On a rail

Somewhere on the Eastern Front, perhaps near Smolensk, September 1941. A flatbed railway car announces that it’s only 300 kilometers left to Moscow. The German army has covered two thirds of the distance between the 22 June front line and Moscow in less than 2½ months. The remaining distance would take four months against mud, snow, Arctic cold and stiffening Soviet resistance. The supply lines got increasingly longer, vehicles suffered mechanical breakdowns, the frontline units had lost soldiers, NCOs and officers. While the German divisions got increasingly weaker, the Red Army could replace the terrible losses suffered with a seemingly unending supply of fresh divisions. The Germans called it Totsiegen – to win the battles but dying while doing so, or a form of Pyrrhic victories. On 2 December a reconnaissance battalion reached the town of Khimki, some 18 km away from the Kremlin in central Moscow. This marked the farthest advance of German forces on Moscow. That railway car was off by only 6 %, but in military campaigns there’s no second prize…


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