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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Red Assault: Soviet Airborne Forces 1939-1941

A truly stunning book, 343 pages of Soviet airborne information and photographs.

For years I have been collecting books about airborne forces and therefore I can guarantee that this book is amazing. Very few readers outside what was once the Soviet Union will have previously seen more than two or three of the book´s photographs. And Red Assault has plenty of photos - that match the surprisingly rich text. And there is a Swedish connection.

Red Assault: Soviet Airborne Forces 1939-1941 by Vladimir Kotelnikov shows, with an amazingly detailed text and lots of different illustrations, that the Soviet airborne were pioneers in more ways than imagined. Because not only does it tell the story of the known airborne equipment and experiments, but also several ideas and tests that have never been documented in any previous book. The early Soviet airborne infatuation with armoured vehicles was not limited to the T-37A amphibious tank. Several other AFVs were tested by the airborne troops. Sketches and fine drawings reveal even more advanced ideas like a "helicopter tank" and then there was the quite adorable "avia-motorcycle" in two variants.

Airborne recoilless guns, an experimental camouflaged jump suit, various parachutes, special gliders, airborne dogs, airdrop sledges - this book has them all and often the quality of both the information and photographs is astounding.

Aircraft buffs will also be baffled, because early Soviet paratroopers were not only dropped from huge TB-3s, Red Assault contains many more types, some very futuristic designs. And now a Swedish connection: "There was a shortage of alloy steel in the country at the time and it had to be imported first and foremost from Sweden."

Not that surprisingly, Mikhail Tukhachevskiy is one of the officers portrayed in this book. But Vladimir Kotelnikov, for credible reasons, writes more about the "fanatic" and "genius" Pavel Grokhovskiy. This airborne pioneer deserves to become better known.

Is there nothing lacking in this book? The parts about the operations in Poland and Finland are short. What about the scope, the book ends in 1941. Well, if it were to cover also 1941-45 with the same degree of detail as 1930-1939 it would be thick as a brick. Better focus on that period in another book. But by the very nature of the events between 1941 and 1945 such a book can not contain as much about airborne development and equipment as Red Assault does. This is because the Soviet airborne forces in 1941-45 found themselves fighting most desperately, largely without aircraft and with no time or resources for airborne development. The Soviet visions of massive airborne operations were not possible to realize until the 1960s.

Sometimes book covers claim that a book is original and contains new insights, photos etc, but the book then actually offers very little that collectors have not seen before. Well, this is just not the case with Red Assault. It delivers. Both airborne and aircraft buffs will be pleasantly surprised by Vladimir Kotelnikov´s book, translated by Kevin Bridge and published by the UK publisher Helion & Company.

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