Stalingrad The Infernal Cauldron, Stephen Walsh

Stalingrad The Infernal Cauldron, Stephen Walsh

The Battle of Stalingrad was a significant turning point during the fighting on the Eastern Front. It wasn't the first time that a German attack had been defeated (neither Moscow nor Leningrad ever fell to them), nor was it the last major German offensive (Kursk takes that) or the first successful Soviet offensive (the counterattack outside Moscow), but it was the first time that a major German army was destroyed (coming several months before the Axis surrender in Tunisia). The battle was given more significance by the very public importance given to it at the time by both Hitler and Stalin. Combine this with the brutal nature of the fighting in the ruins of Stalingrad means that the battle has retained the public interest ever since.

Although there are already hundreds of books on Stalingrad this is one area where new research is producing important results. Here that includes valuable information about Operation 'Mars', the unsuccessful Soviet attack on the central front that took place at the same time as the successful Operation Uranus and that was underplayed by later Soviet historians. Here the full size of this second attack, with two thirds of a million men and 2,000 tanks, makes it clear that the Germans still had the potential to defeat a major Soviet attack as long as they acted in time. This helps place the success of Operation Uranus into context, and makes the Soviet victory in the south more remarkable.

This book covers the entire campaign surrounding Stalingrad. A brief introduction takes us to the start of the 1942 summer offensive. We then follow the Germans as they advance east towards the Volga and into the Caucasus and become bogged down in a series of attacks on the determined Soviet defenders of the city. On the Soviet side the defenders of the city gain their due prominence as does the eventual plan for a massive counterattack that would trap the Germans within the city. The attack itself, the confused German political and military responses to it, and the successful retreat from the Caucasus come next and we finish with the defeat and destruction of the German 6th Army.

This is an excellent medium length history of this crucial, with enough space to provide a detailed but clear account of the fighting without getting too bogged down in the fine details of the urban battle. The author has his own theories about the German defeat at Stalingrad, which he argues quite convincingly but without letting them dominate the book. There is a good selection of contemporary photos and some very useful maps, showing both the wider campaign and the fighting in the city (I didn't realise just how big the 6th Army's pocket was or how far west it stretched at first). 

1 - Operation Barbarossa - The Invasion of the Soviet Union
2 - The Advance to Stalingrad 28 June to 10 September
3 - The First Battle of Stalingrad 14-26 September 1942
4 - The Second German Assault on the City 27 September to 7 October
5 - The Third German Assault on Stalingrad 14-29 October 1942
6 - The Encirclement of 6th Army - Operation 'Uranus' 19-23 November 1942
7 - The Caucasus Campaign and Army Group A - 25 July to 12 November 1942
8 - The Destiny of 6th Army - Survival or Disaster 2-28 December 1942
9 - The Destruction of 6th Army - 1 January to 2 February 1943
10 - The Aftermath

Author: Stephen Walsh
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: Amber
Year: 2013 edition of 2000 original

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