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Kharkov, 1942: The Wehrmacht Strikes Back (Campaign) [Paperback]

Robert Forczyk , Howard Gerrard
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 April 2013 Campaign (Book 254)
After failing to finish off the German Army in the 1941/42 Winter Counter offensive Stalin directed the Red Army to conduct a powerful blow in one sector of the Eastern Front in order to disrupt German plans. The sector chosen was Kharkov. Under Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, the Stavka's remaining reserves were assembled and prepared to conduct a breakthrough attack intended to encircle the German Sixth Army near Kharkov. However, Stalin was unaware that the Germans were planning their own riposte at Kharkov, known as Operation Fredericus. When Timoshenko began his offensive in May 1942, he did not realize the limitations of his own forces or the agility of the Germans to recover from setbacks, all of which contributed to one of the Red Army greatest defeats of World War II. This volume will pay particular attention to intelligence and logistics issues, as well as how this campaign served as a prelude to the battle of Stalingrad. It will also focus on the nascent development of the Red Army's tank corps and 'deep battle' tactics, as well as the revival of the German Panzertruppen after Barbarossa.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (8 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178096157X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780961576
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 9.6 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 314,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

It's a highly visual and accessible way to get a handle on this campaign, with plenty of inspiration for the modeller. Highly recommended. --Military Modelcraft International

Overall this is an excellent study of two lesser known but important battles. --Historyofwar.org

About the Author

Robert Forczyk has a PhD in International Relations and National Security from the University of Maryland and a strong background in European and Asian military history. He retired as a lieutenant colonel from the US Army Reserves having served 18 years as an armour officer in the US 2nd and 4th Infantry Divisions and as an intelligence officer in the 29th Infantry Division (Light). Dr Forczyk is currently a consultant in the Washington, DC area. Howard Gerrard studied at the Wallasey School of Art and has been a freelance designer and illustrator for over 20 years. He has worked for a number of publishers and is an associate member of the Guild of Aviation Artists. He has won both the Society of British Aerospace Companies Award and the Wilkinson Sword Trophy, and has illustrated a number of books for Osprey. Howard lives and works in Kent.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most effective and interesting campaign 25 April 2013
By Dave History Student TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Though having read and enjoyed David Glantz's "Kharkov 1942", I was still anxious to read this book. From my perspective, David Glantz's book was too biased toward the Soviet side and thought Mr Forczyk would have a more balanced approach and he did.
The presentation was typical Osprey Campaign format that begins with prehistory which included the Kiev encirclement, the failed attempt at taking Moscow and the original capture of Kharkov in Oct 1941 by AOK 6 as well as the first attempt by the Soviets to recapture the important industrial and rail town. Its clearly shown how the battle lines were drawn for the upcoming clash between these two giants in May 1942. The remaining four chapters that precede the Campaign are equally effective and consume up through page 33. These chapters that include a Chronology, Opposing Commanders, Opposing Forces and Opposing Plans are not only good in describing their primary venue but the author also adds additional background information that will enlighten the reader when the battle campaign begins. There is much that is going on operationally and politically before and during the battle as well as having many divisions to cover and covering it as well as it is in this sub 100 page overview, is a good indication of the author's interest in the campaign and his ability to research it and cover all the broad strokes of it.
By the time the campaign starts the reader will have a good understanding of who the key commanders were, the forces under their command and the objectives of what each side was trying to accomplish. Its shown that at this point in time, the Germans still had the advantage in overall battlefield command, the Soviets were still ramping up their war industries and were short on tanks, artillery etc.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second Kharkov 30 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A useful compact outline of the battle with clear maps.
Good value for money.
Helpful as preparatory reading for David Glantz's Kharkov 1942
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comment on Kharkov 1942 14 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very inormative, good photographs and illustrations and bird eye view maps. A must for any person interested in the conflict that took place in Eastern Europe.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An effective and interesting presentation of an important campaign 25 April 2013
By Dave Schranck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Though having read and enjoyed David Glantz's "Kharkov 1942", I was still anxious to read this book. From my perspective, David Glantz's book was too biased toward the Soviet side and thought Mr Forczyk would have a more balanced approach and he did.
The presentation was typical Osprey Campaign format that begins with prehistory which included the Kiev encirclement, the failed attempt at taking Moscow and the original capture of Kharkov in Oct 1941 by AOK 6 as well as the first attempt by the Soviets to recapture the important industrial and rail town. Its clearly shown how the battle lines were drawn for the upcoming clash between these two giants in May 1942. The remaining four chapters that precede the Campaign are equally effective and consume up through page 33. These chapters that include a Chronology, Opposing Commanders, Opposing Forces and Opposing Plans are not only good in describing their primary venue but the author also adds additional background information that will enlighten the reader when the battle campaign begins. There is much that is going on operationally and politically before and during the battle as well as having many divisions to cover and covering it as well as it is in this sub 100 page overview, is a good indication of the author's interest in the campaign and his ability to research it and cover all the broad strokes of it.

By the time the campaign starts the reader will have a good understanding of who the key commanders were, the forces under their command and the objectives of what each side was trying to accomplish. Its shown that at this point in time, the Germans still had the advantage in overall battlefield command, the Soviets were still ramping up their war industries and were short on tanks, artillery etc. Its also shown that Stalin was still ignoring Zhukov's advice and prosecuting the war to his aggressive and imprudent ways that had cost the Red Army so heavily in 1941. Its also shown Red Army tactics to be less than ideal and when it was clearly shown the German counter-offensive was gaining momentum Stalin refused to react, maintaining his offensive against pleas from Timoshenko and Zhukov. The weaknesses of General Paulus, a newly appointed field commander of 6th Army, appear in this campaign as he hesitates in the first week and will show up again as 6th Army tries to take Stalingrad later in the year.

One of the reasons I like this campaign is that in considering the whole Front Line between Lenningrad and the Crimea both dictators chose the Kharkov sector to initiate a summer offensive and within a week of each other. The difficult fighting and ironic results will have major short term impact on both sides. The Germans once again show superior tactics on the ground and in the air that will shatter the Soviet line and morale.
The Soviets began their offensive first and made initial gains and were in the process of encircling Kharkov with their northern and southern Fronts. If the German Army had not fortified this sector in preparation for their offensive, there would have been a good chance Kharkov would have fallen to the Soviets with a real threat of greater penetration to the west and a hole that the Germans would have had to close, probably at the expense of running Operation Blue if the war was to continue. The dangers to Paulus' 6th Army in defending the Kharkov sector while he waits for Kleist to attack from the south and more are carefully covered in the campaign.

While unable to have a map for everyday of the month+ long campaign which could ideally show the initial Soviet success and then the determined counter offensive by the Germans that will reacquire lost ground and then step by step close and eliminate a huge pocket like in the mold of 1941, there are nine carefully selected detailed, color maps that still adds to the overall value and understanding of the campaign. I usually don't list maps but these maps support the narrative quite well and are noted below:

Barvenkovo salient carved out by the Red Army - first months of 1942 and show the starting positions of Kharkov 1942 (2-D)
Soviet offensive begins along Kharkov axis on May 11th (2-D)
Soviet attack expands in the north, May 12th (3-D)
Northern sector fighting between Belgorod and Kharkov, May 13-20 (2-D)
Attack of the Soviet 6th Army and Group Bobkin - south of Kharkov (2-D)
German defense of Krasnograd, south of Kharkov, May 14-19 (3-D)
Kleist's attack in the southern sector, May 17-22 (2-D)
Destruction of the Barvenkovo Pocket (south of Kharkov) by the Germans, May 24-28 (3-D)
Fighting in June from Belgorod to Izyum, east of Kharkov (2-D)

In "Aftermath", the author totals the casualties of both sides with the Soviets losing many times the losses of the Germans to the extent that when Operation Blue begins in late June, the Southwestern Front is unable to stop the German advance toward the Volga.
The book also includes a Chronology, an Order of Battle for both sides, a dynamite gallery of photos, three action scenes, a Bibliography of primary and secondary sources and an Index. If this book stirs you to greater study then the small list of secondary choices will be helpful.

Mr Forczyk has done a very nice job in presenting the important features of this Campaign that shows the poor decisions and tremendous losses the Soviets suffered and giving the appearance the Germans had regained the initiative from their losses at Moscow but will actually lead the Germans to the disaster at Stalingrad by the end of the year. Along with the quality maps, colorful illustrations and many good photos makes this an easy recommendation to all enthusiasts of pre Stalingrad history.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A succinct but excellent operational history of this fluid battle 4 May 2013
By Yoda - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book, as part of the Osprey "Campaigns" series, is relatively short. It is 96 pages long and about a third of these consist of illustration of one type or another (i.e., maps, contemporaneous photographs, etc.). Hence the relevant question becomes how good of a job does it do for its short length and format? The answer is excellent.

Dr. Forczyk, who has written numerous excellent books in Osprey "Campaign" Series and other Osprey series (i.e., "Duel" and "Command") such as Toulon, Demyansk, Panzerjager vs. KV-1, Panther vs. T-34, Sevastapol, etc. continues on the roll. Like in his previous books, he sums up the topics very well in the restraints imposed by the formats he writes for. His books are very well written, very insightful and well researched. His military experience (he was a military officer in the intelligence brach), to a very large extent, enables him to bring a perspective to his books that few other academicians are able to. This book continues with this tradition.

The book itself provides an operational level history and is written to present a high level picture of the picture, very much analogous to the perspectives provided in books written by Dr. David Glantz (a professor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlyle, PA). The book starts off by providing the strategic picture framing this battle in terms of both armies' dispositions and strength, goals and leadership. The basic situation was that the Soviet offense did not have enough time to be prepared and was not probably not adequate enough for the job, especially given its quality and the poor leadership (at the highest levels) that led it. It were these factors, especially the poor leadership by the supreme commander of this campaign, Timoshenko, that played a decisive role, in the Soviet defeat. Soviet high level leadership, provided by Timoshenko, that was especially bad. He fought a battle based on his experience based in Finland, where battle were relatively static. Unfortunately this style doomed the Soviets, especially considering how fluid German doctrine was. In addition, Dr. Forczyk shows how critical German high level leadership was in terms of bringing victory (i.e., intiative, speed of decision making, goals, etc.).

The book does an excellent job at following the operational movement of the relevant forces, the blocking actions of the Germans and the final German counter attack that sealed the battle. The author does an excellent job at analyzing not only the role leadership in battles but also other factors such as the movement of German air forces to the vicinity that played a critical role in the battle. The maps (on both the operational and strategic levels) are excellent and show the decisive areas of the battles (i.e., Krasnograd) and how the relevant movements and blocking actions of the Germans sealed the fate of the battle. The contemporaneous photographs, like in all of Dr. Forczyk's previous books, do an excellent job at showing various major pieces of military equipment and the environment the battle took place in.

All and all an excellent book in that, despite its short length, succinctly discusses not only the battle itself but the major factors that contributed to victory and defeat on both sides. Five stars.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accurate and insightful study 19 May 2013
By F. Carol Sabin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I must say this is my first book from Osprey and the first written by Dr. Forczyk. The subject is one of my favorite, along with the third battle of Kharkov (feb-march 1943), since both are showing the German forces' recovery and emerging victorious after Soviet victories.
The book is fast-paced, clearly focused and well researched; I feel no need to check for some information. At the beginning of the book, in a quick succession we could read an effective IPB-like presentation - the origins of the campaign, the opposing forces, plans and commanders, then starting the battle coverage, day-by-day from 12 (The start of the double envelopment Soviet offensive) to 29 May 1942 (The end of German counteroffensive). Operations of both sides, actions and counteractions, are presented in an equidistant manner, in spite of not having being inspired from any Soviet primary records or secondary sources (page 94).

As the author mentioned, this debacle weakened and demoralized Soviet forces, making the future German offensives (Wilhelm, Blau) much easier to accomplish than otherwise have been.
Still in weakened condition, the AGS, thanks to its superior leadership and experience in mobile warfare, was able to deliver a powerful blow to the ambitious Soviet pincers. After reading this book, I guess Stalin, somehow like Hitler, never seems to have appreciated the advantages of a inspired counterattack, even though the Soviet Army's very first successes in 1941, were all counterattacks.
There are some full-colour battle scenes, 3 x three-dimensional "bird's-eye-views" and plenty of illustrations. Also attractive are all six full colour operational/strategic maps - down to division level, (red &blue, with NATO-symbols and useful details inserted).
The book closes with Aftermath (casualties, lessons learned and a short presentation of the next German attack, Wilhelm) and Battlefield today (in case you visit Ukraine) chapters.

In my personal opinion, one conclusion is debatable (page 91, Axis partners' performance): I believe the task of covering the long front along Don (or elsewhere) was more the result of insufficient German forces available for this task, than a sudden trust in their comrades in arms and their capabilities. Put simply, there were no other forces and it was Hitler's (lost) gamble since all Germans knew very well the combat effectiveness and equipment of their allies. Axis front, thin and always overextended, could resist only if supported by some Panzer divisions, as operational reserves (as Rzhev battle showed in Nov-Dec 1942).
I was very impressed by the discreet dedication at the beginning of the book.
In conclusion a very useful book, accurate and, most importantly, written by a genuine (military) expert.
Highly recommended!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good synopsis 26 May 2013
By Alex D. Vance - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read the Glantz book on Kharkov 1942 which is, of course, longer. This book clearly presents the battle and is a good book to read before going to the larger works on the subject. The problem, and it is one with all Kindle war books, is the maps which are very hard to enlarge enough to see them. This is particularly true the full page maps.
5.0 out of 5 stars WW II campaign 1 April 2014
By Gidget's Thoughts - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Each book in this series takes just one time and place to put in great detail. This was a gift to my husband who has enjoyed several others of this era. They aren't very long, but are in great detail, which my husband likes. This series covers not only WWII but other places and times in history, each with it's own in depth read. Try it and see if you like it.
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