Today is the 79th anniversary of Operation Bagration, when the USSR began its final great drive to push the Germans out in 1944. This presents it through the eyes of a man who was there, in this book
By Scott Bury
A colonel stepped up behind Lieutenant Vasileyev, his battle uniform perfect. “We’re going to liberate Valga today,” he said, catching each man’s eye in turn. “That means we are freeing Latvia from the Nazi tyrant, restoring the rule of the people of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Latvia, and tomorrow, Lithuania as well. Other than partisans, this town is part of the Soviet Union. Stavka will not tolerate looting or abuse of the civilian population. Is that understood?” He did not wait for a reply, but walked away to repeat his message to the next group.
Sergeant Nikolaev summed it up. “Hands off the women and especially the girls.”
The sky lightened behind them, and then a line of planes buzzed past overhead. Maurice had faced the blitzkrieg in 1941. He knew what it was to be overwhelmed by a fast, unstoppable foe.
But nothing could have prepared him for the Red Army’s assault on the German invaders in 1944. The line of planes hitting the enemy stretched in both directions as far as he could see, and explosions lit up the western horizon with a hellish light. They felt the earth vibrating, felt the heat on their faces.
As the sun’s first rays lit up the field, Maurice saw the artillery raise their barrels and begin firing: mortars and cannons, long-range artillery pieces and something new: the Guards Mortars, the innovative rocket launchers that became known as the Katyusha. They looked like the pipes of a church organ mounted on cantilevered assembly on the back of one of the now-ubiquitous Studebaker trucks. Maurice watched a crew load fourteen metre-long rockets onto the rails. The rails rose, pointing at an upward angle toward the enemy. Then with an unbearably loud but almost musical sound, they fired. Rows of multiple rocket launchers sent a volley of thousands of shells toward the Germans. Nothing could survive that, Maurice thought.
Then the shock armies raced westward. First came tanks and armoured cars, all carrying men with a grim but confident air. Looking at them, Maurice knew they had no illusions that some of them were going to die, but they were going to destroy the enemy.
Hundreds of vehicles poured past Maurice’s position. The Germans returned fire, but that did not slow the shock troops. As the day brightened, the men could see the German positions in the town of Valga, about two kilometres to the west. Smoke billowed up from dozens of spots. Buildings crumbled as shells from Soviet tanks and cannon struck.
Successive lines of Soviet tanks, trucks, guns and men moved across the fields toward the first buildings of the town. Men fell, trucks burst into smoke and fire but the shock troops kept moving forward.
And then, the returning fire stopped. Maurice could see the Red Army moving fast down a road away from him, like a sink draining. Another wave of planes screeched past overhead, flying past the town and bombing the distance.
“Ahead, boys!” Sergeant Nikolaev called. Maurice and the men picked up their automatic rifles. Four pulled the Pulemyot Maxima machine gun. Although the lieutenant and the men called it the “Maxim,” it was actually a Russian-made variant of the original Maxim heavy machine gun. Mounted on a two-wheeled carriage, it had a high shield and a special cap for water to cool it. It required at least two to operate it: one to load the belts of ammunition, and one to aim and fire. It was mostly used for defending against counterattacks.
Ahead, Maurice saw Red Army men jump up and climb on the decks of the T-34s, squat behind the turret and aim their rifles, but he stayed on the ground, thinking of the lieutenant’s warning that the tanks would be the Germans’ main targets.
Book Three of the Eastern Front Trilogy
Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.
Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.
Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.
“Full of heart and indomitable spirit”—Joy Lorton, reader and reviewer
“Walking Out of War is a well-written and powerful read, and a difficult one. The violence and war crimes are startling, and Bury, being a master at his craft, effectively paints mental pictures. He doesn’t linger on vile acts, however; he isn’t gratuitous. But he is a vivid writer and skilled at choosing the right verbs and adjectives to bring his prose to life, where the reader can visualize scenes as if watching them on film. “—Elise Stokes, Goodreads reviewer
“A very compelling read.”—Frederick Brooke, Goodreads reviewer
can’t stay in one category. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”
The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. One Shade of Red, an erotic romance, followed in 2013.
The Eastern Front trilogy tells the true story of Maurice Bury, a Canadian drafted into the USSR’s Red Army to face the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Army of Worn Soles, the first volume, was published in 2014, followed by Under the Nazi Heel in 2016 and Walking Out of War in 2017.
Scott Bury was invited to write for three Kindle Worlds by bestsellers Russell Blake, Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman. From 2015 to 2017, he published six novellas and a novel. He has since revised and republished three as the Hawaiian Storm mystery series: Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, and Dead Man Lying.
He is now producing a podcast, Beyond Barbarossa: the first English-language podcast in the world that focuses on the Eastern Front of World War II.
In between writing books and blog posts, Scott helped found an author’s cooperative publishing venture, Independent Authors International. He is also President of an authors’ professional association, BestSelling Reads.
He lives in Ottawa with his two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a very understanding wife.