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By the time Pearl Harbor had ripped apart America's peacetime pretensions, the German blitzkrieg had already blasted the Red Army back to the gates of Moscow. Yet, less than four years later, the Soviet hammer-and-sickle flew above the ruins of Berlin, stark symbol of a miraculous comeback that destroyed the German army and shattered Hitler's imperial designs.
Told in swift stirring prose, When Titans Clashed provides the first full account of this epic struggle from the Soviet perspective. David Glantz, one of the world's foremost authorities on the Soviet military, and Jonathan House present a fundamentally new interpretation of what the Russians called the "Great Patriotic War." Based on unprecedented access to formerly classified Soviet sources, they counter the German perspective that has dominated previous accounts and radically revise our understanding of the Soviet experience during World War II.
Placing the war within its wider political, economic, and social contexts, the authors recount how the determined Soviets overcame their initial disasters to defeat the most powerful army ever assembled. As they vividly show, this truly was war waged on a titanic scale, sweeping across a half-million square miles from Moscow to Berlin, featuring monumental offensives and counteroffensives, and ultimately costing both sides combined a staggering forty million casualties.
Their work offers new revelations on Soviet strategy and tactics, Stalin's role as supreme commander of the Red Army, the emergence of innovative and courageous commanders in the crucible of combat, numerous previously concealed or neglected military operations, German miscalculations on the road to the Red capital, the effect of D-Day and the "second front" on the Soviet effort, and the war's devastating impact on the Soviet economy and civilian population.
An essential volume for anyone interested in World War II or Soviet history, When Titans Clashed will change forever how we look at one of the greatest military confrontations in world history.
The Red Army, 1918-1939
RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR, 1918-1921
One of the ironies of Russian history is that, having seized power in Petrograd by undermining military discipline and civil authority, the Bolsheviks owed their survival to strong armed forces. The shock troops of the October 1917 revolution were militant soldiers and sailors, but, even with the addition of the armed workers of the Red Guard, these forces were inadequate to face the threats to the infant Soviet state.
From every direction, both foreign enemies and so-called White Russian forces menaced the new government. With the Imperial Russian Army exhausted by three years of world war and dissolved by mutiny, nothing stood between the new government and the victorious German Army. In March 1918, German forces dictated an armistice and then roamed at will over western Russia. Even after they were defeated in Western Europe in November 1918, the Germans supported the breakaway Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, as well as a separatist movement in the Ukraine. Once the Bolshevik government signed the armistice with Germany, its former allies also intervened in an effort to reverse the revolution and bring Russia back into the World War. To support the White troops, American and British soldiers landed at Archangel'sk and Murmansk in the north, while additional British and French forces operated in Odessa, Crimea, and the Caucasus region. In Siberia, the highly professional Czech Army, composed of former Russian prisoners of war who had enlisted to fight against Austria-Hungary, dominated the railroad line in support of the Whites. Japanese and Americantroops spread westward to Irkutsk in Siberia from the Pacific port of Vladivostok.
The result was the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921, a formative experience for both the Soviet state and its Red Army. During 1918 and 1919, V.I. Lenin and his commissar for military affairs, L. D. Trotsky, used the railroad lines to shuttle their limited reserves from place to place, staving off defeat time after time. This became known as echelon war, in which large forces were shifted by railroad (echelon) to reinforce successively threatened fronts. Some infantry divisions were shifted between fronts as many as five times in the course of the war. This experience gave all participants an abiding sense of the need for strategic reserves and forces arrayed in great depth.
Necessity forced Lenin to declare "War Communism," a system of extreme requisitions and political repression. In order to create effective military forces, the new government had to conscript men of all social backgrounds and accept the services of thousands of former Imperial officers. In turn, the need to ensure the political loyalty of such "military experts" led to the institution of a political commissar for each unit who had to approve all actions of the nominal commander.
Ultimately the new government triumphed. In early 1920, the Czech commander in Siberia turned over to the Soviets the self-appointed White Russian leader, Admiral A. V. Kolchak, in return for unrestricted passage out of the country. Later that same year, the Red Army repulsed a Polish invasion in support of the Ukrainian separatists, but was itself halted by "the miracle along the Vistula" just short of Warsaw. For years thereafter, the leaders of the Red Army engaged in bitter recriminations concerning the responsibility for this defeat. Despite the Polish setback, by 17 November 1920 the last White Russians had been driven from the Crimea. After a few actions in Turkestan and the Far East, the war was over.
In the process, the first generation of Soviet military commanders had developed a unique view of warfare. Unlike the positional, trench-warfare battles of the World War, the Russian Civil War was characterized by vast distances defended by relatively small numbers of troops. Under these circumstances, Soviet commanders tried to integrate all tactical operations into an overall campaign plan, aiming for objectives deep in the enemy's rear. The two keys to victory proved to be concentration of superior forces to overwhelm the enemy at a particular point, and then rapid maneuvers such as flank movements, penetrations, and encirclements to destroy the thinly spread enemy. The prerequisite for such maneuvers was a highly mobile offensive force, which in the Civil War relied on armored railroad trains and cars and, especially, horse cavalry formations. The elite of the Red Army, Marshal S. M. Budenny's 1st Cavalry Army, produced a generation of officers who believed passionately in the value of mobility and maneuver and soon embraced mechanized forces as the weapon of choice.
RISE OF THE DEEP OPERATION,1922-1937
In the immediate postwar era, the chaotic state of the Soviet economy precluded the expense of a large standing army, and by 1925 the Red Army had been reduced to 562,000 men—one tenth of its peak wartime strength. Cavalry and some border district rifle divisions remained at reduced size, while the majority of surviving divisions retained only a fraction of their required strength. These divisions relied for wartime strength on reservists drawn from particular territorial regions. The system adopted in 1924-1925, combining regular-cadre formations with territorial-militia forces, was supposed to produce almost 140 divisions in wartime, but its peacetime capability was extremely limited.
In an era of retrenchment, one of the few sources of funds and equipment for weapons experimentation was the secret Soviet-German military collaboration agreements. The two former enemies shared both a fear of Poland and a desire to circumvent the restrictions placed on them by the western allies of the World War. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) forbade Germany to possess tanks, poison gas, and aircraft, but, for a decade after 1921, the German army and government provided funds and technical assistance to produce and test such weapons in the Soviet Union. Both sides gained the opportunity to test equipment they could not otherwise have produced, but the actual number of such weapons was relatively small.
Soviet-German cooperation included exchanging observers for military exercises, but, in retrospect, the two armies developed their military doctrines and theories almost independently. During the 1920s, the experience of the Civil War led Soviet military writers to review all their concepts for waging war. The former tsarist officer A. A. Svechin led the strategic debate, while M. V. Frunze tried to formulate a uniform military doctrine appropriate to a socialist state.
Perhaps most important, the brilliant Civil War commander M. N. Tukhachevsky and the military theorist V. K. Triandafillov developed a strategic theory of successive operations based on the Soviet military failure against Poland in 1920 and the failed German offensives against France in 1918. Put simply, they believed that modern armies were too large and resilient to be defeated in one cataclysmic battle. Instead, the attacker would have to fight a series of offensive battles, each followed by a rapid exploitation into the enemy rear and then another battle when the defender reorganized his forces.
To place these battles in a common strategic context, Soviet soldiers began to think of a new level of warfare, midway between the tactics of individual battles and the strategy of an entire war. This intermediate level became known as Operational Art (operativnaia iskusstva). Operational Art may be thought of as the realm of senior commanders who plan and coordinate operations of large formations within the context of a strategic operation or an entire campaign, that is, a series of actions culminating in the achievement of a strategic objective. In 1927, Svechin summarized this theoretical structure: "Tactics make the steps from which operational leaps are assembled, strategy points out the path."
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Soviet theorists perfected the tactical concept of Deep Battle (glubokii boi). They planned to use new technology, especially tanks and aircraft, to penetrate the elaborate defense systems developed during the World War. Surfaced as a concept in the Field Regulations of 1929, deep battle found full expression in the Instructions on Deep Battle published in 1935.
By 1936, accelerated technological change led, in turn, to the larger concept of the Deep Operation (glubokaia operatsiia). Instead of planning to penetrate the enemy in a single, tactical, deep battle, Tukhachevsky and other theorists projected penetrations and exploitations out to an operational depth of 100 kilometers or more. The essence of such a deep operation was to use the most modern weapons available to neutralize simultaneously all the enemy's defenses to the maximum possible depth and then to exploit so rapidly that the defender would be unable to reorganize in time. In the words of A. I. Egorov, "The principal and basic task of military art is to prevent the formation of a firm front [by the defending enemy], imparting a destructive striking force and a rapid tempo to operations."
Initially, Tukhachevsky and the other theorists intended to accomplish this using the weapons of the Russian Civil War-infantry, artillery, and cavalry formations supplemented by armored cars. In that form, Tukhachevsky's tactics would differ little from those of other armies. During and immediately after the World War, most Western armies viewed the tank primarily as a support weapon to assist the infantry in penetrating prepared enemy defenses. Soviet operational and tactical theory evolved rapidly, however, and, by the early 1930s, Red theorists included the entire spectrum of mechanized forces functioning (at least in theory) as a sophisticated combined-arms team. Infantry, led by tanks and supported by artillery and engineers, would penetrate-the enemy's defenses, while other artillery and aircraft struck deeper into the enemy rear, to be followed by large, independent airborne and armored formations. To accomplish this, tanks would be organized into three different echelons: some tanks would lead the infantry penetration; others would conduct short-range exploitations of that breakthrough; and still others, operating in large combined-arms mechanized formations, would lead the pursuit and encirclement of the beaten enemy. These concepts, which appeared in print as early as 1929, were codified into the Red Army's Provisional Field Regulations of 1936.
The idea of a deep, mechanized operation was unusual but not unique for its time. Military theory in all major armies evolved in the same general direction, using varying degrees of mechanization to penetrate enemy defenses and thereby defeat or avoid the stalemate of trench warfare. What was unprecedented about the Soviet concept was the official sanction it received from the Soviet dictator I. V. Stalin, who geared a large proportion of his five-year economic development plans to provide the industrial capacity and production needed to implement that concept. Given the shortcomings of Russian industry during the World War and the belief that the Communist Revolution remained vulnerable to capitalist attack, it was natural that Stalin should give a high priority to the development of a munitions industry.
This effort bore fruit in a surprisingly short time. With the exception of a few experimental vehicles, the Soviet Union did not produce its first domestic tank, the MS-1, based on the design of the American-made Walter Christie, until 1929. Four years later, Russian factories were turning out 3,000 tanks and other armored vehicles per year. Similar rapid growth occurred in aircraft, artillery, and other armaments.
This official sanction and a generous supply of equipment were the bases for a steady growth in mechanized force structure. The first experimental tank regiment had been formed in Moscow in 1927, using 60 foreign-built tanks. Three years later, in May 1930, the first experimental mechanized brigade appeared, composed of armored, motorized infantry, artillery, and reconnaissance units.
The development of the Deep Operation called for more and larger mechanized formations in order to penetrate enemy defenses and then maintain the momentum of a rapid exploitation. On 9 March 1932, a special commission of the People's Commissariat of Defense recommended creation of armored forces of all sizes to perform specific combat functions at every level of command. Each rifle (infantry) division of 12,500 men (18,000 in wartime) would include a single tank battalion (57 light tanks), and each cavalry division a mechanized regiment (64 light tanks) . Tank brigades formed the general reserve force for each rifle corps and army, and separate mechanized corps, acting as the "mobile group" of Civil War days, would conduct exploitations deep into the enemy's rear areas. These corps, each composed of two tank and one rifle brigade, were in fact slightly larger than a Western division. Each such brigade integrated the different combined arms—tanks, motorized infantry, artillery, engineers, and antiaircraft guns.
The Soviets formed their first two mechanized corps in the fall of 1932, three years before Germany created its first panzer divisions. Over the next several years, the number and complexity of armored, mechanized, and airborne formations grew steadily. Airborne forces, in particular, were elite units, composed in large part of dedicated Communists who had learned to parachute in the Komsomol youth organization. Large-scale exercises tested the theory of combined mechanized and airborne offensives. At the same time, the rest of the Red Army gradually shifted to regular-cadre composition, eliminating the mixed territorialcadre system. By 1 June 1938, the Red Army was a full-time force of 1.5 million men.
Of course, Soviet mechanization was not perfect. Just as in prewar Germany, the majority of tanks produced in Russia were very lightly armored, relying on speed for protection. Radio communication, a necessity for battlefield maneuvering, was notoriously unreliable. The mechanized corps proved so large and unwieldy that in 1935 its authorized size was temporarily reduced. Because the average Soviet soldier of the period lacked experience as a driver or mechanic, the equipment broke down and wore out at a rapid pace. In retrospect, some Soviet historians have admitted that the emphasis on mechanized, offensive warfare caused the Red Army to neglect planning and training for the defensive, at least at the operational level. Left undisturbed, the Soviet "tankists" would have required several more years to work out such problems.
Nevertheless, in the mid-1930s, the Soviet Union led the world in production, planning, and fielding of mechanized forces. Perhaps most important, the Red Army was well ahead of its German counterparts in both theoretical concepts and practical experience of mechanized warfare. In Germany, Heinz Guderian and other armored weapons theorists received only limited support from civil and military leaders—panzer units were as much a part of Hitler's diplomatic bluff as they were a real instrument of warfare, and their use was not integrated into official German doctrine. Tank production took a back seat to aircraft for the new German Air Force, and those tanks that were produced were often assigned to infantry support units and other organizations outside Guderian's control. At the same time, the German Army as a whole was only just beginning to expand beyond the severe limits dictated by the Treaty of Versailles. In short, had the Germans and Soviets fought in the mid-1930s, the Red Army would have had a considerable advantage over its opponent.
AN ARMY IN DISARRAY,1937-1939
By 1939, that advantage had disappeared, and the Red Army was in disarray. Of the many causes of this change, the most serious was Stalin's purge of the Soviet leadership. Beginning in 1934, he systematically eliminated any potential competitors for power throughout the Soviet government. By 1937, only the Red Army remained untouched.
I. V. Stalin had always loved the Red Army but suspected its professional leadership. During the Civil War, Stalin had served as a political officer on various fronts. In the process, he developed a deep suspicion of professional soldiers (his cavalry cronies excepted), especially the ex-tsarist military experts who helped run the Red Army but, on occasion, betrayed it. Stalin was quick to blame professionals, including M. N. Tukhachevsky and A. I. Egorov, for every setback, conveniently evading his own share of responsibility for the Soviet Civil War defeat in front of Warsaw.
Once peace returned, Stalin remained uncomfortable with innovative theorists such as Tukhachevsky. Like his fellow-dictator Adolf Hitler, Stalin valued loyalty, orthodoxy, and intellectual subservience. Independent ideas disturbed him. His only close military associate, Defense Commissar K. E. Voroshilov, encouraged Stalin's prejudices in this regard. Voroshilov was an unimaginative crony who executed orders without question. He himself resented Tukhachevsky's intellectual brilliance because it highlighted his own limited abilities as a commander. As a result, Voroshilov eagerly repeated rumors of a military conspiracy centered around Tukhachevsky. Tukhachevsky's past service under Trotsky and his previous extended visit to Germany provided some shreds of fact to support allegations that he was a Trotskyite or German spy. On 27 May 1937, Marshal Tukhachevsky and a number of his colleagues were arrested.
What was unusual about the army purges was that they began without the public show trials that had accompanied all previous steps in Stalin's reign of terror. All the court martial proceedings were secret and hasty. One loyal officer, E. B. Gamarnik, committed suicide rather than serve on the board that tried Tukhachevsky, but other senior officers, including Marshals S. M. Budenny and V. K. Bliukher, participated willingly. On 12 June 1937, Voroshilov simply announced the execution of Deputy Defense Commissar Tukhachevsky, the commanders of two military districts, and six other high-ranking colleagues.
For the next four years, right up to the German invasion, Soviet officers disappeared with alarming frequency. Of an estimated 75,000 to 80,000 officers in the armed forces, at least 30,000 were imprisoned or executed. They included three out of five marshals; all 11 deputy defense commissars; all commanders of military districts; the commanders and chiefs of staff of both the Navy and the Air Force; 14 of 16 army commanders; 60 of 67 corps commanders; 136 of 199 division commanders; 221 of 397 brigade commanders; and 50 percent of all regimental commanders. Another 10,000 officers were dismissed from the service in disgrace.
Stalin's basis for identifying traitors was tenuous at best. Few, if any, of the commanders convicted had committed identifiable crimes. The only consistent criterion appeared to be elimination of all senior leaders who did not owe their careers to Stalin and who, therefore, might pose a challenge to his authority. Of those imprisoned, 15 percent were later rehabilitated for war service, some leaving prison camp directly to command a division or larger unit. Perhaps the most famous former prisoner was K. K. Rokossovsky, who ended the war as a marshal of the Soviet Union commanding a front. The purges were still continuing when war engulfed the Soviet Union in 1941.
In 1937-1939, however, the rehabilitation of purged figures was well in the future. An entire generation of commanders, government administrators, and factory managers was decimated. Younger men, often lacking the experience or training, found themselves thrust into high command. In 1938, for example, then-Major S. S. Biriuzov reported to the 30th Irkutsk Rifle Division after completing staff officer training. He found that the commander, political commissar, chief of staff, and all but one primary staff officer of the division had been arrested, leaving him as division commander, a position that called for at least three ranks higher and ten more years of experience than he possessed. Stars fell on the Voroshilov General Staff Academy class of 1937. The class graduated a year ahead of schedule and included such future luminaries as A. M. Vasilevsky, A. I. Antonov, and M. V. Zakharov, who were thrust precipitously into high staff and command positions. Training and maintenance naturally suffered, paving the way for the disastrous performance of the Red Army in 1939-1942. Moreover, although Deep Battle and the Deep Operation remained official operational concepts of the Red Army, the sudden death of Tukhachevsky threw both concepts and the mechanized force structure into ill repute. Many of Tukhachevsky's theoretical writings were recalled from public circulation and destroyed.
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), that great dress rehearsal for World War II, further slowed the development of Soviet arms. A limited number of Soviet tanks and tankers participated on the Republican side, just as the Germans and Italians provided equipment and men to support Francisco Franco. The Soviets suffered a number of setbacks. Their tanks were too lightly armored; they had improvised crews that often could not communicate with the Spanish-speaking infantry they supported; and in combat, the tanks tended to outrun the accompanying foot soldiers, which allowed the Fascist defenders to destroy the tanks with relative ease. D. G. Pavlov, chief of armored forces and one of the most senior Soviet officers to serve in Spain, returned home with an extremely pessimistic attitude. He concluded that the new mechanized formations were too large and clumsy to control, too vulnerable to artillery fire, and would have great difficulty penetrating prepared enemy defenses in order to conduct deep operations. In short, armor could not attack independently but had to be integrated with combined-arms functions.
In retrospect, other armies had similar difficulties with mechanization in the later 1930s. Except in France, all nations produced tanks that were inadequately armored and tended to use armor as independent, cavalry-reconnaissance units rather than in close cooperation with the other combat arms. Certainly German and Italian tankers experienced similar problems in Spain. In the Soviet case, however, the weaknesses described by Pavlov added fuel to the fires of indecision and suspicion started by the Great Purge.
In July 1939, a special commission convened in response to these criticisms reviewed the entire question of armored force organization. The commission was chaired by one of Stalin's cronies, Assistant Defense Commissar G. I. Kulik, and included such surviving famous names of the Russian Civil War as Marshals S. M. Budenny and S. K. Timoskenko. Few experienced armor officers or younger advocates of Tukhachevsky's ideas were allowed to participate in the commission's study. In August, the commission reached a compromise that directed the removal of the motorized infantry elements from tank corps (the name given to mechanized corps in 1938) and tank brigades, reducing such units to an infantrysupport role. The Kulik Commission did authorize the creation of four new motorized divisions that closely resembled the German panzer division of the day and could be used either as a mobile group for a limited penetration or as part of a larger cavalry-mechanized group for a deeper, front-level exploitation. Although the tank corps were formally ordered abolished by 15 January 1940, two of them survived in practice. Overall, Soviet mechanized concepts and force structure had regressed to a far more primitive, less ambitious stage than they had reached in 1936.
LAKE KHASAN AND KHALKIN-GOL
The last portion of the Red Army to feel the brunt of the great purges was in Siberia and the Far East, where distance from Moscow combined with an external threat to limit the disorganizing effects of Stalin's bloodbath. The Japanese incursions into Manchuria in 1931 and into China proper six years later brought Moscow and Tokyo into an undeclared conflict that flared twice in the late 1930s. The Soviet government reacted strongly to these challenges in a successful, if costly, effort to deter Japan from open war.
During July and August 1938, the two powers repeatedly clashed over possession of a narrow spit of land at Lake Khasan, seventy miles southeast of Vladivostok. On 11 August, the hard-pressed Japanese asked for an armistice, eventually withdrawing after suffering 526 killed and 900 wounded. The Soviet performance was characterized by frontal attacks and poor combined-arms coordination, resulting in 792 Soviet troups dead or missing and 2,752 wounded.
Undeterred, the Japanese chose a remote area on the Khalkhin-Gol, the river between Outer Mongolia and the Japanese satellite state of Manchukuo, or Manchuria, to next test the Soviets' will. In May 1939, the Japanese occupied the area around the village of Nomonhan, hoping to challenge Soviet strength in an area where poor roads would restrict the size of forces that could be brought to bear. After an initial rebuff, however, command of the Soviet forces went to Corps Commander (Komkor) G. K. Zhukov, one of Tukhachevsky's most brilliant disciples. Undetected by the Japanese, Zhukov massed 57,000 men, 498 tanks, and 385 armored cars organized into three rifle divisions, two tank brigades, three armored car brigades, one machine gun brigade, and an airborne brigade. At 0545 hours on Sunday, 20 August 1939, he struck. A recently mobilized territorial division bogged down in front of the Japanese defenses, but, at the same time, Soviet mobile forces moved around both flanks and encircled most of the Japanese troops. A Japanese attempt to break out of the trap failed on 27 August. On 15 September the Japanese signed an agreement in Moscow to end the undeclared war. The brief operation cost the Soviets 7,974 killed and 15,251 wounded and the Japanese 61,000 killed, wounded, or captured.
Khalkhin-Gol had two major results. First, the Japanese government decided that it had seriously underestimated the Soviets, and Tokyo looked elsewhere for new spheres of influence. This contributed to the ultimate conflict with the United States, but it also secured the Soviet back door throughout World War II as Japan refrained from joining Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union. Secondly, Zhukov began his meteoric rise, taking with him many of his subordinates, who later became prominent wartime commanders. For example, Zhukov's chief of staff at Khalkhin-Gol, S. I. Bogdanov, later commanded 2d Guards Tank Army, one of the elite mechanized formations that defeated Germany.
Khalkhin-Gol demonstrated the viability of Soviet theory and force structure, but it was the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal picture. One week after Zhukov's victory, the German Army invaded Poland, beginning the campaign that brought Germany and the Soviet Union into direct contact and conflict in Eastern Europe. The Red Army was woe-fully unprepared for the challenge.
List of Maps and Illustrations
1. The Red Army, 1918-1939
2. Armed Truce, 1939-1941
3. Opposing Armies, 1941
First Period of War: June 1941-November 1942
4. German Onslaught
5. Soviet Response
6. To Moscow
7. Rasputitsa, Spring 1942
8. Operation Blau: The German Drive on Stalingrad
Second Period of War: November 1942-December 1943
9. Operation Uranus: The Destruction of the Sixth Armym
10. Rasputitsa and Operational Pause, Spring 1943
11. Kursk to the Dnepr
Third Period of War: January 1944-1945
12. Third Winter of War
13. Operation Bagration: The Death of Army Group Center
14. Clearing the Flanks
15. Battles in the Snow, Winter 1945
16. End Game
Appendixes: Statistical Tables
About the authors
Posted May 24, 2013
Glante is the acknowledged master of the Eastern Front in WWII. If you are looking for a single volume history of that, you can do no better than this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2010
When Titans clashed, How The Red Army Stopped Hitler, by David Glantz and co-author Jonathan House, is an informative look at the battles in the east from June 1939 until May 1945. Using classified archival studies documents there were kept hidden from the public until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990's, the reader is treated to a new and updated account of the war between Russia and Nazi Germany. This is quite refreshing, since old accounts of the war were mainly from the German perspective and did not give the whole story. With extensive research and the newly released studies, one learns first hand about the main fighting of the war. This is one of the best accounts of this period with complete order of battle information, maps and much more. Since the brunt of the war was fought in the east-something that is often given less importance to the victories of the American and British forces in the west-this is an important part of history, that is finally making it to the forefront.
The book divides the war in the east to three different periods. The first, June 1944-November 1942, details the German Blitzkreig that almost decimated the Soviets Army in a very short span. Unprepared for the war and with Stalins earlier purges of many of his top officers, the soviet Army was in complete disarray. Old and obsolete order of battle doctrines were still in place and nobody dared to challenge it for fear of punishment. But as things got desperate, and as the Germans were closing in on Moscow and other key cities, Stalin knew that changes had to be made and be made quickly. With a huge army that was loosing millions of men in the course of a couple of months, doctrines were changed along with fighting strategies and Stalin began to listen to his generals. The Germans still were gaining territory, but their well oiled machine was slowing down and took its first big defeat at Stalingrad.
The second period, November 1942-December 1943, picks up where the Soviets start to regain some of its losses with decisive victories in Kursk and the retaking of areas to the west. Here, neither side had a overwhelming strategic advantage in numbers, but the Soviets had slowly developed the maneuver and deception necessary to improve their forces at a critical time. Also, the Wehrmacht was clearly in decline in late 1943. Finally, in the final third period, January 1944 to the end of the war in May 1945, the Soviets regained lost areas of Russia, moved into Poland and the Balkans, with the final drive to Berlin. At this point the Soviet fighting machine was unstoppable but it needed to place emphasis on sophisticated maneuver attacks due to a manpower crisis and last ditch fierce German resistance at the end of the war.
This well documented book is a fast read, and is recommended for the World War Two history buff as well as for the casual reader. The Later will enjoy this book because it does not encompass itself with too much technical jargon (although there are extensive statistical charts in the appendix of the book), and gives a full account of this critical time in world history. The largest and deadliest battles ever were fought on the Eastern Front, with the Battle of Kursk for example in July 1943, being the largest tank battle ever fought with over two million men. When Titans Clashed, is one of many historical works by David Glantz, and is a book that should be read by all. Check it out.
Posted November 17, 2002
Great Book in illustrating all the reasons the Russians were able to defeat Hitler. Tells about the stupidity of Hitler, the intelligence of Stalin (let his generals run the war), and how the almost unlimited resources of the Russians had to be conserved for victory by changing their tactics. Easy to read and understand, stimulates thinking about what, if anything, the Germans could have done to win.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 18, 2009
No text was provided for this review.