The Soviet Command's Unrelenting Offensive
|Red Army soldiers on the march to Vyazma, March 4, 1943 (source)|
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
March 9, 1943
On the front west of Moscow, Soviet commanders have worked out a "Notre Dame system" of substituting their combat teams, which has enabled the Red Army to keep up a steady twenty-four hour day and night attack.
This system was used in the capture of Sychyovka, the important highway and railroad town forty-five miles north of Vyazma. It also is being employed west of Gzhatsk, where the Soviet troops are advancing on Vyazma at the rate of five miles a day.
This morning's communiqué revealed that the Soviet forces had captured the small town of Sergo-Ivanovskaya, only twenty miles northwest of Vyazma (where the railroad bends sharply southward toward the city. A further twenty inhabited points were captured in the vicinity of Sergo-Ivanovskaya in last night's fighting.)
Here's the way the Russian military version of the "Notre Dame system" works. In their drive down the railroad north of Vyazma, infantry battalions supported by tanks will keep the Germans busy throughout the day. At nightfall, fresh Russian troops, who have been sleeping and resting all day, will take over the offensive and keep the Germans up all night. Then at dawn the day shift will take over again.
(It was this type of substitution offensive which kept the Germans busy for two days at Sychyovka, resulting in the capture of the town.)
March 12, 1943
Russian forces have broken the last German bastion on the Moscow front, capturing Vyazma, the only remaining key point in the Nazi line before the Soviet capital.
More importantly, the Red Army has cleared the last main railroad junction on the railroad line leading from Smolensk to Moscow. The Germans this morning claimed that the Nazi forces had withdrawn from Vyazma, but it was a pretty costly evacuation. Nine German soldiers were killed in this fighting.
This evening at eight o'clock I returned from a trip to this front west of Moscow. I didn't get down to Vyazma, but I visited Rzhev, seventy-five miles north of the town. For twelve hours today I traveled by bus through the plains west of Moscow—plains that are exactly like those in the Vyazma district. As you know, the Red Army captured Rzhev nine days ago. Both here and at Vyazma the Germans had almost a year and a half to build their defense—and they were terrific.