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The Turning Point of the War
on 1 November 2012
This is a highly researched and insightful study of Operation Typhoon. It was the last major German campaign of 1941 and though it started out successfully at Vyazma and Bryansk, it ended in failure at the gates of Moscow when General Zhukov stopped the advance and subsequently launched his own offensive that pushed the German line back a hundred or more miles. With the incredible victories the Germans had near Minsk, Smolensk, Uman, Kiev, Bryansk and Vyazma and the tremendous losses that the Soviet Army endured in a four month period, this ignominious defeat at Moscow, according to the authors, was the turning point of the war. It will be fully explained why.
The book begins with a brief situational report of the battle conditions in late September with special emphasis on the Soviet disaster that just occurred near Kiev. The introduction continues with the Soviet Army's condition and deployments between the Yelnya line and Moscow. Afterwards the German plans are described for the capture of Moscow. The friction between Germany's high command is also explained.
Chapter three initiates the actual battle events of Operation Typhoon and the campaign is driven from the German advance though key Soviet officers and information is also presented. The time period includes the last couple days of September and includes the rainy season followed by the start of cold weather of October and November and enters the first few days of December. The book doesn't include the details of Zhukov's counter-offensive. (Perhaps the authors will treat us with volume two: the details of the counter-offensive which is also interesting.)
The battle coverage of the campaign is concise and competent and the reader will come away with a good understanding of not only the tactical events of the campaign but also the dynamic and changing psychological aspects of all concern: dictator, officer and soldier of both sides. The command level receives the lion share of coverage but the authors also include first hand accounts of a number of soldiers on both sides. Couple of the soldiers we see throughout the campaign. This intermixing of tactical history with these first hand accounts were seamlessly blended.
Though I would enjoy describing the key battle events I'll refrain but will say it was done well. The reader will see the scale of operations for both sides as well as the advantages and disadvantages each side processed. Initially the Germans couldn't be stopped but a series of events will occur that will have a cumulative effect in slowing the German advance. In addition to the main storyline, interesting sidebars are included; the information includes the importance of maps, the early British support of aircraft to the Soviets that were well used in front of Moscow, personal hygiene, the constant search for food, Stalin's hub of power and more.
The last chapter, "Causes and Consequences" was excellent. This 16 page chapter summarizes the book very well, describing the battle results and explaining the ramifications for both sides this German failure will have on the immediate future of the war. The Germans just had the five best months of the war and yet they were stopped at Moscow and with Germany's insufficient industrial base will not be able to replace equipment losses on a scale that will compete with its enemy. The authors also believe that even if Moscow had been encircled, the war would have continued and the Soviets, with their industrial and population advantage, would have gained the upper hand. A discussion was also presented why Bock continued his advance after October and what possible circumstances could arise if Bock stopped along the Vyazma-Bryansk line in mid October.
If memory serves there were seven maps to support the story. Half showed deployments to army level while the rest drilled down to division level. Most of the maps were large scale and strategic in nature but the map of the closing of the Vyazma Pocket was tactical. The maps were good, of recent construction and will be helpful. I personally would have liked additional tactical maps showing the battles at the Mozhaisk line, Tula, Yakhroma and a few other sites. There were also a few good photos to study.
The authors also furnish an extensive Appendix that show statistical tables of men and armor at certain time periods and for certain events as well as casualty figures. Order of Battles are also included. Also helpful is the extensive range of notes as is the expansive Bibliography of both primary and secondary sources if further study is desired. There are many German and Russian sources listed.
This book was informative and enjoyable to study and if you have an interest in reading about the German's first major defeat of the war and probably the turning point then you should consider this for your library.