|Grossdeutschland Campaign Pt. 7 - The Russian Jungle|
|by Travis Petkovits|
"I declare today, and I declare it without any reservation that the enemy in the East has been struck down and will never rise again.”
Adolf Hitler, (in a speech about the current condition of the Soviet Union on October 3, 1941)
After having paused for six weeks to help reduce the Kiev pocket, Army Group Center resumed the attack towards Moscow on 2 Oct. Catching the Soviet defenders by surprise, 2nd & 4th Armies, and 4th Panzer Army quickly penetrated deep into the Soviet rear. This resulted in two large pockets of Soviet troops being formed in what would come to be known at the double battle of Vyazma and Bryansk.
The Wehrmacht offensive quickly began to bog down due to the tenacious resolve of the trapped Soviets. A total of 28 divisions would ultimately be required to reduce the enemy forces in the two pockets. On 7 Oct, the first snows of the season fell and quickly melted turning the roads into a morass of mud. The Russians called this rasputitsa – literally mud season.
I.R. Grossdeutschland was not initially involved in the renewed attacks towards Moscow. However by 11 Oct the regiment was moving towards Karachev. Its assignment would be to take up positions in the forest north of Karachev, and block Soviets units trying to break out of the eastern portion of the Bryansk pocket.
Receiving orders late on the 12th to capture the village and sawmill at Annino, the regiment marched throughout the night to reach the jumping off points for the assault.
The encircled Soviet 3rd & 13th Armies trapped in the Bryansk pocket were trying to breakout to the east as quickly as possible, to a new line being established around Poniry and Mtsensk. Although the Soviet infantry were very adapt at moving through the tangled forest, the desire to salvage as much of their vehicles and heavy weapons as possible required the Soviets units to use the few roads in the forest. One of these units, the 307th NKVD Rifle Division was currently in the small logging village of Annino preparing to make its final push out of the pocket.
The forest north of Karachev was a dense marshy expanse; men who stood to long in one place would start to sink into the muddy soil. The few rutted roads in the area were often of dubious reliability once the muddy season began. With the addition of fresh snow, the terrain became a difficult, unfamiliar landscape for the Panzergrenadiers to operate in.
The battles north of Karachev were fought at close range, devolving into hand-to-hand struggles commonly. Due to lack of visibility, Soviet and German forces often-surprised one and other. The Wehrmacht troops soon learned that the best weapons to use in this sort of fighting were pistols and grenades, as there rarely was time to bring machine-guns or rifles to bear before the enemy was upon them.
By evening on 16 Oct, the battle in the Karachev forest had come to an end. Though the Soviet troops had fought with dogged determination, in the end a few units were able to run the German defensive gauntlet and escape to the east. I.R. Grossdeutschland had captured thousands of enemy troops, and vast quantities of ammunition and vehicles.
The price paid by the regiment in this series of close quarter battles was high, especially amongst the regiments’ junior officers. Of the many platoon and company commanders who fell in the primeval forest, one in particular came as a heavy blow to the panzergrenadiers. A Russian sniper on the 14th felled Oberleutnant Hanert, hero of the defensive battle at Kraglowka. (See Scenario GD5) Within a few days the regiment would rejoin the advance towards Moscow. Now they must face one of their greatest foes - “General Mud."