Russia Feared Hitler's Panzer Tanks. But They Might Have Feared Who Led Them Even More.

The wide tracks of Soviet T-34S and colossal KV-1S crunched through the snow. Night had fallen west of Belgorod on March 15, 1943. The Soviet tank column was headed toward a village, looking for shelter for the night. Although the village appeared deserted, the Soviet commander was wary. For days now there had been heavy fighting, with the Nazis trying to recapture Kharkov from the Soviets. The T-34s fired incendiary shells, setting ablaze a few peasant huts. When nothing moved, the tanks rumbled into the village.

The Strange Story of How Nazi Germany Surrendered (and Then Kept Fighting)

It was said on May 8, 1945, that some of the victors wandered around in a daze. They were puzzled by a strange silence. The guns were no longer firing the permanent barrage, their constant companion, during those last months since they had crossed the Rhine.

Some could not quite believe it was all over. They had longed for an end to the war in Europe for years. “Then suddenly it was upon them all and the impact of the fact was a thing that failed to register–like the death of a loved one,” the historian of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division wrote that year.