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     Home > SOVIET ORDERS AND MEDALS > Order of the Patriotic War

    Order of the Patriotic War 1st class, Type 2 Variation 2, #306931, with a document, awarded on 8 November 1943 to Mikhail Olkhovskiy.

    Order of the Patriotic War 1st class, Type 2 Variation 2, #306931, with a document, awarded on 8 November 1943 to Mikhail Olkhovskiy.

    In solid gold (14 K), sterling silver and enamels; 46.3 mm tall x 43.5 mm wide; weighs 31.5 g without screw plate. This version features a two-line mint mark. The spokes on the reverse of the golden sunburst are at 2, 6 and 10 o'clock positions.

    The order is in very fine condition. There are shallow surface chips and flakes near the lower edge of the lower right arm. None of them however penetrate to the silver, and they are therefore not very detractive. The enamel is almost perfectly preserved otherwise having only a few microscopic contact marks elsewhere and showing beautiful luster. The details of the starburst, rifle and sword are extremely crisp. The screw post is full length, approx. 12 mm long measured from the reverse of the gold starburst. Comes with original screw plate of late war - early post-war type.

    The order booklet is of late 1950s issue. It shows only a single decoration, the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st cl., with its serial number and award decree (Decree #1082 of the 18th Army). Note that the date of the decree shown as 8.01.1943 is incorrect, a clerical error: it should have been "8.11.1943" as evident from the Russian archival documents. The document is in very good to excellent condition. The cover shows only minimal soiling to the edges. The binding is tight, and the gold state seal and writing on the cover are nice and bright. The internal pages have faint water stains at the bottom, otherwise completely intact and clean.

    It is interesting to see that both the award and document were delivered to the recipient long after the war, in late 1950s - a clear case of what Russians usually refer to as nagrada nashla geroya i.e. "the award found the hero". Situations like this were not particularly uncommon: the paperwork was often lost or misplaced in the chaos of war, and many of the award recipients only discovered that they had been decorated years later, sometimes by chance.

    Mikhail Olkhovskiy joined the Red Army in 1940, at the age of 19. He fought in the Patriotic War from 1942, and by late 1943, had been wounded in combat twice. On 1 November 1943, Guards Lt. Olkhovskiy took part in the amphibious assault at Eltigen (south of Kerch in Crimea) as a platoon commander with the 142nd Naval Infantry Battalion, 255th Taman Naval Rifle Brigade, 18th Army.

    Following the audacious and extremely costly attack, a small patch of land captured by the Soviet marines soon became completely isolated by the Germans who enjoyed immense superiority in men and weapons. Nevertheless, the naval infantrymen held off for 36 days before breaking out of the encirclement. Then they made a forced march to Kerch, captured a part of the city with its commanding mountain, established a beachhead, and held it until they were finally picked up on Nov. 25 by warships of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. Perhaps unsuccessful in purely tactical sense, the Eltigen operation was a morale booster and gained a tremendous amount of publicity in Russia. It is still considered legendary there, an important part of the country's Naval Infantry lore.

    Olkhovsky showed himself to best advantage on the very first day of the operation. According to the subsequent award commendation, his platoon was the first to storm the beach where it boldly engaged the numerically superior enemy. Olkhovsky killed six Nazi soldiers with his submachine gun, while all men of his platoon "fought like lions, not sparing their lives for the beloved Motherland". The platoon destroyed five machine gun nests and captured several enemy dugouts.

    The recommendation to award Olkhovskiy with an Order of the Patriotic War was typed on 7 November; on the following day, it was signed by his brigade commander Col. Kharichev (who did not take part in the landing). At that point, the operation was yet unfolding and the future fate of its participants looked very bleak. Nevertheless, the naval infantrymen such as Olkhovskiy had already demonstrated exceptional heroism in the initial action at Eltigen, and their assault had been widely publicized by the Soviet press. Perhaps for that reason - and in deviation from the previous Soviet practice - high decorations including some Hero Stars were bestowed on a number of the members of the assault force long before the operation was over. Many of them of course didn't live to receive their awards, but Olkhovskiy was one of the lucky few who survived.

    Olkhovskiy apparently was never awarded with any other combat decorations beside the 1943 Order of the Patriotic War. We currently have no information on his service beyond that point, but further research may be worthwhile.

    Research Materials: photocopy of the award commendation; copy of the relevant pages (pp. 270-295) about the Kerch- Eltigen operation in the Russian language book "Black Sea Sailors in the Great Patriotic War" by G. Vaneev (1978). Detailed information about the 255th Naval Rifle Brigade can be found in Vol. VII "Red Death" of the Charles Sharp's WW2 Soviet Order of Battle series.


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