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323rd Rifle Division (1 August 1941 - 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 Battle of Moscow
Battle of Smolensk (1943)
Operation Bagration
Vistula-Oder Offensive
Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation
Decorations

Order of the red Banner OBVERSEOrder of the Red Banner

Order of suvorov medal 2nd classOrder of Suvorov 2nd class
Battle honours Bryansk
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Mjr. Gen. V.T. Maslov

The 323rd Rifle Division was formed as a standard Red Army rifle division late in the summer of 1941, as part of the massive buildup of new Soviet fighting formations at that time. After a difficult start in the Soviet winter counteroffensive the division served on relatively quiet sectors into 1943, after which it joined the offensive push into German-occupied western Russia through the rest of that year, then in the destruction of Army Group Center in the summer of 1944, distinguishing itself in the liberation of Bialystok in July. In 1945 the men and women of the 323rd took part in the Vistula-Oder Offensive through Poland and into Pomerania, and then finally in the Battle of Berlin, ending the war with distinction, but being disbanded soon after.

FormationEdit

The 323rd Rifle Division began forming on Aug. 1, 1941, in the Tambov Oblast of the Oryol Military District.[1] Its primary order of battle was as follows:

  • 1086th Rifle Regiment
  • 1088th Rifle Regiment
  • 1090th Rifle Regiment
  • 892nd Artillery Regiment

The division was assigned to the 10th (Reserve) Army in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command in October.[2] This army was deployed in the last week of November west of the Oka River, downstream from Kashira, to defend both Kolomna and Ryazan from the German 2nd Panzer Army.[3] The 323rd went into action in December, during the Soviet counteroffensive, while it was still short of equipment and inadequately trained, and therefore suffered terrible casualties in these attacks. From Dec. 17 - 19 the division lost 4,138 officers and men, with 1,200 missing, the remainder being killed, wounded or sick. Only 70 of these were sick or frostbitten, demonstrating that they were at least well dressed for the conditions. Still, this was 40 percent losses in just 72 hours, and it was a long time in recovering.[4]

Operational historyEdit

The division was next assigned to the 16th Army of Western Front, but from April, 1942 until February, 1943 it was back in 10th Army, holding the southern flank of the same Front.[5] On Sept. 17, 1943, the city of Bryansk was liberated by Soviet forces, and the 323rd was given the name of this city as an honorific.

In early 1944, still in Belorussian Front, the division was assigned to 35th Rifle Corps in 63rd Army. On Feb. 18, 63rd Army was dissolved, and 35th Rifle Corps was reassigned to 3rd Army[6] At the outset of Operation Bagration, on June 23, 35th Corps, under command of Mjr. Gen. V.G. Zholudev, formed one of the two assault corps of 3rd Army, packed into less than ten kilometres of front opposite the northern half of the sector held by the German 134th Infantry Division. On the second day of the offensive, at 0400 hours, the assault force unleashed a massive 2-hour bombardment on the defenders in the Rogachev area, but by 0800 only the first line of German trenches had been taken, as bad weather had scrubbed the planned air support. As the weather cleared towards evening, further lines were taken, and the 9th Tank Corps prepared to exploit a breakthrough. Northwest of Bobruysk on June 26, the tankers cut the road to Mogilev behind the German XXXV Corps, with 35th and 41st Rifle Corps close behind and the 134th Infantry shattered and in flight. On the following day Bobruysk was surrounded, along with most of German 9th Army.[7]

On July 21, the division's commander, Mjr. Gen. V.T. Maslov, was involved in an unfortunate incident involving two of his senior commanders, Gen. Zholudev, and Lt. Gen. A.V. Gorbatov, commander of 3rd Army. Zholudev and Maslov were escorting Gorbatov, along with a number of other officers and men, to a new observation post that the 323rd had established. There was no clear route for the two light vehicles, and it became apparent that Maslov had lost his way. Gorbatov soon sensed the presence of the enemy, and ordered the vehicles to halt, at which time they came under fire from about 200 metres away. As the group attempted to escape, Zholudev was mortally wounded by German artillery fire.[8]

At about this time, 3rd Army was transferred to the 2nd Belorussian Front. On July 27, the 323rd played a leading role in the liberation of the city of Bialystok, for which it was awarded the Order of the Red Banner on Aug. 9. In September the division was transferred to the 38th Rifle Corps in the 33rd Army, under which commands it would serve for the duration. 33rd Army was assigned to 1st Belorussian Front in October, and the 323rd went on to participate in the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Pomeranian Offensive, and the Battle of Berlin as part of this Front.[9]

PostwarEdit

The soldiers of the 323rd ended the war with the official title of 323rd Rifle, Bryansk, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Division. (Russian: 323-я стрелковая Брянская Краснознамённая ордена Суворова дивизия.) According to STAVKA Order No. 11095 of May 29, 1945, part 6, the 323rd is listed as one of the rifle divisions to be "disbanded in place".[10] It was disbanded in Germany in accordance with the directive during the summer of 1945.[11]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Walter S. Dunn, 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. David Stahel, The Battle For Moscow, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2015, p 232
  4. Sharp, "Red Tide", p 75
  5. Sharp, "Red Tide", p 76
  6. Sharp, "Red Tide", p 76
  7. Dunn, Soviet Blitzkrieg, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2008, pp 185, 189, 195, 197
  8. Aleksander A. Maslov, Fallen Soviet Generals, ed. and trans. by David M. Glantz, Frank Cass Publishers, London, 1998, pp 147-49, 203-04
  9. Sharp, "Red Tide", p 76
  10. Stavka Order No. 11095
  11. Feskov et al 2013, pp. 380–381
  • 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. 

External linksEdit



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