The Vistula-Oder Offensive

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Ian Baxter
Other Publication Information
Publication Illustrators: Oliver Missing; Ricardo Lavecchia

Publication Size: Soft Square Bound; Portrait; 7” x 10”; 128 pages
Company: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site

Founded in 2001, Casemate is a major specialist publisher and book distributor in the North American market. Casemate offers print and digital books to the public and to libraries through a variety of channels, platforms, and vendors, as well as traditional and online retailers.Casemate has grown to become the leading publisher in the fields of military history, defense studies, and military science in the USA. Casemate has a burgeoning publishing list covering subjects as diverse as Roman History and today's current conflicts. This series, Casemate Illustrated Specials is focused on offering focused text and detailed photographs and illustrations into the weapons, equipment, and machinery of war.

Ian Baxter is a military historian who specializes in German twentieth-century military history. He has written more than fifty books. He has also reviewed numerous military studies for publication, supplied thousands of photographs and important documents to various publishers and film production companies worldwide, and lectures to various schools, colleges and universities throughout the United Kingdom and Southern Ireland.

This square soft cover is the latest volume in the Casemate Illustrated Specials. The Cover upper black and white photograph is a Red Army soldier wielding a ROK portable flame thrower. This flame thrower was intentionally designed to look like a standard Mosin-Nagant rifle to prevent the soldier from being targeted specifically by the enemy. The photograph on the lower left cover is of German POWs marking across a pontoon bridge over the Oder River. The photograph on the lower right cover is of a column of whitewashed Sturmgeschütz deploying to the front line. I counted 153 black and white photographs and no color photographs. There are two color map illustrations and 3 black and white maps. Ricardo Lavecchia has six color illustrations of soldiers in a variety of poses. Oliver Missing provides fourteen color side profiles of armored fighting vehicles.

January 12, 1945, saw the beginning of the Vistula-Oder Offensive by the Red Army.The Red Army outnumbered the Germany Army Group A five to one as the Germans evacuated land they had held in Poland for nearly five years. The Red Army covered over 300 miles between the Vistula River and the Oder River in about two weeks, closing to 43 miles of Berlin. Two months later the Russians attacked Berlin. The wisdom of this delay became a huge debate after the war in Russia.

This series starts off each tome with a timeline of events. Two full page maps are next followed by the Introduction by Ian Baxter. Oliver Missing delivers color profile illustrations with an example on Page 17. This In Profile features the Soviet 122mm Howitzer M1938 (M-30) and the Studebaker US6 6x6 Truck. The US supplied the Studebaker through the Lend-Lease program. The 122mm M1938 howitzer was selected in a competition from three design bureaus. The M-30 was finally selected from the design bureau of Motovilikha Plants led by F.F. Petrov. After some revisions, it was finally adopted in September 1939 as the 122mm howitzer M1938.The 2 ½ Ton 6x6 Studebaker truck was primarily shipped to the Soviet Union as the GMC CCKW 6x6 was preferred by the US Army. The infantry color illustrations are provided by Ricardo Lavecchia. A Soviet Sniper and an Antitank Rifleman are shown on Page 29.The female sniper is shown armed with a Mosin-Nagant 7.62mm rifle with a D-III optical sight. The Antitank Rifleman is aiming a 14.5mm antitank PTRS rifle from a prone position.

The Red Army put tremendous pressure on the Germans during the Stanislav and Lvov offensive in mid-July 1944. The Red Army Order of Battle is shown on Page 32. Th upper photograph depicts a 152mm M-10 howitzer team preparing for a fire mission against units of the Army Group North Ukraine. This German Army Group North Ukraine was composed of the 4th Panzer Army, the 1st Panzer Army, and the 1st Hungarian Army under the command of Generalfieldmarschall Walter Model. The lower picture shows a PTRS-41 mounted high.This antitank gun used a 14.5x114mm armor piercing round in a 48” barrel. Amazingly, it is still in use today by Donbas militiamen in the Ukraine against the Russians.

A Red Army 120mm mortar crew is shown at the top of Pag 63. The Soviet 120mm mortar had a rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute and a range of 6 km. The bottom of the page shows an interesting winter camouflage on a ISU-122. The primary role for the ISU-122 was as an anti-tank weapon, although they were also used as assault guns in urban settings.Although high explosive rounds were used, often just a kinetic hit was enough to disable an enemy pillbox or fortified building. Use as a howitzer was available, but rare, as the ISU-122 was normally utilized in rapid advances where other artillery could not get set up.

A T-34/85 tank is shown on Page 113 in the final push to the Oder River. Additional T-34/85s can be seen in the background as the crew is repairing the idler wheel. The T-34 tank was the most produced tank of World War II and is still in service in some third world countries. The bottom photograph shows a Red Army soldier studying a captured German panzerfaust. The panzerfaust was a single use antitank weapon that was in service from 1943 to 1945.1945 saw the Red Army capturing caches of panzerfausts where they were recommended by Marshal Georgy Zhukov for use in street battles. The sections include:

  • Timeline of Events
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Withdrawing into Poland, Summer 1944
    • In Profile: Soviet 122mm Howitzer M1938 (M-30) and Studebaker US6 6x6 Truck [Page 017]
  • Chapter 2: The Wehrmacht, Summer 1944
    • In Profile: General Field Marshall Ferdinand Schörner
    • Support Weapons of the Infantry Regiment
    • A Typical Germany Infantry Division, 1944/45
    • In Profile: General Josef Harpe
    • In Profile: Volksgrenadier Infantryman and Soldier
    • Ranks: Heer, Waffen-SS, U.S.A. [Table]
  • Chapter 3: The Red Army, Summer 1944
    • In Profile: Marshal Ivan S. Konev
    • In Profile: Marshal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov
    • A Typical Soviet Rifle Division
    • Typical Soviet Rifle Division [Table]
    • In Profile: Soviet Sniper and Antitank Rifleman [Page 029]
  • Chapter 4: Stanislav and Lvov Offensive, July 13-27, 1944
    • Red Army Order of Battle [Table] [Page 032]
    • Wehrmacht Order of Battle [Table]
    • In Profile: Soviet IS-2 Heavy Tank and SU-85
  • Chapter 5: Sandomierz Offensive, July 28-August 29, 1944
    • In Profile: Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Sd.Kfz. 171 and Volkswagen Type 82 Kübelwagen
  • Chapter 6: Defense of the Vistula, September 1944-January 11, 1945 [Page 063]
    • Wehrmacht Order of Battle [Table]
  • In Profile: Soviet SU-122 and T-34/85
  • Chapter 7: Vistula-Oder Offensive, January 12-15, 1945
    • Red Army Order of Battle [Table]
    • In Profile: Soviet Antitank Rifleman and “Papasha” Infantryman
    • In Profile: Marder II Sd.Kfz. 131 and Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf.G (Sd.Kfz. 161)
  • Chapter 8: Battle for Upper Silesia, January 17-26, 1945
    • Red Army Order of Battle [Table]
    • Wehrmacht Order of Battle [Table]
    • In Profile: Soviet ISU-122 and ISU-152 Assault Guns
  • Chapter 9: Zhukov’s Advance to the Oder, February 2-April 16, 1945
    • In Profile: SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler
    • Wehrmacht Order of Battle [Table]
    • In Profile: General Gotthard Fedor August Heinrici
    • German Defense of the Oder [Page 113]
    • In Profile: Pz.Kpfw. VI Tiger Ausf. E and Volkswagen Schwimmwagen Type 166
    • Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation: Order of Battle, April 16, 1945 [Table]
    • Soviet Attack on Berlin: Order of Battle [Table]
  • Chapter 10: Epilogue
  • Further Reading
  • Index

This is the second Casemate Illustrated book I have reviewed, and I have to admit I’m a fan of this series. Ian Baxter has assembled a fascinating narrative of the Soviet blast through Poland with profiles of the commanders and equipment from both sides. I will note that Ian Baxter does cover additional offensives, starting with the Stanislav and Lvov Offensive in July 1944. As can be seen in the contents above, these all lead into the Vistula-Oder Offensive. Photograph selection with succinct captions, along with maps and color illustrations from Oliver Missing and Ricardo Lavecchia makes this an excellent reference. Modelers interested in dioramas will find excellent source material from many of the candid photographs. I consider this tome an essential volume for both the military historian and the scale modeler.

My thanks to Casemate and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!


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