Book Review: The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat


by Michael Jones

New York: Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, 2010. Pp. xxi, 328. Illus., maps, chron., notes, biblio., index. $27.99. ISBN: 0312628196

The author of a number of works in military history, from medieval to modern, including  Agincourt 1415 (2005), Leningrad  (2008), and Stalingrad  (2011), in The Retreat, Jones, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and member of the British Commission for Military History, takes a fresh look at the Soviet winter offensive of 1941-1942. 

The Soviet counter-offensive in front of Moscow in December of 1941, and continued into the Spring of 1942, is often overlooked in Western accounts of the Second World War.  This is in part due to the Japanese onslaught in the Pacific that began two days later which did not run its course until Midway in June of ’42, but primarily to the German Spring offensive of 1942 that seemed to suggest that Soviet had been a last gasp.  Jones begins his look at the Soviet offensive by first reviewing Hitler's invasion of June of 1941, strongly suggesting that by December the Germans had become very overconfident.  He then reviews Soviet preparations, before plunging into a fairly detailed treatment of the events that began to unfold on December 5th.  Jones argues that despite ultimate German success at halting the offensive, due partially to Hitler’s “stand fast” orders, partially to hard fighting by frontline troops, and partially to the depletion of Soviet resources, the Russians came close to a decisive victory over the invaders.  Moreover, marshaling evidence from numerous personal accounts by common soldiers, commanders, and civilians, Jones goes on to  suggest that by early 1942, many Germans had begun to believe that the invasion was a bad idea, and probably doomed to failure. 

The Retreat is an important new look at the Eastern Front. 

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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