This is a remarkable though select study of the battle to reach Kursk from the southern salient. Though demanding and requiring your full attention, an enthusiast could read this operational treasure-trove over and over and never tire of it. It was intriguing but also challenging to read about the same engagement from different perspectives; usually two sometimes three different viewpoints discussed. The fighting on the 12th against the LAH and the 18th and 29th Tank Corps was especially involved. The commentary and analysis is superb and will give the reader a better understanding of the campaign. This book is Russian-centric and it spends more time discussing Soviet plans, assaults and manuvers than on the German perspective.
In the introductory chapters, the author describes the political and military situation in spring 1943 when Hitler and his generals were discussing what the summer offensive should be. The Kursk salient was quickly proposed, debated and then chosen over the objections of some key people. On the Soviet side summer planning was also being debated. The second chapter provides the defensive preparations of the Soviet side for the southern half when it was decided to attack only after the German offensive exhausted itself. Due to the importance of Rotmistrov and his 5th GTA in stopping the 2nd SS PzC, the final chapter before combat coverage begins provides a profile of the General and his Tank Army. The author also explains how Rotmistrov and his Army had just arrived in sector from nearly a 200 mile force march and how he had to cobble an attack plan together when he learned Hausser was much closer to Prokhorovka than expected. On the German side, you will read about Hoth's decision to shift the axis of his SS panzer corps from Oboyan to Prokhorovka among other background info.
The fourth chapter is a summary of the 48th PzC action on the western flank through the 9th of July as well as the opening moves of the 2nd SS PzC. (The initial assault by the 48th PzC on the afternoon of July 4th seems to be missing.) A key issue discussed is how the performance of this corps in not reaching the Psel had on the 2nd SS PzC. Another issue that was enjoyed is the terrain features the 48th PzC had to deal with that slowed their advance: The Pena, Vorskla and the Vorsklitsa Rivers and their corresponding swampland were definite deterents. The many fortified villages and hills were an even bigger impediment. The reactions of 1st TA's and 6th GA's attempts to stop the advance are also covered. The strengths of the two rivals are also presented and compared. The Soviets had the advantage in men, tanks, guns, vehicles. The author also emphasizes here and for the rest of book of the timely entry of Soviet reinforcements into battle.
The next 402 pages of this 630 page book revolves around the highly detailed events of the Russian attempts in preventing the 2nd SS PzC from capturing Prokhorovka and the Psel River basin. A good summary of 3rd PzC's drive north and its eventual retreat through 7/16 is also included.
Many key people are mentioned but the discussion details the impact these people's decisions, actions or communications had on the outcome of the battles. While some anecdotal experiences of a strictly personal nature is conveyed, the overwhelming amount of information is operational.
Also included with the narrative are 12 colored maps. These are some of the best maps I've seen though I do have minor criticisms which I'll explain in a minute. Three maps are topographical and show the key villages, rivers and hills that are included in the campaign. The roads are presented but not labeled. The last nine maps are tactical and are broken down in the following manner. The first map shows the German deployment of the Orel and Kursk salients. The next map depicts Vatutin's estimate of the ideal route for the German offensive and succinctly shows Hoth's error in planning the 48th PzC's deployment. The next maps include: the penetration of the first defense line by the 2nd SS on 7/5; the advance of the SS to the Prokhorovka axis on 7/6; combat operations southwest of Prokhorovka on 7/10 and again on 7/11; Kempf's drive through 7/11; combat operations of the Soviet counterattack on 7/12 and the last map concerns Kempf's pullback from 7/13 to 7/16.
These maps are new computer generated color maps that have great eye appeal, many details and are easy to study. The German side is depicted to division level while the Soviet side is shown in corps, division, regiment, brigade level as required. These are some of the most useful maps available but wish there were more maps. While these very detailed maps are the most important, showing the general progress of the SS advance on the 7th, 8th and especially the 9th plus the advance of the 48th PzC would have been very helpful, allowing the reader to graphically see the whole campaign in the south. Though gaining less ground than the other two SS divisions, the deployment of the Das Reich division could have been more extensive.
The topographical maps are also visually appealing and helpful but they are presented in a less than perfect layout with gaps in the terrain. Different mileage scales and orientations increases the confusion. Unless you're an expert or invest a lot of time to study these maps, it will be difficult to take advantage of them. An additional map or two here would have been helpful culminating in a two page layout of the entire southern salient to tie the assortment together would have been nice. Also there are several villages and hills that are discussed in the narrative that are missing on these maps. Most are in 48th PzC sector but since they were mentioned it would have been nice to see them on the maps. The missing includes Gertsovka, Krasnyi Pochinok, Kalinin, Krasnyi Poliana, Kalinovka, Kruglik, Lutovo and especially Novoselovka. Hills missing include 260, 244 and 222. Some of these locations had bitter battle action.
The last chapter which is quite extensive. Besides summation of the campaign, the author deals with the myths and realities of the Campaign and especially on the tank battles of 7/12 that have been generrated over the decades. Mr Zamulin describes the true scale of the separate tank engagements that TK, Das Reich and especially LAH found itself in as they launched their attacks that early Monday morning toward Prokhorovka. They weren't expecting the five+ corps would be attacking them that did prevent them from achieving their objectives. An interesting discussion by the author and several other historians are included on the tank casualties of both sides. The number of operable tanks 5th GTA had weren't as many as some claim but Rotmistrov did lose 80 pct of them in the next couple days. Human casualties for both sides is estimated as well. The importance of the results of this campaign for the rest of the war are also briefly discussed. There are also 34 informative data tables running throughout the book concerning key statistics that will help the reader understand the scope of this campaign. (There is a handy list to help you find the data you need) There are no wild claims; in fact the author downplays the scale of the tank battle but not the importance of 5th GTA arriving in the nick of time.
There are many good photos of the key people from both sides but many more Soviets, as well as battlefield scenes. It was nice attaching a face with a name that you've read about for years. Some of the photos are in color and show the current fields where men died and tanks destroyed in 1943.
Also appreciated is the detailed Orders of Battle that were included. With so many units discussed, it was studied often while reading the book. There is also a competent Notes Section and Bibliography that includes primary and secondary sources. Most entries are Russian related. A helpful Index that will speed your research closes out the book.
Displaying a good understanding of strategy and tactics, Mr Zamulin does an excellent job of explaining the engagements as well as providing the significant results and ramifications of each that will add to the reader's understanding of the campaign. The author explains the terrain features, different defensive belts, why certain days the Germans made good gains and on other days few gains. He also discusses the strategic errors made by Hoth in planning, deployment of his forces and the poor utilization of the new Panther brigade that jeopardized the entire campaign. Vatutin's tactical errors that cost his armies dearly are also explained.
Hundreds of communiques, after action reports, divisional diaries and personal diaries from both sides are blended nicely into the narrative. You'll get a real feel and understanding of what each side was thinking, experiencing.
This is a specialty book that excludes the northern salient and gives only a summary to the 48th PzC and 3rd PzC sectors but its extraordinary when it comes to the 2nd SS PzC's drive toward Prokhorovka and its attempt to control north of the Psel River.
The summary of the resistance and escape of the remnants of 48th RC from the encirclement between the two Donets Rivers when Kempf loosely linked up with Das Reich was also done well as is the attempted encirclement of 48th PzC by the 6th GA and 1st TA from the 12th on.
While trying to judge this book critically, I found only trivial issues to mention. This book is solid, dramatically adds to the knowledge base and would ideally complement the other serious campaign books by Mark Healy, David Glantz and Franz Kurowski and is highly recommended to all Citadel fans.