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  • About memoirs of Popel

    I decided to try to translate memoirs of Popel.

    Nikolay Popel was Commissar of 8th Mech Corps in June of 1941, he took part in huge tank battle in region Lutsk-Brody-Rovno in first days of war.

    Later he became deputy of famous Katukov and took part in all combats of 1st Guard Tank Army from operation "Mars" and Kursk to Berlin.

    He writes his memois very well. It is one of best books about WWII which I read. When I read his memoirs I could imagine in my minds pictures of these events.

    I already translated first 25 pages and I have some questions:

    1. Is it interesting for anyone?

    2. Is anyone ready to help me and to check my writings? I wrote to Scott Frases (he knows Russian excellently) but he doesn't answer...

    Andrey

    PS: Facts in thread "Amazing facts" are taken from memoirs of Popel....
    Last edited by Andrey; 31 Oct 04, 23:40.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Andrey
    I decided to try to translate memoirs of Popel.

    Nikolay Popel was Commissar of 8th Mech Corps in June of 1941, he took part in huge tank battle in region Lutsk-Brody-Rovno in first days of war.

    Later he became deputy of famous Katukov and took part in all combats of 1st Guard Tank Army from operation "Mars" and Kursk to Berlin.

    He writes his memois very well. It is one of best books about WWII which I read. When I read his memoirs I could imagine in my minds pictures of these events.

    I already translated first 25 pages and I have some questions:

    1. Is it interesting for anyone?

    2. Is anyone ready to help me and to check my writings? I wrote to Scott Frases (he knows Russian excellently) but he doesn't answer...

    Andrey

    PS: Facts in thread "Amazing facts" are taken from memoirs of Popel....
    Andrey, I confirm that memoirs of Popel are interesting enough. Especially in comparison with many other memoirs of commissars.
    Also I have to note, that he made some mitakes in them (some of them are discussed in footnotes).
    Also I have to inform community, that total size of Popel's memoirs are THREE volumes covering period from 1941 to 1945.
    If you fire a rifle at the past, the future will fire a cannon at you.....

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    • #3
      Here is example. It is description of first attack of 24th Tank Regiment of 12th Tank Division of 8th Mechanized Corps during successful counter blow ofthis corps in direction of Berestechko and Dubno in last days of June of 1941. Popel personally took part in this attack on his T-34.:

      . . . Suddenly I hear an acute, obstinate voice on the ear-phones: "Seven, seven, seven, seven . . ." Forward! The tens tanks to the left and right from me shroud in the exhaust and rush downhill, to the river. The wide sharp furrows stay on the fresh green grass of the meadow. Here turret with number "50" flashed by. Volkov holds the field glasses on the left hand and the signal flags in the left hand. Field glasses is directed on that place where house-tops of Leshnev have to appear. The towers of three Roman-Catholic churches with sharp top (map gave notice of these buildings) are already seen.

      And here there are dense row of explosions of shells ahead. It is like signal "We see you". Some tanks slowed down speed, some tanks tarried. But it happened only for one second. Unsighted gunfire from close positions is not very dangerous. But anti-tank guns which hide in bushes on right bank of river don't fire, they are waiting.

      Other thing is dangerous. Enemy observers see us and direction of our movement, they count our tanks. It is probably that German telephonists already shout for commanders of battalions and regiments from towers of churches about Russians who resolved flank blow.

      If only to know decision of their general, to know where and what he prepares for us! Unfortunately, it became known only many years later. I read memoirs of former chief of General Staff Galder (that general who, according words of Guderian, supposed that defeat of Russia will need no t more than eight - ten weeks) and I found there mentions about our corps and about our actions in first days of war. According these memoirs enemy notes our concentration still at the evening of June, 25th. So it is wrong to speak about complete suddenness of our attack. But our plans, forces, direction of blow - all these things could be divined by German generals only approximately.

      But in that anxious morning we couldn't suppose about possession of information of enemy. We were going ahead and we didn't know what will happen with us in riverside bushes, edge of Leshnev, on streets which are not seen after orchards.

      Shells explode closer and closer. It is not because Germans adjust the fire, it is because our tanks approach to the line of barrage fire.

      I heard voice of Volkov in helmet with earphones. He orders to fire on bushes on opposite bank of river for covering of battalion of BT which is overtaking us and is bringing to the river parts of folding bridge. Vilkov is speaking specially calmly, neatly, like we are on tank training area. Commanders of battalions transmitted order in companies. Some seconds later light white cloudlets flew out from tens barrels of tank guns and quickly dissolved in air.

      We "waked" riverside bushes. German anti-tank guns opened fire. Its amount is not much, at least if to speak about those guns which are firing. It is not more than ten. And nerves of German artillerymen are not solid. It is obvious that enemy disclosed himself too early: German anti-tank guns couldn't injure us from current distance.

      Here we saw in triplexes stripe of Slonovka River which was golden from reflected sun lights. Korovkin rubs hands and dashingly gives a wink to me. Shevchenko turned to me, he lifted head and is smiling a happy smile.

      Probably other crews have the same senses. it is good sense but . . . it is premature. The climax is yet to come.
      Meadow's grass turns into sedge. I have time to notice bluish shading on the map [it means "swamp" on Russian maps] and order to slow down speed and move to the bridge on the angle to enemy guns.

      I am watching for neighboring tanks. First, second, third tanks with a rush run in the swamp. Tankists supposed to race through and swamp bank and the narrow river like they did successfully not once on maneures. But may be they didn't suppose anything but only couldn't keep in fever.

      But there is swamp, and then there is swamp. Sappers didn't reconnoiter bank at the night.

      Companies hampered in sight of enemy anti-tank guns crews. But I again hear firm voice of Volkov in helmet with earphones:

      "Let go in companies at the left through bridge . . . Do like I do!"

      Then he arose over hatch and repeated command by signal flags three times for tanks which were no equipped by radio station.
      Column approaches to bridge on road Brody-Leshnev which remained whole. After night combat Fascist Command didn't blew up bridge. Germans try to preserve lines of communications, they are sure that only they can to advance.

      Clots of ground are flying out from under tracks of Volkov's tank. Dust doesn't let to breathe and to see. Shells are exploding between tanks.

      I looked up and I did it not firstly today. There is boundless blue sky which is not turbid by any cloudlet. There are no any traces of not only aircraft division which was promised to be out air cover us but even of regiment or squadron.

      To the right from me tanks, which are the same like my and Volkov's ones, are moving. Their numbers convey nothing for me. I do not know names of tankists who put their sides under enemy fire covering tanks of me and Volkov. And here one crew is paying bitterly for his nobleness. Stream of black smoke shot out from tank which moved in parallel. In see in periscope how tankists jump out from tank, how they try to put out flame . . .
      Settlement is very close. Its edge is in on the not more than 500 meters, after bushes. But who knows what will happen with us in this half kilometer way.

      Enemy artillery concentrated fire on bridge where Volkov drove up. Golovkin, my driver, also very nearly moved our tank on wooden flooring directly after tank of commander of regiment. I sharply pulled his and absentmindedly rested by foot against pedestal like I had brake under my foot. According data of sapper reconnaissance, bridge will not stand under weight of two tanks. Golovkin was warned about it like all other mechanics-drivers. But memory sometimes fails to operate in combat . . .
      Our tank stood motionless on road before bridge. What does its armor mean against tens of shells which are arising streams of water and ground around us?

      I notice that something is amiss in companies. Part of tanks crowded directly nearly road, other ones are maneuvering and are moving to the forest. It diverts me from thought about vulnerability of a tank's armor.

      I bring microphone to the lips, call who I am and connect to the companies. Volkov joins to me right away.

      Traffic jam nearly river is dispersing. Tanks, which began to move to the forest for some reason, again turn to the bank of river.

      Golovkin doesn't wait my command and is carefully driving tank on bridge which became free. Flooring is bending under 30-tonns large cumbersome object. I do not hear, I physically sense how piers are creaking and are plunging into ground. But after all still KVs have to go on this peaceful wooden bridge which even rarely sensed usual truck over it.

      But here two tanks - my and Volkov's - are on right bank of river. Enemy anti-tank fire is concentrated on us. We can not to stop even on a moment.

      Just I want to change direction of movement Golovkin already is doing it. Such good feeling of tank, situation and wishes of commander is amazing for him - driver of high class who has combat experience. I only had time to scream in microphone:
      "Thank you, Fyodor Ivanovich!"

      Three more tanks joined us. Fourth one is approaching. Germans adjusted to the bridge and shell runs directly into the forehead of crossing river tank. Sun can not eclipse sheaf of reddish sparkles. But tank continues movement like nothing happened, turns to the right and moves in direction to us. It means that German anti-tank guns can not penetrate head armor. So what is their caliber?

      I temporally keep aloof by force of will-power from everything that is happening on bridgehead. I am watching only for explosions of shells. Real artilleryman will determine caliber of gun on explosion and I who served so many years at the guns suppose that I am artilleryman.

      Germans are firing from guns of two calibers. One caliber is clear - 37-mm but second one . . . it looks like second one is some bigger.

      Oh, so I know these calibers! In the start of 30th we had 37- and 47-mm guns in rifle regiments. Germans used the same calibers for actions against tanks. They will penetrate armor of BT but they are not fearful for head armor of T-34 and, of course, of KV.

      It is very useful discovery. It will cheer up our people, it will arise their pride for our equipment!

      I speak my conclusions about Fascist's anti-tank artillery on the net of commander of regiment. I hear voice of Volkov in response:

      "Thanks for good message. We shall take it into account"

      And Volkov adds for the commanders of battalions by tune of command:
      "Preserve sides. Zherdev, neutralize anti-tank artillery in osier-bed"

      Three KVs rush in bushes directly from bridge. They come ahead; come back; stones, fronds, sand fly out from under wide tracks . . .

      Volkov decided to gather companies to the right from bridge, in the place where buses turn into rye field, and then to rush into Leshnev not from south where probably Germans are awaiting us but from east. Goloyda will envelop settlement from west.
      Difficulty was to concentrate tanks, to build battle order with minimal casualties.

      Now when anti-tank battery on the riverside was destroyed we sensed more calmly. Shevchenko again smiled a happy smile. And again it was prematurely. Guns from edge of Leshnev opened fire.
      Dust after rushing ahead T-34 suddenly becomes thick. Tank doesn't slow dawn speed but sharply turns away from movement direction, then turns ahead, again turns away from movement direction. When crimson tail flashed in black cloud it became clear for me: crew tries to bring down the flame. But they can't do it. I have time to see that radio operator and mechanic-driver jump out from front hatch.

      Golovkin stopped on left flank of regiment which hided in high rye. Or rather, it is better to say not about regiment but about two battalions, third one stayed on that side of river.

      Commanders of battalions report about readiness. But just Volkov began to give command I interrupt his:
      "As you were!"

      I repeat it twice. Then I open hatch and give command "Attention!" by signal flags.

      "What did happen, comrade deputy of corps commander"". - It is firstly in this day when I sense bewilderment, alarm, even discontent in voice of Volkov.

      "Watch on edge of forest which is on the north-east from Leshnev"
      Before this moment we thought only about Leshnev, about its southern and eastern edges from where Germans burnt T-34 which was burning out in our sight. I accidentally glanced on the side of the forest. Enemy tanks rushed out from this forest along the road one after other.

      So here is it, answer of Fascist Command on our spurt across Slonovka River. These tanks must to attack us with a rush, to crush and to throw down our remainders in the river.

      There is only one advantage on our side: we see enemy tanks but they do not see our tanks which are hided by rye. But how do we have to use better this advantage?

      And now Volkov who earlier leaded in attack against real enemy only Cavalry platoon (and it was in years of Civil War long time ago) didn't make mistake:
      "As you were to attack on Leshnev!" - I heard in helmet with earphones Regiment's Commander's voice which again became even and calm. - "Watch on enemy tanks. Do not open fire without command"

      I again looked on sky. What if our blunt-nosed "hawks" [silhouette of I-16 was blunt-nosed] appeared right now. But nothing of the kind! . . .

      There was approximately fifty enemy tanks before us. Our battalions have approximately the same amount of tanks here. Tanks (it is seen now) are medium - Pz.III and Pz.IV.
      I'd like to recall all what I read and heard about these tanks. What are their real combat performances?

      In first minute my interest to little known types of tanks is stronger than all other senses. But enemy tanks remind themselves that we are not on manoeuvres. They open rapid fire against bank of river from long distance from short halts.
      Why do they do it?

      Probably, they gamble on fright, tactics of motorcycle without silencer and of night marching with switching on headlights.
      "Do not open fire, do not disclose yourselves" - Volkov orders.
      Germans didn't wait till we shall answer on their fire and continue their march. Then they again stopped and again shoot. We already are able to discern turning of turret, barrels which are directed to our side. Yes, actions of enemy are well coordinated, efficient. Commands are fulfilled quickly, equally.
      Distance is nearly 800 meters between us and enemy tanks. Hitlerites deploy in battle order and rush on our left flank through field. It looks like tank avalanche approaches to my T-34. German tanks are hided by high rye from Golovkin and Shevchenko. They do not see anything but have a foreboding and are alarmed. On the contrary, Korovkin see all. He looks at me with question in eyes, he grasps me by the hand. I hear voices of battalion commanders who ask Volkov:

      "Permit to open fire!"

      "What are we waiting?"

      But Volkov is inexorable:
      "Do not open fire without command!"

      I beck inhibitory to Korovkin.

      Suddenly I heard in helmet with earphones some unknown voice which has overbearing dissatisfied inflexion:
      "Volkov! Why did you come to a standstill? Report about situation."

      I guess that it is General Mishanin. You know that nobody excluding us knows about German tanks, sees them. But we already clearly discern black-white crosses and flashing separate elements of moving tracks.

      I catch enemy tank cross-hairs of sight and track target.

      Command of Volkov and roar of shots merge. Korovkin doesn’t wait my order and load new shell on gun. . . .
      Last edited by Andrey; 27 Nov 04, 20:15.

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      • #4
        As usual I am here! Anything can come!
        a brain cell

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        • #5
          So how much of Popel's work are you planning to translate? Three volumes sounds like a lot. At least the more interesting parts I think would be of value. I was not aware that commissars would participate in combat, was this usual? I understood their role as watching over morale and also political control.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by joea
            So how much of Popel's work are you planning to translate? Three volumes sounds like a lot. At least the more interesting parts I think would be of value.
            I already made "dirty translation" of 40% of his first book (you can read example of my "dirty translation" to the top. Is it possible to readandto understandit?).

            All three his books are very good.

            I hope to translate all three but I do not know about time and it depend from "quality" of translation. I can quickly make "dirty translation" or to begin to study more English firstly.

            Scott Fraser helps me and corrects my translations but now he suddenly disappered pair weeks ago and doesn't answer on my E-mail letters.

            I was not aware that commissars would participate in combat, was this usual? I understood their role as watching over morale and also political control.
            There were different scale Commissars like usual officers. Generals also do not go into attack personally usually, they do it according personal wish. Popel was Deputy of Commander of Corpse (later - Tank Army) but he often took part in combats personally. If to speak about company and battalion scale commissars so they often operated like usual officers, they were mates of regular officers.

            And good example what did Commissars do is in book of Popel. It is really excellent book.
            Last edited by Andrey; 27 Nov 04, 20:12.

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            • #7
              Can anyone to mark those parts in my text which are NOT understandable for Westerners? It will help me.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Andrey
                Can anyone to mark those parts in my text which are NOT understandable for Westerners? It will help me.
                Andrey, I'll take a look at it today and try to get back to you by tomorrow. I do have a cold and am stuck in my apartment but should return to work tomorrow. Anyway, my first quick read through shows it is in fact ok as a rough translation, and I was an english teacher part time for a few years.

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                • #9
                  I wish you luck.

                  Why not translate the three volumes then tidy them up a bit. From there take enough good bits out of the three volumes so that you have one really good volume, then try to get that published by a Military Publisher.

                  I like what you have written so far.
                  http://www.irelandinhistory.blogspot.ie/

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                  • #10
                    Andrey, still a bit rough but very good work and very interesting, I certainly felt Popel's tension wating in the rye sealed in his tank as the German Panzers approached..

                    here are the parts I don't get: (I copied your text then tried to change the parts to red I found difficult, so I can send it to you but here I am only pasting the parts of the text)

                    ...
                    Tankists supposed to race through and swamp bank and the narrow river like they did successfully not once on maneures. But may be they didn't suppose anything but only couldn't keep in fever.

                    (really unclear, the tanks did or did not pas successfully in manuvers? The double negative is unclear, the second phrase I suppose means they were too excited).

                    ...
                    Golovkin doesn't wait my command and is carefully driving tank on bridge which became free.

                    (the bridge became free from traffic? Or loose from too much weight?)


                    ...
                    I beck inhibitory to Korovkin.
                    (Meaning preventing Korovkin from firing motioning him to stop?)

                    That's all a damn good read Andrey, thanks again. One thing, I read about Popel wishing for air cover from I-16s, I suppose "Ivan" had the same problem as "GI Joe" or the Tommies, the flyboys were never around when you needed them.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by joea
                      Andrey, still a bit rough but very good work and very interesting, I certainly felt Popel's tension wating in the rye sealed in his tank as the German Panzers approached..

                      here are the parts I don't get: (I copied your text then tried to change the parts to red I found difficult, so I can send it to you but here I am only pasting the parts of the text)

                      ...
                      I am watching for neighboring tanks. First, second, third tanks with a rush run in the swamp. Tankists supposed to race through and swamp bank and the narrow river like they did successfully not once on maneures. But may be they didn't suppose anything but only couldn't keep in fever.

                      But there is swamp, and then there is swamp. Sappers didn't reconnoiter bank at the night.

                      (really unclear, the tanks did or did not pas successfully in manuvers? The double negative is unclear, the second phrase I suppose means they were too excited).
                      Tankists tried to race through swampy bank and narrow river at full speed (they did it on manoures earlier). Or may be they didn't plane to race trough but only forgot that they can to stick on the swamp or that there is swamp.

                      They failed to race through (some tanks sticked) and Volkov decided to use bridge for crossing river.

                      ...
                      Golovkin doesn't wait my command and is carefully driving tank on bridge which became free.

                      (the bridge became free from traffic? Or loose from too much weight?)
                      The bridge could to stand weight of only one tank. Popel' waited when tank of Volkov will go out from bridge. When tank of Volkov went out from bridge (bridge became free) driver of Popel's tank began movement through bridge.

                      ...
                      I beck inhibitory to Korovkin.
                      (Meaning preventing Korovkin from firing motioning him to stop?)
                      It means to show for Korovkin sign by hand that it is forbidden to shoot.

                      That's all a damn good read Andrey, thanks again. One thing, I read about Popel wishing for air cover from I-16s, I suppose "Ivan" had the same problem as "GI Joe" or the Tommies, the flyboys were never around when you needed them.
                      It was not always so bad. There is enough amount of examples of good air cover in memoirs of Popel'.

                      My e-mail is [email protected]
                      Last edited by Andrey; 29 Nov 04, 00:07.

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                      • #12
                        I would like Andrey to translate much more documentary works, but he prefer memoirs of Popel...
                        Interesting enough, and written in live language, but some details are omitted
                        If you fire a rifle at the past, the future will fire a cannon at you.....

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by amvas
                          I would like Andrey to translate much more documentary works, but he prefer memoirs of Popel...
                          Interesting enough, and written in live language, but some details are omitted
                          I prefer to show real images of war not only digits and maps.

                          I try to give chance for Western public to see war by eyes of Soviet soldiers and officers.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Andrey
                            I prefer to show real images of war not only digits and maps.

                            I try to give chance for Western public to see war by eyes of Soviet soldiers and officers.
                            Never argued with this your point of view, though http://iremember.ru provides much memoirs. I only think that figures and maps can provide another type of war info...More "dry" than live stories, but not less dramatic...
                            If you fire a rifle at the past, the future will fire a cannon at you.....

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Andrey
                              I decided to try to translate memoirs of Popel.

                              Nikolay Popel was Commissar of 8th Mech Corps in June of 1941, he took part in huge tank battle in region Lutsk-Brody-Rovno in first days of war.

                              Later he became deputy of famous Katukov and took part in all combats of 1st Guard Tank Army from operation "Mars" and Kursk to Berlin.

                              He writes his memois very well. It is one of best books about WWII which I read. When I read his memoirs I could imagine in my minds pictures of these events.

                              I already translated first 25 pages and I have some questions:

                              1. Is it interesting for anyone?

                              2. Is anyone ready to help me and to check my writings? I wrote to Scott Frases (he knows Russian excellently) but he doesn't answer...

                              Andrey

                              PS: Facts in thread "Amazing facts" are taken from memoirs of Popel....

                              Very interested!!! I can try to help - I am still learning Russian, but will do whatever I can.
                              Mens Est Clavis Victoriae
                              (The Mind Is The Key To Victory)

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