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A Praiseworthy Overview
on 2 August 2011
For anybody who wants to read about the Campaign for the first time or for those who have read about it a long time ago, this would be an excellent overview to read. To the best of my knowledge, it contains the latest scholarship that refutes some of the exaggerations that have been around since the battle. One area that Mr Clark frequently visits concerns the number of tanks that were destroyed and the subsequent numbers of remaining tanks available to the key corps and divisions to continue the battle.
In addition to the ground action, the author frequently touches on the air war, showing examples where a battle was won or at least not lost with the help of their air forces. Extending the coverage further, partisans ambushing a supply convey that would never reach Hoth or visiting a field aid station with overflowing patients waiting for attention or sappers trying to clear a mine field during a bitter battle and more are presented in this book. The key officiers like Vatutin, Rotmistrov, Hausser, Manstein and others are discussed with mini profiles developed. Appraisal and analysis is also provided which was good and accurate but with a depth that was a little less than can be found in books by Glantz or Zamulin.
Considering the format and content of this book, I would consider this ideally suited for new or intermediate students of the Campaign. Of the 382 pages devoted to the main section of the book, only 174 pages cover the campaign. The other 208 pages are directed to the first years of the war from Barbarossa to Kharkov 1943 to the buildup for the invasion. The history of the two countries and their dictator's rise to power since the end of the Great War begins the book.
As a comparison Valeriy Zamulin's recent book, "Demolishing the Myth" consumes 559 pages on just the operational aspects of the Campaign.
Along with the narrative are ten maps; six are small scale maps of the salients. They're quite helpful showing key sites and deployments of key units as well as axes of attack but I would have liked more of the villages and fortified hills displayed and not all of the Soviet units were shown. The maps were spread out throughout the book but from my perspective weren't aligned with the story very well. In some cases the reader will have to scroll back to hunt for the map that displays the information that is currently being read. A small photo gallery is also provided.
Both salients are covered but the southern battle is more dominant. The book is also German-centric but the Soviets are still represented fairly well.
There is a very capable Notes section and an impressive Bibliography of primary and secondary sources if further study is desired. An abbreviated Order of Battle for both sides is helpful as well. The author also quotes Glantz, Nipe and Carell. There are a few typos but nothing that would cause a lot of confusion.
This is an interesting, easy to follow story that will provide sufficient operational information that will probably satisfy most readers and plenty of first hand accounts blended seamlessly into the story to show what it was like fighting in a tank, a plane or a trench during this horrific battle. This is a quality effort and if you have an interest in Operation Citadel, you should consider reading it.
FYI: Clark's other Kursk book, "Kursk,The Battle of the Tanks" is the EXACT SAME BOOK AS THIS BOOK.