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87th Guards Rifle Division (Apr. 16 1943 – July 1946)
Active 1943–1946
Country Flag of the Soviet Union (1924–1955).svg Soviet Union
Branch Red Army flag Red Army
Type Division
Role Infantry
Engagements Donbass Strategic Offensive
Lower Dniepr Offensive
Crimean Offensive
Operation Bagration
Courland Pocket
East Prussian Offensive
Battle of Königsberg
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Mjr. Gen. K.Ya. Tymchik

The 87th Guards Rifle Division was created on Apr. 16, 1943 from the remnants of the 300th Rifle Division, in recognition of that division's leading role in the penetration of the German/Romanian defenses south of Stalingrad in the opening stages of Operation Uranus, its subsequent defense against Army Group Don's attempt to relieve the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, and later for its pursuit of the defeated German forces along the Don River to Rostov-na-Donu as far as the Mius River. The 87th Guards continued a record of distinguished service through the rest of the Great Patriotic War.

FormationEdit

The 87th Guards was one of several Guards rifle divisions created in the aftermath of the fighting for Stalingrad. When formed, its order of battle was as follows:

  • 261st Guards Rifle Regiment from 1049th Rifle Regiment
  • 262nd Guards Rifle Regiment from 1051st Rifle Regiment
  • 264th Guards Rifle Regiment from 1053rd Rifle Regiment
  • 192nd Guards Artillery Regiment from 822nd Artillery Regiment
  • 94th Guards Antitank Battalion from 336th Antitank Battalion
  • 100th Guards Sapper Battalion from 591st Sapper Battalion
  • 120th Guards Signal Battalion from 756th Signal Battalion
  • 90th Guards Reconnaissance Company [1][2]

The division spent the rest of April and May rebuilding, in the 13th Guards Rifle Corps of the 2nd Guards Army. It remained in this Corps for the duration, and in this Army for the duration apart from two re-deployments late in the war.

Mius River and Donbass OperationEdit

While rebuilding, and for several months thereafter, the 87th Guards was occupied in positional warfare along the line of the Mius River. The German forces facing them, including the re-created 6th Army, occupied defensive positions they had originally built a year earlier. The first major effort to break this line began on July 17; the 13th Guards Rifle Corps, in second echelon, crossed into a constricted bridgehead on the 21st, trying to stage a breakthrough in the area of the village of Dmitrievka. This proved unsuccessful and indeed turned into a rout, which cost Lt. Gen. Ya.G. Kreizer his command of 2nd Guards Army.[3]

The following month South Front began a much more successful offensive into the Donbass region. The 87th Guards breakthrough came at the village of Uspenka and by Sept. 6 it entered the city of Stalino (today Donetsk). In the third week of September the German Wotan Line along the Molochnaya River was reached and soon breached, and the division continued its pursuit to the mouth of the Dniepr River, arriving at the town of Tsyurupinsk on Nov. 3.[4] In the course of these operations 4th Ukrainian Front (formerly South Front) cut land access to Crimea, isolating German 17th Army and its allied Romanian forces, which were to become the Front's next targets.

Crimean OffensiveEdit

Following a relatively quiet winter the 87th Guards participated in the Crimean Offensive. The division's task was to break through German positions across the low and narrow Isthmus of Perekop, beginning on Apr. 6, 1944. In the initial fighting the German forces were pushed out of their first line of trenches, at considerable cost, but no breakthrough was made. During the night the 261st Guards Rifle Regiment was withdrawn from the line and began a long flanking march to the shore of Karkinit Bay, which was just knee-deep at this point. After wading for 20 minutes the regiment reached the opposite shore, outflanking the Germans and forcing them to fall back several kilometres. This set up a running fight down the west coast of Crimea, and by Apr. 20 the division reached the city of Evpatoriya. In recognition of this victory, a 24-gun salute was fired in Moscow, and the 87th Guards Rifle Division was awarded the honorific "Perekop" (Russian: "Перекопская").[5]

The division also played a role in the liberation of Sevastopol, which was completed on May 9. Crimea was now a dead-end on the path to Berlin; most of the Front was re-deployed between 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, but 2nd Guards Army was railed all the way north to 1st Baltic Front, where it arrived shortly after the start of Operation Bagration.[6]

Šiauliai OffensiveEdit

2nd Guards Army began to deploy in its new Front in mid-July, when the German lines had already fallen to pieces along the entire operational front. Advancing into the "Baltic Gap" in Lithuania between German Army Groups North and Centre, the 87th Guards encountered limited resistance until it reached well dug-in positions along the Dubysa River in mid-August; this led to a halt for several weeks, followed by three unsuccessful attempts to break this line in September. The stalemate was finally broken by a full-scale Front offensive beginning on Oct. 5, and on Oct. 23 the division reached the Niemen River opposite the city of Tilsit (today Sovetsk). Orders to assault the city by storm were countermanded on Oct. 30, and instead the division was re-deployed 200km northeast into Latvia to help contain the German forces trapped in the Courland Pocket.[7][8]

East Prussian OffensiveEdit

The 87th Guards rejoined 2nd Guards Army, now in 3rd Belorussian Front, in late December, prior to the East Prussian Offensive. The division remained in this Front for the duration. In early January the division moved to 43rd Army, then again rejoined 2nd Guards Army in May.

During January the division advanced with little opposition towards Königsberg (today Kaliningrad). In early February, approaching the German naval base of Pillau (today Baltiysk) the division suddenly faced strong counter-attacks from German forces evacuated from Courland, forcing a retreat with heavy losses. An attempt to stem the German attack on Feb. 23 ended in a rout. Finally, on the night of Feb. 28/Mar. 1, the division brought the German advance to a halt at Hill 111.4, also known as the Bismarckturm. The division was taken out of the front lines for rebuilding for the next month.[9]

In the lead-up to the storming of Königsberg, the 87th Guards formed assault detachments based on single rifle battalions backed by regimental guns and also SU-76 assault guns from the 94th Guards Antitank Battalion. The attack began on Apr. 6. The assault detachments bypassed the forts of the inner defenses to reach the city centre. In the afternoon of Apr. 8 elements of the division linked up with 1st Guards Rifle Division of 11th Guards Army across the Pregel River, thus splitting the German defense in two. The next day the defenders of the city surrendered.[10]

In the wake of this battle the division moved back to Pillau. On May 9 the victory over Nazi Germany was celebrated in the city's main square. At this time the division was officially designated as the 87th Guards Rifle, Perekop, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov, Division, (Russian: 87-я гвардейская стрелковая Перекопская Краснознамённая ордена Суворова дивизия) and three men had been named as Heroes of the Soviet Union, all posthumously.[11][12]

The division was demobilized in East Prussia in July, 1946.[13]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Charles C. Sharp, "Red Guards", Soviet Guards Rifle and Airborne Units 1941 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. IV, 1995, p 80
  2. Russian Wikipedia
  3. Isaak Kobylyanskiy, From Stalingrad to Pillau, trans. S. Britton, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2008, pp 88–95 and note on p 305
  4. Kobylyanskiy, pp 100–07
  5. Kobylyanskiy, pp 112–15
  6. Sharp, p 80
  7. Kobylyanskiy, pp 120, 128
  8. Sharp, p 80
  9. Kobylyanskiy, pp 134–39
  10. Kobylyanskiy, pp 147–53
  11. Kobylyanskiy, pp 155–56
  12. Russian Wikipedia
  13. Russian Wikipedia



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