Michael Z. Williamson’s Book Review: Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand Combat: An Authentic Field Manual of the Red Army

Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand Combat: An Authentic Field Manual of the Red Army. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)
Gen A. A. Tarasov (Author), Boris Karpa (Translator)

Translated from the Soviet WWII original.  Boris Karpa has done an excellent job of maintaining the flavor of the Soviet manual, keeping the read interesting, and making it reasonably clear. Some sections are a bit awkward, but it seems to be from the original writing, not a translation difficulty.  Those areas that don’t translate well are covered more than adequately by the original illustrations.

The first half of the book covers moving in combat and under fire.  It addresses movement over terrain, over obstacles, in and out of trenches, and scaling of walls.  Most of it should be familiar to anyone who’s read similar military manuals.  The basics don’t change.  There are a couple of neat tricks I haven’t seen elsewhere, for small unit tactics crossing obstacles, as well as for entering close quarters while keeping the weapon ready to engage.

The second half deals with actual combat.  There is a lengthy section on how to throw grenades from various positions, that won’t currently be of much use to most readers, but is certainly useful for information, research, and for studying body mechanics, since one can throw other items besides grenades.

The next chapter covers the basics of bayonet and stock, and the explanations and diagrams clearly show the maneuvers, and the text covers specifics down to hip rotation and foot movement for generating the most power in the attack.  I found this section to be a very good summary of melee, and could be useful in event one needs to defend a position.  It does go into detail on using the bayoneted rifle like a spear—I recognized the techniques from medieval manuscripts and Asian martial arts.  This is very useful information, especially for one using a traditional bolt action rifle with its long stock.  One can use a full-length rifle as a very effective pike and club when empty, jammed, or when ammo is at a premium.

The manual advises practice and rehearsal of various other suggested moves on an individual case, basically, to learn one’s body and how it moves.

There are some supplemental descriptions of fighting into or out of a trench, actual bayonet fencing against an opponent, some stock strikes and blocks.  This was the twilight of the bayonet, as far as training, but most of the old tactics are still in here, and worth knowing.

The final sections cover in extremis—using a standard shovel or entrenching tool against a foe with a bayonet, and even bare hands if need be.  The reader is motivated to believe the fundamental fact that the mind is the real weapon.

I found Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand Combat to be a readable, useful reference.  It’s not a large book at 45 pages, but it has quite a bit of content, and the original pictures are well-executed.  It’s also an interesting historical reference to the Soviet combat mindset. Mr Karpa has done an impressive job with this translation.

Disclosure:  I received a downloadable .doc file for review.  I have no financial interest in this book.

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