On July 14, 1941, German troops in the town of Rudnya faced a terror they had never seen before. Enemy missiles suddenly rained down upon them by the dozens, destroying tanks, armored vehicles and trucks and killing many soldiers. The Germans suffered massive casualties as they retreated from Rudnya in panic.
The troops were the first to suffer an attack from Katyusha rocket launchers fired by Soviet troops under the command of Capt. Ivan Flytorov. This was the first time that the weapons system, which had been in development for three years, was used in combat.
A battery of Katyusha during the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War
The Katyusha rocket launcher is a mobile system that can deliver surface-to-surface missiles upon an enemy in great numbers. The Soviets used them effectively throughout the rest of World War II against the invading Germans. Some historians believe that Katyusha was instrumental in relieving the siege at Stalingrad.
The Katyusha rocket launcher has a very simple design that consists of racks of parallel rails on which rockets are mounted. The missiles are launched one after another, raining explosives down on the enemy. Soviet Katyusha launchers could fire volleys of up to 48 rockets at targets nearly 4 miles away. When Katyusha rocket launchers were massed in large numbers, they created a shock effect on the enemy, causing many casualties and lowering German morale.
The Soviet Katyusha rocket launchers were mounted upon trucks, tanks, armored trains, ships, and artillery tractors. This mobility meant that rockets could be quickly fired and then the launchers moved before the enemy could retaliate. The main disadvantages were that the system took a long time to reload and had lower accuracy than other artillery.
For a terrifying weapon of war, the rocket launcher has a rather tender name: Katyusha means "Little Katie" in Russian. The systems were marked with the letter "K" for the Voronezh Komintern Factory where they were produced. The troops nicknamed them Katyusha after a popular wartime song about a woman who is longing for her lover to return from military duty.
The beleaguered Germans had another name for the Katyusha rocket launcher: Stalinorgel, or Stalin's organ, after Soviet Premier Josef Stalin. The weapon looked like a bit like a church organ, and the rockets it fired made a "woosh" sound as they were launched.
The Soviets used Katyusha rocket launchers extensively during World War II. By the time the war ended in 1945, the nation had produced about 10,000 Katyusha systems.
The Katyusha proved to be so successful that development continued after the war. Descendants of the original system are still used in combat today around the world.
Links for Katyusha Rockets