The 109th Rifle Division was a Red Army infantry division that was formed three times, briefly in 1939, during 1942, and from 1942-45.
Its second formation served for six months in 1942 in the defense of the fortress of Sevastopol in the southern sector of the siege lines. After being destroyed there in July, a third division was formed near Leningrad in August, and it successfully held its positions for nearly a year and a half, in spite of shortages of food and supplies due to the German/Finnish siege. The 109th then participated in the offensive that drove the Germans away from the city in early 1944, helped drive Finland out of the war, and then joined the offensive along the Baltic coast towards Germany.
The first 109th Rifle Division began forming at Tatarsk in the Novosibirsk Oblast on Apr. 15, 1939, based on the 79th Rifle Regiment of the 73rd Rifle Division. In June the division moved to Kharanor to be reorganized as the 109th Mechanised Division. In July, 1940 it became part of the 5th Mechanized Corps. On June 18, 1941 it was located, with its Corps, in the vicinity of Berdichev, as part of 16th Army. That Army was transferred from Southwestern Front to Western Front on June 26, but within two days was reassigned to Southwestern. The division saw action on the approaches to Kiev until July 12 when it, along with several other motorized divisions that suffered from a shortage of motor vehicles, was withdrawn to be reformed as the 304th Rifle Division.
The division was reformed by the re-designation of the third formation of the 2nd Rifle Division in January, 1942 at Sevastopol. It consisted of:381st Rifle Regiment - re-designated from the 1330th Rifle Regiment
456th Rifle Regiment - formed from a mixed NKVD Regiment
602nd Rifle Regiment - re-designated from the 383rd Rifle Regiment
404th Artillery Regiment - re-designated from the 51st Artillery Regiment
93rd Medical/Sanitation Battalion.
It was part of the Separate Coastal Army, where it served for the duration of its existence. In the final defense of the Sevastopol Fortress, the 109th fought as part of the "First Sector", and its divisional commander, Mjr. Gen. Pyotr Georgyevich Novikov (ru:Новиков, Пётр Георгиевич), also served as the Sector commander. The division was tasked with the defense of the high ground that blocked German entry into Balaclava; in fact, 456th Rifle Reg't. held the same area where the British 93rd Highland Regiment made its famous "Thin Red Line" stand in October, 1854.
In spite of directions from above, the commander of German XXX Army Corps began an attack on the 109th on June 7, 1942, as part of the overall final offensive against Sevastopol. 456th Rifle Reg't. inflicted heavy casualties, in part through antiaircraft and sniper fire, while the 381st, initially taken by surprise, also threw back the enemy with heavy losses. After four more days of piecemeal attacks, the German corps had suffered over 1,000 casualties for no gains. A larger-scale offensive, with armor support, began on the 11th, and captured Ruin Hill from the 602nd Rifle Reg't. Despite this the division continued to fight well; unfortunately the adjoining 388th Rifle Division defending the village of Kamary was not faring so well. Novikov decided to attempt to relieve one regiment of that division in place on the night of June 12/13, but this move was detected by the Germans who successfully launched an attack to disrupt it. Late in the afternoon of the 13th, with Soviet defenses in the center of the sector in disorder, a further German assault overwhelmed and routed the 602nd. While the rest of the division continued to hold firm, Novikov had no option but to pull his forces back 1,000 - 1,500 metres on June 16 roughly along the line of the Sapun Heights.
A lull set in over the next few days, but on the night of June 28/29 German Eleventh Army launched its final assault all along the line. By the end of this disastrous day for the Soviet defenders the 109th was still relatively intact, but concentrated around Balaclava. Realizing he was about to be cut off, Novikov ordered his division to force-march toward Coastal Battery 35 on the Chersonese Peninsula, where he formed a defensive perimeter with about 50,000 men, mostly stragglers. He was handed command of the Separate Coastal Army on the 30th as the Soviet leadership fled; when he tried to follow in a sub-chaser on July 2 the ship was intercepted and sunk, and Novikov was captured. 456th Rifle Reg't. made a last stand around Coastal Battery 18, but by the evening of July 4 all the remaining forces on the peninsula were destroyed or captured. The 109th Rifle Division was officially stricken from the Soviet order of battle on 30 July.
The division was reformed on 6 Aug. 1942 at Pulkovo in Leningrad Front from the 21st NKVD Rifle Division, which had been involved in the defense of the city for the previous twelve months. Its order of battle became:381st Rifle Regiment - from the 6th NKVD Rifle Regiment
456th Rifle Regiment - from the 8th NKVD Rifle Regiment
602nd Rifle Regiment - from the 14th NKVD Rifle Regiment
404th Artillery Regiment
339th Antitank Battalion
229th Sapper Battalion.
Just prior to its re-designation, between July 20–23, the division had taken part in an attack on the German-held fortified village of Staro-Panovo, southwest of the city, which succeeded in liberating the village and part of the adjoining Uritsk. Although the gains were small, it was the first time the German siege lines had been pushed back and held, boosting the morale of the defenders.
In the late autumn the division was relieved from front-line duty for nearly a month for rebuilding and replenishment, then was deployed again to the Pulkovo sector, now facing the Spanish Blue Division. The Spanish were withdrawn from this sector on Jan. 6, 1943, replaced by the German 23rd Infantry Division.
The division remained in 42nd Army until May, 1944, and in 109th Rifle Corps from Nov. 1943 for the duration. The corps and its divisions took part in the offensive that finally drove the German forces away from Leningrad in January, 1944.
In May, the 109th was transferred north to the 21st Army facing the Finnish forces in Karelia. The division, now under the command of Mjr. Gen. Nikolai Trushkin, helped to penetrate the second Finnish defensive belt on 14 June, capturing several strongpoints; following this, it continued to advance on the right flank of its Army, reaching positions about 15 km east of Viipuri by 15 July.
With Finland out of the war, the 109th made its final transfer, to 8th Army in Estonia, near Narva, in August. Until the end of the war it assisted in clearing the Baltic coast as far as the Courland Peninsula. On several occasions the division served as a "follow-on" force in amphibious operations against German forces on the Baltic islands, but it never led an amphibious assault landing.
The division ended the war as the 109th Rifle Leningrad, Order of the Red Banner Division. (Russian: 109-я стрелковая Ленинградская Краснознамённая дивизия).
The division was withdrawn with the 6th Rifle Corps to the Don Military District and was disbanded in spring 1946.