|377th Rifle Division (August, 1941 – 1945)|
File:Soviet Major General Nikolai Prokopevich Kovalchuk.jpg|
Prewar photo of Maj. Gen. N. P. Kovalchuk
|Active||1941 - 1945|
Battle of Leningrad|
Lyuban Offensive Operation
Battle of Narva
|Decorations||Order of the Red Banner|
Col. Kantemir Aleksandrovich Tsalikov|
Maj. Gen. Nikolai Prokopevich Kovalchuk
Col. Semyon Sergeevich Safronov
Col. Timofei Dmitrievich Dudorov
Col. Andrei Markovich Kartavenko
The 377th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served for the duration of the Great Patriotic War in that role. It began forming in August, 1941 in the Urals Military District. It followed a very similar combat path to that of the 374th and 376th Rifle Divisions. It joined the fighting front in December with the 4th Army, and then briefly came under command of 2nd Shock Army, but soon moved to the 59th Army along the Volkhov River, and continued to serve in this Army's battles near Leningrad until early 1944. The division took very heavy casualties during the Lyuban Offensive in several attempts to relieve the beleaguered 2nd Shock Army. After rebuilding the division held the Army's bridgehead over the Volkhov during 1943, and finally advanced during the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive in January, 1944, taking part in the assault that liberated Novgorod. During the spring the division saw heavy fighting in the battles for Narva before moving south for the summer offensive into the Baltic states. In September it won a battle honor in the liberation of Valga, and in October also received the Order of the Red Banner for its part in the liberation of Riga. The division ended the war in Latvia, helping to contain and reduce the German forces trapped in the Courland Pocket, and was disbanded later in 1945.
The 377th began forming in August, 1941 in the Urals Military District at Chebarkul in the Chelyabinsk Oblast, based on the first wartime shtat (table of organization and equipment) for rifle divisions. Its order of battle was as follows:
- 1247th Rifle Regiment
- 1249th Rifle Regiment
- 1251st Rifle Regiment
- 933rd Artillery Regiment
- 381st Antiaircraft Battery (later 657th Antiaircraft Battalion) (until April 25, 1943)
- 384th Antitank Battalion (from January 20, 1942)
- 423rd Mortar Battalion (until October 25, 1942)
- 432nd Reconnaissance Company
- 440th Sapper Battalion
- 768th (later 821st) Signal Battalion (later 821st Signal Company)
- 455th Medical/Sanitation Battalion
- 448th Chemical Protection (Anti-gas) Company
- 485th Motor Transport Company
- 224th Field Bakery
- 793rd Divisional Veterinary Hospital
- 1444th Field Postal Station
- 743rd Field Office of the State Bank
Col. Kantemir Aleksandrovich Tsalikov was assigned to command of the division on September 15, and he would remain in command until September 7, 1942. In November the division was assigned to the 39th Army, but was reassigned to the 4th Army in the Volkhov Front by December 17. It was moved to 2nd Shock Army for a few weeks in January, 1942, but by January 21 it was finally assigned to the 59th Army, where it would remain until February, 1944.
Lyuban Offensive Operation
Volkhov Front, including 59th Army, began the offensive on Lyuban, which was intended to break the German siege of Leningrad, on the morning of January 6, but the Soviet forces were far from fully prepared and by the end of the day this initial assault expired in the face of heavy resistance. On January 10 the STAVKA called a three day halt in the attacks. During this period Stalin sent his special emissary and "fixer" L. Z. Mekhlis to the Front to supervise the attack preparations. While personally he was universally loathed and feared, Mekhlis' interventions were in some respects positive:
"For example, when he learned that the attacking armies were without artillery and that the available guns lacked vital parts, including optical instruments and communications equipment, Mekhlis informed Stalin. Soon, General N. Voronov, the chief of the Red Army's Artillery was sent to Malaya Vishera with several railway cars containing the missing equipment."
Volkhov Front and the 54th Army of Leningrad Front resumed the offensive early on January 13 preceded by much more powerful artillery preparation. On January 17, 2nd Shock resumed its attack, supported by more than 1,500 aircraft sorties, and finally penetrated the Germans' first defensive positions on the west bank of the Volkhov, advanced 5 - 10 km and created conditions that Front commander Army Gen. K. A. Meretskov considered favorable for developing success. Early on the 22nd, he proposed to the STAVKA, in part: "The Front reserve will consist of the 46th Tank Brigade and the 377th Rifle Division in the Glady region and the 87th Cavalry Division in the Bolshaia Vishera region."
In late March the German 18th Army was able to pinch off communications to 2nd Shock Army and elements of 59th Army in the pocket south of Lyuban. On March 30 and again on April 8 Volkhov Front's attacks opened small gaps of from 2 km up to 6 km in width through the enemy cordon, but these were recognized as inadequate. A new offensive by the 59th was planned, but the spring rainy period set in, bringing everything but foot traffic to a halt. On April 23 Volkhov Front was disbanded and the Army entered the Volkhov Group of Forces of Leningrad Front, but Volkhov Front was reestablished in June. Leningrad Front planned a new operation beginning on May 6 to liquidate the northern pincer of the German semi-encirclement; the 377th was to have attacked from the east but the plan was scrapped in the face of German reinforcements. This led to the decision to finally withdraw 2nd Shock from the pocket. The breakout began on May 17 with 59th Army attacking from the east to assist, but it could not fulfill its mission because its divisions were woefully understrength.
Colonel Tsalikov left command of the division on September 9. He was replaced a week later by Col. Nikolai Prokofevich Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk was briefly replaced by Col. Leonid Gavrilovich Sergeev on January 2, 1943, but returned to command on February 2, and was promoted to the rank of major general on May 18.
On August 28 General Kovalchuk, who was already serving as chief of staff of 59th Army, handed his command to Col. Semyon Sergeevich Safronov. In preparation for this upcoming offensive, in November the 377th came under its first corps command, the 112th Rifle Corps, where it would remain until April, 1944. When the drive on Novgorod began on January 14, 1944, this Corps was in the second echelon of 59th Army. Over the next four days the Army made a slow but inexorable advance north and south of the city, threatening to envelop the German forces defending it. On the 18th, Lt. Gen. I. T. Korovnikov committed the 112th Corps to protect the Army's right flank and cooperate with 54th Army in the encirclement and destruction of two German corps in the Lyuban - Chudovo region. On the morning of January 20 elements of the 7th and 14th Rifle Corps liberated Novgorod.
The next objective for 59th Army, and Volkhov Front as a whole, was the town of Luga. Korovnikov resumed his offensive on January 21 and provided significant engineer support to cross the roadless and heavily forested swampland spanning the entire region east of Luga. 6th Rifle Corps attacked westward through Batetsky to Luga, supported on the right by 112th Corps. However the advance faltered badly on January 24 after only minimal gains. 6th Corps was tired and badly understrength, and Meretskov criticized Korovnikov for the slow advance, noting that both Corps "... failed to maneuver properly, made little use of their ski battalions, paid scant attention to adequate reconnaissance, and, when they encountered German strongpoints, frequently resorted to frontal attacks." Following a regrouping within the Front, when the advance on Luga resumed on January 27 the 59th Army contained only the 6th and 112th Corps and 29th Tank Brigade. In three days of heavy fighting the 112th fought its way across the Luga River, reaching to within 18 km of Oredezh by January 30. 18th Army finally abandoned Luga on February 12 just as forces of 67th Army prepared to envelop the town and the forward detachment of the 377th was approaching from the southeast.
Battle of Narva
By March 1 the 377th, still in 112th Corps with the 2nd Rifle Division, was reassigned to 8th Army in Leningrad Front. During March the Army was primarily involved in holding the line along the Narva River south to Lake Chud, but in April the 59th Army was replaced by the 8th in the Krivasoo bridgehead west of Narva. Prior to this transition the 377th was transferred to the withdrawing 59th, and as of May 1 was the only division in the Army. A month later it was still a separate rifle division in 59th Army, but at the beginning of July it was back in 8th Army, in the 124th Rifle Corps.
At the beginning of August the 377th was in 1st Shock Army, now in the 3rd Baltic Front, moving south towards Pskov near the shores of Lake Pskov. On August 20 Colonel Safronov handed his command over to Col. Timofei Dmitrievich Dudorov. Over the next six weeks the division fought its way into Latvia and Estonia, moving to the 111th Rifle Corps of 67th Army, and on September 19 it was recognized as follows:
"VALGA... 377th Rifle Division (Col. Dudorov, Timofei Dmitrievich)... The troops who participated in the liberation of Valga, by the order of the Supreme High Command of September 19, 1944, and a commendation in Moscow, are given a salute of 12 artillery salvoes from 124 guns.
On October 1 Colonel Dudorov was succeeded briefly by Col. Ivan Trofimovich Teslya, but two weeks later Teslya was replaced by Col. Andrei Markovich Kartavenko, who would lead the division for the duration of the war. In the first week of October the 377th was near the Gulf of Riga in the area of Salacgrīva. The division played a major role in the liberation of Riga, and received the award of the Order of the Red Banner on October 31. Previous to this, on October 17 the division was recognized for its part in the liberation of Rīgas Jūrmala.
Battle of Courland
After the battle for Riga the 3rd Baltic Front was disbanded and by the end of the month the 377th was transferred with its 112th Corps to the 1st Shock Army in 2nd Baltic Front. It remained in that Army until April 1945, mostly in 112th Corps, but that month the Corps was transferred back to 67th Army, which was now part of the Courland Group of Forces of Leningrad Front. The division ended the war near the Baltic Sea, still watching over the German forces trapped in the Courland Pocket.
The division ended the war with the full title: 377th Rifle, Valga, Order of the Red Banner Division (Russian: 377-я стрелковая Валгинская Краснознамённая дивизия). It was disbanded later in 1945.
- 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. 101
- Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 101
- Note that the 377th received its 384th Antitank Battalion on January 20.
- David M. Glantz, The Battle for Leningrad, 1941-1944, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2002, pp. 158, 160-64
- Glantz, Battle for Leningrad, pp. 177, 180-82, 192, 196, 198-99
- Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1943, p. 300
- Glantz, Battle for Leningrad, pp. 345-49.
- Glantz, Battle for Leningrad, pp. 359-63, 382-83
- Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1944, p. 66
- Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1944, pp. 126, 157, 186
- Multi-Man Publishing, Inc., Baltic Gap, Millersville, MD, 2009, p. 19
- http://www.soldat.ru/spravka/freedom/1-ssr-1.html. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- Multi-Man Publishing, Baltic Gap, p. 36
- Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union 1967a, p. 542.
- http://www.soldat.ru/spravka/freedom/1-ssr-5.html. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
- Sharp, "Red Tide", p. 101
- Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1945, p. 150
- Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union (1967a) (in Russian). Сборник приказов РВСР, РВС СССР, НКО и Указов Президиума Верховного Совета СССР о награждении орденами СССР частей, соединениий и учреждений ВС СССР. Часть I. 1920 - 1944 гг.. Moscow. https://cloud.mail.ru/public/1336025b4bbd/%D0%A7%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%82%D1%8C%201%20(1920-1944).pdf.
- Grylev, A. N. (1970) (in Russian). Перечень № 5. Стрелковых, горнострелковых, мотострелковых и моторизованных дивизии, входивших в состав Действующей армии в годы Великой Отечественной войны 1941-1945 гг.. Moscow: Voenizdat. http://www.soldat.ru/doc/perechen/. p. 156
- 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. 284
- Kantemir Aleksandrovich Tsalikov
- Nikolai Prokopevich Kovalchuk
- Timofei Dmitrievich Dudorov
- HSU Sergei Mikhailovich Cherepanov
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