Deathride

Hitler vs. Stalin: The Eastern Front, 1941-1945, John Mosier, Simon & Schuster.

John Mosier’s “Deathride” invites the reader to reconsider the conventional narrative of World War II, making the case that Hitler came much closer to defeating the USSR than commonly believed. Mosier, who previously wrote “The Myth of the Great War,” argues that Soviet losses were unsustainable and would have led to defeat if not for the Allied decision to open the Mediterranean theater. The author also advances the notion that Stalin’s greatest triumph was in the arena of propaganda, having convinced the world that the Red Army actively triumphed over the Nazis, despite suffering casualties at more than two and a half times the German rate.

Mosier doesn’t limit his arguments to generalities. He speculates how the war might have been different had Walt[h]er Wever, first chief of staff of the German air force, lived beyond 1936. (Wever was killed in a plane crash on June 3rd of that year.) Mosier contends that a big reason why the Germans were successful early in the war was due to Wever, who called for the Luftwaffe to operate in support of ground forces. Yet, Wever also stressed the importance of developing long-range bombers, and [a]fter Wevers death the Luftwaffe failed to develop a strategic air arm of long-range heavy bombers, asserts the author.

At the same time, Mosier identifies a Russian who could have had a transformative effect on history, asking what might have been had Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky succeeded in his effort to modernize the Red Army in the 1920s and ’30s. More specifically, Mosier believes that if Stalin had heeded Tukhachevsky’s advice and developed a well-armed and well-trained Army, Hitler might never have attacked the USSR. (Instead, Stalin had him arrested and tortured until he confessed to being a German spy. Tukhachevsky was subsequently tried, found guilty and shot on June 12, 1937.)

Historians might quibble with some of Mosier’s contentions, but it’s safe to say that “Deathride” is a lively read, not to mention a provocative revisionist analysis of the war between Hitler and Stalin.

Related content: Operation Barbarossa