Feldgrau Author: Stephan Hamilton

Discussion, background, reviews, and critical analysis of works by Feldgrau.net members who are published authors.
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Stephan H.
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Feldgrau Author: Stephan Hamilton

Post by Stephan H. » Mon Feb 25, 2008 6:11 pm

Hi. My name is Stephan Hamilton and my first historical work will be published in May by Helion & CO. The book is titled, as the post name suggests, Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945.

It is my first historical work (I have several others schedule for future publication with Helion) and I believe this book may be of interest to many members here on Feldgrau. I have visited your forum over the years and enjoyed reading many of the threads. I find it now a privilege that I am able to announce this publication to the Feldgrau community.

The book is a massive study of the battle of Berlin. On the strategic level, I view Berlin's fall not only through the prism of WWII's end, but the ensuing Cold War. I argue that Berlin, as a battle, and a historical event is far more important than previously thought; it not only ushered in Soviet post-war dominance of Eastern Europe but also foreshadowed modern urban asymmetrical warfare. I discuss other key strategic factors like what I term Hitler's strategic apathy after Wacht am Rhein, Stalin's almost religious zealousness to capture Berlin before the Western Allies, and what stopped Eisenhower along the Elbe River. In addition I discuss how Guderian and Heinrici conspired to force the Western Allies over the Elbe--and avoid any fighting in Berlin--without Hitler's or the German High Command's knowledge. Yet, these topics only "wrap" the beginning and end on this work.

What the book does is detail the plans and preparations for the Soviet assault on, and German defense of Berlin in more detail than previously published; furthermore I detail tactical actions down to the street level, day-by-day, sector-by-sector. I obtained period aerial imagery of Berlin from February/March 1945 and built over 60 overlays that show both Soviet and German troop movement street-by-street. The imagery is so good; you can see trucks and people of the streets of Berlin. More than half book is taken up by this section.

I obtained access to a large amount of previously unpublished accounts, both German and Soviet, and I scoured as much primary documents I could obtain in both the US and Bundesarchivs. Much of the information is new or at least presented and analyzed in new ways. Many previously published accounts are now interwoven into the stories of other combatants to present a more complete picture of the combat action in the city. Many of the accounts and some of my conclusions might even be considered "controversial" especially when it comes to Zhukov's performance and actions by some well known German commanders. I discuss little known German offenses in the city by previously unknown Kampfgruppe and Volkssturm units, and discuss for perhaps the first time in Western print, the fratricide that occurred between Zhukov and Koniev's forces in the streets of Berlin. The lure of the Reichstag was so compelling, and Stalin's desire for the city so overwhelming, that his subordinate commanders literally fought each other in the Berlin's central districts for the glory to raise the Red Banner on the roof of an already dead building.

The book took over 5 years to produce with the bulk of time spent reconciling hundreds of first person accounts of the battle to determine exactly what happened, where it happened, and with what equipment. The final editing on my part (I think) was a little rushed, but the book is now in the hands of Helion & Co. for final editing and production.

The book is about 400+ pages published in 9X12 format, high gloss pages and has over 200 images to include the aerial imagery and a number of previously unpublished wartime and post war photographs.

Over the next several months I'll try to put out some interesting historical tidbits, as I'll be interested in seeing others thoughts. I also probably start several discussions threads about some related topics.

I look forward to hearing from anyone interested, and I hope that when the book is published it is well received.

Cheers,
Stephan

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Jason Pipes
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Post by Jason Pipes » Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:34 pm

This sounds very exciting Stephan. We look forward to seeing your book when it comes out. For now we're going to move this message over to the Book section though as the Author section is exclusively for messages regarding already publisher forum members and their works. As you take part in more discussions on the forum and when your work is published though you too will be added to the author list! May isn't very far away either.

Take care and thanks for taking part in discussions. It indeed sounds like an exciting new work (and by a great publisher too).

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Frederick L Clemens
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Post by Frederick L Clemens » Fri Mar 07, 2008 10:49 am

Congrats on your upcoming book. Battle of Berlin has been a pet research topic of mine for many years. Your book description sounds like a very solid work - especially the use of aerial imagery. I felt like Jason Mark's use of aerial imagery was a groundbreaking use of a source that should have been exploited better long ago. Yes, some aerial shots have been used in books before but not in a comprehensive way. I am glad to see that you have incorporated aerial stuff, too.

I will be curious to see if you use some of the same nuggets I have mined over the years. If not, maybe I will still have a chance of contributing a book as well. :wink:

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Post by Stephan H. » Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:27 pm

Frederick - Thank you for the comments. I believe that the Soviet assault on Berlin is one of the most ignored battles of WWII, even though it was a watershed in European and even military history as I argue in the book. It dosen't seem to capture the imagination the way a Normandy, Kursk or Stalingrad does.

You are absolutely correct about Jason MarK's use of aerial imagery. The US National Archives has so much imagery, and good quality stuff too, most of it is simply not used by researchers. The most appealing aspect of the imagery is that it is "period," meaning they were taken in some cases weeks before the Soviet's reached the city. Some the imagery shows very interesting events, like the 12.8cm flak guns from the Zoo Flak Tower firing at US Bombers--the smoke plumes from the powerful AA guns almost obscure the Flak Tower itself, or the road blocks used at key intersections and bridges. You can even see German trenches built in the Tiergarten, a crowd assembled outside the Reich Chancellery, military convoys in the streets, etc.,. While I didn't go into this in the book, comparing imagery of Berlin before and after the battle illustrates the level of violence and destruction that the Soviet's unleashed on the city.

I can tell you that there is far more information out there about the battle than I realized, but you have to really dig for it. Believe it or not, the single greatest collection of information about the battle of Berlin that I loocated was in Ohio, USA. I also acquired one massive Russian book that contains hundreds of first person accounts from Russian veterans of the battle. The book was published for senior Politiburo members in the 1950's and never translated into English. Unfortunately I didn't have the band width to have any portions translated, but maybe one day.

Good luck on your efforts.

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Post by Frederick L Clemens » Sat Mar 08, 2008 8:46 am

I guess you are talking about the Cornelius Ryan collection - something I have not managed to get to.

I can't wait to see your book - sounds like you really managed to raise the bar.

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Post by Stephan H. » Sat Mar 08, 2008 11:03 am

You are absolutley correct. The Ryan collection is an absolute treasure trove, and I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to tap into his material. It took me the better part of three years to review and collate just a portion of the research documents for my book.

Make the trip, you will not be dissapointed.

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Post by sniper1shot » Sat Mar 08, 2008 5:21 pm

I have seen one of the maps and it is with great detail and easy to follow.
I have also read the intro and it looks great. It describes how the battle came to be, forces involved, and the ultimate aftermath. Both of the battle and post war years.

Looks to be a great book and will definately be added to my "want list".
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Ryan Collection

Post by John W. Howard » Sat Mar 08, 2008 11:30 pm

Hello Gents:
Anyone interested in research at the Ryan Collection, just let me know. Most of their info can be ordered on-line, but if you need someone to prowl through the collection, just ask. I watched the collection grow from a lone academic surrounded by bunch of boxes to a well-organized system. I've done some research there and feel perfectly at home looking for things within the collection, so do not hesitate to ask. Best wishes.
John W. Howard

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Post by Stephan H. » Thu Mar 13, 2008 4:20 am

Here is an on-line link to the Ryan Collection:

http://www.library.ohiou.edu/archives/m ... LastBattle

You can order things on-line, but in my experience with the collection, many folders contain un-indexed information or "golden nuggets" that are simply not discernable through the Folder Title.

If anyone has questions about the material in the collection for "The Last Battle" I can answer those as I pretty thoroughly exploited the German-Russian and some of the Western Allied material here. The bulk of my book draws on this material for the day-to-day description of the battle.

The only published author that utilized this collection to my knowledge (besides me for Bloody Streets) is Phil Nordyke who used much of the material on the 82nd ABN division to write 3-4 books including All American All the Way: The Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.

According to Doug McCabe, the curator of the collection, much of the material is still underutilized by researchers; and I will say that Ryan himself utilized very little of his own research material for his books.

Stephan[/url]

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Post by Richard Hargreaves » Wed Mar 19, 2008 1:06 pm

Stephan H. wrote:Here is an on-line link to the Ryan Collection:

[url]You can order things on-line, but in my experience with the collection, many folders contain un-indexed information or "golden nuggets" that are simply not discernable through the Folder Title.
Hi Stephan,

Many thanks for that. I've always been surprised by how few people have tapped the Ryan collection as reading the Last Battle years ago and being taken aback by all the material he collected.

By "ordering on-line" do you mean we can order jpegs of document scans for a price from the curators? That would be very useful!

Interesting what you say about how little material Ryan used. I'm not surprised at all. For all the material I gathered for my Poland book I reckon no more than 1/4 to 1/3 was used in the finished product. :shock:
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Post by Stephan H. » Wed Mar 19, 2008 5:27 pm

Richard,

By ordering, I mean you pick the folders you want photocopied, Doug's staff will send you an estimate of cost, you send him the check and he sends you the material. They were not scanning documents digitally when I visited Athens, OH in 2005.

This, unfortunately is not the best way to go about doing research in the collection as what you will receive are only those main "documents" contained in the folders. After ordering much material by mail, I spent a few days with the collection and while I was happy with what I received by mail, I didn't imagine the "golden nuggets" I found co-located in those same folders. Rare photographs, hand drawn maps, physical notes by the interviewers, etc.,.

In the case of The Last Battle Ryan had a lot of help from the staff at Readers Digest who went to Berlin and other parts of Europe and conducted interviews with German veterans and then translated those interviews into English. Ryan himself was the first Westerner to visit the State Archives in Moscow and given direct access to Soviet veterans and Senior Commanders (this is a great story in and of itself as Kennedy and Kruchev were involved along with the CIA who wanted confirmation that Hitler was dead and the Soviets found the body. Most people do not realize that the Soviets kept the fact that they found Hitler's body on 4 May under wraps until the late 1968). In addition, his staff received reams of primary documents that were, again, translated. When he wrote his book he kept it at a very high strategic/operational level and didn't go into much military or tactical detail. There was no way he could write a one volume book if he choose to use al his material. After all, while he was a war correspondent for Patton, so his perspective focused at the Senior Command levels.

What I found and pieced together paints a much different picture of the battle at an operational & tactical level than I expected or read in any of the secondary sources I researched. The problem is, as you point out, I too obtained so much material, that I couldn't compile it all for my book. Most books on Berlin tend to blend days together in 15-30 page chapter. I cover each day seperately, and in some cases have exposed so much material that one day, like 26 April for example, takes up 50+ pages of the book alone. So I was forced by time to focus my analysis and writing on elements of the battle not represented elsewhere.

Hope this helps. . .

Stephan

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Post by Richard Hargreaves » Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:05 am

Hi Stephan,

Many thanks for that very detailed reply. I don't know what material Ryan collected for the Breslau sector (probably not much, if any) but there's no harm trying to tap it.

I wish I had a team at my disposal like he had! It's a one-man band for me, which makes the process much slower and less comprehensive. :(

On the plus side at least we can say it's all (well mostly) our own work. :D
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Post by Annelie » Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:23 am

My name is Stephan Hamilton and my first historical work will be published in May by Helion & CO. The book is titled, as the post name suggests, Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945
Looking forward to your book.
It is for me of special interest.

Do you know if we can pre-order and perhaps the ISBN # ?
Annelie
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Post by Stephan H. » Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:31 am

Richard,

There is some information about Breslau I came across. I'll send you a message offline, since it is out of topic for this forum, and let you know what it is and how to get it from the Ryan Collection.

Stephan

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Post by Stephan H. » Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:51 am

Annelie,

Thanks for the post. The ISBNs are:

ISBN-10: 1906033129
ISBN-13: 978-1906033125

Best place to go is Amazon.com. Helion has pushed trhe publication date off to June, which has given me time to go back and make some changes, add some material, and edit, edit, edit.

Hope it meets your expectations.

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