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A Green Gabardine Tunic and a Medal “For Courage”

Pictured: Lieutenant-General V. I. Chuikov, Commander of the 62nd Army in Stalingrad; N. V. Orlov, a young Red Army scout and soldier who was 16 years old in 1942.

Marshal Chuikov emanated a natural, genuine warmth toward his soldiers, regardless of their age or position. Nikolai Vasilievich Orlov was a teenager during the Great Patriotic War, and he and his family were all involved in the Soviet defense. His mother was in the NKVD 10th Division, and his father was a fighter pilot. Nikolai became a soldier at a young age, and he fought at the boat landing site on the Volga in the defense of Stalingrad during the hardest of days. Vasily Ivanovich wanted to personally recognize him for his bravery. Orlov shared his encounter with Lieutenant-General Chuikov and the warm greeting he received at the 62nd Army HQ:

“I was a kid then. I did not consider myself an adult, and at times I was even embarrassed. The soldiers of age 20-22 were just boys, but they seemed to me as mature men. […] I came in and heard the other people murmuring: ‘Here is the hero!’ I went on and could not realize: ‘Well, what have I done that is so special? Why are they ushering me in here? They, probably, are going to give me another assignment…’ I was figuring to myself.

Then the aide said: ‘Vasily Ivanovich will come here soon.’ Then Vasily Chuikov came in: ‘Well, where is he?’ He came up to me and hugged me! […] And then addressing the others: ‘We are sure to win with fellows like this!’ And with such jokes he hugged and kissed me and asked: ‘What reward do you want?’… I am honest with you, back then people did not think about any rewards and decorations. Generally, as we had been retreating all the time very few people were awarded in the Battle of Stalingrad. Only after the Battle of Stalingrad did rewards and decorations started being ladled out generously. The entire 10th Division of the NKVD had perished here and only 368 of its servicemen were decorated. Not a single one was honored with the Hero’s title.

Vasily Chuikov asked again: ‘Well, what do you want?’ I looked at him... He wore such a fine gabardine uniform, […] And I said, ‘Here's what I want, such a tunic!’ And he said: ‘Do you want all of this?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I don’t want your insignia and decorations, I just want a gabardine tunic, like this one!’ [Chuikov] turned and laughed: ‘Well, what shall we do with the guys like him? Let it be so! Tomorrow morning take him to the 13th Division and hand him such a tunic!’

Back then taking photos was not particularly allowed and there were no facilities for that. But my photo was taken anyway, and the picture was handed to me later—the only one. Then my future fate was associated with intelligence and I had no more pictures. The only one I have now is this one—wearing a gabardine tunic. At the same time when they gave me the tunic I was decorated with the medal ‘For Courage.’ According to the statute, prior to getting that medal ‘For Courage’ one was supposed to be decorated with the medal ‘For Battle Merit’ first. But I skipped that part and was handed the medal ‘For Courage’ in the first place.”


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