Saturday, November 12, 2011

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.


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