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357th Rifle Division (August, 1941 – March 4, 1955)
Maj. Gen. A. G. Kudryavtsev
Maj. Gen. A. G. Kudryavtsev
Active 1941–1955
Country Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union
Branch Red Army flag Red Army
Type Division
Role Infantry
Engagements Battles of Rzhev
Operation Seydlitz
Battle of Velikiye Luki
Battle of Nevel (1943)
Riga Offensive (1944)
Courland Pocket
Decorations Order of Suvorov 2nd class Order of Suvorov
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Col. Dmitrii Andreevich Kirshev
Maj. Gen. Aleksandr Lvovich Kronik
Maj. Gen. Aleksandr Georgievich Kudryavtsev
Maj. Gen. Ivan Nikolaievich Burakovskii

The 357th Rifle Division formed in August, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, at Sarapul. When it arrived at the front it was assigned to the Kalinin Front, and it spent the first half of 1942 deep in in the rear of German Army Group Center, fighting in full or partial isolation in the forested swamps west of the Rzhev salient. While it was not destroyed, it was heavily depleted in this campaign and was withdrawn into the reserve for rebuilding. It next saw action in November when it helped lead the 3rd Shock Army in the battle and siege of Velikiye Luki. When this battle ended in January, 1943, the sector remained fairly quiet until Kalinin (soon renamed 1st Baltic) Front launched an offensive on Nevel in October which had much success in the early going. In the summer and autumn of 1944 the 357th took part in the Riga Offensive into the Baltic states, and won the Order of Suvorov for its part in the liberation of that city. The division ended the war in the Courland Group of Forces, watching over the trapped remnants of German Army Group North. The 357th remained in service as late as March, 1955, when it was re-designated

FormationEdit

The division began forming in August, 1941 in the Udmurtsk ASSR of the Ural Military District.[1] Its order of battle was as follows:

  • 1188th Rifle Regiment
  • 1190th Rifle Regiment
  • 1192nd Rifle Regiment
  • 923rd Artillery Regiment
  • 640th Sapper Battalion
  • 219th Antitank Battalion
  • 422nd Reconnaissance Company
  • 377th Signal Company[2]

On the first day of September Col. Dmitrii Andreevich Kirshev was assigned to command of the division, a post he would hold until February 14, 1942. The division was assigned to 39th Army while it was still forming, but by the time it reached the front it had been reassigned to 22nd Army in the Kalinin Front. By the end of January, 1942, it was back in 39th Army.[3]

Battles of RzhevEdit

During this period, the armies of Kalinin Front were deeply outflanking Army Group Center from the north, carving out the Toropets salient to the north and west of German 9th Army's positions in the Rzhev salient. During the rest of the winter the 39th Army was tasked with driving westwards to encircle and destroy these enemy forces in conjunction with Western Front attacking from the east.[4] In the event, difficult terrain and supply shortages, plus desperate German resistance, frustrated this plan. On February 15, 1942, Colonel Kirshev was replaced in command by Col. Aleksandr Lvovich Kronik.

On July 2 Army Group Center launched Operation Seydlitz to finally liquidate this threat to its rear. On July 6 the corridor from Kalinin Front to its besieged 39th and 22nd Armies was cut at the village of Pushkari, north of Belyi, which encircled the 357th along with several others. Over the following weeks individuals, small groups, and even some formed and armed subunits managed to make their way through the encirclement lines, but despite this 39th Army reported 582 killed, 269 wounded and the enormous total of 22,749 missing in action in the month of July. 39th Army had to be reformed on the basis of the 58th Army headquarters.[5] While enough of the division survived this ordeal to avoid being disbanded, by August 1 its remnants were in the Moscow Military District for rebuilding, which went on into September.[6]

Battle of Velikiye LukiEdit

By October 1 the division had been sufficiently rebuilt that it was assigned to the Moscow Defence Zone.[7] On October 13 Kalinin Front received orders that several formations would be transferred to its command, in the buildup to the forthcoming Operation Mars. Among these was the 5th Guards Rifle Corps to reinforce 43rd Army. The 357th was directed to begin loading onto trains at Naro-Fominsk on October 15;[8][9] however it is listed as still being in the Moscow Zone on November 1.[10] The division arrived in 43rd Army later that month where it was assigned to 5th Guards Corps, but was soon sent, with its Corps, to reinforce 3rd Shock Army, which launched an offensive to retake Velikiye Luki and Novosokolniki on November 24.[11][12] The 357th was described at this time as being at full strength for equipment and personnel, and that one in four (25 percent) were Party members or Komsomols. The division's Deputy for Political Affairs was senior Battalion Commissar V. A. Belov.[13]

5th Guards Corps was to take the leading role in the offensive. After forcing a crossing of the Lovat River and bypassing Velikiye Luki to the southwest, its objective was to cut the rail lines from Velikiye Luki to Nevel and Velikiye Luki to Novosokolniki, and to link up with other forces of 3rd Shock advancing from the northeast to encircle the city. The 357th was to then storm the city from the west while 9th Guards Rifle Division continued the advance on Novosokolniki. 46th Guards Rifle Division, on the left flank, was to cover the other two divisions against counterattacks from the southwest.[14]

PostwarEdit

The 357th ended the war with the full title of 357th Rifle, Order of Suvorov Division (Russian: 357-я стрелковая ордена Суворова дивизия). About the end of September and October 1945, the division arrived at Ashgabat in the Turkestan Military District with the 1st Rifle Corps. It continued to serve well into the postwar era until it was finally re-designated as the 61st Rifle Division on March 4, 1955. In early 1957 the division became the 61st Motor Rifle Division while the corps became the 1st Army Corps; it was reorganized as the 61st Motor Rifle Training Division in 1960, directly subordinate to the district headquarters. When training divisions became district training centers in 1987, the 61st was renumbered as the 209th District Training Center. After the Dissolution of the Soviet Union the center was taken over by the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan.[15]

By the early 2000s the 209th had become the 2nd Training Motor Rifle Division named for Alp Arslan at Tejen.[16] The Alp Arslan honorific was awarded in July 2004.[17]

ReferencesEdit

CitationsEdit

  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. 92
  3. Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 92
  4. John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd., London, UK, 1975, p. 326
  5. Svetlana Gerasimova, The Rzhev Slaughterhouse, ed. & trans. S. Britton, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2013, pp. 59-61, 69
  6. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1942, p. 158
  7. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1942, p. 197
  8. Gerasimova, Rzhev Slaughterhouse, p. 213
  9. David M. Glantz, After Stalingrad, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2009, p. 52
  10. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1942, p. 219
  11. Glantz, After Stalingrad, p. 446
  12. Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1942, p. 234
  13. http://militera.lib.ru/memo/russian/beloborodov2/08.html (In Russian)
  14. http://militera.lib.ru/memo/russian/beloborodov2/08.html (In Russian)
  15. Feskov et al 2013, pp. 537–541.
  16. "Вооруженные силы Туркмении" (in Russian). Vad777. http://www8.brinkster.com/vad777/sng/turkmenia.htm. 
  17. "Семь мотострелковых дивизий и бригад Вооруженных Сил Туркмении стали именными" (in Russian). RIA Novosti. 12 July 2004. https://ria.ru/society/20040712/631831.html. 

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit




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