Soviet Tactical Doctrine in WWII
Shawn Caza

Based upon a chapter from the 1946 US army handbook on U.S.S.R. Military Forces, Soviet Tactical Doctrine in WWII is a highly informative, if dry, portrait of the mature Red Army of 1945. The tactics referred to in the book are those of a Red Army "Formation": a large-scale combat team about the size of a US division or brigade consisting of the necessary arms and minimum services needed to execute one phase of a large operation, e.g.: penetration, exploitation, etc.

The introduction contains an overview of Soviet tactics before 1942 including deficiencies and positive trends, which would lead to future success. The tactical doctrines formulated from the lessons learned in 1941-42 are discussed, as well as some predictions of the future (in 1946) shape of the Red Army.

The book is then broken up into three main parts: Part I, which is the shortest, examines the roles of the Commander of Combined Arms and his staff, combat intelligence, basic tactical plans and the transmission of orders and reports. Although this part is rather dry, the sections on intelligence and tactical plans are the quite interesting. “Tactical Plans” refers to the seven basic types of tactical plan used as the basis for all forms of manoeuvre and organization of operations by the Red Army.

Part II, Tactics of Ground Arms, is the core of the book and is, consequently, the largest. The large-scale role and tactics of infantry, artillery, armour, cavalry and engineers are covered in all forms of offence and defence. Particularly engrossing is the section on artillery, mortars and rockets since, as it’s first sentence states: "Artillery is the basic striking force of the Red Army." The section on cavalry and its heavy (compared to other combatant nations of WWII) use by the Red Army is also rather interesting.

Part III, Special Operations, looks at how a variety of terrain, climactic and visibility conditions affect offensive and defensive operations. Possibly the most fascinating section in this part, and perhaps the whole book, was on the subject of city warfare. Offensive and defensive urban combat is discussed, including the fortification of buildings and their connection by underground tunnels and the methods used to clear a city block-by-block and house-by-house.

Based on US and captured German intelligence from 1945 and originally intended for consumption by members of the US military; Soviet Tactical Doctrine in WWII can be a somewhat dry, and in some places difficult, read for the layman. There are no anecdotes or testimonials, nor are there any colourful descriptions of famous battles. There is also a refreshing lack of myths and misconceptions about the Red Army, which came to be accepted as truth during the cold war years. Overall I found this book very informative and would recommend it to anyone interested in a realistic look at WWII Soviet tactics on a large scale.

(Reviewed by Bryan Rombough)

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