Intelligence Images from the Eastern Front...



...Looking Down on War, from Pen and Sword


Title: Intelligence Images from the Eastern Front

Author: Col. Roy M. Stanley II

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47388-349-9

In this new book from Pen and Sword, the story behind the images is as interesting as the images themselves.  Apparently there was an order to the Luftwaffe as the end of the war approached to destroy all their aerial photography record, but while they did, the copies they shared with the Wehrmacht didn't get the same instruction.  As a result some 20 tons (!) of images were found in a number of locations, including one stash stored in a barn.  They were captured intact and as the Cold War developed, they were quickly 'classified' , along with many photos taken from German POWs, as they provided some excellent groundwork for intelligence on Russia in particular.  As a post-war photo analyst, the author tells the story of how he rediscovered the pictures, laying unused in the US archives many years later.  Not just negatives, but original prints as well.  Also how he had to save them when there was a drive to destroy old material in order to save space.

Using this amazing historical treasure trove, the author tells the story of the German invasion of Russia, Operation Barbarrossa, using the German's own photographic records.  The story is split into chapters covering Preparing for Invasion: Invasion 1941: Northern Seas: Swarzmeer (the Black Sea):1942: Stalingrad: and 1943 and On.  The detail available though the aerial imagery, often highlighted and explained in the captions, showing things like naval ships and facilities in various ports, airfields, oil production fields, factories and major cities, Stalingrad being one of particular interest.  These are mixed with photos on the ground, those taken from POWs, and mixed together to help provide a fascinating view of the history of the huge battles that took place over the vast expanses of the Eastern Front in WW2.  The greatest value of course is that these were taken while the events were happening on the ground.

Add the photos and the story they tell to the background on both how the Germans used their photo reconnaissance, how their PIs worked and then how the post-war US intelligence and record keepers dealt with the windfall of information they discovered.  Also how they were saved.  As the author explains, this only scratches the surface of the whole collection, but still a marvellous indication of what a valuable resource is now held in the NARA records.