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The Defense of Moscow 1941: The Northern Flank (Stackpole Military History) [Paperback]

David M. Glantz , Jack Radey , Charles Sharp
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan 2014 Stackpole Military History
There was only one point in the Second World War when Nazi Germany had a chance of winning. That point was October 1941, when most of the Red Army's forces before Moscow had been smashed or encircled, and no reserves were available to defend the capital. All that stood in Hitler's way were a handful of Soviet rifle divisions, tank brigades and hastily assembled militia. According to German accounts, their spearheads were stopped by the mud, but a close examination of German records shows this was not so. Instead it is clear that it was the resistance of the Red Army and bad, arrogant planning that halted the Wehrmacht. This is the dramatic story that Jack Radey and Charles Sharp tell in this compelling study of a previously unknown part of the Battle of Moscow. Using archival records from both sides, they reveal how the Soviets inflicted a stunning defeat on a German plan to encircle six Soviet armies the middle of October 1941
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books; Reprint edition (Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811713482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811713481
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 830,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Clear, concise, and well-written, by skillfully exploiting newly-released and long-neglected archival materials, the authors of this book have provided not only fresh insights as to how and why the battle for Moscow was fought, but also necessary context for understanding why Germany ultimately lost the war. It is a "must read" by historian and layman alike.' David M. Glantz --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Jack Radey has researched deeply into the history of the Second World War in general and has made a particular study of the conflict on the Eastern Front. He has written many games, articles and film scripts on subjects as wide ranging as the Korsun Pocket, Borodino '41, American Civil War battlefields, D-Day, Iwo Jima, and Barbarossa. Charles Sharp has a long-standing interest in military history. He spent twenty years in the US Army from the Vietnam War. He served in the army through the end of the Cold War and the first Iraq War, retiring in 1992. Since then he has written fifteen books on the Soviet and German armies in the Second World War, published in the Soviet Order of Battle series, and lectured on military history. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
An excellent, well written book, using archival material from both sides to give a balanced view of an often overlooked battle, which I thoroughly enjoyed

However perhaps I ought to explain the "overlooked battle" part the sentence above, surely everyone knows of the battle for Moscow? Except this book isn't really about the Battle for Moscow, it is an account of the battle for Kalinin in October 1941. The authors do make a link between the battle around Kalinin and the advance on Moscow, but to my mind the title is a little misleading, even the "blurb" on the dust jacket fails to mention Kalinin. If you want a book on the battle of Kalinin this is a superb account, if you were looking for a tome on the battles before Moscow you'll be sadly disappointed.

This history is pitched at an operational level, it is a narrative of the battle around Kalinin described at the divisional level, with ample detail on operations by sub-units (regiments, brigades and kampfgruppen) with frequent mentions of battalion level actions. Unlike many other histories of actions in the Great Patriotic War it has been thoroughly researched and uses primary sources from both sides, leading to a balanced account.

The narrative is a very interesting story of command miss-management on both sides, and an eye-opening insight on how two people, often on the same side, can see events very differently. None the less the authors have woven disparate sources in to a coherent story of the battle, highlighting areas where the most notable disagreements occur.

The authors are to be congratulated on their attention to organisation detail. There is a thorough Order of Battle for both sides in the back of the book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful read with insightful analysis 12 Dec 2012
By Dave History Student TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I misinterpreted the title when ordered; I thought this book would be very similar in coverage to Zetterling and Frankson's "The Drive on Moscow 1941" but perhaps presented from the Soviet perspective. "The Drive on Moscow" is your more conventional look of Operation Typhoon as the three panzer armies lead the advance toward Moscow. It begins in early October with the huge encirclement battles near Vyazma and Bryansk and works its way to the gates of Moscow in early December. Zetterling spends about ten pages on the battle for Kalinin as a secondary issue for von Bock as he leads his AGC toward Moscow. This side campaign was considered only moderately difficult with little impact on why AGC failed to capture Moscow. The book in review will sternly refute that position.
"The Defense of Moscow 1941" spends its entire narrative of 177 pages on this difficult series of battles that cost 3rd PzA so much in men and panzers that by the time the final drive on Moscow was launched the panzer army had relatively little to contribute to the assault.
Radey and Sharp bring an entirely new look at the scale and importance of the Kalinin campaign that went far beyond the scope of taking just the town. It was a coordinated attempt by AGC along with elements of AGN to destroy approx seven Soviet Armies of the Western and Northwestern Fronts in order to relieve pressure on their flanks in order to resume their advance toward Moscow and Leningrad respectively.

The book surprisely begins after the Vyazma and Bryansk battles with the authors artfully setting the stage for the Kalinin Campaign. The overall battle status of both sides is explained as well as the key units that will take part in the upcoming struggle.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Wait 16 Dec 2012
By John Prados - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
One immensely satisfying aspect of reading history is to discover how good historians can take events we thought we understood and reframe them, opening new vistas that are quite unexpected. Jack Radey and Charles Sharp have accomplished this very thing in their new Russian Front history, THE DEFENSE OF MOSCOW 1941: THE NORTHERN FLANK.

Radey and Sharp focus their investigation on actions that took place around Kalinin, north of Moscow. The received history is that, in the Germans' "Typhoon" offensive, pincers went for Moscow from both the south (Guderian) and the north (Hoth) while in the center the Nazis ground up Soviet defenders in the Vyazma pocket. "General Mud" (then "General Winter") plus Russian reinforcements arriving from the Far East combined to re-establish the front and Moscow was saved. Many years ago Alan Clark told us in his classic BARBAROSSA that the Germans had broken through at Kalinin but by the end of October 1941 their advance had slowed to a snail's pace. Paul Carell in HITLER MOVES EAST detailed the fierce fighting around Kalinin itself. It turns out those histories retail bare fragments of the real story, now brought to us in a stunning manner by Jack Radey and Charles Sharp.

The authors demonstrate with convincing detail how and why much of our conventional understanding needs to be revised. First off, the German thrust at Kalinin aimed not at Moscow but instead was intended to protect the flank of the general advance by interposing a block between the Moscow sector and the Soviet forces to the north, possibly ensnaring some of them in conjunction with an attack by Army Group North. THE DEFENSE OF MOSCOW not only analyzes in detail the succession of orders issued by panzer group commander Hoth, but it covers the desperate decisions by--and infighting among--Soviet leaders and commanders, including Zhukov, Konev, Maslennikov, and Beria. The reconstruction of German activity shows that supply factors had more to do with the outcome than weather--in fact Radey and Sharp have dug out weather data which reveal the Wehrmacht was not actually stuck in the mud after all. A German fixation with certain territorial objectives--none in the direction of Moscow--led to a long finger penetration behind Soviet lines that was counterattacked from all directions, much like the British at Arnhem or U.S. Marines at the Chosin Reservoir. As in those other battles the desperate German retreat became epic, as were a number of Soviet operations such as the deep raid of the 21st Tank Brigade. Plus, along with their investigation of the forces involved, Radey and Sharp buttress their chronicle with translations of key combat orders and situation reports from both sides. Altogether, based on this considerable research in both Soviet and German records, the authors present an account that compels us to reconsider what we think we knew. THE DEFENSE OF MOSCOW 1941 is an important book that will surely become the definitive account of the battles on the Soviet capital's northern flank.

By way of disclosure I need to say I know both Jack Radey and Charles Sharp, and I knew of this project and encouraged them to proceed with it. For many years Jack, Charles and I all presented historical seminars at boardgaming conventions, and we were almost always scheduled up against each other. Among my regrets from those days is that I was seldom able to watch them in action. Now we can all enjoy their work at our leisure. THE DEFENSE OF MOSCOW 1941 has been well worth that wait.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Battle for Kalinin 31 Dec 2012
By T. Kunikov - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As pointed out, the title is somewhat of a misnomer, the book covers the fight over the town of Kalinin during the beginning of Operation Typhoon. The fighting that went on in the 'northern flank' of Moscow would have a direct impact on future German operations when they decided on a last lunge toward the capital, but the events covered in this book would have been better described as part of Operation Typhoon rather than a part of the Defense of Moscow. In either case, the authors have done a service for those interested in the Eastern Front and the Second World War in general. 1941 is too often presented as a series of successful German victories that flawlessly took them to the Gates of Moscow until the weather, logistics, and the Red Army interfered with their victorious march. A balanced account of 1941 has yet to be written (not to speak of the entirety of the Eastern Front) but books by professional historians like David Glantz and David Stahel have been a tremendous help in giving readers a more nuanced and contextualized understanding of both the Wehrmacht and Red Army throughout the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa.

Jack Radey and Charles Sharp build on what has already been written with their study of the defense of Kalinin in October 1941. The book contains some 177 pages of text, some of which could have readily been put into an appendix (I don't really see a huge need for an order of battle or to go through the table of organization and equipment in the main text, that type of information could just has easily have been placed in a footnote/endnote or an appendix). Taking almost two hundred pages to write about a few days in October only reenforces the complexity of the Eastern Front and what it takes to create a balanced account. The authors use both Soviet/Russian and German sources, making for a comprehensive retelling of the battles around and within Kalinin. For those familiar with works by David Glantz, expect the same amount of information and detail here, with relevant end of chapter/book summaries, but on a smaller level (whereas Glantz usually deals with divisions, corps, armies, and fronts/army groups, this book includes accounts from the brigade and regimental level as well).

The main focus of 'The Defense of Moscow' is the immediate aftermath of the beginning of Operation Typhoon. Initial German plans were never to take Moscow off the march, but to encircle the city. Once Red Army forces were encircled at Viazma and Briansk, the Wehrmacht did not face much opposition directly opposite Moscow. German commanders were thus more concerned about their flanks and dealing with the numerous armies that remained there. Radey and Sharp point out that the initial plans for German forces attacking toward Kalinin were not to simply take the city and create favorable conditions for future operations, but to encircle numerous Soviet armies in another grand offensive. Once again, German hopes were not based on the reality their forces found themselves in but on visions of further encirclements for which the necessary troops and logistics would somehow materialize in due time. Their Soviet counterparts, at least in this case, understood the meeting engagement that their forces were initially involved with and developed further offensive actions as circumstances allowed. Too often bad communications and scratch units put together from newly arriving recruits and recently scrounged up forces from previously encircled and decimated units led to failures, but these numerous 'small cuts' would lead to eventual German exhaustion and collapse when the Moscow Counter-Offensive began in early December.

Although Radey and Sharp point out that the details of this battle are often overlooked or are overshadowed by what was going on in Rostov, Tikhvin, and on the road to Moscow, the truth is that one can only deduce so much from the fight for Kalinin. I would say they overestimate how much of an impact this had on the Wehrmacht, especially since they themselves realize that the previously contested Smolensk Encirclement took a large toll on the Wehrmacht. There is no doubt that constant offensive actions ordered by Zhukov and other like-minded commanders (in this case, Konev), be they in front of Leningrad, Smolensk, or Kalinin, slowly bled the Germans on their way to Moscow. But a more important task remains. All of these actions need to be put into a greater context and allow for the ability to analyze the actions of the Werhmacht and Red Army from June through December of 1941. Thus far historians have mainly presented us with generalized studies or detailed case studies of battles. Taking all that information and crafting a new, original, and updated narrative of 1941 is still a task unfulfilled.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful read with insightful analysis 12 Dec 2012
By Dave Schranck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I misinterpreted the title when ordered; I thought this book would be very similar in coverage to Zetterling and Frankson's "The Drive on Moscow 1941" but perhaps presented from the Soviet perspective. "The Drive on Moscow" is your more conventional look of Operation Typhoon as the three panzer armies lead the advance toward Moscow. It begins in early October with the huge encirclement battles near Vyazma and Bryansk and works its way to the gates of Moscow in early December. Zetterling spends about ten pages on the battle for Kalinin as a secondary issue for von Bock as he leads his AGC toward Moscow. This side campaign was considered only moderately difficult with little impact on why AGC failed to capture Moscow. The book in review will sternly refute that position.
"The Defense of Moscow 1941" spends its entire narrative of 177 pages on this difficult series of battles that cost 3rd PzA so much in men and panzers that by the time the final drive on Moscow was launched the panzer army had relatively little to contribute to the assault.
Radey and Sharp bring an entirely new look at the scale and importance of the Kalinin campaign that went far beyond the scope of taking just the town. It was a coordinated attempt by AGC along with elements of AGN to destroy approx seven Soviet Armies of the Western and Northwestern Fronts in order to relieve pressure on their flanks in order to resume their advance toward Moscow and Leningrad respectively.

The book surprisely begins after the start of the Vyazma and Bryansk encirclements with the authors artfully setting the stage for the Kalinin Campaign. The overall battle status of both sides is explained as well as the key units that will take part in the upcoming struggle. For the Germans, 3rd PzA (41st PzC) will lead the charge north toward Kalinin and beyond. For the Soviet side the northern flank of Western Front plus elements of the Northwestern Front and the Kalinin Group will do everything possible to prevent a German penetration.

The authors have collected, assimilated then presented a wealth of information for this unappreciated campaign that shows a number of key insights. The overall German plan had merit but AGC couldn't devote sufficient assets to succeed. The chaotic but determined resistance by the Soviets continued to plague and cost the Germans dearly. The Germans continued to underestimate the Soviet resistance, forming too ambitious plans, especially so late in the year that would backfire. It was too late in the year to follow through on the drive toward Moscow while failing most of the objectives of the Kalinin Campaign but von Bock and Hitler failed to see the significance of that failure. These and many more conditions are presented to show how this campaign had a major influence on why Moscow couldn't be reached. The authors also go on to argue that October was the best and last chance for Germany to defeat Russia but by the end of October with failing fuel supplies, high attrition and rainy / muddy conditions slowed the advance to a crawl that inevitably caused AGC to fail.

The book has a dozen maps strategically placed which were telling but greater deployment detail would be appreciated, seeing that most maps never drilled down to below Corps level. It also has a small but excellent photo gallery to study. This book is also heavily annotated, with a good Bibliography and Index to assist with further research. The Appendix also includes an OB for both sides, as well as key documents and orders for both sides to help support the author's arguments.

This book is not a standalone book of Operation Typhoon, the attempt to capture Moscow but it is an indispensable book to read in conjunction with "The Drive on Moscow 1941" or Colonel Seaton's "The Battle for Moscow" for it presents additional information and insight these other books miss that taken together establish a much clearer understanding of the drive for Moscow and the condition of AGC in the waning months of 1941 . This excellent book plus the other two books mentioned are highly recommended to serious history buffs of WWII.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly interesting and enjoyable book. 16 Jan 2013
By Aristeidis Kosionidis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was quite excited to hear of this book: I knew of Charles Sharp's extensive work on Red Army organisation and tactics, and had the opportunity to appreciate Jack Radey's deep knowledge of the Eastern Front when some years ago he generously shared information about the Black Sea campaign for a small project of mine.

This suggested a thoroughly researched account, to start with, and in that aspect the reader will not be disappointed. Throughout the book, Sharp and Radey offer detailed descriptions of structure, strength and equipment of the units involved (occasionally down to the names of company commanders), an impressive feat, especially if one considers the nearly chaotic state of the Red Army in October 1941. The extensive use of both German and Soviet sources and archives allows the narrative to be built on solid foundations, and the authors are not shy about pointing out where the accounts differ, or their reasons for choosing a particular interpretation in cases of conflicting information- a mark of commendable scholarship. To round this off, the book's notes are detailed and well structured, and several annotated appendices provide exhaustive cover of the subject.

The subject itself, the battles around the city of Kalinin to the North of Moscow, is quite original. It is handled relatively superficially in Eastern Front histories, and to my knowledge this is the first book to deal with it in detail. As a road and rail node, Kalinin was a worthwhile objective, but the fighting around it was not solely about the city's posession. It was also a stepping stone for one more of the great encirclement battles that characterised the german advance into Russia in 1941. The book is therefore concerned with two "operations": the fighting for the city, and the -eventually succesful- Soviet attempt to halt the pincer of the encirclement passing through it.

What makes the book particularly fascinating is that Sharp and Radey do not limit themselves to merely providing an account of this battle. Through it, they study the German and Soviet armies in the winter of 1941, in terms of organisation, planning and operations. Their insightful analysis points out the strengths, weaknesses, and methods of both sides, and the description of the battle clearly illustrates all these factors at work. It can be argued that the same "traits" on display during the contest for Kalinin also governed the overall course of the battle for Moscow, so the thematic scope of this book is wider than the geographically localised incidents it covers (and justifies the title).

Another enjoyable aspect of the book is the writing style. Without resorting to literary flourishes or such devices, Sharp and Radey manage to make their book easily readable, without sacrificing the narrative. Having struggled with a number of history books that were excellently researched but written in a dry and tiring style, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily this book "flowed", and how effortless it was to build up a clear picture both of the battle and the individual incidents decribed.

In summary, a book highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique and Interesting Look at the Eastern Front 5 Feb 2013
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While the German Operation Typhoon, intended to capture Moscow in October 1941, has received a good deal of coverage in Second World War literature, the Battle of Kalinin which was an important sub-operation within Typhoon has received scant attention. Researchers Jack Radey and Charles Sharp have corrected this gap in Eastern Front historiography with The Defense of Moscow: The Northern Flank. This book represents a quantum leap in the English language coverage on this aspect of Typhoon and serves to alter entrenched depictions of the Battle of Kalinin as a mere sideshow. Both authors display a superb grasp of the German and Russian source material, which they seamlessly weave together into a very tight and compelling narrative. Although the writing style is a bit wooden at times - causing me to have to re-read some critical passages several times - this is the kind of book that is beloved of history aficionados, full of new information and packed with primary source research and historical documentation from both sides. Overall, The Defense of Moscow: The Northern Flank is a superb addition to any Eastern Front library and highly recommended.

The book consists of ten chronological chapters and begins with the opening phase of Operation Typhoon on 2 October 1941. Wisely, the authors do not belabor the preliminaries and move rapidly toward the main focus on the Battle of Kalinin. Readers should not expect an overview of all of Typhoon and realize that the tighter focus allows for greater detail. By the third chapter, the authors detail the capture of Kalinin by the 1. Panzer-Division on 14 October, which then sets in motion the Soviet counter-response. The narrative has a nice action-reaction angle going for it, with both sides having the initiative at certain points. One very interesting chapter covers the raid by the Soviet 21st Tank Brigade on Kalinin on 17 October, which is usually not even covered by a footnote in other books. Subsequently, the German advance up the Torzhok road and the encirclement of the 1. Panzer-Division - which lost most of its tanks and vehicles - is another example of an episode from Typhoon that often goes unnoticed. The authors have mined memoirs from both sides, particularly Pavel Rotmistrov's, to produce a very revealing portrait of the Battle of Kalinin from each sides' perspective - a rarity in Eastern Front literature. Each day, from 14-24 October is covered in separate sections, in considerable detail.

I was a bit disappointed by the maps, which were often not very helpful for understanding the flow of battle. However, the authors made up for this with a nice selection of photos, detailed foot notes and bibliography, as well as lengthy appendices. The authors conclude that Kalinin was more than a sideshow, but a serious attempt by the Germans to mount a double envelopment to link-up with Heeresgruppe Nord in order to envelope the Northwest Front. That may be true, but this detracts from the idea that the fighting at Kalinin was relevant to the Battle of Moscow - it almost casts it as a separate action. It is clear that the fighting at Kalinin diverted significant German forces away from Moscow, thereby contributing to the failure of Typhoon. The authors conclude with a very useful analytic chapter that sums up the meaning and results of the battle.
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