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Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

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  • #16
    Just off hand from what I know of the Heer I'd classify the following as elite units.



    3rd Gebirgsjaeger

    2nd Panzer

    Führer Begleit Brigade

    7th Panzer

    That's about it.
    Eagles may fly; but weasels aren't sucked into jet engines!

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Aber View Post
      Technically Greek Islands under Italian rule off the coast of Turkey.
      Flag: USA / Location: West Coast




      • #18
        Originally posted by Andy H View Post

        There were several regular Heer divisions that had a good reputation throughout the war (1st, 11th and 121 for example(, and despite the huge difficulties they faced, they remained so. That's also true for some Stug Abt's

        The German army developed a system for rating Divisions - "Bewertungen des inneren Wertes". The system was used from 1942, rating divisions according to a set of fixed criteria: hardness, endurance, command structure/skill of the Divisons leadership, fighting spirit, training standards and dependability.

        The grading system was:

        I: Particularly good division, unconditionally dependable. Has proven itself with distinction in crisis situations.

        II: Dependable division, proven in crisis situations.

        III: Conditionally dependable division, not or not fully proven in crisis situations.

        IV: Division of low dependability, not to be relied upon.

        It'd be interesting to compare a lists of these rankings and see what, if any, continuity existed between units. 'Elite' is a pretty meaningless term in the context of the high turnovers of personnel experienced by formations in WW2 IMO - and it's telling in a way that we define 'elite' units as being such based on their selection criteria for personnel rather than their performance in battle.
        Colonel Summers' widely quoted critique of US strategy in the Vietnam War is having a modest is poor history, poor strategy, and poor Clausewitz to boot - Robet Komer, Survival, 27:2, p. 94.


        • #19

          I believe that units in WW2 were elite and had special capabilities for period of time until competitive developments and decimation overcame them. The duration of their 'eliteness' in WW2 can only be measured in months at most, and it ebbed and flowed based on the condition of the formation itself.

          The Wehrmacht's KW system to me is invalid post 1943. From 44-45 I believe it became a matter of shifting goalposts downward rather than actual high level formation skill and competitive edge on the battlefield.


          • #20
            I found this to be interesting: 24th Panzer Division

            28th June to 31st Oct 1942

            Booty and prisoners

            27,270 prisoners
            115 aircraft
            272 guns
            431 tanks destroyed (273 claimed by Panzer regiment 24)
            328 At guns
            61 AA guns
            548 AT rifles
            478 mortars

            24th Panzer division losses over the same period:

            Casualties: 212 Officers, 5,658 NCOs and men.

            List of equipment lost (I won't copy the insignificant stuff)

            92 MG-34, 12x 2 cm AA, 6 mortars, 4 Infantry guns, 2 x 15 cm Howitz, 3 x 88mm AA, 3 x 50mm AT guns, 2 Halftracks, 8 rubber boats, 3 assault boats.

            Total losses AFVs during the same time period.

            1 command panzer
            3 Pz II
            25 Pz III
            5 Pz IV
            3 armored cars
            146 motorcycles
            85 cars
            151 lorries
            29 towing tractors
            37 trailers

            Pretty much I would classify this as an elite unit for the year of 1942.


            • #21
              Well... who was doing the adding?

              Elite is relative IMO... depending on what you are comparing it to.


              • #22
                With these stats I believe the successes did not occur in a vacuum as this division, along with others, participated in several successful maneuver operations which netted them all this booty. What is notable about their own losses is the disproportionately high losses of officers and ncos (a product of the German leadership style?) and high total losses of soft skinned vehicles.

                The bulk of 24th Panzer's ~165 Panzers were either total losses or non-operational at this point.

                Probably many of the Soviet POWs are wounded somehow. Most of the Soviet equipment were picked up from surrendered formations and overrun airfields & supply caches.


                • #23
                  Originally posted by Salinator View Post
                  Regarding the Brandenburgers

                  You're forgetting that they started as a battalion of special forces under the command of military intelligence. Grossdeutschland started out as a battalion of ceremonial guards. They grew in parallel with Grossdeutschland. was their training partner. and finally was part of Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland. Until Admiral Canaris and the Abwehr lost control of the Brandenburgers they served all over the place at the same time in small units and also as firemen like the Fallschirmjaegers. These guys were language experts, demolition experts, special tactic experts, evasion experts, engineers, and more. A great number of Brandenburgers managed to melt away and escape capture when the Eastern front fell apart toward the end. Eighteen hundred of Otto Skorenzy's men were transferred from the Brandenburgers when they morphed into a panzer division because they did not want to fight conventional warfare.

                  All together, their contributions were greater than it appears at first glance. And in my earlier post, I inadvertently left off Belgium, Italy, and Turkey on their list of theaters that they served in.
                  Just to say I agree with this. As a whole division at the end of the war, they might not have been elite, but if you think of them as the German commandos, and if you remember some of the stuff they did as small advance units, then they qualify.


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post

                    5. Cavalry regiment 5 'von Mackenson'
                    Huh? Wasn't this disbanded before 1939?!


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Michele View Post
                      Huh? Wasn't this disbanded before 1939?!
                      And shouldn't it be Cavalry regiment 5 'von Mackensen'

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Dibble201Bty View Post
                        And shouldn't it be Cavalry regiment 5 'von Mackensen'

                        Mackensen is correct.
                        AFAIK the Reiterregiment 5 was formed in 1920 and consisted of members of Reichswehr-Kavallerie-Regimenter 17 and 37.
                        Von Mackensen became Regimentschef in 1936.

                        In the course of the mobilization the Rgt was dissolved into Recce detachments 12 and 32. The rest formed into Kavallerie-Ersatz-Abteilung 5 which was part of Division Nr. 152.
                        One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.


                        • #27
                          I looked into the background of 1st Calvary and it is composed of Prussians. It could probably be renamed 'blue blood division'. It fought with mot. division GD until it was re-assigned to the 4th Panzer Army.

                          I also read Glantz's 24th Panzer troop movements in his stalingrad trilogy. It did an incredible amount of fighting and more engaged than any other division. It's journey is more intense than any division I have encountered in reading about WW2. Interestingly enough, even after all this combat, it was still actively used by mid-Nov, with a combat strength of 5,500 including several hundred infantrymen.

                          Glantz considers it the most important division of Case Blue (june 28th until mid November, Uranus). Praise: 'Remarkable advance', 'Spearhead of the offensive [case blue]' 'superb practitioner of maneuver warfare', 'responsible for clearing Stalingrad in urban combat'. Until the very end, remnants of it was still fighting in late Jan 1942. This division was engaged nearly constantly on the offensive or in counterattacks.
                          Last edited by Cult Icon; 08 Aug 14, 08:53.


                          • #28
                            Of course no SS divisions would be considered elite army units - they were never in the Heer.


                            • #29
                              23rd Panzer division (a new division at the time) was part of the encirclement strike force in the 2nd battle of Kharkov.

                              This strike force also composed of 3rd PzD, 14th PzD, 16th PzD with a total of 421 tanks.

                              23rd Panzer was the strongest division that foiled the offensive and had 178 tanks.

                              It ended the battle with 47,000 prisoners of war.

                              I know that these victories certainly have a lot to do with circumstances so it's difficult to judge. In looking at its history, it fights in Blau (starting with 130 tanks) with the 6th Army with success (but less involved than 24th Panzer) and then gets transferred to AGA towards the oil fields. It fights, takes 10,000 prisoners. But the battles in the south exhaust it and it has only 30 operational tanks at any point in time. Then it is transferred to fight in Winter storm with 6th Panzer. The relief operation fails, and it defends the south for 2 months. By the end of this, the division is withdrawn to be rebuilt.

                              This unknown division had a very dramatic history. The divisional rolls claim that it knocked out almost 3,000 tanks in WW2.

                              It comes to me that the achievements of Wehrmacht divisions in 41-42 certainly beat the Waffen SS divisions of 43-45 by a huge margin in absolute terms.

                              They fought in entirely different circumstances- the SS in the operational defense and against a much stronger Red army.
                              Last edited by Cult Icon; 10 Aug 14, 00:16.


                              • #30
                                Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                                I might buy the three cavalry brigades formed one per army group in 1943 for use in the East. Nord, Mitte, and Süd all were hard fighting fire brigade units that were led by some of Germany's elite horsemen. ...
                                I had never heard of these units before.

                                5 Kavallerie-Regimenter had originally been designated Kavallerie-Regiment Nord in June 1941. In May 1944 it was re-designated 42 Kavallerie-Regimenter and finally Kavallerie (or Reiter?) Regiment 5, in reference to the old 5th Cavalry Regiment of the Imperial Army. The "Feldmarschall v. Mackensen" title was authorized for Kavallerie-Regiment 5 on 6 December 1944. Interestingly the regiment (brigade and eventually division) also used the “Totenkopf” Death’s Head insignia.
                                The regiment was used to form 4. Kavallerie Brigade along with 41 Kavallerie-Regimenter (originally Kavallerie-Regimenter Sud) in May 1944. The brigade was expanded to 5 Kavallerie Division in February 1945.

                                Surrendered to the British at the end of the war.

                                It seems they were regarded highly to continue the lineage of a famous regiment and to honor a deceased Field Marshall of the Great War.

                                Still not sure what they actually did to be considered elite.


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