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The Soviets stop the Blitzkrieg in front of Moscow
on 23 October 2011
This is a good but select overview of Operation Barbarossa. While there is one chapter of the German drive toward Leningrad and another chapter on its drive toward Rostov in the south, the major emphasis covers the advance of AGC toward Moscow as well as the Soviet counter-attack that repulses the Germans from entering the capital in December 1941. It also emphasizes Guderian's 2nd PzG's march south in September to assist Rundstedt's AGS in closing the Kiev pocket. Some of the battles of AGC include the capture of Minsk, Smolensk, Kiev pocket, Vyazma, Bryansk, Orel, Mozhaisk, Kaluga, Kalinin and the attempt on Moscow. It also shows that with so much armor with AGC, the flanks had a difficult time taking Leningrad and Rostov.
The objective of the author is more than describing the introductory status and conditions of the two sides and the military highlights of the Operation; the strategic significance of the book is to show the Germans were able to advance and destroy Soviet armies at first but by December 41 when it reached the Leningrad, Moscow, Rostov line, it had reached its zenith, had exhausted itself and didn't have enough men and panzers to finish off the Soviets. By the time it reached Moscow their own large casualties and the extended line prevented the capture of Moscow and through implication that the Germans actually lost their chance to defeat the Soviet Army. An important element within this overview was the author's coverage of the controversy within the German ranks of rather it should go straight on to Moscow from Smolensk or delay AGC's advance and have Guderian divert to Kiev to relieve flank pressure before moving on the capital.
Mr Glantz covers the actual historiography in some detail on the advantages and disadvantages of taking Kiev first before moving on Moscow but then only briefly states the general reasons why going straight on to Moscow in late September when the Western Front was preparing defenses was the wrong strategy and gives little hard core numbers or other facts to support this contention. You are to accept his word as accurate during the narrative though some of his supporting material can be found in the Endnotes but it can be a trying process to navigate for the casual reader.
The author's presentation of the Kiev first strategy may be more convincing to hardcore contrarians if a credible scenario could have been developed showing the Moscow first strategy failed worse than the Kiev first strategy. The scenario would begin showing 2nd PzG defending near Roslavl through 9/10 and launching with AGC toward Bryansk after Timoshenko canceled his offensive. The time sequence of this new scenario would be somewhat different than actual history due to different launch times and locations, strength status, defense preparations and deployments as well as different reinforcement schedules and weather etc.
The conclusion was short but credible and was the glue that binds this book together. It started by explaining why the Soviets were completely unprepared for the invasion: the recent purges, poorly trained soldiers, inexperienced officers, inadequate defenses at the new border and obsolete weapons and equipment. Mr Glantz proceeds to list the many strategic mistakes Stalin and the Red Army made in the opening months. Then a list of changes the Stavka started to implement to improve their Army that would eventually lead them to be the equal and then surpass the Wehmarcht is provided.
On the German side, a concise discussion of Hitler's changing objectives of Operation Barbarossa that would delay the advance of Moscow and cause friction within the Army is prominent. The author expands this train of thought to briefly describe the difficulties AGC would have had if it did advanced past the Desna River toward Moscow in September without ever sending Guderian southward. The chapter was concise and covered the key points but greater depth of the existing points (as mentioned above would have made the book more compellng.
There are eight useful B+W maps that show the general deployments and axes of attack that complement the narrative well. The Notes Section is very useful and provides a lot of secondary information if you take the time to study it. The included Appendix has Orders of Battle and key documents like Hitler's Directive 34 and 35 to study. A Bibliography and a few photos are included as well.
As a summary, I gave this book five stars for it covered the necessary points to argue his position that despite the early successes, the Germans were unable to defeat the Soviets while they were vulnerable and that in a long war of attrition, Germany couldn't defeat the larger, improving colossus that was the Soviet Army.
Though enjoying the book and freely recommend it, I found myself and suspect other enthusiasts of the Eastern Front will want more after finishing the book. The author's new book, "Barbarossa Derailed" does add to the key points of this book and is also recommended as is Bryan Fugate's "Operation Barbarossa".