I recently finished reading a fine book: Barbarossa, by Alan Clark, about the invasion of Russia by the Nazis in World War II. It’s a fairly dense read, and gets quite technical and detailed at points, but that’s part of the reason I enjoyed it. Spoiler Alert! — The Germans end up losing, quite badly. Even though I knew how badly this whole story would end up for just about everyone involved, the whole thing was just quite gripping. Sort of like a car wreck you just can’t look away from. We all know that two of the primary rules of ground warfare are:
- Avoid fighting on multiple fronts
- Don’t get involved in a land war in Russia — especially not during the winter
But, still, one of the really fascinating aspects of the story is how close the Russians came to losing, and yet how quickly the whole affair went into the weeds for the Germans and had them retreating willy-nilly across eastern europe. The sheer sizes of these battles, and the numbers of casualties boggle the mind. In total, we’re talking about over 10 million Russian military deaths, and over 4 million German military deaths. Yet the Russians kept finding able-bodied men to feed into the "meat grinder" as Clark puts it. The book also lends a lot of insight into the individual psychoses of both Hitler and Stalin, and how they led to success on one side, yet failure on the other. All in all, a satisfying read for a moderate history buff like myself.