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Guns Against the Reich: Memoirs of an Artillery Officer on the Eastern Front Hardcover – 18 Feb 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (18 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844159310
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844159314
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 885,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Petr Alexeevich Mikhin trained as a schoolteacher before the Second World War and served as an artillery man throughout the conflict. He fought the German army in the battles for Stalingrad, Kursk, Ukraine, Moldova, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia, and late in the war he was transferred to the Far East to fight the Japanese army in China. He was wounded three times and suffered shell shock, and he finished the war as a highly decorated officer with the rank of a captain. After the war he returned to teaching mathematics in civil and military schools, and he retired as a lieutenant colonel. Petr Mikhin is the author of numerous short stories and three books, all of them based on his extraordinary wartime experiences.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. Kunikov on 8 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Guns against the Reich" is easily one of the more interesting, enlightening, forthright and revealing Red Army memoirs I've had the pleasure to read. Petr Mikhin was rushed through officer training and served in the artillery arm of the Red Army. Often we hear that artillery is the "God of War", and this memoir will show the power that artillery can exercise on the field of battle when wielded by an experienced observer, commander, and crew. Taking part in the fighting around Rzhev, Kharkov, Kursk, the Dnestr and numerous other rivers and cities throughout eastern Europe, Mikhin paints at times a rather bleak but moving portrait of the Red Army, his fellow soldiers, the war effort in general, and himself. How did Red Army officers deal with suicidal orders on the part of their commanders? How does one deal with an officer who cared more about getting drunk than directing heavy battery fire and saving the infantrymen he was responsible for? How did artillery observers execute operations they were never trained to undertake but were volunteered for by their superiors? All of these subjects are candidly discussed and Mikhin spares no words or judgments for either his own actions or those of his subordinates and superiors. At times Mikhin's reminiscences defy logic, but simultaneously exemplify that in wartime anything is possible. Some of the more revealing events in Mikhin's Red Army career were his encounter with SMERSH (death to spies) and the accusations that were leveled against him; more interesting was how he proved his innocence.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gisli Jokull Gislason VINE VOICE on 16 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
With all the recent Soviet WW2 memoirs being published in English recently this one stands out as a good read. Petr Mikhin is recruited young as a Soviet Officer and by the age of 23 he leads an entire artillery battalion - having by then lost most his borthers in arms many times over.

The battles presented are gritty and important and the later part of the conflict in former Yugoslavia is paticularily interisting, but in the book we find Mikhin doing front line duties in the Rzhev meat grinder battles, then going off to the Stalingrad offensive, then on to the edge of the Kursk battles - you will find Mikhin in the center of things.

Surprisingly for an artillery officer he is often at the forefront of the battles, commanding direct fire with howitzers against the Germans. One also gets quite a feel for the enormous losses the Soviets suffered and Mikhin writes well enough for the reader to feel some of those deaths rather than them being a list of statistics.

Being a front line officer Mikhin is exposed to constant front line action for years on end without almost any reprive. In this I found his experience is similar to Evgeni Bessnov's in TANK RIDER: Into the Reich with the Red Army. I recommend both as the do compliment each other, even if I consider Mikhin's book a little better.

Mikhin also goes to describe what happens behind the lines and of political intrigue and callous commanders.

In all a good read and a big piece of the Eastern Front Puzzle seen from the Soviet side.

Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
"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.
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Format: Hardcover
This book took me a while to find. I had read accounts by Vasilli Grossman on the Eastern Front which were excellent but I wanted to get an insight into the front line infantryman's war on the Eastern Front.

After browsing amazon for ages I found this. An excellent book, well written and excellently translated into english. Do not be put off by the "artilleryman" role in the title, this belies what Mikhin really got up to and as an artillery forward observer he really was in the thick of the battles from the defeats in Op Barbarossa right up to victory at the war's end. He has fascinating tales of daring prisoner snatches and other sometimes ludicrous missions he was sent on, so plenty of excitement!!

The book also provides a good analysis of what being an artillery officer, commanding men much older than you was like. It also gave me a fascinating insight into the ridiculous Russian chain of command, the crazy orders that he as a junior officer was told to carry out and the petty political discipline expected on the russian soldier while fighting in horrendous campaigns.

If you want a great and readable analysis of life in the Red Army throughout the war from initial defeat through to resulting victory then read this book, you will not be disappointed. I think this book is true testament to the unsung heroes that saved Russia in the frontlines and as the book itself points out were never recognised by the Soviet Government!!!
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