Thursday 9 January 2020

The One with the Rifle Shoots

"The first myth that is repeated by the film industry in particular is that the Red Army went into battle with one rifle for every 3, 5, even 10 men, fill in the blank yourself. This myth maintains that in the USSR, near Moscow, militiamen with one rifle per 10 had to stop German tanks, even though that is madness, that is not possible. The Red Army never had big problems, specifically big problems, with small arms. This was because there were large stockpiles from the Tsarist army and then the trophies from the Polish campaign. You'll laugh, but the source of this myth is the German Volkssturm. They really had one rifle with one clip of ammunition per 3 or 5 men. In the Red Army, in the worst case scenario, had its auxiliary troops go unarmed: drivers or artillerymen that fire guns from the rear at map squares. They don't really need a rifle. When there was not enough guns, such as in the summer of 1941, the guns were taken from these rear line units, from the horse handlers and such. On the front line the troops were armed well. The claim that soldiers would go into battle and would have to find a weapon there is nonsense. This is a very resilient myth. There are scarier things in war than having to go into battle to get a rifle, but this myth persists. "

Aleksey Isayev: Myths of the Great Patriotic War


  1. Never heard this myth, and my pedigree stretches back to Mellenthin and Paul Carrell. :P I don't know how widespread this "Russian soldiers were sent headlong into battle to their deaths without rifles" myth was, but if so it was incongruously coupled with "along with inexhaustible 'hordes' of tanks and Sturmoviks"

    1. Just look Enemy at the Gates 2001 or Call of Dute 1

    2. Call of Duty? The game? I put very little stock in video gaming. Video gaming is at best like the old AH "Squad Leader", seemingly realistic in detail but not in overall effect. In part that's because gamers, unlike soldiers and tankers don't actually risk dying. If they did, everyone would become a LOT more circumspect.

      As for the movie Enemy at the Gates, I don't know what they did in the movie but in the book (which I have) it doesn't mention Soviet soldiers lacking rifles.

      So maybe some of this myth-making is entirely modern, not from the likes of Mellenthin or Carell, who usually stressed the Germans only losing because of numbers, but from entirely modern Wehrmacht fanboys who also do things like push up German AT gun penetration stats above anything actually achieved by Western testing of same those guns.

    3. IIRC the running-gag catchphrase Peter used as the title here is taken *directly* from EatG: The Movie. Been a while since I saw it but I distinctly remember the opening sequence playing the "one rifle per 3-6 guys" trope dead straight.

      IIRC the Men At War games were better about this (within the considerable limitations of the AI anyway); I recall one has a part involving a penal battalion being rather casually in a frontal assault against a well-defended position with due carnage ensuing - tbf this is fairly early into Barbarossa - but the strafniki are all properly kitted out with rifles and grenades however much good that now does them under the circumstances. (Ie. not a lot, but the player will likely loot the corpses a fair bit to resupply the ones under his direct control.)


      Call of duty repeats this scene 1 b 1