I was working on a different project, and stumbled across this. I thought some of you might find it of interest:
From MS P-060a Small Unit Tactics – An Infantry Regiment in the East
US Army Historical Division, Foreign Military Studies documents
II. Battle of Lake Ladoga
Extract from the diary of Captian Posselenov,
acting commander of the Soviet Russian 859th
And now we are again at Gaitolovo.
4 September 1942:
Renewed fighting. Yesterday the following combat mission was given: “Penetrate to the Leningrad highway in the direction of Moskovskaya in order to break through the blockade.” Today we are in the jump-off position. The situation of the division is as follows: Our troops have advanced about three to three and a half kilometers on a front two kilometers wide and have thereby moved into a pocket. It would seem to be a mistake to advance any further without first having widened the penetration at the flanks. Nevertheless, our 861st Rifle Regiment continued to attack all day today, according to a decision of the corps commander, Major General Gagin, without gaining an inch of ground. By 1800 hours the regiment had lost 65% of its personnel and up to 100% of its commanders. Our 859th Rifle Regiment has, without fighting, lost fifty men through air attacks and artillery fire.
11 September 1942:
Until 11 September I shall still be alive. In a way this is lucky. I am in the operations branch of the division staff awaiting my fate. I have lived and fought in the war so long that I am soon to be judged or indeed am already being condemned.
On 7 September the commander and commissar of the regiment were wounded and I was ordered to take over the command of the regiment. The regiment which had already been badly mauled by German planes when approaching was committed on 5 September with the mission of capturing the road Kelkolovo-Sovk, Torfjank (North of Mga. Remark: Enemy was repulsed still in September 1942, and Tortolovo and Gaitolovo were recaptured.) The order was to attack in three waves, supported by 849th Artillery Regimetn, mortar battalion, and “something else.” ON 4 and 5t September no headway is made.
9 September 1942:
Our forces are melting away and still no success. Shouting, threats, and curses – what is the good of it all? No success in spite of it.
Until 10 September I led the regiment, then I was removed from command, the reason being that on 8 September the battalion, about 50 (sic) strong, proceeded to attack with three tanks and four model 70 armored reconnaissance cars. With great difficulty the battalion advanced four hundred meters, and destroyed five tanks. The infantry was halted. It was a miserable little mob, under fire from three sides.
At dawn the enemy counterattacks with about fifty men armed with submachine guns and one tank. The infantry retreated to its jump-off position because of its open flanks, limited strength, because it had no commanders, and because it was a mob, and not a battalion. Uncertainty was caused by continuous enemy fire. Politically, I am the guilty one. In order to stress my guilt, a whole arsenal of words and expressions is being used:
“Order No. 227 not executed,” “did not make the correct preparation,” “poor execution,” and so forth.
10 September 1942:
The whole attack degenerated into the blind pushing of decimated division units against the enemy. The higher command does not trust the lower command. They shout: “Forward!”, “This very day I shall shoot you!”, and so on. Wonderful command methods! The commanders of the supporting artillery stagger about drunk. The crews of the tanks are cowards. Something terrible will occur. When will our army be as it should be?
The plan for braking through the blockade is not bad, but the supply service is in a miserable condition. From 1 to 10 September our regiment lost 1064 men, and the 861st Rifle Regiment lost 1300 men within three days, all though incompetent leadership and poor maneuvering.
The 259th Rifle Division is in a sorry state and so are the 32nd, 140th, and 137th Rifle Brigades. The 33rd Rifle Brigade retains submachine gunner. The 374th Security Division had just been committed, but had 30 percent losses during the approach. What next.?
A union with the Leningrad front will, they say, be possible in three to four kilometers. I don not believe that this is correct.
We are supposed to be under the command of the 2nd Attack Army, but IV Guard Rifle Corps, we, and another unit. The designation has been changed but the men are lacking. Today I discussed my retreat with the regimental commissar of the Volchov front. I expect a few more such discussions and then ten years, or what? The main thing is, a scapegoat has been fond and that is all
I am awaiting my fate.
12 September 1942:
I am at the special branch of the corps staff. The situation is still unclear. Is it possible that I am going to be shot? That would be a joke of the devil. All the time the enemy air forces are dropping bombs. The whole earth is shaking from the impacts. It seems that the Germans want to “mix everything up with the earth.” Their bombers come in an uninterrupted stream and drop bombs, bombs! When will this come to an end? Hell is all around us.
In order to develop our breakthrough, the 22nd, 23rd, and 53rd Rifle Brigades and other units of the VI Guard Rifle Corps have arrived. Today they attack. With what success, I do not know. Probably with the same that we had. This operation will cost us dearly.
Vinogradov has been shot. Kurtov and Karretin have been killed in action, Muromzev is wounded.
A two kilometer long sector up to the front line is covered with corpses, corpses of men and horses, which poison the air.
In the night I went from the rifle division to the corps staff. No means of getting through on account of artillery fire. One road was completely jammed. Everywhere destroyed and damaged equipment. On the roads there are drunken men of the blocking forces. One of them has been arrested.
In the night I came to the special branch, was well received and slept there. Nice boys.
In the forest, a lot of deserters and self-mutilators are roaming about. It is impossible to shoot them all or to move them away. What sort of men! I receive no letters at all. What is happening in the regiment? Just now our plane was shot down. It disintegrated in the air.
13 September 1942:
The weather is overcast. Therefore fewer German planes and a better morale.
I am without work. My case has been postponed without my being consulted. What will happen? Where shall I be brought after all that has happened? I read the information sheet, in which the numbers of the divisions are given what have been destroyed. Amongst those destroyed were the 223rd and 227th Infantry Divisions, and the 5th Mountain Division. I was surprised, because the 5th Mountain Division is dealing us further blows, and heavy ones too. It is a pity the numbers of our rifle divisions are not given. I am sick thinking of one and the same thing.
I met Klava, an acquaintance from Uljanovsk, as well as some other persons I am acquainted with. It was a pleasure to talk to her. I receive no letters. How are things at home? What is my mother doing? My God, how I pity her! What will become of them if something happens to me? Alas, if she was not there, things would be quite different.
15 September 1942:
I am still alive. How can that be explained? During the usual air raid I went into the artillery shelter. A bomb dropped close by. The shelter collapsed. Several dead and wounded, I remained unhurt. God has mercy on me. We crept out of the window. What a sight! Moaning and crying. The planes give no respite. Our bombers few past dropping bombs, I believe on our own men. Be patient, my friend. I saw the prosecutor. He understands my position and judges my case favorably. My files are in the hands of the prosecutor of the IV Guard Rifle Corps When will it end? During one year of war I have lost the habit of doing nothing. I feel homeless. I met a fellow of the 2nd Attack Army. He is stationed at Putilovo and says the bombing attacks are equally strong there. What a miracle! How many planes have they got, and how many bombs? Daly bombings from morning till evening.
16 September 1942:
These bombing attacks make on mad. Uninterruptedly and methodically the whole day, concentrated attacks. How long can one stand it? Incomprehensible to the mind. Our air forces in our sector are a ridiculous sight. Them come over for five minutes, drop half their bombs on our own men, and the rest where they do no damage and disappear again. Today I was often near death. God has mercy on me. I came off with a bad fright.
I wonder if I shall ever get out of this hubbub alive? One year ago the same mistake was made at the same place. The same failures, the same mistakes! When will things be with us as they are with the others? Here come the planes again with roaring motors. The effect is really terrible. I do not write home. My files are somewhere, I do nothing. I shall soon go crazy.
18 September 1942:
It is night. I am back at my regiment and in my former position. All troubles seem to be over. I saw the division commander today and talked with him. He told me that they wanted him to have me shot. Strange! Why must it be always like that? He told me of the mission given the regiment. It is obvious that he himself does not believe in its success. The mission is: “Advance about seven hundred meters through the swamp.” In front of us the enemy is in fortified positions. When arriving at the regiment I was able to gather together only 38 men. Despite all my efforts I was unable to get any more together. What next? Probably we shall be withdrawn to be brought up to full strength, or else replacements will be brought here. We cannot remain as we are, because the enemy will throw us back. We still have the following weapons: eight submachine guns, one light machine gun, two heavy machine guns, two 76mm guns and four mortars. Things look very bad. I have just written a letter to W. Shukjak. I heard that he also wrote to me but I have not yet received his letter.
Form the German side, at a distance of 150 meters, ground signals came over my command post. There was heavy infantry and machine gun fire It is fun!
25 September 1942:
Now I have lived to see all glory of the war and am going now to experience the last bliss, to be encircles. What has happened cannot be called encirclement, but we have been cut off. No mail, no supplies of food and practically no ammunition. The food has been distributed on the basis of one day’s ration for four days. We are already feeling the consequences today. I myself am not, but the others are. The morale cannot be called bad. There is much talk to the effect that our poor division has never before been in such a bad plight, although we have been beaten many times.
27 September 1942:
It is drizzling. The weather is miserable, but I am content. No planes are coming.
The artillery hammers all the time on the Wals (this refers to the “Stangen” forest near Gaitolovo/Tortolovo which, after termination of the fighting described above, remained in our hands) which has been untouched for centuries. It has been battered past recognition. The earth of our mother country has been grubbed up and wounded. All that adorned it has been battered to pieces and turned into dust.
This war is cruel and its laws pitiless. I often think of the fate of my generation. Seeing hundreds of young men die every day, I think, “to what good purpose?” Which incomprehensible order destroys all this? Where is justice? We lived carefree, other questions occupied our minds. Anyhow, we did not prepare for war and privations and had no idea of the difficulties connected with war.
We always spoke of easy victory. Cinema, theater, newspapers, propaganda cried out that we were invincible, that we would over-power and crush everybody and so on. For one eye – two, for one tooth – the whole jaw. Before the enemy ever thinks of invading us, we shall know his plans and destroy him.
Self-satisfied films created in us base and petty sentiments. It was agreeable to watch parades, in which up to one thousand bombers and fighters flew past. Where are all of them? Sometimes, bashfully, a flight of our bombers puts in an appearance, drops its bombs and scuttles for home, in order not to encounter a Messerschmitt. How ashamed we felt of our panicky flight. How often we have taken to our heels. In the whole history of war there is not a panicky flight like that of our heroic army. How much high treason has been on our side?
Our operation has failed. Six divisions are now encircled: the 274th, 374th, 259th, 19th, 191st, 24th – two of which are guard divisions -, and six brigades: the 140th, 22nd, 23rd, 53rd, 33rd, and 34th. In addition, a few mortar and artillery regiments. To be correct, those are only the designations of the units. Of each unit there remain seven, eight, or ten percent only. The fourth day without food. Ammunition finished. I, with my regiment, hold the important central sector, one and a half kilometers wide. Secret approach route, the Chernaja River; two heavy machine guns, two light machine guns, and that is all. The enemy fire is terrible. I cannot take advantage of the supply services. Everybody expects annihilation. There are five to six submachine gunners. We are guarding the command post almost single-handed. Now we are looking for a way out like a mouse in a trap. Wherever one feels forward, the hole is closed. A little more pressure by the enemy, and everything will be overrun.