I Was There20 August 2014

Alfred Regeniter in Lithuania

​First-hand account from Alfred Regeniter, who as a raw lieutenant had just taken over command of a Stug III assault gun in Lithuania:

22 October 1944

We are wakened from a leaden tiredness – after just one hour of sleep! It is 02:00 hours. Another night attack. This time we will go in with 120 men, a “Battalion ’44”. The infantrymen climb on top of our [assault] guns. We roar off into the dark, over a narrow stone bridge in the meadows and then swing to the left. In front of us, at an indeterminate distance, stands a burning farmstead on a long ridge at right angles to us – the objective of the attack.

I drive at the point, at walking pace because of the dark, with 10 or 12 infantrymen hanging from my gun like bundles of grapes in the role of companions and for close-in defence. I suddenly realize that this farm must have been noted as occupied by the Russians several hours ago when we drove back, because rifle fire can be seen coming from the sheds there, and explosive rounds rattle around us. I see two long sheds to my front, and between them an alleyway that is illuminated by the light of the fires burning behind it. The Russians usually position their tanks at such points during the night, leading me to assume that the dark area at the bottom of the alley could be hiding a tank. That is exactly as it was a few hours previously at the other location. I want to try my trick again. I shout “Stop!” “Distance 800, armour-piercing shell, target.” “No, let me aim!” “Fire!” A T-34 explodes with a loud bang and bright fireworks.

What will my comrades in the other guns be thinking of me now? Can he see in the dark? And what do the Russians think? Enthusiastically I shout at Stück: “That’s the third tonight!” Whether he hears me over the noise of the engine and rifle fire, I don’t know. I continue to advance to the left, in front of the house-covered hill. I then stop and fire a star shell, which lights up everything as clear as day in front of us and splutters out behind the hill. Then, close in front of us, stand three monsters – three Russian tanks. We are 60 metres in front of them. Now, no orders are necessary: already the guns are roaring and the first on the left explodes. A new star shell. The second has had it! Then number three explodes. We are shouting with joy and relief, and I slap Sergeant Strohbach, my gunner, so hard on his shoulders that it hurts.

Three burning torches stand in front of us and they glow, hiss and rattle in all directions when their ammunition explodes. This must have depressed the Russians. They must think we have a new night sighting device with us, as they had taken up such beautiful positions when they heard us approach … not bad for a start. The old sweats now look on their new lieutenant with different eyes.