322nd Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

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322nd Rifle Division (August 1941 – July 1945)
Active 1941–1945
Country  Soviet Union
Branch Red Army flag.svg Red Army
Type Division
Role Infantry
Engagements Battle of Moscow
Battle of Kursk
Lower Dnieper Offensive
Battle of Kiev (1943)
Zhitomir–Berdichev Offensive
Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive
Vistula-Oder Operation
Prague Offensive
Decorations Order of the red Banner OBVERSE.jpgOrder of the Red Banner
Battle honours Zhitomir
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Lt. Col. S.N. Perekalsky

The 322nd Rifle Division was a standard Red Army rifle division during World War II. It is most notable for liberating Auschwitz as part of the 60th Army on Jan. 27, 1945, in the course of the Vistula-Oder offensive. Prior to this the division also distinguished itself during the second liberation of Zhitomir on the last day of 1943. Otherwise, the 322nd gave solid but unremarkable service to the Soviet war effort.

Formation[edit]

The division was established at Gorki in the Moscow Military District in August, 1941.[1] At its formation, the basic order of battle was as follows:

  • 1085th Rifle Regiment
  • 1087th Rifle Regiment
  • 1089th Rifle Regiment
  • 886th Artillery Regiment
  • 297th Antitank Battalion
  • 603rd Sapper Battalion[2]

Once formed in October, it was noted that the division was 90% Russian, with a cadre of 8% Communist Party members or Komsomols.[3] At this time it was assigned to 10th Reserve Army;[4] it was noted as being short of trained officers, basic equipment, and weapons.[5]

Combat Service[edit]

When it went to the front, the 322nd was initially assigned to 10th Army, east of Tula, in the Ryazan-Kalino-Shilovo area. The army commander was ordered to finish concentration by the evening of Dec. 2 and on Dec. 4 (according to the instruction No.0044/OP) to strike the main blow in the Mihailov/Stalinogorsk direction as the Soviet winter counteroffensive began. 10th Army struck the flank of Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army, forcing it out of its deep salient south of the capital. It took part in the liberation of Sukhinichi on Jan. 29; immediately following, the 322nd was reassigned to 16th Army in the Western Front, where it remained for the following year along a relatively quiet sector.[6]

In January, 1943, the division was once more reassigned, now to the 60th Army, where it would remain for the duration, apart from a few months later that year. On Voronezh Front's left wing, 60th Army drove 4th Panzer Division out of Kursk on Feb. 8., helping to form a 60km gap in the German front. On Feb. 16, the army's headquarters issued the following order (in part):

"...in the center – Studenok, Rylsk (incl.) and Korenovko – a shock group consisting of the 322nd, 121st, and 141st Rifle Divisions, the 129th Rifle Brigade, and the 150th Tank Brigade, with the mission to be ready to attack toward Glukhov or Putivl..."[7]

In March, 60th Army made a bewildering set of reassignments before ending up in Central Front, deep in what became known as the Kursk Salient. The 322nd was assigned at this time to 30th Rifle Corps.[8]

Under Lt. Col. Stepan Nikolayevich Perekalsky, the division fought during the Battle of Kursk, although it saw limited action due to its position. On Aug. 26, 60th Army joined the main offensive and quickly broke through at Sevsk, exploiting towards the Dniepr River. In September, the 322nd was transferred briefly to 13th Army, then in the following month it was in reserve for rebuilding, before moving back to 60th Army in November. That army was now assigned to 1st Ukrainian Front.[9]

Following the liberation of Kiev, that front pushed westward during November, liberating the city of Zhitomir, but then losing it to a German counteroffensive. In December, the Zhitomir–Berdichev Offensive was launched, and Zhitomir was liberated for a second time on Dec. 31. The 322nd was recognized for its contribution to this victory by receiving the city's name as an honorific.

Child survivors of Auschwitz as found by the division.

After the breakout from the Baranow bridgehead during the Vistula-Oder Offensive in January, 1945, 60th Army began a deep exploitation to the west, through southern Poland. In the course of this, the 322nd was the first Soviet unit to reach the Auschwitz concentration camp. The camp was liberated and nearby German rearguards overcome on Jan. 26 and 27. The men and women of the division found 7,500 prisoners and over 600 corpses left behind.[10]

In the last weeks of the war 60th Army was transferred to 4th Ukrainian Front, advancing through Czechoslovakia. At this point, the 322nd was serving in the 3rd Mountain Rifle Corps. By the end of the war the division had earned the full title 322nd Rifle, Zhitomir, Order of the Red Banner Division: (Russian: 322-я стрелковая Житомирская Краснознамённая дивизия). It was disbanded "in place" with the Northern Group of Forces in the summer of 1945.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dunn states that the month was July: Walter S. Dunn, Jr., Stalin's Keys to Victory, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2006, p 75
  2. ^ Charles C. Sharp, "Red Tide", Soviet Rifle Divisions Formed From June to December 1941, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. IX, Nafziger, 1996, p 75
  3. ^ David M. Glantz, Colossus Reborn, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2005, p 594
  4. ^ Dunn, Jr., p 75
  5. ^ Sharp, p 75
  6. ^ Sharp, p 75
  7. ^ Glantz, After Stalingrad, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2009, p 279
  8. ^ Sharp, p 75
  9. ^ Sharp, p 75
  10. ^ Sybille Steinbacher, (2005) [2004], Auschwitz: A History. Munich, Verlag C. H. Beck. ISBN 0-06-082581-2.
  11. ^ Feskov et al 2013, p. 408
  • Feskov, V.I.; Golikov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Slugin, S.A. (2013). Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской [The Armed Forces of the USSR after World War II: From the Red Army to the Soviet: Part 1 Land Forces] (in Russian). Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306. 
  • Poirier, Robert G.; Conner, Albert Z. (1985). Red Army Order of Battle in the Great Patriotic War. Novato: Presidio Press. ISBN 9780891412373. 
  • Further reading – http://samsv.narod.ru/Div/Sd/sd322/default.html