The Soviet command began to pull up to the front. One of such associations of the Supreme Command Headquarters was the 70 Army, the backbone of which was the border guards and soldiers of the internal troops of Central Asia, Siberia and the Far East. The army arrived in the Kursk area in February 1943 of the year and, after short offensive battles, went over to the defense on the northern face of the Kursk bulge. The union took an active part in repelling the onslaught of the Nazis on Kursk from the north in July 1943, and then in the counteroffensive in the Orel region.
The heroic defense of height 253.5 (code name - “height 88.0”) of the infantry battalion under the command of Major I.A. became a bright page in the Battle of Kursk. Shilkov on the right flank of the 140 th Infantry Division 70 th Army. A participant in the battles in this direction, the now living retired colonel Anatoly Isaakovich Tsvetkov, told the correspondent of Krasnaya Zvezda about the heroism of the soldiers. That's how it was.
Dig deeper into the ground
At a height of 253.5, the battalion took possession at the end of February 1943 and, by order of the command, secured it. For four months, the unit improved its defense. The order of the commander of the Central Front, Colonel General K.K. Rokossovsky was simple and understandable to anyone: "To dig deeper into the ground." This meant that each compartment, each crew, crew had to quickly prepare trench sections, trenches for guns, mortars and tanks, shelters for personnel, communication moves for maneuver. And all this had to be done in good faith, with strict observance of camouflage measures in order to withstand the upcoming attacks of the enemy.
The commander of the battalion, Major Shilkov, recalled how, even at the border school, in the engineering training classes, the cadets were taught not only to self-absorb quickly and competently, but also to build dugouts and to build simple barriers. Serious school officer maturity, the correct assessment of the situation for Lieutenant Shilkov was the service in the Far East. The skills obtained in the school were very useful for a young officer on the border, when it was necessary to equip a strong point of the outpost and ways to maneuver border guards.
So, near Kursk, Shilkov, looking at the height defended by his soldiers, noted with satisfaction that the battalion area of defense, company strong points turned into a powerful center of resistance, ensuring reliable control over the terrain.
Yesterday’s border guards worked with twinkle-fourteen hours, remembering the order of the commander of the front: to turn every defensive position into an insurmountable obstacle for the Nazis.
The battalion commander meticulously examined the trench of the machine-gun crew of the corporal Polyanova. The position equipped according to all the rules of engineering art was well disguised, it had a cellar for ammunition. Shilkov remembered how the calculation of this Altai boy ensured a successful reflection of the recent night attack by the Nazis when they tried to throw the border guards from this key height.
“And the sappers did their work,” the battalion commander noted to himself. They set up anti-tank and anti-personnel minefields and wire barriers in front and on the flanks of the defense area. The approaches to the leading edge were shot. In a word, it was a tough nut in the regiment's order of battle.
Describing the overall defense of the 13 and 70 armies on the northern flank of the Kursk salient, Marshal of the Soviet Union G.K. Zhukov reported to the Supreme Commander IV Stalin: “The defense of the armies is organized correctly and deeply echeloned. Army equipped with three lines of defense. And the most developed is the first (main) strip of 10 – 15 km depth. The defense was built primarily as an anti-tank, with a system of anti-tank strongholds and nodes to a depth of 30 – 35 km. ”
At the point of impact
The night of 5 July, 1943, was sweltering and restless. The night before, Major Shilkov from the regimental headquarters was instructed to prepare the battalion to repel a possible enemy attack at dawn. Without closing my eyes, I, together with the chief of staff and the political officer, would stumble around the divisions until the morning, clarifying the situation and encouraging the subordinates.
To disrupt the advance of fascist troops on Kursk, Soviet troops at dawn on July 5, 1943 inflicted large-scale artillery and aviation attacks, because of which the Nazis were able to go on the offensive with a delay of several hours. They brought down the main power of their forces north of Kursk at the junction between the 13th and 70th armies. In the strip of the 70th army, the strongest attack fell on the 140th rifle division of Major General A.Ya. Kiseleva, and in particular on her 96th rifle regiment under the command of Colonel A.S. Grigoryeva. The key position in the defense of the regiment at an altitude of 253.5 was occupied by the 2nd infantry battalion of Major I.A. Shilkova.
Later on the heroic defense of this point, the commander of the Central Front, Colonel-General KK Rokossovsky in his book “The Soldier's Duty” wrote: “I remember that the Nazis attacked this height on the first day of the attack several times. In the evening I ask the commander Ivan Vasilyevich Galanin:
- How is the height of 88.0?
“In our hands,” the commander replies.
On the second day, the enemy introduced fresh forces and re-attacked the altitude several times. To the right and to her left he managed to wedge a little into the defense of our troops.
I ask Galanin at night:
- Does the height of the 88.0 hold?
“Hold on,” the commander replies confidently.
So it was the next two days - 7 and 8 July. The enemy managed to penetrate into our defense only on 2 – 8 km, and did not take the height of 88.0. Will this be smoothed out in people's memory? ”
Four days and nights
And the events unfolded as follows. In the first attack, the enemy threw against the battalion to 40 tanks. The fighters, quickly restoring defensive forces, met the Nazis with fire of all kinds weapons. 4-I rifle company under the command of Lieutenant MS The head was able to repel the strike, but when the fascists began to bypass the right flank, the battalion commander transferred his reserve there - the 2 th infantry squad of the 6 th rifle company, which, together with the artillerymen, broke this maneuver of the Nazis and forced them to withdraw. Particularly distinguished in that battle was the machine-gunner Nikolai Lysov, who with accurate fire destroyed up to fifteen fascists and their machine-gun crew. Being wounded, the brave warrior continued to strike the Nazis.
Fierce battles fought all divisions of the battalion. 5-I rifle company under the command of Lieutenant Z.I. Igonina successfully repelled two enemy attacks and held her position. 6-I rifle company of Lieutenant MI Korochenko, having beaten off three fascist attacks, was forced to retreat to the second trench on the left flank. Mortar platoon battalion commanded by Lieutenant V.R. Lazarev, replacing firing positions, aptly struck those who were attacking the Nazis.
All fighters showed courage, bravery and heroism. So, the commander of the economic star foreman M.M. Musabaev, being cut off from the main forces of the battalion, managed to deliver ammunition and food to the front line. In that battle, he died.
Almost in full surroundings, the battalion repulsed two more enemy attacks until dusk. The night passed anxiously, they were disturbed by the attacks of the enemy’s scouts, the sky was lit up with rockets, the shelling did not stop.
July 6 Day did not bring relief to the battalion soldiers. It began with new attacks by the fascists with the support of artillery and mortars, as well as air strikes. The first two battalion attacks managed to repel, inflicting significant losses on the enemy. 7 tanks and several armored personnel carriers were burning in front of the battalion front. But the third attack, anticipating that the fascists launched a squall of fire on the Red Army, was the most fierce. The enemy threw 4 th and 5 th mouth to the infantry battalion with tanks. The threat of a battalion’s defense cut into two parts. Major Shilkov sent a platoon of anti-tank guns under the command of Senior Lieutenant F.I to the place of the breakthrough. Markushina, as well as a battery of anti-tank artillery attached, repulsed this attack. Especially distinguished in this case is the calculation of sergeant Sergey Blokhin's anti-tank gun. They shot down three enemy tanks, and when the gun failed, Blokhin, already wounded, knocked out another tank with an anti-tank grenade.
Fearlessness and bravery were shown in that battle by the commander of the 2 infantry platoon of the 6 company - reserve battalion - foreman I.L. Maslov. When the fascists tried to encircle the battalion, he led the fighters into a counterattack and forced the nazis to withdraw to their original position.
At the most crucial moment of the battle for the height, the battalion major Shilkov advanced into the battle formations of the 4 Company and personally supervised the elimination of the enemy tanks and infantry at the junction of the 4 and 5 companies. He was wounded in the shoulder, but did not leave the battlefield and continued to command the battalion.
The night of July 7 was relatively quiet, with the exception of the attempts of the fascist scouts to probe the battalion’s defense on the left flank, where the 6 th infantry company was defending. But these attempts were stopped by fire. At dawn, after an artillery raid, the Nazis threw against the height of up to two infantry battalions with 20 tanks. A particularly fierce battle broke out over the strong point of the 4 th rifle company. He often went hand to hand. In this battle, the squad leader junior sergeant Ivan Krivchun proved himself a real bogatyr. He bravely entered into a fight with the three Nazis. One of them shot from a machine gun, and the other two finished off with a butt, although he himself was wounded in the leg.
The attack of the fascists from the rear was also successfully repelled. Before our positions, the enemy left up to 30 corpses, but did not break through to the battalion command post at the height of 253.5. Repulse the attack of the Nazis on the orders of the regimental commander helped volley Guards mortars ("Katyusha"), which covered the battle formations of the enemy, deployed to attack.
On the third day of the fighting for the height, the battalion’s mortar bomber showed their best qualities, firing on the fascist infantry battalion at the junction of the 4 and 5 companies. When the material part of the mortar platoon was put out of action, the soldiers, together with the reserve of the battalion, took up a firing position in the rear of the combat order of the subunit and repulsed two attacks of the Nazis from this direction.
On the night of July 8, several soldiers with supplies of ammunition and food were able to make their way to the heroic defenders of the 253.5 altitude through the enemy’s battle formations. This inspired the border guards, inspired new forces in them.
The fourth day of the battalion’s defense began, like the last, at dawn, at 4 in the morning. On the position of the battalion again fell tons of shells, mines and bombs. At the height, in fact, there was not a single piece of land, not plowed by explosions. But when the fascist infantry and tanks went on the attack, they were again met by fire. Meanwhile, the defenders of the 253.5 height melted, there was a shortage of ammunition. Now the Nazis made their way to the battalion command post. It seemed impossible to stop them. At this time, the commander Shilkov, together with officers and soldiers on the command post, occupied the all-round defense in the trench restored during the night and continued to fight off the fascists who were pressing. Chief of Staff Captain S.P. Pavement caused artillery fire on himself. This was not expected by the Nazis and, having lost the 3 tank and up to two infantry platoons, retreated to their original position.
But trouble never comes alone. A group of fascists managed to break through at the junction of the 5 and 6 mouth and reach the rear of the 4 company. In this difficult situation, Major Shilkov decided to gather the remaining fighters and commanders and counterattack the wedged enemy. The fight went hand to hand, in which the upper hand was won by the border guards. Private Nikolai Velichko and corporal Ivan Zubakov managed to defeat five Nazis, and Sergeant Sergey Gavrilov defeated a Nazi officer.
By the evening of July 8, the survivors repulsed two more enemy attacks, but kept their height.
Forever in people's memory
When, at dawn on 9 July, infantrymen and tankers of 19's tank corps of General Vasilyev made their way to the height, they saw a terrible picture: German tanks and armored personnel carriers burned down around the height, the corpses of the Nazis were lying around, lined guns were piling up. In the battalion only 63 people remained in the ranks. The battalion commander was injured a second time, the chief of staff and the political officer were killed, more than half of the officers and sergeants were wounded due to injuries. And yet the battalion was alive.
After July 12, the battalion of Major I.A. Shilkov was replenished with personnel and military equipment, and he took part in the counteroffensive of the Soviet troops on the Oryol sector. Then the former border guards participated in the battles to the west of Bryansk, freed Trubchevsk, forced the rivers Sozh and Dnieper.
The feat of the 2 Infantry Battalion in the defense of Kursk was highly appreciated by the command: most soldiers and officers were awarded orders and medals, and the commander, Major I.A. Shilkov became a knight of the Order of Lenin.
... After the war, at a height of 253.5, a modest obelisk was installed with the inscription: "Here in July, 1943 fought to the death by the fascist invaders, the frontier guards Major Shilkov and won." The stingy lines, but how many destinies follow them, how much steadfastness and dedication!