Craig Luther, who has lived in Tehachapi about 20 years, has authored multiple books, taken trips to Germany and Russia and met with World War II veterans who fought on the Eastern Front in Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union.
After years of research on the topic, Luther has written a new work, "The First Day on the Eastern Front," honing in on the first 21 hours of the Axis powers' attack.
As a former historian for the Air Force and a Fulbright Scholar who studied in Germany, Luther said he has always been fascinated by the military. He earned his doctorate in modern European history from University of California, Santa Barbara.
Looking at the history of Nazi Germany in particular, Luther said, "I kind of began to understand what human beings were capable of, that they're capable of tremendous good, and tremendous evil."
Luther's previous book "Barbarossa Unleashed," published in 2014, was also on the German invasion known as Operation Barbarossa. His new account of this historical event is set to come out Nov. 1 and analyzes the start of a war that, by recent estimates, killed 27 million Russians, Luther said.
"Hitler's surprise attack on Soviet Russia on Sunday morning, the 22nd of June 1941, was the beginning, however you measure it, of the greatest, most terrible, horrific conflict in human history," Luther said.
Luther said that in this new work, he wanted to focus on the first day because of how it set the stage for what was to come in the rest of the war, with the Soviet Union holding on despite great losses.
David Stahel, a historian who has also written on Operation Barbarossa and the fight on the Eastern Front in World War II, said in an email interview that Luther's book is "all about the detail." He said readers may be surprised at the reach of the German invasion given that the account is "only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is to come."
Luther said the first 21 hours "mirrored in microcosm" the rest of the 3-and-a-half-year war.
"The heroism, the cowardice, the war crimes, terrible death toll, the terrible suffering of the civilian population ... all of these things began in the very initial minutes of the German attack," Luther said.
Luther said that for his last book, he made five trips to Germany and one to Russia, and has met with veterans of the war. That knowledge, along with archived personal accounts, have been the background for "First Day on the Eastern Front."
Luther's book can be pre-ordered on Amazon, where you can also read reviews by Stahel and others. Luther said the book is written so that both historians and average readers may enjoy it.
Luther said his books have had a worldwide reach. "Barbarossa Unleashed" sold around 3,000 copies. Stahel said he even used excerpts from the book for an honors history course at the Australian Defense Academy.
More information about Luther and his work can also be found on his website and blog, barbarossa1941.com.