Intense cold brings misery to the German Army

Panzer IV tanks in the snow of the Eastern Front at the end of 1941, in the intense cold engines had to be kept running almost continuously.

Stuka Pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel had been in the thick of the fighting since the beginning of Barbarossa, he now found himself unable to fly on most days. They now faced two enemies, a resurgent Soviet army which somehow kept finding more men to throw into battle, and the weather:

lt is now December and the thermometer registers 40-50 degrees below zero (Centigrade). Huge snowdrifts, cloud cover generally low, flak intense. Pilot-Officer Klaus, an exceptionally fine airman and one of our few surviving old companions, is killed – probably a chance hit from a Russian tank.

Here, as at Kalinin, the weather is our chief enemy and the saviour of Moscow. The Russian soldier is fighting back desperately, but he, too, is winded and exhausted and without this ally would be unable to stem our further advance. Even the fresh Siberian units which have been thrown into the battle are not decisive.

The German armies are crippled by the cold. Trains have practically stopped running, there are no reserves and no supplies, no transportation for the wounded. lron determination alone is not enough. We have reached the limit of our strength. The most needful things are lacking. Machinery is immobilised, transport bottle-necked; nopetrol, no ammunition.

Lorries have long since been off the roads. Horse-drawn sleighs are the only means of locomotion. Tragic scenes of retreat recur with ever greater frequency. We have few aircraft. In temperatures like these engines are short-lived. As previously when we had the initiative we go out in support of our ground troops, now fighting to hold the attacking Soviets.

See Stuka Pilot: The War Memoirs of Hans-Ulrich Rudel

The intense cold made everything more difficult for an army that was was ill prepared for it.

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