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Originally formed as a fortified region, the 33rd Motor-Rifle Order of the Red Banner Division was a rifle (infantry) division of the Soviet Union's Red Army. The Blagoveshchensk Fortified Region was created in 1932 and, from 1965 known as the 33rd Motor Rifle Division, continues to serve in the Russian Army to this day.

Pre-war origin

The 33rd MRD has a most unusual lineage which begun with the order by the Independent Red-Banner Far Eastern Army (OKDVA) No. 30/010 dated 18 March 1932 to the athe 4th Directorate of Works to construct the Blagoveshchensk Fortified Region (Russian: укрепрайон) UR) with the goal of protecting the left bank of the Amur river. Subsequently another order was issued (No. 176/72) on 31 October 1932, directing that the Fortified Region be included in the Army order of battle. The newly constituted Fortified Region was numbered 101st UR and included the following units:

  • 108th independent machine-gun battalion;
  • 256th independent machine-gun battalion.

By the order of the Peoples’ Commissar of the Military District No.0030 of 5 July 1939, the Fortified District became a part of the newly created Front Group and was subordinated to the 2nd Independent Red-Banner Far Eastern Army.

From 1 August to 1 December 1939, on the basis of the 189th independent Rifle Regiment of the Blagoveshchensk UR of the 2nd Independent Red-banner Far Eastern Army, were formed 20 independent platoons of (Russian: капонирная) caponnier artillery,[1] each with 11 personnel, altogether 220 people, according to the personnel establishment No. 9/913.

World War Two Service

In October - November 1941 in the city of Blagoveshchenk of the Amur region, on the basis of the 189th independent Rifle Regiment of the Blagoveshchensk UR, were formed the 1st and 2nd Independent Rifle Brigades of the 101st Fortified Region (2nd Red Banner Army of the Far Eastern Front). On 17 March 1942 the two brigades became the 258th and 259th Independent Rifle Brigades.

On 22 November 1944 the 342nd Rifle Division (2nd formation) of 2nd Red Banner Army of the Far-Eastern Front was formed in the environs of Blagoveshchenk (Amur region) on the basis of 258th independent Rifle Brigade and 259th independent Rifle Brigade.
The commemorative formation day of the division was set on 1 December 1944.
The following units were included in the division’s formation at the time:

  • 357th Rifle Regiment;
  • 377th Rifle Regiment;
  • 389th Rifle Regiment;
  • 39th Artillery Regiment;
  • 480th Self-propelled Artillery Battalion;
  • 171st Independent Anti-Tank Destroyer Artillery Battalion;
  • 162nd Combat Engineer Battalion;
  • 1036th Independent Signal Battalion ;
  • 236th Medical and Sanitary Battalion;
  • 58th Independent Reconnaissance Company;
  • 571st Motor transport Company;
  • 22nd Chemical Protection Company.

The 357th Rifle Regiment was formed from the 2nd and 3rd sub-machine gun battalions of the 258th independent Rifle Brigade in the village Novotroitskoe of the Blagoveshchensk region (Amur region) about 20–25 km from Blagoveshchenk, and its first regimental commander was Major I.T. Rudnik.

On 15 March 1945 according to the Decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the 357th Rifle Regiment was entrusted with its combat banner.

In the middle of May 1945 the 342nd Rifle Division was brought out into the dunes along the Amur where it began to create the second defence entrenchment line. The division built defensive installations for two more months, then force marched 60 kilometers, and began work on new entrenchments.

In July 1945 the 342nd Rifle Division was included in the composition of the 87th Rifle Corps of the Coastal Group of Forces (subsequently the 1st Far East Front). The division was relocated into the Ussuri Krai, and lived in camp tents near Lesozavodska.

At the start of military operations against Japan, the 87th Rifle Corps was in the reserve of the 1st Far-Eastern Front and was located in the region of the town of Lesozavodsk.

Service in the invasion of Manchuria

On the dawn of 8 August 1945 the artillery preparation of the invasion of Manchuria began when the USSR declared war on Japan.

On 9 August 1945 the corps received an order to commence operations, and to cross the international border in the region of Grodekovo settlement. The corps advanced through steep mountain slopes, impassable roads, under strong downpours, and over swampy areas.

In the course of the Manchurian offensive operation the 87th Rifle Corps moved in into the reserve of the 35th Army formations along the northern shore of Lake Khanka.

The 342nd Rifle Division was committed to battle once at the approaches to the Mishan (Japanese) Fortified Region. The 357th Rifle Regiment of 342nd rifle division reached Khobiy city in North Manchuria while constantly engaged in combat.

The 35th Army, from the staging area Guberovo, Ruzhino, Lesozavodsk, delivered the supporting attack of the 1st Far-Eastern Front (commander - Marshal of the Soviet Union K.A. Meretskov) in the direction of Lesozavodsk, Khutou, Mishan with the task of destroying the Mishan group of Japanese troops.

After assaulting across the Sungach river, the 342nd RD with 357th Rifle Regiment directed its concentrated efforts toward securing the area of Tsikhulin region, Khubey, and Yangan (50 kilometers west of Khulin). The stability of defence of the entire Japanese Mishansk Group depended on the retention of this region. As a result of persistent and bloody combat the 357th RR took the railway station and the city of Khubey.

For the next three days the division advanced as part of the corps second echelon into the depths of enemy held territory.

In the middle of August 1945 the 87th Rifle Corps [1] returned to the area of Lesozavodsk – Sibirtsevo, where it entrained and was transported to Vladivostok. During this time (on 11 to 12 August 1945) the 87th Rifle Corps was brought out from the reserve of the 1st Far-Eastern Front, and received new orders to prepare for landing operations on the island of Hokkaido (Japan).

At the end of August 1945, the 87th RC moved from Harbin in its entirety (264th, 342nd, 355th RD) and began redeployment to Sakhalin for the purpose of concentrating the troops for the planned landing operation on the island of Hokkaido. This landing operation did not take place, but the corps still completed its concentration at Sakhalin. The Japanese opposing force on Sakhalin and the Kuriles was the Japanese Fifth Area Army.

At 0830 on 22 August 1945 the 355th RD of the 87th RC was taken out of the 1st Far-Eastern Front reserve and transported by the convoy VKMA-1 from Vladivostok to the port of Maoka (now Kholmsk of South-Sakhalin region), arriving at 1600 on 25 August 1945.

On 23 August 1945 the Supreme Commander-in-Chief I.V. Stalin declared his appreciation for 357th RR of the 342nd RD for conspicuous courage and heroism.

On 28 August 1945 the 355th RD began its advance into the region of the port of Otomari, and then force marched on 1 September 1945 to in the Otomari region.

On 1400 on 23 August 1945 a new convoy VKMA-2 departed from Vladivostok to the port of Maoka, which transported the 342nd Rifle Division and 215th Artillery Brigade of the 87th Rifle Corps, arriving at 1425 on 26 August 1945 at the port.

Although the 342nd was in the process of being transported to Sakhalin on 25 August, on 22 August Stalin had already ordered Vasilevsky to halt the planned landing preparations on Hokkaido until further notice. However he allowed the transfer of the 87the Rifle Corps to continue to Sakhalin.

By 27 August 1945 the landing operation on was Hokkaido postponed, and then completely abandoned.

At 0920 on 25 August 1945 the convoy VKMA-3 departed Vladivostok with the 264th Rifle Division and staff of the 87th Rifle Corps. Because of a breakdown in the screw propeller in the transport “Leo Tolstoy” the convoy had to berth at the Vladimir Bay, where it stood until 28 August 1945, eventually reaching Maoka at 1330 on 30 August 1945.

At 0000 on 30 August 1945 the 87th RC was transferred to the 2nd Far East Front by order of Marshal of the Soviet Union A.M. Vasilevsky. The corps became a part of the 16th Army.

Unloading the last regiment of the 264th RD on Sakhalin was completed at 1900 on 1 September 1945. On 2 September 1945 the transportation of the 87th Rifle Corps to Sakhalin island was completed.

On the night of 2 September 1945 the division was embarked on transports and was directed to the occupation of islands Iturup and Urup. Two regiments landed on Iturup island, an artillery regiment (less a battalion) and the staff of the division, while on the island of Urup two other regiments were landed.

The 342nd RD completed a 100 kilometer march from Kholmsk to Korsakov and during the march celebrated the great Victory Day on 3 September 1945.

One division and the 113th Rifle Brigade were located in the southern part of the Kurile Islands, and two other rifle divisions in the southern part of Sakhalin Island, strengthened by one tank brigade from the front assets.

In Korsakov, the division was living in dugouts, and then began to build barracks at the station Dachnaya (389th RR). The division spent two winters living in the tents. After the war, Anita township on Sakhalin became the garrison of the 357th Rifle Regiment.

Post-war service record

By the directive of the STAVKA of the Military High Command from 10 September 1945 to 15 October 1945 2nd Far East Front was redesignated the Far East Military District with the staff in the city of Toyokhara (now Yuzhno Sakhalinsk).

By 30 December 1945 all rifle divisions of the military district were reorganized with the new organization (with the divisional artillery brigades) and were authorised an establishment of 8132 personnel each.

After the war the composition of the 87th Rifle Corps was:

79th Rifle Division (from 22 February 1968 Red Banner):

  • 157th Rifle Order decorated Regiment;
  • 165th Rifle Order decorated Regiment;
  • 179th Rifle Order decorated Regiment;
  • 284th Artillery Order decorated Regiment.

258th Red Banner Rifle Division

  • 405th Rifle Regiment;
  • 991st Rifle Regiment;
  • 999th Rifle Regiment;
  • 782nd Artillery Regiment;
  • 342nd Anti-tank Battalion;
  • 361st independent Reconnaissance Company;
  • 557th Combat Engineer Battalion;
  • 737th independent Signal Battalion ;
  • 432bd Motor Transport Company;
  • 305th Medical and Sanitary Battalion;
  • 304th Company of Chemical Protection;
  • 465th self-propelled Artillery battalion.

342nd rifle division

  • 357th Rifle Regiment;
  • 377th Rifle Regiment;
  • 389th Rifle Regiment;
  • 39th Artillery Regiment.

In 1948 the 192nd Tank self-propelled Regiment was formed from personnel of the 342nd Rifle Division on the base of the 480th independent self-propelled Artillery Battalion.

In October 1953, by the order of the Minister of Defense of the USSR dated 23 April 1953, the staff of the Far East Military District, the former 2nd Far-Eastern Front, was reformed into the administration of the 15th Army.

The command staff of the 87th Rifle Corps was brought back to the continent.

On 4 March 1955, units were renumbered:
87th Rifle Corps was re-formed into 2nd Rifle Corps.
342nd Rifle Division was renamed the 56th rifle division;
258th Rifle Red Banner Division – became the 41st Rifle Red Banner Division (144th and 465th Rifle Regiments);

In March 1957, rifle divisions were reformed into motor-rifle divisions:
2nd Rifle Corps was re-formed into 2nd Army Corps; 56th Rifle Division became the 56th Motor-Rifle Division (in this case the 357th Rifle Regiment was renamed as the 390th Rifle Regiment);
41st Rifle Red Banner Division was renamed the 41st Motor-Rifle Red Banner Division;
79th Rifle Sakhalin Division was renamed the 79th Motor-Rifle Sakhalin Division

In 1958 (or perhaps 1960) HQ of the 2nd Army Corps and the 41st Motor Rifle Red Banner division were disbanded.

In July 1960 the administration of the 15th Combined Arms Army was integrated into the 2nd Army Corps (2nd formation).

In 1965 the 56th Motor-Rifle Division was renamed the 33rd Motor Rifle Division.[2] The composition of the division was:

  • 377th Motor Rifle Regiment (Aniva);
  • 389th Motor Rifle Regiment (Dachnoyet);
  • 465th Motor Rifle Regiment (Leonidov, from 2002 Aniva);
  • 192nd Tank Regiment (Aniva);
  • 989th Artillery Regiment;
  • 416th independent Signal Battalion.

Sources and references

  1. Note: a French term or phrase French language: caponnière in fortification, is a passage made from one work to another, of 10 or 12 feet wide, and about 5 feet deep, covered on each side by a parapet, terminating in a glacis. Sometimes they are covered with planks and earth.
  2. (Russian) Feskov - V.I. Feskov, K.A. Kalashnikov, V.I. Golikov, The Soviet Army in the Years of the Cold War 1945–91, Tomsk University Publishing House, Tomsk, 2004, p.71.

See also

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