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Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

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  • I finished screening the memoir:

    - Rosen spent most of the war (1940-1945) training or in hospitals- this probably saved his life. He had 3 severe injuries.

    -There is a bit on the origins of the King Tiger propaganda film. This was filmed over the course of a weekend in the fall of 1944. Rosen was the star:

    -On Jan 1943, he comes back with an independent Tiger company (mixed Tiger/Pz III) and is sent to fight with AGA. This is integrated with Tiger 503.

    -He trains with the units that would make up III Panzer Korps at Kursk (a book about it, too). Each of the 3 panzer divisions would receive one Tiger company as a spearhead. He is now a Tiger platoon leader.

    -A good account of being the spearhead of 7.Panzer at Kursk. He is severely injured on July 12th, 1943.

    -He fights again at Normandy (Operation Goodwood, in particular)

    -Rosen comes back to action in the mobile defensive combat in Hungary (fall of 1944- Feb 1944, including at Debrechen) He is now a King Tiger company commander. This and the barbarossa section are the highlights of the book.

    -This one in particular demonstrates with it was like to lead small unit counterattacks with ragtag forces. IS-2s are encountered. A highlight is an account of being sent to take a town with totally inadequate forces ( 8 SPW with triple drilling and 100 demoralized and injured infantry)

    - Rosen and the rest of 503 is deployed in the Konrad operations and OP South wind (gran bridgehead). It is here that his company takes heavily losses from SU/ISU-152s which matches other books about the subject. He is severely injured at Gran and this is where the battle details end.

    -A major focus of the book is mechanical problems- Rosen and the Tiger crews were struggling against them all the time.


    • The 17th SS PzG division was the strongest formation that attacked in Operation "Nordwind". The German 1st Army considered its people to be of below average quality and the achievements of the division in the fall of 1944 and in Nordwind to be below its resources.

      It had: 41 stugs operational, 23 in repair and 19 SP Flak, 14 SPW, 11 armored cars. A very well equipped flak battalion with many SP flak.


      • I've been interested in 17.SS lately (it was heavily committed in the Westfront and especially against US forces during the battle of the Hedgerows) and will get the Stober's book later on. Some notes from various books:

        17.SS PzG:

        - took the highest losses in the battle for St. Lo and was the biggest division (in terms of combat manpower) in its OOB facing the US Army. At the end of the Hedgerow battle, it was rated KW-4 and with weak combat strength.

        2.SS DR was in 7.A's reserve and fared much better in Normandy- still rated KW 1 at the end. Of note is how only 11,100 plus personnel were in Normandy by July 1st and over 6,000 were not in the battle zone. Like the 1.SS, the 2.SS was poorly motorized, with only 600 plus trucks.

        -17.SS was formed out of an array of SS replacement battalions (some 6,000 plus men) plus a leadership slice from Das Reich and other senior SS divisions. Beyond that, the rest were refilled with 17/18 year old german conscripts and volksdeustche. Language problems were an issue.

        -The division was short 40% of required officers and NCOs and had a surplus of some 741 privates. The majority of the division only had 22-25 weeks of training.

        -It was poorly motorized with only 245 trucks on June 1st. I think it can be considered more like an infantry division with a stug battalion rather than a panzer-grenadier division.

        -The Stug battalion's leadership were veterans from the core SS PzDs. The division's major weakness besides lack of vehicles was the weak artillery support. This would hamper them in the Carentan counterattack. Also, the division was poorly equipped with Panzerfausts and would not be remedied this during the normandy battle. The Recon battalion was primarily equipped with just motorcycles.

        -The equipment situation (highlights): only 1 artillery battalion (poorly equipped with artillery), strong flak and AT battalions, 99 mortars, 72 flamethrowers, no SPWs or armored cars.


        • I checked Zetterling's Normandy and there are some differences: The 17.SS was poorly equipped with authorized vehicles but at authorized for weapons.

          I bought a copy of the 17.SS history from this online store:

          They charged me $72 for the book and $6 for shipping- considerably less than the $96 (total) price from the Canadian publisher.


          • I just got the history in the mail- very impressive


            • Fritz Klingenberg was rather young and the commander of SS officer school Bad Tolz from March 1944- Jan 21, 1945. He was then assigned command of the 17.SS division and died from a tank shell in March 1945. The last commander of Bad Tolz, Schulz-Kossens took over the school and wrote a major post-war history of the school.


              • I just got a copy of "Panzergrenadiers to the Front (Pzg Brandenburg)". It looks like very good stuff, and perhaps the best 1945 coverage of any panzer division unit history. A lot of vivid personal accounts and in a way it can be seen as a study of a division against the power of the red army in 1945. The map book is about 112 pages long and the text (without appendix) is small print (350 pages, so say 450 pages on a normal font)


                • This history also covers the use of Panzerkorps G.D. HQ under Dietrich von Saucken in 1945 operations. Units like 19.Pz, 20.PzG, 21.Pz, 16.Pz, HG Panzer 1 fall under this corps command along with PzG BR.


                  books that complement it "Panzer grenadiers to the Front".

                  -"Prelude to Berlin" (Soviet General Staff, Vistula-Oder offensive

                  -Panzerkorps G.D. Volume III

                  -2nd Tank Army Volume II

                  There is also an upcoming book on tank battles by Igorn.


                  • In looking at releases for the rest of 2018, among many, the must buys:

                    Igorn's 1st Tank Army (October 3rd) and Tank battles in East Prussia and Poland (December 3rd)

                    reprint of 21st Panzer Division ( August 2nd) and Armored warfare in the Battle for Budapest ( Nov 2nd)
                    Smashing Hitler's Panzers: The Defeat of the Hitler Youth Panzer Division in the Battle of the Bulge Hardcover November 1, 2018

                    Last edited by Cult Icon; 03 Jul 18, 06:56.


                    • The oder front 1/2 by Hamilton (part 3 coming) should neatly support 21.Pz , BR, and other related unit histories:


                      It looks like the most modern series on the Oder Front 1945.


                      • You should read the history of the Brandenburgers, an elite commando unit many of whose members were selected for foreign language ability.
                        Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?


                        • Cult, is there a part three to the Oder Front series? I have Volumes 1 and 2.

                          Lawrence Paterson, an excellent Naval historian, is releasing a new book on the Brandenburgers. It is supposed to include a lot of unreleased primary sources!




                          • That looks interesting. PzK. G.D has a few chapters on the Brandeburgers as a whole.

                            I asked Hamilton on Axishistory when volume 3 will be released. I don't know. His response to your thread makes it seem like V3 is not a priority.


                            • So BR had only 2-3 weeks of unit training (company and platoon) before the chaos of the Vistula-Oder Offensive. PanzerKorps G.D. and its units were the only mobile force that was not locked down in defensive combat.

                              The unit had only 8,000-9500 men and a combat strength of 3600 men.

                              Hamilton calls BR not an "elite unit". However, it seems that if it had several months of development, it could have been.

                              BR was rated KW-2 and not fully combat capable due to 1. equipment shortages 2. unit training. It was composed of however, elements with high potential. 40% of the panzerpioneer battalion were veterans from the 78.Sturm-division. The rest were well trained volunteers. The artillery regiment was based around 1 artillery battalion of the 1.Panzer division. Qualified personnel from G.D. were allocated in deficiency slots. The crack Stug Brigade G.D. was permanently attached. The PzJ battalion was equipped with Stug IVs- so 2 assault gun battalions.

                              BR also had a panzer regiment with 2 battalions, however, the combat ready Panther battalion was allocated to PzD Kurmark and never fought with the division. The other never completed its development in the war.

                              30-35% of the personnel were brandenburg commandos and they were largely allocated to Jager regiment 1 and 2. (4 x Jager battalions). The remainder were from replacement brigade G.D. and also luftwaffe/naval transfers with no infantry training.

                              The Brandenburg commandos saw their assignment to the new division as a major downgrade in their status- also they were not trained or experienced in conventional fighting. The BR regiments were mostly deployed for special ops missions and anti-partisan warfare on the eastern front. Their training was in languages, espionage, demolitions, close combat, and other areas.

                              The next period of development was in March, which was a 7 week period. The unit had only 9,000 men and a combat strength of 3000-3500 men. The unit was training just a few KM from the frontline and could not complete divisional level training or coordination training with armored vehicles and artillery.

                              However, BR was able to do battalion and regimental unit training, which improved its cohesion and Hamilton credits this for its tactical victories against units of the 2nd Polish Army and 7th Guards Mech. Corps.

                              It would fight the rest of the war from this state and it remained intact until May 8th, 1945.
                              Last edited by Cult Icon; 06 Jul 18, 21:41.


                              • On April 15, 1945, it was 9,000 men strong with combat strength at 3-4,000 men with 31 Stugs/Jagpanzer IVs operational, 2 command panzers operational.

                                Its combat infantry was equipped with 501 STG-44 rifles. The majority of this was allocated to the Panzerpioneer battalion with the remainder to Assault platoons of various Jager companies. These platoons were entirely equipped with them, along with 2 x MG-42s. There was also 550 MP38/40s and 153 x G41/G43s (most of these were designated snipers.) 57 sniper rifles, 126 rifle grenade launchers.

                                Number of machineguns- unknown but they should have been considerable. It can be assumed that about 1,000 of the combat troops were equipped with some type of automatic small arm. 200 with a semi-auto or sniper rifle. And the remainder were support weapons crews or MG teams plus riflemen.

                                Fairly well equipped with small arms. These weapons were distributed among 6 modest combat battalions, my guess is about 2,000-3,000 men tops.

                                On tactical deployment, Jager Regiment 1 was the frontline holding/fixing force. First battalion was mechanized on SPW. Jager Regiment 2 was supported by the PzJ battalion. Stug Brigade GD supported the Panzerpioneer battalion. The Armored Recon battalion was not used as one element but spread out among the units of the division, including one platoon permanently attached to the Panzerpioneer battalion.


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