Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 16 Sep 2009
Full Title: Before Stalingrad: Barbarossa, Hitler's Invasion of Russia 1941
Operation Barbarossa, Hitler's invasion of Russia in June of 1941, was one of the largest and most important military operations in history. It opened the Eastern Front of World War II, one of the most brutal battlefields in military history whose effects and outcome resonated for nearly half of century.
For many long years, misconceptions about the Eastern Front have followed historians. While German sources dominated, they were only one side of the story. The Russian sources out there had to deal with the censorship that the Soviet Union had in place on its veterans when discussing the history of the war. However, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the opening of the archives, new views and an attempt to form a more complete picture of the war on the Eastern Front have emerged. Among those involved in this effort is author and former US Army veteran David M. Glantz who is already well known for earlier books such as When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler and The Battle of Kursk.
His book Before Stalingrad is a paperback reprint of his hardcover book Barbarossa: Hitler's Invasion of Russia 1941, which he wrote in 2001. The focus of the book is about Operation Barbarossa. Starting with a description of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army on the eve of battle, the book then follows with a very impressive description of Operation Barbarossa with its starting point to the frontier battles to the defeat of the German forces outside Moscow in December 1941. In nine of the 10 chapters, each chapter discussed the different phases of the battle with the end of each chapter dealing with reflections on the stage's results. The last chapter deals with summarizing Barbarossa in the context of the wider war. Following that are eight maps of the battle zone along with scores of tables, notes, bibliography, four appendixes and then the index.
While perhaps a bit too focused about the military aspects Operation Barbarossa and crammed with information that may overwhelm any reader, Before Stalingrad is a very impressive book. It gives a very comprehensive description of the German invasion and the desperate Russian attempts to halt it. Furthermore, it deals with misconceptions of Barbarossa in an exceptionally well-done fashion, particularly in the case of the controversy concerning Hitler changing focus from Moscow to Kiev.
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