Welcome to Cold War Gamer, a blog I am using to record my Cold War wargaming projects. These range from fictitious Cold War hot projects to historical conflicts that took place around the globe throughout the Cold War era, all modelled and gamed in 20mm. The blog includes links to various resources useful to the Cold War Gamer.

My current projects include: Central Front; British & Soviet. South African Border War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Review - Book, The Soviet Conduct of Tactical Manoeuvre, D Glanz

The book outlines the use of forward detachments within the Soviet operational concept. It starts with a short but effective examination of the principal task organised components within a Soviet force, which of itself is significantly useful, before examining the use of forward detachments in different operational circumstances. The operations considered include:

Offensive Operations
Meeting Engagements
Defensive Operations

It then goes on to look at the historical context for the evolution of this doctrine before, during and post World War 2 and then concludes on both the effectiveness of the approach and the Wests understanding of the importance of this doctrine to the Soviets.

The Soviet Conduct of Tactical Manoeuvre was written by David M Glantz who was Director of Soviet Army Operations at the Center for Land Warfare, U.S. Army War College from 1983 to 1986 and went on to help found the Soviet Army Studies Office in the 1990s.

The book is an exercise in the examination of the military doctrine of the Soviet Union and is a definitive dry read. Having said that it contains some absolute gems of information on the organisation and missions of forward detachments and provides significant insight into the Soviet way of doing business. The author casts the Soviets in a very different light to many other books and military pamphlets written on the subject that I have read.  In particular, the way in which he carries forward the analysis of World War 2 operations, including the experience gained from the Manchurian campaign, into the modern context is insightful and explains key elements of the Soviet approach to tactical and operational manoeuvre. This appears to be something missing from the vast majority of Western military thought on the Soviet Union in the Cold War period which fails to recognise their capability for conducting operations at scale and pace with a significant element of effective deception.

The most interesting parts for the wargamer are those that deal with the use of forward detachments in defence as a covering force, for river crossing operations and how the forward detachments would be sequenced into the attack with the main body and the operational manoeuvre group depending on the state of the enemy's defence.  To my mind these components are critical for the creation of "realistic scenarios" for the war that never happened. In addition the insight into the Soviet use of task organisation is also extremely useful. I would recommend reading this in conjunction with Lester Graus work for SASO on the Combined Arms Battalion which provides an extensive analysis of Task organisation in Soviet Post war exercises.

On reflection this is a very useful book I have yet to work out how best to read it as it deals with some very complex issues. It has considerable utility as a reference, but requiers some element of a cover to cover read in order to fully grasp the message and certainly warrants dipping into at a frequency.

If you are interested in gaming the Cold War at some level beyond linning up the tanks wall to wall I would be inclined to pitch this as a must read and if you can pick up one second hand it's definitely worth getting, digesting it will requier some effort.

Some part of this book can be read at Google Books

The Soviet Conduct of Tactical Maneuver: Spearhead of the Offensive @Amazon

Other Book Reviews

Soviet Air Land Battle Tactics
The Military Balance
Encyclopaedia of the Modern British Army
First Clash
The Third World War
The British Army in Germany

The Cold War Bookstore contains links to over 60 Cold War titles covered in my book list


  1. Agreed. Definately one to pick up.

  2. not going to get it here. we have no good book sotres anymore :-( but maybe online

  3. Not come across this title but it looks like a very impressive study and a worthwhile addition to the Central Front Wargamer. It would be interesting to compare this American interpretation with something like Richard Simpkin's Red Armour-Examination of the Soviet Mobile Force Concept?

    Great stuff. You are putting together the definitive Cold War games reference site. Keep up the good work.

    1. Just taken a quick look for the Simpkin book, I might pick one up and have a read, thanks for letting me know about it.