During the war years, he became the inventor of the "operational" printing industry in the army. Popel formed his network of army correspondents and increased the staff of typesetters in the field printing house. As a result, the time from the appearance of the leaflet design to its delivery to a specific fighter at the front was three and a half hours. Huge speed for wartime and with those technologies. Popel became the author of a vivid memoir about the war, where journalism alternates with the artistic reality of wartime. Such works of the tanker as “In the grievous time”, “Tanks turned to the west”, “Ahead - Berlin!” Compare favorably with the memories of other military leaders by the artistic imagery of their heroes and the bright personal attitude of the author to the events. True, after the release of his memories, Popel was subjected to a wave of criticism from military historians, writers and ordinary readers. The tanker general was accused of “juggling with the facts,” his own exaltation, and a biased attitude towards events.
Apparently, this was largely due to the fact that Popel's memoirs became one of the first memoirs about the Great War. Passion has not yet subsided, the memories were "alive." The fundamental volumes of Zhukov, Rokossovsky, Konev, Baghramyan, Chuikov and other great commanders have not yet been published, have not been published historical studies and encyclopedias that would approve a unified view of the course of events of the Great Patriotic War. Pioneers are always difficult. Popel had to take emotional blows from readers who did not agree with his point of view.
Born Popele 19 December 1900, 2 January 1901 (new style) in the village of Epiphany, Nicholas district, Kherson province, was born. His parents were a blacksmith from the Magyars (Hungarians) Kirdat Popel and a peasant Svetlana. The boy graduated from a two-year parish school at a rural parish. He studied well, so he was enrolled in the veterinary class at the Kherson agricultural school. In the summer of 1917, he completed his studies, receiving a diploma of a veterinarian in category II.
I must say that Poppel’s biography is full of “white spots”. So, it is not known what the young vet did during the Revolution and most of the Civil War. According to Evgenia Yakovlevna’s testimony — the wives of the future tanker general — Nikolai Popel at the beginning of 1920, voluntarily came to the military commissioner of the city of Nikolaev and asked to be transferred to the Red Army. Veterinarians needed armies. He was credited with the "chief horseman" (veterinarian) of the 3 Equestrian Corps under the command of Nikolai Kashirin. Popel participated in the battles for Melitopol, Kerch, fought with the Wrangel and Makhnovists. His career as a military political worker begins at the same time. In April, 1921, Nikolai joined the RCP (b) and was immediately appointed Assistant Chairman of the Special Military Tribunal of the Alexander Group of Forces in southern Ukraine. A veterinarian by profession has to sign firing lists for “enemies of the people,” like anarchists, and personally participate in punitive expeditions against remnants of the Makhnovist gangs.
In 1923-1925 Popel is studying in the Odessa Infantry School. After that, he is transferred to the political department of the 4 Cavalry Division of the Ukrainian Military District. Two years later, Popel studies at the Advanced Training Courses for the Command Staff (KUKS) in the capital, then at the Military-Political Institute. Tolmachyova. The “Chief Officer” has been studying for almost eight years and in 1932 was appointed the head of the Disciplinary Crimes Department of the Military District of the Moscow District. For six years of work in this post, according to the calculations of researchers, Popel prepared about 120 compromising characteristics of the former commanders of the Red Army, who were under investigation.
In 1938, Popel was appointed military commissar of the 11 mechanized (tank) brigade. During the Soviet-Finnish War, Popelya was appointed head of the political department of the 106 Mountain Division (“Ingermanlandia”) of the Finnish People's Army. This "army" was created in the calculation of the establishment of Soviet power in Finland after winning the war, it was formed from ethnic Finns and Karelians. However, this plan was not implemented. The war turned out to be harder than expected, and Finland retained its government. Popel was transferred to the post of military commissar of the 1-th Leningrad Artillery School, and then deputy commander of the 8-th Mechanized Corps in the Kiev Special Military District.
Breakthrough to the rear of the enemy
The first month of the war became a political worker's high point. While some commanders succumbed to panic, gave up, Popel showed resilience, composure and was able to maintain a high moral spirit in the surrounding soldiers and commanders.
Popel became an active participant in the Battle of Dubno-Lutsk-Brody (June 23 - June 30 of the year 1941). Approximately 3200 - 3300 tanks took part in this battle on both sides: 8, 9, 15, 19, 22, Soviet Mechanized Corps and 9, 11, 13, 14- I, 16-I German tank divisions. The command of the South-Western Front and the representative of the Headquarters of the Civil Code, G. K. Zhukov, decided to launch a counterstrike on the German group with the forces of all mechanized corps and three rifle corps of front-line submission (31, 36 and 37). The aim of the counter-offensive of the mechanized corps of the South-Western Front was the defeat of the Evald von Kleist's 1 tank group. As a result, a fierce oncoming tank battle took place. However, the lack of proper coordination of actions, the inability to immediately throw all the formations into battle (many units were in the process of being advanced to the front and entered the battle as they arrived), the lack of air support did not allow the Red Army to win the border battle. At the same time, this battle allowed to gain time, delayed the offensive of the 1 of the German tank group for a week, frustrated the enemy’s plans to break through to Kiev and the encirclement of a number of Soviet armies. It was precisely such fierce battles, unexpected for the enemy, that finally thwarted the idea of a “blitzkrieg”, allowed the USSR to survive in the Great War.
One of the highlights of this battle was the strike of the 24 tank regiment of Lieutenant Colonel Volkov (from the 12 tank division), motorcycle regiment and Colonel Vasilyev's 34 tank division under the overall command of Brigadier Commissioner Nikolai Popel. From Dubno, the 8 and 15 mechanized corps with the 8 armored division of the 4 mechanized corps were to hit Dubno from the south. But in the 2 o'clock in the afternoon 27 June 1941, the Volkov-Popel group was able to go on the offensive only. The rest of the troops just threw in this direction.
According to Popel, the impact of our troops on a busy highway in the Verba area was unexpected. The first enemy barrier - a battalion of infantry and a company of tanks were shot down, the Germans were not ready for defense. Here, on the highway, the Popley shock group overtook the rear of the 11 of the German tank division. The Nazis quietly made a march, strictly observing the prescribed intervals. Everything was measured, thoroughly and decorously, before the advent of Soviet soldiers. Even when our motorcyclists overtook the enemy, the German soldiers did not think that they were Russians. When the machine guns sounded and the guns hit it was already too late. “So the enemy happened to find out what panic is,” the commissioner writes. Vasiliev, Volkov and Popel took a high rate of attack, trying not to linger at the nodes of resistance.
The fight turned on a wide field in 10 km southwest of Dubno. In the course of a fierce battle, the Popel group destroyed part of the 11 Panzer Division. In this battle, the commander of the 67 Tank Regiment (34 etc.) fell, Lieutenant Colonel Nikolai Dmitrievich Bolkhovitin. In Dubno, Soviet troops entered already in the dark. General Halder wrote in his diary: “On the right flank of the first tank group of the 8 Russian Tank Corps, it penetrated deeply into our position and went into the rear of the 11 tank division ...”. After the capture of Dubno, the Popelya group began to expect the arrival of the remaining parts of the 8 mechanized corps, which were to follow them.
Defense of Dubno
The situation for the Popil group in Dubno was very disturbing. There are no neighbors, there is no communication and information, there are no reinforcements. There is no contact with the enemy. The group began to prepare for defense. The principle of tough defense Popel explained very figuratively and succinctly: "stand to the death." “You are bombarded with bombs - high-explosive, fragmentation, incendiary. And you are standing. They are beating you with guns, machine guns, machine guns and rifles. And you are standing. You have come to the flank, they are already targeting you from the rear. And you are standing. Your comrades died, the commander is dead. You stand. Do not just stand. You beat the enemy. You shoot from a machine gun, rifle, pistol, throwing grenades, going into a bayonet attack. You can fight anything - butt, rock, boot, Finn. Only you have no right to withdraw. Step back at least a step! .. ”(Popel N. K. In a hard time). From 30 captured German tanks was formed a new battalion under the command of Captain Mikhalchuk. "Machineless" crews for these tanks lacked. In addition, the defense was reinforced by fifty guns abandoned by the Germans and a volunteer battalion was formed from local citizens, mostly from party and Soviet workers who did not have time to evacuate.
In Dubno, they expected the approach of two divisions of the 8th mechanized corps Dmitry Ryabyshev. But at night, the German command transferred parts of the 16th Panzer, 75th and 111th Infantry Divisions to the site of the breakthrough of Soviet troops and closed the gap. On June 28, only the battalion of the 300th motorized rifle regiment of the 7th motorized division with the artillery division managed to connect with Popel’s group. The 8th mechanized corps could not again break through the enemy’s defenses and under enemy attacks aviation, artillery and superior German forces went on the defensive. As a result, Popel's group was surrounded. Ryabyshev’s corps, under the threat of complete encirclement and destruction, was forced to retreat.
The Popiel group encountered connections from the 16 Tank Division. For the Germans, this meeting was also unexpected, they did not think in the area to meet with the Russians. In the two-hour battle, all German attacks were repelled, and 15 tanks, which broke through into the location of the Soviet troops, were captured (13 of them are in good condition).
The seizure of these tanks pushed Popel and Vasiliev to the idea of organizing sabotage in the enemy rear. The operation was called a "miracle." She was headed by Senior Political Commissar Ivan Kirillovich Gurov (political deputy of the commander of the 67 Tank Regiment) and Senior Battalion Commissar Efim Ivanovich Novikov (Deputy Head of the Political Propaganda Department in 34-t etc.). Trophy T-3 and T-4 one at a time penetrated the enemy's location. They had to, one at a time, at intervals, enter the German column, which stretched along the road, and wait for the signal. At the signal of a red rocket, Gurov gave it to 24.00, the Soviet tank crews had to shoot at the front of the German cars and leave in the confusion. "Miracle" succeeded. At night, shots rumbled, the flame began to cloud. An hour and a half later, the first tank saboteur returned, by dawn, 11 tanks had arrived. Only one tank was lost, but his crew safely got out of the enemy rear and reached their own ones on foot. The result was quite expected - the 16-I German Tank Division did not launch an offensive in the morning.
For the defense of Dubno, the 3 sector was created: the northern one, at Mlynova, commanded by the commander of the 67 tank regiment, Major A. P. Sytnik and the commander IK Gurov; southwestern, in the Podluže region, headed by the division’s artillery chief, Colonel V. G. Semenov, and battalion commissar Zarubin; the eastern sector, in Dubno, under the command of the commander of the 68 tank regiment, M. I. Smirnov, and the senior battalion commissioner, E. I. Novikov. 24-th tank regiment of Colonel Volkov was a mobile reserve. Fights almost did not stop. Now in one sector, then in another. Some fights were fleeting, others - many hours, long.
Volkov recalled that from June 27 to July 2 1941, Brigadier Commissioner Popel practically did not sleep. He constantly rushed on a motorcycle between tank units, encouraged the fighters and showed an example of personal courage. During one of the trips, a stray German projectile projectile threw it over a ravine near Samokhovich. The sergeant died on the spot, and Popel was contused. But he managed to get out, dig a motorcycle out of the ground and get to his own.
29 June were fierce battles. The Germans, after a powerful artillery preparation and bombing, went on the attack. The group was defenseless against air raids; there was no anti-aircraft artillery. Soviet troops suffered significant losses from air strikes. The brutal battle boiled over Ptycha, she passed from hand to hand several times. Almost all the guns of the southwestern sector are disabled. As Popel recalled, tanks went against tanks. The enemy did not have heavy vehicles. But our heavy KV shells were running out. Soviet tankers, having spent ammunition, went to the ram. “The cars burned, sticking up the wreckage of guns in the ground, inverted transporters. And everywhere - in cars, batteries, transporters - the corpses of our and German soldiers. "
In a battle in the northern sector, Gurov knocked out two infantry battalions of the enemy from an ambush by ambush and destroyed the German regimental headquarters. In the course of repelling the German attack, the commander died a brave death. Vasiliev and Popel removed from command the commander of the 68-th tank regiment Smirnov, who showed cowardice. The regiment was received by captain V.F. Petrov.
On the same day, the Popiel group received an order to attack and destroy enemy tanks in the woods of Mala Milc and Belk Milch. It was found about 300 tanks, apparently without ammunition and fuel. The order was transferred with the help of a pilot who landed the plane in the Dubno area. And this order was received under conditions when the Popel group had nowhere to go for the wounded, it was running out of fuel, ammunition, medicines, parts lost most of the commanding staff. From the north against the Popel-Vasiliev group there were two infantry divisions — the 44 and the 225 — and the 14-I armored. From the southwest - 111-I infantry and 16-I tank. However, the order is an order.
At the military council, it was decided to divide the group into two parts: to make a dent, send the wounded and the rear units to their own, and attack the enemy with a strike fist. At night, they attacked Ptychu and punched a gap southward. The wounded were taken out into the corridor, the rear units were sent to Ternopil, where, according to the latest data, they had their own. At dawn, the main forces struck the 16 Panzer Division in the general direction of Kozin. It was assumed that Kozin, Sitno, Brod is 8 th mechanized corps. The Germans did not expect a night strike. After 40 minutes Ptycha battle was captured. The column with the wounded and the rears was led by Colonel Semenov, chief of artillery 34, etc. He was assigned 60 tanks, each had an 1-2 projectile for defense. However, at the beginning of the movement, Semenov was wounded and led by Colonel Pleshakov. I must say that he went to his.
Popel has 100 tanks left (80 tanks are the main forces, Petrov’s 20 tanks have distracted the enemy), each has 20-25 shells, and the tanks are only half full. Plus small landings. Tankers broke through the outer ring, destroyed two German batteries, began to expect Petrov tanks. Already at this stage, the group suffered heavy losses. Another German artillery division was hitting the flank of Popel’s tanks, which were awaiting Petrov’s squad. Popel led the troops to the rear of the German artillery. “We go through the swamp, fall through. In the outstretched hands over the heads of rifles, pistols and grenades. Some have daggers in their teeth ... Dreadful and dirty, like swamp devils, Popel writes, we rushed into the firing positions of the Nazis, adorned with birch trees and carefully covered from above with variegated camouflage nets. 150-mm howitzers can not be deployed in an instant. Grenades are torn, shots rumble. In some places it came to a melee. We emerge victorious: all three batteries with serviceable cannons, with stocks of oily glittering shells are ours. Fabulous wealth! ”The howitzer division, which was headed by Novikov, opened fire on German positions.
Tanks of Vasilyev and Volkov destroyed a significant number of German vehicles that did not expect the appearance of Russian tanks in this direction. Popel could try to escape from the ring. But waiting for the group of Petrov, but they could not abandon theirs, they lost time. The Germans threw aircraft into battle, pulled up the tanks. A new fight ensued. The ammunition ended, and the Soviet tankmen began to ram the German cars. Major Sytnik on KV rammed several German T-3. Volkov was wounded. German aircraft struck the artillery division. Several guns were mutilated, others continued to cover their own. Popel ordered Novikov to cover the waste, then blow up the remaining guns and leave. Novikov stood to the last and died the death of the brave. The divisional commander Vasilyev and the regimental commissar of the Germans were also killed.
The remnants of the group left for the forest: a handful of tanks, several vehicles (they had to be abandoned almost immediately), the remains of the landing party and machine-gun crews of tankers. For two days the rest of Popel’s group rested, gathered fought soldiers, scouted the area. Destroyed several enemy patrols. Then they put the remaining tanks out of action and set off. This movement in the rear is a whole story filled with fights with the Germans, overcoming natural obstacles, fighting fear, alarmism.
Having fought with the fighting in the enemy rear near 200 km, the Popel squad and the units of the 124 th rifle division that had joined it went into the 5 th army. Total from the environment Popiel brought 1778 fighters. The group has lost more than 6 thousand people killed and missing, since the beginning of its epic.
Bad - good Commissioner Popel // http://novosti-n.org/analitic/read/1267.html.
Popel N.K. In a hard time. M.-SPb., 2001.