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Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

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  • ^^

    Along with Last Victory, I read 'Korsun pocket' (Zetterling) which focuses on the III PzK, KG Bake, and the 47th PzK. I am going to finish 'Decision in the Ukraine' soon.

    And Yes, prior to reading these two Nipe Jr, books, I have never seen a panzer division take much more than 300 casualties a day in assault operations.

    'Decision' depicts 2.SS 'Das Reich' as performing better than the SS-TK and Stadler's push into the center of the bridgehead on Day 3 was decisive. Also, SS-TK fights almost suicidally on attack day 1, launching a frontal attack. They also take more losses than DR or 3.Pz

    My notes:

    'Decision in the Ukraine's first half is about the defense of the Mius river line in 6 Army's sector against a diversionary Soviet offensive. II SS Panzer Korps are sent to relieve.

    It is an interesting display that gives the impression that the senior SS divisions showed determination, but took many losses including most of their runners (armor).

    4 days of attack. First two days go poorly, the third succeeds, the fourth is exploitation/mop-up. The defenses facing 3rd panzer, SS-T, and SS-DR were the strongest. SS-T 's objectives were tougher than 3.Pz and SS-DR.

    Exact figures are given in the book, but for simplicity:

    3rd Panzer Division: 300 casualties in 2 days, then withdrawn into 6 Army reserve as Manstein/Hollidt debate whether to remove II SS PzK.

    SS-Totenkopf: 1,500 casualties in 4 days (500 on the first day).

    SS-Das Reich: 2,800 casualties in Citadel + Mius. (500 casualties in the first two days, the next two days are unknown)

    23rd Panzer Division and 16th Pz Gren had been fighting since mid-July and were given easier objectives, with both taking fewer casualties than the II SS PzK.

    Some noticable things:

    +23th Panzer division and 16th Pzg (which eventually became 116th Pz Windhund in the West) take most of the prisoners in the Garany pocket. This opens tactical possibilities not discussed in Nipe's analysis... the strong points were arrayed in the center, while the south was in fact the weakest.

    +Nipe, who is SS-biased, blames 6 AOK commander Holldidt for the high SS losses. I found his line of arguments here, unconvincing. He also claims that the II SS PzK/48th PzK, if it was reinforced with 24th PzK during Citadel, had a chance of destroying the 5th Guards Tank Army and maybe even the 1st Tank Army completely. This is also unproven and I don't believe it, knowing the extent of RKKA reserves beyond these two forces. (several undeployed armies in the rear in Stavka reserves and the Steppe front...)

    +Nipe also implies 'anti-SS' bias of the army when it withdraws 3rd Panzer into reserve instead of one of the SS Panzer divisions.

    +So when looking at this battle, the obvious question emerges: Why did the SS panzer divisions attack the Soviets where they were strongest? Blaming Hollidt is insufficient. The 2nd/4th Mech. corps had shot out their offensive bolt. There should have been unit shifting. Two of the weaker divisions should have been moved to oppose them and the SS should have been moved to attack the south.

    Nipe Jr doesn't address this, which is obvious.

    +Attack Day 1 and Day 2 were very wasteful, and essentially these losses only amounted to a very expensive recon-in-force operation, which was capitalized in Day 3 with a new, much more effective battle plan. The SS here once again attack without proper recon operations, and use their recon battalions as infantry fire support instead of recon tools.
    Last edited by Cult Icon; 06 Dec 14, 10:49.


    • Thanks for the info.

      I caved in and bought 'History of Panzerregiment GD'. I will probably read it next week.

      Did you read about the Chir river battles in Stalingrad Trilogy (Glantz?) His Red Storm in the Balkans is literally centered around 24th and GD Panzer divisions. So I realized that getting Jung was necessary.

      After reading 'Red Storm' and 'PR-GD', I will probably do 'Hell's Gate'. Afterwards, I am going back to Glantz and reading all his 1942 material. I will definitely slow down my reading significantly after I finish Red Storm and PR-GD. It has been a good journey to learn about the red army and elite armored divisions.

      Originally posted by krichter33 View Post
      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.
      I am still a SS Panzer skeptic...I haven't found evidence that they were particularly good at offensive operations and in particular maneuver warfare. So far, I have not read of any outstanding SS tactical victories (out of shooting up lots of tanks in the defense, which the wehrmacht also did frequently..) and wholesale capture of Red Army forces. In defense, however, they were tough and they were determined. Their individual fighters were fine at 'brawling'..

      I wonder if the SS cadres were better just to be organized like the 78th Sturm Division or a FJ division. No tanks, but assault guns and partial motorization and deployed in breakthrough actions against strong defenses or deployed in defensive hot spots.
      Last edited by Cult Icon; 06 Dec 14, 11:12.


      • Was Hermann Breith a good panzer korps commander? It seem to me that this is more of an administrative role and it is difficult to define what the precise influence he actually had.

        He took control of 3.Pz from Model and was promoted himself, holding the office of III PzK commander for the rest of the war. This HQ often controlled the strongest units in the wehrmacht throughout the war and was shifted to the most difficult areas.

        I find him rather low-key..He was awarded the swords for the 'successes' of the Korsun pocket, which I find kind of dubious.


        • Breith's IIIPzKrps was a fire brigade, and usually performed up to standard. I agree that tactically divisional command is more demanding, and korps command relies more on administrative aspects. I haven't read Glantz's Stalingrad trilogy yet, but I will soon. Yes, the SS panzer units were never that brilliant offensively though Stadler, and others did do pretty well tactically, primarily with infanterie units. Also, you are right that Nipe tends to be WSS biased, but no more than Glantz is Soviet biased. However in his newer book, Blood Steel and Myth, which is excellent and should be read in conjunction with Zamulin's book Demolishing the Myth, Nipe corrects his assertion in Decision in the Ukraine, that the Germans still could have successfully won a battle in the Southern part of the salient, as Manstein had wanted. In his new book, he openly admits his mistake, and mentions that the massive reserves of the Red army would have made in impossible. You should DEFINITELY read Blood Steel and Myth, as it covers not only the WSS units but also the 48 pzk units including GD. And yes, it is still SS biased, but it is his best book...Next book I'll read is Red Storm over the Balkans...


          • ^^^

            I see, it is interesting to hear that he corrected his argument. As far as the Mius battle goes, I found a must read 50 page report at the end by the 6 AOK war diarist in 'German View of Kursk'. This is a detailed after-action report, and adds to 'Decision in the Ukraine'.

            Yes, those 2 books on Kursk are on my future list. However, before that I would like to read this:

            Do you know about the 1st Panzer Division?

            I have only a little material about it (a picture book and panzertruppen II). Apparently, it was mostly not in combat for 9 (!) months before it returned to engage in major counterstrikes in the Autumn 1943, Ukraine. SSLAH, 1st Panzer, and 16th Panzer was the major mobile division shipment in Nov. 1943.

            I also read of its combat in Zetterling's 'Korsun Pocket', where it was one of the three decently strong panzer divisions left in the Korsun area Feb/March 1944. SSLAH by that point was burnt out.

            Of all the panzer units on the eastern front, this division and the SSLAH had the most armor in Nov 1943. 1st Panzer was just under 200 and SSLAH was over 200. Then these divisions were deployed in many counterattack actions from Nov 1943 to Jan 1944. Then, the Korsun pocket and onwards. The details of Nov-Jan, however...I am not aware of.

            There were 5 interconnected, major Red Army offensives in this area during this period 1943-1944. They occurred after the Nov. German counterstrikes. The first was Zhitomir. Then Kirovograd.. The third was the Korsun operation.
            Last edited by Cult Icon; 07 Dec 14, 16:46.


            • I don't know much about 1. Pz because only the picture book is available in English, but I've tried to learn as much as I can about all the Pz Divisions, especially 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 23, 24, 116, Pz Lehr, all divisions that are more interesting to me than your average WSS division. Also the 10 and 21 pz, as well as all the PZG divisions. The fallschirmjager and HG are also some of the most interesting, especially the FJ.
              Is the 50 page after action report about the Mius, in Newton's book "German View on Kursk?"
              Finally, I have already read ZHITOMIR-BERDICHEV Volume 1, and have Volume 2, on my desk. They are extremely operational histories, not really tactical, and some might say a bit dry. But they are very well written and have some of the best maps ever, in a separate book. I have to read Volume 2 next.
              Also, if you enjoy Glantz and Stahel, you should try to read some of Rolf Hinze's books. Some of the translations aren't that good, but from the German tactical and operational perspective, I would say he and Stahel are the "German Glantz." Another German-centric author who is excellent, and quite fair, is Wilhelm Tieke, who's books are primarily tactical.
              Last edited by krichter33; 07 Dec 14, 17:40.


              • Wow, 'Decision in the Ukraine's coverage of III Panzer Korps (3.Pz, 2.SS. 3.SS 5.SS) is really essential. I read Kharkov-Belgorod about 1.5 years ago in 'From Don to the Dnepr' but this account makes what happened there clearer. I had a reasonable idea, but not fully understood, for instance, why the soviet tank losses were so high and how ten partially depleted panzer and panzergrenadier divisions at average 40 tanks each, with average 50-60% of their combat manpower managed to do this. Now..I understand completely.

                Statistics from glantz/K, and also simplified. I only post numbers that make sense:

                From 'Red Army Tank commanders', Katukov states that this operation saw the most concentrated use of armor by the Red Army thus far.

                The Soviets used 2,720 tanks/AG including reforcements (2/3rd of them T-34s). As the main exploitation force, 1GTA and 5GTA had around 1,100 tanks (including 800 T-34s) between them on day 1.

                Manpower: 330,000 men vs. 872,000 men including reinforcements. Germans used 430 tanks including reinforcements.

                The Germans largely owned the air, although it was contested. Fliegerkorps 8, a specialized ground-attack fleet, covered for the Germans.

                By the end of the battle, 10 divisions, many of them mobile, are reduced to 'Kampfgruppen' (regimental sized battlegroups) and the southern front is untenable.

                Soviets take 250,000 casualties and lose 1,850 tanks to airpower and ground forces. For the first ten days, they rely on sacrificing tanks instead of infantry to exhaust the long line of panzer divisions and infantry divisions in the defense. 1st GTA alone burns through over 800 tanks as total write-offs by Aug 22nd. Then the rifle corps and reinforcements make it to the new soviet front, and the battle continues more conventionally...
                Last edited by Cult Icon; 08 Dec 14, 20:20.


                • Yes, the report is in Newton's book. I'll read it sometime this week.

                  Before Zhitmomir, there is an unsuccessful major counteroffensive to retake Kiev by 48th Panzer Korps (Balck) in Nov 1943 (6 Panzer divisions, 1 Infantry division, 640 tanks). 2 of the divisions here are the two fresh divisions: SSLAH and 1st Panzer (400 tanks).

                  These armored forces are depleted of runners afterwards and revert to the defense. Then the soviets start launching their offensives...which is the subject of ZHITOMIR-BERDICHEV.

                  I wish there was something out there more substantial, outside of portions of unit histories, that seamlessly covers this operation and what happened. I looked up some stuff about it, and apparently this was most famously publicized in Mellanthan's 'Panzer Battles' (which I never read and don't have a copy of)

                  I have one of Hinze's book (covering 1943, AGS). Overall, I like both operational and tactical, and prefer if historians research and include both, like Nipe Jr does. I think both are necessary, but authors tend to prefer one thing or the other...

                  'Korsun pocket', Zetterling is really just a tactical account of the panzer operations only, and is devoid of other coverage. Like Hinze, Glantz is literally operational only, with low tactical coverage.

                  Originally posted by krichter33 View Post
                  I don't know much about 1. Pz because only the picture book is available in English, but I've tried to learn as much as I can about all the Pz Divisions, especially 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 23, 24, 116, Pz Lehr, all divisions that are more interesting to me than your average WSS division. Also the 10 and 21 pz, as well as all the PZG divisions. The fallschirmjager and HG are also some of the most interesting, especially the FJ.
                  Is the 50 page after action report about the Mius, in Newton's book "German View on Kursk?"
                  Finally, I have already read ZHITOMIR-BERDICHEV Volume 1, and have Volume 2, on my desk. They are extremely operational histories, not really tactical, and some might say a bit dry. But they are very well written and have some of the best maps ever, in a separate book. I have to read Volume 2 next.
                  Also, if you enjoy Glantz and Stahel, you should try to read some of Rolf Hinze's books. Some of the translations aren't that good, but from the German tactical and operational perspective, I would say he and Stahel are the "German Glantz." Another German-centric author who is excellent, and quite fair, is Wilhelm Tieke, who's books are primarily tactical.


                  • Unfortunately there is no battle history that I know of that covers the German counterattack in Nov 1943 against Kiev. Everything I have read about it is covered in unit histories or in Agte's Peiper bio. However, after the Nov. 43 attack petered out and the Germans went on the defensive, that is when the Soviets launched their Zhitomir-Berdichev offensive, in Dec., and the Germans counterattacked again in January 44. That subject is exhausted in the Zhitomir Berdichev books. Like you, though I wish there was something covering the earlier November operations.

                    Also if you like tactical and operational, with first person accounts and brilliant maps, buy ANY book by Wilhelm Tieke.


                    • Thanks for that. Hinze's book has a few pages on 48th Panzer Korps towards Kiev. Do you know approx. how strong 1st Panzer and 1st SSLAH were in armor by Dec 1943? (the subject of that book)

                      The 1.SS Division's unit history should have coverage of these two months of counterattacks and raids. It is burned out before Korsun and then is used in a supporting role for a last time, then withdrawn to Belgium.

                      I have Hinze's book as a reference:

                      From Sept 1943 to May 1944 the most important mobile divisions. In particular, were the bolded:

                      GD, 1st SSLAH, 1st Pz

                      3 Pz, 6 Pz, 7 Pz, 11 Pz, 14 Pz, 16 Pz, 24 Pz

                      What is interesting to see the re-emergence of 24 PzD. I think it lost 10,000 irreplaceable at Stalingrad. Dead? Maybe 20% of its wounded. (guessestimate). This leave maybe 7-8,000 cavalrymen left??

                      It comes from the Italian front in Oct 1943 and has 80 action days in the Eastern front by Feb 1st. It fights until mid-March, when it loses most of its equipment during the 6 AOK retreat.

                      The text also mentions that in the first quarter Jan-March, 3,590 men were casualties. On March 22nd, it is re-equipped, and fights with GD which leads the grand struggle in 'Red Storm over the Balkans'.

                      It looks to me that targos frumos this is the biggest defensive victory for the Germans since Feb. of 1943.
                      Last edited by Cult Icon; 09 Dec 14, 18:49.


                      • This thread brings better information on tank strengths during the battle on the German side. This helps with the book, which has accurate soviet strengths but skimps on the german ones.



                        • I don't know off the top of my head what were the tank strengths for SSLAH and 1.pz during that counterattack. But I'm sure the unit histories for SSLAH cover this attack in great detail.
                          I absolutely love the 24 pz. Even after being destroyed at Stalingrad it still fought extremely well into 1944!


                          • I got Jung's book yesterday in the mail. It has only 100 pages of text, but what's in it is good although I am disappointed in the overall amount of information. I think there is however, some overlap with Spaeter.

                            The pictures, however, which take up most of the book exceeded expectations. Very interesting photos. The maps are numerous and very good as well, although some are copied from Spaeter.


                            The Citadel panthers were in two battalions (51 Pz B and 52 Pz B) and built out of veteran cadres:

                            Almost half were combat veterans from 9th and 11th Panzer division's panzer regiments. Some were from other units. 44% of the personnel were replacements.

                            The commander of 52 Panzer Battalion was Major von Silvas (from II/PR-24, 24th Panzer Division). Major von Silvas was not with PB-52 during Citadel and only returned to retake command on July 22nd 1943.

                            Much hope was placed on these two battalions (~200 Panthers) but they were raised in Jan, Feb 1943 respectively and went into battle with incomplete training (exercises only up to platoon level). A lot of training time was lost when the panther fleet needed re-builds. The Panther tank was a train-wreak, mechanically.

                            Runners drop from 184 to 40 Panthers in the first two days and range around or below this number until July 17th.

                            The Panther brigade (51 and 52) claim 263 Soviet tank knock-outs by July 17th, 1943.

                            In T-34 vs. Panther, the author uses a variety of sources to come up with a more realistic estimate: The two panther battalions knocked out 120 Soviet tanks, of which 100 were T-34. Much of Soviet tanks fought were in hull-down defensive positions.

                            The status of the 200 Panthers on 20 July 1943 was reported
                            41 Panthers were operational
                            85 Panthers were repairable by the regimental maintenance
                            16 Panthers had been damaged to the extent that they
                            needed to be returned to the ordnance depot in Germany
                            for major overhaul
                            56 Panthers had burned out (Of these, 49 were filled
                            with explosives and blown up. Seven Panthers that had
                            burned out but due to enemy action could not be blown
                            up fell into enemy hands on 19 July 1943)
                            2 Panthers with motor fires were already total write-ofts
                            before the campaign began.
                            51st-PB left the field, while 52-PB with Major von Silvas remained in the area. He had 27 runners and 109 Panthers in repair. The battalion was attached to the 19th Pz.

                            The Soviets launch the Belgorod-Kharkov offensive, which causes 52-PB to blow up 72 immobilized panthers during the retreat from 1st Tank Army.

                            Major von Silvas has 9 runners left afterwards and re-attaches to GD. By the end of August, 51-PB claims 100 Tank kills for a write off of 53 Panthers. Runners by the end of August are 15 Panthers.

                            By Sept 29th, 1943, there are only 18 Panthers left in the unit, which had been renamed to I/Panzer 15.

                            So all in all, the original ~200 Kursk Panthers destroyed 220 Soviet tanks maximum with 18 Panther survivors.
                            Last edited by Cult Icon; 11 Dec 14, 12:38.


                            • I believe that the bulk of the cavalrymen who were not lost in Stalingrad to be wounded combat troops from June-Nov 1942 instead of rear echelon. These were used to form the next iteration. Many of them probably received promotions, training, etc. to become the core of the new division.

                              The reborn and far more modestly equipped 24th Panzer Division returns to the Eastern Front, Oct. 1943. From the document, it shows that the Panzer IVs and the Stugs were used together. The division does not have a Panzerjaeger battalion and stugs had been used to replace one battalion of panzers. It is also short of signals equipment.

                              It considers its own infantry (Panzergrenadiers) to be of poor quality, and marginal to the panzers and support weapons in operations.

                              These are excepts from various 24. Pz officers. The Panzer Regiment commander (last comment) considers the Soviet forces he fought to be poor fighters.

                              The following extracts are from a report written on 4 November
                              1943 by Hauptmann Markowsky of the III./PanzerRegiment
                              24 of the 24.Panzer-Division on the first days in
                              action north of Kriwoi-Rog:
                              My Abte/lung consisted of two Pz.Kpfw.IV-Schwadronen
                              and two Sturmgesehuetz-Sehwadronen, each with
                              22 armored vehicles. The Stab has only two Panzerbefehlswagen
                              (5em Kw.K. lang).


                              The Abteilung now has nine days of heavy combat behind
                              it. During this period it knocked out 184 enemy tanks, 87
                              anti-tank guns, and 26 artillery pieces with only four of our
                              own lost as total write-offs.
                              The enemy tanks were almost
                              exclusively T34 with a few heavy 15 cm assault guns.


                              superiority over the Russian tanks isn't due very much to the
                              equipment as, primarily, to the training of the crews and the
                              leadership within the Schwadronen, and secondarily to the
                              concentrated employment ofthe Abteilung. Support from the
                              other weapons, such as artilleryandaircraft, has notyet been
                              smoothly worked out for several different reasons. We are especially lacking good radio communication. That will be
                              corrected and work itself out.


                              3. The battle here is conducted with Panzers, Pak,
                              Art/llerie, and the Luftwaffe. The other weapons branches
                              are of lower importance. The infantry has the least importance
                              because it is so poor. From my view, after such a long
                              war it is no longer possible to restore the fought-out infantry
                              to a decisive weapons branch.


                              4. Value of the Russians here: The infantry are mostly
                              poorbutnumerous because the Russians immediately drafted
                              the Ukrainians from the territory they regained. We have taken
                              prisoners who were working in Germany three months ago.
                              The Russians have very many anti-tank guns, which are our
                              most bothersome opponent. His Panzers are poorly led tactically
                              and are poor shots. We don't view them as dangerous
                              opponents. During the period from 24 October to 1 November
                              1943 in the area north of Kriwoi-Rog, my Panzer-Regiment
                              knocked out 181 enemy tanks and lost only four of our
                              Panzers as total write-offs.
                              In comparison, I have now lost six additional Panzers during a few days in combat against antitank
                              guns. Up to no~ I have seldom been subjected to Russian
                              artillery fire. The Russians fire a lot from their tanks, antitank
                              guns, heavy assault guns, and light artillery pieces; that
                              is quite bothersome, as they shoot up the area with a vel}'
                              large expenditure of ammunition


                              • The storied 14th Panzer Division was similarly equipped as the 24th Pz., (mixed stug/Panzer IV and in similar numbers) and came to the front at the same time: Oct. 43.

                                Of interest, is its PR commander: Lt. Colonel Langkeit, who was later promoted to become the commander of PR-GD in March 1944 and then the commander of pzg division 'Kurmark' in 1945. He ended the war a Generalmajor. Like the Panzer Count, he was also a veteran of Stalingrad.

                                This is from his report:

                                During the period from 28 October to 1December 1943,
                                the mixed Panzer-Abte/lung destroyed 211 tanks, 176 antitank
                                guns, 54 artillery pieces, 41 motor vehicles, and 101
                                anti-tank rifles along with 1700 enemy killed.
                                The losses as total
                                write-offs from 16 days in combat were 20 Pz.Kpfw.IV and
                                16 Sturmgeschuetze.

                                The 16th Panzergrenadier division performed well in 1943 (I read much about it in the Mius battles). It eventually was converted into the 116th Panzer Division in the West.

                                The divisions' commander, Graf von Schwerin, was the former commander of Reinforced Infantry Regiment GD in 1940.

                                The final report from Panzer-Abteilung 116 in the
                                16.Panzer-Grenadier-Division for the period from 1 July
                                1943 to 31 January 1944 reveals that a normal PanzerAbteilung
                                outfitted mainly with Pz.Kpfw.llls and a few
                                Pz.Kpfw.lVs handled by experienced crews was tactically
                                superior to the Russian tank brigades outfitted with T34 tanks.
                                During the period from 1 July 1943 to 31 January 1944,
                                the combat elements of Panzer-Abtei/ung 116 fought 76
                                battles along a stretch of3020 kilometers. They managed to
                                destroy 251 tanks, 245 guns.........(etc, etc.)
                                Their total write-offs: 37 panzers

                                Equipment: 37 Panzers (1 Pz.Kpfw.II, 26 Pz.Kpfw./II, 7
                                Pz.Kpfw./Y, 2 Pz.Bef. Wg., 1 Pz.Kpfw.//1 7.5 em kurz)

                                During the period from 5 January to 30 June 1944, the
                                Panthers of the I.Abteilung/Panzer-Regiment 26 had destroyed
                                211 enemy tanks and assault guns, 171 anti-tank guns
                                and artillery pieces and 27 anti-tank rifles.

                                This was GD's replacement Panther battalion that replaced GD's I battalion which had move to France to train on Panthers. The original battalion would return to combat on Oct 1944.
                                Last edited by Cult Icon; 11 Dec 14, 21:43.


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