German Infantryman vs Soviet Rifleman: Barbarossa 1941
ISBN: 978 1 4728 0324 5
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 25 Nov 2015
On June 22, 1941, two armies poised to commence a massive campaign that would chance the world forever. On one side, the German Wehrmacht was at the height of its power as two years of war that had conquered Europe had turned an already highly trained force into one of the most devastating fighting machines in history. On the other side lay the gigantic Soviet Red Army, this had numbers on its side. Unfortunately had undergone Joseph Stalin's ruthless purges in the 1930s and a disastrous invasion of Finland in 1939-1940 had unveiled enormous weaknesses in the Red Army that would cost it heavily in the carnage to come.
Although tanks had attracted all the glory in the war, the final decision on the ground lay between the infantrymen in both armies. While most German infantrymen had to walk, some infantry divisions had recently undergone mechanization, which allowed them to keep up with the German panzers. It eventually meant that as part of the spearheads, they would be the first into the inferno of battle. In the case of the Russian infantrymen, despite enduring losses that would break any other nation's will to resist, they would have to carry the burden of delaying and eventually derailing the Germans while operating under an equally brutal dictator of their own, inadequate equipment and badly trained officers.
German Infantryman vs Soviet Rifleman: Barbarossa 1941 is the seventh book in the Osprey "Combat" series, which is one of Osprey's newest book series. It deals with the infantry units of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army on the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union. For those not familiar with Osprey's "Combat" series, it deals with the comparisons of the men on the opposing armies, their weapons, training, officers and other vital elements that made up the opposing armies. It then puts those comparisons to the test in selected battles on the course of the campaign. In this case, the focus is on the German advance towards Minsk then Smolensk.
The core element of the book is the description of the battles on the highway between Minsk and Smolensk from the point of view of those actually on the ground. In summary, the Germans held all the cards against their Soviet counterparts and triumphed against increasing resistance the further they advanced into Russia. The only consolation was that the Russians managed to pay increasingly for every mile forwards although often at horrendous cost to their own forces. This was mainly due to the overall reason of the Red Army not being in any shape to wage a modern war.
Overall, the book does an admirable job in describing the individual soldiers involved in the struggle, their respective capabilities and weaknesses before matching them up in the fires of combat and drawing the conclusions from the bloody results.
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939