03 February 2011

Random World War Two Moment

On the eastern front, in 1941, as most literate people even now are aware, the Wehrmacht's progress stopped just short of Moscow. Panzer Lieutenant Gustav Schrodek was keeping a diary, and in early December he wrote, "We are unbelievably close. I saw a sign saying 'Moscow -- 18 kilometres'. The capital is so near we can almost touch it."

At the northern extreme of the line, Leningrad was placed under siege.

Yet forward progress did stop, and on December 6 the Soviets launched a counter-offensive. Even the geopolitically crucial news from warm Hawaii the next day may not have been any more important in the big picture than the struggle of these two armies in front of Moscow.

The Russians threw the Germans back. But there was no headlong retreat -- or the war in Europe might have been a lot shorter than it turned out to be. No ... the Germans retreated in sound order (compared, say, to Napoleon's disastrous retreat over the same terrain more than a century before).

What is more, the Germans won the battle of Rzhev, from January 21 to February 18, 1942, sixty-nine years ago now, the battle that allowed them to establish a new set of defensible lines. Here is historian Michael Jones about General Model, who led the Ninth Army at the time.

"Model won the confidence of the Ninth Army in one highly dramatic incident. As leading elements of the Soviet Thirty-Third Army pushed toward the town of Vyazma -- south of Rzhev astride the vital Moscow-Smolensk motor hioghway -- the Fuhrer intervened, ordering forces Model had earmarked for his counteropffensive to block this threat instead. Mopdel refused to accept these dispositions ....He flew back to the Fuhrer's headquarters and confronted him in person. When Hitler attempted to dismiss his objections, Model said bluntly, 'Mein Fuhrer, who commands the Ninth Army -- you or I?' Taken aback by Model's sheer force of will, Hitler backed down."

I have no point, I'm just thinking wintry thoughts.

No comments:

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.