I Corps (Czechoslovakia)
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Czech Wikipedia. (March 2012)|
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|1st Czechoslovak Army Corps
1. československý armádní sbor
Ludvík Svoboda and his soldiers
|Active||05.05.1944 - 05.15.1945|
|Allegiance|| Czechoslovak government-in-exile
formation equipped and supplied by Soviet Union
|Size||16,171 (September 1944)|
|Engagements||Battle of the Dukla Pass
|First commander of the Corps||Jan Kratochvíl|
|Second commander||Ludvík Svoboda|
|Last commander||Karel Klapálek, DSO|
The corps was the largest of the Czechoslovak units that fought on the Soviet side on the Eastern Front.
The First Czechoslovak Independent Field Battalion, which was formed in Buzuluk, in the Urals, was the first Allied unit fighting alongside the Red Army in Soviet territory. It was formed from former members of the Czechoslovak Legion, Czechoslovak citizens (mostly refugees) living in the Soviet Union, Slovak prisoners-of-war and defectors, and Volhynian Czechs (Soviet citizens of Czech origin). Lieutenant colonel Ludvík Svoboda on was made the commander of the unit on 15 July 1942.
Despite the plans of the Czechoslovak political leadership, who intended to keep the unit intact to help with the future liberation of the Czechoslovakia, the officers of the battalion tried to bring the unit into the fight as soon as possible. After sending a personal letter to Joseph Stalin, they eventually succeed and the battalion was sent into action. Notably, it took part in the defensive battle of Sokolovo, a part of the larger Third Battle of Kharkov, in March 1943. At the time, it was one of the most well armed infantry battalions on the East Front - fully equipped with automatic guns and semiautomatic infantry weapons. However, the battalion lacked heavier anti-tank weapons and artillery, which was to be provided by supporting Soviet units. Because of this, during the battle, when facing parts of the German armored division, the battalion suffered heavy losses and was later withdrawn from the front line.
In May 1943, the remnants of the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Field Battalion and the 1st Czechoslovak Reserve Regiment were reorganized into 1st Czechoslovakian Independent Brigade. The reinforcements were largely Rusyn and Ukrainian  prisoners released from the gulags. The brigade played a key role in the 1943 battle of Kiev, and its troops were some of the first to reach the center of the Ukrainian capital city.
The corps was created on April 10, 1944 at Chernivtsi and moved to Krosno area soon after. The 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps consisted of four infantry brigades, one tank brigade, and smaller air and other support units. While most Czechoslovak units served as part of the Corps, some may have been detached for operations with Red Army formations and units as required.
The Corps composition on formation in 1944 was:
- 1st Czechoslovak independent brigade
- 2nd Czechoslovak airborne brigade
- 3rd Czechoslovak independent brigade
- 4th Czechoslovak independent brigade
- 1st Czechoslovak independent tank brigade
- 1st Czechoslovak independent engineering battalion
- Air units operationally attached to the Corps were:
- 1st Czechoslovak Independent Fighter Air Regiment
- 1st Czechoslovak mixed air division
The Corps's initial commander was Brigade General Jan Kratochvíl, who was soon replaced by Brigade General Ludvík Svoboda (September 11, 1944) who was also performing the role of Minister of Defence in the government in exile.[clarification needed] Towards the end of the war he was replaced by Brigade General Karel Klapálek (from April 3, 1945).
Combat history of the corps
By the time that the Soviet offensive entered Czechoslovakia, it had grown to corps size. In the autumn of 1944, 13,000 members of the corps participated in the Battle of Dukla Pass, and after fierce fighting they finally set foot on their native soil once more. Czechoslovakian troops were also involved in the Prague Offensive, the last major World War II battle in Europe.
From September 4, 1944 the Corps was reassigned to the 1st Ukrainian Front's 38th Army until January 1945. During this time the Corps participated in the East Carpathian Strategic Offensive Operation (8 September 1944 - 28 September 1944). During this operation, from 14,900 personnel the Corps suffered a loss of 1,630 dead and 4,069 wounded.
In January it returned to the 1st Guards Army. However a couple of weeks later it was reassigned to the 1st Ukrainian Front's 18th Army. As part of this Army it took part in the Prague Strategic Offensive Operation (6 May 1945 -11 May 1945) during which it suffered 112 killed, and 421 wounded from a total of 48,400 personnel.
The I Czechoslovak Army Corps took part in assisting the Slovak National Uprising, liberation of southern Poland, and the rest of Czechoslovak territory (Slovakia, Silesia and Moravia) from German occupation.
Since the end of the May 1945 the Corps was reorganized into the 1st Czechoslovak Army.
After the war, Soviet general Ivan Konev said: "we noted a remarkable exhibition of high valor in Czechoslovakian soldiers. We were pleased with the fact that the Czechoslovakian soldiers were included in military struggle against the German fascists as they boldly attacked enemy troops."
- http://www.soldat.ru/doc/casualties/book/chapter5_10_1.html Krivosheyev
- Czechoslovak military units in USSR (1942-1945) by Michal Gelbič
- Russia and USSR in the wars of 20th century: Losses of combat forces, a statistical investigation, under general editorialship of professor, General-Colonel G.F. Krivosheyev, Moscow, Olma-Press, 2001
- Czechoslovak military units in USSR (1942-1945)
- Ludvík Svoboda Site
- A short chronology on the Valka.cz page
- Military History - Northeast Slovakia 1944 Annotated Soviet Battle Maps & Topographical Maps for Eastern Czechoslovakia (Slovakia) including Dukla Pass