on 15 March 2014
Mr Forczyk, a popular historian and author as well as tank specialist, has written another fine book on the Russo-German war that has armor as its main theme. As the author explains this book is not a comprehensive battle chronicle but a select look at key armor engagements that will show why the Germans had an advantage at the opening of the war but by the end of 1942 had lost their advantage through heavy attrition, poor grand strategy, slow tank development and inadequate industrial capacity among other considerations. It will also be shown that while the Soviets made mistakes and had problems, they also had certain basic advantages that would turn their disastrous unprepared beginning into a long term opportunity to turn the tables on their enemy and to eventually achieve final victory.
The two chapter introduction is important and the foundation for the rest of the book. It briefly describes the interwar history, battle strategy and tank doctrine of the two dictators and their armed services and while the author touches on command level aspects, the author is never far away from tank characteristics or ground level armor tactics. He is as comfortable discussing Hitler's misguided view that the Soviet Union could be defeated in six weeks or Stalin's Five Year Plans and attempting to divert conflict with Hitler until 1942 or 43 as he is in explaining why Germany made a mistake in not building a high torque diesel engine for their Tiger, Elephant and Panther heavy tanks or comparing Blitzkrieg with Stalin's Deep Battle strategy. The German advantage of having radios and better optics in their tanks during this period is discussed as well and many other features of the leading tanks of the war - Pz IV, Tiger, Panther, T-34 .
The rest of the book covers armored battle history of the war from Operation Barbarossa to von Manstein's attempt to relieve 6th Army in the Stalingrad cauldron. The coverage includes specific engagements within these larger operations and in addition to Barbarossa that talks about Minsk, Bialystok, Kiev, Smolensk, Uman, Rzhev, also discusses the advance toward Leningrad, Operation Typhoon and the drive toward Moscow, the capture of Kharkov, Operation Blue and the advance to the Volga. There is also much discussion on command decisions made and assessments on how those decisions played out. A small example of commanders discussed includes Guderian, von Manstein, Hoth, Hopner, Model and Kliest as well as Pavlov, Kirponos, Timoshenko, Zhukov, Konev, Rokossovsky for the Soviets. The format of the book is driven by the German offensive and is broken down by the three main Army sectors and the four main panzer groups but there is plenty of coverage of the Soviets. Soviet fans will not feel slighted.
Though having read this period before, I still enjoyed and appreciated this presentation for its concise, crisp and detailed manner. There is plenty of details about battle history that not only includes key officers and units for both sides but also discusses deployments, terrain, weather and the type of armor involved for each engagement. It also discusses the level of readiness for each side as well logistic considerations in prosecuting the engagement.
In addition to the narrative, there are also ten maps, most are small scale in nature that bolster some of the covered engagements. There are also pertient tables and a no nonsense Appendix that includes an OB, production lists closing out the main narrative. A small photo gallery, Notes, Bibliography and Index round out the book.
This book targets two key groups: history fans of the war and tank enthusiasts. This straight forward narrative is applicable to novice and pro alike. For the novice its easy to follow and there is a lot of info to learn and for the long term student there is good information on the different tanks, their barrel sizes, choices of ammunition, other characteristics and enough other gems of knowledge running through the book that you'll be able to add to your knowledge base. Highly reccommended.