The Battle of the Dnepr: The Red Army's Forcing of the East Wall, August-December 1943', details a critical period in the Red Army's advance along the southwest strategic direction during the general offensive that followed the fighting in the area of the Kursk salient in July-August 1943. The Germans, who were now on the strategic defensive in the East, sought to fall back and consolidate their front along the line of the Dnepr River. The Red Army's success in overturning these expectations along this particularly important sector is the subject of this study.
This is a composite work based upon three studies carried out by the Red Army General Staff's military-historical directorate, which was charged with collecting and analyzing the war's experience. The first is a lengthy internal document, dating from 1946, which was eventually published in Russia in 2007, although heavily supplemented by commentary and other information not contained in the original. The present work omits these additions, while supplying its own commentary in places deemed necessary. Two short articles from another publication round out the collection.
The book is divided into two parts. The first deals with the efforts by General N.F. Vatutin's Voronezh (later renamed First Ukrainian) Front to exploit the Soviet victory during the battle of Kursk and to carry the war to the Dnepr River and beyond. This involved pursuing the retreating Germans and attempting to seize crossings over the Dnepr in the Kiev area before the Germans could get across and consolidate their position. Although they were able to seize several small footholds, the Soviets were unable at first to expand them to bridgeheads of operational significance. By shifting their efforts to the bridgehead north of Kiev, the Soviets were eventually able to break out and capture Kiev, although a German counterattack from the Zhitomir area threw them back somewhat. Nevertheless, by the end of the year the Red Army in this area was ready to resume the offensive to retake the Ukrainian right bank.
The two articles, which comprise the second part, cover the combat operations of General I.S. Konev's Steppe (later renamed Second Ukrainian) Front through Poltava and Kremenchug and to cross the Dnepr and seize bridgeheads south of Kiev. This is a more narrowly focused tactical-operational study, dealing with the efforts of the front's 37th and 52nd armies to expand their positions on the Ukrainian right bank into operational bridgeheads capable of supporting a larger offensive to the west in 1944.
Richard W. Harrison has worked for the US Department of Defense as an investigator in Russia, dealing with cases involving POWs and MIAs. He has also taught Russian history and military history at college and university level, most recently at the US Military Academy at West Point. Harrison is the author of two books dealing with the Red Army's theoretical development during the interwar period. He has also authored a number of articles on topics in Soviet military history. He is currently working on a history of the Red Army's high commands during the Second World War and afterwards.