The forgotten war—Commies vs Nazis

Continuing the general theme of examining little known aspects of World War least to an American audience..I have been studying the Russian 1944 Summer Offensive, known as Operation Bagration.

Now, as any honest military historian will tell you, the Western Allies and their offensives in North Africa, Italy, and France were effectively well publicized side-shows compared to the titanic blood-letting between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia…the REAL decisive theater of World War II.

To be fair, Western military historians have written excellent histories of Stalingrad (including David Glantz's majestic 4 volume shelf filler) and the Battle of Kursk, arguably the biggest tank battle ever, but, like much World War II history…all of this research tends to stop after June 6, 1944. (That’s D-Day for you Common Core social studies kids, look it up on Wikipedia)

This little book tries to overcome that deficit by covering what is arguably the biggest, most elaborate, and most decisive offensive of World War 2—the Russian offensive against the Germans in Byelorussia in June 1944…the famed Operation Bagration that destroyed an entire German Army group, drove the Germans out of the remainder of Russia, and brought the Red Army to the gates of Warsaw, Poland.

It packs a lot of punch in only a couple hundred pages, and overall does a very acceptable job. The order-of-battle and general strategic situation for both armies is well laid out, and Tucker-Jones does an excellent job of setting the scene, particularly in describing the elaborate and very successful Soviet deception plan that convinced the Germans that the main part of the summer offensive would fall in the Ukraine instead of Byelorussia.

Once the battle start, the mighty weight of Soviet manpower and steel quickly overruns the German defenders, and when combined with Hitler’s strategic blinders and associated blunders, turns a Soviet victory into a rout as Hitler issues insane stand and die orders instead of withdrawing German forces to shorten the front and perhaps provide a reserve to strike at the lengthening and vulnerable Soviet columns.

The only factors that save the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front from total annihilation are the shift of the Soviet offensive south to finish liberating the Ukraine and the lengthening of Soviet supply lines. Of course, Stalin’s desire to stop outside Warsaw, instead of rendering aid to the Polish Home Army fighting the Germans in the streets, was a cold and calculating decision that contributed to the absorption of Poland into the Communist bloc.

For the neophyte student of the World War II Eastern Front, this is a great little book. There aren’t a lot of decent histories written on the Soviet-German conflict (David Glantz being the exception…the man is a Russian studies machine) so a book that is well-written for the average reader is a great find.