140th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

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140th Rifle Division
Active ca.1940 - 1946
Country  Soviet Union
Branch Red Army flag.svg Red Army
Type Division
Role Infantry
Engagements Operation Barbarossa
Operation Typhoon
Operation Blue
Battle of Kursk
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Mjr. Gen. M.A. Enshin
Mjr. Gen. A.Ya. Kiselyov, Hero of the Soviet Union
Col. M.M. Vlasov

The 140th Rifle Division was a Red Army rifle division of the Great Patriotic War. Originally formed before the War, the 140th might be regarded as the unluckiest division in the Army, as it had to be completely, or almost completely, re-formed three times between 1941 and 1943. In spite of this, the fourth formation of the 140th went on to have a distinguished record in combat, a testament to the resiliency of the Red Army in WWII.

1st Formation[edit]

The division was first organized during the expansion of the Red Army in the late 1930s - 1940. It comprised:

  • 445th Rifle Regiment
  • 637th Rifle Regiment
  • 798th Rifle Regiment
  • 309th Artillery Regiment, plus supporting elements.

When the German invasion began, the 140th was assigned to the 28th Army of the Western Front. The division was destroyed near Roslavl in August 1941 and disbanded.[1][2]

2nd Formation[edit]

The division was reformed on 26 September from the 13th Moscow Militia Division with:

  • 1305th Rifle Regiment - from 37th Militia Regiment
  • 1307th Rifle Regiment - from 38th Militia Regiment
  • 1309th Rifle Regiment - from 39th Militia Regiment
  • 977th Artillery Regiment - from Militia Artillery Battalion (76mm)

The 13th Militia (Opolchenie) Division reported 8,010 men on hand in mid-July, including 1,700 members of the Communist Party or Komsomols. The division spent most of Aug. and Sept. with the 32nd Army in Reserve Front, training and probably being reinforced. It made little difference in October, when the division was encircled near Lozino, northwest of Vitebsk during Operation Typhoon and largely destroyed by mid-month, although it was not officially disbanded until 27 December.[3] Enough personnel escaped the encirclement to make a cadre for the next formation of the division.

3rd Formation[edit]

The third formation of the 140th Rifle Division began in late Dec., based on escaped elements of the previous division. The order of battle reverted to that of the first formation. A new divisional commander was not appointed until late Jan., 1942, and the unit remained in the Moscow Military District until May. In late May the 140th was transferred to the 24th Army in STAVKA reserves and sent south. 24th Army arrived in Southern Front just at the opening of the German summer offensive, Operation Blue, in June. Retreating across the open steppes with the First Panzer Army in pursuit, a rifle division stood little chance, and was effectively destroyed by the end of June, although not officially disbanded until 19 August.[4]

4th Formation[edit]

The fourth formation of the division began on 1 November 1942, using personnel from the NKVD, at Novosibirsk in the Siberian Military District. It consisted of:

  • 96th "Chitinsk" Rifle Regiment
  • 258th "Khabarovsk" Rifle Regiment
  • 283rd "Krasnofouminsk" Rifle Regiment
  • 371st "Sibirsk" Artillery Regiment
  • 92nd Antitank Battalion
  • 87th Sapper Battalion, and other supporting units.[5]

The NKVD began forming the division, and three others, to serve as NKVD rifle divisions prior to being authorized by the Commissar of Defense on 7 December. The division was passed to Red Army control as the 140th in Feb., 1943. At that time it had 8,685 officers and men assigned, 69 percent of whom were under 30 years of age, quite a youthful cadre for a late-war division. Officially these men were drawn from internal troops and border guards of the NKVD. As the Siberian Military District had no external borders, it's likely that some were taken from guards of the GULAG and other sources that were off-limits to the Red Army.[6]

As with the other NKVD divisions, the 140th was assigned to the 70th Army in the Central Front. During the Battle of Kursk the 70th Army fought on the left flank of the 2nd Tank Army and played a role in stopping the German 9th Army that was trying to break through to Kursk from the north.[7] During the subsequent Red Army counterattack, the 70th Army took part in Operation Kutuzov and attacked Trosna to the south of the town of Kromy. On 5 Aug., its units reached the region southwest of Kromy, and on 17 Aug., they reached the German "Hagen" defense line near Domakha.

Advance[edit]

In Aug. the division was moved to the 19th Rifle Corps of the 65th Army, and participated in the advance towards the Dnepr River in the following months. On 16 September it was successful in liberating the town of Novgorod-Severski and was later given the name of that town as its divisional honorific, in addition to the title Siberian, which it had carried since its fourth formation. By Nov. it was depleted to the point that it went into Belorussian (the renamed Central) Front reserves. On 13 December the 140th was moved to the 13th Army in 1st Ukrainian Front. By the turn of the year the division was back in the front line, and on 3 January 1944 liberated the town of Novograd-Volynskiy, for which it received its first Order of the Red Banner. In Feb. the division was transferred to the 28th Rifle Corps of the 60th Army of the same Front. In July the division was reassigned to the 38th Army, and remained in this Army for the duration.

The 38th Army moved to the 4th Ukrainian Front in Nov., 1944, and the 140th remained in this Front for the duration, although it was bounced from one rifle corps to another during this time. Along with its Army, the division fought through the Carpathian Mountains and eastern Czechoslovakia during the winter and spring of 1945. At the end of the war, the 140th was near Prague, in the 101st Rifle Corps.[8]

Apart from Mjr. Gen. A.Ya. Kiselyov, who commanded the division from 11 May 1943 until 24 January 1945, only one man of the 140th was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, Lt. G.M. Gridasov, on 15 May 1945. The division honorifics were - Russian: Сибирская Новгород-Северская ордена Ленина, дважды Краснознамённая, орденов Суворова и Кутузова. (English: Siberian, Novgorod-Severski, Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov, Order of Kutuzov.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Walter S. Dunn; Stalin's Keys to Victory; Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2006; p 65
  2. ^ David Glantz; Barbarossa Derailed, vol. 2; Helion & Company, Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2012; pp 25 - 27
  3. ^ Charles C. Sharp, "Red Tide", Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. IX, Nafziger, 1996, p 21
  4. ^ Charles C. Sharp, "Red Swarm", Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. X, Nafziger, 1996, pp 53 - 54
  5. ^ Sharp; "Red Swarm"; p 54
  6. ^ Sharp; "Red Swarm"; p 54
  7. ^ Robin Cross; The Battle of Kursk; Penguin Books, London, 1993; p 166
  8. ^ Sharp; "Red Swarm"; p 54