German Army (1935–1945)
The German Army was the land forces component of the Wehrmacht, the regular German Armed Forces, from 1935 until it was demobilized and dissolved in August 1946. During World War II, a total of about 13 million soldiers served in the German Army. Germany's army personnel were made up of conscripts. Only 17 months after Adolf Hitler announced publicly the rearmament program, the Army reached its projected goal of 36 divisions. During the autumn of 1937 two more corps were formed. In 1938 four additional corps were formed with the inclusion of the five divisions of the Austrian Army after the Anschluss in March. During the period of its expansion under Hitler, the German Army continued to develop concepts pioneered during World War I, combining ground and air assets into combined arms forces. Coupled with operational and tactical methods such as encirclements and the "battle of annihilation", the German military managed quick victories in the two initial years of World War II, a new style of warfare described as Blitzkrieg for its speed and destructive power.
The infantry remained foot soldiers throughout the war. The motorized formations received much attention in the world press in the opening years of the war, were cited as the main reason for the success of the German invasions of Poland and Denmark, Belgium and Netherlands, Yugoslavia and the initial stages of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union; however their motorized and tank formations accounted for only 20% of the Heer's capacity at their peak strength. The army's lack of trucks limited infantry movement during and after the Normandy invasion when Allied air-power devastated the French rail network north of the Loire. Panzer movements depended on rail, since driving a tank long distances wore out its tracks; the Oberkommando des Heeres was Germany's Army High Command from 1936 to 1945. In theory the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht served as the military General Staff for the German Reich's armed forces, coordinating the Wehrmacht operations. In practice OKW acted in a subordinate role as Hitler's personal military staff, translating his ideas into military plans and orders, issuing them to the three services.
However, as the war progressed the OKW found itself exercising increasing amounts of direct command authority over military units in the west. This created a situation where by 1943 the OKW was the de facto command of Western Theatre forces while the Army High Command was the same on the Eastern Front; the Abwehr was the Army intelligence organization from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr had been created just after World War I as an ostensible concession to Allied demands that Germany's intelligence activities be for defensive purposes only. After 4 February 1938, the Abwehr's name was changed to the Overseas Department/Office in Defence of the Armed Forces High Command. Nazi Germany used the system of military districts to relieve field commanders of as much administrative work as possible, to provide a regular flow of trained recruits and supplies to the field forces; the method OKW adopted was to separate the Field Army from the Home Command, to entrust the responsibilities of training, conscription and equipment to Home Command.
The German Army was structured in Army groups consisting of several armies that were relocated, restructured or renamed in the course of the war. Forces or allied states as well as units made up of non-Germans were assigned to German units. For Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the Army forces were assigned to three strategic campaign groupings: Army Group North with Leningrad as its campaign objective Army Group Centre with Smolensk as its campaign objective Army Group South with Kiev as its campaign objectiveBelow the army group level forces included Field armies –, panzer groups, which became army level formations themselves and divisions; the army used the German term Kampfgruppe which equates to the English'combat group' or battle group. These provisional combat groupings ranged from an Army Corps size such as Army Detachment Kempf to commands composed of several companies and platoons, they were named for their commanding officers. German operational doctrine emphasized sweeping pincer and lateral movements meant to destroy the enemy forces as as possible.
This approach, referred to as Blitzkrieg, was an operational doctrine instrumental in the success of the offensives in Poland and France. Blitzkrieg has been considered by many historians as having its roots in precepts developed by Fuller, Liddel-Hart and von Seeckt, having ancient prototypes practiced by Alexander, Genghis Khan and Napoleon. Recent studies of the Battle of France suggest that the actions of either Rommel or Guderian or both of them, ignoring orders of superiors who had never foreseen such spectacular successes and thus prepared much more prudent plans, were conflated into a purposeful doctrine and created the first archetype of blitzkrieg, which gained a fearsome reputati
12th Panzer Division (Wehrmacht)
The 12th Panzer Division was an armoured division in the German Army, the Wehrmacht, during World War II, established in 1940. In October 1940 the 2nd Motorised Infantry Division was reorganized as the 12th Panzer Division, in June 1941 it joined Operation Barbarossa, fighting in the battles of Minsk and Smolensk, it fought the rest of the war on the Eastern Front and surrendered to the Red Army in the Courland Pocket in May 1945. The division was formed from the 2nd Infantry Division, itself formed in 1921; the division was participated in the invasions of Poland and France. It was reorganised as a Panzer Division in October 1940; the 12th Panzer Division participated in Operation Barbarossa, taking part in the drive towards Leningrad. Suffering heavy casualties during the Soviet counter offensive in the winter of 1941–42, the division was withdrawn to Estonia for a refit, it remained with Army Group North for the most part of the war except for a brief spell south while participating in the battle of Kursk in July 1943 and the following defensive operations and retreat after the German failure.
The division returned to the northern sector in January 1944 but came too late to play any role in the unsuccessful German efforts to prevent the Siege of Leningrad from being broken by the Red Army. It was entrapped in the Courland Pocket after the successful Soviet offensive in July 1944, Operation Bagration, it remained in Courland where it surrendered to Soviet forces in May 1945. Structure of the division through its history: Headquarters 29th Panzer Regiment 5th Panzergrenadier Regiment 25th Panzergrenadier Regiment 2nd Panzer Artillery Regiment 22nd Motorcycle Battalion 508th Tank Destroyer Battalion 303rd Army Anti-Aircraft Battalion 2nd Divisional Supply Group The commanders of the division: Lieutenant general Fedor von Bock, 1931 Major General/Lieutenant General Hubert Gerke, 1 October 1934 Major General/Lieutenant General Paul Bader, 1 April 1937 Generaloberst Josef Harpe, 5 October 1940 Generalleutnant Walter Wessel, 15 January 1942 Generalleutnant Erpo Freiherr von Bodenhausen, 1 March 1943 Generalmajor Gerhard Müller, 28 May 1944 Generalleutnant Erpo Freiherr von Bodenhausen, 16 July 1944 Oberst Horst von Usedom, 12 April 1945 Organisation of a SS Panzer Division Panzer division Note: The Web references may require you to follow links to cover the unit's entire history.
Mitcham, Samuel W.. The Panzer Legions. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3353-3. Stoves, Rolf. Die Gepanzerten und Motorisierten Deutschen Grossverbände 1935 – 1945. Bad Nauheim: Podzun-Pallas Verlag. ISBN 3-7909-0279-9. Guderian, Heinz. Panzer Leader. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-25329-9. Burkhard Müller-Hillebrand: Das Heer 1933-1945. Entwicklung des organisatorischen Aufbaues. Vol. III: Der Zweifrontenkrieg. Das Heer vom Beginn des Feldzuges gegen die Sowjetunion bis zum Kriegsende. Mittler: Frankfurt am Main 1969, p. 285. Georg Tessin: Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg, 1939 - 1945. Vol. II: Die Landstreitkräfte 1 - 5. Mittler: Frankfurt am Main 1966. Georg Tessin: Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg, 1939 - 1945. Vol. III: Die Landstreitkräfte 6 - 14. Mittler: Frankfurt am Main 1967
1st Fallschirm-Panzer Division Hermann Göring
The Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring was an elite German Luftwaffe armoured division; the HG saw action in North Africa, Italy and on the Eastern Front. The division began as a battalion-sized police unit in 1933. Over time it grew into a regiment, brigade and was combined with the Parachute-Panzer Division 2 Hermann Göring in 1944 to form a Panzer corps under the by Reichsmarschall, it surrendered to the Soviet Army near Dresden on May 8, 1945. The division, during its time in Italy, committed a number of war crimes, together with the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS, was disproportionately involved in massacres of the civilian population, the two divisions accounting for one third of all civilians killed in war crimes in Italy. With the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Hermann Göring was appointed as Prussian Minister of the Interior. In this capacity, all Police units in Prussia came under Göring's control. On 24 February 1933, Göring authorized the creation of a police battalion.
Working in conjunction with Göring's secret police, the Gestapo, the unit was involved in many attacks against Communists and Social Democrats. In January 1934, under pressure from Hitler and Himmler, Göring gave Himmler's SS control of the Gestapo. To reinforce the position of his remaining unit, Göring increased its size and instituted a military training program. During the Night of the Long Knives, the unit and Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler executed many SA leaders, removing the formation as a threat to the NSDAP. In 1935, Göring was promoted to command of the Luftwaffe and ordered the unit transferred to the Luftwaffe, renaming it Regiment General Göring in September 1935. Two sub-units were separated from the regiment in March 1938 and redesignated German 1st Parachute Division, the first of the Fallschirmjäger units. In 1936, the regiment was assigned for Göring's bodyguards and as flak protection for Hitler's Headquarters; the regiment participated in the annexation of Austria and the Occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, in March 1939.
During Fall Gelb, this force took part in the invasion of the Belgium. During Operation Barbarossa, the regiment was attached to the 11th Panzer Division, a part of Army Group South; the regiment saw action around the areas of Kiev and Bryansk. In July 1942 the regiment was upgraded to brigade status, to full division in October 1942 as a Panzer division. While the division was in formation, the Second Battle of El Alamein had forced Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps to retreat to Tunisia; the division was sent to Tunisia piecemeal, where it surrendered with the rest of Panzer Army Africa. The reformed division was sent to Sicily. After the Allied invasion of Sicily was launched on 10 July 1943, the division was engaged at the Amphibious Battle of Gela and the Battle of Centuripe, retreating to Messina afterwards; when the armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces was signed, the division took part in the Operation Achse to disarm Italian troops. The division participated in the fighting following the Allied landing at Salerno in Operation Avalanche on 9 September.
It retreated towards the Volturno–Termoli line, to the Gustav Line, where it was pulled out of the line for rest and refit. The Corps size Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring was created in 1944 through the combination of the unit with the Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier Division 2 Hermann Göring. After the start of the Allied offensive, Operation Diadem, on 12 May, the division retreated towards Rome and abandoned the city; the division arrived in Poland in late-July and fought alongside SS Division Wiking and the 19th Panzer Division on the Vistula River between Modlin Fortress and Warsaw. In August, its counter-attack against the Magnuszew bridgehead, defended by the 8th Guards Army, failed after heavy fighting. Between August and September 1944, the division used captured Polish non-combatant civilians as human shields when attacking the insurgents' positions during the Warsaw uprising. Following the destruction of the town, the division was attached to the newly formed Army Group Vistula formed 24 January 1945, defending the ruins of Warsaw in what Hitler termed "Festung Warschau", or Fortress Warsaw.
During the Vistula-Oder Offensive, much of the division was broken in battle. In April, the remnants of the Hermann Göring Panzerkorps were sent to Silesia, in heavy fighting were pushed back into Saxony. On April 22, the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring was one of two divisions that broke through the inter-army boundary of the Polish 2nd Army and the Soviet 52nd Army, in an action near Bautzen, destroying parts of their communications and logistics trains and damaging the Polish 5th Infantry Division and 16th Tank Brigade before being stopped two days later. In early May, units of the corps attempted to break out towards the American forces on the Elbe, but were unsuccessful; the corps surrendered to the Red Army on 8 May 1945. According to a British Government report, the Hermann Göring Division was involved in several reprisal operations during its time in Italy. One of these occurred in the surrounding area of the village of Civitella in Val di Chiana on 6 June 1944 where 250 civilians were killed.
The division was involved in a number of other massacres in Italy at Cavriglia, Monchio and Costrignano and Vallucciole. Soldiers of the Hermann Göring Division used civilians as human shields in front of its tanks while clearing barricades during the Warsaw Uprising.[2
1st Panzer Division (Wehrmacht)
The 1st Panzer-Division was an armoured division in the German Army, the Wehrmacht, during World War II. The division was one of the original three tank divisions established by Germany in 1935, it took part in pre-war occupations of Austria and Czechoslovakia and the invasions of Poland in 1939 and Belgium and France in 1940. From 1941 to 1945, it fought on the Eastern Front, except for a period in 1943 when it was sent for refitting to France and Greece. At the end of the war, the division surrendered to US forces in Bavaria; the 1st Panzer Division was formed on 15 October 1935 from the 3rd Cavalry Division, was headquartered in Weimar. It was one of three tank divisions created at the time, the other two being the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Division. Earlier in the year, Germany had renounced the Treaty of Versailles, which had forbidden the country, among other things, from having tank forces, a treaty Germany had violated from the start by secretly developing tanks and operating a covert tank school in the Soviet Union.
The division consisted of two panzer regiments organized into a brigade, a motorized infantry brigade, a reconnaissance battalion, a divisional artillery regiment, supporting ancillary formations. The division was equipped with the sub-standard light Panzer I and Panzer II, with the more powerful Panzer III arriving in late 1936. While the Pz I saw service in large numbers in Poland in 1939, the division was still using its Panzer II's in 1941. In 1938, the division participated in the Anschluss of Austria and the occupation of the Sudetenland in 1938 and the subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. In September 1939, the 1st Panzer Division took part in the invasion of Poland, reaching the outskirts of Warsaw after eight days. After Warsaw the division was moved to support the 18th Infantry Division before returning to Germany in November 1939, after the Polish surrender. In May 1940, the 1st Panzer Division was part of the invasion of France and Belgium, it took part in the battles of Sedan and Dunkirk before swinging south to participate in the attack on the Weygand Line.
It occupied Belfort before the surrender of France. During the battle of France, the division suffered low casualties, having just under 500 men killed in action; the 1st Panzer Division remained in France until September 1940. It supplied a substantial number of units to the new 18th Panzer Divisions. From 22 June 1941, it took part of Operation Barbarossa, crossing the former German-Lithuanian frontier as part of the Army Group North and the 4th Panzer Group; the division was involved in heavy fighting and, by mid-August, had only 44, of the 155 tanks it had started out with less than two month earlier, left in serviceable condition. It continued to advance towards Leningrad until early October when it was transferred to the Army Group Centre to take part in the advance on Moscow; the division advanced within 32 kilometres on Moscow before being forced to retreat during the Soviet counterattack. The division was part of the defence of the Rzhev Salient during early 1942 being short on tanks and fighting predominantly as infantry until being resupplied during Spring.
The 1st Panzer Division was engaged in the defence of the supply lines of the 9th Army in the centre of the Eastern Front. It suffered heavy casualties during the defence against repeated Soviet attacks in the Winter of 1942–43 before being transferred back to France in January 1943 for refitting. After months in northern France, the division was sent to occupied Greece in June 1943 because of the perceived threat of an Allied landing there. Instead, the landing took place in Sicily and the division participated in the disarming of Italian forces in Greece when the former defected from the Axis in September 1943; the 1st Panzer Division was brought up to full strength again in October when it received a substantial number of Panther and Tiger I tanks and returned to the Eastern Front again shortly thereafter. The 1st Panzer Division was engaged in the southern sector of the Eastern Front to serve alternately within the 1st and 4th Panzer Army as an emergency force, it was thrown from crisis location to crisis location as the German front lines retreated, taking part in battles at Kiev and Cherkassy.
The latter battle saw the division attempting to break through to the cauldron but falling just short. By March 1944, the division had been reduced to just over 25 percent of its nominal strength. Retreating further westwards, the division was part of the Kamenets-Podolsky pocket and, from there, took part in the defence of eastern Poland and Hungary, it was engaged in defensive operations around Lake Balaton and took part in the unsuccessful attempt to break through to the Siege of Budapest and once more suffered heavy losses. The final month of the Second World War saw the division engaged in the defence of Styria. From there, it retreated westwards to surrender to US forces rather than Soviet ones crossing the demarcation line between the two, it surrendered on 8 May 1945 in southern Bavaria and most of its soldiers were released from captivity soon after. The commanders of the division: 10 January 1935 – 30 September 1937: General der Kavallerie Maximilian von Weichs 10 January 1937 – 2 November 1939: Generalleutnant Rudolf Schmidt 2 November 1939– 17 July 1941: Generalleutnant Friedrich Kirchner 17 July 1941 – 1 January 1944: Generalleutnant Walter Krüger 1 January 1944 – 19 February 1944: Generalmajor Richard Koll 19 February 1944 – 25 September 1944: Generalmajor Werner Marcks 25 September 1944 – 8 May 1945: Generalleutnant Eberhard Thunert The organisation of the di
The Luftwaffe was the aerial warfare branch of the combined German Wehrmacht military forces during World War II. Germany's military air arms during World War I, the Luftstreitkräfte of the Army and the Marine-Fliegerabteilung of the Navy, had been disbanded in May 1920 as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which stated that Germany was forbidden to have any air force. During the interwar period, German pilots were trained secretly in violation of the treaty at Lipetsk Air Base. With the rise of the Nazi Party and the repudiation of the Versailles Treaty, the Luftwaffe was established on 26 February 1935, just over a fortnight before open defiance of the Versailles Treaty through German re-armament and conscription would be announced on March 16; the Condor Legion, a Luftwaffe detachment sent to aid Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, provided the force with a valuable testing ground for new tactics and aircraft. As a result of this combat experience, the Luftwaffe had become one of the most sophisticated, technologically advanced, battle-experienced air forces in the world when World War II broke out in 1939.
By the summer of 1939, the Luftwaffe had twenty-eight Geschwader. The Luftwaffe operated Fallschirmjäger paratrooper units; the Luftwaffe proved instrumental in the German victories across Poland and Western Europe in 1939 and 1940. During the Battle of Britain, despite inflicting severe damage to the RAF's infrastructure and, during the subsequent Blitz, devastating many British cities, the German air force failed to batter the beleaguered British into submission. From 1942, Allied bombing campaigns destroyed the Luftwaffe's fighter arm. From late 1942, the Luftwaffe used its surplus ground and other personnel to raise Luftwaffe Field Divisions. In addition to its service in the West, the Luftwaffe operated over the Soviet Union, North Africa and Southern Europe. Despite its belated use of advanced turbojet and rocket propelled aircraft for the destruction of Allied bombers, the Luftwaffe was overwhelmed by the Allies' superior numbers and improved tactics, a lack of trained pilots and aviation fuel.
In January 1945, during the closing stages of the Battle of the Bulge, the Luftwaffe made a last-ditch effort to win air superiority, met with failure. With dwindling supplies of petroleum and lubricants after this campaign, as part of the entire combined Wehrmacht military forces as a whole, the Luftwaffe ceased to be an effective fighting force. After the defeat of Germany, the Luftwaffe was disbanded in 1946. During World War II, German pilots claimed 70,000 aerial victories, while over 75,000 Luftwaffe aircraft were destroyed or damaged. Of these, nearly 40,000 were lost entirely; the Luftwaffe had only two commanders-in-chief throughout its history: Hermann Göring and Generalfeldmarschall Robert Ritter von Greim for the last two weeks of the war. The Luftwaffe was involved in Nazi war crimes. By the end of the war, a significant percentage of aircraft production originated in concentration camps, an industry employing tens of thousands of prisoners; the Luftwaffe's demand for labor was one of the factors that led to the deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews in 1944.
The Luftwaffe High Command organized Nazi human experimentation, Luftwaffe ground troops committed massacres in Italy and Poland. The Imperial German Army Air Service was founded in 1910 with the name Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches, most shortened to Fliegertruppe, it was renamed Luftstreitkräfte on 8 October 1916. The air war on the Western Front received the most attention in the annals of the earliest accounts of military aviation, since it produced aces such as Manfred von Richthofen and Ernst Udet, Oswald Boelcke, Max Immelmann. After the defeat of Germany, the service was dissolved on 8 May 1920 under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, which mandated the destruction of all German military aircraft. Since the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany to have an air force, German pilots trained in secret. Civil aviation schools within Germany were used, yet only light trainers could be used in order to maintain the façade that the trainees were going to fly with civil airlines such as Deutsche Luft Hansa.
To train its pilots on the latest combat aircraft, Germany solicited the help of the Soviet Union, isolated in Europe. A secret training airfield was established at Lipetsk in 1924 and operated for nine years using Dutch and Soviet, but some German, training aircraft before being closed in 1933; this base was known as 4th squadron of the 40th wing of the Red Army. Hundreds of Luftwaffe pilots and technical personnel visited and were trained at Soviet air force schools in several locations in Central Russia. Roessing, Fosse, Heini, Makratzki and many other future Luftwaffe aces were trained in Russia in joint Russian-German schools that were set up under the patronage of Ernst August Köstring; the first steps towards the Luftwaffe's formation were undertaken just months after Adolf Hitler came to power. Hermann Göring, a World War I ace, became National Kommissar for aviation with former Luft Hansa director Erhard Milch as his deputy. In April 1933 the Reich Aviation Ministry was established; the RLM was in charge of production of aircraft.
Göring's control over all aspects of aviation became absolute. On 25 March 1933 the German Air Sports Association absorbed all private and national organizations, while retaining its'sports' title. On 15 May 1933, all military aviation organizations in th
116th Panzer Division (Wehrmacht)
The 116th Panzer Division known as the "Windhund Division", was a German armoured formation that saw combat during World War II. The 116th Division was constituted in the Rhineland and Westphalia areas of western Germany in March 1944 from the remnants of the 16th Panzergrenadier Division, the 179th Reserve Panzer Division; the 16th had suffered heavy casualties in combat on the Eastern Front near Stalingrad, the 179th was a second-line formation, on occupation duty in France since 1943. In 1944, it participated in opposing the Normandy landings, the Battle of Normandy, was trapped in the Falaise Pocket following Operation Cobra. Along with the 2nd SS Panzer Division, it was responsible for holding the pocket open to allow German troops to escape, it managed to escape with only 600 infantry and 12 tanks intact. In October, it fought against American forces in the Battle of Aachen, with the town falling to the Americans on 21 October, it was moved to Düsseldorf for refitting. On 8 November, the division repulsed an attack from the U.
S. 28th Infantry Division in the Hürtgen Forest during the larger Battle of Hürtgen Forest, recapturing the town of Schmidt, thus providing the name to the 28th of the "Bloody Bucket Division". The 116th participated in the failed "Wacht am Rhein" Operation in the Ardennes. On 10 December, before the offensive, it was refitted, with 26 Panzer IV and 43 Panther tanks and 25 Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyers. However, it was still missing much of its organic transport. Stalled by the resistance and poor bridges in attacks to cross the Our River at Luetzkampen and Ouren, it back-tracked to march through Belgium from Dasburg to Houffalize; the division fought its way as the middle spearhead of the advance on the Meuse from Samree to La Roche. It was involved in heavy fighting at Hotton and Verdenne, where it was turned back at its furthest advance in the Ardennes, it held the Allies at bay for other units to retreat, before being withdrawn over the Rhine in March. It opposed the U. S. Ninth Army's advance across the Rhine, thus stopping the planned Allied breakthrough as well as opposing Operation Varsity's airborne landings.
With 2,800 men and 10 tanks against 50,000 Allied troops and supporting tanks, the division faced the U. S. 30th, the U. S. 35th, the U. S. 84th, the 4th Canadian and the U. S. 8th Armored Divisions. On 18 April 1945, the majority of the division was forced to surrender to the U. S. Ninth Army, having been trapped in the Ruhr Pocket. Remnants of the division continued to fight in the Harz mountains until 30 April, surrendering only after all of their resources had been exhausted. Oberst Günther von Manteuffel, creation – 30 April 1944 General der Panzertruppe Gerhard Graf von Schwerin, 1 May 1944 – 7 August 1944 and 24 August 1944 - 14 September 1944 Generalmajor Heinrich Voigtsberger - 15 September 1944 - 19 September 1944 Generalmajor Siegfried von Waldenburg, 19 September 1944 – German surrender 16th Panzer Regiment 60th Panzergrenadier Regiment 156th Panzergrenadier Regiment 146th Panzer Artillery Regiment 116th Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 281st Army Flak Battalion 228th Panzerjager Battalion 675th Panzer Engineer Battalion 228th Panzer Signals Battalion 146th Field-Replacement Battalion List of German divisions in World War II Organisation of a SS Panzer Division Panzer division
8th Panzer Division (Wehrmacht)
The 8th Panzer Division was a formation of the Wehrmacht Heer. The division was formed by reorganising the 3rd Light Division in January 1940, it was transferred to the west and fought in the Battle of France, in May 1940, the German invasion of the Balkans in April 1941. Soon after the division advanced towards Leningrad under Army Group North in Operation Barbarossa, would remain on the eastern front for the remainder of the war. Staying on defensive fronts, it saw action in the relief of Kholm in 1942, Orel and the withdrawals of Army Group Centre in 1943, until transferred to Army group South; the division fought in a series of retrograde movements, back through the Ukraine, into Hungary and into Silesia and surrender in May 1945. During its existence, the division was headquartered in Cottbus, in the German military district Wehrkreis III. In 1938, the 3rd Light Division was formed, consisting of the 67th Panzer Battalion, the 8th and 9th Mechanized Cavalry Regiments as well as the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment.
The 3rd Light Division was sent to participate in the 1939 Invasion of Poland, after which it was converted to the 8th Panzer Division in the winter of 1939. As part of the reorganization its reconnaissance regiment of two battalions was split, one going to the 10th Panzer Division and the other staying with the 8th Panzer Division; the two battalions comprising the 10th Panzer Regiment from East Prussian were added, as was the 8th Rifle Brigade, which now controlled the 8th Rifle Regiment of three battalions and the 8th Motorcycle Battalion. The panzer battalions were equipped with Czech tanks and Mk II light tanks, leaving the 8th Panzer Division with a total of 212 tanks in its organization for the attack into France; the division contained an anti-tank battalion of only two companies, equipped with the ubiquitous, but under powered 37mm PAK 35/36, a pioneer battalion and support units. The divisional artillery was supplied by two battalions of 105mm Howitzers. By February 1941 the division was organised as follows: 8th Rifle Brigade.
8th Rifle Regiment 28th Rifle Regiment 8th Motorcycle Battalions 10th Panzer Regiment 80th Artillery Regiment 43rd Panzerjäger Battalion 59th Reconnaissance Battalion 59th Pioneer Battalion 84th Signals Battalion 59th Division Support UnitsThe 67th Panzer Battalion had been incorporated into the 10th Panzer regiment as 3rd Battalion, the infantry was now organised under two Regiments of two battalions of motorised infantry each. The Artillery Regiment had gained another battalion of heavy Guns from the 645th Heavy Artillery Battalion, it was made a part of XLI Motorized Corps for the Battle of France. In the battles of the Meuse Crossings, French forces were able to repel German attacks. However, the French were forced to retreat in the face of an overwhelming assault by German tanks; the division was involved in the destruction of the 1st and the 7th Armies in May 1940, remained on the line in France until the country's conquest in June 1940. At the start of Operation Barbarossa, the 8th Panzer Division was assigned to Erich von Mansteins' LVI Panzer Corps, part of Panzer Group 4, tasked with the main drive through the Baltic states in the direction of Leningrad, Soviet Union's second largest city.
Attacking in the pre dawn hours of 22 June 1941, the division soon found a gap in the Soviet border defences and by nightfall had penetrated to a distance of 70 km. Driven by the division commander to maintain a rapid pace, switching focus between its battle groups to find the path of least resistance, the division reached the Dvina river, on the morning of the 4th day, its combat engineers, with the assistance of a company of Brandenburgers, mounted a rouse and managed to capture both the rail and road bridge intact. Soon the 8th Panzer Division had tanks and infantry across the River, but was forced to halt and wait for resupply and the other Panzer corps of Panzer Group 4 to catch up; the following days were spent expanding its bridgehead whilst fending off Soviet counterattacks from the Soviet 21 Mechanised Corps. Resumed a rapid advance to the east against a Soviet forces now in complete disarray. On 7 October it began to snow in the Army Group North area, by 15 October the snow was ankle deep.
General Leeb completed his regrouping for the continued attack across the Volkov river towards Tikhvin. The infantry formed bridgeheads from which 8th Panzer and the other mobile units of XXXIX attacked on 19 October; however progress was agonisingly slow, the muddy roads impassable to any but tracked vehicles, the Army was having difficulties bringing in supplies behind the troops. The Corps reached and captured Tikhvin on 11 November, leaving a 100 kilometre flank weakly covered by the 8th Panzer; the freezing weather meant that the roads improved which helped the transport of supplies, but not the troops who, still lacking winter clothing, suffered from the conditions. Nearly the entire division was united in the Kholm relief attempt, after its successful relief, defended a loose, but wide sector just to the south of Kholm, in the bogs and marches stretching down towards the Army group boundary. Here the division remained for most of 1942 until it was transferred to Army Group Centre, in the winter of 1942.
After the winter fighting of 1941, the incursions by the 3rd and 4th Soviet Shock armies between Army Groups North and Centre, had stretched the front to such an extent that the Germans could not occupy a single line, but resorted to isolated strong points instead. This defence stance, although nece