"Ivan's War, 1939-1945"

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by polishshooter, Apr 19, 2006.

  1. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    I took back to the library my latest volume of SE Morison I finished reading, and ordered the next one, then went to look for a book to "tide me over" until it comes...

    Walking towards the first stack, or "new release 14 day books" one catches my eye right off the bat..."Ivans War, 1939-1945," The life and Death of the Russian Soldier.

    The cover shows two decrepit Russian Infantry soldiers in the snow, one bandaged, kind of leading each other, BOTH with M44 Carbines slung over their shoulder...

    Written by a female British Historian who studied at the University of Moscow recently, so far pretty well written, "official" histories wrapped around new archival releases, and interviews with veterans and their families, so far, I've learned a LOT....even if she DID call the M95 revolver the "Nagan" (Which in her defense is probably how the vets called it...)

    Pretty detailed too, right down to how the conscripts got issued everything to KEEP, boots, jacket, pouches, "empty" holsters, hat, belt, greatcoat, pants, rifle SLING, except ammo, weapons, and underwear (suggestion it was meant to humiliate them having to turn it in periodically and get washed ones) ...and they didn't get socks, but were issued "poltyanki" ("footcloths") bandage like cloth strips to wrap their feet. They were all told it was to prevent blisters, but mainly to save money, "one size fits all..."

    Absolutely NO training except rudimentary marching and rifle shooting, before they went into Finland, LOTS of political training though. A political officer suggested that "there was little chance for political teaching in battle" and suggested "teaching them to lie down when Finnish machine guns opened up instead..."


    I'll let you know how good it is when I finish it, but so far it's a "keeper..."

    I'm at the part the Germans have just attacked...
  2. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Interesting perspective from the book-

    The Russians called their early WWII tanks "zazhigalki" -"lighters," and called the T-34 the "Matchbox..."


    ...because they EXPECTED it to catch fire as quickly as any other Russian tank....


    Kind of puts the "Ronson" M4 nickname in perspective...and I suspect with enough research, we might just find that some German tankers may have referred to their Mark IVs and Panthers with pet names like "Zippo" as well....soldiers ARE all alike, and generally ascribe superiority to the ENEMIES' weapons while deriding their own...
  3. I'll have to pick up a copy of that book, Polish. It sounds very interesting indeed. The Red Army in the early years of the war, as you mentioned, was composed almost entirely of conscripts, led by inexperienced officers. In the late '30s Stalin had liquidated nearly all of his experienced Army officers in purges based on his (I still think) paranoia. When the Germans first attacked it was a walk-over. Combat, however, is much like evolution only one hell of a lot quicker. Those who learned sometimes survived; those who did not became just one more unmarked grave on the Russian Steppes.
  4. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    She did make reference to the "Trained Reserves" Stalin had held back at the start, but not specifically, yet anyway.

    She also makes a good point that the NKVD and the "political officers" censored and confiscated MANY diaries and letters home that did not toe the party line "Everything is fine-Fritzes are Animals and can't take the cold-we are winning-every Soviet who has died (not many!) are heroes of the Motherland..."


    AND since the Soviets NEVER THREW ANYTHING AWAY, and especially kept anything that might someday be "evidence..."

    She is speculating that SOMEWHERE in the former USSR there are drums or filing cabinets or boxes stored away and still classified that contain MILLIONS of anecdotal stories of what the soldiers REALLY saw and experienced on the front, that SOMEDAY will be found by researchers....
  5. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

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    I've often wondered what % young Russian men who were 20 in 1941 survived the war. Those who were 20 in 1941 would soon be in be in combat for nearly four straight years. The chances of surviving the war would be low for these young men if they were in combat units the entire time.
  6. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

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    Polish does she hold to your theory that Soviets were never in that much danger of loosing the war?
  7. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    It isn't MY theory 17th...I just happen to agree with the logic of the recent historians who advanced it, after I saw their evidence...it IS tough to dispute, and DOES answer a lot of questions.

    All she has mentioned in passing is the "2 million trained reserves Stalin committed at Stalingrad..." she doesn't say directly WHERE he got them, but then I haven't checked her sources yet. But then again, it's probably the same sources I read.


    By the way, I've gotten spoiled reading SE Morison, at first I thought he was annoying with his extensive and detailed "footnotes," sometimes the FOOTNOTES in tiny print would take up more space on a page than his regular prose! But then there was no doubt you UNDERSTOOD his point he was making, right NOW...

    She "footnotes" most of her facts, but the explanations are at the end in a separate section, so I end up skipping refering to them to keep reading...


    Back to your point about losses, she hasn't been so detailed so far about INFANTRY losses, except to paint the picture of MASSIVE. But then again, how do you detail list MILLIONS???

    It's mostly "estimates," because you didn't differentiate between deaths and POWs, nobody kept track of the "malingerers" that just took a Nagant bullet in the ear and they left in the dust, and NOBODY counted deaths in the "Penal Battalions..." But her estimates are that about 30 MILLION Soviets served in the Red Army, and 8 MILLION of them DIED. Thats more than all the REST of the allies lost counting troops, sailors, civilians, EVERYBODY.


    For example, 152,000 troops received OFFICIAL execution sentences, that were carried out, not like "ours," but you can multiply that exponentially (your guess?) for the "unofficial" executions, of Soviets BY Soviets.

    One statistic that DID floor me was that during the war the Soviets trained 403,272 men and women to serve in Tanks, officially. Of these OVER 310,000 would DIE. I don't care HOW you dis the M4, WE averaged ONE death per tank knocked out, our tank losses never came CLOSE.

    She makes a good point that the Red Army was killed and rebuilt several times over the course of the war, and each reincarnation was different than the one before it, even if there was a FEW soldiers that fought the entire war, they did NOT really provide the 'cadre" like in the west for the new units.

    The "generation" that disappeared were the Pre-War Red Army, the 6 million strong "political" army that invaded Poland, Finland, and took the brunt of Barbarossa...FEW survived 41, and those that did kind of "disappeared," (I guess nobody wanted to hear much of "veterans" who "lost.")and even the ones who stopped the Germans at Moscow were "new," and even the Germans before Stalingrad, started seeing tougher fights at the Don, those troops were "Red Army II," (my terms, her explanation :cool: ) less political, more military, and mostly volunteers. That Red Army won and died around Kursk, and "Red Army III" which was the professional military "machine" that drove them out, again, mostly volunteer with SOME experienced veterans (heros) of Stalingrad, and Kursk, and won the war, later had the help of "Red Army IV" which was turning back to forced untrained "conscripts" most from conquered or "liberated" areas in reserve, with more political officer control due to less than "stellar" devotion to Stalin....
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2006
  8. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Well, I got to the chapter where she covers the "rapes" of '44, and '45...and even I was stunned...

    She pulls no punches. BUT she has got my respect as a Historian, there is NO proselytizing, or preaching. It's horrific enough with just the facts and first-hand accounts she cites. Even though I was EXPECTING it, I wasn't trully prepared for her account. I was even slightly nauseated reading it.

    She doesn't excuse it, or glorify it in any way. She treats it the same way she treated the Nazi atrocities in Russia, "just the facts."

    She places a LOT of blame on Stalin and the Soviet propagandists exhorting the troops at the border to now 'Get their revenge..." "To hold Court," and "pass judgement." There was also a lot of propaganda, and even perhaps verbal orders from Stalin that the Germans HAD to be treated "roughly" so they would be afraid to EVER go to war again...that the troops bought in to easily...one of the underlying themes was "Kill the wounded beast (and it's offspring) in it's lair..."

    But she also paints a good picture of the Soviet troops anger when they first started seeing the "rich" farms and "expensive" houses in Prussia, and started feeling rage that these "rich" people would invade and destroy Russia, which was POOR in comparison...couple that with the booze, the propaganda, and the "gang" mentality, as well as the way they thought of women in general, and started seeing the "dresses and heels...."she makes the point THAT was why there really WASN'T that many rapes in Romania, or Hungary until after the major fight for Budapest.

    But she stays away from "numbers," in fact she says something profound, "Numbers are dangerous tools, creating certainties on paper that have nothing much to do with life." She says ten thousand German women and girls suffered rape at the hands of Soviets, or the number may have reached 100,000. But she also warns that Goebbels was active until the end, and some of the "numbers" were contrived to make the Russians look WORSE. SHe cites a captured German diary from the end of the war which quotes a Berlin newspaper that said a 70 year old woman was raped 24 times...and the diarist entered "Who was keeping count?"

    Interestingly, the Soviets were generally considered KIND to "young children," carrying "sweets" in their pockets, almost sounding like US troops in that regard the veterans said they reminded them of THEIR children, and apparently any young mother with a SMALL child or baby was "immune" to being raped...by ANY Soviet. But ANY "woman" over 10 or 12, including OLD women, were "fair game."


    Another German woman who was hiding in a cellar also recorded that "The Russians seem to prefer 'plump' women to rape," and went so far to say it was almost justice for the ones "who were hoarding food all these years..."

    But she also says that with the fall of the USSR, Soviet citizens and veterans are having to face now the "stains" on their past like the Germans had to at the end of the war.

    But the bigger point she was making is it HAPPENED. There WERE bodies of women and girls that were lying along the sides of the roads dead raped multiple times wherever the Russian troops marched in Germany.....
  9. Polish, did the author mention that all those peasant Russian soldiers had to carry around a little card as a reminder? I understand it said, "rape first THEN kill. :D :p
  10. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    I'm not sure it mattered to some of them WHICH order they used...especially with sometimes several groups of twenty or more soldiers "standing in line" over individual women laying on the side of the road with their pants down, and an "officer" "directing traffic..." while the main column moved along the road...

    The quote that "It was so easy, you just stuck the Nagan (sic) to the side of their head and they would lie down and let you do anything to them" kind of stuck in my head when I read it...

    The underlying theme was that it was usually NOT for pleasure, and many Russian soldiers didn't like to "have to" do it...it was PUNISHMENT and REVENGE....that "had to be done..."

    But the OTHER shoe was if a Russian soldier DID survive the war, there was better than a 90% chance he had some sort of VD....
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2006
  11. swiftman

    swiftman Member

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    My bother has a book on the german that had the highest tank vs tank kills of the war he had 2 tours of duty fighting the russians. the first in a fixed gun tank with short barrel 75mm gun the second in tiger 1. If you read this it will not be hard to understand why so many soviet tankers died. Once they had tigers on the front and on the flank of the on coming russians. They destroyed so many tanks that the ones in the middle had could not get out of the circle of destroyed tanks. They just kept ramming thier own tanks trying to get out till they were destroyed.
  12. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    There is also a witnessed story in the book of a flaming T-34 that kept driving on at full speed even though you could hear the screams of the tankers inside until it rammed a Tiger and both exploded, and there were no survivors from either tank.

    But after the battle of Stalingrad, and especially after Kursk, it usually was the Germans getting nailed in the flank and getting shot up...I didn't know it, but the Russians considered their KV 152, and later the SU 152 as their "Tiger Killers"

    ANY hit from a 152 howitzer at point blank range to 1000 yds supposedly killed it, even if it didn't penetrate...


    And usually it was the AT guns that killed more tanks than tanks, and before 43 the Germans had it all with their long 75 and the 88, but after 43 they were outclassed by the Russian 100mm and 122mm rifles...the Germans had no answer for them, and they could nail even the King Tigers with ease, at range....
  13. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Actually the quote above for the SU-152 was the "Beast Killer," it was good on Panthers too...

    Well I finished the book, and her extensive notes, and I HIGHLY recommend it! In fact, I might just have to buy my own copy, it's a keeper.

    There are STILL official Russian (and from the other republics too) governmental agencies whose job it is to exhume the remains from mass graves that are found all over Russia, Belorussia, the Ukraine, Georgia, and the Crimea...

    In her notes there is even a report from one of these groups who studied the clothing and equipment, and catalogues the finds, that says..."by 1944, the Soviet soldier was better equipped and clothed than the German..." kind of eerie that its from WWII bodies being unearthed NOW...

    I learned that proportionately, compared to pre-war population, Poland actually lost more war dead (counting those killed by Germans AND Soviets, plus the Polish Jews, than any other nation in the war, a fact the Soviets kept buried so "nothing would overshadow Russian 'victimhood...'" just like they did MANY others....


    You cannot read this book without identifying just a little with the Soviet people under Stalin's thumb, AND end up hating Josef Stalin AND both Marxist/Leninist theory and Communism as a whole more than ever...


    And perfect timing too! Morison's Volume 10 arrived Friday! "The Atlantic Won, 1943-54"
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2006
  14. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

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    Russian equipment

    Polish, one of the "adult" channels (discover, history, etc.) had a show on Russian vs German equipment. They showed that the Russian clothes kept them much warmer. The Russians used oil lubricant with a small amount gasoline in their rifles. They operated much more easily in sub zero temps. Russian sniper scopes were easier to adjust, German scopes required a tool to adjust.

    It makes sense that the Russians would do better in the harsh climate, it was their home. They knew how to survive and thrive in the harsh climate.

    You talked about the SU 152 being the best tank killer, better than the German 88mm. Both weapons were deadly against any tank. The 152 had a heavy explosive shell (40 kilo gram vs "only" 9 kilo grams for the 88) But the 88 had a much higher velocity ( 800 m/s vs. 500 m/s for the 152) making for a flater trajectory increasing hit probability. Think of it this way, which would you rather shoot at a deer with at 150 yards, a 30-06 or a 12 gauge deer slug? The Slug will do more damage at short ranges, but it would be a heck of a shot to hit a deer at 150 yards with a deer slug. The same with the 88 vs. the 152. The 152's round weighs more than 4 x as much, but it would not shoot as acuratley at long range as the 88 mm.
    Last edited: May 3, 2006
  15. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    17th, I don't think I said she said :p the 152 was BETTER than the 88..., just that for the first couple of phases of the war, until about late 43, it was really the ONLY reliable killer of heavy German armor they had, and the Russians were happy with them for that...and that at close ranges, I think 1000 yds or less, closer than the range at which the 88 could kill THEM, but then the Russians ALWAYS prefered their artillery up close and personal, direct fire....leave the indirect to the katyushas...

    The MAIN Russian tank and AT gun for MOST of the war was the 76mm gun/howitzer, which was ACTUALLY about as powerful as the shorter barreled, lower velocity M2 75mm that our early M4 Shermans had. So even their arguably better T-34s (until the first T-34/85s showed up) and KV series heavy tanks were undergunned like our early (North Africa and some Sicily) M4s were against Tigers and Panthers, so they needed SOMETHING.


    What I said was "superior" to the 88 was the LATER Russian AT guns, first available towed in about mid to ate 44, the 100mm HV long barreled cannon and later the 122mm cannon...and then which showed up in the JS series tanks and SU and JSU series TDs...that is why the Germans were trying to get the 12.8 cm cannon to work in the Sturmtiger, and later MONSTER tanks, just to catch up with the Russians that by late 44 early 45 had PASSED German tank and At guns in size, velocity, range, and penetration....


    Heck, the Russian WWII 100mm towed AT gun was probably and probably still is, and probably will forever be, "state of the Art" for Towed AT guns and is STILL front line issue to many Armies to this day, and is "technically" capable of taking out even an Abrams...(the Iraquis had some at least in 91....) IF they could get a shot off, and being towed, it would be ONE shot. But the Pakistanis and Indians, and the Chinese, and many more, still use it...(Even if the CONCEPT of towed AT guns is obsolete and was by late WWII....)
    Last edited: May 4, 2006
  16. What you say is quite true, Polish, and I think you hint at an important point in addition to that. Toward the end of the war--say from 1944 to its end--the German technological advantage in battlefield weapons, so obvious in the first years of the war, had virtually disappeared. The German engineers had many excellent--even superior--weapons on the drawing board that would have been equal to any the allies had, but by 1944 German industry was unable to produce them in sufficient quantity to make any difference, whereas Russian production was in full swing. It is interesting to note that the one anti-tank weapon the Russians feared the most was not mounted on a tank or gun carriage at all. It was the simple, hand-held Panzerfust, usually fired by some stupid Hitler Jugend from 100 yards away. The Russkis lost a huge number of tanks to them in the final weeks of fighting in Berlin.
  17. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    And so did we..ALL those sandbags, logs, concrete and extra plates salvaged from knocked out half-tracks that drove Patton CRAZY at the end of the war because they were "cowardly" (?) and wore them out quicker due to the extra weight (probably true) on the M4s were NOT to stop 88s, but to MAYBE stop a shaped charge from a PF 15 or 30 getting through to the metal, but then the "skirts" on the later Pzkw IVs running gear and turret were the same thing....they didn't like our bazookas either....
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General Military Arms & History Forum The Atlantic War, 1939-1945 Dec 9, 2006