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Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

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  • #46
    Come 21st June 1941, most German combat units that had seen action could be considered elite.

    The Versailles Treaty meant that during the 20's, the limited German kept its most competent officers and men.
    The 30's saw these military adept men suddenly having the funds to pursue new courses of warfare, with all the toys that comes with that backing.
    They also had borderline Spartan like fanatics, with which to use as troops. Nazi propaganda and training regimes had seen to that.
    They could also practice invading other peoples countries, without loss of life. This meant that, with the exception of actual combat experience, all the boring elements of command would become second nature to those that it mattered.

    In 39-40, they could take all these superior military attributes into battle and win.

    No army was the match of the Germans before Barbarossa. I would go as far as to say few combat units in any army were as good as the equivalent German army elements in 1941. Maybe none.
    How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
    Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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    • #47
      I received Panzerkorps GD V3 in the mail. The first two volumes have been impressive.

      The Table of Contents (text 507 pages):

      I. Panzerkorps GD

      II. The history of PzG division Brandenburg

      III. March separately- Fight Seperately!

      IV. In the combat zone east and west of the oder near frankfurt

      V. The Fuhrer divisions in the North and the South of the Eastern Front

      VI. Balga-Kahlholz

      VII. Pzg D Kurkmark's fight for the Oder Bridgeheads at Lebus and Gorlitz

      VIII. PzG D Brandenburg Defending the Lausitzer NeiBe

      IX. GD in action in the west from Cottbus to Schlewig-Rendsburg

      X. The beginning of the Soviet Major offensive on 16th April 1945
      Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
      Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
      Barbarossa Derailed I & II
      Battle of Kalinin October 1941

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      • #48
        So far it appears to me... for the Germans between 1941-1943 it was:

        1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 11th, GD ID/PzG

        So these seem to be the ones that are more prominent and participate a a lot in most important areas.

        The rest of the PzD have their periods- 24th PzD in 1942, 16th PzD in 1941-1942, 23rd PzD in 1942, etc. 1./2./3. SS PzG in 1943.

        There are too many panzer divisions to keep track of, really.

        Originally posted by krichter33 View Post
        24th was an excellent division. So was the 2nd, and 11 Panzer. However, many infanterie divisions were brilliant as well! I really wish such ratings that are to be found in the "Bewertungen des inneren Wertes" can be discovered. However, until now only a few have been listed here or there...
        3rd (mot.), 29th (mot.) come to mind. The thing with the horse drawn infantry divisions is that they are immobile and simply don't have the mobility and equipment to garner the envelopments, and thus the big wins like a PzD can IMO.
        Last edited by Cult Icon; 16 Oct 14, 23:17.
        Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
        Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
        Barbarossa Derailed I & II
        Battle of Kalinin October 1941

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        • #49
          Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
          The thing with the horse drawn infantry divisions is that they are immobile and simply don't have the mobility and equipment to garner the envelopments, and thus the big wins like a PzD can IMO.
          On the other hand, any major encirclement (at least in the East Front) could not be successful without foot infantry. The Germans tried going all-motorized at Smolensk and it didn't work out (until the foot-sloggers caught up). So we can call those mobile-warfarers 'elite' and 'uber', but they are still useless without those 'real infantry' guys.

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          • #50
            Yes of course..they only have 4 battalions (w/o counting pioneer, motorcycle, recon) to the infantry's 9 (in 1941 and in the south in 1942). Even Romanian divisions were useful in this way.

            I was thinking more of independent envelopments that a single Pzd division can do during a short period of time. In my readings these were generally up to brigade sized units.
            Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
            Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
            Barbarossa Derailed I & II
            Battle of Kalinin October 1941

            Comment


            • #51
              Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
              I was thinking more of independent envelopments that a single Pzd division can do during a short period of time. In my readings these were generally up to brigade sized units.
              Can see your point now. Do you find those tactical envelopments important? And also it seems to me foot-infantry is also capable of those (yes, less capable).

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              • #52
                4. panzer was excellent as well.

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                • #53
                  Originally posted by Backfire View Post
                  Can see your point now. Do you find those tactical envelopments important? And also it seems to me foot-infantry is also capable of those (yes, less capable).
                  This is what they were doing most of the time when on the offensive in 41-42. Coordination with other divisions generally took a bit longer. Rapid advance against little opposition, and then clearing villages, breaking through defensive lines, or clearing out bridgeheads. Capturing a rifle regiment (2 x bat., 1000-600 men), along with its support weapons was often done in a single day's battle. Much of these men would not go down fighting, but be captured.

                  My link shows this quite clearly. When doing this, 24th panzer own losses were generally 250 dead and wounded maximum.
                  Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
                  Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
                  Barbarossa Derailed I & II
                  Battle of Kalinin October 1941

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                    This is what they were doing most of the time when on the offensive in 41-42. Coordination with other divisions generally took a bit longer. Rapid advance against little opposition, and then clearing villages, breaking through defensive lines, or clearing out bridgeheads. Capturing a rifle regiment (2 x bat., 1000-600 men), along with its support weapons was often done in a single day's battle. Much of these men would not go down fighting, but be captured.

                    My link shows this quite clearly. When doing this, 24th panzer own losses were generally 250 dead and wounded maximum.
                    Well, yes, blitzkrieg-style is fun (for the one blitzing). A division-vs-regiment battle is also fun (for the division). But don't you think once the frontline was stabilized all that fun is suddenly gone and high tactical mobility seizes to be much of an advantage?

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                    • #55
                      I should warn against the indiscriminately scattering about of elite qualifications:elite qualifications are meaningless :everything can be elite:supply troops,bodenstšndige divisions,training formations,.....

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                      • #56
                        Originally posted by ljadw View Post
                        I should warn against the indiscriminately scattering about of elite qualifications:elite qualifications are meaningless :everything can be elite:supply troops,bodenstšndige divisions,training formations,.....
                        To me, 'elite' is a question of filtering. If one selects only the best-fitting (wichever the criterion is), then the selected are 'elite'. So, no problem. The funny thing is, one could easily define 'White bread' divisions as elite (I would prefer the term 'anti-elite'). What is also funny to me is that everyone seems to rush to discussion of 'elite troops' eagerly without first defining what the term means.

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                        • #57
                          No, unless it is holding vehicle hostile terrain the panzer divisions were more effective in the defense, as well- whether holding the line or as a mobile reserve. GD held frontage in Rzhev (winter of 1942) and the SS-T/SS-DR defended mius in 1943. Of course, they are best in the exploitation role.

                          This is because their mobility and mechanized assets gave it more tactical flexibility, particularly in the counterattack. They can reposition in a way static units cannot. The same advantages accrue to US and Uk/CW infantry divisions in the west 44-45.

                          Most german infantry divisions were 6 battalion after 1941. The 9 battalion divisions could hold however, longer frontage.

                          What is your answer to your own question and where are you going with this train?

                          Originally posted by Backfire View Post
                          Well, yes, blitzkrieg-style is fun (for the one blitzing). A division-vs-regiment battle is also fun (for the division). But don't you think once the frontline was stabilized all that fun is suddenly gone and high tactical mobility seizes to be much of an advantage?
                          I disagree with you. There's a reason why there were Guards and the GD. The divisions have their 'moments' where they function particularly well as a unit, rear echelon and training brigades included.

                          This is why I don't like calling German panzer divisions post 1943 'elite' as they frequently no longer have much of an edge over their opponents due to increased enemy tactical strength and their own deterioration.

                          Originally posted by ljadw View Post
                          I should warn against the indiscriminately scattering about of elite qualifications:elite qualifications are meaningless :everything can be elite:supply troops,bodenstšndige divisions,training formations,.....
                          Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
                          Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
                          Barbarossa Derailed I & II
                          Battle of Kalinin October 1941

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            Elite

                            Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                            What is your answer to your own question and where are you going with this train?
                            Let me start with the main point. The word 'elite' is pretty meaningless unless coupled with an extensive clarification.
                            I consulted Oxford dictionary to find a definition: 'Elite - A select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society'. To me, that raises three questions:
                            1. Which is the group being analysed?
                            2. How is 'ability or qualities' measured?
                            3. How is the threshold established?
                            Those questions are extremely hard to answer when talking of combat units. Your approach when defining 24 PzD as elite was both qualitative and quantitative (the group seemed to be 'divisions of Wehrmacht'). On the qualitative side you pointed out quite correctly that any PzD had a quality of high mobility which ID lacked. But that only makes any PzD elite. Talking quantitative you pointed out the amounts of prisoners and materiel seized as a comparative property of different PzD. Unfortunately no threshold was defined. That makes the cliam '24PzD is elite' somewhat arguable. Actually I could agree provided more arguments.

                            Now to the details.
                            I could easily agree with 'Any fully motorized division is elite'. That would leave us with maybe 40 divisions of maybe 300 existing. 4/30 looks elite enough. The harder thing would be selecting say 10 of those 40 into 'elite of the elite'.

                            One qualitative property could be 'tanks included', but that won't be much help as germans included tanks in motorized divisions (can't remeber precisely when). Another qualitative could be 'was spoken good of by seniors' but that would drive us into extensive documents research on who said what.
                            The quantitative properties could be used but those need a careful definition which is not usually done easily. A lot of discussion could be done on that.

                            There's another way to define elite units. We could differentiate units basing on whether a specific personnel selection procedure was officially established. That would possibly leave us with a handful of elite divisions but supposedly that's not what you were thinking of.

                            To sum it up. The intuitive understanding of 'elite units' would be 'units that fought best'. That is subjective and vague. Any argument over 'Xth PzD is elite -- No it's not' is really a matter of 'I like it -- I dislike it'. Fun but pointless. Trying to bring in an objective view can be done but at a cost.

                            P.S. On tactical mobility. Rather offtop, so i'll keep it brief. To me the Germans were too eager to put their tank and motorized divisions into long-time defence of the frontlines. While being slightly more effective at defence compared to 'real infantry' they could be much better utilized behind the frontline.

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                            • #59
                              Yawn, semantics.

                              These units are judged based on their combat performance, via reading relative to their compatriots. Of course it is subjective, but so is most of life.
                              Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
                              Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
                              Barbarossa Derailed I & II
                              Battle of Kalinin October 1941

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                                These units are judged based on their combat performance, via reading relative to their compatriots.
                                You understand of course that since it is impossible for two different units to fight precisely the same battle, such a reading is worthless for comparing combat performace. It is fun nevertheless. Cheers.

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