Saturday, November 12, 2011

The 67th Guards Rifle Division

By Phil Gardocki

The 67th Guards Rifle was certainly a unit that deserved its "Guards" status.  It also was either the unluckiest division to have been involved in so many historic battles, or the luckiest to have survived them all.

Organizational History 1941

In July 1941, the 304th Rifle Division was formed from the remains of the 109th Mechanized Division, and a newly called up 807th Rifle regiment. The organization was organized under the July 1941 "Shtat", or Table of Organization. This was the standard organization of 3 rifle regiments with supporting mortars and light anti-tank guns. Attached to this organization was an artillery regiment with 8 12.2 cm howitzers and 24 7.62cm howitzers.  With 16 more 7.62cm guns assigned to the antitank battalion and rifle regiments.   These guns had a smaller caliber, lower throw weight and shorter range than their German counterparts. Supporting battalions included a medium anti-tank battalion with its 4.5cm anti-tank guns, and 1.27cm anti-tank rifles, and an engineer battalion. But as the 109th Mechanized was also a recent expansion division. It did not have any of the tanks, trucks, or tractors of a mechanized division, and what little equipment the 109th and the subsequent 304th did have was lost in the hasty retreats of the summer of 1941. It was doubtful the 304th had much in artillery and any support assets when it deployed.

10,652 Men
6 3.7cm Antiaircraft Guns
8 12.2cm M1910/30 Howitzers
24 4.5cm Antitank Guns
40 7.62cm Cannons
54 5 cm Mortars
439 Machineguns
2 Cars
3 Trucks
311 Wagons

As the winter battles of 1941/1942 wound down, the 304th Rifle received large numbers of equipment and personnel replacements, and was reorganized according to the December, 1941 Shtat, as follows:

12,017 Men
6 3.7cm Antiaircraft Guns
8 12.2cm M1910/30 Howitzers
12 12cm Mortars
24 4.5cm Antitank Guns
24 7.62cm Cannons
40 5cm Mortars
402 Machineguns
1 Car
5 Trucks
351 Wagons

In equipment, with the exception of trucks and tractors, the division was probably fairly close to 90%, and in manpower, around 80%.   The interesting change in this model division was an attempt to streamline the communications between the artillery and the infantry.  One the ways this was done by assigning 4 12.2 cm mortars as regiment assets.

But from early Summer, 1942 to Winter 1942, the 304th Rifle was constantly engaged and was reduced to a small percentage of its original size. With heavy reinforcements, the division was rebuilt in place and rewarded for its efforts by being redesignated as the 67th Guards Rifle Division, and brought mostly up to strength. The division then was structured to the December 1942 Guards Rifle Shtat.

11,326 Men
6 3.7cm Antiaircraft Guns
12 12.2cm/37 M1938 Howitzers
24 16cm Mortars
50 5 cm Mortars
52 7.62cm Cannons
81 8.2cm Mortars
619 Machineguns
1 Car
4 Trucks
471 Wagons

Changes in the division after 1943 were mostly equipment in nature.  The antitank battalion was upgraded to 5.7cm guns and SU-76's, while the rifle regiments had their 12.2 cm mortars upgraded to 16cm mortars.

10,426 Men
8 SU-76's
6 3.7cm Antiaircraft Guns
12 12.2cm/37 M1938 Howitzers
24 5.7cm ZIS-2's
32 7.62cm Cannons
36 16cm Mortars
81 8.2cm Mortars
494 Machineguns
1 Car
4 Trucks
479 Wagons

Operational History
Born in the desperate days of July, 1941, the 304th Rifle Division was manned by remnants of 109th Mechanized Division, recently called up reservists, and whatever men and equipment it could scavenge on the long retreat from the advancing forces of Army Group South. The 304th had a talent for getting out of trouble, and evaded destruction on the retreat, and the encirclement at Kiev.

Assigned to the Southwest Front's 38th Army, the 304th fought on the southern flank during the German Operation Typhoon, a.k.a the Battle of Moscow, and participated in the Soviet winter offensives until the 1942 "Rasputitsa", or mud season.

In May, 1942, the 304th Rifle participated in the 2nd Battle for Kharkov. Unfortunately, that offensive met the German 6th Army and surrounded by the 1st and 4th Panzer Armies. Once again the 304th showed its talent for fighting withdrawal and escaped being pocketed by the German forces and began the long hard march towards the river Don.

In November, 1942, and under the Don Front's 65th Army, and with snow falling heavily, the 304th fought off the last attempt to drive it into the river, and with the start of Operation Uranus, began the offensive that would eventually lead to the encirclement of Field Marshal von Paulus' 6th German Army at Stalingrad.
On January 21st, 1943, the 304th was redesignated as the 67th Guards Rifle Division. After 5 months of heavy rebuild and training, the 67th Guards was assigned to the Vorozneth Front, 6th Guards Army, itself recently redesignated from the 21st Army, 22nd Guards Rifle Corps. The 67th Guards Rifle, along with the  two regiments of the 28th Antitank Brigade, was assigned to defend the town of Cherkasskoyle.

On July 5th, the 67th Guards Rifle was attacked by the German Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland, along with the part of the 10th Panzer Brigade, whose Panther Tanks were largly inoperational after suffering mechanical failures and mine damage, and elements of the 11th Panzer Division. After a day of heavy fighting, the 67th Guards Rifle retreated from its positions. Taking advantage of a river crossing and some hills, the 67th Guards Rifle took up new positions near Sertsevo. But the 67th Guards Rifle was flanked and penetrated and forced back again. At this time, Grossdeutschland, along with the 3rd Panzer Division and the 11th Panzer Division, was engaged by Soviet armored forces, including the  3rd Mechanized Corps and the 31st Tank Corps, and the 67th Guards was not pursued.

For rest of 1943, the 67th participated in the many of the battles to liberate the Ukraine.  During the winter, the 6th Guards Army, the 67th  Guards Rifle included, was railed north and transferred to the 1st Baltic Front.

On 23 June, 1944, the 67th Guards Rifle, now assigned to the 23rd Corps, 6th Guards Army participated in Operation Bagration.  The 67th was one of the hammers that was used against Germany's 205th and 252nd Infantry Divisions of the 3rd Panzer Army.  It was an operation that would crush Army Group Center, narrowly cut off Army Group North, and throw the Germans back to Poland.

By October, the winter campaigns were starting, and the 67th, participated in operations in the Baltic States that succeeded in cutting off Army Group North's 16th Army and 18th Army, now trapped in Latvia.  The reduction of this pocket was not deemed a high priority, and the 67th spent the rest of its career isolating the 18th Army in well deserved, albeit relative peace.


The "Rhine Gold", 384th Infantry Division

by Phil Gardocki

Organizational History 1942

In anticipation of the expected 1942 summer offensive and the need for more up-to-strength infantry divisions, the German high command ordered a call-up of the 17th and 18th wave of infantry divisions. The German method of replacements involved rebuilding the team, not just adding to the numbers, so replacing troops in the field was not done. Instead, units would be rotated out of the line and rebuilt, and given time to become acquainted with their replacements before being sent back into combat. The stresses of the battlefield were preventing any pullouts, so the Germans created new units to go into combat instead.

German infantry divisions were called up in groups, referred to as “waves”. Each division within a wave was organized identically, but there were organizational differences between the waves themselves. Nazi Germany called up 32 such waves. The first 2 waves, consisting of 54 divisions, were essentially the first line divisions. Many other waves would follow the 1st wave model of 3 regiments, 3 battalions, with 4 artillery battalions, but others were organized with older personnel, captured or downsized equipment, and, eventually, smaller formations.

The stresses of total war were starting to show in Nazi Germany by late 1942. Equipment and manpower shortages abounded on all levels. Regimental and battalion infantry support guns were nonexistent and largely replaced by mortars in the new infantry divisions. Some of the artillery battalions were reduced to two batteries, instead of the normal three. The reconnaissance and the antitank battalion were combined into a motorized “Schnell” battalion. Some missing firepower was substituted by using Nebelwerfers, a towed, 6 cylinder, 15cm, rocket launchers. The old 3.7cm PaK's, found to be too small against the larger Soviet tanks, was no longer the dominant antitank gun, although shortages of larger antitank guns meant that it was not totally out of the mix.

16,000 men
12 x 15cm FH18 towed howitzers
24 x 10.5cm leFH18 towed howitzers
2 x 7.5cm PaK 40 towed antitank guns
21 x 5cm PaK 39 towed antitank guns
17 x 3.7(t)cm PaK towed antitank guns
21 x towed Nebelwerfers
88 x 8.1 cm Mortars
138 x 5cm Mortars
515 Machineguns
742 Trucks
1,233 Wagons


Badly battered in the 1942 fighting the division was rebuilt in 1943. The 384th now adopted a 6 infantry battalion model. When it was again sent to the East Front, it left behind a two battalion force referred to as a “Channel Kampfgruppe”, which later was absorbed by a reformed 349th Infantry Division. Artillery batteries were reduced to three guns. Regiments picked up 12cm mortars, while the battalions received 7.5cm light infantry guns. The Fusilier battalion was manned with veterans mounted on bicycles or horses and used as a divisional fast reaction team.

9,877 men
6 x 15cm FH18 towed howitzers
12 x 10.5cm leFH18 towed howitzers
12 x 7.5cm leIG37 towed howitzers
8 x 7.5cm PaK 40 towed antitank guns
16 x 5cm PaK 39 towed antitank guns
12 x 12cm towed mortars
70 x 8.1 cm Mortars
324 Machineguns
600 Trucks
1,244 Wagons

In October, 1943, OKH (Over Command of the Armies), issued a formal reorganization of the infantry divisions, the Type 44. To boost morale, all infantry were renamed “Grenadiers”. Previously, this title applied only to the more elite light divisions, and tank escorts. Organizationally, this reorganization merely formalized the realities on the ground by adopting the 3 regiment, 2 battalion model. The smaller caliber antitank guns that were part of the panzerjager (antitank) battalions, were redistributed to the grenadier regiments, not so much as antitank protection, but to replace the 15cm and the 7.5cm light infantry guns that were in short supply.

For additional tank protection, Germany was producing large numbers of Sturmgeschutz, or “storm guns”, enough to provide a company of ten to fourteen to each division. Fully armored, with no turret, a low profile, a 7.5cm L48 gun, and armor piercing ammunition, these were very effective anti tank weapons. Towed 7.5cm antitank guns were finally being produced in abundance as well, and a company of 8 of these guns was with the panzerjagers. In addition, panzerfausts and panzerschreks (German bazookas), were issued on all levels for close-in antitank protection.

Artillery was reduced from four to three guns per battery. After being rebuilt in France and returned east, the 384th was weakened when one artillery battalion was left behind in France . The divisional reconnaissance battalion was also detached, further weakening the unit when it re-entered the front lines.

9,266 men
14 x STG IV (7.5cm L/48)
6 x 15cm FH18 towed howitzers
12 x 10.5cm leFH18 towed howitzers
16 x 7.5cm leIG37 towed howitzers
12 x 7.5cm PaK 40 towed antitank guns
36 x 5cm PaK 39 towed antitank guns
12 x 12cm towed mortars
70 x 8.1 cm Mortars
108 Panzerfausts
311 Machineguns
550 Trucks
1,466 Wagons

Operational HistoryThe 384th was formed during the winter of 1941/42, as part of the 18th wave. All infantry divisions of this wave, numbers 383 to 389, were referred to as “Rhine Gold” divisions. The 384th was sent to the 3rd Panzer Corps, 1st Panzer Army, just in time to be attacked by Soviet offensive in the Battle of Kharkov, early in the summer of 1942. Afterwards, the division took part in the offensive operations that led to Stalingrad. After the Soviet counteroffensive, Operation Uranus, most of the combat elements of the division were split between the 44th and the 376th Infantry Divisions, but both were surrounded at Stalingrad and destroyed.
The surviving combat troops, in the form of the 2/536th battalion, were allocated to the 9th Panzer Division to help replace the panzer grenadiers in its schutzen brigade. The non-combat elements were set to northern France and the division was rebuilt. This process was completed in late 1943, and the division, minus its recon battalion and 3/384th Artillery Battalion, was again sent to the Ukraine . After almost a year at front, in the autumn of 1944, the 384th was surrounded and then completely destroyed in defensive fighting near the city Kishinev.


Japan’s Other Aircraft Carriers

by Phil Gardocki

To most Wargamers, these names are familiar: Akagi, Kaga, Zuikaku, Shokaku, Hiryu, Soryu.  These formed the backbone of the aircraft carrier force that Japan started WWII with.  If you are a grognard, then the names of the fleet carriers Hiyo, Junyo, Taiho, and Shinano are also well known.  And if you grew up with Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II”* you would know this force was supplemented with light and escort carriers Zuiho, Shoho, Hosho, Ryujo, Taiyo, Unyo, Chuyo, Ryuho, Chiyodo, Kaiyo, Shinyo, Chitose, Unryu, and Amagi.  This was the complete list of commissioned Japanese carriers, and it was good.

Then many years ago, I read an article supporting the FGA’s game, “Eagle and the Sun” where the author claimed there were many more operational Japanese carriers than these.  They were built and owned by the Japanese Army to support coastal and amphibious operations.  I have 4 of the 5 magazines that FGA put out in the eighties, but have lost the one that had this article.  My recent interest in the Peoples Liberation Army Navy acquisition of carriers made me think of those long lost carriers.

How is it that these assets come to be ignored by history?  And more importantly, those missing and important elements that have been left out of all those wonderful games covering the war in the Pacific?  Admittedly, these were not fleet carriers, but how many times have you played a Pacific game, where all the heavy carriers were out, and you were down to the lights?  Having another three lights would make a big difference.

The Japanese Army and Navy almost never, if ever, cooperated together on any level.  Basically, the Army was focused on the mainland, and the Navy, the Pacific.  In the beginning of the war, Army divisions were used only with the larger land masses, while all the little islands were captured and maintained with Special Naval Landing Infantry.  Historians, looking for Navy capital ships, wouldn’t think to check Army records.  Army historians would note some “specialized landing craft” and not list them as carriers.  People being people, only saw what they were looking for. 

Not that the existence of these carriers went totally unnoticed, but most book writers do not go back original sources, but to sources in languages they can read.  Almost every naval history writer of WWII either directly, or indirectly, is referring to Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.”  This is known as to as “History repeats itself, historians repeat each other.”  I may have lost that intriguing article, but now I have the World Wide Web.

The Imperial Japanese Army, like the United States Army, spent considerable intellectual capital working on the problem of landing, supporting and supplying a modern force upon hostile shores.  After all, the onus of victory was on the Army.  The Imperial Japanese Navy’s role was insuring the landing ships arrived, but the last 12 miles to the beach was the IJA’s problem.  To that end, the IJA commissioned the construction of an LST, the Shinshu-Maru, which strongly resembles a modern US LST, which launched troop landing craft from gates on the ship.  For scouting and bombing support, the ship was equipped with two aircraft catapults.  There was no landing deck and the catapults were dropped before commissioning of the Shinshu, but the idea had taken hold with Army planners. 

The army began to acquire and refit ships with aircraft capacity.  During the early war, the Army had already converted the Kamakura-Maru, previously a 17,000 ton ocean liner, into a respectable 38 plane aircraft carrier.  They also converted the 12,000 ton liners Akitsu-Maru and Nigitsu-Maru into 20 plane aircraft carriers.  Later in the war, the Army commissioned the Yamashiro-Maru** and the Chigusa-Maru each at 12,000 tons, but could only handle 8 aircraft.  And with undeserved optimism, the Army continued to acquire ships, and in early 1945, commissioned the 8,000 ton Kumano-Maru, with 37 aircraft, as well as the Shimane-Maru, and Otakisan-Maru, both with 12 aircraft.

The fate of these vessels was all well documented.  Two were sunk by mines, several by submarines.  One survived the war and was converted into a tanker.  The original Shinshu-Maru, which was renamed Ryujo-Maru,*** was sunk at least 2 times and refloated and was used as late as 1944.
    * Recently reprinted.
  ** Not to be confused with the IJN’s Battleship Yamashiro.
*** Not to be confused with IJN’s Aircraft Carrier Ryujo.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1st SS Panzer

Leibstandarte Schutzstaffel Adolf Hitler

By Phil Gardocki

Disclaimer: This article is about the military history and organization of the SS, short for Schutz Staffel, or Defense Squad unit Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, the Standard Bearers of Adolf Hitler or 1st SS. It is not going to go into all the atrocities committed by the SS, the 1st SS included. That these atrocities occurred is a matter of historical record, and includes the willing participation of genocide of the Jewish people, as well as many cultures of Eastern European descent.

Organizational History

In 1933, LSSAH was created by merging two SS companies, Zossen and Jütenbog. LSSAH was gradually expanded and participated in the Polish Campaign as a reinforced regiment of 4 infantry battalions and supporting companies. Tactically it was deployed as attachment to the 17th Infantry Division and then the 4th Panzer Division. It fought well, but sustained high casualties.
For the campaign in France LSSAH had expanded to include an artillery battalion, and a Sturmegeschütz company.
Over the next year, LSSAH was expanded first to a brigade, and then to a motorized division. At the start of the Russian campaign LSSAH was called a division, even though it was organizationally a large brigade, with a single, if large Infantry Regiment, supported by a small Artillery Regiment, and an impressive number of support battalions.

  • 10,796 Men
  • 3 Pz. Jag. II's
  • 20 Jadgpanzer II's
  • 4 15cm F. H. 18's
  • 7 8.8cm Flak 36's
  • 12 3.7cm Pak 35's
  • 12 5cm Pak39's
  • 13 2cm AA Guns
  • 16 10.5cm le.F.H.18's
  • 18 sIG 1B's 
  • 24 8.1cm Mortars
  • 24 7.5cm le.I.G. 18's
  • 39 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 54 5cm Mortars
  • 361 Machineguns
  • 74 Trucks
  • 72 Sd. Kfz. 251's
The normal German practice of refitting and reorganization of a unit required a unit to be pulled out of combat and a period of training to acclimate to new units, tactics, and men. The SS did not seem to follow this pattern, and constantly received new companies and battalions. In July 1942, the Infantry Regiment was split into two. This created what was on paper to be a more normal organization for a standard Motorized Division, but at all levels each component had superior equipment levels.
  • 18,836 Men
  • 3 Hetzers
  • 21 Stg IIIe's
  • 42 Panzer IV's
  • 50 Marder II's
  • 4 15cm F. H. 18/40's
  • 32 10.5cm le.F.H.18's 
  • 6 15cm Nebelwerfer 41's
  • 12 5cm Pak39's
  • 13 2cm AA Guns
  • 18 sIG 1B's  
  • 18 3.7cm Flak 37's
  • 21 8.8cm Flak 36's
  • 36 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 36 5cm Mortars
  • 48 8.1cm Mortars
  • 72 7.5cm le.I.G. 18's
  • 537 Machineguns
  • 48 Sd. Kfz. 231's
  • 703 Trucks
  • 168 Half-tracks
As an example, the Infantry Battalions were all 5 companies, instead of 4, and included some of the still uncommon 5cm antitank guns. The regiments had self propelled Flak guns, and Jagdpanzers. The Artillery Regiment had 4 battalions, instead of 3 normally found in motorized divisions. Extra support battalions included a Panzer Battalion, a six company Flak Battalion and a three company Sturmgeschutz Battalion. The Panzerjager Battalion was upgraded with Marder II's.
After the summer campaign season LSSAH received further upgrades. The Panzer Battalion, which only had half strength companies, was expanded to a full strength Panzer Regiment, including a company of Tigers. While LSSAH was referred to as a Panzer Grenadier Division, it was in fact an over sized Panzer Division.
In anticipation of Operation Citadel, LSSAH went through further changes. Pieces of the division were transferred to form the Cadre for the new 12th SS Panzer Division, but the deficit was made up with newly raised formations. The Artillery Regiment received Hummels and Wespes, while the Infantry Regiments received Bisons. LSSAH technically had Panthers in its TOE, but the Panthers were still in Austria during the Kursk offensive and the division did not pick them up until it was transferred to Italy.
  Full Strength / Strength at Kursk
  • 19,856 Men
  • 14 /13 Tigers
  • 22/12 Panzer III's
  • 30/35 Stg IIIf's
  • 94/0 Panzer V's
  • 94/85 Panzer IV's
  • 53 Jadgpanzer II's
  • 4 15cm F. H. 18/40's
  • 4 Bisons
  • 24 10.5cm le.F.H.18's
  • 21 2cm AA Guns
  • 18 3.7cm Flak 37's
  • 21 8.8cm Flak 36's
  • 24 5cm Pak39's
  • 24 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 27 5cm Mortars
  • 12 Hummels
  • 30 Wespes
  • 72 7.5cm le.I.G. 18's
  • 96 8.1cm Mortars
  • 617 Machineguns
  • 1 Car
  • 1499 Trucks
  • 240 Half-tracks
After Kursk, LSSAH left behind most of its equipment and was refitted in Austria and Italy with both newly built, or recently repaired equipment. The pattern of favorable upgrades continued, with a new flak battery, and the artillery being expanded with more 15cm and 21cm Nebelwerfers.
  • 19,896 Men
  • 31 Tigers
  • 53 Marder II's
  • 56 Panzer IV's
  • 58 Panthers
  • 60 Stg IIIf's
  • 6 16 cm Nebelwerfer 42's
  • 12 5cm Pak39's
  • 13 2cm AA Guns
  • 36 15cm F. H. 18/40's
  • 16 10.5cm le.F.H.18's
  • 21 8.8cm Flak 36's
  • 24 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 64 7.5cm le.I.G. 18's
  • 90 8.1cm Mortars
  • 30 5cm Mortars
  • 567 Machineguns
  • 1400 Trucks
  • 240 Half-tracks
But even the SS couldn't ignore the irreplaceable casualties they were sustaining. While refitting in Belgium, Heavy Grenadier companies were being disbanded, their numbers being partially made up with equipment upgrades. With the final refit after the Falaise pocket, LSSAH was upgraded with Whirlwinds and Jagdpanzer IV's, but lost half of its reconnaissance battalion.  Even so at this time, any numbers here are pure fiction.
  • 18,201 Men
  • 28 Tigers
  • 56 Panzer IV's
  • 60 Stg IV's
  • 64 Panthers
  • 56 Hetzers
  • 3 Pz. Jag. IV's
  • 12 Brummbars
  • 21 15cm F. H. 18/40's
  • 9 10.5cm le.F.H.18's
  • 12 7.5cm Pak 40's
  • 12 5cm Pak39's
  • 13 2cm AA Guns
  • 12 Whirlwinds
  • 21 8.8cm Flak 36's
  • 30 16 cm Nebelwerfer 42's
  • 36 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 48 7.5cm le.I.G. 37
  • 700 Machineguns
  • 140 Half-Tracks
  • 980 Trucks and Wagons

Operational History

LSSAH, or Leibstandarte Schutzstaffel Adolf Hitler, had one of the longest histories of any unit that Germany fielded in WWII. This is phrased this way because at no time was any SS unit actually part of the Wehrmacht; though the SS often had first pick of men and material at the expense of the Wehrmacht.
From 1934 to 1939, LSSAH, was used to brutally suppress all dissent and competition to the Nazi party, including the famous "The Night of the Long Knives", in which it destroyed a competing force of Stürmabteilung, otherwise known as SA, or Storm Battalion.
As a reinforced Regiment, LSSAH rode to war in Operation White, the assault on Poland, as part of the southern pincer first assigned 17th Infantry Division and then the 4th Panzer Division. The end of the campaign found LSSAH near Warsaw.
During 1940, LSSAH was assigned to Holland, with the task of linking up with the General Student's Fallschirmjagers (paratroopers). The contact led to a "friendly fire" incident, nearly killing him. Later, LSSAH was re-assigned to Army Group B and took part in the reduction of Dunkirk.
After the campaign in France, LSSAH was assigned to Army Group South as part of 1st Panzer Army in 1941, where it first fought in Yugoslavia and Greece. During the Balkans campaign LSSAH preformed well, capturing a critical mountain pass that led to the surrender of the Greek Army.
LSSAH was sent to Prague for another period of refit, and accrued manpower in excess of 10,000 men before being shipped to the border of southern Russia. There it conducted operations along the Black Sea, leading to the encirclement of Kiev and the assault on the Crimean.
In 1942, LSSAH was wrecked in the Soviet winter offensive around Rostov.  Despite taking over 22,000 casualties since June, 1941, it was kept in the line. Despite this decrepit state, LSSAH was used in the early stages of the summer offensive, before it was transferred to France for refit and reorganization.  In response to the Allied invasion in North Africa, LSSAH occupied Vichy France.
January, 1943 found Army Group 'A' and 'B' in desperate plight, and even though the refit of LSSAH was not completed, it was hurriedly shipped back to southern Russia for the third battle of Kharkov. Throughout February and March, it fought a mobile defensive action, eventually losing, then regaining the city in a series of encirclements and breakthroughs.
Before Operation Citadel, the assault on the Kursk salient, LSSAH was again refitted and upgraded with over 130 panzers and assault guns. By all accounts, it performed extremely well. However eight days later less than 80 armored fighting vehicles remained in action, it had reached the high watermark of Operation Citadel. The Red Army threw the 3rd Mechanized Corps from 5th Guards Tank Army reserve and the 31st Tank Corps at LSSAH, at Prokhorovka. LSSAH nominally won the action, with losses amounting to 84 men killed, 384 wounded. Whereas, General of the Army Vatutin, Commander of the Voronezh Front claimed 332 panzers were destroyed.
Following Kursk, LSSAH was withdrawn to Austria for refit, leaving most of its heavy equipment behind, which was divided between the remaining members of the 2nd SS Panzer Corps. Reequipped in Austria LSSAH was sent to Italy to stabilize the German control of Italy. Even though one of the premier divisions of Germany was in Italy, it was never deployed against the invading Allied American and British forces.
Upgraded to a full Panzer Division, LSSAH was sent back to Russia in November, where the division was assigned to 4 Panzer Army, 48th Panzer Corps and in November, 1943, fought in actions that stopped the 5th Guards Tank Army from achieving a breakthrough. The winter defensive battles never ceased, and collimated in a relief counterattack, along with the 1st, 16th and the 11th Panzer Divisions, into the Korsun Pocket to free some 50,000 encircled soldiers. Despite the efforts of the Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army with some of the new heavy JS-II's and the 6th Tank Army to maintain the encirclement, some 35,000 Germans and Auxiliaries were rescued.
After the Korsun Pocket relief, most of LSSAH was withdrawn to Belgium for another refit. Brought mostly up to strength, LSSAH was committed to battle against the British in July, 1944. After enduring hours of bombardment by over 2,000 aircraft, LSSAH attacked the British near Caen, and destroyed over 100 tanks. The British however kept up the pressure, and while LSSAH was delivering disproportionate losses, its equipment, manpower, and supplies were attrited to the point where it needed to withdrawal, but instead was ordered to continue attacking. Despite heavy fighting LSSAH advanced only to be trapped in the Falaise pocket. LSSAH did not break out so much as filtered out, with all the heavy equipment being captured or destroyed.
Rebuilt to a strength of 215 tanks, among them the massive King Tiger, 1st SS fought in Operation "Autumn Mist", aka "The Battle of the Bulge" where its armor was reduced to 30 vehicles due to a combination of casualties and fuel shortages.
In January, 1945 the 6th SS Panzer Army, LSSAH included, was withdrawn from the West Front to counterattack Soviet forces in Hungary, with the objective to retake Budapest. The entire army was cut off, but for a narrow corridor held open by LSSAH. Having failed to achieve its objectives, Hitler ordered LSSAH to remove the "AH" insignia from their uniforms. In disgust, the division sent Hitler a large number of their medals in a latrine bucket. As one sergeant put it, "He can only have us shot."
In April, 1945, LSSAH retreated with the 6th SS Panzer Army, into Austria, and attempted and failed to defend Vienna against the 4th Guards Army, 20th Guards Rifle Corps and 1st Guards Mechanized Corps.
Reduced to the strength of a weakened regiment, LSSAH continued fighting until, on May 7th, they received an order to surrender from Field-Marshal Kesselring. It said, "The terms of the cease fire are also binding on all formations of the SS. I expect that like the entire Wehrmacht, the Leibstandarte will also conduct itself in an irreproachably correct manner." The reply read, "Tomorrow we shall march into captivity with heads held high. The regiment that has the once proud honor of bearing the name Leibstandarte is now signing off."  True to their word, the LSSAH surrendered to the Americans.
After the war, for the Malmedy Massacre, 75 men were tried at Nuremburg. Most of them were from LSSAH but also included 6th SS Panzer Army's Commander and Chief of Staff, General Dietrich and General Kraemer. 1st SS Panzer Corps's Commander Lieutenant General Priess, and 1st SS Panzer Regiment's Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Peiper. 45 of them were sentenced to death, the rest were given lengthy prison sentences. After reviews, appeals, and commissions, all the death sentences were commuted. Peiper was the last to be released, in 1956.


The Romanian 1st Armored Division

By Phil Gardocki

The 1st Romanian Panzer Division, later known as “Romania Mare”, (“Great Romania”), was built from preexisting motorized components of the Romanian army. Formed in April, 1941, it did not have time to train as a unit before the war with the Soviet Union started.
  • 11,773 men
  • 126 × R-2 (3.7cm guns) light tanks
  • 75 × R-35 (3.7cm guns) light tanks
  • 28 assorted armored cars
  • 12 × 10.4cm Austrian towed cannons
  • 12 × 10cm towed howitzers
  • 12 × 7.5cm towed cannons
  • 12 × 12cm mortars
  • 24 × 6cm mortars
  • 30 × 4.7cm towed antitank guns
  • 30 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 583 machineguns
  • 1,002 trucks
  • 124 cars


After the capture of Odessa in 1941, the 1st Panzer was returned to Romania for a refit. It returned to the Soviet Union for the Stalingrad Campaign nearly ten months later. The 2nd Regiment was kept in Romania as a training unit, as its R-35 tanks were too slow for modern combat. The number of trucks was increased and Germany provided a number of Panzer III medium tanks, Panzer IV medium tanks and Pz38t light tanks as well as armored cars, half-tracks and antitank guns.
  • 11,799 men
  • 100 × R-2 (3.7cm guns) light tanks
  • 26 × Pz 35t (3.7cm guns) light tanks
  • 10 × R-3 (PzIII - 5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 10 × R-4 (PzIV - 7.5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 28 × SdKfz 222 armored cars
  • 14 × SdKfz 251 half tracks
  • 12 × 10.4cm Austrian towed cannons
  • 12 × 10cm towed howitzers
  • 12 × 7.5cm towed cannons
  • 12 × 12cm mortars
  • 24 × 6cm mortars
  • 9 × 7.5cm PAK 40 towed antitank guns
  • 9 × 5cm PAK 38 towed antitank guns
  • 72 × 4.7cm towed antitank guns
  • 30 × 2cm towed anti-aircraft guns
  • 749 machineguns
  • 1,156 trucks
  • 135 cars


Most of this combat equipment was lost in the winter of 1942/1943, although the supporting units survived intact. The 1st Romanian Panzer Division then had to wait for replacement equipment to be delivered from Germany and did not see action for more than a year. While the table of organization is known and shown below, it never fought as a division again. Its components were committed by regiments until Romania proper was under assault and then it was split into two detachments.
  • 11,870 men
  • 48 × R-4 (PzIV) medium tanks in April
  • 90 × R-4 (PzIV) medium tanks in August
  • 22 × TA (STGIII—7.5cm guns)
  • 10 × TACAM T-60 (7.62cm guns)
  • 30 × SdKfz 222 armored cars
  • 20 × SdKfz 251 half-tracks
  • 12 × 10.5 FH18 towed howitzers
  • 12 × Skoda M19 10cm towed howitzers
  • 6 × 12cm mortars
  • 14 × 8.1cm mortars
  • 27 × 6cm mortars
  • 28 × 7.5cm Reisita
  • 6 × 5cm PAK 38 towed antitank guns
  • 11 × 4.7cm towed antitank guns
  • 12 × 2.5cm towed anti-aircraft guns
  • 12 × 2cm towed anti-aircraft guns
  • 749 machineguns
  • 780 trucks
  • 140 cars
  • 24 swimwagons (amphibious Volkswagens)
Note: *self-propelled guns

Operational History

The Romanian Army started early with their interest in the motorization of their forces, having their first motorized battalion in 1934 and conducting maneuvers with buses in later years. Romanian industrialization was not heavy and their prewar truck production was limited to a single Ford factory that produced ten vehicles per day. While this plant effectively ceased production when the war started, in later years it provided a cadre of good mechanics to refit captured American vehicles and Soviet T-60 tanks, which had an American designed engine.
On the eve of war, the Romanian Army had only about 3,000 trucks in its inventory. About a third of that was required for its single panzer division, a third for the various motorized elements of the army and the remainder for the supply chain. Compare this to the Red Army starting the war with 272,000 trucks and the Wehrmarcht with just over 1 million.
For prewar tanks, Romania had 76 FT-17's, 126 R-2's, 41 R-35's and a small number of armored fighting vehicles that escaped from Czechoslovakia in 1939. By 1940, an additional 34 French Renault R-35’s “found” their way from Poland into the Romanian inventory.
The First Panzer Division was created from independent motorized and armored components on April 17, 1941, just 2 months before it would go into combat. It was assigned to the Army Group Antonescu, in the Romanian Cavalry Corps (or RCC), which operated under the German 11th Army. Divided into several mobile groups, the division participated in the northern penetrations into Bessarabia, the area the Soviet Union had taken from Romania in 1939. It was during this campaign that the speed deficiencies of the R-35 became obvious. They simply were unable to keep up with any mobile operations and could barely keep up with the advancing infantry. During these operations, the 1st Panzer was used continuously in flank attacks with much success. Bessarabia was liberated by July 26, 1941 and the 1st Panzer went into refit mode for the next two weeks.
Once Romania made the political decision to continue the war into Russia proper, the 1st Romanian Panzer Division attacked into the Red Army’s Odessa pocket. The R-2s took heavy losses, but the slow R-35s, with their heavier armor, were well suited for frontal assaults, although, they suffered a 50% breakdown rate during the course of this operation. The initial attacks on Odessa ended by the end of August and the 1st Panzer was down to 20% of its tanks. The remaining mechanized units were collected together in a battlegroup referred to as the “Eftimiu Mechanized Detachment.” Eftimiu continued to support the reduction of the Odessa pocket, which, for the next month and a half, evolved into an artillery duel between Romanian Army artillery and Soviet Navy ships.
After Odessa fell, the 1st began a ten month refit and retraining period. The 2nd Panzer Regiment, with its slower R-35s, was detached to Romania,and was relegated to a training role. Of the lost R-2s, only 26 were not repairable and, eventually, Germany sent 26 Czech-built Panzer 35ts as replacements for them as well as much other German equipment.
In 1942, the 1st was assigned to the 3rd Romanian Army for the advance through southern Russia. Along with many other refitted and retrained Romanian units, it arrived at the front late in the year, and was not in position until September. The 3rd Army was holding positions west of Stalingrad along the Don River on November 19th when the Soviets began Operation Uranus, and the Soviet Southwestern Front attacked the 3rd Romanian Army.
During the battles, the 1st Panzer engaged a Soviet tank corps, four rifle divisions and a cavalry corps, in conjunction, with the German 22nd Panzer Division (41 tanks) in an effort to at cut off the attackers. When that effort failed and supplies reached critical levels, the division broke out across the Chir River and formed a corridor for the 22nd Panzer Division and the remnants of several Romanian infantry divisions to use to escape.
Despite being down to 28 tanks, the 1st, along with the 22nd Panzer Division, continued to counter attack Soviet bridgeheads across the Chir River. On 2 December, the situation stabilized and other divisions replaced the panzer divisions along the river line. By this time, the 1st was down to 3 tanks and 7,200 men, of whom 6,300 were non-combat troops. They had never advanced to the Don River and thus were never encircled or forced to break out.
The commander of the 1st, General Gherghe, took command of the Romanian 2nd Corps, and the remains of the 1st became known as the “Nistor Detachment,” after the Colonel who took charge of it. Its manpower was bolstered by a security battalion and 20 tanks had been repaired when the Soviets attacked again, penetrated the Chir River, and encircled most of the Romanian 3rd Army. The Nistor Detachment attacked to breakout of the pocket, this time going through the Soviet 1st Guard Mechanized Corps. Once it reached safety, the division was withdrawn to Romania for a major refit. It had managed to keep 40 of its tanks, though most required major repairs. Despite being outnumbered, outmaneuvered, poorly supplied and equipped, it had managed to destroy 150 Soviet tanks during the previous two months.
Almost immediately, there was an effort to rebuild the 1st Panzer. However, all tank deliveries were dependent on Germany, which needed every armored fighting vehicle, so no new tanks arrived for some time. The only tanks in repair were 25 R-2s, 2 R-3s, 2 R-4s, 54 F-17s and 52 R-35s from the 2nd Panzer Regiment. The proud 1st Romanian Panzer Division was relegated to training infantry in anti-tank tactics.
Since the Romanian government would not commit the division to the front without equipment upgrades, Germanywas forced to meet its commitments to supply German equipment. When elements of the 1st Romanian Panzer Division were committed to battle again, in February 1944, its equipment list included a number newly delivered, if used, Panzer IVs and STG-IIIs, which joined the recently rebuilt and converted TACAM T-60s. It fought in defense of the Romanian borders, but never as a full unit. From February to August, several battalions were still refitting in Romania and, during August, the division was split into two separate battle groups.
There was a coup of the Romanian government on August 23rd, 1944 and a ceasefire with Russia became effective on August 25th. At that time the 1st Panzer was surrounded, but still largely intact. When the Germans attempted a counter coup, the 1st was ordered to Bucharest to defend it from Germany, but arrived too late to join the fighting. The counter coup was still put down, and, when the Soviets arrived at Bucharest, they disarmed the 1st Panzer. Only one remnant, then named the “Matei Detachment,” continued on in service with the Soviet 7th Guards Army.

Romanian AFV LIST

FT-17: These were World War One vintage French-built light tanks. Some had
a 3.7cm gun and some had only an 8mm machinegun. Some 76 were imported and they
were primarily used for internal security operations.
Maresal Vanatorul De Care Maresal: The first four weighed 7 tons, had 2cm
of armor and mounted a Soviet 12.2cm L/12 gun. The next two weighed 10 tons, had
2cm of armor and mounted a Romanian-built 7.5cm L/70 Reisita gun. Designed to be
built from indigenous industry, the first 4 were built from captured Soviet equipment
and the remainder from totally Romanian parts. This was an effective design but
it never saw combat.
Pz35t: These were Czechoslovakian built and weighed 10.5 tons, had 2.5cm
armor and a 3.7cm L/45 cm gun. An older design, 26 were acquired from Germany.
R-1: This was the Romanian designation for a Czechoslovakian AH-IV Light
tank. It weighed 4 tons had 1.2cm of frontal armor and armament consisted of a 7.92mm
machinegun. Like the Pz35, all 35 were imported from Germany.
R-2: This was the Romanian designation for a Czechoslovakian Skoda S11 tank.
It weighed 10.5 tons, had 2.5cm of frontal armor and armament consisted of a 3.7cm
L/45 gun. A total of 126 were imported.
R-3: This was the Romanian designation for a Panzer III model M and N. A
German made medium tank, it weighed 23 tons, had 7cm of frontal armor and armament
consisted of a 5cm L/60 gun. Only 11 were imported.
R-4: This was the Romanian designation for a Panzer IV model F to H. A German
made medium tank, it weighed 23 tons, had 5.8cm of frontal armor and armament consisted
of a 7.5cm L/43 or L/48 gun. Some 129 were imported.
Renault R-35: This tank weighed 14 tons, had 4cm of frontal armor and armament
consisted of a 3.7cm gun. A total of 41 were imported from France before the war
and 34 more were acquired from Poland when it fell.
TA: This was the Romanian designation for a German built STG-III. This turretless
tank weighed 26 tons, had 8cm of frontal armor and armament consisted of a 7.5cm
L48 gun. Germany supplied Romania with 108 of these.
TACAM R-2 or Tun Anti Car cu Afet Mobil R-2: This was a self propelled gun,
rebuilt from a S11 tank hull married to captured Soviet armament. It weighed 12
tons, had 2.5cm of frontal armor and mounted a 7.62 L/42 gun. A total of 21 vehicles
were converted.
TACAM T-60 or Tun Anti Car cu Afet Mobil T-60: This was a self propelledgun,
rebuilt from a captured Soviet T-60 tank hull equipped with captured Soviet armament.
It weighed 9 tons, had 3.5cm of frontal armor and mounted a 7.62cm L/51 gun. A total
of 34 vehicles were converted.
TACAM R-35 or Vanatorul De Care R-35: This was a tank destroyer rebuilt using
a R-35 tank hull and captured Soviet armament. It weighed 11.5 tons, had 4cm of
frontal armor and mounted a 4.5cm L/44 gun. Some 30 vehicles were converted.

The Soviet 4th Cavalry Corps

By Phil Gardocki

Organizational History 1941
When the Great Patriotic War started in mid 1941, the 4th Cavalry Corps was stationed in central Asia and patrolled the borders around Iran and Afghanistan. It originally consisted of three mountain cavalry divisions, 18th, 20th, and the 21st
  • 20,278 men
  • 36 × 7.62cm cannons
  • 24 × 10.7cm mortars
  • 48 × 5cm mortars
  • 12 × 4.5cm antitank guns
  • 24 × 3.7cm antiaircraft guns
  • 146 machineguns
  • 390 wagons
Before the year’s end, all three of the mountain cavalry divisions were sent to the front and replaced in the corps with newly raised divisions, so that by September 1942 the corps consisted of the 61st, 63rd and 81st Cavalry Divisions.
When the 4th Cavalry Corps finally went to war against the Axis powers, it was assigned to the 51st Army, Stalingrad front, in late 1942. It was under strength in most equipment and manpower, but was reinforced with the 149th Motorized Antitank Regiment (which, unfortunately for the Soviet troopers, had only 3 trucks as prime movers) and the 4th Antitank Battalion. In November and December 1942, the Corps mauled the Rumanian Cavalry Corps as well as many infantry units in a series of engagements and was the first unit to detect the German buildup for their Winter Storm counteroffensive, but was crushed by German panzer forces advancing to attempt to relieve Stalingrad.
By February, 1943, the remnants of the corps were withdrawn to be rebuilt in reserve by the Southwest Front, where it picked up a fourth cavalry division, the 97th. However, the 4th Cavalry Corps never saw combat again. The corps, as well as most of its component units, was disbanded in May 1943. The only component of the 4th Cavalry Corps to survive the war was the 63rd Cavalry Division, which was reassigned to the 5th Guards Cavalry Corps for the rest of the war.
There is a contradiction between different sources on the 4th Cavalry Corps some histories have the 4th Cavalry Corps participating in combat during the summer of 1943, whereas other sources state that the Corps went into reserve and was than disbanded in May 1943. 

Early 1943

  • 14,991 men
  • 16 × 12cm mortars
  • 36 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 58 × 7.62cm cannons
  • 24 × 4.5cm antitank guns
  • 24 × 3.7cm antiaircraft guns
  • 108 × 5cm mortars
  • 389 machineguns
  • 1 car
  • 3 trucks
  • 203 wagons
Note: The three-battery 4th artillery battalion is actually the 4th Heavy Mortar Battalion and the two-battery one is actually the 4th Horse Artillery Battalion.

Operational History

Initially, the Cavalry Corps structure was simply a division bucket, having only the headquarters staff as corps assets. Over time, additional artillery, antitank, and mortar battalions and regiments were acquired, while the cavalry divisions were downsized.
The main fighting force of the cavalry divisions were three cavalry regiments. These regiments consisted of 4 "sabers" of between 140 to 180 men. The weapons assigned to the sabers were a mix of rifles, machineguns, mortars, and unfortunately, actual sabers.
The real firepower available to the cavalry regiments was the substantial numbers of assigned artillery and antitank batteries on the regimental level. When the war began there were at least eight guns assigned to each regiment of 4.5 cm or greater, putting firepower where it was needed the most. By 1943, while the manpower per saber was reduced, the numbers of attached batteries increased to over 20 larger guns, along with a dramatic increase in submachine guns.
Early divisional artillery assets consisted of horse drawn artillery battalions, a light tank regiment, and antiaircraft battalions. However, the 4th Cavalry Corps was an unofficial "Mountain Cavalry Corps." Its artillery battalions consisted of 7.62cm cannons and 10.7cm mortars and it had no integral tank regiment.
Russian cavalry was deployed in a number of fashions. The porous nature of large parts of the front made raiding a viable option. Early in the war, cavalry was most often used as mobile infantry. Later in the war, as more tanks and trucks became available, cavalry was reorganized into cavalry-mechanized groups. These groups would constitute a small army with one or two cavalry corps and a mechanized or tank corps. The cavalry corps in these groups provided mobile infantry to open holes in the front for the mechanized or tank corps to exploit.


9th Panzer Division

By Phil Gardocki

Formed from a light division, the 9th Panzer was one of the most active units of WWII. She participated in the invasions of France, Yugoslavia, Greece, and participated in most of the major operations in Russia. They included the first invasion, the encirclement of Moscow, the drive on Stalingrad, defending against the Soviet Operation Mars, and the largest tank battle of history, Operation Citidel. Transferred west, the 9th was sent to Normandy, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Organizational History 1940

In 1939, Germany started World War Two with only six large panzer divisions. For the attack on France, this force was increased to ten divisions. To this end, the 1st through 4th light divisions, which were already motorized, were converted to panzer divisions. The light divisions were originally intended to fill the gap previously filled by the cavalry arm; that is, as a social club for most of the military-minded aristocrats. Once the tank had proven itself as the supreme weapon of the mobile battlefield, the political niceties were overruled for the expedience of upgrading the already motorized light divisions to panzer divisions. In March 1940, the 4th Light Division was selected to form units like the 9th Panzer Division and the 11th Panzer Division.
  • 18,000 men
  • 18 × Pz IV (short 7.5 cm guns) medium tanks
  • 36 × Pz III (3.7cm guns) medium tanks
  • 75 × Pz II (20mm guns) light tanks
  • 100 × Pz I (machineguns) light tanks
  • 56 assorted armored cars
  • 8 × 15cm FH18 towed howitzers
  • 12 × 10.5cm leFH18 towed howitzers
  • 4 × 10.5cm K18 towed cannons
  • 25 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 16 × 7.5cm leIG18 towed infantry guns
  • 36 × 3.7cm Pak 35 towed antitank guns
  • 24 × 8.1cm mortars
  • 116 × 5cm mortars
  • 542 machineguns
  • 1200 Trucks
The first six panzer divisions had relied on heavy concentrations of tanks, each sporting two regiments of armor. Low tank production rates did not allow this luxury for the expansion divisions. The conversion of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Light Divisions to the 6th, 7th, and 8th panzer divisions was accomplished by the confiscation of Czechoslovakian 38t medium tanks added to the indigenous light tanks. The 9th Panzer Division was equipped by shifting assets and using new production.
While the core of a panzer division was its tanks, its true power rested on all-arms teamwork. A brigade of infantry, an artillery regiment and a full complement of support battalions, including engineers, antitank, reconnaissance, training, anti-aircraft and supply rode their vehicles to war to support the tanks. Although tank resources were slim, motorizing the other units to keep up with and support the panzer regiments was also a major problem. At best, only one platoon of infantry could be mounted on halftracks. A battalion or two of infantry in a panzer division might be mounted on motorcycles, which could keep up with the tanks during cross-country movement, but they were vulnerable to small arms fire. The rest of the infantry rode in trucks, which had difficulty accompanying the tanks off road. Most artillery was towed. What little self propelled artillery was available consisted of 7.5cm cannons mounted on Panzer I hulls. The "Sturmgeschutz" or "storm gun", turretless armored fighting vehicles were, at this time, not included in panzer divisions, instead being organized into independent companies and primarily used to support infantry divisions with their short-barreled 7.5cm guns.


While this divisional organization worked well enough in France, it was felt that the vast size of Russia would require a new model. Ostensibly, the need was to create more panzer divisions with only a minimal increase in the total number of tanks. The first five panzer divisions each gave up one of their panzer regiments to new divisions and the other new panzer divisions were entirely new. At first glance this appears to be a dilution of the tank to division ratio; in some divisions, the number of tank hulls was reduced by as much as 48 percent. Most of those reductions, however, came from the stock of panzer I & panzer II light tanks, which were replaced by a smaller number of the much superior panzer III and panzer IV medium tanks, allowing the quality and survivability of the remaining tanks to increase, a trait that was needed against Soviet tank and mechanized corps. The main benefit of the new organization was the increase in support troops for the tanks. The schutzen (rifle) brigades of the panzer divisions received equipment upgrades allowing the infantry to better support the tank attacks. More armored half-tracks were issued to the lead platoons, the new 5cm antitank guns started replacing the 3.7cm model and towed, short-barreled 15cm infantry guns were added to the regements to better support the infantry. Also, a dedicated aerial reconnaissance squadron was available for each panzer division. An additional artillery battalion to each division improved the tank to artillery tube ratio from around 12:1 down to 6:1.

  • 17,204 men
  • 24 × Pz IV(d) (short 7.5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 125 × Pz III (mostly 5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 6 × 15cm FH 18 towed medium howitzers
  • 18 × 10.5cm leFH18 towed light howitzers
  • 3 × 10.5cm K18 towed cannons
  • 4 × 15cm sIG 33 towed infantry guns
  • 12 × 5cm Pak 39 towed antitank guns
  • 24 × 3.7cm Pak 35 towed antitank guns
  • 16 × 7.5cm leIG18 towed infantry guns
  • 82 × 8.1cm mortars
  • 48 × 5cm mortars
  • 24 × 3.7cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 20 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 542 machineguns
  • 24 SdKfz 222 armored cars
  • 1,644 Trucks


The lessons of the 1941 campaign in the Soviet Union hit the Germans hard. They knew their tanks needed bigger guns and heavier armor but their production system was unable to replace their losses, let alone make major improvements. Thus, despite some changes, the 1942 panzer division was relatively unchanged from that of 1941. The schutzen (infantry) battalions were reduced to four companies but the infantry brigade picked up six self-propelled 15cm L/12 pieces to somewhat compensate. The panzerjager (antitank) batteries were still mainly a mix of towed 3.7cm and 5cm antitank guns but the panzerjager battalion added three panzerjager IIs, with a 7.5cm guns mounted on a panzer II chassis to deal with T-34 and KV tanks. Fortunately for the Germans, the Soviets were still manufacturing thousands of light tanks BT-7s, T-60s, T-70s etc, so that the German 3.7cm gunners still had plenty of targets.
  • 17,089 men
  • 28 × Pz IV (short 7.5cm guns, long 7.5cm guns later in the year) medium tanks
  • 119 × Pz III (mostly 5 cm guns) medium tanks
  • 3 × JgPz II (7.5cm guns) tank destroyers
  • 6 × 15cm FH18/40 towed medium howitzers
  • 18 × 10.5cm leFH18 towed light howitzers
  • 3 × 10.5cm K18 towed cannons
  • 4 × 15cm sIG 33 towed infantry guns
  • 6 × 15cm self-propelled sIG infantry guns
  • 24 × 5cm Pak39 towed antitank guns
  • 12 × 3.7cm Pak 35 antitank guns
  • 16 × 7.5cm leIG18 towed infantry guns
  • 82 × 8.1cm mortars
  • 48 × 5cm mortars
  • 8 × 8.8cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 24 × 3.7cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 20 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 542 machineguns
  • 72 × SdKfz. 222, 231 and 232 armored cars
  • 1,524 Trucks


In 1943, the 9th Panzer Division was upgraded. It received a number of ‘Nashorn’ tank destroyers and increased numbers of 7.5 and 5cm antitank guns. The artillery received some of the new 'Wespe' self propelled 10.5cm guns. Unfortunately for the German soldiers, the division still had many Panzer III medium tanks and, while most of them had armor and engine upgrades and mounted the longer L/60 5cm gun, a surprising number still had the older 3.7cm or shorter 5 cm gun. After the Battle of Kursk, the 2/33rd Panzer Battalion was separated from the division and detached for independent army operations.
  • 15,843 men
  • 64 × Pz IV (most with the longer 7.5cm L/48 guns) medium tanks
  • 47 × Pz III (3.7cm and 5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 30 × Nashorn (88mm) self propelled antitank vehicles
  • 3 × JgPz II (7.5cm guns) tank destroyers
  • 8 × 7.5cm leIG18 towed infantry guns
  • 6 × 15cm FH18/40 towed medium howitzers
  • 9 × 10.5cm leFH18 towed light howitzers
  • 3 × 10.5cm K18 towed cannons
  • 6 × 15cm self-propelled sIG infantry guns
  • 18 × Wespe (10.5cm howitzers) self propelled artillery
  • 12 × 5cm Pak 39 towed antitank guns
  • 12 × 7.5cm Pak 40 towed antitank guns
  • 14 × 8.8cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 24 × 3.7cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 21 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 88 × 8.1cm mortars
  • 30 × 5cm mortars
  • 470 machineguns
  • 96 × SdKfz. 232 armored cars
  • 1,295 Trucks


As 1943 drew to a close, the German Army started a major upgrade of their panzer regiments. Each panzer division shipped a panzer battalion home for training and upgrading. Panzer IIIs and panzer 38ts were turned in to the factories and subsequently converted into self-propelled guns and tank destroyers. The panzer battalions that were sent home were equipped with the powerful new "Panther" medium tanks. The remaining panzer battalion was usually upgraded in the field with newer Panzer IVs with long-barreled 7.5cm guns. By January 1944, and after being equipped with Panther tanks, the 2/33rd Panzer Battalion was reattached to the 9th while it was refitting in France. The rest of the panzer regiment was equipped with Panzer IV’s and the antitank units upgraded with self-propelled and fully armored "Hetzers," a conversion of the Czech 38t tank chassis. The artillery regiment was upgraded with more self propelled guns added to the towed weapons until the tank to tube ratio was 4:1.
  • 15,943 Men
  • 3 × JgPz IV (7.5cm L/48 guns) tank destroyers
  • 42 × Hetzer (7.5cm L/48 guns) tank destroyers
  • 91 × Pz IV (7.5cm L/48 guns) medium tanks
  • 90 × Pz V "Panther" (7.5cm L/70 guns) medium tanks
  • 9 × 15cm FH18/40 towed howitzers
  • 18 × 10.5cm leFH18 towed howitzers
  • 6 × Hummel (15cm howitzers) self propelled artillery
  • 12 × Wespe (10.5cm howitzers) self propelled artillery
  • 6 × 15cm self-propelled sIG infantry guns
  • 12 × 7.5cm Pak 40 towed antitank guns
  • 24 × 5cm Pak 39 towed antitank guns
  • 14 × 8.8cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 32 × 3.7cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 13 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 32 × 7.5cm leIG37 and 15cm sIG 33 towed infantry guns
  • 80 × 8.1cm mortars
  • 570 machineguns
  • 48 × SdKfz. 232 and 263 armored cars
  • 1,000 Trucks
# An unknown number of these were mounted in half-track vehicles for use as self-propelled antiaircraft guns.

Operational History

As part of the 1940 campaign in the West, the 9th Panzer was assigned to 39th Corps, Army Group B and assigned to spearhead the conquest of the Netherlands. The defensive dikes and narrow causeways were no match for modern equipment, superior training, tactics and surprise. Holland fell in six days, but there was no rest for the weary, as the 39th Corps was sent to support the Dunkirk encirclement. After that pocket was reduced, the 9th Panzer was reassigned to the 14th Panzer Corps and participated in Operation Red, the subjection of the rest of France. The division ended the French campaign in Lyon, achieving the dubious distinction of covering more ground than any other division in this campaign.
After a refit and rest, the 9th Panzer Division was assigned to Army Group South, in the 12th Army’s 40th Corps. As part of Operation Marita in the Balkans in spring 1940, it was railed to Sofia, Bulgaria, and attacked into the Serbian part of Yugoslavia, before turning south into Greece.
With little time for refitting, the division was transferred east for Operation Barbarossa. The 9th Panzer initially started as part of Army Group South’s Panzer Group 1*, in 14th Panzer Corps. It took part in the advance through the Ukraine and the encirclement of Kiev. After a brief rest, it was then was transferred to the 48th Panzer Corps for Operation Typhoon, the projected encirclement of Moscow, which failed.
After a hard winter, 1942 found the 9th Panzer Division assigned to Army Group B’s 4th Panzer Army, in the 24th Panzer Corps. As such, it missed the opening rounds of the abortive Soviet offensive at Kharkov. This veteran division started the Axis summer offensive at about 80% its assigned strength. It took part in the advance towards Voronezh, before being sent south. The fighting in Stalingrad reduced the division to a cadre but it was withdrawn before the city was encircled.
Sent north to Army Group Center’s 3rd Panzer Army, the division arrived in time help defeat the Soviet Operation Mars, an attack on a protruding salient threatening Moscow. It remained with Army Group Center through the Soviet 1942/43 winter offensive. 
For Operation Citadel, the attack on Kursk, the 9th Panzer Division was assigned to Army Group Center’s 9th Army, in the 47th Panzer Corps. Despite desperate attempts to bring the panzer divisions up to strength for this offensive, the 9th Panzer only had about 60% of its tank strength, and some of that strength was the older panzer IIIs with smaller guns. This weakness was compensated somewhat by the addition of three companies of "Nashorns" ("Rhinos"), an open-top tank destroyer sporting a powerful 8.8cm L/71 gun, that were assigned to the panzerjager (tank destroyer) battalion. The failure of Operation Citadel decimated the panzer force, the 9th included, and the subsequent Soviet summer and fall offensives drove the Germans back to the Dnieper River. By that time, the 9th Panzer was reduced to only 13 operational tanks.
Sent to France in January 1944 to refit, the 9th absorbed the 155th Reserve Panzer Division, which was training and garrisoning there. It also re-acquired its detached 2/33rd Panzer Battalion, which had been upgraded with Panther tanks. By the time the Allies invaded France, the 9th was up to 80% manpower and 90% in most equipment levels.
The 9th was sent to the Normandy front, but arrived only after the Allies broke out. Caught in the Falaise pocket, it managed to break out with only 2,000 men and 12 tanks remaining on strength. It continued to fight in the Siegfried line during the fall, losing another 50% of its strength before being pulled out for a major refit.
For Operation Autumn Mist, the Battle of the Bulge, the division was back up to 80% manpower and had almost 180 armored fighting vehicles, including 22 of the heavy Tiger tanks. One of the deeper penetrating divisions in this offensive, the 9th was ruined by the lack of timely retreat orders. The division continued to function at a much reduced strength in the battles for western Germany before surrendering to the Allies in March, 1945.
* "Panzer Groups" are analogous to armies in size and scope. They were multi-corps formations with army grade generals assigned to them. Their original function was to be an Army Group asset that was to be assigned to, and subordinate to, an army. Using their mobility, they would be switched from army to army providing breakthroughs, and then the army would take over for the follow-up and mop-up operations. In practice, this did not work out. The panzer groups acted mainly as independent armies and were renamed "Panzer Armies" in late 1941 and 1942.


Panzer Grenadier-Division Grossdeutschland

By Phil Gardocki

The Bodyguard for the German People" was formed in late 1939, from the ceremonial unit, the Watch Regiment Berlin, the Motor Regiment Grossdeutschland started its life as a unique unit, and maintained that status for the entirety of its history.

Organizational History 1940

The name  Grossdeutschland means "Greater Germany." Contrary to the Wherkreiss system, men assigned to this unit were from all over Germany. This was a high prestige placement as Grossdeutschland provided the personal body guards for Hitler. Also, almost everyone transferring from Grossdeutschland to the regular army received an immediate promotion. It was considered by the High Command to be an elite unit before it ever saw combat. May, 1940, Grossdeutschland rode to war with the following organization:

  • 4,788 Men
  • 6 Sturmgeschutz IIIb’s
  • 6 7.5cm le.I.G. 18's
  • 4 15cm s.I.G.’s
  • 12 3.7cm PaK 35's
  • 18 8.1cm Mortars
  • 27 5cm Mortars
  • 178 Machineguns
  • 177 Trucks

It was standard practice for independent regiments to have their own personal artillery battalion. This artillery battalion was a little light with only 7.5cm guns, but this was offset by 4 15cm infantry guns and a private company of Sturmgeschutz.
For the campaigns of 1941,Grossdeutschland  was reinforced with a battery of 15cm field howitzers, two batteries of 10.5cm light field howitzers, and an abundance of anti-tank guns - 48 in all; 12 PaK-38 and 36 PaK-35 guns. This was heavily over gunned when you consider that the standard infantry division of the time had only 24 guns - mostly smaller PaK 35’s.

  • 7,350 Men
  • 7 Sturmgeschutz IIIc’s
  • 4 15cm F. H. 18's
  • 2 15cm s.I.G.’s
  • 4 7.5cm le.I.G. 18's
  • 12 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 8 10.5cm le.F.H.18's
  • 18 8.1cm Mortars
  • 39 5cm Mortars
  • 12 5cm PaK 38's
  • 36 3.7cm PaK 35's
  • 4 Armored Cars
  • 244 Machineguns
  • 250 Trucks

A new regiment, named Fusilier Regiment Grossdeutschland, was formed in Germany, and in April, 1942 and was dispatched to Orel to join the now renamed Grenadier Regiment Grossdeutschland. The combined regiments formed the Grossdeutschland Motorized Division. The Fusilier Regiment Grossdeutschland, had no combat experience, and there was much friction between the two formations. Although two regiments of motorized infantry was typical for motorized rifle divisions, what was not standard was the addition of a panzer battalion, an 8.8cm antiaircraft battalion, 96 antitank guns, 24 15cm guns, and a flame throwing company of Panzer III’s.

  • 18,597 Men
  • 10 Marder III's
  • 14 Flammpanzer III's
  • 21 Sturmgeschutz IIIe’s
  • 28 Panzer III's
  • 6 15cm Nebelwerfer 41's
  • 12 10.5cm le.F.H.18's
  • 4 10cm K18’s
  • 20 15cm F. H. 18/40's
  • 4 15cm s.I.G.’s
  • 21 8.8cm Flak 36's
  • 24 5cm PaK39's
  • 24 7.5cm PaK 40's
  • 48 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 75 5cm Mortars
  • 84 8.1cm Mortars
  • 635 Machineguns
  • 2 Cars
  • 24 Armored Cars, Sd. Kfz. 231's
  • 24 Half-tracks
  • 800 Trucks
After the third battle of Kharkov, Grossdeutschland was pulled out and refitted. That refit included the addition of a 3 Battalion Panzer Regiment, including a Panther battalion and a Tiger company. On paper the full strength would come to 250 tanks and assault guns, but this fictional strength never saw action. Another departure from standard organization was the full battalion of the Grenadiers that was upgraded with halftracks. Most panzer divisions had only a single company equipped in armored carriers, the rest of the force was truck borne. With the addition of the armor the division was renamed Panzergrenadier Division Grossdeutschland, with the regiments being renamed Panzergrenadier Regiment Grossdeutschland and Panzerfusilier Regiment Grossdeutschland. Operation Citadel saw an elite, well equipped division fielded. 
  • 20,468 Men
  • 13 Tigers
  • 48 Panzer IV’s
  • 46 Panthers
  • 14 Flammpanzer III's
  • 30 Sturmgeschutz IIIf’s
  • 10 Marders
  • 8 10.5cm le.F.H.18's
  • 9 3.7cm Flak 37's
  • 16 15cm F. H. 18/40's
  • 18 Wespes
  • 21 8.8cm Flak 36's
  • 24 5cm PaK38's
  • 72 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 75 5cm Mortars
  • 84 8.1cm Mortars
  • 713 Machineguns
  • 2 Cars
  • 800 Trucks
  • 192 Half-tracks
Much has been said about the Panthers disappointing debut. Despite two rebuilds of each tank, they still presented many problems. The fuel pump leaked, which caused several to catch on fire while unloading in the rail yards. The engine linkages were not up to snuff with such a heavy machine. But not all problems were mechanical. And, as noted by Guderian, "The tactical employment of a new type of Panzer does not release the commander from using the proven principles of Panzer tactics…" and "It is false to pull out other heavy weapons where Panthers were employed, only because Panthers are there. It is correct to create a Schwerpunkt, (Spearpoint) concentrating the other weapons, Artillery, Engineers, Air force and Panzer Grenadiers." By the 2nd day of Operation Citadel, Grossdeutschland only had 40 operational Panthers. And this after absorbing the 10th Panzer Brigade's 2 Panther Battalions, which had 100 Panthers each! By July 10th, only 10 Panthers were operational.

  • 19,112 Men
  • 96 Panzer IV’s
  • 96 Panthers
  • 44 Tigers
  • 4 Panzer III's
  • 30 Sturmgeschutz IV’s
  • 32 Hetzers
  • 6 Whirlwinds
  • 75 Sd. Kfz. 222's
  • 6 15cm Hummels
  • 9 5cm Mortars
  • 9 15cm F. H. 18/40's
  • 12 10cm Wespes
  • 12 16 cm Nebelwerfer 42's
  • 12 8.1cm Mortars
  • 15 10.5cm le.F.H.18's
  • 20 12 and 8.1cm Mortars
  • 21 8.8cm Flak 36's
  • 24 5cm PaK39's
  • 72 3.7cm Flak 36's
  • 835 Machineguns
  • 1 Car
  • 48 Sd. Kfz. 231 and Sd.Kfz 10 half-tracks
  • 600 Trucks
  • 312 Half-tracks

Later in the year, the division had its Tiger tank company upgraded to a battalion. In January 1944, Grossdeutschland’s Panther Battalion transferred west for training, but this battalion was replaced with the 26th Panzer Battalion, so there was no real change in the TOE. Also, in May, the PanzerFusilier Regiment Grossdeutschland had one of it’s Battalions upgraded with halftracks, but the number of companies in each battalion was reduced from 5 to 4.

Operational History

In September, 1939, Grossdeutschland was assigned to be airlifted into Poland, but this was canceled due to the speed of the campaign. So, Grossdeutschland’s first campaign was in France, 1940. Assigned to Guderian’s XIX Panzer Corps, Grossdeutschland led the attacks over the Meuse River, the encirclement of Dunkirk, the deep drive south, before ending the campaign in Lyon. The unit sustained almost 30% casualties in this campaign.
In 1941, even though assigned to Army Group Center’s Panzer Group 2, Grossdeutschland was sent into Yugoslavia, where it took Belgrade. Reassigned back north, Grossdeutschland, participated in the Battles of Minsk, Yelnay, Kiev, and Moscow. Between battles and weather, by early 1942, 2 of its 4 battalions were dissolved to reinforce other units.
Assigned to Army Group South, and expanded to a motorized division, Grossdeutschland was assigned to the 48th Panzer Corps, and participated in the Drive on Stalingrad and Voronezh.  In September, 1942,  Grossdeutschland was shipped to Army Group Center and deployed in the Rzhev sailient near Moscow.  When the Soviet's launched Operation Mars, the   Grossdeutschland faced the 22nd Army and the 3rd Mechanized Corps, both elements of the Kalinin Front.  After Mars, Grossdeutschland was shipped south and rebuilt for the summer offensives.
Grossdeutschland was upgraded to a Panzer Grenadier division, and still deployed to the 48th Panzer Corps, which was assigned to the 4th Panzer Army to participate in the reduction of the Kursk Salient, as part of Operation Citadel. On July 5th, 0500, after many delays, Operation Citadel was launched. Grossdeutschland, assigned it's Fusilier Regiment to support the 10th Panzer Brigade to its left while the 11th Panzer Division operated on its right. The Tigers of Grossdeutschland lead the attack into the southern part of the Kursk Salient. The breech was affected, and by 0900, Grossdeutschland was on the outskirts of Cherkasskoyle, which was defended by the 67th Guards Rifle Division – a typical Guards Rifle Formation, reinforced by two anti-tank regiments of the 6th Guards Army. The Soviet defenses held most of the day, but the position was finally outflanked by Grossdeutschland, and once a penetration was achieved Grossdeutschland was reinforced by elements from the 11th Panzer Division, causing the 67th Guards Rifle Division to withdraw or be cut off and destroyed, Cherkasskoyle fell to the Germans late that the day.
On the July 6th, storms and flooded conditions slowed Grossdeutschland. During the night Panthers from the 10th Panzer Brigade reinforced Grossdeutschland. The Soviet 2nd line of defense was strongly held and fighting was at times hand to hand against entrenched tanks, and antitank guns. By July 7th, the 6th Guards Army was in retreat, and Grossdeutschland, in conjunction with the 3rd and 11th Panzer divisions, was attacking the Soviet 3rd Mechanized and 31st Tank Corps, both elements of the 1st Guards Tank Army. The objective for the Germans was the town of Syrtsevo. On July 8th, Grossdeutschland, along with 3rd Panzer Division and 332nd Infantry Division, engaged the dug in forces ot the 6th Tank Corps.  The Soviets launched a counterattack with the 40th Army and elements of the 3rd Mechanized Corps, which failed. The remains of the Soviet forces fled back to Syrtsevo pursued by Grossdeutschland and the town quickly fell. Grossdeutschland attempted to take the crossings of the river Pena by exploitation and the Soviets sent in 40 T-34’s and M-3’s to stop them delaying the Germans for 3 hours. 
July 9th saw more fighting, with the 4th Panzer Army pushing back the 6th Guards, and 1st Guards Tank Army. Grossdeutschland was down to 100 operational tanks and assault guns. It continued fighting on July 10th managed to push back Soviets. By the end of the day Grossdeutschland captured the Pena Bridge, along with a critical high ground surrounding it. This was the high water mark for the 48th Panzer Corps and Grossdeutschland in Operation Citadel only engaging in minor holding actions until the general withdrawal order came down on July 18th.
After Citadel was cancelled, Grossdeutschland was temporarily assigned to Army Group Center and fought a number of defensive battles against the Soviet operations Kutuzov and Rumantsyev. By August, Grossdeutschland was back with the 48th Panzer Corps where it remained for the rest of 1943. The year ended with a long series of retreats toward Belgorod, and then the Dnieper River where it became known as "The Fire Brigade."
January 1944 brought no respite for Grossdeutschland as it continued a series of defensive battles in the Ukraine. Reassigned to the 57th Panzer Corps, Grossdeutschland retreated into Romania, attempting to defend the Polesti oil fields. Because of the destruction of Army Group Center, Grossdeutschland was pulled out of the line and railed to East Prussia where it fought in the Baltic States. Organizationally Grossdeutschland was paired with the Brandenburg Division, into Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland.

In 1945, Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland was trapped in Memel and largely destroyed. About 4,000 men of Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland escaped by ferry, and found their way west, and surrendered the colors of Grossdeutschland to the British in Schleswig-Holstein.
At what price honor? The official motto of Grossdeutschland was "Our honor is the fulfillment of our duty." For the five years Grossdeutschland was in combat in the most difficult campaigns that Germany fought. Its soldiers accrued more awards than any other unit, and sustained over 50,000 dead doing it.