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In the testimony of a Soviet officer of the raid on Tatsinskaya cited by Wikipedia, the Soviet officer speaks of two elements faced by Soviet tanks:

  • Enemy artillery
  • Germans "launching grenades [that blows up] tanks"

My question is: if artillery is antitank artillery, as I supposed, what are those "grenades"? Is this a bad name for mortar shells? For antitank rounds (and if yes could it be HEAT rounds)? Or is it true rifle-launched grenades, that as far as I know existed during WW2 but were not that much efficient because of lack of precision?

Here I have copied the testimony:

Our tank detachments unexpectedly broke into Tatsinski military airport. First to penetrate enemy's territory was captain Nechaev's battalion. A tough fight between tanks and enemy artillery began. Germans were shooting grenades at the Russian (sic - Soviet) tanks and managed to blow up several of them. However the Soviet tank crews broke the Nazi defense. After they destroyed patrol forces, Russian (sic) soldiers started shooting German pilots that rushed to their planes desperately hoping to save their lives

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    Have you considered the Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck man-portable anti-tank weapons? The Russians referred to such weapons as anti-tank grenades.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 21:21
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    Not sure about Romanians or Russians, but the Germans actually used the name "tank grenade" for their anti-tank rounds: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzergranate_39
    – Jan
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 22:10
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    When reading non-English sources or translations thereof, it's important to remember that many languages do not distinguish "grenade" and "shell" (and, frequently, "bomb").
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 4:38
  • @SteveBird Yes but since they both entered service in 1943, I assume they could not have been in more than individual numbers in such a non-priority location as Tatsinskaya airport Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 20:52
  • @Jan that's because in German (and Dutch) the term for shell (as in something fired from a gun/cannon) is Granat (or granaat in Dutch) which is exactly the same word as grenade in English. In German and Dutch therefore there is no distinction
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 8:06

2 Answers 2

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Both weapons are AA guns

The answer has nothing to do with what different languages mean by "grenade." The testimony is just a very bad translation.

Wikipedia cites a Voice of Russia article (dead link, but Wayback Machine has a backup). The original VoR article has a Russian version (presumably the canonical one given the source).

The original quote, with the sentences that your question is about highlighted:

Наши части внезапно ворвались на тацинский аэродром. Первым туда ворвался батальон капитана Нечаева. Завязался тяжелый бой с зенитным дивизионом противника. Зенитчики били по танкам в упор и подожгли несколько машин. Однако танкисты сумели подавить их сопротивление. Уничтожив охрану аэродрома, танкисты расстреливали бегущих к самолетам летчиков.

My translation:

Our forces suddenly burst into the Tatsinskaya airfield. Captain Nechaev's battalion was the first to break through. There was heavy fighting against the enemy's anti-air division. AA gunners fired at our tanks at point-blank range and set several of the vehicles on fire. However, the tank crews were able to suppress their resistance. Having destroyed the airfield guards, the crews began firing on pilots who were fleeing for their planes.

The "artillery" in the English translation is anti-air in the original. It was common at that point during the war to use anti-air cannon against tanks, as Germany was short on artillery that could penetrate Soviet medium armor. The weapon used was likely the 88mm Flak which had an extensive history of anti-tank warfare.

The raid was also against an airfield, which would have such cannons readily available (the English version calls them "patrol forces" but the Russian text says "airfield guards").

Curiously, the reference to grenades is missing entirely, which tracks since a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft detachment would not be able to throw grenades high enough to hit a plane.

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    +1 That translation was done by someone who was bad at Russian or English. I'll add a proper one, feel free to add it to the answer:
    – Eugene
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 20:20
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    Our forces breached the Tatsin airfield with the element of surprise. Captain Nechayev's battalion was first. А tough battle with the enemy's AA battalion ensued. The AA guys were shooting at the tanks point-blank and set fire to several, but the tankers managed to suppress their resistance. With the airfield's protectors destroyed, the tankers mowed down the pilots running to their aircraft.
    – Eugene
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 20:29
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    Thanks, this looks like the most reliable answer (if of course the translation is correct, I don't speak russian). 88 mm being able to destroy Russian tanks is also very plausible Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 20:54
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    @Eugene "tank crews" might be understood by more people than "tankers" (or "tankists") would when translating танки́сты
    – Henry
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 1:51
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    @Eugene If you try the Tank Museum website, "tanker" appears on one accessible page (the battle of Kursk) while "tank crew" appears on 24 pages.
    – Henry
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 10:12
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During WWII, "grenade" in Russian meant mostly a hand grenade. Both Germans and Soviets had hand-launched anti-tank grenades.

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