Zinky Boys Book Review
Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War
By Svetlana Alexievich
Softcover, 197 pages
Published by Norton, 1997
Dimensions: 6.0 x 0.6 x 9.0 inches
This is the second book from author Svetlana Alexievich which I have read, the first being the Unwomanly Face of War. Like her other work, this book is comprised of several individual narratives. This book is noteworthy because is exposed the experiences of individual Soviet soldiers sent to Afghanistan at a time when the official Party line was to minimize the scope of the Russian presence there. Alexievich was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature for her works.
The title Zinky Boys is derived from the practice of sending casualties home in sealed Zinc coffins. Many of the anecdotes are those of wives or mothers whose men were returned to them this way. Other stories are of soldiers who were wounded, some who lost legs due to mines or IEDs. All the interviews are sad in some way, and there are portions which are gruesome.
There are a few themes which struck me as odd products of Soviet society in the 1980s. One is the shortage of consumer goods which we take for granted in the West, items such as tape recorders, cassette players, blue jeans, and make-up are mentioned in several accounts. Many of the soldiers bartered for these in Afghanistan to take back home when their tours were over. Rampant corruption often separated these treasured items from soldiers either through confiscation or as a means of bribing officials for transportation home. The practice of abuse from the soldiers near the end of their tours towards the new arrivals was widely practiced and goes far beyond anything we would describe as hazing in the West. Also, the lack of material support was appalling, especially in the area of medical supplies, some of which had been in storage since the Great Patriotic War.
In many ways this book is a commentary of Soviet society at the time. Unfortunately, there are also parallels to the previous American experience in Vietnam and the war in Afghanistan after. Those looking for a military history of the Soviet war in Afghanistan should look elsewhere, this book is a narrative collection of individual stories which exposed a secret the Soviet leadership would have preferred to have kept hidden. This is an important work, but a tragic story.
Rising Tide: The Untold Story of The Russian Submarines That Fought the Cold War
By Gary E. Weir and Walter J. Boyne
Hardcover in dustjacket, 354 pages, photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, and index
Published by Basic Books, October 2003
Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
The submarine service of any nation is generally cloaked in secrecy, and with good reason. The primary advantage of a submarine is stealth – leave port, pull the plug, and disappear. The submarine is then free to operate anywhere her speed and endurance can take her, and perform any task desired. But if a submarine is detected it is suddenly vulnerable.
Rising Tide pulls back the curtain on Soviet submarine operations during the Cold War. The authors base the book on interviews with several former Soviet submarine Captains. While not widely known outside of naval circles, the Soviet boats were notoriously unreliable and several of the anecdotes in the book deal with fires and accidents, a number of which resulted in loss of life and / or sinking of the submarine. There was a callousness towards the lives of the crews not seen in Western navies, and Soviet submarines employed technologies and design practices which would have not even been considered in other navies. Adding to the problems were substandard maintenance and training practices. These are illustrated by the deployment of several Foxtrot-class attack submarines during the Cuban Missile Crisis, none of which were completely operational after crossing the Atlantic. A second example is the loss of the Oscar II class submarine Kursk, which was attributed to an explosion of a practice torpedo. Subsequent investigation revealed the torpedo had not been properly maintained and that the crew had not actually fired a torpedo in years.
The book concludes with an analysis of Gorshkov’s History of the Soviet Navy and a brief comparison of American and Soviet submarines. Gorshkov’s writings are at times insightful, and at other times almost laughable. Overall, I found this book offered an interesting (though by necessity, incomplete) perspective on how the “other side” did things. Recommended.
The box says Encore, but Scalemates indicates this kit was first issued by Dakoplast in 1997, then Encore, then Eastern Express, and finally Modelist. As Marc mentioned in comments to the build thread the sprues match the ICM kit. I enclosed the wheelwells, replaced the wheels, and substituted a vacuform canopy for the awful kit piece. The model represents a generic Yak-9T of the 3rd FAC operating in the Kursk area, summer 1943.
Construction posts here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/07/30/encore-yakovlev-yak-9-build-in-1-72-scale-part-i/
More finished pictures here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/08/10/encore-yakovlev-yak-9-in-1-72-scale/
Ivan Golubin was credited with 13 personal and 2 group victories, and was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. He died when the MiG-3 he was piloting crashed in bad weather on 01NOV42. The model depicts the aircraft he flew with the 434th FAR in July 1942 over Stalingrad.
Vladimir Zalevskiy was credited with 17 personal and 23 group victories. He was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, but was shot down and killed on 05JUN43. This was the aircraft he flew with the 157th FAD during the summer of 1943.
More completed Yak-7B pictures here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/08/03/dakoplast-yakovlev-yak-7b-of-lieutenant-ivan-golubin-in-1-72-scale/
Vladimir Orekhov was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union for achieving 19 personal and 3 shared victories during the Great Patriotic War. The model depicts his aircraft during the fall of 1942 while operating with the 434th FAR on the Stalingrad Front.
More completed Yak-7B pictures here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/07/29/valom-yakovlev-yak-7b-of-captain-vladimir-zalevskiy-in-1-72-scale/
US Aircraft in the Soviet Union and Russia
By Yefim Gordon, Sergey Komissarov, and Dmitri Komissarov
Hardcover in dustjacket, 355 pages, bibliography, profusely illustrated, color profiles
Published by Midland Publishing Ltd., January 2010
Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.9 x 11.5 inches
The Lend-Lease policy was enacted in March 1941, before America’s entry into the Second World War. It allowed the United States to provide military and logistical material to Allied nations fighting the Axis. While the main beneficiary of this aid was the United Kingdom, a significant portion went to the Soviet Union. This included roughly half a million vehicles and about fifty percent of the food, ammunition and aviation gasoline consumed by the Soviets. While this aid was officially downplayed publicly, Stalin admitted privately that the USSR would have lost the war without the vast amount of material supplied by the U.S., Great Britain, and Canada.
Part of this aid was over 11,400 U.S. aircraft. Most types operated by the USAAF were represented, with the largest portions being the Bell P-39 Airacobra with 4,719 provided and the follow-on P-63 Kingcobra with 2,397. Soviet pilots were enthusiastic about both types.
I expected this book to be about the Lend-Lease program. While that is a primary focus and occupies a substantial portion of the page count, there is so much more. The book opens with the purchase of a Wright A Flyer in 1908, and several additional pre-war types made their way to the Soviet Union under various arrangements. A surprise (to me at least) were the Soviet efforts to acquire American heavy bombers. These were denied under Lend-Lease, the USAAF citing the need for every bomber they could get, but several crash-landed examples were discovered as the Red Army pushed into Eastern Europe. Many of these were repaired, and the USSR were able to operate both the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator in squadron strength. The story of the Tu-4 Bull, reverse-engineered from three interred B-29 Superfortresses is better known. There is also a small section dealing with U.S. types (or components) acquired in various ways during the Cold War, and a much larger section on U.S. civilian types purchased after the end of the Soviet era beginning in 1991.
This is a beautiful book and a valuable reference. The pages are printed on glossy stock, and there is no shortage of photographs, line drawings, and high-quality profile artwork. Modelers looking for unusual schemes for American aircraft types will be thrilled. Highly recommended. If the subject interests you at all pick this one up, you will not be disappointed!