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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
    The only area that was hastily assembled was the SS Artillery regiment VT- this was trained in just 8 weeks in 1939 to fully combat-ready status. This used 2,000 trained infantry gun/MG troops along with an artillery cadre.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    "Das Reich" I by Weidinger has a 114 page segment (1934-1939) about SS-VT training. Very informative and detailed however I believe that it "whitewashes" the political aspect of the unit and does not include details on ideological training, which should have been 10-20% of overall training.

    -leadership corps were made from transferred Reichswehr professional Officers and ncos, State police, and professionals from the Chief of Training (Training Army). All-volunteer force, largely from the General SS, State police, and volunteers.

    -the SS-VT was largely trained to achieve the standards of the 100,000 man Reichswehr Army and units/personnel were schooled by army training resources and manuals. Army officers routinely inspected the SS-VT units for their quality and units/personnel were detached to state police and army infantry divisions for training. These standards were achieved. The Units of the SS -VT were actually only horse-drawn until 1938.

    -Felix Steiner was considered the best training officer of the SS-VT and focused on stormtrooper tactics which spread throughout the SS-VT. This seems to be the signature trait of the SS-VT- their drill in the assault.

    -The SS-VT seems to have been pretty conventional as a unit and is comparable to the German army's first wave horse-drawn infantry divisions (not like the panzer divisions). It's main outstanding element was the physical conditioning of the soldiers, which was of a high level which won them many top awards in military sports. The other was routine detachment of units to perform ceremonial duties as an honor guard for the state- this interfered with training but was something of psychological value even if it was considered tedious. The lengthy description of these SS glamour activities show something of a more pedestrian type compared the 1st Company LAH.

    -Weidinger's opinion (he eventually was commander of elite infantry regiment "Der Fuhrer" of the 2.SS "Das Reich" in 44/45) was that the SS units achieved peak training in 1939 and never reached that the level of the Polish campaign for the duration of WW2.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Most highly decorated Tiger Battalions (RK + GCG):

    503: 13 (+FHH: 16)
    502: 13
    509: 11
    507: 10
    505:10
    506: 9
    508: 6
    510: 5
    501 SS: 4
    503 SS: 4
    504: 4
    502 SS: 3 (possibly 5)
    501:2
    G.D.:1

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Most highly decorated Tiger Battalions (RK):

    502: 10
    507: 6
    503 SS: 4
    503: 3
    505:3
    509:3
    501:2
    502 SS: 1 (possibly 3)
    501 SS:1
    506:1
    G.D.:1
    510:1

    https://forum.axishistory.com/viewto...ng+507#p950588

    Scroll down and one can review the humble Stug arm, which beats the Tigers in awards by a considerable margin and in real world impact.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    This is 1st Company LAH from "Triumph of the Will".

    "Teddy" Wisch is the man with the sword at the head of the column 2:51. Wartime photos of Wisch show that he towers over the other germans but is a bit shorter than his men, who are 200 cm tall.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-0t...ctr=1556045377


    "With our backs to Berlin" by Tony Tissler has a further chapter on the "Band of the LAH". Part of this band is in Triumph of the Will. These men fought in Berlin and were wiped out IIRC and their instruments & nazi regalia were discovered scattered about.

    Also an interesting tidbit is that the nazi artists used men from 1st Company as models for making Aryan superman statues- Dolph Lundgrens

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  • MarkV
    replied
    Originally posted by McMax View Post


    This is why the Heer called the W-SS "Asphalt Soldiers" because they were always goose-stepping on the parade ground rather than doing real combat training.
    Actually not goose stepping as this was abandoned quite early. The goose stepping image comes from some early films that Allied propagandists took great delight in using over and over again. The Soviets were inveterate goosesteppers on ceremonial events but were better at image management. Despite the myths the 3R were pants at this

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Originally posted by McMax View Post


    This is why the Heer called the W-SS "Asphalt Soldiers" because they were always goose-stepping on the parade ground rather than doing real combat training.
    The LAH lagged behind the SS-VT (Germania, DT, DF) in its training due to these ceremonial duties and also a schism between Sepp Dietrich and Hausser's SS-VT. pre-war Dietrich was not interested in combat and wanted the LAH to be more of a bodyguard/glamour formation and enforced boundaries between the SS-VT and the LAH.

    The SS-VT was highly trained and composed of professional soldiers. Rochus was among the last men in Hitler's bunker and pre-war was assigned to the 5th Company LAH.

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  • McMax
    replied
    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post

    "Real military training was much too short, and many of us would have bitter regrets about this. In the first two years, we spent only two ten-day periods on the exercise grounds. Instead, we were paradesoldiers, disporting ourselves as extras in film and theatre productions. "...

    This is why the Heer called the W-SS "Asphalt Soldiers" because they were always goose-stepping on the parade ground rather than doing real combat training.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    I just received a copy of "12 years with Hitler". This is an interesting artifact (veterans produced history) of the 1st company LAH. The book has over 450 photos, many of it pre-war. It also has a lot of descriptive content on the glamorous pre-war ceremonial and sport activities of the unit. About 40 members would be middle/high ranking officers in the Waffen SS in WW2. The first company were selected based on nazi racial theories and the typical height according to Rochus Misch (assigned to 5th company LAH) was 6 foot 6 inches tall. The leader of 1st Company, Wisch, would eventually become the successor to Sepp Dietrich and he took control of the LAH in 43/44 until he became severely crippled by artillery fire.

    An interesting fact is that this 1st Company was used in many films as extras and was the SS unit featured in "triumph of the will". They were also used as an honor guard around Hitler, gov't buildings, and the top nazis.

    From "Hitler's Last Witness", the 5th Company and the LAH in general was used more for sports and ceremonial duties than military training and was derided by the SS-VT as an "enjoyment company".

    pg. 23

    "Real military training was much too short, and many of us would have bitter regrets about this. In the first two years, we spent only two ten-day periods on the exercise grounds. Instead, we were paradesoldiers, disporting ourselves as extras in film and theatre productions. "

    Also revealed that pre-war, LAH men were selected from recruits that already were accepted into the SS-VT
    Last edited by Cult Icon; 23 Apr 19, 08:51.

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  • 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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