After the hospital I was sent to the newly formed regiment and that's why I's in this, filled with the troops, small Ukrainian city. A patrolman showed me the location of the HQ. Soon I reported to the Col.Sitnikov on my arrival. He warmly welcomed me by saying that he was glad to have experienced soldiers (I was under Kursk). I was a commander of OT-34, flame throwing tank! Among arrived tankers were many veterans, but there were many fresh from the school youths as well.
A company commander Dmitriy Uvarov was a 28 year old veteran of Kursk and Dnepr, his driver, Pavel Khripkov - a model soldier, maestro of tank driving. We were deep in training now, studying the tanks with flame-throwers, which were new to us.
The delegation of the city of Kramatorsk presented us tanks, which were bought on the money collected by workers. They told us about Donbass in ruins and how they were restoring the devastated plants and cities. We swore to use these tanks to throw away the German swines from the Motherland.
Officers of the 510 th Independent Tank Regiment (OOTP)
June 24, 1944 1st Belorussian Front.
We were attached to the 3rd Army. Our task - city of Rogachev. The line of fascists' defense was along the river Drutj to the north of Rogachev.
3.30. Fire arrows crossed the sky. A volley of Katjushas opened the preparatory fire. In twenty minutes a mighty roar filled everything around-our artillery joined the fry. Everywhere in sight only the red and black fountains of fire. The artillery was softening the front line of the fascists. The fire lasted for two hours.
Our tankers looked happy and enlivened. Everybody was shouting something, admiring the work of the artillery, but nothing could be heard in the roar of hundreds of guns.
Signal and all 10 tanks of our company were in attack! Behind us - infantry from 120th Guard Division.
We were approaching the first line of defense, I was aiming at the fortified MG positions, which was covering our infantry with fire, when, suddenly, the front part of my tank jumped, a few seconds later the tank rocked again - the third wheel run on the mine. The tank was filled with the smoke. By inertia the tank was still moving until it went off the broken track. The bottom was deformed, two wheels badly damaged, the flame-thrower -out of order.
With that MG, I forgot to control my young driver and he, probably, lost the orients marking the passage through the minefield. We were not alone. Five more our tanks blew on four lines of German mines.
Still half-conscious, I got out of tank and found the driver dead near the tank. The poor devil, thinking that the tank was afire, bailed out and was cut by the German machine gun. I closed the driver's hatch and saw that our infantry was retreating - they failed to break the German defense that day.
My wounded loader, Jufarev, and I remained alone in the damaged tank at the German minefield, in five meter from the front line.
With the end of the sleepless night came the barrage and new attack. Infantrymen from the assault group used our tank as a cover in the attack. We supported them with the gunfire and I finally got the damned MG.
Four our remaining tanks under command of Uvarov, Vedernikov, KArpov and Shelukhanov reached the trenches and, turning alongside them, fired from the flame-throwers. The streams of fire, shouts of burning fascists broke the spirit of the defending Germans and they run. Cool thing was a flame-thrower if skillfully used!
Later more mines were removed and repair platoon of Sen.Lt. Torkunov in a day repaired our tank. We returned to the regiment. Everybody was happy to see us as we were considered to be lost in action.
Our platoon was standing in ambush, waiting for Komsomol assault group to join us. Suddenly we saw four tanks and a big group of the German infantry on the road [battalion]. The fascists were trying to get out of the caldron.
The bullets clanged on the armor of tanks. The radio brought a command from the platoon leader " Fire". Three shots of our tanks sounded as one. Two German tanks were blazing with fire. I heard a new order " Forward!" The tank jumped. We quickly dealt with the remaining tanks and attacked infantry column. Streams of fire covered the Germans. Shooting from machine guns and flame-throwers we threw our tanks through the column leaving the wide trails of death behind us. Something cracked under the tracks, shouts, smoke... The occupants got what they came for to our Motherland...
I looked back. The column was dispersed. Finally arrived the infantry support was catching what was remained from the enemy.
We had to scratch the blood, trash and dirt off our tank in the river for a few hours after that.
Karpov and Shelukhanov were in the forward detachment when they saw a group of Germans guided by an Oberst. Behind them in the forest darkened a mass of Germans. Our tankers stopped because the Germans had leaflets in hands. Shelukhanov asked how many they were, the Oberst answered that there were about thousand of soldiers. Shelukhanov swallowed the air, looked at two our tanks and bravely said in Russian "Hands up!" adding in German "Haende hoch!"
Exactly at that time, the Katjusha's salvo covered the forest and a bit later, the main forces of our regiment appeared on the road. Our guys felt the tension leaving them.
For actions in combat and during the liquidation of Bobruisk caldron we were honored by the personal commendation of the Supreme Commander, Stalin.
Belorussia: moving forward.
Our regiment left Minsk with encircled there German troops aside, bypassing it from the South. The first company of our regiment was already engaged in the fight with a group of Germans, which broke out of the circle and in the regimental rear was heading westwards.
Our tanks joined the fry near some small village at the riverbank of the river Svislochj. Alongside the only street the Germans were streaming to the wooden bridge across the river. The order was to attack but as tanks rushed forward, the mighty blow stopped our tank. The track fell apart. I shout to my guys, but there was no answer. End? I a minute it was clear that all were alive but hardly conscious. The gun was loaded but one shot was all I could probably count for. I looked at the battlefield - Germans were crossing the bridge. I carefully aimed holding my breath. Shot! The shell hit the support, the bridge did not collapsed but the traffic across it stopped.
Novikov and Karpov on the move finished off the self-propelled gun, which got our tank and, after smashing an armored car, run into the Germans column firing from the flame-throwers. The infantrymen were catching the Germans, which were mad from the terror.
We had to fight the separated groups of Germans many times after that but one meeting I remember forever.
The weather was hot and the tankers of our platoon were happy to use an opportunity to swim in the small river lost in the forest. The fun was abruptly brought to the end by seven fully armed Germans, which were standing at the shore and looking at us. They started to shout "Plen! Plen!" (Surrender! Surrender!) " That is all... My mistake: no guards..." thought I as we all rushed to our weapons on the shore - our last hope. The Germans, however, did not shoot. On the shore we learnt that the group of Germans, haunted by partisans, was perfectly happy to find the regular Army to surrender. It was a happy outcome but it was close due to my negligence.