The climax of Operation Citadel, the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943 involved as many as 6,000 tanks, 4,000 aircraft and 2 million fighting men. The largest tank battle of the Second World War, it had major consequences for Germany, being the last major offensive its forces launched in Russia. Hitler s hopes of victory on the Eastern Front were brought crashing down, and from that moment on the Axis armies faced retreat in the face of the onslaught from Stalin s Red Army. One of the men in the vanguard of that Soviet offensive was Evgeni Bessonov who had seen action for the first time at Kursk. A platoon leader and junior officer in an elite guards unit of the Red Army, Bessonov rode tanks from Kursk, through a western Russia and Poland devastated by the Germans, and right into the heart of the Third Reich a journey that ended in the ruins of Berlin in 1945. Honest and irrepressibly frank, in Tank Rider Bessonov dramatically his years of service at the vanguard of the Red Army and daily encounters with the German foe.He brings large-scale battles to life, recounts the sniping and skirmishing that tried and tested soldiers on both sides, and narrates the overwhelming tragedy and horror of apocalyptic warfare on the Eastern Front.
So much of the Soviet experience of the Second World War remains untold, but this memoir provides an important glimpse into some of the most decisive moments of this part of the world s history.
Born in Moscow in 1923, Evgeni Bessonov spent almost a year in training before he was sent to the Bryansk Front in July 1943 to serve as a Platoon Commander in an infantry unit within the Soviet 4th Tank Army. His journey to the front was a challenge in itself as transport shortages forced him and his comrades to hitchhike and walk much of the distance between Moscow and the battle lines. He would survive the months of bitter fighting that lay ahead, including being wounded in the Battle for Berlin, to retell his experiences in Tank Rider.