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-   -   Life Russian WWII vet recalls the Battle of Stalingrad (http://www.chiefsplanet.com/BB/showthread.php?t=269601)

ForeverChiefs58 02-02-2013 01:24 AM

Russian WWII vet recalls the Battle of Stalingrad
 
Thought this was pretty cool, so I'd share


http://l.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/qbd...7067000615.jpg

http://l3.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/It...706700e51b.jpg

MOSCOW (AP) The Soviet soldiers used their own bodies as shields, covering women and children escaping on ferry boats from a Nazi bombardment that killed 40,000 civilians in a single day. It was the height of the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the bloodiest conflicts of World War II.

"They were all hit in the back," said 90-year-old Alexei Stefanov. "But they did not flee."

Stefanov is among the few surviving veterans of the battle, which claimed 2 million lives and raged for nearly 200 days before the Red Army turned back the Nazi forces, decisively changing the course of the war. Russia celebrates the 70th anniversary of that victory on Saturday, with President Vladimir Putin taking part in ceremonies in Volgograd, the current name of the city in southern Russia that stretches along the western bank of the Volga River.

Stefanov arrived in Stalingrad in August, 1942, just a month after the Nazis began their onslaught. A marine, he commanded what was left of a reconnaissance platoon, 17 scouts who had survived previous missions on the front lines.

The German army invaded the Soviet Union in June, 1941, and by the following summer had pushed deep inside the country. For Adolf Hitler, taking the city named after Soviet dictator Josef Stalin would be a symbolic victory, and it also would allow the Germans to cross the Volga and secure access to Russian oil supplies.

What Stefanov saw was a once-thriving industrial city being reduced to rubble by shelling and bombing by the Nazis and their Romanian, Italian, Hungarian and Spanish allies. Only about 100,000 residents had been evacuated, and the remaining civilians were frantically helping to dig trenches.

The Red Army had orders from Stalin not to retreat, so only women, children and wounded soldiers were allowed to take the crossing over the wide river to relative safety.

The day Stefanov remembers most vividly is Aug. 23, 1942, when hundreds of Nazi planes bombed the city, turning it into a giant burning ruin. Hundreds of Soviet soldiers with wounds bad enough to keep them out of the battle but not severe enough to incapacitate them set out to rescue women and children from the basements of demolished buildings. They rushed them to ferries that would take them across the Volga, a river about 2 kilometers (more than 1 mile) from shore to shore.

Fires from spilled oil and gasoline burned on the water, and the defenseless ferries were easy prey for the Nazi planes. The Soviet soldiers covered the children with their own bodies. Stefanov is still haunted by the sight of the soldiers who died, their backs ripped apart.

In the city, thousands of dead bodies were left unburied, lying amid the ruins in the sweltering August heat. For the only time during the Battle of Stalingrad, German tanks got to the river, and Soviet tanks and artillery fiercely fought them back.

"That was hell, literal hell," Stefanov said. "This one episode to me was equal to the whole war."

Stefanov recalls reconnaissance missions deep inside enemy territory, when he had to crawl for hours and hide in ravines to gather intelligence on the location and number of Nazi troops and weapons.

In September, 1942, Stefanov was hit in his left hand, a wound that still troubles him. He later returned to active service and was with Soviet troops when they drove the Germans out of Norway and marched into Warsaw and Berlin.

He was back in Moscow in late June, 1945, to participate in the Victory Parade on Red Square. Then he went on to China to help drive out the imperial Japanese.

Stefanov's contribution to the war effort won him dozens of medals. Although they weigh a combined 11 kilograms (24 pounds), he still wears them pinned to the front of his uniform on holidays and other special occasions.

His real reward at the end of the war was his marriage to Lyudmilla, also a decorated war veteran. They are still together 67 years later.

"War is not a game, it's the most horrible thing," said Stefanov, who heads a government-run organization of World War II veterans. "That's the thing youngsters should always know."

http://l.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/_1z...STALINGRAD.JPG
Soviet soldiers fire from a ruined building as they fight against Nazi troops in the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) Photo was taken on December 1, 1942 during the 200-day Battle of Stalingrad that turned the tide of World War Two.

Cheater5 02-02-2013 04:33 AM

Very cool. Spent a few weeks in the Ukraine back in 2001. Whenever a WWII vet walked in a restaurant or pub EVERYONE stood.

AussieChiefsFan 02-02-2013 07:06 AM

Incredible.

Strongside 02-02-2013 08:03 AM

Wow.

candyman 02-02-2013 08:12 AM

Very interesting thanks for sharing

notorious 02-02-2013 08:31 AM

The battle that really changed the war.

Big Smoke 02-02-2013 09:13 AM

Very interesting stuff!

Easy 6 02-02-2013 09:31 AM

WWII would've dragged out a lot longer if those russkies hadnt been such tough bastards.

Aries Walker 02-02-2013 09:51 AM

But not for him as others like him, every one of our lives would be very different today. My metaphorical hat is off to them all.

Also, 24 pounds of medals. Wow.

Rausch 02-02-2013 09:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cheater5 (Post 9372085)
Very cool. Spent a few weeks in the Ukraine back in 2001. Whenever a WWII vet walked in a restaurant or pub EVERYONE stood.

Those poor people got ****ed.

They (for good reason) hated the Nazis and went from that to Communist Russian rule (and for good reason hated that as well.)

MOhillbilly 02-02-2013 10:20 AM

Commies love them some bling.

MOhillbilly 02-02-2013 10:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by scott free (Post 9372296)
WWII would've dragged out a lot longer if those russkies hadnt been such tough bastards.

Truman woulda nuked Berlin and Tokyo

'Hamas' Jenkins 02-02-2013 10:54 AM

Standard advice during the siege was that if you saw people in the streets who looked well fed get as far away from them as possible; they were cannibals.

Papi 02-02-2013 11:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 'Hamas' Jenkins (Post 9372405)
Standard advice during the siege was that if you saw people in the streets who looked well fed get as far away from them as possible; they were cannibals.

You're thinking of Leningrad, which was pretty much surrounded by the Nazis. Just as awfuls as Stalingrad though.

Easy 6 02-02-2013 11:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MOhillbilly (Post 9372400)
Truman woulda nuked Berlin and Tokyo

True that, cant believe i failed to factor in our ace in the hole.


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