The 30th Guards Tank Brigade (T-34-76 tanks) of Leningrad Front with attached heavy armour (SU-152 and JS-2 tanks) attacked Finnish positions in Ihantala Village on June 30, 1944. The battle raged on in the village, on the church hill and at the village cemetery.
A T-34-76 tank (turret number 450) broke through the Finnish defences and drove towards Enso and Imatra. After travelling some 2 kilometres into the Finnish rear, the tank turned back and drove along the same route. The ambush consisting of 2 StuG III from 303th Sturmgeschuetz Brigade and a number of Finnish infantrymen with Panzerfausts was awaiting the lone T-34 in some 500 metres north from the village. The tank was executed at point blank range. The tanks ammo blew up and the vehicle was completely destroyed.
The tank was destroyed behind the Finnish defences and Finns arranged an impressive photo session around the tank, with Finnish infantry passing by the tank. They were all armed with new close-range anti-tanks weapons just arrived from Germany via Tallinn. The photos were widely used by Finnish propaganda to boost morale and became iconic images of the final battle between East and West on the Karelian Isthmus.
The place where the tank was destroyed still exists. It is a patch of old unused highway from Ihantala to Imatra.
Commander of the ill-fated T-34-76 was apparently 2nd Lieutenant Nikolai Zhirnov. Names of the rest of the crew are not yet found.
Well known in Finland and in Russia, Bair has been running tours to the battlefields of the Winter War and the Battle of Leningrad since 2000. He’s a dedicated researcher and field archaeologist who speaks Russian, Finnish, English, Swedish and German. He regularly turns up facts and accounts that have never been seen in English before. You can buy Bair’s book here: bair-books.com