On April 29th, 1945, the forces of the 3rd Shock Army of the 1st Belorussian Front began their assault on the Reichstag. This building was an important fortification in the defensive network of central Berlin. Additionally, the Reichstag was one of the symbols of the city, and taking it would be a major moral and political victory for the Red Army. Because of this, 9 flags were prepared in advance in the 3rd Shock Army, meant for mounting on the captured Reichstag. There was nothing special about the flags, they were made from ordinary red calico, obtained from a Berlin shop. The markings were put on by hand, using a stencil. It was not established ahead of time which flag would be the official flag of victory.
The Reichstag was a difficult objective to take. From three sides, it was surrounded by the Spree river, with only one bridge in that sector. The fourth side was composed of stone buildings, converted into fortifications. Approaches to the Reichstag were open and covered by all sorts of weapons. 5000 enemy soldiers protected the Reichstag sector, 1000 of them inside the building.
An attempt was made to take the Reichstag on April 30th. The Germans repelled that attack. Engineers laid a bridge by noon, which allowed guns and tanks to move up to the building and open direct fire in support of the second assault. The artillery barrage began at 13:00. Tanks and guns sired at the Reichstag, its fortifications, and nearby houses. With artillery support, Soviet forces blocked the Germans in the opera house, and allowed battalions from the 756th and 674th infantry regiments to get up against the Reichstag.
Around 2:30 pm, the first flag was raised on the porch of the building, by Private Grigoriy Bulatov and Lieutenant Rakhimandzh Koshkabayev. Over the next few hours, fierce battles broke out on the lower floors of the Reichstag. The windows were covered in flags of various units, self-made banners, and simply scraps of red fabric. In the evening, around 10:30, a group of soldiers from the 79th Infantry Corps broke through to the roof. Senior Sergeants Mikhail Minin, Gazi Zagitov, Aleksandr Lisimenko and Sergeant Aleksei Bobrov managed to reach the statues and affix their red banner there. The third flag was raised half an hour before midnight on the Western façade by Major Bondar's assault team.
Finally, the flag destined to become the official flag of victory was raised around 3 am on May 1st, 1945 on the cupola of the building by Junior Sergeant Meliton Kantaria, Sergeant Mikhail Yegorov, and Lieutenant Aleksei Berest. This flag was the only one that remained after the German artillery barrage on the Reichstag.
At noon on May 1st, 1945, the Flag of Victory was photographed by a Soviet reconnaissance airplane flying over the Reichstag. This was the only photograph of this great event in the last days of the war that was not staged.
Original article available here.