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War machine - 13: The role of Katyusha in the victory over fascism
War machine - 13: The role of Katyusha in the victory over fascism

The most experienced fascist scouts hunted for her, and the soldiers of the Red Army blew up the Katyusha, finding themselves in an encirclement from which it was impossible to get out. The Museum of Contemporary History of Russia contains a caliper from the developer of the legendary weapon Ivan Guay. The story of the creator of the machine was told by the keepers of the rare instrument.

Why "Fighting Vehicle - 13" became "Katyusha", no one knows for sure, but there are several versions. According to one of them, the name was given in honor of the plant named after the Comintern, marked on the case with the letter K. Front-line soldiers often gave nicknames to weapons, as car owners do now. For example, the M-30 howitzer was nicknamed "Mother", and the BM-13 at first was called "Raisa Sergeevna", deciphering the abbreviation RS (rocket projectile), but it was "Katyusha" that took root among the people. Similar installations BM-31-12 by analogy received the popular nickname "Andryusha", but even they were soon called "Katyusha". The rocket launcher moved at a speed of 50-60 kilometers per hour and was capable of firing 16 powerful 132-mm projectiles within 15-20 seconds. The world has never seen such a design: guns with salvo launchers, together with tractors for transportation, weighed 30-40 times more. The construction of the Katyusha was supervised by Ivan Gvay, the son of a railway worker.

The first steps on the path to feat

He was born in December 1905 in the village of Belovezh (now the Republic of Belarus). After school, he studied at the railway school, which would later be named after him, and was friends with the future poet Dmitry Kedrin - eight years later he would dedicate the poem "Duel" to Guay. They were in the poetic association "Young Smithy" and retained a craving for literature for life.

Friends went their separate ways: Gwai entered the Institute of Railway Engineers. After the army, he continued his studies and at the same time worked as a designer at the plant named after G. Petrovsky, and in 1929 a fateful turn took place: the engineer moved to Leningrad, where he received a second higher education and designed bridge cranes at the Marty shipyard for three years.

Petersburg White Nights became the only free time for creativity and reading. At the same time, Gwai was rapidly building a career, becoming a senior design engineer at the Research Institute of Shipbuilding, and then head of the Design Bureau of the Energy Faculty of the Leningrad Higher Military Electrotechnical School of the Red Army commanders (now the Military Academy of Communications named after Marshal of the Soviet Union S.M. Budyonny).

Vernier caliper for "Katyusha"

In 1935, Guay was invited to Moscow, having been appointed senior design engineer of the Jet Research Institute of the People's Commissariat of the Tank Industry. The People's Commissariat of the Air Force demanded the creation of new launchers. The head of the research institute, Ivan Kleimenov, assembled a group of unique designers, putting Ivan Guay at the head.

Its hallmark was courage, which was written about by professor, aerodynamic engineer Yuri Pobedonostsev:

“Ivan Gvay is a mechanical engineer, a brave engineer. And in our work, courage is one of the first conditions for success. Gwai was not afraid to make adjustments, changes in the design, expressed to him by the youngest member of our team, the talented designer A.P. Pavlenko … ".

In 1938, the development of the future Katyusha began. The designers had to create a maneuverable, fast machine that would be able to travel long distances and release 16 charges at the same time. For multiple launch rocket launches, the "Flute" design was chosen as a guide.

The development of BM-13 was entrusted to a team led by Ivan Gai, which included Alexey Pavlenko, Vladimir Galkovsky, Alexander Popov, Yuri Pobedonostsev and others. The group of creators of 132-mm rockets was led by L.E. Schwartz. In addition to the Katyusha, the designers simultaneously developed the RS-82 and RS-132 light aircraft launchers for ground and aircraft equipment. 82-mm rockets entered service with the I-15 and I-16 fighters.

The work was in full swing, but in 1938 it was under threat due to repression: Valentin Glushko and Sergei Korolev, who worked on the creation of aircraft missiles, the director of the research institute Ivan Kleimenov and the chief engineer Georgy Langemak were arrested on the denunciation of the careerist Andrei Kostikov. The leading employees of NII-3 were shot in January 1938, immediately after they were sentenced to death. Andrey Kostikov became a director, but the team continued to work in secret production.

By the summer, the first Katyusha project based on the ZiS-5 truck appeared, but field tests revealed shortcomings. Engineers armed with calipers, or, as they were then called, "Mauser", had to solve technical problems: ensuring the density of fire, rate of fire, protection of operators when launching missiles. The tools were called "Mauser" because only this brand of calipers was purchased for the aviation industry in the USSR because of their high accuracy. In other industries, they used "Columbics" - so affectionately called calipers of another brand.


In April of the following year, a new installation based on the ZiS-6 truck received military approval. It was charged with 132-millimeter high-explosive fragmentation rockets and, at the test site, fell into an aiming square. This was the end of the first and most labor-consuming stage of military-technical creativity.

The role of Ivan Guay's brainchild in the victory over fascism

On February 19, 1940, the invention of Ivan Guay's team received a patent: BM-13 was entered into the register of inventions of the USSR under number 3338: "A mechanized installation for firing rocket projectiles of various calibers." Its advance to the earliest mass production at the beginning of the war, in 1941, was carried out by Vladimir Aborenkov, head of the artillery department of the Red Army.

The day before the start of World War II, June 21, 1941, the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR made a decision on the serial production of M-13 shells and a BM-13 launcher. From June 22 to June 30, the first two Katyushas were assembled at the Comintern plant. They passed the final tests at a training ground near Moscow right before the baptism of fire.

On July 1, the vehicles were transferred to the artillery units of the Red Army. Two weeks later, the calculations of the military on the BM-13 launchers under the command of Captain Ivan Flerov were near Orsha. Two series of volleys of Katyusha "sang" over the Orshitsa River: our troops completely destroyed the railway station near the village of Pishchalovo, where enemy troops and equipment had accumulated. The Nazis suffered crushing losses: three echelons of killed and wounded. The commander of the Bryansk front, Andrei Eremenko, sent a letter to Stalin, in which he admired the power of the BM-13.


And if in July 1941 there were only 19 rocket artillery installations at the front, by the end of the war there were about 10 thousand of them. Due to the impressive power of the Katyusha, equivalent to a salvo of one artillery unit, the enemy was really hunting for it.To prevent the unique development of Soviet military engineers from getting to the enemy, the soldiers of the Red Army, who were surrounded, tried to blow up the cars.

The post-war years of Ivan Guay

By the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of July 28, 1941 "For outstanding services in the invention and design of one of the types of weapons that increase the combat power of the Red Army" Ivan Gwai was awarded the Order of Lenin. And in April 1942, for the development of the Katyusha, he received the Stalin Prize in the amount of 150,000 rubles - for the entire development team.

In 1943, Ivan Isidorovich became a candidate of technical sciences without defending his scientific work: when he came to the Higher Attestation Commission for a diploma, he was asked: "Where is your dissertation?"

In response, the members of the commission heard: "Shooting at the front!"

In 1945, Gwai received the Badge of Honor, and in 1948 - the military rank of Colonel Engineer.

After the war, the outstanding engineer continued his career as a leader - first at the Nakhabinsk research institute, then at the Keldysh Center, and then at the fourth research institute in Korolev, Yubileiny microdistrict. In the 1950s, he worked as a senior researcher at the laboratory of special weapons and mortars at Research Institute-3 of the Main Artillery Directorate of the USSR Armed Forces. In August 1954, Ivan Guay was assigned to the USSR Academy of Sciences.

The last years of his life, Ivan Isidorovich Gvay devoted to military history, rocketry, the study of the works of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and became the author of two books, and one of the manuscripts remained unfinished.

Ivan Gwai also became the prototype for the protagonist of Lev Sheinin's novel "Military Secret".

The brilliant engineer passed away on July 22, 1960 due to a heart attack. He was buried in Moscow, at the Novodevichy cemetery.

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