Photos Depicting How Operation Typhoon Turned the Tables in World War II

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The Battle of Moscow was a military campaign on the Eastern Front during World War II, taking place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviets were able to thwart the Nazi advance and prevent the destruction of Moscow, the capital and largest city of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Capturing Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives of the Nazi forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union.  The Nazi strategic offensive, codenamed Operation Typhoon, called for an all-out attack on Moscow by surrounding it from the North, South, and West.

Hitler believed that the best way to destroy the Soviet Union was economically. He planned to seize the resources from Ukraine and Kiev. Hitler’s military advisors suggested a direct attack on Moscow. Hitler overruled. By September 26, 1941, the Nazi forces had taken Ukraine and marched on.

Summer had ended. Two million Nazi troops were committed to Operation Typhoon along with 1,000 tanks.

The Soviet resistance comprised of 1.25 million men, and 1,000 tanks stationed between Vyazma and Bryansk. The Nazis were able to push through the Red Army, capturing 514,000 Soviet soldiers, 14% of their strength, but the weather began to change. By October 7, the first snow had fallen and melted, turning roads and fields to mud: a phenomenon known as ‘rasputitsa’ in Russia.

The mire slowed the Nazi forces and the Soviets were able to retreat and regroup. Counterattacks further slowed the Nazi advance. On October 9, Otto Deitrich, of the Ministry of Propaganda, forecast the imminent destruction of the Soviet army and of Moscow. Rumors of soldiers being home for Christmas circulated the Reich.

250,000 women and children were digging trenches and anti-tank moats around Moscow, moving almost three million cubic meters of earth.

By late October, only one-third of the Nazi motor vehicles were still functioning. The infantry did not have adequate winter clothing and the muddy roads disrupted the supply lines.

The Nazi attack paused until November 15 when the ground froze. The Nazis began their offensive towards Klin. Stalin had relocated his soldiers to the south to attempt a counteroffensive at Volokolamsk. After heavy fighting, the Nazis captured Klin on November 24. By November 28, the Nazis were barely 18 miles shy of the Kremlin.  The bridge over the Moscow-Volga Canal was the closest the Nazis would get to Moscow before being pushed back by the Soviets until Berlin had fallen.

The European winter of 1941-1942 was the coldest winter of the twentieth century. On November 30, it was reported that the temperature was -49 °F. The Nazis reported more than 130,000 cases of frostbite.

“The offensive on Moscow failed … We underestimated the enemy’s strength, as well as his size and climate.”

A Soviet policeman on Gorky Street, Moscow, Russia, 1 Aug 1941. Russian International News Agency
Soldiers of the Soviet Voroshilov Regiment in training, Moscow, Russia, 30 Aug 1941. Anatoliy Garanin
Soviet soldier teaching civilians how to disarm a un-exploded German incendiary bomb, Sverdlov Square, Moscow, Russia, 1 Sep 1941. ww2dbase
Soviet troops capturing a German forward position at Vitovka near Bryansk, Russia, 30 Sep 1941. ww2dbase
Russian civilians building defensive fortifications in Moscow, Russia, 1 Oct 1941. ww2dbase
Aircraft listening post near Moscow, Russia, Oct 1941. Russian International News Agency
Anti-tank barricades on the streets in anticipation of the Nazis reaching Moscow, Russia, Oct 1941. ww2db
Anti-tank barricades on the streets of Moscow, Russia, Oct 1941. Russian International News Agency
Anti-tank barricades on the streets of Moscow, Russia, Oct 1941. ww2db
Preparing barrage balloons on Bolshaya Ordynka Street, Moscow, Russia, 1 Nov 1941. ww2dbase
Setting up a 76 mm anti-aircraft gun battery in Moscow, Russia, 1 Nov 1941. ww2dbase
Wehrmacht soldiers pulling car from the mud, November 1941. Wikipedia
Soviet troops marching in Moscow, Russia, 1 Nov 1941. ww2dbase
Soviet troops near Zvenigorod, Russia, 1 Nov 1941. ww2dbase
A parade of Soviet tanks, Moscow, Russia, 7 Nov 1941. ww2dbase
Russian civilians digging trenches in Moscow, Russia, 15 Nov 1941. ww2dbase
German soldiers treating a wounded comrade in the snow outside a suburb of Moscow, ca. November 1941. Bundesarchive photo
A German truck bogged down in the mud street of a Russian village outside of Moscow. Bundesarchive photo
German armor attacking Istra, 40 kilometers west of Moscow, Nov. 25, 1941. Bundesarchive photo
Soviet T-26 tank and troops fighting in Rostov, Russia, Nov 1941. ww2dbase
Moscow women digging anti-tank ditches outside the city, 1941. ww2dbase
Women in the universal military training program marching in Moscow, Russia, late 1941. Ivan Shagin
A column of Soviet T-26 tanks (model 1938-1939 and model 1933) moving up toward the front lines for the Battle of Moscow, Dec 1941. ww2db
Rifle lessons in Soviet universal military training, Moscow, Russia, Oct-Dec 1941. Russian International News Agency