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Iron Fist of the RKKA

Cookie Sewell

Book Review: Tekhnika-Molodezhi "Tank Battles" Series; Iron Fist of the RKKA: Tank and Mechanized Corps of the Red Army 1932-41 by I. Dorogovoz with A. Il'in and V. Golobkov; Tekhnika-Molodezhi Publishing House, Moscow 1999; 80   pp. (no ISBN number; price about $14 from Eastern Front Hobbies

Advantages: Good, clear concise history of Soviet experimentation with the   assembly and use of tank heavy forces during the 1930s and early part of WWII; many new and fresh illustrations

Disadvantages: all text in Russian, with English translation of photographs alone

Rating: Highly Recommended

Recommendation: For modelers (all) and for historians with Russian language ability

The last few years have seen a real press for new and honest histories coming out of Russia and Ukraine, and this one is the latest from "Tekhnika-Molodezhi".   For those interested in where these publications come from, there are currently three leaders in the field from Russia: M-Khobbi, which publishes its books with Exprint and is become more widely available in the US and UK;   "Modelist-Konstruktor", from the magazine company of the same name, which publishes its 32 page "Armored Collection" series in paper format of a standard size; and "Tekhnika-Molodezhi", which is probably one of the oldest companies and best known. Materials are drawn from the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense (TsAMO) and the Central State Archives of the Russian Federation.

This book covers the creation of the large tank and mechanized corps during the 1930s and how the Soviets came to wind up with very unwieldy 22,000 man formations of over 700 tanks each. The problem they suffered was that while they had assembled the formations to concentrate their striking power, they had such a short tooth-to-tail ratio that they were not very effective in action, and could not exploit the initial damage they could inflict. The solution adopted after WWII began was to either concentrate on tank brigade formations which were much smaller but far more flexible and capable, or go to a new corps with smaller formations. The corps of 1944 was division-sized by US standards, much more controllable, and much more effective in combat than its 1939 predecessor. The photographs in the book are the only part given in both English and Russian, and while the translations are much more terse in English, they do mostly convey the point the authors wanted to make. There are over 150 good, clear shots of the equipment and men of the RKKA tank forces in action or in training, and this will help modelers with details of pre-war Soviet armor and crew kit. A number of new photos of destroyed Soviet equipment from the early days in 1941 are also included to highlight the initial lack of air-ground coordination and the "target rich" status of the bulky corps structures. A number of tables (alas, again all in Russian) are included to show both the starting numbers and the losses of many of the formations. Few of the commanders (such as Rokossovskiy, who was arrested for nebulous reasons prior to the war and only released when good commanders became a short-list item) of the pre-war corps rose to fame.   

Overall, an excellent book but one which will only be of use to historians when translated.

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