Made up of soldiers who conducted 'unauthorized retreats,' former POWs deemed untrustworthy, and Gulag prisoners, the Red Army's penal units carried out some of the most terrifying assignments on the Eastern Front, such as storming German machine-gun nests. Alexander Pyl'cyn led his penal company in the Soviets' massive offensive in the summer of 1944, the Vistula-Oder operation into eastern Germany, and the bitter assault on Berlin in 1945. He survived the war, but 80 percent of his men did not.About the AuthorAlexander Pyl'cyn, drafted into the Red Army at eighteen in 1941 and wounded three times, earned the Order of the Red Banner, the Order of the Great Patriotic War, and the Order of the Red Star for his actions during World War II.

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