Ivan D. Chernyakhovskii

Chernyakhovskii was born in 1906 in Uman, a town directly south of Kiev in the Ukraine. The son of a railroad man, he worked on the railroads before enlisting in the Red Army in 1924. By 1928 he had joined the Communist Party, graduated from the Kiev Military Academy (an artillery school), and received a commission. Following several years serving as a junior commander and "political worker" with an artillery regiment, in 1931 he was assigned to the Military Academy of Motorisation and Mechanisation, remaining there for five years. He was appointed as a chief of staff of a tank battalion in 1936, being promoted to the post of regimental commander in 1940.

General Ivan Chernakhovsky
General Ivan Chernakhovsky

In that same year, Chernyakhovskii was appointed as deputy commander of the 28th Tank Division, a formation which he took control of with the rank of colonel in the summer of 1941. As part of the 12th Mechanised Corps, the 28th Tank Division was stationed in the Baltic Military District at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. Equipped primarily with light tanks such as T-26 and BT-5 tanks, the 28th Tank Division performed as well as can be expected under Chernyakhovskii's command, even engaging the 1st Panzer Division in a five-hour battle. It was soon to suffer heavy casualties and lose nearly all of its armour, being relegated to the status of a rifle division later that summer. Chernyakhovskii continued to lead this division in defensive fighting south of Leningrad until the summer of 1942.

The summer of 1942 saw him take command the 18th Tank Corps and when failure to hold Voronezh resulted in Stalin dismissing the commander of the 60th Army, Chernyakhovskii took command. For the next two years Chernyakhovskii led the 60th Army in a series of successful battles, including taking the city of Kursk on 8 February 1942, the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, crossing of the Dnieper River in October 1943 (for which he was made a Hero of the Soviet Union) and the liberation of Kiev.

In June 1944 Chernyakhovskii was promoted to the rank of full General, and on the express recommendation of the Soviet Army's Chief of Staff, Marshal Vasilevsky given command of the 3rd Byelorussian Front at the age of only thirty-eight, the youngest Soviet general to attain such a posting. Under his leadership the 3rd Byelorussian Front proceeded to liberate Minsk, Vitebsk, Vilna, and Grodno. He took part in Operation Bagration, where after his Front had been reinforced by the 5th Guards Tank Army to attack towards Bogushevsk and along the Orsha-Minsk highway. He advanced into East Prussia in the autumn of 1944 against fierce resistance by Army Group Centre. His Front took part in the Soviet offensive from the Vistula to the Oder by supporting Rokossovsky's 2nd Byelorussian Front that was driving northwest and between them managed to cut off a large number of German troops defending Danzig (now Gdansk) and Königsberg (now Kaliningrad).

Before his troops had managed to capture the city however (9 April 1945), Chernyakhovskii was killed by enemy shellfire while inspecting a field observation post on 18 February 1945. By this time he had been awarded a second Hero of the Soviet Union decoration, and as a living memorial, the East Prussian town of Insterburg (now in Kaliningrad Oblast, part of the Russian Federation) was cleared of its residents and renamed Chernyakhovsk in his honour. He was buried in Vilnius, Lithuania but with the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, his body was returned to Russia.

Addendum: The author would like to thank Mr Zvi Harry Glaser for the following information. At the time of General Chernyakhovsky's death, he was part of the 438th Infantry Regiment, 129th Orel Division and states that during the preparations to advance towards Melzak (or Mehlsack in German), General Chernyakhovsky was visiting the division to inspect the situation and oversee preparations, hoping to see the front for himself. The divisional commander, Colonel Andrei Ukrainsky suggested that he abstain from this as they were under sporadic fire from the Germans and just after leaving the area, General Chernyakhovsky's car was hit by a shell, killing him.

Wikipedia entry on Chernyakhovsky

The Road to Berlin , Erickson, J., Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1983 (Reprinted by Grafton Books, 1985 and Cassell Military, 2003).
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How to cite this article:Antill, P. (14 September 2005), Ivan D. Chernyakhovskii, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_chernyakhovskii.html

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