Jump to content

History of the Soviet Mech Corps

Recommended Posts

I am looking for the units, commanders and battle history of either

IV Mech Corps (43 later III Guards Mech Corps)

V Mech Corps (43 later V Guards Mech Corps?)

For the IVth 41 SW Front near Kiev with T34 and KV1, 42 leads Operation Uranus and capture of Rostov 44 Operation Bagration against 5th Pz Div and later advance to Riga to stop III Pz Armee.

For Vth 41 SW front Smolensk sacrificed in attack at Lepel. 42 Operation Uranus attacks Chir River and 11th Pz Div also VIZh article on crossing of Chir River 43 part of counterattack force at Kursk.

What I am really looking for is some interesting enegagements so that I can string together a series of scenarios following one of these units.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The prewar - early 1941 4th and 5th Mech corps are not the same formations as the later ones. Both were disbanded in August 1941. The later formations of the same names are completely different, no lineage connects them. Different structure, etc.

Tank and Mech mean different things from 1942 on. Most of the later Russian armor was in Tank corps, not Mech corps.

The early war formations, 4th and 5th Mech, each had 2 tank divisions - a formation type later abolished - and one motor rifle division. 4th had 8 and 32 tank divisions and 81st motor rifle division, plus the 3rd motorcycle regiment. 5th had 13 and 17 tank division and 109th motor rifle division, plus the 8th motorcycle regiment. The commanders were AA Vlasov and IP Alekseenko, respectively.

4th Mech, which was in the Kiev military district facing AG South, was probably the strongest in the army at the outbreak of the war. It had around 100 KVs and 300 T-34s. There were also around 100 T-26s and 300 BTs, plus around 70 T-28s (obsolete mediums). There were at least 80 armored cars and around 50 tankettes, as well. By the end of July they had only a dozen KVs and around 35 T-34s left.

Its major engagement, if it can be called that, was a counterattack against Kleist's spearheads. The Russians had 8 mechanized corps in the region. The first two engaged almost immediately (2nd day of the war) without any visible effect. The next wave of 4 were a bit more coordinated, with 3 of the 4 managing to attack more or less simultaneously on the 4th and 5th days, in the Dubno area. 4th Mech was the 4th and did not manage to coordinate its attack with those of the others.

The primary reason was hopeless operational readiness, which appeared as soon as the units attempted to move from their peacetime depots. Glantz reports 4th Mechs operational tank total, out of 900 or so nominally on strength on 22 June, had fallen to 65 tanks as early as 27 June.

The Dubno fighting still represented the largest grouping of armor the Russians managed to get into the field early in the war. Up to 2000 tanks actually engaged. They held up AG South for about a week, and produced a performance gap between it and the other AGs. But in the course of it they evaporated, without causing the Germans any serious material loss.

As for 5th Mech, it was originally in Siberia. It was sent to the Smolensk sector by rail and arrived by early July. Along with 7th Mech, it counterattacked Hoth's panzer group starting on 6 July, hitting principally the 7th Panzer division (though there were 3 others in Hoth's group that took part in the overall fight). The Russians had 2000 tanks on strength, and lost over 800 of them within 5 days. There was inadequate recon, zero combined arms coordination, no combat support to speak of. This was the era in which entire mech corps evaporated in days and the commanders blamed it on swamps. They then withdrew in extreme disorder, and their remaining tank strength evaporated in the retreat, with no further operational impact on the Germans.

You might portray either fiasco, but they really have no connection to later tank corps of the same numerical designations.

The later 4th Mech was formed in September 1942. It took part in Uranus on the southern wing, and met up with elements of the 4th Tank corps at Kalach to close the Stalingrad pocket. That meant driving through the Rumanians south of the city. For that achievement it was redesignated 3rd Guards Mech corps in December 1942.

3 GMC was part of Steppe Front's reserves at Kursk. It was commanded then by VT Obukhov, and had the 35 Guard Tank brigade and 7th, 8th, and 9th Guards Mech brigades - plus SUs, motorized 76mm ATG, an 85mm battalion (AA serving as special AT), rockets, 120mm mortars, AA, motorcycle recon, etc. It basically spent the Kursk fight in reserve, however. (Don't confuse it with 3rd MC, which was heavily engaged in the 48th Panzer corps sector, western flank of the southern attack).

3rd GMC led an attack in mid August 1943 along with 47th army that broke through German ID positions NW of Kharkov. The German 57th ID basically evaporated by the 3rd day of the offensive. That breakout to the west helped to force the German withdrawal from the ongoing fight in the shrinking Kharkov salient, and set off the race to the Dnepr. Basically it was one of the last fresh armor formations Stavka "spent" in the rolling series of counteroffensives after Kursk. With the desired results.

3rd Guards mech participated in Bagration as an independent corps, in the same area as 5th Tank army. It exploited along its own routes, sometimes working with a cavalry corps.

The later style 5th Mech corps formed in November 1942, and kept that designation until September of 1944, when it became the 9th Guards Mech. Note that late in the war, 9th Guards Mech was one of the few formations equipped with Shermans rather then T-34s.

What I've found so far. Not sure the idea makes sense as originally conceived. You might be better off picking a -Tank- corps (e.g. 4th) and tracing its fights from formation to war's end.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will have look at Tank Corps this evening and see if I can see a unit of interest but I have only got Zetterling and Glantz as references and units this low are rarely mentioned.

I had noticed the 1941 disbanding of the mech corps but was considering explaining that in the briefing. However if I can find a unit that would run all through the war it would be better.

The Vth Mech Corps seems to have been equipped with Lend Lease for a lot of the war. In the attack on the Chir River in 1942 they have Matildas and Valentines and complain bitterly about them. Later in the article the author cheers up a bit when he discovers they can kill the enemy tanks at 400m.

It is interesting that if you wanted the history of any unit in a Western army, you would have a wealth of sources to choose from.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do not speak Russian I am afraid.

Found a strange one here as I was looking at Tank Corps histories.

David Glantz in "Kharkov 1942" says in the appendix on Fate of the survivors: Lt General Alekseev (commander of the 57th Tank Bde) took command of the 10th Tank Corps at Kursk and during advance to the Dnepr. Corps was redesignated 5th Guards Tank Corps and as part of 6th Army, fought at Korsun and across Ukraine. But in every other reference for Kursk the 10th TC is commanded by Mj General Burkov and the 5th GTC by Mj Gen Kravchenko. Shame because they sounded quite a good one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alte Fritz,

I read Russian, and I can vouch that the mechcorps site is a gold mine. I think you may have a glitch in your research. According to the site 4th Mech Corps eventually became 3rd Guards Mech Corps, while 5th Mech Corps became 9th Guards Mech Corps.

I have used that site for years and I have yet to catch it in an error. Once you read the site, you lose a lot of faith for the German intell reports: they sound impressive listing all sorts of Soviet formations at a particular battle; unfortunately the Soviets invariably list different formations 20 - 50 per cent different from the Germans.

I'll make you a deal, if you narrow down your search to a single Mech Corps I'll translate the site info as a public service. But be warned, there will be almost nothing on equipment. However, Zladoga is pretty good on filling in the TOE blank, at least from an authorized POV.

One thing to remember is that Mech Corps almost always fought as part of major operations, meaning they went to battle with a healthy "slice" of Army and Front assets. By late '43 or so you really didn't want to be in the path of one of these formations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you Bigduke6 that is a very kind offer.

I am not surprised that I have got it wrong as I am trying to piece together the unit history from individual battles as I cannot find anything on unit histories in English.

The basic idea is to find a unit with an interesting history and to use that to produce a series of scenarios which shows the development of the mech/tank corps through the war.

I will get back to you with a candidate when I know a little more, Front runner at present is the 4th Mech who led the attack during Uranus, took part in the Donbas campaign until stopped by the first use of Tigers, fought in the Ukraine in 43 at Nikopol-Krvoi and took part in Bagration ending up in Riga getting cut off by III Pz Army. But 10th Tank Corps looks good as well, took part in Mars, Kursk, Dnepr campaign, Korsun operation and ends up in Rumania. Tank Corps might be better as it is half the size!

thanks again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Unfortunately, your content contains terms that we do not allow. Please edit your content to remove the highlighted words below.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...