Pen & Sword- Images of War: The Destruction of Sixth Army at Stalingrad
Author: Ian Baxter
Paperback, 160 pages with 250 black and white photos
Pen & Sword's Images of War series are always great volumes of inspiring and fascinating photos that center on specific events or moments in military history. One would be hard pressed to find a more significant event in the course of WWII that the ultimate reversal of fortunes suffered by the Germans in their attempt to take the city named after one of their more hated adversaries- Stalin and the debacle at Stalingrad. Hitler had high aspirations when he looked to add this city to his trophies, and despite initial success, the battle turned the city to rubble which the Soviet defenders used to their advantage. This eventually led to an encirclement of the 6th Army in an area that became known as the "cauldron". Contents of the book include:
- Prelude to Destruction
- Ch. 1- The Road to Hell
- Ch. 2- The Siege of Stalingrad
- Ch. 3- Encircled
- Ch. 4- Destruction of the Sixth Army
- Appendix One- Order of Battle
The Prelude section gives a brief overview of German operations leading up to this horrific event, centered around the replacing of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt by Friedrich Paulus. As the drive to Stalingrad, Operation Brunswick, set in motion it consisted of Paulus' 6th Army and Hoth's 4th Panzer Army. It involved 20 divisions with 250,000 men, 500 panzers, 7000 guns and mortars, and 25,000 horses. In chapter 1, we get a glimpse of the approach of the Germans and the terrible surprise they had in store for them with the staunch Soviet defense in place. After this brief synopsis, we get a wealth of photos showing the various infantry and panzer advances, the equipment in use, and the environs that were present in these August days of heat and humidity that would not last. There are excellent detailed photos of the gear close up-- which are vastly helpful in those planning scenes for modeling these settings.
Example of the mentioned close-up gear photos in the chapter
Chapter 2 starts with the details of the dawn of the siege-- with the attempted encirclement by Paulus' and Hoth's armies of the Societ troops-- although the delay in making contact with each other gave the brunt of the Soviet forces time to escape encirclement and escape into the city. Through the month of September, fighting was reduced to house to house, and bitter hand to hand combat within the city. Buildings and factories that have become infamous, including the Barrikady gun factory, the tractor factory, the Red October factory, the Univermag department store, and the grain factory, would be scenes of horror as both sides battled for possession. Soviet reinforcements continued to pile into the city from other regions, whereas German supporting Hungarian, Romanian, and Italian forces were deserting in the face of poor supplies and command. The Germans managed to hold nine-tenths of the city, leaving the Russians with about 6 miles of the Volga riverbank a few hundred yards wide. They felt victory was a given, but winter was coming. The accompanying pictures again tell the tale well-- the Germans look hopeful at first but as resistance stiffens, one can see the frustration and grim demeanor evident in their faces.
Chapter 3, Encircled, sees winter arrive early in November. As Soviet resistance stiffens and artillery and Katyusha rocket attacks continue to whittle down the invading forces, we see a reversal of fortunes. The Soviets undertake Operation Uranus and by November 28, successfully surround the remaining German forces in the city. Relief operations by Vonn Manstein and aerial supply drops by General Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen’s Luftflotte IV, known as Operation Winter Storm were attempted...but any advances were soon slowed and stopped altogether. By Christmas Eve, it was quite evident that relief was not going to come.
The final chapter focuses on the end of the Sixth Army in Stalingrad. Hitler remained confidant that the army could hold out until the spring when a new vigorous offensive could be started. With assurances from Goring that the resupply from the air would continue, there was no way that enough could be dropped to escape the inevitable. The Soviets demanded their surrender and Paulus passed this on to Hitler, hopeful for some sort of reprieve..but no was to come. By the end of January, the last airfield held by the Luftwaffe for relief drops was captured, and hope disappeared. By the end of the month, Paulus would be weakened by dysentery and his forces would surrender within the few couple days of February, ending the battle. Much like the Battle of Midway had turned the tide in the Pacific between the Japanese and Americans, so too was the Soviet victory at Stalingrad the turning point in the East. Though costly, with the losses more heavily sustained by the Soviets, Germany would never again be truly successful on the Eastern Front and would from that point on be on the defensive. The book concludes with an Order of Battle from both sides from June through November of 1942.
There have been great volumes written about this most important operation in the Eastern Front. The battle has been of particular interest to me for some time, and the photos offered in this book are for the most part quite new to me. Pen & Sword continues to deliver great content in the Images of War series and this one is no exception. Filled with excellent detail and unique settings, the photos deliver up insight into the various stages of this epic battle and give great inspiration for one looking to recreate one of the most integral campaigns of the war.
Highly Recommended for anyone interested in one of the most important battles of the Eastern Front.
Thanks goes out to Pen & Sword and Casemate Publishing for this review kit.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves, AMPS Albany
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