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Artillery during World War II (period from 1944–1945)

Artillery during World War II (period from 1944–1945)

 

Soviet people met the year 1944 with confidence in the victory over the enemy.

Battle near Sapun Mountain. M. N. Domashchenko. 1947.

 This belief was based on the growing economic and military power of the country. The Red Army firmly kept its strategic initiative. The task was set to clear the homeland from the enemy, to help people of Europe in liberation from fascism, and to finish the war with a crushing defeat of the enemy on the territory of Germany.

The rout of fascist troops near Leningrad and Novgorod marks a special place among the ten most significant operations of the Red Army in 1944. It was planned to completely liberate Leningrad from the siege and to throw the enemy back outside of the Leningrad region. The task was brilliantly fulfilled by troops of the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts in the winter of 1944. The order issued in this connection by the Military Council of the Leningrad Front appreciated not only the merits of the troops but also of residents in the besieged city, who defended Leningrad. They forged victory by their heroic labor and iron-­like tenacity to overcome all difficulties and privations of the siege and gave out all of their efforts for the victory. The order contained congratulations for the victory near Leningrad. Visitors can see photos of the holiday salute, which was fired at the Marsovo Pole [Mars Field], the Neva embankment and from the ships of the Baltic fleet in honor of the victory on January 27, 1944.

Among the exhibits connected with the defeat of German­-fascist troops near Leningrad and Novgorod and the liberation of Leningrad from the 900‑day siege is a decree by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR awarding the city with the Order of Lenin. The title of a Hero­-City was conferred to Leningrad in 1965.

One of the glass-­cases displays a monocular telescope used by General of the Army L. Govorov, Commander of the Leningrad Front, as well as blank weapons from Marshal of Artillery G. Odintsov, Commander of the Artillery at the Leningrad Front, and other personal belongings. 

A pivotal place is given in this section of the display to combat relics — a symbol of courage, valor and heroism of artillerist. They are as follows:

A 45‑mm cannon Model 1937 #3767, commander — senior sergeant N. Rytov, Hero of the Soviet Union. He silenced the enemy’s pill­box with direct fire in one of the battles to control a strategic point near the settlement of Ropsha on January 16, 1944. This secured the capture of an advantageous line. He was wounded while repulsing the enemy’s counter­attack and then blew himself up along with the enemies who were surrounding him with the last grenade. He was included in the lists of his unit forever.

A 76‑mm cannon Model 1942 #15588, commander — senior sergeant A. Manin, Hero of the Soviet Union. He distinguished himself in a battle for the settlement of Voiskovitsy (Leningrad region) on January 21, 1944. He put the leading tank out of action with the first shot. Twice wounded he kept on fighting and then perished in the battle.

A 76‑mm cannon Model 1936 #118, commander — senior sergeant I. Poliakov, Hero of the Soviet Union. He destroyed three pill­boxes and two guns in the battle near the Pulkovo hills on January 16, 1944. After the breach of the enemy’s defence he fought in the rear. Repulsing enemy attacks he destroyed more than a platoon of fascists, 10 machine­guns, put four tanks out of action and kept the line until Soviet units came.

A large­-caliber Degtiarev-­Shpagin machine­gun Model 1938 № DO­1075, commander of the anti­aircraft machine­gun platoon — Second Lieutenant I. Grafov, Hero of the Soviet Union. His team participated in the battle on the Narva place of arms on February 22, 1944. Placing ground fire it held off 11 counter­attacks, destroyed two heavy and three light machine­guns and many Hitlerites. Grafov was wounded, but continued the battle and perished in a hand­-to-­hand fight. Commander of the anti­aircraft machine­gun squad A. Rumiantsev took upon himself command of the platoon and the occupied line was kept until rifle sub­units arrived. The title of a Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred as well to Rumiantsev.

Battle colors of artillery units and formations are displayed in the room. Among them are the battle colors of the 1428th Light Artillery Regiment. Evidence of battles, 47 bullet and fragmentation holes, are on its cloth. During the battles near Leningrad the enemy succeeded in breaking through to the regiment’s staff, but could not capture the colors. Warriors of the staff saved it without regard for their own lives. Their photos and personal belongings are placed in a glass-­case. The staff of the regiment was awarded with orders and medals for their courage and bravery shown during the raising of the siege. In addition, titles of a Hero of the Soviet Union were conferred to several of them.

Between December 1943 and May 1944, significant operations were undertaken in Ukraine. As a result, Soviet troops liberated the territory of Ukraine located on the right bank of the Dnieper, Crimea, and part of Moldavia. On March 26, 1944, the troops came out to the state border of the USSR, restored it for a distance of 400 km and entered the territory of Germany’s ally, Romania. The Soviet Government stated on April 2, 1944, that it did not strive to acquire any part of the Romanian territory or change its state formation. The bringing of troops was exceptionally required by the military as a necessity due to continued enemy opposition. 

The USA and Great Britain evaded obligations they had taken upon themselves to open a second front in Europe. However, when it became clear that the USSR would be able to rout fascist Germany with its own forces the allies carried out the Normandy naval landing operation, the most significant one of World War II. The landing of British­-American troops on the territory of North-­Western France opened the second front on June 6, 1944. 56–75 divisions of the Wehrmacht opposed the allied troops. Nevertheless, the Soviet-­German front was still the main one in World War II. The main forces of the Wehrmacht, 190–270 divisions, operated there from 1941–1945.

The scheme of the Normandy operation is displayed in the room. Also exhibited are several photos, including a portrait of American General D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander­-in­-Chief of the expedition forces in Europe, British Field­-Marshal B. Montgomery Commander of the group of allied armies, as well as the standard of the 762nd Field Artillery Battalion, uniforms for artillerists and small­-arms adopted in the USA’s army.

As a result of successful military operations from June­-August 1944 at the Karelia isthmus and in Karelia the menace of war to Leningrad from the North was fully liquidated. On September 19, the armistice agreement was signed. Finland withdrew from the war even before the complete downfall of the fascist block. During the battles, Soviet troops broke through the system of permanent constructions meant for long resistance. Large-caliber guns, which occupied positions of direct fire, played a decisive role in this.

The display includes two photos of pill­boxes. The pill­box on a nameless hill had a ceiling height of 5 m.  It was made of logs and stones put in two rows. The reinforced three-­storied concrete pill­box fortress called Millionaire, with its 2‑m thick walls was destroyed by a battery of 203‑mm howitzers commanded by Hero of the Soviet Union I. Vedmedenko. The family team, consisting of M. Kocheshkova (commander) and her two sons, Dmitrii and Vladimir, successfully operated an 82‑mm mortar in these battles. A photo of the crew is placed on the stand.

The liberation of Belorussia and Eastern Poland from June­-August 1944 was realized during the successful Belorussian strategic operation conventionally called Bagration. It was one of the most outstanding operations not only during the Great Patriotic War, but in all of World War II. It showed the heroism of Soviet warriors including artillerists, the high level of development in the art of war, and the commanding maturity of military commanders. Troops from four fronts participated in this operation. They broke through the defence of the enemy and surrounded it in the Vitebsk and Bobruisk areas, routed the Orsha and Mogilev groups, and then surrounded and destroyed the main forces of groups from the Center armies near Minsk. As a result of these battles, Belorussia, parts of Lithuania and Latvia, and the eastern districts of Poland were liberated. In addition, favorable conditions were created for a further offensive in the direction of Berlin.

The results of these operations stunned the enemy. 70 German divisions were routed and 30 divisions were surrounded, taken prisoner or destroyed. German forces lost 409,400 soldiers and officers, including 255,400 irretrievably. During the operation, 200 thousand German soldiers and officers were taken as prisoners. 57,600 German soldiers, officers and generals, prisoners of war who had been captured in Belorussia, were convoyed along the streets of Moscow. 

The skills and mastership of artillerists achieved a new qualitative level during the Belorussian operation. The artillery was decisively concentrated in the directions chosen for the breach. The planning of the artillery attacks was realized on the basis of special instructions issued by the artillery staff on different fronts. The artillery supported the infantry attack and the tanks with a parallel barrage for the first time in this operation. Such a method of attack support increased the reliability of neutralizing the enemy’s fire means and protecting the attacking infantry and tanks from them. This is visually shown on an electrified model­-scheme displayed in the room. Visitors also can see numerous exhibits describing operations of artillerists, workers at the rear and partisans. Among them are the battle colors of the 325th Guards Mortar Mogilev Regiment, which was awarded with the Order of the Red Banner, the Order of Kutuzov and the Order of Alexander Nevsky.

Volley of the guard mortars. A. A. Blinkov. 1947.

 It was formed in March 1943 and started tactical operations on March 26. The regiment participated in the Kursk battle, Belorussian and Vistula-Oder operations and completed battles near the cities of Schwerin and Stenberg, where it finally met American troops.

Placed on a base in the room is a cannon Model 1942 #11512 which participated in battles for the liberation of Lithuania. The gun team commanded by senior sergeant N. Sazonov, Hero of the Soviet Union, destroyed 8 tanks of the Wehrmacht near the city of Shauliai on August 19, 1944. The artillery materiel produced by the Soviet industry in 1944 is on display, as well. It is represented by an 85‑mm anti­aircraft artillery cannon Model 1944; a PUAZO­4 gun director; an RP­15–1 150‑sm radio-­projector station; an M­31 UK 300‑mm rocket shell; models of the 160‑mm mortar Model 1943, ISU­152 and SU­100 self-­propelled assault guns, and a BM­12 fighting vehicle. 

The display includes documents about the participation of the 1st Polish Army and the French  Normandie-Nieman air regiment in the liberation of Belorussia. The heroic operations of the latter, covering for Soviet troops near the river Nieman, were highly appreciated by General of the Army I. Cherniakhovskii, Commander of the 3rd Belorussian Front. He wrote the following to Major L. Delfino, commander of the regiment: “The Soviet people will never forget the heroic exploits of your unit in the common struggle against German-­fascist aggressors. We greet the great freedom­-loving French people and their army in the person of your unit that heroically fights for the complete rout of Hitlerite Germany.”

Visitors can see trophy German arms: an 88‑mm anti­tank cannon; a 158.5‑mm 15‑barreled rocket mortar; a 20‑mm anti­aircraft Oerlikon cannon; Offenror and Panzerschrek anti­tank rocket rifles; a Panzerfaust anti­tank recoilless rocket launcher (Faust­cartridge), as well as models of  German tanks and assault guns. The displayed 120‑mm mortar made in Germany during the war is an exact copy of the Soviet 120‑mm mortar Model 1938.

During World War II, the Red Army not only upheld the liberty and independence of the homeland, but realized the liberating mission, saving peoples of the world from fascist enslavement. Approximately 7 million Soviet troops participated in the liberating mission.  They completely or partially liberated the territory of ten countries in Europe and two countries in Asia.

Various exhibits displayed on stands, in glass-­cases and on podiums tell about the liberating mission of the Red Army. One of the glass­-cases shows the Bulgarian Order For Military Merits and a deed for it. This order in particular was conferred to General-­Colonel M. Nedelin, Commander of the 3rd Ukrainian Front, Hero of the Soviet Union. On the stand are photos of two more Heroes of the Soviet Union, Colonel I. S. Basov and Captain N. Volkov. The display includes the colors of units that liberated the Baltic region; the 770th Artillery Riga Regiment and the 376th Howitzer Artillery Mitava Regiment, awarded with the Order of Suvorov.

The glass­-case displays photos of designer A. Sudaev and his 7.62‑mm submachine gun Model 1943.

During the liberation of Hungary, Soviet troops fought serious battles for ten days to repulse the enemy’s tank counter­attacks near the Balaton Lake. The feat of second technician-­lieutenant S. Ermolaev is depicted on the painting by front artist Chernoknizhnyi. The platoon under his command put 4 tanks out of action near the settlement of Zamoi (Hungary) on January 11, 1945. When guns and teams were disabled S. Ermolaev rushed under the enemy’s tank with a bunch of grenades and put it out of action. The title of a Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred to him posthumously. Also exhibited are photos of Guards senior sergeant I. Malmygin, gun commander, who participated in battles for the liberation of Moldavia, Romania, Yugoslavia and Hungary. One of the glass­-cases also displays samples of small-­arms adopted in the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia. 

Operations of the Red Army artillery near Knigsberg were notable for the destruction of permanent fortifications (their photos are on display). Powerful and super-­heavy guns with the caliber of 152–305 mm were used to accomplish this task. A number of exhibits are dedicated to activities of General of the Army I. Cherniakhovskii, Commander of the 3rd Belorussian Front, who was mortally wounded on February 18, 1945. Visitors can see here the colors of the 101st Howitzer Artillery Knigsberg Regiment, awarded with the Order of Kutuzov, and personal belongings of majors V. Drozdov and Karpov, officers of this regiment, along with photos of participants of the storm of K­önigs­berg Lieutenant A. Kosmodemiyanskii, Hero of the Soviet Union (brother of famous partisan Zoya Kosmodemiyanskaia, Hero of the Soviet Union) and senior sergeant N. Kuznetsov, Hero of the Soviet Union, Holder of the Order of Glory, and a medal For the Capture of Königsberg.

The considerable territory of Poland was liberated in the Vistula-­Oder operation (January 12 — February 3, 1945). By the request of the allies this operation started earlier than it had been scheduled and swiftly developed. Soviet troops advanced more than 500 km in 23 days and came to approach Berlin, the capital of fascist Germany. The Red Army completely destroyed 35 German divisions during the operation. 25 enemy divisions lost half or more of their forces and combat devices. 147,400 German soldiers and officers were taken as prisoners. About 14 thousand guns and mortars, 1.4 thousand tanks and assault guns were captured. Moscow saluted 25 times in honor of victories won by troops of the 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian Fronts. Sometimes four or five artillery salutes lit up Moscow’s sky late into the night. The capital had never saluted as often as it did in January 1945. A photo is placed on one of the stands which captures the moment of hoisting the Polish flag by Soviet and Polish soldiers above liberated Warsaw. 

The liberated territory was covered with a network of concentration camps from the fascist occupation. Thousands of Soviet prisoners of war and anti­fascists from other European countries languished there. Visitors can see some things which belonged to prisoners, as well as instruments of torture used in the Majdanek concentration camp.

The display includes colors of the 17th Artillery Kiev­-Zhitomir Division awarded with the Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner and Order of Suvorov, the 86th Guards Mortar Uman­-Warsaw Regiment awarded with the Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov, Order of Kutuzov and Order of Alexander Nevsky, and a 37‑mm self-­operated anti­aircraft cannon Model 1939 #78381 commanded by senior sergeant N. Andriushko, Hero of the Soviet Union. It was he who personally destroyed an enemy tank and many Hitlerites by firing at ground targets, repulsing the counter­attack in the fight near the settlement of Poslowica (Poland) on January 15, 1945.

After defeating Hitlerites in Eastern Prussia, Eastern Pomerania and Silesia, Soviet troops came out to the Oder and Neisse with an extended front by the spring of 1945. From that time, they started to prepare for the decisive battle for Berlin, which was only 60 km from them. This was undertaken from April 16 to May 8, 1945. The increased skill and iron will for victory were convincingly demonstrated by Soviet soldiers and officers, both during the breach of the strong defence and the destruction of the surrounded enemy. While the rout of the 300‑thousand group near Stalingrad took more than two months, the destruction of the 500‑thousand group of German­-fascist troops in Berlin required only 7 days. 

The stand dedicated to the beginning of this operation displays schemes and photos of the deeply echeloned defence prepared by Germans on approaching the capital of the Reich and in Berlin itself. The glass-­cases show exhibits elucidating the preparation of Soviet troops to accomplish the operation. Artillerists had to place more than 40 thousand guns and mortars in firing positions, to get their bearings on proper locations, and to solve problems of reciprocity with other arms of the service.

The End. The Last Days of the Hitler’s Quarters in the Reich Chancellery Bunker. From the painting by Kukryniksy. 1947-1948.

The starting of the Berlin operation is shown on the diorama The Battle on the Oder Place of Arms (painters — P. Koretskii, I. Evstigneev, N. Andriyaka, F. Sachko).

Several stands are dedicated to the course of the operation. One of them contains a scheme of firing positions of the division commanded by Major A. Ziukin who was the first to open fire at targets in Berlin on April 20, 1945. One of the guns from this division is placed in the vestibule of the Museum. Also exhibited on the stand is a telegram from Chief Marshal of Artillery N. Voronov to artillerists of the 1st Belorussian Front.

The storming of the Reichstag is pictured in V. Buntov’s painting. Visitors can also see nearby a model of the Reichstag after its capture made by participants in battles for Berlin, as well as photos with the engraved moment of hoisting flags over Berlin. Sergeants M. Egorov and M. Kantaria hoisted the Red banner on the Reichstag during the night of May 1.  This one became the Banner of the Victory.

It should be noted that many flags were fixed on the building of the Reichstag. A group of artillerists commanded by Captain V. Makov was one of the first to hoist one of them. The volunteers he headed, senior sergeants A. Bobrov, G. Zagibov, A. Lisimenko and sergeant M. Minin, participated in the storm and immediately rushed to the roof of the Reichstag and fastened the flag to one of the sculptures on the right tower of the building. This took place at 22.40 on April 30.

The display includes guns that participated in the storming of Berlin. One of them is a 76‑mm cannon Model 1942. Its team went along the roads of war from Kursk to Berlin, destroyed 33 tanks and 21 assault guns, and made the first shot at Berlin by the order of senior sergeant I. Rodionov, commander of the gun, at 18.10 on April 21, 1945. Another exhibit is a 152‑mm howitzer Model 1909/30, which fired on the Reichstag from a distance of 300 meters, under the command of senior sergeant M. Ignatiev. Glass­-cases show personal belongings of Heroes of the Soviet Union who participated in battles in Berlin — I. Klochkov, F. Kosmach, B. Babaev, M. Mikhailichenko, N. Sazonov, S. Volkov and P. Kosenko.

Several colors of artillery units and formations that took part in the Berlin operation are on display as well. Documents and photos showing the unconditional surrender of fascist Germany and completing the liberation of Czechoslovakia are also exhibited. 

On April 5, 1945, the government of the Soviet Union denounced the neutrality agreement and fulfilled the decisions of the Crimean and Potsdam conferences, declaring the war with Japan on August 8.  Military operations started the next day. 

In August, Soviet troops and the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Army destroyed the million-­strong Guangdong army. The act of surrender by Japan was signed on September 2, 1945. The Soviet Union made a significant contribution to completing the rout of Japanese armed forces and thus victoriously finishing World War II.

The displayed scheme, documents, numerous photos and two paintings The Rout of the Hailar Fortified District of the Japanese by V. Usypenko and The Soviet Artillery Crossing the Big Khingan Mountain Ridge by V. Nechaev give an idea about the tactical operations of Soviet and Mongolian troops. 

Visitors can see the colors of the 3rd Guards Artillery Vitebsk-­Hingan Division awarded with the Order of the Red Banner, Orders of Suvorov and Kutuzov, along with photos and personal belongings of its commander General­-Major of Artillery S. Popov, which trace the fighting path of the division.

Great attention was paid during World War II to the training of military specialists. Artillerists were trained in artillery and artillery-­technical colleges. There were courses for second lieutenants and artillery technicians, the Artillery Academy, high education schools and educational regiments for officers. More than 200 thousand persons were educated this way. Badges for graduation from these educational institutions, a photo with outstanding artillery commanders of the period of the Great Patriotic War who made a great contribution to the training of artillery cadres, V. Yakovlev’s painting The Assembly of the Military Council of the Artillery during the Great Patriotic War, and photos depicting orders conferred to artillery educational institutions are on display.

Due to the great patriotism and heroic work of the Soviet people, the coordinated work of managers of the defence industry and the Main Artillery Administration, equipment constantly increased during the war for the armed forces of the USSR, with modern machinery and appliances. The displayed documents give reason to think that the economy of the Soviet Union was more effective than the economy of fascist Germany in wartime. The Soviet Union in general produced 2–5 times less industry, but gave military equipment totalling 1.25–5 times as much for the front. The patriotism of the Soviet people was strikingly shown in the movement to collect funds for providing the front with arms. Visitors can see guns made from the money of patriot­-soldiers and workers in the rear. Among them is a 122‑mm howitzer Model 1938 made from the donation of a young patriot Tolia Andriyenko, who had found jewels robbed by fascists and hidden in Odessa, which were then passed to the Country Defence Foundation. 

One of the stands displays documents of a general nature elucidating the number and national composition of Heroes of the Soviet Union and a photo of the multinational team of a 122‑mm howitzer of the 6th Battery of the 4th Guards Air-­Landing Artillery Regiment that was awarded with the Order of Kutuzov.

The names of artillerists, Heroes of the Soviet Union who were enlisted in units of the Red Army forever, are inscribed on a special marble plaque. There also are busts of twice Heroes of the Soviet Union officers-­artillerists, A. Shilin and V. Petrov. The former distinguished himself during the crossing of the Dnieper on October 15, 1943, and in battles near the Vistula on January 15, 1945. The latter showed his heroism during the forced crossing of the Dnieper on September 23, 1943, and in battles to keep the place of arms on the left bank of the Oder on April 19–20, 1945. The title of a Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred to 1,959 artillerists for their unexampled courage. 1,927 artillerists became holders of the Order of Glory.

The display finishes with exhibits about the Victory Parade on Red Square in Moscow. The glass­-cases show trophy arms, colors and awards from fascist Germany and militarist Japan. 

Visitors may pay attention to a large carpet that decorates the room. It was made by the order of commanders of the Red Army artillery for an exhibition The Soviet Artillery during the Great Patriotic War which opened in Moscow in December 1945.