Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919-1939

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In this fascinating account of the battle tanks that saw combat in the European Theater of World War II, Mary R. Habeck traces the strategies developed between the wars for the use of armored vehicles in battle. Only in Germany and the Soviet Union were truly original armor doctrines (generally known as "blitzkreig" and "deep battle") fully implemented. Storm of Steel relates how the German and Soviet armies formulated and chose to put into practice doctrines that were innovative for the time, yet in many respects identical to one another.

As part of her extensive archival research in Russia, Germany, and Britain, Habeck had access to a large number of formerly secret and top-secret documents from several post-Soviet archives. This research informs her comparative approach as she looks at the roles of technology, shared influences, and assumptions about war in the formation of doctrine. She also explores relations between the Germans and the Soviets to determine whether collaboration influenced the convergence of their armor doctrines.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In this excellent, sophisticated study, Habeck shows the influences working on both Germany and the Soviet Union as they sought to make sense of World War I and the Spanish civil war. Her account covers a range of factors, including the impact of industrialization, the role of forceful individuals, and broader views about the conduct of war. She concludes that all these elements interacted to produce particular military concepts until the actual experience of fighting a war forced both armies to think again."—Foreign Affairs

"How the two states developed similar doctrines during the interwar period, why the Soviets eschewed such a valuable innovation, and why and how the Germans took the lead in doctrinal theory and the practice are the questions that Storm of Steel addresses. . . . This is a fascinating work of great importance to understanding the origins and outcomes of the Second World War."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"In comparing the formative years of history's two most important approaches to tank warfare, Habeck departs from convention by emphasizing similarities rather than differences. . . . Although Habeck makes no attempt to downplay the divergence of the two doctrines after 1935, when Voroshilov began to call the Soviet 'Deep Battle' doctrine into question, and 1937, when Stalin's liquidation of Tukhachevsky discommoded it entirely, she notes the efforts of Zhukov—and even Pavlov—to reinstate aspects of that doctrine well before Operation Barbarossa revealed to the world the enormity of the Soviet error.."—Choice

"In a brilliant recounting of parallel developments recorded in extensive documentation from both sides, much of it exposed by the demise of the Soviet state, this book sets forth a stunning review of the next twenty years of development of national goals and accompanying military doctrine from which were derived requirements for equipment, organization, and force structure, training, and education of soldiers and leaders. . . . Impressive research and analysis; here is the highest standard for the description of armies changed by evolving national and military strategies, intellectual development of war-fighting doctrine, imperatives of changing technology, and the need to organize and train effective military units, soldiers and leaders, to fight their nations' wars."—Journal of Military History

"The titanic struggle between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia from 1941 to 1945 remains the subject of popular and scholarly interest. The tank was the dominant weapon in this contest and mastery of armored combat the key to victory and defeat . . . Mary Habeck's Storm of Steel sheds light on the evolution of armored vehicles and doctrine in Germany and Russia during the interwar decades. . . . Storm of Steel will appeal to tank aficionados and military historians."—History: Reviews of New Books

"Mary R. Habeck's book represents a major contribution to understanding how two high commands in the interwar period adapted to the challenges of a 'war of machines.' Rich and detailed, Storm of Steel is lucidly written and gives in-depth descriptions and analyses of the German Blitzkrieg and Soviet deep battle, both responses to the challenges of stalemated trench warfare. They represented different approaches to integrating the newcomer weapon, the tank, into the armed forces and thereby giving the battle renewed mobility. . . . Habeck's book could be read not only as a careful reconstruction of events but also as a stimulus for the timeless 'lessons to be learnt' from history."—Slavic Review

"Storm of Steel is the first book I have seen that really traces how the doctrines of land warfare initiated by the British tank pioneers in World War I were later taken up and developed in Germany and the Soviet Union. I've read nothing in English that describes the German/Soviet cooperation of the late twenties and early thirties as clearly as this book does."—Patrick Wright, author of Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine.

"Mary Habeck has crafted an impressive analysis of evolving armor doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union during the period between the two world wars. This book's depth, sophistication, and uniqueness of approach set it apart from its academic and not-so-academic competitors."—Bruce Menning, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

"Storm of Steel is a rich historical account of the sources of Soviet and German armored doctrine. Habeck's fascinating book highlights the influential role of British ideas, technological change, political leadership, and the 'lessons of small wars.'"—Elizabeth Kier, University of Washington

Foreign Affairs
The extent to which the German concept of blitzkrieg was influenced by British ideas on mechanized warfare is a subject of much controversy. Less explored is the influence of such British theories on Soviet doctrine, which adopted a similar idea until abandoning it shortly before World War II. In this excellent, sophisticated study, Habeck shows the influences working on both Germany and the Soviet Union as they sought to make sense of World War I and the Spanish civil war. Her account covers a range of factors, including the impact of industrialization, the role of forceful individuals, and broader views about the conduct of war. She concludes that all these elements interacted to produce particular military concepts until the actual experience of fighting a war forced both armies to think again. A related observation, challenging for academic theorists, applies to other cases as well: militaries take whatever lessons they want from combat and can justify any tactical or operational change that they wish.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801440748
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2003
  • Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary R. Habeck is Associate Professor of Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She is the author of Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror and coeditor of Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War and The Great War and the Twentieth Century.

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Table of Contents

1. The Unfinished Machine, 1919–1923
2. Material or Morale?: The Debate over the Mechanization of Warfare, 1923–1927
3. Technology Triumphant: Early German-Soviet Collaboration, 1927–1929
4. Consensus and Conflict, 1930–1931
5. A New Confidence?: The End of Collaboration, 1932–1933
6. Trading Places, 1934–1936
7. The Evidence of Small Wars: Armor Doctrine in Practice, 1936–1939
Epilogue: Armor Doctrine and Large Wars, 1939–1941

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