Aleksandra Grigoryevna Samusenko (Russian: Александра Григорьевна Самусенко, Ukrainian: Олександра Григорівна Самусенко, Oleksandra Hryhorivna Samusenko; 1922 to 03 March 1945) was a Soviet T-34 tank commander and a liaison officer during World War II.
She was the only female tanker in the 1st Guards Tank Army.
Samusenko was awarded the Order of the Red Star for bravery in the Battle of Kursk. She also received the Order of the Patriotic War 2nd class and 1st class.
Born in Chita or in Zhlobin District, Samusenko began her tour of duty as a private in an infantry platoon. She participated in the Winter War (1939-1940) against Finland as a private in an infantry regiment. Later, she successfully graduated from the tank academy and was assigned to the 1st Guards Tank Army. Samusenko received her Order of the Red Star when her tank crew defeated three German Tiger I tanks. Later Samusenko participated in the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive.
World War II veteran and writer Fabian Garin, in his book Tsvety na tankakh (The Flowers on Tanks), mentioned an episode when a certain Mindlin, who fell in love with Samusenko, asked her “not to smoke and drink.” Samusenko parried with “Maybe you’ve fallen in love?”, kissed him on the head and stopped smoking and drinking thereafter.
US Army Sergeant Joseph Beyrle, who had escaped from Stalag III-C POW camp in Alt Drewitz in early January 1945, encountered Samusenko’s tank brigade in the middle of January. Beyrle, one of only a few American soldiers known to have served with both the United States Army and the Soviet Army in World War II, eventually persuaded her to allow him to fight alongside the unit on its way to Berlin, thus beginning a month-long stint in a Soviet tank battalion, where his demolitions expertise was appreciated. Beyrle, who reported that Samusenko had lost her husband and her entire family during the war, cited Samusenko as a symbol of the fortitude and courage displayed by the Soviet people during that period.
Samusenko died from wounds in the then-German village of Zülzefitz (70 km from Szczecin) during the East Pomeranian Offensive. According to World War II veteran Pyotr Demidov, she was crushed under the tracks of a Soviet tank whose driver could not see the accompanying people in the darkness. According to another version, it was a German self-propelled artillery vehicle. She was buried in Łobez (Poland) near the monument to William I.
On 13 March 1945, Samusenko was posthumously awarded the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class.
Spanish Civil War
In his 1975 book, the Russian author Y.A. Zhukov wrote that Samusenko was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, although Garin discounted this rumor in Tsvety na tankakh. According to Garin, it came from a soldier named Balandin, who told battalion commander Zhukov that Samusenko had fought in Spain:
My [Balandin’s] submachine gunner Kolka… approached her and said: “[…] I saw you already under Huesca… ¡No pasarán!” And she replies: “I don’t remember you” […]
Zhukov then asked why she concealed her service and Balandin replied that he did not know, “but for some reason many don’t want to reveal that they fought in Spain”. Garin, however, further cites Samusenko’s boyfriend Mindlin, who later said that “she has never been there”.