on 10 October 2011
Panzer Operations by Erhard Raus is the memoir of one of Germany's leading panzer generals of World War Two. Confined to events on the Eastern Front, Panzer Operations follows Raus' career from command of a motorised brigade during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 to his eventual dismissal as a panzer army commander in 1945. Raus' book is remarkable for the insight it provides into German armoured operations at a tactical, rather than operational or strategic, level. This provides Panzer Operations with a distinct point of difference to the classic memoirs of Guderian or Von Mellenthin. Raus' memoir highlights the narrow margin of superiority the German's enjoyed in 1941 and how attrition, lack of reserves and the fearsome Russian winter led to their defeat at the gates of Moscow. The way in which the campaign on the Eastern Front stretched the capabilities of the Wehrmacht to the utmost and the constant improvisation demanded of hard-fighting front line units is laid bare. More than any other book I've read, Panzer Operations illustrates the immense gamble Hitler took when he ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Wehrmacht's proficiency and relative superiority at the tactical level could not make up for Russian advantages in material, manpower and, eventually, operational and strategic conduct of the war. Hitler's interference in military decision making, and its negative consequences for the Wehrmacht's fighting ability, is also illustrated by Raus.
Raus' memoirs are extremely clinical, seemingly written for a professional audience, and sometimes a little dry as a result. There is little of Raus' own participation in operations, other than from a command perspective, and he does not devote much space to the characters and personalities of the men he fought alongside. In this respect Panzer Operations is not as colourful as Guderian's Panzer Leader for example.
It is apparent from his memoirs that Raus was an unconventional and innovative tactician prepared to experiment with the employment of the forces at his disposal in order to achieve his objectives. His theory of zone defence is interesting, especially as it is one reason some commentators believe Raus does not enjoy the reputation as a panzer commander he deserves. Given the success of zone defence in the face of Soviet offensives and the largely immobile nature of the Germany army in the latter stages of the war, I can't help but think his doctrine may have been correct.
It is unfortunate that the editing of this edition of Panzer Operations leaves a bit to be desired, with a number of distracting errors throughout. Some photographs, particularly of Raus himself, would have been beneficial. All in all though, Raus' Panzer Operations is a remarkable memoir that illustrates panzer warfare at the tactical level in a way I haven't seen before. As such, it deserves to be read by anyone interested in armoured warfare in general and those with an interest in the course of operations on the Eastern Front during World War Two.
on 17 September 2011
Thoroughly compelling account. From Raus's initial campaigns in the East during Barbarossa as a 'Kampfgruppen' commander, all the way through the major campaigns of the war and his subsequent promotions. I finished this book quicker than I have any other in a long time. One of my favourite 'Ostfront' reads.