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  • The Bloody Triangle: The Defeat of Soviet Armor in the Ukraine, June 1941
  • Michael Marino
The Bloody Triangle: The Defeat of Soviet Armor in the Ukraine, June 1941. By Victor J. Kamenir. Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7603-3434-8. Appendixes. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. ix, 322. $30.00.

Students of World War Two are readily familiar with the images called to mind by the German attack on Russia during Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. The early phases of this attack saw German offensive efficiency at high tide, as their tanks rapidly captured large swaths of Soviet territory and effected huge encirclements of Soviet troops, yielding large numbers of prisoners. The Soviet response in these early days is often perceived as bumbling and inept, with formations rapidly destroyed, commanders unable to control their units, and retreating troops overwhelmed by the speedy German advance.

The Bloody Triangle: The Defeat of Soviet Armor in the Ukraine, by Victor Kamenir, provides an important new perspective on the earliest days of Operation Barbarossa. Focusing on the first five days of the campaign, it provides a history of the action that occurred on the Soviets’ “Southwestern Front.” Here, Russian troops were organized in considerable strength and the majority of their tanks and most powerful armored units were located in this sector of the line. The Bloody Triangle gives readers a sense of the confusion and chaos occasioned by the German attack and details attempts by the Russian leadership in this region to organize their armored elements for a counterattack against the advancing Germans. While most histories of Barbarossa mention this fact in passing, The Bloody Triangle provides an extremely detailed account of these early days of the campaign. What emerges is a sense of the confusion that reigned on the Soviet side, as bad communications and incessant air attacks impeded their ability to respond to the German attack. Nonetheless, the various armored formations did attack the Germans in large numbers, providing a stern test even in the earliest days of the offensive. This fact is perhaps the most important conclusion to emerge from the book, as it shows that Germans had a tough fight even at the outset of the campaign. The assumption on the part of the Germans that the attack on Russia would be an exercise in the occupation of territory was thus disproved very quickly. For the Germans, hard fighting lay ahead, [End Page 1374] and even their early victories would be achieved only at great cost. For the Soviets, despite extreme disorganization, conflicting orders, and faulty doctrine, they nonetheless pressed their attacks bravely. It was clear that Russian troops would defend their homeland with great vigor.

The Bloody Triangle is an important book and one which provides a new perspective on the German invasion of Russia in 1941. For one, it gives the reader an excellent operational level study of the campaign, focusing on smaller units (divisions and corps) instead of the bigger armies and army groups. It provides a sense of the confusion and chaos occasioned by the German attack and the narrative provided is not one of movements on a map, but rather the struggles of men and machines in real situations. Last, the book raises an important conclusion about the tough fight facing the Germans and shows that their assumptions of Soviet inferiority and ineptitude were grossly misplaced. Overall, the book makes an important contribution to the English literature devoted to Operation Barbarossa. It is very much based on Russian sources, however, and more perspective on the German side would have enhanced the narrative. Careless proofreading and syntax errors also proved somewhat distracting.

Michael Marino
The College of New Jersey
Ewing, New Jersey