In the spirit of Martin Middlebrook’s classic First Day on the Somme, Craig Luther narrates the events of June 22, 1941, a day when German military might was at its peak and seemed as though it would easily conquer the Soviet Union, a day the common soldiers would remember for its tension and the frogs bellowing in the Polish marshlands. It was a day when the German blitzkrieg decimated Soviet command and control within hours and seemed like nothing would stop it from taking Moscow. Luther narrates June 22—one of the pivotal days of World War II—from high command down to the tanks and soldiers at the sharp end, covering strategy as well as tactics and the vivid personal stories of the men who crossed the border into the Soviet Union that fateful day, which is the Eastern Front in microcosm, representing the years of industrial-scale warfare that followed and the unremitting hostility of Germans and Soviets. In his endorsement of the book Victor Davis Hanson writes: “Craig Luther’s [new book] continues his invaluable explorations of he disastrous German invasion of the Soviet Union, by focusing on the first day of Operation Barbarossa . . . A rich scholarly resource that historians of the Eastern Front will find invaluable.”
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This book examines in unprecedented detail the advance of Germany’s Army Group Center through central Russia, toward Moscow, in the summer of 1941, followed by brief accounts of the Battle of Moscow and subsequent winter battles into early 1942. Based on hundreds of veterans accounts, archival documents, and exhaustive study of the pertinent primary and secondary literature, the book offers new insights into Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler s attack on Soviet Russia in June 1941. While the book meticulously explores the experiences of the German soldier in Russia, in the cauldron battles along the Minsk-Smolensk-Moscow axis, it places their experiences squarely within the strategic and operational context of the Barbarossa campaign. Controversial subjects, such as the culpability of the German eastern armies in war crimes against the Russian people, are also examined in detail. This book is the most detailed account to date of virtually all aspects of the German soldiers experiences in Russia in 1941. Writes eastern front historian David Stahel in his review of the book: “The combination of ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approaches makes Luther’s work a landmark study of Operation Barbarossa.” (War in History)
Based on great reviews, we recommend this book. You can find the book at these places for sale:
• German Military Administration and Occupation of France during World War II
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Norway provides ample obstacles as the military alliance’s make-believe battleground for the Trident Juncture exercise. Still, Teri Schultz finds today’s high-tech capabilities require (warm) boots on the ground.
Russian President Vladimir Putin brags that he’s got hypersonic missiles invincible to NATO defenses; he’s building up his depot of tactical nuclear weapons on the alliance’s border in Kaliningrad, and he’s allegedly developed a ground-launched cruise missile that violates international arms control treaties. Add to that incessant cyberattacks that can possibly commandeer sophisticated Western weapons systems.
So why should 50,000 troops be trudging across the Norwegian tundra testing old-school tanks and blowing up bridges?
It’s all about the potential for hybrid surprises — from a traditional border incursion to a hijack of the highest-tech remotely-operated weapons system.
While there’s only one nation that can muster all these tactics near NATO territory, the alliance insists Trident Juncture is not about Russia. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared NATO’s defense arsenal must span the “full spectrum, from conventional weapons all the way up to nuclear weapons.” Ulrike Franke, a security and defense analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations agreed that NATO’s menu of battle options needs to include “all of the above.”
Franke, who specializes in drone warfare, warns that most NATO countries are not sufficiently prepared if the “next war” is indeed waged by cyber and other new technologies. But at the same time, she emphasized to DW, “I would also criticize NATO if now they would abandon all kind of conventional arms or conventional warfare and just focus on cyber or on autonomous weapons. That’s unfortunately the reality of today: We need to do everything.”
Visiting the exercises, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen cited NATO’s challenges as running the gamut from the crisis in Ukraine to the stabilization of Africa.
Technology boosts troops
French Lieutenant Colonel Herve Jure is stationed with NATO’s Allied Command Transformation headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, the arm of the alliance tasked with advancing its technological capabilities. Speaking to DW at a demonstration of future warfighting techniques in Norway, Jure said the advantages of moving to more automation and remote operation include being able to reduce the number of people put in harm’s way, especially for simple logistical tasks, a lesson he said NATO learned in Afghanistan.
One example is using drones to deliver spare parts to troops stationed in difficult terrain. US Marine Sergeant Samuel Margarini said that out in the field, getting replacement for parts that break “in some cases take hundreds of days, even 300 days” if they are still in production at all. That time can be reduced to mere hours, Margarini said, using 3-D printers that could soon be a standard part of military equipment.
But on the other hand, Jure noted, relying too much on technology carries its own dangers. “All those capabilities have to be reversible,” he explained, and forces need to know how to fill in quickly, because the “systems can be jammed or destroyed or taken by someone else.”
Bundeswehr goes back to basics
On the base in Rena that German troops share with Belgian, Dutch, French and Latvian counterparts, Lieutenant Colonel Helge Lammerschmidt was overseeing amphibious capability training — getting tanks and other equipment across waterways — using techniques he acknowledged date from the Cold War but are still effective.
Lammerschmidt is candid about the Russia factor. “As a result of the Ukraine crisis [in 2014] we saw that it is more important to change back from stability operations to high-intensive warfare operations,” he told DW, noting renewed ambition to “move larger formations and heavy equipment, and this has not been trained and done within the last 10 years.”
The back-to-basics training even had German troops practicing how to use explosives to get rid of barbed wire, which can completely disable a tank, and to fell trees in an enemy’s path. Simple, but effective — and unhackable.
Norway a happy host
All these efforts are highly appreciated in Norway, which shares about 200 kilometers (120 miles) of land border with Russia as well as a maritime “delimitation” line extended across the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean. Norwegian Army Colonel Eystein Kvarving said Norway had long thought NATO needed to refocus on territorial defense, and it was more than happy to provide that training ground.
“It feels reassuring,” Kvarving said. “It’s very nice to see that it actually works.” He noted that in recent years the US has prepositioned equipment in Norway and added a contingent of Marines. “I think that’s a sign of an alliance that’s there for you, should you need it,” he added. “And then let’s hope we never have to do that in real life.”
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