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Old September 17, 2010, 06:18 PM   #369
4V50 Gary
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 19,298
Curing night blindness

I'm currently reading Panzer Destroyer: Memoirs of a Red Army Tank Commander by Vasiliy Krysov. It is published by Pen & Sword (UK). We are fortunate that more Russian memoirs are appearing in the bookstores. Until recently, almost everything we got was from the German perspective. Panzer Destroyer is the memoir of a Red Army Officer who commanded a KV-1, then a SU-122 howitzer armed assault gun, a SU-85 (the anti-tank equivalent of the SU-122) and finally at T-34/85. He fought at Stalingrad before being transferred to fight at Kursk. I'm only 1/3 the way through, but it's an exciting read as he gives graphic accounts of his battle against German tanks, anti-tank and infantry. His assessment of various pieces of armor of both sides gives a fresh perspective to ponder. It's well worth reading and you can either buy it or see if your local library has a copy.

Here's an excerpt:

Already at daybreak, walking past Levanov's machine, I saw that for some reason the commander himself was on watch. I decided not to saying anything. Then around noon the officers were summoned to headquarters for a meeting in regard to combat preparations. As I was on my way to the meeting, I watched as Levanov stumbled on the level ground and almost fell over - the commander was practically sleep walking.
'Ivan Petrovich, didn't you get any sleep last night?' I asked.
'No, I didn't.'
'Why not?'
'I was guarding the self-propelled gun.'
'Why? You have four men in your crew, why were you on duty?'
'They all say they have night-blindness.'
'Have they been to the medical unit?'
'They have, but there's nothing to treat it, not even brewer's yeast.'
'I'll cure them today! - and with that, I ended the conversation.
We went to the headquarters and attended the meeting. Once it became completely dark, I woke up Plaksin: 'Vasya, go and see Levanov's guys, tell the men quietly that they've delivered some seized German honey to our machine, so let them come around with mess tins.'
Plaskin left, and I took a glance at the luminous face of my watch - its hands were indicating that it was just after midnight. A warm drizzle was falling, the sky was heavily overcast, and it was so dark that it seemed that I'd been left alone in the whole world. A wave of grief for my fallen comrades came over me.
The rapidly approaching sound of cracking twigs and rattling mess tins snapped me out of my distressing thoughts - aha, they were coming at a run! In the inky darkness of the night, you couldn't see your fingers in front of your face, much less the tangled deadfalls lying in their path, but they were rushing head over heels, nimbly leaping over fallen trunks and snags in the path. They ran up to the assault gun and suddenly caught sight of me! They were taken aback and stopped in their tracks, disheartened.
'This is what you're going to get, instead of honey! I growled as I shook my fist at them. 'I'll show you honey and night-blindness. You'll be telling your grandchildren, so they'll never have it!'
They hung their heads. I added harshly: 'Get out of here and go do your duty.'
That's how I cured them of their night-blindness! With that, the incident was over. Later I spoke to Levanov privately about the extra ration of honey and he began to share it with his crew.
The author liked the SU-85 better than the SU-122. The higher velocity gun of the SU-85 gave him a better edge against German armor. He also like the SU-85 better than the T-34/85. The latter was taller and one ton heavier (so it was slower). To fight a Tiger, he either disabled (shoot the tracks) or shot between the mantlet and the turret, and finally, tried to get a flank shot. His battery once fired a four gun salvo at a single Panther at 800 meters. The crew bailed out, holding their ears (must have sounded like Quasi-modo in that Panther) and some men recovered the Panther and drove it back to the Russian side. They were disappointed to learn that despite four hits from their 85mm guns, all of them failed to penetrate the Panther's front glacis plate.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
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