- Soviet General Staff Edited and translated by Richard W. Harrison
- ARRSE Rating
- 4 Mushroom Heads
While it's clearly intended for serious study by Red Army officers identifying lessons for any future armoured excursion into a defended locale, I learned some completely new information. The Red Army carried out an Airborne Assault during this phase of the war, not very successfully and the Brigade that actually jumped in ended up operating with local Partisan groupings. Before the rest of the drop was cancelled and the remainder of the Division fought on conventionally. It is definitely a “big picture” description as it rarely speaks of anything below the Divisional level for the first part of the book, with no real insight into the actual conduct of the fighting.
The main impression I took away from the first part was that the Soviets were their own worst enemy, it constantly hammers home the fact that the logistical sinews of the operation were overstretched and very poorly planned. The distances quoted for the supply lines were, even for the vast emptiness of the Russian Steppe epic, with the impact of the weather on the supply routes and ability to move supplies forward being compromised. The nature of the various supply methods used was also illuminating, the amount of feed required for draught animals was an eye-opener. As was the fact that both the Soviets and Waffen SS had large Cavalry formations deployed during this phase of the war.
The various tables show that even though Soviet doctrine called for set levels of Combat loads to be available, these were very rarely achieved, especially in the various artillery ammunition types. I also found it eye-opening that amongst the supplies the Soviets thought essential for fighting troops was Tobacco, ranked in importance with food.
The only real descriptions of any tactical nature are in the second part, which is much more narrow in focus and actually goes right down into detail when describing the assault crossings made by the Red Army Engineers. Again there is frequent use of tables to show what was expected to be there, what actually was there and what actually survived use during the crossings.
There are biographical notes for important figures with the Soviet command structure, and I was quite surprised by the number of commanders who had served in the Imperial Russian Army. As for the translation I'm no expert so it all looks great to me, the only stylistic note I'll raise is that certain levels of command are italicised, consequently my internal narrator (maybe you don't have one, I do, it's probably a sign of something or other) started to emphasise it, and it became very annoying very quickly. There are no illustrations and all of the mapping is on the strategic level with tiny little map markings with various hatchings to depict phases and different commands, which frankly became quite wearying to decipher, it would have been easier if they had been colourised with a simpler key.
Overall it is an excellent book, at a strategic level describing a crucial phase of the War. Four out of five Mushroom heads.