Kiev 1941 – David Stahel

This is the second book in Stahel’s series on WWII in Russia.  In the first book, Sahel showed that even in the first few months of the operation, there were signs that the task was too tough for them,  Even in August 1941, the advance on the flanks was stalling, and the center was under serious attack.  The three army groups (North, Center, and South) could no longer advance at the same time – forces from one army group needed to be transferred to the others to allow them to advance.

There was also dissension in the High Command.  After the war it became fashion to blame everything on Hitler.  In this case, though, Hitler was probably correct.  The stalling of South before Kiev required fixing, and a lunge forward to Moscow through powerful Russian troops with an open southern flank for hundreds of miles was out of the question. Also, the supply situation needed time to work – the rail lines needed conversion to German gauge to allow them to be delivered closer to the front.

But even so, the Kev operation was no picnic.  The armored forces under Guderian had to attack south a considerable distance to even threaten the southern front, much less pocket it.  This advance would expose another long flank to the Russian Bryansk front to attack.  And every day increased the exhaustion of the troops and equipment.  The force was spread so thin that the forces near Kiev had time enough to retire or turn on Guderian.

Enter Stalin.  He refused to allow any retirement and eventually the Germans broke out and cut off 600,000 troops.  It was a major disaster.

Ironically, though, the victory changed little in the overall situation.  The Germans had more ground to cover, their men and equipment were even more worn, and they still could not advance on all fronts.  North was stalled before Leningrad, Center, stripped of its armor to support the others was near Smolensk, and South was at least up to the same line as Center.

The decision was then made to make a try for Moscow, Operation Typhoon.  While the Russian armies opposite Center had worn themselves down during the last few months, the total lack of rest of most armored formations made Typhoon another gamble.

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