- Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army
For the first three decades after World War II, most Western historians accepted the explanation that the Soviet Union had defeated Germany only because of Hitler's blunders, harsh climate, and overwhelming numbers of ignorant, robotic Russian soldiers. Of these three excuses, only the weather remains credible today. Recent historical research has suggested that Hitler's commanders must share responsibility for poor strategic and operational planning, while the Red Army of 1943–45 had much greater training and initiative than the German commanders assumed.
Walter Dunn has made a number of contributions to this reevaluation, and in Stalin's Keys to Victory he summarizes the organizational and industrial efforts that allowed the Soviet soldiers to succeed. After discussing the sources of manpower and the mobilization of Soviet industry, he traces the formation, reorganization, and dissolution of Soviet combat units from 1941 through 1944. Dunn's tabular data list the individual brigades and divisions formed and reorganized during each year of the war, arguing that these units had more training and unit cohesion than the Germans perceived. Indeed, he demonstrates that German intelligence officers often mis-estimated the number of Soviet armored vehicles and troops available at any given time, which helps explain the German belief that they were facing overwhelming numbers.
Regrettably, this book has no source notations, making it difficult to determine in some instances where the author obtained his information. On page 96, for example, Dunn asserts that in April 1942 the Red Army eliminated the rifle corps as a level of command and reduced the span of control of a field army headquarters to seven divisions because of a shortage of experienced commanders and staff officers. Although this reorganization did occur, most students of the Red Army trace these changes to Stavka (Supreme Headquarters) Circular number 1, dated 15 July 1941. The difference is more than a simple date, however; the fact that the Soviets consciously simplified their entire command structure during the period of greatest confusion after the German invasion illustrates the innovative, pragmatic leadership that characterized the Red Army during most of the war.
Despite a few such flaws, Stalin's Keys to Victory is a model of brevity and clarity that would well serve both beginning students and war game designers. Dunn's comments on Soviet design and mass production techniques are especially valuable. However, for specialists interested in more [End Page 1275] detail concerning the organizational history of the Red Army, the best sources remain David Glantz's two volumes, Stumbling Colossus and Colossus Reborn.
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