Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 9 Sep 2016
Full Title: Operation Barbarossa: The German invasion of Soviet Russia
At the time, that Operation Barbarossa took place on June 22, 1941 most observers throughout the world thought that Hitler and Nazi Germany would win another astonishing victory. For two years, the Wehrmacht had been on a winning spree and by the spring of 1941 had conquered most of Europe aside from a small yet significant defeat by the British Royal Air Force in the fall of 1940. To the rest of the world, the German armed forces were the finest military machine in the world with well-trained soldiers, exceptionally skilled commanders and superb tactics. On the other hand, the Red Army (the largest army in the world) was a shambles as it had an enormous amount of old equipment and the purge of the Red Army's officer corps of the 1930s had torn the brains out from the armed forces. Although the Red Army did have potential new equipment in development, it would badly misuse them in the German invasion, resulting in the quick exhaustion of the initial stocks of equipment. However, in the six months from June to December of 1941, the Soviet Union with immense sacrifice of men and treasure amazed the world by slowing and then stopping the Germans from adding another country to Hitler's list of victims. Although it would take four years to prove it true, history now regards Hitler's invasion of Russia as one of his fatal mistakes.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the unveiling of the Soviet archives, historians now had an opportunity to paint a fuller picture of the Eastern Front and its importance to the war as a whole. Multiple authors with some of them legendary names had written books to take into account the new Soviet archives.
From 2003 to 2007, Osprey published a trilogy of books on Operation Barbarossa by Kirchubel which covered the three individual German army groups. The company published the volume on Army Group South in 2003, Army Group North in 2005 and finally Army Group Center in 2007. As with several other books in the Osprey "Campaign" series, Osprey Publishing combined the three individual volumes into a large book, which it published in August 2013. Although most of the information is from the Campaign series, there is some additional information to cover topics that the individual volumes did not cover as well as additional maps, and photographs. Oddly enough, the author doesn't mention the winter counteroffensives in front of Moscow as he ends it just before the Moscow counteroffensive occurs despite the fact that the Moscow counteroffensive, which lasted till January 1942, is considered part of the overall study of Barbarossa.
As Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia is very much a Campaign series book; it follows the Campaign series format. The book begins with a preface by the author before beginning with a chronology of events followed by an introduction of the overall situation. It then deals with the plans, commanders, and armies of the opposing sides before heading into the battle itself, which lasted for six long brutal months. Once both sides have exhausted themselves, the book discusses the conclusions of both sides and what they had achieved through immense hell that they unleashed upon the other in extreme conditions. The book concludes with an appendix with the results of the battles, glossary, index, and bibliography.
For those that have purchased the three individual volumes, one will not find much new or modified information in Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia, particularly if one knew where to look. The new information deals with additional topics that the author felt was vital to understanding Operation Barbarossa and the overall Eastern Front with the key information dealing with the reaction of both Britain and the United States to having the Soviet Union as an ally as well as the study of the history of the war. The main reason for this book was to combine the three individual volumes into one whole book where events that occurred in the individual volumes are interconnected. At times, the organization feels a bit confusing due to doing an overall combination of all three volumes which can result in the fact the description of events that take place in an earlier section of the book can repeat itself in a later section of the overall book.
Despite that, if one were interested in getting a book from osprey that dealt with the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa: the German Invasion of Soviet Russia would be a good choice due to having all three volumes in one book as well as the additional information that the larger book would provide. Overall Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of Soviet Russia is an excellent introduction of the invasion often as well other Osprey Campaign series books, serves as an excellent starting point for further research.
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Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 16 Mar 1945