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Customer Review

on 17 April 2014
This third volume is an ideal extension to the siege and the eventual relief of Stalingrad. Like their earlier volumes, this volume which is formatted in a similar manner is eminently and logically laid out as the battle history of the last half of November is described.

In the Preface it is emphasized the amount of research and attention to detail that went into this book, that a small team of experts assisted Glantz and House in making sure the information divulged was the latest available and accurate. Recently released Soviet archival material was used as well as newly discovered German war records. This aspect alone makes this single book important and adds to the overall value of this series. While spending a lot of time discussing the preparations and buildup of Soviet forces for Operation Uranus, the book also looks toward the Germans and discusses key topics like: could 6th Army actually escaped the Cauldron if it really tried, why was von Manstein's relief attempt so half hearted or was Hitler completely to blame for this disaster.

In the previous two volumes the Soviets while trying to stay on the offensive were always beaten back to the defensive while this book covers the Soviets as they regain the initiative with the successful running of Operation Uranus that saw the unbelievably quick encirclement of 6th Army. The book ends on November 30th as the encirclement is completed. The next book will describe the clearing of the huge pocket and I suppose von Manstein's attempt to reach Stalingrad. It will also discuss the fighting and the eventual retreat of Army Group A from the Caucasus as well as the early days of the push back of Army Group B and its surviving Allies toward the Donets River.

The book opens with a brief summary of conditions and events that led to the Soviet launch of Uranus. The next 100+ pages discusses the many details of the daily planning and preparations of the upcoming operation while at the same time Zhukov tries to expand his bridgehead over the Don River. Soviet war doctrine and Stavka intervention is also squeezed into the narrative.

The next preparatory chapter covers the composition, battle readiness of the troops that would take part in the upcoming battle. By the end of this chapter the reader will have a good understanding of who will be fighting, where the fighting will take place and how vulnerable the Axis forces will be when the launch begins.
In "Armageddon" you read about the many Soviet attempts to cross the Don and establish a bridgehead on the southern banks of the river. This new volume expands on this foundation by describing the preparations, both tactical and logistical, for the upcoming Operation Uranus while this river fighting is being played out. Between the two books you'll also see how the Germans were weakening their northern defenses by transferring German divisions from the river into the city of Stalingrad. If you haven't read "Armageddon" recently, I would suggest rereading Chapter 8, "The Struggle on the Flanks"; the chapter will enhance your understanding of the immensity of the Soviet effort presented in this new volume prior to the launch.

The battle history begins in mid November and will last until the end of the month. The research and the details of this history are impressive and while information is delivered for both sides, the Soviet history clearly dominates. With the authors spending over 150 pages on the pre-launch history and over 300 pages on Operation Uranus for only a two week period, you can deduce the level of details presented is extraordinary. Operation Uranus is divided into four chapters with the first five days consuming 60% of the coverage. That coverage includes the penetration and routing of the Axis Allies and initial encirclement of 6th Army. The last chapter includes casualties for both sides and a discussion of how the Soviet command and especially Vasilevsky realized that they bagged a much larger force in the cauldron and that additional redeployments and planning would be necessary before the cauldron could be cleared. Von Manstein's relief attempt and the Luftwaffe's replenishment of Stalingrad are lightly covered.
Once Operation Uranus begins, the format of each chapter is the same. The chapter begins with the Soviet combat history followed by the Axis reaction and ends with conclusions and analysis. Army units, officers and objectives and action results are covered.
To add to the narrative many tables are provided to include other statistics like troop compositions and conditions for different times in the campaign.

There are 43 black and white maps and they're comparable to the original maps used in "Armageddon". They're good and do cover the major fighting in the attack areas but I believe creating a few new small area maps from scratch that specifically address points of deployments and penetration would make for a more effective presentation, making it easier to understand. There were times after reading extremely involved passages that a new map drawn to the specifics of that passage would have been very helpful. This is just wishful thinking; with as much time invested on the narrative, it would be asking a lot for additional maps. There is also a photo gallery made up of mostly Soviet generals, a couple German officers and a couple battle scenes.

Typically with a Glantz / House book, its laden with facts, deployments and movements and it can be a little daunting following the story. Also, the Notes Section is impressive and potentially useful as is the Bibliography, especially if you read Russian for most of the books are Russian with a few German and English books included.

I enjoyed this reading and appreciate the hard work of research and the correlation of data gleaned from so many sources but can foresee months of study before I better understand all of its connotations. If you have read Glantz before you have a good idea of what to expect but if Stalingrad is new to you, be forewarned that this not a casual read. So if you like Glantz's earlier works you'll like this; if you have issue's with his earlier efforts, you'll have problems here. To get the most from this book and the series, you'll need to be highly focused and truly interested in combat history. Otherwise you may find it a chore. Highly recommended to all WWII history buffs.
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4.6 out of 5 stars