Although many Americans think that World War II in Europe was mainly fought in France and Italy, the reality is that the bulk of the heavy fighting was done by the Red Army in Russia and Eastern Europe. The struggle between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army began when Germany invaded Russia in June 1941. The Red Army was almost annihilated, but in 1943 the tide began to turn at the Battle of Kursk. Dennis Showalter writes about this pivotal event in Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of World War II
The book is 368 pages with 8 pages of black and white photographs. Several maps are scattered throughout the text.
Showalter does an excellent job of describing the fighting between the Russians and Germans leading to the Battle of Kursk. The Germans, from armor to infantry to air forces, had dominated the Red Army, which was reeling from crisis to crisis. The situation began to slowly change as Stalin found the right leaders and the war’s attrition began to show its effects on the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe.
Although Showalter mainly focuses on the perspective of the commanders, he does show how the constant stress of combat wore down even the most elite units. For example, the SS units generally fought harder than other German units, but days of short or no rest lessened their fighting prowess. Similarly, the Guards units in the Red Army (although it is arguable whether all of the Guards units deserved that moniker), crumbled from the constant pressure of combat.
I enjoyed reading Showalter’s perspective on what he believes were the contributing factors to Germany’s defeat on the Eastern Front. One of the primary ones was Hitler’s lack of trust of his generals and not allowing them the flexibility to deal with Russian attacks. Showalter also points out that the Russians seemed to have a limitless supply of men, whereas the Germans were being bled white.
My only criticism of the book is the lack of maps. Although there are some, I think more would help the reader visualize the movements of the opposing sides.
Armor and Blood is an excellent analysis of the Battle of Kursk.