The Finnish Army reoccupied their 1940 border on August 31 and was within 30 miles of Leningrad. Leningrad was cut off on September 8. Hitler transferred Army Group North’s armor south for a drive on Moscow.
The Germans were surprised by the Red Army’s equipment, especially the T-34. German 37mm and 50mm guns could not even dent the T-34 sloping frontal armor. Guns of 105mm had to be employed to stop them. As a stopgap measure, the Germans retooled and mounted captured Russian 75mm guns on panzer pzkpfw I chassis.
On September 8 Hitler had decided to concentrate his forces on Moscow. His generals believed the Soviets would bring together all their remaining forces to defend the capital, and there the decisive battle could be fought.
For six weeks, the men of Army Group Center were rested and refitted. A first-class unit, within two weeks of engaging battle, it had completed three large encirclements near Bryansk and Vyazma. Six hundred sixty-three thousand prisoners of war were taken. The population of Moscow went to the outskirts of the city and dug antitank ditches.
This action ended the first phase of the War in the West. The Soviet Red Army lost some 3,000,000 killed and millions more captured. Colonel General Alfred Jodl, Chief of operations for Oberkommando des West (OKW), predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union in the near future.
Two perennial allies of the Soviet Union were beginning to be felt by both sides. Torrential rains turned the roads into quagmires, slowing the advance on Moscow. ’General Mud’ had slowed Napoleon in 1812, and it slowed the German advance in 1941. The second was the expansive Soviet territory. The great distance the Germans had to travel began to extend their supply lines over great distances. Partisans, first disorganized and cut off, then later with plainclothes officers of the Red Army, began to harass these supply lines. Without enough soldiers to protect the supply lines and fight the main engagement, the Germans used innovative means to protect trains and columns advancing to the front. Still, the guerillas were a constant threat.
Army Group South still managed to encircle Sevastapol by November. Rostov fell on November 20, but in their first successful counteroffensive, the Russians took it back by the beginning of December. Army Group Center advanced on Tikhvin and took the town on November 8, but again mud bogged down the attack, and the Russians attacked on three sides. By the middle of December the Russians forced them back to Volkhov.