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Thread: The Fight For The Grain Elevator At Stalingrad

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    The Fight For The Grain Elevator At Stalingrad

    Andrey Khozyaynov, a sailor serving in the Naval Infantry Brigade, who was the only survivor of the battle for the Grain Elevator, lived to write an account of the battle fought by 30 Guards and 18 sailors:

    'I remember on the night of the 17th, I was called to the battalion command post and given the order to take a platoon of machine-gunners to the grain elevator and ... to hold it come what may. We arrived that night and presented ourselves to the garrison commander. At that time the elevator was being defended by a battalion of not more than 30 to 35 guardsmen. Eighteen well-armed men had now arrived from our platoon.

    At dawn ... enemy tanks and infantry, approximately ten times our numbers, launched an attack from the south and west. After the first attack was beaten back, a second began, then a third, while a reconnaissance "pilot" plane circled over us. It corrected the fire and reported our position. In all, ten attacks were beaten off on 18 September.

    In the elevator, the grain was on fire, the water in the machine-guns evaporated, the wounded were thirsty, but there was no water. This is how we defended ourselves 24 hours a day for three days. Heat, smoke, and thirst - all our lips were cracked. During the day many of us climbed up to the highest points in the elevator and from there fired on the Germans; at night we came down and made a defensive ring round the building. We had no contact with other units.

    A 10.5cm (4.134in) leFH howitzer fires over open sights against Soviet positions near the Grain Elevator in southern Stalingrad. The howitzer, developed in the 1920s, fired a 15kg (331b) shell to a maximum range of 10,675m (11,674 yards).


    20 September arrived. At noon 12 enemy tanks came up from the south and west. We had already run out of ammunition for our anti-tank rifles, and we had no grenades left. The tanks approached the elevator from two sides and began to fire at our garrison at point-blank range. But no one flinched. Our machine-guns and Tommy-guns continued to fire at the enemy's infantry, preventing them from entering the elevator. Then a Maxim, together with the gunner, was blown up by a shell, and the casing of the second Maxim was hit by shrapnel ... We were left with one light machine-gun.

    At dawn a German tank carrying a white flag approached from the south. We wondered what could have happened. Two men emerged from the tank, a Nazi officer and an interpreter. Through the interpreter the officer tried to persuade us to surrender to "the heroic German army", as defence was useless and we would not be able to hold our position any longer. "Better to surrender the elevator," affirmed the German officer. "If you refuse you will be dealt with without mercy. In an hour's time we will bomb you out of existence."

    "What impudence," we thought, and gave the Nazi lieutenant a brief answer: "Tell all your Nazis to go to hell! You can go back, but only on foot." The German tank tried to beat a retreat, but a salvo from our two anti-tank rifles stopped it. The Germans made 10 attacks on the elevator, all failed. As the grain burns, the water in the machine-guns evaporated, leaving all, especially the wounded, thirsty. The explosions were shattering the concrete; the grain was in flames. We could not see one another for dust and smoke, but we cheered one another with shouts. German Tommy gunners appeared from behind the tanks. There were about 200 of them. They attacked very cautiously, throwing grenades in front of them. We were able to catch some of the grenades and throw them back. On the west side of the elevator, the Germans managed to enter the building, but we immediately turned our guns on the parts they occupied. Fighting flared up inside the building. We sensed and heard the enemy soldiers' breath and footsteps, but we could not see them in the smoke. We fired at the sound. At night, during a short lull, we counted our ammunition.

    There did not seem to be much left .... We decided to break out ... To begin [with] all went well. We passed through a gully and crossed a railroad line, then stumbled on an enemy mortar battery. The Germans scattered, leaving behind their weapons, but also bread and water. "Something to drink!" was all we could think about. We drank our fill in the darkness. We then ate the bread ... and went on.

    But alas, what happened to my comrades I don't know, because the next thing I remembered was waking in a dark, damp cellar. A door opened, and in the bright sunlight I could see a tommy-gunner in a black uniform. On his left sleeve was a skull. I had fallen into the hands of the enemy.'

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    During the Battle of Stalingrad, one particularly well-defended Soviet strong point was known simply as "the Grain Elevator" and was strategically important to both sides.


    German POWs in a photo near the recaptured ravaged Grain Elevator.



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    Two photographs of the grain silo in Stalingrad, one of the most strongly defended buildings in the city. In this huge grain elevator, south of the Tsaritsa Gorge, the fighting was merciless. Both sides incurred terrible losses trying to capturing and retain it.


    For three days troops of 24. Panzer-Division pounded the massive concrete structure with artillery, antitank guns, mortars, and tank guns, setting the grain on fire. Hand-to-hand combat raged through the structure and by 21 September the Germans finally captured it. The fighting then moved to Red Square, to a nail factory, and the Univermag Department Store.



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