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Monday, 2 March 2015

Fedor von Bock


Career:

Branch: Heer
Born: 3 December 1880 in Küstrin, Neumark.
Died: 4 May 1945 in Oldenburg, Holstein.

Ranks:
Generalfeldmarschall19 July 1940
Generaloberst 15 March 1938
General der Infanterie 1 March 1935
Generalleutnant 1 February 1931
Generalmajor 1 February 1929
Oberst 1 May 1925
Oberstleutnant 18 December 1920
Major 30 December 1916
Hauptmann 22 March 1912
Oberleutnant 10 September 1908
Leutnant 15 March 1898

Decorations:
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Commands:
Heeresgruppe Nord
Takes command on 27 August 1939
Ends command on

Heeresgruppe B
Takes command on 25 January 1945
Ends command on

Heeresgruppe Mitte
Takes command on June 1941
Ends command on

Heeresgruppe Süd
Takes command on 1942
Ends command on

Personal Information:

Fedor von Bock was born on 3 December 1880 and became a German Field Marshal who served in the German army (Heer) during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed Der Sterber (literally, The Dying One). Fedor von Bock served as the commander of Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) during the Invasion of Poland in 1939, commander of Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) during the Invasion of France in 1940, and later as the commander of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) during the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 his final command was that of Heeresgruppe Süd in 1942.

Fedor von Bock is best known for commanding Operation Typhoon, the ultimately failed attempt to capture Moscow during the winter of 1941. The Wehrmacht offensive was slowed by stiff Soviet resistance around Mozhaisk, and also by the Rasputitsa, the season of rain and mud in Russia. Once the full fury of the Russian winter struck, which was the coldest in over 50 years, the German armies quickly became unable to conduct further combat operations, with more casualties occurring due to the cold weather than from battle. The Soviet counteroffensive soon drove the German army into retreat, and Fedor von Bock who recommended an earlier withdrawal was subsequently relieved of command by Adolf Hitler.

A lifelong officer in the German military, Fedor von Bock was considered to be a very by the book general. He also had a reputation for being a fiery lecturer, earning him the nickname Holy Fire of Küstrin. Fedor von Bock was not considered to be a brilliant theoretician, but possessed a strong sense of determination, feeling that the greatest glory that could come to a German soldier was to die on the battlefield for the Fatherland.

A monarchist, Fedor von Bock personally despised Nazism, and was not heavily involved in politics. However, he also did not sympathize with plots to overthrow Adolf Hitler, and never filed official protests over the treatment of civilians by the Schutzstaffel (SS). Fedor von Bock was also uncommonly outspoken, a privilege Adolf Hitler extended to him only because he had been successful in battle. Fedor von Bock along with his wife and only daughter were killed by a strafing British fighter-bomber on 4 May 1945 as they traveled by car toward Hamburg.

Early life

Fedor von Fedor von Bock was born in Küstrin, a fortress city on the banks of the Oder River in the Province of Brandenburg. His full name given at birth was Moritz Albrecht Franz Friedrich Fedor.

He was born into a Prussian Protestant aristocratic family whose military heritage is traceable to the time of the Hohenzollerns. His father Karl Moritz von Bock commanded a division in the Franco-Prussian War, and was decorated for bravery at the Battle of Sedan. His great-grandfather served in the armies of Frederick the Great, and his grandfather was an officer in the Prussian Army at Jena. His mother Olga Helene Fransziska Freifrau von Falkenhayn von Bock was of both German and Russian aristocratic heritage. Fedor von Bock was related to Erich von Falkenhayn who was his father's brother-in-law.

At the age of eight, Fedor von Bock went to Berlin to study at the Potsdam and Gross Lichterfelde Military Academy. The education emphasized Prussian militarism, and he quickly became adept in academic subjects such as modern languages, mathematics, and history. He spoke fluent French, and to a fair degree English and Russian. At an early age, and largely due to his father, Fedor von Bock developed an unquestioned loyalty to the state and dedication to the military profession. This upbringing would greatly influence his actions and decisions when he commanded armed forces during World War II. At the age of 17, Fedor von Bock became an officer candidate in the Imperial Foot Guards Regiment at Potsdam he received an officer's commission a year later. He entered service with the rank of Sekondeleutnant.

The tall, thin, narrow-shouldered Fedor von Bock had a dry and cynical sense of humor he seldom smiled. His manner was described as being arrogant, ambitious, and opinionated he approached military bearing with an unbending demeanor. While not a brilliant theoretician, Fedor von Bock was a highly determined officer. As one of the highest ranking officers in the Reichswehr, he often addressed graduating cadets at his alma mater. His theme was always that the greatest glory that could come to a German soldier was to die for the Fatherland. He quickly earned the nickname Holy Fire of Küstrin.

In 1905, Fedor von Bock married Mally von Reichenbach, a young Prussian noblewoman, whom he had originally met in Berlin. They were married in a traditional military wedding at the Potsdam garrison. They had a daughter, born two years after the marriage. A year later, Fedor von Bock attended the War Academy in Berlin, and after a year's study he joined the ranks of the General Staff. He soon joined the patriotic Army League and become a close associate of other young German officers such as Walther von Brauchitsch, Franz Halder, and Gerd von Rundstedt. In 1908, he was promoted to the rank of Oberleutnant.

World War I

By the time World War I began in 1914, Fedor von Bock was a Hauptmann. He served with the 4th Foot Guards Regiment as a battalion commander in January and February 1916, and was decorated with the coveted Pour le Mérite for bravery. Major von Fedor von Bock was assigned as a divisional staff officer in von Rupprecht's army group on the Western Front and became a friend of the Crown Prince of Germany. Two days before the Armistice, he met with Kaiser Wilhelm II at Spa, Belgium, in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Kaiser to return to Berlin to crush the mutiny at Kiel.

Weimar Republic

After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, limiting the German Army to 100,000 troops, Fedor von Bock stayed on as an officer of the post-treaty Reichswehr, and rose through the ranks. In the 1920s, Fedor von Bock was together with Kurt von Schleicher, Eugen Ott, and Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord a member of a secret group known as Sondergruppe R selected by and responsible to Hans von Seeckt that was in charge of helping Germany evade the Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, which had disarmed Germany.The officers of Sondergruppe R formed the liaison with Major Bruno Ernst Buchrucker, who led the so-called Arbeits-Kommandos (Work Commandos), which officially a labor group intended to assist with civilian projects, but in reality were thinly disguised soldiers that allowed Germany to exceed the limits on troop strength set by Versailles.Buchrucker's so-called Black Reichswehr became infamous for its practice of murdering all those Germans whom it was suspected were working as informers for the Allied Control Commission, which was responsible for ensuring that Germany was in compliance with Part V. The killings perpetrated by the Black Reichswehr were justifed under the so-called Femegerichte (secret court) system. These killings were ordered by the officers from Sondergruppe R. Regarding the Femegerichte murders, Carl von Ossietzky wrote:

Lieutenant Schulz (charged with the murder of informers against the Black Reichswehr) did nothing but carry out the orders given him, and that certainly Colonel von Fedor von Bock, and probably Colonel von Schleicher and General Seeckt, should be sitting in the dock beside him.

Several times Fedor von Bock perjured himself in court when he denied that the Reichswehr had anything to do with the Black Reichswehr or the murders they had committed. On 27 September 1923, Buckrucker ordered 4,500 men of the Black Reichswehr to assemble outside of Berlin as the first preparatory step toward a putsch. Fedor von Bock who was Buckrucker's contract with the Reichswehr was enraged, and in a stormly meeting berated Buckrucker for mobilizing the Black Reichswehr without orders. Fedor von Bock stated the Reichswehr wanted no part in Buckrucker's putsch and that If von Seeckt knew you were here, he would screw his monocle into his eye and say Go for him! Despite Fedor von Bock's orders to demobilize at once, Buckrucker went ahead with his putsch on 30 September 1923, which ended in total failure.

In 1935, Adolf Hitler appointed General von Fedor von Bock as commander of the Third Army Group. Fedor von Bock was one of the officers not removed from his position when Adolf Hitler reorganized the armed forces during the phase of German rearmament before the outbreak of World War II. He remained a monarchist, and was a frequent visitor to the former Kaiser's estate. Adolf Hitler reportedly said of him, Nobody in the world but Von Fedor von Bock can teach soldiers to die. Fedor von Bock himself told his troops, The ideal soldier fulfills his duty to the utmost, obeys without even thinking, thinks only when ordered to do so, and has as his only desire to die the honorable death of a soldier killed in action.

General von Fedor von Bock commanded the invasion of Vienna in March 1938 for the Anschluss and then the invasion of Czechoslovakia, before leading German armies into World War II.

World War II

Invasion of Poland

By 25 August 1939, Fedor von Bock was in command of Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) in preparation for the invasion and conquest of Poland. The objective of Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) was to destroy the Polish forces north of the Vistula. Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) was composed of General Georg von Küchler's 3rd Army, and General Günther von Kluge's 4th Army. These struck southward from East Prussia and eastward across the base of the Polish Corridor, respectively.

In just five weeks, Poland was overrun by German and Soviet forces and Fedor von Bock had linked Germany back to East Prussia. Following the success in Poland, Fedor von Bock returned to Berlin to begin preparations for the upcoming campaign in the West.

Invasion of France

Shortly after the conquest of Poland, on 12 October 1939 Fedor von Bock was given command of Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B), with 29½ divisions, including three armoured divisions. These were tasked with advancing through the Low Countries and luring the northern units of the Allied armies into a pocket. Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) consisted of the 18th and 6th Armies. While his units were overrunning the Netherlands, in May 1940, Fedor von Bock attempted to call on the exiled former Kaiser Wilhelm II at Doorn, but Fedor von Bock was unable to gain admittance: the German troops guarding the residence having been instructed to prevent such visits.

Fedor von Bock participated in the Armistice with France in late June 1940. On 18 July 1940, Fedor von Bock was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall during a reception held by Adolf Hitler. For much of the summer of 1940, Fedor von Bock alternated his time between his headquarters in Paris and his home in Berlin. At the end of August, Army High Command transferred Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) to East Prussia this included Günther von Kluge's 4th Army. On 11 September, Fedor von Bock relinquished command of his occupation area in France to Generalfeldmarshall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb.

Invasion of Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa)

On 2 February, Fedor von Bock met with Adolf Hitler and questioned whether the Russians could be forced to make peace even if the Red army was brought to battle and defeated, Adolf Hitler airily assured Fedor von Bock that Germany's resources were more than sufficient and that he was determined to fight. In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, on 1 April 1941 Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) was re-designated as Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) in an official order from Army High Command which defined the organization of the invasion force. Deployed in Poland, Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) was one of the three army formations which were to lead the invasion of the Soviet Union. It included the 4th and 9th Armies, the 3rd and 2nd Panzer Armies and Luftflotte 2. On the left flank of Fedor von Bock's Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) was Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North), commanded by Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb on the right flank was Heeresgruppe Süd, commanded by Gerd von Rundstedt.

Initially, the main objective of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) was to follow Napoleon's route north of the Pripyat Marshes straight to Moscow. However, against the strong vocal opposition of von Fedor von Bock, Adolf Hitler altered the original invasion plan, one of many changes he would make, both before the invasion and after it had already begun. Von Fedor von Bock opposed any changes to the invasion plan of Moscow, because he wanted to occupy Moscow as soon as he could, hopefully before the onset of cold weather, so that his troops would be in warm quarters during the winter. The failure to do this caused the failure of the whole Soviet campaign.

The new task of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) was to drive towards the cities of Minsk and Smolensk, and in great encirclements destroy the Soviet Armies stationed there. Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) would then drive toward Leningrad, and along with Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) destroy the remnants of the Soviet Armies in the Baltic states and seize valuable ports for the supply of the campaign. Only after the bulk of the Soviet army was destroyed in Western Russia would Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) then drive toward the Soviet capital. Adolf Hitler made this change conscious of the fact that despite capturing Moscow, Napoleon was defeated because he did not destroy the Russian army.

At 03:15 on 22 June 1941, the first shots of Operation Barbarossa were fired Germany invaded the Soviet Union without formally declaring the war. At the outset of the campaign Fedor von Bock remained at his desk in his headquarters waiting for the first reports from the front. Within an hour of the attack, the first reports began to arrive at Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) headquarters. Elements of Heinz Guderian's force had crossed the Bug River and were bypassing the city of Brest-Litovsk. Hermann Hoth's tanks were heading for Grodno on the Nieman River to seize the important river crossings. Several reconnaissance units from the 4th and 9th Armies had already crossed the Bug and Desna Rivers.

At 07:00, Fedor von Bock flew from Posen to an advance airfield near the headquarters of XIII Infantry Corps. There, Lieutenant General Erich Jaschke gave Fedor von Bock a summary of the progress of the invasion. Following this meeting, Fedor von Bock visited Heinz Guderian's forward command post at Bokhaly. Heinz Guderian's Chief of staff Colonel Kurt Freiherr von Liebenstein greeted Fedor von Bock, as Heinz Guderian had already crossed the Bug River several hours earlier with the 18th Panzer Division. Fedor von Bock then visited Joachim Lemelsen, who gave an agitated report from the front. The roads on the Soviet side of the Bug River were already becoming too soft to support the weight of tanks. As a result, several tank columns had to be rerouted to cross a bridge farther south at Koden. This rerouting caused severe traffic congestion, as some ten thousand vehicles converged on this single crossing. Despite this, the first day of the invasion had been spectacularly successful. Soviet resistance was reported as being light and complete surprise was achieved. All along the front rapid progress was being made.


On the second day of Barbarossa, Fedor von Bock crossed the Bug River. Escorted by Major General Gustav Schmidt, he made his way to a company command post from where he observed German artillery firing on Soviet positions near Brest-Litovsk. Despite the fact that German panzers had already crossed deep into Soviet territory, the defenders of the city were holding out stubbornly. Later that day Fedor von Bock was presented with reports that Soviet resistance was stiffening all long the front, especially on Heinz Guderian's southern flank. Meanwhile, Hermann Hoth's forces were advancing with much more ease through the Baltic states and Belarus. The first two days of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) advance proved to be highly successful.

Hermann Hoth's armies advanced so quickly that Fedor von Bock immediately contacted Walther von Brauchitsch, requesting the bypassing of Minsk in favor of attacking toward Vitebsk so that a drive could be made for Moscow. Initially, the change in plan was accepted but it was soon overruled by Adolf Hitler, who favored the encirclement and destruction of the large Soviet armies near Minsk. Fedor von Bock wrote in his diary:

The envelopment of Minsk is not decisive. Besides, I am sure that the enemy expects us to attack Minsk, the next natural objective, and will concentrate defense forces there.
Differences between Fedor von Bock's strategic intent and the intent of High Command repeatedly surfaced. Fedor von Bock continued to favor a direct drive toward Moscow, bypassing Soviet armies and leaving them to be destroyed by infantry, which advanced well behind tank columns. Fedor von Bock argued that if encirclement was truly necessary then instead of diverting his tanks north and south to encircle and destroy smaller Soviet armies, a larger encirclement should be made eastward toward the Dvina-Dnieper River basins. Adolf Hitler decided against this plan, and insisted that the pockets containing Soviet armies must be destroyed before advancing deeper into Russia.

Fedor von Bock, enraged by this decision, was quoted as saying:

We are permitting our greatest chance of success to escape us by this restriction placed on our armor!
He hesitantly gave the order to abandon the drive toward Vitebsk and assist in the destruction of the pockets. On 25 June, Fedor von Bock moved his headquarters from Posen to Kobryn, a town about 15 mi (24 km) northeast of Brest-Litovsk. On 30 June, the 4th and 9th Armies met each other near Slonim, trapping thousands of Soviet soldiers. However, many Soviet soldiers managed to escape eastward. Fedor von Bock soon gave the order to disengage from the encirclement and prepare for a full-scale drive to the east. This order once again caused a confrontation between Fedor von Bock and Walther von Brauchitsch.

On 3 July, Fedor von Bock's forces were once again advancing eastward, with Heinz Guderian's tanks crossing the Beresina and Hermann Hoth's tanks crossing the Duna. This day marked the furthest distance covered by Fedor von Bock's troops in a single day, with over 100 mi (160 km) traveled. Four days later, Heinz Guderian's tanks crossed the Dnieper, the last great obstacle before Smolensk. However, Heinz Guderian was soon ordered by Günther von Kluge to withdraw back across the river. Fedor von Bock soon reversed this order, and Heinz Guderian was allowed to re-cross the river. Fedor von Bock protested Günther von Kluge's actions to High Command, to no avail.On 11 July, Fedor von Bock moved his headquarters again to Borisov, a Soviet town near the Beresina River.

Operation Typhoon

On 9 September, Army High Command instructed Fedor von Bock to prepare an operational order for the assault on Moscow. Operation Typhoon was the code-name given to this new attack, which was to begin no later then 30 September. Fedor von Bock carefully supervised the planning and preparation of the operation, and a few days later it was approved by the High Command.

As part of the preparation for Operation Typhoon, Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) would be reinforced and replenished with men and vehicles it would be composed of three infantry armies (the 2nd, 4th, and 9th) and three tank armies (2nd, 3rd, and 4th Panzers). Colonel General Erich Hoepner would command the 4th Panzer Army, while the former two were outgrowths of Hermann Hoth's and Heinz Guderian's original Panzer Groups. The replenishment of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) for Operation Typhoon caused it to increase greatly in size: with almost 1.5 million soldiers, it was now larger than it was at the outset of Operation Barbarossa. Fedor von Bock spent most of the remainder of September on inspection tours of his reinforced Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre). On one occasion, Fedor von Bock along with Albert Kesselring flew over Moscow.

On 29 September, Fedor von Bock held a conference with his senior commanders Adolf Strauss, Hermann Hoth, Günther von Kluge, Weichs, Erich Hoepner, Heinz Guderian, and Albert Kesselring. During the meeting the main operational plan was reviewed, with Fedor von Bock again stressing that Moscow must be taken by 7 November, before the onset of the Russian winter, and to coincide with the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The following day, Operation Typhoon began with attacks from Heinz Guderian's and Hermann Hoth's armored forces. Several days later, the infantry armies began to move toward Moscow. With less than 100 miles between the most advanced troops and Moscow, Fedor von Bock estimated that his troops would enter the city in three to four weeks.

Almost immediately, Fedor von Bock's forces encountered stiff Soviet resistance on the road to Moscow. The previous diversions of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) allowed the Soviets to reinforce the area between Smolensk and Moscow with the Russian 3rd, 10th, 13th, and 20th Armies, as well as elements of three other armies. German forces were outnumbered almost two to one. However, the superior tactics and training of the Wehrmacht along with an element of surprise resulted in significant gains despite the increasingly desperate measures employed by the Russians to stop the advance.

The 2nd Panzer Army along with the XLVIII Panzer Corps attacked important rail junctions near Oryol and Bryansk. Erich Hoepner's 4th Panzer Army soon crossed the Desna River and gained access to deep Russian territory. Meanwhile, Hermann Hoth's 3. Panzerarmee (3rd Panzer Army) struck toward Rzhev on the Volga River.

On 3 October, Guderian's forces captured Orel and subsequently gained access to a paved highway which led to Moscow, some 180 mi (290 km) away. Meanwhile, elements of the 2nd Panzer Army reported that they had bypassed Bryansk and were heading toward Karachev. Fedor von Bock ordered Heinz Guderian to press on toward Tula, but within hours this order had been reversed by High Command. The reversal of the order called for Heinz Guderian to attack Bryansk where along with Vyazma two massive encirclements of Soviet forces were occurring. Fedor von Bock argued that the area between Orel and Tula remained relatively free of Soviet forces and that Tula could be captured within hours. Ultimately, Fedor von Bock agreed to divert Heinz Guderian's tanks toward Bryansk.

Cold rain soon began to fall over the northern sectors of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) front, and the roads soon turned into quagmires as part of the Rasputitsa. Virtually the entire front became stuck the only vehicles capable of negotiating the mud were tanks and other tracked vehicles. However, these moved at a snail's pace (sometimes less than 2 mi (3.2 km) per day), and fuel consumption soared. This further aggravated the problem of already poor supply lines. Trucks soon became stuck in the mud, as soldiers tried desperately to free them. As the temperature continued to drop, Heinz Guderian requested a supply of winter clothing and anti-freeze for the vehicles. However, the increase in partisan activity behind the lines, along with the deteriorating weather conditions, made it increasingly difficult for these vital supplies to reach the front. In one two-day period, partisans made over sixty attacks on German truck convoys, outposts, and railway lines.


Slight improvements in the weather soon made it possible for Fedor von Bock's forces to continue to seal the pockets around Bryansk and Vyazma. The dual encirclements of Soviet forces around Vyazma and Bryansk yielded some of the largest Soviet casualties since the beginning of Operation Barbarossa: some 650,000 prisoners were taken during these two encirclements, after which the Soviet armies facing Fedor von Bock's Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) no longer had the advantage of superior numbers.

The weather soon deteriorated again, with the roads once more turning into impassable, muddy quagmires. Since 30 September, Fedor von Bock had lost some 35,000 men, 250 tanks and artillery pieces, and several hundred other vehicles, many of which were mired in the mud. Fuel and ammunition supplies became dangerously low. Despite these problems, the advance toward Moscow continued as Adolf Hitler became increasingly impatient. When advance units of the 4th Panzer Army reached Kaluga and Maloyaroslavets, German forces were within 40 mi (64 km) of Moscow. Heinz Guderian's advance in the south was much slower. An attempt by his forces to capture Tula had failed, with considerable losses of men and tanks. However, other units captured Stalinogorsk and Venev, indicating the possibility of bypassing Tula.

As Fedor von Bock's forces pressed on toward Moscow, panic struck in the capital. Hundreds of thousands of civilians began to evacuate the city while others were forced into emergency volunteer units. Martial law was instituted as looting and pillaging of deserted stores increased. Marshal Semyon Timoshenko was relieved of command in favor of Georgy Zhukov, who had been organizing the defense of Leningrad. The main bulk of the Soviet government was evacuated to Kuibyshev, 500 mi (800 km) southeast of Moscow however, Stalin remained in the capital after being reassured by Zhukov that the capital would not fall.

The further Fedor von Bock's forces advanced, the stiffer Soviet resistance became. The paved roads leading to Moscow became craters under constant Russian artillery fire, rendering them impassable. This forced the German troops into the mud and Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) soon became stuck once again. The goal of capturing Moscow by mid October could no longer be achieved. However, the sheer weight of the German advance could not be fully stopped, and on 21 October units of the 9th Army captured Kalinin.

As November arrived the mud soon turned into ice as temperatures dropped to -20 °F. While the ground hardened sufficiently enough to support vehicles, the cold weather added to the miseries of the German soldiers as many had not received winter clothing. Frostbite soon took its toll many soldiers were severely affected and had to be evacuated.

On 20 November, Fedor von Bock moved his field headquarters to an advanced forward position near the front lines. There he visited an artillery command post, where he could see the buildings of Moscow through his field glasses. Several days later, German forces crossed the Moscow-Volga Canal and reached Khimki but soon fell back due to Soviet resistance. On 29 November, elements of the 4th Panzer Army reached the western suburbs of Moscow. On 4 December, units of the 2nd Army reached Kuntsevo, a western suburb of Moscow. Several units of Heinz Guderian's army bypassed Kolomna and reached the Moscow River. Meanwhile, the 3. Panzerarmee (3rd Panzer Army) once again fought into Khimki. These were the last advances made by Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) under Fedor von Bock's command.

On 6 December, with the temperature at -50 °F, fresh Russian troops commanded by Zhukov launched a huge counterattack. All along the front near Moscow German troops retreated, destroying whatever equipment they could not salvage. Several days later, High Command ordered a halt to all offensive operations. Fedor von Bock wrote in his diary:

All along, I demanded of Army High Command the authority to strike down the enemy when he was wobbling. We could have finished the enemy last summer. We could have destroyed him completely. Last August, the road to Moscow was open we could have entered the Bolshevik capital in triumph and in summery weather. The high military leadership of the Fatherland made a terrible mistake when it forced my army group to adopt a position of defense last August. Now all of us are paying for that mistake.
By 13 December, German forces had retreated more than 50 mi (80 km) from the capital. On 18 December, Fedor von Bock was relieved of his command of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre). The official pretext of this decision was health problems. However, this was just one case out of some 40 high-ranking officers being relieved of their command following the failure to capture Moscow. Fedor von Bock's command of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) marked the closest the German army ever got to Moscow never again would the Soviet capital be threatened.

Operation Blue

When Fedor von Bock asked for permission to withdraw his exhausted troops in December 1941, he was dismissed from his post as Commander of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre), to be reassigned to lead Heeresgruppe Süd in January 1942, when Generalfeldmarshall Walter von Reichenau died of a heart attack.

On 28 June 1942, Fedor von Bock's offensive split the Russian front into fragments on either side of Kursk. Three armies (Weich's 2nd Army, Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer, and Paulus' 6th Army) along with 11 Panzer Divisions fanned out toward Voronezh and the Don River. Paulus' Panzer Divisions reached the Don on either side of Voronezh on 5 July. The Russians created a Voronezh Front under Vatutin, who reported directly to Moscow. Fedor von Bock wanted to eliminate Vatutin's forces before extending his own flank too deeply into the yawning void created by the strength and speed of the German offensive. Adolf Hitler was not pleased with Fedor von Bock's plan to delay the push toward Stalingrad. On 15 July, Adolf Hitler would blame him for the failure of Operation Braunschweig, the second part of the German offensive in Russia, and retire him indefinitely. The command of Army Group South was given to Maximilian von Weichs.

While privately opposing the atrocities being committed against Soviet civilians, Fedor von Bock never protested directly to Adolf Hitler, although at one time, he had a subordinate file a formal complaint (Meine Herren, ich stelle fest: Der Feldmarschall von Fedor von Bock hat protestiert! gentlemen, I state: The field marshal von Fedor von Bock has protested).His nephew, Henning von Tresckow, tried in vain to win him for the military resistance against the Adolf Hitler regime. When his staff officers planned the assassination of Adolf Hitler during a visit to his Army Group, Fedor von Bock intervened.On the other hand, he did not report the conspirators either.

One of the reasons for Fedor von Bock's dismissal is believed to have been his expressed interest in supporting the Russian Liberation Movement, which Adolf Hitler was categorically against.



As an involuntarily retired Field Marshal, Fedor von Bock felt he was made a scapegoat for the problems of Stalingrad. He was approached to join a coup against Adolf Hitler, but he believed any such move not supported by Heinrich Himmler who controlled the Waffen-SS was bound to fail he refused to move against the Führer.

With the Russians closing in on Berlin in 1945, Fedor von Bock was informed by Erich von Manstein that Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz was forming a new government in Hamburg. Fedor von Bock started off for that city immediately, perhaps hoping for a new command. On 4 May 1945, only a week before the war's end in Europe, Fedor von Bock's car was strafed on the Kiel road by a British fighter-bomber he was killed along with his wife and daughter.

At age 64, Fedor von Fedor von Bock became the only one of Adolf Hitler's Field Marshals to die from enemy fire.

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