MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
On the second Sunday of September, Russia traditionally celebrates Tanker’s Day. This holiday was established 75 years ago to commemorate the merits of armored and mechanized troops in defeating the Nazi invaders during the Great Patriotic War, as well as the merits of tank builders in equipping the Red Army with armored vehicles.
Russian Defense Ministry on the eve of Tanker Day launches a new multimedia section “Heroes of tank battles. To the 75th anniversary of the Tankman’s Day “… On the basis of historical evidence from the funds of the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, it tells about immortal exploits, unparalleled courage and courage, dedication and devotion to the Fatherland of tank soldiers of the Armed Forces of our country.
The section opens with the Order of the Minister of the Armed Forces of the USSR No. 27 of July 16, 1946 on the announcement of the Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet of July 11, 1946, which marked the beginning of the professional holiday of domestic tankers. The document states that “given the particular importance of tank and mechanized troops and their outstanding services in the Great Patriotic War …” Stalingrad, Chelyabinsk, Gorky, Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk, Kharkov, Omsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok. “
The interest of fans of military history will be aroused by the order of the People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR No. 325 dated October 16, 1942, published in the section. In the document, after a detailed analysis of errors and shortcomings in the use of tanks in the first year of the war, specific instructions were given on the combat use of tank and mechanized units and formations. The order determined the paramount importance of organizing interaction on the battlefield of tank units with infantry, artillery and aviation, and comprehensive preparation of tank units for entering into battle.
A significant part of the documents published in the section is devoted to the largest tank battle in the military history of the Battle of Kursk (July 5 – August 23, 1943). More than 4 million people were involved in it on both sides, over 69 thousand guns and mortars, more than 13 thousand tanks and self-propelled guns, up to 12 thousand aircraft. During this battle near Prokhorovka, the largest tank battle in history took place, in which about 1200 Soviet and Nazi armored vehicles came together. A clear idea of the course of this battle is given in the section reporting maps of the hostilities near Prokhorovka of the 18th Panzer Corps, which was part of the 5th Guards Tank Army of Lieutenant General Pavel Rotmistrov, the army that took the brunt of Hitler’s tanks. The published maps show the position and actions of the Red Army units and the direction of the strikes of enemy groupings in the period from 11 to 24 July 1943. The document shows that the Soviet troops fought against the elite tank units of the Nazis: July 1943 ” designated three Nazi SS Panzer Divisions with loud swaggering names “Adolf Hitler”, “Death’s Head” and “Reich”. All these units were equipped with the latest German Tiger and Panther tanks.
The section visitors can familiarize themselves with the tactics of German tank attacks from the presented operational documents. For example, in the report on the combat actions of the 18th Panzer Corps for the period from 12 to 24 July 1943, it is noted that, using Tiger tanks, the Nazis undertook frontal attacks. When the attacks crashed, the Germans from a distance of 600-800 meters landed tank assault troops, who, disguising themselves in the crops, folds of the terrain, attacked the resistance center of the Soviet units, while the tanks went out to the flank and rear of the defense.
The enormous significance of this key battle in the Battle of Kursk is evidenced by the lines published in the section of military documents. “Units of the 5th Guards Tank Army, having gone over to the offensive on 07/12/1943, were ahead of the German command’s plan – they thwarted the offensive they were preparing at 12.7, forced to go on the defensive,” says the report on the combat actions of the 18th Panzer Corps for the period from 12-24 July 1943.
Commander of the Voronezh Front, General of the Army Nikolai Vatutin, became famous for the skillful use of shock tank groups in this fateful battle. It was on his troops in the defensive part of the Battle of Kursk that the main blow of Hitler’s “armored fist” fell. The section presents several reports by Nikolai Vatutin to the USSR People’s Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin.
Back in the spring of 1943, the commander of the Voronezh Front presented to Stalin his report “On the grouping of enemy forces in front of the front and considerations for preparing an offensive operation.”
The published document notes the importance of “organizing a dense and deeply developed anti-tank defense, especially in the most important tank-hazardous areas,” and in all units and formations, in addition, the presence of anti-tank mobile reserves. Thorough preparation and skillful maneuvering of anti-tank weapons, artillery (including rocket artillery), tanks, second echelons and reserves were proclaimed as the basis for a successful defense. Separately, the document highlighted measures to repel a large tank attack, for which it was at all costs prescribed “to arm all units and formations with anti-tank rifles and anti-tank artillery fully assigned to the state, and to have anti-tank rifles in excess of the staff in the sapper and engineer units.”
In another report published in the section to Stalin on July 24, 1943, based on the results of the July defensive operation of the front on the Kursk Bulge, the commander of the Voronezh Front reported: “The enemy was conducting an offensive using massive tank attacks on a narrow front in groups of 500 or more tanks with the support of massive aviation … “,” The operation turned into a huge, unprecedented fierce battle, since both sides achieved their goals with exceptional perseverance and perseverance. “
Speaking about the events in the Prokhorovka direction, Vatutin reported: “The Panzer Army of Rotmistrov … immediately southwest of Prokhorovka on a narrow front immediately entered into a counter battle with the SS Panzer Corps and 17 t / ankov / d / izia / enemy, which moved towards Rotmistrov. As a result, a fierce massive tank battle took place on a small field … As a result of these battles, the main grouping of the enemy was finally drained of blood and destroyed. “
Summing up the results of the fierce battles, Vatutin reported that “at least 2,500-3,000 were knocked out and burned tanks and self-propelled guns … The above losses are confirmed by the testimony of prisoners. So, for example, prisoners of 3 t / ankov / d / vizii / showed that before the offensive the division had at least 250-300 tanks, and in the rifle companies of motorized regiments there were 180 people each. By the end of the operation, the division had 30 tanks and no more than 40 people in the companies, and some units do not exist at all. ” At the same time, about the actions of the Red Army, he separately noted: “The front troops showed great stubbornness in defense … Not a single unit was killed and was not surrounded.”
As follows from the report, Hitler’s high-profile Citadel plan was finally thwarted and conditions were created for a successful counter-offensive by the Red Army: “The enemy drew all his reserves into this operation from the south, pulled his aviation here. This made it possible, in easier conditions, to start our offensive operations in the Orel region and in the south. “
The section presents pages of the war years album with photographs and tactical and technical characteristics of the main Soviet tanks – KV-1 and T-34 and the newest German vehicles T-V “Panther” T-VI “Tiger”. So, according to the figures given, our tanks were inferior to the Nazis in frontal and stern armor, but significantly exceeded in the amount of ammunition, the power reserve and maneuverability – the specific pressure on the ground. In addition, the radio stations used in our tanks were several times superior to the German ones in range – which means that ours could not be afraid of losing control during raid operations and at a distance from their own headquarters. At the same time, a head-on collision with armored German vehicles, which possessed more powerful guns at that time, forced the Soviet tank commanders to demonstrate high military art, and the tankers to show high professionalism.
The telegraphic report of the front to the Main Political Directorate of the Red Army on August 18, 1943 also testifies to the high military skill of Soviet tank crews. Here, in addition to describing the general operational situation, there are numerous descriptions of combat episodes, including about the skillful actions of tankers. “Acting in a breakthrough, our tankers once again showed examples of courage and courage,” the report says. – “Despite the strengthening of resistance and massive air raids, the tankers boldly go to the enemy, shoot down his screens and pursue … The personnel of the tank units shows combat training, skill, courage and ability to conduct offensive battles.”
Further in the report are examples of the skillful actions of our tankers. “Deep raids behind enemy lines were repeatedly carried out by a group of tankmen under the command of Comrade Akishina. Tanks comrade. Akishina went everywhere at the head of the battle formations and, with their daring raids on enemy strongholds, forced the Germans to retreat in disarray. For example, at the Odnorobovka railway station, no one suspected the possibility of the appearance of Red Army units: the passengers were walking along the platform while waiting for the train. The silence and tranquility was broken by the hum of engines: Akishin’s tanks burst into the station. The paratroopers escorting Akishin’s combat vehicles quickly cut off the telephone line and blew up the railroad tracks. The tankers, led by Comrade Akishin, attacked a group of German troops stationed at the station in their combat vehicles. The Nazis were confused and tried to escape, but to no avail. The Odnorobovka railway station was captured by brave tankmen without loss. “
The document tells about the skill of the Soviet crews and about the successful confrontation of our tankers with the vaunted fascist “tigers”. For example, the battle of “the famous crew of the Communist Guards Lieutenant Bessarabov” is described. Bessarabov’s tank burst into the German positions, crushed an anti-tank cannon, a machine gun, smashed the bunker and set fire to the “tiger” with a well-aimed shot. “In this battle, an enemy plane with a direct hit from a shell pierced the armor of Bessarabov’s tank,” the report says. The combat vehicle caught fire, the driver-mechanic Eremenko was wounded. Despite the difficult situation, “by heroic efforts, the crew managed to extinguish the fire in the tank under enemy fire and deliver it to the observation post.” Successfully hitting armored fascist “beasts” and thirty-four lieutenant Sibirov: “Fighting off the Germans’ counterattack, supported by tanks, the commander of the T-34 tank Lieutenant Sibirov … skillfully maneuvering on the battlefield, destroyed 3 enemy T-VI tanks.”
Now near Prokhorovka, on the field where one of the fiercest battles of the Great Patriotic War took place, a sculptural and artistic composition “Tank battle near Prokhorovka. Ram”. This monument is dedicated to the hero tankers who sacrificed themselves on July 12, 1943 by ramming a German heavy tank.
Their feat is described in the award materials given in the section. “Tanks rushed quickly to attack. German tanks appeared to meet our tanks, most of which were “tigers”. A fierce tank battle broke out. During the battle, the battalion commander, Captain Skripkin, whose driver was Comrade. Nikolaev, one “tiger” was hit. After that, the tank of the driver comrade. Nikolaev was set on fire: the battalion commander Captain Skripkin was seriously wounded, the tower commander was killed. The surviving driver-mechanic comrade. Nikolaev and the gunner-radio operator comrade. Chernov was pulled out of the tank for the seriously wounded commander and handed over to the infantry for delivery to the medical aid station. To stop the movement of German tanks on our infantry and to avenge the heavy injury of the commander, two daredevils boldly rush into their burning tank and rush to the “tiger” with a ram. The burning Soviet tank crashes into the Tiger’s heavy armor, and the Tiger, engulfed in flames, stops. Two heroes died, but they did not let the German tank pass, ”says the award list for conferring the title of Hero of the Soviet Union to senior sergeant Alexander Nikolaev. According to the award document for the gunner-radio operator of this heroic tank crew, Senior Sergeant Roman Chernov, he was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st degree.
In the Red Army, tank ramming was a fairly common phenomenon. Soviet tankers resorted to this risky tactical technique when they ran out of ammunition in battle or the weapon was damaged. For example, in the award list dated January 10, 1944 for conferring the title of Hero of the Soviet Union to the tankman of the guard, Lieutenant Ivan Butenko, it is said that as a result of the shelling of his combat vehicle from an ambush, the cannon was damaged. Then Comrade Butenko rammed and, before his car caught fire, he managed to ram two Nazi tanks. Then “jumping out of the burning tank and pulling out the seriously wounded art. Sergeant Slinkin comrade Butenko came close to one of the crews of the rammed German tank, whose officer pointed a pistol point-blank in order to shoot Lieutenant Butenko. With a blow to the hand, Lieutenant Butenko knocked the pistol out of the hands of the German officer, and then shot him with the same pistol, and shot the crew. “
An interesting case is the tanker Lieutenant Mikhail Frolov. For the feats accomplished during the Battle of Kursk, the officer was twice nominated for high government awards – the Order of the Patriotic War of the 1st degree and the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. The award list for conferring the highest rank of the USSR on Frolov describes in detail his commanding tactical skills and reveals one of the secrets of the struggle of our tankers with the newest heavy vehicles of the Nazis. Lieutenant Frolov, choosing “convenient ways of approach, taking his tank out from under the fire of enemy tanks, came in from the side and set them on fire one by one. This bold single combat ended with the fact that only in this battle he personally destroyed 4 Tiger-type tanks and knocked out a T-IV tank. And the enemy’s attack failed. “
The merits of the victorious Soviet troops were highly appreciated by the highest political and military leadership of the Soviet Union. In accordance with the order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of August 5, 1943, in Moscow for the first time in the years of the Great Patriotic War, an artillery salute was fired with twelve artillery volleys from 120 guns in honor of the valiant troops of the Red Army who liberated Belgorod and Oryol.
The victory point in the grandiose Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943 was the liberation of occupied Kharkov. The order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of August 23, 1943, published in the section, proclaimed the liberation of the city. The document, among others, also noted the great merits in the liberation of the “second capital of Soviet Ukraine” by the troops of Lieutenant General of Tank Forces Rotmistrov. This order gave honorary names to the units and formations that liberated the city, and also ordered to fire in Moscow with twenty artillery volleys from 224 guns “as a sign of celebration on the occasion of the victory at Kharkov”.
The publication of declassified documents from the funds of the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense of Russia about the heroes-tankers, about the battle at Prokhorovka, about the victory of the Red Army in the Battle of Kursk, is aimed at protecting and defending the historical truth, at glorifying the exploits of Soviet soldiers, at countering the falsifications of history.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.