Zinky Boys Book Review

Zinky Boys Book Review

Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

By Svetlana Alexievich

Softcover, 197 pages

Published by Norton, 1997

Language: English

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0-393-33686-3

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 Book Review

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

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎0-465-09112-1

ISBN-13: ‎978-0-465-09112-6

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.

Encore Yakovlev Yak-9 in 1/72 Scale

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.

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Construction posts here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/07/30/encore-yakovlev-yak-9-build-in-1-72-scale-part-i/

Encore Yakovlev Yak-9 Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

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The wing joint took a lot of filling, I used several applications of Perfect Plastic Putty to get it smooth. I also used the PPP to blend the Falcon vacuform canopy, which was a vast improvement over the kit piece.
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Here is the underside after filling with superglue and sanding. The position of the radiator and the cockpit opening is dependent on the type of Yak-9 being built.
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The model was primed with Mr. Surfacer 1000. You can see by the sanding that the wing root required multiple applications of filler to finally smooth out.
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This model was finished in the AMT 12 / 11 / 7 scheme mixed from Mr. Color paints. The dark gray faded quickly and could be lighter than I’ve shown here, but I like the contrast.
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Decals were spares from the Arma Yak-1 kits with the exception of the emblem on the nose, which is from the Begemot Yak-7 sheet.
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I substituted spare wheels from Eduard’s La-5 kit and replaced the pitot tube and gun barrels with Albion tube.
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Well, it can be built! The Yak-9 was in service with several nations well into the 1950’s and had a production run of over 15,000. It’s surprising that there isn’t a new tool kit, you’d think it would be a natural for a company like Zvezda.  I like the way it turned out, but then again I am not a VVS expert so the shortcomings don’t jump out at me.

More finished pictures here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/08/10/encore-yakovlev-yak-9-in-1-72-scale/

Dakoplast Yakovlev Yak-7B of Lieutenant Ivan Golubin 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.

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Construction posts here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/07/16/yakovlev-yak-7b-build-in-1-72-scale-dakoplast-and-valom-kits-part-i/

Encore Yakovlev Yak-9 Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

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Lurking in the stash was this Yak-9 in an Encore Models box. This kit was first issued by Dakoplast in 1997, then Encore, then Eastern Express, and finally Modelist. It is not considered to be a good kit by those who know the Yak-9 and is known to have several shape issues. I am not an expert on the type therefore the shape issues don’t jump out at me so I decided to build the kit along with all the other Yaks. When else would I ever build one?

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The box contained two sprues with a lot of mold release. I wash all my sprues in hot soapy water before beginning construction. These got a good long soak. When done there was still some discoloration but no sign of oil. The two fuselages are there to account for the different placement of the cockpit and radiator between different subtypes.

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The cockpit is basic. The control column looked like it would be more trouble than it was worth to clean up so I substituted one made from wire.

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The wheelwells have some detail but there are gaps showing up into the fuselage and at the rear of the well. Another Yak kit which will need some work with Evergreen card.

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The cockpit under a coat of paint, what there is of it. Not super detailed but the basics are in place.

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There are some gaps on the underside seams which will need addressed. You can see the card used to close up the wheelwells in this photo as well.

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There is a pronounced step at the wing joint which will take some filling. At this point I should also mention that the clear canopy was beyond useless – it looked like it had been squished and no way was it ever going to fit. I used one for a Yak-3 from a Falcon vacuform set which looked much, much better and actually fit pretty well.

Part II here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/08/06/encore-yakovlev-yak-9-build-in-1-72-scale-part-ii/

Valom Yakovlev Yak-7B of Captain Vladimir Zalevskiy in 1/72 Scale

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.

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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/

Valom Yakovlev Yak-7B of Lieutenant Vladimir Orekhov 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.

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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 Book Review

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

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎ 1-85780-308-6

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1-85780-308-2

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!

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Yakovlev Yak-7B Build in 1/72 Scale, Dakoplast and Valom Kits Part II

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Limited run kits often present fit challenges, and the Dakoplast Yak-7 is no exception. The wing roots will take some filling to eliminate the seams.

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The underside is no better. The kit features a gap where the chin scoop fits, and my example was short-shot behind the scoop. Nothing some Evergreen and a dab of filler won’t fix!

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The undersides of the Valom kits are also rough. I prefer to fill areas like this with superglue, using accelerator they can be sanded and re-filled right away. Also, the superglue will not draw in along the seams later, which can be a problem with thin glues and soft plastic.

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Just like the Brengun Yak-1, these Yak-7’s also have different thicknesses between the horizontal tail pieces and the fairings molded with the fuselage. These can be reduced with an Xacto knife and sanded smooth.

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Everything is filled and sanded. The canopy pieces are in place and the gaps filled with Perfect Plastic Putty. The landing light is sanded flush and buffed out before painting to ensure the will be no gaps.

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A shot of the underside of the Dakoplast kit showing the wheel wells and repairs to the oil cooler scoop. In contrast with the clunky fit issues the surface details are pretty well done.

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Seamwork on the Valom kits, which had fit issues at the wing roots. I replaced the cowl guns with Albion tube.

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The Valom kits are a little better underneath, but only a little.

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Priming with Mr. Surfacer 1000 always reveals a few areas to fill and re-sand, but it’s also the first time the model starts to look like a model and not a collection of parts.

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The obligatory photo showing the Mr. Color paints used.

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I used decals from Begemot sheet 72-051, which contains eighty marking options. Only seventy-seven more to go, I’m not sure how I feel about that. The decals went on without any drama, but the whites could be a little more opaque.

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Here is the underside of one of the Valom kits. The inner wheelwell doors were replaced with plastic card, stencils are extras from the Arma Yak-1 kits.

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All three together. These are classic examples of limited-run kit technology and take some work to build up. They are not quick builds and there are several areas where some basic improvements go a long way to making the kits look better. If the Yak-7 is your thing, this is the way you’re going to have to go, at least until someone issues a new tool.

More completed Yak-7B pictures here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/07/27/valom-yakovlev-yak-7b-of-lieutenant-vladimir-orekhov-in-1-72-scale/