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Posted on Nov 21, 2013 in Books and Movies

Operation Typhoon – Book Review

By Adam Koeth

operation-typhoon-book-coverOperation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941. David Stahel. Cambridge University Press, 2013. Hardback. 429 pages. $35.00.

In 1941, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler launched Operation Typhoon, the offensive he hoped would be the final, crushing blow against the Soviet Red Army in the East.  The Soviets were on their heels after the German invasion of 1940, code-named Operation Barbarossa. A significant chunk of their territory was already in German hands, but Hitler wanted the Soviets out of the war for good. He designed Typhoon to wipe the Red Army from the map and capture Moscow in one fell swoop, thus denying the Soviets their capital as well as the means to fight back against the German occupation.


Hitler, however, did not fully understand that Moscow, while serving as the Soviet capital, was nonetheless expendable to Soviet leader Josef Stalin.  Indeed, the Russians moved most of their manufacturing capabilities, at great cost, across the Ural Mountains where the Nazi war machine could not reach.  Stalin also had a seemingly endless supply of humanity to throw against the German army as they neared Moscow, a numerical advantage that the Germans could not match.  German advances stretched supply lines to their limits as the offensive progressed, and resistance behind the lines wreaked havoc on the ability of the Germans to maintain their offensive.  Hitler, in a way, sabotaged his own efforts by diverting part of the attacking German forces toward the city of Kiev, pushing the latter phases of Operation Typhoon past the summer months.  The final, destructive blow came not from the Soviets but from something beyond anyone’s control: the monsoon-like fall rains and the bitter, unforgiving Russian winter—aka “General Mud” and “General Winter.”

David Stahel adds to his already considerable resume of works on the German-Soviet conflict with Operation Typhoon, a book that examines Germany’s October campaign in great detail.  While Stahel gives the reader a context for the October battles, including a step back in time to examine Operation Barbarossa, the beginnings of Typhoon, and previous campaigns that fell victim to the Russian weather—Napoleon’s 1812 campaign being the most famous—he focuses most of his attention on the battles of Vyazma and Bryansk.

These two battles, key components of Operation Typhoon, receive attention that they never enjoyed before.  Along with the final push against Moscow, Stahel uses the two battles to construct a full breakdown of the late phase of Operation Typhoon.  While Stahel himself admits that he mainly uses the German perspective of the battles, the reader nevertheless comes away with a complete picture of what, exactly, went wrong for the Germans and how the Soviets withstood the Nazi assault and came away victorious.

While at times dense, Operation Typhoon is nevertheless a treasure trove of information regarding the late fall battles between the Germans and Soviets in 1941.  Stahel includes photographs, maps, a glossary of terms, a table of ranks, and a table of army structures and sizes in order to give the reader a better idea of what the two opposing armies faced at Vyazma, Bryansk, and Moscow.  Operation Typhoon is not necessarily for someone looking to pick up a book for leisure reading; nevertheless, anyone who wants to learn more about one of World War II’s turning points would do well to pick up Stahel’s excellent book.

Adam Koeth graduated from Norwich University in 2012 with a Master’s of Arts in Military History.  He also holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in History from Ohio University.  A native Ohioan, Adam lives with his wife and two children near Columbus, and enjoys reading everything he can get his hands on, writing, and watching sports—even the Cleveland Browns.