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The Red Army in the Second World War, by Alexander Hill

New York: Cambridge University Press., 2017. Pp. xviii, 740. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $34.99. ISBN: 1107020794.

The Rise of the Red Army

Prof. Hill (Calgary) gives us an institutional history of the Red Army, from the mid-1920s through the horrors and triumphs of the Great Patriotic War.

While this has certainly been covered before, most notably by David Glantz in his many works on the subject, Hill is particularly interested in the factors that shaped the Red Army in developing the logistical, organizational and administrative institutions necessary for the conduct of mass mobile combat. He devotes nearly half the book to events before the German onslaught of 1941.

Hill examines the evolution of the army from an ill-armed quasi-militia force in the 1920s, still essentially unchanged from the improvised army of the Russian Civil War, into a forward looking, very professional force by the early ‘30s, which was then subject to the devastating effects of the Purges on leadership and doctrine. He includes some perceptive analysis of the lessons learned – or missed -- in wars in Spain and the Far East, the Polish Campaign of 1939, and the disaster in Finland in 1939-1940, which led to renewed efforts to reform the army.

Only then does Hill address the German invasion. He offers a tightly written account that integrates battlefield events, organizational, tactical and technological innovation, and political and command changes that enabled the Red Army to survive the disaster of 1941, beginning a long and costly recovery that would lead it to Berlin four years later.

Although it has some stylistic problems, needing perhaps a bit more aggressive editing, The Red Army and the Second World War, a volume in the Cambridge series “Armies of the Second World War”, is an important read for anyone with an interest in the Second World War, Russian military history, or military reform.


Note: The Red Army and the Second World War is also available in paperback and several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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