Sunday, November 10, 2019

Soviet Cavalry Operations During the Second World War: and the Genesis of the Operational Manoeuvre Group by John S. Harrel

"Soviet Cavalry Operations During the Second World War" is self-explanatory in terms of what this volume offers readers.  Without a doubt the Red Army employed cavalry formations to a larger degree than any other combatant throughout the Second World War.  Considering the size and geography of the Eastern Front, the Soviets were presented with a variety of favorable opportunities to utilize their cavalry formations since the first days of the war.  John Harrel has done a commendable job in putting together a readable synthesis of many of these operations, showing both the reasons for their successes and failures, and providing a brief analysis of their impact on Germany's ability to wage war and how the Red Army was able to utilize the forces and strengths at their disposal after suffering horrendous losses throughout the first few years of the war.  From initially using cavalry divisions and corps as raiding forces in German rear areas, to the creation of cavalry-mechanized groups that became essential in breakthrough and exploitation operations, the Red Army's cavalry arm deserves our attention and respect considering how much they were able to accomplish under the circumstances they found themselves facing. 

While there is much to laud about this effort, there are numerous weaknesses present throughout the volume as well.  This is partly understandable as the author does not speak Russian, is unfamiliar with Soviet/Russian sources, and had to consistently rely on older literature or recently translated volumes.  As a result, much of the material here is rehashed from other secondary sources.  Furthermore, because the author is not an historian, there is a lack of context offered with respect to some of the literature (author bias, readily evident when it comes to Soviet/German memoirs) and battles/engagements.  As well, there is at times not enough analysis provided at the end of chapters about what the larger take-away from the events just described should be for the reader.  Finally, the greatest weakness of the volume are the numerous spelling errors throughout, the publisher should have proofread this volume as constant mistakes and misspellings take much away from the reading experience.

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