The Red Army Handbook 1939-1945
Stephen J. Zaloga & Leland S Ness

Stephen Zaloga is an expert on the Red Army, and a superb model-maker. He has extensively written on both topics, and produced TV programmes as well. Leland Ness is a defense expert and Pentagon advisor.

‘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.

(Reviewed by Andreas Biermann)

Buy the book using the links below and you help support the site: