Thursday, February 22, 2007

Island of Fire by Jason D. Mark

This book can easily be said to be a one of a kind in the realm of both Stalingrad and the Eastern Front of WWII. I will admit that I helped the author with translations of Russian archival and memoir materials for his book so I do have somewhat of a bias in this review.

But even if I did not help the author I would still recommend this book because the author has done what others before him have not. He has used archival sources from both the Soviet Union and Germany to create an account of the fighting in the factory district in Stalingrad between a German division and the 138th Rifle Division of the Red Army. Day by day the reader is taken through the ruins of Stalingrad and the factory district to understand and experience what both German soldiers and Red Army were going through. As troops were again and again being sent into battle, divisions that once encompassed close to ten thousand men were now reduced in strength to a few hundred! And still they stood their ground and repulsed continuous attacks.

At the same time the Germans slowly, but surely, kept up the pressure with the inclusion of 8 pioneer battalions who were supposed to finally turn the tide in the Germans favor. As the Volga was icing over and supply runs across the river were slowing down the 138th Rifle Division was running low on supplies and ammunition. Slowly the Germans were pushing them back house by house, block by block. Daily figures of dead and wounded are presented for as long as they were available and reported upon. The battles are raw and unceasing and death is a constant behind every corner and in every entrenched position.

No other book on the Eastern Front has gone to a divisional level such as this and at the same time presented the story from BOTH sides. That is what Jason Mark has done, and this is what should set the bar for future histories of the Eastern Front and which I'm sure Jason will himself aim toward in his future publications. It is an expensive buy but you get what you pay for. I cannot recommend it highly enough!


Corinna Gilbert said...

Please have a look at my review of Stalingrad - How the Red Army triumphed at

T. Kunikov said...

Thanks for the link, although there is no 'html' supposed to be there. And I also think you made a mistake when you wrote "Historian Paul Overy" as you mentioned his name was Richard Overy a little above that. An interesting and pretty much 'all encompassing' review. I've read the book and reviewed it myself, if you search this site you'll see it, I'm also in more or less 'regular' contact with the author who will be coming out with a new book on Leningrad later this year.