O. Losik, Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshal of the Armored Forces
Among the exploits of tankers, the tank ram takes a special place. Sadly, few men today know of the hero tankers that mastered the ram. But these occurred throughout the war. One of the first to execute a tank ram was a crew commanded by Lieutenant P. Gudz. This occurred on June 22, 1941, 8 kilometers away from Yavorovo: Gudz rammed a German T-III and an APC with his KV tank.
Especially many ram attacks were executed in 1943. At Prohorovka, Soviet warriors executed over 20 rams, while in the 50 days of the Battle of Kursk – over 50. These rams destroyed not merely light or medium armored vehicles, but sometimes even Tigers and Panthers. Hull blows devastated the German tanks, breaking armor, tearing tracks, smashing roadwheels.
Rams were usually done in emergencies, for example when a tank ran out of ammunition or its gun was disabled in combat. Sometimes they were done in urban combat or close combat, when our tanks broke into enemy formation. It was best to ram tanks from the side, which sometimes overturned the enemy vehicle. Sometimes enemy vehicles suffered fuel or ammunition detonations, which usually damaged both vehicles.
Sometimes, to carry out their mission, crews deliberately resorted to rams. This usually happened in low visibility or at night, when accurate cannon fire was impossible. Such deliberate rams were most useful against enemy columns. Tanks would burst into the column, smashing the enemy with hull blows and causing panic. This form of ramming is one of the peaks of bravery and skill for tankers acting in reconnaissance and vanguard units. These usually inflicted grave damage upon the enemy.
Such rams were carried out during war by the crews of Heroes of the Soviet Union Captain V. Bogachev of the 43rd Tank Division at Dubno (26.04.1941), Sr. Lieutenant A. Umnikov of the 50th Guards Tank Brigade at Kramatorsk (7.02.1941), Lieutenant I. Kiselev of the 65th Tank Brigade at Yusefuv, Poland (15.01.1945).
There exist several recorded instances of tanks ramming armored trains. On 24.06.1944, at Black Ford train station near Bobruisk, such a ram was executed by a tank commanded by Guards Lieutenant Dmitry Komarov of the 15th Guards Tank Brigade. On 04.08.1944, at Sandomir Grounds, by Captain Leonid Maleev, commander of a company in the 47th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment.
Bursting into enemy airfields, warriors rammed enemy aircraft. Drivers of the 24th Tank Corps, during the offensive in the Battle of Stalingrad, fought through over 240 kilometers of ground in 5 days and, on the morning of 24.12.1942, arrived at Tatzinskaya Station, where a rear-echelon base and two enemy airfields were located, with over 300 aircraft. The tankers were low on ammunition, and destroyed the enemy aircraft with rams. The men of the 1st tank battalion of the 54th tank brigade under Captain S. Strelkov and the 2nd Tank Battalion of the 130th Brigade under Captain M. Nechaev destroyed over 300 planes on airfields and 50 aboard trains. The tankers broke the ‘air bridge’ that supplied Paulus’ and Manstein’s forces.
Tanks rammed aircraft also on 11.01.1944, when the 49th Tank Battalion destroyed 17 aircraft at Lubek City Airfield, Poland. On 28.03.1944, the 64th Guards Tank Brigade destroyed 30 aircraft with rams and fire at Chernovtzy City Airfield. On 17.01.1943, a tank company under I. Kravchenko from the 47th Guards Tank Brigade destroyed 20 planes at Sokhachev with rams and fire.
Tank rams could occur during the day and during the night. On 26.06.1941, a night ram was executed near Dubno by tankers of the 43rd Separate Tank Recon Battalion. A column of an enemy tank regiment armed with T-II and T-III tanks stopped to refuel. At nightfall, Cpt. Arhipov’s tanks fired a main gun volley and burst into the column. The enemy took great losses, and a panic ensued. POWs were taken.
Tanks burst into enemy position, rammed artillery batteries, six-barreled rocket mortars, and other weapons. Sometimes, to save time, warriors crushed Berlin barricades or building walls.
Tank rams depended on the training of tank commanders and drivers. Such a blow depended on the crew, especially the driver, displaying high professionalism, the straining of mental and physical capacities, bravery and heroism. Thuse rams were mostly executed by experienced tankers, who trusted in the capacity of their vehicles and were ready to do their warrior’s duty to their Motherland to the last.
Most tank rams were performed by the crews of KV and T-34 tanks. They possessed meaningful mass, speed, and heavy armor, enabling them to use hull blows to devastate enemy tanks, APCs, assault guns and other equivalent targets. Sometimes crews utilized a last-ditch ‘fire ram’ in a burning vehicle. Sometimes a single crew used the ram multiple times. During the defense of Moscow in November 1941, 4 rams were executed by the KV crew commanded by A. Bosov, Hero of the Soviet Union. KV driver N. Tomashevich performed 3 rams in one battle on 12.07.1941, defending the tank of Lt. Colonel Vyaznikov, commander of the operational group, that was endngered near Luga. I. Rogozin rammed the enemy three times at Krivoy Rog, while the crews of Lieutenant I. Butenko and Sr. Lieutenant P. Zaharzchenko executed two rams each.
Should tankers be trained in tank ramming? The experience of the past war shows: yes! In several tank units at the front, and in fact at several academies, this was deliberately taught during the war – and rightly so. Tank rams sometimes allowed crews to triump in the deadliest situations, inflicting great damage upon the enemy.
The tank ram is a weapon for brave men. It combines limitless bravery with great warrior’s skill and ccuracy. Camaraderie and the sense of great responsibility for one’s warrior’s duty to the Fatherland were the main motive for tankers’ use of this weapon during the War.
1. Between 12-14 1943, Glazunovka. Vasily Porshnev Battery Commander of the 4th battery of the 1454th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment and his driver, Afanasy Zakharov, use their SU-122 cannon to ram a Nashorn self-propelled gun at full-speed, throwing it for several meters and causing it to lose a track. This was the first ram attack in the regiment. Porshnev received no award. By that time his SU-122 had already 3 kill.
2. 28.08.1943, Veselaya Kalina. 1454th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment Lieutenant Steblyaev’s and driver Grechin’s SU-122 rams a Tiger tank, causing it to throw a track. Another crew finishes off the Tiger with a turret shot. The tank does not burn, but the crew abandons the vehicle.
Translated by MicroBalrog from this site.