Reviews on Bagration to Berlin: The Final Air Battles in the East
"Roles reverse as Luftwaffe declines & the Soviet air force is on the rise"
Review by Sussman at Amazon.com on 21 May 2013:
I was so impressed with the previous editions that this was a must buy for me. This work is an extremely competent understanding of the air in its last year, or so, of the war on the Eastern Front. I am sure that due the length and breadth of the air work we will not be getting the `whole history' here. To quote Howard Mitchel's review, this edition is more to do with strategic events rather than the full operational machinations of both air forces. You still get the anecdotes that really brought the other books to `life' me. You get some excellent photographic evidence - which are completely new to me and which I have not seen in other histories which relate to the same subject matter. The maps are done well and are welcome addition to support the narratives as it `play through'. At the end the book there is very good appendix. For me another very good edition that is worthy of a good four stars.
Review by Floyd S. Werner, Jr., IPMS# 26266
The air war on the German Eastern Front is one that for most Americans don't know nearly enough about. Why? - Well it wasn't fought by Americans, duh, and it was largely unreported. The Soviet Union and Germany fought ground and air battles that helped decide the course of the war. The air battles alone were on a scale unheard of in the East. That is why the German air aces were able to amass so many victories.
The latest hard bound book from Christer Berstrom is actually the fourth and final installment of this series. The previous books, Barbarossa, Stalingrad and Kursk, took the reader from the beginning of hostilities to the largest air battle in the history of the world. This one picks up where the others left off and starts on the banks of the River Dnepr and ends with the final air battles over Berlin. There are 144 pages printed on high quality paper with excellent photos throughout the book. The pictures only tell part of the story, this is a serious work and the text shows the attention to detail the author has become known for. The text is easily readable even though it uses a lot of tactical terms.
The photos are all very clear and add to the text. The captions are very helpful and introduce you to the personalities of the war on the Eastern Front. Personalities like Hartmann, Rall, Vorizheykin, Nowotny, and an assortment of others. Along with the personalities they would be nothing without the instruments of flight. The development and employment of the aircraft from P-39s, La-5s, Yaks, Bf-109s to the FW-190 is also discussed. The photos also show the development in the historical context that they belong. Some of the anecdotes about the pilots is very interesting, such as how it took Gerhard Barkhorn took 120 combat missions to score his first victory.
The Luftwaffe and Soviet bomber forces played a pivotal role in the east, far more than in the west. With great aircraft such as the Il-2 at its disposal, the VVS was more than adequate to support the soldiers in the field.
While reading the book it becomes readily apparent the level of activity that the air forces endured and the dramatic losses that they suffered. Even with the introduction of the latest and greatest fighters from the Germans was not enough to stem the tide of the Soviet Army. Wonder weapons such as the Me-262, Ta-152 and the Mistels were only able to prolong the inevitable. The German experten were able to do a lot of damage to the Soviet order of battle, however, the same can be said by the Soviet pilots who flew with determination and heroically. What I found to be interesting is that the Soviets continued to fly aircraft such as the P-39 right up until the last day of the war. Actually according to the book a P-39 achieved the last VVS air to air victory in WWII.
This book, along with the other books in this series, are very well researched and written. There are no profile drawings, however, the photos that are included are very good and illustrate both Soviet and German aircraft. The text is easy to read and as a historical addition to your library this book is very good. For Americans, these books address a relatively unknown part of the European war.
"Exhaustive research ... outstanding"
Review by Chris Banyai-Riepl at Internet Modeler, November 2008 Issue
The final volume in the definitive series on air battles on the Eastern Front, Bagration to Berlin covers the advance of Soviet forces and the ultimate collapse of the German forces. This was not an easy victory for the Soviet Union, though, and while the VVS improved their aircraft technology and pilot skills, the Luftwaffe changed their tactics to provide a powerful defense. Still, the VVS proved superior over the Luftwaffe in these final years, and the result was a constant retreat by the Germans towards Berlin.
Operation Bagration makes up the majority of this book, as the author wanted to provide a thorough analysis of this major event on the Eastern Front. As one of the few events on the Eastern Front to penetrate through the veil of Cold War propaganda, the actual events of the destruction of Heeresgruppe Mitte have never been told in a balanced fashion. This book aims to change that, providing information from both sides that illustrate why this battle eliminated any hope of a stalemate from which Germany might have established a truce. Instead, the Russians rode the wave of success from Bagration and pushed the Germans out of Eastern Europe back to Berlin.
Like the other titles in this series, the author draws heavily on archival information from both sides to provide a balanced analysis that is further enhanced through extensive photographs and maps. With many advances taking place across a broad front, the maps are particularly useful in keeping track of the progression of the battle. The photos, many of which are new, illustrate the changing technology of both sides.
This is an essential series to anyone interested in the history of the air war on the Eastern Front. The exhaustive research is well presented, and the supporting information is outstanding. My thanks to Specialty Press for the review copy.
"Another superb Offering"
Review by Iva Buch at Amazon.com on 9 September 2008:
(Five Stars out of Five)
Not being a great collector of aviation books I stumbled upon Christer Bergstrom"s book Kursk The Air battle, which after reading I had to buy his next offering on the final era of the Second World War on the Eastern front, namely Bagration to Berlin.
In this his final offering on the brutal campaign on the eastern front the authour has once again penned a very interesting and well researched book.
As per his previous offerings on the air battles the book takes sources from both the Russian and German side to give a balanced view.
It again has a comprehensive loss chart but interestingly only for the Russian side as most records for the Luftwaffe at this late stage of the war were destroyed.
There are some rare and unique photos of Russian aircraft flying over Berlin and landing at captured german airfields in Berlin while the fighting was still going on nearby.
One thing that appeared to be different in the campaign in the east was that the Luftwaffe was able to send up planes to assist their ground troops on a number of occasions resulting in furious air battles.
Indeed the Russians faced the largest number of "experten"(aces)on the Eastern front compared to the allies, and it was these men and their few machines that kept the growing number of Russian pilots equipped with superior aircraft at bay for so long.
As the Luftwaffe began to grind to a halt through a lack of pilots, aircraft and fuel, the Russians with the dreaded ground attack Il 2 ably suppourted by large numbers of fighter escorts wreaked havoc on the German ground forces.The Russians equipped now with the much superior La 7 and Yak 9 began to shoot down large numbers of German aircraft in a complete reversal of the air campaign in 1941 - 42.
There is anice little piece on the use of the Mistel, a Ju 88 packed with explosives and piggy backed by a Focke Wulf 190.It was this type of aircraft that was used to attack the Kustrin bridges over the Oder in April 1945.
As usual from this authour there are a large number of photographs of the aircraft and personalities involved in the battles
The book is full of combat accounts, and covers all areas of the war from Kurland, to the collapse of Army Group centre in operation Bagration, Poland and the Oder crossings to the final battles over Berlin.
Printed on fine glossy paper for excellent photo reproduction, you will find a wealth of information that is not readily accessible in other books which tend to concentrate on the land battles.
Well worth reading and highly recommended
"A good account of the final triumph of Soviet air power"
Review by Howard Mitchell at Amazon.co.uk on 3 August 2008:
(Four Stars out of Five)
This is the fourth and final volume in a series covering the air war between Germany and the Soviet Union and the one which covers the largest scope - the whole Eastern front from near the middle of the war to its end. Given the huge scale of the volume the focus is on the strategic level rather than the operational, but the book uses numerous tactical anecdotes to illustrate the flow of the air campaign.
The air war on the eastern front was almost always conducted to support armies on the ground and Bergstrom describes the ground war to show how air power supported it (though the limited 'strategic' bombing campaign briefly conducted by the Luftwaffe in 1944 is discussed).
The first five chapters of the book cover the history of the German Army Group Centre from the invasion of 1941 to the summer of 1944 and also outline the fate of its two flanking Army Groups, which by 1944 had suffered a series of defeats. The near collapse of the German forces in the south following the battle of Kursk left Army Group Centre exposed along a lengthy front line. Bergstrom uses this introduction to describe how the German Luftwaffe and Soviet VVS (Air Force) changed over this period. After its initial crushing defeats the VVS had recovered and by the start of 1944 had reached a maturity from which it would soon be able to overwhelm the Luftwaffe. Bergstrom is particularly good at contrasting the two air forces to show how each developed up to this point, and as in previous volumes he uses records from both German and Soviet sides to produce a balanced account of the air war.
The remaining seven chapters cover the Soviet offensive aimed at destroying Army Group Centre in June 1944, Operation Bagration, and the subsequent series of catastrophic defeats the Soviets inflicted on the Germans afterwards, both on the ground and in the air, which took them on to Berlin. Operation Bagration is naturally described in some detail as are the major battles elsewhere, but given the titanic scope of the war on the east front there are inevitably some areas which receive little coverage. Again, Bergstrom emphasises how each air force evolved over this period, considering how it was employed, the quality of its pilots, the relative effectiveness of its aircraft and the numbers of them which could be fielded. During this period of the war the VVS had become a tremendously powerful force. Only in exceptional circumstances, such as when advancing Soviet armies outran their supply lines and the Luftwaffe was falling back on prepared bases, was Soviet air power seriously challenged. Bergstrom emphasises that the trump card in the Luftwaffe's arsenal, the skill of its pilots, was being steadily eroded and that by the end of 1944 newly arriving VVS pilots were better trained than their German counterparts (and often flying better aircraft to).
The book is finished off by appendices giving orders of battle for the Luftwaffe and VVS, tables of Soviet aircraft losses throughout the war, command structures etc. There is a lengthy and useful glossary.
Physically the book continues the same standards of the three previous volumes. Two maps have been provided which are usually enough to follow the course of the ground war, though irritatingly the starting positions of the Soviet land and air armies have been omitted from the second. The photographs continue to be clear and informatively captioned.
There are a few niggles with some details. The Bf 110 is described as being, 'contrary to popular myth', highly successful in all roles it was used in, which will raise a few eyebrows. Bergstrom also describes the P-39 Airacobra as inferior to all Soviet fighters from the Yak-1 onwards, and then ignores the question of why the Soviets would have used it in such large numbers and for so long if this were actually so.
The major failure of the book, however, is that it simply stops at the end of the war. One of the strengths of previous volumes in the series has been a concluding chapter where Bergstrom draws together all the threads which have been running through the narrative to emphasise why the air war developed as it did. Lacking this, the book ends not with a bang but with a whimper. As all the volumes in the series are 144 pages regardless of scope this seems to have been a decision made simply to fit a set number of pages and it left me with a decided feeling of anticlimax.
Despite this, overall this is another very good book. If it is not quite as good as the three excellent volumes which precede it, that is only because they set very high standards for it to live up to. It is still the most detailed and balanced account I know of describing the final triumph of the VVS and the collapse of the Luftwaffe in the east.
Considering all four volumes together they provide, if not a complete history of the eastern front air war in all parts of the theatre and at all times, then one which covers the critical actions. They explain why air power was critical to the land battle, and chart the waxing and waning of the opposing air forces as they followed their different paths from the triumphs of the Luftwaffe in June 1941 to its destruction by a very different VVS in 1945. Recommended reading for anyone interested in the subject.
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