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Black Cross / Red Star: The Air War Over the Eastern Front, Vol. 1: Operation Barbarossa, 1941 Hardcover – August 15, 2000
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Top Customer Reviews
An opening sentence never rang so true.
Millions of pages have been written about the aerial conflict over Western Europe over the decades since the war. Given the number of units and aircraft involved over the Eastern Front, this part of aviation lore has been sadly neglected. Part of the reason has to due with the availability of the records. Only with the recent fall of the Iron Curtain have researchers been allowed more than limited access to Soviet records. Christer Bergstrom and Andrey Mikhailov are two such men who spent years interviewing the pilots who fought and suffered in the skies of Eastern Europe.
The book begins with a comparison of the two air forces involved which includes their relative experience prior to June 22, 1941, training standards, tactical doctrine and aircraft. The effect of Stalin's purges on leading airmen and aircraft engineers and its effect on the Russian Air Force is also detailed. Of interest is the German fighter pilot's 'hunting' philosophy that stressed individual achievement through aerial victories.
The beginning of the book takes the reader from the early morning dawn of June 22, 1941 to the first intense struggles for air supremacy during those first, fateful weeks. Testimonials and first-hand accounts from participants, on both sides, give humanity to the plentiful and detailed facts and figures. Many future and high scoring aces of the Luftwaffe and VVS describe their first missions during the opening battles.
One of the overall strengths of this work is that information from the antagonists is presented. Most of what we now of the air war on the Eastern Front are from the Luftwaffe point of view. Rarely did a reader know what was happening on the "Other Side of the Hill". Bergstrom and Mikhailov have made it a point to give a balanced account and include as much detail about the VVS and its pilots, as with the Luftwaffe.
After the initial stages of the air war, the authors walk the reader through the intense battles in the Ukraine, Kiev, and the desperate defense of Moscow and Leningrad. Interestingly, the VVS air raids against Berlin are documented. This is just another example of the obscure events of the war above the Eastern Front chronicled in this book.
A weakness of the book is the quality of the maps. Most of the geographical place names are blurred, making them difficult if not impossible to read. Several of the photographs have the same problem with blurring. Overall, the quality of the maps and photos do not detract significantly from the work.
I would recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in the battles between the Luftwaffe and VVS. The book closes a large gap between the air war on the Eastern Front and the other theaters of war that have been heavily documented.
In the past, there were written lots of books about the war on the eastern front. Meanwhile we know (as special historical educated people) a lot about the main facts, which troups under which command of which Marshall or General fought against the other side.
But we also have the expierience, that the former western enemies came together and are today good friends. Today the former opponents of the Battle over Britain" meet since decades as friends, talking about the old tough times...
The authors support with their work that kind the peaceful communication of the russian and german generations, because they explain, that one of the best skills of human beings, the possibility to fly, unifies the people all over the world.
The work that the authors did today, was impossible to do until the early ninties, when the history of the lost and won WWII was occupied by the political systems. With the fall of the german border and later with the end of the USSR, there was a new chance to take a new look on that what happened 45-50 years before.
The authors show, (by looking on the eastern theatre) that there was at least no really difference between german and russian pilots during the second worldwar: They all loved flying, they loved their native country. At least they did the same: They fought against each other, they killed each other under the same conditions.
Bergström and Michailov acting in the a kind of the new avantgarde" with their bookproject. Nearly no historian (Working on that eastern-front-theme") did it in that way before: To take a look on personal or individual destinies of both sides during the SAME time.
In that way, the eastern theatre (especially the airwar) is not longer an uppersurface-story with Hitler and Stalin, or Manstein and Shukov, who lost there 10.700 soldiers and at another place 5.800 soldiers. A small number of those soldiers (or especially pilots) now get names, even also not just the topscoring fighterpilots of both sides. To check the eye to eye-enemies" is the most honourable intention of Bergström an Michailov , to bring light into that what happened. They do not just stop at the point of those 10.700 or 5.800 soldiers - they talk about the single human beings of both sides, who not really differed.
So buy that book, because it is a really extented look on our common history.
I am urging for the next volume.
Günther Rosipal, Hannover, Germany
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