Mitrofan Ivanovich Nedelin (rus. Митрофа́н Ива́нович Неде́лин) (November 9, 1902, Borisoglebsk, Voronezh Oblast — October 24, 1960, Baikonur Cosmodrome) was a Soviet military commander who served as Chief Marshal of Artillery, a position he held from May 8, 1959 until his untimely death. A member of Communist Party from 1924, he was honored as a Hero of the Soviet Union on Apr 28, 1945 for his service in the Second World War.
Nedelin joined the Red Army in 1920. In 1939 he was appointed to command 13th Artillery Regiment. Then in 1940 he was appointed to command the artillery of 160th Rifle Division. In 1941 he was appointed commander of first 4th Anti-Tank Brigade, then the artillery of 18th Army, and then the artillery of 37th Army where he stayed until 1943, then he moved to command the artillery of 56th Army. In 1943 he was appointed Deputy Commanding Officer of the artillery of the Northern Caucasian Front. From there he moved to command V Artillery Corps, and then the artillery of the South-western Front, and then the artillery of the 3rd Ukrainian Front where he stayed from 1943 to 1945, playing an especially important part in the capture of Hungary.
In 1945 he became Assistant commanding officer and then commanding officer or the artillery of the Soviet Southern Group of Forces.
In 1946 he became chief of staff of the chief artillery directorate of the Red Army, and then chief of staff of artillery, and then Deputy Commander in Chief of Artillery. He became head of the chief artillery directorate of the Red Army in 1948, and Commander in Chief of Artillery from 1950 to 1952 and again from 1953 to 1955.
He was Deputy Minister of War in 1952-53, From 1955 he was Deputy Minister of Defence, and concurrently from 1959 Commander in Chief of the Strategic Missile Force.
Nedelin inadvertently played a key role in ushering in the space age by concluding that rockets were the ideal means to deliver a nuclear warhead to USA instead of bombers and ordered Sergei Korolev to develop the massive R-7 ICBM to carry a large warhead to the USA. This rocket and its derivatives, while never an effective ICBM, was powerful enough to launch Sputnik and Vostok manned space vehicles into orbit enabling the USSR to beat the US to space.
Nedelin was killed in a test rocket explosion on October 24, 1960 at Baikonur Cosmodrome along with approximately 120 other victims in an incident that became known as the Nedelin catastrophe. The tragedy was covered up by the Soviet authorities, with details only emerging in the 1990s. Until then, Nedelin's death was officially listed as having occurred in a plane crash.
Nedelin's tomb is in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis at Red Square in Moscow.
Honours and awards
- Hero of the Soviet Union
- Five Orders of Lenin
- Four Orders of the Red Banner
- Order of Suvorov 1st class
- Order of Kutuzov 1st class
- Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky 1st class
- Order of the Patriotic War 1st class
- Order of the Badge of Honour
- Medal "For the Defence of the Caucasus"
- Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
- Medal "For the Capture of Vienna"
- Medal "For the Capture of Königsberg"
- Medal "For the Capture of Budapest"
- Jubilee Medal "XX Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army"
- Jubilee Medal "30 Years of the Soviet Army and Navy"
- Jubilee Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"