Puneet Varma (Editor)

320th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

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Covid-19
Active  1941–1946
Branch  Red Army
Role  Infantry
Country  Soviet Union
Type  Division
320th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
Engagements  Crimean Campaign Battle of the Kerch Peninsula Battle of the Caucasus Donbass Strategic Offensive Nikopol–Krivoi Rog Offensive First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive Second Jassy–Kishinev Offensive Siege of Budapest Vienna Offensive

The 320th Rifle Division was formed in September, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, based on an existing division of militia. This formation was devastated in the Kerch Peninsula in May, 1942, and officially disbanded before the end of the month. A second division began forming in the Transcaucasus in August, and served for the duration in the southern regions of the Soviet-German front. It distinguished itself in the liberation of Yenakiyevo in March, 1943, but also suffered massive losses, including the death of the division's commanding officer, along the Dniestr River in May, 1944. A substantially rebuilt division soldiered on through the Balkans, ending the war near Vienna.

Contents

1st Formation

The division first formed on Sept. 24, 1941 from the 1st Crimea Militia Division at Feodosiya. Its basic order of battle was as follows:

  • 476th Rifle Regiment
  • 478th Rifle Regiment
  • 481st Rifle Regiment
  • 985th Artillery Regiment
  • The division was a "sister" to the 321st Rifle Division, and was also assigned to 51st Army of Crimean Front but was still forming up in late September when the German 11th Army broke into the Crimea from the north, and the remnants of the 320th had to be evacuated across the Kerch Strait to the North Caucasus on Nov. 16. During January and February 1942 the division was rebuilt in the North Caucasus Military District, and in March returned to the Kerch Peninsula following the successful Soviet amphibious landings there. It was all for naught, as the German forces launched their Operation Bustard Hunt on May 8. At this time the division was part of 47th Army, and like most of its army it was chopped to pieces in one of the most lopsided German victories of the war. On May 19 the 320th was officially disbanded in Crimean Front.

    2nd Formation

    A new division began forming on Aug. 5, 1942 at Leninakan, Armenia, in the Transcaucasus Military District. Its order of battle remained the same as the 1st Formation. By the end of August the 320th was assigned to the 45th Army in the Transcaucasus Front, on the southern borders of the USSR and away from the fighting fronts. In October it was assigned to the Northern Group of this front, but remained in reserve until the end of the year. As the German forces withdrew northwards following their defeat at Stalingrad, the division followed up in the 44th Army, liberating the town of Azov on Feb. 7, 1943. By the end of the month the 320th, along with its army, was transferred to Southern Front. In July the division went into the Reserve of the Supreme High Command, then returned to the front at the end of August, still in Southern Front, but now under command of 9th Rifle Corps in 5th Shock Army.

    During the Donbass Strategic Offensive, Southern Front finally broke through the German defenses along the Mius River and began exploiting into the Donbass region. The city of Yenakiyevo was liberated on Sept. 3, and the 320th, for its efforts, was given this name as an honorific. When Southern Front became 4th Ukrainian Front on Oct. 20, the division, still in 9th Corps, was reassigned to 28th Army. That army was shifted to 3rd Ukrainian Front in February, 1944, but the 320th, now in 10th Guards Rifle Corps, found itself back in 5th Shock Army in March, which by this time was in 3rd Ukrainian Front. During this period, the division's antitank battalion was completely reequipped with ZIS-3 76mm cannon, replacing the 45mm pieces it had had previously.

    Disaster on the Dniestr

    By May, the Soviet offensive to break in to Romanian territory towards the cities of Jassy and Kishinev had bogged down along the Dniestr River. Units of 3rd and 4th Ukrainian Fronts had seized bridgeheads at several points in April, but they were shallow, marshy, and, in some cases, untenable against serious attack. While in 5th Shock Army, the 320th had crossed the river at Chebruchi, southeast of Tiraspol. Due to several reorganizations, the division was now in 37th Rifle Corps of 46th Army on May 12, holding a bridgehead between 1 - 2km deep and 3km wide in low-lying marshlands, with the Germans in possession of the high ground. Major General Ilia Shvygin had been in command of the 320th since July 30, 1943.

    Before dawn on May 13, a powerful 50-minute artillery preparation struck Shvygin's defenses, followed by an attack by elements of German 6th Army's XXIX and XXX Army Corps. The division beat off the first reconnaissance-in-force, but after a further preparation the full assault began at 0700 hrs. 478th and 481st Rifle Regiments, in the front line, began to give ground grudgingly. The attackers worked through the boundary between the two regiments and reached the river, breaking the bridgehead into two segments. By 0800 hrs. the defenders found themselves literally with their backs to the river, with no room to maneuver and increasingly vulnerable to enemy fire. At 0930 hrs. the river crossing was destroyed, and the defenders were effectively encircled. During the next four hours, while defending heroically, the rifle regiments were destroyed, with only a few stragglers managing to swim the river. General Shvygin and most of his staff were killed while directing the defense. This event finally brought the Soviet offensive to a halt, and it would not be renewed until August, which in part gave time for the 320th to recover from its mauling.

    Into the Balkans

    The division would remain in 37th Rifle Corps until the last weeks of the war. From September to December, 1944, 46th Army was in 2nd Ukrainian Front near Budapest, before reverting to 3rd Ukrainian Front at year's end. In January, 1945, 37th Corps became a separate unit in the reserves of 2nd Ukrainian Front. The following month, in preparation for the final offensive on Vienna, the 320th and its corps became part of 27th Army, back in 3rd Ukrainian Front. In the last weeks of April the division was detached from 37th Corps to operate as a separate division under 27th Army.

    Postwar

    By the conclusion of hostilities, the division had been awarded the full title of 320th Rifle, Yenakiyevo, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Division; (Russian: 320-я стрелковая Енакиевская Краснознамённая ордена Суворова дивизия). Initially part of the Southern Group of Forces with the 37th Rifle Corps, the division and its corps became part of the 38th Army after 27th Army was disbanded in the Carpathian Military District. The division was moved to Kamenetz-Podolsk in the fall of 1945. The corps and the 320th Rifle Division were disbanded by July 1946.

    References

    320th Rifle Division (Soviet Union) Wikipedia


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