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Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II (General Military)
Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II (General Military)
by Prit Buttar
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and effective though select summary, 23 May 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Buttar's "Battleground Prussia" and was anxious to read this sequel. Like the first book this book is highly researched and is packed with lots of details regarding the giants' prewar history, the combatant's organization, the evolution of Blitzkrieg, operational experience, weapons and their victims under occupation.

The author begins his saga with background information of the key players not exclusively but mostly during the interwar period. During this prewar period the author explains why the Soviets did so poorly during the first year of war and includes the military purges that destroyed the command structure, poor training of the troops and the use of obsolete planes, tanks, other weaponry and lack of communication equipment. Several reasons why Germany attacked its larger economic partner deals with defeating Communism and creating a new larger living space for the German people as well as controlling Russia's natural resources. Germany also sported several military advantages that would temporarily overwhelm the Soviets. It also includes practices and ideologies as well as relationships between Germany, Prussia, Soviet Union, the Baltic countries and to a lesser degree Poland.
While the book contains a lot of material and insight of this period, it doesn't provide a complete look at the operations for Army Group North for the entire 1941-45 period for it doesn't provide coverage of the siege of Leningrad. It does cover the planning of Operation Barbarossa and the German advance up through Aug/Sept 1941 period when AGN captures the three Baltic countries. Mr Buttar then provides good coverage of what it was like for the citizens of those countries under German rule, especially for the Jewish community which saw many thousands of its people executed.

Military coverage resumes in January 1944 when the Soviets break out of the Leningrad encirclement and begin to push the Germans back. The determined Narva River defense as well as the repeated attempts to penetrate the Courland defenses are prominent in the second half of the book as the Baltic and Belorussian Fronts try to drive Army Group Courland into the sea. Late in the book Mr Buttar links the connection between the fighting in Prussia and Courland. In "Endgame", a summary is delivered of why AG Courland was able to hold off the superior Soviet forces as well as the evacuation attempts of German forces in Prussia and Courland at war's end to escape Soviet post war retaliation.
The author has done another fine job of providing a lot of battle information on the individual corps and divisions as well as pertinent events while still making the book interesting and easy to follow. While building mini profiles on individual commanders and their divisions, the overall advantages and disadvantages that each side processed is shown as is the depths of the struggle both sides endured. Some German commanders that are highlighted include Model, Lindemann and Hansen while for the Soviets Bagramian, Yeremenko, Chistiakov, Govorov are frequently presented. For the Germans the 4th PzD and 12th PzD are also presented often for their extraordinary efforts in keeping the superior Soviet forces at bay.

There are 14 B&W maps; they're simple but useful. I personally would have liked a little more detail. A photo gallery presents some of the key officers of each side as well as including some battlefield scenes. There is a small appendix but no Order of Battle. A decent Notes Section and an impressive Bibliography is included if further study is desired.

From his many sources, Mr Buttar has accumulated, choreograph and presented an eminently satisfying summary on the rise and fall of Army Group North. For any reader interested in the fighting of this place and time or in the occupation of the Baltics this book is worthy of your consideration.

With The Courage of Desperation: Germany's defence of the southern sector of the Eastern Front 1944-45
With The Courage of Desperation: Germany's defence of the southern sector of the Eastern Front 1944-45
by Rolf Hinze
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.00

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, Lots of information, 3 May 2013
This last book of Rolf Hinze is the sequel to and equal of "Crucible of Combat". There are many similar attributes between them: they both have extensive coverage of the German side, provide good descriptive operational coverage and analysis. There are many detailed maps between the two books. They have the same translator so that if you have read "Crucible" you'll know what to expect in this new book. There is a little overlap in coverage between the two books but the transition is smooth. Though this book has a little more Soviet detail, there could certainly be more; this might be an issue for some. If there had been more Soviet coverage or anecdotal presentation, I would have felt more comfortable giving five stars.

The book begins in March 1944 for the battle to control the Kovel sector as well as the German attempt to close the gap at the boundary line between AGC and Army Group North Ukraine which was a short distance north of Kovel. After describing the key battles dealing in AGNU sector, the author transitions into AGSU sector as the Soviets build up forces for their next push into Europe.
The action dramatically escalates in July as the Soviets begin their summer offensive and the German circumstances deteriorate dramatically. At this stage of the war, the Soviets have an overwhelming advantage in men, tanks and guns, morale and though the Germans put up a relatively stout defense there is no practical way of holding back the Red Tide for very long. The Germans do pull off a number of successful local counter-attacks that delay the Soviets but its too late in the war to reverse the retrograde movement or even stop the enemy's advance as the Soviets push the Germans beyond Rumania, Hungary and into Austria. Its also shown that Hitler's reluctance to react to actual battlefield conditions had detrimental effects on the Wehrmacht.

As a veteran of the war, Mr Hinze clearly has empathy for the German cause, showing pride of German accomplishments and remorse for German defeats. He also reminds the reader the Germans performed well against the stiff odds but at least he doesn't distort the history. The operational history is very good with the author drilling down to the events incurring in each relevant division. This empathy can also be seen with brief coverage after the war with the inhuman treatment German POWs received in Russian Gulags. A small sample of battles covered include Tarnapol, Lemberg, Jassy, Debrecen, Bucharest, Ploesti, Budapest, along the Danube and ending with the battles in Austria.
Key political events are covered as well, including the defection of Rumania to the Soviets as well as the attempt by Horthy to leave the Axis and sue for peace. Soviet's occupation of Bulgaria is also mention.

There are 69 B&W maps that have the same format as the maps in "Crucible". The maps have lots of detail but I found them hard to decipher at first. I had to invest a lot of time and make a lot of crib notes to make them useful.

There are 60 fewer pages in this book than in "Crucible" but when you consider there are 36 fewer maps and no photo gallery in the new book, the level of operational details are comparable between the books with a slight advantage to "Desperation" in Soviet coverage. There is an abbreviated Order of Battle for the Germans, a good Bibliography, but sorry to say few notes and no Index.

While there is a lot of information presented on the many divisions and regiments, their movements, objectives captured or lost, there is a noticeable lack of personable content. There is little analysis on commanders or their command decisions and there is also a dearth of first hand personal or anecdotal accounts. Some readers will see this book as dry and maybe even uninspiring.

I found this book to be an informative tactical read that added to my knowledge of the war in the south. The author provides important historiography that when added to the more popular history to the north, will give students a better overall understanding to the end of the war and if you have such an interest of this time and place, these books should be a part of your core library alongside books by Georg Maier and Rudolf Pencz which adds a more personable touch. Recommended to all interested students of the war.

Kharkov 1942: The Wehrmacht strikes back (Campaign)
Kharkov 1942: The Wehrmacht strikes back (Campaign)
by Robert Forczyk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most effective and interesting campaign, 25 April 2013
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 shows 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 the tremendous losses the Soviets suffered while 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.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2013 7:13 PM BST

Operation Typhoon: Hitler's March on Moscow, October 1941
Operation Typhoon: Hitler's March on Moscow, October 1941
by David Stahel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.40

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good look into the last campaign of 1941 for AGC, 17 April 2013
The author extends his strategic coverage of his two previous books by covering Operation Typhoon with the same logic, flair and extensive research of those books.
To my surprise this book covers only the fighting and command decisions of October which primarily included the pocket battles of Vyazma and Bryansk while the next book will be devoted to the final advance on Moscow, ending on December 5th.(I'm hoping Mr Stahel will then write about the German defense of Zhukov's counter offensive.)

As a prelude to the main story, a recap of Operation Barbarossa and Guderian's run to Kiev is presented to bring the reader up to speed. A brief historical military summary of Germany going back to the 12th century is also given that includes the influence of Clausewitz Theory has on German commanders. Napoleon's attempts to conquer Russian also plays heavy on Hitler and other key officers. As usual the German perspective concerning operational, strategic and political aspects drive the narrative.

Also as usual, the author has performed a tremendous amount of research for he covers Operation Typhoon on a daily basis and include many battle facts on individual corps and divisions along with their respective commanders as they struggle to close and eliminate the pockets at Vyazma and Bryansk. In addition to showing the fanatical resistance the Soviets put up in trying to escape their doom, Mr Stahel also clearly shows how disgruntled German commanders, a delusional OKH that wouldn't see the fighting for what it was, rainy weather, muddy roads, terrible logistics and lack of fuel would bring the German Army to an abrupt halt by the end of October. The AGC had not fully recovered from the fighting in August and September and with the casualties of October was in no position to tackle Moscow in 1941, especially in the disposition OKH had ordered. Forging a salient from Kalinin to Tula all the way to Moscow was just too unreasonable.

Once again it is shown that regardless of "winning battles", the German Army with its own problems and its inability to see the true cost of those victories were over extending themselves and making too many strategic errors that would prevent the capture of Moscow in 1941 or ever. On the other side of the ledger, its shown how thousands of Russians escaped the pockets to fight another day as well as the stubborn resistance within the pockets that caused the Germans until almost the end of October to eliminate the pockets and devote their full attention on moving on Moscow. This resistance gave Zhukov time to improve defenses and bring reserves up to the line in sufficient levels to stop the Germans in early December. Though the coverage is predominately German, there is still sufficient coverage of Soviet responses, especially when Zhukov is in sector for the reader to have a good understanding of the overall campaign. It is clearly shown that in many local battles at the pockets and at Kalinin that the Soviets actually halted the German advance while causing massive casualties.

I believe the book is further enhanced in describing the operation and the positional stance of the author that the Germans were bleeding themselves white while advancing toward Moscow by the careful selection of excerpts from primary documents and the hundreds of first hand accounts chosen to back up his positions.

In addition to the excellent overview, the author presents 15 detailed maps drawn by David Glantz that show divisional deployments and progress. The series of maps clearly show the quick envelopment of Vyazma and Bryansk in the first week of the operation and then the subsequent slowing of the advance due to a myriad of reasons. The maps will definitely aid the reader in following the narrative and Mr Stahel includes map references on some of the key battles, letting the reader move quickly to the proper map. The book also includes a few tables and photos, a 67 page Notes Section and an impressive Bibliography of primary and secondary sources. The book closes with an Index. This material is invaluable if further study is desired.

Operation Typhoon dovetails logically with the author's two earlier books in both battlefield strategy as well as the economic and political arenas and if you enjoyed those books, you'll definitely enjoy this book. And if you haven't read those earlier books, the first chapter summarizes and will give you sufficient background knowledge so you won't miss a beat reading this book.

I find Mr Stahel's writing style interesting and effective; I find the story development and premise logical and hard to dispute. This book along with the author's earlier books provide key insight into the war and I highly recommend this book to all students of the Russo-German War.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 8, 2014 9:53 AM GMT

On the Precipice: Stalin, the Red Army Leadership and the Road to Stalingrad, 1931 1942
On the Precipice: Stalin, the Red Army Leadership and the Road to Stalingrad, 1931 1942
by Peter Mezhiritsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, an Excellent Read, 13 April 2013
As an avid student of the Russo-German War I'm constantly looking for new material to study. I feel fortunate for having read this book for the author has presented new info to learn as well as making me reconsider some things that I already knew in a different or deeper light. Mr Mezhiritsky is an extremely well read and experienced historian of Russian history and especially of the important 1930s and 1940s when the machinations of two dictators caused so much death and destruction.

The main purpose of the book is to present the events and reasons why the Soviets did so poorly in defending the homeland in 1941 and how in the following year began to improve their situation with their victory at Stalingrad.
The book begins in the 1930s with the political and especially the military purges that devastated the ranks and especially the command of the Soviet military. The author is very deliberate presenting these prewar years, spending almost half of the book on it. While there are three main protagonists, Stalin, Zhukov and Hitler running throughout the book, the author also includes a hundred other key characters, many of which are found in this first section. The inclusion of all these key characters will make the account more personal and will show more easily Stalin's reasons and motives for the terrible deeds he enacted that will place the Soviet Union's military posture in such a vulnerable state by 1940.
Mr Mezhiritsky is a major critic of Stalin and shows many examples of his poor decisions and their ramifications. He blames the dictator for most of the ill done to Russia and her people before and during the war. Even with the winds of war staring Stalin in the face, he executed the absolute most brilliant military minds that the country had spawn and that probably would have stopped the Germans in their tracks before getting anywhere close to Moscow or causing millions of casualties in 1941. Most survivors of the purges were clearly inexperienced or unqualified and a major cause for the disasters of 1941.
The author presents many hard facts discovered from primary sources for his commentary as well as adding his own experienced opinions and analysis. And if that wasn't enough many quotes are delivered to bolster his positions. Many of these quotes come from Marshall Zhukov but there are also quotes from historians like David Stahel, Viktor Suvorov as well as other German and Russian experts.

Another key area that is discussed is the 1939-1941 period when the two dictators join in a economic alliance while at the same time vie with each other for domination of all of Europe and hopefully of the other. Though Mr Mezhiritsky doesn't have concrete proof like written battle orders, he is confident that by observing Stalin closely one can see he was preparing to attack Germany though not as early as Suvorov's July 41 timeframe but more likely in 1942. Much is also said about Hitler's attempt to subdue UK as well as the manuvering of the UK and France to persuade Stalin to join the alliance against Hitler. Hitler's motives to attack Russia are also prominent.
During the first year of war the author discusses the pros and cons of each side: why the Soviets did so poorly, why the Germans did so well. Much time is spent from command view of Operation Barbarossa once AGC reached the Dnepr. An important aspect covered is the Moscow or Kiev first strategy. The author believes that Germany had a chance of winning the war only if Moscow and nearby Gorki was captured or at least encircled in 1941. He feels that once Hitler chose to send Guderian to Kiev that the war was lost. He believes that as long as Rudstedt kept pressure on the Southwestern Front and continued to drive eastward providing as much screening to AGC's southern flank as possible that Moscow could have fallen in 1941. Theres more to the author's position than presented here but I must move on.

Quickening the pace, 1942 saw the German AGS have important victories at Kharkov, the Crimea and a successful opening few months of Operation Blue that allowed 6th Army reach the gates of Stalingrad in September. Despite these victories plus the fact that the Red Army was still learning war craft, the German Army was wearing itself out. AGS was now at the Volga and its Front Line was unmanageable and its logistics impossible as well as the fact that Hitler was running the complete show and was driving a stake in the heart of AGS by redeploying half of its AGS into the Caucasus before securing Stalingrad and the Volga. While the Stalingrad garrison was holding on and Stalin was obsessing with the defense of Moscow, Zhukov was gaining more authority over the battlefield and was planning the destruction of 6th Army and hopefully 9th Army by a counter offensive.

At this point the author ends his story with a few closing remarks but I wouldn't be surprised a sequel is in the works.
There are seven maps and a few photos. There are also notes, a bibliography and an index.

Though the author occasionally zigs and zags and drifts from the main course, this book is thought provoking and provides important insight on Stalin and to a lesser degree on Hitler. The coverage of the military purges that destroyed the core of the Red Army is equally insightful and if you have any interest on these dictators, the rise of Zhukov or Operations Barbarossa, Typhoon to name only some of the topics then you should consider reading this book. I found it excellent and highly recommend it.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2013 1:09 PM BST

Panzer Wedge (Stackpole Military History): 1 (Stackpole Military History Series)
Panzer Wedge (Stackpole Military History): 1 (Stackpole Military History Series)
by Lt. Fritz Lucke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars for an anecdotal history of the 3rd PzD, 2 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Panzer Wedge: Vol.1, The German 3rd Panzer Division and the Summer of Victory in the East (Stackpole Military History Series) (Paperback)

Its my understanding this book was originally published in 1942 with the sole purpose of stoking the fires of patriotism in the homeland.
The original book was probably never meant to be anything but highly biased and I suspect that Robert Edwards and Michael Olive have spent a lot of time editing and dialing down this zeal to a more manageable level as well as adding new material. My idealistic views may be a little harsh considering this background but my comments are made based on the final product regardless of the historical circumstances
Having been with the division and using his own experiences as well as using diaries and interview material from his comrades, Lt Fritz Lucke has reconstructed a very personal history of one of the elite panzer divisions of the Eastern Front that had nearly 50 Knight's Cross recipients. It begins on the eve of the Russian invasion and ends shortly after crossing the Dnepr River around the August period. The division was part of the mighty 2nd PzG and had an important role in the closing of the Kiev pocket among other important engagements.

This is more of a verbal history of the men and internal affairs of the division than it is a hard core technical and analytical presentation of the division's tactical contribution to Operation Barbarossa. The tactical aspects of this book is way too general for me; its true that certain cities, roads, objectives or other milestones are mentioned as the drive progresses but the complete picture of each engagement is not provided, nor is this comprehensive for there are engagements mention in other books that are missing here. This book could never be confused for the complex detail or analysis of a David Glantz book.
I'm not trying to run this book down but am trying to distinguish it from the works of Glantz or Nipe or Zamulin which are more technical and less personal and to give the prospective buyer an insight of what he'll be receiving.

While you'll learn a lot about the men of the different battalions or regiments of the division, you'll receive only an occasional and briefest mention of other German divisions that are on its flanks or in reserve behind it. You receive absolutely no coverage of specific Soviets divisions or their maneuvers used in confronting the 3rd. You'll review the division in practical isolation with no practical view of the bigger picture of the 2nd PzG that the 3rd was fighting within.

There are a few simple black and white maps that provide some support but there could have been many more maps to provide the reader with even greater understanding of the overall advance.

The photo gallery of 100 photos, some full page, is excellent and includes key German commanders, foot soldiers and battle scenes and provide an extra incentive to buy the book but there are no Notes, Bibliography or Index.

Though I enjoyed reading about the comradery of the division and the dangers and difficulties the men faced, I would have preferred deeper analysis and range of coverage. Even considering the limits of a divisional history, this book could have been much better by giving deeper descriptions of the tactical advance, better analysis, better integration between the 3rd PzD and the overall advance by AGC. Adding a minimal amount of specific information on the Soviet perspective would provide a more rounded experience in showing what the division was up against. If you are looking for a general purpose view including many anecdotal experiences of this German division you may like and rate this book higher than I did. I gave it three stars not only because it doesn't conform to my interest levels but because even taking it for what the authors were trying to accomplish, the story line could have been tighter, more organized and structured but if your main concern is about the life experiences of the men of the division plus a general overview of the advance then you will probably like the book quite a bit.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2013 12:58 AM BST

Armored Bears: Vol.1, the German 3rd Panzer Division in World War II (Military)
Armored Bears: Vol.1, the German 3rd Panzer Division in World War II (Military)
by Veterans of the 3rd Panzer Division
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A balanced summary that was enjoyable to read, 9 Jan. 2013
This book which was created from daily logs, diary entries, letters and other first hand accounts, begins with the activation and training of the division as well as a brief mention of the rise of the recognition for the need of armored divisions in the Wehrmacht starting in mid 1930s. The authors then describe the occupation of the Sudetenland, Chzechoslovakia before covering the invasion of Poland and then France. The invasion of Russia closes out this first volume. This first volume ends in Feb 1942 with a partial look of AGC defending itself against Zhukov's counter-offensive. Throughout the combat journey, you'll also learn about the junior and senior officers of the division and the impact they made; familiar names like Guderian, Model, Kempf, Schweppenburg, Nehring, Westhoven are covered plus a host of names that you may have never heard before. The authors also keep you apprised of the horrible attrition the division was suffering in men and equipment as the months roll by.

This was a very enjoyable read for it was a balanced account where the 3rd PzD was the primary focus but its history was woven within the bigger picture of the Army or Group it was fighting in. For example on the Eastern Front which consumes two-thirds of the book, exploits of the 24th PzC, 2nd PzG and AGC are provided alongside the division. This arrangement not only informs the reader of the history of the division but also gives a better understanding of the overall campaigns. I was able to learn many new things on the different campaigns including Operations Barbarossa and Typhoon and especially on the Soviet winter counteroffensive. Villages captured then defended, establishing bridgeheads over certain rivers, canals or the simple act of controlling key roads or hills are described.

There is approximately a dozen hand drawn black and white maps that will support some of the key engagements. The maps aren't sophisticated but are helpful; my favorite was the closing of the Kiev pocket. The book has some Notes, but no Bibliography or Index. It does have a small Appendix that will appeal to some. It contains a rank table, a command list up to 1942 and lists of recipients of different awards as well as a divisional chronology for the period.

There are also many interesting photos of key officers of all rankings as well as examples of their equipment and the severe terrain, road, weather conditions the men had to endure while fighting the enemy.

Overall, this was an interesting, informative read that balances many first hand accounts with a decent battle summary that many of us can learn from. Its recommended to all who have a specific interest in the division or an interest in a competent but select overview of the first two years of the war from a German perspective. (There is very little specific info on the Polish, French or Soviet perspectives.) I'm looking forward to volume two which should be out in a few months.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2013 4:45 PM BST

Leyte, 1944
Leyte, 1944
by Nathan N. Prefer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly researched, an impressive read, 22 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Leyte, 1944 (Hardcover)
Its quite apparent Mr Prefer has invested much time in researching this book for its loaded with information. That information, supplied mostly by primary sources, is strategic, tactical and anecdotal in nature. The coverage includes the important strategic reasons why Japan spent so much time and effort in trying to lure and then destroy the American 7th Fleet as well as the 6th Army. On the American side you'll learn that taking back the Philippines was not only MacArthur's but America's long term objective on the road to defeating Japan though some argued against attacking the Philippines.

A little prehistory is presented that shows the different officers' motivations and objectives in continuing the war as 1944 rolls on. The ups and downs of MacArthur and Nimitz are covered here. The majority of the book covers the invasion and difficult capture of Leyte which was the first step in the take over of the Philippines. Unless you've read the US Army's "Leyte: The Return to the Philippines" the scale of the land battle will probably surprise some of us and though its been overshadowed by the naval battle of Leyte Gulf, the land invasion of Leyte in late 1944 was on a much larger scale and importance than suspected and deserves telling and this book does a really good job in the telling. The book even includes the airborne operations of the Japanese as they make every effort to surprise and destroy American positions.

In addition to the telling of the strategic significance, the author provides nearly a daily chronicle of the battle that took the US 6th Army over three months to defeat the highly determined Japanese on the island. Also included are many first hand accounts blended seamlessly into the battle coverage which is interesting and bolsters the severity of the fighting. From my perspective, this book reminds me of Bill Sloan's "The Ultimate Battle" if a comparison is wanted. These accounts are enhanced by mini profiles of the key men in the saga. The most notable are MacArhur, Krueger, Bruce, Arnold, Yamashita and Suzuki but there are others. Coverage also includes every recipient of the DSC that was awarded in this battle.

In addition to a detailed battle summary, the author also provides an Order of Battle, American casualty figures and seven maps. The maps are pretty good but greater detail of Japanese positions would have been useful. A helpful Notes section and Bibliography and Index are also presented. A small but good gallery of photos close out the book.

This book is well thought out, presented well and will keep your attention throughout the book and is highly recommended as not only a standalone book of an important land battle but also as an excellent supplement to the naval battle of Leyte Gulf. It also provides key insight on a secondary level of the Pacific War as 1945 begins and the preparations for the invasion of Luzon and then Okinawa are inaugurated.

The Defense of Moscow 1941: The Northern Flank
The Defense of Moscow 1941: The Northern Flank
by Jack Radey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful read with insightful analysis, 12 Dec. 2012
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. 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 at least a dozen maps 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 book plus the other two books mentioned are highly recommended to serious history buffs of WWII.

The Drive on Moscow, 1941
The Drive on Moscow, 1941
by Niklas Zetterling & Anders Frankson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Turning Point of the War, 1 Nov. 2012
This is a highly researched and insightful study of Operation Typhoon. It was the last major German campaign of 1941 and though it started out successfully at Vyazma and Bryansk, it ended in failure at the gates of Moscow when General Zhukov stopped the advance and subsequently launched his own offensive that pushed the German line back a hundred or more miles. With the incredible victories the Germans had near Minsk, Smolensk, Uman, Kiev, Bryansk and Vyazma and the tremendous losses that the Soviet Army endured in a four month period, this ignominious defeat at Moscow, according to the authors, was the turning point of the war. It will be fully explained why.

The book begins with a brief situational report of the battle conditions in late September with special emphasis on the Soviet disaster that just occurred near Kiev. The introduction continues with the Soviet Army's condition and deployments between the Yelnya line and Moscow. Afterwards the German plans are described for the capture of Moscow. The friction between Germany's high command is also explained.

Chapter three initiates the actual battle events of Operation Typhoon and the campaign is driven from the German advance though key Soviet officers and information is also presented. The time period includes the last couple days of September and includes the rainy season followed by the start of cold weather of October and November and enters the first few days of December. The book doesn't include the details of Zhukov's counter-offensive. (Perhaps the authors will treat us with volume two: the details of the counter-offensive which is also interesting.)

The battle coverage of the campaign is concise and competent and the reader will come away with a good understanding of not only the tactical events of the campaign but also the dynamic and changing psychological aspects of all concern: dictator, officer and soldier of both sides. The command level receives the lion share of coverage but the authors also include first hand accounts of a number of soldiers on both sides. Couple of the soldiers we see throughout the campaign. This intermixing of tactical history with these first hand accounts were seamlessly blended.

Though I would enjoy describing the key battle events I'll refrain but will say it was done well. The reader will see the scale of operations for both sides as well as the advantages and disadvantages each side processed. Initially the Germans couldn't be stopped but a series of events will occur that will have a cumulative effect in slowing the German advance. In addition to the main storyline, interesting sidebars are included; the information includes the importance of maps, the early British support of aircraft to the Soviets that were well used in front of Moscow, personal hygiene, the constant search for food, Stalin's hub of power and more.

The last chapter, "Causes and Consequences" was excellent. This 16 page chapter summarizes the book very well, describing the battle results and explaining the ramifications for both sides this German failure will have on the immediate future of the war. The Germans just had the five best months of the war and yet they were stopped at Moscow and with Germany's insufficient industrial base will not be able to replace equipment losses on a scale that will compete with its enemy. The authors also believe that even if Moscow had been encircled, the war would have continued and the Soviets, with their industrial and population advantage, would have gained the upper hand. A discussion was also presented why Bock continued his advance after October and what possible circumstances could arise if Bock stopped along the Vyazma-Bryansk line in mid October.

If memory serves there were seven maps to support the story. Half showed deployments to army level while the rest drilled down to division level. Most of the maps were large scale and strategic in nature but the map of the closing of the Vyazma Pocket was tactical. The maps were good, of recent construction and will be helpful. I personally would have liked additional tactical maps showing the battles at the Mozhaisk line, Tula, Yakhroma and a few other sites. There were also a few good photos to study.

The authors also furnish an extensive Appendix that show statistical tables of men and armor at certain time periods and for certain events as well as casualty figures. Order of Battles are also included. Also helpful is the extensive range of notes as is the expansive Bibliography of both primary and secondary sources if further study is desired. There are many German and Russian sources listed.

This book was informative and enjoyable to study and if you have an interest in reading about the German's first major defeat of the war and probably the turning point then you should consider this for your library.

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