108th Motor Rifle Division

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360th Rifle Division (August, 1941 - April, 1955)
62nd Rifle Division (April, 1955 - May, 1957)
108th Motor Rifle Division (May, 1957 - 1993)
Active1941–1993
DisbandedDecember 1993
Country Soviet Union (1941–1992)
 Uzbekistan (1992–1993)
BranchSoviet Army (1941–1992)
Armed Forces of the Republic of Uzbekistan (1992–1993)
TypeMotorized Rifle Division
ColorsRed
EngagementsWorld War II
* Toropets-Kholm Offensive
* Battle for Velikiye Luki
* Battle of Nevel (1943)
* Baltic Offensive
* Courland Pocket
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Tajikistan Civil War
DecorationsOrder of the Red Banner Order of the Red Banner (2)
Pennant of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR "For Courage and Valor"
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Maj. Gen. Viktor Genrikhovich Poznyak Hero of the Soviet Union medal.png
Maj. Gen. Ivan Ivanovich Chinnov
Col. Efim Aleksanrovich Pashchenko

The 108th Nevelskaya Motor Rifle Division, abbreviated as the "108th MRD," was a unit of the Soviet Ground Forces. It was the successor to the 360th Rifle Division. The division was created in August, 1941 by the State Defense Committee and the Volga Military District Commander, Vasilii Gerasimenko, in the Volga Military District. The 360th compiled a distinguished record of service during the Great Patriotic War on the northern sector of the Soviet-German front, including the award of a battle honor and the Order of the Red Banner. For these reasons, the division continued to operate well into the post-war period.

World War II[edit]

The 360th Rifle Division began forming in August, 1941 at Chkalovsk in the Volga Military District.[1] When formed the division's basic order of battle was as follows:

  • 1193rd Rifle Regiment
  • 1195th Rifle Regiment
  • 1197th Rifle Regiment
  • 920th Artillery Regiment

By the end of the year it had been moved via the 60th Reserve Army and the Moscow Military District to 4th Shock Army in Northwestern Front where it was at full strength with 10,000 officers and men assigned.[2] Commanders of Corps and Divisions in the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945 does not list a commander for the division until January 1, 1942, when Col. Andrei Filippovich Bolotov was named.[3]

Toropets-Kholm Offensive[edit]

On December 18 the STAVKA of the Supreme High Command issued its Order No. 005868 to the command of Northwestern Front, spelling out the goals and objectives of this operation:

"No later than December 26, 1941 to strike with at least six reinforced divisions from the Ostashkov area in the general direction of Toropets, Velizh and Rudnya, having the task, in cooperation with forces of Kalinin Front, to cut off the enemy's paths of retreat and not allow him to defend along his prepared front lines... Ultimately, pressing the offensive to Rudnya will cut off Smolensk from the west."[4]

In the event the operation would not begin until January 9, 1942, due to the poor road and rail network. 4th Shock, commanded by Col. Gen. Andrey Yeryomenko, deployed on a front 50km wide, facing most of the 253rd Infantry Division; with just 10,000 men the German "line" was in fact a string of outposts, although well-fortified since the Germans had occupied this sector since October. The Army also had 790 guns of 76mm caliber or greater for support. At the outset the 360th was in third echelon, bringing up the rear.[5]

4th Shock was to initially advance towards Andreapol. Following a 90-minute artillery preparation the leading divisions broke through the thin German defenses and advanced as much as 15km. During the coming week the first echelon divisions surrounded and destroyed a reinforced battalion of the newly-arrived 189th Regiment of 81st Infantry Division and liberated Andreapol, seizing needed supplies. The 360th joined the advance on Toropets, which was taken on January 21 with an even larger hoard of much-needed supplies. On January 22, 4th and 3rd Shock Armies were transferred to Kalinin Front.[6]

On January 26, Maj. Gen. Ivan Mikhailovich Kuznetsov took over command from Colonel Bolotov. During the rest of January and into February the division took part in several attempts to break into and liberate Velizh, but these were stymied on its outskirts.[7] On March 14, General Kuznetsov was in turn replaced by Col. Viktor Genrikhovich Poznyak. Finally, 4th Shock Army took up defensive lines, where it remained into the summer of 1943.[8]

Velikiye Luki and Nevel[edit]

Lt. Gen. V. G. Poznyak, Hero of the Soviet Union

The division was transferred to the 3rd Shock Army in December, 1942,[9] during the Battle for Velikiye Luki, arriving at the front along the Lovat River on the 24th, and immediately helping to drive enemy forces from the village of Alexeykovo and the tactically significant height of point 179.0. By January 3, 1943, the division's 1193rd and 1195th Rifle Regiments were holding a line in front of Alexeykovo and Burtsevo in two echelons, facing the deepest wedge the German forces had driven in attempting to relieve their garrison in the city. However, Soviet intelligence had failed to detect the arrival of the fresh German 205th Infantry Division and a column of tanks from the 11th Panzer Division. On the morning of January 4 these broke through the 1193rd after an hour of fighting. The breakthrough was contained later that day by the 100th Rifle Brigade and the few tanks of the 45th Tank Brigade. By January 12 the German advance was stopped, and on the 17th the city was completely liberated.[10] On February 22, Colonel Posnyak was promoted to the rank of major general, and soon moved to the role of chief of staff of 43rd Army,[11] being replaced by Col. Ivan Ivanovich Chinnov. In February the 360th was moved back to 4th Shock Army, and remained in that Army, apart from short assignments to 6th Guards Army and 11th Guards Army, until January, 1945.[12] The division's next major action was the Nevel Offensive Operation, which began on October 6. It was on the rightmost flank of 4th Shock, in 2nd Guards Rifle Corps, adjacent to 28th Rifle Division on the left flank of 3rd Shock Army. The operation began with a reconnaissance in force at 0500 hrs., followed by a ninety-minute artillery preparation at 0840, then a wave of bombing strikes. The assault stepped off at 1000 hrs., and by noon 28th Rifle Division had routed the 2nd Luftwaffe Field Division and smashed the right flank of 263rd Infantry Division and was pouring through the gap, which was at the boundary between Army Groups Center and North. This success eased the way for the 360th, which gained 10km by the end of the day and about 10 more by October 10.[13] In the aftermath of this success the division was given its battle honor:

"NEVEL – ...360th Rifle Division (Col. Chinnov, Ivan Ivanovich)... The troops that participated in the liberation of Nevel, by order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of October 7, 1943 and a proclamation of gratitude in Moscow, are given a salute of 12 artillery salvoes of 120 guns."[14]

Vitebsk and Polotsk[edit]

Maj. Gen. I. I. Chinnov, killed in action September 6, 1944

Further fighting later that month made few gains. By November 1 the division had been transferred to the 83rd Rifle Corps. On November 2 the 1st Baltic (former Kalinin) Front began a fresh offensive towards Vitebsk, with 4th Shock Army ordered to attack south towards the latter city. The joint assault with 3rd Shock Army soon produced a 16km-wide gap in the defenses of Third Panzer Army, but 83rd Corps' role was to make local attacks to guard the flank of 60th Rifle Corps as it exploited to the south. As the situation evolved the 360th was moved to 36th Rifle Corps in 11th Guards Army in December before the new offensive towards Gorodok. After that city was liberated the division went back to 83rd Corps in 4th Shock Army; it would remain in this Corps until the last months of the war. During January and February, 1944, the 360th took part in grinding battles west of Vitebsk. By now, in common with the rest of the divisions of 4th Shock, it was down to between 4,500 - 5,000 men. On February 15 it helped to capture German strongpoints at Gorbachi and Bryli, forcing the defenders back about 2km to the line of the Vitebsk-Polotsk rail line, but could advance no farther.[15]

In preparation for the Baltic Offensive in July, the 360th was deployed just east of the Panther Line. For its role in the liberation of Polotsk, on July 23, the division was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.[16] By the beginning of August it had advanced along the north bank of the Western Dvina River as far as Daugavpils.[17] In early September General Chinnov was killed in action. Although the 360th was not conducting active operations at this time, the German forces were regularly firing artillery and mortar rounds into its positions, and German snipers were also active. At 1830 hrs. on September 6 Chinnov was killed by an enemy sniper while conducting a personal reconnaissance of the terrain between his 1195th and 1193rd Rifle Regiments. The adjutant to the commander of the 1193rd was also severely wounded while standing near the general.[18] He was replaced six days later by Col. Efim Aleksandrovich Pashchenko, who remained in command for the duration of the war. By the same date, the division had continued its advance as far as Biržai in Lithuania. In early October, as the Courland Pocket began to be closed off, the division and its Army had reached farther west, to the vicinity of Žagarė.[19]

In January, 1945, the 360th was briefly moved to the 42nd Army in 2nd Baltic Front, still in 83rd Corps, then in February to the 119th Rifle Corps in 1st Shock Army of the same Front. In March, 1st Shock became part of the Kurland Group in Leningrad Front, and the division ended the war containing the German forces in the Courland Pocket in Lithuania.[20]

Postwar[edit]

Until October the division was posted on the Leningrad Front and the Baltic Military District. During that month the division was relocated by railway to the Turkestan Military District in the city of Termez. Arriving there at the start of November the whole division was housed in military camps for combat and political training until the end of the year. In November and December, new units were created. By September-October, 1945, the 360th Rifle Division (Military Unit No. 11090) was part of the 119th Rifle Corps with its headquarters at Dushanbe.[21] By May 1949 it had shifted into the 17th Rifle Corps.

In April 1955 the 360th Rifle Division was re-designated the 62nd Rifle Division.[22] In May 1957 the 62nd Rifle Division became the 108th Motor Rifle Division.

Between World War II and late 1979 the division provided security for the Soviet Union along its southern borders. On 19 February 1962, the 333rd Separate Equipment Maintenance and Recovery Battalion and 646th Separate Missile Battalion were formed. In 1968, the 271st Separate Sapper Battalion became a sapper-engineer unit. On 15 November 1972, the 738th Separate Anti-Tank Artillery Battalion was activated.[23]

Invasion of Afghanistan[edit]

In December 1979, the division was part of the invasion force into Afghanistan. On December 13, 1979, the whole division was brought to full combat preparedness after years of partial disbandment. On December 24, the Minister of Defense signed a directive for the entry of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The 781st Independent Reconnaissance Battalion became the first unit of the Soviet Army to cross into Afghanistan. At the same time, military transport planes carrying the 103rd Guards Airborne Division also crossed the border. On December 27, advance units of the 108th MRD entered Kabul to strengthen the protection of military administrative buildings. By mid-January 1980 the invasion of the 40th Army into Afghanistan was largely complete. The 108th MRD division headquarters was established at Khair Khana camp to the northwest of Kabul, on the road to Bagram airfield.[24]

From 1980 to 1989 the division carried out tasks to ensure the safety of convoys along the Doshi-Kabul and Kabul-Jalalabad routes, and the protection of key facilities (Bagram airfield, grain elevators, fuel and lubricant supply depots, a power station in Kabul, a dam and hydroelectric power station site in Surubi, etc.)

The division's operations in Afghanistan can be divided into four stages:

  • December 1979 - February 1980: entered Afghanistan and established bases.
  • March 1980 - April 1985: participated in active hostilities including large-scale operations, and worked to strengthen the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The division participated in the Panjsher VII offensive of April–May 1984, and the commander of the Afghan Bureau of the ISI at the time, Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, says it was likely that Major-General Saratov, commander of the 108th MRD, commanded the operation.[25] During one battle, on April 30 in the Hazara Valley, the 1st Battalion of the 682nd Motor Rifle Regiment was decimated: the losses of Soviet troops were estimated at 60 KIA.[26]
  • April 1985 - January 1987: transition from active operations to a role supporting Afghan troops using artillery and demolition units. The division assisted in the development of the armed forces of the DRA, and participated in the partial withdrawal of Soviet troops.
  • January 1987 - February 1989: assisted the Afghan leadership in carrying out the policy of national reconciliation, and continued the support of Afghan forces.

The stages of the war in Afghanistan were not uniform and differed in terms of the intensity and types of military activities. Thus, the third and fourth stages were characterised by increased concentrations of rebel forces, and the creation of numerous military bases across Afghanistan with more active hostilities.

In terms of sheer personnel, the 108th MRD was the largest division in the Soviet Armed Forces during the invasion of Afghanistan. During this period. V.I. Feskov states the division had four motor rifle regiments, the 177th, 180th, and 181st with BTRs; and the 682nd with BMPs.[27] Among the other regiments of the division was the 1415th Anti-Aircraft Rocket Regiment. The division was the only one of its kind in the Armed Forces because of its structure and quantity of its weapons and other military equipment.

On February 11, 1989, the Division acted as rearguard for the 40th Army as it was withdrawn from Afghanistan. The division was then based in Termez.

Uzbek service[edit]

In 1992, the division became part of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Uzbekistan. It fought in the Tajikistani Civil War. In 1993, the division was broken up into brigades.[citation needed]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Walter S. Dunn, Jr., Stalin's Keys to Victory, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2007, p. 79
  2. ^ Charles C. Sharp, "Red Tide", Soviet Rifle Divisions Formed From June to December, 1941, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. IX, 1996, p. 93.
  3. ^ Sharp states this must represent a mistake in the Soviet records.
  4. ^ Russian archive: The Great Patriotic War: The Supreme Soviet's Supreme Command, Documents and Materials, 1942, Vol.5 (2), 1997, p. 340
  5. ^ http://militera.lib.ru/h/isaev_av4/04.html (in Russian)
  6. ^ http://militera.lib.ru/h/isaev_av4/04.html (in Russian)
  7. ^ http://militera.lib.ru/h/isaev_av4/04.html (in Russian)
  8. ^ Sources disagree on how long Poznyak was in command. Commanders of Corps and Divisions states he gave over command to Colonel Chinnov on Oct. 30, 1942. However, www.warheroes.ru states he was in command until he was named chief of staff of 43rd Army in February, 1943. He is repeatedly named as commander of the 360th during the battle for Velikiye Luki in the memoir of Afanasy Beloborodov, Vsegda v boyu.
  9. ^ Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1943, p. 11
  10. ^ http://militera.lib.ru/memo/russian/beloborodov2/09.html
  11. ^ http://www.warheroes.ru/hero/hero.asp?Hero_id=5682
  12. ^ Sharp, "Red Tide", pp. 93-94
  13. ^ David M. Glantz, Battle for Belorussia, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2016, pp. 39-41
  14. ^ http://www.soldat.ru/spravka/freedom/1-ssr-4.html. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  15. ^ Glantz, Belorussia, pp. 54, 129-31, 214-15, 312, 347
  16. ^ Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union 1967, p. 398.
  17. ^ Baltic Gap, Multi-Man Publishing, Inc., Millersville, MD, 2009, p. 22
  18. ^ Aleksander A. Maslov, Fallen Soviet Generals, Frank Cass Publishers, London, 1998, p. 160. Maslov misspells his name as "Chinov".
  19. ^ Baltic Gap, pp. 29, 35
  20. ^ Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 94. Note that Sharp twice refers to the division in error as the "359th" on this page.
  21. ^ Feskov et al 2013, 357.
  22. ^ Feskov et al 2013, 538.
  23. ^ Holm, Michael. "108th Motorized Rifle Division". ww2.dk. Retrieved 2016-03-12.
  24. ^ Mohammed Yousaf and Mark Adkin, The Bear Trap: Afghanistan's Untold Story, 1992, 147-148.
  25. ^ Yousaf and Adkin 1992, 70-72
  26. ^ Knyazev, Nikolai. "Гибель 1-го батальона 682-го мотострелкового полка 30 апреля 1984 года, ущелье Хазара (Панджшер)(In Russian)". artofwar.ru. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
  27. ^ Feskov, V.I.; K.A. Kalashnikov, V.I. Golikov. (2004). The Soviet Army in the Years of the 'Cold War' (1945-1991). Tomsk: Tomsk University Press. ISBN 5-7511-1819-7, 63.

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