Navy Flags


850th Anniversary of Moscow


From N.Kuznetsov book "Readiness for Action, Condition one"

At the Walls of Moscow

The capital was faced with an imminent threat early in October [1941]. Weapon emplacements and antitank obstacles were hastily being erected in the suburbs and in the city streets. The State Defence Committee passed a decision on partial evacuation of Moscow.

Before October 10 [1941], instructions were issued to evacuate the diplomatic corps and separate government departments and institutions. After that date people's commissariats, including the defence establishments, were being moved to the east. The General Staff informed me that some of the subdivisions of the People's Commissariat of Defence were making preparations to move to Kuibyshev. Disturbed by this news I asked to be received at GHQ. I was instructed temporarily to shift the People's Commissariat of the Navy, leaving in Moscow the officers I needed most.

I issued instructions to move all the departments to Kuibyshev and Ulyanovsk. I sent V. A. Alafuzov to Kuibyshev to re-establish the departments in the new place and to ensure effective communications with the fleets.

I had to go to Kuibyshev for a few days myself to provide offices for the staff and to establish a command post. This was not easy then. L. M. Galler, my deputy, remained in Moscow all the time.

On October 19, a meeting of the State Defence Committee was held. It introduced a state of siege in Moscow and nearby districts. This matter was preliminarily discussed by the Politbureau of the CPSU(B) Central Committee.

When battles were raging far in the west late in June, the General Staff asked the People's Commissariat of the Navy if it could send several naval batteries to an area near Vyazma.

The People's Commissariat of the Navy formed a Special Artillery Group of two (the 199th and 200th) artillery battalions. The former comprised three and the latter—five batteries.

The group was equipped with 100-130-mm guns we had in reserve in Leningrad, an experimental 152-mm tractor drawn gun battery which had just completed trials on a sea firing range, and an old battery dismantled from one of the forts in Kronstadt. Its guns had served as the main armament of the cruiser Ryurik during the First World War. After the Revolution, these guns were used for coastal defence purposes.

Early in July J. V. Stalin asked me:

"What is the news on naval ordnance?"

"It is already on the march," I replied.

It should be mentioned that the long range naval guns of the Special Artillery Group did not justify the hopes pinned on them. And the crews were not to blame. They fought skilfully and bravely. The point is that mobile tank and motorised units played the key role in the Nazi offensive. Unfortunately, the naval batteries had practically zero mobility. We could have foreseen this. It proved more difficult to find a satisfactory solution.

On October 18, the State Defence Committee passed a decision on forming 25 marine brigades. The Naval Staff issued an order to the fleets to select 35,000-40,000 sailors for the purpose, who were to form the backbone of those brigades.

The 62nd, 64th, 71st, and 84th Marine Brigades took part in the battle of Moscow within big army formations. The 75th Marine Brigade was deployed along the Volokolamsk Highway and a Special Naval Regiment fought on the Mozhaisk Highway.

Some authors wrote that the sailors readily left their floating "homes". That was not so. It is always difficult for a sailor to part with his ship. Those who served in the Navy know this. Every sailor wants to fight in his ship, with his shipmates. But war is war and, when necessary, seamen fought on land.

As a rule, the marine brigades were mainly made up of ratings from ships and men of naval coastal defence units. They were augmented by men from other arms. When some of the marine brigades were reformed after heavy fighting, the proportion of naval personnel was small. But the naval tradition continued to be strong. This was not fortuitous, because, as a rule, the commanders were coastal defence or regular naval officers who had served aboard ships.

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