Prelude to Berlin: The Red Army’s Offensive Operations in Poland and Eastern Germany, 1945

Prelude to Berlin: The Red Army's Offensive Operations in Poland and Eastern Germany, 1945 Book Cover Prelude to Berlin: The Red Army's Offensive Operations in Poland and Eastern Germany, 1945
Richard W. Harrison
Military History
Helion and Company
2016
Hardcover
636

Overall I would rate this book at three and a half stars; it has some good features but also some pretty significant flaws. One thing worth mentioning is that this work is not based on the same kind of in-depth General Staff studies as some other volumes in this series, because they have not been released for these operations. As a result, the reports in this book are from different official sources and generally shorter than the full-scale General Staff studies. I also found that their quality varied pretty significantly. I found that the sections on the first two operations (Vistula-Oder (66 pp) and East Prussian (193 pp) were the best, with the other sections (East Pomerian (40 pp), Lower Silesian (110 pp) and Upper Silesian (60 pp). While I didn't review it closely, the final section of the book, with relevant orders/reports between Stavka and the various Front headquarters (90 pp), seemed to mainly consist of fairly terse official documents which will probably be of some use to historians but not to casual readers.

The good thing about this book, or at least some of the sections, is that it includes incredibly detailed information for Soviet Operations of a kind which is difficult to find in most other works. For the East Prussian Operation, this includes all of the typical Soviet metrics about correlation of forces, frontages occupied by various units, etc, rates of advance, but also an impressive amount of detail about things such as the location and length of supply lines, repairing rail lines, combat loads for various types of troops, even the number of telephone poles installed. If your are interested in this kind of detail, at least the East Prussian section warrants five stars.

Other than that, this volume basically consists of fairly detailed, but rather dry, accounts of the various battles--as one of the other reviewers puts it, in "Glantz-style". While all of the sections include some words about the role of the communist party, etc, some of the sections are much more "propagandistic" than others (eg, scathing criticism of the Western Allies for their support of the Polish govt-in-exile, failure to pin down troops in the West, allowing their transfer to the east, etc.).

A few other things which detracted from the book for me:
1) not something I usually complain about, but the font in this book is very small--I'm guessing 7 or 8 point font--and therefore difficult to read. I guess the author/editor did us a favor by cramming in more content, but our eyes pay for it!
2) The maps included in the book are very inadequate--only 7 maps for more than five hundred pages of text covering five different operations. Some of the sections/operations have no maps at all, and several of the maps which are included are in such small type that I literally needed a magnifying glass to read them. I'm not sure if the underlying source documents included so few maps, but I hope that in future the author/editor will consider including additional maps somehow.

So overall, not a perfect book, and a fairly difficult read, but relatively little has been published about these operations, especially from the Soviet perspective, so anyone seriously interested in these operations (and not looking for a casual read) should probably pick up this book.

  • Rating
3.5
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