In March 1941, Chernyakhovsky was appointed to the post of commander. tank divisions. According to the assigned serial number, it was called the 28th. The place of deployment is the Baltic Special Military District.
After receiving the order, Chernyakhovsky immediately left for Riga, the district headquarters, and from there, after the presentation to the district commander, Colonel-General F.I. Kuznetsov set off for the location of the 28 tank, which was part of the 12 mechanized corps of the 8 army.
Together with the 11 army, located to the south, the troops of the 8 army covered the 300-kilometer stretch of the state border in the Baltic States. In this part of the North-West theater of military operations in the event of war, one should have expected the offensive actions of the German fascist troops. The most likely for the enemy offensive, the Soviet command considered here three directions: Tilsit, Siauliai, Pskov, Leningrad; Gumbinnen, Kaunas, Daugavpils, Leningrad; Klaipeda, Liepaja, Riga, Narva, Leningrad. The first of these areas was within the scope of the 12 Mechanism Corps.
At the first meeting, the commander of the mechanized corps, General N.M. Shestopalov, introducing Chernyakhovsky in the course of affairs, pointed out the complexity of the conditions in which he was to work. Parts of the division, as well as the entire mechanized corps, in essence, have not yet left the stage of formation. They lacked personnel, especially middle commanders. On arms were tanks of outdated designs, and those were not so much, but new ones were just beginning to arrive. A lot had to be done to put together companies, battalions, regiments, as well as to train the coming generation. These were primarily young soldiers of the conscription that began in the spring of 1941, and, naturally, they had to undergo special training for service in the tank forces. Hence the primary task — to organize well the training with personnel in subunits and units, to direct all forces to the successful implementation of plans and programs of combat training.
Arriving at the division and meeting his closest assistants, Chernyakhovsky noted with satisfaction that he had someone to rely on: battalion commissar Valery Antonovich Shalaev, chief of staff colonel Peter Ivanovich Markelov and chief of operations department captain Andrei Nikitich Pashkov. Majors S.F., commanders of tank regiments, were distinguished by creative initiative and demanding of themselves and their subordinates. Onischuk and N.I. Gerko.
Met Chernyakhovsky among the commanders of the headquarters and his former classmate in the Kiev Artillery School of Captain Rovner, who served as deputy division chief of communications.
In May, the district troops entered the period of camp study. It was the time of the most intensive combat training and tactical exercises. And the war was already at the very border. Approaching her was felt in many ways, they were preparing for it, and yet she came unexpectedly.
A few days before the attack of Nazi Germany, on the orders of the command of the district 28-I tank division was to go to the area Siauliai.
In the evening, at home, Ivan Danilovich had a quick dinner, took some simple camping equipment with him. He said to his daughter and son that he was leaving for the night classes, and told his wife goodbye more specifically, but it was still vague:
- We are going to the doctrine, for how long - I don’t know.
Neither he himself, nor anybody, not only in his division, but in the higher headquarters that evening did not know that the march from Riga 28-I tank was already making to meet the war.
During the two night transitions, its units and subunits, with the exception of the 290 motorized rifle regiment, which remained in Riga at the disposal of the district headquarters, covered more than two hundred kilometers, moving from Latvia to Lithuania. This regrouping was carried out in accordance with the plan of joint exercises with other branches of the military.
In accordance with the plan approved by the district headquarters for 22 June 1941, military firing was scheduled.
The commander of the district with part of the operational workers left for the command center equipped in the Panevezys area. Almost all the artillery units of the divisions and corps at that time were also at special gatherings held at the artillery grounds, apart from rifle formations. Engineering units were engaged in the construction of fortifications in fortified areas and were significantly removed from their connections.
At dawn 22 June, Hitler's troops attacked the USSR. In the Baltics, they attacked Soviet territory with over 12 thousands of enemy guns.
Then, the advance detachments of the Germans, under cover of artillery and mortar fire, crossed the border and attacked the Soviet border outposts. Hitler’s aviation bombed airfields, naval bases and a number of cities in the Baltic republics. Soviet border guards and the few army units that occupied positions near the border entered into a difficult and unequal battle with many times superior enemy forces.
With the outbreak of hostilities, the Baltic Special Military District was renamed the North-Western Front. In 7 hours 15 minutes 22 June, the front command came first after the start of the war, the directive of the People's Commissar of Defense, ordering the front troops to repel the aggressor. It, however, contained a reservation, from which it followed that in areas where the border was not violated, our ground troops did not have the right to proceed until further notice.
Without waiting for certain orders from the front headquarters, the commander of the 8 army, Major General P.P. Sobennikov in the morning gave the first combat order for the army, which contained an assessment of the situation and took into account the likelihood of the penetration of the mobile troops of the enemy in the direction of Taurage, Siauliai. All units and units of the army were alarmed.
The tankers of the Chernyakhovsky division did not know, of course, what happened at four o'clock in the morning at the border. The division, like all other connections 12 th mechanized corps, was about a hundred kilometers from the border.
And two hundred kilometers south of them were the troops of the 3-th mechanized corps.
According to the plan, both corps, in the event of an enemy invasion of the Soviet territory, were to help their rifle formations that entered the border battle, to launch powerful simultaneous counterattacks on the flank and rear of the enemy group that had broken through and destroy it. And then it was assumed that the Soviet troops were launching a general offensive and were transferring military operations to the aggressor’s territory.
In the middle of April, 1941 of the year, at the headquarters exercises of the Baltic Special Military District, the variant of the counterstrike in the Tilsit direction was played out in the same way. The commanders of the formations and their headquarters were well acquainted with it. But at the staff exercises, the enemy looked too conditional, so then he was “defeated and destroyed” relatively easily and quickly. But in reality it did not happen at all as expected.
On the lines of their main attacks in the Baltic states — Kaunassk and Siauliai — the Hitlerite command created strike forces, five or seven times superior in terms of forces and means to our troops. That morning, 22 June, in the Šiauliai direction, to one of our 125 rifle divisions and the left flank, which was north of its 90 rifle division, was hit by the entire 4 th German tank group. In the first echelon, three tank divisions attacked at once, and in the second echelon - two infantry.
Therefore, none of the tankers of Chernyakhovsky did not anticipate that the conditions in which they would have to join the battle tomorrow, and its results would be completely different from what it seemed. Chernyakhovsky himself also could not have imagined that, having joined the Baltic States in his first battle on the second day of the war, he would return there only after three long military years, leaving first the bitter front lines of retreat, and then victoriously advancing to the west, and that only after all this the Germans will be kicked out finally and forever from the limits of the Russian land to East Prussia - into the wolf’s den, from where they came to us with the war.
22 June, no one yet knew where and how the war would go. Tankers of Chernyakhovsky were waiting for an order in order to quickly enter the battle.
In the evening of the first day of the war, the North-Western Front received the second directive of the People's Commissar of Defense: using mechanized corps in cooperation with the Western Front to deliver a powerful blow from the Kaunas region to the flank and rear of the Suvalki group, surround and destroy it and by the 24 end of June capture the Suwalki region. However, during the 10-12 hours, before that, the front order and the commander of the 8 army had already been sent to the mechanized corps to inflict a counterattack on their own without coordination with the Western front and not on the Suvalki group, but on the Tilzit group of German forces, which rushed to Siauliai.
Under this order, the 28 and 2 armored divisions were assigned the most active role in the implementation of the counter-strike planned by the front command. With all this, the rest of the forces of both mechanized corps, as well as the rifle troops of the 8 and 11 armies, were also to participate in it. However, the command of the front and the army did not have a stable connection with the troops. While the order reached the corps, and then the divisions, there was almost no time left for organizing the battle. The rapidly changing environment made its own adjustments. It was literally on the move, without having the necessary information about the situation and not being able to organize reconnaissance, to make decisions and carry out the whole range of work related to ensuring the upcoming battle.
The start of the counterstrike on orders was scheduled for 12 23 June. In a difficult situation tank crews and motorized infantry began to move forward to the line of deployment, and immediately were hit by German aircraft. The movement has slowed down a lot. The actual course of events led to the fact that Colonel Chernyakhovsky’s tank division unfolded to attack only on the 18 watch. Other connections and parts of the 12 Mechanism Corps were unable to take part in a counterstroke at all.
Starting from Uzhventis on Skoudvil, approaching Katinenai, where units of the 125 th rifle division were fighting, units of the 55 th tank regiment, marching in the head detachment of the division, came under artillery fire. Having assessed the situation, Chernyakhovsky decided to deploy his advanced regiment and, in cooperation with rifle units, attack the enemy on the move.
In the 22 hours of 23 June, the 55-th tank regiment, carrying out this order, from two directions hit the advanced parts of the Germans 1-th tank division. The enemy was driven back five kilometers, losing up to two mouths of infantry and about 10 guns. Before the company of German motorcyclists were destroyed on the road Kaltinenay-Rossieny.
This victory, albeit a small one, was dear to all the fighters of the division and its commander because it was won in the first battle and meant a great deal to strengthen the fighting spirit: the fighters saw with their own eyes that the enemy was turning back, having received a fitting rebuff.
On the same day, the 2-I tank division of the 3-mechanized corps was successfully advancing from the east in Scoudwil. She struck a sensitive blow to the Nazi tank columns that were moving along the Tilsit-Siauliai highway. However, the particular results achieved by the two Soviet tank divisions changed little in the overall situation. They did not decide, and could not solve the general task of the frontal counterstrikes, in which the designation was supposed to be simultaneously involved the rifle troops of the two armies and the connection of the mechanized corps.
The next day, the front command decided to continue the counterstrike. But now the actions of the troops participating in it were scattered. Chernyakhovsky received an order with a delay, besides, long hours passed, awaiting the delivery of ammunition and fuel for tanks.
By the end of June 24, the North-Western Front command, having made sure that the counter attack was not successful, and the situation deteriorated sharply, decided to withdraw the front-line units of the front to the rear lines at 25-100 kilometers on the night of June 120, and there to organize stubborn defense.
28-I tank division 25 June held its second fierce battle with the enemy, whose goal - to ensure the withdrawal to the rear line of rifle formations. All day long Colonel Chernyakhovsky led the battle of his subordinate units. Tankers acted decisively and bravely. However, the enemy organized attacks with massive artillery fire and air strikes. The division’s artillery, in which only four howitzer batteries remained, could not reliably suppress the enemy’s fire system, and there was no means to protect against air strikes. During this day, the enemy destroyed the 84 tank in the Chernyakhovsky division.
As a result of a three-day fierce tank battle under Šiauliai, in which about a thousand tanks took part on both sides at a front of 60 kilometers and a depth of 25 kilometers, the mechanized corps of the North-Western Front were forced to retreat to the north-east with heavy fighting .
The main task - to detain the German grouping in the frontier zone, in order to allow the main forces of our army to turn around - the troops of the North-Western Front could not fulfill.
The death of heroes fell on the battlefield, many fighting friends and comrades. There was no his political officer near Chernyakhovsky: Valery Shalaev 27 of June was in the forward detachment and went missing. Peter Markelov did not reach the assembly point from the same fight. One of the best commanders of the unit was killed - Major Onischuk, commander of the 55 tank regiment. The commander of 55 was joined by the deputy commander, Major Popov. But he briefly outlived his commander.
At the head of the regiment's avant-garde, Major Popov, attacked enemy artillery positions. He destroyed four cannons and several dozen Germans with the fire of his tank. But his tank hit the shell. In the burning tank, Major Popov continued to fire and hit another enemy anti-tank weapon. But at this time the flames engulfed his fighting machine from all sides, and the crew, together with Boris Petrovich Popov, burned down with her. A month later, by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Major Boris Petrovich Popov, posthumously was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. The fearless commander of the 28 tank was one of the first Heroes of the Soviet Union who distinguished themselves in battles for the land of Lithuania.
In those June days of 1941, Ivan Danilovich Chernyakhovsky, always cheerful and sociable, became silent and even somewhat closed, sometimes harsh. His division suffered irreparable losses as a result of continuous attacks by superior enemy forces and, along with other corps and army units, was forced to retreat in the north, in the direction of Riga.
At the end of June, the tank division of Chernyakhovsky, along with the rest of the 12 units of the mechanized corps, reached the north bank of the Western Dvina. Here now passed another defensive line, on which, according to the directive of the Military Council of the front, the task was posed: by stubborn defense to prevent further advancement of the enemy. However, the forces for this remained too little. In the case there were only about 9 thousand people, 50 tanks and 47 guns. And I had to defend the site length of 40 kilometers. The 28 Panzer Division received a line of defense in the neighborhood of the 125 Infantry Division, with which, starting from June 23, the tank crews have fought side by side.
In essence, the Chernyakhovsky division has already ceased to be a tank one, and its fighters had to fight in the “foot-on-tank” way. But they still spoke with pride about themselves: “We are tankers!” - and to the last drop of blood defended every inch of native land. They almost did not remain in the ranks of combat vehicles, but in fierce battles fascist tanks were burning again and again, and the enemy infantry found their death.
Tankers of Colonel Chernyakhovsky, only 30 of June and 1 of July, beat off at their turn eight furious attempts of the German troops to bring the crossing and transfer tanks on the ferry to the northern coast of the Western Dvina. The enemy here was stopped. However, he managed to seize the crossings to the west of this line, in the area of Riga, and to the east, at Krustpils. For two or three days, the enemy pulled up his rear units and infantry formations, preparing for a new throw.
For 28 and its neighbors there was a real threat of encirclement. Followed the order to retreat to the new frontier. Memorable milestones in combat stories the division remained forever the Latvian city of Madona, then the town of Soltsy between Pskov and Novgorod. In July, the Chernyakhovsky division was taken out to be reformed into the village of Krasnye Stanki, about thirty kilometers east of Novgorod. Here she was supposed to get rest after continuous battles, replenished with people and military equipment.
At the walls of the Novgorod Kremlin
The division’s stay in the second echelon in the village of Krasnye Stanki was filled with combat training from morning to night. Her commander was well aware that the respite could not be long: the enemy only temporarily halted its advancement in order to regroup and prepare for a further attack on Leningrad.
Since during the fighting the division lost almost all of its tanks, and the new ones did not arrive, although they were promised, Chernyakhovsky taught the tankmen to fight for the infantry. Learned to shoot from personal weapons and throwing grenades, crawling and digging, were engaged in the assembly and disassembly of weapons. The division organized a mortar company, adopting captured German mortars. Chernyakhovsky personally trained the first group of mortar bombers, and then, when they mastered unfamiliar weapons, they became instructors for other soldiers included in the mortar calculations. They also deployed a medical battalion on the basis of the one who, on the way of retreat from the Baltic states, “stuck” to the tank crews, having lost its connection.
Receipt of tanks did not wait. True, on the last day before receiving a new order from the commander of the 12 mechanized corps I.T. Korovnikov in the division returned from the repair of five machines BT-7. But on the other hand, during his time in the reserve, he had to part first with the motorized rifle battalion, transferred to reinforcement in one of the rifle divisions. Then Chernyakhovskiy was ordered to transfer under the Soltsy, where the heavy battles were taking place, the division sapper battalion, reinforced by a consolidated company of dismounted tankers.
This, of course, weakened the division. It was especially disappointing and pitiful that skilled tank drivers, who had spent a hundred or more hours on the levers of combat vehicles, left it as ordinary gunmen. However, the evolving situation did not give another way.
Resting allowed Ivan Danilovich to establish contact with his family. In mid-July, he learned that the families of the division commanders had been evacuated somewhere in the Gorky region from Riga. But where exactly did they stop? It turned out, Chernyakhovsky’s wife Taisiya Grigorievna with children in the small Volga town of Semenov. This gave the strength that was required in order to enter new fierce battles in the near future.
On August 13, the Hitlerite command further threw the 96 Infantry Division into battle in the Novgorod area. All the forces of the Richtofen Air Corps were also targeted here. For this day alone, over eight hundred times his planes appeared above the location of our ground forces. They were attacked by hundreds and thousands of bombs, and from the front they were continuously attacked by tanks, supported by infantry. By the end of the day, our units had moved north, the path to Novgorod turned out to be undisguised. There and the enemy rushed.
Novgorod the Nazi command rightly considered as one of the key positions on the approaches to Leningrad. From then on, it was possible to develop an attack on Leningrad from the southeast, isolating it. In addition, the overcoming of such a large water barrier by the German troops as the Volkhov River opened the way for them inland.
Considering that the enemy will persistently and fiercely strive to achieve his goal, the Soviet command considered it most important in the current conditions to organize a strong defense of Novgorod, in order to destroy here the great forces of the enemy, to weaken its attack on Leningrad.
The main role in carrying out this task fell to the division of Colonel Ivan Chernyakhovsky. Its parts, raised in alarm, were transferred to lorries in Novgorod and took up defensive positions there.
Chernyakhovsky opened its headquarters in St. Sophia Cathedral. Here the corps commander, I.T. Korovnikov, who was at the same time the commander of the Novgorod task force, once again clarified the combat mission. Its meaning was extremely clear: to hold out at all costs until the approach of its units and formations, to protect Novgorod to the last person.
The forces and means at the disposal of the Novgorod task force were very small in number: in the center — the Chernyakhovsky division, to the right of it — the mountain rifle brigade, whose fighters had not participated in the battles, on the left, at Ilmen’s lake, defended parts of the rifle division, including the artillery regiment as part of three divisions. In the second echelon, in order to cover the junction of the Chernyakhovsky division with the mountain rifle brigade, General Korovnikov arranged the hastily remnant of his mechanized corps, which had been brought together in combat groups. The expectation of the arrival of the expected reinforcements was not justified. The events of the following days forced our command to transfer the troops scheduled for this purpose to another direction.
Having assessed the situation, Chernyakhovsky decided to focus the efforts of his units on the defense of the Novgorod Kremlin. He dominated the surrounding area, its walls and the tower was a safe haven for the defenders. One way or another, the enemy will have to attack the Kremlin before it can start crossing the Volkhov, which divides the city into two parts.
In accordance with the plan, Ivan Danilovich advanced advanced units to the village of Staraya Mill, west of Novgorod, setting them the task of detaining the enemy. He understood that it was impossible to stay here for a long time in hastily opened rifle cells, in open areas, in full view of the enemy. However, the Old Mill had to win the maximum possible time to prepare for the defense of the city.
For the time being, the reconnaissance divisions of the division were stationed behind the earthen wall surrounding the city. Here trenches and trenches came off, firing positions were prepared for machine-gunners who were to meet the enemy with fire from the flanks, and, according to the order of Chernyakhovsky, they had previously calculated the mortar company, as well as the artillery sent to support the division of the artillery division. Simultaneously with the preparation of positions for the defensive line, which was to repel the attacks of the enemy, before the street fighting began, defensive work began in the city itself. His defense was divided into sectors - right, center and left. No matter how limited time the city’s defenders had, Chernyakhovsky, declaring his decision and the combat order to the subordinate commanders, ensured that each of them clearly understood the task and place of his unit or unit in the general defense system of the city, the nature of interaction with neighbors, the most likely attack directions the enemy, the procedure for transferring orders and collecting reports. Chernyakhovsky always gave the organization of uninterrupted communication the primary importance and especially took care to ensure that it was stable and reliable.
The division commander strictly demanded and personally made sure that the message moves from the front edge to the deep, so that the telephone wires would fit in the trenches along the walls and fastened with pegs. Otherwise, he said, not that the blast wave, but the fighter running across the trench will hook the wire and the connection is broken.
Explaining the sequence of defense of the planned lines and objects, the division commander emphasized:
- No one under any circumstances has the right to withdraw from the occupied line without an order.
... All day long there was a battle at the Old Mill. The Germans, after fire raids, rose to the attack, however, the defenders met with fire and rolled back. And over the city, replacing each other, almost continuously hung groups of diving bomber. Particularly fiercely they bombed St. Sophia Cathedral, which housed Chernyakhovsky headquarters. However, his mighty vaults served as a reliable defense.
By the night of the battle at the Old Mill verse. By order of the division commander, the division, having taken measures to evacuate the wounded, moved away, under cover of darkness, to the western part of the earth wall. Now Chernyakhovsky was preparing his fighters to meet the enemy at this turn.
For all defensive works, almost all of Novgorod responded, both young and old came to the streets. But their efforts had to be organized as far as possible, so that during the night, while the enemy stopped the attacks, the defenders of the city would have had time to do more. Ivan Danilovich demanded from the headquarters: first, to limit the scope of the planned works to the most necessary and concentrate all forces on completing them by morning; secondly, the townspeople who came to their aid should be divided into groups, which the sappers or the unit commanders must lead.
That night, work on the streets of Novgorod did not stop for a minute. Residents and soldiers built barricades, blocked the streets with bags of sand, logs and broken bricks from the buildings destroyed by the bombing, built barriers of barbed wire, embrasures in the basements of brick buildings. The division commander also did not sleep that night, appearing in the most critical sectors and giving instructions.
In the morning, Chernyakhovsky took a seat at an observation post, which, by his order, was equipped not far from the front edge, in a transformer box broken during an air raid.
The Nazis widely used in the battle that ensued in the morning, their aircraft. In one of the raids that day, more than fifty aircraft participated. And they especially tried to destroy the bell tower, located in the western part of the city. Here, in their conviction, an observatory must have been located.
And the battle, meanwhile, was getting fiercer by the hour. One after another, the division of the Chernyakhov attack of the German infantry beat off. Ivan Danilovich saw that at first the attackers simply walked with a chain, leading, as usual, indiscriminate fire from machine guns. He ordered his unit commanders not to open the return fire, but to wait for the Nazis to enter the targeted area.
The organized fire system of our defense was very effective.
In subsequent attacks, the German infantry was already under the cover of their assault self-propelled guns. The battle continued until dark. The enemy won another day. Only one day, but he also meant a lot at that time.
On August 16, at the cost of heavy losses, the enemy managed to break into the western part of Novgorod. The defenders took refuge under the protection of the stone buildings of the city and successfully repelled the attacks.
Over the past weeks of the war, Chernyakhovsky studied the habits of the Germans well, their tactics, he knew that the Nazis would go right through. Therefore, he sought, using the advantages of the city with its large stone buildings, to inflict the greatest possible damage to the enemy. Division soldiers defended every home. Continuing from 15 to 24 in August, the division led fierce battles, causing great losses to the enemy.
Using all the possibilities for the defense of the Novgorod Kremlin, Chernyakhovsky took the regiments to the eastern part of the city, behind the Volkhov. Here now passed a new line of defense. Of course, it would have been better not to retreat, but to drive the enemy himself, but superiority still remained on the side of the enemy. So I had to retreat for now. Nevertheless, on his own experience, Chernyakhovsky was convinced that, although the enemy was strong, with the proper organization and precise command and control of our troops, our defense would become insurmountable. So, he believed, while we still have no conditions in order to go on the offensive, the main task is to lead a stubborn and resistant defense, bleeding the enemy.
The warriors of the 28 Division proved themselves in the August battle for Novgorod. Fulfilling combat orders, they did not spare their lives. Ivan Danilovich wrote with pride about his fighters in one of the letters of that time to his wife: “Everybody is fighting like lions. Golden people and their commanders. The Germans will long remember. ”
The commander of the reconnaissance battalion I.I. performed the most difficult tasks with honor. Kotov. Chernyakhovsky ordered him to lead a group of machine gunners and machine gunners in the Novgorod Kremlin after the main forces of the division had moved to the east bank of the Volkhov.
When the German troops managed to break through to the Kremlin, the loopholes of its walls were silent. The Germans did not immediately decide to go inside the Kremlin: they paid too much for their desire to get closer to it. But they began to descend into the moat. And then on the command of I.I. Kotova was fired. Our soldiers shot every point, so the fire was deadly, and the fascists fled in panic from the fortress walls. They had to pull up the artillery and re-launch the bombers. The Kremlin was on fire. German sappers began to lay blasting shells into the walls to make aisles. The battle continued all day, first at the gaps, then at the separate buildings inside the Kremlin. Each step on the ancient plates of his Nazis paid for their blood.
Having received the order of Chernyakhovsky, the reconnaissance battalion commander Kotov took his group to the Volkhovsky bridge. Only the two defenders of the Kremlin did not have time to transfer the order of withdrawal, and they continued to fight, remaining in one of the towers of the Sofisky Cathedral. These were the brothers machine gunners Peter and Dmitry Kovrigi. The fire of their machine gun did not become silent until they could get to their specially sent liaison. After receiving the order, along with their machine gun, they moved away from their positions.
Heroic deeds in the battle chronicle of the compound were written in those days by many fighters and commanders.
In one of the counterattacks, the tank of the company commander Captain Alexander Dunaev was set on fire. But the tank continued to move forward, firing and crushing the caterpillars of the Nazis. The captain brought his car out of the battle only after all the shells and machine-gun disks were used up. The crew members carefully carried the seriously wounded commander out of the car - Alexander Dunayev died at the hands of his comrades.
On the eastern bank of the Volkhov, the corporal Efrem Kulyabko died heroically. Located on the edge of the cemetery, he and a group of machine gunners covered the departure of the division headquarters. The corporal was wounded, and the Nazis tried to capture him. Having spent all the cartridges, Kulyabko let the Germans approach and blew himself up with them with a grenade.
One of the best snipers of the division was Alexander Pankratov. On one of the islands of the Small Volkhov, the Germans managed to seize the Cyril monastery. The monastery stood on a hill that dominated the surrounding area, and the Germans corrected from there the fire of their batteries. Chernyakhovsky decided to counterattack to return the monastery in order to deprive the enemy of a vantage point.
24 August, a company under the command of Lieutenant Platonov imperceptibly crossed over to the island and began the assault on the monastery. Machine-gun fire made the attackers lie down. The company commander was seriously wounded. And then he stepped forward, dragging the fighters along with him, Alexander Pankratov. He threw a grenade, silencing the firing point for a while. However, the enemy machine gun again earned. Having spent all the ammunition and grenades, with a cry of "Forward!" Pankratov rushed to the embrasure, covering it with his chest. The path was clear.
Of the countless and amazing in its greatness feats of Soviet soldiers committed during the years of the Great Patriotic War, we with particular amazement in front of the power of the human spirit always distinguished those who went down in history as the feat of Matrosov. Dozens of soldiers repeated it. But Matrosov had predecessors. The name of Alexander Konstantinovich Pankratov - deputy political officer of the company from the division of colonel I.D. Chernyakhovsky - now ranks first on their list. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union AK Pankratov was posthumously awarded by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of March 16 of 1942.
In the battles near Novgorod, the combat assistant of Ivan Danilovich, the chief of staff of the division A.N. Pashkov. He was replaced by the Commissioner of Staff G.K. Danchenko, but not for long. Grigory Ksenofontovich died while repelling the attack. A heavy bomb hit the observation post where he was located. In one of the last counterattacks on the Novgorod land, the head of communications of the division, Captain Rovner, was seriously wounded. With a serious wound, the regiment commander Nikifor Ignatievich Gerko was sent to the deep rear for healing.
Instead of them, other commanders and fighters joined the battle formation. The former head of the division’s political department, battalion commissar I.N. Tretyak. Commanding the unit, which covered the withdrawal of the main forces of the formation, he left Novgorod one of the last. In the command of the regiment, instead of Gerko, the chief of staff V.A. Kornilov. A man of tremendous restraint, he defended the town house of the Red Army with a small detachment for several days, refusing to leave him until he received a written order.
The next frontier, which was occupied by Chernyakhovsky’s division, was to the west of Spass-Nereditsa and Kunino village. The division commander skillfully used a railway embankment and a dam along the river bank to defend it. This milestone was the last for the 28 division in the battle on Novgorod. The enemy here was stopped.
These days, the disease - pneumonia undermined Ivan Danilovich. At first he didn’t want to hear about going to hospital for treatment, lay in bed, remaining in his native division. In the evenings, he was visited by fighting friends, told about the affairs. He already tried to get out of bed. September September 9 wrote a letter in which he said: “Today I have risen, I can walk and decided to drop it. Ill with pneumonia. First he was treated in a dugout, and then moved into the house. Komarov, my chief doctor, he provided everything. Bad thing is pneumonia, disgusting. Temperature 40,2 degrees. But the most unpleasant thing is that I am fighting a division, but I cannot now truly lead my glorious Yuoy eagles. Damned fascists will remember all their life what Soviet tankers are capable of. I think I will be again ahead of 4-5 days, to lead my battle friends to battle, although I am not far from them now, but all this is not that. Well, enough, a little written and very tired. He became a very puny young man, his cheekbones appeared on his face ... ".
However, the disease was complicated, and Chernyakhovsky had to be evacuated to the front-line hospital. He was discharged from there in mid-September. During this time, the division was moved slightly to the south - to defend the eastern coast of Lake Ilmen, from there under Demyansk, where it was incorporated into the 27 Army, commanded by General N.E. Berzarin. September 17 Chernyakhovsky returned to his division. In essence, it completely ceased to be a tank, although for some time it continued to be called as before. Then in the documents appeared the name - "28 sd", that is, "rifle division", and in brackets "28 td", indicating its former name. In December 1941, the former 28-I tank was officially reformed into the 241-Infantry Division.
During the difficult months of the fierce battles of the summer and autumn of 1941, she gained a reputation as a real military unit, shot at in a fire of battles, stubborn in defense and formidable in attack. And her commander, who for the first time in the war was no longer a tank commander, but a combined-arms commander, learned a lot of things that make up science to win. Perhaps the best thing about both the division and its commander is the quoted lines of the official document.
21 November 1941, Major General N.E. Berzarin signed a submission for awarding the Order of the Red Banner to the commander of the 214 th rifle division - "the former 28 th tank", as emphasized in the document.
“Colonel Chernyakhovsky,” he says, “for many days and weeks with limited forces, successfully restrained the enemy when he attacked Novgorod ... With insignificant forces he proceeded to attack the enemy. Heroically, without stepping back, defended the Kremlin in Novgorod ...
During September and October, the 28-I tank division commanded by Chernyakhovsky showed courage and high ability in the fight against German fascism. Using the experience and tactics of the enemy, Chernyakhovsky brought up dozens of young, fearless commanders, patriots of the motherland ... In a combat situation, he shows perseverance and courage, decisive and fearless. "
For personal courage in the battles near Novgorod and in the winter of 1941-42, the commander again presented Ivan Dmitrievich for the award of the Order of the Red Banner. It took place in April 1942. 5 May of the same year Chernyakhovsky was promoted to the rank of Major General. In June he was recalled to the disposal of the chief of the Main Automobile and Armored Directorate of the Red Army. This was a new stage.
Commander of the sixtieth
Arriving in Moscow, Ivan Dmitrievich received a new appointment - he became the commander of the newly formed 18 tank corps. Compared with the division, which he commanded before, even if we take into account its small size as a result of losses incurred in continuous battles, the corps was a much more difficult to manage economy: three tank and one motorized rifle brigade; two separate battalions (reconnaissance and motorcycle); a separate Guards mortar division ("Katyushas"); anti-aircraft artillery regiment; units of management, transportation and evacuation, mobile repair bases. Thousands and thousands of people ...
But the formation of the body has not yet been completed. In Moscow, only the headquarters and divisions of the corps were completed. All other brigades and units were formed in various cities of the Soviet Union. He supervised all the work on the formation, while candidates for the posts of commander, commissioner and chief of staff of the corps, assistant corps commander for the technical part N.F. Zavalishin. By order of the Supreme High Command Headquarters, the corps was to concentrate in the Stalingrad area, and the railway trains had already begun their transportation to the center of concentration.
Chernyakhovsky left Moscow for Stalingrad to take command of the troops entrusted to him. And now, when he was already on the road, and that completely unexpected “introduction” followed, which it was impossible to predict: because of the German troops breaking through the Upper Don, the Headquarters ordered to turn the trains from the 18 tank corps to change Voronezh.
4 July 1942, the train in which Chernyakhovsky was traveling, slowly approached the station platform. Not far away was the train, from which the tanks were unloaded. Unloading of tanks of one of the brigades was carried out. The two others, who have not yet completed the unloading, have already received a combat mission - to take up defense in the area of the crossing over the Don and not allow the enemy to go there. The Commissioner and the Chief of Staff of the Corps to Voronezh have not yet arrived, there are also some units on the way, as well as trains with property and material and technical means.
It is difficult to imagine a more unfavorable situation. Some battalions and companies of tank brigades have already engaged in battle with the enemy on the outskirts of Voronezh, while others have only just been unloaded with an almost incessant bombing.
In terms of the expediency of using tank forces in this case, the worst possible option was evident: tank units rushed into the battle in parts, without proper study of the situation by the commanders and without the minimum need to prepare the troops for the combat task, there was no command and observation point, no communication. Needless to say, all this weakened the possible effectiveness of the corps’s combat operations. But in this case too, war dictated inexorably its conditions.
In early July, 1942, the enemy, breaking through the defenses in the area of operations of our Bryansk and Southwestern Fronts, rushed to Voronezh. There was a real threat of losing Voronezh and the breakthrough of the German troops for the Don. It was under these conditions that the tank corps of General Chernyakhovsky was hurriedly sent by the General Headquarters to cover the crossings and protect the city.
But about all these events taking place at the front, Ivan Danilovich became known much later. In the meantime, he heard only the rising buzz in the sky. A regular group of German bombers was approaching the railway station, where the military echelon was unloading. The situation left no time for reflection. The main thing is to unload the combat vehicles from the platforms to the ground faster, to give them the opportunity to move. Otherwise, the tanks will burn before they get to the battlefield. Having ordered this to his technical assistant, Chernyakhovsky began his work in the new position with the management of unloading combat vehicles. So the tank crews of the 18 Corps first met their commander.
In the evening of July 4, the meeting summed up the results of the first combat day. Having clarified the situation on the reports of the commanders of the units and the chiefs of the services, the general set the combat missions to each of them. And the next day, Chernyakhovsky himself led an 110 tank brigade to the attack. Attacked the enemy and other brigades of the corps. On July 5, on the plot he defended, the Germans were driven back beyond the Don. But they did not abandon their intentions to seize Voronezh, building up their strength, the German troops continued to attack along the whole front.
July 7 The headquarters created the Voronezh Front by its decision, Lieutenant-General F.I. was appointed its commander. Golikov. In addition to the two armies, 60 and 6, included in the composition of this front from the reserve headquarters of the Supreme Command, General F.I. The 40 Army from the Bryansk Front and four tank corps, including the 18 Army commanded by Ivan Danilovich Chernyakhovsky, were also transferred to Golikov. Up to July 12, Ivan Danilovich led the troops leading the fierce battles in Voronezh, and earned high marks from the front commander. But the tankers suffered heavy losses.
The units of the 60 Army, General MA, that approached Voronezh, Antonyuk helped to hold the enemy back and stop his advance. However, in the following days they were unable to complete the task set - to knock out the enemy who had penetrated into Voronezh. These failures were not without consequences for the army commander. He was removed from office.
25 July 1942 by order of the General Headquarters General Major I.D. Chernyakhovsky, who had proven himself in the battles for Voronezh, was appointed commander of the troops of the 60 Army.
Thirteen months of uninterrupted struggle with a strong and experienced adversary gave Chernyakhovsky experience and hardening, which could not be equaled for many years in peaceful conditions. And he was at that time only 36 years old.
The frontier in the Voronezh region, which heroically defended the 18 tank corps, became the leading edge of the defense of the 60 army up to January 1943. For some time local battles took place here, when, at the direction of the front command, the formations of the army received separate missions aimed at improving their tactical position. The main events developed south and southwest of Voronezh. The enemy, entrenched on the west bank of the Don, directed its main forces south and southeast, towards Stalingrad. A grand battle was now unfolding there, on which the further course of the war depended.
A temporary respite in the Voronezh region gave the young commander a closer look at the much more complicated duties. How great was the fighting experience gained by Chernyakhovsky, which preceded the new assignment, he did not go to any comparison with the enormous responsibility that fell on his shoulders with the appointment to the post of army commander. Ivan Danilovich clearly realized that he would have to learn a lot.
There was another trait inherent in the new commander. Chernyakhovsky considered it his duty to travel to the troops every day along with the staff officers. Literally all the days he spent in the divisions, on the front line. By order of the front commander, the army had to use the respite obtained in order to create a solid defense on the occupied lines. Even in the battle of Novgorod, Chernyakhovsky learned what well-organized defense meant when deep solid trenches were dug out and equipped, all masking and engineering tools were used, an extensive network of firing points were created, dugouts and shelters for personnel were built when everything was provided to the smallest detail. In them, the commander was able to understand the subtleties. Perhaps his entire previous life and service in the army was shaped in such a way that he grew up in a versatile military specialist who deeply understood the basics of a combined-arms battle. No wonder they loved him.
The infantrymen considered him their general, because his military service began in 1924 in the Odessa Infantry School; The artillerymen said that it was their general: he had graduated from an artillery military school; tankmen rightfully proud that the commander - came from their ranks.
The relative lull is over. Soon a difficult trial fell to the lot. The Supreme General Headquarters ordered the troops of the Voronezh Front to prepare and conduct a new offensive operation in order to defeat the enemy grouping in the Voronezh region, free the city and seize the bridgehead on the right bank of the Don.
I must say that even earlier such attempts were made repeatedly, but to no avail. Lacked neither the strength nor the time to prepare, nor the experience in organizing the offensive. Being well aware of the significance of the operational line occupied by them, the enemy, in a short time, strongly strengthened in the Voronezh region.
It was for Ivan Dmitrievich the first offensive in which he led the army. It is understandable, therefore, that his excitement in those days, is even more understandable and his extreme concern that no additional forces were allocated for the forthcoming offensive operation of the army. According to the plan of our command, it, as well as the 40 Army, was assigned the main role in the operation - strikes in converging directions from areas north and south of Voronezh to Semiluki with a view to encirclement and subsequent destruction of German troops.
The troops involved in the operation were greatly weakened by heavy July battles with superior enemy forces. The lack of complete units in the army, its weak material and technical means, the stubborn resistance of the enemy, who had already managed to prepare well-equipped defensive positions, all made the organization of the offensive extremely difficult. All this worried the young commander. Chernyakhovsky made several requests to strengthen the army, but the front commander flatly refused, because he was in dire need of reserves.
In fact, the need for replenishment and reserves at that time, in order to strengthen the armies of the Voronezh Front, including General Chernyakhovsky’s 60 Army, was nowhere. All forces were then mobilized to withstand Stalingrad. It was there that the Supreme High Command accumulated reserves and forces, in order to deliver a crushing blow.
But why, then, were offensive operations undertaken in the Voronezh region, if one could assume in advance that they had little chance of success? An unequivocal answer to such questions is hardly possible. Yes, the offensive actions taken in the Voronezh area on our part in this sector of the front did not bring any visible operational benefits. The operation lasted ten days, starting on September 15 of 1942. As a result, our troops achieved only minor tactical successes in certain areas. In particular, the 40 Army managed to seize the suburb of Voronezh - Chizhovka and the southern part of the city. The army of Chernyakhovsky practically progressed very little. However, this does not mean that her actions were disembodied. Their significance lies in the fact that here, as in a number of other sectors of the entire huge Soviet-German front, due to the constant activity of the Soviet troops, the enemy command did not dare to weaken their defenses, remove at least some of the formations and send them to Stalingrad. It was forced to constantly and fully maintain its grouping in the Voronezh region.
The Soviet troops not only defended, but also showed great activity, knocking down the pace and weakening the strike force of the main German fascist group or preventing it from being replenished with fresh forces deployed from other sectors of the front.
In late July, the Soviet 1-I and 4-I tank armies launched counter-attacks in the Kalach area; at the end of August and later offensive operations were undertaken by our troops north of Stalingrad; The soldiers of the Volkhov Front were very tired of the continuous heavy fighting, but at the end of August they also launched the Sinyavino offensive, which, in addition to breaking through the blockade of Leningrad, bound German forces in the north-west direction and did not allow the enemy to transfer them to the south.
The army of General Chernyakhovsky, like other armies, attacking the strong defensive positions of the enemy from the last forces, helped the troops fighting for Stalingrad. It was her feasible contribution in achieving a common victory over the enemy, which began on November 19, 1942, near Stalingrad.
Shelves go west
On the very first day of the new, 1943, year, a representative of General Headquarters, Army General A.M., arrived at the Voronezh Front from Stalingrad on the Voronezh Front. Vasilevsky. The encirclement of the enemy troops at Stalingrad opened up broad prospects for the Soviet command, and it did not slow them to use.
Voronezh Front from 13 to 27 in January conducted an offensive operation on the Middle Don. In the history of the Great Patriotic War, she went under the name Ostrogozhsko-Rossoshansky. Army of General I.D. At that time, Chernyakhovsky continued to defend on the occupied lines, having the task of pinning down the enemy and thus contributing to the successful solution of offensive tasks to the neighbors.
In the next operation, the Voronezh-Kastornoye, the Chernyakhovsky troops were to go on the offensive. The leading role in it was assigned to the 40 and 13 armies. The other two, including the army of General Chernyakhovsky, had a less responsible task, but this did not make it easier for the commander, because now, as he understood, it was not only to improve the position occupied by the troops, but also to achieve major operational objectives.
The army units, which were to launch an offensive from the Yablochnoye area, focused in time on designated areas, observing camouflage measures.
The late night before the attack was the most intense for Chernyakhovsky. The huge army mechanism is already ready to move. Orders and orders given, sent to the troops appeal the Military Council of the army, calling on the soldiers, not sparing neither the strength nor the life, to fulfill their duty. He, the commander, can only say when the clock hand indicates the appointed minute: “Fire!”
It seemed that before the offensive, not only all military units but also the winter itself, with its bitter frosts, waited until the mighty Russian “Hurray!”
To be continued ...