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Lt.Col. Kirchubel presents his second of three volumes on the German invasion of the Soviet Union, this time concentrating on the trials of Germany’s Army Group North. Operation Barbarossa was the opening of the largest, longest and most intense land battle in World war II. The author has managed to distill this part of the campaign down to its essence in order to present a concise, yet lively read.
The author combines this series’ proven format (details on the opposing commanders, their plans and the forces committed as well as a description of the major actions) with 54 B&W photos, seven color maps, and 12 pages of color art (including 3D maps) in order to bring this complex story to the reader. Units are profiled using order-of-battle charts, while a chronology puts the events into perspective. An index will assist those looking for specific bits of information, while the bibliography includes over 50 titles should the reader wish to study the campaign further.
The text describes the inability of the Germans to implement a clear plan due to diverging interests and a Byzantine command structure, headed by “The Allies’ Best General”, Hitler himself. To read this book, one wonders how these people could ever imagine that they’d succeed in conquering the Soviets. Likewise, Germany apparently refused to recognize Finland’s limited aims, preferring to base their plans on the Finns doing as ordered. Finland’s leader, Mannerheim, had only one goal: to recapture territories lost to the Soviets during the so-called “Winter War”. The Soviets, for their part, simply could not afford to lose. And, although hampered in the beginning by an ineffective command system, they recovered. The immense sacrifices made by the Soviets resulted in Germany’s ultimate defeat, as we all know. But that’s not the entire story. This book will go a long way towards allowing the student of this campaign to grasp the reasons why.
For the most part, the graphic content of this book ably compliments the text. Both artists, Mr. Dennis and Mr. Gerrard, have produced battle scenes that should be quite helpful to figure modelers and diorama builders. In particular, Mr. Dennis’s work is technically quite detailed. Although more stylized, Mr. Gerrard’s work is quite dynamic. Take your pick; they are both inspirational in their own way. Most of the photos are new to me. Many depict the commanders on both sides as well as troops and localities. There is coverage of air, land and sea equipment, including tanks, planes, ships, artillery and fortifications. There is a minor glitch concerning the author’s use of photos of the T-34 medium tank. In every instance that they are shown, they are models produced in late 1942 or early 1943, and are, therefore, inappropriate for the era which the book covers.
Otherwise, this book belongs in the library of the student of the war on the eastern Front, as well as those modelers who are looking for inspiration for their next project.
Frank De Sisto