3rd Shock Army

3rd Shock Army (1945-54)
3rd Combined Arms Army (1954-74)
3rd 'Red Banner' Combined Arms Army (1974-92)
Active 1941–1991
Country USSR
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Branch Regular Army
Type Shock Army
Size 4 Corps and 2 Independent Regiments
Part of Military District
Engagements Toropets–Kholm Offensive
Vistula–Oder Offensive
East Pomeranian Offensive
Battle of Berlin

The 3rd Shock Army (Russian: Третья ударная армия) was a field army of the Red Army formed during the Second World War. The 'Shock' armies were created with the specific structure to engage and destroy significant enemy forces, and were reinforced with more armoured and artillery assets than other combined arms armies. Where necessary the Shock armies were reinforced with mechanised, tank and cavalry formations and units. During the Second World War, some Shock armies included armoured trains and air-sled equipped units.[1]

Campaign history

Campaign history

The Army was created from the 60th Army (1st formation), which had been formed in the Moscow Military District in November 1941.[2] Initially, 60th Army comprised the 334th, 336th, 348th, 352nd, 358th, and 360th Rifle Divisions and the 11th Cavalry Division, and was tasked to fortify the left bank of the Volga River from Unza to Kosmodemiansk.

60th Army was converted into 3rd Shock Army on 25 December 1941, under the command of General Lieutenant Maksim Purkayev. On 1 January 1942, the Army was composed of the 23rd, 33rd and 257th Rifle Divisions, 20th, 27th, 31st, 42nd, 45th and 54th Separate Rifle Brigades, and a number of artillery and other units. The Shock Army was also singled out by having its own aviation units attached in view of its intended use. These units included: 163rd Fighter Aviation Regiment (Yak-1), 728th Fighter Aviation Regiment (Polikarpov I-16), 128th short-range bombing regiment (Pe-2), 621st aviation regiment (R-5) and 663rd aviation regiment (Po-2). However, by the beginning of April, this was reduced to one light-bombing regiment (12 Po-2) and three fighter regiments with 12 Polikarpov I-16s in total.

It was initially a part of the Moscow Defense Zone in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command (RVGK). However, 3rd Shock was soon allocated to join North-Western Front from 27 December 1941 as part of the Moscow counteroffensive. Matters were not improved by the lack of supplies, aggravated by horrible communications; the assault troops did not get a full meal before the offensive due to food shortages.[3]

However, after a few days the offensive – the Toropets-Kholm operation – began to roll forward, with 3rd Shock approaching Kholm, but it was getting dangerously separated from its neighbour, 4th Shock Army. By mid January, 3rd Shock had surrounded Kholm and its forward units had cut the road between Kholm and Toropets. Kholm itself was surrounded on 22 January (but never taken and relieved on 5 May). With some success in view, Stalin widened the operation's goals, and with a Stavka directive of 19 January directed 3rd Shock, as part of the wider operation, to head for Velikie Luki, and thence to Vitebsk, Orsha, and Smolensk.[4] Two days later, 3rd Shock was shifted from North-Western Front to the Kalinin Front. However, the forces available were becoming dangerously thin for the enormous tasks that Stalin was setting them. But the Army got no further than Velikie Luki (though not taking the town) in the face of stiffening German resistance and shortages of food, fuel, and ammunition. Velikie Luki was finally taken by the Kalinin Front on 17 January 1943.

The Army's next major effort was as part of the Nevel'-Gorodok offensive operation in October- November 1943. Nevel was taken at the start of the offensive on 6 October 1943. Kalinin Front had been renamed Baltic Front on 13 October 1943,[5] and under Yeremenko, used two armies on the left flank, 43rd and 49th, to distract the Germans’ attention from his main blow, from 3rd and 4th Shock Armies against Third Panzer Army focused on the Nevel area.[6] This would see the Soviets astride the routes leading to the rear of Army Group North and cut vital rail links.

Following the Starorussa-Novorzhev offensive operation (February 1944), the Army's next attack was as part of 2nd Baltic Front's July 1944 offensive – the Rezhitsa-Dvina offensive operation. Kicking off on 10 July, 3rd Shock Army had reached the Velikaya River by 12 July, captured the bridges despite the demolition charges laid on them, and gone on to outflank Idritsa. Idritsa was liberated that same day. Five days later the Army liberated Sebezh after a deep outflanking movement. Rezhitsa (now Rēzekne, Latvia) was taken on 26 July 1944, with the help of 10th Guards Army. 2nd Baltic Front was now facing central Latvia, and on 2 August 1944 the armies were on the march again, with 3rd Shock tasked to move south of Lake Lubań and on to south of Madon, but after the Soviet forces seized Krustpils, some heavy fighting followed with only limited success. 3rd Shock forced a passage over a tributary of the Dvina River, the Oger, on 19 August, but then had to fend off a strong German attack mounted by three divisions with air support. Slowly the Soviets moved toward Riga, but the emphasis was shifted south, and 2nd Baltic Front found itself playing a supporting role from early October as Bagramyan's First Baltic Front raced for the Baltic coastline itself to sever the remaining connection between the German forces in East Prussia and those in Latvia and Estonia. Riga fell on 13 October and the remaining German forces in the area were bottled up in the Courland area.[7]

3rd Shock then took part in the blockade of the Courland pocket, and the first Soviet attacks started on 16 October. However, by the end of October, it was seen that despite some advances, there was little hope for full success, and the Army was shifted south. 3rd Shock became part of the 1st Belorussian Front from 31 December 1944. The Army was placed in the second echelon for the Warsaw-Poznań' strategic offensive operation, attacking in the direction of Poznań under Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front. It then took part in the Vistula-Oder Offensive between 12.1.1945 – 3.2.1945.

As the Army moved quickly across Poland in March 1945, during the Eastern-Pomeranian strategic offensive operation, it liberated a number of cities: Vangerin (now Vengozhino, Poland) and Labes (now Lobez, Poland)(together with the troops of the 1st Guards Tank Army) on 3 March, and Frayenvalde (now Khotsivel, Poland) and Regenvalde (now Resko, Poland) on 4 March 1945. The same day, in conjunction with the Polish 1st Army and the 1st Guards Tank Army, 3rd Shock entered Dramburg (now Dravsko-Pomorske, Poland). A day later, 3rd Shock entered Gyultsov (now Golchevo, Poland), and on 6 March: Kammin (now Kamen'-Pomorski, Poland). On 7 March, 3rd Shock entered Shtepenitts (now Stepnitsa, Poland), and liberated Gollnov (now Golenyuv, Poland) together with troops of the 2nd Guards Tank Army.

The Army was in the second echelon of the 1st Belorussian Front in the Battle of Berlin.[8]

In April 1945, the 3rd Shock Army (HQ Stendal) as part of the 1st Belorussian Front had the following major component formations and units:

The Army took Pankow, a suburb of Berlin, on 23 April 1945. A week later, two regiments of the 150th Rifle Division, 79th Rifle Corps were responsible for erecting flags over the Reichstag on 30 April 1945, one of which was known as the "Victory Flag". A future commander of the Army, V.I. Varennikov, would also command the honour guard of the "Victory Flag". The curtain came down on the Army's war service when fighting ceased in Berlin on 8 May 1945.

World War II service

Campaigns and Operation participation

Toropets-Kholm Offensive (9 January 1942 – 6 February 1942)[10]
Velikie Luki offensive (November 1942 – January 1943)
Nevel'-Gorodok offensive operation (October- November 1943)
Starorussa-Novorzhev offensive operation (February 1944)[11]
On 15 December 1944 army is returned to the reserve of the STAVKA.
Rezhitsa-Dvinsk Offensive Operation (10 July 1944 – 27 July 1944)
Madon Offensive Operation (1 August 1944 – 28 August 1944)
Riga Offensive (1944) (14 September 1944 – 24 October 1944)
Kurland peninsula blockade (from October 1944 – 31 December 1944)
Vistula–Oder Offensive (12 January 1945 - 2 February 1945)
Berlin Offensive (16 April 1945 - 8 May 1945)

Notable service personnel

Command staffs


Leaders of the Military Council

Chiefs of staff

Service in Germany

3rd Shock Army stayed in Germany after the end of the war, becoming part of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. During the 1960s and early 1970s, the Army's divisions were equipped with the T-62 and T-55 tanks.

The army kept the descriptive title "shock" until 1954, when it became the 3rd "Red Banner" Combined Arms Army (Russian: 3-я краснознаменная общевойсковая армия).[13] Army headquarters was located in Magdeburg from January 1946.[14]

There was an army reorganisation in June 1964 and a number of divisions were switched into and out of the army.[13] It was awarded the Order of the Red Banner in 1974.

During the late 1970s, the divisions received T-64A, T-64B (one third of each battalion), and eventually T-64BV with dynamic armour. In 1984, a decision was made to re-equip the formations with T-80BV variants (10th Guards Tank Division), replacing the T-64s[15] BMP-1/2 and variants, and various BTR variants.

In 1980 the army comprised three divisions: the 10th Guards Tank Division (Krampnitz, East Germany); the 47th Guards Tank Division (Hillersleben, East Germany) and the 207th Motor Rifle Division (Stendal, East Germany), plus a large number of supporting brigades, regiments, and battalions.[13] In May 1983 it was reorganised, and the 207th Motor Rifle Division was transferred to the 2nd Guards Tank Army, and the 12th Guards Tank Division was attached in its place. To bring the army's total to four divisions, the 7th Guards Tank Division was attached from the 1st Guards Tank Army.

Thus the army had four divisions in 1988:

During 1989–91, a past commanding officer of the Army (1969) V.I. Varennikov was the Commander in Chief of the Soviet Ground Forces.[18] The Army was relocated from Germany during 1990–1991. Army headquarters was briefly sent to the Far East Military District, but then disbanded.[19] The "out of Germany transfer" directive was issued 15.4.91, but the Army did not leave until 11.91-1.92. The Army headquarters arrived in Khabarovsk in January 1992, but was disbanded in early March 1992.[13]

1988 order of battle

Formations and units subordinate to Army

Postwar Commanders


  1. p.762, Military Encyclopaedic dictionary, Editor in chief C.F. Akhromeyev, Moscow, Voyenizdat, 1986
  2. Keith E. Bonn, Slaughterhouse: The Handbook of the Eastern Front, Aberjona Press, 2005, p.328-9
  3. John Erickson (historian), The Road to Stalingrad, 2003 Cassel Military Paperbacks edition, p.280, 304
  4. Erickson, 2003, p.306-7
  5. Baltic Front was very quickly renamed 2nd Baltic Front
  6. Erickson, Road to Berlin, 1983, 133–4
  7. Erickson, Road to Berlin, 1983, p.313, 319–21, 414, 418, 420–1
  8. Rear Services of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
  9. ВЕЛИКАЯ ВОЙНА – Бобруйск
  10. for Wehrmacht known as Sychevka and Vyazma battles, not to be confused with the Soviet Sychevka-Vyazma Offensive Operation (8 January 1942 – 28 February 1942)
  11. See also http://lenbat.narod.ru/eng/kont.htm
  12. 1 2 Боевой счет лучших советских снайперов периода Великой Отечественной войны — Журнал «Братишка»
  13. 1 2 3 4 Michael Holm, 3 Red Banner Combined Arms Army, February 2015.
  14. Feskov et al., Советская Армия в годы «холодной войны» (1945-1991), p. 40, Tomsk: Tomsk University Press, 2004, and Holm.
  15. Развертывание новых типов танков в GSFG/WGF
  16. 1 2 3 4 Holm, Michael (2015). "7th Guards Kiev-Berlin order of Lenin twice Red Banner order of Suvorov Tank Division". Soviet Armed Forces 1945-1991: Organisation and order of battle. Holm. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  17. see also V.I. Feskov et al 2013
  18. and
  19. Army Quarterly and Defence Journal
  20. Holm, Michael. "10th Guards Tank Division". www.ww2.dk. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  21. Holm, Michael. "12th Guards Tank Division". www.ww2.dk. Retrieved 2016-02-14.
  22. Holm, Michael. "47th Guards Tank Division". www.ww2.dk. Retrieved 2016-02-14.
  23. Holm, Michael. "49th Guards Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade". www.ww2.dk. Retrieved 2016-02-14.
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