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Where the Iron Crosses Grow: The Crimea 1941-44 (General Military) [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Robert Forczyk

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23. September 2014 General Military
Nazi and Soviet armies fought over the Crimean Peninsula for three long years using sieges, dozens of amphibious landings, and large scale maneuvers. This definitive English-language work on the savage battle for the Crimea, Where the Iron Crosses Grow sheds new light on this vital aspect of the Eastern Front.

The Crimea was one of the crucibles of the war on the Eastern Front, where first a Soviet and then a German army were surrounded, fought desperate battles and were eventually destroyed. The fighting in the region was unusual for the Eastern Front in many ways, in that naval supply, amphibious landings and naval evacuation played major roles, while both sides were also conducting ethnic cleansing as part of their strategy - the Germans eliminating the Jews and the Soviets to purging the region of Tartars.

From 1941, when the first Soviets first created the Sevastopol fortified region, the Crimea was a focal point of the war in the East. German forces under the noted commander Manstein conquered the area in 1941-42, which was followed by two years of brutal colonization and occupation before the Soviet counteroffensive in 1944 destroyed the German 17th Army.


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Robert Forczyk has a PhD in International Relations and National Security from the University of Maryland, and a strong background in European and Asian military history. He retired as a lieutenant colonel from the US Army Reserves having served 18 years as an armor officer in the US 2nd and 4th Infantry Divisions and as an intelligence officer in the 29th Infantry Division (Light). Dr Forczyk is currently a consultant in the Washington, DC area. The author lives in Laurel, MD.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Iron Crosses in the Crimea! 26. September 2014
Von Dr. Miguel Faria - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Dr Robert Forczyk is a superb military historian specializing in the Crimea and World War II. He has written another excellent history of the region, encompassing the years 1941-1944. But this book not only recounts the Nazi and Soviet armies clashes in the Crimea during World War II, but recognizing the need of initiates to learn background history, this tome gives the reader succinct background information on the history of the Crimean Peninsula.

The book is timely and very relevant today given the fact the historic peninsula just this year became a tinder box, the site of the sudden explosion between old antagonists, a renewed struggle of nationalities — i.e., this time, not Germans and Soviets, but modern Ukrainians against their historic overlords, the Russians.

This book covers relevant background material: The expansion of Russia into the region in the 18th century, as they displaced the Tatars, who had lived there from the time Genghis Khan's grandson Batu Khan, had conquered and occupied the area in the 13th century; the Soviet takeover after the Russian Civil war; the brutal purges by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s; the exterminations of Ukrainian nationalists by Stalin's commissars, particularly Ukrainian-born Nikita Khrushchev in the 1930s; and the subsequent savage deportation of nationalities and ethnic cleansing by the Soviets.

The Crimea was the site of one of the largest massacres of the Civil War. General Wrangel's last stand took place there, and when his armies were defeated in 1920, over 50,000 anti-communist White Russians were massacred. Communist brutalities in the Crimea in the 1920s-1930s set the tone for the Soviet subjugation and rule in the entire Ukraine in the 1940s and 50s.

In 1941, the strategic Crimean Peninsula became once again the focal point of savage conflict between Nazis and Soviets (and their respective ideologies). In fact, author Forczyuk was, inspired as reflected in the title, by the 1977 film “Cross of Iron, ” with James Coburn's actions depicting the "dimensions of combat."

The Germans desperately needed to occupy and control the Ukraine and the Crimea, as their armies invaded eastwardly, deep into Russia. What the Germans did not know was that Stalin new all their military plans in the Eastern front from the Lucy spy ring and the master spy code-named Werther. By the time the Soviets had defeated the Germans in the Crimea in 1944, the Black Orchestra which in association with high members of the Abwehr had been collecting and sending intelligence to the Western allies, had been broken by the Gestapo. Nevertheless, the communist Red Orchestra that was keeping Stalin and Marshall Georgy Zhukov informed on the German military plans for the Eastern front was alive and well, operating from the Wehrmacht Supreme Command with traitors in Hitler's inner circle. (See Hitler's Traitor: Martin Bormann and the Defeat of the Reich by Louis C. Kilzer.)

Like most history books of this type, this tome does not deal with the espionage rings, but it dwells and excels on the military operations and heroic battles that were influenced by them, including in the Crimea, 1941-44.

Beyond the Crimea and across the Caucasus, after having marched deep into Russia, General Paulus was trapped and unable to breakout of Stalingrad. The Sixth Army was destroyed and Paulus surrendered on January 25, 1943 with 90,000 men and 1800 guns. Disastrous as this defeat was, General Eric von Manstein salvaged the situation by providing an escape route to the German Southern Army perilously and nearly surrounded in the Caucasus. In February and March, 1943, Manstein even scored several victories, halting the advance of the Soviet Army while holding the Crimea.

Manstein was the German general who had defeated the Soviets and conquered (1941-1942) and held the Crimea for Germany until 1944. The desperate battles fought between Germans and Russians in this peninsula are in fact the thrilling subject of this book. Be that as it may, despite the amazing German recapture of Kharkov in March 1943, the stage was set for the re-conquest of the Crimea by the Soviet army and the climatic Battle of Kursk, as General Manstein, despite the objections of General Heinz Guderian, wanted to destroy the Kursk salient (to prevent the Soviet Army from launching another offensive in 1943).

Stalin and the Soviets via their spy rings soon learned all about the German order of battle for that offensive. The Crimea and all of the Ukraine would soon be re-conquered by the Red Army, as the Germans retreated and troops had to be send to Italy to fend off the Allied invasion of Sicily...Collapse of Germany was only a matter of time after the savage Battle of Kursk and then the loss of Crimea.

As of March 2014, the Crimean Peninsula, not only declared and forcibly gained independence from the Ukraine, but has joined the Russian Federation following a referendum that has been deemed illegal by the UN, the European Union, and the United States. If this history appeals to you — particularly the titanic but desperate struggle in the Crimean Peninsula between Germans and Russians during World War II (1941-1944), this is the book for you.

Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D. is the author of Cuba in Revolution -- Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002). He has written numerous articles on politics and history, including "Stalin's Mysterious Death" (2011) and "The Political Spectrum -- From the Extreme Right and Anarchism to the Extreme Left and Communism" (2011 -- all posted at the author's websites: www.haciendapub.com & www.drmiguelfaria.com
6 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Insightful History of the Fighting in the Crimea! 6. Oktober 2014
Von Michael OConnor - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Robert Forczyk's WHERE THE IRON CROSSES GROW, THE CRIMEA 1941-44 is a masterful, fascinating military history of the Crimea in World War II. Much-fought over in World War II, the Crimea witnessed feats of military brilliance and incompetence along with pitiless ethnic and political cleansing of the region by Germans and Russians alike. It provides a rarely-seen account of that "distant and arid peninsula, surrounded by a dark and brooding sea, where armies and fleet came to die."

After brief opening chapters on the history of the region and the Crimea under Communist rule from 1920 to 1941, Forcyzk recounts the onset of Operation Barbarossa and the German drive to and conquest of the Crimea. Though the Crimea's main strategic value was the Sevastopol naval base, Hitler had ulterior motives for its subjugation, intending it for a German farming colony once all Jews, Slavs, Ukrainians, etc. were eliminated. Likewise, Stalin, prior to war's outbreak, had his share of Crimean 'class enemies' murdered or sent to gulags. His paranoia would claim further victims when his armies retook the region in May/April 1944. In terms of military casualties alone, the fighting in the Crimea cost over German 250,000 troops; Russian losses were near 700,000. Sadly, Forcyzk's closing chapter points out the fact that, despite the WW II fighting, the Crimea will continue to be the source of strife and unrest.

In summary, Forcyzk does an admirable job of summarizing the various campaigns and battles throughout the war and interweaving that with the behind-the-frontline actions of NKVD units, SS-Einsatzgruppen, etc. His scholarship is impeccable and WHERE THE IRON CROSSES GROW provides an easy-to-follow and well-written history of the wartime misery endured by that "arid peninsula that has consistently proven to be an empty prize." Highly recommended.
5 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A master work by a master historian. 1. Oktober 2014
Von Mr. Truthteller - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Robert Forczyk's book on the fighting in the Crimea during World War II is a must read. He provides an excellent summation of the history of this area, especially the Tatars (although he waits too long to interject, and then somewhat blithely, the most important fact about them - at least from my point of view), as an introduction to what should be considered a master work (and I do not use that term lightly). On many occasions I would laugh out loud at the author's analysis because it was so insightful and truly hit the mark.

Freed from the confines and proscriptions of the usual Osprey mini-work, the author is allowed to spread his wings a little in this volume and truly demonstrate his mastery of the subject matter from a variety of perspectives (historical, personal, strategical, tactical) and his writing skills. Having some familiarity with the area and the subject matter, I was impressed at the lengths to which the author went to research this subject and recognize the time and effort it took to do that.

I admit I eagerly looked forward to reading this book, getting the Kindle version so I did not have to wait even an extra day for the hardcover to arrive (which I will no doubt purchase eventually), and I was not disappointed. Although it appears there may be some differences of opinion on the author's postscript, which I freely admit I have not read yet but could not wait any longer to give this review to encourage others to read this book, that is of no moment as far as I am concerned.

With respect to the Kindle edition, the maps in the book are well done and, at least on my iPad, if you click on them they pop out, allowing you to view them on a full screen.
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An excellent book covering a long overlooked area 12. Oktober 2014
Von Yoda - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Any review of this book needs to start out, considering the publisher is Osprey, by stating that the book is an original work. This is not a compilation of previously published Osprey "Campaign" or "Combat" series books on the area. With that out of the way, the book itself is very well written and contains much original research. Dr. Forczyk, with his knowledge of German, makes extensive use of original German language sources (as well as secondary sources in English). The book is not just a synopsis of what has been published in other books in the past on the area. Hence if the reader is looking for a new examination of the conflict in this geographic area, this is the book to read. It should also be emphasized that the book presents a relatively high level (i.e., company, battalion, regiment, division and army as opposed to platoon and individual soldier level) overview of the conflict, analogous to what Dr. David Glantz presents in his books. In addition, the book is definitely not geared to the novice on the war. This book is definitely geared to the knowledgeable and serious.

The book starts off with an examination of the area under the Tsars and the Soviet Union before the Second World War. One may ask, at least while still only reading that chapter, why go back that far? The reason is that this history is absolutely vital in understanding ethnic tensions that played such an important role in the war in this area and how they impacted partisan operations and the ability of Germans to raise indigenous forces to support them (i.e., Tartars). The book then continues into the early period, thorough the end of 1942/beginning of 1943 showing how the Germans succeeded in conquering the Crimea, especially Sevastopol. The reader learns that the campaign was not a foregone conclusion. The Germans were operating under very serious constraints in terms of time, ammunition shortages and considerable opposition. The battle was also much more fluid than many people may think. It was not like the opening phases of the First World War where giant German guns simply pulverized Belgian forts. Considerable skill in small unit leaderships and small unit quality played critical roles in the German victory.

Dr. Forczyk then goes on to discuss the German occupation (brutal), German plans for the area which were basically to turn it into German colonized area and German defense plans. This examination makes very extensive use of original documents and research, not just a re-hash of previously published material. Then the Soviet final offensive discussed. Again this is very original, detailed and interesting. The reader learns why Hitler wanted to hold the area (to tie down as many Soviet troops as possible) and how the battle transpired. The reader learns that considerable Axis forces were evacuated, at least in the early part of the battle (around 72,000 troops with just about no losses), but how the evacuation's ability to remove troops decreased very quickly after that and the Germans and Rumanians ended up losing about 250,000 troops. These losses could have been greatly reduced had an order to retreat was issued in the early phases of the Soviet offensive.

Despite these strengths the book does have a few weaknesses albeit minor. For one, there is perpetual discussion of locations but there is no large map covering the entirety of the Crimea in either the beginning or end of the book. There are also adequate maps that cover various battles but these are definitely not up to the par that can typically found in Osprey's "Campaign "series. These maps are, very unfortunately, missing topological details such as swamplands and mountains. These are more than minor omissions in the maps as the swamps, for example, were extensive and played important roles in determining attack avenues and defensive zones. Last but not least this reviewer feels that there should have also been a more in-depth discussion of the defenses of Sevastopol (along with accompanying maps). All of these are relatively minor criticisms though and only detract from the book in a minor manner. This book, in this reviewer's opinion, is worth a 4.5 star.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Great Book With a Great Title From a Great Line of a Great Movie 31. Oktober 2014
Von WryGuy2 - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
In the lead-in to Chapter Three of this book, historian Robert Forczyk quotes a line from the epic war movie (and novel) “Cross of Iron”. German Captain Stransky, who is the malevolent villain desperate to get an Iron Cross decoration by any means, tells Sergeant Steiner, "I'll show you how a Prussian officer can fight". Sergeant Steiner, the hero of the movie replies “And I will show you, where the Iron Crosses grow”, which is the quote used in (and the title of) this book. This fictional exchange takes place in 1943, when the Germans are evacuating the Taman Peninsula in the Soviet Union and retreating into the Crimea.

In “Where the Iron Crosses Grow: The Crimea 1941-44”, Mr. Forczyk covers all of the fighting over the Crimean Peninsula during World War II (as well as giving an excellent history of the peninsula, to include the fighting between the Reds and Whites during the Russian Civil War). To the extent that the fighting in Crimea is covered in histories of World War II, the 1941-1942 German efforts to take the peninsula are fairly well documented, but the Soviets' 1943-1944 re-conquest typically receives only a few paragraphs at best. So this book literally covers fresh ground for English speaking audiences by showing the complete view for this area. He also includes a short section on the recent Russian takeover of the Crimea, and how such a comparatively unimportant piece of land continues to be a major point of contention even into the 21st century.

The author is well known for his many short books (usually under 90 pages) for Osprey Publishing, covering weapons systems, campaigns, leaders, and combatants for World War II and other eras. This is his second book where he is able to expand his efforts into a full-length work. His having to concisely condense and squeeze as much information as he can into his shorter books pays great dividends in this work, as he is able to write about the combat in great detail without being overly wordy, dull, or dry, and his organization of the material at hand is top notch.

The book is very well balanced between the Soviet and the German sides of the battle, and he shows the heroes (and goats) for both sides over the course of the fighting. Although this was in large part, a ground campaign, Mr. Forczyk is one of the few authors that truly understand the significance of combined arms warfare, and he shows the critical role that both the navies and air forces for each side played during the struggle. He also provides good, sound analysis of the conflict rather than just stating what occurred.

The included photographs are interesting and new to me. The only thing that I thought was a little underdone in the book is that I would have liked both a few more maps, and a larger type font for some of the maps that were included. (I’ll admit it, my eyes are getting old.)

Overall, this is “the” book to get on the fighting in the Crimea. I could make the argument that the Germans could have been better off just isolating the peninsula and using their forces elsewhere on the Eastern Front, in more critical areas. However, both sides viewed the Crimea as being extremely important to their war efforts and committed significant forces there accordingly, so this is an important, though overlooked, series of campaigns. This work gives you pretty much everything you need to know. I give this book five stars and my highest recommendation.

PS: Although the movie line about “where the iron crosses grow”, is a good one, my favorite line from the movie is when one of Steiner’s platoon-mates asks him “Rolf, what are we doing here?" Sgt. Steiner sarcastically replies “We are spreading the German culture throughout a desperate world.” Indeed.
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