From independent historian Beevor (coauthor, Paris After the Liberation, 1994, etc.), a meticulously researched and gripping account of the horrific battle that culminated in the collapse of Adolf Hitler's blitzkrieg offensive in Russia, and ultimately ordained German defeat in WWII. In June 1941, when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, with a vast surprise attack comprising three large army groups, a quick defeat of the Red Army seemed probable if not inevitable: Germany's massive blitzkrieg style of war had quickly subjugated Poland and France. But, as Beevor makes clear, Hitler never prepared his army adequately for war with the Russian behemoth, and the blitzkrieg petered out as the Russian winter closed in. Hitler delayed the attack on Moscow, and by the early spring of 1942, when General Friedrich Wilhelm Paulus assumed command of the Sixth Army, the combination of surprise and terror on which the Nazis had depended was lost. Despite strategic victories along the way, the objective, Stalingrad, proved elusive, and after Paulus's repeated sanguinary assaults against the city proved ineffective, his position became a trap for thousands of German troops, few of whom survived the battle or the rigors of the Soviet gulag. Beevor is evenhanded in his treatment of the two sides: By contrasting the German and Soviet points of view, he conveys the experiences of Axis generals and fighting men (who comprised thousands of Romanian, Hungarian, and disaffected Russians as well as Germans) in the midst of a total war, and those of Soviet soldiers, who had to fear the NKVD and SMERSH, the Soviet intelligence services, as much as the Nazis. A painstakingly thorough study that will become a standard work on the battle of Stalingrad.