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Bergstrom Christer, Mikhailov Andrey. Black Cross/Red Star: Vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa 1941

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Bergstrom Christer, Mikhailov Andrey. Black Cross/Red Star: Vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa 1941
Pacifica Press, 2000 - 340 p.
Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, was not only one of the greatest land operations in history, but also one of the largest air operations. Over 3,000 Luftwaffe aircraft and aircraft of nations allied with Germany faced over 10,000 Soviet aircraft across an enormous front. While there have been numerous books about the ground operations in the Soviet Union in 1941, relatively little attention has been devoted to the air operations. Black Cross/Red Star is a useful addition to the literature of airpower history on what was arguably the most decisive front of World War II.
The history of the air war over the Soviet Union from June 1941 can be summed up as an initial German victory with the Luftwaffe gaining air superiority over the obsolete and poorly trained Red Air Force, the battle for survival by the Red Air Force, the exhaustion of the Luftwaffe by late full, and the resurgence of Soviet airpower in support of the Soviet counterattack in December 1941. The authors provide a good general history of the air action on the Eastern Front for this period of the war.
The book emphasizes the unit actions on the Eastern Front and is written to give the reader a "feel" for typical operations of 1941. It is heavy on wing and group operations and contains plenty of pilot anecdotes. One strength of the book is the inclusion of Soviet accounts of the air operations and plenty of Red Air Force photographs. Indeed, the book is well balanced in this regard, quickly moving from German operations to Red Air Force operations over the same sectors. This book is one of the benefits of the opening of the Soviet archives to historians in the last decade.
By including brief accounts of air forces allied with Germany, such as those of the Slovaks and Romanians, Black Cross/Red Star makes an important contribution to understanding the air war over the Eastern Front. It is often forgotten that Germany's allies, usually operating under German direction, made a major contribution to the Luftwaffe's campaign in the east. The 500 Romanian air force aircraft played an important role in defending the vital Ploesti oil fields and in supporting the German/Romanian advance in the south. Surprisingly, the book barely mentions the very important role played by the 500-plus aircraft of the Finnish air force on the northern part of the front.
The book is a good start as a general history of the air war in the east, but there are several drawbacks. It focuses almost exclusively on the operational and tactical side of the air war, failing to tie air operations into the context of the ground operations. The strategic issues of the air war get pretty short shrift. There is little mention of the planning of the campaign or of logistical operations of opposing air forces. The maps included in the book are pretty basic and the tables of organization and equipment of the opposing air fleets could have been given in better detail. On the tactical side, when the authors write about the Luftwaffe, they tend to concentrate on the fighter units rather than the bombers. Yet, for the Luftwaffe in 1941, the bombers and the interdiction campaign were the focus of the air effort, with the fighters as a supporting force.
ISBN10: 0935553487 ISBN13: 9780935553482 (eng)
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