Sunday, May 24, 2009

To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942 by David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House

Glantz, a veritable book producing factory, has definitely set a new standard in literature on Stalingrad. This book, the first of three, follows the Wehrmacht after the Moscow-Counter offensive of 1941/1942 through the Soviet Kharkov offensive and into Operation Blau. In doing so Glantz aims to establish three facts that have been glossed over in general histories of both the Eastern Front and the battle for Stalingrad specifically: Soviet forces did not simply retreat when confronted with Army Groups South, and after Army Groups A and B, to take the fight to Stalingrad, as if pre-planned; STAVKA did not abandon the Donbas region to preserve its forces; and the Red Army soldiers that the Sixth army finally met inside Stalingrad were not the same troops who retreated throughout the summer and finally decided, or were forced, to stand and fight. In reality the Red Army put up resistance to German advances from day one. Glantz takes the time to go through many of these operations and point out exactly how much damage Soviet troops were able to inflict on the Wehrmacht and why the Germans were still able to overcome forces that more often than not outnumbered them in either men, artillery, or armor, and sometimes in all three categories. Of personal interest to myself was the chapter on Army Group A's incursion into the Caucasus region. This is an entire campaign long ignored due to the limelight Stalingrad encompasses.

In the end it seems the Red Army was still committing mistakes they should have learned from in 1941; piecemeal attacks by mechanized and tank forces, lack of command and control in the field, failure to institute combined arms operations utilizing artillery, tanks, infantry, engineers, and the air force, etc. The Germans, however, are also guilty in that they once more overestimated their abilities and underestimated that of the Red Army. The final result is a detailed and highly needed study that not only provides context to the eventual clash that occurred in Stalingrad, but also highlights the actions that led up to the battle and the many battles, and even campaigns, that have gone long ignored due to Stalingrad's ever growing shadow.

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