FROM THE HISTORY OF RUSSIA’S PACIFIC FLEET

  AT  WAR  WITH  GERMANY

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       When Nazi Germanyattacked the USSR on June 22, 1941, Russia’s Pacific Fleet was ten thousandmiles from the front, but was instantly put on enhanced combat footing.The point is that Japan as Germany’s ally could at any moment violate theSoviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact of April 13, 1941 to join the war on Germany’sside. On the eve of the German invasion of the USSR, Yosuke Matsuoka, Japan’s Foreign Minister, told the German Ambassador to Japan: “No Japanese Prime-Minister…couldcompel Japan to stay neutral in case of a Russian-Japanese conflict. Inthat case, Japan would be compelled by virtue of necessity to attack Russiaon Germany’s side. No neutrality pact would help here.”
      Throughout Russia’s entirewar with Germany, the situation in the Far East remained extremely tense.Time and again, Japan provoked incidents. Japanese reconnaissance planes repeatedly invaded Russian air space, and Japanese warships Soviet territorial waters to violate Russian transport shipping in the Far East. Often withno visible reason, the Japanese detained Soviet vessels at sea, and insome cases even sunk them. In 1941-1944, they detained 178 ships and sunk11 transports.
      In this complex situation, the Pacific Fleet’s main tasks were to defend Russia’s coastline and heresea communications, in violating Japan’s sea communications ( in case ofa Japanese attack), and in organizing Russia’s coastal defenses againstenemy landings. In this connection, the Pacific Fleet already during thefirst days of the war with Germany laid defensive minefields at approachesto Vladivostok, Sovetskaya Gavan and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski. These minefields,in combination with coastal and battleship artillery, were chiefly designedto ensure defense of Russia’s coasts against possible enemy landings andpossible penetration by enemy ships of Russian naval bases.
      Besides, while the warwith Germany was on, Pacific navymen built and fortified Russian navalbases, airports, hangers, bridges, and coastal and anti-aircraft batteriesin the Far East. Combat training of warship and other personnel was conductedmuch more intensely than before the war. Naval maneuvers, practice shooting,torpedo attacks and mine-laying were performed day and night, in any weather,irrespective of storm, fog, ice, and in case of worsening of navigationdevices. In 1943, with account for experience gained in the war with Germany,Russia’s Pacific Fleet continued to perfect its coastline defenses in cooperationwith land forces, launch mock attacks on “enemy” bases, and land commandos.  In other words, they learned everything needed in actual combat conditions.
awarding Guard Banner to 71-st Marines Brigade near Moscow (1942)    But during the war with Nazi Germany, the Pacific Fleet did not tacklethese tasks alone. 153,000 navymen were sent to the battlefronts to takepart in the battles of Moscow and Stalingrad, in the defense of Sebastopol and Leningrad, and in battles for the Northern Caucasus and the Transpolar Region. Members of the Russian Pacific Fleet fought the Germans on theNorthern, Black and Baltic Fleets, as well as on riverand lake flotillas.In the Battle of Moscow (1941), Pacific navymen heroically fought as partof the 62-nd, 64-th, and 84-th marine brigades. The 62-nd separate marinebrigade under Colonel V. M. Rogov traversed 150 kilometers in action nearMoscow to crush three enemy regiments and liberate 40 districts from theenemy. The 64-th separate marine brigade under Colonel I. M. Chistiakovoperated as part of the 20th army to initially wage defensive battles nearMoscow and reliably hold their positions. When in December 1941 the RedArmy began its counter-offensive, the brigade drove the enemy back to traversein action 233 kilometers and clear 78 towns and villages of enemy troopsnear Moscow and other regions. On December 20, 1941, the brigade liberatedVolokolamsk, a major German stronghold on Lama River. Particularly fiercefighting took place for Ivanovskoye village, which changedhand
two times.
     When Pacific navymen took the village the second time, the Germans launched a tank attack against it. To stopthe enemy tanks, Sergeant A. A. Lobchenko, an artillery crew commander,moved his cannon to direct laying to engage four enemy tanks with threemates. Letting them approach at close distance, they crippled two enemymachines. But the gun-layer and shell-carrier fell in action. Wounded bya shell fragment, Lobchenko, and shell-loader Davletshin continued fightingand damaged one more tank. Shortly Davletshin also fell. Remaining all-alone,Lobchenko managed to cripple the enemy’s fourth and last tank. He diedin action, but the enemy attack choked, too.
      No less selflessly didPacific navymen fight in Stalingrad as well. The entire nation knew thename of V.G. Zaitsev, a Pacific sniper from General V. I. Chuikov’s legendary62-nd Army. The winged words that became the motto of the city’s defenders, namely “Until we had crushed the enemy, there is no land for us beyond the Volga!” Today, an exposition of a Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) museumdisplays Zaitsev’s sniper rifle, with which he exterminated 300 Hitlerites.
       Again in Stalingrad, Pacific navyman M.A. Panikakha performed a legendary exploit. On October2, 1942, when German tanks advanced on his trench, he engaged them single-handed with grenades. When there were no more grenades, but just two “Molotov-cocktails” left, Panikakha ran up under enemy fire to one of the tanks and set iton fire with the bottle. Meanwhile, a second tank was approaching him.He lifted a second bottle to throw it at the enemy machine, but bulletssmashed it. Panikakha was all covered with the hot fluid. Then, all inflames, he dashed onto the tank, set it on fire to be burnt down with it.
      Private Ilia M. Kaplunov,another Pacific navyman also performed a legendary exploit in the Battleof Stalingrad. In a hot battle, he crippled three enemy tanks from an anti-tankrifle. When no more cartridges were left, he began hurling grenades atthe German tanks. He was wounded twice, but continued the unequal battle.The Germans finally killed him, but only after he had destroyed nine enemytanks.
      On all the battlefrontsof the war with Germany, members of the Russian Pacific Fleet fought theNazis valiantly and skillfully, careless of the losses, nay life itself,to crush the enemy. This concerns the First Separate Ski Brigade underMajor I. I. Pontiar, which consisted chiefly of Pacific navymen. In 1943,the brigade distinguished itself in action near Orel. This also concernsthe 63-rd Separate Marine Brigade under Colonel A. M. Krylov with his1,500navymen. The Brigade performed with gloriously in the defense of the TranspolarRegion. By the same token, this also concerns Airforce Major-General N.A. Ostriakov, Submariner Lieutenant-Captain M. I. Khomiakov, Torpedo BoatCaptain V. T. Protsenko, and Marine Colonel L.I. Protsenko, all from thePacific Fleet, too. Airforce Lieutenant P. A. Brinko and Minesweeper CommanderEnsign I. Ya. Larin fought equally valiantly on the Baltic Sea. In thePolar Region, submarine Captain  M. I. Gadzhiev, torpedoboat Lieutenant-CaptainA. I. Kosov and airpilot Captain I. T. Volynkin performed skillfully inbattle.  All those and hundreds of other Pacific navymen became realheroes of World War Two.
      With every good reason,the same may be also said of the crews of a number of Pacific Fleet surfacebattleships and submarines that during the war with Germany were incorporatedin the Black and Polar Fleets. Five Pacific Fleet submarines made an unparalleledcrossing into the Arctic Ocean via the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They sailed in three groups. The last group to leave base in October 1942to embark on their extra-long voyage were C-51 and C-56, commanded by CaptainI. F. Kucherenko and Lieutenant-Captain G. I. Shchedrin, respectively.
      The submarines stuck totheir preset course, overcoming the storms, northern cold and intolerableheat of southern seas. The heat was particularly fatiguing. The air andwater temperatures at the equator reached 40 and 28oC, respectively togo up to 50oC and higher in submarine compartments. The subs sailed intoPoliarnoye, Polar Fleet’s main base, in spring 1943. Shortly they tookpart in combat activities to show their high skills from the very start.For distinguished performance in battle, C-56 was conferred the title ofGuard, and C-51 was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. Their commanders,G. I. Shchedrin and I. F. Kucherenko, were conferred the titles of Heroof the Soviet Union. (C-56 sunk nine enemy vessels, and is now displayedon a pedestal in Vladivostok, in the  “Pacific Fleet’s Fighting Glory”Memorial.
      And so, Pacific navymenfought everywhere: on the Northern, Baltic and Black Seas, in the Battleof Moscow and Leningrad, in Sebastopol and Stalingrad, in the mountainsof the Caucasus, in the storm of Konigsberg and Berlin.
     Celebrated Russian militarycommanders assessed highly the exceptional courage, valor and fearlessnessin battle shown by Pacific navymen in World War Two. Marshal of the SovietUnion V. I. Chuikov, Commander of the heroic 62-nd army in Stalingrad,noted in his memoirs: “Speaking briefly of the role of navymen and theirexploits, I’ll just say: if not for them, possibly the 62-nd army wouldhave perished without ammunitions and food, its task uncompleted”.
      Twenty thousand PacificFleet seamen and Amur Flotilla navymen fought valiantly as part of Lieutenant-General Malinovsky’s Second Guard Army that routed a large group of crack German troops under General Manstein, who sought to break through to the Germanforces encircled in Stalingrad. Marshal of the Soviet Union Rodion Y. Malinovsky recalled later: “Pacific navymen fought wonderfully. No wonder they wereenlisted in Guard detachments. A truly fighting army it was! Manstein thengot a real beating…Sailors are valiant warriors, real heroes”.
      In short, Pacific navymeninscribed quite a few vivid immortal pages in the annals World War Twoexploits.
 

Photographs: G. I. Shchedrin, Commander of Submarine C-56(1944); submarine C-56 firing at enemy warplanes (1944)

A.V. BORODIN, Leading Editor, Institute of History, Archeology and Etnography of the Peoples of the Far East, Far East Division, Russian Academy of Sciences, Colonel (Retired), Pacific Fleet Veteran.
 

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