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.