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Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

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  • Cult Icon
    started a topic Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

    Elite Units of the German Army 1939-1945

    I found a copy of this osprey book and I wanted to post the author's interesting choices to see if they are agreeable:

    1. Grossdeutschland

    2. Feldherrnhalle

    3. Infantry regiment 119 and 19 'List' (In honor of Adolf Hitler)

    4. Panzergrenadier division Brandenburg

    5. Cavalry regiment 5 'von Mackenson'

    6. 44th Reichgrenadier division


    7. 116th Panzer division Windhund

    8. 21st Panzer division

    9. 24th Panzer division

    10. Panzer Lehr division

    11. 3rd Mountain

    12. 5th Mountain

    13. Tiger tank battalion 1-10 (first ten)


    I must admit that I never heard of the bolded outside of this volume.

  • Cult Icon
    replied
    A bit of a follow up review of the GCGs of Totenkopf I, II and Das Reich I:

    After reading all of them, my initial interest has unexpectedly waned a bit- after reading some 500+ leadership days they're starting to read somewhat alike and fit into the patterns described above.

    - Overall, the DR ones are a little more impressive than the TK ones and a bit more non-infantry (vehicle) and offensive oriented. TK ones are dominated by defensive actions and restorative counterattacks.

    -20 GCGs from Totenkopf were from its artillery regiment, which was the highest in the SS. The artillery, armor, flak, anti-tank and other arms were awarded GCG days for fighting as infantry.

    -Without knowing enough about LAH, the weight of evidence shows that the 2.SS was pretty much the premier unit of the SS, containing two of the original four most combat-capable regiments. Its leadership group included one former Army general and several field officers. And trained German general staff officers that were recruited by the SS and provided their skillset. Overall its leadership corps was stronger than that of the Totenkopf. Its alumni proliferated into more command positions of other units than Totenkopf, which was organized out of disparate elements and saw less development overall. Both units were highly influential though as the later WSS grew out of them.
    Last edited by Cult Icon; 13 Mar 19, 15:42.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Some other aspects that I learned recently:

    - Essentially the most professional regiments of the SS were 1.LAH 2. Deutschland 3. Der Fuhrer 4. Germania. These contained the best trained SS officer and nco corps and the pre-war/early war cadre eventually became the company/field officers of the future WSS.

    - Division Das Reich contained two out of 4 regiments and thus was on paper (and most likely in practice) the most militarily effective unit. From what I gather it was also the most influential unit as it produced numerous SS divisional commanders and its "alumni" of the 1939-1943 period proliferated across the SS to provide leadership corps.

    - Division Wiking had one regiment (Germania) but especially strong infantry elements with three big (equivalent of 4 battalions each) regiments (Germania, Westland, Nordland) until the spring 1943. Nordland regiment was detached to form the 11th SS PzG division in 1943.

    -There were relatively few German army officers that transferred to provide expertise to the WSS but their impact was high (staff officers, field officers, and certain divisional and above commanders). However, there seemed to be a lack of professionalism on the top end (and to a lessor extent, middle) of the scale with many division and above commanders lacking the training and experience of their army peers. A trait of SS leadership was that of men who had natural leadership personalities that simply rose in combat.

    - Hausser was the most influential officer and was an army general. In a post-war interview he considered the establishment of the SS officer schools his biggest accomplishment. He was also an effective divisional commander of SS-Reich. Steiner, another army officer, was also influential as he trained Deutschland regiment to the highest standards obtained by the the pre-war/early war SS and commanded Wiking very effectively in 41-43. Kruger was also another army officer that commanded 4th SS Police and Das Reich effectively. Vahl, a panzer officer from the Army trained the Das Reich panzer regiment.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Tissier's "With our backs to Berlin" has a lot of interesting interviewed/researched accounts of various armored ncos and officers that fought in the battle for Berlin.

    The final account is the most interesting- it covers the final actions of the LAH Kampfgruppe Mohnke and the defense of the Reichstag. This also includes the famous breakout after Hitler's death with elements of 11th SS Nordland and high nazi officials (Martin Bormann was killed in this group).

    LAH NCO (close combat clasp in gold, german cross in gold, 8 battle wounds) Rogmann was the real deal- he had a talent for survival. His German cross in gold citation was largely achieved in defensive fighting in Jan 1944.

    Some insights from the account:

    -His commanding officer gave him the choice to desert or fight in Berlin. He chose the latter out of sense of duty despite having a family.

    - He was police trooper that was drafted into the LAH as a replacement. In a division of 6 footers he was the shortest man in SS regiment 2. His track record was essentially that of a good fighter and squad leader/platoon.

    - He was nominated for the Knight's Cross but his commanding officer was killed before it could go through.

    -preferred weapon was a captured Sten gun that was originally meant to be used by partisans. His second favorite weapon was an Italian Beretta SMG. He disfavored the MP-40 due to its tendency to jam.

    -Like other accounts the award system seems to have functioned as a way german soldiers could quickly size up a man that they didn't know. Knight's Cross holders were respected, however in this case he was with a combat-inexperienced officer candidate with "only" the Iron Cross 2nd class. He comments that this was probably due to the kid's connections and he later comments on him being incompetent. This is the not the first time that I read an account that indicates that German officer candidates needed to get the Iron Cross 1st class as a NCO before they could be sent to OCS.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post

    GCG 1-2 Das Reich

    3 Nordland
    4 SS Calvary formations
    5-6 SS Police formations
    7-8 Wiking
    .
    The 4th SS Police division is a often-neglected unit even though it was one the original SS formations. It was formed out of German policemen (Himmler took over control of the police) that were transferred into an SS unit and they wore their original police uniforms. Later on, the policemen were transferred into the SS. I remember this unit from the late war 1944-1945 battles on the eastern front where it was a PzG division.

    Given how strong of a complement these books are for divisional histories, there is a two-volume history on the 4.SS Police division on the Eastern Front that should combine well with 5-6 SS Police formations. This division spent much of its existence as a regular horse-drawn infantry division and then was upgraded to a PzG division in the late war- given the lack of divisional history books on horse-drawn units in english the two volume series "In Good Faith" should be very insightful on a how the average infantry division functioned.

    On anti-partisan warfare, the 4th GCG volume should combine well Yerger's own book on SS Calvary. There is also the censored history on the 7th SS Prinz Eugen, long paper on 8th SS, and books on war crimes (like Hitler's Bandit hunters)

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    According to GCG1, the DR veterans interviewed by Yerger most commonly cited Manstein's 4th Panzer Army counteroffensive (3rd Kharkov) as being the most intense combat they experienced in WW2.

    The vast majority of GCG days in GCG1 DR were awarded for Eastern Front combat 41-43- surprisingly little on Normandy, Westwall, and the Ardennes & 1945.

    -Injured and/or disabled Waffen SS officers/ncos were sent to non-combat roles- often to SS officer and arms training schools.
    Last edited by Cult Icon; 03 Mar 19, 10:56.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    German Cross in Gold- an award given out for more or less 5 leadership actions spanning 1941-1945. I find that for 2.SS and 3.SS the majority was given to infantry and to platoon and company commanders for good small unit leadership days. Seems to have low if any propaganda value at all, especially compared to the RK. :

    5.SS and 2.SS are at the top of the pack, 3.SS is in the middle and 1.SS is at the bottom.

    G.D.:218
    5.SS: 180
    4.Pz: 167
    17.Pz:164
    2.SS: 156
    5.Pz: 152
    14.Pz:149
    13.Pz:142
    3.Pz: 141
    11.Pz:140
    24.Pz:135
    12.Pz: 131
    9.Pz:130
    3.PzG:126
    3.SS:125
    20.PzG:125
    6.Pz:124
    23.Pz:121
    19.Pz:118
    7.Pz:116
    16.PzG:113
    25.PzG:110
    1.Pz:108
    1.SS:101
    2.Pz:92
    18.PzG:92
    29.PzG:90
    10.PzG:90

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    A bit of a preview of : German Cross in Gold Holders 1 (out of 8 volumes)- Das Reich

    Unlike the Totenkopf series (out of 2), this series does not have special chapters on the division. It starts with commander bios, then 1st General Staff officer bios. The rest cover the GCG holders.

    Between Totenkopf II and Das Reich I, the latter has done a much more complete job of studying the combat actions for the GCG- this is probably because out of the hundreds of SS contacts the author had, he seems to have been closest to the 2nd SS division.

    With the Totenkopf series, the two volumes are essentially two book types (Divisional and GCG) merged together while the GCG series deals with personnel only.

    GCG 1-2 Das Reich

    3 Nordland
    4 SS Calvary formations
    5-6 SS Police formations
    7-8 Wiking


    http://www.bender-publishing.com/Ger...sGoldVol8.html

    I would say that besides the commander/staff officer sections (informative as a whole) a major value of the GCG is that the combat actions can be traced to various battles/campaigns as a form of descriptive tactical detail.

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  • Pruitt
    replied
    If a family name is Slavic origin. Erwin Rommel is from Swabia, but there was a Polish general by the name of Rommel as well. The Berlin area had a lot of foreign names as well. There were two Slavic areas in Saxony (Sorbs and Wends) and other similar groups.

    Pruitt

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Originally posted by bierbaron View Post

    Your post re-activated another observation i made when reading Names of the SS people. There are quite a few -ski -cni -ak etc rather slavic sounding surnames in their Ranks. So it seems supossed ancestry due to Names wasn't really an issue. While reading a book about some guy in Peipers battalion i once even read the name: "Kurt Israel" captioned under a photo of soldiers of the battalion, something quite well strange given the stance of the SS.
    I didn't get that impression with DR and TK yet, however half of the Waffen SS came from outside of Germany. Yes, the SS was a racial aristocracy that was pan-european.

    I'm getting Totenkopf vol. 1 soon

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    pg. 25 "Waffen SS at War " (Stein) has something I've never heard about- in 1938 the SS-VT was to be converted into a SS paratroop division but then it was reversed and converted into a mobile assault force.

    Among the units of the pre-war Waffen SS- Regiment Deutschland was the most advanced in its training.

    The conversion to a mobile unit took 3 months. in 1939, after large scaled exercises to Hitler, an SS artillery regiment was raised.

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  • bierbaron
    replied
    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
    I received a copy of "German Cross in Gold Holders of the SS and Police vol. 1" recently and what struck me about Vol. 1 (of two volumes) on the 2.SS Division is how much their officer and nco corps look like male models- clearly the idea of a "superman" was overly concerned with their height and physical (including facial) appearance. Even their uniforms are especially well tailored and look higher quality than other german units. Appearances were valued.

    The Totenkopf officers and ncos listed in "Totenkopf vol. 2 (the first vol. I will get later) are more ordinary looking. The Totenkopf was not as strict as the LAH and SS-VT/Reich in their selection progress.
    Your post re-activated another observation i made when reading Names of the SS people. There are quite a few -ski -cni -ak etc rather slavic sounding surnames in their Ranks. So it seems supossed ancestry due to Names wasn't really an issue. While reading a book about some guy in Peipers battalion i once even read the name: "Kurt Israel" captioned under a photo of soldiers of the battalion, something quite well strange given the stance of the SS.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    I received a copy of "German Cross in Gold Holders of the SS and Police vol. 1" recently and what struck me about Vol. 1 (of two volumes) on the 2.SS Division is how much their officer and nco corps look like male models- clearly the idea of a "superman" was overly concerned with their height and physical (including facial) appearance. Even their uniforms are especially well tailored and look higher quality than other german units. Appearances were valued.

    The Totenkopf officers and ncos listed in "Totenkopf vol. 2 (the first vol. I will get later) are more ordinary looking. The Totenkopf was not as strict as the LAH and SS-VT/Reich in their selection progress.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Total high awards (RK + GCG), most to least among highly decorated formations

    Army PzD, G.D., and W-SS PzD


    G.D.: 277
    4.Pz: 251
    5.SS: 247
    2.SS: 246

    5.Pz: 209
    14.Pz: 203
    16.Pz: 193
    11.Pz: 192
    9.Pz: 191
    17.Pz: 191
    3.Pz: 188
    12.Pz: 185
    13.Pz: 183
    24.Pz: 182
    3.SS: 180
    6.Pz: 174
    1.SS: 166
    7.Pz: 163
    19.Pz: 163
    23.Pz: 152
    1.Pz: 144
    20.Pz: 143
    8.Pz: 136
    2.Pz: 125


    PzGD (Army and WSS):

    20.PzG: 171
    3.PzG: 157
    16.PzG: 145
    25.PzG: 139
    29.PzG: 119
    18.PzG:119
    10.PzG: 113

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    I did a quick count of the RK's awarded right after the 3rd Battle of Kharkov for the SS PzG divisions and got 15 for LAH, 13 for DR, and 8 for TK.

    According to Mooney's count, DR and LAH were matched in RK awards after the "third campaign in Russia" (ending May 1944) - 48 for both. TK had 40. Wiking had 45.
    Last edited by Cult Icon; 01 Feb 19, 08:40.

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