Rarely do songs catch you right at the first chord. Rarer still do their videos do the same. But Sabaton Panzerkampf manages to do both, and never are you given a moment to rest. The relentless battle that wages upon the screen and the squealing wail of the war ballad behind it recreate the desperate and never ending action that was the Red Army versus the Army of the Reich.
Let’s start at the beginning. A Leutnant of the Wehrmacht orders his men to leap their sand bag defensive position, making war on the ill-prepared Russians beyond. Nothing could be more symbolic of Operation Barbarossa than the 1941 summer invasion. Accompanied by blitzing armor, we see the Germans wipe out Russian planes on the ground even before they can launch. The video then pans to the desperation of trenches backed by frontier land, a stark contrast to the trenches of the first World War. Some might wonder about the lack of T-22s through T-34s but those were not in good supply at this time, and much of the Russian armor was the BA and D series models, well inferior and outdated. The beginning year of war saw a great used of antitank guns, instead, support of human wave swarms of infantry. It is all well displayed by the terrifying scene of Panzer IVs rolled down the battlefield, almost entirely unopposed. The one shoots a trench and all the filth-covered Russian soldier can do about it is sit, shell-shocked and confused.
Then the POV changes and we find the Americans flying formations of flying fortresses. This seems to be an allusion to the Murmansk convoys, without which the Russians would have faced the same problem that defeated them in World War I – namely a lack of enough equipment to replace the equipment being lost to the Germans in their numerous victories. While such a formation doesn’t actually belong in a video about the Eastern front, the allegory is strong and simply serves to strengthen the narrative at hand.
We switch back to the front. The Russian soldiers are fighting in earnest, a desperate fight against insurmountable enemies. They seem so insignificant. A German IV rolls over them, ignoring them completely. A blitzkrieg in the fullest, those soldiers are sure to be encircled and captured. The fight is impossible. As if to emphasize the point, a German Messerschmitt Bf109 strafes the soldiers and a Stuka follows, dive bombing them and leaving just a single soldier alive, blood in his hands.
But lo, what is this? A screaming soldier heaves a bundle of TNT at an approaching Panzer. Russian Winter has ended the advance and the Russians have solidified their positions. Across a field of broken Russian bodies and equipment we see a Russian Flak team still alive, protected from small arms fire by sandbag emplacements and firing up into a sky that is no longer without competition. Here, above the fiery muddish hellscape of Russia, new planes with new pilots have taken to the sky. The battle is fierce. As the music slinks back to an ode to Mother Russia, we see that this not only isn’t the end, but that the tide is turning. A German fighter goes down, the victim of a Yakovlev. His killer is taken apart by another German plane. But then comes the penultimate moment. Pay attention to the sides of the planes. The remaining Russian Yak pulls up hard, forcing his German pursuer to do the same and narrowly avoiding death as he bucks and weaves. We see, as both planes bob and turn about, that he is a fighting ace, seven kills scored on the side of his Yakovlev. It was a trap. The pursuer is now the pursued and Russia, the once naive incompetent, has taken the upper hand. The German ace crashes and burns.
A bomb drops us through the clouds and we see that the battlefield has changed drastically. Grass has come back and no longer is it muck and fire. The country has revitalized. And, perhaps more importantly, the entire field is filled with tanks. T-34s have come out in earnest and the tide of battle has well swung in Russia’s favor. Inside one we see that these are not the young people of the start. Now it is everyone, young and old, participating in the fight. In this case, a grandfather who looks fondly upon a photo of his grandkids.
Now, interesting to note, this is not the official video. The pairing of this video with this music in this way was all the genius of one YouTuber named Pope_Badass_DCLXVI _. My hat is off to this individual, because I can see no better way that this all could have been done. It is a wonderful video for a wonderful song and I will forever remain in awe of it.
Damien Hanson writes books. You should read them.
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