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Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

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  • #76
    The FGB, built mostly out of GD personnel, transfers, and volunteers, saw its first action performing an encirclement with 5th Panzer and HJ during the Gumbinnen operation (11th Guards Army, Oct 20-24). They fought against 2nd Guards Tank Corps and a guards rifle corps. The manuever is considered a success, but the brigade is heavily damaged and withdrawn to refit by November 30th for the battle of the Bulge (7th Army).

    In looking at its status before the battle of the bulge, I can say that the FBB is the stronger of the two of them organizationally. Both are basically mini-panzer divisions that are proportionally more heavily equipped with armor and mech. infantry than normal. The FBB however, has the bonus of a strongly equipped 'Fuhrer flak' regiment.

    On paper FBB armor is 6 companies of Panzer IV and 5 batteries of L/70 AG. The Panzer IV battalion is actually a transfer from Panzer regiment GD (sent by Pz.Gren.Div. GD, formerly II Battalion)

    On paper FGB armor is 2 x coy. Panther, 1 x coy. Jagdpanther, 1 x coy. Marder, 5 batteries of L/70 AG.

    FGB before its commitment to the counterstrike (Oct. 20th)

    36 PzV, 11 PzIV/70M, 4 FlakpzIV(37)

    Battle of the Bulge:

    In addition, the Fuhrer Begleit Brigade has this interesting bit about 3 unique companies (mounted in SPW). These were 2 SS companies and 1 sturmpioneer company.

    In addition to the formation of a further heavy company and the incorporation of two SS companies of the LAH, a special close combat company (the later 11th Assault Pioneer Company) was formed. Its order of battle, as well as its personnel, appeared in no table of organization. It was created as the result of experience gained in the war on the Eastern Front. In the first days of August 1944 a group of men assembled in the barracks who looked as it they had been hardened by sports and knew how to act quickly. The selection standards by which this group of men was chosen were extremely strict. A special obstacle course, which included a pit, a rabbit hole and a 15-metre- high diving tower, was set up to test the toughness and daring of this elite group. An indication of their willingness was the number of decorations for bravery they wore; there were six men with the Knight’s Cross, even more with the German Cross in Gold.
    The objective of this formation was to provide a fast close- combat company for the personal protection of the Supreme Commander.
    Oberleutnant Schommer was chosen to command the company; by August he had activated four platoons. As 3rd Platoon was soon transferred into the installation itself as an alert platoon, it was necessary to create a 5th Platoon. All members of the company were issued the same equipment: panzergrenadier uniform, but with white piping and the death’s head insignia; a jump (parachute) jacket, called the “bastard’s dress coat,” and a paratrooper- style steel helmet. Armament consisted of an assault rifle, assault dagger and P 38 pistol. The increasingly-strenuous training (which included hand-to-hand combat, judo and boxing) went on without interruption. The well-known boxer Kölbin was transferred to the company to help with the last-mentioned area of training.
    The brigade had 3 battalions of infantry. 1st SPW battalion:

    I (APC) Battalion, of the Führer Escort Brigade’s armoured fist, was commanded by Major Fabian. Before going into action in early December 1944 its organization was as follows:
    Overall Organization:
    Battalion H.Q. and Supply Company 1st and 2nd Grenadier Companies 3rd SS-Grenadier Company 4th (Heavy) Company 5th (Flak) Company
    6th (Armoured Pioneer) Company (temporary)
    1st and 2nd (Grenadier) Companies - company commander with two 3-ton APCs armed with 20mm flak,
    one with 30-watt transmitter, each of 3 APC platoons -
    platoon leader’s APC with 10-watt transmitter,
    4 APCs with radio and 2 light machine- guns.
    4th Platoon: 3 APCs with 20mm Flak.
    3rd SS-Grenadier Company - similar two 50mm KwK short on APCs
    two APCs with 120mm mortars, as well as racks for 320mm rockets each grenadier company had a total of 23 3-ton APCs.
    4th (Heavy) Company - company commander
    two cannon platoons with 75mm KwK short, also 6 APCs
    1 cannon platoon with 75mm KwK long, also 6 APCs 1 heavy mortar platoon with 120mm mortars.
    4 mortars, 4 APCs.
    5th (Flak) Company - company commander
    3 platoons with 20mm twin-barrel each platoon:
    platoon leader’s APC with one 20mm gun.
    4 APCs with 20mm triple-mounted guns.
    1 platoon: 37mm flak (SP) - 4 guns 6th (Armoured Pioneer) Company - company commander
    4 platoons with flamethrower APCs - 5 APCs per platoon.
    As far as equipment and weapons were concerned, the battalion was very well off for the fifth year of the war. It was also expected that employment of the unit in the west would bring about a turn for the better—to help balance the opposing forces and enable the defence to hold onto German soil.
    The battalion went into action on 16 December 1944.
    In the movies: FBB in the July plot.

    According to axishistory article. Lots of equipment, few men:

    Total 6037 (7177 authorized)

    Panzer IV authorized 62 and had 51 operational and 4 in short term repair. They were the following types:
    PzKpw. IV with L48 gun = 17
    Panzer IV/70(A) with the L70 gun = 38
    StuG III and StuH 42 authorized 41 and had 34 operational and 6 in short term repair and 1 in long term repair. They were the following Types:
    StuG III = 27
    StuH 42 = 14
    Panzerbeobachtungswagen III authorized 0 and had 5 operational. They were assigned to the Artillerie-Bataillon FBB.
    Flakpanzer IV authorized 8 and had 8 operational [4 Möbelwagen and 4 Wirbelwind]
    Bergepanzer IV authorized 4 and had 3 operational and 1 in short term repair
    SdKfz 251s authorized 161 and had 129 operational and 8 in short term repair and 8 in long term repair.
    Last edited by Cult Icon; 29 Oct 14, 09:28.


    • #77
      Hellmuth Mäder seemed to be a much better commander for FGB/D, than Remer was for the FBB/D.


      • #78

        I am about to start Panzerkorps GD III.

        Decorations. I find with the knight's cross that a disproportionate share were being awarded after the summer of 1943, when meaningful tactical victories were rare and the prisoner count was low. These mid-1943- mid-1945 awards were more and more often given to recognize 'extreme' acts of bravery and, imo, boost falling morale.

        It could also be possible that certain formations, like GD, senior Panzer divisions, and the SS could process/award knight's crosses easier, or had more incentives to.

        I can't attest to this list's accuracy.

        most decorated unit of the Wehrmacht

        Infanterie Division
        7 ID 52 decoration so 5 Eich
        28 ID 51 decoration
        8 ID 50 decoration

        Gebirgs Jäger Division
        4GJD 38 decoration so 2 Eich
        1GJD 36 decoration so 3 Eich
        3GJD 34 decoration so 2 Eich

        Panzer Division
        4 Pz D 84 decoration so 9 Eich and 1 Schw
        5 Pz D 63 decoration
        9 Pz D 60 decoration

        Panzergrenadier Division
        Pz GD Grossdeutschland 69 decoration so 8 Eich and 2 Schw
        90 PzGD 32 decoration
        20 PzGD 29 decoration

        Waffen SS
        2 SS Pz D Das Reich 91 decoration so 15 Eich and 3 Schw
        1 SS Pz D LAH 66 decoration so 10 Eich and 3 Schw
        5 SS Pz D Wiking 65 decoration so 7 Eich , 3 Schw and 1 Brillante
        3 SS Pz D Totenkopf 55 decoration so 8 Eich and 1 Schw

        2 SS Pz D Das Reich 91 decoration so 15 Eich and 3 Schw
        4 Pz D 84 decoration so 9 Eich and 1 Schw
        Pz GD Grossdeutschland 69 decoration so 8 Eich and 2 Schw
        1 SS Pz D LAH 66 decoration so 10 Eich and 3 Schw
        5 SS Pz D Wiking 65 decoration so 7 Eich , 3 Schw and 1 Brillante
        5 Pz D 63 decoration
        9 Pz D 60 decoration


        • #79
          Originally posted by krichter33 View Post
          Hellmuth Mäder seemed to be a much better commander for FGB/D, than Remer was for the FBB/D.
          Do you know the OOB for PzG GD in 1945? Is it roughly the same as Brandenburg pzG?

          In the book, it is said that they decided to reduce both PzG GD and PZG Brandenburg to 10,000 men each. 2 infantry battalions were removed from their two infantry regiments, giving them 4 battalions of infantry in total for each division.

          So the GD combat 'institution' (before the Kurmark improvisation and divisional status of the brigades) is this:

          Wachtbattalion GD in Berlin expanded to a regiment. This will eventually fight in the battle of Berlin.

          ~20,000 men in 2 PzG divisions

          ~14,000 men in 2 Panzer brigades (in reality, closer to 12,500 men)

          This is compared to GD division's peak strength of 21,500 men in 1943.

          Besides this, a Panzerkorps GD corps headquarters was built:

          Combat units included (mid Dec-Jan 10th, 1945):

          -PzK Fusilier Regiment GD, 2 battalions. (one sourced from PzG GD, the other sourced from Brandenburg)

          -PzK Panzerpioneer battalion (3 companies, the third being Goliath)

          -PzK Artillery Regiment GD (elements sourced from PzG GD and Brandenburg)

          * PzG GD lost many components to fill these new formations. As far as armor goes, they lose II battalion (Panzer IV) to FBB (This is replaced with 'Pzabt. FKL 302 equipped with remote-controlled tanks) (??? ) The I battalion (Panthers) and III battalion (Tigers) remain.

          They also lose the Stug brigade GD to Brandenburg.

          An example of a battalion is given in the book- BR armored assault pioneer battalion: 4 companies, 400 men. With ~100 men per company and the small division size, this is major difference from the early-mid war 200-250 man companies. They resemble soviet companies more now in manpower.

          The BR Jager battalions (4)'s are probably small (~500 men?) and heavily equipped with assault rifles (STG) and support weapons.


          PzG GD's training brigade took control of Brandenburg training units. Air force, navy, and the very young recruits (16 and 17 year olds) were being in-cooperated.

          It looks like even GD and Brandenburg has been forced to fill their units from the bottom of the barrel in 1945. They were not, however, conscripting according the history but accepting volunteers. The GD training centers were put near RAD camps and the GD tried to recruit the boys.

          Notably senior Waffen SS formations starting doing this after their heavy losses in Kharkov 1943, which was considerably earlier than GD.
          Last edited by Cult Icon; 29 Oct 14, 15:16.


          • #80
            Fuhrer Grenadier Division with Goebbels, Lauban 1945


            • #81
              Originally posted by krichter33 View Post
              Remer was for the FBB/D.
              What do you think of Remer's FBB during the battle of the bulge at St. Vith and in & around Bastogne? The account for the FBB in the BOB make it look like quite effective at fighting although operationally the 5th army is failing. The account that covers the FGB in Oct. 1944 in contrast show that they were worn down to combat ineffectiveness much more rapidly by the soviet guardsmen, in which the Guards tank corps & Guards rifle bleed them of most of their combat power after four days of heavy combat.

              The Americans are depicted as more passive in combat than the Soviets but have more effective tactical artillery (quite often the Brigade is bracketed, and they have to reposition while taking casualties). The US 81st Infantry division is singled out for phrase as being 'very skilled'. The Sherman companies and battalions that they encounter seem to lose most engagements.

              As far as Remer goes, he comes across as an effective and brave SPW battalion commander that wore the close combat clasp, which is one few reliable medals that show survival instinct. He held the job for a long time. But these type of guys shouldn't be suddenly commanding divisions as it requires a different set of skills and personality.

              The FBB was ordered to pursue/exploit, and initially given orders not to expend strength fighting for St. Vith (In which the FBB does, anyway)

              So account in the book makes it appear very effective for a 6 thousand man unit. It spends most of the 13 days of combat attacking or holding areas. Over 100 US tanks are claimed to be knocked out in combat and the little unit doesn't seem be suffer any major fiascos outside of the usual heavy infantry losses. The tanks and the Fuhrer Flak regiment do a lot of damage around Bastogne. The mounted infantry do what they are supposed to do.

              The Führer Escort Brigade could still report 25 serviceable tanks and assault guns on 3-4 January as well as 15 under repair. A further 15 to 20 tanks, most of which had suffered mechanical breakdowns, still could not be towed to a repair facility on account of the lack of fuel.
              The brigade’s individual companies were in much worse shape; in general they were down to 25 to 30 men (each battalion thus had about 150 men on average).
              The FBB is placed back on OKH reserve and leaves the Bastogne area on Jan. 11-12th 1945. It is then redeployed in counterattacks and then defense for another week to block the movements towards St. Vith. By 18th Jan., the infantry companies are down to 10-15 men each although the vehicles and heavy weapons are mostly in tact. Many losses are caused from fighter-bombers and white phosphorous artillery.

              The FGB gets much less coverage in Part 8, BOB, of the book. It is engaged in defensive fighting and is combat ineffective by 8th Jan. after a failed attack.

              By the end of Jan, both are withdrawn and a Fuhrer order comes to upgrade both to panzergrenadier divisions.

              Those elements of the Flak Regiment FBB assigned to air defence duties reported downing two or three enemy aircraft almost every day, so that in the course of time the fighter-bomber attacks in the airspace above the brigade decreased significantly.
              The FBB's Fuhrer Flak regiment claims many US aircraft (including 10 gliders coming down into Bastogne) shot down, as well in the account.
              Last edited by Cult Icon; 30 Oct 14, 01:32.


              • #82
                FGB was worn out very quickly due to the heavy fighting with the Russians earlier in October. They never were able to perform as well as they might have been able to, especially as they had the brunt of their actions, I believe, in the south against the main American counterattacks. However, Maeder always made very pragmatic tactical decisions, in order to minimize loses as best as he could, and had much more experience at higher command than Remer. Yes, FBB in the bulge actually performed very well, especially around St. Vith, it was afterwards in 1945 during Operation Gemse at Lauban, when Remer made a number of bold yet detrimental decisions that reflected in unusual heavy loses for the FBD. On the other hand Maeder and FGD performed well and had to make a number of difficult off the cuff decisions at Lauban. Remer was an excellent battalion commander, and definitely deserved his awards. However he was promoted to quickly to higher command he had no training for. It isn't his fault, and I still feel overall he was an excellent soldier. Honestly, when I think about it, the main fault Remer is usually placed with is his decisions at Lauban. Other than that I can't think of any other "bad" decisions he might have made, though I'm probably wrong. I think a lot of the real negative opinions about him have to do more with July 20th and his post war activities. Either way both FBB/D and FGB/D performed very well considering the circumstances, and are two of my "favorite" units. Another "Grossdeutshland" unit that performed pretty well, was Langkeit's Kurmark division in front of Berlin.


                • #83
                  You're right about the close combat clasp, especially in silver and gold. Those awards really showed that you were truly "in it!"


                  • #84
                    Thanks for that. I am still reading III (Just finished the Brandenburg sections)

                    Do you have or have read the book on the GD regiment? I am most interested in the account of GD in Targos Frumos.


                    I tend to shy away from such books...I have several tank unit histories and I find them without much substance outside of reprinted diaries of the unit status. I am considering on getting this but have doubts. (eg, it says that the 440 page book has 250 photos, which means it may be dominated by pictures and dry diary entries like the other armor books)


                    It is interesting to see that both BR and GD by Jan 1945 had their infantry extensively reequipped with STG 44 assault rifles (sturm platoons ).
                    Last edited by Cult Icon; 02 Nov 14, 12:24.


                    • #85
                      Among the fighting soldiers, the close combat clasp was the most respected award due to its criteria and rarity. It was seen as an indicator of steadiness and survival skill. The silver is 25-50 close combat actions which is what Remer wore (IIRC).

                      The Knight's Cross was seen as more of a:

                      1. Bureaucratic award. First the division commander gets it, then the regimental commanders are allowed to, and then it goes down the line. A group of men who get the criteria will see the award go to the commanding officer or nco first.

                      2. Freak incidents 'Extreme bravery'. Many win this on accident or the importance action is played up. I find a lot of these to be dubious, and more EK I or german cross in gold material.

                      There is a good chapter from 'Blood Red Snow' (memoir of pzg, 24th PzD) called 'From the Knight's Cross to the Wooden Cross' that explains the dynamic with the awards.

                      Originally posted by krichter33 View Post
                      You're right about the close combat clasp, especially in silver and gold. Those awards really showed that you were truly "in it!"


                      • #86
                        This is my 'theory of three tiers':

                        I have a theory about the equipment and personnel allocation of the german armored divisions 1943-1945. This theory came out of reading the unit histories of the 3., 23., 24., and GD & consulting other sources plus general operational reading experience. I would appreciate input from persons who have read the extensive SS unit histories as a confirmation.

                        I think there are three 'tiers'. The GD, once it outgrew its beginnings as an elite reinforced regiment/mot. Infantry division, stood above all with its panzergrenadier division GD and then the panzerkorps GD with its merging with the Brandenburg 'institution'.

                        I. Waffen SS Panzer divisions. Hermann Goering (?). These were organizationally larger (2 extra battalions of infantry, an added Stug brigade, etc.) and they were reinforced more frequently and extensively than the rest. These large units sizes, however, were partially offset by their use of sub-standard manpower like Volksdeusche, impressed persons, and naval/air force transfers to bolster their German volunteers, convalescents and training units. These divisions were not allowed to deteriorate as much as the others and spent most of the war fighting as weak divisions.

                        II. The first 11 Panzer divisions, which in-cooperated the bulk of the senior personnel of divisions of 1939-1941. They were periodically reinforced and rebuilt, but not to the same degree as some. They relied more on their organic training brigades, new recruits, and returning convalescents, which could not offset their high losses. Near the end of the war, they were reinforced with air force/naval personnel as well. They spent most of the war fighting with the combat power of a mechanized brigade.

                        III. 12- 24. Pzd, which tended to play a supporting role to other formations or need Army/corps reserve forces to make them viable in operations. These divisions spent most of their time fighting with the combat strength of weak brigades and regimental battlegroups. They were infrequently reinforced and pulled off the line, which deteriorated their capability dramatically.

                        ****There are many exceptions to this 'theory' as it is cast in broad strokes. eg. The 23rd and 24th was Tier I in 1942 but fell into secondary status for the rest of the war 1943-1945 after they became combat ineffective during the soviet winter counteroffensive of 1942-1943. The 3rd was tier I of 1939-1942 but was tier II like many other divisions afterwards.


                        • #87
                          I am reading GD Jan. 1945 during the Vistula to the oder offensives against East Prussia.

                          In the book there is an apt statement: 'Past reputations don't count' (an apt description). The GD (OKH reserve) is moved back into the field reinforced by PzK GD corps units and makes a counterattack for two days Jan 14-15th. They make progress, but suffer heavily. Then the 'Soviet Blitzkrieg' sets the soviet armies try to envelop them. GD makes a run for it north....a chaotic and costly fighting retreat with periodic defensive stands and small unit delaying counterattacks.

                          Half of the infantry strength is gone by Jan. 19th. Many tanks and guns are lost. By the 21st only small numbers of tigers and panthers left operational to cover the evacuation of the vehicle columns and the remaining equipment (including tanks).

                          27th Jan 1945: 25 tanks (Panthers and Tigers) left in PR-GD. Infantry, including PzK GD HQ (PzK GD Fusiler Regiment, PzK GD Artillery regiment) is 2 medium, 1 average, 3 weak battalions.

                          Moving towards Konigsberg.

                          30th Jan 1945, near Brandenburg. 'Last' concentrated armored attack of the GD and the town is taken, and then held against soviet armored group. Another town is cleared by other elements of the division. Only a handful of Panthers are operational.


                          • #88
                            Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post

                            The Americans are depicted as more passive in combat than the Soviets but have more effective tactical artillery (quite often the Brigade is bracketed, and they have to reposition while taking casualties). The US 81st Infantry division is singled out for phrase as being 'very skilled'. The Sherman companies and battalions that they encounter seem to lose most engagements.
                            Probably a typo of your, US 81st ID was not in ETO but PTO.


                            IIRC in Ardennes were 80th, 83rd and 84th ID.


                            • #89


                              • #90
                                The Panzerregiment Grossdeutschland book by Jung is actually pretty good. It isn't dry, and is written more like a memoir. However, if I remember, I read it a few years ago, it is no where as detailed as the Spaeter books. It's decent, not dry, but not anymore informative than the unit histories. However, if you like GD, you should read it.
                                Yes, Remer had the CCC in Silver.
                                The Bronze was awarded for 15, the Silver for 30, and the Gold for 50...


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