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The Battle of Kursk: Operation Citadel 1943

by Robin Cross



Buy the book: Robin Cross. The Battle of Kursk: Operation Citadel 1943

Release Date: March, 2003

Edition: Paperback

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Buy the book: Robin Cross. The Battle of Kursk: Operation Citadel 1943


A discombobulated account of a great battle

This books covers what many consider the greatest battle of the WWII: the battle of the Kursk Salient, aka Operation Citadel. Lately the word 'Kursk' has received some notoriety due to the disaster on board of the Russian nuclear submarine 'Kursk', however, few people in the West really know why a huge nuclear sub was named after a relatively obscure Russian city.

When people think of the Eastern Front, Stalingrad is usually known as the single greatest battle, and the rest of the action is mired in relative obscurity. While the Battle of Stalingrad was indeed a great and very important event of the war, it was not the real turning point; the great German war machine was stopped and defeated, but the events took place during the fearsome Russian winter, and in an urban environment. The question still remained: could Soviet Army withstand a summer German offensive, something that noone has been able to accomplish to that date? That question was answered in the summer of 1943 on the plains and rolling hills around Kursk. The scale and intensity of the fighting that took place there is unparalleled by any other battle of the WWII. It was truly the Hell of Earth.

The book by Robin Cross attempts to cover the preliminaries of the battle, as well as the battle itself in great detail. The description of the situation leading up to the battle is reasonably comprehensive. However, the account of the main events suffers greatly from author's apparent lack of knowledge of the Russian language (demonstrated by frequent poor transliteration of Russian words) and subsequent reliance on sources available in English and/or German. The most interesting part, battle participants' accounts, is utterly one-sided. While numerous German sources are quoted, the only Soviet sources are those of a few members of high command. So the description of the action on the ground is basically presented from the German point of view, and the Soviet soldiers are thus portrayed as some faceless force that brave (and highly successful, per cited accounts) German forces had to fight through. This create a sense of confusion as to the ultimate outcome; understandably, German accounts concentrate on the few successes encountered during the battle, and it's somewhat unclear from reading this book why the battle has ultimately ended in German defeat. Most of the most vivid eyewitnesses' accounts can also be found in another book, 'Scorched Earth'. In general, the book has the feel of a work put together by rehashing previously published information, without sufficient effort applied to maintain overall self-coherency. Understandably, Soviet and German sources provide rather different pictures of events that took place, as it usually happens with any battle, and any historian attempting an independent and objective treatment has to work hard to present the reader with the picture of what really took place, otherwise the reader will walk away still not really sure what has really took place, as it's the case with this book. Example: the Prokhorovka battle was the single greatest tank engagement of the war, with roughly 1400 tanks involved. Robin Cross, having described the ferocity of the clash, goes on to argue (having based the entire argument on a single source of information of a questionable value) that basically no German tanks were destroyed during an entire day of extremely ferocious tank-on-tank fighting, and leaves this strange fact basically unexplained. Again, consulting more sources would be of great help here.

While the Battle of Kursk was a monumental event that is definitely worth reading about, this particular book is probably not the one to read given any choice.

From Amazon.com

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