Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ivan the Terrible

Stolen from Enemy at the Gates novel, this is the background to my Flames Of War Russian force.

Senior Lt. Ivan bezditko
Ivan the Terrible

With supplies lines cut to the Russian troops holding out in Stalingrad, times where tough. The soldiers of Batyuk’s 284th Division around Mamaev Hill witnessed an extraordinary mini-war over some of those supplies. Every Russian soldier received a daily ration of one hundred grams of vodka. Most waited for it eagerly; only a few refused it. But Senior Lt. Ivan Bezditko, “Ivan the Terrible” to his men, had an incredible taste for vodka and found a way to keep a plentiful supply on hand. When troops from his mortar battalion died, Ivan reported them “present and accounted for,” and pirated their daily vodka rations. In a short time, the thirsty officer amassed many gallons, which he carefully stored in his own dugout.
In a warehouse at the Volga shore, a supply officer, Major Malygin, checked his records and noticed that Bezditko’s unit had borne up extremely well under weeks of bombardment. Suspicious Malygin pursued the matter and discovered that the mortar section had actually suffered heavy casualties. He called Bezditko, told him he had exposed his petty scheme, and was going to report him to Front Headquarters. Then he added, “Your vodka ration is being canceled.”
The supply officer had gone too far. Bezditko screamed, “If I don’t get it, you’ll get it.”
Malygin hung up on him, relayed news of the crime to headquarters and shut off Ivan’s liquor rations.
Enraged, Bezditko contacted the firing point for his 120-PM-38 heavy mortar batteries, issued a precise set of coordinates, and gave the order to shoot. Three rounds dropped squarely on top of Malygin’s warehouse at the riverbank, and out of the smoke and debris tottered the shaken major. Behind him hundreds of bottles of vodka had broken and spilled onto the floor. Malygin staggered to a phone and asked for headquarters. His anger rising, he shouted out what he knew to be true: Ivan the Terrible had gotten him.
The voice on the other end was patient but unsympathetic, “Next time give him his vodka. He just got the Order of the Red Star, so give it to him.” Within hours, Lt Bezditko’s liquor ration resumed and Malygin never again interfered with Ivan the Terrible’s larceny.


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