on 10 October 2012
Kharkov 1943 is the tenth book in the "Man & Battle" series. Other books in the series that covers WWII is "Operation Totalize", "Operation Goodwood" and "The panzers' last stand". These books have certain traits in common. The narratives are concise and informative, the maps are in color and useful and the photos are excellent. While the authors cram a lot of material in their 80 page formats, they would be better with another 20 or 25 pages and a few more maps. While this series is a direct competitor to Osprey Campaigns, having the same outer dimensions, they do not have the same format. However I do judge these books like Osprey's Campaigns: never satisfied with the limited page counts but weigh the book with how much useful material is delivered between the covers. It would have been interesting to compare this book with an Osprey Campaign but to the best of my knowledge Osprey doesn't have one for Kharkov 1943.
Mr Naud begins describing the condition of the two armies in the winter of 1943 after the Soviets pushed the Germans back hundreds of miles from the ruins of Stalingrad. By February, both sides were exhausted and the Soviets were greatly overextended but believing the Germans were finished, Stalin exhorts his armies to further success. Hitler demands Kharkov be defended to the last man and bullet while the crafty Manstein, going against Hitler's demands, develops a plan to give Kharkov back to the Soviets, extending and weakening their lines even further that will allow a few good panzer divisions retake lost ground and destroy the Soviet's front line armies.
This introduction of the Soviets' push to the Donets and the recapture of Kharkov consumes half of the book. The last half is devoted to the German counter-attack to retake Kharkov and the surrounding lands. When Manstein ends his successful counter offensive in late March, the disposition of the two sides will be the starting point for Operation Citadel which will occur in early July. This book will give you key details and a brief but decent overview of the campaign that will give the reader a basic understanding of the campaign but there are other books on the market that are more comprehensive.
There are four color maps; the first shows Kharkov in relation to the rest of the entire Eastern Front followed by the next two maps showing the Soviet advance to capture Kharkov. The last map consists of the German counterattack to retake the city. These color maps are OK but do not always drill down to division level deployments or include every division deployed and hence could be more detailed. With the page limitation, additional maps are not possible.
In the final analysis, Mr Naud believes the retaking of Kharkov by Manstein was a short term tactical victory but strategically didn't change the outlook of the war like Stalingrad did. Though 50,000 Soviets died in the encounter, the Germans were too weak in 1943 to close the pocket tightly and destroy or capture many times that number like the pockets of 1941.
In addition to the maps, there is a wonderful and large selection of photos covering the key officers, equipment and the city.
There is also a Bibliography of 13 secondary sources and an abbreviated Order of Battle. If after reading this book a reader wants more, I would highly recommend two on the list: "The Last Victory in Russia" by George Nipe which is from the German perspective and the other book is David Glantz's " From the Don to the Dnepr" which is from the Soviet perspective. These two books provide serious coverage.
If you're looking for a basic summary then this book like the other books in the series is artfully constructed, melding a concise battle summary with color maps and unusual photographs.