Sunday, March 15, 2015

Soviet WWII Artillery Divisions

The M42 Anti-Aircraft ‘Division’ (Zenitnaya Artilleriyskaya Diviziya), established November 1942, totalled only 1,345 men, in four 320-man AA ‘regiments’ (actually weak battalions), each with three AA batteries; an AA machine-gun battery, and an AA-MG company, totalling 128 guns. The 1,973-strong M43 Division of February 1943 had only 116 guns; it lost an AA regiment and the AA-MG battery but doubled its AA-MG company, and gained a 490-man four-battery AA regiment. By May 1945 there were about 69 AA divisions numbered in the 1–76 series, plus six Guards AA divisions numbered 1–6; they served with field armies, or were assigned to the Western or Moscow Fronts of the PVO stranyi home defence force.

The artillery division was intended to concentrate massive firepower during a critical stage in a battle. An M42 Artillery Division (Artilleriyskaya Diviziya), established 31 October 1942 and modified 6 December 1942, was a GHQ Reserve formation with 9,214 men, an observation battalion and four brigades: a light brigade with three tank-destroyer regiments (24 guns each), a howitzer brigade with three regiments (20 howitzers each), a field-gun brigade with two regiments (18 guns each), and a mortar brigade with four regiments (20 mortars each). In this period 26 divisions numbered 1–26 were formed. In March 1943 four were redesignated as Guards formations (original numbers in brackets): 1 (1), 2 (4), 3 (8) and 5 (19). A Gvardeyskaya Artilleriyskaya Diviziya had the same organization as an artillery division.

In April 1943, the M43 Breakthrough Artillery Division (Artilleriyskaya Diviziya Proryva) was introduced; this was organized like the M42 Artillery Division but with a four-battalion heavy howitzer brigade (32 guns), and a four-battalion super-heavy howitzer brigade. This formation could deliver overwhelming offensive and defensive firepower; 15 artillery divisions (numbered 2, 3, 5–7, 9, 12, 13, 15–17, 20, 22, 23 and 25) were converted to this status, leaving seven (numbered 10, 11, 14, 18, 21, 24 and 26) as plain artillery divisions. Four Guards artillery divisions were re-formed as Guards Breakthrough, three with the same numbers (1, 3, 5), and the 4th Guards Breakthrough Artillery Division.

The M42 Guards Mortar Division (Gvardeyskaya Minometnya Diviziya) was actually a rocket-launcher formation, with two or three M42 Guards mortar brigades and two or three M42 Guards mortar regiments firing the devastating Katyusha rockets from truck-mounted launchers. Seven divisions numbered 1–7 were formed, usually being assigned individually to breakthrough artillery corps. Five tank-destroyer artillery divisions numbered 1–5 were formed in May–June 1942 to consolidate some of the M42 tank-destroyer brigades (numbered in the 1–43 series), and were assigned to Front HQs. A brigade had an AT regiment, two AT rifle battalions, mortar, tank, and minelaying battalions, plus an SMG company. There were also a number of M43 eight-battery AT brigades (numbered in the 1–42 series), which were used to great effect at Kursk in July 1943.

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