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: An Iron Wind-Europe Under Hitler by Peter Fritzsche

[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] Peter Fritzsche’s book An Iron Wind-Europe Under Hitler is “new history” of the best sort.  Instead of being a war book about battles and campaigns it tries to capture the experience of World War II of the people of Europe.  How did the average civilian who the fighting swirled past and who lived under German occupation experience the war?  That is the question this book tries to answer and does a good job of doing so. First, the numbers.  There … 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: Pearl Harbor: The Missing Motive by Kevin O’Connell

I will admit that when I first got the request to review Pearl Harbor: The Missing Motive I was skeptical. After finishing it I remain skeptical but will admit that the author makes a well-written, if not necessarily compelling case for his premise. First about the book. The book is 300 pages of text divided into 7 parts/chapters. It has 46 pages of notes and a 14 page bibliography. Also included is an index. One thing about the notes; the notes are endnotes of a sort except that they are not annotated within the text. That is, they do not follow a recognized standard citation system such as MLA, APA, … 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…

Book Review: SHOT DOWN: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth by Steve Snyder

[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] SHOT DOWN: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruthis the story of the author’s Father in World War II as a B-17 bomber pilot and his ordeals after being shot down over the Franco-Belgian border in February 1944. The book itself is 335 pages of text with an extensive sources list and index.  The text is divided into 40, mostly short, topical chapters. The narrative describes the journey of the author’s father to … 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 Problem with Elite Units? Or is there a Problem?

I was thinking about this the other day while watching The Pacific on DVD. The Pacific is a pretty good series although I found Band of Brothers to be better based on pure entertainment value. What made me think about elite units was a short piece in one of the episodes where they show a picture of what to me looked like some Marine Raiders. That got to me to thinking about Rangers, Green Berets, SAS/SBS, Commandos, UDT, Spetznaz, and other historical elites and whether they represented a good investment for the militaries that create them. My gut reaction is that in general they are not although there is a role for such … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Death Dealer-The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz by Rudolph Höss

In my office at home I have one shelf on my bookshelf full of books with sticky tabs on the back indicating that I want to read them but have not yet found the time.  When I get the chance I take one down and read it.  Some are books I have had for years and some are new.  This is one of those books. I think like every aspiring historian, I went through a WWII phase in my youth where I read every book about WWII and all its aspects I could find.  Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz by Rudolph Höss has sat on my … 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…