A German Tank Had No Hope Against A Lone Axe-Wielding Soviet Union Cook

Everybody loves a good underdog story, and in 1941, the Soviet Union provided the world with one of the most riveting it had ever heard. In the harrowing blaze of World War II, one Ivan Pavlovich Sereda — who was a month shy of turning 22 — was sent to the front line with his comrades in the Red Army to combat the ever-growing threat of the Axis Powers. However, it wasn't a rifle and a bayonet he was wielding; it was a fork, a knife, a ladle. According to War History Online, Sereda was summoned to the Latvian forest to keep his fellow soldiers fed after his reputation as an exceptional cook had reached the ears of high-ranking members in the Red Army — before the war he reportedly studied culinary arts at the Donetsk Food Training Center. 

Sereda's specific responsibilities were limited to providing food for a group of soldiers, so the looming cloud of active combat wasn't exactly resting above his head. However, one summer afternoon, an unexpected enemy presence wandered upon their camp, and the trusty cook was the only one around to face it. His peculiar manner of single-handed attack ultimately made him a hero, as SOFREP reports. 

The cook vs. a German tank

According to Britannica, Operation Barabrossa was the code name for Germany's invasion into Soviet territory. It commenced on June 22, 1941, and when those foot soldiers of Russia's 91st Tank Regiment, 46th Tank Division, 21st Mechanized Corps were away on duty, Ivan Pavlovich Sereda was left behind to oversee the camp and prepare food for their return. Little did he know that his solitary watch would turn into a showdown between him and a German Panzer tank. As he was preparing food for his team's return, three German Panzerkampfwagen tanks started moving through camp. He took cover and managed to avoid detection, but as the last one trudged through the soil, it halted and its captain emerged from the top to scan the Russian compound (via War History Online). 

It was at that point that Sereda realized he had to act. He seized an axe and descended upon the German captain, screaming like a deranged maniac. The enemy soldier returned to his vehicle, manned its machine gun, and started spewing bullets across the camp blindly. The cook, who positioned himself safely behind the line of fire, threw a tarp over the turret's window of sight, then used his apron to block another vision port. He started swinging the axe against the active machine gun, causing it to overheat and malfunction entirely. He then called out to his comrades — who weren't even present — to bring grenades, causing the tank crew to surrender, as War History Online reports.

Ivan Pavlovich Sereda becomes a hero

As soon as the German captain and his copilot exited the tank, they realized that they'd been bested by a single man with an axe. The cook had retrieved his rifle, and now held the Germans prisoner, waiting for the rest of the Russian unit to return. "With his brave actions, he set an outstanding example of heroism," Maj. Gen. Dmitry Lelyushenko, Sereda's commander, remarked after the fact. The cook was promoted to the rank of scout shortly after his impressive display of bravery and was fighting German soldiers on the front line mere weeks later (per War History Online).

The next time he encountered a tank, he luckily had more at his disposal than a rusty old axe. According to SOFREP, Sereda climbed atop an enemy artillery vehicle that was chasing them. He threw a hand grenade down the captain's hatch, killing everyone inside and saving his team from near certain death. He finished out his military career in 1945 with the title of lieutenant and had additionally earned several medals of merit, including the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin. Residual ailments that arose as a result of wounds he sustained on the battlefield took his life in 1950. He was 31 years old (per War History Online).