- Paperback: 415 pages
- Publisher: Ian Allan Publishing (January 7, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0711034680
- ISBN-13: 978-0711034686
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #964,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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However, taking a single point of view is valid only as long as the author takes the time and makes the effort to correlate the information with German accounts, and use a bit of common sense. Glantz certainly has the intellect and expertise to do this, but does not.
In general Glantz is my favorite Eastern Front historian. He has no real bias in his books, and several of them have been excellent. That is not the case with this effort.
Glantz did use German sources for 5% or so of the book. However, to a large extent he took what was written by Soviet Generals in the 1940's/50's/60's about the battle, and simply passed it on without critical comment. This was a time when politcal correctness regarding the Red Army made it almost impossible for anyone's memoirs to be totally objective.
The result was a book where the Soviets seeminly performed well in virtually every indivual engagement. In the first portions of the battle, whenever German Panzer divisions would counter-attack, they would lose 40-50-60 tanks in each encounter, along with extremely heavy infantry casualties. Keep in mind that the typical panzer division at this time had just over 100 panzers in it. Individual machine gun sections were credited with killing over 300 Germans.
Somehow at the end of the book, these same burnt-out panzer and infantry divisions were back at full strength and closing the ring on the exhausted Red Army troops. Certainly the Germans had no reserves of panzers to bring these divisions up to speed in a few days. It is also unlikely that they had the overwhelming superiority in guns that the Red Army tables list in the first portion of the book (later tables have entirely different numbers).
Glantz just passes these figures on without question.
When he gets to casualty figures near the end of the book, he uses a few sources. First he uses a German tally of 239,000 POWs. He then lists a Soviet estimate of 13,000 dead and 207,000 POW's. Then he brings up another Soviet source with quotes an "even higher" casualty rate. It states of the 765,000 troops involved, there are only 170,000 dead and POW's combined. It states there were over 106,000 wounded. I think a fascinating book could be written about how the Soviet Army could evacuate 106,000 wounded men from the Kharkov pocket. I understand that the pocket was not closed until late in the battle but it had to be the greatest casualty evacuation operation in military history. Possibly they had a large tunnel that they used.
If you take the above numbers as gospel, (765K total troops/170K dead/POWs), then the Russians suffered less than 20% irreplaceable losses to their troops at Kharkov, which is probably as low as any operation in the first 3 years of the war. Instead of the "anatomy of a military disaster", it may have been the Red Army's best effort to date...if you believe much of what is recounted here.
A few pages later Glantz lists addtional German claims of higher Soviet Casualties that do not match his first set of German estimates. He makes absolutely no attempt to reconcile these 4 sources. He just throws them out there. Possibly he had a plane to catch.
I just rechecked the book, since I thought I just missed this, but upon review, I can see he makes absolutely no attempt quantify German losses. The book gives no clue as to whether they lost 20,000 or 200,000 men. Glantz evidently did not think German casualty figures were relevant in this battle I suppose.
Glantz's books run the gammet from great to pedantic and uneven. Many of his efforts make me suspect that he is producing quantity rather than quality work. This was clearly a book that was thrown together with lots of information about units attacking and retreating in the area around Khakov (the maps in the paperback version are numerous but too small to read without a magnifying glass)...but with not enough critical assessement from Glantz.
Although it contains some valuable and interesting information, I cannot recommend this book.
Unfortunately this book was so heavy as to be impenetrable. As other reviewers have pointed out, this book is largely reprints of Soviet reports made in the aftermath of the battle. If you want a very deeply detailed description of the battle, to the battalion level, along with the comments of the Soviet officers who critiqued the battle, this is for you. But it wasn't much help to me and I haven't been able to find another book on the battle. If anyone can suggest a slightly lighter, easier to read book, please let me know.