Last summer of the second world. Its outcome is already predetermined. Desperate resistance is exerted by fascists to Soviet troops on a strategically important direction – the right bank of the Dniester. A bridgehead in the one and a half square kilometer above the river, held by the entrenched infantry, is fired at night and night by a German mortar battery from its closed positions on the dominant heights.
The task number one for our artillery reconnaissance, which was fortified literally in the slope of the slope in the open space, is to locate the location of this battery itself.
With the help of a stereotube, Lieutenant Motovilov and two privates are keeping vigilant control over the terrain and reporting the situation on that shore to the division commander Yatsenko for correcting the actions of heavy artillery. It is not known whether there will be an offensive from this bridgehead. It begins where it is easier to break through the defenses and where there is operational space for the tanks. But it is indisputable that much depends on their intelligence. It was not for nothing that the Germans twice tried to cross the beach for the summer.
At night Motovilov is suddenly replaced. Having crossed into the location of Yatsenko, he learns of the increase – he was a platoon commander, became a battery commander. In the lieutenant’s record, this is the third military year. Immediately from school to the front, then the Leningrad Artillery
A short vacation is full of surprises. Ordered to build for the awarding of several subordinates. Acquaintance with the medical instructor Rita Timashova gives the inexperienced commander confidence in the further development of hazing with her.
From the bridgehead comes a loose rumble. The impression is that the Germans went on the offensive. The connection with the other shore is interrupted, the artillery beats “into the white light.” Motovilov, anticipating trouble, he himself is called to establish communication, although Yatsenko suggests sending another. He takes a privy Mezentsev with a communications officer. The lieutenant realizes that he feeds the subordinate with irresistible hatred and wants to force him to go through the whole “science course” on the front line. The fact is that Mezentsev, despite the draft age and the opportunity to evacuate, remained with the Germans in Dnepropetrovsk, played in the orchestra on the French horn. The occupation did not prevent him from getting married and having two children. And they released him already in Odessa. He is from that breed of people, Motovilov believes, for which all the hard and dangerous things in life are done by others. And still others fought for him,
On the bridgehead, all the signs of retreat. Several saved wounded infantrymen are told about a powerful enemy pressure. Mezentsev has a cowardly desire to return while the crossing is over… Military experience tells Motovilov that this is just a panic after mutual exchanges.
The NP is also abandoned. Motovilov was killed, and two soldiers fled. Motovilov restores communication. He begins an attack of malaria, which here suffers most because of dampness and mosquitoes. Suddenly appeared Rita treats him in the trench.
The next three days on the bridgehead silence. It turns out that infantry battalion commander Babin from the front, “calm, stubborn man”, is associated with Rita long-lasting strong ties. Motovilov has to suppress the feeling of jealousy: “After all, there is in him something that is not in me.”
A distant artillery rumble higher upstream foreshadows a possible fight. The nearest hundred-kilometer-long bridgehead is already occupied by German tanks. There is a redeployment of connections. Motovilov sends Mezentsev to build a connection over the swamp for more safety.
Before the tank and infantry attack the Germans conduct a massive artillery preparation. When checking the connection, Shumilin, a widower with three children, perishes, having only time to report that Mezentsev did not make the connection. The situation is becoming more complicated.
Our defense stood up against the first tank attack. Motovilov managed to arrange the NP in a padded German tank. From here, the lieutenant and his partner shoot at enemy tanks. The entire bridgehead is on fire. Already at dusk, our counterattack is being launched. Tied melee.
Motovilov loses consciousness from a blow from behind. Coming to himself, he sees retreating fellow soldiers. The next night he spends in the field, where the Germans are shooting the wounded. Fortunately, Motovilov finds the orderly and they go to their own.
The situation is critical. From our two regiments there are so few people that all are placed under a cliff on the shore, in burrows in a slope. There is no crossing. The command of the last battle is taken by Babin. The only way out is to escape from the fire, mix with the Germans, drive without stopping and take heights!
Motovilov commanded the company. The price of incredible losses is our victory. There is information that the offensive was fought on several fronts, the war moved to the west and spread to Romania.
Among the general rejoicing at the conquered heights, a stray shell kills Babina in front of Rita. Motovilov is keenly experiencing both the death of Babina and the grief of Rita.
And the road again leads to the front. A new combat mission was received. By the way, the regimental trumpeter Mezentsev, sitting proudly on his horse, meets on the way. If Motovilov survives to victory, he will have something to tell his son, about which he already dreams.