Reviews on Stalingrad: The Air Battle


"A True "Experte!"

Review by Gian Piero Milanetti (author of Le Streghe della Notte - la storia non detta delle aviatrici sovietiche della seconda guerra mondiale, The Night Witches - The untold story of the Soviet Airwomen of the Second World War) at on 6 October 2011:

(Five Stars out of Five)

Christer Bergstrom is one of the few true Experten of the Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front (and not only there). His expertise is deep, covers with an angle of 360° the subject, ranging from aviation to troops. As an author myself about the Soviet "Night Witches" I can assure that this book contents very valuable informations, never published photographs, pictures and datas that I was not able to find, even in the Bundes Archives and on the many sources that I have checked, in Englihs or in Russian. For instance, he produces very interesting datas about the Baptisme of Fire of Lydia Litvyak, the most famous fighter female pilot of history. But there is much more in this elegant and graphically outstanding book. The main subject is of course the Air Battle on Stalingrad and I have not found a more interesting and beautiful books about that, not saying of course about his volume "Black Cross Red Star - Everything for Stalingrad", that is even more amazing and very well researched!

Highly recomended! Bergstrom books are among the very few aviation books that do not loose their value with the years, on the contrary: they become coveted and expensive! The first volume of "Black Cross Red Star" is now sold - used - at ten times its original price!



"Covers much more than just the Battle of Stalingrad"

Review by WryGuy2 at on 25 February 2011:

(Five Stars out of Five)

There have been many, many books written about the Battle of Stalingrad, and on the 1942 German Offensive in the Soviet Union, "Case Blue". But there are only a bare handful of books in print in English that focuses on the air portion of this critical 1942 campaign on the Eastern Front. The only other book of note published recently is author Joel Hayward's "Stopped at Stalingrad". So while this review will focus Mr Bergstrom's book, I will also compare/contrast it a bit to "Stopped at Stalingrad". 

In early 1942, the Soviets had attacked and encircled German forces at Kholm and Demyansk. The book opens with describing the successful airlifts that the Germans were able to organize ... a success which would set the stage for the German resupply attempt at Stalingrad later in the year. He then covers the air battles in the Crimea, the disastrous Soviet attack at Kharkov, and the following German attacks toward the Caucasus and toward Stalingrad, the battle for and encirclement of Stalingrad, and the aftermaths, from both the Soviet and German perspectives. 

This book itself is relatively slender, 144 pages cover to cover, but this is offset by the fact that it's in a relatively large 8 inch by 12 inch format, so you're actually getting a lot of information. It's chock full of excellent photographs, tables, maps, and illustrations. 

Comparing and contrasting this book with "Stopped at Stalingrad", this book, "Stalingrad: The Air Battle: 1942-January 1943" covers both the German and Soviet efforts ("Stopped at Stalingrad focuses more on the Germans), has more technical details, analysis of the opposing forces, orders of battle, and copious anecdotes from both sides. Mr Bergstrom also provides more insight and analysis as to why the forces performed as they did, and often (though not always) cross-checks aircraft claims versus losses for both sides during the battle, something I liked. One of the interesting things that Mr Bergstrom points out was that a relative handful of German fighter aces (experten) shot down a large percentage of the Soviet aircraft that were lost. The steady attrition of these aces appeared to have a huge impact on the German's ability to maintain air superiority over the course of the campaign, in my opinion. 

"Stopped at Stalingrad" presents an excellent analysis of the German position prior to the start of Case Blue and a more nuanced and detailed view of the German air and ground operations themselves over the course of the campaign, though at the expense of the Soviet position. A lot of the anecdotes in "Stopped in Stalingrad" are from Wolfram von Richthofen's diary, whereas those in ""Stalingrad: The Air Battle: 1942-January 1943" come from a multitude of sources. (Both books "feature" von Richthofen to a large degree, as he had a huge impact on the air war.) But neither book is deficient relative to the other ... they just have differing points of view. 

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. If you're trying to decide whether to get this book or "Stopped at Stalingrad", I'd get them both, as the two books are somewhat complementary, in my opinion, and when read together, provide a comprehensive view of the role of that the German and Soviet Air Forces played in outcome of the battles.


"First-Rate Account of Eastern Front Air Ops!"

Review by Michael OConnor "Wordsmith" at on 24 July 2008:

(Five Stars out of Five)

Christer Bergstrom's previous air war titles such as BLACK CROSS - RED STAR have been notable for their impeccable research, illustrative material, balanced treatment and sometimes awkwardly worded texts. Happily, Bergstrom's STALINGRAD volume, published in 2007 by Midland Publishing, displays all those aforementioned strengths with nary a convoluted participle in sight!

Drawing upon a wealth of German and Russian archival material and personal accounts, Bergstrom chronicles the momentous developments on the Eastern Front from early 1942 to January 1943, events that resulted in the destruction of the 6th Army at Stalingrad. Luftwaffe and Red Air Force units were key players in the sometimes titanic land battles waged during this time. Equipped with superior aircraft flown by combat-experienced crews using proven tactics, German fighter, bomber, ground-attack and recce units overwhelmed the opposition, lending valuable support to the Panzers while decimating their poorly-trained and -led VVS contemporaries operating a smorgasbord of biplane and monoplane designs. While Russian units were being re-equipped with more potent aircraft such as IL-2s, Pe-2s, Yak-1s, LaGG-3s, etc., they often lacked time to develop effective tactics before thrown into battle. Yet despite wholesale slaughter of VVS units, Germany, as Bergstorm relates in the book, couldn't hope to win the war of attrition Stalin was willing to wage. In time Luftwaffe bombers and fighters, their numbers dwindling, became fire-brigades, switched back and forth across fronts to provide needed - if temporary - strength to a threatened location or air support for a new offensive. Germany's transports were likewise called upon for tasks - such as the aerial resupply of Stalingrad - beyond their capabilities. In the end, quantity conquered quality.

STALINGRAD is first-class history. It interweaves strategic concerns with tactical developments and adds individual combat details to provide the reader with a compelling 'big picture/little picture' narrative. The wealth of documentation Bergstrom utilized is truly impressive. Axis and Russian air combat claims, for example, are compared whenever possible to give an accurate account of the air war. What is so surprising, given all the documentation Bergstrom presents in the book, is that STALINGRAD is such an engaging read.

Bergstrom packs a great deal of history into the book's 134 pages of text. Although the primary thrust of the book is the role Axis and Russian fighters, bombers, ground-attack, transport and recce units played in the fighting, Bergstrom includes separate sections on notable Luftwaffe and VVS commanders, the restructuring of the Red Air Force, comparisons between the Stalingrad and Demyansk airlifts, the effect of Lend-Lease aircraft on Soviet air ops, 'Night Witches,' etc.

Over 100 black and white photographs compliment the text along with a two-page painting diagramming the Stalingrad airlift operation, five color maps and various tables summarizing order of battle, sorties flown, losses and so on.

Given the tremendous amount of information Bergstrom wields and the able manner in which he presents it, I'd give STALINGRAD six stars if that was possible. His portrait of Eastern Front air ops is fresh, authoritative, informative and compelling. After 60 years we're finally getting a true picture of the Eastern Front air war! This gets my highest recommendation.


"A Rare View Of WWII Air History"

Review by Gridley at on 16 April 2008:

(Four Stars out of Five)

The story of WWII's Eastern Front conflict has been rarely told, in part because of Soviet secrecy regarding its part in the war. Since glasnost, however, information from the Russian side has been forthcoming, but little of the published scholarship involving this history relates the part aircraft played in both sides of the conflict.

Bergstrom's book partially resolves this historical gap. He pays close attention to the strategic influence of the Soviet Air Force as well as to that of the German Luftwaffe. However, the author seems more fascinated with fighter statistics than with those of bombers, once again allowing a bit of a distortion in his view of air strategy and tactics as they evolved during this conflict. Still, Bergstrom's text, along with rare pictures, moves an invaluable step forward in understanding the air aspects of this conflict.



"Adds considerably to our knowledge of the Stalingrad operations"

Excerpts from review on Stalingrad the Air Battle by Malcolm V. Love in the monthly magazine Aeroplane, Vol. 36 No. 3, March 2008

Mark: Four cockades out of Five

"The text is highly detailed but refreshingly readable, and is written from extensive research of both German and former Soviet archives.

"… adds considerably to our knowledge of the Stalingrad operations…

"The story is told 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. The book’s extensive and comprehensive collection of photographs contains several previously unknown to this reviewer, and most are clear and well printed. Overall this is another excellent book by Christer Bergström, one that really does add to our knowledge of the air war of the Stalingrad operations, and it can be thoroughly recommended."