The Dnepr 1943: Hitler's Eastern Rampart Crumbles
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 17 Aug 2016
In the aftermath of Kursk, the Soviet Red Army held the initiative and was about to launch its march which two years later would take them to the Reichstag in Berlin. Already Russian offensives against the German forces that participated in the north of the Kursk salient had already taken place just as the battle of Prokhorovka raged. Shortly after the end of the battle and with quick reinforcements and replenishment, the Russians moved onto the offensive against the German forces at the south of the Kursk salient. Despite frantic German resistance, the Russian advance gathered steam and soon the Germans were in retreat again. Needing time and good defensive terrain, the Germans began to retreat towards the Dnepr River with the Soviet forces right on their heels. While the Germans narrowly won the race, the Russians were right behind them and even managed to establish several bridgeheads. From September to December, four months of brutal fighting would ensue as the Germans strove desperately to prevent the tide of Soviet force pouring across the Dnepr River from overwhelming them. Eventually despite mistakes on their part, the Russians overwhelmed the German defenders, liberated Kiev, and were ready to rampage across the Ukraine, with one of the locations being the Korsun–Cherkassy area.
Written by Robert Forczyk, an author of previous Osprey books on the Eastern Front, The Dnepr 1943 in a sense serves as a sequel to his previous work. It deals with the drive of the Red Army towards the Dnepr and the German attempts to slow and eventually halt their advance to as to catch their breath after the non-stop battles that they have undergone through since July 5th, 1943. In attempting to break through the German lines and reach Kiev, the Russians launched several offensives through the fourth months. This included the largest Soviet airborne operation of the war near Kanev, an operation that turned out to be a fiasco. It would not be until October that a breakthrough would occur, first in the south of Kiev and more importantly in the northern area of the battlefield.
The book like all Osprey "Campaign" series books starts with the events that led up to the subject campaign in the book with a chronology of events that cover the overall battle. Next is the discussion of the commanders, opposing forces, and the opposing plans on both sides. The campaign section takes up the main body of the book with pictures, paintings and 3-D graphical maps describing the progress of the battle from its beginning to its conclusion. After the campaign finishes comes the results of that campaign. The book concludes with a section on the battlefield today with some places changing beyond all recognition and others seemingly frozen in time.
As this book covered a battle that not many western books had covered as of yet, The Dnepr 1943 contains a good amount of information despite the small space that it occupies. Whereas most Osprey "Campaign" books have sections that are redundant and sections that stand out, this particular book does not really have much redundant sections. Of course, the book omitted some sections due to space and a surprise in that omission is the Red Air Force despite it now gradually gaining control of the skies.
Despite the need to omit things due to the space of the book, it is one of the more impressive recent entries in the series. This is perhaps one of the first books to deal with the battles in the aftermath of Kursk in that a reader could understand. While the Red Army had advanced far from the dark days of 1941-1942, they were still in the beginning stages of the learning process of offensives that they would eventually become masters at in 1944. For the Germans, it was an inevitable grinding down of their strength, particularly after Hitler announced that he would be reinforcing the west.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945