Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Soviet 112th Rifle Division

The Soviet 112th Red Banner Suvorov Kutuzov STAVKA Rylsko-Korosten Rifle Division

By Phil Gardocki

Organizational History 1941
In 1941, the Red Army had two organization shtat’s, or tables of organization, for its infantry (called “rifle”) divisions. The older shtat, from circa 1939, featured divisions that were, at least on paper, robust beasts including two artillery regiments and a tank battalion. The expansion divisions of 1939 through 1941 were a more realistic model with only one artillery regiment and no tanks. Even this slimmed down version was overly optimistic for many units. In 1941, the 112th Rifle Division had only about 50% of the manpower, 33% of the mandated field artillery, and none of the heavy mortars, antitank guns and transport that was allotted for the following shtat organization.
  • 11,047 men
  • 12 × 12.2cm M1910/30 towed howitzers
  • 24 × 7.62cm towed cannons
  • 24 × 7.62cm towed howitzers
  • 9 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 54 × 5 cm mortars
  • 6 × 3.7cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 481 machineguns
  • 99 trucks
  • 2 cars
  • 307 wagons

This weak division was destroyed at the gates of Moscow in late 1941. A new division with the same designation was raised in the Siberian Military District and was probably originally organized on the March 1942 shtat but converted to the July 1942 shtat while assigned to the strategic reserves in STAVKA. The new model assigned heavy weapons to the regimental level, including 7.62 howitzers, 8.2cm mortars and 4.5 cm antitank guns. One rifle company of each battalion was equipped with 1.27cm antitank rifles*. Although this gun was only effective against lightly armored targets, with ten of these companies to a division, they were everywhere. This antitank rifle served as a bulky but effective sniper weapon.

The artillery regiment was stripped down to twelve 12.2cm howitzers and twenty 7.62 cannons. Rifle division artillery support would remain at this level until after the war. The antitank battalion had more 4.5cm guns, another company of the 1.27cm rifles and the divisional antiaircraft company. As the 112th took three months to form and spent time in the STAVKA reserves, it probably was up to 80-90% strength when went to war in July 1942.

July 1942 Shtat

  • 10,566 men
  • 12 × 12.2cm towed howitzers
  • 12 × 7.62cm towed howitzers
  • 20 × 7.62cm towed cannon
  • 18 × 12cm mortars
  • 85 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 85 × 5cm mortars
  • 48 × 4.5cm towed antitank guns
  • 228 × 1.27cm antitank rifles
  • 6 × 3.7cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 9 × 1.27cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 712 sub-machineguns
  • 477 machineguns
  • 5 cars
  • 145 trucks
  • 721 wagons

The last major reorganization came in December 1942, but equipment was being upgraded all the time until the war’s end. The rifle regiments lost their integral antiaircraft guns, infantry squads were reduced from twelve to nine men but the number of sub-machineguns issued was increased dramatically. Many of the 1.27cm antitank rifles were upsized to the 1.45cm model. As the war continued, the 5cm mortars were slowly replaced by 8.2cm mortars and the antitank battalion was upgraded to 5.7cm guns.
Compliance with reorganizations was haphazard for units at the front. Even the Guards units never got the replacements needed to come up to the levels of a shtat anyway. Typically, a division with an authorized strength of 9,000 men or so would remain at the 2-3,000 man level until an offensive was ordered. Then, replacements would arrive to rapidly bring the division up to fighting strength, although rarely to more than 6,000 men. This is why in war games, that Red Army divisions almost always have strengths equal to German regiments, or worse.
The Soviets formalized their under-strength arrangements, establishing five different manning levels for their rifle divisions.
Class AFull Strength
Class B7,000 men
Class C6,000 men
Class D5,000 men
Class E4, 200 men or less
This was not just for conservation of manpower but for deception as well. The Germans almost always knew what units they were facing but not always the strengths. Once a unit is in place with most of its heavy equipment, it is difficult to evaluate whether it is a class ‘E’ or class ‘A’ division, particularly if, by shipping in 3,000 replacements, its classification changes overnight.
This manning system coincided with the reestablishment of the rifle corps as a viable maneuver element. Rifle corps included two or more rifle divisions, often some independent rifle brigades and corps assets included artillery, supply, and engineers. Effectively, the Soviets rebuilt their army counting a corps as a division and the divisions as its regiments. When you consider that the average Soviet rifle division had only 2,000 men in 1944, even a corps would be a light division by western standards.

June 1943 Shtat

  • 9,354 men
  • 12 × 12.2cm towed howitzers
  • 12 × 7.62cm towed howitzers
  • 20 × 7.62cm towed cannons
  • 18 × 12cm mortars
  • 84 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 56 × 5cm mortars
  • 24 × 5.7cm towed antitank guns
  • 24 4.5cm towed antitank guns
  • 100 × 1.27cm antitank rifles
  • 113 × 1.45cm antitank rifles
  • 1,460 sub-machineguns
  • 600 machineguns
  • 5 cars
  • 130 trucks
  • 780 wagons










June 1944 Shtat

  • 9,425 men
  • 2 × 12.2cm towed howitzers
  • 12 × 7.62cm towed howitzers
  • 24 × 7.62cm towed cannons
  • 21 × 12cm mortars
  • 83 × 8.2cm mortars 24 × 5.7cm towed antitank guns
  • 24 4.5cm towed antitank guns
  • 100 × 1.27cm antitank rifles
  • 113 × 1.45cm antitank rifles
  • 2,110 sub-machineguns
  • 605 machineguns
  • 5 cars
  • 120 trucks
  • 395 wagons

The numbers listed are quite laughable. The reality was that no division was kept even near full strength. With the severe Soviet losses in population and casualties, even the Guards units would typically only be at sixty percent strength at the start of an operation. During the 1944 offensives, priority was given to recruitment in the newly liberated areas.
There are two interesting things of note. There was a large increase of sub-machineguns. These could cause a problem with the supply chain, as a man with a sub-machinegun could consume ten or twenty times as much ammunition as a man with a rifle. There was also the apparent decrease of the number of trucks and wagons to support the supply chain. The reasons for this were simple. The number of trucks in the 1942 division was a fantasy; a 1942 division was lucky to have 2 trucks. By 1944, with over 425,000 trucks delivered by the USA, the 120 truck figure was close to reality. A truck could move two and one-half tons of material over 200 miles per day on good roads and 50 miles a day over poor roads, compared to a wagon, which could move only three-quarters of a ton 15 miles a day. On average, one truck could move as much freight as eleven wagons, required only ten percent of the manpower and consumed less fuel by weight than the fodder for the horses. In all, the real increase in trucks saved manpower and supply load, while dramatically improving the ability for a unit to use its firepower.

Operational History

The 112th started forming in early 1941 as part of the general expansion of the Red Army. When the German’s started their offensive in June, it was stationed in the rear areas and attached to the 22nd Army. While it avoided the major encirclements of the summer, its luck ran out in October, while serving under the 16th Army. Posted to defend the southern approaches to Moscow during the German’s Operation Typhoon, the 112th was destroyed near Vayazma.

A second 112th Rifle Division was formed early in 1942 near Novosibirsk. As most of the military age men in Siberia were already under arms, the manpower of this division was mainly pulled from the gulags. After three months, it was railed west and spent a short time in STAVKA reserve before being assigned to the 64th Army, Stalingrad Front, in July. Absorbing heavy losses, the division took part in the general retreat towards the city of Stalingrad. In August, the division, was assigned to the 62nd Army, and was part of the defense of the city, where it was fought down to a strength of only 150 men. General Vasily I. Chuikov, the commander of the 62nd Army and the defender of Stalingrad, reportedly considered it one of his most effective units.

After withdrawal from Stalingrad, the division was reassigned to the STAVKA reserves in the Volga Military District and rebuilt. From there, in March 1943, it was assigned to the Central Front, and eventually to the 24th Rifle Corps, 60th Army. The division took part in the defense of Kursk and then in the subsequent general offensive action across the Ukraine. By the end of the year, it was part of the 24th Rifle Corps, 13th Army, 1st Ukrainian Front.

As divisional histories go, this was one of the hundreds of divisions, whose role it was to take up space, bleed the enemy, and provide support for units with more panache, mobility and firepower. For it's efforts, the 112th was awarded with 4 orders, Suvorov, Red Banner, and Kutuzov and STAVKA. And two honorifics, Rylskaya and Korostenskaya.

* The 1.27cm antitank rifle and its upgrade, the 1.45cm antitank rifle, was a concept from the 1930s, when a tank punching, man-portable rifle could exist. It could penetrate 2 or 2.5 cm of armor at 300 meters. This was adequate against lightly armored vehicles like the German Panzer II or the Soviet the BT-5 but not against any heavier tanks. The dream of a man-portable tank killer was not realized until the invention of the Bazooka, or Panzerfaust, the predecessors to today’s Soviet and Russian RPGs.


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