As the new custodian of this order, I thought I’d dig up this nearly 11-year-old topic and present some additional research I did on this brave officer.
Stepachov was born in the Smolensk Province in 1905. He joined the Red Army in March 1942, was sent to the front in July 1942, and was commissioned in 1943. He started out as a rifle platoon leader, but before long he was given command of a company. He served in the Stalingrad area, fought at Belgorod right at the height of the battle of Kursk and was awarded an ORS there, advanced through Ukraine and Romania, and then moved northwest toward Hungary.
Apparently Stepachov usually emerged from battle unscathed, since records show that the wound mentioned in his first OPW1 citation was his only one. But as our late friend Rick Research prophetically predicted, another failed attack would probably have cost this Lieutenant his life, and in fact he was killed in battle less than a year after this OPW1 was awarded.
Stepachov’s final attack occurred on December 5, 1944, one day before his 39th birthday, and the day Budapest was encircled. His regiment took part in the pincer movement around the Hungarian capital. As Stepachov’s regiment enveloped the city from the northeast, Stepachov was given orders to take the northern slopes of height 241. The company accomplished its orders and captured the height, killing up to a platoon of enemy infantry, but Stepachov didn’t survive the battle. That same day he was buried at the divisional cemetery in the village of Ecséd, northeast of Budapest.
Stepachov had been awarded all of his decorations in a fairly short span of time. He was awarded an ORS in July 1943, a Medal for Courage in September 1943, and an OPW1 in December 1943. A few days after he had died, he was awarded another OPW1 posthumously, but it seems it never made it to his wife Ksenia.
His ORS citation (as a Guards Jr. Lieutenant and rifle platoon leader):
During the fighting near Belgorod Raion’s Old Town on July 8, 1943, comrade Stepachov acted exceptionally bravely and ably, for instance: when the company commander was wounded, comrade Stepachov did not panic, but assumed command of the company, skillfully organized the defense in his sector of the line, and held it steadfastly. With his submachine gun comrade Stepachov personally killed 15 German soldiers and officers.
His MC citation (as a Guards Jr. Lieutenant and rifle company commander):
During the fighting on August 9, 1943, comrade Stepachov commanded his company and was given orders to take the ‘Vesyoly’ farmstead in the Kharkov Province. Having explained the importance of capturing this town to his troops, comrade Stepachov shouted ‘For the motherland!’ and ‘For Stalin!’ and led his company in the attack, killing all resisting enemy troops they ran into. Inspiring his men through personal example in combat with the enemy, comrade Stepachov operated ahead of his unit, inspiring his troops to follow him into battle. During this engagement comrade Stepachov’s company killed 50 Hitlerites and took 3 prisoners. Comrade Stepachov himself killed 9 Hitlerites with hand grenades.
His first OPW1 citation (as a Guards Lieutenant and rifle company commander):
On November 20, 1943, during the fighting for height 163.5, near the village of Vodana in the Kirovograd Province, comrade Stepachov commanded his rifle company and showed himself an audacious officer. Under his command the company fought off 4 attacks, rushed into the enemy’s trenches, and in the process killed 30 Hitlerites with rifle and submachine gun fire. Comrade Stepachov himself killed an enemy officer with his pistol. For his boldness and courage in battle and for successfully executing his combat missions, comrade Stepachov deserves to be nominated for the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st Class.
His second OPW1 citation (as a Guards Lieutenant and rifle company commander):
Comrade Stepachov, who has served at the front line in combat with the German invaders since July 1942, showed himself a bold and courageous officer. He gloriously fought his way from Stalingrad to Hungary. During the fighting on December 5, 1944, when the enemy line of defense near the village of Lerinci and height 241 was being breached, comrade Stepachov was given orders to capture the northern slopes of height 241. Rousing his company to action and leading the way, he inspired his men to accomplish their combat mission. Quickly darting across no man’s land with his company and remaining concealed, they brought down intense fire. Before long they captured the height, suffering only insignificant losses. Comrade Stepachov’s company killed up to a platoon of enemy infantry. During this battle comrade Stepachov died a brave death, and he was buried on December 5, 1944 in the village of Ecséd (Hungary). He deserves to be awarded the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st Class posthumously.