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Decision in the Ukraine: German Tank Operations on the Eastern Front, Summer 1943 [Paperback]

George M. Nipe Jr.
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 3 2012 Stackpole Military History Series
Myth-busting account of the summer of 1943 on the Eastern Front, one of World War II's turning points
Includes the Battle of Kursk
Special focus on the notorious 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf"

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First Sentence
On 22 June, 1941 the German Army swept out of eastern Poland and into the Soviet Union. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book May 19 2004
Format:Hardcover
It has happened before.
The more I read about Word War II the more skeptical I grow as to what really happened during the conflagration.
You read of the allegedly overwhelming victories of the Allies in all fronts; eastern, western, north africa, the airwarfare over Europe, naval, etc., yet many times facts don't back what the Allies say.
What does Allied literature say about the Battle for Kursk?
Simple: the German offensive was a total failure from its very beginning; the Germans got "massacred"; the Ferdinands were a "fiasco"; the vast majority of the Panthers "broke down"; the Luftwaffe suddenly found itself "outclassed" and "outmatched" by the VVS, losing "the majority of its planes"; that all Panzer units, including those of the II SS Panzer Korps were "massacred" as well; that a tank battle, baptised as the "Greatest Tank Battle in History" took place...and the Germans left "hundreds" of Tiger tanks burning on the field.
Sounds pretty much like a "Good against Evil" movie, where during the first stages the Evil side wins; one day, however, the Good side is possessed by strange magical powers which help to immediatly and promptly defeat the Evil side.
The aforementioned, is the most common version the Allies tell. However, and taking this particular version as valid, the events which immediatly followed Kursk would simply not support the Allied version of the outcome at Kursk.
Mr. George Nipe helps in clearing the horizon.
Not only the soviets were not winning at Kursk, the massacred ones happened to be the Russians.
211 Panzers of General Paul Hausser before action near the Village of Prokhorova -only 15 of them were Tigers, not hundreds as the Allies say-; 163 Panzers in operating status after the battle. A loss of 48 tanks.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Debunking Myths May 14 2004
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book after I had bought George Nipe's other book "Last Victory in Russia." Why? It's simple, this author mostly uses primary documents of the period from the micro-filmed German records in the National Archives in Washington D.C. He also uses secondary sources written by former Waffen-SS or German Army soldiers, like Wolfgang Vopersal's 8 volume history of the 3. SS Panzer Division 'Totenkopf' and Otto Weidinger's history of the 2. SS Panzer Division 'Das Reich.'
This book tells the story of the German attempts in the summer of 1943 to try and force a favorable outcome on the Eastern Front. After von Manstein's brilliant counterstroke at Kharkov in March, 1943, the logical choice of a major summer offensive was Operation "Citadel." While the battle of Kursk is not the main focus of the book, it is covered and destroys myths about it, particularly the battle at Prochorovka. Most notable are the myths about how many German tanks were destroyed and the destruction of the three Waffen-SS divisions of II. SS Panzerkorps, which the auther shows isn't true given the combat effectiveness of the Waffen-SS divisions later in the summer. Postwar literature accepted the Soviet account of the losses and the historians copied each other furthering the misinformation. For example, many other studies of the battle of Kursk claim the SS divisions lost 70 to 100 'Tiger' tanks in the battle at Prochorovka. However, the SS divisions only had 35 'Tigers' on the day before 'Citadel' began. Also the SS divisions had no 'Panther' tanks at all despite Soviet claims of destroying dozens of them, the SS divisions only received those tanks later in 1943 or early 1944.
The author delves into the other interrelated battles on the Mius River and at Bogodukhov.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Decision in the Ukraine March 1 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased this book in order to discover what happened in certain parts of the Ukraine of interest to me. I am somewhat familiar with some of the areas due to a visit to the Ukraine in 2008 and wondered why there were so few home sites in a certain village. After reading about the detail about the extensive battles in the Krivoi Rog area I then knew the reason.

Excellent book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Debunking Myths May 14 2004
By Joseph Burgard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book after I had bought George Nipe's other book "Last Victory in Russia." Why? It's simple, this author mostly uses primary documents of the period from the micro-filmed German records in the National Archives in Washington D.C. He also uses secondary sources written by former Waffen-SS or German Army soldiers, like Wolfgang Vopersal's 8 volume history of the 3. SS Panzer Division 'Totenkopf' and Otto Weidinger's history of the 2. SS Panzer Division 'Das Reich.'
This book tells the story of the German attempts in the summer of 1943 to try and force a favorable outcome on the Eastern Front. After von Manstein's brilliant counterstroke at Kharkov in March, 1943, the logical choice of a major summer offensive was Operation "Citadel." While the battle of Kursk is not the main focus of the book, it is covered and destroys myths about it, particularly the battle at Prochorovka. Most notable are the myths about how many German tanks were destroyed and the destruction of the three Waffen-SS divisions of II. SS Panzerkorps, which the auther shows isn't true given the combat effectiveness of the Waffen-SS divisions later in the summer. Postwar literature accepted the Soviet account of the losses and the historians copied each other furthering the misinformation. For example, many other studies of the battle of Kursk claim the SS divisions lost 70 to 100 'Tiger' tanks in the battle at Prochorovka. However, the SS divisions only had 35 'Tigers' on the day before 'Citadel' began. Also the SS divisions had no 'Panther' tanks at all despite Soviet claims of destroying dozens of them, the SS divisions only received those tanks later in 1943 or early 1944.
The author delves into the other interrelated battles on the Mius River and at Bogodukhov. One of Nipe's objectives is to study the combat operations of and correct misconceptios about the SS divisions "Das Reich" and "Totenkopf," both of which fought at all three battles studied in the book. An aspect not covered well in other books is well covered here, and that is Soviet deception to distract the Germans. The battle at the Mius River is the best example of this because when the Soviets gained a bridgehead over the river, it caused Hitler to cancel "Citadel" and rush the two SS divisions to counter the threat in that area. As usual Hitler tried to defend everything all at once, and in the end lost everything. Another characteristic of Hitler's brought out is that he constantly tried to gain too much with too little, and in the end he gained nothing.
George Nipe did an excellent job with this book. His writing style flows well, even though he includes a lot of information. This book did help my understanding of the battles on the Eastern Front in 1943. Most notably by showing how the battles discussed were interrelated and the strategies used by both sides. Thanks.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Study July 29 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is a serious, military study of the fighting in the Ukraine during the summer of 1943. When I first purchased the book, I thought it was yet another account of the battle of Kursk. While the Kursk battle is covered, the book's primary focus is on the battles which occurred immediately after the Kursk offensive was called off by Hitler -- namely, the fighting along the Mius river in late July and early August and the fighting in the area west of Kharkov in August. The maps are excellent, allowing the reader to follow the action day by day. The book is also well-written, apparently originally in English (not translated from German) which makes for an easier read. I am definitely looking forward to the author's next book. .........
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Operational Coverage and Analysis of the German Defense after Operation Citadel Sept. 6 2012
By Dave Schranck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the introduction, a capsule summary of the key events of the war before the Battle of Kursk is given and includes Barbarossa, Stalingrad, the Soviet offensive after Stalingrad in AGS sector and the retaking of Kharkov by Manstein in Feb, Mar 1943. Still in summary but with a greater level of detail, the author describes Kursk. At this juncture, Mr Nipe goes to great length to discuss the tank battles near Prokhorovka as well as the false propaganda and exaggerations of German losses that have surfaced over the years about that fateful July 12th. The author provides statistics of the losses of that fateful day but as he concludes this Kursk summary, he simply states that even if you didn't have the correct casualty figures, all you would need to know that the Soviet numbers quoted were exaggerated was a knowledge of the level of resistance and destruction the 2nd SS PzC (minus LAH) levied on the 1st Tank Army, the 5th GTA and others at the Mius River and at the Merla / Merchik Rivers. Once you read this book you will understand the capability the German panzer corps still had during the last half of July and all of August.

In mid July, after the Allies landed on Sicily and Citadel was becoming too costly, Hitler calls off his offensive. This is when the author leaves summary mode and begins a detailed study and analysis of the next six weeks of battle when the Soviets launched their own offensives to the south of the Kursk salient. The battle action begins in mid July in the Mius River area when Tolbukhin's Southern Front launches a diversionary attack against 6th Army to draw German forces away from the Kursk salient. The subsequent German counterattack to regain lost ground of the newly formed Soviet bridgehead was especially revealing and costly. At the beginning of August a major Soviet offensive begins north of the Merla-Merchik Rivers area, west of Belgorod and Kharkov and will last to the end of August. In both campaigns, the 2nd SS PzC was used to try to stop the assault. In the later assault, these mobile forces would be up against the Soviet 6th Guard Army, and the reformed 1st Tank Army and the 5th Guard Tank Army.

The daily coverage of the tactical engagements, which is from the German perspective, is excellent. For the German side the level of detail is usually at the division level while the Soviets are presented at either Army, Corps or Division level. Sometimes Mr Nipe doesn't provide Soviet designation on every occurrence of an engagement and will force the reader to remember the previous entry of said engagement. This is not bad for the previous entry is usually quite close and not hard to find if a refresher is needed. The accompanying analysis is also very good and will appeal to many of the readers.

To greatly add to the story, there were 29 maps. The maps were simple but effective and were spread out conveniently throughout the book and were aligned with the narrative, making it easier to follow the action along the key rivers, valleys, fortified hills and villages. In addition to the useful maps, an extensive gallery of 75 photos of German officers, equipment and battle scenes was provided.

Without many first hand experiences, some may think this book dry but for those interested in the operational aspects of this time and sector along with insightful appraisal, this book will be highly valued for its high level of detail, analysis and truthfulness.
The author includes an Appendix which has an abbreviated Order of Battle as well as other statistics. The OB could've been more complete but it was still useful. The author delivers analysis throughout the book but his final chapter of conclusions and observations is especially helpful. The author makes the case that Manstein was right to want to keep 4th PzA and III PzC together to complete and destroy the huge pocket south of Prokhorovka. It would have given 6th Army a better chance of holding the Mius bridgehead in August.

There is also a Notes section, a Bibliography but no Index. Though using some secondary sources and interviews, much of the material came from primary sources like the National Archives in Washington DC.

For those who are trying to piece together the operational events of the war, this book is invaluable for its detail of the last half of July and August 1943 is most comprehensive and fills in an important piece of the puzzle that other books miss. Its highly recommended for serious students as is his other books, "The Last Victory in Russia" and "Blood Steel and Myth". Collectively these three books provide the serious student an excellent picture of this important time period (Feb-Aug 1943) and sector though it will have a German bias.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book. Feb. 8 2005
By Lukasz Przybylo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I think that this is very good book.

1. Author style is really good, the narrative is gripping.

2. There a lots of maps, which is so material in such type of books that even rather poor quality of them almost isn't a problem.

3. Operations described in "Decision..." are very important in eastern conflict - Nipe did a great job in describing them without all that propaganda stuff met elsewhere.

4. Photos are great.

Now, the dark side (or why I subtracted one star):

1. Maps are of low quality

2. Russians are shown as amorphous mass - which is not true - and sources for them are easily accessible (Glantz, Ericsson etc)

3. Appendices are of no value. I expected some real data, tables, OdBs unfortunately I found almost none. This is I think main weakness of the book. With such effort put in writing "Decision..." I hoped that Nipe would give the reader some hard data in the form of appendicies.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting History Right June 16 2006
By W. B. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book examines Operation Citadel and the linked battles for the Mius and August battles around Bogodukhov. The book is extremely well researched and this research throws serious doubts over Russian claims in regards to the battle of Kursk and especially the confrontation of armour at Prochorovka. Studies of SS records do not substantiate Russian claims of 400 German tanks destroyed at Prochorovka, however a single Panzerkorps effectively annihilated the armour of the 5th Guards Tank Army where between 600-650 tanks were destroyed.

The author points out at least partial victory may have been acheived by the Germans at Kursk, but Hitler lost the will to continue the battle at the critical moment and his attention focused on the Soviet build up at Izyum and Mius river threatening the Ukraine and the Allied landings in Sicily. However, the Soviet moves were a deliberate deception to distract German armour from the Kursk area when Russian reserves were almost spent in the southern sector. The German reserve of XXIV Panzerkorps was transferred to meet these new threats and subsequently any opportunity to exploit the advantage gained in the southern sector at Kursk was lost. Having lost the initiative, German forces were constantly engaged in trying to counter attack Soviet thrusts and SS Panzer Divisions were effectively used as mobile 'fire brigades'.

The author makes the point that the Germans may have been the masters on the tactical battlefield but the Russians and Stalin were strategically superior and ensured strategic goals were obtained no matter the cost. The last chapter is an excellent summary and review of the previous chapters analysis with conclusions drawn.

This is highly recommended reading
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