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321st Rifle Division (September 24, 1941 – October 31, 1941)
321st Rifle Division (February 26, 1942 – March 19, 1943)
321st Rifle Division (May 9, 1944 - 1947)
Mjr. Gen. I.A. Makarenko in 1943–45
Mjr. Gen. I.A. Makarenko in 1943–45
Active 1941–1947
Country  Soviet Union
Branch Red Army flag.svg Red Army
Type Division
Role Infantry
Engagements Crimean Campaign
Battle of Stalingrad
Operation Uranus
Operation Koltso
Operation Little Saturn
Operation Bagration
Vistula-Oder Offensive
East Prussian Offensive
East Pomeranian Offensive
Battle of Berlin
Decorations Order of the red Banner OBVERSE.jpgOrder of the Red Banner (3rd formation)
Battle honours Chudovo (3rd formation)
Dno (3rd formation)
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Mjr. Gen. I.A. Makarenko
Col. V.K. Chesnokov

The 321st Rifle Division was formed in September 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, based on an existing division of militia. This formation had an extremely short career, coming under devastating attack in the north of the Crimea on the day of its redesignation and being officially disbanded less than a month later. A second division began forming in the Transbaikal in February, 1942, and served in the defensive and offensive fighting around Stalingrad, eventually distinguishing itself sufficiently to be redesignated as the 82nd Guards Rifle Division. The world had not seen the last of the 321st, however, as a new division was formed in the spring of 1944, which gave very creditable service for the duration, completing its combat path in northeastern Germany, and serving into the postwar period.

1st Formation[edit | edit source]

The division first formed on September 24, 1941 from the 2nd Crimea Militia Division[1] at Yevpatoria. Its basic order of battle was as follows:

  • 484th Rifle Regiment
  • 488th Rifle Regiment
  • 493rd Rifle Regiment
  • 986th Artillery Regiment[2]

The division was a "sister" to the 320th Rifle Division, and was assigned to 51st Army of Crimean Front but was still forming up in October, now in the Separate Coastal Army, when the German 11th Army broke into the Crimea from the north, through the Perekop Isthmus. The 321st was directly in the path of this offensive. After being thrown out of its positions the army commander, Gen. Ivan Petrov, ordered a retreat to Yevpatoria. On October 31 the German motorized advance detachment of 11th Army captured that city, and the 321st had already been cut off and reduced to fragments.[3] As there were no resources in the Crimea to rebuild the division, on that same date the 321st was officially disbanded.[4]

2nd Formation[edit | edit source]

A new division began forming on February 26, 1942 in Chita Oblast in the Transbaikal Military District. Its order of battle remained the same as that of the first formation. Although the divisional headquarters formed at Chita, the division's components were formed all over the Transbaikal and the Mongolian People's Republic.[5] In March, the division was noted as having 85% of its personnel of Yakut or Buryat nationality.[6] In May and June the division was assigned to 36th Army in Transbaikal Front for training, and in July was railed west, where it arrived in the 21st Army of Stalingrad Front on July 20.[7]

The 321st saw its first action nine days later, following these orders from the STAVKA to Stalingrad Front:

[T]he Front's main mission over the next few days is, at all cost, to defeat the enemy who have reached the western bank of the Don River south of Nizhne-Chirskaya by no later than July 30 by... the employment of 204th and 321st Rifle Divisions and 23rd Tank Corps, which have reached the Kalach region...

As with many others, the planned assault faltered with very little to show for it, largely because not enough time was available to coordinate and control it properly.[8] By early August the division had been transferred to the 4th Tank Army which was trying to hold a 50km-wide bridgehead on the west bank of the Don while also protecting the approaches to Stalingrad from the northwest. The 321st did its best to reinforce the army's right flank. On August 13, German Sixth Army launched a diversionary attack against this flank with its XI Army Corps. As reported to the STAVKA:

321st RD conducted fierce fighting with an enemy force of up to a regiment of infantry with 50-60 tanks beginning at 0630 hours... and, under pressure, the units of the division withdrew [10-15km] to the Malyi Iarki-Mokryi Log Balka-Hill 134.4 line at 1430 hours. Fighting is raging along this line...

The attack forced the division to withdraw, as the Sixth Army commander, Gen. Paulus, expected, and 4th Tank Army reinforced the sector with antitank assets. In spite of this setback, the division was in better state than most of the rest of its army, which was rapidly being encircled; on August 14, 4th Tank Army reported the 321st had a total of 7,544 men. In conjunction with arriving forces of 1st Guards Army, the 321st was ordered into a counterstroke on August 17 to try to retrieve the situation, but this effort failed, and on August 20 its strength had fallen to 4,356 men. Only the timely arrival of 38th and 40th Guards Rifle Divisions prevented the German corps from liquidating the narrow bridgehead south of the Don from Kremenskaya to Sirotinskaya. This bridgehead would later cause the German Army much grief. However, the 321st was by now decimated, and was transferred to 1st Guards Army.[9]

As of September 3 the division was back in 21st Army, still in the Kremenskaya bridgehead. On the following day it was ordered to attack XI Corps again, it an attempt to prevent 22nd Panzer Division from moving eastward towards Stalingrad. This made little impression, and for the next months the 321st continued to hold its positions and rebuild.[10]

In November the division was transferred to 65th Army (the former 4th Tank Army) on the right flank of Don Front. In the planning for Operation Uranus, 21st Army was to have a leading role in breaking out of the Kletskaya bridgehead, but the 65th was to provide support on its left. On November 19 the 321st concentrated its forces on a 4km sector from Melo-Kletskii to Melo-Logovskii. Its immediate objective was to strike southwards on both sides of the Mokryi Log Balka, which was the boundary between Romanian Third Army and German Sixth Army, and force them apart. In the event, the 321st and the neighboring 304th Rifle Division ran up against skillfully fortified German strongpoints which pinned them down, leading to negligible gains. On the third day, these divisions were still grinding forward, forcing the 376th Infantry Division to fall back to its next positions, but the 321st had to be partially pulled out for rest and refitting. On the 23rd the division was ordered to reinforce 4th Guards Rifle Division to seize Khmelevskii. On this same day, Sixth Army was encircled, and the battle became a siege.[11]

Due to orders from the STAVKA, on November 27 the 321st, plus two other divisions of 65th Army, redeployed south to reinforce 5th Tank Army, which was struggling to capture German strongpoints on the Don and Chir Rivers. By the next day the division, along with 40th Guards, was getting into position to attack the German positions at Oblivskaia. On November 30, an attack by the 321st, a regiment of guardsmen, and two cavalry divisions, proved fruitless although some gains were made. In the following days, the division was ordered to go to the defensive.[12]

Following the German surrender in Stalingrad, the 321st was formally assigned to 5th Tank Army in the following offensives into the lower Don and Donbass regions, known as Little Saturn. In recognition of these successes, on March 19, 1943, the division was re-designated as the 82nd Guards Rifle Division.[13]

3rd Formation[edit | edit source]

After an absence of over a year from the Red Army order of battle, a new 321st Rifle Division began forming from April to May 9, 1944, in the 1st Shock Army of 2nd Baltic Front, based on cadres from the 14th Rifle Brigade and the 137th Rifle Brigade.[14] The division inherited two battle honors from these brigades: Chudovo from the former and Dno from the latter; it also inherited the Order of the Red Banner from the 14th. The division's order of battle remained the same as that of the first two formations.[15] It was assigned to the 90th Rifle Corps. By mid-June the division was probably still absorbing and training new men, and the corps itself was only recently formed, so at the outset of Operation Bagration it was given a relatively easy assignment: holding attacks against units of German 16th Army.[16]

On July 8, as its Front entered the general offensive, the 321st was facing the German Panther Line defenses about 20 km east of Ostrov.[17] After a severe battle of attrition, the city was finally liberated on the 21st. A few days later, the division was transferred to the 111th Rifle Corps of 54th Army in 3rd Baltic Front, and by August 1 was advancing into Latvia. Before the month's end it was back in 1st Shock Army, which was now also in 3rd Baltic Front, and by September 12 the 321st had reached positions north of Gulbene, nearly on the Estonian border.[18] The attrition had taken its toll, and a few days later the division was withdrawn to the Reserve of the Supreme High Command for rebuilding; while there it was assigned to the 116th Rifle Corps of 2nd Shock Army. It would remain under these commands for the duration. By the end of October the 2nd Shock Army was assigned to 2nd Belorussian Front, where it would also serve for the duration.[19]

Into Germany[edit | edit source]

With the rest of its Front, the 321st participated in the Vistula-Oder Offensive. When the Front's attack began on January 14, 1945, 2nd Shock Army was tasked to break out of the Rozan bridgehead across the Narew River, with the immediate goal of taking the town of Ciechanow and then, in conjunction with 65th Army, to eliminate the enemy in the Pultusk area. The 321st, along with its corps, was in reserve, and did not see action on that first day, nor the following. On the 17th, 2nd Shock liberated Ciechanow, but 116th Corps remained in second echelon.[20]

By February 20, when the offensive was about to enter its second stage, the 321st was fighting, along with its corps and army, on the line of the Nogat and Vistula Rivers. As it entered its third stage on March 6, units of the 116th Corps, with the support of 8th Guards Tank Corps, broke through the German defenses and began fighting street-by-street for the town of Preussisch Stargard.[21] Following this fighting in East Prussia the division was redeployed to take part in the East Pomeranian Offensive, and then the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation, ending the war near Stralsund on the Baltic coast.[22]

Postwar[edit | edit source]

By the conclusion of hostilities, the division had been awarded the full title of 321st Rifle, Chudovo-Dno, Order of the Red Banner Division (Russian: 321-я стрелковая Чудовско-Дновская Краснознамённая дивизия). It became part of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, still in the 116th Rifle Corps of 2nd Shock Army, where it remained until being withdrawn to Dnipropetrovsk in the Kharkov Military District in February 1946.[23] The division became part of the 14th Guards Rifle Corps and in May 1946 became the 38th Rifle Brigade. The brigade and its corps became part of the Kiev Military District months later. In March 1947, the brigade was disbanded.[24]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Walter S. Dunn, Jr., Stalin's Keys to Victory, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2006, p 78
  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. Robert Forczyk, Where the Iron Crosses Grow, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2014, pp 62, 66
  4. Sharp, "Red Tide", p 75, states that the disbanding date was October 13, but this is likely a typo.
  5. Sharp, "Red Swarm", Soviet Rifle Divisions Formed From 1942 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. X, Nafziger, 1996, p 122
  6. David M. Glantz, Colossus Reborn, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2005, p 594
  7. Sharp, "Red Swarm", p 122
  8. Glantz, To the Gates of Stalingrad, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2009, p 245
  9. Glantz, To the Gates, pp 304, 310, 312-16, 560-61
  10. Glantz, Armageddon in Stalingrad, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2009, p 34, 46
  11. Glantz, Endgame at Stalingrad, Book One, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2014, pp 75-76, 197, 205-08, 355
  12. Glantz, Endgame, Book One, pp 420, 476, 482
  13. Sharp, "Red Swarm", p 122. Sharp gives the new designation of the division as the 182nd Guards, but this is obviously a typo.
  14. Sharp, "Red Swarm," p. 123. Sharp only identifies the 137th; information on the 14th is from Russian Wikipedia.
  15. According to Sharp; Russian Wikipedia lists the rifle regiments as the 72nd, 74th and 79th.
  16. Dunn, Soviet Blitzkrieg, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2008, pp. 83-87.
  17. The Gamers, Inc., Baltic Gap, Multi-Man Publishing, Inc., Millersville, MD, 2009, p. 18.
  18. Baltic Gap, p 22, 29
  19. Sharp, "Red Swarm," p. 123.
  20. Soviet General Staff, Prelude to Berlin, ed. and trans. Richard W. Harrison, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2016, pp 130, 186, 199, 201, 206
  21. Prelude to Berlin, pp 312, 323
  22. Glantz & Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 1995, pp 267, 270
  23. Feskov et al 2013, p. 381.
  24. Feskov et al 2013, p. 477.
  • Feskov, V.I.; Golikov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Slugin, S.A. (2013) (in Russian). Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской. Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306. 

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