ISBN: 978 1 78096 157 6
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 27 Aug 2014
In the aftermath of the defeat of Operation Typhoon, it seemed that the Soviet Army had the German Wehrmacht on the run. The fact that after suffering horrendous casualties that would have broken nearly any other army, the Russians returned the favor on the Germans and managed to drive them back a far distance, saving Moscow in the process along with recapturing territory that the Germans had recently taken. However, the Germans would prove to have impressive staying power as they managed to halt the Soviet Winter Offensive of 1941-1942 before going onto the offensive at the end of June in 1942.
The first steps of the road to Stalingrad began at Kharkov, which is now located in Ukraine. The Germans had taken the city back in November 1941 and had previously managed to fend off a Soviet Offensive to the city during the Winter Counteroffensive though the Red Army retained several important bridgeheads that remained a threat to the city. Both Stalin and Hitler had planes for future offensives with one of the targets being Kharkov.
This would result in the second battle of Kharkov, which began on May 12, 1942 as the Russians struck first from both North and South of the city. At first, the Russians had success but unfortunately, German resistance and Russian inexperience in offensive operations brought the advance to a halt. The Germans regrouped and launched a counteroffensive that demolished the Russians and put the Germans in a more advantageous position that perhaps even they had realized as they prepared to advance to the Caucasus and the Volga on June 28, 1942.
Written by Robert Forczyk, who has worked on previous Osprey books on the Eastern Front, Kharkov 1942 follows the pattern of the Osprey campaign series with an overview of the situation in the southern areas of the Eastern Front around Kharkov. Next is the information about the commanders involved in the battle before the forces under their command and the plans that both sides had for the city. Surprisingly those plans seemed to have converged together in the lead up to the battle, resulting in a collision course for both sides.
The main section of the book deals with the battle for the city of Kharkov during the spring of 1942. While having some initial success, the Soviet forces involved in the offensive made grievous mistakes that would eventually spell failure and disaster when the Germans counterattacked. In turn, while the Germans did encounter problems during the defense of the city as well as going onto the counterattack, overall they performed exceptionally well, eventually inflicting a defeat on the Russians that comparable to the disasters of 1941.
To help with the presentation of the battle for Kharkov, it has pictures as well as 2-d and 3-d maps of the battle and its progression from start to finish. Also included are paintings by Howard Gerrard, who has worked on other books in the series.
The book also shed light on some potential thoughts that resulted from the battle. On the Axis side, the Axis satellite units participating and what that author thought that the performance would lead to in the future. On the Soviet side, the battle proved to be another brutal reminder and learning curve on modern warfare.
Overall, Kharkov 1942 provides an impressive detailed view of one of the main prelude battles before the titanic campaign of summer 1942. One of its main strengths is the details of the forces on hand for the battle. Despite the limited space in the book, it gives a detailed account of the battle from its beginning to its end with the small size of the battle area allowing different sectors to receive detailed coverage.
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George Patton, 31 May 1944