A visual aid for readers of Aelita’s War (Post 2 of 2)
In Sparrow Squadron, Raven’s Shadow, and now the upcoming Wounded Falcon, my trilogy following Soviet fighter pilots in World War II, I’ve included glossaries of terms that may be unfamiliar to readers. Even so, some readers like visualizing the different vehicles and equipment they come across in the story. To help with that, I’ve put together a visual reference of various military equipment in use during the Great Patriotic War, also known as the Eastern Front of World War II. All of these entries appear in the novels, and I’ve included some brief notes that might be pertinent to their appearance in the story. There is additional information available for some of these at the glossary here.
In Part 1 of this post, I described the many aircraft that would become common sights in the skies for Soviet fighter pilots like Aelya. In this part, I’ll cover some of the weapons and vehicles that would be seen on the ground.
Part 2 – Weapons & Vehicles
As the name implies, this rifle was originally introduced in 1891 and modernized in 1930. These were by far the most numerous infantry weapon in the Red Army at the start of the war and would have been common sights on the battlefield and among partisans in the occupied territories.
When adapted as a sniper rifle, it was put to deadly use by both men and women sharpshooters that the Soviet Union would popularize as heroes, such as Lyudmilla Pavlichenko and Vasily Zaitsev. Zaitsev’s story was adapted into the film Enemy at the Gates.
Tokarev TT30 / TT33
This semi-automatic pistol was the standard sidearm given to Soviet fighter pilots, for use in case they landed or bailed out in enemy territory. Because capture was considered tantamount to treason by Soviet authorities, pilots were told to save a bullet for themselves.
PPSh-41 Submachine Gun and RGD-33 Grenade
The PPSh-41 submachine gun combined reliability with a high rate of fire. Its “drum” magazine also gave it a high ammunition capacity. These characteristics made it popular to use in urban combat and the irregular warfare practiced by partisans. Little wonder that German soldiers sometimes chose to use it over their own weapons.
The ridiculously well-armed man shown in this photo, purported to be a partisan, carries a PPSh-41. The leftmost of the many grenades dangling from his belt is an RGD-33. Its handle was intended to improve throwing distance.
2.0cm Flakvierling 38 / Quad 20mm Anti-Aircraft Gun
Designed as an anti-aircraft gun, this rapid-firing automatic cannon packed a lot of firepower in a small space. Each of its four barrels fired a shell similar to the one fired by Aelya’s Yak-1 fighter.
It could be mounted in many places to defend against air attack, including rooftops, armoured vehicles, trucks, ships, trains and even u-boats.
Players of the original Wolfenstein games will be very familiar with this German submachine gun. In frequent use by German security forces, these would be a common sight in the occupied territories.
Motorcycle with Sidecar and MG34 Machine Gun
The German soldier riding a motorcycle with a sidecar is a frequent sight in movies set around World War II, perhaps most famously in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The motorcycle in the photo here is a BMW R75. Mounted on its sidecar is an MG34 machine gun, which was the standard German machine gun through most of the war.
While we’re on the subject of Indiana Jones, the Opel Blitz truck seen here was featured in that iconic chase through the desert when Indy latches onto a truck’s axle with his bullwhip. It was used by the Germans on every front in a wide variety of roles.
Its opposite number in the Soviet Union was the ZiS-5 truck. As the name implies, it was produced at the Moscow ZiS automotive plant, the same one where Roza’s brother worked making weapons. The trucks were put to use transporting supplies and personnel, pulling artillery, mounting anti-aircraft guns and any manner of other uses necessary in wartime.
One of the iconic vehicles of the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of these versatile American vehicles were produced in wartime, with many of them shipped off to the Soviet Union. The Soviets would eventually produce their own version. Such vehicles were handy for getting around an airfield and Aelya eventually learned to drive with one.
The German equivalent was the Kübelwagen. The full term, Kübelsitzwagen, literally means “bucket-seat car” and could be used for any manner of military light automobile but has come to refer to the Volkswagen Type 82, shown here.
Capable of handling rougher terrain than trucks and offering better protection, the half-track’s name comes from the tank-like tracks mounted on the back half of these vehicles. Armoured vehicles like the German Sd.Kfz 251 halftrack shown here would be a frequent ground attack target for Sturmoviks escorted by Aelya and her comrades.
BA-10 Armoured Car
The fate of World War II was largely determined by the production capacity of the warring nations. Nazi Germany found itself outmatched by the industrial might of the United States and the Soviet Union. As a result, the Germans and their allies frequently re-used captured equipment, such as this Soviet BA-10 armoured car. The cross and lettering painted on its turret are the insignia of the SS RONA brigade, an armed unit of Russian collaborators. The Germans tasked them with supervising an “autonomous” region within the occupied territories. Armoured cars such as these were used in anti-partisan operations.