on 8 July 2011
The good news is Mr Porter provides a good amount of general information on the division, its individual regiments, special combat battalions and auxiliary units like engineering, signals, medic. Also provided is information with accompanying illustrations on the equipment and weaponry used by the division. This includes the range of weapons from rifles, MGs, flamethrowers, panzers of all types, mortars, artillery pieces. Ammunition improvements, gun range and armor protection is briefly discussed. It also includes the different types of trucks, half-tracks and armored vehicles that were used to haul men and supplies. This was the largest section in the book, consuming 126 pages and it makes for a decent primer on the division. This data is backed-up with easy to follow graphics and organization charts.
Another chapter in the book, though the coverage is not to the same depth, included information on the Luftwaffe and its contribution in supporting the ground forces in Operation Citadel. Illustrations of the key planes at Kursk are included. This chapter including the illustrations was only 16 pages so don't expect too much.
The first chapter involves the first several years of the war in general and a brief glimpse of the evolution of Das Reich.
Another positive feature of this book are the attractive charts and tables providing key statistics that are throughout the book. Special attention has been made concerning the number of tanks available for each side as well as the casualties suffered. All the numbers presented in these charts disregard the exaggerated numbers of earlier decades and reflect the current thinking on the topic. Production figures of tanks and planes clearly show the Soviet advantage.
This has been the good news; now I present, at least from my perspective, the bad news.
There are 12 computer generated color maps that begin by showing the entire Soviet front at different times and then te maps drill down to the Ukraine, then the Kursk sector to the Kursk salient, to the southern portion of the salient. Half of these maps can be seen in popular atlases. Of the salient maps, there are three maps that include Das Reich. They have good eye appeal but from my perspective are modestly populated, showing only a few key villages, no fortified hills and with the exception of the Psel River are devoid of labels for the other five rivers (when they're shown) that were a major part of the battle field.
The last salient map on p 171 is my favorite for it shows the most details of that critical period of 7/12 - 7/14 but it does have minor issues. There are many villages missing but the ones important to the circumstances of Das Reich (Storozhevoe, Ivanovski Vyselok, Rzhavets) are missing and should have been included. The important Donets Rivers are missing. More importantly, the progression of Das Reich's advance as indicated by an arrow is a bit off. The division made it further to the northeast, almost to Pavorot. It would also have been nice to see the 167th ID positioned on Das Reich's southern flank. A better display of 3rd PzC's deployment would have helped to show the Germans closing the pocket. With these refinements a reader could see clearer how the Germans nearly encircled the 48th RC as well as the final line the Germans reached before Citadel was called off. Shading the map to reflect the corps' final advance would have helped. Though the map on page 167 has this shading, it doesn't represent the final position of the German advance. These maps are good but with a little more effort , they could have been better.
A good number of interesting photos are provided including the portraits of Hausser and Kruger.
While Mr Porter presents an introduction to Operation Citadel that includes reasons why the Prokhorovka area was chosen, there is only four pages devoted to July 12th fighting. Within these four pages, SSTK and LAH, the other two divisions of the SS Corps, receive more space than Das Reich. You can count the amount of battle coverage of Das Reich's participation in this campaign in paragraphs not chapters. It was thoroughly superficial, drastically incomplete and doesn't even begin to convey the bitter fighting that occurred that day. I realize this book is an overview but still the operational aspects could have certainly been enhanced. (After the tank battle of 7/12, Operations Roland and Rumyantsev are briefly explained.)
The author also provides a short but good Bibliography and an Index but no Notes.
While this book presents some good insights into Das Reich, its equipment and weapons and some good points on Operation Citadel, it does not provide sufficient battle information on Das Reich's participation on a meaningful level to satisfy an enthusiast though its certainly good enough to whet a new reader's appetite for reading more substantial books on the campaign.
on 3 July 2011
i have not seen this book. So it should be arrogantly presumptious to offer a review, surely. Well, all i would like to do is criticise their premise that after Prokhorovka 12th July, the Germans lost 300 tanks and their opponents, 5th guards tank army, was down to 50%, representing a resounding defeat for the Germans. This is an out of date theory. Newer research from original records show that the Germans lost about 60 tanks at Prokh on the 12th, and 5th guards tanks lost 80%+ of their 600 tanks. This is what G.Nipe says in Decision in the Ukraine, and Restayn shows similar in Operation Citadel.
It appears that Mansteins previously ridiculed assertion that Hitler threw away a strategic victory by halting the offensive on 13th July, is true. Manstein had 150 uncommitted tanks ready in 24th Pz.Corps, which could have quickly burst through the last 100 odd T34s & T60s of the shattered 5th guards tanks, desperately dug-in defending the Psel River, the last serious barrier before Kursk (dug-in because yesterday's charging attacks had been so costly & useless). The way would have been open on the 13th-14th to surround 2 soviet armies in the southern portion of the Kursk salient, and wreck much of 2 more armies nearby. This would have forced the Soviets to try and close the gap in their line by frantically withdrawing other forces from their carefully prepared offensive positions, to be thrown hurridly into the maelstrom of a fluid armour battle, a battle that would have completely favoured the Germans with their superior tactics, communications & control. The Soviet armies poised to breakthrough in July near Orel & the Mius would have withdrawn before they began their attacks; they would have been chewed up in desparately ill-planned counter-attacks (like 5th guards tanks had just been); there would have been no German withdrawl in August and the successful Soviet Autumn offensives may well not have started in 43 at all.
Sooo, any book about Kursk that peddles the old myth about Prokhorovka being a German tank graveyard, is deeply flawed and must be viewed with suspicion.