Osprey- The Reckoning- The Defeat of Army Group South, 1944
Author: Prit Buttar
Hardcover, 496 pages interspersed with map diagrams and a centerfold photo section with 35 black and white photographs
Books on the Eastern Front of WWII are usually pretty dire considering the great loss of life from both sides during one of the more brutal theaters of the war. This book focuses on the constant back and forth between the two sides as the issues of lack of supplies and the detrimental effects of snow and mud hinder vehicles, artillery, and armor of all involved in 1944. Following the great defeat at Stalingrad and not much else positive to celebrate after that, Soviet forces had the Germans backed up and scrambling to stop the spread of the Red Army into the Reich. The book centers on various battles and campaigns fought throughout the Ukraine and Romania in 1944 and despite suffering greater losses over and over, the Red Army had plenty of resources to draw on to continue the fight. Here is a list of the chapters:
Chapter 1: The Protagonists
Chapter 2: The Kirovograd Encirclement
Chapter 3: Watutin and the Cherkassy-Korsun Encirclement
Chapter 4: Another Stalingrad
Chapter 5: Mud, Snow and Hill 239
Chapter 6: Kamanets-Podolski: The Encirclement of First Panzer Army
Chapter 7: Malinovsky's Offensive
Chapter 8: The Wandering Pocket
Chapter 9: The Crimean Peninsula
Chapter 10: The End of the Leash
Chapter 11: Preparing for Summer
Chapter 12: The Lviv-Sandomierz Operation
Chapter 13: The Disintegrating Axis
Chapter 14: The Approaching Endgame
I will say that throughout the narrative, one can easily get lost in all the proper nouns-- endless names of commanders, units, and towns are scattered throughout and there is a lot to digest. This is not necessarily a book to park near the bedside to read at night as it begs the reader to think and decipher. Scattered throughout the text are soldiers and commanders' accounts and they help one to understand what it was like to deal with the daily grind of a soldier on either side. The chapter on the Cherkassy-Korsun Encirclement was of particular interest to me as there is not too much out there on the topic past an expensive out of print book and what one can glean from Wikipedia.
If you are thinking of purchasing this book as a photo reference, you may be disappointed. There is only the centerfold sections of photos, and while some of them do appear to be new to me and not often seen, they are not the emphasis of the book. That being said, the book is of interest to anyone who finds the actions of the Eastern Front to be of interest. I particularly found the photo of the Panther tanks taken through the gunsight of another German tank to be fascinating...what a great shadow-box diorama that would make.
As a huge aficianado of the Eastern Front, I welcomed this book to the library. While reading at times proved challenging with all of the many references and names to keep track of, the soldiers' accounts that were spread throughout humanized the events and made it much easier to grasp the extreme excruciating conditions that were faced by all. When the frozen wastelands and freezing temperatures weren't wreaking havoc, the sucking mud caused by intermittent thaws brought the soldiers' beyond the brink of exhaustion and morale was nonexistent- the need to survive and escape the Soviet forces the only driving force left. Whether you are a modeler or just interested in history of this front in WWII, this book will fill a great void and pique your interest enough to have you searching through your stash for something to build next!
Highly Recommended for anyone interested in the closing months of the Eastern Front.
Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves
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