Book Review: Armageddon in Stalingrad: September-November 1942 (The Stalingrad Trilogy, Volume 2)


by David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House,

Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2009. Pp xxii, 896. Illus., maps,table, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0700616640

The second volume of the "Stalingrad Trilogy" by this formidable duo, after To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942, with the final volume to follow shortly, this series will certainly be the standard work on the Stalingrad campaign for a very long time

In Armageddon in Stalingrad Glantz and House focus mainly on the fighting within the city itself, although some attention is paid to the conduct of German and Soviet operations in the Caucasus and around the city of Voronezh. The authors suggest that the best chance for General Friedrich Paulus's German Sixth Army to take Stalingrad was in its initial attack in September.  Once the Sixth Army was blocked from the city by the Soviet 62nd Army, Paulus's forces were condemned to slogging their way through Stalingrad block-by-block.  Paulus's ultimate objective was the capture of the landing stages on the Volga River, through which Lieutenant General Vassily Chuikov's 62nd Army was sustained and reinforced.  In the end, after a series of German offensives and Soviet counterattacks that generated huge casualties on both sides, Chuikov was reduced to holding one landing stage, but that proved to be the crucial difference.

The fighting within the city is covered in exhaustive tactical detail, with the narrative supplemented by the inclusion of some 95 (!) maps, many of which show troop dispositions down to the level of individual regiments and even battalions, greatly aiding the reader in developing an understanding of the battle. A number of equally informative tables are included, showing the strengths of both German and Soviet units at various times in the battle. From these one can get a better sense of the level of attrition attained in the course of the fighting.

In some ways, this book reinforces some traditional notions about Stalingrad.  With access to both German and Russian
archival material, the authors are able to paint a fairly clear picture of what was happening to both sides. The losses
suffered by the German units in Stalingrad is a well known story. This study reveals that the losses suffered by the Soviet forces at Stalingrad were every bit as bad, if not worse, than those suffered by the Germans. Ultimately, Chuikov was able to hold the city because of the timely arrival of reinforcements dispatched by Colonel General Anton Eremenko, commander of the Stalingrad Front, some of which had to be fed into the city a regiment at a time. Chuikov's men also had their determination to defend Stalingrad or die reinforced by Stalin's "not one step back" order, which at times was enforced by swift death penalties administered by the NKVD against anyone they deemed to have engaged in behavior contrary to Stalin’s order.  

Throughout the battle, the Soviet forces counterattacked repeatedly, especially against the German forces guarding the northern flank of the Sixth Army that stretched back towards the Don River. All of these attacks, many of which were ordered prematurely by the Soviet high command and Stalin, were easily beaten off by the Germans. The authors suggest that these failures may have lulled the Germans into a false sense of security regarding the ability of the Soviets to launch a successful counter offensive.

Although the fighting is covered in extensive detail, the book falls short in one critical respect, namely logistics. Fighting in Stalingrad consumed immense amounts of supplies, especially ammunition. There is no discussion, however, of how these items were gotten up to Paulus’s frontline units. Likewise, the discussion of Soviet logistics is rather thin.

This omission aside, this volume will stand as the definitive study of the fighting in one of the critical battles of World
War II. It will be of interest to anyone desiring to understand the conduct of the campaign.


Reviewer: Richard L. DiNardo, USMC C&S College   

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