Friday, August 23, 2013

How Panzer Group 3 Got Its Ugly Left Flank - Moscow '41

Most of the times I load a medium-sized Panzer Campaign's scenario, I get into it without much thought about the big picture or the things that historically were happening around the piece of the battle at hand. This scenario (Kalinin), was an exception.

This is the north flank of Panzer Group 3, 13Oct1941. The push for Moscow has already started and here I am in command of part of XXXXI Panzer Corps (1st Pz.Div., 900th Motorized Brigade and the 36th Motorized Division) and even less of the LVI Panzer Corps (6th Pz. Div.). What caught my interest is that we are pushing north east towards Kalinin, not Moscow (not shown here but located east). Also, what's up with such extended flanks? Our forces are spread on a 70+ Km stretch from Staritsa to Kalinin. We have the Volga shielding us from the Russians west of the river ... But a single Pz. Div. covering our east flank?

What are the origins of such a push towards Kalinin, away from Moscow?

The answer can be found in a book by Jack Radey and Charles Sharp, The Defense of Moscow 1941, The Northern Flank. 

From page 4, bold is mine:

On October 7th, the same day that the Soviet forces in and around Vyazma were encircled, the German Army's commander in chief, von Brauchistch, met with the commander of Army Group Center (von Bock) and discussed changing the original plans. Specifically, while the Army Group advanced on Moscow with everything that could be spared from holding the encirclement ring, he proposed also advancing 9th Army and Hoth's Panzer Group 3 'in a northwestern direction' to clear the northern flank of Army Group Center. 

There is a recurring topic in the German conduct of war at this stage of the invasion of Russia: the total focus in destroying enemy forces. Noted the word "clear" in the previous paragraph?

In another paragraph, some two pages later, the author's note that Panzer Group 3's new objective (clearing the northern flank) was shared with units from Army Group North (!).

Was this ugly north flank the result of just the eagerness to encircle and destroy as much Russian armies as possible? Or was there also a need to have a decent left flank for the advance towards Moscow? In other words, could Army Group Center afford to send Panzer Group 3 directly east towards Moscow instead of this push in a northwestern direction?

I don't know. Playing the Panzer Campaigns Moscow '41 monster scenario (the one that covers the whole operation) could provide some educated guesses. But I can't afford to embark in such a huge scenario due to real life obligations.

Another possibility is playing the Moscow 41 scenario in Gary Grigsby's War in the East. The screenshot below is how the scenario looks like. I included the historical axis of operations for Panzer Group 3 (green arrows).



Anonymous said...

Hi JC!

What graphic editor do you use?

JC said...


That's Photoshop, my friend. :)


Miguel said...

That's an awesome book JC, I've enjoyed it immensely. I don't know if GG's WITE will provide a good platform for exploring the themes covered by Radey's book. The scale is just too coarse to cover well this little "sideshow". Besides that, you'll find the logistics very forgiving.

PzC's Kalinin scenario, with Explicit Supply rules, should provide a much better platform. But that's going to require a great deal of patience maneuvering those stacks.

You could try and model this with Command Ops though, should do a much better job.

TheShatteredSword said...

How vcan this simulated with Command Ops?

JC said...

Hi Miguel,

Isn't that a great book?
You make a great point about the WiTE. I'm just not sure I'm brave enough to embark in the big scenario in PzC right now.

As TheShattered Sword asked too, what do you mean with modeling this with Command Ops? Editing databases and such? Or just creating an scenario with the available forces?


Miguel said...

Hi, I didn't subscribe to the comments, sorry for being a bit tardy answering.

It's perhaps one of my most refreshing reads on the Eastern Front, ever :)

Yes, it would involve (1) creating a Estab, starting from the Greece'41 Estab (so you can reuse the German units and data). Working up a minimalistic Estab covering typical Soviet weapons and afv's, and the formations discussed by the book and (2) creating a map.

(2) is harder than (1) - in terms of the amount of time to be invested.

There might be some details (such as certain formations) not covered by the set of doctrines Command Ops AI draws from, but that shouldn't result in any major distortion (as compared with what you can do with PzC rules, for instance).

In fact, the tempo of operations should be better reflected due to the more realistic, yet automated, supply system.

bytesanddice said...

Terrain issues maybe? Away from books atm so cannot substantiate comment