The First Battle of Smolensk was a large scale battle during the opening stage of Operation Barbarossa in World War II, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. It took place in the region around the city of Smolensk between 10 July and 10 September 1941, about 400 km west of Moscow. At that point the Wehrmacht had advanced 500 km into the USSR in the mere 18 days that had elapsed since the start of the invasion on 22 June 1941. During the battle the German army encountered unexpected resistance, leading to a severe delay in their advance on Moscow.
Ultimately, three Soviet armies (the 16th, 19th and the 20th army) were encircled and destroyed just to the south of Smolensk, though significant numbers from the 19th and 20th managed to escape the pocket. Some historians have asserted that the losses in terms of men and materiel incurred by the Wehrmacht during this drawn-out battle, together with the 2-month delay in the march towards Moscow, were decisive for the Wehrmacht’s defeat by the Red Army at the end of the Battle of Moscow three months later in December 1941.
Historians say that this battle had a profound effect on Germany’s drive to Moscow in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa.
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