9th Guards Rifle Division

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9th Guards Rifle Division (November 26, 1941 – 1945)
Momyshuly.jpg
Col. Baurzhan Momyshuly as a senior lieutenant in 1941
Active1941–1945
Country Soviet Union
BranchRed Army flag.svg Red Army
TypeDivision
RoleInfantry
EngagementsBattle of Moscow
Battles of Rzhev
Operation Blue
Battle for Velikiye Luki
Baltic Offensive
Riga Offensive (1944)
Memel Offensive Operation
Courland Pocket
DecorationsOrder of the Red Banner Order of the Red Banner
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Maj. Gen. Afanasii Pavlantevich Beloborodov Hero of the Soviet Union medal.png
Maj. Gen. Ignatii Vasilevich Prostyakov
Col. Porfirii Martynovich Gudz
Col. Valerii Ivanovich Savchuk
Col. Bauyrzhan Momyshuly Hero of the Soviet Union medal.png

The 9th Guards Rifle Division was reformed as an elite infantry division of the Red Army in November, 1941, based on the 1st formation of the 78th Rifle Division and served in that role until after the end of the Great Patriotic War. It was first assigned to the 16th Army just before the start of the winter counteroffensive west of Moscow before being reassigned to the 33rd Army and in May, 1942 it was awarded the Order of the Red Banner for its services, one of the first rifle divisions to be so recognized. After rebuilding it was railed south to Southwestern Front to help meet the German summer offensive but was returned to the Moscow Military District in September. In November it was assigned to Kalinin Front and played an important role in the liberation of Velikiye Luki during the winter. It remained in that Front (renamed 1st Baltic Front in October, 1943) for most of the rest of the war, for the most part in both the 5th and 2nd Guards Rifle Corps, before moving with the latter to 6th Guards Army, where it remained for the duration, fighting through the Baltic states during the summer and autumn of 1944. In March, 1945 it joined the Courland Group of Forces of Leningrad Front on the Baltic coast containing the German forces encircled in northwest Latvia. Following the German surrender it was disbanded later in 1945.

Formation[edit]

The division was officially raised to Guards status on November 26, 1941, although its sub-units would not be redesignated until February, 1942. Its order of battle, based on the last prewar (April 5, 1941) shtat (table of organization and equipment) for rifle divisions, was eventually as follows:

  • 18th Guards Rifle Regiment (from 40th Rifle Regiment)
  • 22nd Guards Rifle Regiment (from 258th Rifle Regiment)
  • 31st Guards Rifle Regiment (from 131st Rifle Regiment)
  • 28th Guards Artillery Regiment (from 159th Light Artillery Regiment)[1]
  • 210th Howitzer Artillery Regiment (until March 20, 1942)
  • 2nd Guards Antitank Battalion
  • 20th Guards Mortar Battalion (until August 6, 1942)
  • 6th Guards Machine-gun Battalion (from October 27, 1942 to February 10, 1943)
  • 12th Guards Reconnaissance Company
  • 3rd Guards Sapper Battalion
  • 4th Guards Signal Battalion
  • 11th Guards Medical/Sanitation Battalion
  • 5th Guards Chemical Defense (Anti-gas) Company
  • 479th Motor Transport Company (later 70th Motor Transport Battalion plus 10th and 168th Motor Transport Companies)
  • 1st Guards Field Bakery
  • 14th Guards Divisional Veterinary Hospital
  • 485th Field Postal Station
  • 451st Field Office of the State Bank

Afanasii Pavlantevich Beloborodov, who had led the 78th Rifle Division since July 12 and was promoted to the rank of major general on the same day the division was redesignated as Guards, carried on in command. In his memoirs he recounted:

Even before dawn, the telephone was ringing, connecting the division with the Front headquarters. I heard the voice of Lieutenant General V. D. Sokolovsky: "Istra has fallen?" "Fallen." "Not good. And you, a Guardsman!" I am silent. What Guardsman? Why? It was not like Vasily Danilovich to be so sarcastic... He then read from a document, "At the People's Commissariat of Defense. On the transformation of the Second and Third Cavalry Corps and the Seventy-eighth Rifle Division into Guards... Point three: the Seventy-eighth Rifle Division is transformed into the Ninth Guards Rifle Division." - He paused: - "And in brackets it reads: [division commander Major General Beloborodov Afanasii Pavlantevich] ... Congratulations to the division and you personally. Satisfied?" "That's not the word ... In the Far East, we all swore an oath with the whole division - to win the Guards rank ... Only ..." "Well, what is it?" “I'm a colonel, not a major general.” "You were a colonel. Until yesterday. The order was signed by the Supreme Commander ..." Political department workers led by Vavilov left for the unit. Directly at the front line, in the trenches, they had conversations with the personnel about this event, joyful for all of us. Now in all the regiments, battalions, artillery battalions and batteries, the soldiers and commanders proudly repeated: "We are the Guard, we are the Ninth Guards."[2]

Battle of Moscow[edit]

Postwar photo of Maj. Gen. A. P. Beloborodov

The 78th was assigned to 16th Army at the time it was redesignated and was holding Istra on November 25 as the only division of the Army still on the west bank of the Istra River, straddling the road to Volokolamsk. By the end of November 26 forces of the 10th Panzer Division had been able to cross the river in some areas. The now-9th Guards fought for the city overnight, both within it and along the eastern bank of the river south of town along a line up to 15km in length. By 0400 hours on the next day it was forced to withdraw to Istra's eastern outskirts. On November 28 the division was forced to abandon the city entirely and fall back eastward to a line from Aleksino to Zhevnevo (6km west of Dedovsk) where it consolidated. During this fighting it came under regular bombing attacks from groups of 6–8 German aircraft. Over the following days the center and left flank forces of 16th Army, including the 9th Guards, were involved in heavy fighting in the area to the south of Solnechnogorsk and to the east of the Istra reservoir. The German panzer forces were seeking to break out of Kochergino and Yesipovo to the southeast. By the end of November 30 the division, along with the 8th and 7th Guards and 18th Rifle Divisions, was waging a fierce struggle along part of the line from Lyalovo to Alabushevo to Barantsevo to Zhevnevo. During December 2-3 the German forces managed to take Kryukovo after heavy street fighting but were unable to break through 16th Army's lines. The 9th Guards was engaged in heavy fighting with German infantry and tanks on the eastern outskirts of Nefedevo (3km north of Dedovsk) with the 36th Rifle Brigade arriving in support. Although this place was briefly given up, on December 5 a counterattack by the division, backed by the 17th Tank and 40th Rifle Brigades, retook it, as well as Turovo, by noon and continued to advance on Petrovskoe as the German forces began to go over to the defense.[3]

Winter Counteroffensive[edit]

On the evening of December 6 Lt. Gen. K. K. Rokossovsky, commander of 16th Army, reported to the Western Front command that the Army would go over to the attack at 1000 hours the next day and described his objectives (in part):

5. The 18th Rifle and 9th Guards Rifle Divisions are to hold their present positions on December 7 and prepare for an offensive on December 8.

The German forces put up fierce resistance along the entire front. The division was involved in heavy fighting for Rozhdestveno which involved bayonet attacks. The German forces, having consolidated in the houses and employing small arms and mortar fire, defended fiercely and the division's attack was unsuccessful. Despite such local successes the German forces as a whole began to withdraw to the west. On December 9 Rokossovksy created two shock groups to operate against the flanks and rear of the German forces; the second consisted of the 9th Guards, 17th Tank and 36th and 40th Rifle Brigades plus the 89th Tank Battalion to retake Istra and then attack to the north. The attack began the next day and by December 11 the pace of the German retreat was accelerating; 16th Army reached a line from Kurilovo to Maksimovka to Istra, which was liberated by the 9th Guards that day. Over the next five days the Army fought for possession of the Istra reservoir, which had its dyke destroyed by the German forces. The division made several attempts to cross to the western bank of the river which were unsuccessful in part due to its artillery falling behind due to the winter weather. By the end of the 13th it was better prepared to force a crossing. Overnight on December 14/15 it got two rifle regiments across the river covered by fire from the third and was fighting for Ilino and Yabedino, 5km west of Istra. By now the German positions along the Istra were deeply outflanked and their retreat continued, pursued by 16th Army towards Volokolamsk through to December 20. During this period the 9th Guards captured 199 motor vehicles, nine artillery pieces and nine tanks. By the 22nd it was closing up to the Ruza River, which formed the next German defense line. The next day the 16th Army regrouped to its right flank to resume the offensive on December 24, but the German line proved hard to crack and this effort gained little ground over the next days.[4]

At the start of January, 1942 the division was on its Army's left flank linking to 5th Army to its south. On January 2 it reached a line from Danilkovo to Zakhryapino and over the next two weeks advanced from that line to the southwest which helped to force the German defenders to fall back from the Ruza in the direction of Gzhatsk. The 9th Guards continued to pursue and by January 20 had taken the villages of Soslavino, Isakovo and Potapovo while advancing in the direction of Myshkino. In three weeks the 16th Army had advanced 15km along its center and from 22-25km along its flanks.[5] Later in January the division was transferred to the 33rd Army, still in Western Front.[6]

Rzhev-Vyasma Operation[edit]

At the time of the transfer a strike group of three rifle divisions of 33rd Army had penetrated the German front south of Medyn in an effort to seize Vyasma, a vital rail hub in the German rear.[7] 9th Guards was ordered to force-march 150km in four days to reach Medyn, starting on January 27. At this time the rifle regiments were reduced to 250-300 personnel each, with several hundred horses missing and most of the motor transport in need of repair. Upon reaching Medyn General Beloborodov was ordered to join the battle from the march by entering a corridor up to 70km long and about 8km wide that led to the positions of the strike group. The leading 131st Rifle Regiment had entered the corridor on February 2 just as a counterstrike was launched by the 5th Panzer Division and other forces to cut it. Almost immediately Beloborodov received new orders moving the division to the command of 43rd Army; he was also to remove his forces from the corridor and strike back at the German pincers. In the event only one battalion of the 131st made it out while the other two and two companies of the sapper battalion were encircled.[8]

Over the next two weeks the remainder of the division fought a series of battles for the village of Zakharovo, which was the key to relieving the encircled troops. The initial attacks were stymied largely due to a shortage of ammunition for the divisional artillery. On February 11 shells started arriving, along with 250 experienced replacements. A new plan was put together the next day which involved an early afternoon attack with a more sophisticated artillery preparation, an outflanking move to the south by the 258th Regiment, and close cooperation with the flanking 1st Guards Motor and 17th Rifle Divisions. The attack began at 1400 hours on February 13 and soon the 3rd Battalion of the 258th, using a deep ravine for cover, broke into the eastern outskirts of the village. Soon after the 40th Regiment, with the 33rd Ski Battalion, entered its north side. In a decisive move at 1600 hours two companies of the 258th on skis bypassed the village and cut the garrison's road to the rear. A relief column of tanks, armored halftracks and trucks was engaged and largely destroyed by antitank rifles, antitank guns, and the indirect fire of the 210th Howitzer Artillery Regiment. By evening the village was completely liberated, with few German troops escaping to the west.[9]

Over the next ten days the German 17th Infantry Division, supported by tanks and aircraft, made several attempts to retake Zakharovo but these were held off while the 9th Guards continued to advance slowly towards the Vorya River into the former corridor. During this time the division received word that most of its sub-units had also been given Guards numbers. On February 27 the 18th and 22nd Guards Regiments began fighting for the village of Beryoza on the Vorya. The division was now approaching the area where the battalions of the now-31st Regiment had been encircled nearly a month earlier. Through tenuous communications the divisional command was aware that the survivors were still holding, and they began breaking out the following night as the division attacked towards the village of Berezki. Nearly all these men were evacuated to the field hospital, suffering from wounds, injuries or frostbite. In early March the division forced a bridgehead over the Vorya in cooperation with the 93rd and 415th Rifle Divisions and over the following days advanced towards the Ugra River in an effort to allow the still-encircled 33rd Army to escape westward. In the end only small groups and individuals were able to reach the 9th Guards sector, where the division remained until ordered to return to Medyn on April 16. As the division moved to the rear it was assigned to the 58th Army in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command and on April 22 it concentrated near the town of Kondrovo.[10] On May 3 the division was decorated with the Order of the Red Banner, and the 22nd Guards Rifle Regiment also received the Order of Lenin.[11]

Move to the South[edit]

As of June 1 the 9th Guards was in the 7th Reserve Army, still rebuilding in the High Command reserves.[12] At the end of the month as the German summer offensive began on the south part of the front, the division was rushed south to join the Southwestern Front. The division was still far from complete, as indicated by the fact that as of July 3 it had only 12 antitank guns in total. It was fortunate that it did not have to face panzers on the open steppe in this condition and by the end of September it was returned to the reserves of the Moscow Military District.[13]

Baltic Offensives[edit]

6th Guards moved to the Kurland Group in Leningrad Front in March, where it remained for the duration.[14] Following the German surrender the division carried the full title: 9th Guards Rifle, Order of the Red Banner Division. (Russian: 9-я гвардейская стрелковая Краснознаменная дивизия.) It was disbanded later that year

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Charles C. Sharp, "Red Guards", Soviet Guards Rifle and Airborne Units 1941 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. IV, Nafziger, 1995, p. 45
  2. ^ http://militera.lib.ru/memo/russian/beloborodov2/04.html. In Russian. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Soviet General Staff, The Battle of Moscow 1941-1942, ed. & trans. R. W. Harrison, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2015, Kindle ed., part III, ch. 3
  4. ^ Soviet General Staff, The Battle of Moscow, Kindle ed., part IV, ch. 2
  5. ^ Soviet General Staff, The Battle of Moscow, Kindle ed., part V, ch. 4, 6
  6. ^ Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1942, p. 27
  7. ^ Svetlana Gerasimova, The Rzhev Slaughterhouse, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2013, pp. 38-39
  8. ^ http://militera.lib.ru/memo/russian/beloborodov2/06.html. In Russian. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  9. ^ http://militera.lib.ru/memo/russian/beloborodov2/06.html. In Russian. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  10. ^ http://militera.lib.ru/memo/russian/beloborodov2/06.html. In Russian. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  11. ^ Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union 1967a, p. 115. Note this source refers to the 22nd Guards as the 258th Rifle Regiment..
  12. ^ Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1942, p. 113
  13. ^ Sharp, "Red Guards", p. 45
  14. ^ Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1945, p. 111

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]