- Red Storm Over the Balkans: The Failed Soviet Invasion of Romania, Spring 1944
In early April 1944 Romania's oil was still in full production for the Axis, the country was negotiating with the Allies in Cairo for a way out of the war and no agreement had yet been reached between the U.S.S.R. and its Western Allies on spheres of influence in the Balkans. Therefore, a successful Soviet strategic offensive through Romania at this time might have had major consequences both for the duration of the war and the postwar settlement.
The book's claim is that just such a strategic offensive, with open-ended, opportunist goals in the Balkans, was attempted by the U.S.S.R. at this time and was soundly defeated by German-Romanian forces. Some earlier German authors have made a similar claim, but Soviet sources have previously played down the setback, leaving its true significance in doubt. The author's contribution here is to use Soviet sources to fundamentally reevaluate the significance of their operations on the borders of Romania in April-May 1944 and conclude convincingly that a major strategic lunge by the Red Army into the Balkans was, indeed, foiled.
The main body of the text builds up a detailed operational record of six interlinked battles, starting with 2nd Ukrainian Front's failed attempt to break into Romania off the march from the northeast in mid-April and a simultaneous and similarly unsuccessful attempt by 3rd Ukrainian Front to bounce the River Dnestr from the east. In early May both fronts tried to resume their advance with deep-ranging strategic objectives but made very [End Page 1282] limited progress. A third Soviet attempt was preempted by the German 6th Army's rare feat of decisively defeating 3rd Ukrainian Front's bridgeheads over the Dnestr in the second half of May and the German 8th Army's local counteroffensive against 2nd Ukrainian Front at the beginning of June.
The author builds up a convincing picture of an aggressive German armoured defence repeatedly frustrating a rather larger, but overextended, Red Army opponent attempting to achieve overly ambitious strategic goals in the midst of a spring thaw that had in previous years paralysed operations.
The one missing element seems to be detail of air operations. These were undoubtedly often intense, but are treated only in passing and so their impact on ground combat is unclear. On the other hand, the book shows that there was still some operational value left in the Romanians, if given adequate German support. The author does not use Romanian sources, but nevertheless provides the most thorough available account of their operations.
David M. Glantz makes his case most effectively with the thoroughness of text, sequential maps and Soviet sources that are his trademark. A welcome advance on his earliest work is the strengthening of his German sources to match his undoubted mastery of Soviet ones.
For those with a specialist interest in the Eastern Front, this authoritative book is required reading. Furthermore, although the text is densely written, as the author's style is clear and accessible and his subject original, it deserves to attract a wider audience.