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301st Rifle Division (10 July 1941 - 27 Dec. 1941)
301st Rifle Division (27 Dec. 1941 - 13 July 1942)
301st Rifle Division (June 1943 - 1945)
Active 1941 - 1945
Country Flag of the Soviet Union (1924–1955).svg Soviet Union
Branch Red Army flag Red Army
Type Division
Role Infantry
Engagements Operation Barbarossa
Second Battle of Kharkov
Operation Blue
Donbass Strategic Offensive
First Jassy-Kishinev Offensive
Second Jassy-Kishinev Offensive
Vistula-Oder Offensive
Battle of Berlin
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Col. A.A. Sokolov
Col. V.S. Antonov

The 301st Rifle Division began service as a standard Red Army rifle division shortly after the German invasion, but was soon destroyed in the encirclement of Kiev. A new division was formed in late 1941/early 1942, but was worn down in offensive battles near Kharkov and further while defending against the German summer offensive and had to be disbanded. Nearly a year later a third 301st was raised. This incarnation of the division compiled a creditable record of service in several major offensives up to the gates of Berlin in April 1945, and also served briefly post-war in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, headquartered in Berlin.

1st FormationEdit

The division began forming on July 10, 1941 at Poltava in the Kharkov Military District. Its order of battle was as follows:

  • 1050th Rifle Regiment
  • 1052nd Rifle Regiment
  • 1054th Rifle Regiment
  • 823rd Artillery Regiment
  • 337th Antitank Battalion
  • 356th Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 592nd Sapper Battalion
  • 757th Signal Battalion.[1][2]

Less than a month after forming the 301st was assigned to Southwestern Front, arriving after a relatively short march on Aug. 2. Three days later it was assigned to 38th Army, but by Sept. 1 it was shifted northwards to a position along the Dniepr River about 70km southeast of Kiev in 26th Army.[3] This reassignment proved the division's undoing as it was hopelessly trapped when the German forces linked up far east of Kiev later in September. While the division was effectively destroyed during that month, (though not officially removed from the Soviet Order of Battle until Dec. 27), it appears that at least a cadre escaped, including Col. A.A. Sokolov, who also commanded the 2nd formation.[4]

2nd FormationEdit

On Dec. 27, as the old 301st was stricken off, a new division began forming up, initially numbered the 447th,[5] this time at Krasnoyarsk in the Siberian Military District. As well as the same commander, and probably some of the staff, it also had the same order of battle as the 1st formation. In spite of this it took three months to complete forming up, which would tend to indicate that this was largely a ground-up rebuilding.

The unit left Siberia in late March, 1942, assigned once again to Southwest Front on Apr. 1. It spent April in 28th Army, and then fought under 21st Army in May as part of the "northern group" attacking towards Kharkov. While it escaped the catastrophe that engulfed the "southern group" the 301st still took significant casualties in frontal attacks, which left it too weak to survive in the face of the German Operation Blue. Retreating along with the other remnants of 21st Army the division was ground down to the point it had to be disbanded on July 13.[6]

3rd FormationEdit

The final 301st Rifle Division began forming in late June, 1943, based on the personnel of the 34th Rifle Brigade and the 157th Rifle Brigade. Its order of battle remained the same as the first two formations. This all took place in the 9th Army of the North Caucasus Front. On Aug. 14 a divisional commander was assigned, and on Aug. 20 the division was declared fit for service. It was assigned to the 9th Rifle Corps, where it remained for the duration and on into the postwar period.[7]

9th Corps was part of 5th Shock Army, where it would serve for most of the rest of the war. 5th Shock was then in South Front (later 4th Ukrainian Front), and the 301st served in that Front until February, 1944. It arrived at the front during the Donbass Strategic Offensive, advancing through the southernmost part of the Soviet-German front. In November the division was moved to 28th Army, then back to 5th Shock when that army was reassigned to 3rd Ukrainian Front. In April, 1944 the 301st was in 57th Army of the same front during the First Jassy-Kishinev Offensive. On the 11th the division reached the Dnestr River and, without bridging equipment, began forcing a crossing with improvised means:

The 1050th Rifle Regiment from Col. V.S. Antonov's 301st Rifle Division began crossing the river shortly after noon, a platoon and company at a time on these fragile rafts and boats. Despite heavy German machine-gun fire, the regiment's 1st Battalion managed to cross the river just south of Bychok, captured the Germans' first trench line, and assaulted Hill 65.3, which was situated less than one mile [2km] southwest of Bychok. The regiment's 2nd Battalion and headquarters group also successfully crossed the river an hour later[8]
In the end, the several bridgeheads seized by 57th Army proved too small and shallow for major crossing operations, and the offensive on this sector came to a halt.

When the Second Jassy-Kishinev Offensive began in late August, 9th Corps and the 301st were back in 5th Shock Army, where they remained until postwar. The whole Army went into STAVKA reserves in September, and the division's 337th Antitank Battalion had its towed guns replaced with self-propelled SU-76 guns. In November 5th Shock joined 1st Belorussian Front for the duration, allowing the 301st to take part in the final defeat of Germany in Poland, East Pomerania, and at Berlin.[9] By this time the division had earned the special honorific Stalin, as well as the Order of Suvorov. (Russian: 301-я стрелковая Сталинская ордена Суворова дивизия).[10]

Following the German surrender, when most Soviet formations were being demobilized, 5th Shock Army, including the 301st Rifle Division, was selected to be part of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, with its headquarters in Berlin.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 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 68
  2. Russian Wikipedia
  3. David Stahel, Kiev 1941, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2012, map on p 220
  4. Sharp, "Red Tide", p 68
  5. Walter S. Dunn, Stalin's Keys to Victory, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2007, p 99
  6. Sharp, "Red Tide", pp 68-69
  7. Sharp, "Red Swarm", Soviet Rifle Divisions Formed From 1942 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. X, 1996, p 112
  8. David M. Glantz, Red Storm over the Balkans, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2007, p 127
  9. Sharp, "Red Swarm", p 113
  10. Russian Wikipedia



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