The Feat of Thirty-Three – The Defence of Rossoshka

As could be seen from the testimonial in The Army of Stalingrad – 13.01.1943, Vasiliy Grossman and in the Defence of the Sculpture Garden in Stalingrad, every inch of the land around Stalingrad saw fierce battles. Many a place, a village or an outpost would be defended by a small platoon to the last breath. This was true not only for Stalingad, but for the whole of the Great Patriotic War in general. When the Holywood at one point decided to film “The 300 Spartans”, they could have instead turned to this much more recent and dramatic part of human history, unless, of course, this history is deemed to inconvenient by the Western sphere.

One such piece of history is the defence of the Village of Rossoshka during the first day of the battle of Stalingrad, when 33 soldier stood their ground and repelled a superior German tank attack. The text below is re-published from Stalingrad Front

Rossoshka is a military memorial cemetery of the battle of Stalingrad

The village of Rossoshka and the surroundings is a land soaked in blood, which saw scores of crippled fates. In 1942 it served as a prison camp for the Soviet POWs, and in 1943 there was a cemetery for German servicemen here. Now we have here a large military memorial cemetery for the soldiers of the once opposing parties…

Historical reference

The village of Rossoshka is named after two villages of Little Rossoshka and Big Rossoshka that previously existed here, and which were completely destroyed when the 6th Army entered Stalingrad. The village is situated about 20 kilometres from the western outskirts of Volgograd (formerly known as Stalingrad).

The villages of Big and Little Rossoshka were first mentioned in operative reports in August 1942. In mid-August, the Sixth Army launched a large-scale offensive on Stalingrad. The German command planned to capture the city by the 25th. On August the 23rd, the Wehrmacht’s troops of the 35th Division and the 169th Tank Brigade counterattacked from the area of the village of Samofalovka. Their main target was to break the Soviet defence in order to connect with the units of the 14th Panzer Corps, which broke through to the Volga river and got cut off from the main forces. During the offensive, the German units reached Big Rossoshka, where the 87th Infantry Division of the 62nd Army commanded by Lieutenant Shmelev observed the situation from 2Height 77.6″.

The Feat of thirty-Three

Within two days (August 23 and 24), the area of defence of the 87th Infantry Division was repeatedly attacked by Luftwaffe aviation and artillery fire. The people were killed and wounded. During a brief lull, the wounded managed to be evacuated, but the Red Army soldiers knew that was temporary and the enemy would start an offensive soon. At that time the group included 6 signalmen, 15 scouts and 12 gunmen – 33 people only.

A group of soldiers and commanders of the 1379th Infantry Regiment of the 87th Infantry Division
A group of soldiers and commanders of the 1379th Infantry Regiment of the 87th Infantry Division of the 62nd Army, who repelled the German offensive near the village of Little Rossoshka on August 24, 1942

After the bombing in the vicinity of the village of Big Rossoshka, the surviving defenders started the preparations for the forthcoming fight. All of them were sure that it would be their last battle. The soldiers deepened the trenches, strengthened and covered them up. The amount of weapons and ammunition was limited: petrol bombs, grenades, assault rifles, bolt action rifles and only a few armour-piercing guns.

Map of fighting of 33 soldiers against German tanks, August 24, 1942
Map of fighting of 33 soldiers against German tanks, August 24, 1942

On August 24, at sunset German tanks approached the “Height 77.6”. There were about 70 of them, followed by an infantry battalion. An unequal battle started. Allowing the German tanks to come closer, the Soviet soldiers opened fire on them with a few anti-tank guns. They quickly managed to beat several tanks, but many were still able to break right into the defenders’ trenches. Then the German tankmen tried to cover more ground by active manoeuvring. But this tactic did not bring success, because the day before, the trenches were deepened and well-fortified. In counterattacks, the Soviet soldiers began throwing petrol bombs into tanks that came close. The tankmen jumped out of the burning tanks, but they were immediately shot with rifles and machine guns.

A few hours later, when the defenders were almost out of ammunition the enemy tanks rapidly turned around. The battle resulted in 27 German tanks destroyed and 150 soldiers killed, amongst the dead were some officers too. Surprisingly the defenders had no casualties. Two days later the soldiers of the 87th Infantry Division had to back down from their defensive positions in Stalingrad because of the lack of food and drinking water. For this feat, the battle participants were awarded orders and medals.

This victory near the village of Big Rossoshka meant that Paulus’s army couldn’t breakthrough into Stalingrad for a week.