The Battles of Rzhev
The city of Rzhev shall forever remain a symbol of the fierce battles along the entire perimeter of the Rzhev-Vyazma Salient in 1942-1943. The relentless fighting had not stopped for 14 months and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers.
The offensive and defensive operations there were conducted by the Western and Kalinin Fronts of the Red Army. They were of great strategic importance for achieving a turning point in favor of the Red Army on the entire Soviet-German front
The goal of the Rzhev-Vyazma Strategic Offensive (January 8-April 20, 1942) was to complete the defeat of the main forces of the German Army Group Center after the successful Soviet counteroffensive near Moscow. Despite the fact that the operation had remained incomplete, the German forces sustained serious losses and were pushed back hundreds of kilometers from Moscow
In the spring of 1942, troops of the 39th Army and 11th Cavalry Corps of the Kalinin Front captured a vast bridgehead on the Western face of the Rzhev-Vyazma Salient. They were stopped in close proximity of the main enemy communication lines, which played an important role in supplying the Army Group Center. These Soviet troops were cut off from the main forces in July and had to fight heavy battles near the town of Bely to break out of the encirclement.
The First Rzhev-Sychyovka Offensive took place from July 30 to August 23, 1942. Its objective was to crush the German 9th Army and eliminate the Rzhev Salient. Although this goal was not achieved, 16 German divisions lost from 50 to 80 percent of their personnel. The German Command was denied the opportunity to redeploy these troops to the southern flank, to Stalingrad or the Caucasus.
The Western and Kalinin Fronts under the overall command of Georgy Zhukov mounted a new offensive on November 25, 1942. Thus the Germans could not redeploy these forces to Stalingrad or to use them to threat Moscow. The Second Rzhev-Sychyovka Strategic Offensive was codenamed Operation Mars. It lasted until December 20, 1942 and accomplished the task of assisting the Soviet troops fighting under Stalingrad.
The advance of the Bryansk and Central Fronts forced the Germans to withdraw from the Rzhev-Vyazma Salient in February 1943. The Kalinin and Western Fronts began to pursue the enemy and pushed the front line 130-160 km further from Moscow during the Rzhev-Vyazma Offensive (March 2-31, 1943). Rzhev was liberated by the 30th Army of the Western Front on March 3, 1943.