Russia’s deadly new weapon

The Katyusha rocket launcher was a highly mobile method of delivering a surprise saturation bombardment of over 4 tons of explosive over a relatively small area.

The German army was now exhausted, it supply lines stretched, most units reduced to a fraction of their former size by casualties and illness. Still they were being exhorted to fight on as the weather changed for the worse.

Despite terrible losses and enormous numbers of troops captured the Red Army continued to fight on. And now new weapons began to appear on the battlefield. There were only limited means of dealing with the T-34, which had recently appeared in numbers.

Max Kuhnert was a member of a small mounted reconnaissance unit when he encountered yet another new weapon:

A new menace from the Russians appeared on the horizon and it was really nasty. It was a rocket contraption on a truck capable of firing 40 to 46 rockets in a machine-gun-like fashion and, after firing them, disappearing to a different position very quickly so we were not able to reach and destroy it.

Apparently it was a frame on a truck; with rockets resembling organ pipes, which when ignited went off like fireworks. We called it the ‘Stalin Organ’. Its calibre must have been about 10.5mm, it was very powerful and did a great deal of damage. We had no defence against it at the time, we had many casualties from it.

When our regimental company finally caught up with us I got bad news, which shook me badly; I had fnot expected that anything like this could happen to our small outfit. Krones and Falk had both been cut to pieces by those awful rockets, they must have got the full blast.

When I reached spot about an hour later found only pitiful remains, and their horses had also been I torn apart.

They had both been waiting for orders from Battalion and were dismounted, leaning against the wall of a house, holding the reins of their horses. I was told that one minute they were laughing joking and the next they just disappeared and the earth erupted around them, even the small block-house was flattened. One could only see their burnt remains.

It was just sickening. I could hardly take in the whole bloody mess, the only thing I could do was to heap them together as best I could. It was one of the grimmest tasks I had to perform during the war.

I laid what I could find of them on my tent sheet. There was no sign of their identity discs which should have been around their necks, and probably had been, but there were no necks, only charred remains, a foot, a bone or arm here and there, pieces of their torsos were clinging to the beams of wood, which were still smouldering.

See Will We See Tomorrow?: A German Cavalryman at War, 1939-42

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