The German forces were bogged down by the Russian winter, the Russian victory at Stalingrad and the following spring rain and mud. In the summer of 1943 that the Germans had amassed a massive force to attack Russia and recover lost ground. This could lead to the biggest tank battle in history and also lends a dynamic background to this publication.
There are 4 major characters that drive this story. The next 3 are from the exact Russian Cossack family. Dimitri Berko, a personal driving the T-34 from the Soviet 3rd Mechanized Division. He’s controlled by Sergeant Valentin Berko, Dimitri’s son, and Katya Berkovna, Dimitri’s daughter, a night bomber with the famed all-female bomber squadrons of the Red Air Force, so the Night Witches from the Germans that they bomb. The 3 primary narrative lines follow Vega being assigned to escort the new super panzer of the German Army, the Tiger 1 Panzerkampfwagen VI, through train to the front and ensure that the Tigers are delivered undamaged. He then begins itching for action to control one of the Tiger tanks in the Battle of Kursk. He soon realizes how the Tiger is most successful in battle. With Demitri and boy Valentin at precisely the identical T-34 there’s a lot of the father/son tension together with the tank battles that ensue. The author keeps all things separate into what sounds like 3 distinct stories revolving around the build up to the tank battle at Kursk. Each character has there own well detailed back stories which are fleshed out through memories, flashbacks and boastful story telling through the lulls in fighting.
The best aspect of the book is that the historical accuracy and detail of the Tiger tank and the Battle of Kursk. This book was very near being non-fiction in the degree of detail, but also very engrossing character growth. He’d spent weeks on the battlefields of Kursk in the midst of summer getting a sense of the warmth and sun of the Russian steppes. He also trained in how to derail a train with explosives as the Partisan Russian fighters tried in stopping the shipment of the Tiger tanks in the narrative. Time was also spent pouring over video reports from Russian and German tankers’ first hand combat accounts. “Hands on” gear training was given to him ranging from small arms into the tanks in the Aberdeen Ordinance Museum in Maryland and then being pushed around in a restored T-34 at Virginia. David L Robbins certainly did his homework for this book and you’ll feel it when you read it. This is a must read for any Tiger 1 fan and any WW2 fan generally.