Glantz‘ latest huge tome about the Eastern Front in World War II continues the battle of Smolensk in late summer 1941, through the Soviet counteroffensives and the final decision to divert major tank forces south to the flanks of Army Group Center, where they would participate in the great Kiev encirclement.
Much of the text are the actual situation reports of the Soviet commanders, and the daily situation maps of the Germans. There is a lot of detail here, which is invaluable but can make reading it bog down at times.
The first volume followed the initial German offensive from the border encirclements to the lunge to the Smolensk region. The Germans couldn’t quite close it out and bogged down into a static front. In this volume the front remains static, and is put under increasing pressure by furious Soviet attacks. While these gained little ground, they did serve to deplete Army Group Center.
There has always been a controversy about how the Germans should have attacked toward Moscow at this point rather than to Kiev. This book shows that an offensive at this point would have run right into the large counterattacking forces. Ironically by waiting, these reserves were worn out and the Germans bypassed many of them by attacking from a more southerly direction. Also, the long flank of Army Group Center would have needed much flank protection, and the Germans were already feeling the pinch of not enough men to do the job. Another issue is that the lateral move allowed the railroad conversion teams to catch up to the front. Another forward lunge would have made the already tight supply situation even worse.
The strain of continuing campaigning was starting to tell on the Germans, and while the Soviets were far behind in tactical skill they were still able to fight hard, at an enormous cost in lives and equipment. It was a cost they were able to sustain for long enough to win out in the end.