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OMSBON - Independent Special Purpose Motorized Brigade

On the night of 30 July 1943, the residents of the town Osipovichi were awakened by an explosion of extraordinary force, followed soon after by a second detonation. Liquid fuel storage tanks were burning and exploding at the railroad station. The flames were spreading to neighboring trains carrying Tiger tanks and aircraft bombs. A gigantic fire storm hurled the barrels of fuel and bombs skyward. The fire spread over to the station building. Soon, only blackened walls remained. In panic, the fascists mistook the conflagration for an air attack, and reported to Berlin that the Russians were bombing the station intensely. Only later did the Germans determine that the station and trains with tanks, petroleum products, and aircraft bombs had been destroyed as a result of sabotage. The Nazi command especially felt this significant blow at that time, during the days of the terrible battles for the Kursk bulge. The operation had one unforeseen result: on the night of the explosions, the security force of a concentration camp located near Osipovichi ran away in fright during the bombing, while its prisoners- the Russians, Byelorussians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, and Bulgarians- found themselves set free, and linked up with the partisans. This is only one of the countless examples of the skillful activities of the fighting men of the Independent Special Purpose Motorized Rifle Brigade [otdel'naya motostrel'kovaya brigada osobogo naznacheniya- OMSBON] of the NKVD, a special formation of the Soviet Armed Forces, which made its own contribution to the victory over fascist Germany. The existing literature about OMSBON and its men, as a rule, is devoted either to the combat actions of a certain detachment or special group, or to one of the heroes of the brigade. To date, there has not been a sufficiently complete investigation of its story as a whole. This outline is an attempt briefly to generalize the brigade's history.

On 29 June 1941, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Sovnarkom of the USSR issued a directive to party and soviet organs concerning the development of the countrywide struggle against the fascist invaders. The directive contained a program for the organization and conduct of partisan and underground activities in temporarily occupied territories. But the formation of a special group of NKVD detachments designated primarily for reconnaissance and diversionary activities in fascist rear areas had already begun in Moscow on 27 June 1941. In September 1941, two brigades were created from the personnel of the group. These brigades were later reformed into two regiments, and subsequently were brought together in OMSBON. The brigade operated throughout the entire war under this designation (with the exception of the period from the fall of 1943 to the beginning of 1944, when it was called the Independent Special Purpose Detachment [Otdel'nyy otryad osobogo naznacheniya]). The brigade had the following missions:assistance in the development of the mass partisan movement; aid to the party-soviet underground; thorough reconnaissance; discovery of the plans of the fascist command; aid to the Red Army by means of reconnaissance, diversionary, and combat activities; spreading of disorganization in the fascist rear; counterintelligence operations; and acts of retribution against Nazi executioners or traitors to the Soviet Motherland.

The formation of the brigade was begun at the end of June 1941, at the Dynamo stadium in Moscow. Brigade commander P. M. Bogdanov exercised immediate supervision of this matter. The special designation of the brigade implied increased demands on personnel. The commanders had to have experience in military and Chekist work, including the partisan struggle and the underground. People absolutely devoted to the Motherland, steadfast, courageous, resolute, capable of independent action in complex situations, physically hardened and tough, were included in the brigade. Workers of the NKVD central apparatus and instructors and students of the NKVD Central School and Higher Border Troops School became the core of the brigade. In 1941-42, more than 1,500 communists, many of whom were veterans of the October Revolution and civil war, were sent to the brigade by party-political workers. In June 1941, the Central Committee of the Komsomol adopted the resolution "Concerning mobilization of Komsomol members into the forces of the special group under the auspices of the NKVD of the USSR". Workers of the 1st Moscow Clock, Moscow Automobile, and 1st State Bearing Factories, and of other enterprises of the capital city, and approximately 800 Komsomol members from fourteen areas of the RSFSR also joined OMSBON. The currently well-known writer Z. I. Voskresenskaya aided the Central Committee of the Komsomol in the formation of the brigade.

More than 800 athletes, selected by the central councils of the volunteer sports societies "Dynamo", "Spartak", "Lokomotiv", and others joined the brigade. Among them were merited masters and masters of sports, trainers, USSR champions, European champions, and world champions: track and field brothers S. I. and G. I. Znamenskiy, skater A. K. Kapchinskiy, boxers N. F. Korolev and S. S. Shcherbakov, wrestler G. D. Pyl'nov, skier L. V. Kulakova, rower A. M. Dolgushin, members of the "Minsk Dynamo" soccer team, 150 students and instructors of the Central State Institute of Physical Culture, as well as students of Moscow Historical-Archival, Leather Processing, Mining, Machine Tool, and Medical Institutes, and the Institute of History, Philosophy, and Literature (MIFLI). Political maturity distinguished the soldiers of the "company of philosophers", as the subunit where the men of the philosophy institute served was named in jest. They were a reliable support to commanders and political workers at the front and during the accomplishment of special tasks. More than 300 women, who became agents, radio operators, and nurses entered into OMSBON, as did several hundred volunteers from the ranks of anti-fascist political emigres: the Spaniards, Bulgarians, Germans, Austrians, Poles, Czechs, Serbs, French, Yugoslavs, and Hungarians, who made up the international battalion of the brigade.

The brigade was reinforced with personnel throughout the course of the war. Its total strength exceeded 10,500. From October 1941, its commander was Colonel M. F. Orlov; its first commissar was Major A. A. Maksimov, later A. S. Maysuradze, who was a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR; the chief of the political department was Lt. Col. L. A. Studnikov. OMSBON consisted of a headquarters, two motorized rifle regiments , medical and parachute service, schools (junior leadership, radio operator, and demolitions instructor), and an aviation section. Independent detachments were formed from its personnel for operations at the front (up to 1000-1200 soldiers), and as well special detachments (from 30 to 100 soldiers) and special groups (from 3 to 10 men) for activities in the enemy rear.

The program of combat training included instruction in firing from various types of weapons, combat tactics, topography, orientation skills, demolitions skills, hand-to-hand combat, unarmed self defense, parachuting, radio communications, automobile and motorcycle driving, and first aid. Special attention was devoted to survival skills and the struggle in the austere partisan environment, and the ability to operate alone.Much time was given to physical hardening of the soldiers. The training of junior leaders, demolition instructors (534 demolition instructor specialists and 5,255 demolition specialists were trained), parachutists (more than 3,000 persons were trained in parachute skills) , radio operators, and mine specialists was organized.

The insertion of OMSBON special detachments into the enemy rear was accomplished by pilots of the 101st Long Range Aviation Regiment, commanded by Hero of the Soviet Union V. S. Grizodubova [female]. They executed landings at partisan airfields, transferred wounded soldiers, women and children, German documents captured by agents and underground agents, and captured German officers to Moscow. It was normal for the pilots of this regiment and the OMSBON aviation detachment to make a flight across the front line of 1,000 kilometers or more. The radio school and the communications company trained male and female radio operators for the maintenance of radio communications with the Center and front headquarters, and performance of independent tasks. Thus, a former student of the history department of MIFLI, radio operator G. N. Yefimova, performed missions over the course of a year in fascist-occupied Novorossiysk.

Political preparation occupied a large place in the training of OMSBON personnel.the brigade newspaper Victory for Us was published. Its first issue appeared on 7 November 1941. The editor was A. G. Trugmanov, a journalist who worked on the newspapers Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya Pravda, and on All-Union radio. The verses of OMSBON men S. P. Gudzenko and Yu. D. Levitanskiy, the articles of I. Yu. Davidov, and the cartoons of O. I. Tsinovskiy (now a merited artist of the RSFSR) with captions by brigade poets were printed in the newspaper. Their satirical posters were popular.Many of them later found their way from the pages of division newspapers to the boards of TASS windows, and some even into special publications. V. M. Kozhevnikov, A. A. Surkov, A. T. Tvardovskiy, I. G. Ehrenburg, and D. Ibarruri appeared on the newspaper pages. Brigade fighting men, commanders, and political workers were its main correspondents. On 12 February 1942, "Pravda" specially noted the experience of the work of the Red Army newspaper Victory for Us.

In late August 1941, OMSBON began the insertion of special detachments and special groups into the enemy rear. The detachment Combat of V. L. Neklindov was one of the first to cross the front line. A raid into the enemy's rear of D. N. Medvedev's detachment Mitya, lasting many months, began almost simultaneously. The foundations of the future Bryansk partisan territory were partially laid by its combat activities and political work (commissar G. N. Kulakov). The detachment conducted dozens of successful combat operations, and in January 1942, having grown tenfold, returned to Moscow. On 12 February of the same year, Pravda wrote: "The partisan detachment commanded by D. Medvedev has returned from the deep rear area. This detachment traversed the territory occupied by the enemy for four months, and during this time accomplished more than a few glorious deeds." The participants of this raid subsequently made up the core of D. N. Medvedev's new detachment- "Pobediteli" [Victors] led by commissar S. T. Stekhov, which operated in the Ukraine for two years. Afterwards, the commander told about the affairs of both detachments in his books "Sil'nyye dukhom" and "Eto bylo pod Rovno". The legendary agent N. I. Kuznetsov fulfilled the tasks of the Motherland as a member of Pobediteli in 1942-44. The formation of other detachments and groups took place as well in the fall of 1941.

In October 1941, when Moscow was declared to be in a state of siege, OMSBON temporarily became part of the garrison of the capital, and participated in combat activities in the Moscow environs. On the night of 16 October 1941, both OMSBON regiments, which had been deployed in the Mytishchin and Pushkin districts, were put on alert and redeployed to Moscow. The brigade headquarters received to order "Prepare to defend the area of Sverdlov, Red, Mayakovskiy, and Pushkin Squares..., upholding revolutionary order in the surrounding streets." The brigade's soldiers prepared to defend the sector: Dzerzhinskiy Square to "Moscow-3" rail station of the Yaroslav Railroad; and Pushkin Square to the Krasnaya Presnya rail station of the Western Railroad. OMSBON conducted patrols, participated in the construction of defensive lines, in the preparation of important facilities for demolition, and carried out reconnaissance and diversionary activities in the territory of Moscow, Kalinin, Tula, and Ryazan areas.

On October 1941, the Military Council of the Moscow Defense Zone adopted a decision concerning the construction of a continuous barrier zone in the outlying areas of Moscow. OMSBON played a specific role in this. Major M. N. Shperov's composite detachment of 1,100 men (11 detachments) was attached to the Western Front, and participated in the creation of minefields on the Mozhaysk, Naro-fomin, Tula, Podol'sk, Volokalamsk, and Ostapov axes, the southern sector of the Kalinin Front, and in the regions Klin to Solnechnogorsk and Rogachev to Dmitrov. In the October to November 1941 period, OMSBON prepared 67 kilometers of highway and 19 bridges for demolition, planted 12,000 antitank and 8,000 anti-personnel mines, and 160 large explosive charges. Thirty enemy tanks, twenty armored vehicles, sixty-eight troop carriers, nineteen light vehicles with officers, and fifty-three motorcycles were blown up on these obstacles. On 7 November 1941, brigade forces participated in a parade on Red Square. From there, the path of the composite detachment once again lay straight to the front line.

During the November fascist offensive on Moscow, the Shperov detachment blew up the Leningrad Highway from Zavidov to Yamuga, the bridge across the Moscow Sea, and then from Yamuga to Solnechnogorsk. "This was a total surprise for the advancing enemy. The fascists slowed down their movement and turned off the road." Redeployed to the area of the Moscow-Volga Canal, the special detachments erected engineer fortifications on its eastern bank under enemy fire. German tank units attempting to break through to Kashira also came up against minefields set up by OMSBON troops. In the winter of 1941-1942, OMSBON troops created passages in the minefields for our advancing tanks and infantry and cleared obstacles. OMSBON ski troops in the Sukhinichi area-the special detachments of Captains N. A. Vasin, N. S. Gorbachev, and Senior Lieutenants K. Z. Laznyuk and M. K. Bazhanov, totaling 315 men, fought alongside other Red Army units at the front and conducted reconnaissance in the enemy rear.

On 21 January, the Laznyuk detachment received the mission to drive the enemy out of the village Khludnevo (Kaluga area). The detachment soldiers dislodged the fascists from a dominating hill, but were not supported by army units in a timely manner. At night, the superior enemy forces, supported by tanks, attacked the hill. The ski troops occupied an all-round defense and accepted an unequal battle that lasted more than four hours. The wounded continued to fight to the end. When only L. Kh. Papernik remained alive, he pulled the pin from a grenade and blew up both himself and the fascists. The Vosin detachment was defending the settlement Popkovo (Sukhinichi district).On 23 February, its soldiers destroyed five fascist tanks and nearly 150 Germans. In this battle, the courageous detachment commander and the famous athlete G. D. Pul'nov both fell mortally wounded. The Gorbachev detachment was then blocking at the neighboring settlements Chvanovo and Sorochki. The detachment commander perished in battles with the fascists. But the enemy did not break through. The Bazhanov detachment had the mission to destroy a section of rail line in the enemy's immediate rear, along with bridges and communications lines. Having accomplished this, the detachment went into the enemy's deep rear for carrying out its primary special task. "The missions assigned by the commander of 10th Army were skillfully, resolutely, and courageously carried out by the soldiers of the detachments, in spite of every difficulty and deprivation," declared M. F. Orlov. "All the detachments several times engaged a numerically superior enemy." They destroyed as many as 600 enemy soldiers and officers. The brigade suffered its first significant losses in these battles: the military commissar of the brigade, A. A. Maksimov, was mortally wounded; the deputy brigade commander, V. I. Tret'yakov, was killed; fifty-eight men and officers were killed, thirty-five were wounded, and thirty-seven were missing in action. Twenty-two soldiers from the Laznyuk and Gorbachev detachments were awarded the Order of Lenin, and L. Kh. Papernik became the first OMSBON soldier to be named a Hero of the Soviet Union.

The front-line traditions of OMSBON were first established around Moscow. Subsequently, front commanders repeatedly turned to the NKVD and directly to the brigade headquarters with requests to send special detachments and special groups to them. Their activities were highly appreciated. Here is what G. K. Zhukov wrote about V. A. Karasev's detachment: "It conducted bold raids on headquarters, rear facilities, and separate subunits of German troops. In one such night raid, a large rear area German corps headquarters was destroyed." This occurred during the Battle of Moscow. At the end of November 1941, in the district center of Ugodskiy Zavod (present day Zhukovo), eight partisan groups burst into and destroyed the headquarters of the XII German Army Corps, 4th Field Army. The Karasev detachment killed more than 600 Germans, set nearly 100 motor vehicles and four tanks on fire, and captured documents containing valuable information. This operation was reported in Sovinformburo summaries. In the summer of 1942, a composite detachment (1,000 men) was sent to the Western Front for construction of minefields and obstacles. "The precision and outstanding organization which was displayed during the fulfillment of the front mission," the order for the front engineer troops noted, "was especially characteristic of OMSBON. The work of OMSBON was of great assistance to the front."

In the summer and fall of 1942, the brigade operated on the Transcaucasus Front. "In connection with the unfolding situation in the northern Caucasus," wrote Major General V. V. Gridnev, "in August 1942, army formations had to have specialists, most of all mountain climbers, capable of operating in mountainous terrain and of training the soldiers in this... Brigade commander Colonel M. Orlov was sent to this 'hot' sector with a group of our soldiers." OMSBON special detachments proved their worth in Ordzhonikidze, Groznyy, and Makhachkalin fortified regions, and in the passes of the Main Caucasus range. Brigade mountaineers supervised the training of men for operations in mountainous conditions. In early 1943, nearly 1,000 brigade men and officers were sent to the 70th Army around Kursk. Later, OMSBON accomplished the task of clearing mines and demolitions from cities liberated by the Red Army, among them Kiev, Khar'kov, and Gomel'.

However, as early as January 1942, the brigade redirected its primary attention to the formation and insertion of special detachments, special groups, and individual agents into the enemy rear. Several of them operated there for over two and one-half years. On 23 February 1942, the "Glorious" detachment of Captain A. P. Shestakov crossed the front line, and returned twenty-eight months later. Only after many years did the detachment doctor, I. Yu. Davidov, tell about the combat deeds of his comrades. In March 1942, P. G. Lopatin's detachment ("Uncle Kolya") was sent into Minsk area. It laid down the beginning of the partisan formation in the Borisov region (1942-44). In April of the same year, the special detachment of Major S. A. Vaupshasov (Gradov), which also became the nucleus of a partisan formation, began carrying out its mission in the Logoysk region of Minsk area. In two years, this formation, which included ten detachments and a brigade, derailed 186 trains of men and enemy equipment, killed more than 14,000 fascists, destroyed 32 fuel storage tanks, 11 motor vehicles, 69 tanks, 28 guns, and 6 armored cars, and killed 16 police officers, and 31 rural district and 1 city administrator. The partisan formations practically reinstated Soviet authority in the enemy rear.

Captain M. S. Prudnikov's detachment, Elusive, became the core of a partisan brigade in Vitebsk area, and in the region of Nalibok Forest (from autumn 1943 the commander of the brigade, which numbered 1,200 men, was A. G. Morozov). A. I. Voropayev's detachment, Saturn, operated in Smolensk area; and A. M. Rabtsevich's detachment, Brave Men, operated in Minsk area. The detachments and special groups of K. P. Orlovskiy, G. M. Khvostov, N. A. Prokopyuk, P. G. Shemyakin, and others were located in enemy rear areas from 1942. A. N. Shikhov and V. A. Karasev went into the enemy rear several times with detachments. Karasev went into the enemy rear several times with detachments. The detachment of A. K. Flegontov, who in 1921-22 had commanded all partisan detachments in the Primor'ye [an administrative region of RSFSR in the Far East], was sent into Byelorussia in the fall of 1942. He began his raid in Kalinin area, and concluded it near the city Osipovichi, having successfully supported the development of the partisan movement in Byelorussia. In just the first three months of 1942, more than twenty OMSBON detachments and special groups were inserted across the front lines into the fascist rear, and 212 special detachments and groups in all (7,316 men) were sent to front commanders for activities in the enemy rear. Almost all of them were Communists and Komsomol members, the overwhelming majority being young men aged 20 to 25 years.

Special detachments and special groups operated in the fascist rear in close cooperation with the party underground and partisans. Thus, from July 1942, Gradov [S. A. Vaupshasov], the commander of a partisan formation, was a member of the military council for the Minsk Partisan Zone. Together with the Minsk Underground City Party Committee of the Communist Party of Byelorussia, the council supervised and coordinated the activities of 23 detachments (3,500 partisans). The supervision of more than 400 underground operatives, agents, and couriers in Minsk, Slutsk, Osipovichi, and other Byelorussian cities was implemented as well from the Gresskiy Forests in the Minsk vicinity. The nucleus of the formation was the party organization of 100 Communists. Here were printed newspapers, proclamations, and leaflets, and active political work was conducted among the populace. A courier system supported communications between the movement headquarters and the underground and also the receiving of information. The structure of other partisan formations, which were created on a base of OMSBON detachments, was similar. In 1942-1944, its detachments and groups fought openly or underground, not only in occupied territories of the RSFSR, Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic states, but also in other European countries, including Germany.

OMSBON detachments made use of broad support among the local population. News of the appearance of "Muscovites" spread quickly throughout the neighboring forests and villages. "The audacity, courage, utter reliability, and discipline of the soldiers and commanders of the Chekist subunits impressed the local inhabitants." In early December 1942, near the village Krevniki in the Polotsk region, Ye. A. Teleguyev's demolitions group encountered a fascist ambush near the railroad track. An exchange of fire occurred, and the OMSBON soldiers had to withdraw. They attempted to establish a base in another area, but ran into a patrol. A local resident came to their aid. He led them to a poorly guarded section of rail line near a large station, and then reported to them the results of sabotage. Sixteen flatcars with motor vehicles were destroyed in the explosion. A demolitions group under the command of a Spanish emigre, Lieutenant F. Eskribano (special detachment of Senior Lieutenant D. I. Kuznetsov) found itself in a similar situation in May 1944. Three times the demolitions group attempted to approach the track, and each time they ran into fascists. Then a local resident led them to the main building at the Talka station (Minsk-Bobruysk line), which was not guarded quite as closely as the connecting rails or bridges. In minutes, two mines (pressure and time-delay) were planted. The first did not work.Private Ya. P. Fokin, who had planted it, went back the next night to determine the problem. The demolitions men made their way to the station by the same route, and the demolitions expert corrected his mistake. At dawn, two powerful explosions resounded. Two locomotives, sixteen flatcars with field guns, and fourteen flatcars with tanks were destroyed.

As a rule, local youths who had learned about the appearance of the detachment "Muscovites" tried to establish contact with them or join them. As the mission allowed it, the detachment quickly grew into a partisan formation. Thus, the detachment of Senior Lieutenant I. M. Kuzin, which went into the enemy rear in January 1942 and operated in the Borisov district of Minsk area for 8 months, grew from 36 men to a formation of 900. Its command established liaison with the Orsha underground, and K. S. Zaslonov's group supplied it with weapons and ammunition and helped it to establish contact with Moscow. The distribution of OMSBON forces was planned first of all to insure the successful execution of their operations. For example, Captain G. M. Khvostov's detachment, Innovator, was based in the terrain feature of Uznosh-Mokh (Smolensk-Vitebsk-Orsha triangle), and controlled important railways and highways. In the immediate area was the headquarters of Army Group Center, the local headquarters of military intelligence Abwehr Team 103 was at the Krasnyy Bor bridge, and the school which was training agents and saboteurs was at the Katyn' station. This detachment provided much valuable information to the headquarters of the Western Front and Moscow, and its demolitions men frequently knocked out enemy communications.

From the spring of 1942, the brigade's operations began to be conducted in a more systematic manner, taking in significant territory.Strikes against enemy communications grew in scope. Thus, from 28 March to 10 May 1942, 7 OMSBON detachments totaling 259 men operating on the railroads Dorogobuzh to Smolensk, Smolensk to Vitebsk, and Smolensk to Orsha, planted 70 mines, destroyed the road bed in 18 places, blew up 3 bridges, derailed 11 trains, and interrupted rail movement for 20 days. Highly praising these actions, the commander of Western Front, G. K. Zhukov, gave the brigade headquarters new missions: strikes against a number of rail lines, an assessment of the enemy strength approaching the Western Front along them, and reconnaissance of enemy forces between Minsk, Bobruysk, Vitebsk, and Gomel'. The detachments of S. A. Vaupshasov, A. M. Rabtsevich, P. G. Shemyakin, A. P. Shestakov, A. N. Shikov, S. A. Kaminskiy, and N. D. Matveyev accomplished these tasks.

OMSBON participated in the most significant partisan operations of 1943-44. Among them, a special place is occupied by the "rails war" of 1943, when almost all strategically important enemy rail lines in Byelorussia and northern Ukraine were put out of action on the eve of the Kursk battle. In a number of areas, this was accompanied by the destruction of fascist garrisons. Thus, Ye. I. Mirkovskiy's detachment, having destroyed enemy forces at the Radcha station (Chernigov-Ovruch line), then destroyed the station and a section of the tracks. The detachments of S. A. Kaminskiy, N. D. Matveyev, and A. N. Shikhov achieved identical successes, destroying the railroad hubs of Gomel' and Unecha. After this, front commander K. K. Rokossovskiy requested that the People's Commissariat for State Security of the USSR "give further help to the Byelorussian Front by sending your sabotage-reconnaissance detachments into the enemy rear for interdiction of the transportation net and destruction of main rail lines of communication." And the detachments of A. N. Shikhov (second time), D. I. Kuznetsov, and D. P. Raspopov, which aided the front in 1944 during the conduct of Operation Bagration, were quickly sent.Subsequently, K. K. Rokossovskiy characterized the actions of A. P. Shestakov's detachment in this way: "It was based in the area of the Bryansk-Gomel' rail line, and for an extended period of time terrorized the Germans in this sector and reported valuable information to us." G. K. Zhukov gave high praise to the actions of V. A. Karasev's detachment.

The experience of the "rails war" was utilized in the summer of 1944. At night on 19-20 June, partisans put most of the rail lines in Byelorussia out of action. OMSBON demolition men from the detachments of M. S. Prudnikov, A. P. Shestakov, I. F. Zolotar, S. A. Vaupshasov, A. N. Shikov, D. I. Kuznetsov, D. P. Raspopov, F. F. Ozmitel', and B. L. Galushkin participated in this operation on the rail lines Baranovichi to Minsk to Borisov, Minsk to Osipovichi to Bobruysk, Brest to Baranovichi, Brest to Pinsk, and Polotsk to Vitebsk. Underground groups created by the Gradov detachment in Byelorussian cities committed fifty-two large-scale acts of sabotage. In the period from January to July 1944, the detachment Elusive derailed 103 trains, blew up 10 bridges, and killed as many as 5,000 Germans. We mention just one fact from the actions of the brigade's agents. P. G. Lopatim's detachment, while assisting the underground in early summer 1943, captured K. Krug, a member of the intelligence section of the staff of the air forces of Army Group Center. This officer gave information about the plan of the fascist offensive in the area of the Orel-Kursk bulge, and the location of thirty-two forward area airfields and radio stations that controlled the bomber flights. The soldiers of this same detachment shot down an airplane, in which a personal representative of Hitler was flying to the front line with orders for this very operation.

The OMSBON men shared all the hardships and deprivations of forest existence along with the partisans: hunger, cold, encirclement, bombardment, and sickness. Many of them became ill with typhus, suffered from swamp eczema, and were frostbitten right up to gangrene of the extremities. There were not even rudimentarily suitable conditions for their treatment, no anesthetics or sterilized instruments and supplies. In spite of this,I. Yu. Davidov, the doctor of A. P. Shestakov's detachment, performed a number of complex operations. In particular, surgery of this type saved the life of Private A. I. Zevelov (now a professor and doctor of historical science). The commander of a detachment, K. P. Orlovskiy, displayed exceptional personal courage. During a battle, a mine blew up in his hands, and he lost one arm below the elbow and his other hand. An emergency amputation was necessary, but the only available instrument was a hatchet.Encouraging the doctor, Orlovskiy himself gave the command: "Chop!" Subsequently, this brave Chekist and Hero of the Soviet Union managed a collective farm in Byelorussia, and became a Hero of Socialist Labor.

Usually OMSBON men were entrusted with the most dangerous missions. They covered withdrawing units, defended crossings, and made up the core of breakthrough groups. Thus, describing a battle with a punitive expedition in the summer of 1943 in the Bobruysk forests, I. F. Zolotar emphasized the following: "The support of the Moscow submachine gunners from the Ozmitel' and Galushkin detachments was especially valuable in this battle." A year later, in June 1944, they both were leading battles against punitive expeditions during the fascist blockade of the partisan zone. Lieutenant B. L. Galushkin was a participant in the defense of Leningrad and Moscow, and twice went on special assignment into the enemy rear in 1942-1943. During his third mission, he became a detachment commander. In the forests around Bobruysk, he commanded an assault group and supported the breakout of the detachment from encirclement. Mortally wounded, he fell a hero in that same battle. Senior Lieutenant F. F. Ozmitel' also commanded an assault group during the breaking of an enemy blockade in the Narovlyan forests. Confusing the enemy, he twice broke through the ring and purposely went back inside, drawing the punitive forces away from the partisan main force. Wounded, he blew himself up with a grenade to avoid capture.

In May-June 1944, the enemy attempted to destroy the partisan in the Minsk-Slutsk-Osipovichi triangle. The assault force of the partisans' defense was the Gradov formation, which had received reinforcements from Moscow in the form of D. M. Kuznetsov's special detachment (forty submachine gunners). They covered the crossing of the Ptich' River while the main body of the partisans and local inhabitants fled from the punitive expedition, and successfully repelled the sudden enemy attacks. The last day of the fascist blockade of this region was 6 June. Having withstood twelve attacks, the submachine gunners moved to break out. "I led Dmitriy Kuznetsov's group of submachine gunners to the place chosen for the breakout," recalled Gradov. "We met the enemy face to face, and fired at point-blank range. The enemy could not withstand our assault, and fled." The mass of those who had been blockaded poured into the space that had been formed, and withdrew with almost no losses.

The combat path of the partisan formation named in honor of Alexandr Nevskiy, the core of which was V. A. Karasev's detachment, which fought in Ukraine, Byelorussia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, covered 12,000 kilometers. It was sent to Poland at the request of the leadership of the Polish Workers' Party and operated there in contact with the detachments of the People's Army and the underground.Junior Lieutenant M. M. Petrov died a hero in the summer of 1944 in Janovsky Forest (Lublin province). The fascists continuously attacked and bombed the partisan positions, and then set the forest ablaze. Having repelled the sixteenth enemy attack, Petrov's men rose up in a bayonet attack and broke the ring of encirclement. But the commander was cut down by a burst of submachine gun fire. In August 1944, V. A. Krasev's formation was sent into Czechoslovakia to aid the Slovak uprising. It also operated with I. Fabra's Hungarian partisans in early 1945.

The fifteen-man operational group Formidible was inserted by parachute into the Berlin area on a January night in 1945. Each of the men already was experienced in combat operations in the enemy rear. But now they had to operate under especially complex conditions, in the immediate vicinity of the fascist capital. Their assault went undetected. Before dawn, the group managed to get to the nearest forest, where the assault force spent its first day on German territory. With the approach of darkness, it went deeper into the woods, where it came upon a single house. Surrounding it, and believing that only peaceful civilians were inside, the agents went in. Former detachment radio operator V. G. Rikhter recalls, "At the table sat several women, who were eating. Our sudden appearance brought terror to them. This was completely understandable, given the manner in which the Germans had portrayed us, and Goebbel's propaganda methods for instilling terror in the German people concerning the approach of the Red Army. And here we were, standing at the threshold... The women calmed down a bit. We found out our location, and clarified the situation." The group had landed in the Althorst district, 100 kilometers northeast of Berlin. There it operated successfully well into the spring of 1945, when the front line grew nearer. The whole time, the agents radioed back information to the command about the disposition of enemy forces, the location of military installations, and the construction of defensive fortifications on the approaches to Berlin. Another large group of OMSBON men greeted the Day of Victory [9 May 1945] in defeated Berlin.

Brigade operators had a significant role in the struggle against bourgeoisie nationalists in Ukraine and the Baltic regions. We will highlight only one fact. While carrying out a special mission, the detachment named in honor of Bogdan Khmel'nitskiy (commanded by V. V. Lebed') simultaneously conducted a struggle with the Banderovs in the area of the cities Rovno and Poles'ye. A female agent of the detachment penetrated the Banderov headquarters under the guise of a representative of a nationalistically inclined youth, and over an extended period of time reported information about the proposed actions of the armed bands.

In the summer of 1945, the OMSBON command summed up the results of the brigade's combat activities from 1941-1945. Its soldiers had derailed 1,415 enemy trains and 5 armored trains, destroyed 1,232 locomotives, 13,181 rail cars, 145 tanks and armored cars, 2,177 wheeled vehicles, prime movers, and motorcycles, blown up 148 kilometers of rail line, 335 rail and highway bridges, shot down 51 aircraft, destroyed 122 garrisons and headquarters, destroyed 700 kilometers of telephone and telegraph line, committed more than 400 other acts of sabotage, engaged the enemy in 1,084 battles, killing approximately 137,000 enemy soldiers and officers, and liquidated 87 important occupation authorities and 2,045 fascist agents and accomplices. They did not include the results of reconnaissance activities, nor did they take into account the contribution of OMSBON to the organization of the partisan movement.

More than 1,000 brigade soldiers and officers perished while carrying out these missions. The Motherland holds their memory sacred. The streets of many of our cities are called by the names of D. N. Medvedev, N. I. Kuznetsov, L. Kh. Papernik, B. L. Galushkin, and other Chekists. Memorials have been erected in Moscow to OMSBON athletes D. N. Medvedev and L. V. Kulakov, in L'vov to N. I. Kuznetsov, on Malov field (Borisov region) to F. F. Ozmitel' and B. L. Galushkin, and in the village Khludnevo (Kaluga area) to twenty-three hero-skiers. A monument to P. F. Pilyugin and A. V. Malyugin is in the village of Privol'ye (Smolensk area), and an obelisk is at the grave of A. M. Dolgushin at Gomelshchina. The names of a number of the brigade's heroes are immortalized in the names of enterprises, schools, sports complexes, frontier posts, and in museum displays.

The exploits of Chekists are highly regarded by the Motherland. The rank Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded to S. A. Vaupshasov, B. L. Galushkin, V. A. Karasev, N. I. Kuznetsov, P. G. Lopatin, D. N. Medvedev, Ye. I. Mirkovskiy, F. F. Ozmitel', K. P. Orlovskiy, L. Kh. Papernik, N. A. Prokopyuk, M. I. Petrov, M. S. Prudnikov, A. M. Rabtsevich, and A. N. Shikov. Orders and medals were awarded to 5,172 soldiers of the brigade, 3,934 of whom were Communists of Komsomol members. Many were given awards by Bulgaria, GDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. The newspaper Victory for Us wrote on 27 June 1945, "Our organization is of the same age as the Great Patriotic War. It was created in June 1941, and traveled the great path from Moscow to Berlin. The missions which our soldiers, sergeants, and officers fulfilled were difficult and unusual. Operating in the deep rear of the enemy, mining the approaches to the capital, conducting reconnaissance work at the fronts, forming partisan detachments, they always displayed courage and heroism, and exemplified models of military expertise, endurance, boldness... The sons of the Party of Lenin were out in front at the most difficult moments of the battle. They led the young patriots in the attack and in the defeat of the enemy."

OMSBON veterans are at work today. Among them are workers, collective farmers, scientists, managers of enterprises and government departments, journalists, and writers. Several devoted themselves to Chekist work. Many have been awarded orders and medals for labor heroism, and former demolitions expert of the detachment named in honor of Aleksandr Nevskiy, D. I. Chervyakov, who was associated with the Minsk machine works, was awarded the honor Hero of Socialist Labor. Even in peacetime, OMSBON men continue the glorious traditions of their brigade.

Source: F. L. Kurlat, L. A. Studnikov, "Voprosy istorii", #10 1982;
Translated by: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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