilians,[citation needed] Bock never protested directly to Hitler, although at one time, he had a subordinate file a formal complaint ("Meine Herren, ich stelle fest: Der Feldmarschall von Bock hat protestiert!" — "gentlemen, I state: The field marshal von Bock has protested").[citation needed] His nephew, Henning von Tresckow, tried in vain to win him for the military resistance against the Hitler regime. When his staff officers planned the assassination of Hitler during a visit to his Army Group, Bock intervened.[citation needed] On the other hand, he did not report the conspirators either.

One of the reasons for Bock′s dismissal is believed to have been his expressed interest in supporting the Russian Liberation Movement, which Hitler was categorically against.

As an involuntarily retired Field Marshal, Bock felt he was made a scapegoat for the problems of Stalingrad. He was approached to join a coup against Hitler, but he believed any such move not supported by Heinrich Himmler — who controlled the Waffen-SS — was bound to fail he refused to move against the Führer.

With the Russians closing in on Berlin in 1945, Bock was informed by Erich von Manstein that Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz was forming a new government in Hamburg. Bock started off for that city immediately, perhaps hoping for a new command. Bock was injured on 3 May 1945, as his car was strafed by a British fighter plane killing his wife, stepdaughter, and a friend. Initially the only survivor of the attack, Bock died of his injuries the following day.

At age 64, Fedor von Bock became the only one of Adolf Hitler′s field marshals to die from enemy fire.

"Our profession should always be crowned by heroic death in battle"


Operation Typhoon is launched

On October 2, 1941, the Germans begin their surge to Moscow, led by the 1st Army Group and Gen. Fedor von Bock. Russian peasants in the path of Hitler’s army employ a “scorched-earth” policy.

Hitler’s forces had invaded the Soviet Union in June, and early on it had become one relentless push inside Russian territory. The first setback came in August, when the Red Army’s tanks drove the Germans back from the Yelnya salient. Hitler confided to General Bock at the time: “Had I known they had as many tanks as that, I𠆝 have thought twice before invading.” But there was no turning back for Hitler—he believed he was destined to succeed where others had failed, and capture Moscow.

Although some German generals had warned Hitler against launching Operation Typhoon as the harsh Russian winter was just beginning, remembering the fate that befell Napoleon—who got bogged down in horrendous conditions, losing serious numbers of men and horses𠅋ock urged him on. This encouragement, coupled with the fact that the Germany army had taken the city of Kiev in late September, caused Hitler to declare, “The enemy is broken and will never be in a position to rise again.” So for 10 days, starting October 2, the 1st Army Group drove east, drawing closer to the Soviet capital each day. But the Russians also remembered Napoleon and began destroying everything as they fled their villages, fields, and farms. Harvested crops were burned, livestock were driven away, and buildings were blown up, leaving nothing of value behind to support exhausted troops. Hitler’s army inherited nothing but ruins.


1940: The Germans Occupy Paris

It was a great triumph for the Wehrmacht (the German Army), but also for Adolf Hitler personally because his occupied a metropolis for the first time.

Army Group B (German: Heeresgruppe B), under the supreme command of Fedor von Bock, occupied Paris. A year later, Fedor von Bock became “Generalfeldmarschall”.

Allegedly, Fedor von Bock was against Nazism. In fact he was a monarchist, who supported the former Kaiser Wilhelm II (who was exiled, and lived in the Netherlands). Fedor von Bock tried to meet with Wilhelm II when his troops conquered the Netherlands (shortly before the occupation of Paris). However, the German guard prevented their meeting (namely, Hitler thought that Fedor von Bock was his rival). Next year, the mentioned emperor died.

A few days before the occupation of Paris, the French government fled the city, and went to Tours, the city on the Loire River.

The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also went to Tours, and visited the French government.

He allegedly proposed the union of Great Britain and France in order to show that they would fight against the Germans till the end (Churchill probably wanted to stop the plans of the Frenchmen who wanted to surrender to the Germans).

However, the plan was rejected, Paris was occupied, and France surrendered to the Germans (not counting Charles de Gaulle, who was in London, and continued to fight).


What If the Germans Had Captured Moscow in 1941?

O ne of the classic “what ifs” of the Second World War centers on how—or if—the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, code-named Operation Barbarossa, could have achieved a quick victory. Hitler certainly believed that it could. All one had to do, he insisted, was to “kick in the door” and the “whole rotten structure” of Stalin’s Communist regime would come tumbling down. In many respects, Barbarossa was a stunning success. The Germans took the Soviets completely by surprise, advanced hundreds of miles in just a few weeks, killed or captured several million Soviet troops, and seized an area containing 40 percent of the USSR’s population, as well as most of its coal, iron ore, aluminum, and armaments industry. But Barbarossa failed to take its capstone objective, Moscow. What went wrong?

Some historians have pointed to the German decision to advance along three axes: in the north toward Leningrad, in the south toward Ukraine, and in the center against Moscow. But the Wehrmacht had force enough to support three offensives, and its quick destruction of so many Soviet armies suggests that this was a reasonable decision. Others have pointed to Hitler’s decision in August to divert most of the armored units attached to Field Marshal Fedor von Bock’s Army Group Center, whose objective was Moscow, and send them south to support an effort to surround and capture the Soviet armies around Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The elimination of the Kiev pocket on September 26 bagged 665,000 men, more than 3,000 artillery pieces, and almost 900 tanks. But it delayed the resumption of major operations against Moscow until early autumn. This, many historians argue, was a fatal blunder.

Yet, as historian David M. Glantz points out, such a scenario ignores what the Soviet armies around Kiev might have done had they not been trapped, and introduces too many variables to make for a good counterfactual. The best “minimal rewrite” of history must therefore focus on the final German bid to seize Moscow, an offensive known as Operation Typhoon.

Here is how Typhoon might have played out:

When the operation begins, Army Group Center enjoys a substantial advantage over the Soviet forces assigned to defend Moscow. It has at its disposal 1.9 million men, 48,000 artillery pieces, 1,400 aircraft, and 1,000 tanks. In contrast, the Soviets have only 1.25 million men (many with little or no combat experience), 7,600 artillery pieces, 600 aircraft, and almost 1,000 tanks. The seeming parity in the number of tanks is misleading, however, since the overwhelming majority of Soviet tanks are obsolescent models.

Initially, Army Group Center runs roughshod over its opponents. Within a few days, it achieves the spectacular encirclement of 685,000 Soviet troops near the towns of Bryansk and Vyazma, about 100 miles west of Moscow. The hapless Russians look to the skies for the onset of rain, for this is the season of the rasputitsa—literally the “time without roads”—when heavy rainfall turns the fields and unpaved roads into muddy quagmires. But this year the weather fails to rescue them, and by early November frost has so hardened the ground that German mobility is assured. With Herculean efforts from German supply units, Army Group Center continues to lunge directly for Moscow.

Thoroughly alarmed, the Stalin regime evacuates the government 420 miles east to Kuybyshev, north of the Caspian Sea. It also evacuates a million Moscow inhabitants, prepares to dynamite the Kremlin rather than have it fall into German hands, and makes plans to remove Lenin’s tomb to a safe place. Stalin alone remains in Moscow until mid-November, when the first German troops reach the city in force. And in obedience to Hitler’s order, Fedor von Bock uses Army Group Center to surround Moscow, instead of fighting for the city street by street. Nonetheless, the Soviet troops withdraw rather than fall prey to yet another disastrous encirclement, and on November 30—precisely two months after Operation Typhoon begins—it culminates in the capture of Moscow.

The above scenario is historically correct in many respects. The three major departures are the absence of the rasputitsa, which did indeed bog down the German offensive for two crucial weeks the headlong drive toward Moscow rather than the diversion of units to lesser objectives in the wake of the victory at Bryansk and Vyazma—a major error and, of course, the capture of Moscow itself.

But would the fall of Moscow have meant the defeat of the Soviet Union? Almost certainly not. In 1941 the Soviet Union endured the capture of numerous major cities, a huge percentage of crucial raw materials, and the loss of four million troops. Yet it still continued to fight. It had a vast and growing industrial base east of the Ural Mountains, well out of reach of German forces. And in Joseph Stalin it had one of the most ruthless leaders in world history—a man utterly unlikely to throw in the towel because of the loss of any city, no matter how prestigious.

A scenario involving Moscow’s fall also ignores the arrival of 18 divisions of troops from Siberia—fresh, well-trained, and equipped for winter fighting. They had been guarding against a possible Japanese invasion, but a Soviet spy reliably informed Stalin that Japan would turn southward, toward the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines, thereby freeing them to come to the Moscow front. Historically, the arrival of these troops took the Germans by surprise, and an unexpected Soviet counteroffensive in early December 1941 produced a major military crisis. Surprised and disturbed, Hitler’s field commanders urged a temporary retreat in order to consolidate the German defenses. But Hitler refused, instead ordering that German troops continue to hold their ground. Historically they managed to do so. However, with German forces extended as far as Moscow and pinned to the city’s defense, this probably would not have been possible. Ironically, for the Germans, the seeming triumph of Moscow’s capture might well have brought early disaster.


How Hitler Doomed His Master Plan to Invade the Soviet Union (And Lost World War II)

Key point: Hitler was overconfident and ignored the warnings of his generals. Nazi Germany's attacks went well at first, but over time the tide would turn.

The smell of victory was in the air as the forces of Field Marshal Fedor von Bock’s Army Group Center continued to drive deep into the Ukraine during the final week of June 1941. To most of the young soldiers of the army group it seemed that this would be another unstoppable blitzkrieg. Their commander, however, saw things differently.

Von Bock was one of several higher commanders who were against the entire notion of invading the Soviet Union. His contemporaries described him as vain, irritating, cold, and humorless. On the occasion of his 60th birthday in December 1940, von Bock had a personal visit from Hitler. He bluntly told the Führer that he was concerned about the Russian undertaking, citing the lack of knowledge about the strength of the Red Army and the vast area that the Wehrmacht would have to fight in. Hitler met the comment with silence. Nevertheless, von Bock became commander of the most powerful of the three army groups poised to invade the Soviet Union.

At 0315 on June 22, 1941, the early morning silence was shattered by a thunderous barrage. The western sky lit up as thousands of German shells streaked overhead to hit identified Soviet targets. Operation Barbarossa had begun.

The German attack caused unbelievable panic at General Dmitrii Grigorevich Pavlov’s soon to be Western Front headquarters. Overhead, the Luftwaffe decimated the Red Air Force in Pavlov’s sector of the front on the first day, and the communications between Pavlov and his subordinate units were utterly disrupted, resulting in an almost complete lapse in command and control.

Soviet counterattacks during the first two days of the invasion were easily brushed aside. On June 24, Pavlov ordered his deputy, Lt. Gen. Ivan Vasilevich Boldin, to counterattack with the 6th and 11th Mechanized Corps, supported by the 6th Cavalry Corps, to stop the growing threat of a German encirclement of Soviet forces around Bialystok.

The attack was doomed from the start. Mechanical breakdowns plagued the Soviet tanks, and the Luftwaffe’s total control of the air proved disastrous for the Russian columns trying to move to their assembly areas. General Wolfram von Richtofen’s VIII Air Corps caused massive casualties even before the counterattack got started.

Among von Richtofen’s units was Lt. Col. Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn’s Jagdgeschwa-der (Fighter Wing) 53. Hermann Neuhoff, a pilot in Captain Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke’s III Group, described the scene: “We found the main roads in the area congested with Russian vehicles of all kinds, but no fighter opposition and very little flak. We made one firing pass after another and caused terrible destruction on the ground. Literally everything was ablaze by the time we turned for home.”

The commander of the 6th Mechanized, Maj. Gen. Mikhail Gregorevich Khatskilevich, was killed on the 24th. Of the more than 1,200 tanks in his command, approximately 200 made it to their assembly area. Low on fuel, the survivors were easy marks for the Germans.

June 25 saw more disaster for the Russians. A mere 243 tanks from Maj. Gen. Dmitrii Karpovich Mostovenko’s 11th Mechanized Corps made it to the front. Most of those were destroyed the same day while making piecemeal attacks on German forces. The accompanying 6th Cavalry Corps suffered more than 50 percent casualties, and its commander, Maj. Gen. Ivan Semeiotic Nikitin, was captured and later executed by the Germans.

On June 27, the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups linked up near Minsk, trapping the Soviet 3rd and 10th Armies in the Bialystock area. Most of the 13th Army and part of the 4th Army were also inside the pocket. While German armored and infantry units fought to destroy the encircled Russians, other panzer forces continued to drive east. Bobruysk fell to General Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg’s XXIV (motorized) Army Corps on June 30, securing a crossing over the Berezina River. The battle for the frontier was basically over by July 3 with the elimination of the Russians inside the Bialystock pocket.

In Moscow, Premier Josef Stalin was furious. He had Pavlov relieved and arrested. The unlucky front commander was executed on July 22. Lt. Gen. Andrei Ivanovich Eremenko took over command of the Western Front until the new commander, Marshal Semen Konstantinovich Timoshenko, arrived in Smolensk on July 2.

Timoshenko’s main objective was to stop the German panzers at the Dnieper River. The odds of that happening looked pretty slim. Upon his arrival in Smolensk, Timoshenko found the front command in total disarray. His armored forces had been decimated, leaving him with about 200 tanks. About 400 aircraft were still operational, but they were being hunted down by the Luftwaffe and were largely ineffective.

Nevertheless, Timoshenko ordered his subordinates to make an orderly withdrawal to the river while using combat groups to strike at enemy spearheads. On July 5, the XXIV Panzer Corps reached the western bank of the Dneiper. Von Schweppenburg met heavy opposition from the remnants of Lt. Gen. Fedor Nikitich Rezmezov’s 13th Army that had escaped the Bialystock pocket. General Adolf Kuntzen’s XXXIX (motorized) Corps ran into the same thing as it confronted Lt. Gen. Pavel Alekseevich Kurochkin’s retreating 20th Army. Throughout the next few days, the Germans continued their advance at a moderate rate despite several intense counterattacks from the Russians.

By July 9, another major battle of encirclement ended as the Minsk pocket was crushed. The defeat cost the Western Front 290,000 prisoners and as many as 100,000 dead. Timoshenko was able to make good some of those losses as Stavka (the Soviet High Command) continued to pump reinforcements into the area.

The next week saw more German advances. Von Schweppenburg’s corps gained a bridgehead across the Dneiper on July 10. More German units expanded the bridgehead the next day, forcing the 13th Army to retreat once again. As the Soviets retreated the inexperienced conscripts that were arriving made fruitless counterattacks to try and stem the German advance.

Another great battle of encirclement ensued, this time around Smolensk. General Heinz Guderian’s Panzer Group 2 struck across the Dneiper, and by July 13 his 29th (motorized) Division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Walter von Boltenstern, was within 18 kilometers of the city. Meanwhile, General Hermann Hoth’s Panzer Group 3 attacked on a parallel course. By July 18, the two panzer groups were within 18 kilometers of each other, but strong Soviet counterattacks kept a gap open, allowing some Russian forces to escape.

At the head of Guderian’s spearhead was Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Schaal’s 10th Panzer Division. Guderian order Schaal to head toward Yelnya, a town of about 15,000 located on the banks of the Desna River 82 kilometers southeast of Smolensk. With an eye toward the future, Guderian saw the heights surrounding the town as the perfect spot for the continuation of the drive toward Moscow after the Smolensk pocket was eliminated.

Schaal moved out during the early hours of July 18. Upon reaching the Khmara River his lead elements found that the bridge crossing the river had been damaged by the Russians. At 0545 a single panzer from Lt. Col. Theodor Keyser’s 7th Panzer Regiment tried to cross the bridge but ended up crashing through it. Schaal was forced to postpone his advance until the following day so that the bridge and another one a few kilometers away could be repaired.

Yelnya, which means spruce grove, was defended by Maj. Gen. Iakov Georgievich Kotelnikov’s 19th Rifle Division of Maj. Gen. Konstantin Ivanovich Rakutin’s 24th Army. Upon hearing of the enemy’s approach, Kotelnikov used the time lost by 10th Panzer to good purpose. An antitank ditch that engineers had dug across the road to Yelnya was fortified, and some heavy artillery was allotted to bombard the road once the Germans attacked.

The Duna River, which began on the Smolensk Heights northest of the town, was about 60 meters wide and three meters deep in the area. Kotelnikov ordered that the eastern bank be fortified and had service troops and civilians begin digging trenches and creating strongpoints on the heights east of the town.

To Schall’s left, SS Maj. Gen. Paul Hausser’s 2nd SS (motorized) Division “Reich” was ordered to advance to Dorogobuzh, some 40 kilometers north of Yelnya, and capture the heights in that area. SS Major Otto Kumm, commander of the division’s “Der Führer” (DF) Regiment, was to lead the assault. Kumm had his doubts about the mission. An overcast sky with intermittent showers prevented him from having hard air reconnaissance on enemy dispositions. Nevertheless, Kumm started out on his 100-kilometer march with SS Captain Johannes Mühlenkamp’s reconnaissance battalion in the lead.

“The road conditions were very bad,” Mühlenkamp recalled. “Bridges that crossed small streams in the area were worthless. The Ivans were dug in west of Dorogobuzh, and we launched an attack in the area to drive them out. However, [enemy] reinforcements arrived and counterattacked, forcing us to retreat. The fighting continued throughout the day [July 19].”


Watch the video: Best German WW2 General? Definitive Answer. (December 2022).

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