Saturday, February 23, 2013

Quick Book Review: "When Titans Clashed" by Glantz + House

As a typical American, my World War Two education was mostly the European theater where American involvement happened, and in the Pacific, Pearl Harbor to Midway to Hiroshima. As I trekked through college, it became pretty clear that the Russo-German battle of WW2 was an epic fight that my teachers and their limited time with us could cover. With the fall of communism in Russia, many of the old archives were opened to historians. Glantz and House take full advantage of them to explain the Nazi-Soviet battle in "When Titans Clashed". There is a nice build up of how the two sides developed their armies in the '30s, the purges, the preliminary fights each side had with others, and then the main course: Operation Barbarossa. This is a quick read and a great read. The eastern front was the showdown between the two giant assholes Hitler and Stalin. Hitler trusted his generals less and less as time went on and took over direct control of operations more and more. Stalin, humbled a bit by his failings in the first weeks, delegated more and more to his generals. He might have realized with all of their asses on the line that he was just a bureaucrat.

The book cites that horrible start to Operation Barbarossa where the Nazis roll over the Soviets despite Soviet spies giving the exact start date to the invasion. No one could get to Stalin. He had a case of the yips and the Nazis kept advancing. When the Soviet leadership went to get Stalin for direction, Stalin thought they were there to arrest and execute him. I've read this in other Stalin books. Why didn't anyone? How could some of these ruthless weasels (Beria being most likely) never ever make a move on him? The guy drank a ton and went to bed late and drunk often after the war. Why didn't anyone smother him with a pillow? Stalin was so odd that he'd sentence trusted friends' wives to die just because he felt like it. Never his own hands, always the machine Gulag system. Mass hypnosis by the adoring crowds in Germany for Hitler is constantly examined in historical works. Why doesn't anyone ever ask why these tough bastards of the Russian mold couldn't lift a finger to challenge Stalin man to man?

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