Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rollback: The Red Army's Winter Offensive along the Southwestern Strategic Direction, 1942-43 Translated and Edited by Richard W. Harrison

"Rollback: The Red Army's Winter Offensive along the Southwestern Strategic Direction, 1942-43" is a compilation of a few articles written by military authors and for internal military studies followed up by a selection of translated documents from archival collections previously released in Russia.  The articles range from the 1940s into the 1950s and one can see minor differences in the time periods with how operations were discussed and analyzed.

For those familiar with works by David Glantz, these articles read in a similar way but are usually less readable with a dry, technical voice recounting fact after fact.  The majority of the action takes place parallel to or right after the Stalingrad operations being conducted in late 1942 and early 1943, so keeping that in mind it's no wonder that you have more limited operations going on simultaneously that are relying on a few armies and corps for various encirclement operations.

Each of the major operations here begins with an overview of STAVKA orders for front/army and corps/division commanders, followed by a look at training, intelligence, logistical issues, engineering troops, tank forces, artillery, air support, etc.  Mention is also made of terrain and weather conditions are also discussed.  Although the author(s) are aware of how detrimental weather conditions can be for operations, both on the ground and in the air, at one point when they could have blamed the weather for a poor Red Army performance they choose instead to more objectively point to the inadequate actions of army and front commanders.  So in that respect, readers of this volume should keep in mind that these articles were made for internal consumption and for Soviet military personnel to learn from and grow, rather than a rehashing of familiar propaganda slogans (although that is found among these pages every now and then as well).

The real interest here for readers is the tone taken with respect to deficiencies.  In at least two or three of the operations covered, there is an emphasis on what was done correctly and where there were deficiencies that need to be addressed in future discussions and eliminated in future operations.  From lack of engineering support and tanks lost due to concealed minefields, to lack of air support and poor coordination on the part of army and front commanders, the authors are rather frank in what Red Army forces did well and where and why they performed poorly.  That in and of itself is not often found among publications created for the public in the Soviet period so the highlighting of these issues is very important to note and worthwhile to be aware of when contemplating to what extent the Red Army had learned its trade by the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943, that is, leading up to the Third Battle of Kharkov in the spring of 1943.

No comments: