Sunday, 28 July 2013
Guns Against the Reich Memoirs of an Artillery Officer on the Eastern Front by Petr Mikhin (2010)
Books to read by John Curry
"On the offensive, a private on average lasted for a couple of assaults; a platoon leader for a day; a company commander for a week, a battalion commander for a month. If you keep a person constantly in the front lines for a year or two, he'll go insane. That is why the Germans offered leave of absences for their soldiers at the front. We didn't have leaves. In fact it wasn't really necessary- who would survive to see his leave day?"
This quote sums up why so few accounts of low level combat from the Russian perspective have made it into print in English. Few in the Russian front lines survived long enough to gain the perspective necessary to make valid observations. This officer survived as he was the forward observer for the artillery and so he saw combat first hand, but was often set back from it, running the indirect fire part of the battle.
Although there is some Russian jingoism embedded in the writing, it comes across as honest and straightforward. The tactical snippets are many. The German 82mm mortar was their best weapon for killing infantry. The front lines were often confused, just lines on a map, with units too spread out to keep a continuous front. Camouflage was an obsession of Mikhin, perhaps was related to his survival.
Russia was able to win as the American lend lease sent 400,000 trucks and jeeps. Without this, they could not have resupplied their armies. German lost as they did not have enough trucks to support their divisions on the Eastern front. However, after that broad generalisation, this book helps give a good idea of how the Russians won in the company and battalion level battles that all major wars are decided by. The books is a worthwhile addition to Eastern Front literature.