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Disaster at Stalingrad: An Alternate History

Disaster at Stalingrad: An Alternate History [Kindle Edition]

Peter Tsouras

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It is early September 1942 and the German commander of the Sixth Army, General Paulus, assisted by the Fourth Panzer Army, is poised to advance on the Russian city of Stalingrad. His primary mission was to take the city, crushing this crucial center of communication and manufacturing, and to secure the valuable oil fields in the Caucasus.

What happens next is well known to any student of modern history: a brutal war of attrition, characterized by fierce hand-to-hand combat, that lasted for nearly two years, and the eventual victory by a resolute Soviet Red Army. A ravaged German Army was pushed into full retreat. This was the first defeat of Hitler’s territorial ambitions in Europe and a critical turning point of WWII.

But the outcome could have been very different, as Peter Tsouras demonstrates in this fascinating alternate history of this fateful battle. By introducing minor - and realistic - adjustments, Tsouras presents a scenario in which the course of the battle runs quite differently, which in turn throws up disturbing possibilities regarding the outcome of the whole war.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

PETER TSOURAS is a respected military historian and the author of Disaster at D-Day, Hitler Victorious, Gettysburg: An Alternate History, Third Reich Victorious and Cold War Hot.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 16996 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 256 Seiten
  • Verlag: Frontline Books (18. Dezember 2013)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.2 von 5 Sternen  55 Rezensionen
39 von 41 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Plausible in places, but naval nonsense 7. August 2013
Von Ed B - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
There are four key historical changes that provide the rationale for the alternative in this book. They are:
1. German measures that bring Turkey into the war on the Axis side
2. Extensive German use of captured Soviet equipment
3. A major naval battle that ends the Murmansk convoys
4. A German advance to cut the Persian corridor

The first two are arguable, but have some problems. The third, as presented in this book, verges on fantasy and does not take into account key characteristics and doctrine of the ships and navies involved. The fourth is the only one which would have a reasonable chance, and had it happened, would have created the kind of disruption needed to seriously weaken the Soviet war effort. Given the good detail on the land actions, I will overlook the implausibility of the naval action and give a passing grade.

Dealing with the first variation, the steps Hitler takes to encourage Turkey would likely not be sufficient to offset the memory of the Great War, the strong influence of the United States, and the small rewards associated with such a large risk. However, I can accept that some changes in the Turkish government could have made that an outside possibility.

Using captured Soviet equipment was done on a local basis and in small numbers. To completely re-equip entire Panzer divisions is more questionable due to the lack of spare parts needed to keep such large numbers of tanks operational over long periods of time. You can run a captured tank until it breaks, but what then? Unless you have captured massive stockpiles of parts, or the factories that produce the parts, it gets down to very labour intensive cannibalization to provide your spares.

The third change has two sub-components: denial of supplies to the Soviet Union and use of those supplies (from captured merchantmen) by Germany. Historically, convoy PQ17 was slaughtered after it was ordered to scatter: only 12 of 36 merchantmen made it to Russia. It is hard to see how the loss of those 12 ships would have seriously compromised the Soviet defences. Convoy PQ18 (which this alternate history has never happening) didn't unload in Murmansk until September 27th, too late for the raw materials to affect the actions described (which are in October and very early November). Even the intact tanks, vehicles and aircraft from the 24 ships that survived the convoy would have reached the battlefield too late to make much of a difference. The Soviet transport system was both wasteful and inefficient - naval staff saw many of the Hurricanes and P39s brought at such cost in blood left on unprotected fields, to sink into the mud and be ruined.

It is the naval action that I want to focus on, as it is absurd.

First you notice the howlers in basic statements of fact in the book. The Tirpitz did not have nine guns - as a sister ship to the Bismarck, it had eight 15" naval rifles. Nor was the Admiral Hipper armed with 11" guns. A sister ship to the Prinz Eugen, it had eight 8". And since the Tirpitz was a follow on sister ship to the Bismarck, it can't have been the first battleship with a welded hull - that would be the Bismarck. Not to mention the U.S.S. "George" Washington, as another reviewer noted. (U.S. battleships were named after states, not presidents).

There is a key concept in naval gunfire that need to be explained to understand why the battle is so wrong. This is what is called an immunity zone. For an armoured ship being struck by a certain type of shell, there is usually a range under which the shell has enough energy to penetrate the vertical armour. Over that range, it doesn't have enough energy and can't penetrate. For horizontal armour, the situation is reversed. If the shell is hitting close, it will be at a very shallow angle to the armour and will richochet off. It must be descending at a steep enough angle, and with enough speed, to penetrate the horizontal armour and this will happen at over a certain range. Comparing one type of ship to one type of gun, there may be a range above which the horizontal (belt) armour can no longer be penetrated, and another range below which the horizontal (deck) armour cannot yet be penetrated. If such a band of ranges exists, it is called the immunity zone for that ship against that type of gun. It is where a captain would want to fight, since the enemy shells have a very small chance of doing serious damage to his ship.

Using the known characteristics of the German, British and U.S. battleships, we can determine what the respective immunity zones were. This information comes from the analysis done by Nathan Okun, which can be found in the articles on guns and armour on the Navweaps website [...]. He has analyzed thousands of test firings and developed a program to determine the ranges at which different types of shells would penetrate each countries armour.

The British King George V class battleships would have an immunity zone of from 22,000 to 36,000 yards against German 15" guns. The U.S. North Carolina class would have a narrower immunity zone, 28,000 to 32,000 yards against the same guns. This is because not only were the British ships mounting thicker armour, the British WW2 era armour was markedly better than that of other nations (estimated at 25% better).

Going the other way, the Tirpitz would have had an extremely small immunity zone of 26,000 to 28,000 yards against the British 14" guns, and absolutely no immunity zone against the American 16" gun.

The German commander would have a serious problem. His 11" gunned battlecruisers (Scharnhorst and Gneisnau) are fighting way out of their league. He must either use his superior speed (32 knots versus 28/29 knots) to run away and avoid action, or close as fast as possible to get within penetrating range, hopefully without taking crippling hits. It is just not conceivable that he could remain at range and cripple the British battleships with penetrating belt hits. This is leaving out the fact that the Germans seemed to have problems with their shells. Contrary to the statement that they were better made, two of the 15" Bismarck shells that hit Prince of Wales failed to explode. One was removed from within the ship after docking.

It is almost a minor quibble to point out that the German destroyers could never have gotten within 100 yards of the Allied battleships. Both the British and American battleships were equipped with powerful and fast-firing secondary guns that would smash a destroyer at 10,000 yards, much less point blank range. And that British 6" gun cruiser that Tsouras has almost as a spectator to the battle would, with its twelve 6" guns, make short work of any German destroyer.

Finally, even if you suspend reality and have this battle occur in all its fantastical glory, there would be no reason to stop the convoys. Two more King George V class battleships joined the Home Fleet that summer: Anson in July and Howe in August. With Tirpitz gone, the Germans would have nothing to bring to the table.

Sorry for the length of this somewhat pedantic scree, but the author would have been well-served to find an alternate disaster to end the convoys - maybe a German parachute attack on Murmansk. That would at least have had a chance of succeeding.
21 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Alternate Stalingrad. 22. Mai 2013
Von JAG 2.0 - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Good alternate history takes a historical event, makes a plausible change and explores what effects that plausible change could have wrought. Good alternate history is true to the times, the personalities and the technologies (time travelers giving Robert E. Lee laser rifles at Gettysburg wouldn't count!). It's a "what if" experiment where an author says "If this changed, what might have happened next? Then what? Then how could that have affected this other event?"

Peter Tsouras writes good alternate history (most of the time) and shows a clear and expert grasp of military history, military technology and the personalities that set the course of history. He does exacting research on the units, commanders and weapons as well as their capabilities so he has a very good understanding on what is possible and what is not. Often the "what if's" are backed up by plans that were actually suggested at the time, but rejected.

This particular work revolves around "Case Blue" and the German summer offensive in the south of the USSR in 1942 which culminated in the battle of Stalingrad which was, in reality, a disaster for the Germans. What causes the changes rolling in this book? A transport aircraft carrying CinC of the German navy (Kriegsmarine) Erich Raeder crashes, killing the admiral. Sounds pretty remote an event to Stalingrad, doesn't it? Tsouras ties it in beautifully and shows he understands the vital dimension of logistics in war to an extent most people who read about WWII don't realize. There are naval battles, massive land campaigns, guerrilla and mountain warfare, changed alliances and more!

I don't do spoilers so I can't give you a synopsis of the alternate campaign. I will say that the changed world is indeed plausible and shows history could indeed have followed a very different path than the one we know. While a few of his "what if's" are a stretch, most are spot-on given what we know about the personalities, units, weapons etc. I don't want to give anything away, but I was disappointed by the ending because it's exactly the same as the ending of another one of his excellent books.

Another thing I didn't like about this book is that you don't get the same grunt-level stories that you got in "Disaster At D-Day" for example and I miss that. The Eastern Front was simply so geographically large and units smaller than the Corps or Army-level are simply irrelevant to the story and you miss some of the tactical-level stories found in his other books.

Still and all, this is a very good book that most military history readers will like even if just for the sake of argument and debate! It's not as good as Tsouras's "Disaster At D-Day" but it's still a good, well-written book and I recommend it with four stars.
11 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Couldn't put it down 23. Mai 2013
Von Christopher Webber - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I read this 240 page book in a few days, it was hard to put it down, and is composed of easily digestible chunks. Often alternative history requires too many unlikely events and coincidences to make it happen. The dramatic and tragic Stalingrad story is however full of possibilities for this kind of treatment that require only minimal and believable changes, as the Germans came so very close to success despite all their problems.

Peter Tsouras doesn't just deal with Stalingrad. He also asks several other questions, like what would have happened if the ENIGMA decoding had been discovered by the Germans? What would have happened to convoy PQ-17 if all the German ships sailed as planned (one was stopped by hitting rocks just as it left port)?. Thus this story includes a major naval battle.

The story is really well told, and often it is very hard to tell fact from fiction, as real events are moved around. Anybody who knows the real story will constantly be wondering what is going to happen next - as each German victory has its price, and events often follow their real course. The Germans do not get an easy ride and often do stupid things or otherwise get into trouble, leaving you wondering how on earth they are going to save themselves.

My only criticisms are that too many personnel changes have to be made from real life, and more maps are needed, especially of the final Stalingrad battles, to make the final part of the story more credible. Nevertheless wargamers and "Hearts of Iron" players will love this book, you can almost see the author re-arranging the counters on the map. Historians will like the synthesis of so many sources used, including much information about Russian Lend-Lease of which I wasn't aware.
7 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen several possible wa;ys germans could have improved chances of victory at stalingrad 26. Mai 2013
Von Richard M. Abramson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Tsouras shows not just 1, but several ways that Germany could have improved their chances at Stalingrad, including better awareness of enigma encryption failure possibility, better use of their naval assets, better encouragement of Turkey as a block for the southern supply route. He also shows how both Stalin and Hitler could be expected to interfere and complicate the resulting changes in policies by the Allies and Axis. He also notes some of the smaller policies not so widely known, about how the merchant sailors were poorly treated and how this affected shipping into harsh areas like the Arctic convoys.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Disaster at Stalingrad 26. Juli 2013
Von Chanley M. Mohney - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Blue Team/Red Team analysis is used by the U.S. Intelligence Community to test analyses on particularly critical issues. It is a tricky subject, but from it we can test the original analysis to see if something was overlooked. Alternative history allows us to do the same with historical issues. When written properly, it helps us understand what happened and why. Many attempts become more fantasy or science fiction because the story lacks a believable storyline that is based on thorough research and knowledge of the subject. Peter G. Tsouras has given us an excellent Red Team analysis in his latest book, Disaster at Stalingrad.
The thread of the storyline in this book is logistics. Chapter 1, "Fuhrer Directive 41," discusses the state of logistics for both the Germans and the Russians. In particular, the author emphasizes the importance of the Anglo-American supplies, such as trucks, aircraft, jeeps, tanks, aluminum, that the Russians were dependent on during the early stages of Second World War. Russian production was severely interrupted as the Germans overran Russian production facilities or the Russians moved them east of the Ural Mountains. If any of the supply corridors (convoys through the North Sea, the Persian corridor, and the corridor through Vladivostok) had been severed it would have hampered the Russian ability to carry on the war. As we see in the book, when two of them are cut the Russian capability to fight is affected almost immediately.
Peter Tsouras shows how the destruction of Convoy PQ-17 and cutting the Persian corridor affects logistics on both sides. For the Germans it enhances their capabilities. They capture large quantities of aluminum to build tank and aircraft engines, fuel, trucks to haul supplies, and even food for the troops. For the Russians, tank and aircraft production comes to an almost complete stop because of the lack of aluminum for the engines, fuel supplies become scarce, and there are few trucks to haul supplies forward. The Third Reich is able to gain air superiority in most areas and can move troops and supplies freely. The Russians suffer the opposite affects.
The author's description of the combat moves around the battlefield rapidly, but keep us abreast of the progress or lack thereof for both sides. The maps are good and are plentiful enough so that we can follow the battle visually. His extensive research on the Eastern Front and the war in general is revealed in his development of the main characters on both sides. The illustrations further develop these characters.
Peter Tsouras provides footnotes to highlight major events, orders, and conferences so that we understand what is historical fact and what is fiction. However, fact and fiction are melded seamlessly, which keeps the storyline compelling, moving and believable. This is done so well that, even though we now the Russians are going to lose, the suspense is maintained until the near the end.
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