Russia – Soviet: An Outstanding Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive T-34/85 Tank Commander’s Gold Star for a Hero of the Soviet Union awarded to Senior Lieutenant, later Colonel Mikhail Vasilievich Kopitin, Commander, 1st Tank Company , 229th Tank Regiment, 70th Mechanised Proskurovskii Brigade, 9th Mechanised Kievskova-Jitomirsova Red Banner Corps, 3rd Guards Tank Army, who during the severe battle for the village of Rzochow was one of a group of 5 tanks that sought to rescue a cut-off motorised Rifle Battalion that had previously driven a wedge into the German defences. Exterminating the Germans, his group destroyed 5 Tanks and over 100 Soldiers and Officers, he also received multiple other decorations for a distinguished career in which he performed great acts of gallantry on multiple occasions.
Gold Star for a Hero of the Soviet Union, type 2, with original suspension, rectangular back plate, and ‘Monetny Dvor’ marked screwplate, the reverse of the star numbered 4645. The whole including suspension weighs approximately 31.7 grammes, the gold star is attached by a sealed ring and is not possible to weigh separately.
Condition: the obverse has some small contact marks typically seen due to everyday wear of the star, otherwise Good very fine
Mikhail Vasilievich Kopitin was born in the city of Murom in the Vladimir region, he failed to complete his secondary education, graduating from the 8th class in 1946. He initially worked as a locksmith at the locomotive depot at Murom station. In March 1939 he graduated and received a certificate for assistant driver.
Kopitin was drafted into the Red Army in 1940 by the Murom regional military enlistment office. In 1941 he graduated from the motor-armoured motorcycle school in Borisov, near Minsk.
He served in the Great Patriotic War from June 1941 on the Western Front. In October-December 1941, he was serving as a driver-mechanic of the 27th Tank Brigade, and participated in the defence of Moscow, being wounded in the fighting near Yelnya. In 1942 he graduated from the Gorky Tank School.
He re-joined frontline units from January 1943. In January-August 1943 he served as the Commander of a Tank Platoon with the Don and Voronezh Front, and participated in the closing stages of the Battle of Stalingrad.
From the end of August 1943 until the end of the war on the Voronezh (1st Ukrainian from 20th October 1943) Front, as part of the 70th Mechanised Brigade of the 9th Mechanised Corps of the 3rd Guards Tank Army. During the war he was wounded four times.
Kopitin’s first award was an Order of the Red Star for the Sumy-Prilukskaya Offensive with the following citation:
‘During this operation, the commander of the tank platoon, Lieutenant M.V. Kopitin, took part in the crossing of the Dnieper and subsequent battles at the Bukrinsky bridgehead. In the battle for the height of 216.3 near the village of Maly Bukrin, bursting into the enemy’s position with his T-34 tank, he destroyed 30 soldiers, knocked out 1 tank, 2 anti-tank guns and 1 mortar, seized a radio and a telephone set. When an enemy shell hit the engine compartment of his tank and the tank caught fire, the crew extinguished the burning car for two hours under fire, at the same time repelling the onslaught of the Nazis. Only when the tank exploded did the crew leave their car, destroyed four more enemies, and went out to their unit. M.V. Kopitin was awarded the Order of the Red Star.’
This award was followed by an Order of the Red Banner for his part in the Zhitomir-Berdichev Offensive Operation which lasted from 24th December 1943 until 14th January 1944 with the following citation‘
In the battle at height 185.2 on December 26, 1943, Lieutenant M.V. Kopitin with his crew destroyed 1 tank, 5 all-terrain vehicles, 7 armoured personal carriers, 1 self-propelled gun, up to 15 Nazis. He fought in a wrecked tank until the complete destruction of the Nazi Group.’
Kopitin then particularly distinguished himself during the Lvov-Sandomierz offensive and on 23rd September 1944 was bestowed the title of Hero of the Soviet Union by Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, as a result of the following citation:
'Comrade Kopytin, the commander of a tank company, was always in the most responsible areas of the battle and, thanks to cunning and courage, remained the winner, despite the superiority of the enemy forces. He was brought up on mutual assistance and readiness for self-sacrifice.
The 2nd Motorized Rifle Battalion on August 3 - 4, 1944 fought a fierce battle for the village of Rzochow with superior enemy forces, repelling counterattacks by enemy tanks and infantry one after another. Having penetrated far into the echeloned enemy defenses, together with the headquarters, he was cut off from his advancing units. Comrade Kopytin, quickly assessing the seriousness of the situation, on his own initiative with 5 tanks decided to go to the rescue. With a bold maneuver and firing style of interaction between the crews, with unlimited personal courage, he destroyed the enemy's manpower and equipment, thereby facilitating the exit of the 2nd motorized rifle battalion together with the headquarters to his units.
In this battle, Comrade Kopytin with five tanks destroyed 2 Panther tanks, 3 T-4s, 2 self-propelled guns, 1 armored personnel carrier, more than 100 enemy soldiers and officers. The radio tank T-3 was captured in full serviceability, not a single tank or man was lost.
For the entire period of fighting from August 14, 1944, Comrade Kopytin himself personally destroyed 2 Panthers, 4 T-4 tanks, 3 self-propelled guns, 5 armored personnel carriers, 4 cars.
For the skillful leadership of the company in battle and personal heroic deeds of comrade. I present Kopytin for a government award - the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. '
Kopitin was next decorated with a second Order of the Red Banner for his part in the opening days of the Vistula-Oder offensive that began on 12th January 1945 with the following citation:
‘During the period from 12th to 18th January 1945, the commander of a Tank Company, Senior Lieutenant M.V. KopItin skilfully organising the battle of the Company when breaking through the heavily fortified enemy defences and skilfully manoeuvring on the battlefield, destroyed the company 6 armoured personnel carriers, up to 150 vehicles, 18 carts with cargo, 4 field guns, up to 200 soldiers and officers.
When crossing the river Nida, his company, having crossed the river, with a swift rush went to the height of 204.9 and took it in battle. Reflecting enemy counterattacks, the company held the height for 8 hours, which ensured the exit of corps units to the western bank of the Nida River and the development of further success in pursuing and destroying the enemy. M.V. Kopitin had no losses.’
Kopitin’s final award of the war was an Order of the Patriotic War 2nd Class for his part in the fighting in Berlin with the following citation:
‘Senior Lieutenant M.V. Kopitin, intelligence officer, assistant chief of staff of the 229th Tank Regiment, during street battles in Berlin from April 23 to May 2, 1945, personally led the reconnaissance of enemy fortifications and fire weapons, showing courage and skill. Thanks to well-organised reconnaissance, tanks were timely warned about the location of tank destroyers and anti-tank obstacles.
Conducting reconnaissance in the course of street battles, the scouts under the leadership of M.V. Kopitin destroyed 43 tank destroyers in the battles for Berlin, seized 14 vehicles and captured 85 soldiers and officers.
On April 29, in the Berlin district of Friedschau, a group of scouts under his command freed 120 Soviet prisoners of war and organised the clearing of anti-tank obstacles, allowing the tanks to continue their combat missions.’
He ended the war by taking place in the Prague Offensive.
Following the war he served as commander of a tank company (in the Central Group of Forces, the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany and the Leningrad Military District. In 1950 he graduated from the Leningrad Higher Officer Armoured School, in 1956 – from the Military Academy of Armoured Forces. He was the commander of a tank battalion, deputy commander of a tank regiment (in the Transcaucasian military district). From 1962 – commandant, and in 1967-1972 – commander of a fortified area (in the Transcaucasian Military District). Since October 1972, Colonel M.V. Kopitin is in reserve. From 1974 he worked as chairman of Moskvoretsky District Council of the All-Russian Voluntary Society of Motorists.
He lived in Moscow and passed away on 4th April 1986, being buried in Kuntsevo Cemetery. He is remembered in the Alley of Heroes in the Oksky park in the city of Murom with a base relief.