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98 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Addition To The East Front Experience, 8 Dec 2008
By 
Mr. Vl Hughes "230CC" (Rochester, Kent United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
How do I start this review ?
I guess the first thing would be the recommendation to buy it. The read is easy and flowing. Easy, in that it is gripping and holds you, flowing in that as a history piece, it never becomes stodgy or bogged down.I would also say that I found this book to be tremendous value at the price as well. 580 pages for a few pounds in paperback.

The book provides an account of the opening months of Barborossa and does not, unlike other books on 'Barborossa' then file off to the years after. This book sticks with the opening operation, and the German attempt to knock out the Soviet Union quickly and in a series of co-ordinated hammer blows. Where the book or Mr Kershaw differs from other titles is that, not only is there the strategic overview, but we also get accounts of selected tactical encounters (rather than the strategic), and many letters and diary entries from soldiers serving. Most of these eye witness accounts are German, but Soviet offerings are included as well. Mr Kershaw does not then fall into the trap of "Well Corporal so and so who was there said this, so this must be true". He keeps these entries purely as embellishment, and as colouring of the subject he is trying to impart.

Despite having read many books on the subject matter, this was the first I have seen to concentrate on one of the first German obstacles, Brest-Litovsk. I was surprised to find out just how tough a nut this was to crack. But the main thrust of the book for me was the highlighting of the German Army's massive and quite frankly, unprecedented victories that kept bleeding themselves dry, or as Mr Kershaw put it from the translated German "Victoring itself to death".

and this seemed to be the main problem. Despite inflicting 2.1 million irretrievable casualties on the Red Army over 6-8 months, German losses, though nowhere near as high were simply not replaceable in military terms. Tanks, soldiers, experienced officers as well as other equipments too, could simply not got to the Front quickly enough or in quantity enough, especially as the front got further and further away from the Western border.

Memorable highlights of the book for me would be:
The unimaginable tenacity required to keep fighting in the bitterest cold of -40 degrees at times !
Some of the indecision of the German High Command as to where the main schwerpunkt (point of concentration) should be.
The Russian command's regular ineptitude and lack of care of losses taken.
The pure violence exhibited by both sides on the enemy and civilians (yes both sides on civilians).
This truly was the Ali v Frazier contest of all wars.... nothing could ever be comparable, and though I hate to say it, puts the Western effort very much as a sideshow (read "Europe At War - Norman Davies).

If I had anything to say against the book, I would post two arguments. First, I would take issue with solely blaming Hitler for the things that went militarily wrong in the first year. I think the German High Command made a few indecisive mistakes before he intervened, and Alan Clark in his 'Barborossa' makes a good case as to where Hitler could actually be credited with helping to save the Wehrmacht in the winter of 41/42 by keeping it standing despite the winter rather than a suicidal retreat with millions of Soviets on their tails.
To be fair, I think Mr Kershaw swings on both sides of the coin on this one, and for me did not come down on one side or the other TOO obviously.

The other point I would make is that this book is for me, really an accompanament to perhaps a more 'clinical' history on the subject. What I mean by this is that there are other books that give a much more sterile miliary overview of the battles, and leave you in no doubt as to where each division and corps were. 'War Without Garlands' does not entirely attempt that because it enters other spheres of importance that come into the story, including the 'Human interest' stories that so enrich this tome. That being the case, I would have to say that this is not a completely purist Military overview of the campaign...... it has other depth to it that you will not read in other offerings.

A fantastic read ! The first I've read of Robert Kershaw's, and have now been moved to buy other books by him. Thanks Robert ;-)
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed combat history combined with an excellent read - unputdownable!, 3 Feb 2009
This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
An outstanding account of the first six months of the Russo-German war from June 1941 onwards which I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in World War II and the Eastern Front campaign.

This book combines text on strategy and operations of Operation Barbarossa with an enormous amount of 'worm's-eye' view experiences of German soldiers, with a good balance of coverage.

I read this very readable book, over 550 pages, in only two sittings. Particularly interesting to me were the experiences conveyed in the text of the German army, firstly, in the period immediately preceding June 22nd 1941, the moment of invasion into Russia, and, secondly, of the German army infantry's progressive discomfort during its long distance march further and further into the Soviet Union. I am sure there are many other individual battle experiences that others will find interesting to read.

There are some very useful maps of strategic and tactical operations.

An index to these maps somewhere in the book would have been useful but this omission did not detract from my reading experience.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War without Garlands, 19 Feb 2010
By 
Hugh McPhilemy (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
I have studied the Second World War for the last fifty years and in that time, there have been some dramatic shifts in perception. In the early days,the German Army, via Blitzkreig,was seen as all conquering. Only the mud then snow before Moscow stopped the Wermacht from defeating Russia. In his book, Mr Kershaw goes a long way to rectifying this falacy. Far from being the mechanised route march to round up hapless Russian prisoners,portrayed by earlier authors, Barbarossa was a titanic struggle from the off. The Wermacht began to suffer serious casualties from day one and despite being far more oganised than their Russian foe, could not afford the casualty rates involved. Indivdual soldiers in their letters home began to express grave doubts about the outcome. Despite massive encirclements at Kiev,Minsk & Smolensk,capturing almost one and three quarter million Russian prisoners in the process,the cost to the German Army was unexpectedly horrendous. Mr Kershaw's forte is his ability to combine grand strategy with a selection of personel letters that reflect the serious doubts of the individual Landser. Whilst the Nazi Party apparatus trumpeted colossal victories,these letters tell of Divisons down to twenty tanks and Companies down to single figures with little or no prospect of immediate reinforcement and all this in the first six months. I cannot recall any other book that demonstrates more starkly the absolute folly of the German invasion of Russia. A superb book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Staggering - the best I've found on the Ostfront, 24 Mar 2010
By 
Nicholas Walton (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
This is a staggeringly good book, and a vital piece of the jigsaw when it comes to understanding the Eastern Front in the Second World War.

I have read widely on this subject, from war diaries to accounts of individual battles and to more general overviews. They are, of course, all bits of the jigsaw, and some are more vital than others. Despite its focus on both the initial Barbarossa end of the Eastern Front, and a heavy emphasis on the German experience, this book transformed my understanding.

Nowhere else did I gain such a vivid picture of the size of Russia. It's not just a simple case of maps, war diaries or figures for re-supply - it's the glueing together of all of this into a narrative that suddenly makes the great pushes and the kessels come alive - the strain on the German soldiers and the simple human scale of involvement in these actions.

In other accounts, of course, these first weeks and months seem to be a golden period for the Wehrmacht, as they plunge deeper and deeper into the Soviet Union, gaining stunning success after stunning success. The strain on and misery of the soldiers enjoying this apparent success comes out through Kershaw's knitting together of the narratives at various levels. This then helps feed into the reasons why the campaign spluttered out at the gates of Moscow, and provide a real, tangible picture of the overstretch that is often talked about in other accounts, without ever fully coming alive.

So, again, a piece in the jigsaw, but the most vital that I have read to date. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern Account of the start of Operation Barbarossa, 29 Mar 2010
By 
Mr. P. A. Gower (Altrincham, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
Robert Kershaw's account of the initial period of Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union has a "modern" flavour in that predominately German individual accounts are incorporated in a general recount of German's invasion of Soviet Russia between June-January 1941-42. The author claims that nobody has written a definitive "soldiers" account of Operation Barbarossa and this is the first I have seen/read that attempts to do this. It really gives a flavour of why, despite what appeared to be such speculator victories, the German Army failed to win.

As a Brit brought up on "our finest hour" tradition in a world dominated by a Hollywood film industry you need reminding of the scale of the Russian front - "some 19 to 20 million soldiers who fought for the Werhmacht, about 17-19 million fought in Russia" The German army in the first three months of the campaign lost nearly 4 times as many men than they did in invading France. The Soviets by the end of the year had suffered circa 3 million irrecoverable losses and still managed in front of the gates of Moscow to inflict the first defeat of the war that the German army suffered.

The author describes how the Werhmacht "Victored" itself to death, losing key experienced officers and NCOs, dissipating its strength as the Russian front got deeper and wider and unlike the Soviets were unable to replace its losses. A good read that would benefit from sequels in a similar style for the remaining 3 years of the war. Would also benefit from more maps so that you don't have to flip back to earlier pages.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of the Blitzkreig, 19 July 2009
By 
J. Deane (Houghton on the Hill, Leics United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
I have read few accounts as good as this of the war in the East, combining the strategic and the tactical with personal reminisces.

The concentration is on the Army Group Centre, with little on the Leningrad Campaign or events in the Ukraine, Kiev pocket excepted, and while there are a few personal accounts from the Russian side the vast majority are from the German side. Often these are junior ranks from letters home, of soldiers who died in the campaign. For a more strategic account, of both the run up to the campaign and the strategic errors on both sides I would recommend "Absolute War", but this book complements it well, with a lot more detail and is far more readable. It flows very well with only a few areas of repetition that would have benefited from a little more editing.

Mr Kershaw seems to see the ultimate failure of Barbarossa to be due to the lack of preparation for a prolonged campaign, and in particular the lack of logistical support and lack of ability to replace the losses of specialist technical and officer personnel. It seems from his point of view the campaign had more or less ground to a halt before the winter campaign and counterattack got started, destructive though these were.

He doesn't shy away from the ferocious breakout attempts from the various pockets, an infantry war rather than tank war. He also describes many atrocities by the Wehrmacht, who clearly were cut from the same cloth as the SS. He also gives some description of the extermination camps and death marches of the Soviet POW camps. Of the 2 million POW from the first six months of the war, 97% did not survive the war. This was before the Wansee conference, and in many ways was its prototype. This was a war of extermination, of Slavs as well as Jews. There are also vivid descriptions of Soviet atrocities, no one should be surprised at the mass rapes and destruction when the Soviet armies got to Germany in 1945.

Highly recommended
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Updated and wholly convincing study on Barbarossa early stages, 1 Jan 2011
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
Operation Barbarossa is universally considered as the defining event and the turning point of land operations in the European Theatre of Operations. After the German Angriff nach Osten the war was no longer a matter of a European struggle for supremacy but took intercontinental dimensions and after less than 6 months sealed the fate of Nazi Germany and her allies. This book describes the German Army operations ranging from the start of Barbarossa till its standstill and its reversals in front of Moscow of early december 1941. There is no doubt that Barbarossa was not an option born of Hitler's lunacy but a well thought operation whose success was to be the zenith of Hitler's regime, the realisation of what was first described in Mein Kampf ,and finally an event capable of finally forcing England to accept a peace treaty to sanction German power on the European mainland. This did not happen and from December 1941 German showed clearly her weaknesses and in spite of local successes was no longer able to mount attacks of the same scale of earlier ones. The reasons of this abject failure resides not just in the unexpected resiliance of the Soviet regime but mostly in the inability of the Nazi ierarchy to grasp the realities of the scale of their enterprise. Blinded by their ideology based on racial prejudices the Nazi regime showed their ignorance and lack of planning, that comdemned their finest troops to a gruesome struggle for survival against a cruel and determined enemy. An excellent book strongly recommended not just because of the remarkable coverage of military events but especially for the author's oustanding ability to provide a wider picture of the story including also political, strategic and human factors.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Barbarossa campaign, 29 Oct 2011
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
This book constitutes an excellent overview of the Barbarossa campaign. Do not expect a detailed account at tactical level area by area: in 600 pages it would be impossible to cover the 6 months of Barbarossa on a front of nearly 3000km long.
Only 4 stars because I would have liked to see more maps (only 3 or 4 in the whole book), and a more in-depth analysis of the German and Russian strategies (but again, in 600 pages, that would have been a challenge!). Also, the Luftwaffe role is not explained after the initial attack.
The author has used extracts of Russian and German soldier letters and interviews to give front-line perspective. Easy to read, well written, I'd certainly recommend it as an introduction to this topic as it has raised my interest: I'm now going to read the D. Glantz books on Barbarossa.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh look, 30 Mar 2011
By 
Nicholas J. Ofield (TCI) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
So much has been written on this subject that it is exciting to read a book with a fresh approach, and one that sticks to the topic. This is an excellent book and I found the single most pertinent point was of the German Army `Victorying itself to death'. This is a concept that has not been brought out before, and one that is unfortunately all too common. As a concept It should be a compulsory study for all military commanders and for all senior managers.
A good read and highly recommended
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars essential reading for a study of the ostfront!, 19 July 2011
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This review is from: War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Paperback)
this is by far one of the best books i have read on both military history and the eastern front(ostfront)this is the definitive book to buy for a study of the launch of operation Barbarossa up to the winter offensive outside moscow. it doesn't just describes the movement of the three army groups but also looks into the average soldiers experience and is loaded with personal accounts of the fighting. what i found really interesting was the description of the average day for a german infantryman or panzer crew man, the endless marching, the vast unending landscape, the ruthless attacks by the russians and partisans. the book describes all the major and minor developments of the first six months of the war and shows just what sort of problems the germans faced which ultimately cost them the chance for a quick victory
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War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942
War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 by Robert Kershaw (Paperback - 5 Jun 2008)
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