Book Review: The Battle for Belorussia: The Red Army's Forgotten Campaign of October 1943 - April 1944

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by David M. Glantz, with Mary Elizabeth Glantz

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016. Pp. xxvi, 760. Illus., maps, tables, appends, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0700623299

Unsuccessful Soviet Attempts to Liberate Belorussia

The author of Kharkov 1942, Red Storm Over the Balkans, and many other works, Glantz, the foremost American authority on the Red Army, aided by his daughter, also a specialist in Soviet history, takes a look at repeated unsuccessful Soviet attempts to liberate Belorussia from the autumn of 1943 through to the spring of 1944, drawing upon extensive research in both German and Russia archives. They open with a discussion of the general situation on the Russian Front in mid-1943, and the respective resources, plans, and preparations.

The Glantz’s then give us detailed accounts of some 30 Soviet offensives, none of which attained decisive results, albeit often at great cost. These are organized into operations conducted in from October through December of 1943 and those carried out from late December of ’43 through April of ’44. For each operation, they give us a some general background on its origins, the commanders, the forces engaged, and the events, supporting their coverage with an impressive number of maps. We also get a look into command politics, so we learn about the Polish born Konstantin Rokossovsky, a successful commander, but generally slighted due to his ancestry, in this campaign, who was a Pole, and the less effective Russian-born Vasily Sokolovsky, who nevertheless ended up as chief-of-the-General Staff.

The Glantz’s concluded that Soviet failure was due largely to hasty peparation, poor training, inadequate coordination, and excellent German responses. The end with a discussion of the resulting political infighting in the highest Soviet military circles, which caused the effort to be buried by Russian historians, particularly given the enormous success just a few weeks later of “Operation Bagration” that saw the destruction of the German Army Group Center.

A volume in the Kansas series “Modern War Studies”, The Battle for Belorussia is a major addition to the literature on the Russian Front, and an essential work for the serious student of the subject, but would likely be heavy going for the casual reader.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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