World Battlefronts: BATTLE OF RUSSIA: Red Army Forward

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Moscow was again the capital of Russia this week. "Today," wrote New York Timesman. Cyrus Sulzberger in his first Moscow dispatch in two months, "the sun rose propitiously, shining on the placid white streets while the inordinately gay Muscovites, relieved of strain, bustled about doing their Sunday shopping, jesting at the latest posters ridiculing the retreating Germans."

Victory at Moscow. As the Government moved back from Samara (Kuibyshev), the Russians told the world their story of the Battle of Moscow:

An overwhelming offensive begun on Oct. 2 had cracked them wide open. On Oct. 15 and 16 they had considered the capital lost. Then came the organization of fresh reserves and civilian defenders, the temporary stabilization of the front 50 miles from Moscow in mid-November. On Nov. 16 Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, indifferent to the cost-in-blood (TIME, Dec. 8), flung his armored divisions against Moscow for a second time. He succeeded in driving two long battle tracks into the country about Moscow, as if to pinch it off from the rear.

By Dec. 6 the cold of winter hit his soldiers and the Russians counterattacked. By the end of last week, Bock's northern army was driven back, his southern army was withdrawing rapidly under ferocious hammering. According to the Russians, 51 divisions had been swept into retreat, leaving behind 1,434 tanks, 5,416 trucks, 575 field guns, 339 trench mortars, 869 machine guns. On the defensive arc of the capital, 400 villages and towns had been recaptured in a week. Since Nov. 16, said the Russians, 85,000 Germans had been killed.

In other sectors the Red Army was also surging forward. No less important strategically, if less of a boost to morale than the Moscow success, was the hammer stroke delivered on the nose of the Orel-Yelets-Kursk Salient. Smashed for the winter was the threat it offered to Moscow's communications with the coal of the Donets basin and the troops that defended it. The Soviet cavalry was harassing the Germans in retreat.

Farther south in the Ukraine, Marshal Timoshenko, of whom much had been expected, was following through on the Rostov victory, driving the Germans farther back from the oil of the Caucasus. His troops fanned out for an attack on Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov.

About Leningrad, Red banners moved forward too. Russian troops regained points along the Moscow-Leningrad highway, went on to cross the Volkhov River and seize Volkhov itself. They said an offensive for the relief of Leningrad was under way.

Strategic Withdrawal? The Germans reported only local action for a week, then were forced to admit strong attacks. They denied the removal of Field Marshal von Bock, as the Allies rumored, claimed they were making planned strategic withdrawals.

It was too early to assess the action. Perhaps the Germans were withdrawing to a line, well-prepared in their rear, stretching perhaps from the Valdai hills in the north to the vicinity of Kharkov in the Ukraine. Here they might rest through the frightening winter cold while the war went on in other countries. So Ludendorff in 1917 had withdrawn from a vast energy-consuming salient, prepared lines in his rear, come back with a climactic German effort in the spring of 1918. But at the very least this was a Russian success, for the German retreat was costly.

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