Samuil Iarmonenko was born in 1920 in Konotop, in northern Ukraine. In 1941 he graduated from the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Military Medical Academy and was sent to the area of Novocherkassk (in southern Russia), where two cavalry corps were in the process of formation. The initiator of forming such corps was Semion Budionnyi, a hero of the Russian civil war of 1918-1920. Stalin supported this idea, which proved to be calamitous. The cavalry units were powerless against German tanks and heavy artillery.
Meanwhile, Iarmonenko was appointed a junior physician in the 166th Regiment of one of the corps. He was a both a good horseman and a good doctor. At the end of 1941, when the senior physician of the regiment Kosiak deserted to the German side and the senior physician of the division Isai Lotsman was wounded, Iarmonenko was promoted.
The first battle in which Iarmonenko's regiment participated took place in October 1941, in southeastern Ukraine. The cavalry was unable to break through the German front line and to penetrate into the enemy rear. The German tanks crushed the cavalry regiment. Before the doctor's eyes, part of the cavalry regiment immediately deserted to the German side. He was shocked not only by the view of dozens of Soviet soldiers going over to the enemy, but also by the order of their Soviet commander: "Fire at the traitors of the Motherland!" Iarmonenko did not expect that the Red Army would shoot at Russian soldiers, even if they were turncoats.
The remnants of the two battered cavalry regiments were re-organized into one regiment. In his memoir Iarmonenko wrote that the regiment took revenge on the Germans in December 1941 near Barvenkovo, near the eastern border of Ukraine. Because of the severe cold, the German soldiers did not leave their buildings and put up only outposts easily to overcome (Iarmonenko wrote that he did not expect such negligence on the part of the Germans). The cavalry regiment took Barvenkovo without difficulty, capturing many German vehicles and much equipment and food supplies. However, two days later, with airplanes and tanks the Germans recaptured Barvenkovo and almost annihilated the cavalry regiment.
Thus, in 1942 and 1943, Dr. Iarmonenko experienced the humiliation of retreat and participating in ill prepared and poorly carried out operations of the Red Army. However, in his memoirs he also noted numerous tactical mistakes committed by the German army. In the fall of 1943, he took part in the no better prepared, but nevertheless successful Kerch Landing, the Red Army landing in eastern Crimea. At this stage, Major in the Medical Service Iarmonenko was the commander of Field Medical and Evacuation Point (abbreviated in Russian as GPEP) #209, a unit that not only treated many of the wounded, but also evacuated them from the field. He and his subordinates carried out operations under enemy fire ("Our tents failed to protect us from shelling," he wrote). Many doctors and orderlies were killed before his eyes. Iarmonenko served in Crimea until the spring of 1944. More than once he and his orderlies were forced to take up weapons and to fight instead of caring for the wounded.
In April 1944, after the Soviet takeover of the port city of Sevastopol, General of the Army Andrei Ieriomenko arrived with the assignment of finding those responsible for the badly conducted Crimean operation. He visited GPEP-209, a veritable tent town and spoke with the wounded. Although the patients unanimously expressed appreciation for the way they were treated, General Ieriomenko dismissed doctor Iarmonenko from his position (see Appendix) and later accused him of stealing food supplies at Kerch. Samuil Iarmonenko and another officer (a Russian) were court martialed. Iarmonenko was sentenced to ten years in prison. However, in consideration of the conditions of war, the prison term was reduced to three months in a punishment battalion. Iarmonenko believed that two things contributed to this alleviation. One was that, despite the pressure exerted on it, the court sympathized with the doctor and his co-defendant. The second was that General of Ieriomenko was transferred to another front and the new commander of the Separate Coastal Army appealed the original sentence. As a result of the appeal, Samuil Iarmonenko was rehabilitated and transferred to another front. He ended the war in 1945 in Czechoslovakia with the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Medical Service.
Iarmonenko was awarded two military orders: that of the Red Star and that of the Patriotic War, 1st Class, for his participation in the Crimean landing.
After the war, Samuil Iarmonenko dedicated himself to science. He was a pioneer of radiobiology in the Soviet Union, establishing and heading (in the 1990s) the radiobiology laboratory of the Moscow Oncological Center. He was a professor at the 2nd Moscow Medical Institute. Iarmonenko died in Moscow in 2011.
The meeting between Dr. Iarmonenko and General Ieriomenko
In April 1944, then commander of the Separate Coastal Army General of the Army Andrei Ieriomenko arrived in the recently liberated Sevastopol. His assignment was to find and to dismiss from the posts those "guilty" for the Crimean landing, which resulted in huge losses in personnel for the Red Army. After dismissing many officers, he went to visit Field Medical and Evacuation Point #209, that was headed by Iarmonenko. The General spoke with the wounded soldiers; not a single one complained, but rather expressed gratitude for the care they had received. The result of this visit was surprising:
"Our one-minute long meeting [with General Ieriomenko] consisted of the following dialogue:
Me [Dr. Iarmonenko]: 'Comrade General of the Army, GPEP-209 is carrying out the work in treating and evacuating the wounded. I am the head the GPEP, Major of the Medical Service Iarmonenko.'
Ieriomenko: 'Are you Jewish?'
Ieriomenko: 'Hand over command to your deputy'
After that Ieriomenko got into his jeep and left, leaving me dumbfounded and perplexed."
It is interesting to note that no biography of Ieriomenko, the renowned Soviet military leader and a hero of Stalingrad (who after the war was awarded the rank of Marshal), discusses how Ieriomenko related to Jews.