Soviet tank from the border in 1941

Leave us veterans, they leave. Catch the moment, people, talk to them, because we live next to people that fit the book to write, real soldiers, hlebnuvshie sorrow and blood. It sounds incredible, but still alive, those who started the war 22 June 41st. Very few of them, and the stands, they do not break, having lived his life modestly, sometimes in complete obscurity. Going to a meeting with Benjamin Mikhailovich Alekseev, I did not expect special revelations and details about the war. Still, 81 years old, you know - the age of a solid (written in 2000, is now the veteran is no longer alive - approx. "Courage"). Especially enjoyable was convinced to the contrary. To be honest: I do not expect to hear what I heard. Despite the years, Benjamin M. remembers everything.

8 photos.

"You have to defend the Motherland ...»

In the ranks of the Red Army Alexeyev called in 1939, at age 19. Until this year, called to serve in the 20-21 year, and now the government has decided to "rejuvenate" the army. Before being called Benjamin M. worked as a mechanic at Saransk CHP-1, that's got to serve with twelve countrymen 450 th Tank Brigade, the Kiev Special Military District. In the Tank School (City Bar Vinnytsia region) cadet Alekseev six months studying materiel BT tanks, T-34 and KV, then, a profession driver, left to serve in the 450-th separate brigade. Young soldiers were given the stunning form: leather overalls, helmets and leggings. Chrezplechnom strap on each - "Revolver" in its holster.
In 1940, the brigade participated in the liberation campaign in Western Belarus and Western Ukraine. That's what they called it then, but now pseudo-historians hold a different point of view, so we'll leave the legal side of this military operation without comment. Sam Benjamin M. recalls that "Westerners" met our troops are quite friendly, but the elderly did not initially believe that these tanks, "Pana said that Muscovites plywood tanks».
After the release of the new border brigade was disbanded and personnel transferred to the 8th Panzer Division, which was based in Lviv and was soon recognized as the best part of the armored troops of the Red Army. In 1940, the division has come a new technique, and Sergeant Alexeev moved to the BT-7 on a brand new T-34. How honors, he was appointed as a mechanic-driver on a tank battalion commander, member of the war in Spain Major Abakumov.
The call Benjamin Mikhailovich was demobilized in November 1941, so the guys since early spring started to buy a "civilized" costumes. The fact is that since the Soviet-Finnish War, soldiers were not allowed to go home in uniform. So, in the beginning (!) 1941, the division commander said the future "muster": "Guys, send their costumes home, you have to defend the homeland." WAR WAITING

First of May in the army was the last pre-war parade. 8th Panzer Division was in the parade marched on foot: KV tanks and T-34 were considered secret weapon and stood in the garage disguised with tarpaulins. In May 1941, in the division have canceled all exercises except for combat shooting and driving. Commanders, foreseeing complex developments, tank prepared to foot marches, out of the environment. In practice, it looked like this: tankers transported by car for one hundred and fifty kilometers from the part, then the commander of the group were given a compass and a map, and then ordered to go back on their own, and move on roads strictly forbidden.
On the 5th of June (!) In the division has been declared readiness №1. Tankers slept in full combat gear (allowed only to remove the boots), every now and then held drills. The troops were rumors about German spies arrested, that the Germans were concentrating their forces on the other side of the border.
On June 17, the battalion went to the landfill, conduct training shooting. Do not have time to make a few shots as new orders came to urgently return to the regiment. In Division tank expect another tip: to burn all personal letters.
The next morning, at 4:00, the division raised on combat alert, Divisional Fomchenko ordered the crew to take full tank ammunition (the T-34 is 150 rounds, fifty grenades and dozens of disks for the machine gun), of the rules of products, fill the machine "to the eyeballs "and go to the interface at a speed of 50 km / h. After a few hours the division focused around the town of Brody, near the Polish border. Entrenched, camouflaged tanks and waited. Secrecy observed fullest. Smoking is only allowed in the trenches. It's even specify during the meal did not knock spoons on pots.
The night of 20 June 21, finally put everything in its place. Across the border is clearly came the roar of tank engines. Did not have to be a great strategist to understand - the enemy is focusing its part for the offensive.
Benjamin A. distinctly remembers the outbreak of war. At four o'clock in the morning the Germans began artillery preparation. Shells flew over the heads of tank and exploded somewhere far in the rear. This lasted for about forty minutes, and then he heard the clank of tanks approaching. At the same time from the divisional heads had received the first military order: "Do not shoot, this is a provocation!».
Commissioner battalion suddenly decided to hold a meeting of staff to explain the party line. Got up, took a few steps and was killed instantly by a single shot to the German sniper. At this point the battalion took responsibility and ordered to open fire. From the first shots out several enemy tanks. True light Pz.Kpfw.II, but still knocked out.

RETREAT. BOI with tanks "SS»

At the turn at the fords of the battalion fought Alekseev defended two days. Then came the order: retreat to the Lions. In the area of ​​Berdichev had one of the most successful operations. Upon learning that the following is a column of German tanks, the battalion commander ordered tanks dug into the ground between the marsh and landing. In the blood wiping hands with crowbars and shovels, each crew dug for their vehicle position 6 by 2, 5 meters (1, 5 meters deep).
Soon the road seemed the German tanks. After letting them closer, our tanks by all the canons of military strategy, first opened fire on the car first, then on the last, having stopped the movement of the enemy. While the Germans understand how to beat him until unfolded tower, our tanks had slapped in each of the 18 German tanks for a few shells. Figures in the steaming black jumpsuits were unable to run away from the burning cars and fell, beveled machine-gun fire.
After the battle almost all the tankers got captured German machine guns (which we for some reason called "Schmeisser"), and one SS crew managed to capture. Our commander tried to interrogate them, but the first German tank commander, to whom he addressed a question in response to spit in his face. Lieutenant already turned white with rage, gritted his teeth, pulled out of the holster "TT" and without further ado slapped a German bullet in the head. The rest immediately lost haughty look and started to answer, but still were shot a few minutes later. What else could I do with them, not with them to drag to the headquarters, which no one knows where?

Under the fire of their own GUNS

Received the order to retreat, the battalion went to the east. Came to a bridge over some river, ready to cross, when crossing sprung into the air. The most offensive that blew up the bridge while our engineers.
Here it is necessary to make a small digression. KV tanks and T-34 before the war were considered secret and had on board no markings. Here Soviet sappers and oboznalis, mistaking them for German.
Blow up the bridge - still nothing, crossed the river to wade, but in another case on the same misunderstanding of our tanks came under fire from his own artillery. In tank Alekseev embedded "blanks", but the armor, thank God, stood.
In late July, went to the old border, and then the battalion was ordered to transfer the tanks (they are by this time there were only four), the other part, and by walking out of the environment. Move in the direction of Donetsk.

From the environment in a stolen «Fiat»

Out of the environment with little or no fighting, because moving away from the big roads, and the Germans rushed forward only on motorways without paying the slightest attention encircled. Hearing about the huge number of soldiers of the Red Army, who were captured in the summer of 1941 (and their number amounted to more than a million), Benjamin M. categorically states: "At the very beginning of the war who wanted to get out of the environment - he came!».
Autumn wind drove the roads German leaflets on which was depicted in colors happy Soviet soldier standing arm in arm with a girl in a neat house, next to which the stall grazing cows and goats. Say, to surrender, Russian soldiers and will have it all. At this agitation encircled do not pay attention, but some of the soldiers, passing through homes, care home. They were released and not criticized.
Per day were 35-40 kilometers, in the village tried not to go, but need made. NC ate long and hunger, as we know, not my aunt. Approach to human settlements, exiled in the exploration of one of the crew. If the Germans in the village did not have walked through the huts for feeding.
And once the scout returned with bad news. At the hut stands at cars and several motorcycles with machine guns, and next in the garden Germans drunk even care not exposed. Our past would pass away from sin, but Alekseev decided a little bit, but the Germans annoy.
Crawled to legkovushke- "Fiat", cautiously opened the door. Key in the lock, but here a few cans of gasoline. Jumped into the car, started shouted his. Those bullet flew into the car and go. The Germans came to, sat on the bike and in pursuit. Movies, and only.
Chase ended in the best traditions. After letting the motorcycles with drunken Germans closer, our tanks have shot them all from captured "Schmeisser" and went to the east, to the front. On captured "Fiat" drove two hundred miles until the car in the form of an order not requisitioned some battalion commissar. I had to walk again.
In the Donbas Alexeev for the first time was wounded by shrapnel in the leg. Medication was not too bandages, leg swelled so that you can not come. In one village, he bluntly told his comrades: I have for you guys, just a burden, go on without me, and then all perish. The crew left, and he stayed. A couple of hours shooting began. All decided to Benjamin, now prisoner.
But apparently, not fate was: nowhere, ran a nurse-girl from his native regiment. Notched a small knife wound, wash it and bandaged. Based on the unexpected savior, Sergeant Alekseev hobbled to the east, as podranenny hare. It is unlikely that they would have had to go far, but he drove past the lorry with the wounded. Her body and our hero out of the environment by following the German rear of 600 kilometers. [Center] Kiev, Kharkov, Stalingrad

In Krasnoarmeisk encircled fed, drove to the bath, given to otsypanie day, and then began to form from the surviving tank crews in the 90th Tank Brigade. The crews of three, therefore, have realized Benjamin M. on tanks BT-7. After this tank was taken to Pryłuki there gave repaired tanks. Alekseev got even BT-7 and older BT-5, all patched after repair. After the "Thirty" in that box even climb was scary: Armor two inches thick.
During the battle for Kiev team lost almost all cars and Alekseev again became the "horseless". The drivers collected and sent to the Kharkov Tractor Plant, by collecting tanks themselves (together with the workers, of course). City lights, and in the shops work is in full swing. After receiving tanks 90 Brigade was ordered to defend the city, supporting the infantry fire.
Kharkov fought until November, and again retreat. On Chuguyiv. There have already taken this defense, and the Germans by this time the onslaught weakened. Until May 1942 there were on the defensive, and then a team of 16-th army went on the offensive.
Germans during those six months had built fortifications considerably, so that the tankers immediately began to suffer losses. Tank Alexeev broke, and the entire crew of concussions. Otlezhal week Valuyki and almost again were surrounded.
Again trip, the Stalingrad Tractor, collect yourself tank. And right from the factory floor - in the fight.
About the fighting in Stalingrad written dozens or even hundreds of books, so talk about them hardly worth it. We only note this fact: six months of fighting brigade became Guards, and the Benjamin M. Alekseev lost three tanks and was awarded three Orders (Order of the Red Banner of one and two - Red Star), and the sign "Excellent tanker." In 1942, believe me, the awards do not just give.
Almost lost and a fourth car, but on this case, perhaps, is to tell really. Once the crew was ordered to participate in a reconnaissance in force. A company of infantry rushed forward, but immediately after the release of the open fire place was pinned to the ground. Tank also got: first direct hit ruptured a caterpillar, and then the crew smelled smoke. All burn. Need to get out.
Benjamin M. climbed through the driver's hatch and took refuge in the infantry trenches, good tank stood directly over her. The remaining crew members rushed to the rear, but a second later they were covered by mortar fire. Alekseyev looked closer to the tank closer and realized that burns not the tank, but only spare tanks in the stern. Therefore, the machine is almost not damaged. Crawling reached the tank, sat at the controls and, under a veil of smoke from the burning solarium, quietly maneuvering to one track, began to give back. The Germans noticed that the tank alive, but at the last minute and opened a furious fire, but too late: the car had already disappeared in the hollow.
Alekseev got out of the tank, the cross, didst remember the good word of designers "Thirty" by Marines pulled caterpillar and went to report to the brigade commander. However, the report needed, as it turned out, was not: the whole team, and so, with bated breath, watching the fight of the driver, the conclusions of the tank out of the fire.
And one more memorable. In Stalingrad in the tank crew Benjamin Mikhailovich several times included the military newsreel cameraman, to place radio operator-gunner. Of course, shoot, sitting on the armor during battle is simply impossible, that had to be removed from the machine gun turret. In the hole operator bobbing camera lens and went into battle together with tank crews.

Battle of Prokhorovka

After Stalingrad, 41 th Guards Tank Brigade brought in the camp under the Tambov, where the preparation for the Orel-Kursk battle. Benjamin M. and participated in the famous tank battle at Prokhorovka. Of course, in the observation slit a driver sees a little, but these impressions etched in my memory forever. It was hell, hell, when the steel wall went at each other thousands of tanks and self-propelled guns. Melted armor and burned land. Who survived after all this, he could consider himself lucky.
Some time later, when the drivers once again sent tanks to take, this time on the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, Alekseev with friends specifically decided to drop out of Prokhorovka field. Picture appeared in their eyes, or as a cemetery and not be called. The vast graveyard of broken and burned cars, and our German.


In all the time while they were on the front lines, Benjamin M. does not remember a single night that his crew would spend outside of the tank. Machine tankman - this bedroom, and dining room. So, in the morning, about five o'clock, tankers wake call by radio. Tank commander, barely awake, immediately got the task to support one or another part of the rifle. At breakfast time there was no good even if the time to wash.
The task of the tank in battle - to suppress the firing points that prevent the advancement of the infantry. Sees the crew that the infantry lain down by machine-gun fire, then you need to find these firing points and destroy them fire their guns or crush tracks. When the infantry goes forward, tanks follow it until the next focus of resistance. And so the whole day or even night. Well, at night fought only during the big offensive, and generally "working" day ended at eight o'clock in the evening.
No matter how tired the day after returning to base the first task of the crew - to fill the tank, remove small breakage, rearm. Maintenance took a couple of hours, after which you can relax, the more that forces practically have no choice. Then it's simple: crept into the tank, turned on the light, spread out on the canvas two or three cans of canned food, bread, a flask of alcohol. Gunner, turning the vernier, is on the air some merry tune, and after "ostakanivaniya" begins frontline dinner. And sometimes a small concert organized, good accordion and guitar with a constantly carried, although sometimes we had to keep them on their knees, even in battle. What to do - places in the tank a little.



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