Operation Blücher (iii)

(Napoleonic era Prussian field marshal)

This was an unrealised German plan for the use of Generaloberst Hans-Georg Reinhardt’s 3rd Panzerarmee in a counter-offensive to halt a Soviet breakthrough in the region of Rzhev (August/September 1942).

The Soviet drive was launched by General Georgi K. Zhukov’s West Front and General Leytenant Maksim A. Purkayev’s (from August General Leytenant Andrei I. Eremenko’s) Kalinin Front against the weakened forces of Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge’s Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’. The West Front started its offensive on 5 July, moving from the area of Sukhinichi toward Bryansk, and was soon joined by Kalinin Front moving in the direction of Rzhev. von Kluge hoped to use Panzer divisions borrowed from other formations to check the Soviet effort round Rzhev, but was denied the authorisation to do so by Adolf Hitler, who wanted the divisions committed near Sukhinichi.

On 24 August Generaloberst Franz Halder, chief of the Oberkommando des Heeres, urged Hitler that Generaloberst Walter Model’s 9th Army was in danger of being cut off as there were Soviet forces round three sides of this army at the head of the Rzhev salient, and urged Hitler to allow the army’s withdrawal so that Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ could establish a shorter and more readily defensible line, but Hitler adamantly refused to consider any such retirement. With great skill Model held the 9th Army in its technically exposed position and inflicted very heavy losses on the Soviet forces.