|350th Rifle Division (August, 1941 – May, 1946)|
File:Soviet Major General Grigorii Ivanovich Vekhin.jpg|
Postwar photo of Maj. Gen. G.I. Vekhin, Hero of the Soviet Union
Battle of Moscow|
Third Battle of Kharkov
Donbass Strategic Offensive (August 1943)
Battle of the Dniepr
Battle of Kiev (1943)
Battle of the Oder–Neisse
Battle of Berlin
Order of the Red Banner|
Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky
Col. Pyotr Petrovich Avdeenko|
Maj. Gen. Aleksandr Pavlovich Gritzenko
Maj. Gen. Grigorii Ivanovoch Vekhin
The 350th Rifle Division formed in late August, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, at Atkarsk. It went to the front in November, and served south of Moscow throughout the winter and as late as August, 1942, after which it made a bewildering number of reassignments over the next six months. Badly battered by the German "backhand blow" near Kharkov in February, 1943, the division was pulled back into reserve for rebuilding for several months, then fought the summer campaign under command of 12th Army. In November the 350th was honored for its role in the liberation of Zhitomir and received that city's name as an honorific. At this time it was in 1st Guards Army of 1st Ukrainian Front, and it would remain in that Front for the duration of the war. On August 18, 1944, the division received an unusual second honorific for helping to liberate the Polish city of Sandomierz. It ended the war in western Berlin with a distinguished record of service, but was disbanded in May, 1946.
The division began forming in late August at Atkarsk in the Volga Military District. The exact date is uncertain, but it received its first commanding officer, Col. P.P. Avdeenko, on September 1. Its order of battle was as follows:
- 1176th Rifle Regiment
- 1178th Rifle Regiment
- 1180th Rifle Regiment
- 917th Artillery Regiment
- 268th Antitank Battalion
- 474th Sapper Battalion
- 805th Signal Battalion
- 416th Reconnaissance Company
As of November 1 the division was still in Volga Military District, but one month later it was in the newly-formed 61st Army in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command. It went to the fighting front that month when 61st Army was assigned to the re-forming Bryansk Front, and it remained in that Army until August, 1942, in either Bryansk or Western Front. In August it was briefly in the reserves of Western Front, then in September was moved to 1st Reserve Army in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command back in the Volga Military District before returning to the front in November, joining 6th Army of the Voronezh Front. The division was assigned to the 15th Rifle Corps before 6th Army was shifted to Southwestern Front in late December.
Third Battle of Kharkov
In mid-February, 1943, in the wake of their victory at Stalingrad, Red Army forces in the southern sector of the front were advancing with ease while their opponents were trying to get a grip on the situation. The commander of Southwestern Front, Gen. N.F. Vatutin, proposed a plan to the STAVKA on February 17 that would take his forces all the way to the Dniepr River:
"...1. The 6th Army: a. Attack towards the west with the forces of the 15th Rifle Corps (the 350th, 172nd and 6th Rifle Divisions), the 267th Rifle Division, and the 106th Rifle Brigade and, since Kharkov has been taken by our forces, capture the Krasnograd, Poltava and Kremenchug regions... by 23 February 1943 and conduct observation along the northern bank of the Dniepr River..."
Within 48 hours, Vatutin's optimism had turned to alarm as the German counterstroke began to bite into his forces:
"...6th Army continued to conduct intense offensive fighting with enemy infantry and tanks on 20 February 1943, while repelling repeated counterattacks by his motor-mechanized units... The army's units were fighting along the [following] lines by day's end: The 350th Rifle Division - Riabukhino and eastern outskirts of Melikhovka..."
Two days later, 15th Corps was doing its best to hold its positions which were under attack by the 1st SS Panzer Division. This proved to be an unequal struggle, and by February 28 the division had been driven northwards into the sector of the 3rd Tank Army south of Kharkov, along with the rest of 15th Corps. By the time the German offensive shut down, the 350th was in tatters. From December, 1942, until March 1, 1943, it had received 6,920 replacements, but on March 17 it had only 2,557 men in the field against an authorized strength of 10,594. Despite this weakness, it remained at the front.
On March 20, Colonel Avdeenko was replaced in command by Maj. Gen. M.I. Glukhov, but he held the post for less than two weeks before being replaced by Col. A.P. Gritzenko. This officer would be promoted to Major General on October 14, and remained in command until August 19, 1943, apart from a brief break in March/April of that year. As of April 1 the division was directly under command of Southwestern Front while it rebuilt, no longer in 15th Corps, and later that month it was reassigned to 12th Army in the same Front. It would remain in this Army until September, briefly in both the 66th and 67th Rifle Corps. On August 20, Major General Gritzenko handed command over to Col. A.N. Korusevich, but that officer was replaced two weeks later by Maj. Gen. G.I. Vekhin. Vekhin would remain in command for the duration of the war and, in fact, until May, 1946.
Advance in Ukraine
In September, the 350th was once more removed to the Reserve of the Supreme High Command, where it was assigned in October to the 94th Rifle Corps in 58th Army, but that Corps was transferred to 1st Guards Army in the first days of November. When the Ukrainian city of Zhitomir was first liberated on November 12, the division was serving in that Army, and was recognized for its efforts with the following citation:
"ZHITOMIR...350th Rifle Division (Maj. Gen. Vekhin, Grigorii Ivanovich)...By order of the Supreme High Command of 1 January 1944 and a commendation in Moscow, the troops who participated in the battles for the liberation of Zhitomir are given a salute of 20 artillery salvoes from 224 guns.
1st Guards Army was in 1st Ukrainian Front at this time, and the division would remain in this Front for the duration. In January, 1944, the 350th left both 94th Corps and 1st Guards Army to become an independent division in its Front. In February it was briefly assigned to the 102nd Rifle Corps, before being placed in the 24th Rifle Corps of 13th Army in March. It would remain in that Army, and in that Corps (with one brief reassignment), until the last weeks of the war. The division received further recognition for its role in the liberation of the Polish city of Sandomierz on August 18, 1944, as cited:
"SANDOMIR...350th Rifle Division (Maj. Gen. Vekhin, Grigorii Ivanovich)...By order of the Supreme High Command of 18 August 1944 and a commendation in Moscow, the troops who participated in the battles for the liberation of Sandomir are given a salute of 20 artillery salvoes from 224 guns.
In late April, 1945, the division left 24th Corps and 13th Army to again serve as an independent division in 1st Ukrainian Front. During the late stages of the Battle of Berlin the division was attached to the 4th Guards Tank Army and on May 1 helped to break the German resistance on Wannsee island.
The 350th ended the war with the full title of 350th Rifle, Zhitomir-Sandomir, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Bogdan Khimelnitsky Division. [Russian: 350-я стрелковая Житомирско-Сандомирская Краснознамённая ордена Богдана Хмельницкого дивизия.] Postwar, the division briefly remained in southeastern Germany, before moving to Ovruch in northern Ukraine with 13th Army's 27th Rifle Corps. It was disbanded there in 1946,  possibly in May, when Major General Vekhin transferred to command another unit.
- Walter S. Dunn, Jr., Stalin's Keys to Victory, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2006, p. 79
- Charles C. Sharp, "Red Tide", Soviet Rifle Divisions Formed From June to December 1941, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. IX, Nafziger, 1996, p. 88
- Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1941, pp. 67, 78
- Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 88
- David M. Glantz, After Stalingrad, Helion & Co., Ltd., Solihull, UK, 2009, pp. 141-43
- Glantz, After Stalingrad, pp. 160-61, 170-71, 188-89, 376
- Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 88
- Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1943, pp. 264, 291, 306
- http://www.soldat.ru/spravka/freedom/1-ssr-2.html. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
- Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1944, pp. 45, 75, 104
- Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 88
- http://www.soldat.ru/spravka/freedom/9-poland.html. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
- Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1945, p. 163
- John Erickson, The Road to Berlin, George Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Ltd., London, UK, 1983, p. 614
- Feskov et al 2013, p. 471.
- Feskov, V.I.; Golikov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Slugin, S.A. (2013) (in Russian). Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской. Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306.
- Main Personnel Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union (1964) (in Russian). Командование корпусного и дивизионного звена советских вооруженных сил периода Великой Отечественной войны 1941 – 1945 гг.. Moscow: Frunze Military Academy. p. 273
- Pyotr Petrovich Avdeenko
- Mikhail Ivanovich Glukhov
- Aleksandr Pavlovich Gritzenko
- Grigorii Ivanovich Vekhin
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