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4.8 out of 5 stars
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4.8 out of 5 stars


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Having read the book I feel it is over-hyped and has too many 5 star reviews.

A good read in its own right and it does tell the story from a welcome Soviet respective. But it should have been called:

Stalingrad: Voices of the surviving Red Army veterans. How the Red Army endured the battle of Stalingrad.

For that is what it is, the retelling of the battle from the voices of its survivors. It also leaves you quite short since it only mentions Operation Uranus in passing and that is really how the Red Army triumphed.

PROS:

The author, Michael K. Jones, brings to life the struggle from the Soviet/Russian view and goes far in correcting presistent myths. Certain untruths have been copied so many times that they have a life of their own, such as the sniper duel from Enemy at the Gates - overwhelming evidence suggest that Erwin König or Heinz Thorvald never excisted. And I truely liked the story of Pavlov's House where the defence is well described and quite contrary to the official story that has been repeted many times. In fact the Red Army defenders never knew it by that name and Pavlov wasn't their main hero but a later product of Soviet Propaganda. So in this way the book does bring a very fresh outlook and paints a picture far more complex and interesting than the myths many other sources rely on and have a life of their own not based on fact but repitition.

For these reasons I liked the book and congratulate the author.

CONS:

The Lady Doth Protest too much methinks.

The first 100 pages are largely devoted to Vasily Chuikov the Commander of the Soviet forces and the man he was. Here the the author Michael K. Jones spends a lot of time criticizing Anthony Beevor who paints Chuikov as a cold blooded monster (apparently) while Jones goes far to portray him as a hero. Uning up almost a hundred pages too do this is over the top and bad style. I would have liked it better had the auther taken a more impartial view and allowed me to take my own conclusions and I am no great fan of Beevor in any case.

The style of the rest of the book is similar, each chapter starts by adressing a myth and correcting it and then tells the story in detail before a summary at the end. In this it reminds me of a self help book rather than a good narrative.

SUMMARY

A fine book in itself and a fresh insight into the battle from the Soviet side (this book is entirely a Soviet viewpoint, similar as older books from the Easten Front were from a pure German standpoint) and does good work adressing and correcting myths. But goes well too far in showing the Soviets in a heroic light that I found it distracting. An author of a history book should not take sides as Jones does and it would have made a better impact had he presented the story but allowed me to draw the conclusions.

I would recommend it if you are really interested in Stalingrad and the Eastern Front as it does provide the long neglected view of the Red Army soldiers and I am thankful for Jones in presenting these stories. But it is far from the better books on military history I have read.
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on 17 May 2007
Few battles can have been so written about or, on the face of it, be as well known as the battle of Stalingrad. It is our ostensible familiarity with the events on the Volga in the autumn and winter of 1942 that makes this new book on the battle the more remarkable. Michael K. Jones, already recognised as one of the most innovative of current military historians from his work on the battles of Agincourt and Bosworth, had applied his fascination with `battle physcology' to understand how the Red Army overcame incredible odds to turn the tide of the war on the Eastern Front. The author has used new testimony from Red Army veterans, particularly Anatoly Mereshko, an officer on the staff of the Soviet commander, Chuikov, to draw a very different picture of the battle, one in which the position of the 62nd Army (the defenders of the city upon whom the battle concentrates) was even more desperate than has previously been thought. Jones' ability to cut through the Soviet rhetoric and bring out the authentic voice of Stalingrad's defenders, and what motivated them to perform acts of superhuman courage and determination, makes for compelling history. Key points in the battle - the defence of `Pavlov's House', the German assault of mid-October, and the development of the sniper movement among the defenders - are reinterpreted in the face of this new evidence. This is not just another book on Stalingrad: it rewrites the story of the battle and the picture that emerges is even more extraordinary than the one with which we are familiar. This is military history at its best: innovative, original and highly readable.
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on 13 May 2007
This is a defining book that opens up a whole new way of considering that awful conflict in the East: From the individual Russian soldiers point of view, first hand, on the ground, from the source and without communist rhetoric or dubious translation. It is sure to become a classic.

Professor Richard Homes was once the master of telling the story of the ordinary soldier at war, the baton has clearly now been passed to Michael K Jones. Jones takes this type of narrative prose to an all new level having been able to obtain accounts from veterans whilst actually touring the battlefield with them and having access to both their private papers and actual contemporary combat records.

The book sets the scene for the overall conflict then comprehensively takes us through the battle detailing all the key events. The details of the 14 September and 14 October when the Red Army all but collapsed are chilling. The narrative is compulsive; Jones clearly knows the terrain like the back of his hand so that you get a real sense of being there. The pictures from the battlefield as it is today are somehow unnerving as they draw the whole story into reality. The book is not over long and wont be half read and left on a shelf.

Just how Jones managed to get access to so many veterans to tell their stories is a mystery to me. How do you get an ageing ex Deputy Commander of the Warsaw Pact or a revered War Poet to meet you and travel with you?

This book sets the standard and is a comprehensive work, I hope Jones will be able to bring his unique approach to the other major areas of the War in the East, hopefully this book will be the first in a series.

Any chance of Kharkov, Sevastopol or Leningrad?
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 28 November 2007
At the outset, I feel obligated to acknowledge that I am unqualified to determine to what extent Michael J. Jones's and Antony Beevor's accounts of the Battle of Stalingrad are...and are not...accurate, nor have I read any of Beevor's books. The remarks that follow focus entirely on Jones's book and explain why I hold it in such high regard. Briefly, here are some facts that help to establish the context for the account that Jones provides. After Germany and the Axis powers invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and advanced deep into Soviet territory, they suffered a series of defeats and failed in their drive to conquer Moscow. The United States had by then declared war on Germany and Hitler wanted to end the fighting on the Eastern Front or at least minimize it before the U.S. became deeply involved in the war in Europe.

Hitler was determined to invade and occupy Stalingrad because it was a major industrial city on the banks of the Volga River (a vital transport route between the Caspian Sea and northern Russia) and its capture would secure the left flank of the German armies as they advanced into the Caucasus with large oil deposits, desperately needed by the German army. Also, the city bore the name of Hitler's nemesis, Joseph Stalin, and capturing it would be an ideological and propaganda coup. Stalin also had an ideological and propaganda interest in defending the city but there were severe constraints in terms of time and resources. The Red Army, at this stage of the war, was less capable of highly mobile operations than was the German Army. Stalin's strategy was to have his troops engage in combat inside the city, an area that could be dominated by short-range small firearms and artillery rather than armored and mechanized tactics. The Battle of Stalingrad began in August of 1942 and continued until February of 1943. Estimates vary but most military historians agree that the combined casualties were at least 1.5 million and probably more. Jones examines the 65-day period during which the German forces began their siege of Stalingrad and took the battle into the city until the Russians launched a counter-offensive that eventually trapped and destroyed the German Sixth Army and other forces around the city.

There are several reasons why I think so highly of his book. Here are two. First, I was fascinated by the leadership style of Lieutenant-General Vasily Chuikov, Commander of the 62nd Russian Army. As Chuikov later wrote, "The most important thing I learnt on the banks of the Volga was to be impatient of blueprints. We constantly looked for new methods of organizing and conducting battle, starting from the precise conditions in which we were fighting." According to Jones, "Making a stand in such terrible conditions required absolute ruthlessness. Chuikov demanded the utmost of his men, insisting that they hold their lines come what may. It was a pitiless edge of steel behind Stalingrad's defenders."

Jones also quotes Anatoly Mereshko, a 20-year-old lieutenant, who served on the HQ staff of the 62nd Army, working directly under Chuikov. According to Mereshko, "Yuri Bondarev, in his film Hot Snow, did not hide the fact that one of his heroes, General Bessenov, was almost an exact prototype of Chuikov. The words he used when necessary to stop the German advance are virtually the same: `I allow no right of withdrawal. Not a step back! The present lines must be held to the last man. For everyone, without exception, there can b only one justification for leaving their position - death.'" Whenever necessary, Chuikov, could be - and was - merciless. But eventually under his leadership, the Russian forces prevailed.

Having already seen the film Enemy at the Gates, I was especially interested in what Jones shares in Chapter Eight concerning "The Birth of `Sniperism.'" In the film, the Russian sniper (Vassili Zaitsev portrayed by Jude Law) becomes involved in what amounts to an on-going duel with his German counterpart (Major König portrayed by Ed Harris). Both in the film and in reality, the snipers are caught up in the Battle of Stalingrad but there are significant differences that Jones cites, notably Beevor's claim that Zaitsev originated "sniperism." Jones's research suggests that this "is a wonderful myth - but nevertheless propaganda rather than truth. Zaitsev was a skilful teacher [who served with distinction in the 1047th Regiment of Colonel Nikolai Batyuk's 284th Rifle Division, killing more than 200 German soldiers] but he did not initiate the sniper movement." Proper credit should be given to Alexander Kalentiev who served in the same regiment. Be that as it may, Jones provides a wealth of information about the "tough, self-reliant hunters" whose singular temperament and talents as snipers are juxtaposed with the massive forces of two great armies engaged in perhaps the bloodiest combat throughout the entire war.

When concluding his account, Jones quotes Mereshko's observation that "Stalingrad was a smithy for commanders and many of those who distinguished themselves in battle went on to lead armies in their own right." Today, many of those commanders are buried on the Mamaev Kurgan, the hill that dominated the battle for the city. Vasily Chuikov is buried there. "Somehow in the burning hell that was Stalingrad, Chuikov created an army able to withstand everything the Germans threw at it. Their heroic story has struggled hard to come to life, caught between the propagandist clichés of the communist state - insinuating everyone at Stalingrad was heroic, and that the city would never have fallen to the enemy - and Western cynicism, which believes that Red Army heroism was only created at the barrel of a gun. Neither suffices. This terrible fight took Chuikov and his troops to the very limits of human endurance, and their testimony, now finally recovered, possesses a universal significance and power." In November of 1942, on and around Mamaev Kurgan, approximately 300,000 soldiers of the Wehrmacht, Axis allies, and Hilfswilligers were encircled and destroyed in a massive Soviet counter attack.

Even after reading this book, I find it incomprehensible that any of the Russian forces who defended Stalingrad and any of their opponents survived 65 days of being in the "burning hell" until finally, Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus surrendered on January 31, 1943, a day after he was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall by Adolf Hitler. I am grateful to Michael K. Jones for helping me to understand and appreciate "the universal significance and power" of what so many suffered and so few survived.
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on 24 August 2011
This book tells the story of the battler of Stalingrad through the personal recollections of veterans who were there.

It shows that the Russian victory was in doubt at several points and had Paulus been a more instinctive and tactical leader he could have triumphed.

It dispels the idea that the Russians fought hard because behind them were "blocking detachments" whose job it was to shoot anyone who retreated. Rather it portrays the defence as being due to good leadership, sheer courage and a determination on the part of individual soldiers to stand and fight.

Of course we know memories are fallible and that time can paint a different picture from the reality but the premise of this book is good. However I do wonder whether, with the end of the Soviet super state, the veterans are rewriting the communist history to reflect better upon their, and their comrades, actions.
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on 13 July 2011
I knew this was going to be a fanstatic read when the author spreads the cards so to speak on Page 30-Chapter 1,

"The Germans held five trumps in the battle for Stalingrad-Professionalism/Logistics/Communications/Army Unity/Battle Memory"

In other words the Red Army were staring into the abyss. An abyss, which was cleared by vicious fighting for inches of Volga riverbank, tiny rooms and massive factory buildings, sniper shots from hundreds of yards away or by punches and rifle butts face to face. Michael Jones puts you in the room with the hardmen, Chuikov and Rodimtsev, and gives in my view anyway a more vivid account than Beevors brilliant book..
Its highly unlikely any other army in the world could have survived and reversed the onslaught by the 6th Army, joined later by the 4th Panzer Army, and in an ironic sense no other army could have held out as long as Von Paulus's men did.

Michael Jones brings the battle to your home, garden, wherever you open "Stalingrad-How the Red Army Triumphed"
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on 5 August 2011
I have read many books on the Eastern Front and the Battle of Stalingrad, Overy, Erickson, Beevor et.c. but this is by far the nest account of the battle that I have come across. It does not gloss over the small things that tipped this battle in favour of the Red Army. The horror, massive devastation and the the psycology that contributed to a defeated army being turned into a victorious one is well written and developed. This is no sympathy vote for the Russian Army either, it deals with the brutality within the context and the reality of war on both sides. It reinterprets many assumptions about the battle and corrects certain historical inaccuracies.

Above all it gives the human side, why did men and women continue to fight and resist in this hell storm? It provides an understanding of the psycology of resistance. This work is a moving, well researched account and is a must for those wishing to understand the battle.
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on 18 April 2015
For those readers, like myself, who enjoyed Beevor's classic work on Stalingrad but felt cheated by his refusal to enter in any debate about our understanding of the battle beyond the occasional put down of other writers who have analysed the battle, this is a delight, for Jones realises that in order to present his own personal take on the battle he needs to take the work of others seriously, even where he disagrees with them. If you believe there is nothing left to be usefully said about Stalingrad please do read on. His analysis of often quite different understandings of what was going on is interesting, intelligent and never nit-picking. His work with veterans and their memories then and now, his analyses of official views of what was going on compared to his more nuanced material, and his willingness to understand why different people wrote often very different accounts is to be commended. This is scholarly but very readable. I couldn't put it down. In a way this told me very little I didn't know (as someone who has read most of what is available about the eastern front available in English), but the new material was used so intelligently to tease out new ways of considering what I thought I already knew that I felt my interest in this campaign restored. My only disappointment in hindsight is that there is nothing of how this siege compares with others during WW2, but this was never his aim, and would perhaps be a very different book.
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on 15 January 2011
The book focuses on the 62nd army of Gen. Chuikov, i.e. on the so-called 'Defensive Part' of the battle. It focuses on the Russian (Soviet) side. There is plenty of new information, and a level of detail - and analysis - I have never seen on this part of the battle, for instance, on 'storm groups' tactics. The epic fight of Rodimtsev's 13th Guards Division is brilliantly depicted. Great reading.
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on 14 May 2015
I have read other books by Mr Jones and this one is as consistently readable as his others.
The book tells of the battle of Stalingrad from the Russian perspective and takes the reader to the personalities involved in this grim struggle, from the private in the rubble to the senior officers in command.
I was particularly impressed by the detailed accounts of the senior commanders on the spot and their relationships with their colleagues and soldiers. They came across as real human beings and not the unfeeling automatons herding their massed troops to certain death as so often characterised in western accounts.
I found the book very easy to read with fascinating insights into the "official accounts" compared to the "actual" events.
Anyone with an interest in the Eastern front and the cataclysmic struggle at Stalingrad cannot fail to be informed and impressed by this book
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