Tuesday 24 March 2015

King of the Hill

"Award Order
  1. Name: Pateev, Nikolai Pavlovich
  2. Rank: Lieutenant
  3. Position, unit: T-34 company commander, 326th Tank Battalion, 11th Tank Unecha Brigade, 1st Tank Corps
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1919
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) member since 1943, party membership #6463036
  7. Participation in the Civil War and subsequent conflicts in defense of the Soviet Union: Patriotic War since June 26th, 1941: North-Western Front, Stalingrad Front, Bryansk Front, 1st Baltic Front.
  8. Wounds or concussions: lightly wounded on February 11th, 1941 (North-Western Front), lightly wounded on September 25th, 1943 (Bryansk Front).
  9. In the Red Army since: 1939
  10. Recruited by: Oktyabr recruitment office, Leningrad
  11. Prior awards: Order of the Red Star by order #015/N on October 15th, 1943 to the 117th Tank Brigade, Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class by order #019/N on July 19th, 1944 to the 1st Tank Corps.
Brief and specific description of heroism: Having concentrated a significant amount of tanks and infantry, with artillery support, Germans attacked West of Dobele on September 17th, 1944. Lieutenant Pateev's tank company was tasked with forming a defense at height 91,7 and Kristichi, stopping the enemy there. The courageous officer quickly judged the situation, placed his tanks, and gave an order: die before you let even a single enemy tank through.

On September 18th, 1944, 30 enemy tanks supported by artillery attacked our tanks. Despite the difficult situation, our tanks let them approach to a short distance and shot them up at close range. Over 4 days, the company deflected 28 attacks, destroyed and knocked out 37 tanks and up to 400 fascists. The enemy was taking heavy losses attempting up to 13 attacks per day, but the bloodied company would not take one step back and continued to perform their duty.

On September 19th, 1944, 10 enemy tanks broke through around height 91,7, including 3 Tiger tanks. The fearless officer did not think long before entering an uneven fight with no artillery support.

Skilfully maneuvering his tank, he quickly chose positions and destroyed attacking tanks. As a result of the battle, the crew destroyed 7 PzIV tanks and 2 Tiger tanks. The remaining tank retreated, but was knocked out by other tanks from the company.

For excellent command of his company and personal stubbornness, courage, bravery and heroism, comrade Pateev is worthy of a government award" the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union".

Commander of the 326th Tank Battalion, Senior Lieutenant Kozhikhin"

CAMD RF 33-793756-36

What a defense! You can tell that even before this, the unit did not have an easy time. The company, normally commanded by a Captain, is in the hands of a Lieutenant, a whole two rank levels lower. Similarly, a Major's seat at the head of the battalion is occupied by a Senior Lieutenant.

Let's take a look at who those Tigers belonged to. s.Pz.Abt 502 was currently in the area. Here is what their combat diary contains:

"1 September 1944: 19 tanks operational.
In the weeks that follow, the tanks are employed dispersed all along the Riga Front.
14 September 1944: During the ensuing Soviet offensive against RIGA, there is fierce
fighting, resulting in 6 total losses.
Total tanks: 21
26 September 1944: The battalion destroys its 1,000th tank."

Not particularly descriptive. Since the battalion was separated, its diary was not being well maintained. Unfortunately, the bragging a week after this battle doesn't tell us what happened, but at the very least we know that Tigers were indeed employed piecemeal and seeing 3 Tigers in the company of PzIVs is very possible. Seeing as how s.Pz.Abt 502 is soon recalled to be re-equipped with Tiger II tanks, I'm going to say that they were soundly beaten in the Riga Offensive Operation and the destruction of three Tigers by Pateev's company is very feasible.


  1. Which tanks the company consisted of? Did they have T34 85?

    1. There is rarely a difference made in documents between T-34-76es and T-34-85s. It was probably T-34-85s, judging by the date.

  2. "25 August 1944: The battalion is ordered to be transported by rail to the X. ArmeeKorps
    in the area northwest of Ergli. Since 24June 1944, the battalion has destroyed 156
    tanks and assault guns and 175 antitank guns."

    In others words 156 tanks and SPGs are total kill claims from 24th June until 25th August, not for the entire lifespan of the battlaion.

  3. Hi, I read your blog since quite a while, I'll give you my compliments for all your dedication in the opera.

    Of course I have some suggestions which will not sound new to you as I am sure I'm not the first one to have mentioned it until now.

    The matter is simple, only for your own interest (not mine or anyone else) you should simply accept that during wartime claims will never be exact both sides for a series of reasons that you also know well if not better than many.
    My personal suggestion is to keep with the good work and not care much about kill claims as they are really worth nothing and not worth time verifying them.

    A soviet or german tank will be knocked out more than once in a period be it a day or a week, it will be recovered and put back in action until it will be totally brewed up (burned, irrecoverable) or sent back to major repairs.
    It will naturally count as e.g. 5 kills for the enemy side and 1 not operational for the owners.
    What if tank was knocked out in cooperation with infantry/AT guns and/or final/critical blow was dealt by AT gun (as it should be)? Tank command will claim it as kill anyway.

    (continues in next post)

  4. What I mean is: war is over, claims will be wrong, claims are made, regardless of claims territory was gained or lost, so why bother so much about those claims?

    I will link you an interview from iremember website:

    However, to get paid the money one had to prove his kills; witness testimonies were required. There was a special board, which, if it had time, went over to the sites to check things out. For example, whenever an enemy aircraft was shot down the credit for it would be taken by the airmen, as well as the antiaircraft gunners, and the infantrymen, and anyone else who had fired at it. Once an antiaircraft gunner platoon commander ran up to me: “Vasily Pavlovich, did you see the enemy plane that got shot down?!" - "I did" - "Well, we did it. Can you sign the paper that you have witnessed that?" At the end there appeared to have been three or four planes shot down, instead of one. When the war was over we were ordered to summarize the combat activities for all operations. Maps were drawn; the brigade commander hosted a meeting, at the end of which, the chief executive officer of the staff talked on the enemy’s and our losses. Tallying our losses was very difficult. The number of tanks that had perished was not always accurately accounted for. But the enemy losses could be easily tallied based on our reports. At that point the chief executive officer of staff said: “Had I taken all the reports of battalion commanders Bryukhov, Sarkisyan, Otroschenkov and Mosckovchenko seriously, we would have been through with the war six months earlier, as the entire German army would have been destroyed. Therefore, I would cut the claims in half before sending them over to corps headquarters." I think that corps headquarters did the same: cut all those reports by half and sent over to Army headquarters, and so on. Maybe then they could get some sort of accuracy. Here is what we wrote in our daily reports: The direction of advance, number of kilometers progressed, front width. Destination reached. Enemy losses: number of tanks (we counted them very well, as we were paid money for them). As for mortars, artillery pieces and personnel, who cared about counting them? Nobody. So, we would write approximate numbers: “Let’s write fifty men!” and so on. And when we were in defense, we just fired guns not knowing for sure, whether we had hit anything: “Let’s write two artillery pieces and one mortar "…

    This show that, in the end, everyone accepted the fact that it was impossible to have it 100% accurate reports so the final value would be indicative, and if one knew that he didn't bother much about claims knowing their worth.

    Here is the end of the article:
    "I finished the war in Austria … What was my personal score? During the war I lost nine tanks and burned down twenty-eight German tanks, but I was actually paid the reward money for nine, but who cares?"