In recent weeks I have been providing my readers a modest tutorial on the operational art, with an eye toward determining what makes an effective operational level military leader. Let's finish with a final look at those factors that go into determining what makes a particular commander a good one. My hope is that this discussion will further enable the casual military history enthusiast to feel more confident in evaluating for themselves which of their favorite commanders really stack up against the competition.
Though there are many great qualities that are essential in terms of being a
Last week I discussed the operational level of war. To summarize, the operational level links strategic objectives to the tactical deployment of military assets. The operational level of war is often referred to as an art, and for good reason. Nevertheless, before we can discuss what makes planning and leading military operations on a large scale an art form we must first start with the set of rules that gives commanders from the same army a common basis of action: that being doctrine. From there we can examine some key metrics for defining sound generalship.
Stephen Barratt's two-volume set Zhitomir-Berdichev (sold separately) should go down as the definitive look from the German side of the hill at the critically important combat operations on Army Group South's left flank during the lead up to the far more famous Battle of the Korsun Pocket.
Early in 1943 the Red Army had launched a series of massive offensives across the breadth of the German Eastern Front. In particular, and as the German Sixth Army fought to its destruction at Stalingrad, multiple Soviet fronts, spearheaded by General N.F. Vatutin's Southwestern Front, surged across southern Russia. Meanwhile, Erich von Manstein, commanding the whole of the reconstituted German Army Group South, the former Army Groups A, B and Don, fell back before the Soviet advance and regrouped his armies.
Soviet General Cherniakhovsky’s 60th Army, part of Golikov’s Voronezh Front, took
Throughout the winter of 1943-1944 Stavka maintained a relentless pace, consistently ordering up sequential offensives that never allowed the Germans to effectively regroup and build up reserves. In the late winter and early spring of 1944 the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Ukrainian Fronts, in opposition to German forces situated in the Western Ukraine, launched a massive series of offensives that would run along the breadth of the German defensive line south of the Pripet Marshes all the way to the Black Sea.