Saturday, October 12, 2019

Serhii Plokhy's "Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front"

Serhii Plokhy (Plokhii) is Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of History and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, where he also serves on the Executive Committee of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He is the author of over a dozen books on the history of Eastern Europe and the Cold War, including Yalta and Chernobyl, which was awarded the 2018 Baillie Gifford Prize (formerly the Samuel Johnson Prize).

Plokhy applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: American Airmen behind the Soviet Lines and the Collapse of the Grand Alliance, and reported the following:
On page 99 I discuss by far the most dramatic episode in the entire book, the Luftwaffe attack on the American B-17 Flying Fortresses parked at the Soviet airbase at Poltava on the night of June 22, 1944. The loss in the airplanes was enormous, making the US Air Force commanders to talk about the worst day since Pearl Harbor—never since then the US Air Force had lost so many planes on the ground. But most of those killed were not the Americans but the Soviets. Among them was a famed Pravda reporter Petr Lidov. Below is a scene in which another Soviet reporter Aleksei Spassky recognizes the dead body of his friend.
Spassky took a closer look at the corpses. He soon recognized Lidov’s body—the face of the famous reporter was covered with his military jacket, which lacked shoulder boards—they had been ripped off by the Red Army soldiers who discovered the body. Someone had also removed Lidov’s leather boots, which one of the soldiers evidently considered a trophy. Currency found on the corpses was taken and not passed on to officials—Spassky saw bundles of new five-dollar bills disappearing into the pockets of the female soldiers who searched the bodies. He was in no position to protest, as he himself fell under suspicion of being a German spy and was taken to the air base headquarters. There Spassky was turned over to a counterintelligence officer who had written a report on what had happened to Lidov.
Learn more about Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue