The 119th Separate Tank Regiment also named the Sassuntsi-Davit Tank Regiment (Սասունցի-Դավիթ Տանկային Շարասյուն was a Soviet separate tank regiment during the Second World War, comprised primarily of ethnic Armenians. Other ethnic groups that were in the regiment included Azeris however, they were largely relegated to logistics support and other non-combatant roles.
It was formed in Ejmiatsin, Armenian SSR in January 1943 and funded entirely by diaspora Armenians living, among other countries, in Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the United States. Funds from the United States raised US$115,000; £L185,000 from Lebanon; £Syr276,000 from Syria; £E14,000 from Egypt and 2.5 million rials from Iran. The total amount raised was estimated to have been 800,000 rubles in terms of physical monetary value alone, 1,000 British sterling, and 50,000 in Soviet rubles. Various fund raising committees were created including the first, on March 7, 1943 in New York City, United States.
The funds were finally distributed under the auspices of the Armenian Apostolic Church residing in Ejmiatsin which raised enough money to fully outfit the regiment with 22 tanks by May 1944. The unit was named after a popular eight century Armenian folk hero David of Sasun. The regiment was exclusively made up of the newer generation Russian T-34-85 tanks equipped with the new D-5T 85mm cannons. In February 1944, the 119th tank regiment's turrets were inscribed with "Սասունցի Դավիթ" (Sassuntsi Davit) upon them in Armenian script.
Following the capture of the city, the unit participated in operations against Romania around Yasee. The regiment was then sent north, and incorporated into the First Baltic Front under the command of General Hovhannes Bagramyan as the 119th separate tank regiment re-equipped with T-34/85s, and attached tot he 6th Soviet Guards Army . From July to August the unit fought against German forces in Operation Bagration for liberation of Vitebsk and Polatsk. Along with the 5th Soviet Guards Army, the regiment broke through, and overran the German fortified positions.
On July 23 1944, the unit was decorated with the Order of the Red Banner. Thereafter, it was sent to Panevezys where it remained until the latter half of August. In 1945, the unit was bestowed the honor of becoming a Guards regiment and was reflagged as the 135th Guards tank regiment.
Many of the Armenians were also decorated for their efforts during the war, including Sarkis Nahapetyan and Mikhail Stepanyan who both received the Order of the Red Star for their heroism in the battles.