William Lubbeck: Leningrad: The Besiegers Become the Besieged:
Over the course of the war, most of the casualties in our regiment resulted from Russian artillery and mortars, to a lesser extent from small-arms fire. About this time, however, we also began to endure our first bombing and strafing raids by Soviet aircraft. During the daytime, we occasionally faced a threat from Soviet ground-attack planes like the Illyushin-2 Sturmovik. At night, we confronted the menace of the Polyarkov-2, nicknamed the Nahmaschine (Sewing Machine) for the loud rhythmic clattering of its engine.
The noisy approach of the Nahmaschine was audible at a great distance, but it was virtually impossible to target them in the darkness. Flying a couple of hundred feet overhead, the pilot and copilot would search for any flicker of light that would reveal the location of our lines or rear camps. Despite efforts to black-out everything on the ground, there was bound to be someone who would light a cigarette or use a flashlight that the enemy could spot. Once locating a potential target, the Soviet pilots often cut their engines in order to glide silently over the spot before dropping their bombs on the unsuspecting targets below.
The day after one of these nocturnal raids by a Nahmaschine, not long after the tank battle, I was again up front operating as forward observer. Immediately after directing one of our 150-millimeter howitzers to fire a round against an enemy target, I instead heard an enormous boom from the direction of our heavy guns in the rear. The mystery was soon revealed. A misfiring shell inside the barrel of the howitzer had caused an explosion that detonated the shells stacked next to it, killing the five-man gun crew and obliterating everything in the vicinity. Though unable to get back and observe the scene myself, I was told that only a large crater remained.
This malfunction could have resulted from faulty workmanship or sabotage in the manufacture of the shell, but I was convinced it resulted from the phosphorous dropped on our position during the previous night’s air raid. A corrosive particle of the phosphorous could have burned a small hole in a shell that went undetected during its loading. Unfortunately, a sudden change in the battlefield situation within hours of this accident forced my company to pull back from the position without conducting an adequate investigation.