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Soviet Combat Aerosleigh Battalions
Eastern Front, World War II
113 pages; 16 chapters and 1 appendix
Soviet Combat Aerosleigh Battalions are given little coverage in all
available English language books about World War II on the Eastern Front.
Yet the Red Army fielded the equivalent of six Combat Aerosleigh divisions
during winter warfare on the Eastern Front. It was those, nearly 70 Soviet
Combat Aerosleigh Battalions that facilitated deep Soviet advances during
their favorite campaign season, the long Soviet winter. Neither the German nor
Finnish Armies seem to realize the importance of Soviet Combat Aerosleigh
Battalions, or ski troops in general, since both armies had only a few ski
battalions. The German Army did not form a Ski Division until 1944 and the
Finns never formed one. Yet Soviet Combat Aerosleigh Battalions made a
great difference when utilized at the Operational level of war. Soviet Combat
Aerosleigh Battalions could go where tanks and horses could not go. With
their very long-range aircraft machine guns, they could hit enemy infantry
centers of gravity kilometers away. Against Axis footmobile, snow shoe and ski
troops they were fatal. As Soviet ski troops engaged Axis forces in front,
Soviet Combat Aerosleigh Battalions, that were at least three times as fast
as ski troops, could carry out rapid envelopments. Soviet Combat
Aerosleigh Battalions offers information on an important aspect of winter
warfare on the Eastern Front in World War II.
"On March 14, 1943, commander of the 53rd Combat Aerosleigh Battalion (CAB) received the following order: “using one
company of combat aerosleighs supported by an infantry assault group, carry out a surprise attack on the enemy at
Navolok and capture prisoners.”
To accomplish this mission, the commander formed a taskforce of 15 combat aerosleighs (armed with heavy machine
guns) and 40 sub machine gun armed infantry, with the infantry riding on the aerosleighs’ skis. At 0330 hours on March
15, 1943, the taskforce moved out from Zheleznyj island towards Navolok. The remaining units of the CAB continued to
carry out patrols near their staging area on the eastern shoreline of Lake Il’men’.
While on the march, the task force lost its way and emerged to the south of Spaspiskopec.
The task force commander decided to not waste any time regaining its planned route and to carry out a surprise attack of
the Germans in Spaspiskopec. Having dropped off the infantry, the aerosleighs sped to the enemy’s flanks and opened
fire with machine-guns. Under this covering fire, the infantry mounted a rapid attack of the enemy positions."
Excerpt from Soviet Combat Aerosleigh Battalions
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