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In the Battles for Bridgeheads on the Upper Don.
At the end of November, Army Gen G. K. Zhukov arrived at the Storozhevnoye bridgehead. With great interest he questioned the division's commander, Gen P. M. Shafarenko on how the bridgehead was captured. After a complete report, the division commander said (according to Pavel Mendeleyevich [Shafarenko]): "Yes, the bridgehead is of primary importance for us."8
On 13 January 1943, our 25th Guards Division and other formations of the 40th Army of the Vorohezh Front, in utilizing the Storozhevnoye bridgehead, commenced the Ostrogozhsk-Rossosh Operation.
The bridgeheads were held for 5 months and for 5 months bloody battles were carried out here, at one moment dying down and then resuming with new strength. The greatest tenacity, wholehearted dedication to the motherland, loyalty to duty and heroism were required in order to withstand the rabid enemy attacks. But the Soviet soldiers manifested these qualities daily. Here, on the Upper Don, 50 km to the south of Voronezh, on one of the sectors of the enormous Soviet-German Front, they carried out their feats.
In these battles, Sgt I. V. Panganis covered himself with immortal glory, and he is now entered in perpetuity on the roles of one of the units of the Sinelnikov-Budapest Orders of Suborov and Bogdan Khmel'nitskiy Division imeni V. I. Chapayev. In one of their numerous attacks, the Nazi infantry, with the support of 15 tanks, breached the defenses of the 1st Battalion of the 73d Guards Rifle Regiment. The battalion commander, Capt P. S. Karginov, did not have any reserves. Blocking the path of the enemy tanks were only the 45-mm gun of Sgt I. V. Panganis and less than a company of infantrymen who were defending at the village of Averino. At a price of great losses and heroic effort, the enemy infantry was stopped, hut its tanks continued the attack, trying to reach the battalion's rear and cut it off from the regiment's main forces. The Panganis crew destroyed two tanks, but the Nazi tank troops soon discovered his gun and concentrated all the fire of their cannons on it. The men fell one after another, hit by shrapnel of the enemy shells. The wounded sergeant remained alone by the gun. In disregarding the pain, he loaded the cannon, aimed at the base of the turret of the advancing tank and fired. Almost simultaneously a tank shell exploded with a roar quite nearby. The shrapnel burned his arm painfully and it hung against his body lifelessly. Regardless of the burning pain, Panganis rushed to the gun, but it had been damaged. The armored monsters, clanking and roaring and spitting fire, advanced on the position. One of the tanks came so close that it seemed that the cannon would be crushed along with its commander. But the path of the steel giant was blocked by the bloodied, but not conquered, man. At his belt was a string of grenades. Gathering his last strength, he threw himself under the tank. By an Ukase of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, Sgt Igor' Vladimirovich Panganis was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
On 15 August 1942, the divisional newspaper STALINGRADSKAYA GVARDIYA wrote: "In fierce battles on the right bank of the Don, our glorious guardsmen have again confirmed their unshakable steadfastness and will for victory over the hated enemy. With exceptional stubbornness, the men have defended every meter of the homeland, driving off fierce enemy attacks and causing it enormous losses in personnel and equipment." The heroism and steadfastness of the men and the commanders, their military skill were one of the main factors ensuring the crossing of the river and the holding of the bridgeheads.
Also of great significance were the careful planning of troop operations, the constant training of the subunits to cross the water obstacle, the ensuring of surprise, the firm and continuous control of the troops as well as speed and prompt use and reinforcing of the results achieved by the forward battalions and by the main forces of the units and formations.
In addition, we must also point out the constant increase in effort by committing new forces to the bridgeheads. Thus, as the Storozhevnoye bridgehead was broadened, the army commander moved to it the 116th Tank Brigade of Col A. Yu. Novak and the 53d Fortified Area. The presence of a tank brigade on the bridgehead strengthened the antitank defenses of our troops and made it possible to rapidly prepare and carry out counterattacks. The fortified area, as a unit most suited for organizing and carrying out a static defense, undoubtedly contributed a great deal to retaining the bridgehead.
As our troops lacked superiority in men and equipment over the enemy, their success to a significant degree was ensured by the fact that the crossing was made in two areas. This split the rather limited operational reserves of the Nazi Command and did not allow it to effectively counter our formations. In considering the limited tasks of the 6th Army Troops (the tying down of enemy forces and not allowing them to be shifted to Stalingrad), it must be recognized that such actions were the most rational.
The combat experience of the 6th Army formations shows that for achieving success in immobilizing actions which, as a rule, are carried out with limited forces, it is very important that the troop operations be most active while the commanders, political workers and staffs should show a maximum of creativity.
1 TsAMO, folio 25, gv. sd, inv. 9136, file 8, sheet 5.
2 The article's author at the described time was the deputy commander of this
3 TsAMO, folio 25, gv. sd, inv. 9136, file 83, sheet 17.
4 Ibid., file 2, sheet 5.
5 Ibid., file 8, sheet 27.
6 Ibid., folio 73 gv. sp, inv. 773302, file 1, sheet 21.
7 Ibid., folio 836, inv. 1, file 4, sheet 108.
8 P. M. Shafarenko, "Na raznykh frontakh" [On Different Fronts], Voyenizdat, 1978,
9 [Not in text].
10 TsAMO, folio 73 gv. sp, inv. 773302, file 1 (Ukase of 24 April 1945).
COPYRIGHT: "Voyenno-istoricheskiy zhurnal", 1982.
Source: BATTLE OF STALINGRAD: FIGHTING FOR BRIDGEHEADS ON THE UPPER DON
Moscow VOYENNO-ISTORICHESKIY ZHURNAL in Russian No 8, Aug 82 (signed to press 26 Jul 82) pp 32-39 [Article by Maj Gen (Ret) N. Shtykov: "In the Battles for Bridgeheads on the Upper Don"].
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Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.