Narrated: Ruvim Katz, St-Petersburg, Russia
English Translation: Mark Klionsky, webmaster's father, St-Petersburg, Russia
Posted on: 26 Sep 2015
Last Updated on: 26 Sep 2015
Narrated by my grandfather Ruvim Katz as a Red Army First Lieutenant stationed in Latvia in the end of 1941-1945 war

Рувим, 1955 г.
By Ruvim Katz (1918-2018), retired Red Army lieutenant-colonel, WWII veteran and webmaster’s grandfather. After his discharge from the military service in early 1960s, Ruvim and his family lived in St-Petersburg, Russia

The series consist of several short stories that Ruvim narrated from memory to Mark Klionsky, webmaster’s father.

Soviet advance in the Baltic region 1944 г
In October 1944, I was in command of the radio company, headquarters of the 1st Shock Army from the 3rd Baltic Front under commander of Army General Maslennikov.

Our troops had just liberated Riga and corps headquarters was located on the outskirts of the city.

The Germans abandoned their property and military equipment, and began to make their way to the coast.

There they awaited the German ships that came directly from the raid. The Gulf of Riga of the Baltic Sea is shallow, so retreating German soldiers walked right on the water, and then swam to their ships.
The Front Command was unhappy about the Germans escaping the encirclement, and demanded that the corps commander make every effort to cut off the retreating enemy from their ships.
The order had to be transferred to the division, which was located right near the Baltic coast.

This could be done only by radio, since a wired connection had not yet been established.

But all the attempts to contact the radio station at the division headquarters went unanswered.

I was summoned by the corps commander, Major-General Nikishin. Upon arrival, I saw him in great excitement.

The general was pacing back and forth, and continually repeated: "Oh my God, Oh my God." He had a habit of remembering "my God" in a difficult situation.

Then the General ordered me to find the headquarters of the "silenced" division and re-establish radio contact.

The headquarters of the that division was at a distance of approximately 80 to 120 miles.
click to enlarge
Soviet propaganda poster celebrating the “liberation of the Baltic States”
I was given a passenger car with a chauffeur, I grabbed a weapon (a captured Colt pistol), and walked off.

WWII Soviet poster: Our brave Signal corps! The front lines require clear and unbroken connections!
But how to find the headquarters of this artililery division?

After all, during the army’s advance all the roads were overcrowded with cars, people, and army machinery.

I had to ask soldiers and officers, one by one, if anyone knew the location of the division in question.

And then – a stroke of good luck!

The driver of a truck shouted: "I'm from this division."

I immediately moved over to his car and thus got to division's headquarters. The trip took about two hours.
The Lieutenant-Colonel face immediately harden, his jaw and teeth clenched when he learned from someone that I had arrived from corps headquarters.
"There can be no such thing that there is no connection. After all, the radio and wireless operators are in order. I know that for a fact!" 

The radio station with assigned staff was housed near the division's headquarters building, in a house right across the street.

Together we ran to this house, with horrible thoughts rushing into our heads.

Are those people dead? Killed by Germans? How could that happened next to the corps headquarters? Is there an imminent German attack?

We quickly broke in through the locked entrance door and what did we see?

The radio receiver-transmitter set was turned off, and all radio operators were lying drunk and unconscious on the floor...

There were four privates and a sergeant in charge.
click to enlarge
"RCB" model of Soviet WWII radio-transmitter set used by Ruvim
Riga was captured, booty was plundered, and many prisoners were captured, so why not get drunk?

Many of us thought the end of the war was near after Riga was taken. 

(They were wrong; in a small part of Latvia, adjacent to the Balic Sea, the remnants of the German Army, and supporting Latvian and Estonian SS units, continued to resist with varying success over the next 8 months, until the very end of the war.)

Written commendation letter to Ruvim Katz from the comanding officer, 1944 г.
Where did these soldiers get the alcohol for drinking?
It was part of the “advance” ration : all infantry units, including radio operators, were given 100-150 grams of alcohol per person before every major offensive.

Some refused to drink alcohol at all (like Ruvim, for example), and used to give away or trade their share to others.

So those solders who wanted to get drunk were able to obtain a lot more than 100 grams of alcohol.

The Lieutenant-Colonel tried in vain to bring the drunken soldiers to their senses, but they could not even stand on their feet and with curses were shoved out of the building.
The officer said in a hopeless voice,

"Where do we get a radio operator?"

"I’m a radio operator,'' I replied

I knew this radio-transmitter set very well. This was a common `RCB` model used for short range ground communications.

So I switched it on, tuned in to the Army HQ waves, and transmitted the message using Morse code.

Thus, the communication to corps headquarters was restored. And if there is a link, it meant that there was a command and control.

I continued to operate the radio-transmitter set for the next several hours.

And as I left I was told that a few hours later the German ships withdrew from the raid and headed out to sea.

On my return, the General hugged me and expressed a lot of warm words.

For my initiative and the timely execution of my assignments, I received a commendation letter with the General’s signature (above).