Black Cross, Red Star: The Air War over the Eastern Front, Vol. 2, Resurgence

Article excerpt

Black Cross, Red Star: The Air War over the Eastern Front, vol. 2, Resurgence by Christer Bergstrom and Andrey Mikhalov. Pacifica Military History (, 1149 Grand Teton Drive, Pacifica, California 94044, 2001, 232 pages, $39.95.

The eastern front consumed over half of the German Luftwaffe's frontline strength from June 1941. It also was the scene of some of the most significant air action of World War II. The Red Air Force (WS) recovered from its near-total annihilation in the summer of 1941 to become a vital part of a powerful combined-arms team that defeated the German military. Yet, among the vast outpouring of World War II histories is but a tiny handful of works focusing on the eastern front in the "third dimension." We are fortunate, therefore, to welcome the second installment of a multivolume series examining, in great detail, the air war on the eastern front, 1941-45. It is a story that needs telling and retelling.

In many ways, this volume tells it well and has much that is new to offer. It covers the critical batties before Moscow in December 1941-January 1942 through the ambitious Soviet counteroffensive and the subsequent German stabilization of the front line, culminating in the German victories on the Kerch peninsula and at Kharkov. The narrative concludes with the conquest of the Crimea, which clears the way for Operation Blue, the major German drive during the summer of 1942, to be covered in a future volume. Throughout, the courageous efforts of the WS to close the training, technical, and tactical gap with the Luftwaffe are well covered. The book also contains excellent accounts of the "secondary" fronts since air action around Leningrad or opposite Army Group Center hardly slackened during this period. The chapter devoted to the Demjansk and Kholm airlifts, in which the Luftwaffe kept a cutoff German force of over 100,000 men resupplied for months, is one of the highlights of the volume.

The work masterfully combines the combat experiences of both Soviet and German airmen into a coherent narrative. For years, historians and general readers were aware of the exploits of a number of the German ace fighter pilots, such as Hannes Trautloft, Hermann Graf, and Anton Hackl, fighting in the Soviet Union. This work certainly gives them their due, providing much new and enlightening information in the process. Perhaps the book's most significant contribution lies in finally recognizing the achievements and sacrifices of the airmen (and airwomen) of the WS. …