- Hey, Russian, hey, Sashka, are you still alive? I thought that you burned out in your tank … You will still burn. I will set you on fire until you have a grave, - came a strange voice from the radio.
The commander of the thirty-four, Petty Officer Alexander Milyukov, was taken aback. What the hell is this? And the radio continued to deliver with a hoarse voice:
- On your collective farm tractor only to the grave. Well, what can you do on it one-on-one against my "Panther"? One on one, chivalrous …
- Oh, it's you, you bastard, your mother? The wave of the radio station of his tank was found by a fascist. Yes, not simple, ace, "cunning", as they called him in the carriage.
“I’m ready,” Alexander flipped the toggle switch before that. - Let's see who will take, the fascist is not finished.
- Come out to a duel now. Just write your will, otherwise they won't find it, your country is very wide, I learned it when I was learning Russian …
“You’ll worry about the will yourself,” Milyukov, the mother of the German, did not say, but shouted.
The German fell silent, fell silent, and Milyukov and waited for what the crew members would say. The Hitlerite was in more favorable conditions, the 76-mm T-34 cannon did not take the Panther's frontal armor, and a German tank could burn a thirty-four from almost two kilometers, and for sure from a thousand meters.
Yes, this was the case and not otherwise …
On November 25, 1941, the Reich Ministry of Armaments and Ammunition instructs Daimler-Benz and MAN to produce a vehicle that surpasses the Soviet T-34 miracle medium tank in terms of armament and armor. The German "thirty-four" (the future tank T-V "Panther") was supposed to have a mass of 35 tons, a 37-mm cannon with a barrel length of 70 calibers, a maximum speed of 55 kilometers per hour, booking: front - 60 and side - 40 mm. Engine power - 650 … 700 horsepower.
In May 1942, the firms presented their projects to a specially created commission. Daimler-Benz proposed a tank that even resembled the T-34 in appearance, with the same assembly of units. But the commission's demand for the installation of a long-barreled 75-mm cannon on the new tank, in essence, dismissed the project of the German "thirty-four". Passed a MAN project. The first prototype was manufactured in September 1942 and underwent extensive testing, and serial production began in November. If today, from the height of the past years, we evaluate the created tank, then it can be noted that it did not overshadow the glory of the "thirty-four", but with a long-barreled 75-mm cannon it turned out to be the most sturdy in Hitler's "Panzerwaffe". "Panthers" on the Soviet-German front were massively used in July 1943 on the southern face of the Kursk Bulge. And for six months the crews of our tanks, including the KV-1 and T-34, had to show the highest skill in order to win the duel against the Panther.
Only in the winter of 1944 did the tank units begin to receive the more powerful T-34-85 tank (a long-barreled 85-mm cannon was installed on the T-34 - in the turret with increased armor thickness and it surpassed the Panther in all respects), which was later recognized the best tank of the second world war. At the same time, the strongest tank of the war, the heavy IS-2, is sent to the front.
Now let's return to the fact with which the story began.
So, the commander of the German tank T-V "Panther" goes to the radio station of one T-34 from the tank brigade of the Voronezh Front, calls the "thirty-four" a collective farm tractor and offers the commander of the Soviet tank a knightly duel - one on one. Our tankers accept the challenge.
The command “to your places!” Sounds. Milyukov's "Thirty-four" flies like an arrow to the starting point. There is a great risk of engaging in a one-on-one duel with a crew armed with a more powerful cannon. But when it is still possible to meet with the "cunning" one, to get even with him.There was something to get even for. In a recent battle, it was his "Panther" that pierced the "thirty-four" with two shells. Milyukov's crew missed her, she suddenly crawled out of the second echelon and opened aimed fire. Then all miraculously survived. It is known that for one beaten, two unbeaten are given. In the second battle, Milyukov's crew set up a trap for the Panther, which was already remembered by our tankers. But it was not there. No matter how hard the gun commander Sergeant Semyon Bragin tried, no matter how Milyukov cursed him, the shells passed by. The German dodged, but so deftly that everyone understood - the ace was behind the levers of the Panther. However, the other would not be allowed to constantly graze in the second echelon, would not be allowed to be a free hunter. The loading soldier Grigory Chumak called the German "cunning", and this nickname stuck in the crew. And so the tankers entered into a battle with him, Milyukov was nervous, he understood that he would survive and be the commander of the crew only on one condition - if he won the duel brilliantly. Otherwise, the tribunal, "thirty-four" fell from the combat position without the order of the battalion commander. Losing in general promised certain death - this time the German ace would not let anyone out alive, after the first hit he would put a few more shells into a pretty penny.
It was comforting that the terrain for the duel gave the crew a chance to succeed; it was treeless, but dotted with gullies and ravines. And "thirty-four" is speed, maneuverability, where is the "Panther" before it. Milyukov's car did fly up to sixty kilometers per hour. In the past, the driver-sergeant major Milyukov squeezed all the juices out of her, exceeding the factory characteristics by almost a third. In a word, the success in the duel depended on the skill of the two crews. From the one who is the first to detect the enemy, who will be the first to strike an aimed shot, who will be able to dodge in time and from many, many other things.
The main thing is to approach the "Panther" by any means at a distance of 300-400 meters, then you can wage a fire duel on an equal footing. But the German will not wait, which means that the T-34 will have to go under his aimed fire.
The Nazi fired immediately after the crews saw each other. Yes, he did not want to lose one meter of the advantage of the seven hundred that he had in reserve. A shell pierced next to a Soviet tank. Would you like to speed up? But "thirty-four" on a rocky area gave thirty kilometers, no more, and could only add a little bit. You will not fly these seven hundred meters, the German will have time to fatally punch. And Milyukov immediately hit the brakes, slowed down. I decided to let the German take aim: Alexander “saw” him behind the armor, “saw”, and now he was all staring at the sight … “No, bastard, nothing will work.” “I give you speed! Maneuvering! " Shouted Milyukov. The Thirty-four took off a little earlier, maybe a second, before fire splashed out of the Panther's barrel. The German was late, the shell passed by.
"That's it, Fritz, the long-range cannon is not all." Confidence came to Milyukov, he now knew that it was possible to evade the projectile even in open areas, it was possible to surpass the German ace in quickness. And then there's Nikolai Lukyansky - he was in the commander's place:
“Twelve seconds, commander, I got it, twelve.
“Clever Lukyansky,” Miliukov praised.
Now he knew that there were twelve seconds between the German's first and second shot. I increased the speed, I would have passed another two hundred meters of a flat field, two hundred meters. And Lukyansky thought: “… Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten! Eleven!.. "Milyukov immediately, with all the strength, pulled on both side clutches. The tank shuddered and froze. The shell plowed the ground right in front of his nose. "Let's see who will take it!"
The Russian tank either braked sharply, then rushed sharply in one direction or the other, and German shells passed by. The crew skillfully used every hollow and mound for their protection. The Soviet combat vehicle was inexorably approaching the Panther.The German ace sent round after round, but the thirty-four was invulnerable, it "grew" in the sight unnaturally fast. And the German's nerves could not stand it, "Panther" began to retreat. "I chickened out, you bastard!" - shouted Milyukov, - "I give speed!" The enemy tank backed away. Our tankers were convinced that a real ace was in it again. Not once did the German substitute the side or stern. And only once, when a descent appeared in front of the retreating Panther, she raised the cannon and showed the bottom for a second. This second was enough for Semyon Bragin to hit her vulnerable spot with armor-piercing. The German tank was engulfed in flames, the "Panther" of the arrogant German ace was on fire. Milyukov's crew was choking with delight, the tankers shouted, laughed, swore.
All of them were sobered by the commander's voice over the radio:
- Milyukov! Fucking duelist, you will go to court.
After the battle, the brave four will be told how closely the duel was watched from the Soviet and German sides - during that time not a single shot was fired by anyone, except for the participants in the duel. It was watched with alarm and curiosity - the rarest case of a knight's duel in the twentieth century. After the battle, Miliukov appreciated the battalion commander's endurance, his experience. At the moment of the fight, he did not utter a word, he understood - not under the arm. He expressed his dissatisfaction when the fight was won, and once. Maybe because in my heart I was pleased, or maybe because, at the end of the knightly duel, the battle broke out between the units, and Milyukov's crew again celebrated a victory, and what a victory! "Thirty-four" met 3 "Tigers", burned them, and then crushed several artillery pieces together with the crews …
And now again about the participants in the super match.
They were: tank commander Sergeant Major Alexander Milyukov, who replaced the driver-mechanic during the duel, the driver-mechanic Private Nikolai Lukyanovsky, who took the command chair, loading Private Grigory Chumak and the gun commander Sergeant Semyon Bragin, whose shot put an end to this unusual competition.
How was their fate? Semyon Bragin and Nikolai Lukyansky died, the first on Victory Day in Konigsberg, the second on May 2 in Berlin. The author does not know anything about Grigory Chumak. Alexander Milyukov met Victory in Germany and survived. However, a little more about him. He is one of those who are part of the cohort of Soviet tank aces. Note (making a clarification) that the brave warrior destroyed 6 "Tigers" and one "Panther".
Alexander Milyukov was born in 1923 in the village of Narovchat, Penza Region, in a peasant family. Graduated from the 10th grade and the school of the Civil Air Fleet. But it so happened that he did not become a pilot. He arrived at the front in 1942, asked to be a tanker, as a driver-mechanic. After his KB was knocked out, moved to the "thirty-four", soon became the commander. In February 1943, in the battles for Kharkov, his crew wins the first victory - destroys the Tiger, which surpassed the T-34 in many respects. Under the same Kharkov, Alexander burned in a tank.
In the midst of the battles on the Kursk Bulge, in a sharp duel, as the reader already knows, he burns the Panther of the German ace, and then 3 more Tigers. In 1944, Milyukov graduated from the Saratov Tank School. He wrote down 2 more "Tigers" already in 1945, in Germany - near Golsen and Dresden, being a junior lieutenant, company commander of the 53rd Guards Tank Brigade (3rd Tank Army, 1st Ukrainian Front). Takes part in street fighting in Berlin. In June 1945, for the displayed courage and heroism, he was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
After the war, he works at the Odessa Film Studio. According to his script, the exciting film "The Crew of a Combat Vehicle" was shot. About the most acute duel in his life - about a knightly duel. On the Kursk Bulge.