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21 May, 2010 10:35

“I used submachine-gun as a club that I pounded on their heads with”

RT presents War Witness – a special project dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Second World War.

Deputy commander of a Russian rifle company, Mikhail Popkov remembers how the German infantry fought.

“The Germans held a good position and were resolved to hold on to the bitter end. When we rushed into the German trench, they were fighting with the desperation of the doomed. To the last man.”

Ed Johann, seaplane tender, 3rd class, US Navy, participated in the Pearl Harbor battle, saving those who jumped off the burning ships.

“I joined the Navy because I had an older brother and a younger brother, and my dad was working in a packing house for 35 cents an hour and was lucky to have a job. So I figured it will just be one less mouth to feed if I join the Navy. And the good thing about it was I got $21 a month salary, and I could send $10 a month home to my folks, which was a big boost for them.

“The hospital ship Solace had come through the Panama Canal and came out to Pearl Harbor. And in the meantime I was on the USS Wright, which was a seaplane tender, so I had to bring my baggage over to this hospital ship.

“And that’s where we were ready to take Sunday morning, and there were church services on other vessels there, and plus over on Fort Island, and I think some of the fellas probably wanted to go over there just to be on dry land, and not so much maybe for religious purposes. But anyway, that’s where we were standing by to do when the planes started coming in, and everything just started mushrooming from there.

“We were just, like, amazed at first. Like some fellas were saying, ‘Jesus!’ Surprised how they had maneuvers on Sunday morning. And then we found out that it wasn’t maneuvers when explosions started – fires and the smoke. It was like a bedlam. It was just traumatic. We started going over to other ships and taking the wounded. They would lower the wounded down. And we would put them in our boat and take them to the hospital ship. We kept doing that, and then this thing intensified. Fellas were jumping off the deck of the ships, and we’ve got the wounded there, so we don’t have much free room ourselves. And we were thinking, ‘They are going to swamp us, and we all are going to be in the water.’ By now, the water had a lot of oil in it. And some of the oil was burning on the water. And we started taking the guys – I have no idea how many trips we made, but we were pulling them out of the water, and a lot of fellas were full of oil on them. We tried to pull them into the boat, and they were just skidding out. Then there was a lot of burns – some of the fellas in the water, their arms were burning.