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From home to the army

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  • From home to the army

    Hello again. I have perhaps a difficult question which I hope someone will either be able to answer or at least provide sources for. The situation is this: I would like to know how a 17-18 year old young man in say, Kazan(TASSR) in 1941 could join the army and end up in the 13th Guards Rifle division in time to be present for the crossing of the Volga on 14 September. I actually want our hero to volunteer, perhaps lying about his age to join earlier than necessary(before getting conscripted). I have a little information about what happens upon joining the army, but few details. For example, where would he go to infantry school, and how long would that last(keeping in mind the vast differences between regulation training times and that which was dictated by wartime necessity)?

    I have been reading A.I. Rodimtsev's book Guardsmen Stood to the Death(among many more books read several years ago) so I have a pretty good understanding of the path taken by the division in 1942. It was my understanding that it was involved in the combat south of Kharkov in May of 1942 and it seems that it fought rearguard actions to assist the retreat across the Don later that summer. According to David M. Glantz, IIRC, the division was reduced to about 33 men at the end of all that fighting when they were moved north to Kamyshin(Rodimtsev mentions receiving replacements there), although the month when they arrived there is sketchy(I'll need to dig through a lot of books I read years ago).

    My plan is that our hero from Tatarstan needs to join the army and complete training just in time to be sent to the division before it marched off to Srednaya Akhtuba, the last point before it moved to Krasnaya Sloboda before crossing the Volga into Stalingrad.

    Advice? Sources?

  • #2
    I have some background info that might help jog your memory.

    87 Rifle Div was formed from the remnants of the 3 Airborne Corps between 6-20 Nov 1941 near Kursk. Parts of the 3 Airborne Corps had escaped from the Kiev pocket.

    87 RD became 13 GRD on 19 Jan 1942 but did not receive its Guards Flag until 10 Feb 42.

    After taking part in the disastrous Kharkov battle (May-June 42) the Division was forced back to the Volga river and performed a night river crossing (of the Volga?) to escape the German summer offensive. It then underwent a brief reconstruction east of the Volga. (Date unknown)

    On the night of 15-16 Sept 42, the Div was ferried over the Volga into Stalingrad and then next day went into the attack against Mamayev Kurgan hill.

    If you can find out when the 13 GRD made its night river crossing of the Volga, it might be possible to estimate how long it was reforming before being committed again to battle at Stalingrad.

    Hope this helps.


    • #3
      The story I remembered pretty well, but providing the exact dates is a big help. I would only point out that the river they crossed while retreating in summer 1942 was the Don.

      The division crossed the Volga into Stalingrad on the night of 14th September.


      • #4
        Yes, of course the Don river in response to Operation Blue, silly me!…but later on the 13 GRD was moved east of the Volga too. I’m looking for both crossing points and dates. Here is what I found so far:

        • 1 July 1942, 13 GRD still part of 28 Army. (BSSA data)
        • It appears that units of the 28 Army crossed the Don River around July 11, in the area of Pisarevka & Boguchar, with the 63 Army on the other side, east side, of the Don.
        • August, 28th Army reformed as 4th Tank Army. 1 Aug, 13 GRD assigned Stalingrad Military District (BSSA data)
        • 1 September, 13 GRD assigned Volga Military District (BSSA data)
        • 1 October, 13 GRD assigned 62nd Army (BSSA data)
        • September, 13 GRD committed to battle within Stalingrad, 62nd Army.

        So, it would appear the 13 GRD moved to the east side of the Don mid-July. Then it was temporarily assigned to Stalingrad Military District in August (emergency measure due to German attacks?). Then in Sept, was assigned to Volga Military District for refitting (somewhere on the east side of the Volga, maybe in the Saratov area?). Finally in October transferred to 62nd Army control and committed to battle again in November.

        So if this time line is true, the 13 GRD would then have had about 4-6 weeks to refit and take in replacements.

        I also just checked The Beginning of the Road by V.I. Chuikov, 1963 edition, p 95.

        “During the night (14 Sept) only the 34th and 39 regiments and one Battalion of the 42nd regiment were ferried across. Dawn and the appearance of enemy aircraft prevented any further crossings.”

        It also states the 13 GRD commander told Chuikov that his division strength was around 10,000 and more than 1,000 of his men had no weapons.
        Last edited by Dann Falk; 22 Feb 13, 12:43.


        • #5
          While I don't have exact dates, according to Rodimtsev after crossing the Don the 13th Guards was moved to the Kamyshin area, on the West bank of the Volga. I believe it crossed the Volga to Nikolayevsk(Rodimtsev mentions this town just south-east of Kamyshin on the other bank of the river) before marching down to Srednaya Akhtuba, roughly adjacent to Stalingrad. From there they marched to Krasnaya Sloboda to prepare for the crossing into the city.


          • #6
            Ok, Kamyshin is south of Saratov on the Volga about half way between Saratov and Stalingrad. I was thinking in the right direction but did not know just how far GHQ would pull back a RD for refitting.

            As you said, Nikolayevsk is just south of Kamyshin on the east side of the river.

            Srednaya Akhtuba is due east of Stalingrad on the Akhtuba River (branch of the Volga?).

            Krasnaya Sloboda, as we know, is directly across the Volga from Stalingrad.

            Below is listed my plausible time line of events. Maybe other RKKA viewers might be able to fill in exact orders and or dates.

            If the 13 GRD moved to the east side of the Don mid-July, it would have been reduced in equipment and men. Assigning the division to Stalingrad Military District in August, would have given it time to sort itself out and collect stragglers and rear area service equipment and personal. If I’m correct about the crossing point, this would have taken place near the Don in the rear of 63 Army, let’s say about 2-3 weeks to complete this stage.

            Then in mid to late August it was decided to refit the division somewhere in the rear away from the front. Kamyshin was a good choice because it was on a major rail line and it was also a river port on the Volga. Almost certainly the division would have been moved from the Don area to Kamyshin by rail. This is over 350 Km away (straight line distance), much too far for marching. The many empty trains moving away from the front could have been used without much effort. At reduced strength (2-3,000 men? combat and rear area support troops) about 3-4 standard size trains would have been needed.

            The route they might have taken:
            Marching north from the Don to Kalach rail head (this is not Kalach on the Don near Stalingrad) roughly 40 Km.
            Then by rail from Kalach to Taloyaya 94 Km.
            Taloyaya to Povorino 123 Km.
            Povorino to Balashov 71 Km.
            Balashov to Kamyshin 286 km.
            Total distance traveled by rail 574 Km.

            It would have taken approximately two days to march to Kalach, then an additional 2-6 days to make the rail trip to Kamyshin. Note, at this time the Luftwaffe would have been bombing the major rail stations along this route.

            I’m guessing, but once arriving at Kamyshin the 13 GRD would have probably been refitted on the west side of the Volga, somewhere near the city. This would have been towards the end of August.

            The division was then refitted during the last part of August and the early part of September, about 2-4 weeks.

            Mid-September, the 13 GRD was assigned 62nd and started its march south to Stalingrad. The distance would have been about 160 Km to Srednaya Akhtuba, then from there 25 Km to Krasnaya Sloboda. This would have taken about 6 days. This would have put the 13 GRD at Stalingrad at about the right time to cross the Volga on the night of Sept 14, right from the march. (All distances are approximate)
            Last edited by Dann Falk; 22 Feb 13, 12:50.


            • #7
              Ok a slight change of topic: Do any of the Russian members here know of an online archive of ЖБД where one might find that of various divisions in Stalingrad? If they are not online, what about in printed form? I know of a small shop in Moscow which sells some printed volumes of all kinds of other archival documents, but it's mostly political stuff.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Cmde.Slavyanski View Post
                Do any of the Russian members here know of an online archive of ЖБД where one might find that of various divisions in Stalingrad? If they are not online, what about in printed form?
                Original documents? No, for sure, there are no. Practically the only way you can get that stuff is to establish contact with men visiting the military archive in Podolsk. Then D. Glantz published two bricks on the battle of Stalingrad, either in those volumes or contacting him personally you might find the info you need.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                  Original documents? No, for sure, there are no. Practically the only way you can get that stuff is to establish contact with men visiting the military archive in Podolsk. Then D. Glantz published two bricks on the battle of Stalingrad, either in those volumes or contacting him personally you might find the info you need.
                  Actually I contacted him years ago(with the help of people on this forum) and he replied, telling me about those reports and mentioning the archives. I dug that e-mail up a few days ago when I decided to revive my Stalingrad project. Part of that project entailed actually reading the first "brick," but I am going to have to wait at least a few weeks to get my hands on the second one(which actually covers the fighting in the city), thanks to the Russian post.

                  I've actually been able to find many answers to my questions so far with the help of Russian and English sources, but there is one issue I want to clear up which doesn't so much concern the division but rather the 42nd regiment. Here it goes:

                  -It seems that according to Rodimtsev, the first unit across the Volga on the night of 14-15 September was the 1st battalion, 42nd rifle regiment, under battalion commander Zakhar Chervyakov. I got the battalion designation from another source; Rodimtsev refers to it as отряд, which I translated as "detachment." Of the top of my head I figured this would number around 400-500 men, seeing as how by 14 September the 13th Gds Rifle Div. had around 10,000 men according to most sources, which was a pretty good strength for an RKKA division at that time.

                  -Anyway, Rodimtsev's memoirs get a little blurry on what Chervyakov does after landing on the bank, implying that shortly upon landing and securing the landing stage, he pressed on to the train station.

                  -I honestly can't remember whether the rest of the 42nd regiment crossed that night. Rodimtsev mentioned crossing over on the morning of the 15th, and I it seems like one other regiment crossed over on the night of the 15th-16th, with one regiment remaining behind(under a commander by the name of Dolgov, I believe).

                  -Supposedly the 1st bn, 42nd rifle regiment, was nearly destroyed in the fighting for the train station, and according to this map, it seems to be cut off in the vicinity of the station(note the date, which coincides with these events):

                  -Things get complicated with the events surrounding a company commander, ostensibly of the 1st battalion, named Anton Kuzmich Dragan. I've read his story in several sources, in both Russian and English. The problem is, finding more info about him has brought me no success. In some texts which quote him at length, it is not clear where his writings appeared. I suspect they might have been included in the memoirs of Chuikov or Rodimtsev. Does anyone know where more info on Dragan can be found?

                  -Was the 1st battalion, 42nd rifle regiment, totally wiped out, or did any survivors or wounded make it back to the regimental or divisional HQ? What about 2nd battalion of same regiment? In fact, what about the whole 42nd regiment? Did it survive the battle more or less intact or were its survivors transferred to other units? I'm asking because as I remember around the time of the German final assault into the city, the attackers managed to control nearly all the city except the factory district in the north, part of Mamaev Kurgan, and perhaps a few narrow perimeters on the Volga where the remnants of the 13th Guards would have been.

                  Any thoughts?


                  • #10
                    Well, lucky for me, the dealer from whom I purchased Glantz's second Stalingrad volume from sent it UPS and it arrived today. It looks like it will probably answer most of my questions, but it would be great if someone could explain that issue about Dragan.


                    • #11
                      Here are Anton Dragan's award papers from online archive:

                      As follows from this info Dragan was born in 1912 in the Chernigov region of Ukraine, served in the army from 1934 to 1936, 1939-1941 and from 1941, was communist party member from 1941. By July 1943 he was wounded four times: on 2 August 1941 near Kiev, on 10 July 1942 at Kalach (west of Stalingrad), on 26 September 1942 in Stalingrad, and on 14 July 1943 in the battle of Kursk south of Oboyan. By July 1943 he was commanding the 9th company of the 42 Guards Rifle Regiment, was awarded the Order of Red Star on 24 May 1943 for Stalingrad and on 20 July 1943 for Kursk. Apparently he was still alive in 1985 when he was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War 1st rank to commemorate the 40 anniversary of the V-day. No idea about his memoirs.


                      • #12
                        Beautiful! Thanks a lot. It's interesting that the first page mentions him fighting in the Red October factory in 1/43, because for my memory I didn't know the 13th Guards Rifle div. ever fought in that part of the city. Of course by that month the German perimeter was shrinking so I can believe it. In any case, this shows that after the events of the nail factory and supposedly escaping German lines via raft, he continued to fight in the battle some time later.

                        I'm also guessing that the "quotes" from Dragan which are often cited in Russian and English probably come from Chuikov's memoirs, hopefully From the Volga to Berlin because I don't have his other one(sorry if I already mentioned this).


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