Monday, 6 January 2014

Operation Typhoon - David Stahel

Title: Operation Typhoon
Author: David Stahel
ISBN: 978-1-107-03512-6
Pages: 412
Illustrations:  21 B/W, 15 maps
Publisher: Cambridge University Press Publishing

​Four themes resonate throughout Stahel's work on the German thrust towards Moscow in October, 1941: 1. logistics: its challenges and importance, 2. the failure of the German high command to accept the capability limitations of their forces, 3. the extreme willingness of the Soviet soldiers to sacrifice themselves, and 4. the equal determination and inner strength of the German soldier to continue to drive forward despite dwindling supplies and atrocious weather conditions. Each of these veins of discussion permeate the narrative and serve to reinforce the desperation of the two antagonists.
Stahels work focuses on the Germans primarily and the successes and difficulties with which they were meeting. In my experience, a vast majority of works relating to the Second World War do not give a suitable level of attention to the issue of logistics and home front morale. Stahel, while remaining at the strategic perspective (with some minor forays down to the operational) identifies almost exclusively with the elephant in the German room: logistics. The narrative discusses in detail why it was that a command structure so adept at waging war chose to ignore this vital aspect. It is a fascinating glimpse into the human psyche and continues to be as relevant today as it was in October, 1941.
Stahel does not dismiss the masterful way that the German's undertook the operational execution of war; indeed, the very fact that they were as successful against the Russians in their drive for Moscow is a testament to this. However, Stahel does do a noteworthy job of shining a light upon the achilles heal of their war effort: the strategic planning and execution of operations. This book is unique in that it is not about the success that the Germans experienced during October of 1941 but, more accurately, about why they could not have won despite their successes. It is clear from the text, backed up by solid research, that the Germans were not defeated by the Russians but by themselves and their inability to recognize what was within the realm of the possible. That they could defeat the Russian military was not in doubt; that they could stay ahead of a collapsing logistics system, overheated German public opinion, the worsening weather, and above all, their own inability to acknowledge the realities of their situation definitely was.
Cambridge has published a wonderful book, of the highest quality, and a very welcome addition to any historians library. An extremely extensive bibliography rounds out a work of exemplary worth. Logistics receives the most talk and the least attention in any operation yet it is as much the key to victory or defeat as the finest combat unit and, as Stahel has so eloquently proven, is ignored at one's absolute peril.

No comments:

Post a Comment