Book: ‘Blood on the Shores’ by Viktor Leonov

5 10 2010

Blood on the Shores [Amazon]  is both a first-person account and a meticulously researched study of Soviet naval special operations forces in World War II.

It is based on the 1957 memoirs of Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Viktor Leonov, who commanded in combat the reconnaissance detachments of the Northern and Pacific fleets. Leonov describes his entry into the elite Northern Fleet naval scout unit in July 1941 and the tactical and operational raids that followed against German forces based in Norway from 1941 through 1944. His story climaxes in the Far East, where Leonov’s Pacific Fleet detachment distinguished itself in daring amphibious landings into Japanese-held Korean ports in advance of Soviet main naval and ground forces.

The translator’s introduction and other materials reveal another significant activity of Soviet naval intelligence – the insertion of Soviet and Norwegian intelligence operatives deep into the German rear in Norway by submarine and parachute. These men monitored German ship traffic from Tromso northward, providing timely and accurate intelligence reports directly to Northern Fleet headquarters. When German counterintelligence rounded up and destroyed this agent net, Leonov’s detachment assumed the mission. Because Leonov could not describe these highly secretive activities in 1957 when his memoir was first published in the Soviet Union, the translator’s contributions to this work are crucial to a fuller understanding of the scope of Soviet naval special operations and intelligence activities in World War II.

Historical documentation found in recently opened Russian archives, a survey of the scout detachments of other fleets, captured German documents, and an extensive bibliography help make this a useful reference book as well as an entertaining read about the exploits of these legendary naval commandos.

Editor’s note: I read this book as a teenager and remember it to this day. I remember my father buying this book at a Detroit gas station for $1.99. Definately a re-read!


Books: The Volatile Caucasus, Calmly and Carefully Assessed

4 10 2010

The snow-capped peaks that rise from Russia’s south and fall toward Turkey, Iran and the Black and Caspian Seas present barriers in almost every sense: to traffic, to trade, to development, to military action, to rapprochement and to smooth integration with the outside world. In the diversity of the mountains’ people and their pasts, with the deep wells of grievances and grudges that reach far back in time, stoked by the contest for resources and stature, they present barriers to understanding as well.

“The Caucasus: An Introduction” (Amazon) will likely have many lives. Why? The wars that broke out in the 1990s are not over. Mr. De Waal’s book is welcome now, and most useful. If one of the wars flares up again, it will be essential.

Read the rest at: NYTimes – C.J. CHIVERS – At War

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