31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This work covers all the major Soviet offensives from the twin initiatives of Operations Mars and Uranus in November 1942 through the Rasputitsa in May, 1943. Operation Uranus, the encirclement of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, is not covered except to provide background for the offensives against the Rzhev and Demiansk salients at the same time. The author has previously covered the Mars (Rzhev salient) offensive in "Zhukov's Greatest Defeat" (1999)in more detail, but this volume adds materially to that work.
The offensives covered include:
Mars, November 1942 to December 1942
Demiansk, November 1942 to January 1943
Operation Gallop to Voroshilovgrad, January 1943 to February 1943
Mariupol (Donbas), February 1943
Central Offensives, Orel, Briansk & Smolensk,(3 operations, January-March 1943)
Polar Star (Demiansk) February 1943
Polar Star (Staraia Russa) March 1943 - Aprin 1943.
Author Glantz makes extensive use of operation plans, orders and reports presenting such documents in detail with short narratives sandwiched in between to tell the reader what happened on the ground. This makes for rather dull reading, but is necessary to accurately depict Soviet intentions and attempted movements rather than to gloss over these disappointments as only diversions or as having attained goals much less than what was originally stated as the objectives.
The second feature that is important is extensive order of battle information as well as strengths and casualties. Unfortunately it is difficult to follow the OB information in such short treatments.
As usual, author Glantz makes extensive use of maps in this volume appearing within a page or two of the narrative discussion to aid the reader in understanding the situations. Unfortunately, most of the maps are old German situation maps with Soviet units imposed on top and they are of such poor quality as to be almost unusable. The only really usable maps are those specifically drawn for this volume but they are in the minority. Many of the former have large blackened areas as from poor copier copies and the scales are so large that the place names and features are unrecognizable not to mention unit designations.
Although this work brings much newly released Soviet archival material to light, the lack of truly useful maps is a significant weakness. The author might well have been better advised to limit his coverage to only the Southern, Central or Northern Operational Areas in a single volume, provided better maps and greatly expanded his narratives instead of presenting just mainly operational plans and reports. In addition, although the actions and OB information on the German side are not the author's primary focus, they need to be expanded to provide a more coherent presentation of the battles. The author also does not expand on the personalities involved and most Soviet and German commanders are simply names used in passing without any depiction as to how those personalities influenced the battles. Lastly, author Glantz normally explains Soviet failures due to the "skillful and desperate" German defensive actions and counter-attacks. One suspects that more and different reasons may have been involved.
In short, this is a valuable work presenting material covered almost nowhere else. As such it is indispensible to the historian interested in the Eastern Front, but its deficiencies prohibit me from granting it a five star rating. Nonetheless, it is well worth the price as excepting two or three other works (at least two by author Glantz), the information contained within is not available elsewhere.
I recommend the purchase and reading of this book.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book covers the critical period of mid Nov, 1942 to early Apr 1943, and is the lynchpin that links the author's Stalingrad books and his Kursk book but unlike those books, this book covers action for most of the entire front and completes for Mr Glantz the battle coverage from spring 1942 to the end of August 1943.
Another reason for writing this book was to correct or expand on campaigns that were distorted or deliberately omitted in prior Soviet books and documents written since the war. There has been much attention given to Operations Uranus and Little Saturn but the author shows that during this time frame the Russians were busy along their entire front but fail to publicize some of it. The major offensive on the Rzhev salient and the siege at Demyansk are two examples where the Germans were able to repulsed a far superior force. Stalin did everything possible to hide these failures but Mr Glantz has worked hard to uncover the facts.
In the first chapter, Mr Glantz summarizes 4 pages of campaigns broken down by geographic sector, Front, axis of advance, and time frame that will be covered in the book. It includes campaigns at Rzhev, Demyansk, Voroshilovgrad, Mariupol, Orel, Voronezh, L'gov, Bryansk, Smolensk, Staraya Russa and Velikie Luki. The author spends the most time on the following campaign three areas: Orel-Bryansk-Smolensk, Voroshilovrad and Rzhev salient. The battle for Stalingrad or Hoth's relief attempt is mention only in passing.
There are nine chapters devoted to the above campaigns. The format is the same for each chapter: Introduction, Planning, the Offensive and Conclusions. The detailed Introduction and Planning stages were excellent and gave the reader a good understanding of the objectives. In most campaigns the Soviets gained ground but failed to achieve all of their objectives in any of their campaigns but suffered huge casualties in trying. Besides covering the operational aspects, Mr Glantz shows the Soviet battle plans were too ambitious and had little chance of complete success. He also shows that at a time of losing its momentum, the Germans maintained their composure and fought reasonably well, spoiling Soviet initiatives wherever possible.
Mr Glantz has written several other books that reflect this same period. I'll mention two: "From the Don to the Dnepr" and "Zhukov's Greatest Defeat". His new book updates but does not replace these books. For example in the assault at the Rzhev salient in this second book, I noticed a few changes on the maps, changing map scales and troop dispositions but nothing more drastic. (The maps in this reviewed book will help you follow the action when reading "Zhukov's Greatest Defeat" or "From the Don to the Dnepr". )
There are 117 black and white maps, set in a series that shows, for the most part, the daily or weekly progress each campaign is making. Many of the maps are good but some are shaded or complex and the labels are handwritten that will force most of us to use a magnifying glass. There are a few maps that are so blurred and darkened that they give little value. The author must have wanted to use authentic war maps that were used by the participants but should have considered using other maps after seeing the results on these few dark ones. This book not only gives updated operational coverage to the two above books, it adds roughly 50 additional small area maps to the sets found in those above books. Throughout the book you will see pointers to which maps are being discussed. This was a nice feature. It was a fairly easy process of reading from one of the earlier books and studying the corresponding maps in this reviewed book. This book along with its maps fills in an important part of the timeline as the author works his way to the end of the war.
Though I haven't described it in great detail, the tactical coverage in this book is good and the narrative is supported with communiques, orders and after action report fragments. It will probably satisfy the needs of many but you'll have to read those other books to get comprehensive coverage. Mr Glantz also proves, while describing the operational aspects, his two overriding objectives. First, the Soviets were extremely aggressive and campaigned along most of the front during this period. Secondly, Glantz using the official Soviet government's "History of the Great Patriotic War" as reference, shows the Soviets highlighted their victories and downplayed or even erased their losses in their history books.
This makes the author's comments in "Conclusions" atypical. Instead of analyzing the overall operational effectiveness, Mr Glantz talks about his attempt to uncover and publish information that has been deliberately kept quiet or minimized. He does this by describing the absence or distortion of key information in certain key books that have been relied on for decades. It gives one a reason to confirm information coming out of Russia in the 1990s onward instead of holding it as gospel.
Mr Glantz also provides a 35 page Notes section that can be particularly helpful, especially if you're a history detective and can speak German and Russian. A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary sources is included as is an Index. There is no formal Order of Battle for either side but there are discussions of the different divisions making up Armies in the narrative.
This book, like Mr Glantz's other books is Russian-centric and is for the serious student of the war who wants to know all there is to know about it militarily. The operational coverage of the battles is good especially on the Southwestern Axis and the Western Axis. The format and operational deliverance is like most of the author's other books; if you liked his earlier books, you'll like this book. If you thought his other books dry then this book will be no different. The author importantly fills holes in the combat timeline that many have missed and if you're interested in having comprehensive operational coverage of the war then this will be an important addition to your library.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
David Glanz has written a series of books dealing with various Soviet offensives/campaigns during WWII, all exhaustively researched and largely well written. It's too bad that he wrote one book too many on the general subject, borrowed heavily from his previous works, and crossed the line from entertaining to boring, even to causing me to lose patience reading the work.
As said, I purchased and read Glanz's previous books on assorted Soviet offensives aginst the Nazi German invaders in the period 1941-1944. Several of these other offensives were totally unknown to me, and quite informative. I expected this book's title to delve deeply into the known Stalingrad counteroffensive of November 1942 - February 1943, adding new insights and facts about what transpired. Instead, the reader was taken literally from the peaks of the Caucases Mountain range to the swamps outside Leningrad, for Glanz wanted to show that the whole Russian front was involved with pushing - hopefully crushing - the Nazi foe back to the border. The reader was then treated to minute description of army, corp, even division level units, the number of which began to quickly boggle the mind, making it most difficult to follow. Compound that level of recitation by six or seven times (one for each offensive along the front), and I challenge anyone to come away from this book refreshed and enlightened. Quite the contrary: I almost felt like the poor German Landser in Russia at the time, being attacked by faceless Red hordes differentiated only by their parent unit, with no respite in sight. At some point I wondered why I continued reading the book.
A former positive for Glanz had been the quality of maps provided in his books: they reflected the major terrain features and bodies of soldiers, with arrows to show movement. Alas, in this book Glanz's maps were anything but uniformly well presented. In fact, about a third were so full of information (these based on marked maps used by the combatants at the time), that it became a blob of black symbols and lines across a white background. Totally uninformative, even distracting to the narrative.
If one wants an almost sterile compendium of units available for the Soviet and German sides for a given region at a certain time on the Eastern Front during WWII, this would be the only book one would have to buy. To get the full flavor of battle and how it affected the various units during a given offensive in WWII on the Eastern Front, then get the previous books. They're chock full of facts, but they're easier to read.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2009
This work describes the Soviet offensive plan in the winter of 1942/43. What is "new" about this work is that he shows that the offensive at Stalingrad and afterwards was not the only offensive on the Eastern Front in early 1943 - in fact, the Soviets were attacking along the full length of the front. The other offensives were not mere diversionary operations, but intended to encircle and destroy both Army Group North and Army Group Center. Since these operations did not succeed, they have been de-emphasized in subsequent Soviet history. Furthermore, in the south, the Soviet offensive had far more ambitious objectives than is generally realized, and thus Manstein's defeat of this offensive is more significant than is generally realized.
Much of the book is dry reading - this division went here and did this, this division went here and did that - but Glantz's analysis of Soviet plans and their execution is well worth reading.
I agree with the other reviewers that the maps are the major weakness of this book. Many of them are so hard to read they're basically worthless. A dark photocopy of a blurry original doesn't help the reader very much at all. Too bad Glantz couldn't get better graphics support!
At the end he refers to this book as being in a "series", and I'm not clear what he means by that. He is also doing a Stalingrad series with a different publisher, and I'm not sure if this book is part of that series or a different series.
On the whole, an excellent work, and if you are a Glantz fan you will want to own this one.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Ive read the two prior books in this trilogy, but this one is a drag.
For me, its dreary, and boring...one huge series of battles with many pages of orders and virtually NO first person things which make these documents doable.
Ive read lots of Mr Glantz's booka and respect the man. I do not have to feel the same way for this book. WmRD
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2013
Usually the winners of a conflict write thier own history for the people ( "Vae Victis" said the Gaul Brenno to the defeated Romans) and so a lot of unsuccesful allied operations misteriously disappeared from the reports and from the books of history.
This book tells you all the Red Army winter offensive on 1942-43 and not just the successful operation Uranus (the encirclement of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad):
1. Soviet Offensive operations along the souhtwestern axis (Prosecutions of the operation Uranus) : Operation Gallop (Southwestern Front's Voroshilovgrad (Donbass) Offensive + Southern Front's Mariupol Offensive
2. Main winter Soviet offensive (Operation Mars/Jupiter) aimed to the destruction of German Army Group Center (November 1942)
3. Soviet offensive operations along the Western (Central ) axis: offensives against Orel, Bryansk, Smolensk
4. Soviet offensive operations along the Northwestern axis: the Leningrad, Volhov, Northwestern Fronts' operation Polar Star against Demiansk , to free Leningrad from the encirclement and finally to destroy the German Army Group North.
This book restores the full scope of these failed or partially Soviet offensives to History and also it reassesses the impact of the Von Manstein's fabulous Counterstrokes in the Donbass and Kharkhow regions concluding that their impact was that a strategic counteroffensive.
The book is based on a huge historical research and it is accompanied by all the orders sent by the Stavka to the Fronts and from the Fronts to the armies.
It is an outstanding masterpiece !!!
If you are interested to know more about the failed huge operation Mars , I recommend you the book, from the same author, "Zhukow's greatest defeat".
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book describes the Russian effort after Stalingrad to destroy the German army in Russia after Stalingrad. It is written by David Glantz, who knows more about the Second World War battles between Russia and Germany than any other living person. The battles described in this book are not well know in the West and are very seldom mentioned, let alone described, in other books on the Eastern front. Hitler lost the Second World War fighting Russia, not on the Western Front fighting America and Great Britian. As history, this book fills a void-and is highly recommended.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The way that this book is written is that it combines text written by Glantz with that of original documents. Whilst no doubt a good way of conveying the Soviet response to specific events the way the book is written means that it is not a page turner.
It covers the Soviet offensives in late 1942 early 1943. Generally most histories concentrate on the successful Soviet offensive which surrounded the German Sixth Army and then destroyed it. However this was only one of three offensives launched by the Soviets at this time. The operation against Army Group Centre used more tanks than that against Stalingrad but failed. As did the offensive around Lenningrad.
Glantz deals with all three offensives. Whilst only the offensive against Stalingrad was effective it tore a gapping hole in the German line and forced the retreat of the forces which had been operating in the Caucuses. The Soviets then launched further offensives against Army Group South trying to expel them from the Ukraine and Southern Russia. The Germans transferred forces from the West and under Manstien they launched a series of attacks which crippled the Soviets and forced them out of the Ukraine.
Glantz sees the offensive of Manstien as of critical importance in prolonging the war for another couple of years. The Soviets in early 1943 clearly thought that they were in the position to collapse the whole German line.
Previous histories have tended to leave out the Soviet failures and concentrate exclusively on the Stalingrad theatre. Glantz is famous for brining to public attention the Soviet defeat of Operation Mars the attack against Army Group Centre which is discussed again in this volume. His book again illustrates how much of an effort it was for the Soviets to defeat the Germans and the enormous cost.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2009
This is an important, well written, well-documented book that should be on the shelf of every serious student of World War II and more importantly on the desk of anyone interested in the war on the Eastern Front. Glantz is a first-rate historian and one of the true experts on the Russo-German conflict. Highly Recommended.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2012
After reading this very expensive and massive volume, I can only have the lowest regards for Stalin, Zhukov and entire Russian high command. They definitely did not regard their soldiers as human beings. But their replacement system is second to none as they were able to sustained so many major offensives immediately after the surrender of German Sixth Army at Stalingrad.
The book traces the post Stalingrad period Soviet military offensives, all of which failed terribly, some even worst. It explained why in many ways, why German's defeat at Stalingrad failed to provide a the decisive defeat and why Kursk became the swan song for Germany's efforts in Russia.
The book tell the story mostly from the Soviet's point of view, using their operational orders as a prime source as the author made them available. This does make the book bit more of a tedious reading but it is also quite informative. The major downfall of this book were the maps. They are to say, simply terrible. Useless in most cases even for reference material. For the price I paid for this book, I expected higher quality of reproduction or at least, better modern maps. That brought the book down in my estimate.
The book was written after the author wrote a book on Operation Mars, Zhukov's classical defeat where overwhelming numbers were useless against superior leadership and skillful deployments. I thought that operation probably didn't belong in this book since it was fought during the Stalingrad siege, not after it. The author already wrote a great book on it, outside of using it as a filler material, Mars should have been left out.
The book simply isn't written for novice readers. You should be a well experienced Eastern Front reader to get anything out of this book.
Overall, an tedious but informative book that suffered from terrible maps that served no practical purpose for the narrative.