Zinoviy Kolobanov

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Zinoviy Grigor'evich Kolobanov (Russian: Зиновий Григорьевич Колобанов) (1910–1995) was a tank commander and veteran of the German-Soviet War. He commanded a KV-1 tank and is widely considered the second top scoring tanker ace of the Soviet Union.

Service[edit]

At the Battle of Krasnogvardeysk (German: Krasnogwardejsk) on 20 August 1941 (part of the Battle of Leningrad), Kolobanov's unit ambushed a column of German armour. The vanguard of the German 8th, 6th and 1st Panzer Divisions was approaching Krasnogvardeysk (now Gatchina) near Leningrad (now St Petersburg), and the only Soviet force available to stop it consisted of five well-hidden KV-1 tanks, dug in within a grove at the edge of a swamp. KV-1 tank no. 864 was commanded by the leader of this small force, Lieutenant Kolobanov.

The German forces attacked Krasnogvardejsk from three directions. Near Myza Vojskovitsi (German:Wojskowitzy), Seppelevo, Vangostarosta (now Noviy Uchkhoz), Ilkino and Pitkelevo settlements, the geography favoured the Soviet defenders as the only road in the region passed the swamp, and the defenders commanded this choke point from their hidden position. Lieutenant Kolobanov had carefully studied the situation and readied his detachment the day before. Each KV-1 tank carried twice the normal amount of ammunition, two-thirds of which were armour-piercing rounds. Kolobanov ordered his other commanders to hold their fire and await orders. He did not want to reveal the size of his force, so only one tank at a time engaged the enemy.

The 6th Panzer Division's vanguard entered directly into the well-prepared Soviet ambush. Belorussian gun's tank sniper named Andrej Usov knocked out the leading German tank with its first shot. The German column assumed that the tank had hit an anti-tank mine and, failing to realize that they were being ambushed, stopped. This gave to Andrej Usov the opportunity to destroy the second tank. The Germans realized they were under attack but were unable to locate the origin of the shots. While the German tanks fired blindly, Kolobanov's tank knocked out the trailing German tank, boxing in the entire column.

Although the Germans now knew where they were being attacked from, they could only spot Lieutenant Kolobanov's tank, and now attempted to engage an unseen enemy. The German tanks got bogged down when they moved off the road onto the surrounding soft ground making them easy targets. Twenty-two German tanks and two towed artillery pieces were knocked out by Kolobanov's tank before it ran out of ammunition.[1] Kolobanov ordered in another KV-1, and 21 more German tanks were destroyed before the half-hour battle ended. A total of 43 German tanks had been destroyed by the five Soviet KV-1s (two more remained in reserve).

For their actions, Lieutenant Kolobanov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and his gunner, Andrei Usov, was awarded the Order of Lenin.

The Soviet victory was the result of a well-planned ambush on advantageous ground and superiority of weapons. Most of the German tanks in this battle were light tanks armed with only 37 mm guns. The German tank guns had neither the range nor the power of the 76 mm main gun of a KV-1. After the battle, the crew of No. 864 counted a total of 135 hits on their tank, none of which had penetrated the armor. The narrower tracks of the German tanks caused them to become trapped in the swampy ground.

Later on, former Captain Zinoviy Kolobanov was again decorated by Soviet authorities, despite having been convicted and downgraded after the Winter War for "fraternizing with the enemy." After the end of World War II, Lieutenant Kolobanov served in the Soviet occupation zone in East Germany, where he was convicted again when a subordinate escaped to the British occupation zone, and was transferred to the reserves.

He remained in the army for some years, based in Belarus, and retired as a lieutenant-colonel. He then went on to work for the Minsk Auto Works.

A monument dedicated to the battle was installed in the village of Noviy Uchkhoz in 1980, at the place where Kolobanov's KV-1 was dug in, due solely to the demands of the villagers. Unfortunately it was impossible to find a KV-1 tank, so an IS-2 heavy tank was installed there instead.[2] On 8 September 2006, a monument in his honour was unveiled in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.[1] It was sponsored by the director of AGAVA, Vasiliy Monich.

Honours and awards[edit]

References[edit]

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