Sapezhnikov Alexei Ananyevich

Fate and Memory.

Infantrymen Sapezhnikov Alexei Ananyevich, Eastern Front, Germans, Red Army, GPW, Stalin, Zhukov, Stalingrad, Kursk, Moscow, Great Patriotic War, POW, I remember, Hero of the Soviet Union, USSR, veterans, memoirs of veterans, oral history, iremember, interview with veterans, WWII, PPSh, Mosin, Maxim, PTR, infantry, DP, sniper, radio operator, hand grenade, trenches, scout, bolt rifle, SMG, MG-34, MG, MG-42, partizan,

The Great Patriotic War against Faschist Germany and Imperialist Japan in 1941-1945 was a heavy ordeal for nations of our country and our army. About 57 years have passed since Soviet victory in Manchurian offensive operation which I took part in. Capitulation of the last agressor of World War II - Imperialist Japan - was a result of that victory.

Some people guess it was a little walk of our army in Manchuria. It is quite far from the truth. Of course, there was not too much blood. We cracked down on Japanese with our military machinery and great experience gained in battles against Nazi Germany. We incured a losses in Manchuria - many wounded and dead. My regiment went about 600 km for 12 days - we fought constantly against Japanese.

I was called up for military service when I was 17. I underwent military training in 23th district marksman school of Far Eastern Front which was located in Shkotovo village of Primorski territory.

After occupation of Manchuria in the thirties Japanese Kwantung army began to prepare for a war with Soviet Union. They suggest that war as offensive only, some kind of Far Eastern Blitzkrieg. Plans of this agression were invariable until German failure on Eastern Front. It were a disturbing times, we had expected Japanese agression day after day. Japanese had established many provocations on our border. Because of battle alarms we had often arranged quick marches on 50-60 km. But after Red Army victories at Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk they had stopped their attempts.

Now it was our turn. I was a sergeant of 607th rifle regiment, 231th rifle division, 59th rifle corps. As squad leader I took part in famous breakthrough of 1st Redcolors Army of 1st Far Eastern Front throgh mountain taiga to the Harbin.

I remember meeting before our attack on August 8th 1945 quite well.

We were informed that at 1 a.m. on August 9th army will begin an offensive operation to drive Japanese invaders out of Manchuria and liberate Chinese fraternal people. Our morale was very high. All soldiers, sergeants and officers took an oath to perform a battle task and avenge Japanese for their crimes against Soviet people.

On August 8th in the evening we were on our positions fully-equipped. At 1 p.m. on August 9th divisions of 1st Redcolors Army started their moving to Manchuria territory from Pogranichnaya outpost. It was raining cats and dogs. There were many lightnings. Soldiers joked it was an 'artillery preparation'. I want to say "thanks" to our glorious border guards. They knew this territory very good. It helped them to steal up to Japanese outposts and wipe them out without casualties. It was a hard test - 1st Redcolors Army went 20 km through mountain taiga. We had advanced through virgin forest - mighty oak-wood, cedars, pines, limes with liana, wild grapes and thorny bushes. Bushes were everywhere. This "barbed wire" of nature could literally disrobe inexperienced man in a few minutes and maim a body. Now you can imagine how hard our way was.

The offensive zone of 1st Redcolors Army was considered impassable for troops and vehicles. But Soviet warriors had done it and unexpectedly turned out in depth of Japanese fortified areas. Taiga breakthrough was a big surprise for enemy. Japanese fleed in all directions and surrendered to us later. In the third day of offensive operation our commanders had read out to us the short order of 1st Redcolors Army's Commander Twice Hero of Soviet Union Colonel General Beloborodov: "I thank warriors of 1st Redcolors Army for successful accomplishment of battle task". I'll never forget it. We were proud of our great Motherland and its glorious army.

I remember my first baptism of fire. It was under Li Shu Chuen city. Our rifle company under command of senior lieutenant Yaschenkov went in head picket of 231th rifle division. There were three soldiers in advance of company in patrol. It was about 4 a.m. Our company commander was resting in carriage. At a distance of few kilometres from the city we suddenly ran upon a big group of Japanese suicide soldiers. Their position was on a little hill with bushes. We heard a shout of one of survivors from head patrol: "They're slaughtering us!". Our commander gave us an order to deploy and dig in.

It was dark around. We began exchange of fire - fire of machineguns and rifles. Our commander was an experienced and brave officer. He gave us an order to pelt Japanese's position with F-1 grenades. It was sucessful because of our immediate proximity to them. Many Japanese soldiers were killed, others fleed to mountains. We incured a losses too. My friends from Khabarovsk Sasha Kupavin and Fedor Andreev (commander of machinegun squad) had fallen in that battle. They had ran upon Japanese trench in the dark. These guys were 20 as myself.

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.

It was a horrific picture. 76mm cannon battery fought to the last drop of blood at one of the streets. They all died. But Japanese incured big losses too. I can't describe what Japanese fanatics did with our captured hospital. Near plucked medical tents with red cross I saw a tortured female captain medical officer lying on the ground with a straw wisp in her ripped stomach. There were blood-stained body parts around. All wounded were brutally hacked to death. Medical officers were killed bestially. Our unit went pass that place in silence. We didn't take prisoners when we had run down Japanese.

At that time we didn't know what the future may hold. I walked in the Manchurian mud, shaded food, tobacco and weight of backpacks with my brothers in arms, took part in attacks, lost friends but I always was sure about our victory. I saw many frightful things - T-34 explosed by Japanese suicide soldiers under Mu Dan Chan, pillboxes with fanatics chained themselves to machinegun, friendly fire from our airforce, convoy of 10 000 Japanese prisoners to Grodekovo, rejoicing of Chinese. And finally - Victory!

My life after war was good. I had continued to serve in army as political deputy squad leader after officer awarding. I graduated from Historical Faculty of Khabarovsk Teachers' Training Institute. After transfer to the reserve I had worked senior instructor in organistion department of Khabarovsk territory executive committee.

Soon I met Alexandra. She was a graduating student from Pharmaceutical technical secondary school. She has become my wife and my best faithful friend. We've created the close-knit family. We have two sons. The elder son've followed in his father's footsteps - he's a colonel of Ministry of the Interior of Russian Federation. The younger son is a teacher.

I served in Khabarovsk territory Department of Interior about 20 years. I was Personnel Department officer, Reformatory Department Chief, Head of Secretariate of Interior Administration of Khabarovsk territory, Deputy of 6th Division of Interior Administration Khabarovsk territory Chief. I had fought and worked fairly. My generation had discharged its duty. But does it our modern generation?

Now I meet my combat friends snipers, brother-soldiers at times. We have many things to remember together.

Reminiscences sent by: Anton Sapezhnikov
Translated by: Viktor Lashmanov


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