Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Drive on Moscow, 1941: Operation Taifun and Germany's First Great Crisis of World War II by Niklas Zetterling

As I'm reading through 'The Drive on Moscow' I'm somewhat confused as to where this volume actually fits into the history of the Eastern Front. More so, I'm confused about why it was written in the first place. The title speaks for itself; Zetterling and Frankson have decided to put together a volume detailing Germany's first 'great crisis of World War II'. But what separates this volume from a host of others that detail the exact same operations, highlight the same types of memoirs and reminiscences, and reach similar if not altogether the same conclusions? If a reader wants a journalistic account of the battle for Moscow, they can turn to Nagorski's 'The Greatest Battle' (although riddled with weaknesses, mistakes, and omissions, it's an easy enough read). If you're interested in the Soviet point of view, and a more academic work, see Rodric Braithwaite's "Moscow 1941" or 'The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat' by Michael Jones. And if perhaps the German point of view is more interesting, you can consult the various monographs put out by David Stahel in the last few years.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in this text that separates it from other studies. There is the usual reliance on German general memoirs, sprinkled with a few diaries to give the reader an impression of what the frontline soldiers themselves overcame to reach Moscow. The text contains the same rehashing of the terrible weather the Wehrmacht had to overcome (both mud and then snow), the same logistical difficulties and mediocre Soviet resistance that really did little to nothing until somehow the Germans exhausted themselves with their long distance advances against the rains and snows of the east. Some Cold War era memoirs from the Soviet side make an appearance, with the usual reliance on Konev, Rokossovsky, Zhukov, Shtemenko, and a few others that provide absolutely no new or original information on the battle. The Soviet side, for all intents and purposes, still remains a mystery compared to the German side of things (even though some newer Russian studies are utilized). If you've read about the German advance on Moscow (Operation Typhoon), then you've read the majority of this book already. If you're new to the topic, you won't want to start here as the amount of information provided is there for those already familiar with the Eastern Front. For those who are acquainted with the Eastern Front, you'll find little analysis, and no new or original research, but the appendices might prove useful if you're eager for detailed orders of battle and information on losses. So in the end, I'm back to where I started this review; I'm simply confused as to why this volume was written and for whom.

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