- Paperback: 411 pages
- Publisher: McFarland (April 28, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786448970
- ISBN-13: 978-0786448975
- Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.9 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,558,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Architect of Soviet Victory in World War II: The Life and Theories of G.S. Isserson
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"excellent...an essential read"--The NYMAS Review.
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The Red Army's leading operational theorist in the 1930s, Georgii Samoilovich Isserson was the mastermind behind the "deep operation"--the cornerstone of Soviet offensive operations in World War II. Drawing from an in-depth analysis of Isserson's numerous published and unpublished works, his arrest file in the former KGB archives, and interviews with his family, this book provides the first full-length biography of the man. The bulk of the narrative deals with the flowering of his intellectual talents from 1929 through 1941. Additional chapters deal with Isserson's arrest and his remaining 35 years, 14 of which were spent in labor camps and internal exile.
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The book is arranged sequentially, in twelve chapters. Isserson's early life and introduction to military service are described in standard bibliographical style in the first two chapters. However, the next three chapters divert from the details of Isserson's life and focus on his writing and how it contributed to Soviet Deep Battle/Deep Operations theory in 1932-36. As Harrison describes, Isserson built upon several existing theories by other Soviet officers, primarily Triandafillov and Tukhachevsky, but took their tentative Deep Operations concept into a much riskier but much more decisive Deep Operations construct. As the author notes, mechanization was a critical component of this new theory, but it also included air operations, mobile artillery and paratroopers. Ultimately, Isserson's concept of mechanized corps Deep Operations resulted in the tank armies of the Second World War that stamped the Wehrmacht flat. In one of the great ironies, Isserson missed the entire war because of his prison sentence but others who used his theories in battle were quick to claim credit.
Harrison's book is also extremely useful for the manner in which it demonstrates how the Red Army developed, tested and then implemented its new doctrines. Despite all the put-downs of the Red Army by German authors for decades, it is hard not to read this book and come away with the impression that the Red Army came up with both the tools and the doctrine in 1936 to succeed at mechanized warfare but Stalin threw it all away in the purges. In many respects, this book is something of a game-changer for a number of reasons. First, it shows a more nuanced picture of the Red Army than even David M. Glantz has been able to depict. Second, it helps to explain the doctrinal basis of Soviet victory in better terms than heretofore existed. Third, if a significant person like Isserson was hidden by Soviet censorship for so long, it suggests that there is still important information about the Russo-German War which has yet to be revealed. Overall, this book is significant but not for the general reader and better suited for those with a test for military theory and doctrine.
The most impressive and enlightening chapters of this volume deal with Isserson's publications in the 1930s and Harrison's discussion and breakdown of the various ideas he expanded on as well as their foundations in wars from the nineteenth century and how they would be applied in future conflicts (including how much of that could be actually seen throughout the Eastern Front of the Second World War). Ideas on linear warfare in particular proved pertinent in how Isserson described the evolution of warfare into the First World War and how "deep operations" would continue to evolve warfare in future conflicts. His texts discussed meeting engagements, breakthrough operations, the creation of shock armies, cavalry-mechanized groups, the use of airborne forces, covering armies, and setting up defenses in-depth. Unfortunately, for all his intelligence and genius, Isserson never received the attention, praise or respect he deserved and in the post-Stalin period it was those figures who died accidentally (Triandafillov) or in the purges (Tukhachevskii, Yakir, Uborevich, Svechin, etc.) who received the majority of recognition for the improvements and advances the Red Army underwent in the 1930s before the purges lobbed off the "head" of the Red Army.
If there are any weaknesses here it is that Harrison seems to at times have become enamored with Isserson. There's no doubt this was an intelligent person, although he came with a very abrasive attitude toward his peers and whomever he considered beneath his intelligence, but it appears Harrison continuously ascribes the majority of the research and advances made within the concept of "deep operations" solely to him (granted, he does trace their foundations to Triandafillov). More so, when mentioning any of his "students" while a lecturer at the General Staff Academy he treats Isserson as if he was their only mentor and his class(es) were the only ones that mattered (and his students included some of the most famous and well-respected commanding officers during the Second World War). Although there's enough source material to show that there was appreciation for Isserson as an instructor, in general it seems the author is putting a lot of emphasis on this point and is becoming more of a cheerleader for Isserson rather than a biographer. However, one can easily let this weakness pass as the information Harrison has found and unearthed makes an enormous contribution to our understanding of the Red Army's evolution in the interwar period and throughout the Second World War - something historians continue to study and evaluate to this day and will continue to do so as long as numerous archival holdings are consistently made off-limits to researchers by Russian authorities.