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About memoirs of Popel

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  • #16
    Originally posted by hogdriver
    Very interested!!! I can try to help - I am still learning Russian, but will do whatever I can.
    Send me your e-mail.


    • #17
      Andrey, I think I wrote you I was ill but will have some corrections done for the weekend. The more people help you the better.


      • #18
        Btw, today bought a book written by A.Isaev "From Dubno to Rostov" Seems to be very interesting (Sorry, it's in Russian ).
        Hope to find there all what Popel is silent about ...
        If you fire a rifle at the past, the future will fire a cannon at you.....


        • #19
          Hello, I study English so I corrected some mistakes in my first version of the translation. I hope that it will be more understandable.

          Read it again.

          Here is an example. It is the description of the first attack of the 24th Tank Regiment of the 12th Tank Division of the 8th Mechanized Corps which occurred during the successful counter blow of this corps in the direction of Berestechko (the Northern-Western Ukraine) in the flank of German 1st Tank Group of Kleist in the last days of June of 1941. Brigade Commissar [equal to Brigadier rank] Popel, the Deputy of the Commander of 8th Mechanized Corps on Political Matters, personally took part in that attack inside his T-34.:

          ”. . . Suddenly I heard an acute obstinate voice in my ear-phones, "Seven, seven, seven, seven . . ." Forward! Some tens tanks on the left and on the right from mine shroud in an exhaust and rush downhill to the river. Wide sharp furrows stay on the fresh green grass of a meadow. Here a turret with number “50” flashed by, it is Volkov’s tank. Volkov [the commander of 24th TR] is holding a field glasses in his left hand and some signal flags in his right hand. The field glasses is being directed on the place where Leshnev’s house-tops have to appear. The towers of three Roman-Catholic churches with sharp tops (a map gave a notice about those buildings) are already seen.

          And here there is a dense row of the explosions of shells ahead. It is like the signal "We see you". A few our tanks slowed down speed, a few our tanks tarried. But it continued only for one second. The unsighted gunfire from close positions is not very dangerous. But the anti-tank guns, which hide in the bushes on the right bank of the river, aren’t shooting, they are waiting.

          Another thing is dangerous. Some enemy observers are seeing us and the direction of our movement, they are counting our tanks. It is very probably that German telephonists already are shouting commanders of German battalions and regiments from the towers of the churches about the Russians, who resolved to a flank blow.

          Oh, if only it was possible to know the decision of their general, to know where and what he is preparing for us! Unfortunately, it became known only many years later. Reading the memoirs of the former Chief of the German General Staff Galder (according the words of Guderian, he was the general who supposed that the defeat of Russia will need not more than 8-10 weeks) and I found the mentions about our corps and about our actions in the first days of the war in those memoirs. According those memoirs the enemy noted our concentration still at the evening of June, 25th. So it is wrong to speak about the complete suddenness of our attack. But our plans and forces, the direction of our blow - all these things could be divined by German generals only approximately.

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

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

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

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

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

          Probably the other crews have the same senses. It is a good sense but . . . it is premature. A climax is yet to come.

          The grass of the meadow turns into a sedge. I have a time to notice a bluish shading on the map [“bluish shading” means "swamp" on Russian maps] and order to slow down a speed and to move to the bridge on an angle to the enemy guns.

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

          But there is a swamp, and then there is a swamp. The tanks, which run with a rush in the river, got stuck. Our sappers didn't reconnoiter the bank of the night.

          The companies hampered in the sight of the enemy anti-tank guns crews. But I again hear Volkov’s firm voice in my helmet with earphones:

          "Let go in companies at the left through a bridge . . . Do like I am doing!"

          Then he arose over the hatch and repeated the command three times with the signal flags for the tanks which were not equipped by radio stations.

          Our column approaches to the remained whole bridge on the road Brody-Leshnev. The Fascist Command didn't blew up the bridge after the night combat. The Germans try to preserve the lines of communications, they are sure that only they can to advance.

          The clots of ground are flying out from under the tracks of Volkov's tank. Dust doesn't let to breathe and to see. Some shells are exploding between our tanks.

          I looked up and I did it not firstly today. There is a boundless blue sky which is not turbid by any cloudlet. There are no any traces of neither the aircraft division, which was promised to provide air cover of us, nor even of an aircraft regiment, nor even of an aircraft squadron.

          Some tanks, which are the same like my and Volkov's tanks, are moving to the right from mine. The numbers on their turrets convey nothing for me. I do not know the names of the tankmen who, covering my and Volkov’s tanks, put the sides of their tanks under an enemy fire. And here one crew is paying bitterly for his nobleness. The stream of black smoke shot out from a tank which moved in parallel. I see in my periscope how some tankmen jump out from the tank, how they try to put out flame . . .

          The settlement is very close. Its edge is not far than 500 meters from us, behind the bushes. But who knows what will happen with us in this a half kilometer’s way.

          An enemy artillery concentrated a fire on the bridge where Volkov drove up. Golovkin, my driver, also very nearly moved our tank on a wooden flooring right after the tank of the commander of the regiment. I sharply pulled him and rested with foot absentmindedly against a pedestal like I had brake under my foot. According the data of our sapper reconnaissance, the bridge will not stand under the weight of two tanks. Golovkin was warned about it like all the other mechanics-drivers. But memory sometimes fails to operate in a combat . . .

          Our tank stood motionless before the bridge, on a road. What does its armor mean against some tens of shells which are arising the streams of water and of ground around us?

          I notice that something is amiss in the companies. Some tanks crowded right nearly the road, others are maneuvering and are moving to the forest. It diverts me from the thought about the vulnerability of the armor of a tank.

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

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

          Golovkin doesn't wait my command and is driving carefully our tank on the bridge which became free [Volkov’s tank came out from the bridge]. The 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 all the other of our KVs have to go on this peaceful wooden bridge which even sensed rarely a usual truck over it.

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

          Just I want to change the direction of our movement, Golovkin already is doing it. Such a good feeling of a tank, a situation and the wishes of a commander is amazing, he is a driver of high class who has combat experience. I only had time to shoute in my microphone:

          "Thank you, Fiodor Ivanovich!"

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

          I temporally keep aloof with the force of will-power from everything that is happening on the bridgehead. I am watching only for the explosions of shells. A real artilleryman will determine the caliber of a gun according the explosion of its shell and I who served so many years nearly the guns suppose that I am an artilleryman.

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

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

          It is a 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 the commander of the regiment. I hear Volkov’s voice in a response:

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

          And Volkov adds for the commanders of the battalions by tune of a command:

          "Preserve your sides. Zherdev, neutralize the anti-tank artillery in the osier-bed"

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

          Volkov decided to gather the companies to the right from the bridge, in the place where the bushes turn into a rye field, and then to rush into Leshnev not from the south where Germans are probably awaiting us but from the east. Goloida will envelop the settlement from the west.

          The difficulty was to concentrate our tanks, to build a battle order with minimal casualties.

          Now when the anti-tank battery on the riverside was destroyed we sensed more calmly. Shevchenko again smiled a happy smile. And again it was prematurely. The guns from the edge of Leshnev opened fire.

          The dust after a rushing ahead T-34 suddenly becomes thick. The tank doesn't slow down its speed but sharply turns away from the movement direction, then turns ahead, again turns away from the movement direction. When a crimson tail flashed in a black cloud it became clear to me: the crew tries to bring down the flame. But they can't do it. I have time to see how the radio operator and the mechanic-driver jump out from the front hatch.

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

          The commanders of the battalions report about readiness. But just Volkov began to give a command I interrupt his:

          "As you were!"

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

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

          "Watch on the edge of the forest which is to the north-east from Leshnev"

          Before this moment we thought only about Leshnev, about its southern and eastern edges from where Germans burnt the T-34 which was burning out in our sight. I accidentally glanced on the side of the forest. Some enemy tanks rushed out from that forest along a road after one another.

          So here it is the answer of the Fascist Command on our spurt across the Slonovka River. Those 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 the enemy tanks but they do not see our tanks which are hided by rye. But how have we to use better this advantage?

          And now Volkov who earlier leaded only a Cavalry platoon in an attack against a real enemy (and it was in the years of the Civil War, a long time ago) didn't make a mistake:

          "As you were to attack on Leshnev!" I heard Regiment Commander's voice which again became even and calm in my helmet with earphones, "Watch on the enemy tanks. Do not open fire without a command"

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

          Approximately fifty enemy tanks were before us. Our battalions have approximately the same amount of tanks here. The German tanks (it is seen now) are medium - Pz.III and Pz.IV.

          I'd like to recall all what I read and heard about such tanks. What are their real combat performances?

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

          Why do they do it?

          Probably, they gamble on fright, it is the tactics of motorcycles without a 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 the turning of a turret, the barrels which are directed to our side. Yes, the actions of the enemy are well coordinated, efficient. Commands are fulfilled quickly, equally.

          The distance between us and the enemy tanks is nearly 800 meters. Hitlerites deploy in a battle order and rush on our left flank through the field. It looks like a tank avalanche approaches to my T-34. The German tanks are hided by high rye from Golovkin and Shevchenko. They do not see anything but have a foreboding and are alarmed. On a contrary, Korovkin sees everything. He looks at me with a question in his eyes, he grasps me with his hand. I hear the voices of the battalion commanders who ask Volkov:

          "Permit to open fire!"

          "What are we waiting?"

          But Volkov is inexorable:

          "Do not open fire without a command!"

          I beck inhibitory to Korovkin.

          Suddenly I heard in my helmet with earphones an unknown voice which has overbearing dissatisfied inflexion:

          "Volkov! Why did you come to a standstill? Report about your situation."

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

          I catch an enemy tank with the cross-hairs of a sight and track the target.

          The command of Volkov and the roar of shots are merging. Korovkin doesn’t wait my order and load a new shell on the gun. . . .”
          Last edited by Andrey; 05 Jan 05, 03:32.


          • #20
            Andrey will write you back tonight.


            • #21
              Good work Andrey, and much appreciated. Having recently read a collection of military biographies of the commanders of all the Tank Guard Armies, it is very interesting to see Popel's perspective. While I understand Amvas' desire to get source material translated, which is necessary, you are more likely to reach the average American history buff with memoirs. Much of the miss-information that Americans have about Russia's role in WWII comes from reading German memoirs (and from intentional historic distortion during the McCarthy era in the early 50s). While every memoir writer serves their own purpose to some degree, it is good to get a more balanced perspective out there.
              Boston Strong!


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