Sunday, September 12, 2010

Panzer Destroyer: Memoirs of a Red Army Tank Commander by Vasiliy Krysov

While there are a few Red Army memoirs that have been translated into English of Red Army tankers, there has yet to be one, to my knowledge, on self-propelled artillerymen. German SP guns became something of a backbone to infantry operations and were produced in ever-greater numbers as they were cheaper than tanks and they could be built on already existing tank chassis. The same applies to the Red Army. In this instance, after training for a year in a tank school Vasiliy Krysov served first in a KV-1S heavy tank, and then took control of a platoon, followed by a battery of SU-122 artillery guns, then served in an SU-85 and finished the war in a T-34/85.

Overall, this is a fascinating account of what self-propelled artillery gunners faced on the field of battle. From the chaos of nighttime operations to overcoming entrenched enemy positions that showcase the ingenuity of Red Army soldiers and officers, from being caught in the open with a disabled vehicle and attempting to repair it while under enemy fire to witnessing fellow gunners burn in their machines or follow as sole survivors attempt to escape the fiery inferno their guns are turned into, from exhausting day and night marches and going without adequate food or sleep for days on end to how quickly bonds of brotherhood formed between officers and their men on and off the field of battle, all of this is recounted in candid detail. Even events that the author did not want to mention, like when he was put in charge of an investigation into the rape of a twelve-year-old German girl by three Red Army sergeants, he is open about in terms of the circumstances and the consequences of what happened. Lastly, it is widely known that Red Army armored forces lacked the radio communication their German counterparts enjoyed. Krysov regularly discusses how flags were used in conjunction with radio communication to direct operations on the field of battle during the war. Additionally, to help the reader with some of the engagements the author found himself in, there are schematics drawn, which greatly help to visualize what Krysov is discussing.

Krysov was an experienced SP gun commander, which I feel lends credence to the tanks and SP guns he claims to have encountered from his battles around Stalingrad, Kursk, Kiev, Fastov, Kovel, Poland, and East Prussia. Often enough there'll be references to Tigers and Panthers (and Ferdinands during his operations during the battle of Kursk), but considering the author's regiment faced the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking on a regular basis, there is more than enough evidence to suggest at least some of the encounters did occur. Some of the recollections might sound too good to be true as there might be an element of exaggeration, as there is with many accounts from the Second World War in general, but thanks to the editor (who's worked on quite a few previous Red Army memoirs, both as translator and editor) there are a few end notes to help guide the reader in the activities undertaken by the Germans, which regularly coincide with the descriptions offered by Kyrsov. The author is also deserving of credit as he does not fail to regularly mention the losses his own unit (and units he was operating in conjunction with) regularly sustained, as well as pointing out exaggerated German losses higher ranking Red Army officers officially penned in their reports. Recommended for those interested in the Eastern Front and armored troops/operations.

2 comments:

Zhukov said...

Sounds interesting - ordered with Amazon ;-)
Thanks for the good tips!

T. Kunikov said...

Thank you for your comment. Hope you enjoy the book.

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