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Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

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  • The Panther Brigade had excellent leadership especially in Decker and von Lauchert, however the Panther being brand new had too many mechanical breakdowns, most of their loses being mechanical. It wasn't until 44 that the newer Panthers were much improved. They also didn't perform as well because they were led a bit recklessly either by Strachwitz or Decker considering who you believe. Though both were excellent Panzer commanders, one of them was a bit too reckless at Kursk. Blood Steel and Myth really covers this controversy really well. It's similar with Bake. As a panzer commander in the East he was brilliant, however when he was placed in command of Panzer Brigade 106, in his first actions in the West, the whole Brigade was almost wiped out fighting the Americans, whom Bake had never fought against. The very aggressive cavalry type tactics from the East didn't work in the West. Of course, being an excellent commander he soon learned from his mistakes, and the Brigade performed better.

    Wow, those last three posts of yours are excellent. What are your sources, what books did you get all that information about the Panzer Battalions 51 and 52, the 24th Pz division after Stalingrad, and the rest about the 14th pz, and the rest??? I would love to know what book (s) have all that information. Thanks.
    Last edited by krichter33; 11 Dec 14, 23:35.


    • ^
      I compiled my notes based on:

      Panzertruppen II, Jentz (lots of reports from panzer divisions)
      T-34 vs. Panther Ukraine 1943, Forczyk

      If you look at the biblio, he sources some materials on PB-51 and PB-52

      i'm going read Jung now and see if I need to edit anything..

      Also, this is a terrific thread with a lot of original research:
      Last edited by Cult Icon; 12 Dec 14, 20:05.


      • I read Jung's account of GD (360 tanks and AG) in Citadel already. His view, long story short is that it was deep seated organizational problems, command crises, and lack of preparation.

        With the Panther brigade...: It had the manpower ingredients of an elite armored formation, but the execution ended up bad.

        Incomplete training, circumstances (eg. von Sievers out of action, the antagonism between various commanders, mechanically terrible (literally trial level) panther, etc.) and the general concept behind the brigade was bad.

        I think immediately of Balck's statements about armored divisions in the east, and one of his maxims is to 'right size' formations for each commander. It's common sense, but common sense not applied in operation citadel. Balck's analogy was applied both to armor and infantry: Some commanders have the skills and mental ability to lead large, complex formations. Average battlegroup commanders, generally smaller.

        The Panther Brigade was huge at 200 tanks strong, and among other things too complex an execution for decent, but not brilliant commanders to deal with in such a short period of time. Simply put, it was too huge of a formation to handle well without a long period of training & integration efforts.

        Among other things, IMO they were probably better off taking these 200 mechanically terrible tanks and splitting them into 4 smaller battalions under various commanders.

        It looks like Decker did poorly in the first two days, and then command passed to the Count. The Count took the remaining ~43 runners and performed much better. (?)

        Originally posted by krichter33 View Post
        The Panther Brigade had excellent leadership especially in Decker and von Lauchert, however the Panther being brand new had too many mechanical breakdowns, most of their loses being mechanical. It wasn't until 44 that the newer Panthers were much improved. They also didn't perform as well because they were led a bit recklessly either by Strachwitz or Decker considering who you believe. Though both were excellent Panzer commanders, one of them was a bit too reckless at Kursk. Blood Steel and Myth really covers this controversy really well. It's similar with Bake. As a panzer commander in the East he was brilliant, however when he was placed in command of Panzer Brigade 106, in his first actions in the West, the whole Brigade was almost wiped out fighting the Americans, whom Bake had never fought against. The very aggressive cavalry type tactics from the East didn't work in the West. Of course, being an excellent commander he soon learned from his mistakes, and the Brigade performed better.

        I have heard of that, although I believe that organizational problems were deep and possibly supercede Bake's inexperience fighting western armored divisions. I haven't researched those battles much so I don't have a concrete opinion on that.

        There is a book about the history of Panzer Brigade 105 and largely it says that the 'Panzer brigade' was a failed organizational experiment. Like the early war Red Army tank brigades, these units had very inadequate logistical and service/maintenance/recovery assets, leading to high losses of equipment & shortages of ammunition/fuel in movements.
        Last edited by Cult Icon; 13 Dec 14, 17:57.


        • I read "Hold the Westwall." It's an excellent book! The Panzer Brigade concept was created by Hitler after Bagration, and the heavy loses the Germans suffered. He felt it was easier to create these smaller panzer units than full divisions, and they could we used as fire brigades. Guderian was completely against it, and felt that the new poorly trained crews and Panther tanks and SPW's should have been supplied to reinforce existing Panzer divisions. Either way he lost the argument, and these Brigades were formed. Originally they were ONLY to be deployed on the Eastern Front, led be veteran commanders and NCO's, where they probably would have performed quite well, like Panzer Regiment Bake had done earlier. Unfortunately almost all these units were sent to the Western front, where most of them failed and had heavy loses, despite the experience of their commanders, almost all of them who had only fought in the East. Anyways the following link is an interesting article about the Panzer Brigades. I actually like the Panzer Brigade concept, especially the second formation, that had two battalions of infantry, however I think they should have fought in the East.


          • Thanks for that and the link. I checked out that book but didn't read it cover to cover. It looks like the Panzer Brigades were designed for 'Panzer raids' (Bake-style) and not to actual capture and consolidate ground organically. Doctrinally, the SPW battalion wasn't even supposed to dismount, but rather fight from vehicles..
            Last edited by Cult Icon; 14 Dec 14, 23:38.


            • ===========

              Major tank kill claims (knocked out, including destroyed and damaged) from History of PR-GD:

              Largest claim is 102 tank kills by the division in one day.

              Artillery regiment GD claims over 300 tank kills from June 1942-Sept 1942.

              Division GD claims over 200 tank kills in Blau I (up to 7th July 1942)

              PB-GD claims over 200 tank kills from June 1942-March 1943.

              PR-GD claims over 260 tank kills in March 1943.

              PR-GD claims over 1,000 tank kills from March 1943- mid-May 1944. It claims over 200 tank kills in early May 1944, and presumably is around 800 before May 1944.

              Division GD claims over 840 tank kills from June 1942-March 1943, and presumably around 600 before March 1943.

              Division GD claims 550 tank kills in the first week of May 1944

              13. Tiger company and III/GD (Tigers) claimed 600 tank kills in total during the war.

              ****These figures above do not include tank kills claimed by Stug Brigade GD during the war (est. 40 stugs plus, max). It was part of the division from the beginning.

              ****These figures above do not include tank kills claimed by I./26 (Panther battalion, establishment 76) or Panzer battalion 51/52 (Panther battalion, establishment 96) attached as part of GD throughout 1943-1944. GD, since kursk, always had an extra attached panther unit. This made it a division with four tank battalions and one stug brigade. Stug brigade GD was replaced with the special PB-302. (30 stugs and 20 B-4 bomb carriers) in 1945.

              I./26 claims 211 tank kills from Jan 1944 -June 1944 while it was attached to GD.

              263 kills claimed by Panzer brigade 10 (pb51/pb52) during citadel.

              ****In sum, I doubt that there was a single division in the Wehrmacht that claimed more tank kills than GD (plus its attached panther battalions and stug brigade) in the hard, losing years of 1943 and 1944. The numbers are really high, and must be over 2,000.

              over 3,000 tank kills (Jan-1943 to Oct 1944) is reasonable upper range if extrapolations are done. (for instance, a straight-line estimate of 5 armor battalions is around 2,250 tank kills...then there is the whole division, which always claims significantly more than just its armor). Then chop the figure in half to adjust for German overclaiming and that's in the region of 1,500.

              Of interest is the fact that GD at times held a corps-sized sector in the front...

              I estimate that its tank and AG running strength (5 armor battalions) was effectively between 100 and 20 throughout the two years, barring outliers/extreme events like Kursk or a major refitting.

              If all tank kill claims are measured from GD 1940-1945 it would be an even larger number, at least 3,500 plus with an upper range at over 4,000. I think it's over 4,000 claimed tank kills.
              Last edited by Cult Icon; 15 Dec 14, 19:44.


              • I'm deep into reading into 'Red Storm over the Balkans', Glantz. April-June 1944, Rumania is basically a military epic for two Wehrmacht divisions that nobody knows about. The Soviets aimed at quickly removing Rumania out of the war and seizing the Ploesti oil fields.

                1st Battle of Targos Frumos April 9-12:

                35 Guards rifle corps (2 rifle, 1 airborne) take Targos Frumos. GD (Manteuffel) moves up from reserve, quickly envelops them, and cuts their rear off with its 2 infantry regiments. A panzer battlegroup is on the other side. 24. Pz moves up on its right wing as flank protection and defends against attacks by 33rd GRC.

                With the lines of communication cut, the 35 Guards rifle corps retreat out of the area though the openings of the pocket, taking losses with one division badly mauled. 35 GRC and 33 GRC revert to defense.

                Until April 23, GD makes short ranged attacks aimed at increasing and improving its defensive perimeter. The Germans know that the 2nd Ukrainian Front is preparing for a new offensive.


                • The Red Storm........

                  Konev's (2UKF) concentric order for breakthrough, April 23rd 1944:

                  7GA attack with 6 divisions (first echelon) with 5GTA. Other forces to come.

                  27 A attack with 4 divisions (first echelon) with 2TA. Other forces to come.

                  Total forces: 14 rifle divisions, 1 fortified region, 5 tank corps, 1 calvary corps, 2 tank brigades, 6 independent tank regiments.

                  ***Rifle divisions mostly between 6,500-5,000 men strong.

                  7GA is fresh and undamaged. 5GTA medium strength (358 armor). 2TA low strength. (121 armor) 27A.

                  491 Tanks (of note: 2TA and 5GTA reinforced with 2 x Is-2 regiments each)

                  150 guns and mortars per KM for support. 2,250 guns and mortars.

                  Artillery penetration: 18 miles wide x 6 miles deep.

                  2 UK front air support: 515 aircraft. Luftwaffe: 600 aircraft.

                  *** 5GTA: 271 Tanks, 87 SPG.

                  Including: 40 x IS-2, 183 x T-34, 13 x IS-122

                  *** 2TA: 121 armor

                  3TC: 50 armor.

                  Including: 27 x T-34, 5 x IS-85, 18 x ISU-152

                  16TC: 55 armor.

                  Including: 32 x T-34, 2x MK-9, 16 x IS-122, 5 x SU-85

                  11GTB: 16 x T-34

                  Directly facing them:

                  GD Holding the front (less than half front line combat strength (@ 40% TOE) but support weapons are strong. 2,400 infantry in 2 regiments ), armor strength fluctuates: maximum 72 runners out of 200 tanks and AG in inventory.)

                  46th Infantry Division Holding the front.

                  24. Pz Situated behind the Rumanians. (Brigade size total in various combined arms battle groups. 24 runners (tanks and AG) maximum.)

                  SS-Totenkopf in reserve (weak, brigade size, missing lots of equipment, armor non-operational)

                  Panzers and stugs: Maximum 96 operational.

                  1st Guards Armor Division (Rumanian) 80, mostly light rumanian tanks.

                  6th Infantry Division (Rumanian)

                  Germans in the center, Rumanians on the flanks....


                  Edit the prior post: GD's biggest claim is 250 tank kills (credited to PR-GD) on May 2nd, 1944.

                  6-7 rifle divisions assault GD's 2 infantry regiments.

                  2TA (3TC, 16TC) and 5GTA [2 out of 3](3GTC, 29TC) armor's main effort is GD. 29TC is also putting pressure on the tank-less SS-T.

                  24 Pz.'s brigade sized force was divided into KG "W" and "E". "W" (25 tanks and AG) was composed of armored/mech forces while "E" was a combined arms infantry force. This force was a fire brigade. "E" was to fix the enemy, while "W" was to attack its flanks and rear.
                  Last edited by Cult Icon; 21 Dec 14, 20:29.


                  • April 24-March 1st. GD performs many spoiling attacks aimed at damaging the assembly areas of the offensive and expanding their positions. Another reason for this activity is to harass 7GA and reduce the moral of their forward units.

                    Manteuffel personally leads several panzer raids (up to 30 tanks and AG) supported by infantry and inflicts equipment losses (trains, support weapons, tanks). He follows the armor groups in his radio SPW, with an forward-observer SPW in front of him. Of interest is how he joins the panzer-regiment during the 2nd battle of targos frumos whenever they make armor counterattacks.

                    Meanwhile, GD digs in for the offensive, which starts on May 2nd.

                    von Senger, 24. Pz, counterattack plan:

                    Following known Soviet tactical principles, it could be expected that they would build up strong AT defense in support of their break-in, which, once established, could only be breached by a costly and large-scale counterattack.
                    24 Pz. routs 3 GAD and 16 TC on May 2nd and forces them to withdraw.

                    LVII PzK, Status report 8 AOK:

                    +claims: The main attack beaten off with 350-300 tanks destroyed.
                    +GD estimates 400 wounded, 6 tanks destroyed, 8 tanks damaged.

                    2nd Ukrainian Front, May 2nd:

                    7GA: 123 dead, 573 wounded.
                    27A: 184 dead, 402 wounded.

                    Tank write off estimates:

                    May 2nd-5th 1944, real soviet losses: 227 tanks and AG written off. Most of the remaining armor is damaged.

                    May 3rd attack. Konev has 300 tanks and AG combat ready.

                    2TA: 70 armor (2 tank corps)
                    5GTA: 180 armor (2 tank corps)

                    Konev regroups his forces; the Germans also regroup directly in front of them.

                    5GTA loses ~90 armor destroyed and damaged. 2TA, unknown.

                    7GA: 135 dead, 575 wounded
                    27A: 173 killed, 352 wounded

                    May 4th Attack: ~200 tanks and AG combat ready.

                    7GA:90 dead, 623 wounded
                    27A:119 dead, 443 wounded

                    GD disbanded one out of 6 infantry battalions (starting strength: ~400).

                    Counterattacks by GD and 24.Pz are being planned.

                    May 5th: Offensive canceled. 5GTA and 2TA removed to reserve. Soviets revert to defense.

                    2TA has 49 armor left. 5GTA has 215 armor left (148 tanks, 67 SPG).

                    227 tanks were written off in 3 days. 3,792 men dead and wounded fighting against GD front. Most the pressure was on GD, and intended on destroying it.

                    GD claims less than ten write-offs. Their armor runners are roughly the same as it was before the offensive started. Personnel losses are 400+ casualties on the first day and were lower in the next days.

                    May 7th: German counterstroke. 24 Pz and GD attack and retake the soviet gains for the past couple of days. Konev arrests the commander of 35th Guards Rifle corps for losing an important hill.
                    Last edited by Cult Icon; 22 Dec 14, 00:09.


                    • Is all the information you posted in the last three posts from "Red Storm over the Balkans?" It seems to complement Spaeter's book really well. I have to read it.


                      • ^^
                        The GD tank information is from Jung, PR-Gd and the SS-T is from its unit history.

                        ***Of interest is the personal account in Jung by...Jung. The first is about one of Manteuffel's tank raids in April, and then consolidation of the town. The author lost one eye as a company commander of Pz IVs during 2nd Targos Frumos.

                        Now a quiet time...

                        8 AOK offensives, May 30- June 9th 1944. This is primarily an attempt at taking territory, decimating 10 rifle divisions and compressing them against a river line and eliminate a large bridgehead. The hope was to pre-empt another large scale soviet offensive like Targos Frumos II. However, the Soviets were not planning to do so, which made the operation moot.

                        STAVKA would focus again on Rumania in August 1944.

                        Two pincers:

                        Operation Sonja (30-31st May): 24. Pz, 23. Pz supported by 79 ID, Romanian 11 ID. 14.Pz in reserve, and to relieve 23. Pz the next day.

                        Operation Katja (2-6 June): GD, 23. Pz supported by Romanian 18 ID, Romanian 3 ID

                        24. Pz (brigade):

                        KG "W" :30 tanks
                        KG "E": 20 stugs

                        23. Pz ( regimental battlegroup): 20 tanks and AG

                        14. Pz ( either brigade or regiment sized): 25 armor (10 tanks, 15 stugs)

                        GD (brigade sized): About 100 tanks and assault guns operational.


                        Soviet defensive belt 4-6 miles deep. (defense-in-depth)

                        233rd Tank Brigade: 50 tanks
                        16TC and 11GTB: 60 tanks (including 10 IS-models)


                        31st May: (sonja day 2) =37 soviet kills claimed. Aerial battles between VVS and LW.


                        June 2nd: Claim 23 soviet tank kills.
                        June 3rd: Claim 25 soviet tank kills.

                        June 2nd-7th: GD claims 70 tank kills, 36 AT guns, 45 artillery pieces, 19 aircraft destroyed. Engineers cleared 10,300 mines.


                        Fragmentary, incomplete stats on German tank situation (no stats on Stug brigade GD):

                        + lots of aerial attacks against GD.

                        5 infantry battalions consolidated to 4 due to personnel casualties.

                        June 1st Runners:

                        12 x Pz IV, 3 x Panther-Command, 19 x Tigers
                        48 x Panthers in I/26.

                        June 4th Runners: Of the tigers, only 4 Tiger runners left. 17 Panthers in I/26.

                        June 10th: I./26: 17 Panthers running, 9 Panthers written-off


                        Conclusion of the operations: Mixed, with main objective failed.

                        bridgehead compressed (bulge 2 to 5 miles long), tanks destroyed, several rifle divisions mauled with several thousand prisoners taken.

                        bridgehead however, remained too large.

                        24.Pz worn down and sent to rest & refit.

                        Soviet losses estimates, various sources:

                        *30May- June 5th Operations Sonja and Katja (52A, 27A, 2TA,6TA):

                        14,871 casualties, 96 tanks written off, 132 aircraft lost. No prisoner identified in stats.

                        2UK front took 93,519 casualties fighting in April and May 1944.

                        24.Pz took 1,917 casualties from early April-early June 1944.

                        GD leaves to rest & refit in mid- June.
                        Last edited by Cult Icon; 23 Dec 14, 00:46.


                        • Is all this from Jung? If it is I have to read it again. I read it so long ago I don't remember any of this!!!


                          • ^^

                            Most of the german figures are from Glantz. I use Spaeter, Jung, and Panzertruppen II to fill in the gaps with GD armor.

                            I finished the book (it is complicated, but excellent). It is very insightful about the way the soviet and the germans fought in mid-1944 and how they planned & executed operations.

                            Konev's Targos Frumos II would have most likely succeeded if GD was not there or if an infantry unit was in its place.

                            German offensive power in mid-1944 was not as it used to be either quantitatively or qualitatively by a dramatic margin. However, they could still conduct a strong defense provided that they have some quality units and can exploit terrain.

                            Soviet rifle division defensive abilities, especially when reinforced with armor, improved dramatically compared to earlier times and they don't go down to the prisoner cage easily anymore. They are more likely to bend than to snap even when under heavy, concentrated pressure.

                            The Germans have a much better chance if they attack rifle divisions w/o armor and in unfavorable terrain.
                            Last edited by Cult Icon; 23 Dec 14, 01:21.


                            • Konev planned to smash GD, and then take Targos Frumos in 24 hours. In 48 hours, he planned to take all territory as far as Bacau, which was far to the rear of TF and much closer to the Ploesti oil fields. From there, STAKVA was planning to continue. Konev had won many times before, and the generals were confident that they would be successful here.

                              Manteufuel's command of GD and the performance of the division in April-May were outstanding and the division executed the defense with an unusual surgical precision.

                              The secret to this was the careful preparation in the defense, state of supply, and the counterattack, as well as the cultivation of a high state of morale. Although at less than half strength, quality of the troops were high with the bulk being veterans. Jung's tankers had 40+tank engagements under their belt already. Manteufuel focused much on team-building throughout, and the panzer raids/limited attacks in April and the routing of 35 GRC only served to improve their confidence. As a result, the two infantry regiments were individually able to withstand attacks by large numbers of tanks up to around 100 without being routed or being pushed back significantly.

                              The intelligence coup delivered by the captured staff officer helped as well as Manteuffeul's focus on constant recon, gathering of intelligence, and then the dissemination of intelligence. Then exercises and planning of various countermeasure beforehand with all his units. Various fire plans for the different units were drawn out, and closely coordinated with groupings.

                              The Panzer regiment was lead by Langkeit and Manteuffeul personally, and the soviet accounts of it was that it was like 'Muhammad Ali'. The soviet armor was repeatedly ambushed and hit with concentrated flank attacks, and were unable to respond effectively due to the frequent relocation of the panzer fist. They were also being sniped from extreme range (tigers and panthers). These tactics served to drain the morale of their armor and their infantry & thin out their numbers. This was compounded by LW attacks, particularly by stuka gruppen. Of interest is how the IS tanks did not really pose much of a problem as Fusilier repelled a regiment and the PR was able to deal with them after they realized that frontal hits bounce.

                              IMO, feat achieved here would have failed with an average panzer division. Stopping the offensive could also have been replicated with an average panzer division, but with much heavier losses and a costly but successful soviet penetration. An average performance would have been worn them down and in remnants if they managed to survive and stop this offensive. Konev would have kept on going if he believed that he had the forces left. It is unlikely that that the defending force would have residual strength left to regain all positions lost and then participate in Operation Sonja/Katja. The Soviets would also be a stronger state of morale in May, as they would not have have taken as much disruption, terrain, and equipment losses from the panzer raids. There is a possibility that 35 GRC would not have been cut off, and then routed in three days in TF I.
                              Last edited by Cult Icon; 23 Dec 14, 08:56.


                              • Manteuffel was probably one of their best Panzer division commanders.


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