Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed History & a Cracking Good Read, 21 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Stalingrad (Paperback)
First published in 1998, this book describes the conflict from June 1941 to the collapse of the German 6th Army February 1943. There is also a brief description of the fate of those captured.

In setting the scene the author begins with the strategic thinking that gave rise to the invasion of the USSR on 22nd June 1941; Operation Barbarossa. He goes on to discuss the German failure to take Moscow and Hitler's change of plans that eventually saw the 6th Army attack Stalingrad without the originally intended support from the 4th Panzer Army.

All through the book the author calls on a vast number of references to describe the Russian and German perspectives in terms of individual combatants. In doing so he not only tells a detailed & thoroughly researched history of the Battle of Stalingrad, he presents it all with the excitement of a novel, providing insight into what it was like to be there.

Although he describes the appalling conditions suffered by some on both sides throughout the conflict the most memorable are perhaps the conditions and the losses suffered by Chuikov's soldiers in the early stages of the battle in the city and those of the axis soldiers after they were trapped in the Kessel on 26th November 1942 due to the success of Operation Uranus. Many of the latter starved or froze to death.

Manstein's attempt to rescue the 6th Army is seen from his perspective, including the effect of Operation Little Saturn which threatened his left flank. The sacrifice of the 6th Army provided time for other forces of Army Group Don to regroup and save themselves. It seems that the only hope for 6th Army was to break out early, but Hitler forbade this and gave false promises of a later rescue.

Very few of the axis troops who were surrounded survived the war, but then very few of the Russians fighting in the City of Stalingrad survived either. Appendix B attempts to explain the numbers of axis men trapped & captured. Estimates of those encircled by Operation Uranus vary from 250,000, of which 195,000 were German, to 294,000 of which 232,000 were German. About 25,000 wounded and specialists were flown out. About 52,000 members of the 6th Army died between 22nd November & the 7th January. German losses reached about 60,000 by the surrender. The Soviets claimed to have taken about 111,500 prisoners, but these might include Germans captured during Operations Winter Storm & Little Saturn plus Russians fighting for the Axis.

Mr Beevor cites claims that Hitler's outward appearance & body language changed after the loss of 6th Army and hints that he knew by then that the war was lost for Germany.

This is well researched history and a cracking good read: five stars of course.
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Location: UK

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