Cover Image: The Lighthouse of Stalingrad

The Lighthouse of Stalingrad

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Member Reviews

"The Lighthouse of Stalingrad: The Hidden Truth at the Heart of the Greatest Battle of World War II," by Iain MacGregor (ISBN: 781982163587), publishing date 29 November 2022, earns a strong four stars.

This is an extremely well-researched and superbly written book that provides the reader with many heretofore not widely known details concerning the seminal battle for Stalingrad. Necessarily, it is not a quick read but instead is one that must be read carefully and thoughtfully, while frequently pausing for reflection

Yes, it does contain information generally known, but it also looks at the way the then Soviet Union and the Russian Federation since publicized the events (e.g., Pavlov's House), machinations, and personalities of that battle in ways that have more to do with raising the morale, confidence, and fighting spirit of the Russian population and fighting forces--then and now--than it did revealing many of the facts of the event.

Make no mistake, this epic battle was as significant, if not more, than any other battle in the Second World War and since, and its legacy is just as great--even today. This book reveals new information that highlights just how great the Soviet sacrifice was, and, ironically, reminds the reader of how despots from all quarters can injure if not destroy any nation. It is a worthy read.

Thanks to the publisher, Kindle (EPUB), for granting this reviewer this opportunity to read this Advance Reader Copy (ARC), and thanks to NetGalley for helping to make that possible.
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Enjoyed learning about this lesser known battle in WWII history. It did take me a while to read the book as I had to take breaks while reading it.
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Overall, this volume is an interesting mix of well-known information and some new, original research coming mainly from first person accounts from both the German and Soviet side. The first half of the volume is devoted to the larger history of the Eastern Front up through the German approach to Stalingrad and the beginning of the fighting for the city. Some of the fiercest fighting took place in mid-September for the center of Stalingrad and that included the German 71st Infantry Division and the Red Army's 13th Guards Rifle Division. The author has access to regimental commanders' memoirs from both units and offers an in-depth look at their thinking, planning, and experiences against each other's force. It's commendable that so much attention is being paid to the actions of the 13th Guards Rifle Division, but it does take away from the actions of other units. It's partly understandable as the focus is supposed to be on Pavlov's house, at the center of the city, which was controlled by men of the 13th Guards, but readers should keep in mind there were numerous other units operating in and around Stalingrad that are omitted from this narrative. While this volume is entitled "The Lighthouse of Stalingrad" there is really not enough attention on Pavlov's house, out of 19 chapters, perhaps 2-3 at most deal in some detail about what happened, but the majority of the book goes over well-known information.

Some odd errors are evident as when the author claims the Red Army possessed 'fewer than two thousand operated vehicles in the western theater' when speaking of 'Soviet armor in 1941.' Although there were fewer than 2,000 T-34s and KV tanks, there were over ten thousand tanks in the western military districts, from the border to Moscow. In fact, the author later mentions that 'twenty thousand tanks' were destroyed as the Germans approached the outskirts of Moscow. While most authors writing on the Soviet-German theater use 'rifle' to designate Red Army forces and 'infantry' for German, the author intermixed them at times and we end up reading about Paulus's 'rifle battalions.' 

Having said the above, for those interested and unfamiliar with Stalingrad, this isn't a bad volume to start with. If you've read Michael Jones "Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed" this is written in a similar style, a lot of first-person recollections along with some higher-level strategic and operational commentary. But does this volume change our understanding of the Battle of Stalingrad?  No. Does it offer some new and interesting information about Pavlov's house?  Sure, but that could have been done in a journal article rather than an entire volume.
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The Lighthouse of Stalingrad by Iain MacGregor is a tale of two books. Well, actually, one book and one major marketing error.

First, the good. MacGregor does a great job recapping the Battle of Stalingrad. MacGregor uses a hybrid style where he goes into great depths to talk about strategic aspects of the battle but will also drop down to the street level to give a view of the tactical warfare going on. If you have not read a book on Stalingrad, this is an excellently told one which moves at a steady pace without getting bogged down in details.

The bad, however, is a huge misstep. The title, "The Lighthouse of Stalingrad" is a reference to Pavlov's House in Stalingrad. Without diving into too much detail, Pavlov's House is a symbol of Russian resistance in World War II and is a cultural icon. Besides the title, the book description makes it seem like Pavlov's House will play a huge role in the narrative. It does not. It takes up shockingly little. I have read about Stalingrad before, specifically, Antony Beevor's Stalingrad which is the gold standard according to many including MacGregor in the introduction. I wanted to read this book because I thought it would be a more tactically focused book which dove into the myth of Pavlov's House.

I gave this book 3 stars out of 5. I feel guilty doing so as Iain MacGregor is an excellent writer and much of the book is excellent. However, the marketing seems to make a promise that it does not deliver on and that needs to be taken into account.

(This book was provided to me by Netgalley and Scribner Books. The full review will be posted to HistoryNerdsUnited.com on 11/29/2022.)
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This is a timely book as the Russian military is again in the news. This book is really good at getting you to know the characters involved in this pivotal battle - great companion the "Rise of the Nazis" season 2 episode 2 on PBS.
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I appreciated this novel's in-depth approach to describing the events of the siege of Stalingrad. I'd read about this battle in other books but I found this book was easier to follow along and much more dramatic. The battle for the city of Stalingrad between September 1942 to the beginning of February 1943 during WWII. The book features new testimonies from Russians and Germans that shed new light on a bloody battle that changed the tide of the war.
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This title tells the story of common soldiers in total war. The story is gripping and the truth is told and not made nice for either side. To think this history is the guiding dialogue that drives much of the modern eras wars has not been brought up but its true. Putin and his forces IMO are involved in a war that is similar to the last one. Anytime one nation tries to force its politics on another there are disasters and fighting from both sides. Read this if you want to learn about the past and how it still effects the present.
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