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Kalinin Raid - winter 1941

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It was the first snow near Moscow winter 1941. Soldiers were narrowing eyes because of unaccustomed whiteness. From the Volokolamsk-Kalinin highway's side we could clearly hear the noise of cars and motorcycles, clattering of armors' wheels. Germans were transferring their troops to Kalinin.

- We received the order to engage the enemy into fight. On the outskirts of Turinovo village, which has been captured before, a brigade quartered and was preparing for battle. Tanks and cars were being refueled, tracks were being tightened up, ammunition was being laid, and the adjustment of friction clutches was being held.

The commander of the regimen, Hero of the Soviet Union major Mikhail A. Lukin bent over the map, and, making two arrows towards Kalinin on the map said:

- I rely on people. They will never flinch. But we'll be in a tight corner. The tanks can go only on Volokolamsk and Turginov highways. Can't get off-road - there're only forests and bogs. And Germans have lots of troops there.

And again the commander of the regiment was deep in his thoughts. Then he said resolutely:

- But we cannot linger. The commander of the brigade is right. If we don't strike on Germans they would concentrate forces, knock us out, and go for attack on Moscow.

All of us - commanders, political officers, soldiers - understood the situation. At any cost we had to weaken the enemy, prevent him from creating a striking force on this very dangerous sector of the front. The tankers were eager for battle.

Morning, October, 17. The night gloom didn't drift away yet, indeed the tanks were coming out to the starting positions with lights turned off. Engines were working muffled down on the low revolutions. However, the highways were getting busier. At first, few motorcycles raced down passing our observers. Armored cars showed up after them. Tracks covered with tarpaulin, buses, tractors carrying long-barreled guns were running down the highways. So many tempting targets! But we couldn't strike on them - there was to signal. And finally we heard "three-three-three" in our earphone helmets.

Engines went all out. As it was planned, the first tank convoy with its commander, Hero of the Soviet Union M.P.Agibalov in the first tank appeared unexpectedly on the Volokolamsk highway and began smashing, crashing, raking equipment and men. T-34 tanks were crashing down tracks, whitened cars, buses, were braking gun-barrels. Sub-machine gunners were shooting scattering Germans right from tank armors. The tankers on the Turginov highway, where regiment of Hero of the Soviet Union Lukin was acting, were doing the same.

Raid has begun successfully. The impact was astonishing and at first Germans were scattering in panic. However, soon the enemy began organizing repulse. When our tanks reached Pushkino village dozens of "Junkers" came out to the sky. The brought bombs down to the tanks. Also, the enemy's artillery came on fire.

However, the attack went on. Commander of brigade's stuff was receiving reports one after another: "Moving forward." "Passed Pushkino, Prokofievo" "Reached Ivantsovo". Brigade commander glanced at the map. The main target - Kalinin was already quite close. But… (There were many "but" at war) the amount of the bombers in the sky was increasing. It was impossible to maneuver at the highway going through a forest, and one by one, tanks began withdrawing from action. Despite all these facts. Tank crews were fighting heroically. Eight tanks reached the outskirts of Kalinin. One of these tanks was lead by senior sergeant Gorobets. From the beginning of the attack his tank was going first in 1st battalion's convoy. When the bombs started exploding Gorobets began urging the driver Litovchenko all the times:

-Go! Move! Speed, keep the speed up!

The arrow on the speedometer reached its limit - 50. And finally, the stacks of Kalinin appeared at the skyline. At this time Gorobets' tank reached another German convoy. Highway was blocked with slowly moving buses, motorcycles, tracks. Germans didn't presume a Soviet tank followed them. Another order of Gorobets, and the gun-layer Kolomiets sends fragmentation shells into the middle of the convoy. Cars are burning, Germans are running.

- Fedya, move! Postushin, Kolomiets - fire! - the commander says again.

Rush by a level crossing T-34 passed by the burning down factory "Proletarka" and turned towards the center of the city. And then a thrust at the armor. Choking with smoke the tankers managed to put the fire down. On the limit speed tank forges ahead to the Lenin square and faces the next enemy's convoy. Litovchenko squeezes control levers and rams the first car.

Past the city tank came out to the Moscow highway. By the elevator it came under fire again. Tankersanswered with an only shot, using the last shell. Soon, soldiers of the 5th rifle division quartered at Gorodische village were amazingly watching a lonely Soviet tank with number 3 on its side coming from the enemy's site. Got alerted, they thought the Germans reported to a trick. Indeed, the tank turned out to be Soviet. The heroic crew was commended with decorations, and its commander, senior sergeant Gorobets was rewarded with the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union.

The commander of the 1st battalion M.P. Agibalov and commander of regiment M.A. Lukin, whose tank you can see on the photos, have been killed in that battle.

Author: Major-general in reserve A. Vitruk
Translated by: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.