75th Anniversary of Victory Day: Stories from the War
May 9th, 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany and the end of the Great Patriotic War. The war lasted from 1941 to 1945 and during that time the Soviet Union suffered more than 20 million casualties. It was an unimaginable 4 years filled with sacrifice, loss, and starvation, but through all the hardship the people’s strength was most evident.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, I’ve compiled a few stories from the war.
The Night Witches was a nickname used by the German Army to describe the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. The all-women regiment dropped over 3,000 tons of bombs on the German forces from 1942 to the end of the war, with many pilots completing over 800 missions. This was the first time female pilots flew in combat. The women flew wooden Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, a model from the 1920s that was primarily used for training. The plane wasn’t fancy, but the pilots took advantage of its great maneuverability.
During the war, dogs were trained in a variety of skills including tank destruction, mine seeking, and sabotage. A couple of well-known dogs are Dina and Dzulbars. In 1943, during the railway conflict in Belarus, it was reported that Dina successfully blew up a German military train. When the train was approaching, Dina jumped onto the tracks, dropped the bomb, pulled out the igniter, and ran back into the forest before the explosion. Dzulbars was trained in mine seeking and found more than 7,000 mines during the war.
The Winter Advantage
The German Army marched toward Leningrad in the fall of 1941 expecting a quick victory. They were armed with the newest weaponry and were ready for battle. What they weren’t prepared for was one of the coldest winters to date. The temperature regularly reached -20 C and dropped as low as -40 C. The batteries in their tanks would freeze up and had to regularly be brought into warm places overnight. The Soviets knew how to weather the cold and their equipment was old but reliable in all conditions. My friend’s grandfather used to say, “We could spray bullets but then our guns would jam. The Soviets were slow but their guns always fired.”