|399th Rifle Division (September 1941)|
399th Rifle Division (1 March 1942 – July 1945)
Battle of Stalingrad|
Battle of Kursk
Lower Dnieper Offensive
East Prussian Offensive
Col. N.G. Travnikov|
Col. A.I. Surchenko
Mjr. Gen. Daniil Kazakevich
The 399th Rifle Division was formed for the first time as a standard Red Army rifle division in September, 1941, but never appeared at the front under this designation. A second formation began in February, 1942, again in the far east of Siberia, until July, after which it was moved west to join Stalingrad Front in the great bend of the Don River. Badly mauled in its first actions, it was rebuilt west of the Don in late July, and went on to contest the German advance right into the center of the city. The remnants of the division were pulled out and sent north to Bryansk Front, and the once-again rebuilt division went on to distinguish itself in the campaigns that eventually took it into East Prussia.
The 399th Rifle Division began forming in September, 1941 in an unknown military district. Very little is known about this formation:
"Twenty other divisions were formed in September 1941 in various locations (table 5.21). Very few data have been found on the last seven divisions [including the 399th] formed in September. These divisions were never assigned to a frontline unit. They may have been used on the Turkish border, in Iran, or in the Far East."
The second 399th Rifle Division began forming from February to Mar. 1, 1942, near Chita in the Transbaikal Military District. The division's order of battle was as follows:
- 1343rd Rifle Regiment
- 1345th Rifle Regiment
- 1348th Rifle Regiment
- 1046th Artillery Regiment
- 436th Antitank Battalion
- 232nd Reconnaissance Company
- 345th Sapper Battalion
- 918th Signal Battalion
The new division began moving west by rail in July. As soon as it reached the front it was thrown into battle as part of the 1st Tank Army west of Stalingrad, in the great bend of the Don River. As a fresh division it was much needed in the line, but its inexperience soon led to heavy losses. On July 28, in an unusual procedure, it was disbanded, then reformed the same day with replacement troops and the same commander and staff; due to the latter fact this was not officially considered a new formation. When 1st Tank Army army was dissolved on Aug. 6, the 399th was transferred to 62nd Army, and had a strength of 12,322 men. At this time the division was defending against German Sixth Army, immediately west of Kalach-na-Donu. A renewed German offensive drive succeeded in encircling much of 62nd Army by the end of Aug. 8; surviving elements of the division made their way east of the river. Over the next two weeks the rebuilding division defended along the Don to the south of Lake Peschanoe.
This position became compromised between Aug. 21 - 23 when XIV Panzer Corps thrust from the Don to the Volga just north of Stalingrad. By the following day, the 399th was being threatened with encirclement by the 295th Infantry Division. At this time the division had a strength of somewhere between 2,000 - 3,000 men. On Aug. 25 the German 71st Infantry Division crossed the Don north of Kalach with two regiments, and the 399th was forced to withdraw five to eight kilometres to the east. Despite this, the two German divisions nearly had the Soviet division encircled again by late on the 27th, but due to 62nd Army counterattacks elsewhere, this pressure was relieved and the 399th, along with the rest of the army's left wing, withdrew to the Rossoshka River.
By Sept. 3 the division was under command of 23rd Tank Corps, continuing to fall back to the city. By Sept. 7 it had been forced back to the western outskirts of the suburban villages of Gorodishche and Aleksandrovka; at this time it had a reported infantry strength of just 195 men. On the 9th, Gorodishche was lost to the German 389th Infantry Division. As it continued to fall back towards the center of Stalingrad, the remnants of the 399th were ordered by the new commander of 62nd Army, Lt. Gen. V.I. Chuikov, to withdraw to new defensive positions in the wooded hills west of Krasnyi Oktiabr village as a scant reserve.
By Sept. 13 the remaining forces of the division were being referred to as a "composite regiment", and many accounts of the fighting in this period mention a "399th Rifle Regiment". On the following day, the German 71st Infantry Division began its assault into central Stalingrad, and the 399th was redeployed southwards, as one of Chuikov's few reserves. By the end of the next day, the division was reported as having just 36 men in the line. At this point, discipline collapsed. On Sept. 16, the chief of Stalingrad Front's NKVD, N.N. Selivanovsky, sent a report to Moscow which included the following:
"From 13 through 15 September, the blocking detachment of 62nd Army's Special Department detained 1,218 men... The majority of those detained came from 10th NKVD Division and the associated regiment of 399th Rifle Division, which was abandoned on the field by the regiment commander and commissar. For displayed cowardice - fleeing from the field of battle and abandoning units to the mercy of their fate, the commander of the associated regiment of 399th Rifle Division, Major Zhukov, and the commissar, Senior Politruk Raspopov, have been shot in front of the ranks."
Following this, the remnants of the division were relieved and ordered north to the 3rd Tank Army in the STAVKA reserves south of Moscow. In December, 1942, the 399th joined Bryansk Front. In January the division joined the 48th Army in that front, and remained with that army for the duration, with the exception of a few months in early 1944.
During the Battle of Kursk, the 399th, as part of 48th Army, was in Central Front, on the north flank of the salient. Following the German defeat, the division took part in the Battle of the Dniepr; during its advance towards Gomel it was given credit for the liberation of the town of Novozybkov on Sept. 25, and received the town's name as an honorific. Not long after reaching the Dniepr, Central Front was renamed as Belorussian Front.
In January, 1944, the division became part of the 42nd Rifle Corps, where it would remain for the duration. Belorussian Front was renamed 1st Belorussian in February. During the Soviet summer offensive, Operation Bagration, the 42nd Corps was concentrated north of Rogachev to assist its partner 29th Rifle Corps and units of the 3rd Army to break through the positions of the German 134th and 296th Infantry Divisions. By late on June 24 this had been achieved, with the Germans overwhelmed and the 9th Tank Corps exploiting to the rear. With the defenses of Army Group Center shattered, the division trekked westward towards Poland.
48th Army was transferred to 2nd Belorussian Front in the late autumn of 1944. During the Vistula-Oder Offensive the 399th pushed on through northern Poland before the army was once again transferred, this time to 3rd Belorussian Front. The division fought in the East Prussian Offensive, and ended the war near Elbing.
Twelve men of the division were named as Heroes of the Soviet Union, two of them posthumously. At the end of the war the men and women of the division carried the full title 399th Rifle, Novozybkov, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Division. (Russian: 399-я стрелковая Новозыбковская Краснознамённая ордена Суворова дивизия.) The division was part of the 42nd Rifle Corps, 48th Army of the 3rd Belorussian Front in May 1945. The division was disbanded in July, 1945.
- Walter S. Dunn, Jr., Stalin's Keys to Victory, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2006, pp 81-82
- Sharp, "Red Swarm", Soviet Rifle Divisions Formed From 1942 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, vol. X, Nafziger, 1996, p 131
- Sharp, p 131-32
- David M. Glantz, To the Gates of Stalingrad, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2009, pp 292, 297, 335, 557n67
- Glantz, Gates of Stalingrad, pp 339, 359-62.
- Glantz, Armageddon in Stalingrad, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2009, pp 61, 74-75, 77, 80, 87-88
- Glantz, Armageddon, pp 116-20, 134
- Sharp, p 132
- Dunn, Soviet Blitzkrieg, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2008, pp 185-86, 189, 191
- Sharp, p 70
- Combat composition of the Soviet Army, 1 May 1945
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