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Red Christmas - The Tatsinskaya Airfield Raid 1942 [Paperback]

Robert Forczyk , Johnny Shumate
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 17 2012 Raid (Book 30)
In mid-December 1942, the Soviets had surrounded the German 6th Army in Stalingrad but the Wehrmacht was engaged in a desperate relief effort with Operation Winter Storm and an airlift. The Soviet Stavka moved to defeat both these German efforts in order to ensure the rapid destruction of the 6th Army and to maintain strategic momentum. As part of the effort to defeat the airlift, the Soviet Stavka decided to launch a deep raid with the entire 24th Tank Corps to seize the airfield at Tatsinskaya, the primary operating base for the German airlift.

On 17 December 1942, the 24th Tank Corps advanced toward Tatsinskaya and seized the airfield on Christmas Eve. The Soviet tankers managed to destroy many Luftwaffe aircraft on the ground, but afterwards found themselves isolated and out of fuel behind German lines. Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein rapidly organized a counterattack with elements of two panzer divisions, crushing most of the raiding force between 26-28 December. Just before the raiding force was annihilated, they received permission to abandon their heavy equipment and escape back to Soviet lines on foot. Thus, the raiders accomplished their mission of severely disrupting the airlift to Stalingrad, but at the cost of decimating an entire tank corps.

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Review

"Another winner from Osprey Publishing! Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert Forczyk has given an excellent description of the Soviet Army's raid on the German airfield located at Tatsinskaya in December 1942 ... As with all of Osprey's books, it contains very detailed maps, illustrations, and photographs. This is highly recommended reading about another fascinating battle during the war on the Eastern Front."
--WWII History Magazine (Early Fall 2012)

"...a powerful addition to any comprehensive military library."
--James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review (August 2012)

About the Author

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.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A fine account of a neglected subject May 14 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was surprised and pleased by this book. Surprised because I thought the subject was another operation during the Stalingrad campaign; pleased because I learned a lot about an operation I had only marginal info on previously.

As with all Osprey books, this is a quick read, but the subject is well covered given the scope of the format. The author gives a reasonably complete and concise narrative of the events of the raid. The impact of the raid on the siege of the German 6th Army in Stalingrad is spelled out very well. Stalin's interference in the operation, trying to turn a raid into a permanent gain, is well described, although Stalin is hardly the only commander-in-chief to succumb to this vice. The photos are all well chosen with very adequate captions, except the photo on p. 15, which shows an Ilyushin Il-4 bomber while describing the American lend-lease A-20C bomber.

I would give 5 stars, but I have some problems with the illustrations done by J. Shumate. His three paintings (including the cover) are overly dramatic. The sub-machine gun on the cover is out of proportion to the infantryman firing it; on pp. 44-45 why are so many of these men not wearing gloves or mittens in mid-winter; and on pp. 66-67, surely every Soviet tank would have been blown to bits passing so close in front of a German AT battery. Save this sort of thing for Hollywood, not a history book.

Otherwise, this is a fine introduction to the Soviet concept of deep operations, as it was at the time. Well worth the read.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A critical look of an integral part of Operation Little Saturn April 19 2012
By Dave Schranck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Though the raid happened in the last week in December, 1942, Mr Forczyk begins his story on November 23rd when Zhukov's two forces meet at Kalach to encircle Paulus's 6th Army at Stalingrad. The significance of the encirclement for both sides is explained as well as the precarious position the Germans were facing. The Soviets have come back from the edge of destruction at Stalingrad and regained the initiative while the Germans have placed themselves in a potentially disastrous position with their shortsighted strategy in their attempt to capture Stalingrad at all costs.
Hitler sends Manstein to relieve Paulus while starting a logistic airlift the very next day to keep 6th Army in food, fuel and ammunition until Manstein relieves 6th Army. The airlift would be primarily flown from two airfields : Tatsinskaya and nearby Morozovsk.
Stavka's plans were much more ambitious than just to destroy 6th Army at Stalingrad. With the help of Vasilevsky and Voronov, Operation Little Saturn is developed to destroy AGS as well through a winter offensive using their strategic doctrine of "Deep Operations". Its the Soviet version of Blitzkrieg where the front line is penetrated and armor is quickly sent to the German rear to induce an encirclement.

The author spends five pages of Chapter Two describing the evolution of this "Deep Operations" theory which began in the early 20s after the Revolution and it was still evolving to this point in time. Though it wasn't expected in this small book, this chapter entitled "Origins" was very interesting and will give the reader good background info on Soviet strategic theory and the men who developed it as well as the how and why Operation Little Saturn and the Tatsinskaya Raid were initiated.

The next two chapters move out of doctrine and into the specifics of the planning, dispositions, preparations and objectives for the launch and execution of the Raid. The fifty page Raid then delivers a daily chronicle of Badanov's 24th Tank Corp (plus other units) penetrating the front line and driving toward the Tatsinskaya airfield. It also includes the German counter measures to prevent the loss of the airfields and when the airfields were captured, the German counter-attack and the subsequent encirclement and destruction of 24th TC is expertly provided.
While the Soviets have the lead in the story, the Germans are not ignored by any means. The attempted airlift of Stalingrad and the new defensive line along the Chir River are lightly discussed but the main German proponents in the defense of the airfields (11th PzD, 6th PzD and the 306th ID) are given considerably more attention as they try to prevent the airfields from falling into Soviet hands as well as preventing the Soviets from getting behind AG Don and AGS and destroying them.

Besides the concise, informative narrative four maps with crib notes, two action illustrations and many photos expand the reader's experience. The color maps show the key locations and events of the Soviet drive and the subsequent counter-attack by the Germans.

A six page Analysis and a two page Conclusions section completes and does justice to the daring Raid. Though Badanov of 24th TC made some important tactical mistakes in his drive to the airfields, his corps did destroy quite a few planes and captured the airfield for three days, preventing supplies from reaching 6th Army. The lost of planes also degrades the Luftwaffe's response to the airlift which weakens Paulus's ability to resist the onslaught at Stalingrad. The incursion, despite losing much of 24th TC, also caused further weakness in the German line on the Chir that will help Little Saturn be successful in the days ahead. Fiebig's poor defense of the Tatsinskaya field is also described. Costs for both sides are tallied as well as experiences gained by the Red Army in perfecting their strategic offensive theory.
A useful Bibliography and Index close out the book.

Mr Forczyk has done a very nice job in presenting the important features of this Raid as well as Soviet Strategic Doctrine and along with the quality maps, colorful illustrations and many photos makes this an easy recommendation to all enthusiasts of post Stalingrad encirclement history.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bridge too far for the Soviets May 11 2012
By James D. Crabtree - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Following doctrine developed in the 1930s prior to the purges of the Red Army this raid was an attempt to seize and damage two important airfields which were key to the airlift of supplies to the German 6th Army surrounded at Stalingrad. Unfortunately the raid is an example of poor staff planning, taking a doctrine which noted such a deep operation could not be supported for more than three days under ideal conditions and instead planning a mission for four days in mid-winter, which the Soviets had never tried before.

Red Army units opened a hole in the front into which two Tank Corps proceeded to move southward towards the airfields. They were delayed by trying to eliminate Axis resistance in their path (not part of the doctrine) and by mechanical issues. In any event only one airfield was reached and the corps under Badov hunkered down there since he had burned up most of his ammunition and fuel in getting there and waited for rescue. He waited in vain as the Germans surrounded him and prepared to destroy his remaining forces.

While the raid did achieve a significant disruption to the airlift the cost was very high: virtually one entire tank corps destroyed and the second badly mangled. But this was typical on the Eastern Front, where the Soviets routinely accepted high losses if the objective was important enough. Well-illustrated with maps, photos and original artwork, although one photo showing an Il-4 misidentifies it as a U.S.-made A-20.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clearly Focused Microscope on a Little Known but Important Battle July 9 2012
By Writing Historian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book on the strength of the previous reviewers and the author's reputation. I must say that I was not disappointed. Forczyk does a masterful job in presenting the action from the perspective of both combatants - a skill that few historians have mastered. He is able to discuss maneuver, command and control, and logistics with the expertise of someone who is intimately familiar with those topics - undoubtedly from a hands on perspective. The Soviets do well, but are dogged by poor planning assumptions and inadequate logistics. It is apparent that the Soviet High Command sees the tank corps tasked to take out the main German airfields as an expendable "one shot" weapon. The Germans are spread thinly over a wide area in a secondary sector - so they are unable to present a coherent defense against the Russians when there are encounter battles before the T-34s reach their objective. I was amazed; however, to read that most of the German transport planes were able to take off in the midst of the Soviet tank attack on their airfield! Another classic case study for the fog of war (or blowing snow in this case) discussed at length by Clausewitz. Highly recommended detailed view on an important but little known action that has received scant coverage in the past. My only qualm was the fact that several photographs seem to have been incorrectly captioned. There was one photo when the type of Russian plane was misidentified and another where a destroyed "German" supply truck looked suspiciously like a lend-lease 2-1/2 ton American made truck (obviously in Russian service). Those are small things in comparison with the overall historical value of this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic nut and bolts description of a Soviet tank corps operation in the winter of '42. July 3 2012
By Cliff Hare - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The attack on the Tatsinskaya airfield in late 1942 was one of the first times the Soviet military had a chance to put their pre-war deep operation theories successfully into practice. Other attempts at deep operations before the later battles of Stalingrad had been tried but failed (2nd Battle of Kharkov) or never really got off the ground to begin with (operations along the Don River Summer/Fall 1942).
In his study, Robert Forczyk shows that despite the operation's nominal success, the 1942 Soviet tank corps was still a flawed intrument, lacking adequate logistic, maintenance and commuication support and without effective mobile indirect fire artillery. Operational planning for the Soviets still needed much improvment as well, with fighter cover lacking except at the start and very little provision made for continuing logistical support.
It's interesting to compare this attempt with later Soviet successes at Minsk, Lvov and especially Manchuria.
Although the Soviets come in for their share of criticism, the author is very objective and is careful to point out German mistakes as well, including the airfield commandant's failure to evacuate his command from the area even when it became obvious a large enemy armor concentration was in the area.
The text is superbly supported by photographs showing the sort of weather and terrain the operation took place in, and the maps included make it easy to follow the course of the battle at a glance.
If it isn't obvious from my above review, I'd say this book is definately worth a look by anyone interested in the fighting that took place on the Eastern Front in World War II. Robert Forczyk took an operation that was at best a footnote in the greater Battle of Stalingrad and turned it into a compelling narrative that gives a close look at how the Soviet and German militaries functioned at this period of the war. I look forward to reading more books by him in this series.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WWII Tatsinskaya Airfield Raid by Russians (Deep Raid Dec 1942) Oct. 12 2012
By B. Eibisch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a short book (approx 80 pgs) and can be read in as little as one evening. Robert Forczyk has done a brilliant job of explaining this particular military action of WWII. The story is presented in an exciting way and the narrative moves rapidly right through to the end. There is a nice logical structure to the telling of this tale with a bit of military doctrine history at the start.
There are many pictures in this book and also many maps as well. So the reader can get a really good understanding of the situation both sides faced. I read this particular book in Kindle, but because of the pictures and maps I really think that it's probably better value to pay a few bucks more and buy the book. Kindle 6 inch doesn't really do justice to the maps and in Kindle, it's harder to refer back to the maps whilst reading through the story.
Dave Schranck has done an excellent review and people should have a read of this. James Crabtree has also done a fine book review albeit somewhat shorter than Dave's.
The detail of military history is one thing however the actual analysis and conclusion in this book are very well done. There is extensive bibliography and also there is a section at the back with further reading; various books published by the same company.
All in all, if you're into World War II history then this is a terrific story to read.
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