This is part two of a massive four-volume study of the fighting around Smolensk during Operation Barbarossa, a series of battles that are often overlooked, coming just before the disastrous Soviet defeat around Kiev and the failed German assault on Moscow. Glantz argues that these battles actually had a major impact on the course of the entire campaign, demonstrating to the Germans that the Red Army wouldn't collapse as easily as expected, doing significant damage to Army Group Centre, and helping to convince the Germans to attack Kiev and Leningrad instead of Moscow.
Volume one covered the German capture of Smolensk and the first two Soviet counterattacks, taking the story up to mid-late August. This second volume looks at the massive Soviet counterattack of late August and early September, which involved three Fronts. All three attacks failed at great cost, although the Germans also suffered significant casualties in the fighting. Worse for the Soviets, the attacks failed to divert German attention away from Kiev, and as the Smolensk counterattacks began to fade away the massive encirclement of Soviet forces at Kiev was beginning.
Glantz had produced a very detailed examination of the fighting, backed up all the time by extensive extracts from German and Soviet orders, status reports, recorded conversations and other documents, along with a huge number maps. As a result the text isn't terribly readable (although the author provides summaries after most documents, so it is possible to skim over the sources and focus on these summaries), but this approach means that Glantz is able to support his argument with very convincing evidence.
Most of the Soviet documents are the daily working reports of the various Fronts and Armies, and look to be fairly accurate. On occasion they reflect a misreading of the situation, but there are far too many reports of Soviet failures, setbacks and stalled advances for them to have been whitewashed. Estimates of German casualties tend to be too high, but you'll find that in many sources from all sides. This battle took place on a massive scale, and as a result Glantz rarely goes below divisional level, with most of the Soviet material based on the Army level or above.
As well as helping to prove Glantz's case, this level of documentary support also gives us some insights into the problems facing the Red Army in 1941. The Soviet approach here reminds me of the disastrous French doctrine of the 'Methodical Battle', which helped cause the defeat of 1940. Every day the various Soviet Army commands issued detailed orders to their divisions, which were almost always overtaken by events. These plans were also disrupted by interference from the levels above (Front, stavka and Stalin).
This book is aimed at the serious student of the fighting on the Eastern Front. For those readers it will be a very valuable work, and Glantz makes a very convince case for his argument that the fighting around Smolensk was crucial to the outcome of Operation Barbarossa.
1 - Introduction
2 - The Northern Flank: Group Stumme's Advance to Toropets, 22-28 August 1941
3 - German Strategic Planning and Jockeying for Position along the Desna River, 22-24 August 1941
4 - Second Panzer Group's Advance across the Desna River, The Stavka's Offensive Plan, and Group Stumme's Advance to Andreapol' and Zapadnaia Dvina, 25 August-9 September 1941
5 - The Third Soviet Counteroffensive: The Western Front's Dukhovshchina Offensive, Preliminaries and the First Stage, 25-31 August 1941
6 - The Third Soviet Counteroffensive: The Western Front's Dukhovshchina Offensive, The Second Stage, 1-10 September 1941
7 - The Third Soviet Counteroffensive: The Reserve Front's El'nia Offensive, 30 August-10 September 1941
8 - The Third Soviet Counteroffensive: The Briansk Front's Roslavl'-Novozybkov Offensive: the First Stage, 29 August-1 September 1941
9 - The Third Soviet Counteroffensive: The Briansk Front's Roslavl'-Novozybkov Offensive: the Second Stage, 2-14 September 1941
10 - Conculsions
Author: David M. Glantz