Penalty Strike: The Memoirs of a Red Army Penal Company Commander, 1943-45 by Alexander V. Pyl'cyn Following his first major debacle in December 1941, the Moscow Battle, Hitler ordered to raise/form the "Battalion 999 of Straf-Batallion 999" and "Straf-Batallion-500" units or death squads manned by court-marshalled soldiers and officers or criminals, if/when found guilty. During the heat of the Stalingrad Battle, in the summer and autumn of 1942, Stalin signed Order # 227, NOT ONE STEP BACKWARD (Ni Shagu Nazad), a set of measured designed to stop panic and retreat unless ordered to do so. Commanding officers were authorized to perform a summary execution or "shoot at site" in order to enforce the discipline. Order No. 227 by the People's Commissar of Defence of the USSR - Wikisource, the free online library As a result, the penal companies and battalions were formed. Penal companies were intended for the rank-&-file men and and released criminals or released political inmates whereas penal batallions were intended for the commissioned officers, if/when court-marshalled. The term of penal service was limited to three months or until first blood (if/when wounded in battle); thereafter the survivors coud be reinstated in their original rank and position. The total strength of the penal units over the 1942-1945 periods amounted to 428,000 men; the casualties rate would be 3-5 times higher versus the losses sustained by regular troops. P.S. 284,344 men and officers were sentenced to death and 157,593 men and officers,out of that number, faced the music throughout the 1941-1945 periods for a broad range of military crimes and offences including more than 4,500 cases for rape, loot and robbery in Germany or elswhere. Source: "Novaya Gazeta" Дожить до расстрела. The author of the book Artem Drabkin is notable for his collection of personal WWII stories and first-hand accounts shared by soldiers and officers from diffrent arms and services of the Soviet Army.