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R. A Forczyk
- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Storm of Steel is a historical analysis of the development of German and Soviet armored warfare doctrine in the period 1928-1941, written in 2003 by Mary R. Habeck, a history professor at Johns Hopkins. This is a dry, academic-style doctrinal study, but it is rewarding for those readers with more than a passing interest in how both country's created and developed their tank units in the Interwar Period. Storm of Steel is well organized and very well footnoted, as one would expect from a university professor, although the use of tables and charts would have been a useful addition. The book is well-written, if a bit wooden at times, and the author's main thesis that both country's doctrine was shaped by similar factors is sound. There are issues - such as the evolution of tank technology - which the author spent little time upon, even though germane to doctrinal development. Overall, a decent academic history, although the narrative lags at times.
The Storm of Steel is divided into seven chapters, beginning with the period immediately following the end of the First World War. During 1919-23, both the post-war German Reichswehr and the Soviet Red Army had no tanks and spent this period trying to decide what future role tanks might provide. As early as 1923, the Soviet Union became interested in developing a large tank force in order to match Western capitalist armies, although the author notes that the Red Army initially devoted only one percent of its budget to tank development. The second chapter covers the debate over mechanization, which occurred in both armies during 1923-27. The author discusses how conservative cavalry officers in both countries opposed the tank and mechanization for a variety of reasons. In addition, the advocates of "moral" power (as in Napoleon's maxim, that `the moral is to the material as three is to one') argued that reliance on tanks rather than the willpower of their infantry was a mistake; this argument still retains some saliency even today. In the third chapter, the author discusses the beginning of covert Soviet-German technical collaboration at the Kazan Tank School and the weaknesses that led both sides to cooperate with each other. Due to the weakness of Soviet industry, the Soviets needed foreign technical help in developing tanks and due to the Treaty of Versailles the Germans needed a quiet place to (illegally) test new weapons and tactics. This chapter is very rewarding in that the author effectively demonstrates that the Germans did not influence subsequent Soviet tank doctrine and the relative backwardness of Germany's inchoate tank doctrine in comparison to Soviet Deep Battle theory. The author also details the success of Stalin's First Five Year Plan in rapidly building up the Soviet Union's tank production capabilities in an amazingly short period of time - something Hitler would have been wise to emulate. Important developments, like the Soviet creation of a Tank Directorate (UMM) and new field regulations, are discussed in some detail.
Chapter four, covering the period 1930-31, discusses the development of Germany's first tanks and Soviet efforts to refine Deep Battle theory into a workable doctrine. The fifth chapter covers the end of Soviet-German military collaboration and doctrinal evolutions in both countries. Whereas the Soviets had a fairly uniform view of tanks by 1933, the Reichswehr was still very divided about tanks when Hitler came to power. When Hitler's plans to expand the Reichswehr were first discussed, there was no provision for panzer divisions, even though the Red Army had already formed its first mechanized corps. However, the Red Army had difficulty actually conducting Deep Battle in its summer maneuvers, and learned the difficulties of supplying a large mechanized formation (with no solution in sight). Interestingly, the author contrasts the Soviet preference for creating a checklist-like playbook for Deep Battle versus the German preference for a more ambiguous doctrine that left room for lower-level initiative in combat. Chapter six discusses the role reversal of 1934-36, with the Red Army losing much of its advantages in tank development and doctrine due to the Stalinist purges of the military, while Hitler's newly-formed Wehrmacht formed its first panzer divisions. However, the author makes an important point when she states that, "despite these triumphs, the Germans would never catch up with their Soviet counterparts in one vital area: the mass production of tanks." Just as the Red Army enshrined Deep Battle as official doctrine in the PU-36 Field Regulations, Stalin imprisoned or executed all its key advocates, effectively strangling it at birth. On the German side, the author spends considerable time on the Guderian-Lutz-Beck debates on tanks, but misses the creation of the Sturmgeschutz (assault gun) by Manstein as an effort to keep some armor in the infantry support role. Likewise, the book is weak on assessing the impact of new technologies on doctrine, such as the Soviet development of the V-2 diesel tank engine and incorporation of sloped armor in designs. This would have been a good time to discuss how Hitler - who had some good ideas about tanks, such as better armament - was ignored in designing Germany's panzers. In contrast, Stalin had a major say in the development of individual Soviet tanks.
The final chapter discusses the impact of the Spanish Civil War, the Chaco War and other small conflicts on tank developments in both countries. Two other topics which I felt the author skimped on was on how the first tank units were created in each country (mentioned only very briefly) and how personnel were trained in each country. Developing doctrine is one thing, but the question of how it was taught to tank crews was essentially ignored. Overall, Storm of Steel is informative, erudite and persuasive, although certainly only for those with a strong interest in doctrinal studies.