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Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

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  • Fuhrer Grenadier Division, reinforced by the liquidation of Brandenburg and GD assets, joins II SS Korps Bittrich and is sent to Vienna by early April. It is the only 'combat acceptable' unit in Vienna with the other two SS divisions being badly battered. They evacuate under heavy pressure a few days later.

    57 tanks including IS-2s are claimed on the 12th of August with 3rd Company, Jagdpanthers destroying IS-2s at 'maximum range'. Then FGD engages in defensive fighting until the end of the war.

    They move and surrender to the Americans. The Americans pass them over to the Soviets.


    Final Fighting in Berlin:

    -KG Kurmark (elements that didn't surrender to the Americans)

    -Wachregiment GD-Berlin (2 battalions). It fights in the Government quarter until the very end.

    On April 26th, a GD man from WR-Berlin is awarded the Knight's Cross by Hitler and speaks to him for twenty minutes in Hitler's bunker.

    30th April- Hitler's suicide. A group of WR-Berlin breaks out with just 5 tanks and 65 men. Interesting comment: "Millions of RM are distributed among the men" . They succeed in breaking out to the Elbe without loss, and the men divide into four groups to make their way to the Elbe. The rest are left behind.


    • Thanks for this. I finished PzK GD . What a very long, exhaustive but completely enlightening read about how armored forces work. I believe that the segment on the Rhev meatgrinder should help when I read Glantz' book on Operation Mars.

      5 stars..

      I have a question: Does Das Reich III focus much on organizational, training, and development issues during 1941-1943? (I'm a fan of reading stuff like that). PzK GD is great because a lot of it is about these issues.

      Was Das Reich's training as a panzergrenadier division in 1942 similar to the GD mot Infantry division?

      Is 'Das Reich' written critically? To his credit, Spaeter in PzK GD does not gloss over the failures of GD. I'm sure there are omissions, but he even comments in his history that to exclude or mitigate the failures would be a disservice to the veterans that died in them.

      I am about 100 pages into 'Last Victory in Russia'. I have 'Decision in the Ukraine' also to be done right afterwards. The impression I get is that it is a German side focused campaign history that periodically shifts focus to SS troop movements. So to me, it is basically a synthesis of sorts, and the unit histories/POV of the 3 SS divisions can be sensed through the text. He references the SS unit histories much throughout the text alongside original research (which is german focused).

      The soviet side is represented by a skeleton provided by Glantz' From Don to the Dnepr'.

      Originally posted by krichter33 View Post
      DR and LSSAH took most of 42 off, while LSSAH also took off the rest of 43 (in Italy) after Kursk. Wiking however, was much more similar to GD, in that it fought (almost) completely on the Eastern Front and never had such a long period of relief as the other two SS divisions. Yet, it still performed very well. I still subscribe to the fact that Wiking and DR performed "better" because of the officer material they had, compared to LSSAH and TK, with some exceptions of course (Ulrich, Baum, Kumm,,,) DR's only major break was in 42, other than that they had a few months in the beginning of 44, after they fought the very difficult post Kursk battles while LSSAH was "relaxing" in Italy. The fact that DR performed as well as they did in Normandy, in defense, (not offense as no German division really did well, eg. Mortain), still surprises me. DR and Wiking along with the WSS divisions/Brigades under the III SS panzer korps to me are the most interesting and the subjective "best" the WSS had.
      Brandenburg had a raw deal in 45, sitting if front of Konev's (?) army, without a Heinrici around. Kurmark performed brilliantly. The Fuhrer divisions performed as best as could be expected....
      3rd is a great PZ division. If you want to read more about how brilliant Model was you should get Newton's bio on him.
      Germany had a lot of excellent divisional and korps level PZ commanders, from Manteuffel, Model, Breith, Nehring, Balck, ext....Army level and above though was more difficult....
      Hoernlein wasn't a bad commander, he was a very good divisional commander, though no military genius. I think most of his "bad" reputation comes from Kursk, when GD did not perform that well, and from his clash with the Panzergraf, who himself, made a mess of things at Kursk, depending who you believe, Strachwtiz or any book by George Nipe, they are excellent, especially Blood Steel and Myth...
      I agree, I don't think Hoernlein was a bad commander. Certainly, the division was successful in Rzhev even with the great losses but he was also forced by Model as being the 9th Army's fire brigade.

      Also, in Kursk, the 48th Panzer Korps was up against Katukov's armor right off the bat. RN Armstrong IIRC and Glantz in 'Defensive Tactics in Kursk' do cover the attacks of 48th Panzer Korps and Katukov's response.

      Katukov's command style was different from Rotmistrov (5th GTA). He preferred to tie down Panzer forces while keeping an eye out for unit preservation. He had a conservative mindset. He did not like overly aggressive and risky RKKA cavalry style attacks, and preferred to wear down enemy mobile forces with favorable defensive positioning.

      I can't say for certain, but II SS PzK and III PzK probably faced less formidable opposition. The Field Army in front of them was weaker than the army that faced Model in the north. A 'What-if' is if Rotmistrov did recklessly use his armor like he did..

      Max Hastings wrote two books on 'Das Reich' in Normandy. I haven't read them, but have them as a reference. In them he mentioned that the division received 9,000 recruits in April 1944 of dubious commitment.
      Last edited by Cult Icon; 12 Nov 14, 15:45.


      • Cult icon i just got out of emerg sugery,,,,so i'll respond in full when im better


        • Klaus take all the time you need. Real life comes before internet.

          Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

          Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

          by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"


          • Yea, I agree. Get better and thanks for participating.


            • From other sources, I believe that the actual armor strength of GD was roughly 80 runners on May 1st, 24th Panzer had 35 runners, and SS-T had roughly 5 runners.

              Mantueffeul's estimates of Soviet armor losses during May 2nd- May 9th Iasi offensive (2nd battle of Targos Frumos).

              I estimate their losses at about 350 tanks destroyed and another 200 damaged.
              Mantueffeul on Division GD's panzer losses:

              Our own tank losses had not yet reached ten vehicles, however a considerable number had sustained more or less minor damage. But thanks to the Panzer Regimentís outstanding supply organization and repair service there was virtually no drop in its strength, and it remained, as was so often the case, the courageous infantryís faithful helper.

              From 'Red storm over the Balkans': May 1st.

              Main participants: 4 armies: 2GTA, 5 GTA, 7GA, and 27A against the panzer korps and Romanians.

              2nd Ukrainian front armor strength: 600 in total Among these are Joseph Stalin tanks.

              Total 2 GTA (133) and 5 GTA (358) armor strength May 1st: 491

              Glantz estimates that 180 Max Soviet armor of 5GTA was lost on May 2nd. He estimates that 2GTA lost 40 Max to a total of 220 Max on this day.

              Soviet records, 2GTA May 1st-May 8th.: 74 armor permanent losses out of 121 runners

              May 6th, 2GTA: 49 remaining tanks and SPG.

              lost: 84 tanks and SPG

              5GTA: 215 tanks and SPG (148 tanks, 67 SPG).

              lost: 143 tanks and SPG

              Up to May 6th, 2GTA and 5GTA armor write-offs: 227

              The Soviets order 2GTA and 5GTA to revert to defense. May 7-8th has more fighting, and German counterattacks which reduced numbers further.

              The general conclusion is that that much of 2nd Ukranian Front's armor was depleted with negligible armor losses on the German side (GD infantry losses are much more severe). GD's elastic defense, supported mostly by 2 KGs from 24th Panzer and 1 KG from SS-T (plus Romanians on one flank, and Rudel's tank busters), was too difficult to penetrate. At the end, the Gd's front line remained nearly the same as it was in the beginning of the offensive. It bent, but was restored by counterattacks.

              Mantueffuel's estimate of soviet losses in his sector is probably too high. Throughout May, GD takes some local initiative and repeatedly attacks the soviets. This was a really outstanding defensive action, especially at this late stage of the war.
              Last edited by Cult Icon; 20 Nov 14, 19:31.


              • Tiger Tank Battalions

                I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the heavy tiger tank battalions yet. I've been doing quite a bit of research on them, and I've been quite impressed by their performance. sPz.Abt. 503, for instance, destroyed 1700 tanks over the course of its combat career, as many as the entire SS Panzer Regiment 2, and with far fewer losses.

                There is a combat history of the unit written by its former members, although it seems to be more on a personal basis rather than a detailed one. I'm not quite sure if it's worth the buy. I might though.

                It ain't an adventure until it all goes horribly wrong.


                • A scan of this book is available for free online...just enter into a pdf search engine and you will find it.

                  In my opinion, this book and other books of its type are useful as reference material to supplement the study of operations but are not rewarding to read from cover to cover. One of the biggest moments for the 503rd was when it was merged with II./PR23 (Panthers) into 'Heavy Panzer Regiment Bake'. There are two chapters about it in the book.

                  As a reserve/attached unit, Tiger battalions are difficult to appraise because they generally did not operate alone in combat. They were usually integrated into a battlegroup of sorts with combined arms or sent to random units to support the mission. The only permanently integrated Tiger battalion in the Wehrmacht was III battalion/PR GD.

                  The goal of an armored force is usually not to destroy tanks, but to accomplish missions.

                  Claimed tank kills must be approached with caution- (ditto for Soviet kill claims, which are even more fictional). I usually divide them by 2 (like German intelligence-Foreign armies east did) or 3 to arrive to a closer figure.

                  Originally posted by Romani View Post
                  I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the heavy tiger tank battalions yet. I've been doing quite a bit of research on them, and I've been quite impressed by their performance. sPz.Abt. 503, for instance, destroyed 1700 tanks over the course of its combat career, as many as the entire SS Panzer Regiment 2, and with far fewer losses.

                  There is a combat history of the unit written by its former members, although it seems to be more on a personal basis rather than a detailed one. I'm not quite sure if it's worth the buy. I might though.



                  • I came across something interesting. SSLAH gets criticized by AGS for lack of achievement, 22nd Feb. 1943 :

                    pg. 190, Last victory in russia:

                    Dietrich and his staff
                    were puzzled when they received a message from Heeresgruppe
                    Sud, as transmitted by the la ofArmeeabteilung Kempf, Major i.G.
                    Heidenreich. The message stated that the army desired that 'the
                    principle of offensive combat finally prevail with this strong and
                    mobile unit.'
                    ..... Inquiries to Armeeabteilung Kempf resulted in an explanation
                    of sorts. Manstein had sent a telegram message to the army
                    on 22 February, directing that it was 'emphatically to bear responsibility
                    that the principle of offensive combat prevail.'
                    order to the division evidently was derived from the Manstein message,
                    the wording of which led Kempf to defend the division's performance.
                    He quickly sent a reply to Manstein and listed the most
                    recent examples of the mobile actions of "Leibstandarte." After being
                    made aware of the difficult and costly fighting that the division had
                    been involved in, Manstein replied that the "Leibstandarte SS Adolf
                    Hitler" successes were not apparent from the reports sent to the
                    army group.
                    This answer seemed to provide a grudging recognition
                    by Heeresgruppe Sud of the efforts of the division but was tempered
                    when Manstein felt it necessary to deliver a tactical lecture to
                    the division regarding the beneficial effects of concentration of

                    Author's opinion:

                    This incident may
                    have been a simple case of lack of sufficient information. It may
                    have been an example of Army prejudice against the Waffen-SS or
                    Dietrich himself.


                    • In reading 'Last Victory in Russia' (excellent book) and having read 'Beyond Stalingrad', the 11th Panzer Division definitely stands out. I believe this division showed outstanding unit preservation and operating efficiency. It was March 1943 and the division had more panzers operational than 2.SS 'Das Reich' (40 plus) yet it was heavily in action for such a long time with only a trickle of reinforcements. The other Winter storm division, 6th Panzer under Raus, then his replacement, did not maintain as consistent strength.

                      11th launched Winter storm, fought the extremely difficult Chir river battles, and then engaged in the Dec- March 1943 drama. It, along with the more depleted 6th PzD, held the eastern wing of the SS Panzer Korps and attacked during Manstein's counteroffensive.

                      During the period from 28 June 1942 to 11 March 1943,
                      the division knocked out 1000 tanks, of which 664 were
                      knocked out by Panzer-Regiment 15 and 336 by other weapons.
                      Of the latter, 65 were destroyed by tank-hunter teams in
                      close combat. This compares to our own losses of 50 Panzers
                      as total write-offs.
                      I looked at Panzertruppen II today and found this document:

                      The rest of the document emphasizes using deception and behavior exploitation against enemy armored forces in order to inflict disproportionate losses on them.

                      On a side note, Panzer Regiment GD, the largest PR in the Wehrmacht, reported 1,000 tank kills between March 1943 to April 1944.

                      Panzer Regiment SS Wiking reported 500 tank kills between March 1943 to Sept. 1944.
                      Last edited by Cult Icon; 28 Nov 14, 11:20.


                      • Impressions and opinions from finishing 'Last Victory..' while referencing 'From Don to the Dnepr':

                        -March 1943. After the SS cleared Kharkov, the GD spearheaded the drive towards Belgorod.

                        The fresh PR-GD (under command of the 'panzer count').. probably the strongest regiment in the Wehrmacht in March 1943, performed very well in armored combat against 3 tank corps (300 tanks), claiming around 200 in three days with negligible losses. It was supported the by Stug battalion GD which performed very efficiently all winter.

                        Gd's advance to seize Belgorod, however, was stopped before the objective after these armored battles. I believe this is attributed to its lack of infantry at this point (Gd had been fighting since June 1942) as the PR was still very strong in tanks and AG. Corps Raus (1 PzD, 2 ID) was effectively the strength of one strong, full strength division.

                        -After Soviet forces launching Gallop and Star burned out, Manstein launched his counteroffensive, spearhead by the Waffen SS.

                        The 3 x Waffen SS divisions succeeded in their missions but they took lots of manpower and equipment losses relative to the capability and concentration of the opposition. In 20 days of combat they depleted most of their strength, which was overstrength (1.3 times) to begin with. They seem to not take much effort in recon; very often the recon/krad battalion is not split up but used as an additional assault force. Throughout the text, SS spearheads run into soviets and the lead element takes combat losses (a tank, vehicles, etc.) and then the rest of the force peels off and engages. These knife cuts, while individually small deplete their overall force structure over time and show not enough attention to reconnaissance.

                        A positive is definitely their determination to get the job done and otherwise their tactical movements show that they were generally competent in military leadership and combined arms attacks. They cleared Kharkov, completed one encirclement on their own, and helped pocket another. Their loss rate, however, is higher than what I've seen with the army divisions in the offensive. The soviets forces they fought during the counteroffensive were not tough- they were largely worn out, scattered infantry regiments with 10-20 tanks max. The fresher SS, on the other hand, were able to fight them with local superiority.

                        I remember reading an opinion once (German staff officer) that stated that the SS were 'awarded as many medals as possible'. This is quite noticable IMO. They get awarded Knight's crosses and other awards very quickly and easily- Battalion commanders and above nearly all have the KC and so do many company and platoon commanders. The actual citation for their KCs do not really justify such a high award, IMO. It was certainly in the interest of the SS to pump up the Waffen SS, and increase their prestige. The Army was known to denigrate SS fighting skills.

                        Thoroughout the text, the SS's kill tally is posted, but the prisoners they take are very low- (whether the army was similar, I do not know). This indicates that they kill lots of surrendered soviet troops. A good panzer division captures subunits wholesale, and lead them to the prisoner cage without expending the effort to kill them.

                        General Eicke, of the SS-Totenkopf is killed after the division HQ 'loses track' of SS Panzerregiment 3. He and his pilot were searching for the SS Panzerregiment, and their aircraft was shot down by soviet flak.

                        Overall, I've read this book knowing that I have some biases of the SS being mediocre in combat. So I tried to read 'Last victory' more analytically and impartially. However, like before I can't really say that the SS were outstanding but rather they were about middling in performance in Feb-March 1943. There were definitely military skills that they needed work on.

                        I am now going to finish 'Decision in the Ukraine' and 'Red Storm over the Balkans' to see if my opinion modifies itself.
                        Last edited by Cult Icon; 29 Nov 14, 12:16.


                        • There you can compare what did the 11Pzd at Chir river and after with the SS at Kharkov : same time, context.
                          Casualties ratio too heavy for SS as the Army Generals suggest ?
                          Balk made reacon and attacked the back of the red units, did the SS were too much "straight" onto the objectif ?


                          • Yes, I believe so. The SS come across as being on the reckless side. The SS often do not quickly envelope and capture the soviets they are fighting in villages, etc. Their prisoner count is low even though I believe they had the manpower and equipment to perform such maneuvers.

                            The SS like to make concentric attacks with their forces- they like to pile up a lot manpower and forces to achieve local superiority, and then decisively annihilate the soviets in the position. Hitler's orders to take Kharkov street by street serves to increase their losses.

                            The SS were part of a major shipment of mobile forces that came in Feb 1943. This was 3 very large SS Panzer divisions and a very strong Panzer regiment GD HQ plus 1 fresh panzer battalion GD with a Tiger company.

                            SS-DR was engaged in this month and SS-LAH and SS-T mostly did not participate (outside of 1 SS regiment) until 23rd Feb. The heavy fighting started in the first week of March and continued to March 18th, 1943. During this period the 3 divisions took around 11,500 dead and wounded.

                            The SS armor was left with less than 35 runners each.

                            Overall, these and the below are not good numbers for the German forces and the standards of 1942. With the quality of the opposition factored in the success numbers are mediocre, and the ratio of killed to captured is way too high (indicating costly operations). However, the soviet equipment losses matter more as the Germans overran them.

                            The Counteroffensive Mobile units: GD, SS Panzer Korps, 6 PzD, 11 PzD plus several infantry divisions.

                            During the counteroffensive, 4. Panzerarmee calculated that it had
                            destroyed a total of 567 Russian tanks, 1072 guns and over a thousand
                            anti-tank guns. It counted 40,130 Russian dead and captured a
                            total of 12,430 Soviet soldiers.
                            A substantial number of partially
                            completed T-34s were captured when the Tractor Works was seized
                            by the SS divisions.
                            Out of these numbers, GD was credited with this:

                            For his leadership of the Panzer Regiment in March, Oberst
                            von Strachwitz was recommended for the Oak Leaves to his Knight's
                            Cross. Heeresgruppe Slid agreed with the recommendation, noting
                            that during the period from 7 to 19 March, the division was credited
                            with the destruction of 233 Russian tanks, eight armored cars,
                            308 guns and anti-tank guns and assorted other heavy weapons.
                            Document, Panzertruppen II

                            GD registers own write offs as 14 panzers vs. 269 Soviet knock outs (mostly from the 3 x tank corps that defended the approach to Belgorod. )

                            In response to the question on the basis of their success
                            in combating tanks during the Winter battle around Kharkov,
                            on 3 April 1943 Infanterie-Division "Grossdeutsehland"
                            reported: 1. In the period from 7 March to 20 March 1943, 250 T34,
                            16 T60 or T70 and 3 KW-I tanks were knocked out.

                            2. The number of kills scored by each type of weapon
                            188 by Pz.Kpfw.IV 7.5 em lang,
                            41 by Sturmgesehuetz 7.5 em lang,
                            30 by Pz.Kpfw. VI (Tiger),
                            4 by 7.5 em Pak (mot Zug),
                            4 by 7.5 em Pak (Sfl),
                            1 by a direct hit from a s.I.G.,
                            1 using a Hafthohlladung (hand-held shaped

                            (Panzer-Regiment Grossdeutsehland began with 5
                            Pz.Kpfw.lI, 20 Pz.Kpfw.1I15 em Ll60, 10 Pz.Kpfw.lV 7.5 em
                            Ll24, 75 Pz.Kpfw.IV 7.5 em L/43, 9 Pz.Kpfw.VI 8.8 em LI
                            56, 2 Pz.Bef.Wg. 5 em Lj42, and 26 Flammpz.lll.

                            Their losses
                            as total write-offs amounted to 1 Pz.Kpfw.1I1 5 em Ll60, 1
                            Pz.Kpfw.IV 7.5 em L,l24, 11 Pz.Kpfw.lV 7.5 em Ll43, and 1
                            48th Panzer Korps (6th and 11th Panzer) had been weakened since Dec 1942 and were basically less than one pz division's strength by Feb. They were giving a supporting role to be the SS Korps' right wing. Like GD, they were weak in infantry and relied much on their tanks. This limits the korps to a supporting, yet important role.

                            What stood out with the 11th was how it could continue attacking and taking objectives since Dec 1942, yet still maintain 40-30 runners w/o much reinforcement. SS-DR is down to 5 runners after a much short period of time and Vahl asks Himmler to give him 50 tanks.....By the time the SS encircled Kharkov, each SS division's armor strength was around the same as the 11th Panzer division...They had started in late Feb 1943 with up to 150 tanks and assault guns.
                            Last edited by Cult Icon; 30 Nov 14, 00:11.


                            • An interesting thing I found: It was none other than Franz Bake (mentioned prior) that was a panzer battalion commander (II bat) of 6th Panzer Division during Winter Storm and Kharkov. The 6th Panzer was tactically effective under Raus with the other division (11th) under Balck.

                              Bake commanded the whole Panzer regiment shortly after Kursk as part of III PzK. Afterwards, he was ordered to form the special 'Heavy Panzer Regiment Bake' which was also very effective in Jan-Feb 1944 (Among its larger engagements: Operation Watutin and the spearhead of Operation Wanda (Kosun pocket battle, III PzK). In these two operations the regiment claims over 500 soviet tank knock-outs.
                              Last edited by Cult Icon; 30 Nov 14, 23:58.


                              • Hello Cult Icon, I finally caught up reading the thread and have to agree overall that the WSS units were too reckless, and that units like 6. Pz and 11. Pz were overall "better" units, with Balck being arguably Germany's best Panzer division commander. To answer your earlier question about Das Reich III, yes it does cover a lot of the organization of the division during the period you mentioned when it was being reformed. No, Weidinger is not really critical of the division, like Spaeter is of GD at times. And DR's training was similar to GD's. Overall they are still excellent books. The Chir River battles are some of the most fascinating battles to read about....and Bake is another interesting individual. It's sad, because the German army had so many excellent Korps to battalion level commanders, yet almost none of them are heard about, unlike the WSS commanders. At least Balck's memoirs are finally being published in English.


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