Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Revisiting Dreadnought¹

Soviet Heavy Assault Tank KV-2

Real life is keeping me busy at the moment. Another trip to Sandy Eggo is in the offing, two weeks this time. But as my section manager said, "Two weeks in San Diego, in November. Must be rough."

Well, sure, it's a tough job, but someone has to do it!

So I'm rerunning all four chapters of a little series I wrote three years ago. I thought it was pretty good, though YMMV.

It's based on a true story.


The massive Klimenti Voroshilov Two (KV-2) assault howitzer rolled to a stop. The driver, one Private Pavel Ivanovich Zhukov from a tiny village in the Urals, kept complaining that the "road is mushy Comrade Captain, there is too much mud, he wants to slide into the ditch."

Captain Pyotr Sergeivich Yershov had felt it as well, the road was churned up from the heavy vehicle traffic in the area. A fast moving rain shower had provided just enough moisture to muddy the road. As one of the few good roads in this part of Lithuania, both the Soviets and the Nazis had been on it since the German invasion just a few days before.

Captain Yershov hated to admit it, but they were somewhat lost. He thought they might not be too far from Kaunas, but he wasn't sure. He had traveled a lot in the Baltic states prior to the war. But he had been young and had paid perhaps a bit less attention to the countryside than he had to the young ladies in his youth group.

"Take it easy for a few minutes, boys. I need to talk to the infantry."

As Yershov climbed down the side of the massive turret, an infantry sergeant major came over, but not before yelling at one rustic looking private that his hole needed to be a lot deeper or the fascists would surely make his young wife a widow.

"Tovarishch Kapitan! I am Sergeant Major Tikhonov, 72nd Infantry. My major is busy looking for the rest of our battalion, what can I do for you?

"Da, Starshiy Serzhant, is your infantry to stay and defend this crossroads? As we," gesturing to the KV-2, "have no prior engagements, perhaps we can stay and help. We too have no idea where the rest of our battalion is."

In truth in the few short days since the German Army Group North had rolled across the border into the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic nothing had gone to plan. The fascists were seemingly everywhere, their thrice-damned Stuka bombers were unopposed. More than one curse had been levied at the Red Air Force. Of course, the captain had no way of knowing that most of that force had been caught, and destroyed, on the ground.

"Yes, Tovarishch Kapitan, our orders are to hold here until we are relieved."

"Very good Starshiy Serzhant Tikhonov of the 72nd Infantry, we shall..."

Yershov paused.

"What is your full name?"

Drawing himself rigidly to attention, the soldier barked, "Starshiy Serzhant Ivan Petrovich Tikhonov at your service, Tovarishch Kapitan!"

"Very well, Ivan Petrovich, I look forward to killing fascists with you!"

Whistling, the captain strolled back to his vehicle. With infantry in support, they had a chance. As long as those damned Stukas stayed away!

The Hunters, Hunted

Panzerjäger* I
"I'm giving you a platoon from the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry, Leutnant. Patrols tell me there is a single Russian vehicle blocking the main highway just south of this little village, Raseiniai, I think it's called. Knock that bastard out, send a runner back when it's clear."

Lieutenant Wengeroth nodded and snapped out, "Jawohl, Herr Oberst!"

Oberst Erhard Raus, commander of Kampfgruppe Raus, which consisted mainly of one full regiment, the 114th and a single battalion of another, the 1st of the 4th Infantry, of his own infantry brigade, the 6th, of the 6th Panzer Division, nodded with some satisfaction. So far the invasion had gone like clockwork, prisoner interrogations revealed that they were facing the remnants of a Soviet Mechanized Corps, the Third.

The KV-1s of the enemy corps had come as a bit of a shock to his tank commanders, the small shells from their Panzer IIIs and IVs tended to bounce right off the big Russian tanks. But his on call air support, an entire group from Stukageschwader 3, had beat the Soviets up badly that very morning. The wrecks of a number of KV-1s and other support vehicles littered the fields around Raseinai, the oily smoke pyres marking the last stand of the Third Mechanized.

Or so Raus thought.

Ju-87 "Stuka" Dive bombers.
Kurt Baumann sat on the back deck of the Panzerjäger I, just behind the two man gun crew and the small shield meant to protect the crew from small arms fire. He was just behind the vehicle commander, his sergeant Willi Klepper was on the right of the vehicle, his MP-40 at the ready. Kurt's K98k lay next to him, with all the brush to that side of the road, he didn't feel it necessary to actually hold onto his rifle.

"Baumann, pick up your verdammte rifle. Won't do you any good lying on the deck!"

Arschgesicht, Kurt thought to himself, but the left side of the road was clearing anyway so his rifle was now in his hands, at the ready. What does Klepper think I am, some damned rookie?

As he leaned out to see around the gun shield, Private Kurt Baumann, of the 2nd Squad, 3rd Company, 1st Battalion of Infanterie-Regiment 4, saw the biggest damned tank he had ever seen. Just sitting there. Bigger than even some of the tanks the Frenchies had.

Oberfeldwebel Artur Schlichter also saw the big Soviet tank, first he barked at the driver to halt, then looked to his loader, who already had an armor-piercing round up the spout of their Czech 47 millimeter gun. Bending his eye to the gun sight, Schlichter laid the gun on the target, low on the enemy tank's turret (which was turned so as to present the left face of the turret to Schlichter's vehicle), then barked...

"Feuer!" as he triggered the cannon, sending the round down range. Over the bark of the gun, Schlichter swore that he heard the round ricochet off the side of the Soviet tank at the same time seeing sparks fly just where he had aimed the gun.

"Reload! Schnell!" he screamed at Klaus Becker, his loader.

"Panzergrenate geladen!" Becker screeched as he slammed the breech block of the 47 closed.

Again Schlichter bent to the sight, noticing that the turret of the Russki was starting to turn...

In their direction.

Triggering the gun, he saw the round impact the enemy vehicle again. Again to no apparent effect.

"Scheiße! Reverse Hans, reverse!"

Schlichter was dimly aware of the two infantrymen jumping off of his vehicle and their squad mates scrambling to get out of the vehicle's path as the driver, Gefreiter Hans Landes began to back up. In his peripheral vision he noted that the landsers were heading for the ditches along either side of the road.

Baumann saw the flash of the Russian's cannon from where he lay in the ditch, without thinking, he buried his face in the dirt, both hands clasped over his helmet, rifle forgotten...

The big 152 millimeter round from the Soviet vehicle hit near the top of Schlichter's gun shield, exploding and reducing the top halves of Schlichter and Becker to a bloody mist. The driver, Gefreiter Landes, lived perhaps five seconds longer than the rest of his crew. All he felt was a vast numbness before he slid into unconsciousness and death. The pressure from the high explosive round killed him, not a fragment had touched him.

The explosion from the KV-2's big round, after tearing the top half of the small Panzerjäger into scrap metal and killing the entire crew, engulfed and killed or incapacitated most of Feldwebel Willi Klepper's squad. At the same time, the wrecked vehicle, still rolling backward, ran over Klepper's left foot. Saving his life.**

Baumann was deafened by the explosion, it felt like his head was stuffed with cotton. He was bleeding from both ears, his ear drums partially ruptured, he was also slightly concussed. His condition was survivable, what he did next was not.

Struggling to his hands and knees, Baumann saw his sergeant writhing in pain next to the wrecked Panzerjäger, holding his lower leg. Baumann thought it odd that his sergeant had his mouth open and seemed to be screaming. He was puzzled that he couldn't hear him. Then he staggered to his feet, determined to help his sergeant.

"Cannon reloaded, Serzhant Smirnov!" shouted Efreitor Nikolay Anatolyevich Shukov as he slapped his sergeant on the back. Private Arkady Petrovich Rogov stood by the ready rack, prepared to hand Shukov another round when needed. Nothing fancy, no calculating to do, all they carried was high explosive, the rounds were heavy, they could only carry twenty of them. Rogov had counted, now there were fifteen.

"Tovarishch Kapitan! One of the fascists is still alive!" screamed the bow gunner, Private Mikhail Gennadyevich Vasiliev.

"Then shoot him Mikhail Gennadyevich! Nikolay Anatolyevich, slew your gun to nine o'clock, I see more of those fascist self-propelled guns." His comment was punctuated by another German anti-tank round glancing off the top of the turret. The inside of the Dreadnought rang like a bell for a moment, as the turret slewed to engage another German vehicle.

Klepper was in intense pain, his foot was still attached to his leg but he knew it was crushed. His metal shod boot had been bent into an odd shape, causing him further pain, but as near as he could tell, he wasn't bleeding. Much.

It was then that he saw the young landser from Oberammergau stand and turn towards him. No, no, no.

"Get down Baumann! Get..."

He saw the 7.62 rounds slice through the young infantryman, killing him instantly. Young Baumann crumpled to the ground and didn't move, his sightless eyes still fixed on his sergeant. Klepper, in all his pain, had the odd thought that Baumann looked...


Platoon of German Czech-built Panzer 35(t)s advancing
Just after seeing Valentin Alexandrovich's gun disassemble another German vehicle, Captain Smirnov saw a deployed platoon of German tanks coming into view over one of the gentle folds in the ground which were common in this part of Lithuania. All rolling plains or swamp he thought. He also noted that the light was starting to fade. Night was coming.

He would have to rely on Starshiy Serzhant Ivan Petrovich Tikhonov's lads from the 72nd to keep the fascist infantry at bay during the short night. He was confident the Nazi tanks would hold in place, for now.

The morning however, then we shall see how badly the fascists want this road...

Colonel Raus looked in disbelief at the young lieutenant, "A single Russian tank. One tank destroyed four of my Panzerjägers, and destroyed nearly a full platoon of infantry?"

"Jawohl Herr Oberst. From the description one of the survivors gave us, it has to be one of those big KV-2s, the assault howitzer."

"A survivor? Where is he?"

"He's wounded, Sir, they're about to evacuate him..."

"Gottverdammt Leutnant! I didn't ask you his condition. Where is he!?!?!"

As the chastened lieutenant led his colonel over to the dressing station, he saw them loading the sergeant with the crushed foot onto an ambulance. "You there, Sani! Hold up!"

The medic (Sani, short for Sanitäter), gestured to the stretcher bearers to wait. The lieutenant looked frightened, the colonel looked very angry.

"Oberfeldwebel! What is, mein Gott, is that you Willi?" Raus had known Willi Klepper since Poland, a good man to have in a fight.

"Excuse me for not getting up Herr Oberst. Whatever the Sani gave me is working well, I am feeling no pain. I daresay I shall never dance again though."

As the colonel looked askance at the medic, the medic mouthed the word 'morphine.'

Nodding at the medic, Raus continued, "What did you see out there Willi?"

"A very big Russki tank with a very big gun. Had to be a KV-2, the thing ate our panzers and my squad like we were nothing. The 47 rounds just bounce off." Klepper began to sing "Erika."

Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein
und das heißt: Erika.
Heiß von hunderttausend kleinen Bienelein
wird umschwärmt Erika
denn ihr Herz ist voller Süßigkeit,
zarter Duft entströmt dem Blütenkleid.
Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein
und das heißt: Erika.

"Go ahead, Sani, get him to the rear." Patting the sergeant on the arm, the colonel turned to the lieutenant -

"Send a runner to the Flak Bataillon. We need one of their 88s. Now!"

If the feared 88 millimeter FLAK 37 can't crack that Soviet tank, then nothing could. By morning we shall see, the colonel thought.

88 mm Dual Purpose gun, Russian Front

Panzerjäger = tank hunter (literally "armor" hunter)
** He would be evacuated back to Germany, crippled but alive. He survived the war, the sole member of his company to do so

Other notes:
Leutnant = lieutenant
Oberst = colonel
Infanterie-Regiment = infantry regiment
Tovarishch Kapitan = Comrade captain
Landser = German military slang for an infantryman
Oberfeldwebel = master sergeant
Feldwebel = sergeant
Serzhant = sergeant
Gefreiter/Efreitor = corporal (German/Russian)
Arschgesicht = German equivalent of "asshole, literally "ass face"
Starshiy Serzhant = sergeant major

Dusk 'til Dawn

"Gebhard?" Colonel Raus nodded to the young engineer lieutenant as he led six of his men into the dim red light from the colonel's flashlight. Leaning over the map the lieutenant pointed and said, "Here?"

"Yes, the Soviet tank is right about there on the road, this field where you could make your approach is somewhat protected by this low ridge. You should be able to get close enough to take it out. Questions?"

"Nein, Herr Oberst, should be easy enough." Turning to his sergeant the lieutenant said, "Do you have any questions Horst?"

"Nein, Herr Leutnant. We can do this. But we'll need to get started, now. The nights are not that long, I don't want to be out there with my boys when the sun comes up."

Looking to the colonel with a raised eyebrow, the lieutenant waited.

At that moment another soldier jogged up to the colonel and reported that the anti-aircraft boys were about to emplace their 88 mm cannon.

"Show me on the map."

Briefly studying the map, the young soldier gestured and said, "We are here, yes?"

The colonel nodded, and the private pointed to the map and said, "The gun is going in here." Again the colonel nodded, turned to the engineer lieutenant and said, "Maybe your lads won't have to go in after all. Follow me." The two officers climbed a small knoll, the colonel pulled out his field glasses and then pointed towards where the Flak crew were setting up.

"They've got the setting sun behind them, the Russkis won't know what hit them!" The two men settled in to watch.

"Blyad'!"* Corporal Shukov blurted out as he climbed the side of the turret to where Captain Yershov was sitting. "Tovarishch Kapitan! There is a big fascist gun out there, towards the setting sun!" With that Shukov scrambled aboard as Yershov peered intently to where his loader had pointed. His eyes were starting to water from the glare of the sun. But sure enough, there it was, it had to be one of their 88s.

"Der'mo!** Valentin Alexandrovich, do you see him?"

As the turret turned in the direction of the big German cannon, Captain Yershov knew that his gunner had spotted the target, hopefully there was time. That gun would tear them apart given half a chance.

"Target acquired, Tovarishch Kapitan!" Without waiting, Smirnov fired.

As Raus and Gebhard watched, the Russian tank fired, there was no need for a second round, the 88 was gone, twisted steel and a dead or wounded crew all that remained. Raus lowered his head and sighed, looking up he said...

"Go, get it done, Lieutenant. Send in your men and Godspeed."

Scrambling back down from the knoll, the lieutenant had an animated talk with his sergeant, then he waved the engineer squad forward, leading the men himself.

As the night settled in, and the heat of the day gave way to a slightly cool breeze out of the north, the infantrymen of the 72nd tried to stay alert. But the heat and the shock of the past two days were too much for some, they fell asleep in their shallow foxholes, assuming the Germans would wait for the morning.

But they did not wait, the elite German combat engineers slipped quietly across the fields, moving up behind the slight rise of land between them and their target, sliding closer to their prey. Alert for anything out of the ordinary.

"Scheiße!" exclaimed the young German private as he fell into the unexpected depression in the ground, dropping his rifle and the satchel charge he carried. The young Russian he had stumbled over was just as startled, but the Russian reacted faster. The crack of a single shot echoed through the night, followed closely by a scream.

Peter Volker was in agony, the Russian had shot him low in the belly, the pain was nearly overwhelming. But the German's agony seemed to distract the young Russian soldier, he had never shot anyone before. He never saw Volker's fighting knife as it flashed into his groin. He screamed as if all the demons of Hell had been unleashed. It had been the young German's last conscious act, he bled to death there in the dark of a dirt hole scrabbled out of the meager soil of this Lithuanian field.

The young Russian was also in intense pain, but Volker's knife had not cut him anywhere immediately fatal. He managed to staunch the bleeding with his shirt tail. But he was afraid to move, or to cry out, where there was one German, there had to be more.

Leutnant Gebhard removed his hand from the sergeant's shoulder, then nodded, gestured forward. Whatever had just happened was over, for better or worse. But the tank still stood in the roadway, their target yet lived.

Creeping close to the road, then onto their bellies, two of the German engineers slid over to the big KV-2, they marveled that no one had seen them. They could actually hear the Russians inside the tank. They sounded worried. Out here in the open, there was just enough starlight to make out shapes, inside the tank had to be as black as a tomb.

Stuffing their satchel charges along the top of the KV's track, pressed against the hull, the two Germans pulled their fuses at the same time. Both turned to run as the bright light from the burning fuses silhouetted them briefly in the dark.

One of them made it to cover, the other was cut down by a Russian sergeant from Leningrad. Wilhelm Sigismund was dead before he hit the ground, his best friend, Wolfgang Lechfeld, upon reaching cover turned to see if their charges would do the trick. In the light of the two explosions, one after the other, Lechfeld saw the crumpled form lying in the road. He knew then that Willi was gone.

What was worse, the big tank's track slithered and clanked down off it's rollers. The tank's hull was unbreached. The KV wasn't going anywhere, but it was still a potent threat and the Russians were alert now. There would be no second chance that night.

Leutnant Gebhard and Pionier Lechfeld were the only two engineers to survive the assault. The attack by Pionier Volker on the young Russian and the resulting piercing scream alerted the Russians as to what was afoot. After the satchel charges had gone off, they had swept the field to their front with machine gun and rifle fire.

Volker and the Russian soldier he had wounded were found two days after the battle. While the Russian's wound had not been immediately fatal, given the lack of medical care available during the fighting around Raseiniai, the Russian's wound reopened and Private Ivan Ivanovich Koniev bled to death, unable to crawl back to his comrades.

As the dawn broke, Yershov's tank was still in play. Unable to move, but it still blocked the road. At this point, an entire German panzer division was held in place. By a single Russian tank, its brave crew, and a handful of infantry under a wounded Sergeant Major.


* A rude Russian word I learned watching Russian dash cam videos. Something that rhymes with "truck."
** Another rude Russian word, this one I had to look up. Think fertilizer.

Red Sky in Morning

Captain Pyotr Sergeivich Yershov was trembling nearly uncontrollably, the pain from his leg was nearly overwhelming him, but for the sake of what was left of his crew, he had to keep it together, at least until the expected Soviet counterattack rolled the fascists back to the East Prussian border.

Yershov and the crew of his KV-2 assault howitzer had been holding their own nicely, until just before sun up. Up until then, they had destroyed four German self-propelled anti-tank guns, one of their big 88 mm dual purpose guns, a lot of infantry and at least three Panzer 35s, the little Czech-built tanks that their opponent seemed to have a lot of.

Just after sundown the day before, an attack by a group of what had to have been German combat engineers had also been driven off, but the cost had been high.

Sergeant Major Tikhonov had reported in shortly after the last Germans had been seen to, he was badly wounded, bleeding profusely from a wound in his side, under his left armpit. At the time Yershov was still deafened by the explosive charges which had gone off against the side of their vehicle, crippling it and killing his driver, Private Pavel Ivanovich Zhukov.

"Tovarishch Kapitan! Beg to report, the Germans, they have..."

Catching himself, Starshiy Serzhant Tikhonov gripped the side of the tank, he could barely stand.

"Ivan Petrovich, I order you back to an aid station, your wound looks bad." Truth be told, Yershov wondered how the tough old sergeant was still on his feet at all.

"Yes, yes, but I must tell you, the Germans are not done with us yet. We can hear vehicles maneuvering out there in the dark, tanks and motorized guns most likely. Their infantry is quiet for the moment, we gave them quite a bloody nose. But..."

The sergeant major gasped and dropped to one knee. Yershov climbed down from his turret and told off the man with Tikhonov to bring a stretcher.

"Don't worry about all that, Ivan Petrovich..."

"Nyet, listen to me sir, one of my men says he saw another of their big 88s being prepared. It was being towed, we don't know where to, it..."

With a sigh, the sergeant major fell onto Yershov. Just then the stretcher showed up.

"Is he?" one of the bearers asked.

"He's alive. Barely, get him to the rear, there was an aid station about a half mile back. Move out!"

As the stretcher bearers carried the unconscious sergeant major to the rear, Yershov looked around. The dead German had been dumped unceremoniously into the ditch alongside the road, but the satchel charges which he and his mate had planted had done enough.

The track was badly damaged, and they had no spare links to repair it, but the worst part was that a small piece of the tank's interior, just on the other side of where the charges went off, had spalled off and killed his driver. Young Zhukov's throat had been nicked, a trifling wound, had it not cut his carotid artery.

They had desperately tried to save the young private, but in the dark and confined space of the vehicle's interior, and with Zhukov's thrashing, he had bled out. The KV's interior now stank of blood and the contents of Zhukov's bowels. Private Vasiliev has volunteered to drag Zhukov out of the tank and bury him, but the continuing crisscrossing of tracer fire from the German and Russian lines made it too dangerous.

Though the firing had subsided before Tikhonov had made his report, Yershov had noticed that the tracers coming from the enemy weren't only to his front, the Germans were making their way along either flank. He assumed that by mid-day, they would be surrounded.

Unless the commander of their corps, Major General Alexey Vasilievich Kurkin, counterattacked, they were doomed.

About an hour before sunrise, a single German tank had managed to make it's way behind Yershov's tank. The Germans waited, by starlight the German tank commander could just make out the thin ribbon of road which the massive Soviet tank was blocking. In the shadows of the night, he imagined that he could see the big KV. But not well enough to open fire and kill it.

Yershov was up in his commander's cupola, keeping a look out while the rest of the crew managed to nap, fitfully, but better than nothing. Yershov himself had not slept in three days, no four, he thought. The Germans had stormed across the border on the 22nd, today was the 25th, at least he thought it was.

To the east, Yershov could see the first harbingers of dawn, but he was uneasy, an old nursery rhyme perhaps, something about "red sky in morning" and warnings, he couldn't quite remember. But the eastern horizon was as red as blood.

Feldwebel Jürgen Witzleben was staring intently through his commander's sight. Prodding his gunner with his foot he asked, "Do you see it Thomas? Big as a whale, stands out like a whore in church doesn't it?"

Gefreiter Thomas Benfeldt chuckled at his tank commander's characterization of the big KV, but yes, with the early dawn light, he could see the enemy tank in his gunsight. He looked to his loader, who nodded.

"Put one up his ass, Thomas."

Stretching, Yershov was knocked to his seat by the shock of a German anti-tank round penetrating the engine compartment of his vehicle which shook the tank. Though small at 47 millimeters, the round traveled at high speed and was fired from fairly short range.

It passed through the thin armor at the rear of the KV, missing all of the vital engine components and, more importantly, completely missing the fuel system, then entered the crew compartment where it disemboweled the assistant loader Private Arkady Petrovich Rogov, then continued on, nearly spent, to decapitate the bow gunner, Private Mikhail Gennadyevich Vasiliev.

But the German round had also peeled off a long piece of steel from the ammunition stowage and driven it lengthwise into Yershov's leg.

"Traverse left, Valentin Alexandrovich, the bastard is behind us!" Yershov shouted as he put his eye to his commander's periscope. As the turret moved to point the gun over the back deck, he saw a flash.

"Panzergranate geladen!" screamed the loader of Panzer 214.

"Feuer!!" bellowed the commander of Panzer 214.

"Reload, reload, reload, hurry up you bastard!" Gefreiter Thomas Benfeldt urged his loader, he knew that they had not killed the big Soviet tank, he could see the KV's turret turning in their direction. It was a race against time, who would fire first?

Benfeldt at that point, realized that he had wet himself. Scheiße, these bastards won't let me forget this I'll bet.

He was wrong.

The Panzer 35(t)'s second round had banged off the side of the KV's turret, leaving a trail of sparks as it ricocheted off into the sky. The German's third, and last, round hit the road about ten meters behind the KV then ricocheted off the road and into the tank's engine compartment where it burrowed into the tank's engine block.

Feldwebel Jürgen Witzleben was tossed like a child's toy from the turret of his tank as the 152 millimeter high explosive shell impacted the glacis in front of the driver. The explosion ripped the turret of the small tank from the hull and tossed it behind the tank. The other three members of his crew had died instantly. He marveled that he was still alive, though he couldn't catch his breath as he lay some 25 meters away from his tank.

He heard the sharp bark of an 88 just before he died of shock. At the very least they had bought time for the big gun to move into position. He would be awarded a posthumous Iron Cross, Second Class.

As the first 88 round tore most of the left side of his tank away, Yershov could see German infantry opening fire from his front. As Vasiliev's machine gun had been destroyed by the round which had killed him, they had nothing but the tank's main gun and it's coaxial machine gun left to defend themselves. Then he remembered Valentin Alexandrovich's PPD-34, which his sergeant kept nearby all the time. The men joked that he even slept with it, they called it "Smirnov's Baby."

PPD-34, Soviet Submachine Gun, Predecessor of the PPSh-41
"Valentin Alexandrovich, hand me Baby. You have the main gun, I will try to keep the fascists to our front busy while you deal with those behind us."

Yershov popped his hatch and sprayed a magazine at the German landsers making their way incautiously up the road, they assumed that the KV was dead. Bad assumption. As Yershov reloaded, he could see at least two Germans down, and not moving, a third was on his hands and knees, vomiting.

Another 88 round slammed into the KV, penetrating the turret this time and mortally wounding Captain Pyotr Sergeivich Yershov. But Sergeant Smirnov had managed to drop a 152 round on top of the German 88, disabling it and killing most of its crew. He heard a sharp intake of breath from his captain as he and Corporal Shukov traversed the turret to the front, to bring the coaxial machine gun to bear. The main gun had been disabled by the 88's last shot.

"Captain, keep firing until we can crank the turret around! Captain?"

Smirnov turned to see his commander sitting placidly in his commander's seat. The PPD was a mangled pile of junk, as was his captain's chest. Shrapnel from the gun breech had exploded back into Yershov as the 88 round had hit it, then ricocheted up through the turret roof, leaving a gaping hole in the armor.

"Kill them all Valentin Alexandrovich," Yershov managed to say, before he coughed up a gout of blood, and died.

"Covering fire!" bellowed the German infantry captain as he led his maneuver element to the left of the big KV, he wanted to keep away from the Soviet's coaxial machine gun. As at least three German MG-34s opened up on the Soviet tank, ineffective in damaging the tank, other than scratching the paint, the noise of the rounds hitting the steel should distract the crew long enough for...

German MG-34 Light Machine Gun, Predecessor of the MG-42
Hauptmann Christoph von Waldfeucht saw the Soviet MG "twitch" in their direction. The grenade he was holding was fused and tossed in the tank's direction in an instant. Again, no hope of killing, but a distraction was needed.

Shrapnel from the hastily thrown German grenade, which had exploded nearly perfectly over the hole in the turret roof, sliced down and killed Shukov instantly. Shrapnel had also torn into Smirnov's upper thigh and upper arm. The wound in the upper arm hurt, the one in the thigh concerned him. He felt warm down there, too warm.

All of that had flashed through his mind in an instant as he triggered the tank's coaxial Degtyaryov machine gun, missing the German who had thrown the grenade, but hitting the two men behind him.

Just as the bolt slid home onto an empty breech.

Waldfeucht gestured to his men to climb up on the beast. The young officer surmised that the Russki's were reloading, now was the time. Fusing two grenades, his sergeant held them for an instant, then dropped them into the tank's hatch. Diving to the ground, he thought he had seen the Russian tank commander, just sitting there, as if he hadn't a care in the world.

"Blyad'!" Smirnov muttered as he saw two grenades drop into his dead captain's lap. Realizing that he was a dead man anyway, he racked the bolt back on the machine gun and began to fire. A moment later, both grenades detonated.

Hauptmann von Waldfeucht took a long drink from his canteen, then turned to his sergeant, "Anyone survive that mess?"

Oberfeldwebel Heinz Martinsohn shook his head as he watched the members of his squad removing the dead Russians from the KV. "Nein, Herr Hauptmann, all of them dead at their stations, it's a mess in there."

"Very well, dig those graves quickly, we need to be moving on." He saw Oberst Raus's Kübelwagen rolling towards him, pulling over from the long column of trucks heading towards Leningrad, now that this Soviet tank had been killed.

Raus jumped from his vehicle even before it had come to a complete stop, "Christoph, how many did you lose?"

"Seventeen men dead in my company alone, twenty-three wounded, five seriously. Counting the four Panzerjägers this beast killed, the two 88s destroyed, the three Panzer 35(t)s and the combat engineers that were killed last night, too many Herr Oberst. Too many."

"What are you doing now? We don't have time for this, the rear echelon will take care of burials."

"Sir, we found six Russians inside that tank. Everyone of them died at his post. It took us two days to deal with them. Brave men. My guys suggested a proper burial was in order, these men fought bravely and well. We should honor that. These are not subhumans, these are men, they were damned good men. We could use some like them."

Colonel Raus stared briefly at the young captain, "I had no idea you were such an idealist Christoph. While I agree with your sentiments, keep them to yourself. The Führer doesn't hold to your point of view. Nor do the Feldpolizei or the Gestapo."

"Idealist," the young captain spit into the dirt to his right, "I'm a soldier, these men were soldiers. If I fall, I expect the same courtesy I extend to these men. Regardless of the color of their uniforms."

Colonel Raus clapped the younger officer on the shoulder, "I like you Captain, but I fear for your safety. Stay alive, Germany needs you." With that Raus jumped back into his car and headed north.

Christoph von Waldfeucht would not see Erhard Raus again until 1945. Waldfeucht was badly wounded in the battle of the Korsun-Cherkassy pocket, where he commanded an infantry battalion as a major, and wasn't returned to duty until late in 1945. Assigned to the XI SS Panzer Korps as a Lieutenant Colonel, which puzzled him until he learned that Erhard Raus now commanded that ragtag unit. Raus had asked for him by name.

Raus and Waldfeucht both survived the war.

Author's Note:

Many of the men mentioned in this account actually existed. There was a marker at the grave of the KV-2's crew with two names, Yershov, P.E., Smirnov, V.A., one set of initials, Sh., N.A., and mentioning three unknown warriors.

Colonel Raus, Lieutenant Wengeroth, and Lieutenant Gebhard were actually there at Raseiniai, I got their names from an order of battle for the German 6th Panzer Division which was the main unit engaged with that Russian tank.

Captain von Waldfeucht is a product of my imagination, you'll note that he has the German version of my first name, Waldfeucht is where we lived in Germany.

This story of the KV-2 at one of the earliest battles in Operation Barbarossa, the name for the German invasion plan to conquer the Soviet Union in 1941, really intrigued me. Brave men doing a thankless job for no better reason than in defense of their native land.

Отдать честь!²


¹ The crews called the vehicle this, though probably "дредноут." Being Russians and all.
² Salute!


  1. reminds me of all the good times I had in kv-1, kv-2 and kv-220 when still played World of Tanks
    Never got Heroes of Rasyenai medal though, one of rarest awards ingame, for killing 14 oor more of 15 tanks on enemy team

    1. I got the award once, in a Polish TKS. Missed the last one by that much when some yokel on my team took out a Soviet light tank by ramming it with an Italian tank, from off a cliff. Both crews died. Had fun in that TKS, good little tankette.

      And, yeah, back when I still played WoT. I did it to blow off steam, not to 'be the best.' Was fun while it lasted.

      As to the KVs, slow, poorly steering, slow. Good tanks against early German tanks, but...

    2. Kinda classic Soviet design philosophy...

  2. Excellent choice for a replay Sarge. Less stressful reading Communists killing Fascists rather than Communists killing Americans. Go West young get the idea.....:)

  3. Great writing and good timing as I'm in the middle of reading, "Panzer Ace: The Memoirs of an Iron Cross Panzer Commander from Barbarossa to Normandy," by Richard Freiherr von Rosen.
    I think I watched a Russian made movie about this battle, but I could not run down the information.

  4. Quite frankly, with what the Communists did to Russia and Eastern Europe, I side with the Germans in this episode!!!

    And now they're trying to do it here as well!!!

    1. Other than the fact that the Nazis were doing pretty much the same thing, yeah, I get that.

    2. The Communists murdered FIFTY MILLION across Russia and Eastern Europe. Then went on to murder ONE HUNDRED MILLION across China. I believe that easily trumps the Nazis.

    3. Dude, CTFD, I know my history.

    4. It is ironic that the MEN that killed most communists were Stalin and Mao. Imagine how much more dangerous would be Red Army without the great purge?

    5. Good point Paweł, now throw in Pol Pot!

  5. Have another productive and still enjoyable trip to Sandy Eggo, Sarge. Suggest you plan for travel disruptions en route, might be best not to book on Southwest...

    1. Roger that. I'm flying United, a judge in Texas issued an injunction against United pulling that shit with their employees.

      The revolution has begun.

    2. We shall see what the Alzheimer's in Chief does with that injunction. Being a Demonrat, he (actually the people controlling him) will probably just ignore it like they've ignored the Constitution.

      Hope you aren't forced to take a train or drive. Bleh.

    3. From Drudge:

      United ain't on there yet, but...

    4. Apparently United's vaccination rate is well over 90%. They already terminated those who were not.

  6. "Red Sky In Morning" ? Farmer's Almanac(iirc?): "Red Sky in Morning Sailor Take Warning; Red Sky At Night Sailor's Delight." :)

    1. Which has to do with weather on the oceans and storms brewing out of the East.

      Which, hmmm... considering the terrain and the Soviets, might be applicable in this situation.

    2. Not sure if that applies globally.

    3. Depends on the normal windflow for the area. If that is westerly, then it applies:

  7. We should have slow-rolled our supply effort to the pinkos and let the gawddamn tyrants exterminate each other. The cold war might have been a non-issue had the rooskies only had 3 surviving men at the end of WWII...

    1. The two sides were killing each other at a prodigious rate, that's for sure.

    2. Slow-rolled? We and the English should never have supplied the Soviets with one drop of aid at all. Let socialists kill socialists, and we'd pick up the pieces. Would have made taking Western Europe a lot easier, and we wouldn't have needed to stop before taking Berlin. The fanatic Germans most likely would not have been as resistant to us taking the city and most of the country as they weren't worried (as much) about the retribution the Soviets would bring.

      Lessee... The Soviets completely penetrated our State Department, our colleges, and our newspapers. They interred our people and their equipment even though we had agreements with them to not do so. They did nothing to the Japanese other than stopping their expansion in Manchuria/Mongolia, but tried at the last minute to sneak a good number of islands away from the Japanese (and us) even though we bled much worse in the Pacific and the Far East than they (the Soviets) did.

      Ah, well, international socialists killing national socialists and vise-versa.

    3. So many governments f**ked up in those years that...

      Oh wait, it's what governments do.

    4. Lo,these many years ago, back when I was in college, WISC 3, the CBS affiliate in Madison, showed The Unknown War, at midnight, on Saturdays. This was a Russian made program,about the Eastern Front. Given whay common knowledge by the early Eighties, about the behavior of the Soviets, even before the War, one did not know who to root for! A fascinating show, nonetheless. I particularly remember some captured German footage of ME-110s working over a Soviet convoy. I should see if it is available on DVD.

    5. I've heard of that series, if you find it let me know.

    6. That was less difficult than I thought! The series is on YouTube!

    7. (Don McCollor)...On the other hand, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend (temporarily)". Things were not going all that well for the other Allies from 1940-1943. The Brits were having a bad time with Rommel in North Africa with the Suez Canal and the Middle East oilfields at stake. The US was still arming, and the troops were green and untested in combat. Russia was tying up a huge part of the German military resources. If Russia fell, they would be available to use against Britain. If Britain fell, a US invasion of Britain/Europe would be very difficult. The risk was just too great not to provide all the supplies possible to keep Russia fighting...

  8. Good rerun. Your telling of the story was and is very very good.

    I'll watch for you to post and if you don't, I'll scare everyone here with my ramblings. Muhahahahaha.

    1. Scare away, if you want to post, do it. I think my Muse went AWOL.

  9. Great story. I really get involved quickly with your WW2 writing. And the hopefully fictional future.

    Take care on the way to SD, I read somewhere that a pitot tube checker cashed in at the controls recently.

  10. Sarge, I am sure this is every strike forces worst nightmare: a single unit that is so stubborn that it holds up the advance and critical timetables and costs otherwise necessary men and equipment. Thanks.

    1. Some folks have no quit in them.

    2. (Don McCollor)...Yes. In the Bulge, the 110 Infantry Regiment, 28th Division were 12 miles east of Bastogne. The unit full of green replacements and without reinforcement or support. Outnumbered 8 to 1, they held off 2nd Panzer and Panzer Lehr for two days and nights. The Regiment gave ground only after suffering ninety percent casualties, and wrecked the German timetable for reaching the critical road junctions at Bastogne...


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