Full disclosure before I begin this review. Christer Begstrom is a friend and contributor to this web page for over two decades. Our friendship began with a common interest in JG 54 and the air war over the Eastern Front. Christer’s been very generous and forthcoming with information about my particular fascination with the Grunherzjager and asked nothing in return.
Christer Bergstrom is one of the most foremost World War II authors in the world. He’s published over 30 books, many of which focus on the air battles over Western and Eastern Europe. In 2000, Christer started the Black Cross / Red Star series. Volume I was a groundbreaking in the field of aviation research. German and Russian archival material, interviews with pilots, and access to personal logbooks and photographs were all woven together by Christer to paint one of the most complete picture of the opening of the Barbarossa air war. The same wealth of research accompanied Volume 2 (published 2001) and Volume 3 (published 2007). Sadly, after Volume 3 the publisher decided to drop the series.
Christer felt the research and first-hand accounts important enough to crowdfund and self-publish Volume 4. The tome is larger in size compared to Volumes 1-3. Volume 4 tops out at 300+ pages and accompanied by 24 maps and 7 appendices. There are 18 chapters in the book. Every chapter paints a strategic picture of the war in Russia (and sometimes the West), which places the air operations and battles into context. The book starts with the encirclement of Stalingrad and focuses on that titanic struggle during this time of the war. A lesser known (in the West) encirclement battle at Valikiye Luki is also discussed and chronicled. Aside from the sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad, the book details the artic convoys and the early battles for the Kuban bridgehead.
Black Cross / Red Star Volume 4 is an essential book for the aviation enthusiast, historian, model builder and collector with any interest in the brutal fights over the steppes of Russia during the Winter of 41/42 and into the Spring. The book will become a valued addition to an aviation library, destined to be referenced repeatedly. The details, facts and the narratives are too numerous to absorb in one sitting. It’s another masterpiece from one of the foremost aviation historians of our time.