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4.2 out of 5 stars65
4.2 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 24 November 2012
This is the first book by Lloyd Clark I have read, and I must say I am very impressed. The book is well written and cleverly thought out. It combines a narrative of the battle intertwined with excerpts of diaries, letters and interviews from soldiers of both sides. The end result is a highly readable account of one of the most important battles of the Second World War.

The author provides quite a bit of information around the battle, beginning with a look at the rise of both Hitler and Stalin, as a way of introducing the reader to the mindset of both leaders and their armies in the run up to, and during the course of, the Battle of Kursk. Although it is well written, some readers may find this part of the book unnecessary, particularly if they have knowledge of the run up to and launch of Barbarossa. Overall though its inclusion does not detract from the overall work.

If there is one thing I would mark this book down for is the lack of editing, but this is just me being fussy I suspect. Overall, I would recommend this as very worthwhile read and look forward to reading more works by this author.
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on 15 August 2011
Just a quick review to say that if the style of military history first made famous by Cornelius Ryan and more recently by numerous fine authors such as Rick Atkinson is what you are after then this is the Kursk book for you.

Lloyd Clark mixes operational analysis and explanation with first person accounts superbly. This is also the most balanced Kursk book I have come across having read nearly all of them. By balanced I am not implying that all pervious authors were biased but that Lloyd Clark truly gives the picture from both sides of the hill. Most previous accounts tend to concentrate on the battle viewed from either the German or Soviet side. Even the numerous very fine first person accounts are balanced in number between the two sides.

Additionally there is a full explanation of what happened during the second half of the offensive. Most Kursk books give a detailed account of the first four days fighting from the morning of the 5th July to the night of 8th/9th July. Then suddenly you find yourself at the climactic battle of the 12th then the book ends. In this volume the four days between the 8th/9th and the 12th are fully covered and explained. I learnt a lot even though I must have read more than ten odd other Kursk books including the Soviet General Staff report.

Serious military history but also brought to life by fine writing. Will lookout for his books from now on.
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on 3 October 2011
This book is brilliant. If you wanted to capture the essence of what it was like to be there in July 1943, in every sense this is the right book to read. Here you will find a book full of first-hand accounts, from both sides, on what it felt like to fight in one of the greatest battles of all time.

From the role of the Luftwaffe and its mighty stukas, sweeping down on the hapless Soviet infantry and tanks, to the effect of sleep deprivation on both sides, with exhausted Russian soldiers barely able to keep their eyes open after days of constant fighting, Lloyd Clark has really brought the story to life with details and experiences that added something to my understanding of the epic struggle.

He also does a great job of explaining the strategic background, the situation of both combatants and the reasons that brought them to the battlefield. I've read a lot about World War 2, and had been interested in Kursk for a long time - the great turning point of the entire war, together with the battle of Stalingrad. This book helped me place the battle of Kursk in a different perspective than I had ever seen it before. You see, for Hitler and the Germans, everything now depended on this great gamble. They may not have been able to decisively win the war in the east by July 1943, but they certainly had not lost it yet. Everything was poised on a knife edge - and that's what makes Kursk so endlessly fascinating. Lloyd Clark explains Stalin's frustration at the failure of the Western Allies to open up a second front, and the serious chance that, had the Germans been victorious at Kursk, peace negotiations would have ended the war in the East.

At this point, I must also digress slightly to strongly recommend reading 'Kursk: The Greatest Battle' in tandem with another highly excellent book, The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat, by Michael Jones, which tells the story of the German advance on Moscow in 1941, and the desperate fighting in the winter snow. I mention this because between these two books, you really get a good picture of what was at stake - and they are both really, really good reads.

To return to Kursk, I'm really glad that I chose to buy Lloyd Clark's book - there are a lot to choose from on the topic, but none of them could have done a better job of bringing the battle to life. The personalities of the commanders come through - I was particularly shocked and enlightened to learn about Russian general Konstantin Rokossovsky, for example, who was tortured by the NKVD and spent time in a Siberian Gulag before a rapid rise that saw him commanding the central front in summer 1943. What kind of a society could produce such a man? It is sometimes astonishing to think that the events related in this book really took place - but then that is a big part of the purpose of history, to tell us what went before so that we might learn from it.

In summary, if you are interested in World War 2, and you want to know what decided the outcome - read this book. Highly recommended.
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on 14 December 2011
Relevant to this review is that I live in Ukraine and had previously read books on East European history, especially of the 20th century. I was disappointed with several things, such as the first 66 pages being devoted to the events in Russia and Germany which led up to WW2 (done better in other books, and unnecessary for me); and then the next 100 pages are devoted to an account of WW2 from December 1940 until February 1943, meaning that it is not until page 165 that the book starts on the topic I was interested in, namely the battle of Kursk, which is covered from pages 166-382.

I chose to buy the hard-copy rather than the Kindle version because maps are important in such a book, and these are not done well on Kindle - but frustratingly the maps relevant to the battle appear nowhere near the relevant text. For the general reader my suggestions to the author/publisher are: 1 - to advise the reader to photocopy the maps so as to have them to hand when he eventually reaches the relevant text; 2 - to aim for more consistency between the naming of military units in the text and on the maps (e.g. sometimes XLVIII, XXXXVIII or 48, why not 48 always? - not everyone knows Latin numbers); 3 - to improve the referencing in the book - the 'order of battle', only part of which is useful to the general reader, is not referred to in the book; 4 - on each 'battle' page the DATE and the relevant map page should be shown. Some of the 'personal' stories are interesting but they are quickly buried among the detail.

For the military specialist, the book seems to be very thoroughly researched, but the first 166 pages are probably not needed, nor some of the 'personal' stories. Even such a reader would struggle to always be sure about what date, which front, which map is being discussed. So I think the book does not work well for either sort of reader.
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on 5 August 2012
The book is very well written and Lloyd Clark has, with the numerous quotes from the protagonists, brought the whole landscape to life. But, and its a very big 'but', the maps were absolutely terrible. Passages describe towns on the battlefield and so turning to a map to seach for the name reveals...nothing. It was hard to get a sense of individual parts of the immense battlefield. To get the most out of this book you will need a separate atlas and that is not a good recommendation. So 4½ stars for the book and nil for the maps. Shame that a potentially great book was let down by such poor maps!
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on 11 February 2014
A brilliant informative book. I liked it as it gave really good factual information on this massive battle. Some very interesting points about pre conception of the commanders involved and the thought proccesses from each side. I think this was the first battle where the Russians really thought about the aims and objectives and planned accordingly. Clearly a turning point in history. there are many books on this subject nd although this one is a read, put down and think and then carry on reading type of book from my perspective it delivered the true picture of the Kursk salient.
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on 6 May 2012
Lloyd Clark's book seeks to tell the story of the 1943 Kursk battle, placing it in the context of the larger German-Russian relations and the Eastern front, and to tell it from both sides. This scope means the book falls between two stools. On the one hand, the contextualisation material takes up far too much of the book. It is only at page 218 (out of 389) that we get to the battle. For anyone who is interested in military history, the pre-war material is a distraction; they most likely bought the book to read about the battle in particular. The context needed to focus solely on the immediate run up to it, not the previous thirty years, and it needed to be a lot shorter (it could have started around page 166, for example). On the other hand, given that the battle constitutes less than half the book and it's trying to detail a massive engagement, the material is quite sketchy and sometimes difficult to follow. There are a number of maps in the book, but the text never refers to them once and they appear at chapter breaks rather than where they are discussed in the narrative (and it's quite difficult to link up text and map due to labelling and coverage). They could have been used to much better effect. The description is quite dry, and whilst Clark tries to place the reader on the battlefield through the voices of some of the men who took part in the battle it doesn't work as effectively as it might. Kursk works as a general primer to the hostilities between Germany and Russia, the Eastern front, and the battle, but readers with a general interest in Second World War military history who want a detailed account of the battle itself will probably be better off looking elsewhere.
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on 7 October 2013
I strongly recommend reading this book for a thoroughly enjoyable account of this momentous battle.
The idea of starting the account from well before the battle is an excellent way of setting the scene especially if the reader is not entirely familiar with the events of that time.
The book balances the grand tactical aspects of the story with the first hand accounts of those who were there.
I couldn't put it down.
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on 24 December 2014
Well researched history and chronology that was amply illustrated with anecdotes and stories from the participants. Having a good understanding of the events leading up to the battle I was a little frustrated that the first third of the book was all about the buildup. This could have been shorter
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