War Without Garlands

PDF EBook by Robert Kershaw

EBook Description

"War Without Garlands" derives from the German expression Kein Blumenkrieg which the German soldier described the battle on the Eastern front. War Without Garlands PDF EBook From a total of 19 to 20 million German soldiers that fought in the Second World War, about 17 to 19 fought in Russia.

In his book, Robert Kershaw promises us that his account of "Operation Barbarossa" will based upon the personal account of common German and Russian soldiers. Or, as he says it himself:

Nobody has written a definitive 'soldier's' account of Operation 'Barbarossa'. Academic historians and survivors writing on the Russo- PDFGerman war ... generally concentrate on military operations and have often ducked uncomfortable morals issues ...

The book mainly focuses on the operations of Army Group Centre, with a few side glances to the operations of Army Group North towards Leningrad, and Army Group South in the Ukraine.

Kershaw does a great job: he delivers detailed accounts of German and Russian soldiers and civilians, while at the same time keeping the reader informed about the overall German strategy. His style of storytelling gives the reader a sense of intimacy with the soldiers and shows the reader what is was like to be a German or Russian soldier.

Having read a lot about the Eastern Front, I found this book very refreshing. It even thought me some new facts that I didn't know of and it showed me why the German invasion was destined to fail from the start.

Also a pleasant surprise were the illustrations, highlighting important German tactics, such as the Schwerpunkt doctrine and tactics for the destruction of enemy pockets.

Through the letters, diaries and reports, Kershaw shows us what it was really like: the enormous losses suffered by the Germans, the failing equipment, the bitter cold and the stubborn Russian resistance.

This makes this book (626 pages) very readable and an enjoying read.

The book starts with some personal German reflections about the invasion in Russia.German soldiers had their doubts, but the overall German soldier believed in his superior officers and the Fü download; hrer who had already demonstrated economic, diplomatic and militairy capabilities. If they had doubts about invading Russia, these were swept away by a strong belief that the Führer had it in hand and knew his business.

The German invasion was more than trying to knock Great Brittain's ally out of the war: it was a race conflict between the Russians and the German Aryan race for Lebensraum. Therefore, the concept of comradeship between soldiers must be forgotten. It was a war of extermination.

The Germans greatly underestimated the difficulties with fighting (and winning) a war against Russia. The lessons from the past (Charles XII's invasion in 1708 and that one of Napoleon in 1812) were studied, but potential historical similarities should be out weight by the technological advances and ideological and racial differences. While German logisticians were calculating that they could supply German forces within a zone of approximately 600 km east of the start line, strategic planners were setting goals up to 1,750 km beyond the frontier. The German planning focused on operational aspects, with less regard paid to logistic efforts required to sustain the three massive German spearheads. Hitler's primary objectives were all economical: the Ukrainian grain lands, the Donetsk basin and the ultimate prize, the Caucasian oil fields. There were no doubts. The German soldier appeared capable of doing anything and failure was out of the option. The world 'would hold its breath'.

From the first moment, the German soldiers realized it would prove to be not another 'walk-over' just like in Poland and France. The attack on the citadel of Brest-Litovsk by elements of the 45rd Division is vividly written is this book. The Germans lost in the first 24 hours many men, almost two-thirds of the entire lost during the preceding six-week French campaign. The German soldier was not only surprised by the great quantity of the Russian forces, but also by its tenacity. Few Russians surrendered and most fought until the last man had fallen. The citadel of Brest-Litovsk, expected to fall within 8 hours after the invasion, only fell after a siege of 42 days.

The Russian tanks were also an unpleasant surprise. Although the vast majority of Soviet tanks were obselete T-26 and BT-2s, 5s and 7s, the remainder consisted of KV-1s, KV-2s and T-34s. A single KV-1 tank was able to block the advance of the 6th Panzer Division for 48 hours.

The German tank crews were clearly shocked by the appearance of heavier and obviously superior Russian tanks. The Russian tanks presented a wholly new level of armament, armor protection and weight. The German PzKpfwIIIs and PzKpfwIVs were no match for their Russian counterparts. Only their battle experience, superior tactics and the fact that the Russian air force was nowhere to be seen, helped the Panzers in winning their tank battles.

The German army was making headway, but at some cost. Following along the lines of the classicalBlitzkrieg doctrine, large concentrations of Russian troops were encircled by the Panzers and finished of by infantry. The experience in Poland and the West was that Blitzkrieg tactics achieved operational success once armies hat been outmaneuvered. Denied space and resources, the political will collapsed when faced with pointless casualties. However, the Russian soldier fought on in hopeless conditions. Up to 50% of German attacking potential was thereby constrained during the first decisive phase without achieving the initial operational objective for Army Group Centre which was the city of Smolensk.

In the beginning of July 1941 Army Group Centre had created two encirclements, one at Minsk and a larger one at Smolensk. The destruction of the Smolensk pocket would mean that a large part of the western group of Soviet Armies would be destroyed and securing the road for the eventual advance on Moscow. The slowly advancing German infantry soldiers were marching forward under relentless heat. However, the gap between the advancing Panzers and the slowly advancing infantry meant that insufficient troops were available to 'finish of' the pockets. Despite staggering Soviet losses, the Blitzkrieg momentum had run out of steam just beyond Smolensk. Without the infantry available to defend the Panzers, the Panzers themselves were required to fight defensive battles against the Russians, who continued fighting against all odds. The Panzers divisions were sustaining punishment far beyond that meted out by any foe thus far in the war.

So far, by the 8th of July, the German general staff had calculated that it had destroyed 89 of 164 identified Russian divisions. But there were no further German formations of appreciable operational size available to continue the drive eastward until the Smolensk pocket was annihilated. Breathtaking the victories were, at the end of July the German army concluded that the vast battles it had fought meant that the Pyrrhic nature of this achievement was becoming apparent.

Hitler's decision to start a new offensive in the south meant that most of the Panzers were transferred to the South, leaving Army Group Centre to play a marginal role.

Meanwhile, the German soldier was growing more and more desperate. The vast space, the long marches, the heavy losses due tothe stubborn Russian resistance meant that by now, most German soldiers were convinced that the campaign would not end shortly. Atrocities on both sides were commonplace. National Socialist propaganda had 'dehumanised' the enemy before the campaign had begun. The infamous commissar order meant that every captured commissar was separated from soldiers and executed. Maltreatment and shooting of Rusian PoWs was widespread.

The logistic 'trip-wire' was the limit of the Ostheer's strategic logistical sustainability beyond which an offensive aimed at Moscow could not be achieved unless supported with a rail-based transport network. The lorry fleet, already decimated by the eve of operation Typhoon, was barely able to keep up with the fighting formations, but deliveries to the German troops were always too low. However, at the beginning of the campaign, no preparations were made to adjust the Russian railways to the standard European gauge. Once adjusted, the Russian railway tracks proved not fit for the heavier German locomotives and Russian coal could not burn effectively in the German steam engines. The Germans simply thought that the war would be won within 500km from the starting point of the invasion.

On 26 September, Army Group Centre was to become the new Schwerpunkt for the final push to Moscow. The attack aimed again at an encirclement, with the closing east of Vyazma, 160km from Moscow. The offensive would begin with its main Panzers at half its strength, shortages in fuel, ammunition and spare parts. However, the average German soldier was full of confidence - this would be the final battle resulting in victory. Once more, vast number of Russian troops were encircled and destroyed. Nothing now lay anymore between the victorious German army and the fall of Moscow. General Georgi Zhukov was recalled from Leningrad and ordered to report to the capital.

On October 8th, the first snow fell. The roads were covered in mud and the German soldier was becoming more and more concerned. Movement for the Panzers was impossible. It was not until November 12th that the Panzers were able to move again. By that time the ground had frozen and the roads could be traveled again. Winter had come.

The final phase of Operation Typhoon was launched on the 16th of November. Snow and ice conditions changed the nature of fighting on the Eastern Front. Both sides were subjected to the same conditions but the Ostheer was disadvantaged by the unfamiliar environment. They were neither trained, equipped nor psychological prepared for winter operations. These were degraded to man-to-man frontal attacks, because flanking operations were denied by the harsh conditions. German casualties were high, especially felt at NCO level. The Luftwaffe support began to fall away because bad weather and the effects of the resupply crisis.

The assumption was that, following a German victory, an occupation army of 56 divisions would remain in Russia for the winter. At the beginning of September it dawned upon the planners that there needed to be an increase of 50% in number of trains to clothe 750,000 men. Not until mid-December did it become apparent that the mass of units would not only stay in Russia, but would actually engaged in active operations. Economic production was unable to remedy the shortfall. An appeal was set in motion for the German civilian population to provide winter clothes and skis for the troops, only to become snarled up in sidings at Warsaw as greater importance was given to fuel and ammunition. Meanwhile, the railway logistic network ground to a frozen halt as a result of the weather and partisan attacks. The results were catastrophic. The Germans had to use white sheets from occupied Russian houses to camouflage themselves and started to chalk their helmets white.

During clear evenings the advancing infantry could see the flashes from Flak and the searchlight beams above the city of Moscow. The German effort had reached crisis point. Panzergruppe 3 at Krassnaya Polyana was within 20km of the suburbs.

The Germans still were convinced that the Soviet forces were on the verge of collapse. The contrary was the case. New armies from Ulan, Siberia and the border with Mongolia and China were being formed and assembled just behind the front. Russian intelligence was being informed that Japan was verging on an attack to the South, far away from Russian territory which freed Russian divisions from Siberia to be transferred to Moscow. In a frantic counter-offensive, the Germans were driven from the gates of Moscow.

The Ostheer had victored itself to death. Like this book? Read online this: The German Army at D-Day, I racconti di Pietroburgo.

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