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Bear Went over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 1999
This work shows how the Soviet army responded to the guerilla tactics used by their enemies by analyzing a number of different combat situations. These situation cover both offensive and defensive operations. This work does not try to expalin the Afghan War on a strategic level, but deals exclusively with the tactical realm. Each vignette contains a map of usually sufficient detail to enable the reader to following the descriptions contained in the text.
The editor does a good job at translating Soviet-specific terms into the US/NATO vernacular.
The reader should pay paticular attention to the Soviet style map graphics - they are superior to US style graphics especially dealing the fluidity of a paticular action.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 3, 2001
The Soviets experienced in Afghanistan the slow death of a thousand cuts. In his book, "The Bear Went Over the Mountain", Lester Grau carefully examines some of those small cuts. The book consists of a number of short vignettes written principally by Soviet Platoon and Company Leaders. In these short narratives, these leaders describe their combat experiences in such realms as ambush, convoy escort and urban fighting. At the end of the story, there is the Frunze Military Academy analysis of the narrative in which the strengths and weaknesses of the action are analyized. The vignettes end with Lt. Col. Grau's analysis of the action.
This book is not for someone looking for a general military history of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. It is a book about small unit tactics and about what works and what fails. I only hope that this valuable book and his other book, "The Other Side of the Mountain" is being ready by young American Platoon and Company leaders currently fighting in Afghanistan.
I obtained both books through Amazon.com UK.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 25, 2008
"The Bear Went Over the Mountain" is a compilation of after action reports on tactical operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s, from the Soviet perspective. The descriptions of the action and Soviet after action observations are translated from Frunze Academy (Soviet War College) documents, and accompanied by commentary from the single most knowledgable American on the Soviet army, a man who spoke with leaders from both Russian and Afghan forces from some of these engagements.

No research of the Soviet-Afghan war is complete without careful consideration of the material here. As important as the documentation of the events of the war are the insights into the Soviet perceptions of the operations and the war, and the lessons that they drew from their experience.

This isn't really a book to sit down and read cover to cover, but rather to take a battle at a time and reflect on it before moving on to the next.

Brilliant work from a great man!

E. M. Van Court
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2001
An easy read that points out both Soviet flaws and outstanding performances in their battle to overcome the guerillas of Afghanistan in the 1908s. Superbly translated from an official Russian document. One of the few Soviet documents accurately showing their fame and faults that ever made it out of the country. A MUST read if you care at all about what the Soviet military was involved in during the 1980s.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2002
I believe this book originally started off as a Military paper, which got published and sold. Mr. Grau has done a 3 part series on the Afghan-Soviet war. This is part 1 in the series.

Like the other comments, very easy to read, and to the point. Goes over specific battles, what happened, and how it all broke down. The conclusions and commentary at the end of each battle are excellent. This book works great with the others in the series, esspecially "The Other side of the Mountain: Mujahidden Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War" - which does the same thing, but talks about the battles from a Mujahideen standpoint. The second book is almost impossible to find...... doesn't carry it. Lastly, there's a third book coming out called "Russian General Staff: The Soviet-Afghan War" which looks at the war from the general level - I guess overall strategy.
Overall, excellent book on tactics. And easy enough to read that you don't need to be an officer in the military to understand.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 2, 2001
This book is a series of vignettes by Russian officers at the Frunze Military Academy on their experiences in Afghanistan, ranging from attack, defense, raids and reconnaissance. Oddly, the Russians typically misused their reconnaissance units in a combat role. Most Soviet units were seriously undermanned - usually only about 30% strength. Lack of a real counterinsurgency doctrine was a serious handicap. The sketch maps are very good, despite use of Soviet symbology.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2010
The book provides a series of first-person accounts of the tactics used by Russian forces from 1980 to 1988. I found the school solution interesting as well as the accounts of how the Russian troops responded to the Afghan insurgents. Having served with the first Combined Action Companies (CAP) in Vietnam and as an advisor with the Vietnamese Marines as well as more recently in Iraq, South Sudan and Afghanistan, I found the accounts provided interesting lessons learned that focused on the tactical training of junior leaders and the preparation of troops to fight counterinsurgency warfare. It seems that we quickly forget COIN lessons and have to relearn them again and again. As with our current situation in Afghanistan, although we have been here for almost 9 years, we do not have 9 years of experience - we have one year of experience 9 times. I suggest "The Other Side of the Mountain", a collection of Afghan tactics employed against the Russians.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2012
This is an expanded and redacted series of articles on small unit actions in Afghanistan which originally appeared in a Soviet military publication. Each chapter describes an action from the Soviet point of view, followed by the author's critique at the end. The result is invaluable to anyone who is interested in war in Afghanistan or how the Soviet Army fought.

The basic answer is that the Soviet Army didn't fight very well. The vignettes graphically reveal the weaknesses in their army, all the way from systematic flaws, to over concentration on mass armor battles on the plains of Europe, to a general ineptness at all levels, especially company and below.

As the book makes clear in the Soviets' own words, they just weren't very good at the sort of mountain guerrilla war they faced in Afghanistan. By contrast, the Coalition forces there now, for all their problems and failures, come off looking like military geniuses.

Again, and again, the Soviets repeated the same tactics and made the same mistakes. If they went in large enough force and were willing to take the casualties they could go anywhere in the country, but their day to day performance was generally sub-optimal.

There are a lot of lessons here as well as a view of a mostly vanished military system being tried beyond its abilities.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2010
o/~ The bear went over the mountain...The bear went over the mountain o/~
o/~ To see what he could see...To see what he could see...o/~

And this book is an analysis of what the Bear saw, experienced, and learned while on the other side of the Mountain.

If you've ever read more than one book about combat operations, planning, or war in general I'm confident that you've heard the expression "Armatures talk tactics and professionals talk logistics", which is true in the big picture of things. If you don't have the ability, the foresight, or the proper planning to get your bullets, butter, bombs, and personnel to the right place at the right time, you are never going to win a war of any sort, no matter how well trained or tactically proficient your soldiers are.

That said, unless your overarching strategy is one of unlimited men and material, your military's tactics are going to play a key role in how you achieve your victory, something that is often lost sight of in the modern era of combat operations. Emphasis is placed too much on the logistical and operational side of things, without enough focus being placed upon the ground.

The Soviet's recognized this, perhaps a little too late for it to really do them again good, but at least they learned from their mistakes in Afghanistan and this book is a product of that learning. It is a glimpse into the tactical side of Soviet operations, what worked, what didn't, and the importance of communicating those lessons to the frontline leaders.

Reading The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan (10th Anniversary Edition), it is easy to draw parallels and between the Soviet experience and the more recent experience of the American and British forces who are operating in the same areas. Its a little disturbing, in some cases, to see just how the American and British forces, had to relearn the same tactical lessons the Soviet's did, and I can say that as a member of the United States Army Reserves, I wish that this book was required reading for all frontline leaders prior to deploying to any modern battlefield.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2014
Great information and incite into the Soviet tactics in Afghanistan during their occupation. I honestly learned from this book. However, after several pages of the same vignettes and the repetitive style of the chapters, I quickly got bored and jumped to the conclusion after getting 3/4 of the way through the book.
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