Naro-Fominsk Defensive Operation

The 'Naro-Fominsk Defensive Operation' was the Soviet last of the seven sub-operations together constituting the 'Moscow Strategic Defensive Operation', and was undertaken by the forces in the centre of General Georgi K. Zhukov’s West Front to halt the advance of Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge’s 4th Army toward Moscow from the south-west in the closing stages of the 'Wotan' offensive in which Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock’s Heeresgruppe 'Mitte' was to take the Soviet capital as the climax of 'Taifun' (i) (1/5 December 1941).

On 1 December, the forces of Heeresgruppe 'Mitte' attempted to break through to Moscow using the infantry forces of the 4th Army against General Major Leonid A. Govorov’s 5th Army, General Leytenant Mikhail G. Efremov’s 33rd Army and General Major Konstantin D. Golubev’s 43rd Army along the main roads linking Moscow with Minsk to the west and Kiev to the south. While moving along the road from Kubinka to Naro-Fominsk, several German tanks struck mines and were destroyed, a fact which persuaded the advancing German forces to move off the road and continue their advance toward Akulov along the sides of the road and the nearby belt of forest. Unable to bypass forest obstacles and brought to a halt by the extensive Soviet minefields, the German armour came to a halt on the forward edges of the forested areas and thus became prey for the Soviet artillery. After losing 35 tanks, the Germans fell back.

By the time this final German offensive started, the Soviet forces had able able to complete only the main zone of their three-line defence zone. On the first day of their offensive, in the area to the north-east and south-west of Zvenigorod, the Germans managed to penetrate the Soviet defences to a depth of some 31.1 miles (5 km), and by the end of 2 December, in the area to the south of Naro-Fominsk, of some 6.1 miles (10 km), but were then compelled to switch to the defensive. The Germans also made an attempt to break through the Soviet defences using the 1 and 2/Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchévisme (Legion of French Volunteers against Bolshevism), which was a poor-quality unit of 2,270 men in Generalleutnant Eccard Freiherr von Gablenz’s 7th Division, but these French soldiers advanced without any armoured support, suffered heavy losses (65 men killed, 120 men wounded and 300 afflicted by frostbite), and were soon transferred to the reserve. Greatly superior in terms of manpower, weapons and equipment, the Germans formations broke through the 33rd Army’s defences in the Tashirovo area and pushed small units into the area of Yushkovo. An attempt to break through to Kubinka and Zvenigorod was then repelled by the 5th Army.

In order to destroy the German breakthrough area, the 5th Army and 33rd Army were reinforced by units pulled out of forces which were currently not involved in active operations. The headquarters of the West Front, having transferred part of its reserve to the 33rd Army, organised a counterattack, and as a result of this by the end of 3 December, the Germans had been driven out of Yukhnov and by the morning of 5 December driven back to their start lines in the area to the north of Kubinka and to the south of Naro-Fominsk. In later bitter fighting, the Germans were thrown back across the Nara river.

In the 'Naro-Fominsk Defensive Operation', therefore, the Soviet forces defeated the Germans' last attempt to break through to Moscow and set the operational scene for the 'Moscow Strategic Offensive Operation'.