© Tom Taylor
How the map looks to General Heinz Guderian
2nd Armored Group, Commander
17th Panzer Division was stopped near Senno: unusually large
number of tanks in a Red Army frontal attack.
2nd Panzer Group objectives remain:
1. capture Smolensk: trap large number of Red Army troops in noose
2. take Elnya: important jumping off point for assault on Moscow
3. take Roslavl: control of area required to protect armor's right flank
Reaching these objectives means crossing the Dnieper River at
Orsha, Mogilev, Rogachev. Time is the critical factor. Russian
troops are beginning to collect at these points. They are weak now.
Time enables them to mass their forces and prepare their defense.
Strike with what we have now and save us from the casualties
incurred later when an assault will be made against a fortified
defense with withering firepower.
Field-Marshal von Kluge arrives at 2nd Panzer HQ and forbids
any order for crossing the Dnieper before allowing the infantry
to catch up. Like hell. Preparations are done. We've gone
too far to cancel now. A fiery exchange erupts between the
tank commander and his immediate superior. Finally
Kluge assents to Guderian's plan, saying "Your operations
always hang by a thread."
Dnieper River crossed as planned. Casualties light.
Dust everywhere. Hard on men, weapons and engines.
Tank cylinders clog. Hitler promises 300 new engines but
no new tanks. Those go to divisions for the future.
17th Panzer Division hit by strong enemy force south of Orsha.
They evacuate their bridgehead on the river's east side.
Guderian asks Kluge to hurry his infantry up. Kluge emphasizes
security, Guderian is about speed. One cannot tolerate the other.
10th Panzer Division took heavy artillery fire and low flying
bombing of their crossing. Once they've secured the beachhead
Guderian orders his corps to press on through the night.
Times a wasting. At morning they will surprise the Russians
The Russian forces trapped at Mogilev have finally been destroyed.
General Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group has met up with Guderian's
troops east of Smolensk to close the encirclement.
The on-going dispute over campaign objectives forces a meeting
the next day between the leading generals of 4th Army - Guderian,
Hoth and Kluge, its commanding general. The trouble really lies
with Guderian's inability to work with Kluge. There will be no
compromise with his commanding officer's dull witted notions
about the capabilities of fast-moving armored firepower.
Guderian's contempt could not be disguised.
The meeting in Orsha goes not as expected. Guderian learns Hitler
is directing his 2nd Panzer Army south to mop up some scattered
Russian infantry divisions. This objective is nothing more than pocket
change - a truly unworthy assignment at a critical hour. God help us.
The Fuhrer's dithering's must mean he's lost his nerve.
Could it be Hitler is coming to the realization his attack on Russia
is based on false assumptions?
The Fuhrer takes direct command of the Army. Hitler oversees
all operational matters. What it does is take the initiative from
the commander on the scene and introduces both delay and
uncertainty as Hitler mulls his options.
A strategy shake-up comes with the Fuhrer's new powers.
Conditions have changed. The Red Army is too big to destroy.
An early end to the war is unrealistic. Economics becomes the
new focus because it is the only way we can win the long haul.
That is not what Hitler's message says but it is what it means.
Forget Moscow. The focus should be on the resource rich Ukraine
and the fabulous Leningrad harbor. Hitler knows economics better
than his generals. He knows his country's true financial state of
affairs. It's all labor at the point of a gun once your checks bounce.
Big wars are expensive.
Roslavl captured. Timoshenko thwarted.
A favored tactic of German commanders along the eastern front
at this time was to accept the casualties necessary to take a
valued piece of real estate because they knew their investment
would be returned a number of times over because Russian
leaders would make repeated futile assaults to regain the
territory to prove their loyalty and resolve.
Germany's own planes bomb Guderian's 23rd Infantry Division
on their way to the front. Insufficient training and lack of combat
experience are blamed for the incident that caused heavy
casualties. Let it all sink in. For a moment. Now shake it off
and move it out.
Once again Guderian pushes his troops forward through the night
"so as to reach the high road to Moscow as soon as possible."
© Tom Taylor
General Heinz Guderian
3rd Panzer Group Commander
not a team player
How wonderous it all is.
The general's imaginings come to life.
Guderian can't wait to get to Moscow.
As a matter of fact, the general has
already gotten a bit ahead of things.