40th Guards Rifle Division

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40th Guards Rifle Division
(6 August 1942 - ca. 1946)
17th Guards Mechanised Division
(ca. 1946 - April 1957)
17th Guards Motor Rifle Division (1957 - 1990s)
Active 1942 - 1991
Country  Soviet Union
Branch Red Army flag.svg Red Army
Type Division
Role Infantry
Engagements Battle of Stalingrad
Operation Uranus
Operation Little Saturn
Battle of Rostov (1943)
Lower Dniepr Offensive
Nikopol–Krivoi Rog Offensive
First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive
Second Jassy–Kishinev Offensive
Budapest Offensive
Vienna Offensive
Mjr. Gen. A.I. Pastrevich
Mjr. Gen. G.F. Panchenko
Col. L.Sh. Bransburg
Mjr. Gen. N.F. Sukharev

The 40th Guards Rifle Division was one of a series of ten Guards rifle divisions (32nd - 41st) of the Red Army formed from airborne troops in the spring and summer of 1942 in preparation for, or in response to, the German summer offensive. It fought in the Stalingrad area during that battle, eventually in the operations that encircled German 6th Army, and then continued to serve in the several campaigns in the south sector of the front, helping to liberate Ukraine and the Balkans, and ending the war at Vienna.


The 40th Guards was formed on Aug. 6, 1942, in the Moscow Military District from the 6th Airborne Corps. Its main order of battle was as follows:

  • 111th Guards Rifle Regiment from 11th Airborne Brigade
  • 116th Guards Rifle Regiment from 12th Airborne Brigade
  • 119th Guards Rifle Regiment from 13th Airborne Brigade
  • 90th Guards Artillery Regiment[1]

Stalingrad and Aftermath[edit]

The division, along with several other of these airborne conversions, was rushed to the Stalingrad region, to begin with as part of 1st Guards Army. It departed for the front on Aug. 15, and spent most of September fighting along the Don River in 21st Army. Stalingrad Front was renamed Don Front on Sept. 30. In October, 40th Guards was transferred, this time to 65th Army, still in Don Front. In this army it was one of the assault divisions that cleared the way for 5th Tank Army in Operation Uranus as part of the northern pincer that broke through Romanian Third Army and helped encircle the German forces at Stalingrad. From early in 1943 the division was reassigned to 5th Shock Army in South Front and would remain in that army until the end of 1943.[2] By Feb. 21, 40th Guards was in first echelon of its army as it moved up to the Mius River line. On Mar. 3, 5th Shock was fortifying the scant bridgeheads it had taken on the west bank of the river, and the advance halted for the coming months.[3] In April, the division became part of the 31st Guards Rifle Corps, and it would remain in that formation for the duration of the war.


In August, 1943, South Front launched the Donbass Strategic Offensive against German Sixth Army's positions along the Mius River line, forcing it to fall back to the Dniepr with Soviet forces in pursuit. On Sept. 3, the division was credited with the liberation of the Ukrainian town of Yenakiyevo, and was later given its name as an honorific. South Front became 4th Ukrainian Front in October, and 40th Guards remained with it until nearly the end of the year, when it was reassigned, along with its corps, to 69th Army in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command. In January, 1944, the corps was moved again, to 46th Army in 3rd Ukrainian Front.

In early April 40th Guards was approaching the lower reaches of the Dniestr River in first echelon of its corps. The division led the clearing of the east bank on Apr. 11 and then received the following orders from army commander Lt. Gen. V.V. Glagolev:

"Force the Dnestr River in the sector from Chebruchi (incl.) [southward] to Marker 107.5 and reach positions from 500 metres northeast of Hill 145.1 through the western entrance of the forest 2.5 kilometres west of Raskaetsy, and subsequently capture Chebruchi and Hill 174.5. Begin the forcing [river crossing] operation at 2100 hours on 13 April 1944. The units of the 6th Rifle Corps [of Sharokhin's 37th Army] will attack on your right flank. The units of the 34th Guards Rifle Division will force the river on your left flank.[4]

This attack would also be supported by the 269th Army Pontoon-Bridge Brigade.

The division commander, Mjr. Gen. G.F. Panchenko, prepared detailed plans, and on the 13th a forward detachment of assault companies from 111th Guards Rifle Reg't. made a crossing and managed to secure a small bridgehead south of Chebruchi, later reinforced by the remainder of its division as well as 34th Guards, but they were stymied in their attempts to take the town. The German defenders launched at least seven counterattacks during the first 24 hours, and 40th Guards reported casualties of 30 killed and 89 wounded. On Apr. 20, the division, along with 34th and 4th Guards Rifle Divisions, made another attack on Chebruchi, but this collapsed immediately after it commenced. In the first week of May, all three divisions went over to the defense.[5]

In August the division went back to the attack in the second Iasi-Kishinev Offensive, which destroyed the German Sixth Army (for the second time) and caused Romania to change sides. In September and October 31st Guards Rifle Corps served in 2nd Ukrainian Front, still in 46th Army, but in November the corps went back to 3rd Ukrainian Front, now in 4th Guards Army. 40th Guards Rifle Division and its corps would serve under those commands for the duration. After participating in the Siege of Budapest, in the spring of 1945 the division advanced across the Hungarian plain and gained another honorific for its operations along the Danube River, ending the war near Vienna.[6] At the end of the war, the official title of the division was 40th Guards Rifle, Yenakiyevo-Danube, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Division. (Russian: 40-я гвардейская Енакиевско-Дунайская Краснознамённая ордена Суворова стрелковая дивизия.)


In the fall of 1945, the division became the 17th Guards Mechanized Division. [7] In October 1956, the division was sent into Hungary with the rest of the 38th Army to suppress the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.[8] The 17th Guards Motor Rifle Division was activated on 20 April 1957 in Szombathely, Hungary, from the 17th Guards Mechanized Division.[7] In February 1958 it moved back to Mukacheve and became part of the 38th Army again. On 15 July 1958 the division transferred to Khmelnytskyi. Its 27th Guards Tank Regiment moved to the 19th Guards Tank Division and was replaced by the 99th Motor Rifle Division's 105th Guards Tank Regiment. The 57th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment transferred to the 99th Division and was replaced by its 318th Motor Rifle Regiment.[8] In 1990, the division was transferred to the 13th Army.[9] It was taken over by Ukraine in January 1992. [10] Jane's Intelligence Review indicates that by 1997-98 it had become a brigade.


  1. ^ Charles C. Sharp, "Red Guards", Soviet Guards Rifle and Airborne Units 1941 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. IV, 1995, p 59
  2. ^ Sharp, p 59
  3. ^ Glantz, After Stalingrad, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2009, pp 214, 218, 224
  4. ^ Glantz, Red Storm over the Balkans, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2007, p 135
  5. ^ Glantz, Red Storm, pp 135-37, 156-57
  6. ^ Sharp, p 59
  7. ^ a b Feskov et al 2013, p. 204
  8. ^ a b Feskov et al 2013, p. 425
  9. ^ Feskov et al 2013, p. 476
  10. ^ Holm, Michael. "17th Guards Motorised Rifle Division". www.ww2.dk. Retrieved 2016-04-19. 
  • 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. 

External links and further reading[edit]