Vladimir Gonikman was born in 1919 in the town of Turov (Belorussia). After finishing school there, he moved to Minsk, where he began to study at the military school. Two years later, he was sent to serve in the town of Kozelsk (in Russia's Kaluga Region). In September 1939, Vladimir took part in the Red Army's invasion of Poland, which resulted in the annexation of the eastern Polish regions to Soviet Ukraine and Belorusssia. In late 1939, Gonikman fought in the Winter War with Finland, during which he was wounded in the shoulder and sent for rehabilitation to a hospital in Leningrad. After the end of the Winter War, Vladimir Gonikman served in the North Caucasus Region (Okrug). He was on leave in Tbilisi (Georgia) when the Wermacht invaded the territory of the USSR in late June 1941. He immediately left for Moscow to receive his orders.
Gonikman returned to Leninakan (present-day Gyumri, Armenia), a town on the Soviet border with Turkey. Soviet troops were stationed there amid fears of an imminent invasion of the USSR by the pro-German Turkey.
Subsequently, Gonikman was sent to the front, where he took part in the battles of Stalingrad (late 1942-early 1943) and Kursk (1943). Gonikman was particularly outstanding late in the war, during the Vistula-Oder Operation. In late 1944, the rifle division of which he was chief of staff was attacked as it approached the Oder River. This attack could have led to the loss of important Soviet positions and resulted in the rout of the division. At that point, Lieutenant-Colonel Gonikman grabbed an automatic weapon and gave the order: "Attack! Follow me!," leading a small group of fighters. As a result of his action, an important bridgehead was defended and even expanded.
Major-General Pavel Chirkov, who commanded the 15th Rifle Division toward the end of the war, recommended Lieutenant-Colonel of the Guards Vladimir Gonikman for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, but this recommendation was not accepted, and the lieutenant-colonel received lesser honors. In the course of the war, he was awarded two Orders of the Red Star, two Orders of the Red Banner, two Orders of the Patriotic War (one 1st Class and one 2nd Class), the Czechoslovak Military Cross, and the Polish order Virtuti militari. Furthermore, the American General Hicks Hodges awarded Gonikman the great honor of the Order of the Legion of Merit during the meeting of Soviet and American troops in Germany at the Elbe River in late April 1945.
Two of Vladimir's brothers, Mikhail and Daniil Gonikman, also took part in combat during the war.
In 1991, Vladimir Gonikman and his family emigrated from the USSR and settled in the USA.
He died in New Jersey in February 2014, at the age of 95.