Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 June 2021
In late November 1941, as the Battle for Moscow raged, Soviet newspapers heralded a remarkable act of bravery at a place west of the capital called Dubosekovo. According to reports, twenty-eight members of the 316th Rifle Division (later redesignated the 8th Guards “Panfilov” Division) stood their ground against a column of fifty-four German tanks, destroying as many as eighteen in the process. Although all twenty-eight men perished in the fighting, their gallantry had forced the withdrawal of the much larger and better equipped German force. This story, repeated in various iterations throughout the war, proved extremely popular. As the Germans advanced on the city of Stalingrad in the late summer of 1942, for example, one political officer noted in his diary that he was suddenly compelled “to call out to the soldiers of the south: ‘Fight like the twenty-eight! Crush tanks as they were crushed by the Panfilov-Guardsmen outside Moscow.