Tank Battles in Eastern Prussia and Poland 1944-1945
Author: Igor Nebolsin
Publisher: Helion & Company
Date of Publication: September 2019
Book Size: 245mm x 170mm
Pages: 544 pages
Images: 373 b/w photos, 24 colour maps, 56 tables
Publisher Website: https://www.helion.co.uk/
Tank Battles in Eastern Prussia and Poland 1944-1945 by Igor Nebolsin is an exhaustive accounting of four armored engagements on the Eastern Front from August 1944 through March 1945. This hard cover with a bit more than 500 pages is organized into four main chapters covering the following engagements:
Chapter One: Covering battles around Wilkowiszki in Lithuania on the Red Army's approach to East Prussia August 1-11, 1944
Chapter Two: Operations in Eastern Prussia during mid-October 1944
Chapter Three: Tank battles around Kielce and Lysow, Poland January 13-15 1945
Chapter Four: Combat operations of the 5th Guards tank army in East Prussia January 14 -February 28, 1945
This book is a very in-depth study of these actions in day by day detail. It draws heavily from archived battle reports, operational summaries, memoirs of participants, unit combat diaries and the like. The level of detail is amazing. The translations from source languages, German and Russian are really good, there was no obvious translation problems, the reports and narratives were quite easy to follow, for example the little report from an officer's visit to a maintenance group below, do give a little sense of what things were like for the average soldier. Much more common were reports at a higher organizational levels giving reports of the day's activities. One interesting item is towards the end of the chapters there are reports of the Heroes of the Soviet Union, basically little descriptions of medal recipients and the actions that distinguished them. I didn't see any similar reports for the Germans.
The book also has dozens of tables from both sides of the conflict. Usually these are detailed lists of available forces on given days, especially from German sources. The details are fairly revealing. Even a quick look shows how dependent the Germans were on Sturmgeschutzes at this point in the war, for example, or how many vehicles were disabled for short or long term repairs. There are also tables detailing the comparative strengths of the opposing forces.
There is a nice section of color maps at various scales, perhaps these would have been better spread through the book to be with the actions they illustrate, but there are probably economies in grouping them. These range in scale from small unit actions to broad sweeping operational maps:
There are 373 small images throughout the book in black and white. These images, mostly of officers, equipment, and battlefield shots are perhaps a little too small to be very good references but do cover some of the subject matter fairly well. The choice of photos, however, really starts to show the major shortcoming of this book, that is it's very biased, pro-Soviet approach to the subject that colors the whole book. Just looking at the photos there are many pages that look like yearbooks of Soviet officers, but very few pictures of their German counterparts.
Almost every German vehicle shown is destroyed, while the photos of Soviet equipment and men usually looks like it is taken from propaganda reels, flags flying and everyone looking very clean
This bias carries over into the overwhelming preponderance of Soviet sourced reports that the book is built on. There are many more Soviet reports than German, and the Soviet ones sometimes read like propaganda or at least an awareness that a commissar was reviewing the work, so it sometimes feels like there is a bit of white-washing the reports. It is sometimes amusing like the anti-tank commander criticizing the deployment of his peer's company the next sector over while his deployment is a textbook example. But it gets tiring, the Germans are always referred to as Nazis or the Enemy, both from the reports of the day, which is understandable, but also sometimes in the author's words. Perhaps some of this is due to a paucity of records on the German side, but I also think the author's family history, father and grandfather being officers in Soviet tank corps, might have something to do with it.
Conclusion: This book is an exhaustive if biased account of some little known but important actions on the Eastern front during the last year of World War Two. It relies almost exclusively on accounts of the day from both sides, with plenty of photos, maps and tables to support the narrative. The content is very dense and, because of the nature of the source material, is fairly dry. If you are interested in this subject matter there is probably no better place to get historical information straight from the sources. There is very little additional analysis provided by the author to really take it beyond being a reporting of the engagements and the conditions they occurred in, which really adds to the dryness and density and to some extent prevents the subject matter from really having a broader meaning.
Recommended for military historians
Thanks goes out to Helion & Company for this review book.
Reviewed by Dave Mckenny
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