To the Gates of Stalingrad
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 30 Sep 2009
Full Title: To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942
The battle of Stalingrad is undoubtedly one of the most important of World War II. It was at there, that Hitler suffered one of his greatest defeats when after months of long brutal fighting in the city of Stalingrad, the Red Army encircled and destroyed the mighty German Sixth Army. While the public knows of the general story of the battle pretty much by heart, time has distorted some of its many details. Though seemingly unimportant, these details actually played a vital role in how the actual battle played out the way that it did. For while the main fighting occurred in southern Russia, both sides engaged in operations before and during the main battles for Stalingrad.
Written by David M. Glantz & Jonathan M. House, To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942 is the first book in a planned trilogy about the Stalingrad operation. Though a large book and itself with enough details to overwhelm a reader, it is an impressive book by any standard.
The book kicks off with an introduction by the two authors explaining why they wrote a book about the Stalingrad campaign. Next is the prologue to the story, which starts in the midst of the fighting that eventually leads to the battle of Stalingrad. Then, the story goes back to the lead-up to the campaign in which the book describes the situation up to June 1942 and gives a comprehensive overview of the forces and commanders on both sides. Then the main story kicks off as both the Germans and Russians attempt to jockey for advantage before the main summer campaign begins. Once it kicks off, the fighting gets brutal and quick and although the Germans do advance, the Russians provide savage resistance nearly all the way through with some reports indicating that they did a much better job of it than the year before. While not to the same scale as Barbarossa, the Germans do manage to encircle and destroy unlucky Soviet forces. The Germans also hammer other Soviet units so badly that the Soviet High Command disbanded them. Furthermore, while the focus is in the southern sectors, both sides, particularly the Russians open up offensives in the north and center sectors. The authors sum up all of this in the fact the Soviet units did stand and fight, unlike what previous histories have described the opening of the 1942 summer offensive on the Eastern Front. In addition, the same process by which the Russians had stopped the Germans a year before comes into play once again as they continuously raised new armies to throw into the advance of the Germans.
After the main story, the last pages of the book (and it is many pages), deals with appendixes, notes to the pages of the chapters of the book, selected bibliography and the index.
Though it is a large book and the contents that may seem a bit dry at times, To the Gates of Stalingrad does its job of giving a comprehensive overview of the early stages of the Stalingrad campaign. Both David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House clearly show their skill in researching the knowledge needed to make excellent books on the Eastern Front. For those that want to get new information about the battle, this book should be one of those to look for. Finally, as part of the Stalingrad trilogy of books that the two authors plan to write about this is just part one of the grand and horrifically tragic of the battle of Stalingrad.
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Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 16 Mar 1945