Sunday, November 24, 2013

Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43 by Hans Roth, edited by Alexander Christine and Mason Kunze.

I have read six books dealing with the Eastern Front in World War II. All were either memoirs written after the fact or traditionally researched works. "Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43" by Hans Roth, edited by Alexander Christine and Mason Kunze is different. 

The book is the results of three diaries of Hans Roth. He was accounted as missing in action in 1944. Amazingly a buddy on leave delivered the three volumes of diaries to Roth’s relatives. They cover the years 1941, 1942 and 1943. Sadly, Hans Roth vanishes as another MIA unaccounted for casualty of war.

The diaries are incredible. They show that he viewed part of the actions as being pre-emptive (p. 27). There was a clear fear of the Russians being on German soil and killing his loved ones. We learn that the diaries include content that would have never cleared the censors plus he was glad to keep the horrors away from his dear wife.

The book is spectacular. Hans Roth provided a wonderful service for his family and future generations by recording what he witnessed and what he was ordered to do.

You can feel the fear he felt. You can sense the mixed emotions he experienced. The day to day log of his units actions with his understanding of what was going on are amazing. The detail and description he provides of the surroundings paints a remarkable portrait of the times.

Hans Roth realized that luck was a key part of survival. He makes this clear time and time again. The amount of artillery and equipment the Russians had seems to have caught the Germans by surprise.  The aircraft strafing runs and Russian counterattacks in 1941 caught me by surprise. Other works reported little or none on these until 1942 and later. 

Note: As I read I could feel the growing fatigue and cynicism Hans Roth had a result of the war. His love of his wife and family shows regularly in his comments. The book is an important resource for anyone interested in the Eastern Front as well as those who want a realistic look at the terrors of war. It is gripping and paints one of the clearest pictures ever of how war is horrendous.

Christine Alexander and Mason Kuntze deserve a big thank you for the editing and translation of this project.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Barksdale's Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 by Phillip Thomas Tucker

Phillip Thomas Tucker’s has written a well researched, very readable book titled "Barksdale's Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863". 

Dr. Tucker’s book makes the premise that at the Battle of Gettysburg General Barksdale's charge is more significant that General Picket’s charge. The author presents detail after detail. 

The book gives a wonderful history of the Mississippi Brigade. He points out they are tall, straight shooters, and brave.  I found the book redundant at points.

The author makes good arguments for Barksdale’s charge being more important than Pickett’s. If Barksdale had lived and expended the same energy that Pickett did in defending his actions, we think more highly of his Mississippi brigade’s contributions. Interestingly, the point of view presented was almost exclusively southern apologetic.

The book was an enjoyable read. The history of the Mississippi brigade and its contributions is worth the purchase price.  I think the historians have already decided Pickett charge was more important than Barksdale’s, but it made me reevaluate. 

I am well read on the subject of Gettysburg having read more than twenty books and memoirs on the battle. I am a trained historian by education who studied military history. I am a former US Army infantry officer who has studied the battle in detail in my military science curriculum.  All this said; I can examine the premise, but respectfully disagree with it.