STORM OF STEEL: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union

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STORM OF STEEL: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, Mary R. Habeck, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2003, 309 pages, $36.50.

For officers who find the current period of transformation perplexing, the period between the world wars offers a potentially rich source of context and inspiration. Between 1914 and 1918, World War I battlefields suggested potential use for the tank, the airplane, the submarine, and the radio. What remained to be seen was who could best exploit that potential-who would "get it right," to use Sir Michael Howard's famous phrase.

Author Mary R. Habeck argues that when it came to the tank's battlefield possibilities, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany got it right. By 1936, both had developed effective doctrine for using armored forces in battles of maneuver. Storm of Steel compares the way these doctrines emerged in the Soviet and German armies. The book is a work of exemplary scholarship as Habeck uses her impressive linguistic and analytical skills to exploit German and Soviet archives. She demonstrates how the Reichswehr and the Soviet Army overcame serious obstacles to develop an effective conceptual basis for the use of mechanized forces.

Panzer buffs should beware. This book is not about weapons and technology; it is about ideas. Habeck shows how armored doctrine evolved as competing factions bounced concepts and arguments off each other. Early Soviet tank advocates had to overcome the Bolshevik celebration of the mass proletarian army. German Army mechanized warfare proponents had to outlast the horse cavalry's last true believers. Intellectual resistance, however, was far from the only obstacle to change. The Germans had to emphasize conceptual development because the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty limited technological innovation. In the same fashion, early Soviet innovation was handicapped by an inadequate industrial base. …