Book Review: To the Gates of Stalingrad by David Glantz

David Glantz’s To the Gates of Stalingrad is the first of a three book trilogy that catalogs the intense German-Soviet battle for Stalingrad in 1942-43. The book details the failed Soviet offensive toward Kharkov in spring 1942, the German spring offensive (Fall Blau, or Case Blue), and the German 6th Army advance to Stalingrad. The book is in line with Glantz’s other works that attempt to prove his common thesis: that the Eastern Front was the decisive theater of the World War II. The book represents Glantz’s unmatched ability to chronicle the battles for the Eastern Front from strategic, all the way to the tactical level. One paragraph might detail … More after the Jump…

D-Day 73rd Anniversary

This is an annual tradition at Battles and Book Reviews.  This year is the 73rd anniversary of the Allied Landings at Normandy in France during WWII. Just a reminder for everyone to stop today and take a moment to reflect on the events that happened 68 years ago today on the shores of Normandy in France.  This year, the text of General Dwight Eisenhower’s message to the troops of the Allied invasion force the morning of the invasion. Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Devil’s General: The Life of Hyazinth Graf von Strachwitz, “The Panzer Graf” by Raymond Bagdonas

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] There are numerous biographies of German officers and soldiers from World War II and The Devil’s General: The Life of Hyazinth Graf von Strachwitz, “The Panzer Graf” by Raymond Bagdonas is yet another. I cannot quite make up my mind if this is a good book or not. I lean towards yes but something is lacking to make this a truly great biography. The numbers; there are 338 pages of text making up an introduction, 23 chronological chapters and 6 appendices. … More after the Jump…

D-Day 72nd Anniversary

This is an annual tradition at Battles and Book Reviews.  This year is the 72nd anniversary of the Allied Landings at Normandy in France during WWII. Just a reminder for everyone to stop today and take a moment to reflect on the events that happened 68 years ago today on the shores of Normandy in France.   This is the day that the Allies opened up the long-awaited Second Front against Hitler’s Germany.   The invasion took place along almost 50 miles of French coast using five named invasion beaches.   From south to north the beaches were named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.   The first days objectives … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–-1945 by Nicholas Stargardt

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] There have been thousands if not hundreds of thousands of books written about World War II and Germany since 1945. There have even been social histories written in the seemingly never ending attempts to fathom how a nation like Germany supported Hitler and his murderous regime. The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–-1945 seeks to explain not the how, but the what. As in what was it like under the Nazis and what did the average German see and feel. … More after the Jump…

The Battle of the River Plate

The Battle of the River Plate was the first naval battle of World War II and the only battle of World War II to take place in South America or its waters.  The Graf Spee was one of three Deutschland Class “pocket battleships” built by the Germans in the interwar period to get around treaty restrictions imposed after World War I.  The three ships were the Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, and Admiral Graf Spee.  All three ships were to be destroyed during the course of the war. The ship was designate to act as a commerce raider and was at sea when the war began.  After getting new orders she began … More after the Jump…

D-Day 71st Anniversary

Just a reminder for everyone to stop today and take a moment to reflect on the events that happened 68 years ago today on the shores of Normandy in France.   This is the day that the Allies opened up the long-awaited Second Front against Hitler’s Germany.   The invasion took place along almost 50 miles of French coast using five named invasion beaches.   From south to north the beaches were named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.   The first days objectives were not reached over most of the front and in many places it would take weeks to reach objectives that were supposed to have been taken … More after the Jump…

The Battle of Berlin – 16 April – 2 May, 1945

Throughout 1944 the German armies on the Eastern Front had been pushed westward across Poland and into Germany proper.  During the winter of 1944-1945 the front had stabilized roughly along the river Oder and inside historically German territory.  In front of Berlin three Russian Fronts (1st & 2nd Byelorussian plus 21st Ukrainian) faced two greatly understrength German Army Groups (Army Group Vistula & Army Group Center).  A Russian Front and German Army Group are roughly synonymous units within the army structure although at this point in the war German Army Groups were pretty much army groups in name only often being the size of reinforced Corps or even divisions due … More after the Jump…

The Battle of Messines Ridge – 1917

From the opening months of the World War I, Flanders was the decisive sector for the British Army.  It was in an around the medieval Belgian town of Ypres that the original BEF had decimated themselves fending off German attacks from October to December, 1914.  Ypres and the salient surrounding it was where the British would see the hardest and most prolonged fighting of all the places where the British would fight in World War I. The Battle of Messines Ridge fought from 7-14 June, 1914 was not really a separate battle at all but rather the opening phase of what would come to be known variously as the Third … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 by Richard Overy

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 is one of those books that is going to end up a standard work for a long time to come.  It is the single most comprehensive history of the Allied bombing of Germany and occupied Europe during WWII that I have seen since the strategic bombing survey published by the US government in the immediate post-war years. I have a review copy of the book so the page counts may be a … More after the Jump…

D-Day 70th Anniversary

Just a reminder for everyone to stop today and take a moment to reflect on the events that happened 68 years ago today on the shores of Normandy in France.   This is the day that the Allies opened up the long-awaited Second Front against Hitler’s Germany.   The invasion took place along almost 50 miles of French coast using five named invasion beaches.   From south to north the beaches were named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.   The first days objectives were not reached over most of the front and in many places it would take weeks to reach objectives that were supposed to have been taken … More after the Jump…

Book Review: D-Day – Minute-by-Minute by Jonathan Mayo

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Next Week is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day the Allied invasion of Europe.  I would guess that most people don’t think about it and if they do the picture that comes to their mind is a scene from Saving Private Ryan.  The movie gives a good idea but the words of those who were there are priceless gems in my opinion. D-Day: Minute by Minute is a description of the events of D-day in the order in which they occurred taken from transcripts … More after the Jump…

Book Review: No End Save Victory by David Kaiser

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War is one of those books that at first glance looks like it is going to be one of those dry, difficult to read history books that is nothing more than a litany of dates and facts.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is an interesting and compelling account of the events in America during the 18 months prior to American entry into WWII.  Oddly, this period is mentioned in every … More after the Jump…

The Battle of Pfaffenheck – 15-17 March 1945

I recently read The Armored Fist a unit history of the US 712th Independent Tank Battalion in WWII.  One of the events described in detail in the book is the Battle for the town of Pfaffenheck in between the Rhine and Moselle rivers in March of 1945.   The event that stuck out at me from the battle was the destruction of an American tank, which killed the driver, Billy Wolfe.  I had the opportunity to visit the town in March, 2014 shortly after the 69th Anniversary of the  battle.

The Battle of Pfaffenheck was fought between soldiers from the 357th Infantry Regiment of the US 90th IN Division, the 2nd Platoon of C Company 712th Independent US Tank Battalion, and German troops of the 6th SS Mountain Division North (Gebirgsjäger).  The 6th SS Division has an interesting history itself.  The unit spent most of the war fighting in Finland and when that country made peace with the Soviets the 6th SS made an overland trek through Sweden to Norway where they transferred to Germany and fought in the Vosges Mountains of northern France over the winter.

Pfaffenheck
Locations of actions in the battle for Pfaffenheck

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Book Review: Verdun – The Longest Battle of the Great War by Paul Jankowski

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is one of the flood of new works coming out about World War I this year in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the world’s first truly mechanized war.  This book explores the ten month (or eleven, depending on how you count it) battle of Verdun between the Germans and French from February to November 1916. It consists of eleven chapters arranged thematically that examine different aspects of the battle from the operational … More after the Jump…