Death of the Leaping Horseman: The 24th Panzer Division in Stalingrad, Jason D. Marks

Death of the Leaping Horseman: The 24th Panzer Division in Stalingrad, Jason D. Marks

The 24th Panzer Division was one of the many German units that got caught up in the catastrophic battle of Stalingrad, effectively being destroyed in the ruins of the city. This detailed day-to-day history of the division traces its activities from 12 August to 20 November 1942, covering the period from the approach to the city to the start of the Soviet counterattack that trapped the Germans in Stalingrad.

For me this falls from the top level of unit histories because it almost entirely ignores the Soviet side of the picture. This begins in the introduction, where no Soviet sources or veterans are thanked, continues through the text, where the Soviets appear as the Russians, or more often as 'the enemy', and only on one or two rare occasions as actual named units. Most alarmingly this continues into the bibliography, where all of the archival material listed is German, as are all but three books (the exceptions are the 1943 Soviet General Staff study of the battle, General Chuikov's own account of the battle and Aleksandr Samsonov's book on the battle, both from the 1960s). One feels that the author has perhaps become too close to his subject. This shows up in his description of the various German officers killed or wounded during the fighting, who are praised to the skies, often in the author's voice rather than veteran's voices.

The Soviets are acknowledged to have been brave, determined, valiant, and there is hard fighting even before the city is reached.

With these limitations in mind, the book does provide a very detailed examination of one unit's experiences during the first half of the battle of Stalingrad. The day by day narrative is supported by excellent maps and aerial photos used to illustrate each day's action. These show that a surprising amount of the fighting took place in fairly open ground around the cities, although there is also plenty of the more familiar urban warfare. There are also daily casualty figures, complete with a selection of names of the killed and wounded (for some reason presented in no obvious order - not unit, rank or name order). There are also weekly totals of decorations awarded (I hadn't realised quite how often the Iron Cross 2nd Class was issued!), and regular tables of the division's strength. In the first section we get combat and ration strengths, which reveal just how big the 'tail' was for a Panzer Division, which of course needed a significant number of engineers to keep the tanks running). Later on this changes to 'trench' strength, combat strength without drivers. In all of these counts we follow the division as it dwindled from a powerful armoured unit into a unit unable to even defend a single factory building.

I found this book to be of mixed quality. The detailed account of 24th Panzer's activities is well researched and gives a good picture of the decline of the unit, but I would have liked to see more material from the Soviet side, and for the story to continue on into the period when the Germans were the ones under siege.

Chapters
1 - Approach to Stalingrad
2 - Struggle in the Hills
3 - Armoured Stampede!
4 - Piercing the Outskirts
5 - Prelude
6 - Conquest of Stalin's City
7 - Intermission
8 - Melee in the Suburbs
9 - Stalemate
10 - Fight for the Factories
11 - Attrition
12 - Retrospective View
13 - Krasny Oktyabr
14 - The Clouds Gather

Appendices
1 - Officer Biographies
2 - Knight's Cross
3 - German Cross in Gold
4 - Iron Cross
5 - Ehrenblattspange
6 - Panzer IV Long-Barrel '434'
7 - Panzerjäger-Abteilung 670
8 - Rank Comparison
9 - Orders of Battle
10 - Panzer, Vehicle and Equipment Losses

Author: Jason D. Marks
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 560
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2014


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