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352nd Rifle Division (August 1, 1941 – 1945)
Col. Yu.M. Prokofev (prewar)
Col. Yu.M. Prokofev (prewar)
Active 1941–1945
Country  Soviet Union
Branch Red Army flag.svg Red Army
Type Division
Role Infantry
Engagements Battle of Moscow
Battles of Rzhev
Battle of Smolensk (1943)
Operation Bagration
Vistula-Oder Offensive
Battle of Königsberg
Prague Offensive
Decorations

Order of the red Banner OBVERSE.jpgOrder of the Red Banner

Order of suvorov medal 2nd class.jpgOrder of Suvorov 2nd class
Battle honours Orsha
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Col. Yu.M. Prokofev
Maj. Gen. A.M. Pronin
Maj. Gen. N.M. Strizhenko
Maj. Gen. R.S.G. Maksutov

The 352nd Rifle Division started forming in August, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, at Bugulma in Tatarstan. When it entered the fighting it was assigned to the Western Front before Moscow, and it would remain in that Front for most of the war; when Western Front was dissolved the division went to one of its successor Fronts and served there until the last few weeks. It took part in the first Soviet winter counteroffensive, then played peripheral roles in the battles around the Rhzev salient, before advancing in the offensive that liberated Smolensk in the summer of 1943. After a series of frustrating attempts during the autumn and winter of 1943-44, the city of Orsha was finally liberated in the opening days of Operation Bagration, and the 352nd was recognized for its role in the battle. Soon after it was further decorated for its part in the liberation of Grodno. In the winter of 1945 the 352nd took part in the invasion of East Prussia and the capture of Königsberg, but in April it finally was swung off its very straightforward combat path when it and its 31st Army were transferred to 1st Ukrainian Front advancing into Czechoslovakia. Soon after the German surrender the division was slated as one of those to be disbanded in place in central Europe.

Formation[edit | edit source]

The division began forming on August 1, 1941, in the Volga Military District[1] at Bugulma. Its first commander, Col. Yu.M. Prokofev, was assigned the same day. Its basic order of battle was as follows:

  • 1158th Rifle Regiment
  • 1160th Rifle Regiment
  • 1162nd Rifle Regiment
  • 914th Artillery Regiment[2]

At the time it was forming the division's personnel was noted as containing a "high percentage of Tatars", which is unsurprising, given the location.[3] The 352nd remained in Volga District until November 29, when it was ordered by STAVKA to join the 20th Army in the Moscow region. It joined the Moscow counteroffensive in that Army the following month.[4]

In Western Front[edit | edit source]

In the last days of February, 1942, the division was transferred to 5th Army, still in Western Front,[5] where it would remain until August, 1943.[6] Colonel Prokovev relinquished command of the division on June 5, and was replaced by Lt. Col. A.P. Maltzev, who was promoted to the rank of Colonel on June 27.

In the planning for Operation Mars, 5th Army was intended to participate in a widening offensive, after German 9th Army was encircled and defeated, through Vyasma to link up with forces of Kalinin Front near Smolensk to destroy Army Group Center. In the event, 9th Army was able to hold out, and this operation did not come to pass. On February 6, 1943, Maj. Gen. M.A. Pronin took command of the division, which he would hold until June 2. In the aftermath of Operation Mars, on February 22, the 352nd, with the 29th Guards Rifle Division, assaulted the positions of German 4th Army's 35th Infantry Division east of Gzhatsk, tearing a small breach in the division's defenses. 5th Army then committed the 153rd Tank Brigade, plus a ski battalion, and later a full ski brigade, into the gap. After days of heavy fighting the exploiting forces were encircled and mostly destroyed by German counterattacks. The Front shut down until the German forces began evacuating the Rzhev salient in March.[7]

Shortly after the start of the summer offensive towards Smolensk in August, the division was transferred to 49th Army, where it would remain until the spring of the following year.[8] It was also assigned to 62nd Rifle Corps at this time,[9] but by the beginning of October it was back to being an independent division within its Army. As Western Front tried to continue its offensive into eastern Belorussia in early October, forward elements of 49th Army reached the Pronya River late on October 2. The 352nd was south of the town of Drybin. The strong German defenses in this region, manned by their 342nd and 35th Infantry Divisions, along with the weakness of his Army after months of offensive combat, convinced Col. Gen. I.T. Grishin that any further offensive action would be futile.[10]

Beginning on October 12, Western Front began a new offensive towards Orsha. This was preceded by a complex regrouping of forces, in which 33rd Army was moved into the sector north and south of Lenino. In response, 49th Army's forces shifted north into the positions vacated by 33rd Army. From October 12–14, 352nd and 344th Rifle Divisions moved from the Drybin area into the sectors vacated by 33rd Army.[11] On October 25, Maj. Gen. N.M. Strizhenko took command of the division, and he would remain in command until October 13, 1944, apart from a break from August 5 to September 25, 1943.

In March, 1944, Western Front began yet another offensive against Orsha. At this time the division was back in 62nd Corps, and was in the first echelon of the attack as part of the Army's shock group. The Corps was to attack in the sector extending from Lazyrshchina southward to Lobany against the center section of 78th Sturm Division's sector; 63rd and 352nd Rifle Divisions would back up 247th Rifle Division in the lead. During the course of this offensive, the division was briefly redeployed into the sector of 31st Army, but by April 1 was, with its Corps, in 33rd Army. This renewed attack made virtually no progress and was shut down in April.[12]

Operation Bagration[edit | edit source]

Later that month, Western Front was broken up into the 2nd and 3rd Belorussian Fronts. During this transition, the 352nd was assigned to the 113th Rifle Corps of 31st Army of 3rd Belorussian Front; it would remain in that Army, apart from one brief period in 1945, for the duration of the war.[13] When the offensive began, 31st Army was facing the 260th Infantry and 25th Panzergrenadier divisions of the German XXVII Army Corps across the Dniepr River. In part due to the water obstacle the Army's offensive developed slowly over the first few days, but once the Dniepr was crossed the town of Dubrovno was reached on June 25, just 15km east of Orsha.[14] On June 27, the division was given credit for its role in the liberation of the city of Orsha and received its name as an honorific:

"ORSHA - ...352nd Rifle Division (Major General Strizhenko, Nikolai Mikhailovich)... By order of the Supreme High Command of 27 June 1944 and a commendation in Moscow, the troops who participated in the battles for the liberation of Orsha are given a salute of 20 artillery salvoes from 224 guns."[15]

On July 28 the division was further distinguished with a unit award of the Order of the Red Banner for its service in the liberation of Grodno.[16]

Into Germany and Czechoslovakia[edit | edit source]

On October 14, General Strizhenko was replaced in command by Col. V.I. Rutko. At the start of the Vistula-Oder Offensive in January, 1945, the division was in the 36th Rifle Corps of 31st Army, but before the end of the month the Corps was taken under direct Front command.[17] During the advance on Königsberg the 352nd, with its Corps, was assigned to the 5th Army,[18] before returning to 31st Army by the end of March.[19] On March 22, Maj. Gen. R.S.G. Maksutov took command of the division, which he would hold for the duration. In April, the entire 31st Army was shifted out of 3rd Belorussian Front and moved south. In the last three weeks of the war the 352nd Division and its Army were under the command of 1st Ukrainian Front, advancing into Czechoslovakia.[20]

Postwar[edit | edit source]

The division held the full title of 352nd Rifle, Orsha, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Division [Russian: 352-я стрелковая Оршанская Краснознамённая ордена Суворова дивизия] when the fighting came to an end. According to STAVKA Order No. 11096 of May 29, 1945, part 8, the 352nd is listed as one of the rifle divisions to be "disbanded in place".[21]

References[edit | edit source]

Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Walter S. Dunn, Jr., Stalin's Keys to Victory, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2006, p. 79
  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. 89
  3. David M. Glantz, Colossus Reborn, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2005, p. 594
  4. Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 89
  5. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1942, p. 45
  6. Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 89
  7. Glantz, After Stalingrad, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2009, pp. 41, 328, 473
  8. Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 89
  9. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1943, p. 217
  10. Glantz, Battle for Belorussia, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2016, pp. 27, 69
  11. Glantz, Belorussia, pp. 71-72
  12. Glantz, Belorussia, pp. 383-96
  13. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1944, p. 130
  14. Dunn, Jr., Soviet Blitzkrieg, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2008, pp. 141-51
  15. http://www.soldat.ru/spravka/freedom/1-ssr-4.html. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  16. Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 89
  17. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1945, pp. 11, 45
  18. Soviet General Staff, Prelude to Berlin, ed. and trans. R.W. Harrison, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2016, pp. 233, 243
  19. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1945, pp. 79, 144
  20. Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 89
  21. http://militera.lib.ru/docs/da/berlin_45/16.html. Retrieved August 18, 2017.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • 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. 
  • Main Personnel Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union (1964) (in Russian). Командование корпусного и дивизионного звена советских вооруженных сил периода Великой Отечественной войны 1941 – 1945 гг.. Moscow: Frunze Military Academy.  p. 275

External links[edit | edit source]



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