The Russian Ministry of Defense posted on its website archival documents describing the exploits of the legendary Podolsk cadets. The publication of the materials was carried out within the framework of the project dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Moscow – on September 30, 1941, its dramatic defensive stage began. The cadets were transferred to the Maloyaroslavets line in order to prevent the Nazis from breaking through to the Warsaw highway, which opened the shortest path to the capital. The documents report the resourcefulness, high morale and heroism of the cadets. According to historians, despite the most difficult conditions, the cadets managed to restrain the German war machine. Their feat made it possible to gain precious time to strengthen the defense of Moscow.
The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has launched on its website a new multimedia section dedicated to the grandiose in scope and drama of the battle for Moscow. 80 years ago, on September 30, 1941, the defensive stage of the battle for the capital of the USSR began.
The first part of the published documents of the Central archive of the military department tells about the exploits of the cadets of the artillery and infantry military schools in the city of Podolsk near Moscow.
“The declassified military documents published on the website of the military department of the fall of 1941 from the funds of the Central archive of the Ministry of Defense of Russia testify to the difficult situation of our troops in early October, about the heroism, self-sacrifice and unprecedented stamina of the cadets from Podolsk, about whom Hitler’s steel avalanche crashed,” in the message of the press service of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
The defense of Moscow continued until the winter of 1941. The fierce resistance of the Red Army, NKVD units and the people’s militia turned into a defeat for Hitler’s troops and a counteroffensive, which began on December 5.
A series of attacks by Soviet divisions on the positions of the occupiers made it possible to push the front line back by 150-400 km. The losses of the Third Reich amounted to over 500 thousand people, 1.3 thousand tanks, 2.5 thousand guns and other equipment. The battle for Moscow was the first major defeat of the German military machine in World War II.
The Soviet leadership realized that the enemy would concentrate maximum efforts to capture Moscow. At the same time, as of the first ten days of October, a very difficult situation developed in the west of the RSFSR due to the fact that a significant part of the forces of the Bryansk, Western and Reserve Soviet fronts was surrounded.
In order to block the possible directions of a breakthrough to the capital, the Soviet leadership was forced to organize work on the construction of fortifications and form a new grouping of troops in the shortest possible time. The emphasis was placed on the creation of new defensive lines in the area of Volokolamsk, Mozhaisk and Maloyaroslavets.
Moscow defense map. September 30 – December 5, 1941 / © mil.ru
The first stage of the fortification network of the USSR authorities expected to be erected on October 10-25, 1941, and the main work would be completed on November 15-25. However, the breakthrough of the defense of three fronts near Bryansk and Vyazma did not allow the implementation of these plans, which naturally complicated the defense of the capital.
In an interview with RT, the deputy director of the Museum of Russian Military History, Vasily Zabolotny, noted that the defenders of Moscow had to fight in incredibly difficult conditions. According to him, ordinary infantrymen, without the necessary support of aviation and artillery, had to resist the mechanized and tank units of the enemy.
The Podolsk cadets with attached artillery and militia units were tasked with holding the defense on the Maloyaroslavets border, blocking the Varshavskoe highway in the area of the Ilyinskoe settlement.
In an interview with RT, historian Oleg Komissar, a consultant to the film “Podolsk Cadets,” stressed that future officers of the Red Army were entrusted with an extremely important mission, since Varshavskoe Shosse was the shortest route on the way to Moscow.
“The cadets are the future junior commanders, the reserve of the army. Lieutenants were in short supply and sending them into the thick of battles was an unpopular decision. But the contribution of the cadets to containment of the numerically superior enemy was truly impressive, ”explained the Commissioner.
According to declassified records of telephone conversations and orders for military operations, a member of the Military Council of the Moscow Military District (MVO), divisional commissar Konstantin Telegin, demanded the prompt transfer of the combined detachment of Podolsk cadets to the front.
Podolsk cadets received their baptism of fire on October 6. The “Description of the fighting of the vanguard of the Podolsk infantry school” says that on this day the defenders of the capital experienced the full power of the aviation and artillery fire of the Nazis.
“During the day, enemy aircraft increased their activity, appearing above the PO (forward detachment. – RT) first by individual aircraft, and then in groups of 5-7 aircraft. They dropped bombs in the defense area of the PO and fired at the battle formations of the PO from machine guns, ”the document says.
Declassified documents of the Central Archives of the RF Ministry of Defense / © mil.ru
The resilience of the vanguard of the Podolsk cadets is recorded in the published “History of Combat Actions of the Troops of the Moscow Military District.” The document says that from 6 to 11 October the unit heroically held back “the offensive of far superior enemy forces” on the 37th fortified area.
The courage of the fighters of the forward detachment made it possible for the rest of the cadets to take defensive positions in the Ilyinsky fortified area, where even more fierce battles unfolded from October 11 to 18.
In a declassified document from the Moscow Defense Zone (MLZ), it is reported that the unit of Podolsk cadets, which met the occupiers at Ilyinsky, included 334 fighters and 19 command personnel. The formation was armed with 336 rifles, three light machine guns and three serviceable 45 mm and 76 mm guns with 260 rounds of ammunition.
In battles with the enemy, Podolsk cadets underwent incredible tests. In the combat report of the headquarters of the Ilyinsky combat area No. 3 dated October 17, 1941, Major General Vasily Smirnov, it is reported that the combined detachment suffered “enormous losses in human and material terms.”
At that time, two battalions of cadets, 120-150 people each, remained at the fortified area. Smirnov petitioned to confer the rank of lieutenant on the surviving cadets, “so that they could fight not as ordinary soldiers, but as commanders.”
“People are extremely overworked, falling on the run from overwork; not provided with warm uniforms, no gloves, no hats (in caps), 60% have torn shoes. They don’t eat for two days, ”Smirnov reported.
“Prevent the enemy”
In a report to the head of the political department of the Moscow Military District about the work of the Podolsk Infantry School in October 1941, which was also published by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, it is reported that the cadets had to fight with practically no means of communication.
“Communication between the command post of the battalions and the companies was completely absent and was carried out only through liaison cadets, and between the pillboxes and the pillboxes inside the companies – exclusively by visual communication. There were no signaling devices at all, ”the document says.
The poor material and technical support of the consolidated detachment was explained by the haste to advance to the front. However, as it was emphasized in the report to the head of the Moscow Military District’s political department, “despite the presence of tangible shortcomings, the school steadfastly fulfilled its task and the entire personnel was inspired by a common desire to prevent the enemy from entering the defense area.”
Published documents of the Central Archive of the RF Ministry of Defense / © mil.ru
The same document contains examples of the exploits of the Podolsk cadets. It is noted that the infantrymen, after being wounded or killed by their commanders, took control without delay. In addition, they courageously launched counterattacks, inspiring their comrades.
“Cadet Kirichenko … when the platoon commander went out of action, he assumed command and energetically rushed into counterattacks. Cadet Kitaev … mortally wounded in the battle, energetically and bravely fought the Nazis and died with a machine gun, ”the Khmelevsky commissar describes the actions of the young fighters.
Over the entire period of the fighting, Podolsk cadets destroyed about 40 German tanks and armored personnel carriers, up to 400 infantry and several dozen enemy vehicles.
The feat of cadet Yuri Dobrynin is widely known, who, despite heavy mortar and machine-gun fire from the Nazis, knocked out six tanks and two armored vehicles. Lieutenant Iradion Museridze was able to destroy the same number of tanks. Lieutenant Afanasy Aleshin died heroically. The officer bravely held the pillbox, and when the ammunition ran out, he rushed with seven soldiers to attack the forces of the invaders, which were several times superior.
The reports of the headquarters of the German Army Group Center, which was advancing on Moscow, also recorded acts of selfless heroism of the Podolsk people. The Nazis called them “Red Junkers.” Paying tribute to the perseverance of the cadets, the enemy still hoped to seize the road to Maloyaroslavets, but he could not realize his plan.
On November 3, 1941, by order No. 0226 of the Deputy Commander of the Moscow Military District, gratitude was announced to the personnel of the Podolsk schools. Later, fighters who distinguished themselves in battles received state awards.
As Vasily Zabolotny noted, despite the acute shortage of weapons and lack of experience, Podolsk cadets often acted “in accordance with all the canons of military science.”
“Of course, in the fall of 1941 near Moscow, holes were patched in the defense, but the cadets showed themselves well as intelligent commanders and fighters. For example, thanks to competent actions, they defeated a German tank column, which was trying to enter the rear of the gunners, ”Zabolotny explained.
Oleg Komissar believes that the successful actions of the cadets provided the Soviet command with valuable time to strengthen the defense of Moscow. In addition, the resilience of the Podol people made a great impression on the enemy, who ceased to feel like an absolute winner.
“The resilience of the cadets gave them time to pull up reserves, build a new line of defense and bleed significant enemy forces. The Germans did not expect such a fierce and effective resistance. In their memoirs, they compared the battles with the Podolsk people with the capture of the Brest Fortress. I think that the exploits of the cadets broke the enemy morally, deprived him of his faith in victory, ”summed up the Commissar.
Alexey Zakvasin, Elizaveta Komarova
Cover photo: Podolsk cadets and a document on their awarding based on the results of the battles / RIA Novosti / © Anatoly Garanin / press service of the RF Ministry of Defense