Reviews on Barbarossa: The Air Battle


Review by infolotnicze at on 1 July 2011 :

"Great book!"

(Five Stars out of Five)

Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July-December 1941 is another great book from Christer Bergstöm.
This book gives a in deep look at one of the most interesting moments in World War II aviation history. The reader gets to have a look on the first day of the fighting on the Eastern Front, and the author covers not only the German side but also shows that the Russians were also there, fighting bravely and with some successes. Then the book moves on untill we get to Moscow which is the end point for Barbarossa. Bergstöm gives us also detailed statistics about the fighting during the described period.

One of the strongest points of this book are precisely described photographs and as mentioned eralier covering the fighting as seen from the Russian side. Many books tend to describe fighting on the east only from German perspective not giving to much attention to the other side of the conflict - Bergstöm goes the right way trying to balance the two sides in his text which gives us a more objective look on those hard days.

Highly recommended for all interested in fighting o the Eastern Front.


Review by G. B. Caygillat on 18 August 2011 :

"Eminent yet very readible"

(Four Stars out of Five)

Given the paucity of hard data on the eastern front air war this bosk has amazing analysis of the opening stages of the 1941 air war. I found the mix of hard data and anecdotal references quite refreshing and the insert articles on particular missions/operations were well thought out. At the end of the book is a brief single shot of the major types used in the conflict period which is useful, but probably better covered elsewhere in more detail such as can be found through wikipedia; still this was nicely done. 
My only criticism would be the lack of maps of regions, e.g. around the Smolensk/Yelnia salient where there was discussion of the loss of air superiority for the LW for a period. The details of gruppe location and VVS units air umbrella would have made this clearer. Similarly the airfields around Leningrad to Pskov merited particular attention. 
Overall this book is exceptional value, especially as it draws and compares data from many nations records.


Review by WryGuy2 at on 1 July 2011 :

"A Tougher Air Battle Than You Might Have Thought"

(Five Stars out of Five)

"Barbarossa: The Air Battle July-December 1941" by Christer Bergstrom, is a book dealing with air portion of the German invasion an and initial campaign the Soviet Union from the start of the war in June 1941 until the Russian counterattack in front of Moscow in December 1941. 

There have been many, many books written about the German invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II, as it represented the most titanic struggle of the war, and the results of which would virtually dictate which side would win World War II. While there are many books about the invasion, and many books about the first part of the campaign (Operation Barbarossa), there are very few that focus solely on the air portion of the war and how it affected the war's outcome. Mr Christer's book, as one in a part of his series about the air war on the Eastern Front, helps fill-in a large gap of information about the war on the eastern front. 

The Germans had three major army groups facing the Soviets on its western border and another an army-sized grouping in Finland. The author generally switches between back and forth between these four areas as the campaign progresses. The author starts off by discussing the situation before the war begins, and then begins describing the overwhelming attacks, desperate defenses, and evolving tactics and strategies as the war unfolds. He often gives a day by day description of the combat from both sides perspectives, and provides insights and analysis of the operations for both combatants. The book is chock-full of photographs from the battle's time frame, evenly divided between the Germans and Soviet point of view. The author closes the book with listings of units, available aircraft, claimed victories/losses versus actual victories/losses (primarily from the German side), which are the result of extensive study of both side's records. While this shows that from a pure number perspective, the Germans destroyed down many more aircraft than they lost, Mr Bergstrom's narrative explains that numbers are deceiving and that Soviet performance improved greatly during the battle, particularly as the Germans found themselves being ground-down over a lengthy campaign they hadn't prepared for, while the Soviets were able to throw vast numbers of new planes and pilots into the fray. 

Mr Bergstrom shows the tremendous impact that the air portion of the battle had on the ground fighting ... air power played a key role in the battles, and the presence or absence of one side's air force often spelled success or failure in that day's fighting. While one often reads that air power can be critical to a battle, in this book (and his others) the author gives a more direct link to why that is so than just about any other book on the market. 

I highly recommend this book. It provides good information and analysis on the air forces of both sides during a critical campaign on the Eastern Front, and provides a comprehensive view of the role of that the German and Soviet Air Forces played in outcome of the battles.



"Barbarossa is a great book!"

Review by Michael D. Barrentine at on 10 March 2010:

(Five Stars out of Five)

If you have Black Cross/Red Star volume 1 then this book will correct some of the information. It will also provide much new information that wasn't in volume 1. I enjoy Christer Bergstroms books and hope that he will continue his BC/RS series.


"Air Ops on the Eastern Front Air War: The First Six Months!"

Review by Michael O'Conner "Wordsmith" at on 3 March 2010:

(Five Stars out of Five)

Christer Bergstrom's BARBAROSSA, THE AIR BATTLE; JULY-DECEMBER 1941 is one incredible book. It's a wonderfully-researched, comprehensive, balanced and well-illustrated guide to the titanic air battles waged on the Russian Front from July to December 1941. And it certainly sets the bar for works covering the subject.

While the use of the word 'titanic' may seem hyperbole, consider the following statistics. Between 22 June and 31 December 1941, the Soviets lost 21,000+ aircraft! In the initial Russian response to the German invasion, thousands of VVS aircraft, often flown by barely-trained aircrew and lacking fighter escort, were slaughtered in the air, entire formations being wiped out. Yet, as documented in BARBAROSSA, surviving VVS bombers doggedly kept up the attacks and pounded advancing German armies, buying time for Stalin to bring up whole new units to feed into the fighting. In the air, surviving VVS fighter pilots showed a fanaticism bordering on suicidal, frequently ramming their hated 'Fascist' opponents. For all the losses suffered, the endless VVS attacks on Wehrmacht units coupled with the dogged resistance of Russian ground forces lead to the German offensive being stopped at the gates of Moscow in December.

Though Luftwaffe units likewise made major contributions to Wehrmacht victories on the battlefield, it soon become an over-stretched aerial 'fire brigade' shunting back and forth to critical areas. Yet it was unable to produce a decisive strategic success for Hitler. A tactical air force entrusted with a strategic goal, the Luftwaffe did not have the aircraft or personnel resources to perform its basic mission nor easily replace its losses, over 3,800 aircraft and 5,000 men being lost between June and December 1941. More importantly, it could not supply the most critical German need, bombing attacks on Russian aircraft manufacturing plants that cranked out an endless supply of new aircraft.

Bergstrom does a marvelous job of presenting the Eastern Front conflict from all viewpoints and levels. Strategic issues co-mingle with Luftwaffe and VVS aircrew reminiscences to produce a well-rounded, even-handed account. The book is illustrrated with hundreds of clear, well-reproduced b&w and color photographs, diagrams and maps of German/Russian aircrews, aircraft, combat scenes and so on.

In short, BARBAROSSA is an outstanding achievement. Whether you consider its depth of research, Bergstrom's handling of the material or the wealth of illustrations, this 2007 Ian Allan release gets a big thumb's up. Military aviation history doesn't get much better than this. Highly recommended.



"Excellent history"

Excerpts from review on Barbarossa the Air Battle by Malcolm V. Love in the monthly magazine Aeroplane, Vol. 36 No. 01, January 2008

Mark: Four cockades out of Five

“The highly comprehensive text is backed up by additional text boxes that explain in detail specific aspects that are referred to in the main narrative, together with extensive appendices, notes, lists of references and – very usefully – maps that illustrate the areas of the Soviet Union under discussion.

“In fact this book represents excellent history, as it tells the story from both sides without any bias, while putting the events under discussion into their strategic and tactical contexts, and the level of detailed research is commendable.

“Overall this is an excellent book, one that really does add to our knowledge of the air war of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, and it can be thoroughly recommended.”



”Another excellent exploration of the air war on the Russian Front”

Excerpt from review on Barbarossa the Air Battle by Bill Stone at Stone & Stone's Second World War Books, 2 March 2008:

"Christer Bergstrom has already written several books on WWII air operations, including three volumes of the highly-regarded Black Cross/Red Star series…

"Actually, it seems like there are at least as many similarities as differences between the new Barbarossa and the older Operation Barbarossa, 1941… Despite those kinds of similarities—and the new book is definitely not an utter knock-off of the original—Bergstrom's new Barbarossa ranks as another excellent exploration of the air war on the Russian Front.

"It wouldn't be out of line to describe the new Barbarossa as practically a revised edition of the old Operation Barbarossa, 1941, although that point could certainly be debated. We wrote a glowing review of the original book, and the new one proves at least as praiseworthy."

(Comment by author: My book Black Cross/Red Star, Vol. 1, was published in 2000, and has been sold out since several years.)


Review by Falk at on 20 February 2008:

(Four Stars out of Five) Highly recommended!

The book is based on Black Cross / Red Star vol. 1, and rectifies many of its predecessor`s faults.
This time, the quality of the print is outstanding, with (mostly) crisp, good-quality photos. There even are some color photos and illustrations sprinkled throughout, and the layout is excellent.
A much better editing job has also been performed, eliminating the poor language that plagued BC/RS 1. It also benefits from having just one author, giving it a better and more consistent flow.
Whereas some felt BC/RS 1 was "fighter-biased", Barbarossa gives a bit more coverage to other aspects of the air war, as well as chronicling the actions on the ground.

That being said, it does have its minor flaws: Perhaps not unexpectedly, much of the information and most of the photos have been recycled from BC/RS 1 ( though it appears that a lot more research has been put into this book).
On the other hand, BC/RS 1 has been out of print for quite some time, so this might not matter much to the average buyer.
It is also considerably shorter, but considering the scope of the campaign, it does succeed in giving quite a good overview of the aerial part of Barbarossa. Numerous peronal experiences make the story come alive.

The intention to give the story a balanced view is commendable, and indeed, is one of the book`s strongest points. But I can`t quite escape the feeling that this principle was a little bit too rigidly adhered to ( i.e , if I write one page from the German POV, I`ll have to write one page from the Russian POV as well).
An example is the German raids on Moscow, which are given approx. one page of special coverage. The Soviet raids on Berlin are given the same amount of space and actually more text, while the total number of sorties dispatched were only a fraction of the number of even a single German raid.
Many of the claims stated are crosschecked with the relevant enemy loss lists, an excellent feature (and time-consuming to research, no doubt), highlighting the sometimes considerable discrepancies so common to air combat.
I would have liked this to be done consistently, however. Whether this was not done due to lack of time, lack of space or simply because the records themselves were unavailable, is unclear.

But these minor details do not detract from the overall value of this book, and considering the amount and quality of info packed into it, it is quite reasonably priced.

Highly recommended!

(I have already ordered the other volumes in this series, Stalingrad and Kursk!)


"Black Cross- Red Star revised, updated and written in English"

Review by Timo Schenk at on 7 January 2008:

(Five Stars out of Five)

While the first two Black Cross-Red Star volumes were rightly acknowledged as classic works on the air war over the Eastern Front, the lack of copy-editing made those titles a little difficult to read in my view - the author is not a native English speaker and it showed - too many pilots baling out and 'losing their conscience ' for one. These new Ian Allan titles reprise those earlier works but have here taken on a strategic slant and more to the point have been entirely revised and updated. In addition the text has been thoroughly proofed and re-worked by an English writer (Neil Page - translator of the massive JG 300 unit history) making it now possible to read these magisterial overviews of the Eastern Front air war without grimacing. Completed with new personal accounts, new & rare photo selections and much detail from both sides the new volumes in this series are highly recommended.


"Hervorragende Dokumentation!"

Review by Bertram at on 10 November 2007:

(Five Stars out of Five)

Christer Bergstrom ist kein Unbekannter in Bezug auf Luftfahrt-Geschichte. Eine ganze Reihe hervorragend geschriebener, akriebisch recherchierter und dokumentierter Bücher sind von ihm bereits erschienen - zumeist über den Luftkrieg im Osten zwischen der deutschen Luftwaffe und der russischen VVS. Das vorliegende Werk knüpft nahtlos an die bekannte und vielbeachtete Reihe "Black Cross - Red Star" an. Inhaltlich geht es um die Aufarbeitung und Chronologie der Ereignisse zu Luft im Rahmen des deutschen Überfalls auf die Sowjetunion, Codename "Barbarossa". Hiebei hat der Autor sowohl umfangreiche deutsche Quellen als auch im größeren Ausmaß russische Quellen gesichtet und ausgewertet. Dementsprechend unterscheidet sich dieses Werk von anderen durch eine angenehm ausgewogene Darstellung von Fakten und Berichten von Augenzeugen. Im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen Bänden zum Thema Luftkrieg ist dieses Buch zudem keine simple Zusammenstellung von mehr oder wenig bekannten Bildern mit ein wenig Fülltext, sondern enthält deutlich mehr Text als Bilder. Diese sind eher ergänzend "um den Text herum positioniert". Kern ist und bleibt die betont sachliche Zusammenstellung der Ereignisse im Zuge des Unternehmens Barbarossa.
Fazit: Sicherlich kein Buch für "Neulinge" in dem Kontext. Für interessierte Leser mit etwas Vorwissen zu diesem Thema jedoch eine hervorragend recherchierte Lektüre mit einer Unmenge an Fakten zu Piloten, Einheiten und Strategien. Das Buch ist in Englisch geschrieben, aber - wie ich finde - sehr gut lesbar, wenn man sich einmal eingelesen hat.



Review by Simon O. at Axis History on 22 September 2007:

(Five Stars out of Five)

This book continues Christer Bergström’s excellent work covering the Luftwaffe on the eastern theatre of operations. In this book the phase June – December 1941 is described, analysed and summarized.

The book stretches over 144 pages, divided into 18 chapters.
- The Eve of the Attack
- The Opening Round
- The Luftwaffe in the first battles of annihilation
- Soviet bombers versus Panzergruppe 4
- Deadlock in front of Kiev
- Air battle over Smolensk
- The road to Moscow is blocked
- Luftflotte 1 is reinforced
- The Battle of Uman
- Two Air Fleets against Kiev
- Air war over Karelia
- Air combat over Leningrad
- Typhoon against Moscow
- Luftflotte 4 stretched to the limit
- To the Gates of Moscow
- The Soviet Counter-Offensives
- Conclusions
- Aircraft of Barbarossa

Bergström starts chapter one, The Eve of the Attack, with a brief description of the status of both the German and Soviet Air forces before the operation. Also included in this chapter are 3 small sections in which Bergström goes into greater detail regarding for instance the German Aufklärungsgruppe ObdL. This type of sections are interspersed throughout the book often at the end of the chapters. They typically expand on certain subjects that’s been more broadly touched by the general text, but may also contain eyewitness reports or commentary’s to specific situations.

The book continues, in chapter 2 and 3 by detailing the first days of Operation Barbarossa. In these chapters, pure fact mingles with German and Soviet eyewitness accounts. After this, Bergström takes the reader through the different battles. The chapters covers the battles in Kiev, Smolensk, Moscow, Uman, Karelia, Leningrad and a plethora of other places.

The last chapter is comprised by photos of different German and Soviet aircrafts used at the eastern front. I feel this chapter would have benefited from a more expansive description of the aircrafts in question, accompanied by technical data.

The end of the book contains a appendix and a index. The information found in the appendix regards the order of battle, the structure of the airforces and information about the highest military awards. The information in the appendix pertains both German and Soviet forces.

In conclusion, the strength of this book lies in Bergström’s mix of detailed information and first hand accounts. The book is, while very detailed, still easy to read. Therefore I feel confident recommending it to newcomers to the subject as well as more experienced readers.


"Great Overview!"

Review by Y. Mann at on 22 August 2007:

(Five Stars out of Five)

Christer Bergstrom did an excellent job with the "Black Cross/Red Star" series and he does the same with this new series. He constantly has a wide range of sources which he calls upon to provide an excellent narrative ranging from primary sources such as former Soviet and German archives to interviews and memoirs of participants and periodicals from the time period as well as a plethora of secondary sources. While the book concentrates to a large degree on the air war Bergstrom also tells us what's happening on the ground, the various affects that the air war had on ground operations helps to put the story in a better context and light as well as the fact that Bergstrom intermixes personal accounts from both sides with the wide picture of what individual fronts, air armies, corps, etc were doing. Losses are constantly tallied and compared against what both sides had claimed, many times it is evident that both Soviet and German pilots exaggerated and at times even under counted what they had accomplished or failed to accomplish!

Some of the more memorable stories would be about a group of 9 Red Air Force (VVS) bombers who were all hit and burning but still flying in formation! They reached their target, released their bombs, and then parachutes could be seen as the crews began to bail out (pg. 55). These heroic exploits can be encountered on practically every page. Bergstrom gives a lot of attention to the suicidal courage that gripped Soviet bomber crews in the first weeks of the war as they constantly went up to bomb enemy targets without fighter cover again and again. It is to a large degree these men that he claims helped save the Soviet Union and held up the Germans again and again as they recklessly risked their lives to give an hour's pause to the German advance. Bergstrom also tackles the myth that the Soviet Union had superiority in 1941, providing reasons for why the VVS was restricted to how many planes it could deploy in the West and at the same time keep up a presence in the South, against the Turkish border, and the East, against the Japanese. Highly rated and recommended for those who want a better understanding of what happened in 1941!