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RKKA (The Russian Army) in World War II Discuss the Russian armed forces in World War II. Hosted by our resident Russian expert, AMVAS. Please visit his RKKA in WW2 Website.

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  #1  
Old 18 Mar 12, 08:18
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Kursk - July 1943

Of the numerous books on this battle that have been published in English, which should be regarded as the most comprehensive, balanced and accurate?
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  #2  
Old 18 Mar 12, 11:26
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Greetings,

The answer is that no one book will do everything for you. So...these are some of the best in English.

1. The Battle of Kursk by David M Glantz & Jonathan M House (the best single book)
2. Kursk The German View by Steven H Newton
3. Kursk 1943 A Statistical Analysis by Niklas Zetterling & Anders Frankson
4. Operation Zitadelle by Franz Kurowski
5.The Battle for Kursk, 1943: The Soviet General Staff Study
6. Kursk The Air Battle July 1943 by Christer Bergstrom

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Last edited by Dann Falk; 18 Mar 12 at 14:27..
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  #3  
Old 19 Mar 12, 10:12
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Notwithstanding its huge scale, that's a lot of reading for a battle that lasted less than three weeks. (But then, I guess, I did use the word comprehensive).
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Old 19 Mar 12, 12:29
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Lol...well.

For a great overall view I would read:
1. The Battle of Kursk by David M Glantz.

Then to cover the air war:
2. Kursk The Air Battle July 1943 by Christer Bergstrom.

Then for the cost of the battle:
3. Kursk 1943 A Statistical Analysis by Niklas Zetterling & Anders Frankson

These three should cover the battle nicely.

Dann
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  #5  
Old 21 Mar 12, 00:15
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Can't really fault the choices given, because I agree with your assessment: Glantz & House still stand up as the best overall single-volume study of the entire battle (and it's available in paperback). I would just add:
Demolishing the Myth by Valeriy Zamulin, the English translation of Valeriy's "Prokhorovka - neizvestnoe srazhenie velikoi voiny". This is far and away the best book on the tank battle at Prokhorovka and the fighting leading up to it.
I could also point out that Glantz has available a superb volume of maps of the Kursk battle, based on the Soviet tactical maps of the battlefield, which is available from him at rzhev@aol.com. They are large format and expensive, but unmatched by any publication in giving you a good view of the battlefield and the unit locations of both sides, sometimes hour by hour.
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Old 26 Mar 12, 14:23
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I also agree with Sharposhnikov about Demolishing the Myth. Well worth the effort to pick up.

Additionally, the bound maps offered by David Glantz cover a great deal of material. I have several of these map binders, three large ones covering Operation Blue and Stalingrad and two of the Kursk battle. The smaller one on Kursk covers the forming the North edge of the Kursk bulge Feb-March 1943, a little studied area.

One more book about Kursk worth bringing up is III Pz. Korps at Kursk by Didier Lodiue. This covers in some detail, the attack of Army Group Kempf on the Southern section of the bulge. Full of information and details that would be hard to find else ware, the 143 pages are packed with great pictures and maps.
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Old 26 Apr 12, 06:37
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It should be added that both Glantz's book and "Demolishing the Myth" are faulty (and at times to some large degree) on the German forces in the battle.
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Old 30 Apr 12, 00:33
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Well....I think that could be said about any history book.

That is why I use several books/sources when studying the war.
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Old 05 May 12, 23:09
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"Demolishing the Myth" is about the Soviet side, so yes, the Germans are covered superficially and certainly errors exist. There is some information that comes from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), but most of the information on the German side is from Russian-language books. That said, it is probably the best account of the Soviet side that will be available in English for a long, long time. Regarding the Germans, I'm still not convinced that the German side has received the same level of accuracy and detail. I say this because if you look at David Glantz's book there is very little in it from the enormous collection of captured German documents at NARA, so we are in the curious situation that Soviet archives have been used more extensively than those in the West (at least in English-language books)!
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Old 06 May 12, 03:02
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We in the west have been conditioned to think that we have 'all' the information available on the German military in the war, because the German records were all captured at the end of the war, brought to the United States, microfilmed, and then returned to West Germany. Therefore, between the archives in Germany and the National Archives in the US, all the German records of everything every German unit did can be accessed by historians, right?

Well, not always.
An amazing amount of the German material is, in fact, missing. There are several reasons for this, but there are two that apply directly to the Kursk Battle:
1. Some German units considered themselves Elite - like the SS divisions, and the Gross Deutschland division. These units quite simply considered it not necessary to report to a higher headquarters if they didn't feel like it. The daily maintenance report that gives the tank strength of each German panzer unit is completely absent from several days in the Kursk battle, because these divisions didn't bother to submit it. I have a copy of the 48th Panzer Corps' War Diary for Kursk, and there is a constant thread of comments about Gross Deutschland, the spearhead unit of the Corps, failing to submit reports and let the Corps HQ know exactly what it was doing.
2. Some German staffs, like many Soviet staffs earlier in the war, didn't survive long enough to complete their reports, or were destroyed with their paperwork, leaving large gaps in which there is no surviving record. A good example of this is the 19th Panzer Division, part of the 3rd Panzer Corps at Kursk, which was surrounded in early August and had its headquarters shot up by Soviet units and the division commander killed. As a result,most of the division's records for July 1943 are missing.

There is also the little matter of Not Reporting Bad News. This occurs in all armies, where a commander and/or his staff simply leaves out bad news until they have some good news to report to offset the bad. In many 1941 Soviet reports, "losses are still being compiled" is a phrase that appears again and again, and what it really means is that the unit was almost destroyed and the losses were huge.
When 1st Panzer Division got surrounded north of Kalinin in mid-October 1941 and lost or abandoned AT LEAST 30 tanks and a great deal of other equipment while breaking out (actually, sneaking out is more accurate - they slipped out along a muddy track on the bank of the Volga River, which cost them a lot of bogged down vehicles) the division simply lied to the Corps HQ above it, admitting only to the loss of the vehicles of one motorcycle company and some field kitchens. The 'official' German records are absolutely silent on any other losses, but at the end of the month the 1st Panzer Division was reorganized and the new organization omitted the Panzer Regiment headquarters and one panzer battalion, the reconnaissance battalion, one armored infantry battalion, and the remaining armored infantry battalion lost a company. In all, the division 'wrote off' half of its panzer units completely, 40% of its infantry or reconnaissance organizations, and 5 out of 8 armored infantry companies.

That is obviously a lot more than one motorcycle company...

So, the conclusion is that 'official records' almost never tell the entire story: they may be incomplete, or falsified for one reason or another, or may have been 'slanted' to put a happy face on a very unhappy situation. There is no substitute for getting the official records from both sides of the battle, and then supplementing those with whatever eyewitness accounts - memoirs, oral veteran's accounts, etc - that you can get. Even then, it is almost impossible to ever get 100% of the story, but you can come close enough to get a good idea of what was happening, and possibly even why it was happening in the way that it happened.
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Old 06 May 12, 06:52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharposhnikov View Post
We in the west have been conditioned to think that we have 'all' the information available on the German military in the war...
Is this really true? I've never heard anyone say this, but then again I don't have your experience in the field. Anyone who's spent five minutes looking through the index of captured German documents realizes this isn't the case. The sad part is that few writers take advantage of what's available, complete or not. I haven't read every book on Kursk, so the only name that comes to mind of an author who extensively uses the NARA documents is Zetterling, and he and Frankson weren't writing an operational history.

In my opinion, since all previously published books depend on official Soviet publications or German reminiscences for the Soviet story, all of which have bigger problems than the official documents, after the publication of "Demolishing the Myth" every book's description of the Soviet side will have to be entirely re-written if it's to remain relevant.
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Old 06 May 12, 12:09
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In fact, Zetterling and Franksen used both the German archives and the NARA material, because it took both sources to get the maintenance records they were using to compile German tank strength/losses.
As far as I know, no single author has used all the material available on Kursk:
1. German archive records, including both NARA material like the division, corps, and army Combat Diaries (Kriegstagebuchen) which in most cases gives an hourly account of their operations, and the German archives that include a lot of lower level reports that don't seem to be in the NARA records.
2. Soviet archive material, which is increasingly available but ignored in the west. Zamulin's monumental work is the best example, but the sad fact is that all the examples so far are books in Russian, and except for Zamulin none of them have been translated.
3. Personal memoirs. Clark's recent "Battle of the Tanks", although it is very superficial, does include Soviet personal accounts in English, which is a start. Many older German accounts have included personal narratives, ranging all the way back to Carell's "Fire in the East". I'm still waiting to see someone integrate the personal experiences with a firm operational narrative from the archival material, to show not only what was happening but how it was experienced by the men on the spot.
4. Unit histories. Again, while some German unit histories have been accessed, no one in the west other than Glantz and Armstrong seem to be even aware that there are any unit histories of the Soviet units, which is almost criminally negligent, IMHO. At the least, the 5th Guards Tank Army and 10th Tank Corps histories are readily available in libraries in the west and easily translated, and should be cited even by those who can't be bothered contacting the actual Soviet-era archives.

Zamulin has made a damn good start, but the comprehensive historical account of the Battle of Kursk still eludes us.
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Old 06 May 12, 13:41
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Zamulin has made a damn good start, but the comprehensive historical account of the Battle of Kursk still eludes us.
I don't think we'll ever see such a work for a couple of reasons. First, as far as I can tell, damned few writers, even history professors, speak German and Russian well enough to use the primary documents. Second, no one is making money off of this, so only academics and people in similar occupations have the time and resources to work in all of the archives. Third, from what I hear, the Russian archives are for all practical purposes closed to foreigners due to the travel expense, the exorbitant copying fees ($1 per page and up), limits on the amount of copying, limits on the amount of documents you can have at your desk, and one's inability to bring a camera into the reading room.

All this means is that it is highly doubtful that ANYONE will ever be in the position that Zamulin was in. As the deputy director of the museum at Prokhorovka it was his job for years to research the battle. He could place orders and travel to Podolsk to pick up documents, and his trips were paid for. Plus, he was working at a time when things were looser the archives, so docs were easier to get.

No, I think the best we can hope for is a historian who reads German and Russian who will use Zamulin's Russian books (all four of them on the battle), other Russian secondary works, and do his own research in Germany and the U.S. Piece of cake!
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Old 07 May 12, 01:05
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I think the best we can hope for is a historian who reads German and Russian who will use Zamulin's Russian books (all four of them on the battle), other Russian secondary works, and do his own research in Germany and the U.S. Piece of cake!
Hmmm. I read Russian and German, just finished translating about 500 pages of German and Russian documents for the Kalinin book we just finished. I have all of Zamulin's books, memoirs from Rostmistrov and others, unit histories from numerous Soviet units, the war diary from 48th Panzer Corps, a host of extracted material on Soviet tank/equipment/personnel strengths and losses from individual unit fonds in Voronezh Front, and access to German unit histories both German and translated and the other German archive material in NARA.
Problem is, before I ever sit down to start on a book on Kursk, Jack and I have to finish at least two more books on the fighting in front of Moscow in October 1941 (we're starting research on the second one now: I've just finished translating about 50 STAVKA/GKO/NKO directives and am starting on the Western Front Combat Journal for October) and another book I've been working on off and on for several years. In other words, it would be at least 3 - 4 years before I could even think about starting such a project, and I'd hope that someone else is already working on it - but won't be surprised if they aren't...
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Old 07 May 12, 01:08
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- and you're absolutely right that no one is making any money on this. Both Jack and I have full-time jobs to take us away from writing and researching, but without them we wouldn't be eating, which severely cuts into how long you can keep writing!
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