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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2013

9 - The eye of the storm

Summary

The culminating point of the attack – Army Group Centre halts

With Army Group Centre's three panzer groups stalled on all fronts and the Soviet Western, Kalinin and Briansk Fronts receiving reinforcements at a much faster rate, Operation Typhoon was becoming an offensive only in name. By the last week of October, Bock's dispositions on the map remained virtually unchanged from one day to the next and his overall strength was in a slow but steady state of decline. Not only was Feldt's 1st Cavalry Division being transferred out of Army Group Centre, but the newly arrived Spanish Blue Division, redesignated the 250th Infantry Division, which had originally been assigned to Bock, was at the last minute redirected to Leeb's Army Group North. The Blue Division, commanded by General Muñoz Grandes, was a volunteer division made up largely of veterans from Spain's recent civil war and was at full strength with over 18,000 men (641 officers, 2,272 NCOs and 15,780 other ranks). Yet during their month-long march to the front the division's wily and seemingly ill-disciplined behaviour led to many disparaging reports from the German liaison officers, one of which from early September Bock recorded in his diary:

The Spanish view grooming the horses as a bother, feeding them unnecessary. Belts and suspenders are cut from new harnesses. Gas mask containers are often used as coffee pots. Dust and driving glasses are cut from the gas masks themselves. If a Spaniard has corns, he cuts appropriate holes in his shoes and boots to keep them from chafing. Rifles are often sold. New bicycles are thrown away as they find tire repair too boring. The MG 34 [a machine gun] is often assembled with the help of a hammer. Parts left over during assembly are buried. They consider all women fair game. In Grodno there were orgies with Jewesses, who were also taken along in their vehicles.

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