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on 3 April 2001
The Battle of Kursk, or Operation Citadel, was the third great German offensive of the Second World War on the Eastern Front. This book, using sources from the Russian side that have become available since the collapse of the Soviet Union, seeks to examine some of the 'myths' of Kursk and aims to provide a comprehensive narrative of the campaign's operations.
The work is certainly highly detailed, with voluminous notes, battle orders and the like. This makes it, inevitably, difficult to follow at times. The sheer numbers of formations involved can be extremely difficult to grasp. This book is never going to be a best seller like "Stalingrad"; it is too technical in nature.
Having said that, there are some very readable, insightful passages in the book.
The traditional argument for the failure of Citadel - strongly put in the post war memoirs of the leading German High Command survivors - is that the assault failed because Hitler forced the Germans to delay, allowing the Soviets to build up hugely formidable defences and concentrate reserves within the Kursk bulge. This book shows it was not as simple as that.
The Wehrmacht had achieved tactical penetration of Russian lines twice before - during the initial onsalught in 1941 and in the drive towards the south in 1942 - only to fail at the 'strategic' level, hundreds of miles beyond their jump-off point. Thus, the authors argue, it was not so stupid to limit the offensive and seek to 'pinch off' the Kursk salient before attempting other manouveres. There was a wide expectation - on both sides - that the Germans would succeed in this, though the Soviets knew this would be the acid test of their ever-improving Red Army. If they could hold at Kursk, the tactical - as well as the strategic - initiative would pass to Stalin.
The Germans, particularly Hitler, placed much store on the 'new weapons' - the Panther and Tiger tanks and the 'Elefant' self-propelled gun, but these proved either unreliable, too few or inappropriately designed in the battle itself.
The authors maintain that the Kursk battle marked the 'end of blitzkreig' as the Russian lines - for the first time anywhere in Europe up to that point - withstood the first German onslaught. It is difficult to reconcile this analysis with the stark contrast in the Citadel operation - the pinching off of a fortified salient in a static line - to the previous large-scale German operations - the 'schwerpunkt' penetration of an extremely extended front line to a rear area that allowed freedom of armoured movement (see "To Lose A Battle" by Alistair Horne, for example.) I feel this shows that the term 'blitzreig' - so well-beloved of writers seeking to explain the various Allied collapses - is so loose as to be fairly meaningless in a 1943 context.
Kursk, with twenty-twenty hindsight, can be seen as a gifted middleweight finally realising he was trying to knock down a super-heavy. The Russians constantly moved formations in then front of Model's Ninth Army and, in particular, Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army. As defenders, they took losses of three-to-one, but they could afford them. The Germans could not.
This is a painstaking book that requires close examination. There are easier books on the Eastern Front (Alan Clark's "Barbarossa" springs to mind), but, at present, there is none so detailed on this critical and informative campaign.
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on 19 October 2000
There is no denying that this account of Kursk by David Glantz and Jonathan House is extremely well researched. The amount of detail is awe inspiring with 165 pages in the appendixes dedicated to OB's, strengths & losses, comparative armour strengths and key German & Soviet documents. The maps, some 32 in all, are very detailed however I must admit that at time they were still hard to read due to the amount of detail. The book itself was well presented and the photos were excellent. The only fault that I could find with the book was that at times it dragged. With the amount of detail being presented you need to catch your breath and close the book. It was not the type of book that had a free flowing narrative that kept you glued to the story, well not for me at least. Beside that however this would rank as the definitive account of this major Eastern Front battle and well worth the effort to read. No decent WW2 library would be complete without this book.
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on 29 May 2011
The war for Hitler and his Allies had been deteriorating since Stalingrad and Hitler had to have a major victory to keep his coalition together. Though he wasn't convinced that Citadel would be that victory, his Chief of Staff sold him on it.

The first two chapters is an introduction and overview of the first two years of the war. Talks a little bit about Hitler and his reasons for the offensive on the Kursk salient, rebuilding of the Wehrmacht and also about his obsession with weaponry etc. The section on Tigers, Panthers and Elephants is of special interest.
The next chapter, "Preparations" presented the buildup of the armies for both sides and also describes the extensive defensive efforts made by the Russians. An abbreviated Order of Battle is included. A table is also furnished that shows the superiority of men, tanks and guns the Russians had over the Germans. This superiority plus the benefit of well built defenses gave the Germans little chance of winning this engagement. This chapter was a big help in acclimating the reader for the upcoming battle.

The next 5 chapters describe the operational details of the assault and the Soviet counterattack. I was a little surprised with this section for Mr Glantz missed some coverage. There are several other books that have minor battle action, especially in III PzC sector, that is missing here but this book is still overall the most complete tactical coverage I can find. The battles involving the 48th PzC and the 2nd SS PzC on the southern boundaries are especially revealing. The way the passages are written you can easily see how the two Korps worked and protected each other against frontal and flank attacks. The author excelled with the tank battle near Prokhorovoka which made up for the missing coverage of the few days prior to this engagement.

A key interest to many is the number of panzers that were destroyed in the campaign. Mr Glantz creates a spreadsheet, broken down by Corps, Division, type of tank, and by day. In summary, the Germans for both fronts lost 323 destroyed tanks and 1612 damaged but recoverable tanks compared to 1614 destroyed Russian tanks. The author makes a point that the Germans were able to repair and redeploy most of those 1612 panzers. Mr Healy in his book, "Zitadelle", makes similar arguments and numbers. Mr Zukes in his last book also calculates a similar count.

There are 32 good maps spread out throughout the book; you'll have a pertinent map close by to study as the narrative develops. The maps are busy with lots of detail but are much more readable than the maps Mr Glantz has in his last two books. There are so many units involved and individual engagements that maps are critical in following this campaign and these maps are helpful in this respect.

The author does such a good job of describing the battle. You can see the momentum change from the German's beginning few days of the assault to the slowing of their advance and then the stopping of the advance at Prokhorovka. The Germans never really had a chance to reach their objectives; the Soviets had build too strong of a defense, had too many men and definitely had too many tanks for the Germans to overcome. The book also shows the Soviet's continuing habit of grinding down the German offensive, sacrificing their first echelon in order to suck the enemy in and launch a counter offensive in an attempt to surround and destroy the enemy. It happened in front of Moscow, at Stalingrad and now here.

Mr Glantz ends the book with important and poignant conclusions about the battle action and for the expectations of the rest of the war. The Germans lost all strategic long term offensive capabilities and would be forced on the defensive, limited to minor tactical counter-attacks for the rest of the war. There were political implications as well that were discussed. Also of interest was Manstein's argument with Hitler to start Citadel as soon as possible. The Field Marshall didn't believe the addition of the new Panther would make up for the lengthy delay. The author suggests that had the Germans launched earlier, without waiting for the new Panthers, that the results wouldn't have changed drastically.

This battle is so important to the outcome of the war and Mr Glantz does a very good overall job of telling us about it. This is one of the three best books (English) on this campaign and if you're a war buff you should definitely read it not only for its tactical coverage but also for its strategic importance. The other two authors are Mark Healy and Steven Newton. Their books offer different insights and they complement each other for a fuller picture.
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on 5 August 2000
At last a scholarly account of the battle of Kursk!By using mainly primary sources and recently declassified soviet documents, for the first time I think the "truth" about Kursk comes out. This book lays to rest many of the myths which surround the battle, the greatest one of course being the great clash of armour at Prohkorovka. Rather than getting carried away with numbers and superlatives (about the numbers of men, guns and tanks etc - these are covered in the appendeces-with sources provided)the authors have produced a detailed chronological account of the fighting in and around the Kursk salient. Unlike so many other accounts is does not close the German offensive in the south on the 12 July (it actually went on until the 16-17 July). The fighting in the Orel salient is covered in more depth than I've yet seen (in English) and, as ever with these authors, the use of Soviet sources is superb, adding hugely to our knowledge of how the Soviets saw the battle.The book skillfully weaves the use of memoirs in with primary sources to give us a sense of what it was like. The maps are excellent and there is more than enough numbers, lists and tables for the most hardened reader.
All in all, for the serious student of this conflict, a must buy book!
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VINE VOICEon 27 February 2015
This is a most comprehensive view which does justice to the scale of the series of battles fought in the summer of 1943 and marking the last general offensive ever made by the Axis forces in Russia.
It is a well known fact the numbers of men and material and the sheer effort operational staff work, logistical build up and fighting mark this as one of the titanic episodes of WWII on The Eastern Front.

Glantz does a thoroughly excellent job in relaying this to the reader with the wealth of details concerning the build-up, execution and aftermath of this campaign.
His account pays tribute to the amount Soviet intelligence and deception work which played their part in reducing the effectiveness of the initial assault; in lesser works this has all been put down to information supplied by the spy code named 'Lucy' (and that was that, as it were). Having said that he still conveys the toughness and adaptability of the German war machine, which still managed to make progress despite the formidable defences and tenacity of the Soviet soldier.
In lesser hands a book of this scope might well come across as dry. Not a bit of it! By using official reports from both sides he succeeds in painting a graphic account of the ferocity of the fighting.

The order of battle is also most comprehensive, the maps might require a bit of careful study to see who is exactly where, but that is not a problem, and the photos in their monochrome state add to the atmosphere of that time of carnage.

Highly recommended to those with an interest in this battle or the Eastern Front of WWII. If you are considering this as your first book on the battles around the Kursk Salient then it is a worthwhile book to have, but will require steady and persistence of reading; this is no light work (I am pleased to say)
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on 28 March 2013
This book is about the largest battle of the Eastern Front of the WWII that involved almost three millions of soldiers of both sides, and the authors do an impressive and unbelievable accurated job to illustrate everything happened.
The authors are Colonel David Glantz, the founder of the US Army's Foreign Military Studies Office and Jonathan House, A former political-military analist for the Joint Chiefs of Staff .
The outstanding job done by the authors, it is in the Glantz's perfect style, I mean that it represents the final job about this subject for the huge historical documentation present in the Appendix (the complete German Order of Battle, at the level of battalion and of single tank; the complete Soviet Order of Battle, at the level of battalionand of single tank/gun/multiple rocket launcher; comparative strength and losses; comparative armor strenghts; Key German Orders; Key Soviet documents).
The book begins examinating the German startegy of the first two years of war on the eastern front to explain why it had been necessary for them to start a new offensive on the third year of this war.
The second part of the book examines how the two armies prepared to the new clash.
The third part examines the various steps of the German offensive.
The Fourth part is dedicated to the exam of the Soviet counteroffensive andof the conclusions.
After reading a lot of his books, to me the name "David Glantz" it means a lot, more specifically it means that I read a book based on a historical research at the best possible level and this is the best that i can ask from such a book.
This book deserves the highest praise.
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on 16 July 2012
David Glantz and Jonathan House summed up the results of this key battle on the crucial Eastern Front: "The battle of Kursk meant an end to blitzkrieg in a strategic and operational sense. For the first time in the war, a German offensive was contained in the tactical or shallow operational depths. ... Even more striking, Kursk also spelled doom for German blitzkrieg in a tactical sense ... because the Soviets had learned ... that the only effective defense was one that exploited all arms and possessed both depth and flexibility. ... As a result, the Soviets proved that a determined and properly constructed infantry-based defense could defeat the tactics of blitzkrieg. Hence, Kursk marked a turning point in the war strategically, operationally and tactically. Building on the lessons of Kursk, the Soviets also applied their new combined-arms techniques to offensive situations, at first tentatively and later with greater effect."
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It was mid- summer, 1943, on the Russian steppe. Wheat was again growing high there, as it has for thousands of years. Kursk is a provincial capital on the steppe, 450 km south of Moscow. The land is relatively flat, divided by small rivers. It is "ideal" country for tanks. And in that summer, a couple million men, and between 5,000 and 10,000 tanks slugged it out, in one of the most decisive battles in history, on the Russian-German front, in World War II.

The front was a continuous line from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Envision a backwards "S" in that line, with the top half being a German salient extending eastward, centered on the town of Orel. And the bottom half being a Russian salient extending westward, centered on the town of Kursk. The Germans had lost another very decisive battle the previous winter, when the Sixth Army was decimated, surrounded and surrendered at Stalingrad. Nonetheless, the Germans intended to go on the offensive again, picking the obvious target of the Kursk salient, and via a pincer attack from the north and the south, surround and annihilate the Russian troops within. The problem for the German was that the Russians realized it was an obvious target, and therefore they were dug in and waiting.

Glantz and House have written what will almost certainly always be the definitive account of that battle. The first chapter summarizes the initial two years of war on the Eastern front. This is followed by a description and analysis of the respective strengths of the two sides, in terms of men and material, and there are reasonable sketches of the commanding generals. In particular, the models of the various tanks are described in detail. As a simplification, the Germans had the better tanks, but fewer of them; the Russians had out-produced the Germans, with a standardized, but somewhat inferior tank. Quantity over Quality. General Heinz Guderian, who had once famously stood on a knoll and could see the onion domes in Moscow, way too late in the fall of 1941, is considered to be the "father of the blitzkrieg." Before Kursk, this tactic had a 100% success rate. But the Russians had determined a way to beat it, placing all the troops in the salient in special training so they would not be terrorized by a tank attack. Dig in, stay camouflaged, wait for the tanks to pass, and then attack, at close range, from the side and rear, terrorizing the tankers.

The main battle extended for 9 days, July 5-14. There are 32 full page maps that are extremely useful in visualizing the ebb and flow of the battle lines. The battle is told in excruciating detail, I would argue TOO excruciating. There is a surfeit of names: unit commanders and their numerical designations. Far too many for the "general reader" and almost certainly, the "aficionado" as well. I can imagine the test on this book, at some war college, necessitating much proverbial midnight oil. And of the total of 450 pages, almost 200 are various appendixes. It is possible, however, to read for the essential action. Despite all the details, what is missing completely is the voice of the "common" soldier. No interviews. No diaries. No memoirs referenced. If you are interested in their voice, I'd highly recommend the DVD WAR OF THE CENTURY: When Hitler Fought Stalin- BBC documentary by Kaurence Rees which contains interviews of the ordinary soldier of this war, now when they are in their 70's and 80's.

I was in a tank unit in Vietnam, the 1/69th Armor. 54 tanks, if we could keep them all running. And they were never all in the same place together. The thought of thousands of tanks together, in battle, tank against tank, on the steppes around Kursk, stirred the imagination so much that my family and I drove to Kursk, in July, 1990. There is a museum, dedicated to the battle, in the town, with enormous maps of the battle. For an hour, we were the only ones there. What a contrast to Normandy.

For the "war buff," or the "educated reader" who wants to know why things are the way they are, this is an important read, marred by excessive names and the lack of the common soldier. 4-stars.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on February 28, 2011)
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on 10 June 2015
I bought this for my father who is crazy about WW2 history. He loved it and surprisingly didn't give out about the author writing incorrect facts. He's a hard man to please...
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on 14 April 2013
Comments of the Wehrmacht General Heinrici on the failure of the battle corresponding with the Siviet Supreme Command point of view
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