cover image Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of World War II

Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of World War II

Dennis E. Showalter. Random, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6677-3

Though noticeably underrepresented in histories of WWII, the colossal clashes at the battle of Kursk in 1943 proved the beginning of the end for the Wehrmacht, argues Showalter (Tannenberg) in this admirable history. The Colorado College history prof covers the battle from before the beginning and on to the end, explaining the origins and evolutions of the opposing armies in refreshingly crisp, pointed prose and sprinkling his narrative with numerous allusions to characters as diverse as Civil War generals, Napoleon, and Brer Rabbit. The presentation of the battle itself is straightforward: Showalter moves through the carnage chronologically and geographically. Throughout, he demonstrates his adeptness at interweaving discussions of big-picture strategy with interesting revelations and anecdotes: the Germans saw this as their last chance to subdue the Soviets before the latter became too powerful; some tried literally burying their tanks “up to their turrets” to avoid enemy fire; sunflowers blanketed the field of battle. Showalter does his best work by keeping his sights set firmly on the battle at the hand, while also parsing the conflict for developments that would have far-reaching consequences for the war. B&w photos and maps. Agent: Frank Weimann, Literary Group International. (Aug.)