It was created in December 1942, as part of the Southwestern Front (as a result of renaming 1st Guards Army of 2nd formation), according to the order of the Supreme High Command on formation of the 3rd Guards Army (5.12.1942). General Lieutenant Dmitri Lelyushenko was appointed to command the formation, and held the reins until March 1943 (and subsequently from August 1943 to February 1944). General Major I.Khetagurov held command from March to August 1943. Up to the middle of December the army comprised the 14th Rifle Corps, 50th Guards, 197th, 203rd and 278th Rifle Divisions, 90th and 94th Separate Rifle Brigades, the Soviet 1st Guards Mechanized Corps, the 22nd Motor-Rifle Brigade and other units.
3rd Guards Army was assigned in succession to the Soviet Southwestern Front, 3rd, 4th and since March 1944 the First Ukrainian Front led by Marshal Ivan Koniev. After a brief stint under the command of General-Lieutenant D.I. Ryabyshev in February and March 1944, from April 1944 to the end of the war in Europe General Colonel N. Gordov was in command. The Army participated in the Middle Don and Voroshilovgrad offensive operations, the defensive battles on the northern Donets River, in the Donbass and Zaporozhye offensive operations, in the liquidation of the Germans' Nikopol bridgehead, in the Nikopol - Krivoi Rog and Proskurov - Chernovits operations, the Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive, Sandomir-Silesia, and then took part in the attack on Berlin.
Koniev was warned of the mass of German troops in the Spreewald. He expedited the 28th Army's advance that was intended to seal the gap between the 3rd Guards Army, effectively finishing off the Germans in the Cottbus area, and the 3rd Guards Tank Army. On April 25, when the First Belorussian Front was fighting the Battle of Berlin, the 3rd Guards Army was rushed into positions close to the Berlin-Dresden autobahn "to block all the forest roads leading from east to west." Gordov's troops chopped down tall pine trees to form tank barriers. However, the 3rd Guards Army did not manage to occupy the southern part of its sector, which meant that there was a gap between it and the 28th Army. However, that did not matter that much since German resistance in eastern Germany was now very limited, as the Ninth and Twelfth Armies were retreating towards the Elbe River, and resistance was limited to small pockets of concentration.
After the Berlin operation, the Army formed part of the Soviet force for the Prague Offensive. All formations of this army (except 76th Rifle Corps with the 287th and 389th Rifle Divisions) were disbanded in the summer of 1945, and the Army HQ was reorganised as part of the Volga Military District.