The 5th Guards Tank Army was formed on 10 February 1942. Its organisation varied throughout its history, but in general included two or more Guards Tank Corps and one or more Guards Mechanized Corps. It was considered an elite formation. Under Red Army doctrine of deep operations, Tank Armies were primarily to be used for large-scale exploitation of major offensives. Once a breach in enemy lines had been made by other units (typically Shock Armies or combined-arms armies), the tank army would be inserted into the gap to drive deep into enemy territory, attacking rear areas and seizing major communications centers to disrupt the enemy reactions. Tank armies were expected to penetrate up to several hundred kilometers into the enemy rear. In 1943, it played a significant role in the Battle of Kursk, being one of the formations tasked with the counter-attack at Prokhorovka. Subordinated to the Steppe Front, at Kursk the Army controlled the 18th Tank Corps, 29th Tank Corps, 2nd Tank Corps, 5th Guards Mechanised Corps plus smaller units with a total of approximately 850 tanks. Early in 1944, it took part in the reduction of the Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket.
In June 1944, the 5th Guards Tank Army was used as the main exploitation force during the Soviet summer offensive, Operation Bagration. The formation was committed to an attack along and parallel to the main Moscow–Minsk road, following initial breakthroughs by the rifle divisions of 11th Guards Army, and was instrumental in completing the encirclement and destruction of German forces at Minsk. It was then employed in the third phase of Operation Bagration. High casualties in this campaign, however, led to the unit's commander Lieutenant-General Pavel Rotmistrov being relieved of command and replaced with Vasily Volsky.
Late in 1944, the 5th Guards Tank Army was committed against Third Panzer Army as part of the Baltic Offensive, pushing the German forces into a pocket at Memel. It was then moved south and took part in the East Prussian Operation as part of Konstantin Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front; driving to the coast at Elbing, it successfully cut off the Wehrmacht forces in East Prussia in what became known as the Heiligenbeil pocket.
However, by March 1945, the 5th Guards Tank Army was being drawn down, with the subordinate 10th Tank Corps moved first to direct subordination of the 3rd Belorussian Front and then the STAVKA Reserve by 1 April 1945. This left the 5th Guards Tank Army with a single tank corps, the 29th, under its control. This reduction in strength coincided with the hospitalization of the 5th GTA's commanding general, Vasily Volsky, for tuberculosis. Volsky did not return to the army (he died in FEbruary 1946) and генерал-майор т/в Maxim Sinenko [Синенко Максим Денисович] took command from 16.03.1945 to the end of the war.
After the war, Rotmistrov wrote a memoir and history of the unit, The Steel Guards.
From the war's end to the break-up of the Soviet Union, the 5th Guards Tank Army was stationed in the Belarussian Military District. Throughout the postwar period it had an almost constant composition of three tank divisions - the 8th Guards (Osipovichi) and 29th (former tank corps) (Slutsk, and the 193rd Tank Division (Bobruisk). The headquarters was located in Bobruisk. In 1990 the 8th и 29-е танковые дивизии были расформированы. Вместо них армии придана 30th Guards Motor Rifle Division, Марьина Горка, выведенная из состава Central Group of Forces (Чехословакия).
Following the collapse, the army was converted into the 5th Guards Army Corps of the Armed Forces of Belarus, which was still active in September 2001, when the Belarus Minister of Defence, General Lieutenant Leonid Maltsev, congratulated the remaining Belarus Guards units on 60 years of existence. However within a year the headquarters of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Belarus was established on its basis.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Soviet General Staff official orders of battle for the Soviet Army, March and April, 1945
- http://tankfront.ru/ussr/ta/gvta5.html, Tankfront.ru.
- Feskov et al 2004, 41.
- 'Commander outlines reform of Belarusian Ground Forces,' Zvyazda, Minsk, in Belarusian, 2 October 2002, p.2, via Lexis-Nexis.
- V.I. Feskov, Калашников К. А., Голиков В. И. Советская Армия в годы «холодной войны» (1945-1991). — Томск: Изд-во Том. ун-та, 2004.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Дорогами побед, Егоров П. Я., Кривоборский И. В., Ивлев И. К., Рогалевич А. И., Moscow, Voenizdat, 1969
[edit | edit source]
- (Russian) army history
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