Review by Steven Zaloga, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, March 2015

byNigel Askeyon March 17,2015

Operation Barbarossa: The Complete Organization and Statistical Analysis, and Military Simulation, (Lulu Press: 2013-14)

Nigel Askey has been deeply involved in computer war-games and has begun to publish a multi-volume reference work dealing with the armed forces involved in Operation Barbarossa in 1941. While this might be dismissed by military historians as simply another war-game spin-off, Askey provides an unparalleled data base for anyone interested in the campaign. The sheer size of this project has made it impractical to publish through conventional routes, and so Askey has taken advantage of the new print-on-demand capabilities of Lulu Press. As a result, the books range in price depending on size with the retail price of Volume I being $59.00, rising to $139 for the larger Volume IIA; actual prices on the internet through Lulu or Amazon are lower.

I examined the first three volumes of the series, which promise to eventually number about eight volumes. The books are soft-cover, print-on-demand, and large format (8 x 11 inch). The production value is very good, with an extensive use of graphics.

Volume I provides the organizational explanation of the subsequent volumes of the series. This explains Askey’s concepts for evaluating the combat effectiveness of opposing military formations, their weapons, as well as the impact of the logistical and command network. While this discussion will be of most interest in readers involved in computer simulation and war-gaming, the book is a very useful introduction to methods of evaluating combat performance for military historians in general. This volume is quite substantial, totalling 196 pages.

Volume IIA is the first of the resource volumes and is subtitled “The German Armed Forces, Mobilization, and War Economy from June to December 1941” and numbers 708 pages. This begins with an extremely detailed examination of Wehrmacht order of battle, weapons, support equipment. It then turns to a detailed examination of tables of organization and equipment of the German infantry and panzer divisions as well as the most significant corps and army level units such as signals, artillery, engineer and other forces. This provides considerable detail on the variations in strength of German units based on both the theoretical KStN charts but compared to actual strength figures available through archival resources. Aside from division-by-division examinations, this volume contains a great deal of useful analysis. For example, it examines the differences in divisional field artillery through the different mobilization waves of the German infantry divisions.

Volume IIB is a continuation of Volume IIA, numbering 396 pages. This amplifies the detail of Volume IIA by detailed actual deployed strength and equipment of the Wehrmacht in June-July 1941, as well as reinforcement and actual strength through December 1941. It next turns to the Luftwaffe in 1941, an assessment of supply-distribution efficiency in 1941, German naval forces in the East in 1941, and a series of appendices on weapons holdings, inventory and production affecting the 1941 campaign.

The next two books, Vols. IIIA and IIIB will cover the Red Army; Volume IV will cover Axis allied forces.

These books are an extremely useful resource to military historians seeking detailed assessments of the armed forces on the Russian Front in 1941. They are based on extensive archival research, and provide a level of detail far beyond that found in conventional military histories. Even for Russian Front specialists, they provide a valuable synthesis of data that is otherwise scattered through specialist studies and archival resources. While they are of special interest to readers interested in military simulation and analysis, they offer an unprecedented data-base for military historians studying the 1941 Barbarossa campaign.