67th Guards Rifle Division
|67th Guards Rifle Division (Jan. 21 1943 – July 1946)|
Battle of Kursk
Belgorod-Khar'kov Offensive Operation
|Mjr. Gen. S.P. Merkulov
Mjr. Gen. A.I. Baksov
The 67th Guards Rifle Division was created on Jan. 21, 1943 from the 304th Rifle Division, in the 65th Army of Don Front, in recognition of that division's leading role in reducing the German 6th Army during Operation Ring, the destruction of the encircled German and Romanian forces at Stalingrad. The division later put up a very strong defense in the Battle of Kursk, and in 1944 and '45 took part in several succeeding offensives to the west and north, ending the war near the Baltic Sea, helping to besiege Army Group Courland.
The 67th Guards was one of several Guards rifle divisions created prior to the conclusion of the fighting for Stalingrad. When formed, its order of battle was as follows:
- 196th Guards Rifle Regiment from 807th Rifle Regiment
- 199th Guards Rifle Regiment from 809th Rifle Regiment
- 201st Guards Rifle Regiment from 812nd Rifle Regiment
- 138th Guards Artillery Regiment from 404th Artillery Regiment
- 73rd Guards Antitank Battalion from 336th Antitank Battalion
- 100th Guards Sapper Battalion from 591st Sapper Battalion
- 120th Guards Signal Battalion from 756th Signal Battalion
- 90th Guards Reconnaissance Company
The division was soon reassigned to 21st Army, which itself was re-designated as 6th Guards Army during the spring. Along with nearly all of the Stalingrad divisions, the 67th Guards required extensive rebuilding during these months. It was assigned to 22nd Guards Rifle Corps during this time, and 6th Guards Army moved to Voronezh Front within the Kursk salient, helping to fortify the south face of the bulge.
Battle of Kursk
The division, along with its partner 71st Guards Rifle Division of the 22nd Guards Rifle Corps, was struck on the opening day of the German offensive by 4th Panzer Army's XXXXVIII Panzer Corps. This numerically more powerful formation included the Grossdeutschland Panzer-Grenadier Division and the 10th Panzer Brigade, which was equipped with the first Panther tanks to enter service.
Even before the attack began the German forces encountered serious problems due to minefields and other Soviet fixed defenses, as well as overcrowding on a very narrow attack sector. The Panthers became stuck in the minefields, blocking the tanks of Grossdeutschland and forcing the infantry to go in without direct armor support. A marshy gully in front of the 196th Guards Rifle Regiment, which had been skillfully strengthened with a system of anti-tank obstacles, proved to be a difficult and time-consuming barrier.
Elements of the 3rd Panzer Division and Grossdeutschland struck at the boundary between the two Guards Rifle divisions, attempting to overrun the village strongpoints of Cherkasskoe and Korovino. The panzers became stuck between the two villages for the rest of the day, in heavy fighting, only establishing a tenuous hold on the villages by midnight, a very poor showing for what was planned to be a major breakthrough of the Soviet defenses.
On July 6 the 67th Guards Rifle continued in savage combat with the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps. Masses of heavy armor, including Tiger tanks, pushed against their positions without making a breakthrough. For its part, the division employed tank-hunting dogs very successfully:
Lieutenant Lisitin's platoon, which was operating in the sector of the 67th Guards Rifle Division's 169th Guards Rifle Regiment, blew up 12 tanks with its dogs, for which 16 dogs were expended (4 dogs were killed as they approached the enemy tanks).
In spite of this success, the division's line was overrun by Grossdeutschland and the 11th Panzer Division, and 6th Guards Army ordered the division to fall back beyond the second line. By nightfall it was partly encircled, and had to slip out through German lines, with substantial losses. The 67th Guards Rifle played little role in the rest of the battle, and once again had to be substantially rebuilt.
Following this rebuild, the division took part in the Belgorod-Khar'kov Offensive Operation, as Voronezh Front broke out of the Kursk region towards the Dniepr River.
By early 1944 the 6th Guards Army had been transferred to the 1st Baltic Front. During this period the 67th Guards Rifle, and its running-mate 71st Guards Rifle, joined 51st Guards Rifle Division in the 23rd Guards Rifle Corps. In the planning for Operation Bagration, this corps was given an assault role, compressed into a front of just 10km, working with the two assault corps of the adjacent 43rd Army. 6th Guards Army had been moved in secrecy into the line north of the German-held Vitebsk salient over three nights previous to the attack.
The Soviet assault on June 22 began at dawn with a very heavy artillery barrage against the positions of the German 252nd Infantry Division and Corps Detachment D. By noon the assault battalions of the division had broken through the second German defense line and reached the Obol River. The following armored group crossed the river and advanced a total of 7km by evening. On the second day an additional advance of 16km was made, and during the following night Corps Detachment D collapsed. By the evening of the 24th, the division crossed the Dvina River north of Beshenkovichi and held a 50km front along the river; the gap between 6th Guards Army attacking from the north and 39th Army from the south was narrowed to just 10km. On the 25th the other two divisions of 23rd Guards Rifle Corps used the 67th Guards Rifle's bridgehead to develop the offensive westward, and late that day, farther to the east, the pincers closed on the Vitebsk salient, trapping what remained of five German divisions. In recognition of its achievements in this offensive, the 67th Guards Rifle Division was awarded the honorific "Vitebsk".
The destruction of German LIII Corps at Vitebsk helped to open a large gap between their Army Groups Center and North. On June 30 23rd Guards Rifle Corps, led by 1st Tank Corps, was ordered into the gap, bypassing south of the remaining German positions at Polotsk. Over the following months the 1st Baltic Front pushed through to the Baltic coast, and what remained of Army Group North was confined to the Courland Pocket. The division remained in this region for the duration as part of the confining forces; in April, 1945, it was reassigned, along with the rest of its corps, to 67th Army. At the war's end the division's full title was 67th Guards Rifle, Vitebsk, Order of the Red Banner Division. (Russian: 67-я гвардейская стрелковая Витебская Краснознамённая дивизия.)
- 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 71
- Sharp, p 72
- http://www.cgsc.edu/CARL/nafziger/943RGCC.PDF, p 45
- Valeriy Zamulin, Demolishing the Myth, trans. S. Britton, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2011, p 103
- Zamulin, p 103-04
- Zamulin, p 117
- Zamulin, p 123
- http://www.cgsc.edu/CARL/nafziger/944RFAF.PDF, p 2
- Walter S. Dunn, Jr. Soviet Blitzkrieg, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, US, 2008, pp 97-98
- Dunn, pp 95-98, 102-07
- Sharp, p 72
- Feskov et al 2013, p. 441
- Feskov et al 2013, p. 147
- 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.