Penalty Strike: The Memoirs of a Red Army Penal Company Commander, 1943-45

Penalty Strike: The Memoirs of a Red Army Penal Company Commander, 1943-45 Book Cover Penalty Strike: The Memoirs of a Red Army Penal Company Commander, 1943-45
Stackpole Military History Series
Alexander V. Pyl'cyn
Military History
Stackpole Books
2009
Paperback
224

I have to say that this was one of the most interesting books I've read about the East Front in some time. After hearing so many vague myths about the "shtrafbats", it was very interesting to read the account of a veteran of such a unit. The author's style, while clearly not that of a professional historian, was refreshingly straightforward and brutally honest. I had the feeling I was sitting with the author on a campstool somewhere while he told his story...

It was fascinating to hear about the types of battles that the shtrafbats where used for, and how men ended up in them (and got out of them). It was also interesting to hear about the bonds that grew up between the men in the unit, despite the fact that it was a "penalty" unit, and how commanders at various levels (from battalion to army) affected the morale in the unit. Despite the fact that all of the men in the unit had been declared "traitors" for various (often trivial) misdeeds, most of them considered themselves true patriots, were eager to prove it, and were disgusted by the real traitors and cowards among them. It was also humorous to read how after various confrontations with regular army officers, they would threaten to send the author to a "shtrafbat", only for him to inform them that he was already in one...

This is not a "study" of strafbats, nor a professional history, so readers should manage their expectations. There are no maps, and indeed, the author often didn't know exactly where he was, what enemy units he was facing, or even which Soviet units they were supporting. Nonethelss, it is a fascinating personal account of a little-known aspect of the East Front.

  • Rating
5

Add a Comment