Picks and Pans Review: Allies
updated 06/26/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 06/26/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Nobody knew from Gorbachev's glasnost in the early '40s, of course. But the U.S.S.R. and U.S. had something far better: a hated common enemy that was fatally vulnerable to their alliance. So from 1941 to 1945, the two countries joined to fight the war chronicled in this arresting book's nearly 200 photographs, selected from Soviet and American sources by Chudakov, a Soviet editor-photographer, and Scherman, who was a LIFE combat correspondent and photographer.
The alliance was mainly indirect. The Soviet Union had joined Germany in the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939. But Hitler attacked the U.S.S.R. in 1941, and the Soviets needed the Western help they got when the U.S. joined the war. By the time American and Soviet Armies met, though—at the Elbe river in Germany in April 1945—the war was all but over, and the race for postwar spheres of influence had begun.
So, much of the sense of camaraderie that exists in this book was imposed by Chudakov and Scherman. Since the American and Soviet photographers were seeing the same war from the same side, in retrospect their common interests appear striking. (The tragedy of lost opportunity—the failure on both sides to turn common interests into durable understanding—is an implicit message of the book.)
In any case, many of the photographs stand on their own. There are many familiar shots, such as Robert Capa's of the Normandy beach on D-Day. But there are other memorable photographs, too, such as Ralph Morse's shot of a French soldier lovingly scooping up a handful of newly liberated French soil in 1944.
Few of the Soviet pictures will be familiar to Westerners. Anatoli Garanin's photograph of a soldier at the instant he was shot in 1942, for instance, is as stunning as Capa's 1936 Spanish Civil War picture. Ivan Shagin shows a wounded Soviet officer directing his men. (The caption for that 1943 shot, "The political commander continues the fight," is typical of Chudakov's propagandistic prose.)
Seeing these grim photographs, and the palpable joy in the shots of victory celebrations everywhere from Prague to Chicago, suggests the shared instincts Chudakov and Scherman strive to convey. There are far worse ways to argue for peace than to show so vividly the effects of war. (Hugh Lauter Levin, $35)