3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2012
I've just finished reading John Mosiers book Deathride. It's left me wanting to check and recheck a lot of facts. I consider this to be a good thing, quite an achievement. However, the book doesn't stand up to most of the checks I've done. So why four stars?
Well, it's the way in which the book toys with your mind. It reminded me of Brian Fugate's Thunder on the Dnepr (that did the same as this book, only for the other side). In Deathride Mr. Mosier takes you along in a certain way of thinking that's very interesting. He poses that Hitler made only sensible decisions in the war in the east, and that Stalin made only errors and camouflaged these errors by falsifying historical accounts and statistical data. The picture of what strategy Hitler was following the bring Stalin to his knees is very interesting and thought provoking, because somehow with this strategy Hitler's action make a bit of sense. Also the image that's given of Stalin is food for thought. The way Stalin acted resulted in large numbers of equipment being produced, but of very poor quality and without the means to support that equipment in the field. This also makes sense.
However, the book heavily leans on a number of theories, that are more or less posed as true. But although the book is packed with notes, I hardly ever found a note supporting these key theories. The notes are almost always about facts I already knew. I would have liked to see factual notes back up the theories. One very important one is about Soviet casualties. Mr Mosier lists Soviet monthly casualties (to compare them with German losses), but doesn't back them up with notes. I have tried very hard to verify them, but found that WW 2 Soviet casualty figures are hard to find, and when you do find them they are disputed. So where do Mr Mosiers figures come from?
So this is the main problem with the book. Eventhough it made me think about where the Germans were in the war in 1943, I don't think this title gives the true picture. What it may do instead though, is give the picture as Hitler saw it (that is, the German part, for I doubt he'll have had any idea of what is mentioned about Stalin).
This is also true about the Soviet side. Mr Mosier poses that winning WW2 actually meant the Soviet Union as a state was doomed to lose. The way in which he describes this theory is very interesting, but the important arguments are not backed by notes, as I would have liked to see.
A second problem is that Hitler is never criticised in the book, Germany did lose the war and Germany certainly made mistakes. I missed the careful analyses of this process in the book.
So, to sum it up: the book poses a very interesting theory about how Hitler perceived his situation in 1942 and 1943. This is something that may be of interest to eastern front buffs. But because the lack of notes on the important parts of the theory, I feel the book lacks credibility. Therefor, as another reviewer already mentioned, it would be wise not to make this the only book you read abour the Russo-German war of 1941-1945. When you do approach this title like that you'll find it certainly has a number of interesting ideas to offer and this will make you think. If you're anything like me you'll like the challenge, and go and reread some other titles, or research some more data. That for me is a big befenit of reading this book.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2011
...and I certainly learned something. Some of the reviews here are overly harsh. In a book this broad in scope, it is simply impossible for the author to expand upon everything. It's great to see some established 'facts' being re-examined.
on 20 July 2015
An interesting idea but the premise is a series of assumptions supported by statistical data for troop and tank losses etc. with no real attempt to examine the context behind the numbers. There's also an awful lot of assumption by the author that the reader agrees with each point as the book progresses, leading him to use his last shaky interpretation of the numbers as facts, on which to base his next set of shaky interpretations. This allows a different picture of the war in the east to be conjectured out of thin air. This book is not good history.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2010
This is a very interesting and detailed study of the Russian campaign but in particular how closee Hitler and the German Army came to winning!
I was always taught that Stalin and the Russians won with some ease after 1941 and the intial attacks espescially after Stalingrad. However this revisionist account argues that Stalin only won because of the help of the Western allies, that without Britain and the USA fighting Hitler in the west and sending Billions of dollars of equipment and supplies to the USSR Hitler could have won in Russia and came very close to doing just that.
After the war Stalin "wrote" the history and painted himself with glory and hid the statistics that could point to how close he came to losing. This book is a must for any serious student of military history or anyone interested in the war in Russia.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2013
John Mosier has made available here what must be the most thought provoking, provocative and intellectually stimulating narrative of the Eastern Front. His consideration of all that occurs is definitive, penetrating and absorbing. His analysis especially of the key areas of conflict, namely Kiev pocket, Moscow, Operations Mars, Uranus & Saturn together with Kursk and Bagration are well conveyed as is the immensity of Soviet casualty rates the thinking and actions of both leaders and the rationales behind those actions. The reading has pace, it carries you along and divulges its analysis in well structured layers of arguement. The Kursk interpretation dovetails well with the statistical analysis captured in Niklas's Zetterlings work. That it dovetails with another original and well thought through military Historian's work does additional justice to John's. All in all a riveting book and by an author whose thought provoking analysis makes me reach to buy another product from his hand.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2014
Before coming to this book about three years ago, my reading on the Eastern Front had been almost exclusively from mainstream British writers. My reason for recommending Deathride is contained in a footnote which Mosier appended to a point he was making in the Introduction that "almost every Soviet claim is either accepted as the sober truth or nearly so." (p 16)
In other words, in Mosier's view there are "historians" who are basically idealogues, propagandists regurgitating pap for popular consumption. There is the unspoken suspicion that this is done to conform the masses to a political agenda. In the note, Mosier goes on to name three of them -- Chris Bellamy, Anthony Beevor and Richard Evans, citing their books. The note continues "...All three authors, who are British, seem predisposed to accept with almost no reservation any evidence that is put before them -- provided it has a Soviet source ..." (p 377)
Mosier is not the first to cast doubt on how independent (or even accurate) mainstream British WW2 history is. Deathride provides analysis and narrative that challenge the reader to check if these things were so, as the righteous Bereans were commended for doing in another context. It seems Mosier has a name for controversy, no bad thing in itself, especially in a field where other authors have been accused of merely copying from each others' work.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2011
Most revisionist authors find the temptation to revise facts a temptation too far and Mosier is really no excption. Except he seems to use spin more than most.
It is hard to actually like Stalin, but when writing about the Soviet supremo it is still important to maintain the right balance.
Reading the book in isolation you would probably form the impression that Russia blundered its way to victory because Mosier rarely if ever, gives any credit to STAVKA - the Soviet high command.
The legendary battle of Stalingrad is not put in its proper perspective and is glossed over in just a few pages. The Red Army under Zhukov's command and Chuikov's superb, if harsh, leadership performed tactical heroics. The larger Operation Uranus pincer movement was, again, undertaken with remakable skill. AND because, by now, Stalin, unlike Hitler, was prepared to listen to his Generals.
The great tank battle within the Kursk salient never even mentions the careful way in which STAVKA planned for the Battle. The ways in which vast numbers of troops and materiel were carefully positioned right under the unsuspecting German's noses. At no point in the description of the offensive was the key battle for the railhead at Prokhorovka even mentioned.
Mosier also claims that as a result of Stalin's legacy the Soviet Union produced a generation of intellectual and scientific mediocraties. Correct me if I am wrong - but wasn't Yuri Gagarin the first man into space?
Deathride is without doubt a well researched book containing many interesting facts and figures, but in my view it needs to be read in conjunction with other books on The Russian Front to give the reader a more balanced picture.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2011
I felt this book started very well, with very readable, parallel stories of the downfall of Marshal Tukachevsky in USSR in 1937, and the 1936 accidental death of German Luftwaffe general Walther Wever, which were both used to provide genuine insight into the nature and shortcomings of the military establishments in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. But as the book went on, I began to find Mosier's arguments circular, repetitive, and the writing itself to feel increasingly like a man shouting in your ear.
The overarching argument of this book, which seemed to be that Stalin and the Soviet Union bungled their way to victory, and were only saved by the intervention of the Western Allies, began to feel crude and simplistic. Mosier spends much of his time demolishing straw men - e.g. Soviet statistics cannot be relied upon, the failure to capture Moscow/Leningrad did not spell inevitable defeat, the Wehrmacht was not outfought tactically in the late war period. He also comes up with what I found to be staggering claims - the primary purpose of Operation Winter Storm was not in fact to rescue Paulus at Stalingrad, Kursk would have been a victory if not for the Allied threat of invasion in Italy, that Germany's best option in Byelorussia 1944 was the one taken by Hitler - to hold at all costs.
The overwhelming anti-Soviet prejudice of the author (not for a moment forgetting what a detestable and murderous regime it was) leaves the reader feeling baffled at how the Soviets actually managed to make any advance against German forces, given the apparent complete superiority of the Germans in all things. I laughed out loud when the author described Zhukov - on the basis that he gave plain facts to Stalin when no one else would - as therefore being an 'obtuse' character . You can imagine how scathing he is of the generals he did not give plain facts to Stalin. Talk about damned if you do and damned if you don't!!
To conclude, this is at times a readable and thought-provoking book, but ultimately frustrating and very irritating!
12 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2010
Not to say that one could expect something extraordinary from this book given the description on amazon, but the truth was so much worse than I could have ever imagined. This text represents a litany of ignorance, mistakes, baseless assertions, fallacies, and generalizations that simply have no end.
The author appears to be hell-bent on proving the 'Stalinist' version of the Great Patriotic War is no more than fiction. Unfortunately, this book is some 50 years too late. This was done by Khrushchev in 1956 and the ensuing thaw, which began blaming Stalin, at times unjustly, for Soviet/Red Army defeats and weaknesses. More so, the author ignores the fact that German histories/narratives/memoirs have monopolized Eastern Front literature in the West since the Cold War; thus, whatever fiction Stalinist ideas of the war might have propagated, they were far too few and limited to carry the same weight as their German counterparts. Further, no real examples are provided of either the 'Stalinist' version (which did in fact exist) or of their impact on either the Soviet Union or the West. The author only mentions in a footnote three British historians (Chris Bellamy, Anthony Beevor, and Richard Evans as relying on Soviet accounts/evidence 'with almost no reservation' and accepting 'almost every Soviet claim...as the sober truth or nearly so'; hard to believe since Beevor has been shown to exaggerate against the Soviet side (16; 377)). In lieu of any real evidence, the author forces the reader to an agonizing duty of reading well known realities of the Soviet State before and during the Cold War as if this proves Soviet 'lies' about the Great Patriotic War (pg. 10).
A few more exaggerations to think about:
"...the Third Reich, that mighty state that he had spent decades creating..." since when did Hitler spend 'decades' creating the Third Reich? (2)
"Stalin, who planned his own holocaust in secret..." exactly what 'holocaust' does the author have in mind? (2)
The author conflates Hitler and Stalin with the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, as if each mirrored and represented the other perfectly (2).
"One very particular cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union was the Second World War" (2). Or one could argue the Second World War enabled the Soviet Union to survive for as long as it did, something the author alludes to on pg. 8 but does not discuss.
Mistakes and baseless claims:
The author claims "The Soviet Union never signed the relevant conventions, nor had the Red Army of the Bolsheviks ever paid the slightest attention to them." While it is true that the Soviet Union did not sign the Geneva convention, they did offer the Germans to abide by the Hague convention soon after the invasion (13).
Another wholly baseless claim has to do with Red Army soldiers "murder[ing] and mistreat[ing] prisoners of war on a large scale...' for which no evidence is offered.
The author claims that Germans who "survived Soviet prison camps were in a distinct minority, perhaps as few as 10 percent" (17). Soviet archival data says otherwise: Germany: Total POWs in 1956: 2,388,443; Repatriated : 2,031,743; Died: 356,687 or 14.9%. This isn't an exact figure as it discounts POWs who might have escaped or died en route to camps, but it is a better estimation than "as few as 10 percent."
The author then attempts to create ratios of war dead between the Germans and the Soviets, conveniently forgetting the Germans invaded the Soviet Union with their allies; as well, the Soviets also fought with allies in the latter years of the war. Even worse, the author compares the population of the Soviet Union in 1939 with that of Germany, to show that the loss ratio was not 'sustain[able]' by the Soviets. Here he ignores that the Soviet Union occupied territories with tens of millions in 1940 and 1941, and also ignores the makeup of the relative populations of each state (age groups; not to mention the future areas of occupation for Nazi Germany and how that would impact the ratio(s)) (18).
The author then begins to play with numbers. He claims "4.3 million men were killed" in the Red Army in 1941, this can only come from Glantz and House's "When Titans Clashed" where the total for killed, missing, wounded and sick in 1941 is 4,308,094 (on pg. 292). Even better, he claims "In 1942, the death toll was seven million"; no, 7,080,801 is the number of, once again, killed, missing, wounded and sick. He does the same for the rest of the war (19). There is also an earlier mistaken conflation between the Stalinist official figure of some 7.5 million total deaths in the Great Patriotic War with Glantz and House's figure for total military deaths. The author sees these two wholly separate figures as the latter's confirmation for current acceptance of the 7.5 figure (17).
For someone who refuses to believe Soviet accounts of the Second World War, he's doing a great, 'Stalinist' job of making up history as he goes.
All of this is from the initial introductory chapter.
My recommendation? If you're a fan of fiction, by all means support this author's hobby of attempting to write literature. If you're interested in history, search for it elsewhere.