on 29 May 2011
The sub-title describes the coverage found in this book very well. The author doesn't get deeply involved with the inner workings of the Stalingrad pocket or how it was formed from the Soviet actions of Operation Uranus. The author restrains himself to the actions taken by Manstein and his quickly assembled AG Don as it defends itself from Operation Little Saturn. The author extends his coverage to mid February and will also include Operations Star, Gallop. The author does cover troop dispositions of both sides very well at the time of Manstein's arrival.
This coverage lies in three areas: The shoring up and holding the defensive line on the Don-Chir River line while Hoth tries to relieve and resupply the 6th Army in Stalingrad. Second, Keeping the exit corridor open for Hoth and Paulus to escape. Finally, Manstein also had to protect and keep open the southern Ukraine including the Donets area in order for the AG A to escape the Caucasus. In late January and February, there is much fighting south of the Chir in the Rostov-Voroshilovgrad-Slavyansk area and the author does a superb job of covering it. With the meager resources Manstein had and the tramatic effects of the reversal at Stalingrad, it was a miracle the Germans avoided complete collapse. Escaping defeat can be attributed to Manstein's brillant insight and the above human effort of people like Hollidt, Fretter-Pico and all the Panzer commanders who fought and blunted the superiority of the Soviet assault. Without sufficient infantry, Manstein had to use the panzers as "fire brigades", chasing after each fire the Soviets started. The "Back-hand" counter-offensive at Kharkov, which will set up the Kursk Offensive in July, is also included. Hitler's interference and Paulus's hesitancy to disobey Hitler is also discussed briefly.
All of the key engagements in protecting the Chir line, the Tatsinkaya and other airfields, the railroad line that fed AG Don, as well as the struggles of the relief force moving northeast to link up with Paulus are covered. This coverage includes the towns, terrain features and the units of both participants. Even though the Soviet armies are spelled out with each offensive, this book is clearly German oriented with Manstein the central character. The author has high praise for the Field Marshall, believing that he was probably the best man to save the southern forces from complete destruction. The coverage is concise but descriptive and would be ideal for a newcomer. It would also be good for an old pro as a reference guide.
Another feature that was good was in the last chapter. Throughout the book the author bestowed high praise on Manstein for not only his actions on the battlefield but also how he handled Hitler. Hitler was either in denial or just didn't understand the precarious position his forces were in for he rejected most of Manstein's requests. Hitler made Manstein's job twice as hard. The author covers this conflicted relationship well. In the last chapter he also acknowledges that Manstein had the help of some of the best officers in the Army. Hollidt and Fretter-Pico were outstanding in their defense. There were many other officers who performed well also.
The author provides some simple maps which help but they could have been more professionally drawn. There is a good Bibliography of primary and secondary sources plus an index to assist the reader. The author has really done his homework for there is little that is missing from this book and the Bibliography will confirm this for it has an impressive array of sources.
If this book has stirred your interest in this campaign, this bibliography will help you find other books to read. I would like to suggest David Glantz's "After Stalingrad" which has greater depth and breadth or the two volume set by John Erickson. However if you're looking for a really, really good, informative, easy to follow overview, Mr Sadarananda's book is highly recommended.
on 18 August 2013
Many historians rate Manstein as being one of if not the greatest German general of WWII. How he stabilised the Eastern front after the disaster of Stalingrad,is not only an amazing feat of arms for Germany,but would be hard to match by ANY General of ANY army. Well worth a read
on 2 September 2013
Text-wise the book is okay. It describes the operations at the tactical level in great detail. The author manages to hold on to the strategic overview in an okay manner. But, and there is a but. When you describe tactical ops in such a detailed way, good and instructive maps are a must! The book contains very poor maps probably "homemade" by the author. They are very bad, and do not use the correct signatures. They do not in any resonable way support the text which makes it very difficult to follow the detailed descriptions of unit movements and battles.