Monday, March 18, 2013


A very determined group of researchers has found an example of the previously legendary Viking sunstone used for navigating while the sun was obscured by clouds or below the horizon.  The best and most concise article I've seen is this one at The Economist.  If there were a Nobel Prize for Archeology, this team would win it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stalingrad Map Project

Here is another map of the Battle of Stalingrad.  It shows dispositions on a divisional basis on November 18, 1942, the day before Operation Uranus.

I can't find a definitive document showing the Orders of Battle or unit locations.  This map is interpretive, synthesizing  information from the sources below. A spreadsheet with my complete Order of Battle is here.  SVG version of the file is available here.


Books and Articles
 Author  Title  Notes
 Alexei V. Isaev  Stalingrad The Volga no land for us  Soviet forces and tanks
 Antony Beevor  Stalingrad, The Fateful Siege  Most widely cited Order   of Battle
 Wikipedia  Red Army order of battle at the Battle of Stalingrad Useful
 Wikipedia  Axis order of battle at the Battle of Stalingrad  Not particularly useful
 Staldata  Axis and Soviet Orders of Battle & force strength
 Wolf Höpper  Against the Flood - Operation Uranus (I)  German tank numbers
 Joel S. A. Hayward  Stopped At Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe And Hitler's Defeat In The East 1942-1943  Bases used for Airlift
 Akhil Kadidal  Stalingrad Pocket  Really good maps and annotated photographs

 Title  Source  Notes
 OKH Situation Map Nov 18 42  WW2 Photos Maps  Axis forces locations 
 Fantastic Site!
Jpg is here.
 OKH Situation Map Nov 18 42 2  WW2 Photos Maps  Axis forces locations 
 Fantastic Site!
Jpg is here
 S4231 Summary of combat operations in Stalingrad  Armchair General/RIIAWW2  Red Army locations
 Excellent map
 S4239 Operations in Stalingrad area  Armchair General/RIIAWW2  Red Army locations
 S4251 Combat operations of the South-Western, Don and Stalingrad Fronts  Armchair General/RIIAWW2  Red Army locations

  • There are more units listed in the Order of Battle than appear on the map.  I didn't place any unit on the map unless I could find it in one of the source maps.
  • In conflicts between locations on the OKH map and the Soviet maps, I used the Soviet map.   The Germans had not picked up the Uranus build-up, so the Soviets had much better intelligence at this time.
  • I could find no information on the strength of the 8th Italian Army, or Soviet 6th and 3rd Guards Armies.
  • Unit lines are thicker or thinner based on strength and density.  These are characterizations, not precise measurements. 
  • Unit strengths are shown in the layers in the SVG version of the map.  These are based on the Order of Battle spreadsheet linked above.  The spreadsheet includes notes on the units shown on the map.
  • The base map is derived from the OKH maps.  I do not know the map projection.
  • Please feel free to comment on any inaccuracies!  You can help to make the map better.  I'm particularly interested in proper place-names.
  • The license is Creative Commons, share alike, attribution, non-commercial.  You can do anything you like with the image except use it to make money, claim property rights over your derivative images, or not provide attribution.  I encourage anyone to use or change the map.  I do not consider classroom use commercial.  Like all my images, anyone who would like to use the image for commercial purposes should contact me and I can give you a custom license at a reasonable rate.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.  
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


Stalin and Ribbentrop shake hands after the signing of the Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact with the scary looking Shaposhnikov laughing it up in the background, Moscow, August 23, 1939.

Stalin died 60 years ago today.  He had a stroke in the night, and lay in a pool of urine on the cold floor of his dacha for hours until he was dead.  Beria made sure nobody went in to help him until it was too late.  Not that I'm expressing sympathy.  The world became a better place when he died.  My thoughts about Stalin in a previous article.

This is a revealing photograph, a rare instance of Stalin letting his guard down.  It shows a greedy wolf contemplating a huge meal.   In this case, the meal was Stalin's favorite: Poland.  Significantly, the photo exists because it was taken by a German photographer brought along to the signing by Ribbentrop.  A Soviet photographer would have destroyed the negative rather than risk showing the great leader in an unflattering light.

There is a continuing debate in Russia about what to think of Stalin.  Some praise him for his wartime leadership.  Others condemn him because of his ruthless terror.  Both are right, though I think his crimes far outweigh his achievements. He was, however, the essential man in World War II.  Had he lost his nerve in the summer and fall of 1941, the Germans would have won the war.

Edits for clarity. 

Stalin did actually lose his nerve in July.  As the enormity of his errors became clear to him, he left the Kremlin and hid out at his dacha for two weeks.  When a delegation came to ask him to return, he thought they had come to arrest him.  But he did go back to work, and by the end of July or early August, his nerve returned.  It never wavered again.

Also, looking at the photo, it occurs to me that Stalin is looking at Poland, and Ribbentrop is thinking, "You took the bait.  We will destroy you."

Saturday, March 2, 2013


There are three teams with swear words in their name: Arsenal, Scunthorpe and Manchester Fucking United #notbitterhonest
Stephen Fry on Twitter today.