This book is brilliant. If you wanted to capture the essence of what it was like to be there in July 1943, in every sense this is the right book to read. Here you will find a book full of first-hand accounts, from both sides, on what it felt like to fight in one of the greatest battles of all time.
From the role of the Luftwaffe and its mighty stukas, sweeping down on the hapless Soviet infantry and tanks, to the effect of sleep deprivation on both sides, with exhausted Russian soldiers barely able to keep their eyes open after days of constant fighting, Lloyd Clark has really brought the story to life with details and experiences that added something to my understanding of the epic struggle.
He also does a great job of explaining the strategic background, the situation of both combatants and the reasons that brought them to the battlefield. I've read a lot about World War 2, and had been interested in Kursk for a long time - the great turning point of the entire war, together with the battle of Stalingrad. This book helped me place the battle of Kursk in a different perspective than I had ever seen it before. You see, for Hitler and the Germans, everything now depended on this great gamble. They may not have been able to decisively win the war in the east by July 1943, but they certainly had not lost it yet. Everything was poised on a knife edge - and that's what makes Kursk so endlessly fascinating. Lloyd Clark explains Stalin's frustration at the failure of the Western Allies to open up a second front, and the serious chance that, had the Germans been victorious at Kursk, peace negotiations would have ended the war in the East.
At this point, I must also digress slightly to strongly recommend reading 'Kursk: The Greatest Battle' in tandem with another highly excellent book, The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat, by Michael Jones, which tells the story of the German advance on Moscow in 1941, and the desperate fighting in the winter snow. I mention this because between these two books, you really get a good picture of what was at stake - and they are both really, really good reads.
To return to Kursk, I'm really glad that I chose to buy Lloyd Clark's book - there are a lot to choose from on the topic, but none of them could have done a better job of bringing the battle to life. The personalities of the commanders come through - I was particularly shocked and enlightened to learn about Russian general Konstantin Rokossovsky, for example, who was tortured by the NKVD and spent time in a Siberian Gulag before a rapid rise that saw him commanding the central front in summer 1943. What kind of a society could produce such a man? It is sometimes astonishing to think that the events related in this book really took place - but then that is a big part of the purpose of history, to tell us what went before so that we might learn from it.
In summary, if you are interested in World War 2, and you want to know what decided the outcome - read this book. Highly recommended.
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