Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad by William Craig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began one of the bloodiest campaigns in military history. This book covers the Battle of Stalingrad, which was the turning point of the war, as the German invaders were finally defeated in a battle that remains known for human suffering and barbarity. The book covers the fight from both sides, with battle level accounts from the German and Soviet sides that truly showed the horrors for soldiers and civilian alike.
Author William Craig does an excellent job of bringing those horrors to these pages. Hitler’s invasion drive, stalled by bad weather in 1941, went back to offense in spring/summer of 1942. The book does cover some of the military strategy involved, including the massive errors of Hitler, who could not make his mind up about military objectives, and in this case left his flank covered by the satellite armies of Romania, Hungary, and Italy. The Russians exploited that error, smashing through that flank, eventually trapping the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Hitler’s refusal to allow a break out by Sixth Army Commander Paulus, his ridiculous notion that the Luftwaffe could supply the army by air, his empty promises of relief by other German forces, are covered by Craig. But the heart of the book is the misery those decisions caused to both sides, with the City of Stalingrad leveled, and with extreme suffering of all, combatants and civilians alike. Craig shows us how an army begins to wither and die in excruciating detail, with eyewitness accounts of the horrors involved in this battle from Russian and German combatants and civilians.
I give the book a very high recommendation, but with one criticism. The author could have done a little more to highlight the horrors inflicted on the Russian population by the German invader, and how that impacted how the Russians fought, and the brutal methods they used in this battle. Stalingrad was the true turning point in WWII, and gave the Russians a needed jolt of confidence, as they defeated the Wehrmacht after having suffered many losses. It was still a long road to Berlin for the Soviets, but that road started at Stalingrad, where up to two million perished.