51st Army (Russia)
The 51st Army was a field army of the Red Army that saw action against the Germans in World War II on both the southern and northern sectors of the front. The army participated in the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula between December 1941 and January 1942; the army fought in the Battle of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942–43, helping to defeat German relief attempts. From late 1944 to the end of the war, the army fought in the final cutting-off of German forces in the Courland area next to the Baltic. Inactivated in 1945, the army was activated again in 1977 to secure the Kuril Islands. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the army continued in existence as a component of the Russian Ground Forces; the army was active during two periods from 1941 until 1997. The Army was ordered formed on 14 August 1941 in the Crimea based on the 9th Rifle Corps and other units as the 51st Independent Army under Colonel General F. I. Kuznetsov, with the task of guarding the Crimean Peninsula. Pavel Batov was appointed as his deputy.
Professor John Erickson in The Road to Stalingrad describes Stalin's rationale for the formation of the Army during a 12 August session within the Stavka war room: Stalin and the Stavka had concluded from the German moves underway at the time that a strike on the Crimea was and thus the formation of an Independent Army in the Crimea had been decided upon. Thus Kuznetsov was summoned, after a discussion, he was sent south to take up his new command; the army's initial forces included the 9th Rifle Corps, the 271st and 276th Rifle Divisions, the 40th, 42nd and 48th Cavalry Divisions, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th irregularly formed Crimean Rifle divisions and a number of smaller units. However, due to what Erickson describes as Kuznetsov's'sticking blindly to the prewar plan', which anticipated a seaborne assault, leaving the Perekop and Sivash approaches too thinly held, Erich von Manstein, leading the German assault, was able to push past the defenses. Therefore, the Stavka ordered. In November the army was evacuated from the Taman Peninsula and it joined the Transcaucasian Front.
The army participated in the Kerch-Feodosiya landing operation in December 1941 – January 1942 alongside the 44th Army. 51st Army was planned to be the Kerch arm of the assault, but delays caused by bad weather and a schedule change prompted by renewed German attacks on Sevastopol resulted in 51st Army troops being landed at Capes Sjuk and Chroni during the night of 26–27 December 1941. The 44th and 51st Armies formed the Crimean Front under General Dmitri T. Kozlov, formally established on 28 January 1942, which hammered at Von Manstein's Eleventh Army. On 1 February 1942, 51st Army comprised the 138th and 302nd Mountain Rifle Divisions, the 224th, 390th, 396th Rifle Divisions, the 12th Rifle Brigade, 83rd Naval Infantry Brigade, 105th Separate Mountain Rifle Regiment, 55th Tank Brigade, 229th Separate Tank Battalion, artillery units, other support units. A German offensive was launched against the Front on 8 May 1942. Army commander Lieutenant General Vladimir Nikolayevich Lvov was killed by bomb fragments on 11 May while changing his command post.
The offensive concluded around 18 May 1942 with the near complete destruction of Soviet defending forces, which Erickson attributes to bickering between Kozlov and the Front commissar, Lev Mekhlis, a trail of incompetent actions. Three armies, 21 divisions, 176,000 men, 347 tanks, nearly 3,500 guns were lost; the remains of the force were evacuated. After the evacuation 51st Army joined the North Caucasian Front at Kuban. In July, Marshal Budenny received orders to combine the Southern Front and North Caucasian Front into a single formation retaining the title of North Caucasian Front, 51st Army joined the'Don group' of that front under General Lieutenant Rodion Malinovsky, along with the 12th Army and the 37th Army. On 22 July, army commander Major general Nikolai Trufanov was relieved of command; as part of the Stalingrad Front briefly with the Southeast Front, back with the Stalingrad Front it took part in the Battle of Stalingrad. On 31 July when it came under Stalingrad Front control it was so worn down by its previous rough handling that it was only 3,000 men strong.
It was attacked on the same day by the 4th Panzer Army, able to break through. During Operation Uranus, the counterattack from Stalingrad, the 4th Mechanized Corps began its attack from the 51st Army's sector. In early December, 51st Army was deployed to cover the Kotelnikovo approaches against German relief attempts by the LVII. Panzerkorps. On 24–25 December 1942, the commander of 51st Army, Major-General N. I. Trufanov, organized a local offensive operation on the right flank with the forces of three rifle divisions, moved to the north bank of the Aksav River, on the eve of the Kotelnikovo offensive operation, which defeated the German efforts made as part of Operation Winter Storm to relieve the Sixth Army in Stalingrad. On 30 January 1943, the Luftwaffe's Kampfgeschwader 51 destroyed the 51st Army's Headquarters, near Salsk. Dropping 100 – 250 kg bombs, a wave of Junkers Ju 88s and Heinkel He 111s destroyed the communications center, working offices of the chief-of-staff, the operational headquarters and the offices of the operational duty officer.
Up to 20 buildings and personnel billets were destroyed. Casualties among personnel were very high. After Janua
Volgograd Tsaritsyn, 1589–1925, Stalingrad, 1925–1961, is an industrial city and the administrative centre of Volgograd Oblast, Russia. The city lies on the western bank of the Volga River; the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II was one of the largest and bloodiest battles in the history of warfare. Known locally as the "Hero City", it is home to The Motherland Calls, an 85 meter statue dedicated to the heroes of the battle; the city has many tourist attractions, such as museums, sandy beaches, a self-propelled floating church. Its population was 1,021,215 at the 2010 Census, growing from 1,011,417 in the 2002 Census. Although the city may have originated in 1555, documented evidence of Tsaritsyn at the confluence of the Tsaritsa and Volga rivers dates only from 1589. Grigori Zasekin established the fortress Sary Su as part of the defences of the unstable southern border of the Tsardom of Russia; the structure stood above the mouth of the Tsaritsa River on the right bank. It soon became the nucleus of a trading settlement.
In 1607 the fortress garrison rebelled against the troops of Tsar Vasili Shuisky for six months. In 1608 the city acquired St. John the Baptist. At the beginning of the 17th century, the garrison consisted of 350 to 400 people. In 1670 troops of Stepan Razin captured the fortress. In 1708 the insurgent Cossack Kondraty Bulavin held the fortress. In 1717 in the Kuban pogrom, raiders from the Kuban under the command of the Crimean Tatar Bakhti Gerai blockaded the town and enslaved thousands in the area. In August 1774 Yemelyan Pugachev unsuccessfully attempted to storm the city. In 1691 Moscow established a customs-post at Tsaritsyn. In 1708 Tsaritsyn was assigned to the Kazan Governorate. According to the census in 1720, the city had a population of 408 people. In 1773 the city became a district town. From 1779 it belonged to the Saratov Viceroyalty. In 1780 the city came under the newly-established Saratov Governorate. In the 19th century Tsaritsyn became commercial center; the population expanded increasing from fewer than 3,000 people in 1807 to about 84,000 in 1900.
The first railway reached the town in 1862. The first theatre opened in 1872, the first cinema in 1907. In 1913 Tsaritsyn got its first tram-line, the city's first electric lights were installed in the city center. During the Russian Civil War of 1917–1923, Tsaritsyn came under Soviet control from November 1917. In 1918 White troops under the Ataman of the Don Cossack Host, Pyotr Krasnov, besieged Tsaritsyn; the Reds repulsed three assaults by the Whites. However, in June 1919 the White Armed Forces of South Russia under the command of General Denikin captured Tsaritsyn, which they held until January 1920; the fighting from July 1918 to January 1920 became known as the Battle for Tsaritsyn. The city was renamed Stalingrad after Joseph Stalin on April 10, 1925; this was to recognize the city and Stalin's role in its defense against the Whites between 1918 and 1920. In 1931, the German settlement-colony Old Sarepta became a district of Stalingrad. Renamed Krasnoarmeysky Rayon, it became the largest area of the city.
The first institute was opened in 1930. A year the Stalingrad Industrial Pedagogical Institute, now Volgograd State Pedagogical University, was opened. Under Stalin, the city became a center of heavy industry and transshipment by river. During World War II, German and Axis forces attacked the city, in 1942 it became the site of one of the pivotal battles of the war; the Battle of Stalingrad had the greatest casualty figures of any single battle in the history of warfare. The battle became a titanic struggle between Hitler and Stalin as both saw it of great propaganda value, each keenly aware of the namesake of the city, each poured hundreds of thousands of men into the battle; the battle began on August 23, 1942, on the same day, the city suffered heavy aerial bombardment that reduced most of it to rubble. By September, the fighting reached the city center; the fighting was of unprecedented intensity. By early November, the German forces controlled 90 percent of the city and had cornered the Soviets in two narrow pockets, but they were unable to eliminate the last pockets of Soviet resistance before Soviet forces launched a huge counterattack on November 19.
This led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army and other Axis units. On January 31, 1943 the Sixth Army's commander, Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, by February 2, with the elimination of straggling German troops, the Battle of Stalingrad was over. In 1945 the Soviet Union awarded Stalingrad the title Hero City for its resistance. Great Britain's King George VI awarded the citizens of Stalingrad the jeweled "Sword of Stalingrad" in recognition of their bravery. A number of cities around the world established sister and twinning links in the spirit of solidarity or reconciliation. One of the first "sister city" projects was that established during World War II between Stalingrad and Coventry in the United Kingdom – both suffered extensive devastation from aerial bombardment. On 10 November 1961, Nikita Khrushchev's administration changed the name of the city to Volg
4th Ukrainian Front
The 4th Ukrainian Front was the name of two distinct Red Army strategic army groups that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II. The front was first formed on 20 October 1943, by renaming the Southern Front and was involved in the Lower Dnieper Strategic Offensive Operation, two battles of Kiev and the Crimean Strategic Offensive Operation. After the liberation of Crimea, the front was disbanded in May 1944. For the second time the 4th Ukrainian Front was created on 4. August 1944, by separating the left wing of the 1st Ukrainian Front; the front took part in the Carpathian Offensive with the Battle of the Dukla Pass and after that the front was involved in the battles in East-, North- and Central Slovakia, as well as in the Moravian-Ostrava Offensive Operation on the Polish-Moravian borders and in the Prague Offensive, the final battle of World War II in Europe. The 4th Ukrainian Front actions were important for the liberation of the Czechoslovakia; the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps served within the front since November 1944 until May 1945.
On 25 August 1945, the front was disbanded and its elements incorporated into the Carpathian Military District. Units subordinated to the Front:35th Tank-destroyer Artillery Brigade, 530th Tank-Destroyer Artillery Regiment, 4th Guards Mortar Brigade, 2nd, 4th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 67th Guards Mortar Regiments, 270th Guards AA Artillery Regiment, 1069th AA Artillery Regiment, 1485th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment 19th Tank Corps 6th Guards Tank Brigade, 52nd Motorcycle Regiment, 5th Separate Armored Car Battalion, 46th and 54th Separate Armored Train Battalions 7th Engineer-Sapper Brigade, 2nd Pontoon-Bridge Brigade, 3rd Guards, 65th, 240th Separate Engineer Battalions, 17th Guards Mine Battalion, 102nd Pontoon-Bridge Battalion 2nd Guards Army 13th Guards Rifle Corps 3rd Guards Rifle Division 24th Guards Rifle Division 87th Guards Rifle Division 54th Rifle Corps 126th Rifle Division 315th Rifle Division 387th Rifle Division 55th Rifle Corps 87th Rifle Division 347th Rifle Division 116th Fortified Region 2nd Guards Breakthrough Artillery Division Independent units: 1095th, 1101st Gun Artillery Regiments, 331st Howitzer Artillery Regiment, 315th and 317th Artillery Battalions of High Impact, 113th Guards, 14th 1250th Tank-Destroyer Artillery Regiments, 133rd Guards, 483rd Mortar Regiments, 76th AA Artillery Division, 591st, 1530th AA Artillery Regiments 1452nd SP Artillery Regiment, 512 Independent Tank Battalion 43rd Special Purpose Engineer Brigade, Independent 258th and 255th Engineer Battalions 51st Army: 1st Guards Rifle Corps, 10th Rifle Corps, 63rd Rifle Corps 77th Rifle Division 78th Fortified Region 26th Artillery Division Independent units: 6th Guards Gun Artillery Brigade, 105th High Impact Howitzer Artillery Brigade, 647th, 1105th Gun Artillery Regiments, 85th Guards, 1231st Howitzer Artillery Regiment, 207th Guards Howitzer Artillery Regiment, 5th Guards, 15th, 21st Tank-destroyer Artillery Brigades, 764th 1246th Tank-destroyer Artillery Regiment, 19th Mortar Brigade, 125th Mortar Regiment.
Anti-Aircraft Artillery forces 2nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Division 15th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Division 18th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Division 77th Guards Artillery Regiment 32nd Guards Tank Brigade, 22nd Guards Separate Tank Regiment, 30th and 33rd Separate Armored Train Battalions 12th Assault Engineer Brigade, 63rd Engineer-Sapper Brigade, 5th Guards, 1504 Separate Engineer Battalions, 275th Separate Sapper Battalion The front's first operations were the Lower Dnieper Strategic Offensive Operation and the Kiev Strategic Offensive and Kiev Strategic Defensive operations. In early 1944, after an amphibious landing against the German-held Crimea, begun the Crimean Strategic Offensive Operation in which 4UF, including 2nd Guards Army, 51st Army and the Separate Coastal Army destroyed the 17th Army, holding out there. 5th Shock Army and 28th Army were part of the Front at the time, but do not appear from U. S. military maps to have taken part in the battle. 1st Guards Army 18th Army 8th Air Army 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps, since November 1944 38th Army, since November 1944 60th Army, since March 1945 general Ivan Yefimovich Petrov general Andrey Ivanovich Yeryomenko
Odessa Military District
The Odessa Military District was a military administrative division of the Imperial Russian military, the Soviet Armed Forces and the Ukrainian Armed Forces and was known under such name from around 1862 to 1998. It was reorganized as part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Military of Moldova in 1992. In 1998 most of its territory was transformed into the Southern Operational Command. December 24, 1862 – January 1918 Russian Empire, transformed into headquarters of Romanian Front April 9 – August 5, 1919 Russian SFSR, remnants transferred to 12th Army October 11, 1939 – September 10, 1941 Soviet Union, dissolved remnants transferred to Southern Front March 23, 1944 – January 3, 1992 Soviet Union, passed on to Armed Forces of Ukraine July 9, 1945 – April 4, 1956, portion of territory was under jurisdiction of Tauric Military District January 3, 1992 – January 3, 1998 Ukraine, transformed into Southern Operational Command The Odessa Military District was established during the reforms of the Russian military minister Dmitry Milyutin.
It was the second of two districts on the territory of the future Ukraine, the other being Kiev Military District. OVO existed from 1862–1918 as part of the Imperial Russian Armed Forces, it encompassed the territories of Kherson, Tauride, Bessarabia guberniyas. The district bordered Kingdom of Romania, Kiev Military District, Don Voisko Oblast, Black Sea. In the 1870s and 1880s the Commander of the district served as the interim Governor General of Odessa city concurrently. In January 1918 the Odessa Military District headquarters was transformed into the headquarters of the Soviet Romanian Front under the jurisdiction of Rumcherod. With the establishment of the Ukrainian government on its territory, it was terminated. OVO was reinstated as the Ukrainian forces were pushed out the area in April to August 1919; the district was reformed by the decision of October 11, 1939 for the occupation of Bessarabia after the Soviet Union signed Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. At that time its territory included the newly created Moldovian SSR, six oblasts of the Ukrainian SSR and the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as part of the Russian SFSR.
The Odessa MD was reinforced by several units from the Ukrainian Front that took part in the Soviet invasion of Poland and Romania formed on base of the Odessa Army Group of the Kiev Special Military District. By directives OV/583 and OV/584 of the Soviet People's Commissariat of Defense, units of the Odessa Military District commanded by Mjr. Gen. I. V. Boldin, were ordered into battle ready state in the spring of 1940. Soviet troop concentrations along the Romanian border took place between April 15 and June 10, 1940. In order to coordinate the efforts of the Kiev and Odessa military districts in the preparation of action against Romania, the Soviet Army created the Southern Front under General Georgy Zhukov, composed of the 5th, 9th and 12th Armies; the Southern Front had 32 infantry divisions, 2 motorized infantry divisions, 6 cavalry divisions, 11 tank brigades, 3 paratrooper brigades, 30 artillery regiments, smaller auxiliary units. Two action plans were devised; the first plan was prepared for the case that Romania would not accept to evacuate Bessarabia and Bukovina.
The Soviet 12th Army was supposed in such a situation to strike Southward along the Prut river towards Iaşi, while Soviet 9th Army was supposed to strike East-to-West south of Chişinău towards Huşi. The target of this plan was to surround the Romanian troops in the Bălţi-Iaşi area; the second plan took into consideration the case that Romania would succumb to Soviet demands and would evacuate its military. In such a situation, Soviet troops were given the mission to reach the Prut river, take charge of the evacuation process of the Romanian troops; the first plan was taken as the basis of action. Along the portions where the offensive was supposed to take place, Soviets prepared to have at least a triple superiority of men and means. On June 22, 1941 primary combat formations included: 9th Army was relocated to the District as 9th Separate Army in June 1941 from the Leningrad Military District after the Winter War and invasion of Romania 2nd Mechanised Corps and 18th Mechanised Corps were associated with 9th Army.
7th Rifle Corps was formed in the District in June 1941, 9th Rifle Corps formed as part of the District on June 22, 1941, 3rd Airborne CorpsIn August 1941 51st Independent Army was formed in the Crimea. On September 10, 1941 the district was abolished as it was overran by the Armed Forces of Nazi Germany and its allies; the District was reformed on April 23, 1944 with its headquarters at Kirovohrad, which in October 1944 relocated to Odessa. In 1948, 4th Guards Army, with 10th Guards Rifle Corps and 24th Guards Rifle Corps, plus 82nd Rifle Corps were in the district. Marshal of the Soviet Union, Giorgi Zhukov was assigned command of the Odessa Military District after the war, far from Moscow and lacking in strategic significance and troops, he arrived there on 13 June 1945. Zhukov suffered a heart attack in January 1948. In February 1948, Zhukov was moved to another secondary posting, this time command of the Urals Military District. General Colonel Nikolay Pukhov took command. 82nd Rifle Corps existed until 13 June 1955, when it was renamed 25th Rifle Corps, 25.6.57 it was renamed 25th Army Corps.
HQ in Nikolayev with the 28th Guards Motor Rifle Division, 34th gv. MSD and 95th MSD in the late 1950s. Disbanded in J
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans, to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort, to murder the rest, to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories. In the two years leading up to the invasion and the Soviet Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes; the German High Command began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1940, which Adolf Hitler authorized on 18 December 1940. Over the course of the operation, about three million personnel of the Axis powers – the largest invasion force in the history of warfare – invaded the western Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer front. In addition to troops, the Wehrmacht deployed some 600,000 motor vehicles, between 600,000 and 700,000 horses for non-combat operations.
The offensive marked an escalation of World War II, both geographically and in the formation of the Allied coalition. Operationally, German forces achieved major victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties. Despite these Axis successes, the German offensive stalled in the Battle of Moscow at the end of 1941, the subsequent Soviet winter counteroffensive pushed German troops back; the Red Army absorbed the Wehrmacht's strongest blows and forced the Germans into a war of attrition that they were unprepared for. The Wehrmacht never again mounted a simultaneous offensive along the entire Eastern front; the failure of the operation drove Hitler to demand further operations of limited scope inside the Soviet Union, such as Case Blue in 1942 and Operation Citadel in 1943 – all of which failed. The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved a turning point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Most the operation opened up the Eastern Front, in which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history.
The Eastern Front became the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, highest World War II casualties, all of which influenced the course of both World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century. The German armies captured 5,000,000 Red Army troops, who were denied the protection guaranteed by the Hague Conventions and the 1929 Geneva Convention. A majority of Red Army POWs never returned alive; the Nazis deliberately starved to death, or otherwise killed, 3.3 million prisoners of war, as well as a huge number of civilians. Einsatzgruppen death-squads and gassing operations murdered over a million Soviet Jews as part of the Holocaust; as early as 1925, Adolf Hitler vaguely declared in his political manifesto and autobiography Mein Kampf that he would invade the Soviet Union, asserting that the German people needed to secure Lebensraum to ensure the survival of Germany for generations to come. On 10 February 1939, Hitler told his army commanders that the next war would be "purely a war of Weltanschauungen... a people's war, a racial war".
On 23 November, once World War II had started, Hitler declared that "racial war has broken out and this war shall determine who shall govern Europe, with it, the world". The racial policy of Nazi Germany portrayed the Soviet Union as populated by non-Aryan Untermenschen, ruled by Jewish Bolshevik conspirators. Hitler claimed in Mein Kampf that Germany's destiny was to "turn to the East" as it did "six hundred years ago". Accordingly, it was stated Nazi policy to kill, deport, or enslave the majority of Russian and other Slavic populations and repopulate the land with Germanic peoples, under the Generalplan Ost; the Germans' belief in their ethnic superiority is evident in official German records and discernible in pseudoscientific articles in German periodicals at the time, which covered topics such as "how to deal with alien populations". While older histories tended to emphasize the notion of a "Clean Wehrmacht", the historian Jürgen Förster notes that "In fact, the military commanders were caught up in the ideological character of the conflict, involved in its implementation as willing participants."
Before and during the invasion of the Soviet Union, German troops were indoctrinated with anti-Bolshevik, anti-Semitic, anti-Slavic ideology via movies, lectures and leaflets. Likening the Soviets to the forces of Genghis Khan, Hitler told Croatian military leader Slavko Kvaternik that the "Mongolian race" threatened Europe. Following the invasion, Wehrmacht officers told their soldiers to target people who were described as "Jewish Bolshevik subhumans", the "Mongol hordes", the "Asiatic flood", the "Red beast". Nazi propaganda portrayed the war against the Soviet Union as both an ideological war between German National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism and a racial war between the Germans and the Jewish and Slavic Untermenschen. An'order from the Führer' stated that the Einsatzgruppen were to execute all Soviet functionaries who were "less valuable Asiatics and Jews". Six months into the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen had murdered in excess of 500,000 Soviet Jews, a figure greater than the number of Red Army soldiers killed in combat during that same time frame.
German army command
Second Battle of Kharkov
The Second Battle of Kharkov or Operation Fredericus was an Axis counter-offensive in the region around Kharkov against the Red Army Izium bridgehead offensive conducted 12–28 May 1942, on the Eastern Front during World War II. Its objective was to eliminate the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets or the "Barvenkovo bulge", one of the Soviet offensive's staging areas. After a winter counter-offensive that drove German troops away from Moscow but depleted the Red Army's reserves, the Kharkov offensive was a new Soviet attempt to expand upon their strategic initiative, although it failed to secure a significant element of surprise. On 12 May 1942, Soviet forces under the command of Marshal Semyon Timoshenko launched an offensive against the German 6th Army from a salient established during the winter counter-offensive. After a promising start, the offensive was stopped on 15 May by a massive German campaign of airstrikes. Critical Soviet errors by several staff officers and by Joseph Stalin, who failed to estimate the 6th Army's potential and overestimated their own newly raised forces, facilitated a German pincer attack on 17 May which cut off three Soviet field armies from the rest of the front by 22 May.
Hemmed into a narrow area, the 250,000-strong Soviet force inside the pocket was exterminated from all sides by German armored and machine gun firepower as well as 7,700 tonnes of air-dropped bombs. After six days of encirclement, organized Soviet resistance came to an end as the Soviet formations were either killed or taken prisoner; the battle was an overwhelming German victory, with 280,000 Soviet casualties compared to just 20,000 for the Germans and their allies. The German Army Group South pressed its advantage, encircling the Soviet 28th Army on 13 June in Operation Wilhelm and pushing back the 38th and 9th Armies on 22 June in Operation Fridericus II as preliminary operations to Case Blue, launched on 28 June as the main German offensive on the Eastern Front in 1942. By late February 1942, the Soviet winter counter-offensive, had pushed German forces from Moscow on a broad front and ended in mutual exhaustion. Stalin was convinced that the Germans were finished and would collapse by the spring or summer 1942, as he said in his speech of 7 November 1941.
Stalin decided to exploit this perceived weakness on the Eastern Front by launching a new offensive in the spring. Stalin's decision faced objections from his advisors, including the Chief of the Red Army General Staff, General Boris Shaposhnikov, generals Aleksandr Vasilevsky and Georgy Zhukov, who argued for a more defensive strategy. Vasilevsky wrote "Yes, we were hoping for, but the reality was more harsh than that". According to Zhukov, Stalin believed that the Germans were able to carry out operations along two strategic axes, he was sure that the opening of spring offensives along the entire front would destabilize the German Army, before it had a chance to initiate what could be a mortal offensive blow on Moscow. Despite the caution urged by his generals, Stalin decided to try to keep the German forces off-balance through "local offensives". After the conclusion of the winter offensive and the Soviet Armed Forces General Staff believed that the eventual German offensives would aim for Moscow, with a big offensive to the south as well, mirroring Operation Barbarossa and Operation Typhoon in 1941.
Although Stavka believed that the Germans had been defeated before Moscow, the seventy divisions which faced Moscow remained a threat. Stalin, most generals and front commanders believed that the principal effort would be a German offensive towards Moscow. Emboldened by the success of the winter offensive, Stalin was convinced that local offensives in the area would wear down German forces, weakening German efforts to mount another operation to take Moscow. Stalin had agreed to prepare the Red Army for an "active strategic defence" but gave orders for the planning of seven local offensives, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. One area was Kharkov, where action was ordered for March. Early that month, the Stavka issued orders to Southwestern Strategic Direction headquarters for an offensive in the region, after the victories following the Rostov Strategic Offensive Operation and the Barvenkovo–Lozovaya Offensive Operation in the Donbas region; the forces of Marshal Semyon Timoshenko and Lieutenant General Kirill Moskalenko penetrated German positions along the northern Donets River, east of Kharkov.
Fighting continued into April, with Moskalenko crossing the river and establishing a tenuous bridgehead at Izium. In the south, the Soviet 6th Army had limited success defending against German forces, which managed to keep a bridgehead of their own on the east bank of the river. Catching the attention of Stalin, it set the pace for the prelude to the eventual offensive intended to reach Pavlohrad and Sinelnikovo and Kharkov and Poltava. By 15 March, Soviet commanders introduced preliminary plans for an offensive towards Kharkov, assisted by a large number of reserves. On 20 March, Timoshenko held a conference in Kupiansk to discuss the offensive and a report to Moscow, prepared by Timoshenko's chief of staff, General Lieutenant Ivan Baghramian, summed up the conference, although arguably leaving several key intelligence features out; the build-up of Soviet forces in the region of Barvenkovo and Vovchansk continued well into the beginning of May. Final details were settled following discussions between Stalin and the leadership of the Southwestern Strategic Direction led by Timoshenko throughout March and April, with one of the final Stavka directives issued on 17 April.
By 11 May 1942, the Red Army was able to allocate six armies und
4th Guards Motor Rifle Division
The 4th Guards Motor Rifle Division was a motorized infantry division of the Soviet Army during the Cold War. The division began its history as the 13th Tank Corps of the Red Army, formed in April 1942 during World War II and fought in the Soviet counterattack against Case Blue, the Battle of Voronezh, the Battle of Stalingrad; the corps lost so many tanks that it was reorganized with a mechanized corps structure in November, though it retained the 13th Tank Corps designation. For its actions the corps became the 4th Guards Mechanized Corps in early 1943 and received the Stalingrad honorific, it continued to fight in combat for most of the rest of the war, receiving the Order of the Red Banner for its role in the Nikopol–Krivoi Rog Offensive of early 1944, the Order of Suvorov, 2nd class for its actions in the Odessa Offensive, the Order of Kutuzov, 2nd class for its actions in the Jassy–Kishinev Offensive. In the final months of the war the corps advanced into Bulgaria, Serbia and southern Czechoslovakia before being withdrawn into the reserve.
Several weeks after the end of the war, the corps was converted into the 4th Guards Mechanized Division and based at Sofia. In the late 1940s it was withdrawn to Ukraine, was based at Lugansk by the time it became the 63rd Guards Motor Rifle Division in 1957, it was renumbered as the 4th Guards Motor Rifle Division to preserve its traditions in 1964, was sent to Termez during the Soviet–Afghan War to replace a division deployed to the latter. When it returned to Lugansk in 1989, the division was reduced to a storage base, disbanded in 1991; the corps was formed during April and May 1942 in the Stalingrad Military District as the 13th Tank Corps, under the command of Major General Pyotr Shurov. It included the 65th, 85th, 88th Tank Brigades as well as the 20th Motor Rifle Brigade and support units; the corps saw its first combat on 10 June in the area of Prikolotnoye southwest of Kupiansk as part of the Southwestern Front. During June and July the corps was part of the 28th Army transferred to the 21st Army to participate in the Battle of Voronezh.
Shruov was mortally wounded in July and replaced by Colonel Trofim Tanaschishin, who would be promoted to major general on 7 December 1942 and to lieutenant general on 30 August 1943. On 23 July 1942 it was transferred to the Stalingrad Front, with which it fought in the Battle of Stalingrad. Due to heavy losses of tanks, in November the corps was reorganized as a mechanized corps with the 1st, 17th, 62nd Mechanized Brigades, though it retained the 13th Tank Corps designation; the corps fought in Operation Uranus, helping to encircle the Axis southern flank, in the repulse of the German counterattack Operation Winter Storm, in the counteroffensive of Operation Little Saturn. For "showing perseverance, courage and organization" in these actions, in addition to the "heroism displayed by its personnel," the corps was made an elite Guards unit, the 4th Guards Mechanized Corps, on 9 January 1943, received the Stalingrad honorific on 27 January, its subordinate brigades accordingly became the 13th, 14th, 15th Guards Mechanized Brigades.
Between January 1943 and mid-January 1944 the corps fought as part of the Southern Front, which became the 4th Ukrainian Front on 20 October 1943. It participated in the Rostov Offensive, the Donbass Strategic Offensive, the Melitopol Offensive during this period. Transferred to the 3rd Ukrainian Front in mid-January 1944, the corps was attached to the 8th Guards Army for the Nikopol–Krivoi Rog Offensive. Between 16 and 18 January it was relocated to support a breakthrough of the flanks on the 46th and 8th Guards Armies, with the objective of capturing the critical rail junction of Apostolovo to link up with forces of the 4th Ukrainian Front and cut off German troops in the Nikopol bridgehead. During the offensive, it helped to capture Nikopol and Apostolovo, earning it the Order of the Red Banner for its "exemplary completion of combat missions" and "valor and courage" on 13 February 1944; the 4th Guards Mechanized was attached to a Cavalry Mechanized Group commanded by Lieutenant General Issa Pliyev for the subsequent Bereznegovatoye–Snigeryovka and Odessa Offensives.
For helping to capture Odessa among other objectives during the latter, the corps was awarded the Order of Suvorov, 2nd class, on 20 April. Among the corps personnel posthumously awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title for their actions in these operations were tank commanders and Junior Lieutenants Boris Grebennikov and Vadim Sivkov, gunner and radio operator Ryadovoy Pyotr Krestyaninov. Tanaschishin was killed in action during the Odessa Offensive at the end of March and replaced by Major General Vladimir Zhdanov, who commanded it for the rest of the war and was promoted to Lieutenant General on 13 September. Attacking in conjunction with the 7th Mechanized and 18th Tank Corps during the August Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, the corps reached the area of Huși and Leova to encircle and destroy a large Axis group of eighteen divisions. For this action it received the Order of 2nd class, on 7 September. In early September the corps swept southward into Bulgaria west during the Belgrade Offensive to capture the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade on 20 October.
For their actions in the latter 214 corps personnel received Yugoslav decorations, Zhdanov was made a Hero of Yugoslavia. The corps was transferred to the 2nd Ukrainian Front in late October, served with it until February 1945; the corps was successively attached to the 46th Army from 1 November, Cavalry-Mechanized Group Pliev from 28 November, the 6th Guards Tank Army from 23 December, the 7th Guards Army from 26 January 1945 during the Budapest Offensive. It sa