Russian Soldiers Surrender in Normandy-From YANK Magazine

About the Russians in Normandy

By Sgt. Reg. Kenny

YANK Staff Correspondent

NORMANDY—Two American medics, the motor of their jeep opened wide as they approached the railroad crossing near Portbail—where everyone knew that the Jerries had already zeroed in their 88s—were startled to see two bedraggled fighters in the unmistakable uniform of the German Army waving white flags at their approaching car. Despite the fact that they were unarmed, the medics stopped and ordered the prisoners to get aboard.

Thus started the following incident which might easily be taken from one of Hollywood’s best.


Under the watchful eyes of an American officer, A Russian Corporal sits in a French farmhouse penning a leaflet urging his comrades to surrender

Cpl. Sansjiar Waliulin, a sandy-haired, happy-go-lucky little guy born in Moscow, joined the Russian Army at the age of sixteen. Six months later, during the siege of Smolensk, he was captured by the Germans. Thrown in prison and fed just enough to keep alive, he found escape was impossible. All around him his fellow captives were ill and dying from lack of treatment. Then, when all seemed hopeless, their captors offered them a chance, knowing well that they were in no position to refuse. “We promise you good food and treatment,” they said, “if you will join one of our voluntary organizations.  Just sign here and you will be released. Otherwise, you will work anyway and your conditions will not improve.”


Some, like this soldier, were impressed and surrendered quickly.

Grasping at the slim chance of the possibility of escape, the Russian Corporal accepted the offer and together with his fellow captives was put to work digging gun emplacements and building barricades. A few months passed, and then one day he was put into a German uniform, given a rifle and told that he must fight for the “Fatherland.” With the muzzles of his captors’ guns constantly in his back, he could do little but obey. “If only I can escape!” was the thought that kept him going. Freedom was the only thing that he and his comrades talked about.

Two days after their arrival at the front, the little Corporal saw his chance. When none of the German officers or non-coms were around, he picked up his friend Ivan and started down the railroad track, which he knew led into the American lines. As they edged their way across the steel-ribboned “No Man’s Land” toward our lines, their hearts pounded with fear as they waited for the crack of the German rifles or the bark of American infantryman’s guns. Then, where the tracks crossed the road, the American jeep picked them up and they were safe.

No sooner was Cpl. Waliulin safely in custody than he began to repeat over and over, through interpreters, that his countrymen were waiting to surrender, if only they knew how. They were afraid to cross into our lines for fear of being shot.


Prisoners say that many more of their comrades also would like to accept the offer…

“I will write a note to them,” he said suddenly, “and tell them that it will be safe for them to give themselves up.”

Then, while the Intelligence Officer and his staff hurried about borrowing reams of paper and mimeograph equipment, the little Russian sat down and in large, clear letters wrote:

“Comrades and friends:

Come here! The American soldiers are friends. You will get enough to eat and to smoke. Don’t be afraid. Tell your comrades and Russian non-coms to come. Wave this leaflet over your head. Don’t be afraid! Shoot the Fascist pigs! Come during the day.”


…and here they carefully point out the position of the battalion on the map to the Americans.


To convince the doubtful ones. Pvt. Biakin volunteers to return to his own lines.

Following a fierce artillery barrage, copies of this leaflet were loaded into 105-mm shells and fired at the spot where the enslaved Russian battalion was dug in. Soon after the noise of the shooting had stopped, two Russians, the leaflet clutched in their hands, crossed over to our lines. The rest were afraid to risk being shot by our men after they had left the Germans, and before they could make it clear to us who they were. Pvt. Dimitri Biakin, a swarthy, bushy-headed man of 43, holding on to his leaflet, spoke up: “I will go back through the German lines to my comrades and tell them that it will be safe to come out and surrender to you.”


Biakin is blindfolded so that he can’t memorize the American situation…

Now the question arose! Would it be a trap or would it be a safe gamble to allow the captive to return to his own lines? The decision was made by the CO of the Division. After talking with the prisoner for some time, he was convinced of the Russian’s sincerity.

With three enlisted men, one of whom could speak a little Russian, a lieutenant in the Intelligence Corps brought the captive back to the spot where he had been picked up by our jeep. The scene that followed is best described in the words of S/Sgt. Walt Strauss, of Jamaica, IL, who was one of the four Americans who volunteered for the job of bringing the whole Russian battalion.

“We were all kind of uneasy as we released our prisoner and watched him disappear down the tracks. We had told him before he left that if he did not return in two hours, our artillery would open and blast both himself and his countrymen out of hiding. We repeatedly told him that it would be perfectly safe for his return; that all of the American troops in the area had been warned of the plan and would not shoot at him.


…then helped into a jeep by S/Sgt. Walt Strauss, of Jamaica, L.I., and driven close…


…to the Nazi lines. After a nerve-wracking delay, he returns with his battalion

“None of us said much after he was gone. We checked and rechecked our carbines, and kept wondering what the four of us would do if this was a trap. As the minutes dragged by—five, ten and twenty—we began to get worried. Maybe it was a trap after all. Maybe the Russians had lied to us. Maybe at any moment the German 88s would blast us to bits.


YANK’s Reg Kenny, lower right, wins four new readers for us, Hitler losses four more fighters.

“Suddenly, far in the distance along the railroad tracks, we saw a score of tiny white dots, heading straight for us! I know that there was not one of us who did not have an awful feeling of uncertainty as we strained our eyes to see if they were Germans or the Russians. Then as they got closer, we could see that the white dots which we had first seen were white handkerchiefs tied around their owners’ caps. In their upraised hands, the Russians carried the bolts from their rifles and machine guns, according to our instructions. Our long chance had paid off!”

For the rest of the day and the next morning, more and more of the Russians made their way safely to our lines, until their number swelled past the hundred mark. They were still coming in as I left the regiment that afternoon, and the last thing I heard was the laughter of the MP’s who had been told by the last man to surrender how the German Commandant in charge of the Russians was doing the Nazi counterpart of “blowing his top” over the sudden death of his best non-coms and the disappearance of his entire battalion!

Hitler should reread the Fable about leading a horse to water….

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