Red Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Joseph Pilyushin
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Joseph Pilyushin, a top Red Army sniper in the ruthless fight against the Germans on the Eastern Front, was an exceptional soldier and has a remarkable story to tell. His firsthand account of his wartime service gives a graphic insight into his lethal skill with a rifle and into the desperate fight put up by Soviet forces to defend Leningrad. He also records how, during the three-year siege, close members of this family died, including his wife and two sons, as well as many of his comrades in arms. He describes these often-terrible events with such honesty and clarity that his memoir is remarkable.
Piluyshin, who lived in Leningrad with his family, was already 35 years old when the war broke out and he was drafted. He started in the Red Army as a scout, but once he had demonstrated his marksmanship and steady nerve, he became a sniper. He served throughout the Leningrad siege, from the late 1941 when the Wehrmacht’s advance was halted just short of the city to its liberation during the Soviet offensive of 1944.
His descriptions of grueling front-line life, of his fellow soldiers and of his sniping missions are balanced by his vivid recollections of the protracted suffering of Leningrad’s imprisoned population and of the grief that was visited upon him and his family.
His gripping narrative will be fascinating reading for any one who is keen to learn about the role and technique of the sniper during the Second World War. It is also a memorable eyewitness account of one man’s experience on the Eastern Front.
woods in the direction of Kingisepp. When we approached the road, we heard the sounds of a harmonica. We went a little further and discovered an automobile. Its doors were open, and someone sitting on the running board was playing a simple tune on the harmonica. Another man was standing beside the car. A submachine-gun was dangling from his neck. He was poking at something in the sandy road with the toe of his boot and whistling along with the harmonica. For several minutes, staying concealed in
14:23 Page 112 Red Sniper on the Eastern Front Soon I received a pass for a three-day leave in Leningrad. My joy was boundless. Three whole days with my family! Three days, three years, three centuries! It was four o’clock in the morning. I reached the fork in the road from Leningrad, one leading to Strel’na and the other to Ligovo. I looked around. Behind me, over the front lines, flares were going up. In front of me lay a straight, paved road, covered with a thin icy crust. Little wisps of
loudly shout: ‘Rus! Have some bread!’ Then they would fling the loaves into no-man’s-land. Once, the following scenario unfolded after another such demonstration by the Germans: ‘They’re mocking us, the swine . . .’ Anatoliy Grigor’ev or someone else picked up a torn cotton jacket on the point of a bayonet, and waving it above the trench, shouted: ‘Hey, Hanses and Fritzes, take it, it’s suitable for a parade!’ Then he hurled it into no-man’sland. A voice rose from the German trenches: ‘Listen up,
everyone about everything.’ I observed that Anatoliy kept glancing at my prosthetic eye, but he acted as if he hadn’t noticed anything. He gave me a friendly wave of the hand and set off towards Leningrad. That night, I was urgently summoned to regiment headquarters. There was a new order waiting for me there. Captain Polevoy told me: ‘By order of the regiment commander, you have been put in charge of a training programme, where you will train young snipers for the front. But first, there must be
I say this . . . people are exposed for who they really are. There’s no masking it.’ ‘What do you know about it, guys?’ a strong voice hastily began to say. ‘There’s no sort of heroism here. I managed to make my way close to this bunker before anyone else, and then I just stuck a bundle of grenades into it, that’s all.’ ‘What’s right is right,’ answered the deep voice. In the bunker, everything lapsed into silence. Soon you could hear the sound of snoring. Red Sniper on the Eastern Front -