German Soldier vs. Soviet Soldier: Stalingrad 1942-43
Osprey's 'Combat' series take two opposing units or Armies and compare them using a single battle or campaign as the 'test lab'. It's an interesting approach that has led to some good books.
Chris McNab has written the latest in the series, describing the Red Army and German Army in the gargantuan battle of Stalingrad. To be clear, the focus here is not on the larger campaign or even the battle within the city, but on three battles in the city between German Pionere and Soviet rifle units. The comparison could perhaps have been better titled "German Pionere vs. Red Army Rifleman'.
Mcnab begins by describing German Pionere units and ordinary Red Army rifle units. The 'Pionere' are often translated as 'assault engineers' or 'combat engineers', and after reading this book I am not sure what their counterparts would be in,say the US Army. These units were trained and equipped to do a limited range of engineer tasks such as demolitions, field fortifications, and simple road-building. However, they were not trained or equipped to anything like US Army engineer units. They also had more Infantry-type tasks and were expected to accompany Infantry in the assault. There's not an exact counterpart in the US Army; these units seem like hybrids of Infantry and low-level engineers.
Red Army Infantryman
The Red Army rifle units are less lavishly described and, for example, no distinction is made in this book between Guards and regular rifle units. This is quite an oversight given the differences in equipment and training, and considering the role played by several Guards rifle divisions in the battle. Neither the German nor Soviet units are described with a table of organization and equipment. Such tables would have been very helpful at the beginning of the book.
German NCO and MG team
Equipment of both units is described very well. The author points out where equipment was basically comparable, such as the bolt-action rifles carried by both sides, as well as the important differences, such as the superiority of the German light machineguns.
Iconic photo of Soviet Infantry
The 'meat' of the book is the detailed description of three assaults made by Pionere units in the Tractor Factory, the Barricades plant, and the Commisar's House in October and November 1942. All three actions are told with maps and a very high level of detail; this is truly the best part of the book.
The plan for the attack into the Factory District
The color plates by Johnny Shumate are some of the best I've seen in an Osprey; the reader can sense the fatigue in the soldiers' faces and smell the dirt on the uniforms. The use of 'opposing views' illustrations is a neat feature: a single moment in action is captured in two color plates, each 'seen' from the opposing side.
The 'Opposing Views" illustration
There are some very minor issues in the book. The German General Paulus was not a 'Von' despite being named that way in many books; McNab gets this wrong in his first usage and correct the rest of the time, which may mean an editorial error crept in. More serious is the perhaps unconscious German point of view taken throughout the book; each battle is described mostly from the German point of view with only occasional mentions of the actions of the red Army. Many more German soldiers' names are mentioned. Even place names within a Soviet city are given in their German rather than Russian forms.
This is another very good Osprey 'Combat' series title. It has a very good, short set of vignettes of the Stalingrad battle, and contains excellent insight into the German Pionere units. It is weaker on Soviet units.
Pros: Some of the best color plates I've seen in an Osprey; the 'opposing views' are terrific. Excellent descriptions of three small unit actions in Stalingrad. Good overview of German assault tactics used in the battle.
Cons: A few minor errors; heavily unbalanced towards the German point of view.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review kit.
Reviewed by Danny Egan
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