Creation and Development of Rocket Artillery in the First Phase of the War

by Lieutenant General of Artillery (Reserve) P. Degtyarev and Colonel V. Gurkin

 

(This article originally appeared in the December 1976 issue of the Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, an official organ of the USSR Ministry of Defense. It was translated in 1993 by Mark Conrad.) 

Note 1): During the war years General P.A. Degtyarev was a military council member and commander of guards mortar units and, since August 1944, Deputy Commander of Soviet Army Artillery for Guards Mortar Units. Colonel V.V. Gurkin served in the wartime rocket artillery at various levels of responsibility from platoon commander to brigade chief of reconnaissance. 

The first experimental versions of rocket munitions and their launching stands, and also rocket armaments for airplanes, were built in our country before the Great Patriotic War began. However, they were in the stages of firing-range tests and troop trials. The problems connected with organizing mass production of this weapon and creating and employing large and small rocket-artillery units had to be solved under the difficult circumstances of the first part of the war. The decision of the Council of USSR Peoples Commissars to put rocket-artillery weapons into serial production was made on 21 June, 1941, i.e. the day before the war began. By subsequent decisions of the GKO [Glavnyi komitet oborony - Main Defense Committee], personal responsibility for the production of rocket munitions was given to Peoples Commissar for Ammunition V.L. Vanikov, and for the production of combat launchers¾to Peoples Commissar for Armaments. P.I. Parshin.

Among the factories which were tasked to produce rocket munitions and launching stands during the Great Patriotic War were the Vladimir Ilich, Kompressor, and Krasnaya Presnya plants in Moscow, the Komintern Factory in Voronezh, and others. An especially large amount of the credit for creating and bringing into production combat rocket launchers is due to the work of the Kompressor Factory's special construction bureau

The critical situation which developed at the front at the beginning of the war demanded that the troops of the active army be equipped with rocket weapons as quickly as possible. On 28 June, 1941, it was decided to form a rocket-launcher battery on the grounds of the L.B. Krasin 1st Moscow Red Banner Artillery School and test the quality and effectiveness of the new type of weapon directly at the front. This battery (commanded by Captain I.A. Flerov, with Political Commissar I.F. Zhuravlev) was organized in four days, and on the night of 2 July, 1941 it set off for the Western Front using its own vehicles.

On 5 July, 1941 Captain Flerov received his assignment and as soon as 14 July the battery under his command fired two salvos, heralding the birth of a new type of weapon¾Soviet rocket artillery. The first salvo was on a concentration of enemy troops and equipment near the Orsha railway center, and the second--on an enemy crossing over the Orshitsa River (2). Later the battery accomplished a series of successful firings on Rudnay, Smolensk, and Yartsev and caused heavy losses to the enemy.

Following close behind the first rocket-artillery battery, at the end of July and in the first part of August of 1941 another eight were formed on the orders of Supreme Commander Stalin.

On the night of 22 July 1941, under the command of Lieutenant A.M. Kun, the second battery of rocket launchers left its camp at Alabino for the Western Front. It was equipped with nine BM-13 combat launchers. The battery came under the control of the commander of the 19th Army, Lieutenant General I.S. Konev and received from him its first combat mission. At 9:30 on 25 July it fired a salvo on a concentration of enemy infantry. Later the battery fired twice more on enemy tanks and infantry which were preparing to attack on this sector of the front.

On 25 July 1941 Major General K.K. Rokossovskii's group, defending near Yartsev, was reinforced by a battery of rocket launchers commanded by Lieutenant N.I. Denisenko and consisting of three BM-13 combat vehicles. The battery was ordered to destroy the enemy in his main defense point four kilometers west of Yartsev. On that same day it fired a salvo. Generals K.K. Rokossovskii and V.I. Kazakov were present during this and judged the results to be highly favorable.

On the evening of 27 July a battery of rocket launchers numbering four BM-13 vehicles set out from Moscow towards Leningrad under the command of Lieutenant P.N. Degtyarev. By 2130 hours they had made their way to the town of Krasnogvardeisk. On 31 July, P.N. Degtyarev and Military Engineer 2nd Class D.A. Shitov, who was accompanying the battery, were summoned to meet the commander-in-chief of the Northwest Front, Marshal of the Soviet Union K.E. Voroshilov, and Member of the Military Council A.A. Zhdanov. In the course of a talk which lasted about an hour, they were presented with definite tasks: in the course of 2 to 3 days prepare personnel and equipment for action in combat and help the Leningrad factories organize production of munitions for rocket launchers (3).

On 1 August 1941 a rocket-launcher battery (four BM-13 vehicles) commanded by Senior Lieutenant Denisov arrived from Moscow for assignment to the Reserve Front. At 1200 hours on 6 August it took up a battlefield position in the sector belonging to the 12th Rifle Regiment, 53rd Rifle Division, 43rd Army. Between 1730 and 1800 hours on that same day, the battery fired three salvos in the 53rd Rifle Division's sector of advance. As a result, the division's units seized the enemy strong points with almost no casualties (4).

In the first half of August 1941 three more rocket-launcher batteries were sent to the Western and Reserve Fronts under the commands of Senior Lieutenants N.F. Dyatchenko and E. Cherkasov and Lieutenant V.A. Kuibyshev, as well as a battery to the Southwest Front under Senior Lieutenant T.N. Nebozhenko.

On 6 September 1941 a tenth rocket-mortar battery arrived at the Western Front under Senior Lieutenant V.A. Smirnov. On 17 September it was used as a basis for expansion into the 42nd Separate Guards Mortar Battalion [242-i otdelnyi gvardeiskii minometnyi divizion], which also took in Flerov's and Cherkasov's batteries.

The fates of the first rocket-artillery batteries were varied. The batteries of Flerov, Cherkasov, and Smirnov were destroyed fighting the German invaders in the Smolensk region, while the batteries of Dyatchenko, Denisov, and Kun met similar ends in the battles in front of Moscow. Their heroic actions are yet to be made fully known. The batteries of Senior Lieutenants N.I. Denisenko and V.A. Kuibyshev continued their successful military operations on the Western Front and then were reformed into separate guards mortar battalions (5). Senior Lieutenant P.N. Degtyarev's battery, fighting in front of Leningrad, was converted into a separate guards mortar battalion as early as September 1941, and in November it was the basis for the Leningrad Front Separate Guards Mortar Regiment (commanded by Major I.A. Potiforov). On 28 February, 1942 it was named the 38th Guards Mortar Regiment(6). Senior Lieutenant T.N. Nebozhenko's battery of rocket launchers was converted into a separate guards mortar battalion after the Kiev defensive operation, and fought with success in the battles for Odessa and Sevastopol.

By August ,1941 the production of rocket munitions and launching platforms increased. Through the efforts of manufacturers, engineering and technical staff, and the workers, in a short time the M-13 combat vehicles were improved and rocket launchers for firing 82mm projectiles were designed. These last were intended for ZIS-6 vehicles (36-round launchers) and T-60 light tanks (24 round-launchers).

The headquarters of the VGK [Verkhovnoye Glavnokomandovanie = supreme high command] carefully followed the developing production of the new weapon and its battlefield use by the first rocket-artillery units. As Supreme Commander, Stalin was informed of results from use in combat and the proposal to create regiments of rocket artillery.

In accordance with an order from the Stavka VGK [General Headquarters Supreme High Command], the first eight regiments of rocket artillery began to be formed. They were equipped with BM-13 and BM-8 launchers and each consisted of three firing battalions [ognevye diviziony] of three batteries (four launchers in each battery), an anti-aircraft battalion [zenitnyi divizion], and a support battalion [parkovyi divizion](7). The newly formed regiments were given guards status and titled "guards mortar regiments of the Stavka VGK Reserve". This underscored the special importance of the new weapon, since the regiments were subordinate to the Stavka VGK and special care was being taken in selecting cadres.

In September, 1941 the directive of the Stavka VGK to form the first guards mortar regiments was fulfilled. By the end of the month there were already nine rocket-artillery regiments active at the fronts, with the 9th Regiment being formed above requirements thanks to the initiative and resources of the personnel of the USSR Peoples Commissariat for Mortar Weapons (8).

The first to engage the German fascists in battle was the 1st Guards Mortar Regiment (Major V.A. Shmakov as regimental commander). Following it into the active army came the other regiments.

In October, 1941 regiments of rocket artillery continued to be created. The 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th Guards Mortar Regiments were all formed and sent to the Western Front.

These first regiments successfully fought with the enemy in spite of the difficult conditions of 1941. Their personnel demonstrated an expert mastery of the new weapon and performed many heroic feats in battle with a skillful enemy. Nevertheless, the experience of the 1941 summer/fall campaign was that it was not always possible for a regiment to be used as a concentrated force. Of the regiments that were organized, only four (the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th) were employed as units, and the rest fought as separate battalions on the different sectors of the front. With a limited number of rocket-artillery units available for heavy defensive fighting with superior enemy forces, it was more advantageous to disperse them, employing the separate battalions to support rifle divisions defending the more critical sectors.

Consequently, in response to the advice of the Western Front's military council, from the second half of October 1941 separate battalions of rocket artillery began to be formed, and the creation of mortar regiments was curtailed. Thus, from 26 October to 12 December 1941, 28 separate guards mortar battalions were formed, each of two batteries, or eight launchers in a battalion. Of the first 14 rocket-artillery regiments, 9 were reformed into separate guards mortar battalions, each of two batteries. These measures permitted an increase in the number of independent rocket-artillery units, even though the quantity of combat launchers was the same as before, and provided combat support to rifle divisions operating in important sectors. The numbers of guards mortar units in the active army during 1941 are shown in Table 1. 

Table 1

Dates

Number of rocket-artillery units

Number of rocket

launchers

Regiments

Separate Battalions

Separate Batteries

BM-8

BM-13

Total

 

1 July

-

-

1

-

7

7

1 August

-

-

3

-

17

17

1 September

1

1

9

41

246

41

1 October

9

8

4

160

246

406

1 November

11

20

2

192

325

517

1 December

8

35

2

199

355

554

Thus, at the beginning of the 1941/42 winter campaign there were 8 regiments and 35 separate battalions of rocket artillery at the fronts. A simultaneous salvo from the launching platforms which equipped these units would have numbered about 14,000 rocket rounds.

On 8 September, 1941 the State Defense Committee approved a suggestion to create central controlling organs for rocket artillery in the form of a guards mortar units Chief [komanduyushchii], Military Council [voennyi sovet], Headquarters [shtab], and Main Weapons Directorate [Glavnoye upravlenie vooruzheniya]. The Chief and Military Council for Guards Mortar Units (GMU) were directly subordinate to the Stavka VGK. The headquarters consisted of three sections (operations and inspectorate, combat training, and formation and cadres).

Military Engineer 1st Class V.V. Aborenko was named Chief of Guards Mortar Units, to be at the same time a deputy of the USSR Peoples Commissar for Defense. The members of the GMU Military Council were I.P. Firyubin (Secretary of the Moscow Committee of the Communist Party), L.M. Gaidukov (head of the Cadre Directorate of the Central Congress of the Communist Party), and Brigade Commissar P.A. Degtyarev (10). Colonel A.A. Bykov headed the GMU Headquarters, with P.G. Lyubimets as his deputy and at the same time, the head of the First Section.

As head of the GMU Main Weapons Directorate, Military Engineer 1st Class N.N. Kuznetsov was charged with controlling weapons production and the supply and organization of maintenance.

At the fronts, operational groups of guards mortar units were formed as special command organizations for the direct control of combat operations and support of rocket-artillery units. They were subordinate to the front commanders and military councils and consisted of a command group, military council, staff, and artillery supply dump.

From September 1941 through November 1942, GMU operational groups were formed on all active fronts.

During the advance of Soviet forces in the winter of 1941/42, operational groups began to be formed according to a standard army organization in those armies which had greater concentrations of rocket-artillery units. This was the case on the Northwest, Kalinin, and Western Fronts. However, as a rule, the majority of army GMU operational groups were headed by the commanders of the rocket-artillery regiments which were supporting the army's military operations.

Thus, by the end of 1941 rocket artillery was developing not only numerically, but organizationally.

The most important factor which ensured the quick wartime development of the new type of weapon was the organizational activity of the Central Congress and the GKO in regard to initiating, refining, and increasing production of rocket munitions and launching platforms. A special Council for Rocket Weapons [Sovet po reaktivnomu vooruzheniyu] was created for the GKO. Production and supply activities for guards mortar unites, as well as their formation and military employment, was under the direct management and control of the Stavka VGK and the GKO. The country's best efforts were tapped to produce rocket weapons. As commander-in-chief, Stalin himself devoted much attention to the development of rocket artillery.

The accelerated development of rocket artillery was largely in connection with its battlefield characteristics, which met the demands of the highly mobile operations of the first period of the war, as well as with the simplified construction of combat launchers and the decreased use of critical metals and other scarce materials in their production.

Rocket artillery played an important role in the battle for Moscow. Indeed, it was in front of Moscow that its main strength was concentrated. Its distribution is shown in Table 2. The Western Front command and the army generals skillfully used the maneuver and firepower possibilities of the new weapon to inflict sudden bombardments on an enemy who was trying to drive a wedge forward. Guards mortar battalions covered all the major highways leading to the capital and supported the counterattacks and counterstrikes which were carried out. Operating over a wide area, they were used wherever the enemy was the greatest threat. The bombardments of the guards mortarmen not only inflicted serious losses on the enemy forces, but also had a strong effect on their morale.

 

Table 2

Armies on the Western Front

Number of rocket-artillery battalions

22 October 1941

16 November 1941

3 December 1941

 

5th

16th

30th

33rd

43rd

49th

55th

     2nd Cav.Corps          (1st Gds.Cav.Corps)

1st Shock Army

10th

20th

 

5

2

-

3

2

1

-

 

-

-

-

-

 

4

7

1

3

3

4

3

 

3

-

-

-

 

4

10

2

3

2

5

1

 

3

3

1

2

 

     

     Front total

13

28

36

 

During the counteroffensive by the Soviet forces in front of Moscow, the rocket-artillery battalions were especially effective deep inside the enemy's defenses. Advancing with the battle formations of the first echelons, they helped overcome the enemy's several lines of defense and repel his counterattacks.

In the fierce battles with the enemy, the guards mortarmen frequently were examples of courage and heroism, and honorably vindicated the high reputation of Soviet guards, covering their standards with unfading glory. The Communist party and the Soviet government recognized the great reliability and courage of the soldiers of the first rocket-artillery units. On 17 December 1941 and 24 March, 1942, by orders of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, fourteen guards mortar units were awarded the Order of the Red Banner. The first decorated rocket-artillery unit was the 6th Guards Mortar Battalion (commanded by Captain I.I. Ilin, with military commissar Senior Political Instructor P.N. Teshurov). The battalion fought as part of the 4th Independent Army and distinguished itself in the battles around Tikhvin. On 17 December, 1941 it was awarded the Order of the Red Banner for its exemplary completion of combat missions against the fascist German invaders. The first rocket-artillery regiment to receive state decorations was the 4th Guards Mortar Regiment (commanded by Major A.I. Nesterenko, with military commissar Battalion Commissar I.N. Radchenko). On 24 March, 1942 it was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

As production opportunities in 1942 increased, greater numbers of rocket-artillery units were formed.

With the Soviet forces shifting to a general offensive and with the Stavka's demands that massed artillery be used in important sectors, there arose the need to make organizational changes in the rocket artillery. At the same time, there appeared the well-known problems in controlling a large number of battalions in battle. Therefore, at the direction of the GKO, in January of 1942 a large-scale formation of guards mortar regiments of a new organization was begun (12). Concurrently, the remaining rocket-artillery battalions at the fronts began to combine into regiments (of three firing battalions with two battalions each). As before, there were four BM-13 or BM-8 launchers in a battery. Thus, a salvo from a regiment of BM-13's numbered 384 rounds, and from a regiment of BM-8's¾864. The battalions in a regiment had their own supply and support resources and could operate independently.

The 18th and 19th Guards Mortar Regiments became the first of the new type. From February to April 1942 32 regiments and several independent battalions of rocket artillery were formed. Of these the 21st, 23rd, 36th, and 40th Guards Mortar Regiments were formed by joining together independent battalions operating on the Northwest, Volkhov, and Kalinin Fronts. Two of the newly created regiments (the 32nd and 33rd) were sent to the Far East (13).

Battlefield experience during the offensive operations of the 1941/42 winter campaign showed that rocket-artillery units were being faced with new tasks. Now the rocket launchers' fire targets were not only personnel and equipment, but also fortified defensive lines. In order to penetrate the enemy's prepared defenses it was necessary, for example, to have a more powerful rocket round capable of destroying fortifications.

By June of 1942 Soviet engineers had developed two fused rocket shells: the M-20 (132mm caliber, maximum range of 5 kilometers, explosive charge weight of 184 kilograms) and M-30 (300mm caliber, maximum range of 2.8 kilometers, explosive charge weight of 28.9 kilograms). M-20 rounds were usually fired from BM-13 rocket launchers, while M-30 rounds were launched from specially built frame-type stands. Thus, Soviet troops received a simple, inexpensive, and yet capable means of penetrating the defensive positions of the enemy.

On 4 June, 1942 the GKO decided to create units of heavy rocket artillery and ordered the GMU Military Council to form thirty independent M-30 guards mortar battalions as soon as possible. A heavy rocket-artillery battalion consisted of three batteries, each having 32 launching stands (frames). M-30 rocket rounds were mounted on these, four on each stand. A battalion had 96 launching stands, and one salvo numbered 384 rounds. On 1 July the formation of the first heavy rocket battalions was complete (65th, 66th, 67th, 68th, 69th, 70th, 71st, and 72nd), and these were combined into the 68th and 69th Guards Mortar Regiments and sent to the Western Front (14). The regiments did not have the means to reconnoiter or communicate and were short on vehicles. On 3 July the 77th Guards Mortar Regiment set off for the Volkhov Front with its four heavy battalions (the 74th, 75th, 76th, and 77th), then on the 8th came the 81st and 82nd Guards Mortar Regiments, each made up of three heavy rocket-artillery battalions (the 73rd, 78th, 79th, 80th, 81st, and 82nd) (15).

The heavy rocket-artillery battalions received their baptism of fire on 5 July, 1942 in the 61st Army's offensive sector on the Western Front. Bombardments were fired on enemy centers of resistance in Anino and Verkhnie Doltsy (near the town of Belev). As a result both strong points were destroyed and occupied by our troops with almost no resistance. This test of the new munition was attended by Major General V.V. Aborenkov, Chief of Guards Mortar Units, and Major General P.A. Degtyarev, member of the Military Council and one of the authors of this article.

During the first half of July, the 68th and 69th Regiments continued to support the troops of the 61st Army and carried out four regimental and seven battalion salvos, expending 3469 M-30 rounds.

 Table 3

 

Fronts

 

 

Number of battalions

Leningrad

Volkhov

Northwest

Kalinin

Western

Voronezh

Stalingrad

                                       6

17

3

10

12

10

16

Total………………………….

74

With the successful use of the first heavy battalions, the tempo for forming new units was increased. Already by 20 August, 80 M-30 battalions had been formed, 74 of which were at the front.

The results of bombardments by heavy M-30 battalions were highly rated by combined-arms commanders as well as by artillery officers. At the same time, combat experience showed the organizational shortfalls of the first heavy rocket-artillery units. Because of the large number of launching frames in a battalion (96), it was difficult to select and prepare firing positions. There were also problems in bringing up ammunition, since a battalion only had enough vehicles to carry half of a battalion salvo at a time.

Under these circumstances, and because it was impossible to provide the reconnaissance, communications, and transport requirements of M-30 regiments, the regimental organization of heavy rocket artillery was abandoned. 42The first five M-30 regiments were broken up with their battalions becoming independent. Subsequently, separate M-30 battalions were formed according to a new table of organization (two batteries with 48 launching frames in each).

During the same time that heavy rocket artillery was developing in 1942, the burgeoning growth of guards mortar regiments equipped with BM-13 and BM-8 rocket launchers continued. The increase in rocket-artillery units from January to November 1942 and their distribution on the fronts are shown in Table 4.

 

Table 4

 

 

Fronts

Number of rocket-artillery units

 

1 Jan. 1942

1 May, 1942

1 Sept. 1942

1 Nov. 1942

Regts

Sep. Btns.

Regts

Sep. Btns.

Regts

Sep. Btns.

Regts

Sep. Btns.

 

Karelian

7th Sep. Army

Leningrad

Volkhov

Northwest

Kalinin

Western

Bryansk

Voronezh

Southwest

Don

Stalingrad

Southeast

Southern

Caucasian (Crimean)

North Caucasian

Transcaucasian

Coastal Army

 

 

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

1

-

2

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

-

 

 

-

1

2

6

4

9

34

3

-

-

-

-

-

1

2

-

-

-

 

 

3

1

8

-

7

3

3

6

-

2

-

-

-

2

3

-

-

-

 

 

-

1

3

-

5

12

14

-

-

2

-

-

-

3

1

-

-

1

 

 

4

2

1

7

6

2

11

5

5

-

-

15

8

-

-

2

4

-

 

 

-

-

8

11

-

7

32

1

11

-

-

15

1

-

-

3

1

-

 

 

4

2

1

5

8

7

7

4

6

7

12

14

-

-

-

-

7

-

 

 

--

-

8

4

6

22

28

1

11

2

-

1

-

-

-

-

4

-

 

Active Army total

6

62

38

42

72

90

84

87

Stavka Reserve

-

11

5

-

2

3

2

2

In Military Districts and Inactive Fronts

2

-

13

6

13

27

11

10

Total

8

73

56

48

87

120

97

99

During the fighting in the Caucasus in the fall of 1942, mountain-pack launching stands for M-8 rounds were developed. In September and October of 1942, in response to the direction of the military council of the Northern Caucasus Front, 48 mountain launchers were built. These were used to create twelve mountain-pack batteries with four launchers each. For coastal defense, mountain launching stands were mounted on railway cars and cutters.

In the summer of 1942 fierce fighting developed on the southwest sector of the Soviet-German front. The central event of the 1942 summer/fall campaign was the defensive battle for Stalingrad. Here, too, rocket artillery played an active role, being one of the most effective resources of the Stavka VKG Reserve.

A significant number of rocket-artillery units took part in the defensive battles for Stalingrad, almost twice as many as were in front of Moscow. Table 5 shows the distribution of rocket-artillery units among the forces of the Stalingrad, Southwest, and Don Fronts.

 

Table 5

 

 

Fronts

Number of rocket-artillery units

 

19 June 1942

1 Aug. 1942

1 Sept. 1942

1 Nov. 1942

Regts

Sep. Btns.

Regts

Sep. Btns.

Regts

Sep. Btns.

Regts

Sep. Btns.

Stalingrad

Southwest

Don

9

-

-

 

1

-

-

 

14

-

-

 

1

-

-

 

15

8

-

 

 

15

1

-

 

14

-

12

 

 

1

-

-

Total

9

1

14

1

23

16

26

1

 

Unlike during the battles for Moscow, guards mortar units at Stalingrad usually operated at full strength. Regimental commanders were able to directly control the combat operations of their battalions and fully utilize their mobility and fire power. Depending on the importance of the sector being defended, a regiment supported one, two, or sometimes even three rifle divisions. Divisions defending important axes were reinforced with one or two guards mortar regiments. As a rule, an army commander kept a battalion or regiment of rocket artillery in his reserve.

Guards mortar units participated in all phases of the defensive battle: they supported the fighting of the 62nd and 64th Armies' forward units on the far approaches to the city; they destroyed personnel and equipment where they were concentrating and also when they were on the move; they were active in repelling the massed infantry and armored attacks on the defensive lines around Stalingrad; and they provided support for the counterattacks by our forces. For the first time rocket launchers were used in combat operations within a large city.

In order to control the guards mortar units and provide all their requirements, two operational GMU groups were created on the Stalingrad and Don Fronts. These were headed by General A.D. Zubanov and Colonel I.A. Shamshin.

The role taken by rocket artillery in the defensive fighting for Stalingrad may be followed using the example of the combat actions of the 83rd Guards Mortar Regiment (commanded by Colonel K.T. Golubev).

The regiment, which was equipped with BM-8 rocket launchers mounted on T-60 light tanks, went to Stalingrad as soon as it was formed and was assigned to the 62nd Army. Together with the troops of this famous army, the soldiers of the regiment went through the awesome defense of the hero city. Going into action on the far approaches to Stalingrad near Chernyshev, the regiment supported the fighting of the forward element of the 33rd Rifle Division, subsequently using the fire power of its battalions to cover the army's withdrawal across the Don and support a counterattack by units of the 1st Tank Army west of Kalach. During the defensive battles the regiment took part in repelling massed infantry and tank attacks on the city's outer and inner rings, often having to fire from open firing positions, and during the encirclement it was in heavy fighting around Peskovatka and Vertyachii. But the real trials for the regiment's soldiers came with the terrible fighting in the city, which even turned into hand-to-hand combat. Together with the glorious soldiers of the 62nd Army, the guardsmen of the 83rd Regiment often had to defeat enemy attacks in close-quarters fighting and move their equipment to safe positions while under rifle and machine-gun fire. They also endured all hardships with honor, fulfilled their soldierly duty, and were a great help to the infantry in holding the right bank of the Volga. The regiment's battalions supported the combat actions of the glorious 13th and 37th Guards Rifle Divisions and 284th and 308th Rifle Divisions in the center of the city near the railway station and main landing, defending the Red October, Barrikady and STZ Factories and fighting on the Mamaev Kurgan.

The more distinguished of the guards rocket-artillery units which took part in the defensive battles were decorated by the state. These included the 2nd (Colonel I.C. Yufa), 4th (Colonel N.V. Vorobev), 5th (Colonel L.Z. Parnovskii), 18th (Lieutenant Colonel T.F. Chernyak), 19th (Lieutenant Colonel A.I. Yerokhin), and 93rd (Lieutenant Colonel K.G. Serdobolskii) Guards Mortar Regiments.

In conclusion it must be noted that the first part of the Great Patriotic War was the time of the rocket artillery's greatest numerical growth. In fact, during this time the bulk of the guards mortar regiments and front and operational groups were formed. On 19 November 1942 over 70% of the total number of battalions which were in the rocket artillery at the end of the war were already in service. Along with this quantitative growth the guards mortar regiments also improved in quality of materiel. Thus, of the 365 battalions existing at the end of the first part of the war, 23% were heavy battalions, 56% were BM-13 battalions, and only 21% were equipped with BM-8's (see Polevaya reaktivnaya artilleriya v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine, Moscow, 1955, page 628).

During the operations of the first part of the war, much expertise was accumulated in regard to using rocket-artillery units in all kinds of actions, and this demonstrated the efficacy of mass employment of guards mortar units. As a result, during the defensive fighting for Stalingrad the emphasis on concentrating guards mortar units was greater than during the entire previous period.

The successful military actions of rocket-artillery units were supported by both routine and special political and party work, thanks to which the soldiers manifested widespread heroism. In guards mortar units there was a significant party element. By the decision of the Central Congress of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (TsK VLKSM) many thousands of the best representatives of our youth were called into the ranks of the rocket artillery. Communists and Komsomol members unified battery and battalion personnel by demonstrating exemplary courage, self-sacrifice, and high military competence.

In this way, as a result of the measures taken in the first part of the war in regard to the rocket artillery's growth in size, its increase in quality, and improvements in its organizational basis and combat utilization, by the beginning of the Soviet forces' counteroffensive at Stalingrad it was a mature branch of Soviet artillery which possessed great fire power and mobility.

The Soviet High Command had in their hands a powerful means of delivering massed bombardments, capable of inflicting great losses on the enemy.

 

Notes:
1) [See above.]
2) TsAMO SSSR f. 59. op. 12196, d. 19, ll. 4-5.
3) Ibid., d. 572, l. 58.
4) Ibid.
5) Ibid., d. 602, l. 38; op. 12198, d. 33, l. 6.
6) Ibid., op. 12198, d. 33, l. 6.
7) Ibid., f. 135, op. 12679, d. 67, ll. 252-255.
8) Ibid.
9) Ibid., f. 64, op. 262712, d. 8, l. 51.
10) One of the authors of this article.
11) [No Note 11.]
12) TsAMO SSSR f. 2. op. 795437, d. 16, ll. 16-18.
13) Ibid., f. 59, op. 12198, d. 23, ll. 29-30.
14) Ibid., d. 33, l. 47.
15) Ibid., l. 48.

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Translated by Mark Conrad, 1993.