Klin-Solnechnogorsk Defensive Operation

The 'Klinsk-Solnechnogorsk Defensive Operation' was the Soviet sixth of the seven sub-operations together constituting the 'Moscow Strategic Defensive Operation, and was thus one of the last defensive operations fought by the forces of the right wing of the West Front (15 November/5 December 1941).

The other six sub-operations were the 'Kalinin Offensive Operation' (5 December 1941/7 January 1942), the 'Yelets Offensive Operation; (6/16 December), the 'Tula Offensive Operation' (6/16 December), the 'Kaluga Offensive Operation' (17 December 1941/5 January 1942) and the 'Naro-Fominsk Offensive Operation (24 December 1941/8 January 1942).

During this 'Klin-Solnechnogorsk Defensive Operation', Soviet forces managed finally to halt the offensive of Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock’s Heeresgruppe 'Mitte' toward the area to the north of Moscow, thereby preventing the Germans from outflanking Moscow to the north and so creating the conditions required for a counter-offensive.

'Wotan', the last phase of 'Taifun' (i), the German offensive against Moscow, began on 30 September, and during October the formations of Heeresgruppe 'Mitte' moved steadily to the east. By the middle of October, the Germans had breached the 'Mozhaysk Defence Line', talen the city of Kalinin on 14 October, and started to head for Volokolamsk from 16 October in order to bypass Moscow from the north and on 24 October toward Tula in order to bypass the Soviet capital from the south. From 19 October, however, the pace of the Germans' northern thrust slowed dramatically as the onset of heavy rains turned the land and the roads into morasses of deepening mud. On 4 November, though, the going started to improve once more as a major drop in temperature froze the mud, and thus the Germans, after brining forward reserves and regrouping their front-line forces, began preparations for they hoped and anticipated would become the decisive phase of their strategic offensive.

It was on 15 November that the German offensive resumed. Generaloberst Georg-Hans Reinhardt’s 3rd Panzergruppe fell on General Major Dmitri D. Lelyushenko’s 30th Army in the area to the south of Kalinin, and on the following day Generaloberst Erich Hoepner’s 4th Panzergruppe attacked General Leytenant Konstantin K. Rokossovsky’s 16th Army to the north and south of Volokolamsk in the direction of Kryukovo. Both of these Soviet armies were components of General Georgi K. Zhukov’s West Front. The general plan to which the Germans forces were operating called for the two Panzergruppen and their associated infantry formations to bypass Moscow from the north in order to link with the right flank of the German offensive in Noginsk.

By 20 November, both of the Panzergruppen had advanced up to 15.5 miles (25 km). On 23 November, the 3rd Panzergruppe bypassed Klin from both the north and the south and also took the city. On 28 November, German armour reached the Moscow Canal in the area of Yakhroma, crossing it straight from the March. Two days later, however, the Germans were driven back to the canal’s right bank by a counterattack delivered by General Leytenant Vasili I. Kuznetsov’s 1st Shock Army.

On 24 November, the Soviets attempted but were defeated in a counterattack against General Richard Ruoff’s V Corps of the 3rd Panzergruppe, which was advancing on Solnechnogorsk. As a result, German troops crossed the Istra river reservoir from the march and occupied Solnechnogorsk on the same day. Elements of the V Corps continued their offensive along the main road linking Moscow and Leningrad, and by 27 November had reached the line linking Kryukovo, Lunevo and Lobnya in the rear of the 16th Army, thereby creating the threat of this army’s encirclement.

From 1 to 5 December, a counterattack by the 1st Shock Army and 20th Army on Solnechnogorsk succeeded in eliminating the German units behind the line linking Lobnya, Kryukovo and Dedovsk, and in securing the rear of the 16th Army. The counterattack also deprived the Germans of the opportunity to use their long-range artillery to shell Moscow.

The 'Klin-Solnechnogorsk Offensive Operation' had lasted for 20 days, and had become one of the most intense periods of the entire battle for Moscow. Despite the fact that the Soviet formations had not managed to hold their separate defence lines and German troops made their nearest approach to Moscow (by 1 December the front line was a mere 8.7 miles/14 km from the city), the Germans were totally spent and had no option but to go over to the defensive by 5 December along their whole front as the Soviets completed the arrangements for their 'Moscow Strategic Offensive Operation', which included the 'Klin-Solnechnogorsk Offensive Operation'.