Matvei Gampel was born in 1920. In 1939 he was drafted into the Red Army. Although he was serving as a career officer, he was sent to the front only in March 1943. Senior Lieutenant Gampel saved as adjutant of a battalion of the 23rd Tank Brigade and then as communications officer for the headquarters of the brigade that fought at Elnia (so that it became known as the Elnia Brigade) and, then, in Vitebsk Province in Belorussia.
One of his responsibilities was to follow directly after the line of tanks – to supply them with ammunition and fuel and to repair damaged tanks. He had to keep a record of loses of equipment and men and to organize the evacuation of damaged equipment and of the wounded for medical care. Gampel was also responsible for coordinating the actions of tanks units with the infantry and sappers so that the tanks could pass safely through mined areas. In addition he dealt with logistical problems related to combat. During enemy counterattacks he often found himself in the line of fire. Sometimes Gampel had to make his way past mines and under machine-gun fire to Soviet tanks in order to pass on their orders from their commanders.
He was awarded the Order of the Red Star twice and the Medal of Valor once.
In 1943 a photo-correspondent of the Jewish Anti-fascist Committee visited the 23rd Tank Brigade and took a group photograph of several of the Jews serving there.
In addition to Gampel the following appeared in the photograph:
Lieutenant Mark Kovalev, who was born in 1921 in Sumy Province, Ukraine. Kovalev was the commander of a tank. He fought on the Western and the Voronezh Fronts and was seriously wounded in combat. After the war, in 1947 when he was studying law in Moscow, he was finally awarded the Medal of Valor.
Zalman Shpunt was born in 1910 in the town of Krupki, Belorussia. In 1938 he was drafted into the Red Army and then became a career officer. From the first days of the war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany he was at the front. In 1943 Shpunt was senior lieutenant-technician with the 23rd Tank Brigade. During combat he organized the supply of ammunition and the repair of tanks in the midst of enemy fire. In 1943 he was awarded the Order of the Red Star.
Grigorii Gurevich was born in 1914. He was in the regular army from August 1942. In the following year, with the rank of senior lieutenant, he commanded a KV tank. He was wounded in battle but, despite a damaged eye, continued to fight. He was awarded the Order of the Red Star.
Sholem Shvartsman was born in 1920 in Belorussia. In 1940 he was drafted and during the Soviet-German war, with the rank of master-sergeant, he served as mechanic and driver of a T-60 tank. In 1943 he fought in the battle for Smolensk. He was wounded but remained in his damaged tank until he was evacuated from the battlefield. Shvartsman received the Order of the Red Star.