4th Guards Rifle Division

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4th Guards Rifle Division (September 18, 1941 – 1946)
Active1941–1946
Country Soviet Union
BranchRed Army flag.svg Red Army
TypeDivision
RoleInfantry
EngagementsSiege of Leningrad
Lyuban Offensive Operation
Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of the Caucasus
Operation Little Saturn
Battle of Rostov (1943)
Lower Dniepr Offensive
Nikopol–Krivoi Rog Offensive
First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive
Second Jassy–Kishinev Offensive
Budapest Offensive
Vienna Offensive
DecorationsOrder of the Red Banner Order of the Red Banner
Battle honoursApostolovo
Vienna
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Col. Pyotr Fedorovich Moskvitin
Maj. Gen. Anatolii Yosifovich Andreev
Maj. Gen. Georgii Pavlovich Lilenkov
Col. Sergei Ivanovich Nikitin
Col. Yosef Kuzmich Stetsun
Maj. Gen. Gavriil Yefimovich Kukharev
Maj. Gen. Kuzma Dmitrievich Parfyonov

The 4th Guards Rifle Division was reformed as an elite infantry division on September 18, 1941, from the 1st formation of the 161st Rifle Division as one of the original Guards formations of the Red Army, in recognition of that division's participation in the successful counter-offensive that drove German forces out of their positions at Yelnya. The division then moved northwards to serve in the defense of Leningrad, as well as the early attempts to break that city's siege, but later was redeployed to the southern sector of the front as the crisis around Stalingrad developed; the 4th Guards took part in Operation Uranus which surrounded the German 6th Army in and around that city and then in the pursuit operations that drove the remaining German forces from the Caucasus steppes and the city of Rostov. The division remained in this sector for the duration of the war, fighting through the south of Ukraine through the summer of 1943 and winning the Order of the Red Banner in the process; it was further distinguished with the award of a battle honor in February, 1944. During April and May its advance was halted during the battles along the Dniestr River, but resumed in the August offensive that carried it and its 31st Guards Rifle Corps into the Balkans, it served extensively in the fighting through Hungary in the winter of 1944/45 and in mid-April was awarded a second battle honor before continuing to advance towards Prague. Despite this distinguished service the division was disbanded in 1946.

Formation[edit]

The 4th Guards was the last of four Guards rifle divisions created in the aftermath of the fighting for Yelnya.[1] Unlike later Guards divisions, its regiments and battalions retained their previous numbers with "Guards" added, as, for example: "477th Guards Rifle Regiment". On February 9, 1942, these were all re-designated, and its order of battle became as follows:

  • 3rd Guards Rifle Regiment from 477th Rifle Regiment
  • 8th Guards Rifle Regiment from 542nd Rifle Regiment
  • 11th Guards Rifle Regiment from 603rd Rifle Regiment
  • 23rd Guards Artillery Regiment from 632nd Howitzer Regiment
  • 9th Guards Antitank Battalion from 135th Antitank Battalion
  • 14th Guards Sapper Battalion from 154th Sapper Battalion
  • 7th Guards Reconnaissance Battalion from 245th Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 17th Guards Antiaircraft Battery from 475th Antiaircraft Battalion
  • 5th Guards Signal Battalion from 422nd Signal Battalion (later 5th Guards Signal Company)
  • 1st Guards Medical/Sanitation Battalion
  • 2nd Guards Chemical Defense (Anti-gas) Company
  • 6th Guards Motor Transport Company
  • 13th Guards Field Bakery
  • 10th Guards Divisional Veterinary Hospital
  • 11961st Field Postal Station (later 827th)
  • 173rd Field Office of the State Bank

The division also had an anti-aircraft machine-gun company, a training battalion and a band platoon. At around the same date, it also received the 16th Guards Mortar Battalion (82mm and 120mm mortars).[2]

Battle of Leningrad[edit]

After a short period for rebuilding the 4th Guards was railed, along with its "sister" 3rd Guards Rifle Division, northwards to join the recently formed 54th Army in October, holding positions to the east of Leningrad.[3] German forces had cut off and isolated that city on September 8; the 4th Guards was earmarked to take part in the First Sinyavino Offensive beginning on October 20, but this was preempted by the German offensive on Tikhvin. The division was quickly shifted to 4th Army; beginning on October 27 and again on November 4 - 6 it launched attacks which slowed but did not stop the German advance. By November 8 Tikhvin had fallen, but the German XXXIX Motorized Corps was vastly overextended with a tenuous line of supply. 4th Guards was made part of the Southern Operational Group of 4th Army, and commenced its counter-attack on the 19th. Progress was slow, but on December 8 the weakened German forces evacuated the town, and the division took part in the pursuit to the Volkhov River.[4]

4th Guards would spend the next eight months in fighting along the Volkhov. In late January, 1942, it was transferred to 59th Army and took a supporting role in the opening stages of the ambitious Lyuban Offensive Operation, attempting to expand the penetration of 2nd Shock Army across the river with an attack alongside 65th, 327th and 372nd Rifle Divisions on January 27, but made little progress. In late March, while still under 59th Army, the division joined 372nd and 24th Guards Rifle Divisions, plus two rifle and one tank brigades, to form an operational group under Maj. Gen. I. T. Korovnikov intended to attack northwards to link with 52nd Army and clear the supply routes to 2nd Shock; by March 30 a tenuous gap 3 – 5 km wide had been cleared. On April 1 the operational group's headquarters was used to form 6th Guards Rifle Corps, and 4th Guards was drawn into reserve in the village of Selishchenskii for replenishing and refitting.[5]

By the beginning of May, 2nd Shock was once more effectively cut off, and Lt. Gen. M.S. Khozin of Leningrad Front was proposing that 6th Guards Corps be refitted and break through to the encircled army to make it possible to complete the advance on Lyuban. Yet another narrow corridor was forced through the German cordon, but on May 16 the 4th Guards, along with the 24th Guards and most of the rest of their corps were obliged to withdraw eastwards again;[6] the division was moved, with its corps, to Volkhov Front in July, then left the corps and was dispatched south to join, briefly, 1st Guards Army,[7] and shortly thereafter 21st Army in Stalingrad Front in August.

Stalingrad and Aftermath[edit]

This formation of Stalingrad Front was renamed Don Front on September 30. In October, 4th Guards was transferred, this time to 65th Army, still in Don Front. In this army it took part in Operation Uranus as part of the northern pincer that broke through Romanian Third Army and helped encircle the German forces at Stalingrad. Before the end of November the division was removed from 65th Army to Don Front reserves, then in December was reassigned to 5th Shock Army in Southwestern Front, it followed 5th Shock to Southern Front on January 3, 1943. At this time the 2nd Guards Army was finishing clearing the German Group Mieth from the Tormosin region and began pursuing them towards the Tsimla River. In order to improve command and control of his forces north of the Don the Front commander, Col. Gen. A. I. Yeryomenko, formed an operational group under Lt. Gen. Ya. G. Kreizer consisting of 5th Shock and the right wing forces of 2nd Guards. Kreizer's group consolidated its positions along the Kumshak River overnight on January 3/4, then resumed its advance; as of January 7 Group Mieth was taking up positions along the Kagalnik River as the Soviet group prepared to advance from that line to the Northern Donets. Group Mieth was defending the town of Konstantinovskii on its right flank with just one battalion, but this was reinforced as elements of the 11th Panzer Division began to arrive.[8]

In the fighting on January 7 the 5th Shock faced two regiments of the 336th Infantry Division and part of the 384th Infantry Division, reinforced by two battalions of the 7th Luftwaffe Field Division; the 315th and 258th Rifle Divisions found a gap in the defense, crossed the frozen Kagalnik and penetrated 8km, threatening to encircle the 384th Infantry. 4th Guards, which was the Army's reserve, advanced into the gap. In response the weak 22nd Panzer Division was ordered to attack southward while 11th Panzer continued to concentrate south of the penetration; this led to a running battle from January 9-11 involving numerous German counterattacks which included the 7th Panzer Division starting on the 10th. At 0800 hours that day a report stated that the three rifle divisions "occupied the Alifanov - Novo-Rossoshinskii - Chumakov - Rossoshinskii - Kriukovskii (38km south of Tatsinskaia) region." 7th Panzer was a significant force with over 100 tanks, but had only limited time to inflict as much damage as possible since its presence was also required elsewhere. 5th Shock Army later reported:

On 10 January 1943, the enemy attacked the units of 258th RD and 4th Guards RD with the forces of up to a regiment of infantry and 100 tanks and, having created the threat of their complete encirclement, forced the latter to withdraw to Trofimov and Kriukovskii. On the night of 10-11 January 1943, 1328th and 362nd RRs of 315th RD, together with units of 258th RD and 4th Gds. RD, began a fighting withdrawal to the line of the Kagalnik River. Beginning at first light on 11 January 1943, the enemy continued to attack the withdrawing units of 315th and 258th RDs and 4th Gds. RD with a force of motorized infantry with a large number of tanks.

All three divisions suffered significant losses in this fighting.[9]

By February 21, 4th Guards was in second echelon of its army as it moved up to the Mius River line. On March 3, 5th Shock was fortifying the scant bridgeheads it had taken on the west bank of the river, and the advance halted for the coming months.[10] In April, the division became part of the 31st Guards Rifle Corps, and it would remain in that formation for the duration of the war.

Advance[edit]

On June 19 the 4th Guards was recognized for its distinguished service with the award of the Order of the Red Banner.[11] In the summer of 1943 German Sixth Army was defeated on the Mius River line, and began to fall back to the Dniepr with South Front in pursuit; this front became 4th Ukrainian Front in October, and 4th Guards remained with it until nearly the end of the year, when it was reassigned, along with its corps, to 69th Army in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command. In January, 1944, the corps was moved again, to 46th Army in 3rd Ukrainian Front. During the Nikopol–Krivoi Rog Offensive the division was awarded its first battle honor:

"APOSTOLOVO... 4th Guards Rifle Division (Colonel Kukharev, Gavriil Yefimovich)... The troops who broke through the enemy defenses and participated in the battles for Apostolovo and on the lower Dnieper, by the order of the Supreme High Command of February 6, 1944, and a commendation in Moscow, are given a salute of 20 artillery salvoes from 224 guns.[12]

Colonel Kukharev was promoted to the rank of major general on March 19, just as the division was engaged in heavy combat within a small bridgehead over the Southern Bug north of the city of Mykolaiv. Strong German counterattacks forced a withdrawal to the river flats which were flooded from spring rains making them mostly indefensible and on the next day General Kukharev plus much of his command group perished. Due to the conditions it was impossible to recover the bodies for several weeks. In total the division suffered 126 officers and men killed, 246 wounded and 291 missing in action in three days of fighting.[13]

In early April, 4th Guards was approaching the lower reaches of the Dniestr River in second echelon of its corps, with orders to clear German forces from the town of Glinoe on the east bank, assault across the river at and to the south of Chebruchi, capture a German strong point and prepare to expand its bridgehead to the west; the east bank was cleared by late on April 11 and on the 13th elements of 40th Guards Rifle Division managed to secure a small bridgehead south of Chebruchi, later reinforced by 34th Guards Rifle Division, but they were stymied in their attempts to take the town. On April 20, 4th Guards, along with its two running-mates, made another attack on Chebruchi, but this collapsed immediately after it commenced. In the first week of May, all three divisions went over to the defense.[14]

Soviet troops in the Vienna Offensive

In August the division went back to the attack in the second Iasi-Kishinev Offensive, which destroyed the German Sixth Army (for the second time) and caused Romania to change sides. In September and October, 31st Guards Rifle Corps served in 2nd Ukrainian Front, still in 46th Army, but in November the corps went back to 3rd Ukrainian Front, now in 4th Guards Army. 4th Guards Rifle Division and its corps would serve under those commands for the duration. After participating in the Siege of Budapest, in the spring of 1945 the division advanced across the Hungarian plain and gained its second honorific:

"VIENNA... 4th Guards Rifle Division (Colonel Parfyonov, Kuzma Dmitrievich)... The troops participating in the battles for the liberation of Vienna, by the order of the Supreme High Command of April 13, 1945, and a commendation in Moscow, are given a salute of 24 artillery salvoes from 324 guns.[15][16]

At the end of the war, the official title of the division was 4th Guards Rifle Apostolovo-Vienna Order of the Red Banner Division. (Russian: 4-я гвардейская стрелковая Апостоловско-Венская Краснознамённая дивизия.)

Postwar[edit]

The division became part of the 25th Guards Rifle Corps and moved to the Tauric Military District during the spring of 1946; the division was stationed at Melitopol and disbanded in the fall of 1946.[17]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ David M. Glantz, Colossus Reborn, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2005, p. 181
  2. ^ Charles C. Sharp, "Red Guards", Soviet Guards Rifle and Airborne Units 1941 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. IV, 1995, p. 43
  3. ^ Sharp, "Red Guards" p. 43
  4. ^ Glantz, The Battle for Leningrad, 1941-1944, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2002, pp. 92, 97-109
  5. ^ Glantz, Leningrad, pp. 164, 178-79
  6. ^ Glantz, Leningrad, pp. 194-95, 202
  7. ^ Sharp, "Red Guards", p. 43
  8. ^ Glantz, Operation Don's Main Attack, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2018, pp. 22, 48-49, 53, 55-56
  9. ^ Glantz, Operation Don's Main Attack, pp. 107-16
  10. ^ Glantz, After Stalingrad, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2009, pp. 214, 218, 224
  11. ^ Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union 1967a, p. 160.
  12. ^ http://www.soldat.ru/spravka/freedom/1-ssr-1.html. In Russian. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  13. ^ Aleksander A. Maslov, Fallen Soviet Generals, Frank Cass Publishers, London, UK, 1998, pp. 133-34
  14. ^ Glantz, Red Storm over the Balkans, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2007, pp. 133-37, 156-57
  15. ^ http://www.soldat.ru/spravka/freedom/2-austria.html. In Russian. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  16. ^ Sharp, "Red Guards", p. 43
  17. ^ Feskov et al 2013, p. 488

Bibliography[edit]

  • Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union (1967). Сборник приказов РВСР, РВС СССР, НКО и Указов Президиума Верховного Совета СССР о награждении орденами СССР частей, соединениий и учреждений ВС СССР. Часть I. 1920 - 1944 гг [Collection of orders of the RVSR, RVS USSR and NKO on awarding orders to units, formations and establishments of the Armed Forces of the USSR. Part I. 1920–1944] (PDF) (in Russian). Moscow.
  • Feskov, V.I.; Golikov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Slugin, S.A. (2013). Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской [The Armed Forces of the USSR after World War II: From the Red Army to the Soviet: Part 1 Land Forces] (in Russian). Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306.
  • Main Personnel Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union (1964). Командование корпусного и дивизионного звена советских вооруженных сил периода Великой Отечественной войны 1941–1945 гг [Commanders of Corps and Divisions in the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945] (in Russian). Moscow: Frunze Military Academy. p. 299