The battle of Stalingrad was one of the key turning points of the Second World War, and ended as an epic Soviet victory, but during the first part of the battle it was the Germans who looked to be on the verge of winning a crucial victory.
Jones focuses on this first phase, when the outnumbered Soviet 62nd Army struggled to hold onto a narrow strip of the city on the banks of the Volga. One of his main aims is to strip away the layers of Soviet propaganda, from both during and after the war, that obscured the real events of the battle, instead presenting an ideologically correct view of the fighting.
This has two main effects. Most importantly it becomes clear just how close the Germans came to victory - on at least one occasion the correct use of already available reserves would have been enough, but General Paulus, the German commander, was too methodical and too far from the battle to take advantage of his chances. The second is the dialogue becomes far more convincing - stilted Soviet orthodoxy is replaced by something rather more earthy.
The two commanders emerge as key figures. Vasily Chuikov spent almost the entire battle on the western bank of the Volga, coming under direct fire on numerous occasions. On contrast Paulus spent most of his time well back from the city, and appears to have been a rather distant figure.
Jones's account of the battle reveals that it was much more closely balanced than the official Soviet accounts would suggest. The official view of an inevitable triumph of the Soviet system becomes a much more impressive achievement, won against apparently overwhelming odds. This is a very valuable piece of work that helps to reveal a more accurate view of the fighting on the Eastern Front.
Introduction: The Last of the Mohicans
1 - Not a Step Back!
2 - Stalin's City
3 - Lion on the Volga
4 - The First Crisis
5 - Courage Born of Desperation: The September Battles
6 - Pavlov's House
7 - Mikhail Panikakha: Anatomy of a Heroic Deed
8 - The Birth of 'Sniperism'
9 - The Turning Point
10 - An Army of Mass Heroisim
Author: Michael J Jones
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010 paperback, 2007 hardcover