The Red Army Handbook 1939-1945 Paperback – 26 Jun 2003
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Stalin's Red Army entered World War II as a relatively untried fighting force. In 1941, with the launch of Operation "Barbarossa", it joined battle with Hitler's army, the most powerful in history. After a desperate war of attrition over four years the Red Army beat the Nazis into defeat on the Eastern Front and won lasting fame and glory in 1945 by eclipsing the military might of the Third Reich. From the army's development prior to the outbreak of war in 1939 to the army's peak in 1945, every aspect of their force is examined here; the organizational structures, combat arms infantry, armour and mechanized forces, cavalry, airbourne and special forces along with a technical overview of infantry weapons, armoured vehicles and artillery, and support equipment. Fully illustrated with a comprehensive selection of archive photographs, charts and tables of organization, this is a useful source of reference for anyone interested in the armies of World War II.
About the Author
Steven J.Zaloga has written over seventy books on military history, specialising in Russian and Soviet military subjects. Leland S. Ness served as a Pentagon correspondent for international Defense Review and now publishes a newsletter for the ground defence industry. He is also a consultant in armour technology in the USA and Europe. Both authors live in the USA.
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One of the difficulties with the Red Army is that its wartime organization remains vague. Large formations are usually mentioned in accounts of the war and they're identified in most maps. But particulary small formations are never mentioned in detail. Until I received this book I didn't know what the strength of a Soviet squad was, or what the organization of a Soviet infantry company looked like. This title tries to cover all that and more. For almost every level of organization of every type of Unit, mister Zaloga gives you the breakdown in officers, nco's and men, and their weapons (handweapons, but heavy weapons like tanks and artillery as well). The fact that you get the organizational breakdown down to section level is superb. This makes this book extremely useful.
In addition to this the book has at least one picture of all of the important weapons systems that were used by the Soviets during the war. This includes the initial period of the war, so you'll find pictures of a T-28 and a BA-10. The pictures include infantry weapons and artillery pieces as well. The only drawback is that the book doens't cover the supporting arms like signals and medics.
Because of all this I think this book rightly deserves five stars and is highly recommended to anyone interested in the Soviet army of WW2.
I found extremely useful for wargamers (like me) the detailed breakdown provided for these units (including number of men divided between officers, NCos or rank and file, SMGs, mortars, etc), the comments about the evolution of the units organisation through the war years.
Also remarkable the authors' rich comments about the different armour types, stating strenghts and weaknesses and the evolution of the armour doctrine through this period.
Note of caution: I'm not an expert and therefore cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided in the book. Having said that, one of the co-authors (Steven Zaloga) is a highly reputed and well known military expert on Soviet Army IIWW, with several dozens of publications over the past years. That should provide at least some comfort to readers about the quality of the book.
Bottom-line, 15 pounds seems to me good value for money specially compared to the standard Osprey's books on the matter.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This is a book that is designed for the military history researcher and war gaming communities without much appeal beyond that narrow audience since it presupposes significant knowledge about the events and background of the fighting on the Eastern Front. However, for anyone doing research, this is the first stop for organizational information. The only real frustration is not getting quite the granularity necessary for some tasks, such as keeping track of the changes to infantry squad and platoon organizations. Further, there is some disagreement with other sources, so this narrows, but doesn't eliminate, the challenges in dealing with Soviet organization.
Overall, this is an essential research tool and the starting point for answering organizational questions about Soviet forces in WW2. Five stars for the intended audience, probably two stars for the general public.
Details of their Tables of Organization and Equipment down to "the gnat's eyelash"...........with a host of charts and wiring diagrams.
Many pictures, including lots not seen in other sources. Adequate descriptions of their various weapons.
`The Red Army Handbook' is a very dry, but immensely informative and useful account of the organisational and technical development of the main arms of the Red Army from 1939 to 1945. It is clear that the authors have a superb grasp of the topic, and their writing style is fully appropriate to the matter - matter-of-fact. The narrative is not just covering the theoretical organisation, but also includes realistic issues, such as the manpower shortage in the Red Army towards the end of the war, and how it was being dealt with.
The book is divided into two sections, each divided into chapters. The first section deals with the organisational development, charting the evolution of organisational structure of Red Army formation types in great detail, using tables of organisation and strength, together with numerous, very well selected pictures, and a narrative explaining the reasons for changes and how they appeared. Arms covered are infantry, armour, artillery, cavalry, and airborne/special forces.
The second section is dealing with the armament of the Red Army, specifically tanks, infantry weapons, and artillery (`The Red God of War'), and contains invaluable information such as production and loss statistics for tanks, and detailed information on specific weapon systems, again superbly illustrated.
The book also contains an index and a bibliography. Zaloga and Ness should be commended for their use of wide-ranging sources.
As a scenario designer for the computer wargame "Combat Mission - Barbarossa to Berlin", and as a very interested student of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, I find this book an invaluable reference. It beats Nafziger's books on German unit organisations hands-down in accessibility. A task no doubt made easier by the more rational organisation the Red Army had, compared to the Wehrmacht. Whether you are a wargamer or interested in the evolution of the Red Army from `Giant on Clayfeet' to the most formidable fighting force to emerge from World War 2, this book is a must buy.