Wednesday, November 2, 2011

11th Panzer Division

By Phil Gardocki

The 11th Panzer was created from many parts, including the 4th, 5th and 9th Panzer divisions, the 113th Panzer Brigade, a Lehr battalion, and various infantry units. In 1941, the 11th was instrumental in the assaults on Belgrade, Kiev, and Moscow. For the 1942 campaigns, after receiving an elite Lehr unit, the 11th took part in many operations, including the assault on Voronezh, Operation Winter Storm, and saved Army Group ‘A’. 1943 had the 11th cannibalizing more units in an effort to get it back up to strength both before Kursk, and after. The 11th’s appetite went unabated, cannibalizing the remains of whole divisions while fighting in southern France, and the Battle of the Bulge.

Organizational History 1941

In preparation for the upcoming war in Russia, Germany embarked on an ambitious plan to expand their number of panzer divisions. The 11th was organized in August 1940 from the 11th Independent Schutzen (Rifle) Brigade and the 15th Panzer (Tank) Regiment taken from the 5th Panzer Division. Other parts of the division were built from the 4th, 311th, 209th and 231st Infantry Divisions. For Operation Barbarossa, the division had the following organization and equipment.

  • 17,000 men
  • 21 × Pz IV (short 7.5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 60 × Pz III (mostly 5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 50 × Pz II (2cm guns) light tanks
  • 56 × assorted armored cars
  • 8 × 15cm FH 18 towed howitzers
  • 12 × 10.5cm leFH18 towed howitzers
  • 4 × 10.5cm K18 towed cannons
  • 25 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 16 × 7.5cm leIG 18 towed infantry guns
  • 36 × 3.7cm Pak 35 towed antitank guns
  • 24 × 8.1cm mortars
  • 116 × 5cm mortars
  • 542 machineguns
  • 1200 trucks
At 22 tanks per medium tank company and 30 for light tank companies, the division went into the Soviet Union with about 90% of its established strength.


In 1942 there were some equipment and manpower changes. The schutzen battalions were reduced to 4 companies, but the schutzen brigade picked up 6 self-propelled 15cm L/12 towed pieces (infantry guns) to compensate. The panzerjager (antitank) companies were upgraded with a mix of mostly 5cm PAK 39's and the battalion had assigned to it three Jagdpanzer Is, which were a melding of a captured 4.7cm gun to a Panzer I hull. The Lehr Motorcycle Battalion was added to the division giving it enhanced reconnaissance ability.

  • 17,089 men
  • 40 × Pz IV (short 7.5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 55 × Pz III (5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 40 × Pz II (2cm guns) light tanks
  • 3 × JgPz I (4.7cm gun) tank destroyers
  • 6 × 15cm FH 18/40 towed howitzers
  • 18 × 10.5cm leFH18 towed howitzers
  • 3 × 10.5cm K18 towed cannons
  • 4 × 15cm sIG towed infantry guns
  • 6 × 15cm self-propelled sIG infantry guns
  • 24 × 5cm Pak39 towed antitank guns
  • 12 × 3.7cm Pak 35 towed antitank guns
  • 16 × 7.5cm leIG 18 towed infantry guns
  • 90 × 8.1cm mortars
  • 55 × 5cm mortars
  • 8 × 8.8cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 24 × 3.7cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 32 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 542 machineguns
  • 96 SdKfz 222, 231 and 232 armored cars
  • 1,634 trucks

The 11th Panzer Division suffered very badly in the Stalingrad campaign and the subsequent Soviet winter offensive. For Operation Citadel, the division was brought up to a strength of 121 tanks, 20 of which were obsolete. The Lehr Motorcycle Battalion was re-deployed, the 231st Reconnaissance and the 61st Motorcycle Battalions were merged into the 11th Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion.
There was also some internal shifting around in the 15th Panzer Regiment. It received one battalion from the 4th Panzer Division, temporarily having 3 battalions, all of which were very under strength. The 1/15th Panzer Battalion was later disbanded but, by December 1943, the 3/15th Panzer Battalion was reequipped with Panther tanks, then renamed the 1/15th Panzer Battalion, returning the Panzer regiment to its original configuration.


  • 15,843 Men
  • 48 × Pz IV (most with 7.5cm L/48 guns) medium tanks
  • 50 × Pz III (5cm guns) medium tanks
  • 20 × Pz II (2cm guns) light tanks
  • 3 × Flampanzers (flamethrower versions of Pz III)
  • 3 × JgPz I (4.7cm guns) tank destroyers
  • 6 × 15cm FH 18/40 towed howitzers
  • 9 × 10.5cm leFH18 towed howitzers
  • 3 × 10.5cm K18 towed cannons
  • 6 × 15cm Self Propelled sIG infantry guns
  • 8 × 7.5cm leIG 18 towed infantry guns
  • 12 × 5cm Pak39 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
  • 1295 trucks

Throughout 1943, the division was involved in heavy combat. In an effort to keep the panzer forces up to strength, the 11th Panzer Division cannibalized a battalion of infantry from the 356th Infantry Division and absorbed a regiment of the 123rd Infantry Division before transferring to France. There, it cannibalized the 273rd Reserve Panzer Division. All this effort plus some replacements and new equipment brought the 11th back to about 90% of operational strength.


  • 15,943 men
  • 91 × Panzer IV (7.5cm L/48 guns) medium tanks
  • 90 × Panther (7.5cm L/70 guns) medium tanks
  • 42 × Hetzer (7.5cm L/48 guns) tank destroyers
  • 9 × 15cm FH 18/40 towed howitzers
  • 18 × 10.5cm leF 18 towed howitzers
  • 6 × 15cm self-propelled sIG infantry guns
  • 12 × 7.5cm Pak 40 towed antitank guns
  • 36 × 5cm Pak39 towed antitank guns
  • 14 × 8.8cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 12 × 3.7cm Flak 36 towed antiaircraft guns
  • 13 × 2cm towed antiaircraft guns
  • 32 × 7.5cm leIG 37 and sI.G 33 towed infantry guns
  • 80 8.1cm mortars
  • 570 machineguns
  • 48 SdKfz 232 and 263 armored cars
  • 1000 trucks

The final cannibalization occurred in November 1944, with the absorption of the men and equipment of the 113th Panzer Brigade into the 11th Panzer Division. Even with that, the division only had 3,500 men at the start of Operation Autumn Mist, a.k.a., the Battle of the Bulge.

Operational History

This Division was created in Wehrkreis VIII* in the summer of 1940 as part of the general expansion of the panzer arm following the fall of France. Its first combat action was as part of Army Group South's 14th Panzer Corps driving into Yugoslavia, where it captured Belgrade.

For Operation Barbarossa, the 11th Panzer Division initially started as part of Army Group South's Panzer Group 1, in the 48th Panzer Corps. It took part in the encirclement of Kiev, and then participated in Operation Typhoon, the attempted encirclement of Moscow.
In 1942, the division took part in the operation against Voronezh, before heading south along the Don River in an effort to relieve Stalingrad during Operation Winter Storm. This effort failed, but the Soviets also suffered hideous casualties in men and material trying to keep Stalingrad isolated. An estimate by David M. Glantz, "When Titans Clashed", placed the Soviet casualties at 480,000 to capture and kill 238,000 Germans.**

As an important component of the German forces, the 11th participated in a number of actions during early 1943 that successfully cut off and destroyed Soviet penetrations. As an example, Operation Donetz destroyed the Soviet 25th Tank Corps and mauled the 3rd Tank Army. This was an amazing victory, since the 11th Panzer Division had only 16 tanks against over 200. Through these actions, the retreat routes for Army Group 'A' were kept open, allowing it to escape from its deep penetrations in the Caucasus Mountains.

For Operation Citadel, in mid 1943, the 11th Panzer was still with the 48th Corps, 4th Panzer Army. It was to attack the south part of the Kursk salient. On its left flank was Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland , and on it's right, SS Panzer Grenadier Division Liebstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. Over the course of the battle, the 11th Panzer attacked the 6th Guards Army, including the 67th Guards Rifle Division.  By 7 July, the 11th Panzer was rolling forward in conjunction with the 3rd Panzer Division before being stalled by the counter attack of the 1st Guards Tank Army's 3rd Mechanized Corps and 31st Tank Corps.  By July 8th, despite receiving large numbers of artillery and tanks from the adjacent, though unengaged 40th Army, the 6 Guards Army was no longer combat effective, and the 1st Guards Tank Army was greatly reduced in tanks.  The 11th Panzer continued to make minor advancements until July 10th.   When it took up defensive operations.
After the defeat at Kursk, the 11th fought in the long retreat through the Ukraine. In early 1944, it was trapped in Cherkassy, and broke out, but only with appalling losses.
Late in the year, the 11th Panzer was transferred to the German 9th Army, in the south of France, where it was rebuilt.  There it faced the Americans when they launched their second amphibious assault into southern France.  The 11th Panzer guessed wrong, and deployed on the wrong side of the Rhone river, and lost a race to the bridgeheads.  It was then caught. surrounded, and shattered by the American 9th Army.  Afterwards, the 11th Panzer continued to fight delaying actions, but failed to slow the American drive northward up the Rhone Valley.  It remains retreated back into Germany. The 11th continued to fight in Operation Autumn Mist and then the defense of southern Germany, before surrendering in May, 1945 to the Americans.  But only on the condition that they bring their mobile kitchens and be prepared to feed themselves.
* The Wehrkreis, or Military District, was the system that created and maintained the German Army. Established in the 1800’s, there were originally 26. Each Wehrkreis was required to raise and maintain 1 active field corps. At that time, the commander of the Wehrkreis was also the commander of the Corps. This gave an incentive to do a job well. With population increases and shifts, the Wehrkreis system was altered to increase the number of units, but some of the smaller areas were merged to reduce the administrative load. In 1939, there were 16 Wehrkreis and this number grew to incorporate the conquered areas. The Wehrkreis system was also assigned the job of maintaining and replacing losses for their units in the field. Every two days, a supply train was loaded and sent to every division in the field. While, in theory, any Wehrkreis could support any type of unit, in practice, there was some specialization. For example, all the mountain troops came only from alpine regions, while the Navy drew only from the Baltic Sea areas.


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