Vasiliy Krysov served as the commander of a T-34, a heavy tank and a self-propelled gun (tank destroyer) during some of the most titanic battles on the Eastern Front, including Stalingrad, Kursk, the long campaign to push the Germans out of the Soviet Union and Poland and the final invasion of East Prussia, ending with the battle around Konigsberg.
Krysov began work on his memoirs during the 1970s, taking advantage of veterans' reunions to fill in gaps in his own memories (in particular to supply place names that he had either forgotten or never known). This work was then supported by research in the Russian Ministry of Defence archives, so Krysov's vivid memories of events have been placed within a well-researched and accurate framework. The work wasn't published in Russia until 2008, after the end of Soviet censorship.
Krysov volunteered to join the Red Army on 23 June 1941, two days after he graduated from secondary school and one day after learning of the German invasion. He was sent straight to a Tank School, and remained within the armoured branch for the rest of the war. During his combat career he fought in the KV-1S heavy tank, the SU-122 and SU-85 self-propelled guns and the T-34/85 medium tank. For much of his career he was either a battery or platoon commander, so as well as providing us with a picture of life within the individual armoured vehicle, he also had a somewhat wider perspective on events. The start of his career demonstrates that the tank crews at least were not as poorly trained as we often assume - despite the crushing defeats being suffered by the Red Army in the early months of the war, Krysov received an entire year of training, and didn't enter combat until the summer of 1942.
Krysov's memoirs play a valuable role in presenting a balanced picture of life within the Red Army, countering both the very hostile attitude found in many German memoirs (in which the Red Army is portrayed as fighting through fear of its own officers and with little or no skill), and the formulaic approach of many Soviet era memoirs. What emerges here is a picture of a more complex army, in which most soldiers were motivated to keep fighting by the bonds they had formed with their immediate comrades (the same picture that emerges from German, American and British memoirs). The role of the Communist Party is also more complex than it is often portrayed, with the political officers emerging as a rather mixed group, some bad, some very impressive.
This is a very valuable contribution to the literature on both the Red Army during the Second World War, and on armoured warfare, mixing a vivid picture of life away from the fighting with some detailed accounts of armoured combat, in some cases on a shot-by-shot basis!
1 - My Journey to the Front
2 - Stalingrad
3 - Kursk 1943
4 - Operation Kutuzov
5 - To the Dnieper River, August-September 1943
6 - Reorganization near Moscow, September-October 1943
7 - The Liberation of Kiev, November 1943
8 - The Pursuit to Fastov
9 - Von Manstein Attempts Another 'Backhand Blow'
10 - Rest and Refitting
11 - The December Zhitomir-Berdichev Offensive
12 - From the Front to a Hospital and Back Again
13 - The July 1944 Offensive of the Kovel Axis
14 - From the Western Bug to Siedlce, Poland
15 - In East Prussia
Author: Vasiliy Krysov
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military