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Soviet field post

Article about: Hello! I could not find a relevant post here on the forum, so I made new one from scratch. Please, share your items in this thread if you wish!!! I have got these two Soviet field post cards

  1. #11
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    Now to the HSU PLOTNIKOV.
    He was born 4 October 1904 in the village Kevdo-Mel'sitovo. Worked briefly at steel plant. Became Communist party member.
    In 1926-1928 he served in the RKKA in artillery. After his demobilization, he moved to town Gorky (old name: Nizhnij Novgorod) and worked in the internal affairs (GPU). Later studied in an agricultural school.
    Since 1939 he worked at the Gorky Automobile Plant as a mechanic.
    In October 1942, Plotnikov was again drafted into the army. In the field forces from August 1943.
    He served as a gun loader in 130 Guards artillery regiment, 58 Guards rifle division, 64 Guards rifle corps, 57 Guards army, Steppes front.

    Now, lets read his HSU citation. It is written in special style - both political propaganda and dramatical notes.
    "Thunder and flames of explosions flashed around. Smoke and dust impeded breathing. The first battery supporting the rifle company repelled the 6th enemy counterattack. The hill 172.0 was dominating the surrounding landscape and the Germans were intended to recapture it at any cost. The artillery men, the Guards men of the 1st battery, stood their line no mater what. Dashingly fought the loader PLOTNIKOV. Direct hit at the artillery position took the crew out of action. PLOTNIKOV was lightly wounded, but continued alone to bash the Germans, working both as loader and gunner. Soon after two other battery guns were also knocked out of action. Remained only wounded PLOTNIKOV and one gun. The opponent feeling luck launched the 7th counter attack. Three tanks lead the assault followed by 200 drunken Fascist thugs. "If I have to die - I die like a hero!" - decided PLOTNIKOV for himself and braced for uneven fight. "This one is for town Gomel" - shouted PLOTNIKOV and knocked the turret off the leading tank with a heavy shell. The joy of victory took over PLOTNIKOV. Two more shots and another tank gave smoke. The third tank tried to escape. "You will not get away, skunk!" - exclaimed PLOTNIKOV. Four more shots and the last steel beast begun to spin around on one spot.
    But remained the run amok drunken submachine gunners. They pressed forward approaching PLOTNIKOV's gun position. He gave two shots and then had to take over a machine gun. A long MG salvo forced Germans to sober up. Many of them fell right there, the others ran away. That was exactly what PLOTNIKOV needed. He collected automatic weapons from the fallen comrades and took position in the trench awaiting new enemy attack. He prepared 6 hand grenades. The Fritz were quick to return. Again shouting and whistling German line appeared. PLOTNIKOV was waiting. 80 meters distance remained. Then he employed his submachine gun. The German line was getting thiner and thiner, but they kept on pressing. 30 meters left and a bullet pierced hero's left shoulder. With his right arm he threw 4 bundled grenades and killed an officer. Fritz retreated. Our infantry caught up and helped the hero to hold the hill. Germans pushed no more. PLOTNIKOV held an important hill, killed 90 Germans and destroyed 3 tanks. He fully deserves the title "Hero of Soviet Union".
    12 September 1943
    Commander of 130 GuAP
    Guards Captain DEMIDOVICH
    "
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    The citation went through the approval chain and PLOTNIKOV was awarded HSU by decree of 20 December 1943. He was awarded order of Lenin and the gold star medal #3172.

    The citation is written not fully according to the rules. F.ex. you may notice the date of the action is missing. This made it difficult to locate the hill where the events took place.

    All the other sources I could find, which described PLOTNIKOV's actions rely solely on this citation and shed no extra light on the events. Except maybe one!
    In 1961 a collection of stories about HSU cavaliers who lived in town Gorky was printed. There is also an essay about PLOTNIKOV written by writer KRUTOV I.A. (Russian text).
    I will not translate it all. It is a heavy mix of autor's interpretations, official propaganda version, and PLOTNIKOV's own words. It is obviously heavily based on the official citation version, and also rewritten to make story more fluid and readable. But it was also based on an interview with PLOTNIKOV himself! And this gives some extra details which otherwise would be lost. Here are some excerpts from the essay with what I think are PLOTNIKOV's quotes:
    "On that day near the hill 172.0 our battery was quickly deployed on a closed position. We saw that the hill was covered by abandoned and destroyed German trenches and other fortifications. Abandoned equipment. Looks like the position was left in a hurry.
    ...
    At noon the Germanstwice launched attack but were repelled with high casualties. Two of our crew were wounded, one killed. I was lightly wounded and remain wit the gun. There were no reinforcements, and frankly speaking no time for it. We were two people to operate the gun - GUS'KOV and me. I was the gun layer, GUS'KOV was the loader.
    ...
    The enemy barrage intensified. Soon two other guns went silent. Their crews killed. My mate GUS'KOV got whole arm ripped off.
    ...
    The Germans sustained losses, but broke through the rifle company line. This happened in the afternoon. What could I do? I was thinking to my self: "Well, just one gun, but let it work. At least some help to the infantry." Later I was not thinking of anything any more. Get the charge, load, aim, fire.
    As soon as I brought a few shell to the gun and loaded it with an HE shell, the leading tank came out of the bushes and fired in my direction. It missed. I fired point blank. The tank was embraced in smoke and abruptly stopped. The sun was already setting down but it was still light. Then I see another tank right of me. And this one stopped after my shot - I cannot believe it.
    The third tank was left of me and was moving fast firing in motion. It got quite close, but suddenly changed the course and started retreating. I got him with 4 shells, and was attacked by German submachine gunners. I fired 2 shrapnel charges and a long MG burst.
    ...
    I knew they will come back. I collected the weapons from the dead. Again they attacked and approached me. I prepared the grenades, but suddenly felt burning feeling in my left shoulder. I remember I was thinking: "How good it is the left one, else it is all over." I threw the grenades with my right arm as far as a could and hit them. At this point I heard "HURRA" and our infantry assaulted."
    "

    As you may notice the veteran tells his story much more "calm" compare to the citation.
    It also gives one interesting clew - the hill 172 and their position was previously occupied by Germans.
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    P.S: GUS'KOV mentioned in PLOTNIKOV's story died later... RIP.

    to be continued...
    Last edited by Egorka; 02-12-2018 at 09:32 PM.
    -= Archival research Service for Soviet awards. PM if interested. =-

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  3. #12

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    Thanks again for such report, Igor !

    Nice work !
    He was lucky the German tank missed him as such low range

    "200 drunken Fascist thugs"

  4. #13

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    Very interesting! I have several field post letters myself. The contence is not the most interesting but researching the names brings forth some brave men. It is so nice that a small piece of paper can bring alive so much history!

  5. #14
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    And finally to the action for which PLOTNIKOV was awarded HSU. Lets try finding the details. Where and when did it take place?
    And here we are actually having a bit of trouble. You see, neither the date nor the location is provided properly in the citation.
    So let's endeavour together and find out.

    The palace is only denoted by "hill 172.0". It just tells us, that the hight above the sea level was 172 meters, and there should be a hill marking on the map with appropriate scale (1:100.000). The hill marks on the maps with higher scale were denoted without decimals (and some of them were also completely omitted).
    Can we use this hill 172.0 to locate the position on the map? Well not really... We could if we knew the precise date. But the date of the action is not mentioned in the citation - a direct violation of the rules. I have seen numerous rejection for other citations, which lacked such details. But it was not a problem in this case.
    OK, we don't know the date directly. Can we estimate it? Yes, we can establish, that the action happened earlier, than 12 September 1943 (the day the citation was signed by PLOTNIKOV's regiment commander). The earliest day may be approximately established from information, that PLOTNIKOV was in field forces from "August 1943". Also the assault operation by 57 Army, 64 Gu. rifle corps, 58 Gu. RD started on 08 August 1943.
    And we can generally expect, that the action was closer to 12 September, rather than 08 August.

    Interestingly, the post war material on PLOTNIKOV mentiones directly wrong location place of his action: "near town Verkhnedneprovsk". This can't be right, because 58 Gu. Rifle Division reached town Verkhnedneprovsk only by 22 of October 1943. And the date on the citation (12 September 1943) is a hard evidence, which cannot be interpreted any differently.

    OK, what have we got? Period: 08/08-12/09 of 1943. Location: hill 172.0.
    The problem is that until 12 September, 58 GuRD covered covered app. 100 km during the assault operation, which started 08 August.
    The 57 Army sector was passing just South of town Kharkov.
    So we need to find a hill 172.0 in the sector of 58 GuRD along the 100km covered in the period 08/08- 12/09. It is not easy!
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    I can tell you I tried. And I failed. I could not find hill 172.0 in the respective sector. I found a couple of hills 172.x - i.e. with different decimal number.
    What does it mean? If one looks carefully at the handwriting on the citation, one can sense that the hill was corrected from 172.1 to 172.0.
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    But I could not find hill 172.1 either. But this at least can indicate that the decimal in the hill demotion is not to be taken as a hard fact.

    OK, so we should look at the hill 172.x markers.
    There is one - 172.4 - just East of Kharkov where 58 GuRD was engaged on 18 August. Good candidate. But! This position in fact does NOT dominate the terrain (the fact that was mentioned in the citation and interview). So we need to look further.
    Then there is 172.3 just South-West of small town Merefa and just next to village Lelyuky. This is also one of the reference points with triangulation pillar installed. And importantly, this hill does dominate the landscape: the river Mzha cuts through a small valley and the two banks form two hills on each side. So from 172.3 one can observe far away to the next Eastern bank, which would make this a good position for Germans to defend from approaching Soviet forces.
    And the map of 64 GuRC shows that this position was previously occupied by Germans, which fits well to the information we have so far.
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    So far so good, but we don't have yet anything more to know this was the exact hill. I was lucky to find a document which provided more support: a map produced by 57 army HQ depicting the actions of German forces. An unusual document. This map infact shows that there was a German attack near hill 172.3 by 3 tanks and 1 infantry battalion. So this yet another piece of puzzle fitting together!
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    So here you go!
    We found the specific location where the action took place. The date of action is determined approximately as 09 September.

    The view toward the hill 172.3 from the Merefa:
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    The memorial in the village Lelyuky to the fallen in 1943.
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    to be continued...
    Last edited by Egorka; 02-18-2018 at 03:29 PM.
    -= Archival research Service for Soviet awards. PM if interested. =-

  6. #15
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    And the final chapter on PLOTNIKOV.
    After a brief hospitalisation he finished shortened officer courses , and after that shortened commissar courses. Finished the war in the rank of Lieutenant, demobilised in 1946.

    After the war he worked as a technical school director until 1952. These were specialised boarding schools attached to manufacturing facilities (existed 1940-1963) which admitted youth of 16-18 y.o. Education lasted 6 months.
    Here is PLOTNIKOV's photos as the school director. If you look closely you can see his gold star on his left breast.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Veteran retired in 1969.
    Fedor Vasilievich PLOTNIKOV died 11 July 1972 of acute nephritis.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    And the sad note... From PLOTNIKOV daughter's interview given in 1999:
    "He died unexpectedly. Practically burnt away in 6 days of nephritis of the kidneys. It is hard to think about it...
    When the pope was being buried, another trouble happened - his gold HSU star was stolen. The thief was never found.
    "


    The end.
    -= Archival research Service for Soviet awards. PM if interested. =-

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