Zhukov at the Oder
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 13 Jul 2016
Full Title: Zhukov at the Oder: The Decisive Battle for Berlin
In April 1945, the Soviet Union stood on the threshold of final victory. After Stalingrad and Kursk, the Soviet Union embarked on a two-year titanic march towards Nazi Germany, smashing aside the Wehmacht and the armies of the satellite states allied with Germany. In 1945, the Russians began their final march onto Germany in early January with a brutal drive through Poland that ended on the banks of the Oder in the final days of January.
While the Red Army prepared for the final assault, the remnants of German forces prepared to defend the approaches to Berlin the capital of Nazi Germany. Although they had virtually no chance of winning, the defenders could make the Russians pay, particularly if they had favorable ground. Such ground existed in the form of a hilly escarpment called Seelow Heights, which lay 50 miles east of Berlin. Scrambling every man, armored fighting vehicle, and gun they could get their hands on, the Germans under the command of Gotthard Henirichi (a defensive expert), turned the Seelow Heights into a brutal obstacle and in a sense made they pay from every inch of ground. It was in a sense, a final humiliation for Zhukov.
Written by Tony Le Tissier, Zhukov at the Oder deals with the opening stages of the battle of Berlin as the Russian forces directly under Zhukov's command, blasted their way through the gate of the Seelow Heights, a gate that proved an exceptionally tough one to pry open. Greenwood Publishing Group Inc. previously published the book in 1996 and the company has arranged for this book to appear as part of Stackpole Books's "Stackpole Military History Series".
The book begins with the description of the key forces involved as well as a chapter dedicated to Gregory Zhukov. After that, the main story begins with the drive to the Order and the securing of positions by the Russians of bridgeheads onto the Oder's west bank despite desperate attempts by the Germans to wipe them out. A period of relative calm would follow as the Russians strengthen the bridgehead and cleared out their rear areas while the Germans attempted to build up their defenses and improve them by destroying the bridgeheads, which turned out to be a waste of their desperately needed strength.
When the battle begins on April 16th, the Russians found to their shock the state of the German defenders. What resulted was a grueling battle that although would have only one outcome would chew up forces on both sides for four days. Once the Russian forces broke through most of the German defenders on the heights would end up being encircled. While some of those forces would fight their way out, the rest would perish at the hands of the Russians. With the Seelow Heights overcome, Zhukov made his way to Berlin and participated in the final assault with his rival Konev that ended the war in Europe.
With the unraveling of the Soviet Union in December 1991 and the opening of the Soviet archives, authors can now take advantage of the information to write books about the war from both sides of the line. The description of the battle is truly immense with incredible detail from the view of the respective units in their sectors. The multiple maps and charts as well as pictures help the read track the progress of the battle.
In a fitting irony, the book ends with Zhukov's triumph and his eventual fall from grace at the end of the Second World War. After the conclusion of the main story, the book has a section that deals with the appendixes of weapons, symbols and organizational matters of individual units and the German armies. The book ends with a list of footnotes and a bibliography.
Considering the publishing date, it is one of the first attempts to provide excellent details from the unit actions on both sides of the battle for the gate of Berlin. Overall, it is a good book with unit details from the battle zone.
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945