Saturday, May 19, 2012

More things learned by reading

I have been slowly working my way through an article about the defense of Dnepropetrovsk in August and September 1941. The neat part is that it is from the Russian perspective and provides some different insight than the normal German Centric views on the early months of the war in the East.

The article is titled "In the Battle for Kiev" and is by Major General J. Zamertsev and originally appeared in the Russian publication Military History Magazine (No 11, 1964). You can find the article here.

Now granted, I do not read or speak Russian and translating this has been largely through the kind services of Google but it is rather fascinating. One claim made in the article was that the initial defensive positions made by Soviet troops were a "cell system of trenches" that were used outside of Dnepropetrovsk that the article calls "unsuitable in practice." The drawback was that the commander could not affect all of his men. A soldier or group of soldiers would be isolated from one another and not feel the impact of their commander. This would lead to troops hiding in the "well of his trench." To my mind, this paints a picture of a series of disconnected spider holes that the platoon would be deployed into. The article goes on to describe high losses to company and platoon commanders who were attempting to motivate their men.

The article also relates that the defensive structures would change during this period to platoon trenches. This kept the men in touch with one another and enabled the commanders to move within the safety of the trench to communicate with their men. The defensive system became closer to the trench systems that were encountered in World War One. With dugouts for the men, communication trenches to connect the various platoon trenches and observation posts.

This just begs for testing out with company or platoon level rules. Being the fan of TooFatLardies rules that I am, this can easily be modeled with either the Troops, Weapons and Tactics rules or even the company level IABSM rules. For example, a Big Man in TW&T has a command radius of 18 inches. A platoon deployed in spider holes rather than trenches would be dispersed so that a number of the men would be beyond the 18" command radius of the Platoon leader. Given the core assumption of TW&T that "we presume that troops left to their own devices will quite happily spot, take cover, fire and generally defend themselves, but will not act in a dynamic fashion," we can see that the troops outside of the command radius would not act on their own. They would act defensively and generally attempt to not get killed. Or behave as described in the article by hiding in the well of their trench.

Once deployed to platoon trenches, the dynamic changes as the big man is able to move to motivate his troops without exposing himself unnecessarily to enemy fire. I am planning on using the differences in defensive postures in my scenarios with the CSIR.

Among the other items that I discovered are some articles about river crossings in the Ukraine. Given that the Ukraine has some 3000 rivers, this should prove to be interesting. Now all I need are some really good period maps of the Ukraine. has a bunch including a number of maps detailing the Dnieper River that are proving useful. But these are 1:50,000 scale. I would love to find some that are 1:10,000 but I won't hold my breath.

Well back to the books.


  1. Fascinating. So did you cut and paste the Russian text into the Google translator?

    1. Absolutely. It is a little tougher when you have print materials. I have a good scanner at work that makes editable PDFs out of documents that I can cut and paste from. However there are always a few words that do not scan correctly and you need to edit them. Russian is a bit harder in that you have to use the character map to find the messed up Russian characters.