The Tokarev Nation
The term “Hell on Earth” is thrown around loosely in our modern times. What many people don’t realize is that from July-February of 1942-43 hell did exist on earth. During that time Hell resided in Stalingrad, U.S.S.R. Named after the Dictator Josef Stalin Josef Stalin, it was a fitting name; Stalin was estimated to have killed more of his people than any dictator in history. Upon discovering that Hitler’s 6th army was going to invade Stalingrad, Stalin ordered that citizens were not to be evacuated, all would stay and fight.
German ME-109 crashes in Stalingrad
The General and the Tunnel Rat
Just months earlier, German Lieutenant GeneralFriedrich Paulus Awoke in his quarters outside of Stalingrad, Russia with Hitler’s famous quote ringing in his ear “Where a German Soldier sets foot, he stays.” In the back of his mind the General had many doubts about the invasion of the Soviet city of Stalingrad. It was July of 1942, In America, a country only 168 years old it’s President Franklin D. Roosevelt had just approved the creation of the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) which would later become the Central Intelligence Agency. Japan had just seized the Philippines and Anne Frank went into hiding in Amsterdam, Holland as the Nazi’s purged the city of its Jewish inhabitants. Paulus’s doubts were well-founded, he objected to Hitler’s order to split German Forces, one part to invade Stalingrad the other to capture the Oil fields. General Paulus and his fellow officers new that Stalingrad was of little strategic importance.
The Tunnel Rat
Today, Alexander Sokolov is trying to control his breathing. He lays pressed against the side of a sewage tunnel doing everything he can to hide his presence from the Nazi SS Storm Troopers that have laid waste to his home. Alexander can see his breath for even in the sewers of Stalingrad the temperatures are well below freezing in the winter. He fights with all of his will not to cough; malnutrition and a lack of adequate sleep and shelter have left him with pneumonia. A dead body lay six feet from his position, a red army officer still clutching a Tokarev TT-33 pistol. The stench of the rotting corps and sewage was not prominent; the entire city of Stalingrad was a waste heap of rotting food, people and souls. Sokolov was only 16 years old when the fighting started in late summer. It was now January, and unknowingly to young Alexander it was also his birthday. At 5’3 and about 120 lbs. the tiny Sokolov had become a master of underground urban warfare. He had fashioned a periscope out of two dental mirrors and some pipe. With this device he only needs to reveal the top of his periscope and his pistol to the enemy. His tactic was to wound one German soldier then sprint to another position beneath the city.
Sokolov remembers his father’s words, “Kill a German soldier and he is no one’s burden, wound him, and he’s two soldier’s burden.” Sokolov estimated that up until today he had wounded approximately 60 soldiers with this hit and move tactic. When the fighting started, before his family was killed he fought above ground with his father, who was the first killed, his body torn apart from a direct hit from a German mortar. His father, an expert marksman taught Alexander all he knew. He would not think about his mother and eight year old sister’s death, the memories of her face was buried in the abyss of his mind. His sister’s freckled face and jet black hair locked away under layers of countless matryoshka dolls, each one smaller than the other until even his subconscious lost all ability to conjure her image.
Alexander gazed at the Tokarev TT-33 pistol as he covered his own mouth clawing his lips shut so his wheezing cough wouldn’t reveal his position. From one moment to the next his mindset changed from self-preservation to self-destruction. He grabbed the gun and shoved the barrel under his chin as he had seen others do. He was very familiar with the pistol and had one holstered on his side, only difference being it was without ammunition. His suffering would end in a split second, a push of a button if you will. The 17 year old Alexander Sokolov, son of a school teacher, citizen of Stalingrad would end his life on the day of his birth. As he clutched the pistol tightly, the boy who was raised agnostic found himself praying. Finger pressing against the usually hair trigger of the TT-33 it felt heavier than on any other occasion. It felt almost impossible to pull. He pulled the pistol from his chin and stared it down angrily as if it had insulted him. As he was cursing the pistol in his mind he heard a shriek from up top. A woman had been discovered by German soldiers. He estimated them to be approximately 25 meters from his position. Alexander could understand very little of what the battle hardened German soldiers were saying. He deduced by the sounds of debris being thrown that they had found a woman in hiding. Then more debris being moved and the sound of a child, a girl, screaming for her mommy. The sound was the key that unlocked the memory of his Mother and sister’s death. He looked again to his newly discovered pistol and again put it under his chin. Pressing the trigger his heart raced and what little adrenaline he had left coursed through his body. Again, the trigger felt locked up and unmovable. He thought “Has it rusted over?” Then, it hit him. There was nothing wrong with the gun; it was in a half- cocked position which locked up the action. After attempting suicide twice Alexander felt exhilaration. He felt a freedom he hadn’t felt since before the war had moved to his front door step. He thought to himself, “One more mission.” He had to save the mother and daughter. He knew there were at least two Soldiers and at the sight and sound of one being shot the other would shoot down the civilians.
One more Mission
Luckily the cover to the sewer was already missing as were most; night was approaching and would make a shot more difficult. Sokolov very slowly made his way up the ladder to the opening. He very slowly peaked out through the opening as he had so many other times “Turkey peaking” in a 360 degree circle with 4 movements. The first peak revealed two German soldiers standing over a woman in her 30’s holding an 8 year old girl with jet black hair and freckles to her bosom. The sight was achingly familiar and paralyzing. He wouldn’t let it happen again. As Sokolov’s mindset turned from self-destruction to his mission so did the fundamentals of marksmanship. He knew he must breathe slowly and relax. He told him- self “Breath in, halfway out and squeeze, focusing on the front sight.” The mantra had entered his mind like a prayer. After fully cocking his Tokarev TT-33, He raised his periscope barely to surface level just enough to place his newly discovered Tokarev in front of it. Both soldiers were now pointing there MP-40 submachine guns at the defenseless females. They seemed to be bickering over who would kill the girl. Sokolov had to take a shot but he knew he only had a split second between shots and he could not do that fast enough using a periscope. Then he remembered an observation from the summer. He had seen a red army officer execute two German soldiers at once with one shot through both heads, while they were wearing helmets. Upon executing the soldiers another officer brought him a handful of cigarettes, Sokolov assumed that it was payment for losing the bet that the pistol could exterminate two Germans for the price of one.
The soldiers were lined up just enough for Sokolov to get a shot through ones neck and through the head of the other. As the soldier closest to his position raised his weapon Sokolov gently squeezed on the trigger, the other hand held the periscope steadily as the young Russian focused on the front sight through the two dirty mirrors. The shot surprised Sokolov as well as the first German soldier hit. The recoil of the pistol smacked the periscope which was usually Sokolov’s cue to sprint as fast and far as he could. This time was different. Sokolov raised the periscope back to its original position and observed two dead Germans. He only dare stick his hand out to wave the woman and her daughter over to the safety of his position. In dis- belief at the “trick shot” she had witnessed she reluctantly carried her daughter over to the hole that she saw a hand and a scope peaking from. As they made their way down the ladder the little girl asked Alexander who he was and where he was taking them. He replied, “I am Alexander Sokolov, leader of The Rat Nation.” He informed her that several of his comrades were living beneath the streets like rats and that is the name they gave their dwelling, then he lifted up his Tokarev pistol and informed her that most of them always had their Tokarevs on them. She replied, “My name is Nina, and it wouldn't be polite to call you a rat.” Alexander managed to muster up a chuckle and asked what name she would suggest. Nina looked down for a moment then raised her eyebrows and smiled “You are Commander Sokolov, leader of the Tokarev Nation!”
In the same month the German General would be faced with the same two choices; One of self-destruction, or preservation of the lives of his country-men. Against Hitler’s wishes General Paulus surrendered to the Red Army on January 31, 1943. The Soviets took back Stalingrad.