Friday, 23 March 2018

Confronting Case Blue: Briansk Front’s Attempt to Derail the German Drive to the Caucasus, July 1942 - Igor’ Sdvizhkov

This review has been submitted to War History Online.

Title: Confronting Case Blue: Briansk Front’s Attempt to Derail the German Drive to the Caucasus, July 1942
Author: Igor’ Sdvizhkov
ISBN: 978-1-911096-43-6
Publisher: Helion
Year: 2016
Pages: 420
Photos/Maps: 9/8

During the summer of 1942, the Germans were well into their drive to the Caucasus and the capture of vast areas of the southern Soviet Union. The Soviets, desperate to try and blunt the German efforts, launched a series of spoiling attacks into the flanks of the stretched German Forces. The author has analyzed one of the more significant of those attacks with a view to shedding light on the strengths and weaknesses of the adversaries at this point in the war. His perspective is primarily from the Soviet side and he is brutally honest in his evaluations of the leadership and C2 (command and control) of the Soviet and German forces.

The author breaks down his analysis into chapters representing days as well as sides. Thus he will present a synopsis of the Russian actions on July 25th in one chapter followed in the next chapter by an analysis of the German actions over the same period. His extensive use of primary source material makes it very interesting for the reader to note how the adversaries were interpreting each other’s actions. This method also provides for an outstanding comparison between the command and control methodologies of the two sides.

The Germans by this point on the war were acknowledging that some Russian equipment (specifically the T-34) was superior in both quality and quantity to the front line German tanks. Additionally, Russian manpower reserves were beginning to make themselves felt; however, the Germans still had a clear advantage in combined/joint warfare capability (especially regarding the use of airpower) and in their combat and support leadership. The author relates numerous examples of opportunities that the Russians squandered as a result of their leadership (focussing primarily on Major and above) failing to make decisions or assuming control with the loss of a commander. Conversely, German leadership proves itself to be dynamic, proactive and engaged. Senior commanders are at the front assessing situations and providing guidance and direction as required. The soldiers on both sides are brave but it is the leadership that makes a telling difference in this campaign.

It is also fascinating to see the degree to which the political arm of the Soviet military takes precedence and exerts influence upon operations. Reports quoted by the author repeatedly speak in ‘Bolshevik’ and draw attention to the failings of leaders within a political vice a tactical or operational context. It speaks volumes as to why there was a dearth of initiative within the Russian leadership. Additionally, the author draws attention to the experience and educational background of the key Russian commanders. The instability of the interwar years within the Soviet Union culminating in the deep purges of the late 1930’s and the devastating results of the first year of the war, resulted in many of these Officers being promoted quickly into positions that they were not prepared properly for.

Helion’s publishing quality is excellent and the translation by Britton of top quality. The writing style of the Russian historians is quite different from Western authors but does not detract from the content. An interesting book worth the time.

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