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Worth reading, but flawed,
This review is from: Thunder on the Dnepr: Zhukov - Stalin and the Defeat of Hitler's Blitzkrieg (Hardcover)
The purpose of this book appears to be to disprove the `myth' that bad weather, and Hitler's interference with the sage decisions of his generals, were the cause of Germany's strategic defeat at the gates of Moscow in the winter of 1941/42. That myth was certainly prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s when the main sources of information in the West were German archives and the memoirs of German generals. Had `Thunder on the Dnepr' been published in the 1980s, it would have made a valuable contribution to the subject, but by the time the book was published in the late 1990s, that myth had already been largely exploded.
For anyone looking for a comprehensive account of the first six months of the war, this is not the book for you. The book's strengths lie in its detailed explanation of the Soviet preparations for war with Germany (indeed the first third of the book is given over to this topic) and in its fairly detailed account of the fighting in the Elnia (Yelnia or El'nia) salient in late July, August and September 1941. The argument is made that a combination of Soviet strategic preparation for the war and the intensity of the fighting at Elnia lay the foundations for the subsequent German failure to take Moscow. This is a disappointingly simplistic argument for a writer of Fugate's stature. Soviet strategic planning certainly had its strengths, but it failed to prevent some two million Soviet troops from being taken prisoner in the first few months of the war. The fighting at Elnia helped to sap the strength of the German armies in the east, but Fugate and Dvoretsky produce no comparative data to suggest that its effects were proportionately more significant than the fighting at Smolensk, Velikie Luki, Zhlobin, along the Sohz, along the Luga or in the southern fringes of the Pripyat Marshes.
The emphasis placed on the Elnia battle in the book has resulted in somewhat cursory accounts of more important battles. The encirclements of the Soviet frontier armies west of Minsk in the first few weeks of the war are covered in a perfunctory manner as mere preludes to the Elnia fighting. Little battlefront detail of the great Kiev encirclement is provided, the account in this book tending to concentrate on the higher level decision making process in August and September. The Viazma and Briansk encirclements in which the Soviets lost nearly two-thirds of a million men are mentioned almost in passing. And the account of the fighting for Moscow contains little detail, concentrating instead on issues of tactics and strategy.
Disappointingly for a book published in the late 1990s `Thunder on the Dnepr' contains errors of fact (e.g. repeatedly confusing the generals Fedor and Vasilii Kuznetsov, and mis-identifying the Soviet rifle corps that spearheaded the counter attack across the Dnepr in July to retake Zhlobin) - errors that might have been more understandable in a book published ten or twenty years earlier. Less forgivable is the statement early in the book that Kulik and Meretskov were shot by the NKVD at around the same time as Pavlov's execution.
This book is worth reading, but the emphasis placed on its dubious premise makes it something of a disappointment.