When Titans Clashed
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 22 Jun 2016
Full Title: When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Revised and Expanded Edition
When scholars gained access to Russian archives about the history of the Second World War in the aftermath of the Cold War, it altered the view of Russia's participation in the war, which had largely been obscured by the Cold War with most of the information before this coming from German or biased Soviet sources. Amongst the authors that would participate in the research of the new material was David M. Glantz. After writing several books on his own about battles on the Eastern Front that had slipped by other Western histories, he and Johnathan M. House wrote a book called When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Published in 1995 and incorporating the latest research to emerge from the Russian archives at the time, it served as an enormous one volume book about the Eastern Front that covered the famous battles as well as those that western scholars had little knowledge of at the time. Furthermore, in portraying the war from a Russian perspective, it reassessed and set straight the importance of the Eastern Front to the war as a whole. In a sense, the book is participating in the process of historical revisionism but in this case, the revisionism proved justified as during most of the cold war, Western scholars (particularly those in Germany) ignored the carnage on the Eastern Front in favor of the fighting in the west, Africa, and the air war over Germany. When it first appeared on bookshelves in 1995, it gained immense praise from multiple authors and organizations with one of them being John Erickson, the author of the books The Road to Stalingrad and The Road to Berlin, which were published in the 1980s.
Since the publication of the book, Glantz wrote scores of other books that dealt with the Eastern Front with some of those books working alongside Johnathan House, the co-author of When Titans Clashed. Now 20 years later, When Titans Clashed had now seen a re-release onto bookshelves with new updated information that the authors gleaned from the years of additional research since the first publication.
The book divides its contents into four main sections. Part I, the prologue section, covers the lead up to the war from both sides. Part II deals with the initial German success and the attempts of the Russians to hold their ground while also trying to rebuild their army and industry at the same time almost virtually from scratch. It covers all of the battles until the last grasp of success for the Germans at Stalingrad. Part II deals with the Russian victory at Stalingrad, which signaled the turning of the tide against Nazi Germany. That fact truly became reality with the victory of Kursk, which began a two-year brutal march by the Red Army to Berlin. Part III deals with that march towards Berlin that ended the war on the Eastern Front while laying the seeds for the Cold War (and the interpretation of the war in both Russia and the west that would last until the end of the Cold War). The final chapter dealt with the costs of the war and the gains and losses on both side and its legacy upon the world, eventually leading to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Each of the chapters begins with a discussion of the forces available and the overall situation before dealing with the battle and its conclusions. As the book transitions from chapter to chapter and eventually from one part to another part, the authors discuss the comparison of the forces to each other to indicate the changes in fortunes in both sides. There are maps, pictures and a few tables scattered throughout the chapters of the book with the rest of the statistical tables along with notes and bibliography at the end of the book.
Despite cramming a lot of information, it proves exceptionally enlightening and serves as a tease for those wanting to learn more. It can be tough reading due to the enormous amount of information, even in small snippets but for those that are interested, it's exceptionally informative.
For those that want a one-volume introduction about the Eastern Front, When Titans Clashed is the book to go with. It serves as an introduction for those that want to look at reading more of Glantz's books on the Eastern Front as particularly those that are very expensive hardcover books.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945