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Soviet Fortified Regions


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I just started reading:

Hell's Gate: The Battle of the Cherkassy Pocket, Jan-Feb, 1944 by Douglas E. Nash

On page 32 they mention a Soviet unit dedicated to static operations...

"The most peculiar units in Trofimenko's order of battle were the aforementioned 54th and 159th Fortified Regions. These bizarre (to a Western way of thinking) organizations were organized around a division headquarters staff designed purely for static employment and relied upon a large number of automatic weapons, mortars, and artillery instead of masses of troops to serve as a reinforced security force designed to hold areas of the front line in order for the Soviet High Command to mass troops elsewhere."

"It's main elements were the 404th, 496th,512th, and 513th Artillery Machine Gun Battalions. Although ill-suited for attack, these so-called fortified regions could tie down a disproportionate amount of German troops, whose commanders often believed that they faced a much stronger opponent."

"This forced the Germans to keep more men in the line than the situation warranted, which would tie them down while the main attack took place elsewhere."

-------------------------------------------------

OK Grogs, Historians, Researchers, etc.

1. Were these units created mid-late War because of the massive manpower loss in the Soviet Army?

2. -or- Were these units in the Soviet order of battle from the start?

3. Is there any record/account of what a battalion sized unit would consist of and how much ground they would cover?

4. Were these dedicated static units employed at Kursk or even earlier?

Thanks in advance for any additional info.

Sincerely,

Ken

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1. definitely pre 1941 establishment

2. see 1.

3. No idea, but here is a snippet from www.battlefield.ru: An ATR platoon was included in the TOE of the machinegun-artillery company of machinegun-artillery battalions of the fortified region. This platoon had two submachine guns and 7 ATRs (two squads, one with three and the other with four ATRs). A cavalry squadron (TOE 06/233 of 6 January 1942) had a ATR platoon (6 rifles, and later 9 submachine-guns).

4. see 1. for second part - I would have thought there were not too many at Kursk, because in that sort of battle you want the staying power of the infantry.

If you look at the database on Red Army Studies (link in my sig) you maybe able to find an article on the topic.

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"Red Army Handbook" by Zaloga has some good information on Fortified Regions.

According to that source there were Fortified Regions pre-war, manning actual border fortifications, and throughout the war, operating with the field forces once the actual fortifications themselves were lost. I assume they were used primarily defensively, as their mobility was low and manpower was extremely lean. It also appears that their weapons, even mortars and artillery, were intended to be used via direct fire,as there were no FDC personnel for observation and only 1 radio per battalion.

A Fortified Region consisted of several Machinegun-Artillery battalions (it appears roughly 3 each). TO&E for MG-Arty Bn March 1942 is given as:

Bn HQ (22 Men)

Signals Plt (24 men)

Pioneer Sqd (9 men)

4 x MG-Arty Coy, each

- Coy HQ (8 Men)

- 4 x MG Plt (2 x LMG and 2 x HMG each)

- AT Rifle Plt (2 x LMG, 7 x AT Rifle)

- Mortar Plt (2 x 50mm and 2 x 82mm mortars)

- Arty Bty

-- Bty HQ (7 Men)

-- AT Gun Plt (2 x 45mm gun)

-- Field Gun Plt (2 x 76mm gun)

As stated, the organization was extremely lean, with barely enough men to man the weapons (no covering riflemen, not even any men as dedicated ammo bearers). In CMBB terms there would be only a Company HQ and no Platoon HQs, except for perhaps the artillery battery, IMO.

So at battalion level in CMBB you'd probably see 1 x Bn HQ, 4 x Coy HQ, 4 x Plt HQ, 40 x LMG, 32 x HMG, 28 x AT Rifle, 8 x 50mm mortar, 8 x 82mm mortar, 8 x 45mm gun, and 8 x 76mm gun.

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Originally posted by redwolf:

That sounds like an excellent way to lose heavy weapons to any kind of coordinated attacker.

They really used that in 1944? How would such a static unit take part in building a pocket?

Economy of force unit. These units were best used to hold "quiet sectors" where a low troop density and long unit boundaries are likely, and where the requirement to move a lot did not exist. The Soviets might also beef them up a bit with deception operations designed to make them appear more substantial than they really were.

Scott

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Originally posted by redwolf:

They really used that in 1944? How would such a static unit take part in building a pocket?

You only attack in very narrow sectors and pour everything into the breakthrough. The rest of the frontline does not need to move as fast, and does not need to be very strong anyway because the Germans were no longer much of a danger.

In at least two offensives, German collapse was so quick and so total that no real pocket creation was necessary - Bagration, and the Vistula-Oder operation.

If you are just busy whacking a reactive enemy westwards through central Europe, these units make a lot of sense.

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It covers a divisional frontage using only around 2000 men. For pure defense, particularly in open terrain and dug in oneself, while your side possesses the overall initiative, it would prove perfectly sufficient. You could easily screen 10 km of open terrain this way.

All the weapons are long range. The enemy is never supposed to get within 500m. He doesn't even know which sectors are thinned out this way, held by a screen of MGs and light guns, vs. which sectors have full strength battalions in 2 up 1 back formation. The heavy weapons fire put out by either formation at range would be indistinguishable.

How do you use it in a pocket fight? You pick a side of the pocket relatively close to your own overall lines, thus an unlikely breakout area. You dig in a bit with the line rifle division in that area. Then send in the FR "detail" to man the positions the RD created. Now shift the RD to some other sector and use it to deliver actual attacks, or to hold areas the enemy is more likely to attempt a breakout.

Pockets create long encirclement lines, and it matters how efficiently you can man those. If you try to stay thick all around the pocket, you need a very large force relatively to the size of the one you "bagged". Better to be thick in only the right spots, plus have some reaction reserves ready to reinforce if you turn out to be wrong.

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Originally posted by Wol:

There are two articles on this in JSMS Vol 5 June 1992 no.2 and Vol 6 March 1993 No.1 Titled "what Really happened to the Stalin Line" by Robert E Tarleton, very good with references.

Thanks for all the info.

What does "JSMS" Vol 5 etc., etc. stand for?... and where can I get these articles?

Sincerely,

Ken

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