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on 13 September 2010
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.
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on 4 July 2013
This was a very interesting book. The First I have read written by a commander of SU-85 SP Guns. The Author Vasiliy Krysov started the war in a KV-1C, went to SU-122, then to SU-85 and ended in in a T34/85. He fought on the Eastern Front in these vehicles from the end of 1942 until the wars end. It is remarkable that he survived at all, that he fought in so many different vehicles and that he got to see as much of actual fighting as he did.

The positive thing about this book is that it is written, at least the final draft, after the fall of the Soviet Union. You can tell since he does not spare of his criticism concerning a number of things that could not have been written during the Soviet era. He is also trying his best to give you his view of how it was to fight armoured warfare during those years and you can tell that a large part of what he writes is correct. He did participate and he knows how to do his part of the fighting. What he writes about the vehicles, the tactics, the daily life, command and control, logistics etc is correct to a large part (but not all!) and it tells you that he has been there.

The Writing itself is well done and for the most part easy to follow. In a few placed there has been some mistakes and "1942" became "1943" etc but if you know your Eastern Front that can easily be corrected. It is strange that those mistakes were not spotted by the editors. There are some maps that helps but for the most part you need very detailed maps over Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania if you really want to follow the campaign since most of the fighting takes place around small villages or hills most of us have never heard about.

But reading the book there are a number of things that you stop and think about. Did this actually happen like this or has he "inflated" his memories? I suspect that he must have been "creative" in some spots but on the other hand, he survived several years on the Eastern Front in armoured fighting vehicles and just maybe he was tremendously lucky?

A few examples:
- he claimed to have destroyed with his SU-85 eight German Tigers in one battle. Considering how hard it is to kill even one of them this claim needs to be verified by other sources. Later on in the book he states that the official figures for German losses due to the actions of his units were inflated. Maybe not only the official but also his own figures?
- in one battle he was fighting German Ferdinand tank destroyers at the same time as the Germans used Goliath demolition vehicles and the Russians used anti-tank dogs (dogs with a tank mine on their back. They were trained to crawl under enemy tanks and the mine would detonate and destroy the tank. Needless to say their career as military dogs were very short. BTW Krysovs thoughts about these dogs were only about how they worked and not about that they were killed in battle). There are simply to many legendary weapon systems surrounding him and that he fought and survived in that environment.
- he claims to have been in battle with troops from Stephan Bandera in December 1943. But they did not operate in that area and certainly not together with German Panther tanks.
- he claims to have with just two SU-85 crushed with his tracks a whole German motorized regiment on a road. This story is clearly an enormous ex aggregation. There is no way he could have done that over those distances and during that time frame. Not to mention the clear risks involved with being that close to infantry with anti-tank weapons.

There are a lot of other things that are doubtful or at least sounds strange. The Germans always get into panic when he fires upon them. It is possible but it is far more probable that they were just trying to find their weapons and trenches.

The Luftwaffe makes a huge number of bombing sorties against his units (even as late as April 6th 1945!). Anti-tank fire is reduced when he gets closer to the Germans instead of being increased since they can see him better and hit him easier. The Germans knew fully well that their only chance were to destroy the attacking armour with fire before they reached their positions. You just can not outrun tanks.

There are a lot of running over and crushing with tracks. Why he did that instead of using his tank gun is very unclear. If you are several hundred meters from the enemy guns, withholding fire in favor of tracks once you get there will just expose you to AT fire for more than a minute. An eternity in tank warfare.

A lot of battles are fought for over half an hour and there are losses in the order of a few tanks or Tank Destroyers. It makes you wonder about how hard these battles were.

In one attack they were fired upon by the Germans and the infantry replied with submachine gun fire. From 800 meters! Was that in panic because it is impossible to hit anything with a submachine gun at that distance?

On the other hand he describes the Russian tactics of firing their tank guns on the move during an attack. You cannot hit anything with a tank gun in a T34 or SU-85 since they had no stabilizing equipment. He correctly realizes this and orders his men not to use that tactics. He always try to outflank heavier enemy tanks since he knows he cannot penetrate their frontal armour. For a Russian officer he takes a lot of initiatives instead of waiting for order. In this book his initiatives always pays off but how did his commanders react?

Writing a book after the fall of the Soviet Union does not make you see things with other eyes than the once you had before. Krysov writes about crossing into Poland as if he had no idea that the border he crossed came about as a result of the Soviet attack on Poland in 1939. He had actually been in Poland for a long time before he reached that border. BTW, he calls what happened in 1939 as the "Reunification of Western Ukraine". Later he is upset over the fact that the Poles today have vandalized Soviet war graves. The Poles are "ungrateful" since the Soviets liberated them from the nazis. The fact that the Poles might have a different view on what happened in 1939 and what it resulted in is apparently not in his mind.

He writes remarkable little about political officers until the end of the book. Maybe that was because that part was written after 1991 and he could be clear about his view on them. It is not a positive one.

He writes about the situation for Soviet women at the front. Here he is very honest. These often very young and hard working women had to "marry" their commanders and become their "campaign wives" (=mistresses) in order to survive. This is something that has been written about only after 1991.

Finally, what about the atrocities that took place on the Eastern Front? He was there. What did he see? Here it is clear that he has censored himself. On the other hand this goes both ways. He writes very little about German atrocities as well. There is one odd incident. He writes about how the Russians executed a number of German prisoners because they had committed a war crime and killed a number of Russian wounded soldiers. But the incident is also described in the book a few pages before this execution and as it is described there was no war crime committed by the Germans. They asked a number of wounded Russians to surrender and they refused and started throwing grenades at the Germans who then went on and shot them. Maybe our author forgot to tell us something but as it is written it is hard to claim that the Germans did anything outside of normal combat.

In the end of the book it is hard for Krysov to describe the conquest of East Prussia without saying anything about those thousands of rapes and murders that took place. So he tells us a story of how three soldiers from his unit raped a twelve year old German girl and got no punishment. He does not think this was right but also comments that they were spared because the Germans used to rape Russian women and girls too. Apparently he does not reflect on the fact that they then ended up being equally bad.
Krysov also states that "I refused to rape because of moral principles". This statement clearly indicates that a lot more took place than the isolated case he reports.

All in all, this book is well worth reading. It tells you a lot about how life was for a young Russian officer on the Eastern Front. You just have to be careful and not accept everything that is written.
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on 24 March 2016
Not the sellers fault. But this book is not great. Its full of lies.
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on 12 September 2010
Vasiliy Krysov took part in, and survived, some of great tank battles of WW2, including Stalingrad and Kursk. His war started as a Lieutenant commanding a KV-1S main battle tank, followed by command of various self-propelled guns, and ended up with company command in a T34 regiment.

Krysov is one of a very few remaining veterans of the Red Army's advance through Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and into Germany: As such his book merits attention. And better still, he was never a member of the Communist Party so his account is refreshingly free from politics and dogma.

Some of the prose betrays the fact that the book is translated from Russian into English. And a few Americanisms have crept in, such as the use of the word `tankers' instead of `tankies'. But overall it reads very well.

Panzer Destroyer contains enough to engage anyone who is interested in the Second World War. But, if you like tanks - you'll love this book.

Robert Widders
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on 23 May 2013
This was excellent. It is well translated, and never gets slow or dull. It reads just like the best of German tanker stories, which is rare for a soviet account. It totally negates the old view of the soviet soldiers; as Carius and many others would try to make us believe, the Soviets were a mass of unthinking robots who only beat the Germans by weight of numbers. More recent analysis by Glantz and especially Citino show this Nazi superiority myth to be just the sour grapes of a military machine that was outfought at its own game.
What impressed me about this account: each battle is well described with detailed in-running accounts. Hi-light is his 3 day rampage behind the lines of the SS-LAH div during the German Zhitomir offensive in Nov 43. His unit was surrounded and to aid their breakout, his lone SU85 was sent on a flanking attack to draw away the opposition. He was successful, but got stuck behind the German lines for 3 days; hiding in woods during the day, helped by local civilians who even replaced wounded crew members, then rampaging thru German rear areas, crushing trucks and causing havoc. Textbook Blitzkrieg, against "the best" German panzer div!
To counter the soviet robot image, these soviet crews approached each battle with good recon and pre-planning; they coordinated with infantry & artillery; during the battle they used fire & manoveur tactics, zig-zagging to show slanting armour; every crewman using their periscopes, while the commander peeked out of the open hatch; radio control to initiate flanking attacks. In fact, every trick that i've heard the likes of Carius claim were German tactics are used by these Soviet SPG crews. The book shows them to be top quality tankers.....good job they were our allies!!
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on 1 August 2014
Despite the translation flaws in
Places, this is an interesting and gripping account of the use of armoured units on the eastern front. Surprisingly the narrative was easy to follow and the story telling flows well. It has awakened my interest in similar publications.
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on 19 February 2017
I loved this book as it's one of the most exciting accounts of Red Army tank (or SPG) crew firing the Great Patriotic War. The sketches help place the actions in your mind's eye and the author manages to convey his feelings and the atmosphere in general.
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on 6 March 2014
As my subject to study He wrights about places iv seen and understand some of the battles now he enlarges my knowledge greatly
so well worth the read
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on 16 June 2014
This book is full of action reports of tank warfare on the eastern front and you read the full devastation that the tank destroyers derived from the original T34 caused
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on 24 June 2011
Fascinating book. It offers some interesting technical details about tank combat tactics. Agree with the previous reviewers, not much more to add. The book has to be read.
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