75th Guards Rifle Division
The 75th Guards Rifle Division was a Red Army infantry division during World War II and afterwards, which became the 75th Guards Tank Division and was disbanded in the 1990s. The 75th Guards Rifle Division was redesignated at the beginning of March 1943 from the second formation of the 95th Rifle Division in recognition of the latter's courage and heroism during the Battle of Stalingrad, it fought in the Battle of Kursk, defending positions around Ponyri on the northern face of the Kursk Bulge, was awarded the Order of the Red Banner for its actions. The division fought in the Battle of the Dnieper in the summer and early fall, it was awarded the honorific "Bakhmach" for helping to capture that city. The division fought in the Battle of Kiev and advanced into eastern Belarus towards the end of the year. In January 1944 it fought in the Kalinkovichi–Mozyr Offensive and received the Order of Suvorov, 2nd class for its actions. From late June the 75th Guards fought in Operation Bagration. For its actions the division was awarded its second Order of the Red Banner.
In September the division was fought in the Riga Offensive. It was relocated to eastern Poland in December and fought in the Vistula–Oder Offensive, East Pomeranian Offensive, Battle of Berlin in the final months of the war. Postwar, the division was withdrawn to Tula and downsized into the 17th Separate Guards Rifle Brigade; the brigade was relocated to Chuguyev, became the 64th Guards Mechanized Division in 1953. In 1954 it became the 14th Guards Heavy Tank Division, in 1965 it was redesignated the 75th Guards Tank Division; the division was downsized into a storage base in 1989, disbanded in 1990. The division was formed on 1 March 1943 by the redesignation of the 95th Rifle Division, made a Guards unit for its courage and heroism in the defense of Stalingrad, its structure included the 90th, 161st, 241st Rifle Regiments, the 57th Artillery Regiment, which became the 212th, 231st, 241st Guards Rifle Regiments, the 159th Guards Artillery Regiment on 4 April, other smaller units. The division was commanded by Major General Vasily Gorishny, who led the division for the rest of the war.
Part of the Central Front reserve, it joined the 13th Army in May. In reserve, the 75th Guards were brought up to full strength and replenished from their losses at Stalingrad. During July 1943, as part of the army's 17th Guards Rifle Corps alongside the 70th Guards Rifle Division, the division fought in the Battle of Kursk. Facing one of the main German thrusts in the area of the Ponyri 2 sovkhoz, the 75th Guards helped repulse the attack, positioned in the second defensive belt. On 6 July, the second day of the battle, the 70th and 75th Guards, supported by the 9th and 16th Tank Corps, attacked the 2nd Panzer Division, positioned between Bobrik and Saborovka, 10 kilometres from its start line. In fierce fighting, the 2nd Panzer managed to expand its bridgehead over the Svapa River. At Ponyri, the 75th Guards' 84th Separate Guards Anti-Tank Battalion was attacked by Tiger tanks, but managed to claim five Panzer IVs with its 45 mm anti-tank guns. At 19:30, German tanks and infantry attacked into the division's flank and rear west of Snova after pushing the 6th Guards Rifle Division back.
The 75th Guards speedily regrouped and repulsed the German attack, destroying up to 30 tanks according to Soviet reports. On 7 July the German attacks at Ponyri 2 continued, with an attack by thirty tanks and infantry from the 9th Panzer Division achieving a limited advance against the 75th Guards by 17:00. During the day the infantry from the division supported tanks and anti-tank guns in inflicting heavy losses on the attacking German tanks. On the afternoon of 10 July, after the German troops retreated to their original positions, the 75th Guards participated in a general counterattack in the sector. Regrouping and exploiting the breakthrough, the division went on the offensive during Operation Kutuzov on 15 July. For its exemplary fighting performance, the division was awarded the Order of the Red Banner on 21 July 1943. By 25 July, the 75th Guards reached the line of Glazunovka and Nizhny Tagino, overcoming stiff German resistance. 5 soldiers of the division were made Heroes of the Soviet Union, 173 officers and men recognized with awards and medals.
The division's soldiers helped clear left-bank Ukraine during the Chernigov-Pripyat Offensive of the Central Front, part of the 70th Army and the 60th Army's 30th Rifle Corps. For helping to clear Bakhmach, the division was given the honorific "Bakhmach" on 9 September. On 25 September parts of the division crossed the Dnieper River in the area of Tarasovichi and Yasnogorodka and seized a bridgehead. During the subsequent weeks, the 75th Guards fought in fierce fighting to expand the bridgehead. For courage shown in battle, 63 officers and men of the division were made Heroes of the Soviet Union, 829 recognized with awards and medals. In October and November 1943, the division, part of the 60th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front, fought in the Kiev offensive operation. From January to July 1944 the division fought as part of the 65th Army of the Belarusian Front. On 6 January, the division numbered 7,516 personnel, including 821 officers and 2,214 non-commissioned officers. Between 8 and 14 January, the 75th Guards fought in the Kalinkovichi–Mozyr Offensive, which aimed to capture Kalinkovichi and Mozyr in eastern Belarus.
The division was part of the 105th Rifle Corps along with the 132nd and 253rd Rifle Divisions at the time
Katyusha rocket launcher
The Katyusha multiple rocket launcher is a type of rocket artillery first built and fielded by the Soviet Union in World War II. Multiple rocket launchers such as these deliver explosives to a target area more than conventional artillery, but with lower accuracy and requiring a longer time to reload, they are fragile compared to artillery guns, but are inexpensive, easy to produce, usable on any chassis. The Katyushas of World War II, the first self-propelled artillery mass-produced by the Soviet Union, were mounted on ordinary trucks; this mobility gave the Katyusha, other self-propelled artillery, another advantage: being able to deliver a large blow all at once, move before being located and attacked with counter-battery fire. Katyusha weapons of World War II included the BM-13 launcher, light BM-8, heavy BM-31. Today, the nickname is applied to newer truck-mounted post-Soviet – in addition to non-Soviet – multiple rocket launchers, notably the common BM-21 Grad and its derivatives. Although this type of weapon has existed since the 15th century, the design of the Katyusha may have been influenced by Giuseppe Fieschi's Machine infernale - Fieschi was honored in a religious service at a Moscow church at the prompting of Soviet General Kotskov, the inventor of the Katyusha rocket launcher.
Concerns for secrecy kept the military designation of the Katyushas from being known by the soldiers who operated them. They were called by code names such as Kostikov guns, after the head of the RNII, the Reaction-Engine Scientific Research Institute, classed as Guards Mortars; the name BM-13 was only allowed into secret documents in 1942, remained classified until after the war. Because they were marked with the letter K, Red Army troops adopted a nickname from Mikhail Isakovsky's popular wartime song, "Katyusha", about a girl longing for her absent beloved, who has gone away on military service. Katyusha is the Russian equivalent of Katie, an endearing diminutive form of the name Katherine: Yekaterina →Katya →Katyusha. German troops coined the nickname "Stalin's organ", after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, comparing the visual resemblance of the launch array to a pipe organ, the sound of the weapon's rocket motors, a distinctive howling sound which terrified the German troops, adding a psychological warfare aspect to their use.
Weapons of this type are known by the same name in Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Belgium, Hungary and other Spanish-speaking countries as well as in Sweden. The heavy BM-31 launcher was referred to as Andryusha. Katyusha rocket launchers, which were invented in Voronezh, were mounted on many platforms during World War II, including on trucks, artillery tractors and armoured trains, as well as on naval and riverine vessels as assault support weapons. Soviet engineers mounted single Katyusha rockets on lengths of railway track to serve in urban combat; the design was simple, consisting of racks of parallel rails on which rockets were mounted, with a folding frame to raise the rails to launch position. Each truck had 14 to 48 launchers; the M-13 rocket of the BM-13 system 13.2 cm in diameter and weighed 42 kg. The weapon is less accurate than conventional artillery guns, but is effective in saturation bombardment, was feared by German soldiers. A battery of four BM-13 launchers could fire a salvo in 7–10 seconds that delivered 4.35 tons of high explosives over a 400,000-square-metre impact zone, making its power equivalent to that of 72 conventional artillery guns.
With an efficient crew, the launchers could redeploy to a new location after firing, denying the enemy the opportunity for counterbattery fire. Katyusha batteries were massed in large numbers to create a shock effect on enemy forces; the weapon's disadvantage was the long time it took to reload a launcher, in contrast to conventional guns which could sustain a continuous low rate of fire. In June 1938, the Soviet Reaction-Engine Scientific Research Institute in Moscow was authorized by the Main Artillery Directorate to develop a multiple rocket launcher for the RS-132 aircraft rocket. I. Gvay led a design team in Chelyabinsk, which built several prototype launchers firing the modified 132 mm M-132 rockets over the sides of ZiS-5 trucks; these proved unstable, V. N. Galkovskiy proposed mounting the launch rails longitudinally. In August 1939, the result was the BM-13; the first large-scale testing of the rocket launchers took place at the end of 1938, when 233 rounds of various types were used. A salvo of rockets could straddle a target at a range of 5,500 metres.
But the artillery branch was not fond of the Katyusha, because it took up to 50 minutes to load and fire 24 rounds, while a conventional howitzer could fire 95 to 150 rounds in the same time. Testing with various rockets was conducted through 1940, the BM-13-16 with launch rails for sixteen rockets was authorized for production. Only forty launchers were built before Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. After their success in the first month of the war, mass production was ordered and the development of other models
Konstantin Konstantinovich Rokossovsky was a Soviet and Polish officer who became Marshal of the Soviet Union, Marshal of Poland, served as Poland's Defence Minister from 1949 until his removal in 1956 during the Polish October. He was among the most prominent Red Army commanders of World War II renowned for his planning and executing of Operation Bagration, one of the most decisive Red Army successes of the war. Rokossovsky was born in Warsaw part of Congress Poland under Russian rule, his family had moved to Warsaw following the appointment of his father as the inspector of the Warsaw Railways. The Rokossovsky family were members of the Polish nobility, over generations had produced many cavalry officers. However, Konstantin's father, Ksawery Wojciech Rokossowski, was a railway official in the Russian Empire and his Belarusian mother Antonina Ovsyannikova was a teacher. Orphaned at 14, Rokossovsky earned a living by working in a stocking factory. In 1911, he became an apprentice stonemason.
Much in his life, the government of People's Republic of Poland used this fact for propaganda, claiming that Rokossovsky had helped to build Warsaw's Poniatowski Bridge. Rokossovsky's patronymic Ksaverovich was Russified on his enlistment into the Russian Army at the start of the First World War to Konstantinovich, which would be easier to pronounce in the 5th Kargopol Dragoon Regiment where he volunteered to serve. On joining the Kargopolsky 5th Dragoon Regiment, Rokossovsky soon showed himself a talented soldier and leader, he was awarded the Cross of St George. In 1917, he joined the Bolshevik Party and soon thereafter, entered the ranks of the Red Army. During the Russian Civil War he commanded a cavalry squadron of the Kargopolsky Red Guards Cavalry Detachment in the campaigns against the White Guard armies of Aleksandr Kolchak in the Urals where, in November 1919, he was wounded in the shoulder by an opposing officer whom he killed when his cavalry overran an enemy headquarters. Rokossovsky received Soviet Russia's highest military decoration at the time, the Order of the Red Banner.
In 1921 he commanded the 35th Independent Cavalry Regiment stationed in Irkutsk and played an important role in bringing Damdin Sükhbaatar, the founder of the Mongolian People's Republic to power. Famed "White Russian" general and mystic Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, who believed he was the reincarnation of Genghis Khan, had driven the Chinese occupying forces out of Mongolia in 1920 and set himself up as dictator in Outer Mongolia; the next summer, when Ungern-Sternberg moved to capture the border town of Troitskosavsk threatening to move north and cut off the Soviet far east from the rest of the Soviet Union, Rokossovsky moved south from Irkutsk and met with the Sükhbaatar Mongol forces, defeating Urgern-Sternberg's army, which retreated in disarray after a two-day engagement. Rokossovsky was again wounded, this time in the leg; the combined Mongol and Soviet forces soon thereafter captured Ulaanbaatar. It was in Mongolia that he met his wife Julia Barminan, a high school teacher, fluent in four languages and who had studied Greek mythology, whom he married in 1923.
Their daughter Ariadna was born in 1925. In 1924 and 1925 he attended the Leningrad Higher Cavalry School, he returned to Mongolia. Soon after, while serving in the Special Red Banner Eastern Army under Vasily Blücher, he took part in the Russo-Chinese Eastern Railroad War of 1929–1930 when the Soviet Union intervened to return the Chinese Eastern Railway to joint Chinese and Soviet administration, after Chinese warlord Zhang Xueliang of the Republic of China attempted to seize complete control of the railway, it was in the early 1930s that Rokossovsky's military career first became intertwined with Semyon Timoshenko and Georgy Zhukov, when Rokossovsky was the commander of the 7th Samara Cavalry Division, Zhukov as a brigade commander under him and Timoshenko his superior Corps commander. Both became principal actors in his life during World War II, where he served directly under both at different times. A sense of the nature of the beginning of Rokossovsky's famous World War II rivalry with Zhukov can be gathered from reading Rokossovsky's comments in an official report on Zhukov's character: Has a strong will.
Decisive and firm. Demonstrates initiative and skillfully applies it. Disciplined. Demanding and persistent in his demands. A somewhat ungracious and not sufficiently sympathetic person. Rather stubborn. Painfully proud. In professional terms well trained. Broadly experienced as a military leader... Cannot be used in staff or teaching jobs because constitutionally he hates them. Rokossovsky was among the first to realize the potential of armoured assault, he was an early supporter of the creation of a strong armoured corps for the Red Army, as championed by Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky in his theory of "deep operations". Rokossovsky held senior commands until August 1937 when he became caught up in Joseph Stalin's Great Purge and accused of being a spy, his association with the cutting edge methods of Marshal Tukhachevsky may have been the cause of his conflict with more traditional officers such as Semyon Budenny, who still favoured cavalry tactics over Tukhachevsky's mass armour theories, but few historians believe that the purge of the Red Army was a dispute over policy, most attribute the purges to political and military rivalries as well.
Some officers were mer
Operation Uranus was the codename of the Soviet 19–23 November 1942 strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies, portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation was executed at the midpoint of the five month long Battle of Stalingrad, was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced in September 1942, was developed with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and German forces in the Caucasus; the Red Army took advantage of the German army's poor preparation for winter, the fact that its forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched near Stalingrad, using weaker Romanian troops to guard their flanks. These Axis armies lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor. Due to the length of the front created by the German summer offensive, aimed at taking the Caucasus oil fields and the city of Stalingrad and other Axis forces were forced to guard sectors beyond the length they were meant to occupy.
The situation was exacerbated by the German decision to relocate several mechanized divisions from the Soviet Union to Western Europe. Furthermore, units in the area were depleted after months of fighting those which took part in the fighting in Stalingrad; the Germans could only count on the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, which had the strength of a single panzer division, the 29th Panzergrenadier Division as reserves to bolster their Romanian allies on the German Sixth Army's flanks. In comparison, the Red Army deployed over one million personnel for the purpose of beginning the offensive in and around Stalingrad. Soviet troop movements were not without problems, due to the difficulties of concealing their build-up, to Soviet units arriving late due to logistical issues. Operation Uranus was first postponed from 8 to 17 November to 19 November. At 07:20 Moscow time on 19 November, Soviet forces on the northern flank of the Axis forces at Stalingrad began their offensive. Although Romanian units were able to repel the first attacks, by the end of 20 November the Third and Fourth Romanian armies were in headlong retreat, as the Red Army bypassed several German infantry divisions.
German mobile reserves were not strong enough to parry the Soviet mechanized spearheads, while the Sixth Army did not react enough nor decisively enough to disengage German armored forces in Stalingrad and reorient them to defeat the impending threat. By late 22 November Soviet forces linked up at the town of Kalach, encircling some 290,000 men east of the Don River. Instead of attempting to break out of the encirclement, German leader Adolf Hitler decided to keep Axis forces in Stalingrad and resupply them by air. In the meantime and German commanders began to plan their next movements. On 28 June 1942, the Wehrmacht began its offensive against Soviet forces opposite of Army Group South, codenamed Case Blue. After breaking through Red Army forces by 13 July, German forces encircled and captured the city of Rostov. Following the fall of Rostov, Hitler split German forces operating in the southern extremity of the southern Russian SFSR in an effort to capture the city of Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil fields.
The responsibility to take Stalingrad was given to the Sixth Army, which turned towards the Volga River and began its advance with heavy air support from the Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 4. On 7 August, two German panzer corps were able to flank and encircle a Soviet force of 50,000 personnel and 1,000 tanks, on 22 August German forces began to cross the Don River to complete the advance towards the Volga; the following day, the Battle of Stalingrad began when vanguards of the Sixth Army penetrated the suburbs of the city. By November the Sixth Army had occupied most of Stalingrad, pushing the defending Red Army to the banks of the Volga River. By this stage, there were indications of an impending Soviet offensive which would target Wehrmacht forces around the city, including increased Soviet activity opposite the Sixth Army's flanks, information gained through the interrogation of Soviet prisoners. However, the German command was intent upon finalizing its capture of Stalingrad. In fact, head of Army General Staff General Franz Halder had been dismissed in September after his efforts to warn about the danger, developing along the over-extended flanks of the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army.
As early as September the Soviet Stavka began planning a series of counteroffensives to encompass the destruction of German forces in the south, fighting in Stalingrad and in the Caucasus, against Army Group Center. Command of Soviet efforts to relieve Stalingrad was put under the leadership of General Aleksandr Vasilevsky; the Stavka developed two major operations to be conducted against Axis forces near Stalingrad and Saturn, planned for Operation Mars, designed to engage German Army Group Center in an effort to distract reinforcements and to inflict as much damage as possible. Operation Uranus involved the use of large Soviet mechanized and infantry forces to encircle German and other Axis forces directly around Stalingrad; as preparations for the offensive commenced, the attack's starting points were positioned on stretches of front to the rear of the German Sixth Army preventing the Germans from reinforcing those sectors where Axis units were too overstretched to occupy effectively. The offensive was a double envel
Battle of the Dnieper
The Battle of the Dnieper was a military campaign that took place in 1943 on the Eastern Front of World War II. It was one of the largest operations in World War II, involving 4,000,000 troops at a time stretched on a 1,400 kilometres long front. During its four-month duration, the eastern bank of the Dnieper was recovered from German forces by five of the Red Army's fronts, which conducted several assault river crossings to establish several lodgements on the western bank. Subsequently, Kiev was liberated in the Battle of Kiev. 2,438 Red Army soldiers were awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, more than had been awarded since the award's establishment and never again was there such a large number of laureates. Following the Battle of Kursk, the Wehrmacht's Heer and supporting Luftwaffe forces in the southern Soviet Union were on the defensive in the southern Ukraine. By mid-August, Adolf Hitler understood that the forthcoming Soviet offensive could not be contained on the open steppe and ordered construction of a series of fortifications along the line of the Dnieper river.
On the Soviet side, Joseph Stalin was determined to launch a major offensive in Ukraine. The main thrust of the offensive was in a southwesterly direction; the operation began on 26 August 1943. Divisions started to move on a 1,400-kilometer front that stretched between Smolensk and the Sea of Azov. Overall, the operation would be executed by four Tank and five Air Armies. 2,650,000 personnel were brought into the ranks for this massive operation. The operation would use 2,400 tanks and 2,850 planes; the Dnieper is the third largest river in Europe, behind the Danube. In its lower part, its width can reach three kilometres, being dammed in several places made it larger. Moreover, its western shore—the one still to be retaken—was much higher and steeper than the eastern, complicating the offensive further. In addition, the opposite shore was transformed into a vast complex of defenses and fortifications held by the Wehrmacht. Faced with such a situation, the Soviet commanders had two options; the first would be to give themselves time to regroup their forces, find a weak point or two to exploit, stage a breakthrough and encircle the German defenders far in the rear, rendering the defence line unsupplied and next to useless.
This option was supported by Marshal Zhukov and Deputy Chief of Staff A. I. Antonov, who considered the substantial losses after the fierce battle of Kursk; the second option would be to stage a massive assault without waiting, force the Dnieper on a broad front. This option left no additional time for the German defenders, but would lead to much larger casualties than would a successful deep operation breakthrough; this second option was backed by Stalin due to the concern that the German "scorched earth" policy might devastate this region if the Red Army did not advance fast enough. Stavka chose the second option. Instead of deep penetration and encirclement, the Soviet intended to make full use of partisan activities to intervene and disrupt Germany's supply route so that the Germans could not send reinforcements or take away Soviet industrial facilities in the region. Stavka paid high attention to the possible scorched earth activities of German forces with a view to preventing them by a rapid advance.
The assault was staged on a 300-kilometer front simultaneously. All available means of transport were to be used to transport the attackers to the opposite shore, including small fishing boats and improvised rafts of barrels and trees; the preparation of the crossing equipment was further complicated by the German scorched earth strategy with the total destruction of all boats and raft building material in the area. The crucial issue would be heavy equipment. Without it, the bridgeheads would not stand for long. Central Front, commanded by Konstantin Rokossovsky and accounted for 579,600 soldiers 2nd Tank Army, led by Aleksei Rodin / Semyon Bogdanov 9th Tank Corps, led by Hryhoriy Rudchenko, Boris Bakharov 60th Army, led by Ivan Chernyakhovsky 13th Army, led by Nikolay Pukhov 65th Army, led by Pavel Batov 61st Army, led by Pavel Belov 48th Army, led by Prokofy Romanenko 70th Army, led by Ivan Galanin / Vladimir Sharapov / Aleksei Grechkin 16th Air Army, led by Sergei Rudenko Voronezh Front, commanded by Nikolai Vatutin and accounted for 665,500 soldiers 3rd Guards Tank Army, led by Pavel Rybalko 1st Tank Army, led by Mikhail Katukov 4th Guards Tank Corps, led by Pavel Poluboyarov 1st Guard Cavalry Corps, led by Viktor Baranov 5th Guards Army, led by Aleksei Zhadov 4th Guards Army, led by Grigory Kulik / Aleksei Zygin / Ivan Galanin 6th Guards Army, led by Ivan Chistyakov 38th Army, led by Nikandr Chibisov / Kirill Moskalenko 47th Army, led by Pavel Korzun / Filipp Zhmachenko / Vitaliy Polenov 27th Army, led by Sergei Trofimenko 52nd Army, led by Konstantin Koroteev 2nd Air Army, led by Stepan Krasovsky Steppe Front, commanded by Ivan Konev Southwestern Front, commanded by Rodion Malinovsky Southern Front, commanded by Fyodor To
Pavel Ivanovich Batov was a senior Red Army general during the Second World War and afterwards, twice Hero of the Soviet Union. Batov fought in World War I. After being wounded in 1917, he joined the Bolsheviks, he fought in the Russian Civil War and became an adviser with the XII International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. During World War II, Batov commanded the 51st Army in the Crimea. In 1942, he became the commander of the 3rd Army and the 4th Tank Army, renamed the 65th Army. Postwar, Batov commanded the Carpathian Military District.. Batov is considered to be one of the most brilliant generals in Soviet army and some of his methods are still learnt today in military academies. Born at Filisovo in 1897, Batov began his military career during World War I. In 1915, he enlisted in a student command and served as a scout in the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Life Guards. During this service, he displayed considerable bravery and was awarded with two Crosses of St. George and two lesser medals.
After being wounded in action in 1917, he was assigned to an NCO school in Petrograd where political agitator A. Savkov brought him into the Bolshevik movement. Batov served for four years in the Red Army during the civil war as a machine gunner, as assistant military chief of the Rybinsk Military Committee, his first staff work, he was given command of a company in 1926, was chosen to attend the Vystrel Officer's School the same year, where he met many future senior officers of the wartime Red Army. He joined the Communist Party in 1929. In 1927, Batov was promoted to command a battalion of the prestigious 1st Moscow Proletarian Rifle Division, he would serve in this unit for the next nine years. His divisional commander in 1936 wrote: Comrade Batov has commanded a regiment for more than three years. In the course of that time, the regiment has occupied first place in the division in all categories of combat and political training. In tactical training, the regiment stands out as superb. Batov soon received the "Sign of Honour" medal, completed the Frunze Academy by correspondence course.
Batov was selected to "volunteer" for service in the Spanish Civil War, under the nom de guerre Fritz Pablo. He first served as military adviser to the Hungarian communist Máté Zalka, who commanded the XII International Brigade defending the approaches to Madrid, he fought on the Teruel Front and was wounded twice and won his first Orders of Lenin and of the Red Banner as a result. After recovering, he fought at Jarama, alongside A. I Rodimtsev, on the Aragon front, where he was wounded again. Returning to the Soviet Union in December 1937, Batov successively commanded the 10th Rifle Corps and 3rd Rifle Corps, the latter of which he led in the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in September 1939; the corps transferred to the Finnish front, fought in the second phase of the Russian-Finnish War in the Karelian sector under 13th Army. For his services in Finland, Batov was awarded a second Order of Lenin, promoted to divisional commander and, in June, to lieutenant general, he was appointed deputy commander of the Transcaucasus Military District.
The outbreak of war with Germany would find him deep in the south of the USSR. In June 1941, Batov was in command of the 9th Separate Rifle Corps, which comprised the 106th and 156th Rifle Divisions and the 32nd Cavalry Division, with a total strength of about 35,000 men; this corps was the only major Red Army formation in the Crimea at the outbreak of Operation Barbarossa, Batov had arrived at its headquarters in Simferopol just two days earlier. In 1941, he was made deputy commander of the 51st Army, following the evacuation of that army from the Kerch Peninsula he rose again to full command. Although the Crimea had been lost, Batov was exonerated by Stalin. In January 1942, he joined the Bryansk Front as commander of the 3rd Army, as deputy commander for training of the Front, under Lt. Gen. K. K. Rokossovski. Rokossovski noted that Batov preferred active command to "sit in the headquarters", that his current role was "a burden" to him. Batov and Rokossovski formed a professional and personal bond that would last beyond the latter's death in 1968, Batov would continue to serve under Rokossovski's command until the end of the war.
On October 22, 1942, Batov was moved to command of the 4th Tank Army on the approaches to Stalingrad, replacing Mjr. Gen. V. D. Kryuchenkin; this army, soon renamed the 65th Army, formed part of Rokossovski's Don Front. Batov remained in command of 65th Army for the duration, he helped to plan the Soviet counteroffensive, Operation Uranus, providing key intelligence to Gen. Zhukov regarding the boundaries between German and Romanian forces, his army formed a key strike force in this offensive, the subsequent Operation Ring, which reduced and defeated the encircled Axis forces. Rokossovski wrote: displayed fine initiative with an improvised mobile task force... By striking at the enemy's flank and rear, the task force ensured the swift advance of the other units. Following this victory 65th Army was moved to the northwest, rejoining Rokossovski as part of his new Central Front. Exploiting success, the Front was pushing hard against the weak German Second Army west of Kursk, when it was brought to a halt by the spring rasputitsa and German successes around Kharkov, to the south.
In July 1943, Batov's army formed part of Rokossovski's Front during the giant Battle of Kursk, on a secondary sector, in the exploitation operat
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk was a Second World War engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk in the Soviet Union, during July and August 1943. The battle began with the launch of the German offensive, Operation Citadel, on 5 July, which had the objective of pinching off the Kursk salient with attacks on the base of the salient from north and south simultaneously. After the German offensive stalled on the northern side of the salient, on 12 July the Soviets commenced their Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Kutuzov against the rear of the German forces in the northern side. On the southern side, the Soviets launched powerful counterattacks the same day, one of which led to a large armoured clash, the Battle of Prokhorovka. On 3 August, the Soviets began the second phase of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev against the German forces in the southern side of the Kursk salient; the battle was the final strategic offensive that the Germans were able to launch on the Eastern Front.
Because the Allied invasion of Sicily had begun, Adolf Hitler was forced to have troops training in France diverted to meet the Allied threat in the Mediterranean, rather than use them as a strategic reserve for the Eastern Front. Hitler canceled the offensive at Kursk in part to divert forces to Italy. Germany's extensive losses of men and tanks ensured that the victorious Soviet Red Army enjoyed the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war; the Germans hoped to weaken the Soviet offensive potential for the summer of 1943 by cutting off the forces that they anticipated would be in the Kursk salient. The Kursk salient or bulge was 250 kilometres long from north to south and 160 kilometres from east to west; the plan envisioned an envelopment by a pair of pincers breaking through the northern and southern flanks of the salient. Hitler believed that a victory here would reassert German strength and improve his prestige with his allies, who were considering withdrawing from the war, it was hoped that large numbers of Soviet prisoners would be captured to be used as slave labour in the German armaments industry.
The Soviet government had foreknowledge of the German intentions, provided in part by the British intelligence service and Tunny intercepts. Aware months in advance that the attack would fall on the neck of the Kursk salient, the Soviets built a defence in depth designed to wear down the German armoured spearhead; the Germans delayed the offensive while they tried to build up their forces and waited for new weapons the new Panther tank but larger numbers of the Tiger heavy tank. This gave the Red Army time to construct a series of deep defensive belts; the defensive preparations included minefields, artillery fire zones and anti-tank strong points, which extended 300 km in depth. Soviet mobile formations were moved out of the salient and a large reserve force was formed for strategic counter-offensives; the Battle of Kursk was the first time in the Second World War that a German strategic offensive was halted before it could break through enemy defences and penetrate to its strategic depths.
The maximum depth of the German advance was 8–12 kilometres in the north and 35 kilometres in the south. Though the Red Army had succeeded in winter offensives their counter-offensives following the German attack at Kursk were their first successful strategic summer offensives of the war; as the Battle of Stalingrad ground to its conclusion, the Red Army moved to a general offensive in the south, in Operation Little Saturn. By January 1943, a 160 to 300 km wide gap had opened between Army Group B and Army Group Don, the advancing Soviet armies threatened to cut off all German forces south of the Don River, including Army Group A operating in the Caucasus. Army Group Center came under significant pressure as well. Kursk fell to the Soviets on 8 February 1943, Rostov fell on 14 February; the Soviet Bryansk and newly created Central Fronts prepared for an offensive which envisioned the encirclement of Army Group Center between Bryansk and Smolensk. By February 1943 the southern sector of the German front was in strategic crisis.
Since December 1942 Field Marshal Erich von Manstein had been requesting "unrestricted operational freedom" to allow him to use his forces in a fluid manner. On 6 February 1943, Manstein met with Hitler at the headquarters in Rastenburg to discuss the proposals he had sent, he received an approval from Hitler for a counteroffensive against the Soviet forces advancing in the Donbass region. On 12 February 1943, the remaining German forces were reorganised. To the south, Army Group Don was placed under Manstein's command. Directly to the north, Army Group B was dissolved, with its forces and areas of responsibility divided between Army Group South and Army Group Center. Manstein inherited responsibility for the massive breach in the German lines. On 18 February, Hitler arrived at Army Group South headquarters at Zaporizhia just hours before the Soviets liberated Kharkov, had to be hastily evacuated on the 19th. Once given freedom of action, Manstein intended to utilise his forces to make a series of counterstrokes into the flanks of the Soviet armoured formations, with the goal of destroying them while retaking Kharkov and Kursk.
The II SS Panzer Corps had arrived from France in January 1943, refitted and up to near full strength. Armoured units from the 1st Panzer Army of Army Group A had pulled out of the Caucasus and further strengthen