Iron crosses and iron resolve: Bock’s relentless attack
While there were limited indications to suggest a potential Soviet counteroffensive around Moscow, it was not a prospect that was taken seriously within the German command. After all, if the battle for Moscow was to be decided by the last battalion, it was simply inconceivable to anyone in a position of authority that the Stavka could possess the strength both to hold the weight of Army Group Centre at bay, while at the same time marshalling reserves for a substantive offensive of its own. German intelligence compiled by Kinzel’s Foreign Armies East also dismissed the prospect of a major Soviet offensive by concluding on 22 November that the movement of Soviet forces from quiet sectors to endangered ones indicated the Western Front ‘probably had no more reserves available aside from those that had already been brought from the Far East’. By contrast, Zhukov stated after the war that the ‘counteroffensive had been prepared all through the defensive actions’, while German forces had been ‘bled white’ by their constant attacks. In fact in the last week of November the Stavka began transporting five of the new reserve armies, formed behind the Volga River, to the front lines. Three of these, the Twenty-Fourth, Twenty-Sixth and Sixtieth, took up positions east of Moscow, while the remaining two were sent south. The Tenth Army was deployed west of the Oka River, downstream from Kashira, to defend both Kolomna and Ryazan from Guderian’s panzer army, while the last Soviet army, the Sixty-First, was committed behind the right flank of the South-Western Front. The existence of these armies remained unknown to the German high command and, even without them, Halder predicted in a presentation to Hitler on 19 November that the Red Army would number some 150 divisions along with twenty to thirty tank brigades by 1942. At the same time, the Ostheer was predicted to total only about 122 divisions (infantry, motorised, panzer, SS, mountain and security). The resurgence of the Red Army did not begin in late 1942 or even 1943; it was already underway in late 1941 and, what was worse for the German high command, even with the imposing, yet incomplete, figures before them, they continued to dismiss the concept out of hand as well as its implications.