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Belarus - Engineering Troops

Engineering troopsEngineering troops are the only kind of troops for which the war will never end. Disposal of unexploded ordnance is their job. Engineering support is a type of combat support. The engineering support of the combat operations of the troops is organized and carried out in order to create the necessary conditions for the troops to promptly and covertly advance, deploy, maneuver, successfully accomplish their combat missions, increase the protection of troops and objects from all types of destruction, to inflict casualties on the enemy, to impede enemy actions.

Engineering troops have gone a long and glorious way to serve the Fatherland. The first engineering school, which trained military engineers for the Russian army, was established by decree of Peter I of January 21, 1701. The most important step on the path of reviving centuries-old traditions, recognizing the military merits of all generations of military engineers from the time of Peter the Great to our days was the establishment of the professional holiday, the Engineer's Day, by Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 157 dated March 26, 1998.

There was not a single battle in which the engineer troops would not participate. They faithfully served Russia in the Battle of Poltava and in the capture of the impregnable fortress of Ishmael, in the Borodino field and in the defense of Sevastopol in the Crimean War of 1853-1856, near Port Arthur and in the fields of the First World War.

The motherland has always highly appreciated the contribution of the engineering troops to the glorious victories of the Russian Arms. So, in the XIX - early XX centuries, 125 soldiers of the engineering troops for the heroism shown in the hostilities, became George's Knights. Prominent commanders of the time Peter I, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov, Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov played a prominent role in the development of the engineering troops. Peter I was credited with the creation of regular engineering troops in 1712, in the use of crossing means, field fortifications to ensure military operations, and the further development of ways to strengthen state borders.

The culmination of the achievements of the Russian military engineering art of the 18th century was the capture of Russian troops under the leadership of A.V. Suvorov largest Turkish fortress Ishmael. A significant impact on the achievement of goals has had: masking troop concentration areas, misleading the enemy by demonstrating preparations for a long siege, building fake batteries, and also preparing in advance engineering means for assault (stairs, fascines), organizing working (sapper) teams, training them in crossing the moats and storming fortress walls. Engineering structures equipped on the Danube River prevented the passage of the ships of the Turkish fleet and deprived the besieged people in the fortress of the opportunity to receive assistance from their troops.

Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov The growing role of military engineering art and engineering troops manifested itself even more clearly in the Patriotic War of 1812. The great Russian commander Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, in a letter to Emperor Alexander I, noted that he intends to strengthen the position under Borodino with art. This art found expression in the erection of the famous bastions of Russian glory on the Borodino field — Bagration flashs, Rajevsky batteries and other fortifications, on which the French army was subsequently drained of blood and unable to continue the battle. Attempts by Napoleon to crush Russia in one general battle failed.

During the Sevastopol defense of 1854-1855 a new system of fortification of military positions was born. Instead of a narrow line of bastions and curtain walls connecting them (fortress walls), a fortified strip with a depth of 1000–1500 m was first used, protected positions for artillery were created, and an electric blasting method was used for the first time. At the end of XIX - the beginning of the 20th century, the theory of engineering preparation of the country's territory for war is being developed, to which the works of military engineer Konstantin Ivanovich Velichko "Engineering defense of states and the construction of fortresses" are devoted.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the engineering troops were considered as a technical branch of troops and, unlike the combat troops (infantry, artillery and cavalry), were armed with the technical means used to support the armed struggle. At various times, they consisted of railway and electrical battalions, telegraph companies, aeronautic departments, automobile detachments and units of armor forces, which later separated into independent troops.

In the course of the First World War and the Great Patriotic War, engineering troops received a wealth of experience and further development. The importance of engineering troops increased as their capabilities increased and the range of tasks assigned to them expanded.

In the initial period of the Great Patriotic War, military engineers assisted combat units, formations and units in the preparation and conduct of defensive battles, arranged barriers and equipped numerous defensive lines in the path of the enemy. Together with the whole army, they restrained the offensive of the fascist German hordes and exhausted their forces. In the course of the offensive actions of the Red Army, the engineering troops provided assault and breakthrough of the strongly fortified defensive lines of the enemy.

In the summer battles of 1941, the remnants of the engineering units of the Western Front also fought as infantry. So the 57th separate sapper battalion of the 8th rifle division of the 10th army held back the German attacks on the fortified area on June 22, up to 23 hours.

On the North and North-Western Fronts, engineering units were actively used as mobile detachments of obstacles. Covering the withdrawal of troops, they put minefields on the paths of movement of the Germans, groups of mines, destroyed bridges, created zones of continuous destruction and barriers. On the Kola Peninsula, the engineering troops were able to stop the German and Finnish offensive in general. The Red Army with a small number of infantry and artillery, with almost no tanks, using natural obstacles in combination with the created explosive and non-explosive barriers, was able to create such an indestructible defense that Hitler came to the conclusion that the offensive actions in the north were inappropriate.

The issues of engineering support for combat operations of the troops and methods of using engineering forces and equipment have always been the focus of attention of the leadership of the Armed Forces. From the very beginning of World War II, they were in the field of view of the Supreme Command Headquarters, which, by its order No. 0450 of November 28, 1941, "On the underestimation of the engineering service and the misuse of engineering troops and equipment," determined the importance of engineering support for military operations as great influence on the course and outcome of hostilities.

This order introduced the post of the head of the engineering troops of the Red Army with the right to directly report to the Supreme Commander. The chiefs of the engineering troops of the fronts and armies received the status of deputy commanders with the promotion of military ranks to Colonel-General and Major-General, respectively. The structure of the engineering bodies of the central administration, the departments of the fronts and the armies was changed, with the creation of the headquarters of the engineering troops as their bases. The complex of the above measures greatly improved the efficiency of management, the authority of engineering chiefs and engineering troops in general.

The care of the Supreme Command of the expedient use of engineering forces and equipment contributed to the rapid improvement of the engineering training of troops, the more effective the implementation of the tasks of engineering support of military operations.

In preparing for the defense of Moscow, from among the students of the Military Engineering Academy and the Moscow Military Engineering School, ten mobile barrage units of 50 people each were formed. During the fighting, bearing heavy casualties, they immediately laid out groups of mines before the advancing tanks, undermined road constructions. About 200 tanks and 120-150 enemy vehicles were blown up on these mines.

The tasks of the engineering troops changed somewhat with the transition of our troops to the offensive. Along with solving the problem of making passes in the minefields of the enemy, restoring bridges and crossings in the winter of 1941 - 1942, engineering troops laid columned roads in deep snow cover. This task was successfully solved. The underestimation of the natural conditions by the German command (the result of neglecting the study of the theater of operations in engineering) led to huge losses for Germans in technology stuck in the snow.

In the course of the winter counter-offensive of 1941-1942, the engineering troops regularly threw command and control teams into the rear of the enemy. Only in February 1942, sappers-bombers of one battalion undermined 7 bridges, installed 721 mines. In January-March 1942, the engineering troops of the Western Front equipped 58 crossings on the ice, laid 5,387 kilometers of column tracks, built 118 low-water bridges, removed 21,644 enemy mines.

In April 1942, several special engineering brigades were formed. These brigades were designed to deploy a mine war. Each brigade consisted of five to seven engineering battalions of engineering barriers, one or two electrical engineering battalions (creating electrified wire barriers), and a special-purpose battalion (radio-controlled mines and land mines).

When the Germans approached Stalingrad in the summer of 1942, engineering troops erected 1,200 kilometers of defense lines. The task of water supply, which was decided by a field water supply company and three hydrotechnical companies, was of particular importance in the steppe conditions. In the defense of Stalingrad, in the defense zone of the 64th army, the sappers set 140 thousand mines, 80 land mines, and undermined 19 bridges. On the minefields of the 64th army, the enemy lost 65 tanks in a month.

In June 1943, the formation of engineer-tank regiments began, armed with T-34 tanks equipped with PT-3 mine trawls. It was a novelty that shook the German troops. After the first use of these trawls in Berlin, the Russians reported on the use of new tanks insensitive to mines.

A special role was played by the engineering troops in the preparation of defense at the Kursk Bulge. The idea of the battle was to wear out German troops with stubborn strategic defense, inflict heavy losses on them and go on the counteroffensive. An important role in the preparation of defensive lines were to be played by engineering troops.

From April to July, eight defensive lines were prepared to a depth of 250-300 km. The length of open trenches and communications reached 8 kilometers per kilometer of the front. 250 bridges with a total length of 6.5 km were built and repaired. and 3000 km. roads. Only in the defense zone of the Central Front (300km.), 237,000 anti-tank mines, 162,000 anti-personnel mines, 146 object mines, 63 radio fugas, 305 kilometers of wire barriers were installed.

The engineering troops did a great job of masking positions and objects, only on false airfields in the Voronezh front, the enemy dropped 140 tons of aerial bombs.

At the position of the 81 Guards Rifle Division attacked the 19th Panzer Division of the Germans. From July 5 to July 18, only on mines, the division lost 100 tanks and 1,000 soldiers. The successful combination of minefields with the fire of anti-tank artillery led to the fact that up to 80% of the blown-up tanks were irretrievable losses. The Supreme Command was ordered to continue to necessarily combine artillery fire and minefields.

The skillful combination of fortification defenses, mine-explosive obstacles and fire of all types of weapons allowed our troops to defend themselves in defense for the first time during the war.

With the beginning of the counteroffensive near Kursk, the tasks of the engineering troops changed. Now it was necessary not only to lay mines, but also to remove them, not to destroy bridges, but to restore them. So, with the start of the counter-offensive, only in the offensive zone of the 11th Guards Army on the night before the attack, our sappers removed 30 thousand anti-tank mines and 12 thousand anti-personnel mines.

In the course of the offensive, for the first time, they successfully tested the cover of the exposed flanks, advancing formations of mines. These mines on the ways of the flank counterattacks of the Germans exposed mobile detachments of obstacles. These actions of the sappers made it possible not to distract the advancing units to protect the flanks, not to be afraid of clipping and encirclement. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to reach the rear of the advancing Soviet tanks and infantry, the Germans had to abandon this tactical technique, which they very successfully used in 1941-42.

The experience of the use of engineering troops accumulated during 1941-1943 made it possible to successfully use them in all subsequent battles for the liberation of the country and European countries in 1944-45.

One of the most difficult and important tasks assigned to the engineering troops in the offensive operations of the Great Patriotic War was engineering support for forcing water obstacles. When crossing the Dnieper, the Southern Bug, the Oder and many other rivers, the soldiers-sappers showed courage, bravery and mass heroism.

In the autumn of 1943, during the crossing of the Dnieper, the engineering troops used a novelty - underwater bridges. The bridge was built in such a way that its carriageway was 30-40 cm below the water surface. The bridge was not observed from the air. Despite the difficulty of targeting this type of crossings, the novelty justified itself. None of these bridges was destroyed by either enemy aircraft or artillery.

The significance of the engineering troops in achieving victory over the enemy was emphasized by Stalin by the introduction in the autumn of 1943 of the titles "Marshal of Engineering Troops" and "Chief Marshal of Engineering Troops". This act emphasized that the engineering troops play the same role in defeating the enemy as aviation, artillery and tankmen.

Ahead of the advancing units were special purpose groups. They conducted engineering reconnaissance of the area of the forthcoming hostilities, blew up bridges, railway structures. The headquarters of the partisan movement aimed the partisan detachments at close cooperation with engineering special forces groups. In collaboration with the Engineering Department, he developed and implemented in the summer and autumn of 1943 a plan for the “rail war”.

Having concentrated forces on the most probable directions of movement of the Soviet troops, the Germans did not anticipate the movement of tanks and heavy artillery through the swamps. But the Soviet engineering troops coped with the most difficult task of setting up roads through the swamps and were able to withdraw tanks and infantry to the rear of the German defenders.

In a number of cases, assault engineering brigades, in addition to fulfilling the tasks of engineering support for the assault and breaking through the fortified positions of the enemy, also carried out general army tasks. So in the battles for Vilna in June 1944, the 4th Assault Engineering-Sapper Brigade broke into the city center, destroying 2,092 enemy soldiers, taking 3,116 soldiers prisoner and freeing the concentration camp with 2,800 prisoners.

For feats and military work in glory of the Motherland during the Great Patriotic War, 100 thousand soldiers of engineering troops were awarded orders and medals, 655 of them were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, 294 became full holders of the Order of Glory During the war years, 196 engineering units, units and subunits were awarded the rank of guards. Many of them were given honorary titles, reflecting the glorious military path of the Soviet Armed Forces. The feat of engineering troops in the years of the Great Patriotic War will live for centuries.

After the war, engineering troops were widely involved in demining the area, neutralizing a huge number of unexploded shells and bombs, restoring bridges, roads, railway transport, clearing the channels of navigable rivers, providing settlements and industrial enterprises with electricity and water. Many engineering units were transferred to the system of military construction units. This gave rise to the erroneous opinion that the engineering troops and builders are one and the same.

A special page in the history of the engineering troops of the Soviet Army is the Afghan war. The enemy very quickly estimated that in the conditions of the overwhelming superiority of the Russians in aviation, artillery, armored vehicles, it was perhaps the only way to deprive the Soviet troops of the opportunity to use their advantages is a mine war.

Allowing troops to use mines to protect checkpoints, blocking the paths of Dushman caravans, setting up minefields by remote means on the paths of the armed gangs, quickly led to a significant decrease in their activity.

During the war, in addition to the mine and mine war, engineering troops solved the tasks of restoring roads and bridges, mining and purifying water, operational and tactical camouflage. However, the indecisiveness of the then leadership of the country, the half-heartedness of the measures taken, the attempts to save money and money due to the over-tension of the forces of the troops did not allow to fully solve, including the problems of engineering support of the battle (operation).

The last engineering task that the sappers in Afghanistan had to solve was to ensure the withdrawal of troops from their positions and to ensure the march through the Salang Pass to the territory of the USSR. Despite the promises of dushmans “to arrange a bloody bath for the Russians”, they did not dare to approach the Soviet columns, so tight were all the approaches to the main routes of the Soviet forces that the mine-blast barriers closed.

For courage and heroism shown in the provision of international assistance in the Republic of Afghanistan, the soldiers-sappers Sergeants N.P. Chepik, V.P. Sinitsky, N.I. Kremenish and A.I. Israfilov was awarded the high title of Hero of the Soviet Union, and Colonel GK Loshkarev became the first in the Ground Forces full holder of the Order "For Service to the Motherland in the Armed Forces of the USSR".

In the engineering troops served the service of renowned scientists, inventors and composers, outstanding commanders and military leaders. Among them, Field Marshal M.I. Kutuzov, Chief of the General Staff, Marshal of the Soviet Union N.V.Ogarkov, Deputy Minister of Defense for Construction and Billeting of Troops Marshal of the Engineering Troops N.F. Shestopalov, as well as the marshals of the engineering troops MP Vorobiev, A.I. Proshlyakov, V.K. Kharchenko, S.Kh. Aganov, and many others.

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Page last modified: 20-04-2019 18:49:33 ZULU