Friday, February 2, 2007

Thunder in the East by Evan Mawdsley

If you are new to the Eastern Front this is an excellent new short history of the war. It concentrates a little on the military aspect, on the politics, economics, and of course the social intricacies of the war. The author uses a lot of newly released Soviet secondary sources, many of which I have at home and can vouch for, to present the war in a somewhat new light. There are a few mistakes and some omissions throughout the book but nothing too major.

I like the authors conclusions about the purges in 1937-1938, while they were costly for the Red Army there is no reason to think that it crippled the officer corps, although it did create an atmosphere of fear and compliance with Stalin which in the end simply added to the disaster that was 1941. All the battles, offensive and defensive operations, are listed and gone through. Losses are given for the Red Army from Krivosheev's book for every operation, this book has become the standard use for Red Army losses in WWII although there are still some controversies about it. But in the end it's very interesting to see how Soviet losses (KIA, MIA, and POW) went down throughout the war.

The author gives a good account of the Warsaw uprising and shows how impossible it was for the Red Army to do anything when it occurred, but something might have been done in late August or mid September. Then again the Poles wanted to take the city and use it as a bargaining chip against the Soviets, so it would have served no purpose in putting the Red Army in that kind of situation with no benefit to Stalin. Overall with the use of these new Russian sources from a variety of authors I have to say this is today the best short history of the war and I would gladly recommend it to anyone who wants an introduction to the Eastern Front.

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