Fighting at Tihveri 29/6 -44

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Re: Fighting at Tihveri 29/6 -44

Post by subskipper » 07 Apr 2017 15:58

Thank you so much Lotvonen!

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Re: Fighting at Tihveri 29/6 -44

Post by subskipper » 02 May 2018 16:28

I need a bit of help sorting through all this. I have tried to map officer names to specific units they commanded (i.e. Hannila CO of III/JR4, but I struggle a bit piecing it together as the diary more often refers to the unit by tje name of its commander (Lt. Sara is 9./III/JR4 for example). Anyone else keen on diving into the text to help sort it all out?

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Toivo Ilomäki, 21 tank kills during one AM

Post by Lotvonen » 13 Mar 2020 06:52

Unpublished manuscript from the archive of “Kansa Taisteli”, found in a folder created by 5.D HQ in 1944. It has not been referenced to in any Internet source so far, I believe. This topic looks like a good place to publish the story for wider audience.

The AT gun mentioned was a 7,5cm PAK 40.

24.Tyk.K. 5.D.
8 September 1944

A report on the action of an AT gun in the battles of Sammatus and Tihveri.

The gun leader was then Sgt. Iivari but due to his being WIA I did not have a chance of recording his personal report of the said action.

The gun-layer in the said action was PFC Ilomäki, Toivo. He has recounted the following on his and his gun's action:

On the Sammatus line our gun was in position in the terrain of the church hill. As soon as we arrived there we built a gun pit. At the same time the enemy air force was in busy action, burning down most of the village. On the next day after our arrival the enemy directed heavy shelling in the said terrain and between about 0800-0900 hrs the first enemy tanks appeared in our view. There were five of them and they were driving up the road in a file, stopping about 800m from our gun and firing hard at the church hill. We did not yet reveal our gun position, instead we were waiting for them to arrive at a more advantageous position.

Having fired for a while the tanks proceeded up to our stone hindrance line, then turning left and kept driving parallel to the hindrance, at a straight angle against the line of fire of our gun. Then I fired the first shot at the last tank, which caught fire, the four others shared the same fate.

Now new enemy tanks kept flowing up the road, probably ignorant of the fate of the first group, driving in units of two. I fired at these tanks already as they found themselves on the road; then some of them tried to turn to escape, but failing to do that.

At this stage I shot up a total of seventeen (17) enemy tanks. During AM no more new tanks appeared. We built a new gun position and moved the gun there. We did not get to shoot at any tanks from there. Later in PM, actually, five assault guns drove up to a point about 2 km from our position but due to the long range we did not shoot at them. The next night we transferred our gun to the rear defence line.

In the terrain of Tihveri our gun was positioned on the top of a high hill. At first in our sector of fire appeared two KV and four T-34, the range was 700m. I managed to fire a missing shot at the last tank as the gun malfunctioned. A camouflage tree got stuck between the barrel and the gun shield preventing the barrel from returning to battery. A costly half an hour was spent before the gun was again operational and during this period three tanks penetrated through our line and the rest, three of them, remained in place, firing.

Now, as our gun was operational again, I quickly dispatched with the last three tanks although the first shells just struck flames at the strong armour of the Klim, but by using special ammunition their number was up. Of the tanks that had broken through, close range AT men got two and the third one met its fate trying to get in the cover of the already destroyed tanks as I scored a lethal hit in it.

After this no more tanks appeared, and we retreated to Varloi where the gun crew was replace, however.

In these battles we were quite free to do with the tanks whatever we wanted, because they were not able to find out our position and thus were unable to disturb our action with their guns.

When in Sammatus we set alight the building behind our gun pit. The smoke and flame distracted the enemy observation, yet our action was unaffected because wind was blowing from our flank.

Private Rask, Kalle, was the loader of the gun in the battle during which PFC Ilomäki killed twenty one (21) enemy tanks.

(His story:)

At Sammatus the tanks appeared after 0800hrs. At the moment I was at the gun with PFC Ilomäki and Pvt. Hämäläinen. Shooting went on initially well and several tanks were already burning, but then there was an unpleasant mishap. We had built our position of bags of cement which were ripped up due to the enemy fire and the pressure waves created by our gun. Dry cement dust was flying all over the place, adhering to the ammunition. It was a hard job to clean the ammunition in the hurry we found ourselves in, because I did not dare to shove them up the barrel as they were. Assisted by Pvt. Hämäläinen we managed to do the job so that there were no loading problems neither then nor later during my watch.

In the battle at Tihveri our shooting was at once interrupted by a camouflage tree that was wedged between the gun shield and the barrel preventing the barrel from returning. For a while I was surprised as the round could not be loaded until I found that the barrel had not returned to battery. It was a hard job before we had carved the tree off with knives, because enemy tanks were firing at the nearby terrain all the time.

There was another surprise as for the first time we met a tank that was resistant to standard ammunition, two KV tanks. However, I managed to find special ammunition soon and the journey of these heavy tanks was cut short now.

(949 words)

Toivo Osmo Ilomäki (25. Aug.1917 Sääksmäki – 4. March 1965 Hämeenlinna) ,
Mannerheim Cross Knight no. 155. (2nd Oct. 1944)
His unit was 24.Tyk.K/5.D and he was a gun layer, rank PFC
He is the only soldier decorated with all five Tank Destroyer badges, that is a wide badge and four narrow badges for destroying more than fifteen armoured vehicles.
His total score is 21 armoured vehicles, 17 of which in a single battle.
Ilomäki's 75 K/40 gun with the white score rings around the barrel is in display in the Tank museum in Parola.

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Re: Fighting at Tihveri 29/6 -44

Post by John Hilly » 13 Mar 2020 14:40

Great, Lotvonen!
"Die Blechtrommel trommelt noch!"

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Re: Fighting at Tihveri 29/6 -44

Post by Art » 14 Mar 2020 07:31

Information on armored forces involved.
29 Tank Brigade on evening of 27.6.44:
Total 26 T-34 and 42 T-70, including:
- 8 T-34 and 28 T-70 operational
- 11 T-34 and 9 T-70 in repair
- 3 T-34 and 5 T-70 en route to the unit
- 4 T-34 and 2 T-70 - irrevocable losses

29 Tank Brigade with attached 378 Guards Self-Propelled Regiment on evening of 1.7.44
26 T-34, 42 T-70, 21 (I)SU-152 on strength, including:
- 9 T-34, 11 T-70, 12 SU-152 operational with unit
- 4 T-34, 6 T-70, 2 SU-152 en route
- 1 T-34, 9 T-70, 4 SU-152 in minor repair
- 3 T-34, 9 T-70, 3 SU-152 in medium repair
- 2 T-34, 4 T-70 in capital repair
- 1 T-34 evacuated
- 6 T-34, 3 T-70 - irrevocable losses to be written off

That indicates a losses of 2 T-34 and 1 T-70 as write-offs in four days.

According to a situation report of the 7 Army's armored forces HQ on 28.6.44 the brigade lost:
8 officers and 26 NCOs and privates as killed and wounded
2 T-34 and 1 T-70 as irrevocable losses (burned down)
1 T-70 and 2 SU-152 damaged in combat
which is in good agreement with the balance above.

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Re: Fighting at Tihveri 29/6 -44

Post by Art » 14 Mar 2020 11:16

And excerpts from war diary and after-action report of the 378 Guards Self-Propelled Regiment:

By the end of the day the regiment reached Lake Kylyjärvi but had to stop, since the bridge over the stream between lakes Kylyjärvi and Syandekhabskaya was blown up by the enemy.

On the morning of 28.06.44 the 1st battery crossed the river at Lake Kylyjärvi as a part of the [brigade’s ] forward detachment and passed forward infantry units at Temoila and continued pursuit to the direction of Gushkala, Nini-Selga.
By that moment 6 straggler ISU-152 joined the regiment, thus it had 19 operational ISU-152. The pursuit was organized as follows:
Forward detachment composed of 8-10 tanks from the [29 Tank] Brigade and 70 Tank Regiment, 1st battery ISU-152 with 5 vehicles and the main forces of the brigade and regiment 2-3 km behind it. In the middle of the day the forward detachment was met by organized small-arms and mortar hostile fire at the Hill 52.5 and had to stop. 2 ISU-152 of the 1st battery advanced to a distance of 100-150 meters and each made 3 shots by direct laying.
The enemy seeing self-propelled guns pounding him from a short distance dispersed abandoning weapons and his wounded men; our infantry immediately attacked and started to pursue and destroy Finns.
Without encountering organized resistance the forward detachment and main forces captured Nini-Selga and advanced the eastern shore of Lake Pini-Selga and reached the Tigveri Village 00 meters south of Tigveri village where they ran into a Finnish ambush.
The forward detachment when advancing the Tigveri Village encountered fire of hostile anti-tank guns, mortars and submachine guns, as a result the Finns burnt 1 T-34 and knocked out 2 ISU-152 of the first battery by direct hits of anti-tank gun rounds at the frontal armor: Nos. 10 and 11. ISU-152 commander guards junior lieutenant Boldyrev was killed, driver-mechanic guards senior technician-lieutenant Shirokov and gun-loader sergeant Lunev were wounded.
The vehicle No. 43 suffered a failure of fuel pump at Nini Selga, vehicles Nos. 21 and 44 drowned in a swamp 2.5 km south of Tigveri village.
The brigade and regiment couldn’t break through a prepared Finnish position running along the northern bank of the Tigveri village by their own forces, since the terrain was favorable for defenders, the bridge over the Tigveri River was blown up and it was impossible to build a crossing under hostile small-arms and mortar fire.
The brigade and regiment switched to defense and waited for own infantry and artillery to come up.
By the end of the day the regiment had 15 ISU-152 operational, including 2 en route. 2 vehicles stuck in a swamp at Nini-Selga, 2 had technical breakdowns, 2 ISU-152 were knocked out.
During the night 28/29.6 and the day of 29.06.1944 the enemy kept the brigade and regiment’s positions under strong fire and wasn’t active with his personnel.

At 19.00 29.06.44 our infantry of 301 Guards Rifle Regiment occupied jump-off positions for attack. Artillery still hadn’t come up. At 19.00 29.06.1944 7 ISU-152 advanced to open firing positions on the southern bank of the Tigveri River and opened concentrated fire by direct laying against the hostile strongpoint. Supported by fire from self-propelled guns the infantry after a 30 minutes battle captured Tigveri village and advanced further. The brigade’s forward detachment consisting of 6-7 tanks, 2nd and 3rd battery and the main forces following it forded the river and caught up forward infantry elements behind the village and resumed pursuit.

After crossing the river following infantry the brigade and the regiment continued pursuit overcoming nests of hostile resistance along the road Tigveri-Verkil and captured Verkil at 10.30 30.06.1944.

During 29 and 30.06.44 the regiment suffered no losses in vehicles. Vehicle No.14 had a breakdown of an idler wheel 1 km south of Verkil village.
Losses in personnel: 1 officer killed (commander of ISU-152 guards lieutenant Osintsev, buried at Nini-Selga village), 2 officers, 2 sergeants and 2 privates wounded.
Scheme of combat at Tigveri/Tihveri on 29.6.44
Location of ISU-152 knocked out on 28.6.44
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Re: Fighting at Tihveri 29/6 -44

Post by Lotvonen » 16 Mar 2020 06:18

Photo of Sgt. Iivari and his team with their PAK is here:

https://www.sotahistoriallisetkohteet.f ... 9/area/90/

It appears the gun is still soiled with cement dust. Apparently the fortification work at Sammatus was interrupted by fighting and there was a store of cement bags which Sgt. Iivari and his men used to construct the gun pit.

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