Barbarossa Derailed: The Battle for Smolensk 10 July-10 September 1941, Volume 2
by David Glantz
Helion & Company
This book is the second part of David Glantz’s four volume in-depth study of the Battle for Smolensk, a key stage of German attempt to breakthrough the Soviet lines in summer 1941 as part of Operation Barbarossa. Glantz is a formidable authority on the Soviet Army, and draws upon a wealth of primary documents, many of which have been made available for the first time.
Barbarossa has long been seen as a failure for the Germans, but one which saw several tactical victories and inflicted huge losses on the Red Army. Utilising the Blitzkrieg tactics that had proved so successful in the early stages of the war, Field Marshal von Bock’s Army Group Centre had several early successes, advancing 500km in 25 days, inflicting over 600,000 Soviet casualties, and capturing Smolensk. However the Germans experienced many transport and logistical problems, and grossly underestimated the number and tenacity of the Soviet troops pitted against them. These problems contributed to Hitler’s decision to abandon the drive towards Moscow in favour of attacking key industrial areas in the north and south.
Glantz uses the documentary evidence to argue that the Battle for Smolensk has been largely underplayed by historians, and that in fact the battle exacted a larger toll on the Germans than previously thought and contributed markedly to the failure of the whole Barbarossa campaign. The narrative is supplemented by detailed operational orders, and a comprehensive bibliography, appendices and index, as well as photographs of the key commanders.
Whilst some readers may find Glantz’s style a little dry, this is operational history at its best, meticulously researched and presented for the reader to analyse. The extent to which Operation Barbarossa was in fact derailed by Soviet resistance around Smolensk is debatable; however Glantz’s study provides an excellent starting point for that debate. The complete set of books – a two volume narrative of the campaign, followed by a volume of translated orders and a volume of maps – will be a valuable addition to the bookshelf of anyone who has an interest in the Barbarossa campaign.
This review was first published in Warfare Magazine
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Barbarossa Derailed: The Battle for Smolensk 10 July-10 September 1941 Volume 2. The German Offensives on the Flanks & the Third Soviet Counteroffensive, 25 August-10 September 1941