We lost about 90 of our guys. All in all, it was so BAD! There was real carnage! We clashed tightly in a mortal combat. We fought hand to hand in the trenches using entrenchment tools, rifle butts, finger nails, etc. I mixed it up with one… burly German. He smashed me under my rib with his rifle butt. The impact was so strong that crunch was heard and my eyes nearly fell out of my head and I stopped breathing. Oh, my goodness, I had my rib fractured then…
Finns make very good fighters and the Great Patriotic War they fought better than the Germans. I see several reasons for that. First, they knew their land and were prepared for this climate. This resulted in minute differences in camouflage, tactics, reconnaissance, all of which eventually bore fruit. Firearms training - excellent. In combat , they are also solid.
A pilot, unfamiliar to me, a captain, was sitting in the doorway and cried bitter tears. I asked him, "What is the reason?" - "My arm is injured but the wound isn't the reason. I'm crying because of what takes place at the front: losses, losses, losses! No rescue. As a new regiment arrived - it exists just for two hours of fighting. Terrible losses." I asked some injured soldiers who passed us if Karmanovo was already seized. "What is Karmanovo?" - was the answer. They didn't know anything but blood and death. Burned villages, burning villages. Some soldiers being shot there fell into the flames...
The loading took a long time, German and Russian swearing poured, polizeis' whips struck, prisoners moaned, fell from the beam unable to take the shoving, Germans shot those too weak without pity, and so, settling near the wall in the corner, we even felt cozy, since there was no danger of being executed anymore.
We entered the battlefield as a marching column. It was my first combat, it was my baptism of fire that I can't forget and will never forget. That wasn't a war, it was a real crime. It was an ignorant and criminal play at fighting! For such guidance the command deserved death by shooting. Was it an organized offensive? Absolutely not! No usual preliminary artillery bombardment of the enemy's trenches. That combat was a genuine crime.
Main thing I remember about that war most of all was our persistent moving. Forward, only forward! We constantly wanted to sleep. We could eaten hot food only in seventh day of our offensive during a little rest after seizure of Ling Kou city. We took that city almost without striking a blow. I've remembered Ling Kou especially well. 3000 Japanese troops captured it again after our leaving. There were hospital and some other units in Ling Kou. We had formed special unit for recapturing operation. They dashed back to the city on self-propelled guns rapidly.
After one of these fights I almost lost my mind. I killed three Germans. And when the fight was over and I calmed down a bit I noticed that there were only two dead bodies of those whom I killed. I started to run in the trench: where is the third German??? Where?? I was turning german bodies and was looking for "my german", the red-haired one. As I was killing him I noticed that he was red-haired. I was worried that he survived and crawled away, in which case I should find him and kill this f.... bastard. I was like a wild beast. Anyway, usually, even if we would manage to capture the first trench, then after few hours Germans would get it back. They would shoot at us from mortars, would bomb us for a long time and then counterattack. We would not have enough people to try fight for this trench and we would have to retreat.
As soon as the first echelon burst ahead, it came under a strong direct fire, both the tanks and infantrymen were beaten. Our echelon entered such a zone where only the shells' hisses were heard and the explosions took place far behind us. However, one shell fell to our share: I heard the hiss and: lost consciousness. I lay like a log: didn't budge, didn't hear, and didn't speak:
In general I wasn’t superstitious but when I was healing my first wounds at home, my mom gave me some printed “Divine Letter,” on some 5-6 pages. Since our soldiers military blouses were without breastpockets, I sewed two small pockets to the inside of my blouse, one – for the Communist Party member’s card, the second – for the “Divine Letter.” I carried both up to the end of the war. When I returned home, I said: “Mom, your letter helped.”
Any night, any day didn’t pass without a fight. If the commanders accomplished a combat reconnaissance (almost an actual offensive), our platoon took part in it. In a lull period, our recons formed the combat guard. Our place was ahead of the riflemen’s trenches – the no-man’s-land. Our main goal was to prevent German recons from getting secretly into our positions. At the same time we had an unofficial instruction from our counterespionage officers: to prevent our soldiers from deserting to the Germans.
It is impossible to get used to the deaths of your fellow-soldiers. It is completely different from a death of some elderly person. Here, at the front, you see the death of a young man who just a moment before rubbed shoulders or socialized with you and you understand that you could be in his place:
I remember how we were on duty guarding the truck loaded with bread. It was in December already, frost! But we wore thermal clothes: quilted trousers and jackets, short fur coats, sheepskin coats and valenki (kind of felt boots). So you looked as a Santa Claus pacing back and forth with a rifle in his hand. And all your thoughts were only about something edible. Daydreams were – smoked sausages and hams…
As the tanks approached closer, we heard: "You are encircled, give yourselves up!" Our company commander was a senior lieutenant, an ethnic Tatar. He ordered: "To open fire!" When we began firing, three tanks came from the left flank and we heard again a shout of the tank crew: "Give up, you are encircled!" As soon as one of our soldiers rose to his feet in order to run somewhere from his shallow position, their machine gun's burst shot him down in a moment. We continued to fire.
We had the right to advance, but if we wanted to retreat - sorry. We would stand to the death. The Germans counterattacked frequently. After there was an unsuccessful attempt near Narva, they struck Libava. And when they retreated, they didn't spare ammo, burned everything. By that time only eight of the twelve soldiers in my platoon remained. It was then necessary for me to get behind a machinegun. The no man's land was only sixty meters on my right flank. On the left flank it was 600-700 meters. All of a sudden, a splinter fragment that was shot by a "donkey" mortar tore between my legs. So I lay there. It went through my wadded trousers, a couple of centimeters more and it would've been the end of me. And so I could feel something warm, I looked - and there was the "visitor" lying there. The wadded trousers, the greatcoat, and the underpants were all torn.
At 8 a. m. Red Army soldiers began their attack: "For the Motherland! For Stalin! Hurrah!" Many of them were mowed down on the spot by the German machine guns. The detachment lay down and everything became silent. In some two hours we heard again: "For the Motherland! For Stalin!" but that attempt failed again. There were two more unsuccessful efforts to attack the enemy. I thought to myself: "What is that for? They definitely see that there are a couple of machine guns. Why then not to organize an artillery or air bombardment before the attack? They didn't do things that way - an entire field is covered with corpses:" I can't be a judge but it seems to me that they didn't spare people at all...
My tankette had been hit. It was a direct hit from the Yurka's side and a shell fragment ripped open his belly and his bowels tumbled on the engine. Another fragment brushed my head just on the rebound and flowing blood covered my eyes. At first I thought that I was killed but in a moment everything had been changed. I rubbed my eyes and saw Yurka dying. To get out of the tankette I began raising myself a little and suddenly a male voice sounded in Russian: "Rus, surrender!"
At 3:40 we heard the gradually intensifying sound of aircraft from the west again. It was getting lighter. In five minutes we could define a group of 19 planes 2-3 km to the north. Now we saw that the planes were German. I looked through my field glasses and identified U-88 bombers with yellow and black crosses on them. They passed us by.