Saturday, January 28, 2017
Not Enough and Too Late
The barrage started at 0330 hours and continued until 0456. By that time most of the frontline Turkish troops facing the Soviet Union’s forces on the Armenian border were dead, maimed or running to the south. Zhukov had gotten all the toys in the west to force the Turkish Straights and Bagramyan got more artillery batteries and Katyusha rocket units.
The Turkish soldiers sent to the Armenia border, were poor quality even by Turkish standards. They were to be sacrificed and the Turkish commanders did not want their best units to be wasted. Even their unit names have been erased from history. They were just 15,000 poor souls, who were soon ground into the earth by over a thousand tanks that quickly raced to the South. Some of the better Turkish units turned the Reds away during their initial assault when the Soviet commanders got too aggressive and ran into some well laid traps and ambushes.
The Turkish Colonel could tell that the tanks being thrown at him were the older but faster T34-85. He knew that these tanks were more than a match for the few old tanks he had gotten recently from the Americans. The Soviet tanks were just as fast as and maybe even faster than his more lightly armored Shermans with the 76 mm gun. His problems were many. He had very few tanks, his tankers had not seen combat, and they had no air cover. They held their own, however, in the first brush with the T-34s. His unit gave as good as they got.
The T-34s withdrew a few kilometers and then came the flying tanks of the Red Air Force. The Il-10 Sturmovik Beast had a large number of ways to kill a tank and they used their repertoire very quickly on his dozen tanks. The one Bofers unit, he had been given, actually did a good job and took down two Beasts before being destroyed by 23 mm cannon fire.
The Turkish Colonel’s own tanks died to more exotic weapons such as floating bomblets and liquid flame. One by one the tanks died and back came the Soviet T-34s.
This time, the Turks special anti-tank groups did their job using Molotov cocktails and, once again stopped the Red’s advance. A quick Soviet artillery and rocket barrage put a stop to these Turkish tactics as well as killing much of the supporting infantry. Again, the few men the Turkish colonel had alive performed extremely well. If they would have had some support, they might have even staged an effective counter attack. But, they had had no further support. His commanding General had decided that discretion is the better part of valor and had run to fight another day.
The General actually did perform quite well weeks later near the village of Bitlis where his division put up stiff resistance. The Turkish unit held up the Soviet advance for almost three days before the General was killed and his troops overwhelmed. On this first day of battle however, the General was on the run and this meant a quick death for the colonel and his battalion.