Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Soviet 1st Guards Mechanized Corps

By Phil Gardocki

Organizational History 1942
As the first year of the war progressed, many Soviet units simply evaporated while facing the German onslaught. Other units, however, fought stoutly, and a simple system was put in place to quickly identify the reliable units from the untested. Like many new ideas, the Soviet High Command, fell back on some old ones. The term “Guards” came from the Czarist days where such formations were the best that the army had to offer. Initially, the Guards followed the “Shtat” or organization and equipment table of the Red Army and were organized identically to less exalted units. As the Guards proved their worth, they acquired their own Shtat’s.

The 1st Guards Mechanized Corps was unusual, because it was built from the remnants of another Guards unit, the 1st Guards Rifle Division. In order to confuse German intelligence, all internal regiments and battalions were also redesignated.

  • 18,951 men
  • 50 × T-60 light tanks
  • 118 × T-34 (7.62cm guns) medium tanks
  • 12 × 12.2cm M1938 towed howitzers
  • 136 × 7.62cm towed cannons
  • 8 BM-13 rocket launchers (truck-mounted “Katyushas”)
  • 36 × 12cm mortars
  • 28 × 5cm mortars
  • 81 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 24 × 3.7cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 595 machineguns
  • 54 half-tracks *
  • 305 wagons
  • 1,719 trucks

At full strength, this looks a formidable unit, but much of the transport and the T-34 tanks, were not yet available. Nor was the artillery support, 12 howitzers, adequate for this size unit. To compensate for these weaknesses, the 267th mortar battalion was attached with 36 12cm mortars, which had the same shell size but less accuracy and range as the howitzers and 8 “Katyushas” (a.k.a. “Little Kate”, a.k.a. “Stalin’s Organs”). This model consisted of sixteen 13.2cm rocket rails mounted on a truck.

1943

The corps was sent to the front in December 1942, to the 3rd Guards Army. Like every other unit involved in the Stalingrad encirclement, it suffered very heavy losses. It was removed from the front in March and refitted and positioned south of Kursk.

  • 20,105 men
  • 35 × T-70 light tanks
  • 160 × T-34c (7.62cm guns) medium tanks
  • 20 × SU-152 self-propelled guns
  • 12 × 12.2cm M1938 towed howitzers
  • 8 BM-13 rocket launchers (truck-mounted “Katyushas”)
  • 92 × 7.62cm cannons
  • 36 × 12cm mortars
  • 60 × 5cm mortars
  • 171 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 24 × 3.7cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 801 × machineguns
  • 3 cars
  • 54 half-tracks *
  • 495 wagons
  • 1,600 trucks


1944

Immediately after Kursk, the 16th and 17th Guards Tank Regiments were detached and replaced with the 9th Guards Tank Brigade. The 1504th Guards Antitank Regiment was upgraded with self-propelled SU-76s.

  • 20,705 men
  • 65 × T-34/85 (8.5cm guns) medium tanks **
  • 96 × T-34c (7.62cm guns) medium tanks
  • 21 × T-70 light tanks
  • 20 × SU-152 self-propelled guns
  • 32 × SU-76 self-propelled guns
  • 12 × 12.2cm M1938 towed howitzers
  • 8 BM-13 rocket launchers (truck-mounted “Katyushas”)
  • 12 × 8.5cm towed antitank Guns
  • 88 × 7.62cm towed cannons
  • 36 × 12cm mortars
  • 60 × 5cm mortars
  • 171 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 24 × 3.7cm antiaircraft guns
  • 801 machineguns
  • 3 cars
  • 54 half-tracks
  • 1,800 trucks


1945


  • 20,484 men
  • 191 × Sherman M4A2 (76.2cm/L55 guns) medium tanks
  • 8 × SU-122 self-propelled guns
  • 56 × SU-76 self-propelled guns
  • 8 BM-13 8 BM-13 rocket launchers (truck-mounted “Katyushas”)
  • 76 × 7.62cm towed cannons
  • 36 × 12cm mortars
  • 171 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 60 × 5cm mortars
  • 24 × 3.7cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 801 machineguns
  • 3 cars
  • 54 half-tracks
  • 1,700 trucks

After a year in STAVKA reserve, the 1st returned to operations in January 1945, with few structure changes, the one equipment change of note was that the corps turned in all its T34s for Sherman tanks. Exchanging T-34/85s for lend-lease Sherman tanks is a contradiction of the Soviet propaganda regarding the value of the Sherman Tank***.

Operational History

The 1st Guards Mechanized Corps was assigned to the 3rd Guards Army, Southwestern Front in November, 1942, and was first committed in Operation Saturn. Here it was teamed with the 24th and 25th Tank Corps and mauled the Romanian 3rd Army, and destroyed the Italian 8th Army before going after the Stalingrad airfields. The 1st Mech. burned itself out, attacking until it had only 20 tanks operational. Then, it had an escape corridor cut through it by the 1st Romanian Panzer Division, which was in a similar condition, during its escape from the Chir River. Finally, the corps was ordered from the front.
After a rebuild period in reserves, the 1st was sent to Belgorod, in the southern part of the Kursk salient, where it faced attacks from the 48th Panzer Corps. Throughout the rest of the year, the corps continued to support offensive operations in the Ukraine.
Beginning in 1944, the corps went into STAVKA reserve for what worked out to be a year long break. It returned to action in January 1945, assigned to the 3rd Ukrainian Front, in time to participate in the conquest of Hungary and Austria and ended the war in Vienna.
* Most half-tracks came from American lend-lease and, although planned in the unit’s organization, it is doubtful that the unit had many half-tracks in 1942 and early 1943. The troops assigned these vehicles probably rode in trucks instead.

** T34/85 production started late 1943 and the tanks did not start reaching units until early in 1944. The 1st Guards Mechanized Corps used the older T-34s with 7.62cm guns until that time. There was an up-armored version of the T-34 produced in 1943 that was designated the T43. It had a T34/85 hull but retained the 7.6cm gun. Some of these may have served in this unit.

*** While the American-built M4 Sherman was derided by the Soviet propaganda machine as an inadequate armored vehicle and is not the tank of choice in many miniatures games, it had many advantages that make it a preferable in a campaign setting. It was far more reliable; its tracks had a longer service life than a T34’s engine. It had electric traverse control versus the hand cranks on Soviet tanks, which gave it more rapid response in turning the turret. It had more accurate optics and carried more ammunition. In addition, the 7.5cm and 7.62cm guns carried on various models of the Sherman had gun specifications that were slightly superior to the gun specifications of the 7.62cm and 8.5cm weapons carried on various models of the T-34 tanks.
Gun
Penetration at 500m
Penetration at 1000m
Allied 7.5cm L/40
85mm
77mm
Allied 7.62cm L/55
107mm
102mm
Soviet 7.62cm L/41
81mm
73mm
Soviet 8.5cm L/52
112mm
102mm
 
 

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