The largest ground army of the present day is the Red Army. We may better understand it
and its capabilities if we know something about the individual soldier in that army; his
origin and civilian training, what he gives and what he gets during his military
service, and how and what he is taught in the army.
The Red Army soldier is first of all a Russian. He is the product of the special
way of life that exists in the U.S.S.R. as the result of heritage from the past
and of present conditions. Some 180 nationalities are included in the U.S.S.R.
The Krasnoarmeets (the Red Army soldier) may be any of these nationalities, for
every male citizen of the U.S.S.R. is equally liable for military service. Under the
Universal Military Service law of 1939, all male citizens "regardless of race,
nationality, religious belief, educational qualifications, social origin, and
position" are subject to military service.
The Soviet Constitution, as well as the Universal Military Service Law, emphasizes
the liability of every citizen for military service, for Article 133 states that
"the defense of the fatherland is the sacred duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R."
But from whatever nationality among the Russians he may come, the Red Army recruit
goes into the actual military establishment already prepared to carry out his duties
as a soldier. He has been a part in a gigantic training program since the first
grade of school.
The average Red Army soldier has completed 10 years of schooling if he is from one
of the major cities. If he is from a rural district, he will probably have had at
least 7 years of schooling. All during these school years, he has been indoctrinated
with the thought that military service is an honor and a patriotic obligation. He has
been given military drill, and has had his body built up through exercise all through
the first 7 years of school. From the eight through the tenth grades, he has been
given preconscription training that is similar to our C.M.T.C. program, but more
intensive. The program includes some small-arm range training, 2 weeks of summer
military camps, and some company tactics. In short, the Red Army soldier gets a
large share of what we call "basic training" before he enters the army.
The recruit is called for his period of military service at the age of 19, or at 18 if he
has finished middle school (comparable to our high school) at that age. Certain deferments
are granted to those not physically fit and to scientists, rural school teachers, and
certain essential workers.
In the army, he serves a period of 2 years. Following the period of active service
he goes on an "extended furlough." During that time he may go home and hold a job,
but is subject to immediate recall in case of emergency, and is subject to brief
training periods. The period of extended furlough lasts from the end of the period
of active service, until such time as a total of 5 years of military service is completed.
During his period of active service, the soldier undergoes an intensive program of
training. He receives training in weapons and tactics, plus a large amount of
subjective training and political indoctrination.
The noncommissioned officer in the Red Army is a product of schools that are similar
in purpose and operation to our own regimental NCO schools. Noncommissioned officers
must serve a period of 3 years, rather than 2 as do the privates. Most students of
the noncommissioned schools are selected from among volunteers, though some may be
detailed to the school. Before World War II, the NCO school lasted for 9 months. During
the war, the time was reduced to 3
months. The working day was increased however from 8 hours to 10 to 12 hours.
|The average Red Army recruit enters military service with a good
background of preinduction training. He is also well indoctrinated
politically, but as a person he is not unlike many an American G.I.|
Officers may come from the ranks or from civil life. In either case, the officer is
the product of a series of officer schools. Entrance to the schools is based on
educational qualifications or upon the passing
of an entrance examination. If successful, the candidate will graduate as a junior
lieutenant after 2 years. During the war, the period was reduced to 6 months. Further
military education is highly selective and competitive and the officer must show his
worth before he is admitted to the higher service schools.
Discipline is strict in the Red Army, though under combat conditions there was not
too great a difference made between company-grade
officers and enlisted men. A deliberate effort is being made to foster
an officer corps, and officers are now receiving many privileges that were not
accorded to their predecessors before the beginning of World War II.
The Red Army infantryman travels light. He has a minimum of personal equipment. Tents
are seldom used and shelter is improvised from local materials. He has been taught the
elimination of nonessentials, and improvisation to meet his needs.
|The Red Army infantryman travels light. He has a minimum
of personal equipment. His uniform is simple and comfortable, consisting primarily
of a pullover jacket, baggy trousers, and high-top boots.|
Normally the infantryman is armed with a rifle, carbine, or submachine gun. The
water-cooled Maxim is the standard heavy machine gun, while the M1927 Degtyarev
is the standard light machine gun used by the infantry squad. Some automatic rifles
are carried. All small arms are caliber 7.62 millimeter. While many mortars are
used in the Red Army, it is not normally considered an infantry weapon and the
mortar crew does not come from the infantry. The Red Army infantrymen's weapons
are good, and he has proven that he can use them effectively and well.
Though many an American G.I. will grunt derisively when told that other people walk
more than he does, it is true that the Soviet infantryman must depend upon his feet
for much of his transportation. There are not as many vehicles assigned to
infantryman units in the Red Army as in the U.S., and the majority of those
assigned must be used for supply, and as prime movers for artillery and
antiaircraft guns, and to haul ammunition.
The Red Army soldier has, like his American counterpart, been granted many benefits
as a veteran. During his active service career, however, his pay appears to be a
pittance by U.S. standards. The Red Army private receives a total of 600 rubles per
year, which is very difficult to access in U.S. dollars, since purchasing power of
the ruble to the average Soviet citizen is almost nil. Pay scales range from that
of the private to that of a General of the Army, which is 60,000 rubles per
year. The equivalent of a private first class receives 1,000 rubles per year; a
corporal, 2,000 rubles; a sergeant, 3,000 rubles; a first sergeant, 4,200 rubles. The
discrepancy between officer and enlisted pay is great. The first lieutenant receives
12.5 times the pay of a private, or 7,700 rubles per year.
The base pay of Red Army personnel is computed according to the position held, as
well as the rank. For instance, a captain's base pay may vary from 8,700 rubles to
9,600 rubles depending upon whether he is an infantry company commander or a mortar
company commander. Extra pay is given for long service.
|Not all of the Soviet G.I.'s are men. Women, such as the
soldier shown here (above, right) have a place among Red Army ground troops. Although
most women soldiers are in service and medical units, some have played a combat
Certain units receive higher pay than others. Guards units, which have distinguished
themselves in action, receive double pay in the ranks. There are additional kinds
of extra pay for front-line service, up to 100 percent increase over base pay. For
instance, in 1942, anti-tank gunners received an increase of 100 percent in their
base pay (officers 75 percent) and also got bonuses for each enemy tank destroyed.
Certain extra pay benefits are given those who hold decorations. Decorations also
carry with them other benefits, such as free transportation on public conveyances
and one round trip ticket per year on the railroads.
As a part of his pay, the soldier receives, in addition, a ration of cigarettes
and vodka, movie and theater tickets, and free toilet articles.
The uniform of the Red Army soldier is simple and comfortable. The overhanging
shirt, secured at the waist by a wide belt, and the overseas cap with the Red
Star emblem are familiar objects to the reader of the daily paper. However, during
the war a wide mixture of military and civilian clothing was necessary.
Officers and men wear similar uniforms in the field, but an effort is being made
to provide a distinctive officer uniform for garrison and off-duty use.
Both officer and enlisted men wear shoulder boards which carry the rank
insignia and the color of the branch of service or grade. Olive drab boards
are supposed to be worn in the field, but quite often the brighter, dress
boards were used. In combat, the Red Army men preferred the overseas cap
to the helmet, and the overseas cap was more often worn.
Various special units have their own distinctive insignia and dress. The winter
uniform include the well-known parka and white overpants. Fur hats, padded jackets
and overcoats are common articles of winter issue.
Guards badges, signifying crack organizations, and wound stripes are worn on the
right-hand side of the blouse. Other decorations are worn on the left. The Red Army
man wears the medal, rather than the ribbon as do the U.S. troops.
The rations of the Red Army are not elaborate, but are nourishing and heavy. Standard
are rich soups and stews of vegetables and meat, garnished with sour cream if
possible. One common dish is "kasha," a sort of porridge of buckwheat. In time
of war, living off the country is an established practice of the Red Army.
During his entire army career, and before and after, the Red Army man is subjected to
instruction in the doctrines and political philosophy of the Communist Party. Many hours
of the preconscription training are devoted to political subjects, and during his army
career the soldier hears lectures, sees films, and reads literature prepared to educate
him in the accepted soviet political thought. In addition, he receives much instruction
in the history and traditions of the Red Army. He is also taught to hate the enemy
through lectures and films on enemy atrocities. He hears much of heroic acts of the
Red Army and of individual Red Army soldiers.
Women play a definite part in the Red Army. Many service troops are women, and much of
the cooking of infantry units is done by women. As distinguished from purely the service
troops, many women have been used as snipers and in guerrilla fighting. There have been
some instances of women being used as combat unit commanders. Red Army nursing
personnel quite often operate much closer to the actual fighting than is customary
in other armies, and there have been many instances of the nurses accompanying
units in combat, much as our battalion aid men do.
This end product of a continuous training cycle, the Red Army soldier, is a hard,
determined, courageous individual who is eager to defend Russia. This obligation
has been pointed up by the oath that he now takes individually, and not collectively
as was the past practice. Usually on Red Army Day, the 1st of May, the
Krasnoarmeets, rededicates himself by repeating his enlistment oath.
|Chow in the Red Army is not elaborate, but
is nourishing and heavy. Standard are rich soups and stews of vegetables and
meat. One common dish is "kasha," a sort of buckwheat porridge.|
There are a great number of men prepared to carry out the provisions of that oath. The
present strength of the Red Army is near the 6,000,000 mark, and behind the men on
active service are large numbers of reservists, many of whom are combat veterans of
World War II.