Forging Stalin's Army: Marshal Tukhachevsky And The Politics Of Military Innovation By Sally Stoecker

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Interesting account of a period which is not very studied. Good complement for the Military Effectiveness serie which does not look at USSR or for david Glantz 'stumbling colossus' book on the Red Army before WW2. Very interesting to note that the Red Army (not the Wehrmacht) was indeed the very first army to experiment paratrooper and ard corps as well as the deep battle concept. the book provide also an assessment of the exchange between the Reichwehr and the Red Army. Forging Stalin's Army: Marshal Tukhachevsky And The Politics Of Military Innovation Superb work well cited also Forging Stalin's Army: Marshal Tukhachevsky And The Politics Of Military Innovation Forging Stalin's Army: Marshal Tukhachevsky and the Politics of Military Innovation came out in the late 1990s when interwar studies on military innovation were all the rage, much like case studies of counterinsurgency would be a decade later. Much has been written about the German, American, British and Japanese experience during the 1920 and 1930s as combined arms warfare, carrier based aviation and strategic bombing all matured as dramatically new forms of warfare, what would become popularized by academics as a revolution in military affairs or RMA.

Very little (to my knowledge) has been written about the Soviet experience during this time frame for a variety of reasons, lack of access to Soviet government archives and the political intrigue and shame surrounding the purge of Red Army officers in the late 1930s primary among them. I wrote my graduate thesis on Mikhail Frunze and the militia principle in the early Red Army (an utterly forgettable piece of pseudo scholarship) and thus was broadly familiar with Marshal Tukhachevsky and his contribution to future war theory in the 1930s and was keen to learn about his impact on an army that was able to meet and defeat the vaunted German Wehrmach in the epic tank battles on the Eastern Front in the Second World War.

Unfortunately, I was not able to take very much away from Forging Stalin's Army, author Sally Stoecker's Ph.D. dissertation. My main complaint is that the subtitle is grossly misleading. Marshal Tukhachevsky does not play a leading role in the book end to end. In fact, the book lacks any real narrative at all. Rather, it is a jumble of classical political science, with a special nod to organizational theory; a bit of foreign policy and external threat analysis; some light case studies on interwar collaboration with the Germans at Lipetsk (aircraft), Tomka (chemical weapons) and Kama (tanks) and tank prototype development based on British and American models; and a thoughtful biographical sketch of Marshal Tukhachevsky at the very end that compares and contrasts him to another innovative public entrepreneur, the father of the American nuclear submarine force, Admiral Hyman Rickover. Each of these sections, in isolation, is mildly interesting, although not particularly provocative or groundbreaking. In combination they don't add up to a book with a beginning, middle and an end, let alone a treatise of deep and compelling insights on interwar Soviet military innovation and Tukhachevsky's leading role in it.

Stoecker concludes boldly that Mikhail Nikolaevich Tukhachevsky was indisputably the major facilitator of and contributor to innovation in the Red Army during the first Five Year Plan period, although I cannot say that the material presented here adds up to that assessment nor does it shed much light on the specific innovation achieved during that period. Collaboration with the Germans did little advance Soviet military innovation beyond some work in chemical weapons and staff college visits, according to the author. She also claims that the Russians were able to create the legendary T 34 main battle bank by emulative innovation and improvement of early British and American interwar models, but in no way does she demonstrates how and when that happened. Tukhachevsky is credited for championing a daring view of deep battle but few details are provided nor how they impacted Red Army doctrine and performance in the Second World War. In the end, I can't help but think that this book came together a bit awkwardly as the author was striving to complete her dissertation, likely reacting to requests from some advisers looking for political science theory and others looking for historical case studies, all while just trying to get the darn thing finished.

This book is certainly well researched and documented, as one would expect a doctoral dissertation to be, and as such it may be a valuable tool for other researchers and students looking to explore these issues deeper. However, this isn't a book for the casual reader or someone interested mainly in organizational and technical innovation. Forging Stalin's Army: Marshal Tukhachevsky And The Politics Of Military Innovation


Sally Stoecker ì 8 REVIEW