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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2014
a quite gritty account of the war on the eastern front and thankfully minus the usual ideological stuff that soviet accounts seem to be so full of. I enjoyed this book. Ably written by an intelligent man who actually survived this carnage. Worth reading, very good and quite unique as it is the Russian viewpoint
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on 28 May 2013
This book is captivating. There are many lessons to take from it on a tactical point of view for gunners as well as infantry personnel. There are situations useful to describe the challenges of command and how his exemple founded his legitimacy, although he was a very young officer. Many lessons are still valid despite the fact that they are taken from such a particular front between Germany and USSR in WWII.The experiences of this officer are also so unique that you can read it almost like a novel. It is one of the best books describing the war experience of an artillery officer that I have ever read (among many).
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on 4 November 2013
my boyfriend really likes these kind of books he loved this book the only problem is he reads them too quick
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on 14 January 2013
Anyone interested in Soviet military history will find this book full of those small details that are so often missing.
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on 13 November 2014
I'm sorry but I just can't believe that all of the stories in this book are true. It's just too far fetched in areas and I can't get my head around the fact that he did ALL of these things, pretty much single-handedly. I mean, how can PROFESSIONAL scouts not capture a prisoner after 10 times of trying, yet Mikhin does it after his first attempt, despite the fact that he's an Artillery Observation officer?! If you believed everything in this book, you'd be forgiven for asking why he isn't an HSU a dozen times over.

It's just a little TOO incredible to be...well...credible.
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on 8 June 2010
"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. The fighting around Rzhev, now made known/famous by David Glantz's "Operation Mars", is brought to life with Mikhin's reminiscences of the quagmire he and his battery operated around and the missions that he, as an artillery observer, was forced to undertake in order to find specific German artillery or mortar batteries and silence them. Along with the recently published memoirs of Boris Gorbachevsky, Mikhin brings to life the needless sacrifices asked of Soviet soldiers as they were continuously forced to an agonizing duty of attacking and counterattacking a deeply entrenched enemy with ever weaker Red Army forces.

Interestingly enough, Mikhin was ordered/forced to go on multiple scouting missions with the goal of capturing a German prisoner for interrogation. Usually this was done by trained scouts, but here we encounter multiple failed operations by scouts and a commander's decision to send out artillery observers in their place! Their eventual success is telling of Mikhin's ingenuity, as well as that of the men he operated with. An operation I have yet to encounter from the point of view of a Red Army soldier was that of Popov's Mobile Group in 1943. This was the scratch unit ordered to exploit Soviet success post-Stalingrad and eventually it set the stage for Manstein's famous 'backhand blow' outside Kharkov. Mikhin was part of that unit. For all the talk of Manstein's genius, seeing the position Popov's group was in, their difficulties and what was expected of them, it is evident that their eventual failure was sown in Red Army hubris, thinking that the Germans could not rebuke them as easily as before. Another revealing encounter with the enemy featured the author accompanying a battalion commander and his unit into an attack through dense fog. During their silent advance the entire battalion, some seventy men, were accidentally pivoted and walked parallel to the German trenches instead of toward them. The battalion commander stubbornly refused to acknowledge what happened and only with the dissipation of the fog by rain did he realize his mistake. Unfortunately, the end result was a decimation of the battalion by the Germans as they were caught in the open and subjected to deadly flanking fire. Finally, without a doubt the most interesting episode in the memoir was the author's destruction and ensuing capture of almost 1,000 Germans and Soviet Hiwis in Moldavia. A lone battery of four howitzers with 26 men was sent to cut off a German force, at least over a thousand strong, escaping the Iasi-Kishinev encirclement. The ensuing action by the author and his men cost them 24 lives and almost all of their ammunition; one by one they were wounded, again and again, and eventually killed by enemy mortar fire. Nevertheless, the Germans, without knowing the true condition of their Red Army opponents, began to surrender. As the sole unharmed Soviet soldier ran to gather up the prisoners, the author even while wounded moved from one howitzer to the next, zeroing it in on the Germans, to keep up the ruse that the battery was still operational as they waited for reinforcements. Overall, a very descriptive, sincere account of an artilleryman at war. Highly recommended for those interested in WWII, the Eastern Front, and/or the Red Army.
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on 28 July 2013
"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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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.

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on 18 January 2012
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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on 7 July 2011
I have read many histories and tales about World War Two but this is the first book that i have read written by an officer of the Red Army.War on the Eastern front was fought in a no holds barred manner which was rarely witnessed on the Western front.In fact the author makes it quite clear that he fears most being taken prisoner followed by the NKVD and ultimately death.Given all that happened to him it is a miracle that he managed to survive the war.
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