on 20 February 2014
This book is loaded with combat history on Operation Citadel and while this book is a standalone, I would guess the author intended to have this book be a complement to the noteworthy books that came before it.
The book is formatted as a daily chronicle beginning with the spring of 1943 and lasting through the end of August. Its coverage includes both the southern salient, the northern salient as well as the Orel salient. The history not only covers the battlefield but also the air war which had a tremendous impact on ground events. Once the offensive begins the daily coverage is delineated by German panzer corps sector but while the narrative is driven by the German advance there is equal coverage of both sides. Because it had so much influence on battle events, the terrain and the extreme measures the Soviets went to erect an impenetrable barrier with multiple kill zones is also covered. Though the Germans were able to penetrate those defense zones in the opening days, it came at great expense and by the time 4th Pz Army reached the Psel River, its advance was over.
Besides describing the actual battle events, the author also delves into many of the key commanders, describing the good and bad decisions that were made before and during the campaign. The bad decisions were emphasized more than the good; for 4th PzA the author is clearly critical of the deployment of the three panzer corps in the south and the axis of attack each corps was given. This misalignment didn't provide ample flank protection and the Germans paid for it. The poor disposition and lack of support of the 3rd PzC is mentioned as one of the major reasons why the Germans failed to achieve their objectives. The misuse of the Panther Brigade is also covered. Hoth's mistake of expanding 48th Pz Corps too far west and neglecting the 3rd Pz Corps is also given ample attention. The charge of the 5th GTA is also given a lot of attention, explaining the circumstances of it and how its planning was less than perfect. The discussion also includes several alternative attack strategies Vatutin could have implemented that may have been more productive. Hoth, von Manstein, Vatutin, Model and Rokossovsky receive the most attention but many other officers are also discussed.
While analysis is provided throughout the book, the last chapter summarizes the key aspects of the fighting and briefly explains how the results of this campaign influences the rest of the war on the eastern front.
There are 29 color maps; half of them are double page in size. While they're not the most sophisticated in appearance, they are effective and informative and will help the reader follow the dialogue. A full array of German and Soviet units along with the key villages, river crossings, hills are displayed. When the battle coverage discribes the capture of Verkhopenie, Iakovlevo Rzhavets or Hill 241.6 or the crossing of the Pena River etc, you will be able to know exactly where the action is taking place. Most of the maps also have comments to help explain the action represented. Seven of the maps are pull-out maps and are approximately 25 by 40 cm. These assorted maps that include a heavily populated topo map and an exploded version of the 2nd SS PzD attacking the Prokhorovka corridor can be viewed alongside the book, making it easier for the reader to follow a particular regiment or village during a day's battle.
In addition to providing an extensive battle history, the author supplies thousands of references to other sources if further study is desired. To also help in finding specific data within the book, a comprehensive Index is included that covers every man, unit, village, hill etc that's mentioned in the book. There is also an OB, tables of key statistics as well as an extensive Bibliography.
With so much battle action combined with the author's less than glib writing style there are times when it is difficult to digest everything in a single reading; reading certain passages or sections over and sometimes over again will help. To get the most out of this book most readers will need to give their undivided attention to it; having the maps at your side will make the journey more enjoyable.