Winter Campaign of 1941–42

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The Winter Campaign of 1941–1942 from 5 December 1941 to 30 April 1942 was the name given by Soviet military command to the period that marked the commencement of the Moscow Strategic Offensive Operation (also known as the Battle of Moscow) as the opening phase of the Red Army strategic counter-offensive operations in USSR, and the first strategic setbacks on land for the Nazi plans of European domination. The campaign ended in a Russian victory.

The campaign began with the Moscow Strategic Offensive Operation (5 December 1941 – 7 January 1942)[1] with the simultaneous Kerch-Feodosia Amphibious Operation (25 December 1941 – 2 January 1942)[2] conducted to draw the Wehrmacht's attention from preparations for other offensives being prepared in Russia.


The Soviets had prepared a detailed plan to defend their capital Moscow. With centuries of experience in defensive warfare on their side, many great invaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte had been unsuccessful in occupying this city and its region. This failure repeated itself when Adolf Hitler and his armies, formerly allies with Joseph Stalin before 22 June 1941, were stopped cold at its gates. After many German battles and successful campaigns, Germany with its allies and their divisions Kingdom of Romania, Independent State of Croatia, Kingdom of Hungary and Republic of Finland had reached the outskirts of Moscow. This event did sow panic among the population yet they began preparing counteroffensive measures. Soviets first built deep anti- tank trenches, huge walls and AA guns to protect against air attack. East of the Ural Mountains, Soviets were building their new types of tanks, such as the fast and rugged T-34 which, at this time, was, in the general consensus, the best tank in the field. The T-37 A and T-60 would also eventually take the victorious Red Army all the way to Berlin. Other new offensive weapons included their feared Katyusha rocket launcher and recently formed battalions in their army. The Germans, expecting a quick victory in the USSR, were simply not ready for the bitterly-cold Moscow winter and this "General Winter" was the biggest reason for their defeat in the Battle of Moscow. The Germans had sent huge numbers of tanks and artillery to this front but they were always low on oil. They often had to keep fires burning under their tank engines just to maintain battle-readiness. Many of the soldiers died from the cold temperatures which were often below −10 °C. Soviets accurately saw how the situation was developing and began attacking the freezing Germans who were finally driven away from the Moscow Area on 7 January 1942. Further Soviet attacks and operations were held in January between Rzhev and the Lake Seliger. In that battle Russians with two armies from the North and Central Moscow areas beat the Germans who withdrew. In concert with the advance from Kaluga to the south-west of Moscow, it was intended the two offensives converge on Smolensk, but the Germans rallied and managed to hold them apart, retaining a salient at Rzhev. The Soviets also launched a parachute drop on German-held Dorogobuzh, but it was a complete failure. In June the Germans and the pro-German Russian Liberation Army lost smaller battles in North at the Volkhov River. In the south, the Red Army lunged over the Donets River at Izyum and drove a 100 km (62 mi) deep salient. The intent was to pin Army Group South against the Sea of Azov, but as the winter eased the Germans were able to counter-attack and cut off the over-extended Soviet troops in the Second Battle of Kharkov.

Aspects of the Nazi-Soviet warfare during winter 1941 - 1942[edit]

During the fifteen-month period between the Winter War and Hitler's invasion of Russia, the Red Army profited from its experience in Finland. In addition to making general organizational and tactical changes, the Soviets paid more attention to winter clothing, equipment, and training including that of the ski troops - in marked contrast to their future opponents.

Many of the combat problems the German Army encountered in European Russia during the winter of 1941 - 1942 resemble a greatly amplified playback of the Arkhangelsk campaign of 1918 - 1919. The Germans paid an exorbitant price for ignoring the lessons of those, and other, earlier winter campaigns. Gen. Dr. Waldemar Erfurth noted that before 1941 The German General Staff had never been interested in the history of wars in Northern and Eastern Europe. No records of the wars of Russia against the Swedes, Finns, and Poles had been published in German. "The older generation which had been brought up in the tradition of von Moltke ... considered it sufficient to study the countries immediately surrounding Germany ... the northern regions of Europe remained practically unknown to the German Soldier."

The devastating effects of the decision to expose German troops to combat in the latitude of Moscow without appropriate clothing and supplies were so widespread that it is impossible to single out one particular battle as the best example. Accordingly, the observations that follow are generalizations applicable to a very wide front.[3]

The operations in central and northern European Russia began with the conclusion of the Moscow counter-offensive almost simultaneously with the Oboyan-Kursk Offensive Operation (3 January 1942 – 26 January 1942), the Lyuban Offensive Operation (7 January 1942 – 30 April 1942), the Demyansk Offensive Operation[4] (7 January 1942 – 20 May 1942), the Orel-Bolkhov Offensive Operation (8 January 1942 – 28 April 1942), and the Rzhev-Vyazma Strategic Offensive Operation (8 January 1942 – 20 April 1942) also known as Operation Mars.[5] (But the name "Mars" more often refers to another Soviet operation in the same area, during November and December 1942.

The campaign concluded with the Barvenkovo-Lozovaya Offensive Operation (18 January 1942 – 31 January 1942), a renewed attempt to retake Crimea during the Crimean Offensive Operation (27 January 1942 – 15 April 1942) and the Bolkhov Offensive Operation (24 March 1942 – 3 April 1942).


  1. ^ Erickson 2003, p.249.
  2. ^ Erickson 2003, p.288–291.
  3. ^ "Russia At War 1941-1945 Winter". Retrieved 2011-11-14. 
  4. ^ Erickson 2003, p.305.
  5. ^ Erickson 2003, p.297.


  • Erickson, John (2003). The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin's war with Germany. Volume One. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks. ISBN 0-304-36541-6. 
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