Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Monday, January 19, 2004


This is coolbert:

Suvorov dwells heavily on the penal battalion and it's role in the Red Army.

The penal battalion is a concept perhaps unique to the Red Army.

Have not heard of any other army anywhere possessing such a concept.

Perhaps North Korea?

Just don't know?

This concept exists only in wartime and was used extensively by Soviet commanders.

Troops - - those under disciplinary punishment for infractions - - assigned to infantry assault units - - placed into harms' way in the most terrible manner, expected to perform their duty as a means of expiating their sentence!

A penal battalion consists of a guard machine gun company and three assault rifle companies. The rifle companies consist of condemned soldiers who have been given ten year sentences for some infraction of the extremely harsh Red Army code. Enlisted for say dropping out of a march or losing a weapon. Officers for failing to take an objective in the attack or losing a position in the defense.

A ten year sentence at forced labor was the same as a death sentence in the old Soviet Union.

Rather than waste valuable resources, the Red Army constituted penal battalions.

These units would be put at the disposal of the division commander to use to attack important objectives.

The usual effort would go something like what was touched upon briefly a the start of the movie, "Enemy At The Gates".

Just prior to an assault, the condemned men would be given a rifle and a load of ammo. Told to assault an important German position. To the rear of the condemned is the machine gun company, manned by NKVD men. Those machine guns are to compel the condemned to move forward and attack with vigor. Slackers are mowed down by the NKVD.

You have only one way to go.

"Forward men, forward!!".

For each assault you survive, one year will be expunged off your sentence. Of course, very few men would ever survive ten assaults.

At Stalingrad, an entire division was formed of condemned men. This division finally captured and held for the Red Army the dominant terrain in Stalingrad, Mamayev hill. Not actually a hill, a kurgan, a burial mound from the time of the Scythians, around 2500 years ago. This dominant terrain was key to the defense of Stalingrad.

Indeed, this most crucial and critical objective during the defense of Stalingrad - - dominant terrain - - was finally assaulted and captured for good by that divisional sized unit of punishment troops - - whose recognition has been eliminated from history deliberately!

In addition to assault duty, other uses were found for the penal battalions. Clearing minefields, rear gunners on ground attack aircraft (IL-2 Shtrumovik (?)), and tank borne infantry. Survive ten missions and your sentence would be expunged. Well, you know what usually happened!

Forward men, forward!!