Black Cross/Red Star: The Air War over the Eastern Front, Vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa

By Corum, James S. | Aerospace Power Journal, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Black Cross/Red Star: The Air War over the Eastern Front, Vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa


Corum, James S., Aerospace Power Journal


Black Cross/Red Star: The Air War over the Eastern Front, vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa by Christer Bergstrom and Andrey Mikhailov. Pacifica Military History (http://www.pacificamilitary.com), 1149 Grand Teton Drive, Pacifica, California 94044, 2000, 336 pages, $39.95 (hardcover).

Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, was not only one of the greatest land operations in history, but also one of the largest air operations. Over 3,000 Luftwaffe aircraft and aircraft of nations allied with Germany faced over 10,000 Soviet aircraft across an enormous front. While there have been numerous books about the ground operations in the Soviet Union in 1941, relatively little attention has been devoted to the air operations. Black Cross/Red Star is a useful addition to the literature of airpower history on what was arguably the most decisive front of World War II.

The history of the air war over the Soviet Union from June 1941 can be summed up as an initial German victory with the Luftwaffe gaining air superiority over the obsolete and poorly trained Red Air Force, the battle for survival by the Red Air Force, the exhaustion of the Luftwaffe by late fall, and the resurgence of Soviet airpower in support of the Soviet counterattack in December 1941. The authors provide a good general history of the air action on the Eastern Front for this period of the war.

The book emphasizes the unit actions on the Eastern Front and is written to give the reader a "feel" for typical operations of 1941. It is heavy on wing and group operations and contains plenty of pilot anecdotes. One strength of the book is the inclusion of Soviet accounts of the air operations and plenty of Red Air Force photographs. Indeed, the book is well balanced in this regard, quickly moving from German operations to Red Air Force operations over the same sectors. This book is one of the benefits of the opening of the Soviet archives to historians in the last decade.

By including brief accounts of air forces allied with Germany, such as those of the Slovaks and Romanians, Black Cross/Red Star makes an important contribution to understanding the air war over the Eastern Front. It is often forgotten that Germany's allies, usually operating under German direction, made a major contribution to the Luftwaffe's campaign in the east. …

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