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3rd Mechanised Corps (Soviet Union)


3rd Mechanised Corps (Soviet Union)

20th Guards Motor Rifle Division
8th Guards Mechanised Division
8th Guards Mechanised Corps
3rd Mechanised Corps
Active Mid 1930s - c.2009
Country Soviet Union, Russian Federation
Branch Red Army, Russian Ground Forces
Garrison/HQ Volgograd
Engagements Baltic Operation (1941)
Mikhail Katukov, Major General Kurkin

The 20th Motor Rifle Division (Cyrillic: 20 гвардейская мотострелковая Прикарпатско-Берлинская дивизия) is a formation of the Russian Ground Forces, originally formed within the Soviet Red Army as the 3rd Mechanised Corps.

The first formation of 1940

The 3rd Mechanised Corps was first formed in July 1940,[1] and on 22 June 1941, was stationed at Vilnius in the Baltic Military District under MG A.V. Kurkin. It consisted of 2nd Tank Division (ru:2-я танковая дивизия (СССР)), 5th Tank Division, 84th Motorised Division, 15th Motorcycle Regiment, an artillery regiment, and engineer and signals battalions.[2] On 22 June, the 2nd Tank Division was located in the forest in Gajzhuny, in the Ionava area, the 5th Tank Division was positioned to defend the Neman bridge near Alitus, and the 84th Motorised Division - was in forest in the Kajshadoris area.[3] On 22 June 1941, the 3rd Mechanised Corps had 31,975 men & 651 tanks, of which 110 were new T-34 and KV-1 types.[4]

The Corps was heavily engaged in the first battles of Operation Barbarossa,[5] particularly during the Baltic Operation (1941) and at the Battle of Raseiniai.

On 24 June 1941, a single KV-2 heavy tank of 2nd Tank Division, at a crossroads in front of Raseiniai, managed to cut off elements of the 6th Panzer Division which had established bridgeheads on the Dubysa. It stalled the Division's advance for a full day while being attacked by a variety of antitank weapons, until it finally ran out of ammunition.[6] General Erhard Raus, the Officer commanding 6th Panzer Division's Kampfgruppe Raus, which was the unit held up by the lone vehicle, described the incident.[7] Raus said that the vehicle was damaged by several shots from a 88 Anti-Tank Gun firing at the vehicle from behind whilst it was distracted by Panzer 35(t) tanks from Panzer Battalion 65 and the crew were killed by grenades from a Pioneer Engineer unit. The grenades were pushed through two holes made by the gun whilst the turret had started moving again, the other five or six shots having not apparently penetrated completely. The crew had remarkably only been apparently stunned by the shots which had entered the turret. Afterwards they were buried nearby with honours by the German soldiers of the unit held up.

However by early July the Corps had virtually ceased to exist as a formation, though remnants rejoined Soviet lines later. For example, the 5th Tank Division was at Yelnya by 4 July 1941, and consisted of 2,552 men and a total of 2 BT-7 tanks and four armoured cars. The 2nd Tank Division was encircled and destroyed at Raseiniai and the 5th Tank Division was encircled and destroyed at the Battle of Białystok–Minsk[8]b and was disbanded shortly after.[9][10]c

The second formation of 1942

The Corps was formed for the second time on 18 September 1942 at Kalinin in the Moscow Military District. General Lieutenant M.E. Katukov took command. It was initially assigned to the 22nd Army of the Kalinin Front. It took part in Operation Mars[12] alongside the 22nd Army. At the beginning of Operation Mars 3rd Mechanised Corps consisted of 232 tanks. Hamazasp Babadzhanian, who commanded the 3rd Mechanised Brigade of the corps, mentioned this operation briefly in his memoirs, quoting a conversation with 22nd Army commander, V. A. Iushkevich, who said, “We will conduct a rather serious offensive together with Western Front forces—we must liquidate the enemy Rzhev grouping.”[13]

The Corps then fought in the Battle of Kursk, then fought across the Ukraine with the Central, Belorussian, and 1st Belorussian Fronts. On 23 October 1943, it was awarded ‘Guards’ status and re-designated the 8th Guards Mechanised Corps. In 1944, it took part in the Zhitomir-Berdichev, Korsun-Shevchenkovsky, Proskurov-Chernovits, and Lvov-Sandomir battles, in April gaining the 'Carpathian' honorific. It ended the war in Berlin after participating in the Warsaw-Poznan and East Pomeranian offensives. As part of the occupation forces, it was assigned to the 1st Guards Tank Army (later 1st Guards Mechanised Army).

In the immediate post-war period, the Corps was reorganised as the 8th Guards Mechanised Division. In 1957, it was reorganised as the 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division, bearing honorifics: Carpathia-Berlin, Red Banner, Order of Suvorov. In 1959, the division was transferred to the 18th Guards Army, which had been up to 1957, the 3rd Guards Mechanised Army. It took part in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia as part of the 1st Guards Tank Army, although when it returned to East Germany, it reverted to the control of the 18th Guards Army. When 18th Guards Army was disbanded in 1979, the division was transferred to the 1st Guards Tank Army, where it remained until it was withdrawn from Germany in 1991.

The division was withdrawn from Germany in 1991, and moved to Volgograd in the North Caucasus Military District. It is currently garrisoned in Volgograd, with parts of the division having taken part in the First and Second Chechen Wars.

As part of the reorganisation of the Russian Ground Forces, it was reported by to have been disbanded to be reformed as separate motor rifle brigades.

Order of Battle in 1989-90, Germany

a. Division Headquarters – Grimma 51° 13’ 50” North, 12° 06’ 10” East
b. 29th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment (BMP) – Plauen 50° 29’ 30” North, 12° 06’ 10” East
c. 67th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment (BMP) – Grimma 51° 13’ 40” North, 12° 42’ 20” East
d. 242nd Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment (BTR) – Würzen 51° 22’ 50” North, 12° 43’ 40” East
e. 95th Tank Regiment – Glauchou 50° 48’ 40” North, 12° 33’ 10” East (in 1989, the 95th Tank Regiment was reorganized as the 576th Motorized Rifle Regiment)
f. 944th Guards Self-Artillery Regiment - Leisnig 52° 09’ 30” North, 12° 54’ 50” East
g. 358th Guards Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment – Leisnig 51° 09’ 10” North, 12° 55’ 10” East
h. 20th Independent Tank Battalion – Pommsen 51° 13’ 30” North, 12° 36’ 10” East
i. 487th Independent Anti-Tank Artillery Battalion – Oshatz 51° 17’ 40” North, 13° 07’ 40” East
j. 320th Independent Missile Battalion (SS-21)
k. 68th Independent Reconnaissance & Radio EW Battalion – Plauen 50° 29’ 30” North, 12° 06’ 10” East
l. 454th Independent Signals Battalion – Grimma 51° 13’ 50” North, 12° 42’ 20” East
m. 133rd Independent Guards Engineer-Sapper Battalion – Leisnig 51° 21’ 40” North, 12° 27’ 00” East
n. 153rd Independent Chemical Defense Battalion
o. 39th Independent Repair-Reconstruction Battalion 51° 21’ 40” North, 12° 27’ 00” East
p. 347th Independent Medical-Sanitation Battalion
q. 1124th Independent Material Support Battalion


  • b By 25 June The remnants of 5th Tank Division has been driven into the Area of Control of the Western Front to be destroyed later at the Bialystok-Minsk encirclement & a report by the fronts General Staff said "the remains of Northwestern Front's 5th Tank Division are concentrated 5 kilometres south east of Molodechno; 3 Tanks, 12 Armoured Cars, and 40 trucks".
  • c On 11 July 1941 Col P Poluboiarov, Northwestern Front armoured directorate reported that the 3rd Mechanised Corps had 'completely perished' having only 400 men remaining who escaped encirclement with 2nd Tank Division & only 1 Bt-7 tank.

Sources and references

  • Keith E. Bonn, Slaughterhouse: the Handbook of the Eastern Front, Aberjona Press, Bedford, PA, 2005, p. 351

Further reading

  • Brian Taylor, Barbarossa To Berlin A Chronology of the Campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941 to 1945, 2003, Spellmount Ltd, ISBN 1-86227-206-9
  • David Glantz (2003), 'Before Stalingrad Barbarossa - Hitler's Invasion of Russia 1941', Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-2692-3
  • Christer Bergstrom, (2007) 'Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941, Ian Allan Publishing.ISBN 1-85780-270-5
  • Craig Crofoot, document on Group of Soviet Forces Germany accessible at, including Conventional Forces in Europe data exchange material
  • David Glantz (1998), 'Stumbling Colossus - The Red Army On The Eve of World War', Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0879-6

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