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This review is from: Red Army Tank Commander: At War in a T-34 on the Eastern Front (Hardcover)
Without doubt this is an interesting book. It is about tank warfare on the Eastern front and the author Vasiliy Bryukhov should know that subject since he spent two years in T-34:s fighting the Germans, Hungarians and Romanians.
The Book is written like a memoir but it is a curious mixture of probably correct hard facts and what must be considered as more dubious statements. Initially in the book General Bryukhov states that he finds it "amazing that some people can remember the names of settlement near where they fought". He then goes on and remembers every village, road, ditch, hill etc in Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Austria! How was that possible? He must have had access to a lot of battle maps and written notes in order to do that or did he write a diary? It is a pity that he did not use these maps in the book because there are no maps there and it is difficult to say the least to follow what took place unless you are very familiar with the terrain.
The Book is copyrighted 2013. Did General Bryukhov write it in 2012 or was it in fact written far earlier? In 2012 he was 88 years old so he might have written the last chapter then but I would guess that most of the book was written during Soviet times. It shows.
General Bryukhov fought in T-34/76 and T-34/85 tanks. He also had SU-76, SU-85 and SU-100 under his command. There are some technical information given but not a lot. This is not a book for those who like to know these AFVs in detail. But there is no doubt that he fought in those vehicles since what is written fits very well into what is known about them. It would have been interesting to know some more about the tanks themselves seen from his perspective but this is not what he concentrates upon.
Sadly, there is also very little about his opponents equipment. Seldom are we told what tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles he encountered. At the end of the book German Panthers seams to be the main opponent. To his credit he is also not "inflating" his achievements by claiming all his enemy tanks were Tigers and Panthers. On the other hand there are several "hard" battles that were fought for hours with the result of two or three tanks being knocked out on each side. Than makes you wonder how hard they actually were.
General Bryukhov fought in a Tank Brigade. The Tactics of that unit in combat are presented in a clear and correct way. He never presents this unit in detail which would have been helpful since those who have a reference to western armour units might think that the Soviet ones were similar. He confirms the Soviet way of employing your tank units. You attack until you have nothing left. Then you might be withdrawn and rebuilt. Even if he is kind of vague about their own losses you realize that the brigade was in fact destroyed several times during his two years.
One of the hardest things to accept in the book is how he describes the fighting late in the war. In late 1944 and in 1945, as late as in March, you are reading about the Luftwaffe attacking his unit on an almost daily basis and of long and hard German artillery bombardments. In fact you read more about Luftwaffe attacks against him than supporting attacks by the Soviet Air Force. Considering that the Luftwaffe were almost absent from the skies at that time in the war and that the German artillery had been reduced far beyond effective rate it is indeed a strange feeling to read his memoirs. But if this is how an old man remembers it you just have to accept it (but you don't have to believe it).
Some of the writing has a very clear "Soviet" feeling. All cities and villages in Romania, Hungary and Austria were "liberated" instead of conquered. Of course the Soviets were entitled to conquer them but by using the word "liberated" you hear more of Soviet propaganda than facts. He is also claiming that his brigade commander assembled the whole brigade to remind them that they were not to harm German civilians, it was only the ruling fascists they were after. Again, Soviet history. In real life the Soviet army were told that they could take their revenge on all Germans and they did. General Bryukhov does not remember any singular (with one exception) Soviet crime against civilians. No rapes, no killing, no plunder. There are some looting but it is presented as an almost friendly activity and well within their rights.
Another thing is that all political officers are always very highly respected and well liked officers. It is a misconception that they all were just political officers since they also had responsibility for personnel and morale and in that capacity they spent most of their working hours but that all of them were so well liked is kind of strange. Even the counter espionage SMERSH personnel are also described in a very positive way even if most of then in real life were feared.
But the book is still interesting and worth reading. It is full with anecdotes and small memories that gives you a feeling of how it was to be in the Soviet army and how hard life could be. With decent maps and some more information on the tanks and the unit he fought in it would have been a four star. For five stars he would have to tell you all those things he chose not to tell you this time around. Maybe his censors, editors or his personal choice resulted in the present book and it is probably to late to change that for the General.