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Service dogs made their contribution to the victory of our troops over the Nazis, about whose exploits many memoirs have been written. However, other animals also “fought” at the front, and this fact, unfortunately, is not so widely known. Alas, the participation of combat camels, donkeys, deer and even elk in the Great Patriotic War remained almost unnoticed. Meanwhile, these ungulates were indispensable helpers to our fighters.
CamelsDuring the battles at Stalingrad in Astrakhan, the 28th Reserve Army was formed, and the question arose about the transportation of its guns. There were no free trucks and even horses, and the command decided to use camels. Local shepherd boys helped the fighters to train the animals to carry out the assigned tasks. As a result, the camels learned to carry the field kitchen and, most importantly, the hardest tools. In practice, these animals turned out to be almost twice as hardy as horses.
During the battles at Stalingrad, together with our soldiers, many "humpbacked assistants" were killed. So, for example, when the 771st artillery regiment defended the Manych River, a German tank group retreating towards Rostov was on its way. As a result of a short but bloody battle, more than 90% of the camels were killed. The soldiers hid in the trenches, and the huge animals rushing across the battlefield became a live target for the enemy. They fell under the shots and groaned. And after the end of the battle, the Nazis walked between the bodies of the camels and finished off the wounded animals.
It is worth noting that Soviet fighters still tried to protect the camels as much as possible, and if they died, they experienced their death in the same way as the death of their comrades in arms. There were cases when soldiers heroically saved the lives of their camels. However, out of 350 Astrakhan animals, only a few managed to survive in the war.
Among them are Mishka and Mashka - camels rescued during the battle and reached Berlin. It was the unit in which these camels were involved that first hit the Reichstag. Celebrating victory, Soviet soldiers shouting "They fought too!" they decided to somehow reward the camels and jokingly put German orders and medals on them.
After the war, Mishka and Mashka were left at the Berlin Zoo, and then they were transported to the Moscow Zoo, where they lived until the end of their days.
Another heroic camel, Yashka, also reached Berlin. He received this name from the place of his birth - the animal entered the army from the Kalmyk village of Yashkul. Yashka's chest was also weighed with enemy orders, and on his back our soldiers hoisted a poster "Astrakhan - Berlin".
DonkeysIn 1940-1941, 11 pack and donkey companies were created in the Red Army. In the mountainous conditions of the Caucasus, donkeys coped well with the delivery of not very heavy loads.
On Malaya Zemlya (a bridgehead near Novorossiysk), as well as on the entire foothills of the Caucasian ridge, donkeys were the main transport of our army. They transported ammunition, weapons, equipment. The donkeys were carefully monitored and cared for as a great value. During the day, they were taken out to graze in gullies and mountain crevices, trying to choose places more modestly so that the enemy would not notice.
According to the observations of Soviet soldiers, during the war, these animals showed great ingenuity and unquestioningly obeyed their masters.Moreover, if two donkeys met on a narrow mountain path and one of them walked empty, and the other was carrying a load, the first always gave way to his loaded brother, cuddling to the ground and allowing himself to step over.
DeerIn the harsh conditions of the North, deer became ideal assistants for our fighters who defended the Soviet borders in the Arctic. Ordinary horses turned out to be bad helpers here, moreover, they simply turned into a burden for the army. But the use of deer has shown its effectiveness.
Local troops began to practice moving on deer back in February 1940, so by the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, there was already sufficient experience in this matter.
A month after the start of the war, on June 29, the Germans, with the support of the Finns, implementing the Zilberfuks (Silver Fox) plan, struck Murmansk, and two days later they hit Kandalaksha. In the fall, according to the decision of the Military Council of the 14th Army, three army reindeer transports were formed in support of our troops to repel the enemy. Each of them consisted of 1015 deer and 15 reindeer herding dogs. Driven by soldiers-reindeer herders, the hoofed animals transported a total of more than three hundred cargo and light sleds. The Northern Fleet Marine Corps also had its own brigade of "transport reindeer".
The animals were provided with adequate nutrition. In the Murmansk region, local residents were attracted to take care of them - the Sami (Lapps), who were enlisted in the ranks of the soldiers-reindeer herders. And in the Arkhangelsk region, the Nenets and Komi were recruited. Reindeer breeders not only had vast experience in working with animals, but also had excellent local knowledge.
Reindeer were harnessed to one sled according to the same principle as three horses. Often used a complex of three to five cargo and one light sled, which was called "raida". On a reindeer road, such a ride could cover up to 35 kilometers a day, and off-road - up to 25 kilometers. The teams transported boxes with cartridges, shells, grenades, mortars, howitzers, and also brought cartridges and bombs to Soviet aircraft. Also, our soldiers used sledges as carts for machine guns, transported the wounded on reindeer sleds and delivered urgent reports.
The contribution of the "reindeer troops" to the victory over the Nazis is evidenced at least by the fact that during the war, the animals that were part of the 14th Army removed from the battlefield more than 10 thousand wounded and sick, and also transported 162 emergency aircraft, previously disassembled for parts.
There were also big losses in the "reindeer troops". For example, on the Karelian front, by the fall of 1944, out of 10,000 deer, only a little more than a thousand remained alive.
ElkThese animals, like deer, were indispensable in winter, as well as in warmer times in hard-to-reach areas. Elk farms appeared in our country even before the war, so in the Great Patriotic War there was already an experience of using them in the army. These animals could perfectly overcome swampy areas and dense forest areas.
However, the most difficult task in the preparation of "fighting moose" was to teach them not to be afraid of the sounds of explosions and shots. But we managed to cope with this: on farms, moose calves were taught to shoot from an early age. As a result, such sounds became familiar to animals and in war they were no longer frightened.
Elks have shown themselves well in exploration applications. However, this practice did not become widespread, because, unlike the situation with deer, there were not enough specialists here who knew how to work with such animals.