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Panzers in the Sand: The History of Panzer-Regiment 5, Volume 2 1942-45, Bernd Hartmann

Panzers in the Sand: The History of Panzer-Regiment 5, Volume 2 1942-45, Bernd Hartmann



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Panzers in the Sand: The History of Panzer-Regiment 5, Volume 2 1942-45, Bernd Hartmann

Panzers in the Sand: The History of Panzer-Regiment 5, Volume 2 1942-45, Bernd Hartmann

Despite its designation, Panzer-Regiment 5 was actually the oldest armoured regiment in the German Army. In the first volume of this two-part history of the regiment we followed the regiment from its earliest pre-war days to North Africa and its first victories and defeats under Rommel. In this second volume we pick up the story at the start of 1942, just before Rommel's final victorious campaign, the series of victories that would see the Germans reconquer Cyrenaica, finally take Tobruk and enter Egypt, only to grind to a halt at El Alamein.

After that early success the regiment's story is one of retreat, disaster and defeat. Rommel's attempts to break through at El Alamein failed, and he was then defeated by Montgomery. A long retreat into Tunisia followed, before the regiment was finally destroyed in the surrender that ended the campaign in North Africa. It wasn't reformed, but a panzer detachment 5 was formed around a core of personnel from the older regiment. This unit was equipped with StuGs, which it took to the eastern front, only to be swept away in the destruction of Army Group Centre. The unit was reformed once again, and fought on the western borders of Germany late in 1944, then on the shrinking Eastern Front during 1945, before escaping into American captivity at the end of the war.

The text is supported by an excellent (and sizable) selection of photographs, mainly from the period in North Africa, although there are some from the fighting on the Eastern Front. There is also a useful photographic appendix on the panzer troop's uniforms, and an interesting selection of awards and certificates, often linked to a picture of the recipient. There is also a good selection of maps, organisation charts and diagrams showing the various types of armoured vehicles used by the regiment and its successors (each accompanied by statistics and notes on the individual vehicle).

The text itself has been translated well and is clear and readable. The narrative is supported by plenty of supporting information, presented in a way that doesn't disrupt the flow (medal winners, timelines, lists of commanders, tables of organisation etc.) The tone is generally neutral (although the regiments defeats are always blamed on overwhelming odds, and their opponents are rarely given any credit for them). The text is supported by plenty of first-hand accounts of the action, which give a great feel for the sense of elation during the early successes and the depression as the fighting turned permanently against Germany.

Chapters
1 - Panzer-Regiment 5 in the Campaign in North Africa, 1942
2 - Panzer-Regiment 5 in the Campaign in North Africa, 1943
3 - History of Panzer-Abteilung 5, 1943
4 - History of Panzer-Abteilung 5, 1944
5 - History of Panzer-Abteilung 5, 1945

Author: Bernd Hartmann
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 290
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2011 translation of 2002 German original



Panzers in the Sand: The History of Panzer-Regiment 5, 1942-45 (Volume 2) by…

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Italian 1. armeija

Ensimmäisessä maailmansodassa armeija vastasi pitkästä rintamasta Sveitsin-Itävallan-Italian rajojen risteyksessä olleesta Stelvionsolasta Asiagontasangolle. Se kykeni torjumaan Itävalta-Unkarin joukkojen etenemisen ja myöhemmin armeijan aluetta supistettiin ja sen tehtäväksi määrättiin Trentinon rajojen ja Veronan alueen turvaaminen.

Armeija perustettiin kesäkuussa 1938 rauhanajan esikuntana ja se aktivoitiin elokuussa 1939. Italian liityttyä 10. kesäkuuta 1940 toiseen maailmansotaan 1. armeija oli yksi kolmesta Umberto di Savoian komentaman Lännen armeijaryhmän armeijasta, jonka tavoitteena oli vallata Ranskalta Nizza, Savoiji ja mikäli mahdollista Rhonenlaakson itäpuoliset alueet. Armeija hyökkäsi 21. kesäkuuta yhdessä kolmiarmeijakuntaisen ja kymmendivisioonaisen 4. armeijan ja reservinä olleen seitsendivisioonainen 7. armeijan kanssa Ranskan Rivieralle tavoitteenaan Nizza. Tällöin kenraali Pietro Pintorin johtamaan armeijaan kuuluivat kenraali Francesco Bettinin II (36. ja 33. vuoristojalkaväkidivisioonat sekä 4. Alpini-divisioona), kenraali Mario Arision III (3., 4., 16. ja 20. jalkaväkidivisioonat) ja kenraali Gastone Gambaran IV armeijakunnat (5., 6., 37. ja 44. jalkaväkidivisioonat). Lisäksi armeijan alaisuuteen kuului Cacciatore delli Alpi -divisioona. Hyökkääjiä vastassa oli kuusi Ranskan armeijan divisioonaa, jotka onnistuivat torjumaan hyökkääjän etenemisen. [1] Hyökkäyksen tavoite jäi saavuttamatta ja joukot pysähtyivät Mentoniin. Ranskan antauduttua armeija lakkautettiin 31. heinäkuuta 1940.

Vuonna 1942 panssariarmeija Afrikan vetäytyessä El Alameinin toisen taistelun jälkeen sekä liittoutuneiden noustua maihin Pohjois-Afrikassa marsalkka Erwin Rommel oli pakotettu yhteen historian pisimmistä vetäytymisistä. Hän veti joukkonsa Egyptin ja Libyan raja-alueen läntiseltä aavikolta ja ryhmitti ne uudelleen ranskalaisten valmistamalle Mareth-linjalle Etelä-Tunisiaan. Tällöin Rommel otti komentoonsa vastaperustetun armeijaryhmä Afrikan luovuttaen saksalais-italialaisen panssariarmeijan komennon kenraali Giovanni Messelle. Armeija nimettiin 23. helmikuuta 1943 Italian 1. armeijaksi komentajanaan Messe. [2]

Messen komennossa armeija osallistui Rommelin yritykseen saada aikaan läpimurto Tunisiassa. Armeija hyökkäsi Medenineen, jonka puolustuksesta vastasi Montgomeryn 8. armeija. Taistelussa 1. armeija kärsi tappion useista yrityksistään huolimatta. Brittijoukkojen aloitettua 20. maaliskuuta hyökkäyksen, jonka tavoitteena oli Gabes 1. armeijan huoltosatama. Hyökkäys saatiin kuitenkin torjuttua. Brittijoukot saivat läpimurron 26. maaliskuuta, minkä jälkeen akselivaltain joukot aloittivat vetäytymisen viivyttäen. Toukokuun lopulla liittoutuneiden joukot saivat haltuunsa loput Pohjois-Afrikasta ja 270000 akselivaltain sotilasta joutui sotavankeuteen heidän mukanaan Italian 1. armeija, joka antautui 13. toukokuuta 1943 briteille. [3]


Sisällysluettelo

Jo 4. lokakuuta 1940 Adolf Hitlerin ja Benito Mussolinin keskustelivat Saksan joukkojen lähettämisestä Italian rinnalle Pohjois-Afrikkaan. 3. panssaridivisioona sai 11. lokakuuta määräyksen valmistautua siirtymään Libyaan, jolloin aloitettiin henkilöstön lääkärintarkastukset tropiikkiin siirtämiseksi. Tällöin valmistelut keskeytettiin. [1]

Pelko Libyan menettämisestä ja halu auttaa hädässä olevaa liittolaista johti operaation toteuttamiseen. Määräyksen operaation toteuttamiseksi antoi 6. helmikuuta 1941 Saksan asevoimien yliesikunta (saks. Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ) Hitlerin yleisohjeen 22 perusteella maavoimien esikunnalle (saks. Oberkommando des Heeres ) ja ilmavoimien esikunnalle (saks. Oberkommando der Luftwaffe ). Operaation tarkoituksena oli Pohjois-Afrikan rintaman vakauttaminen. Ensimmäinen Saksan Afrikan joukkojen henkilöstöä ja kalustoa kuljettanut saattue, johon kuuluivat saksalaiset rahtialukset Ankara (4 768 t), Arcturus (2 596 t) ja Alicante (2 140 t) sekä niitä suojanneet Italian laivaston hävittäjä Turbine ja torpedoveneet Orsa, Cantore ja Missori, lähti 8. helmikuuta Napolista Tripoliin. Saattue viipyi kaksi vuorokautta Palermossa Gibraltarille sijoitetun Britannian kuninkaallisen laivaston Force H:n ollessa merellä. Paluumatkalla saattue joutui 14. helmikuuta Maltalta lähteneen torpedokoneen hyökkäyksen kohteeksi. [2]

Vasta muodostettu Saksan 5. kevyen divisioona lähetettiin Italiaan ja edelleen Pohjois-Afrikkaan. Divisioonan ensimmäiset joukkoyksiköt, 3. tiedustelupataljoona ja 39. panssarintorjuntapataljoona, saapuivat 14. helmikuuta Tripoliin, mistä ne jatkoivat heti Sirteen. Sen panssarirykmentti 5 kuormattiin 28. helmikuuta Wünsdorfissa juniin, jotka kuljettivat sen Napoliin kuormattavaksi laivoihin. Italian laivaston suojaamaan saattueeseen kuuluivat rahtialukset Wachtfels, Reichenfels, Arcturus, Alicante ja Leverkusen [3] , joka syttyi kuormattaessa tuleen. Onnettomuudessa tuhoutui kymmenen PzKw III ja kolme PzKw IV -panssarivaunua. Loput rykmentistä eli 25 PzKw I Ausf A,45 PzKw II, 61 PzKw III (suurin osa Ausf F mallia, varustettu 5 cm:n KwK 38 L/42 -kanuunoilla ja ainoastaan muutama Ausf H -mallia), 17 PzKw IV, kolme pientä esikuntavaunua ja neljä suurta esikuntavaunua nousivat maihin Tripolissa 10. maaliskuuta. Joukkojen oltua Tripolin läpi kulkeneessa paraatissa 12. maaliskuuta, ne siirrettiin rantatietä rintamalle. [4]

Saksan 15. panssaridivisioona lähetettiin toisena panssariyksikkönä Libyaan liitettäväksi Saksan Afrikan armeijakuntaa. Sen panssarirykmentti 8 kuljetettiin Tripoliin kolmessa saattueessa. I pataljoonan esikunta ja esikuntakomppania sekä 1. komppania saapuivat 24. huhtikuuta, rykmentin esikunta sekä 2., 3. ja 5. komppania saapuivat 2. toukokuuta. Kolmas erä, jonka muodostivat II pataljoonan loppuosa sekä 6. ja 7. komppania, saapui Tripoliin 6. toukokuuta. Rykmentillä oli 45 PzKw II, 71 PzKw III (pääosa Ausf H -mallia), 20 PzKw IV, neljä pientä esikuntavaunua ja kuusi suurta esikuntavaunua. [5]


Contents

Strachwitz was born on 30 July 1893 in Groß Stein, in the district of Groß Strehlitz in Silesia, a province in the Kingdom of Prussia. Today it is Kamień Śląski, in Gogolin, Opole Voivodeship, Poland. Strachwitz was the second child of Hyacinth Graf Strachwitz (1864–1942) and his wife Aloysia (1872–1940), [Note 2] née Gräfin von Matuschka Freiin von Toppolczan und Spaetgen. [5] [Note 3] He had an older sister, Aloysia (1892–1972), followed by his younger brother Johannes (1896–1917) nicknamed "Ceslaus", his sister Elisabeth (1897–1992), his brother Manfred (1899–1972), his brother Mariano (1902–1922), and his youngest sister Margarethe (1905–1989). [2] His family were members of the old Silesian nobility (Uradel), and held large estates in Upper Silesia, including the family Schloss (Palace) at Groß Stein. As the first-born son he was the heir to the title Graf (Count) Strachwitz, and following family tradition he was christened Hyacinth, after the 12th century saint. Some clothing belonging to the saint were in the family's possession until 1945. [2]

Strachwitz attended the Volksschule (primary school) and the Gymnasium (advanced secondary school) in Oppeln—present-day Opole. He received further schooling and paramilitary training at the Königlich Preußischen Kadettenkorps (Royal Prussian cadet corps) in Wahlstatt—present-day Legnickie Pole—before he transferred to the Hauptkadettenanstalt (Main Military Academy) in Berlin-Lichterfelde. Among his closest friends at the cadet academy were Manfred von Richthofen, the World War I flying ace and a fellow Silesian, and Hans von Aulock, brother of the World War II colonel Andreas von Aulock. [2] In August 1912, Cadet Strachwitz was admitted to the élite Gardes du Corps (Life Guards) cavalry regiment in Potsdam as a Fähnrich (Ensign). The Life Guards had been established by Prussian King Frederick the Great in 1740, and were considered the most prestigious posting in the Prussian Army. Their patron was Emperor Wilhelm II, who nominally commanded them. Strachwitz was sent to an officer training course at the Kriegsschule (War School) in Hanover in late 1912, where he excelled at various sports. [2] Strachwitz was commissioned as Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) on 17 February 1914. [6] At this early stage of his career in Potsdam, Strachwitz began insisting on being addressed as "Herr Graf" rather than "Herr Leutnant", even from higher-ranking officers, which he maintained throughout his career. According to Röll, he always felt prouder of his aristocratic descent than of his military rank. [7] His close friends called him Conté (Count). [8]

Upon his return to the Prussian Main Military Academy from Hanover, Strachwitz was appointed as the sports officer for the Life Guards. He introduced daily gymnastics and weekly endurance running. The Life Guards sports team was selected to participate in the planned 1916 Olympic Games, and this further encouraged his ambition. He participated equestrian, fencing and track and field athletics, which became his prime focus. Strachwitz continued to excel as a sportsman, and with his friend Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia, according to Röll Strachwitz was among the best athletes to train for the Olympic Games. [2]

The outbreak of World War I ended Strachwitz's Olympic ambitions. The Russian Empire ordered a partial mobilization one day later and the German Empire mobilized on 30 July 1914. Strachwitz received his mobilization order while on vacation in Silesia, and returned to his unit in Berlin immediately. His regiment was subordinated to the Guards Cavalry Division and scheduled for deployment in the west. [9]

Shortly after the mobilization, the Life Guards arrived at their assigned position near the Belgian border. Strachwitz and his platoon volunteered for a mounted, long-distance reconnaissance patrol, which would penetrate far behind Belgian lines. His orders were to gather intelligence on rail and communications connections and potentially disturb them, as well as report on the war preparations being made by their opponents. If the situation allowed, he was to destroy railway and telephone connections and to derail trains, causing as much havoc as possible. [7] His patrol ran into many obstacles and they were constantly on the verge of being detected by either British or French forces. Their objective was the Paris–Limoges–Bordeaux train track. Strachwitz dispatched a messenger, who broke through to the German lines and delivered the intelligence they had gathered. The patrol blew up the signal box at the Fontainebleau railway station, [10] and tried to force their way through to presumed German troops at the Marne near Châlons. However, the French forces were too strong and they were unable to get through. After six weeks behind the lines their rations were depleted and they had to resort to stealing or begging. Strachwitz then decided to head for Switzerland, hoping that the French–Swiss border was not as heavily protected. [11] After a brief skirmish with French forces, one of Strachwitz's men was seriously wounded, which forced them to seek medical attention. During many weeks of outdoor living their uniforms had deteriorated, so Strachwitz took that opportunity to buy new clothes for his men. Their progress was slowed by the wounded man, and the group was caught in civilian clothes by French forces. [12]

Strachwitz and his men were questioned by a French captain and accused of being spies and saboteurs. They were taken to the prison at Châlons the next day where they were separated. Strachwitz, as an officer, was placed in solitary confinement. Early in the morning they were all lined up for the firing squad, but a French captain arrived just in time to stop the execution. Strachwitz and his men were then tried before a French military court on 14 October 1914. The court sentenced them all to five years of forced labour on the prison island of Cayenne. At the same time they were deprived of rank, thus losing the status of prisoners of war. Strachwitz was then taken to the prisons at Lyon and Montpellier, and then to the Île de Ré, from where the prison ship would depart for Cayenne. It is unclear what circumstances prevented his departure, but he was imprisoned at Riom and Avignon instead. At Avignon prison he was physically and mentally tortured by both the guards and the other prisoners. This included being chained naked to a wall, deprivation of food and severe beatings. After one year at Avignon he was given a German uniform and taken to the prisoner of war camp at Fort Barraux. [13]

At Barraux he learned that the fighting in the west had turned into a war of attrition and that only on the Eastern Front were German troops still reporting successes. His health improved rapidly and Strachwitz started making escape plans. With other German soldiers he started digging an escape tunnel, which was detected. Strachwitz was again put in solitary confinement. As a deterrence against German U-boat attacks, German prisoners of war were sometimes carried in the cargo holds of French merchant ships. Now classified as "determined to escape", Strachwitz was put in the cargo hold of a ship which commuted between Marseilles or Toulon and Thessaloniki, Greece. Malnourished after four trips without food, he was returned to Barraux. During further solitary confinement he recovered again, and made further escape plans. With a fellow soldier, he climbed over the prison walls, planning to head for neutral Switzerland. However, Strachwitz injured his foot when he fell into barbed wire, and the injury caused blood poisoning. While searching for help, they were picked up by the French police and turned over to a military court. He was then sent to a war prison for officers at Carcassonne where his request for medical attention was ignored. The injury was severe and he became delirious. An inspection by the Swiss medical commission from the International Red Cross resulted in him being transferred to a hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, where he awoke after days of unconsciousness. [13]

Strachwitz recovered quickly in Geneva. During his convalescence he was visited by members of various European royal houses and clergymen who stopped by to pay their respects. The doctors told Strachwitz that the French government had requested his extradition back to France once he had fully recovered, to serve his full term of five years of forced labour. Strachwitz then moved into a villa in Luzern where he was visited by his mother and sister. He had a great fear of being returned to France, and together they came up with a plan to avoid his extradition. He would "sit out the war" in a mental asylum in Switzerland. The plan worked, although Strachwitz's mental health genuinely deteriorated in the process. The war ended and Strachwitz was released to return to Germany. [14] For his service during the war while imprisoned by the French he was awarded the Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz) Second and First Class. [15]

In the Weimar Republic Edit

After the Armistice in November 1918, Strachwitz was repatriated and returned to a Germany in civil turmoil. He travelled to Berlin via Konstanz, at the Swiss–German border, and Munich. On his journey he saw many former German soldiers whose military discipline had broken down. Unable to tolerate this situation and fearing a Communist revolution, he travelled on to Berlin, arriving at the Berlin Anhalter Bahnhof where he was met by a friend. Strachwitz had called ahead asking his friend to bring him his Gardes du Corps uniform, which he put on immediately. Berlin was in a state of revolution. The newly established provisional government under the leadership of Chancellor Friedrich Ebert was threatened by the Spartacist uprising of the German Revolution, whose ambition was a Soviet-style proletarian dictatorship. Ebert ordered the former soldiers, organized in Freikorps (paramilitary organizations) among them Strachwitz, to attack the workers and put down the uprising. [15]

In early 1919, following the events in Berlin, Strachwitz returned to his home estate, where he found his family palace had been taken over by French officers. Upper Silesia was occupied by British, French and Italian forces, and being governed by an Inter-Allied Committee headed by a French general, Henri Le Rond. The Versailles Treaty at the end of World War I had shifted formerly German territory into neighbouring countries, some of which had not existed at the beginning of the war. In the case of the new Second Polish Republic, the Treaty detached some 54,000 square kilometres (21,000 sq mi) of territory, which had formerly been part of the German Empire, to recreate the country of Poland, which had disappeared as a result of the Third Partition of Poland in 1795. [16] His father urged him to prepare and educate himself in order to take over the family estate and business. He was put under the guidance of his father's Oberinspektor (Chief Inspector). At the same time, Strachwitz, fearing that Silesia was being "handed over to the Poles", as he viewed the actions of the Inter-Allied Committee, joined the Oberschlesischer Selbstschutz (Upper Silesian Self Defence). Strachwitz collected weapons and recruited volunteers, which was prohibited. He was caught four times and put in prison in Oppeln by the French. His father was also imprisoned for his opposition to the Inter-Allied Committee. Roll states that Strachwitz's distrust for the French, rooted in his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War I, was immense. He believed that only the Italians had played an honest and neutral role in the occupation of Upper Silesia. On 25 July 1919, he married Alexandrine Freiin Saurma-Jeltsch, nicknamed "Alda", and their first child, a son, was born on 4 May 1920. [17]

In 1921, during the Silesian Uprisings, when Poland tried to separate Upper Silesia from the Weimar Republic, Strachwitz served under the Generals Bernhard von Hülsen and Karl Höfer. At the peak of the conflict when the Poles dug in on the Annaberg, a hill near the village of Annaberg—present-day Góra Świętej Anny. The German Freikorps launched the assault in what would become the Battle of Annaberg, which was fought between 21 May and 26 May 1921. Strachwitz and his two battalions outflanked the Polish positions and overran part of them in hand-to-hand combat around midnight on 21 May. Strachwitz was the first German to reach the summit. They captured six field guns, numerous machine guns, rifles and ammunition. [19] On 4 June, the Freikorps attacked Polish positions at Kandrzin—present-day Kędzierzyn—and Slawentzitz—present-day Sławięcice. In this battle Strachwitz and his men captured a Polish artillery battery which they turned against the Poles. [19] For these services he received the Schlesischer Adler (Silesian Eagle) medal, Second and First Class with Oak Leaves and Swords. His younger brother Manfred also fought for Silesia, and was severely wounded leading his men at Krizova. Two months later his wife gave birth to their second child, a daughter named Alexandrine Aloysia Maria Elisabeth Therese born on 30 July 1921, nicknamed "Lisalex". The Ministry of the Reichswehr informed him in 1921 that he had been promoted to Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant), the promotion backdated to 1916. The Strachwitz family grew further when on 22 March 1925 a third child, a son named Hubertus Arthur, nicknamed "Harti", was born on their manor at Schedlitz, later renamed Alt Siedel—present-day Siedlec. [20]

In 1925, Strachwitz and his family moved from their palace in Groß Stein to their manor in Alt Siedel, because of personal differences with his father, who remained in Groß Stein. Between 1924 and 1933 Strachwitz founded two dairy cooperatives which many local farmers joined. In parallel he studied a few semesters of forestry. He used his knowledge to influence the Silesian forest owners to sell their wood to the paper mills. He continued to use his influence in Upper Silesia to modernize forestry and farming. His ambitions were aided by his presidency of the Forstausschuss (Forestry Committee) of Upper Silesia and his membership in the Landwirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Agriculture). [20] Strachwitz completely took over his father's estate in 1929, first as the General Manager and then as owner, with full responsibility. This made Strachwitz one of the most wealthy land and forest owners in Silesia. Along with the palace in Groß Stein he owned a lime kiln and quarry in Klein Stein—present-day Kamionek—and Groß Stein, a distillery in Groß Stein and Alt Siedel. [21] [Note 4]

National Socialism Edit

Strachwitz applied for membership in the Nazi Party (NSDAP—National Socialist German Workers' Party) with the Reichsleitung (Reich Leadership) of the NSDAP in Munich in 1931. [Note 5] He was accepted and in 1932 joined the Ortsgruppe (Local Group) of the NSDAP in Breslau with a membership number 1,405,562. On 17 April 1933 he became a member of the Allgemeine SS with the SS membership number 82,857. A series of quick promotions within the SS followed. He progressed to SS-Obersturmführer by the end of 1934 and SS-Sturmbannführer in 1936. In parallel to his SS-career, his military rank in the military reserve force also advanced. He attained the rank of Hauptmann (Captain) of the Reserves in 1934 and a year later became a Rittmeister (Cavalry Captain) of the Reserves. [21]

On 30 January 1933, the Nazi Party, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, came to power and began to rearm Germany. The Heer (Germany Army) was increased and modernized with a strong focus on the Panzer (tank) force. Personnel were recruited from the cavalry. In October 1935 Panzer-Regiment 2 was created and was subordinated to the 1st Panzer Division, at the time under command of General Maximilian von Weichs. The soldiers of the I. Abteilung (1st Battalion) came from Saxony and Thuringia, the II. Abteilung (2nd Battalion) was made up from soldiers from Silesia. Strachwitz, who had served as an officer of the reserves in Reiter-Regiment 7 (7th Cavalry Regiment) in Breslau, had asked to be transferred to the Panzer force and, in May 1936, participated in his first manoeuvre on the training ground at Ohrdruf, followed by an exercise of live firing on the gunnery training ground at Putlos—today in the administrative district of Oldenburg-Land—near the Baltic Sea. A year later, from July to August 1937, he participated in a second reserve training exercise on the Silesian training grounds at Neuhammer—present-day Świętoszów. [21]

Following a brief vacation in Silesia, Strachwitz returned to the 1st Panzer Division at the training grounds at Königsbrück, near Dresden. During the preparations for the fall manoeuvres the General der Kavallerie (General of the Cavalry) von Weichs was dismissed. On 18 September Panzer-Regiment 2 was relocated from Königsbrück to Fürstenberg and then to Neustrelitz. Here, under the watchful eyes of Hitler and Benito Mussolini from the Schmooksberg near Laage, the 1st and 3rd Panzer-Brigade, supported by Kampfgeschwader (Bomber Wings), practiced a large scale tank attack. The regiment returned to Eisenach on 30 September. Strachwitz returned to his estate but was called back shortly before the Anschluß, the annexation of Austria by Germany, in March 1938. [21]

Strachwitz and Panzer-Regiment 2 were placed on standby from 21 September to 2 October 1938 at the training grounds in Grafenwöhr during the Sudeten Crisis, the German annexation of Czechoslovakia's northern and western border regions, known collectively as the Sudetenland. On 3 October, the regiment headed for Karlsbad, via Gossengrün and Chodau, where they arrived on 5 October. The regiment was stationed at Saatz and Kaaden in the Sudetenland until 15 October before it returned to Eisenach on 16 October 1938. He was again put on standby in March 1939, when the remaining Czech territories became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, a German satellite. Following this, Panzer-Regiment 2 was sent to Berlin to participate in the Wehrmacht parade held to celebrate Hitler's 50th birthday on 20 April 1939. In July and August 1939, Panzer-Regiment 2 participated in the summer manoeuvres in Jüterbog and Putlos, followed by exercises at Altengrabow. In preparation for the opening stages of World War II, the 1st Panzer Division left their training grounds in Thuringia and Hesse on 21 August 1939 and were transported by train to Silesia between Rosenberg—present day Olesno—and Oppeln, where they arrived on the night of 24/25 August 1939. Strachwitz arrived at his regiment on 26 August where he, as the oldest Reserve officer, was assigned the task of organizing the regiment's battlefield resupply. [22]

Panzer-Regiment 2, under the command of Oberst (Colonel) Karl Keltsch, as part of the 1st Panzer Division, consisted of four light companies and two medium companies totalling 54 Panzer Is, 62 Panzer IIs, 6 Panzer IIIs, 28 Panzer IVs and 6 command Panzers. The regiment located further east in a forest near Klein-Lassowitz on the eve of 28 August 1939. Fall Weiß (Case White), Hitler's directive for the invasion of Poland, became effective and forces of the Wehrmacht invaded Poland without a formal declaration of war on 1 September 1939 which marked the beginning of World War II in Europe. His regiment also crossed the border that day at Grunsruh and reached the river Lisswarthe at noon. They took Klobutzko that evening without much resistance. On 2 September they proceeded on towards Biała Górna, where they suffered their first casualties of the war. They then crossed the Warthe at Gidle and Plauno heading for Radomsko. Suffering further losses, they captured Petrikau on 5 September. The regiment reached Góra Kalwaria at the Vistula via Wolbórz and Zawada on 8 September. Here the regiment was allowed to rest until 10 September. On this day, Keltsch informed him that Strachwitz had been nominated for the Clasp to the Iron Cross (Spange zum Eisernen Kreuz) 2nd Class for his organizational achievements, which he received on 5 October 1939. [23] Keltsch also announced that the Panzer-Brigade 1 (1st Panzer Brigade) had requested his transfer. Generalmajor (Major General) Ferdinand Schaal, commander of Panzer-Brigade 1 at the time, welcomed him and made him responsible for organizing the replenishment of the entire brigade. On 3 October 1939, three days before the victory over Poland the 1st Panzer Division was ordered back to their home bases in Germany. They arrived on 12 October 1939. The equipment underwent intensive maintenance and Strachwitz went home to the manor at Alt Siedel for a lengthy vacation. The palace in Groß Stein had been made available to the Wehrmacht and was being used as a field hospital. When Strachwitz returned to his division in late 1939, the 1st Panzer Division had been relocated to the greater Dortmund area with the Stab (staff) located in Düsseldorf. [24]

Battle of France Edit

At the end of February 1940 the commanding general of the 1st Panzer Division, Generalleutnant (Lieutenant General) Rudolf Schmidt, was replaced by Generalmajor Friedrich Kirchner. At the time, Strachwitz was sick with meningitis and was hospitalised in early March. While he was on sick leave, the division was relocated to the South Eifel on 3 March. The Stab established the headquarters in the hotel "Union" in Cochem. The division, along with 2nd and 10th Panzer Divisions, were subordinated to XIX Armeekorps under the command of General der Panzertruppe (General of the Armoured Corps) Heinz Guderian. The soldiers were awaiting the order for Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), Hitler's directive for the Battle of France. The 1st Panzer Division had orders to cross the border at Wallendorf heading towards Luxemburg, taking the Belgian first line of defence at Martelange and then Neufchâteau. The first main objective was the Meuse River (Maas River) northwest of Sedan. [24] Strachwitz was hospitalised again from 28 April to 9 May 1940, receiving treatment for an injured foot. [25]

Kirchner received the order for Fall Gelb at 13:15, during lunch, on 9 May 1940. The German attack began at 5:35 on the morning of 10 May 1940. The XIX Armeekorps advanced without resistance through Luxemburg and reached the Belgian border at 10:00. The 1st and 2nd Panzer Division reached the line Menufontaine (south of Bastogne) – Fauvillers, the 10th Panzer Division the line Rulles (west of Habay) – St. Marie (west of Étalle), that evening. The advance breached the second Belgian line of defence at Bouillon and Neufchâteau on 11 May. The German forces, consisting of the 1st and 10th Panzer Division reached the area north of Sedan on the night of 12/13 May. The following day at 8:00 German Ju 87 Stukas and bombers from Luftflotte 3 (3rd Air Fleet) targeted the French and Belgian forces in what would become the Battle of Sedan. At 15:30 the German artillery began a 30-minute bombardment followed by an aerial attack. German troops began crossing the Meuse at 16:00 in rubber assault boats. The assault company of Kradschützen-Bataillon I (1st Motorcycle Infantry Battalion) under the command of Wend von Wietersheim established the first bridgehead north of Igles and west of Saint-Menges. [25]

By 01:00 on 14 May, a pontoon bridge had been erected over which elements of the 1st Panzer Division began crossing the Meuse into the bridgeheads. General Marcel Têtu, commander of the Allied Tactical Air Forces ordered an air strike against the pontoon bridge. Between 15:00 and 16:00 Allied bombers and fighters attacked the bridge. During this attack, Strachwitz organized the traffic across the bridge and ensured delivery of the anti-aircraft ammunition to help fend off the aerial attack, which inflicted only minor damage and did not stop the German advance. Panzer-Pionierbataillon 37 and Sturm-Pionierbataillon 43 ran into enemy tanks at Chéhéry and Panzer-Brigade I into French tanks at Bulson. More than 70 French tanks were left destroyed on the battlefield. While Kirchner ordered the bulk of 1st Panzer Division to keep heading west, French General Charles Huntziger ordered elements of his IIe Armée to protect the heights of Stonne, south of Sedan. This dissipated his forces and the French resistance was broken near Vendresse. [26]

According to Roll, during the advance in France Strachwitz adopted the thinking that "Tanks must be led from the front!" [26] [27] Even in his role as supply officer he led "from the front", often carrying out "solo runs". During one of these, Strachwitz and his driver stumbled into a French-occupied barracks. Unable to withdraw, he requested to speak to the French commanding officer and convinced him to surrender his unit. Leading the way, Strachwitz drove 600 French soldiers and their vehicles into captivity. The element of surprise was enough to overcome a numerically superior enemy force. [28]

Hyacinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz

Following these events the 1st Panzer Division continued to push forward, reaching the Channel coast near Calais on 23 May 1940, where they encountered heavy British resistance. The 10th Panzer Division was tasked with taking Calais, while Guderian ordered the 1st Panzer Division to head for Gravelines. [30] Elements of the Panzer-Brigade I, the subordinated Infanterie-Regiment (motorized) "Großdeutschland" and the Panzeraufklärungsabteilung 4 (Tank Reconnaissance Detachment 4) reached the Aa river south of Gravelines that night, 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) southwest of Dunkirk. Strachwitz again went on one of his solo runs, penetrated the French and British lines and almost reached Dunkirk, where he observed the evacuation of British and allied forces by sea. He quickly reported his observations to his divisional command. The Ia (operations officer) Major im Generalstab (in the General Staff) Walther Wenck informed him that aerial reconnaissance had made the same observations but the Führerhauptquartier had ordered the Panzers to halt. Three days later Hitler ordered the attack to continue but the opportunity to capture the majority of the Allied forces had been lost. The remaining defenders of Dunkirk continued to hold out until 4 June. [31]

Parts of the 1st Panzer Division were relocated via Arras, Cambrai and Hirson to Rethel on 2 June. The second phase of the Battle of France, Fall Rot (Case Red), was about to begin and Strachwitz returned to his Panzer-Regiment 2 where he again organized the replenishment of the troops. The 1st Panzer Division flanked on the right by the 2nd Panzer Division and the XXXXI. Armeekorps (motorized) on the left, was ordered to cross the Aisne River breaching the French defences and head south. The first main objective was the Canal du Rhine au Marne which was roughly 100 kilometres (62 mi) away. The French defenders of the Weygand Line, named after Maxime Weygand, had built strong defences, running parallel to the Aisne and Aisne Canal. The German attack began on 5 June with Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B), under the command of Generaloberst (Colonel General) Fedor von Bock, attacking between the Channel coast and the Aisne. Heeresgruppe A (Army Group A), under Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt, to which the 1st Panzer Division was subordinated, was held back until 9 June. Strachwitz in the meantime had been awarded the Clasp to the Iron Cross 1st Class on 6 June for his daring "solo runs". The two regiments of the 1st Panzer Division cross the Aisne on the night of 9/10 June 1940. The two regiments advanced quickly to Neuflize and Juniville, where they were engaged in combat with French tanks. The advance proceeded along La Neuveville to Bétheniville and Saint-Hilaire-le-Petit. The military training grounds at Mourmelon-le-Grand was captured on 12 June. The fortress Langres surrendered to Panzer-Regiment 2 on 15 June and Besançon the following day. The final objective was Belfort, which capitulated after a short resistance. This ended the Battle of France for Strachwitz's regiment. Panzer-Regiment 2 was then stationed at Doubs until 3 July 1940, it was then relocated to Saint Denis, north of Paris, from 3–8 July. [31]

On 21 July the regiment was relocated again, this time in the vicinity of Orléans where it was based for four weeks. The regiment was ordered to detach two Panzer companies and the headquarters unit of the I. Abteilung (1st Battalion). These units, augmented by other Panzer companies, formed four Schwimm-Panzerabteilungen (amphibious tank battalion) for Operation Sea Lion, the planned and aborted invasion of the United Kingdom. The remnants of Panzer-Regiment 2 were then transferred to East Prussia, where they were based at Heiligenbeil, present-day Mamonovo. [32]

Balkans campaign Edit

On 2 October 1940, following the Battle of France, Panzer-Regiment 2 was subordinated to the 16th Panzer Division. Strachwitz asked the divisional commander Generalmajor Hans Hube for the command of a Panzer company, and Hube gave Strachwitz the I. Bataillon, a position he held until October 1942. [33] Strachwitz and his men trained on the new Panzer III with 5 cm KwK 38 cannon. He paid special attention to the training and integration of the replacements crews which joined his unit. In December 1940, 16th Panzer Division was declared a Lehrtruppe (demonstration troop), a unit to be involved in experimentation with new weapons and tactics. Via Bavaria, Austria and Hungary they were transferred to Romania, with Strachwitz's I. Battalion stationed at Mediaș. [32]

The division was tasked with the protection of the oil fields at Ploiești, which were vital to the German war effort. They trained some Romanian officers in German Panzer tactics. Apart from training and maintaining their equipment, the soldiers had nothing to do and became bored. In March 1941 Strachwitz was sent back to Cosel in Germany where a new replacement unit was to be founded. He returned via his home town and 24 hours later a telegram from Hube called him back. This was preceded by a series of events in Belgrade. On 25 March 1941, the government of Prince Paul of Yugoslavia had signed the Tripartite Pact, joining the Axis powers in an effort to stay out of the war. This was immediately followed by mass protests in Belgrade and a military coup d'état led by Air Force commander General Dušan Simović. As a result, Hitler chose not only to support Mussolini's ambitions in Albania and in the Greco-Italian War but also to attack Yugoslavia. For this purpose the mobilized forces of Panzergruppe I (1st Panzer Group) under the command of Generaloberst Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist were ordered to attack Belgrade in what would become the Invasion of Yugoslavia. [32]

Strachwitz's I. Battalion received the order to prepare for the attack on 6 April 1941 at 09:00. His orders were to break through with the Infanterie-Regiment (motorized) "Großdeutschland" to Belgrade via Werschetz—present-day Vršac. His right flank was protected by the SS-Division "Das Reich" and his left flank by the 11th Panzer Division. [32] The attack was preceded by a heavy artillery barrage and the Germans crossed the border at 10:30. The defences were quickly taken and the German troops reached the Werschetz where they were greeted by cheering inhabitants and a band. Their next objective was the River Danube. They reached the Danube at Pančevo only to find the bridge there destroyed. At Pančevo Strachwitz's unit linked up with the 11th Panzer Division, and he encountered his oldest son, Hyacinth, who was serving with that formation. Strachwitz started confiscating boats and barges in an attempt to cross the Danube. This work had begun when Strachwitz received the order to halt all activities. His unit was ordered to retreat to Timișoara. On 16 April, Hube announced that the 16th Panzer Division would no longer be needed in the campaign and were ordered to regroup at Plovdiv. In early May 1941 Oberstleutnant Rudolf Sieckenius was given command of Panzer-Regiment 2, succeeding Oberst Hero Breusing. The entire 16th Panzer Division was ordered back to their home bases in Germany, with Panzer-Regiment 2 ordered to Ratibor—present-day Racibórz—where their equipment was overhauled. Strachwitz was awarded the Coroana României on 9 June 1941. [34]

In mid-June 1941, the division received new orders to relocate. The 16th Panzer Division crossed the German–Polish border at Groß Wartenberg heading for Ożarów at the Vistula, which was reached on 19 June 1941. The German soldiers initially believed that they were just going to transit through Russia, on their way to the Middle East where they would link up with Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps. But Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Walther von Reichenau, who visited his son, a Leutnant in the 4th company of Panzer-Regiment 2, revealed to them the true objective of the next campaign. It would be Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. [34]

War against the Soviet Union Edit

The German offensive against the Soviet Union began early on 22 June 1941 with an artillery barrage. The 16th Panzer Division was subordinated to Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South) under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Von Rundstedt. The goal, together with the 6. Armee and 17. Armee as well as Panzergruppe I, was to follow the pincers of both armies, heading for Kiev and rolling up the Soviet flanks in the process, and finally encircling them at the Dnieper River. The main objective was to conquer the economically important Donets Basin as well as the oil field in the Caucasus. [35]

German army reconnaissance aircraft spotted the first Soviet formations in the vicinity of the 16th Panzer Division on the morning of 26 June. By this date the division had already progressed 125 kilometres (78 mi) beyond the German-Soviet demarcation line and had suffered numerous losses due to mechanical failures caused by the dusty roads. Panzer-Regiment 2 was ordered to engage the Soviet T-26 tanks which were supported by strong infantry units. In the resulting battle Strachwitz was wounded in his left arm, but he remained with his unit. The heavy counter-attack was repulsed and the bridgehead over the Bug River, held by the division's motorcycle battalion (Kradschützen-Bataillon 16), was secured. [35] The logistics system could not keep up and his regiment was not resupplied until 28 June. His unit first encountered the T-34 and a few KV-1 and KV-2 tanks the following day. These tanks had stronger armour and outgunned his Panzer III tanks. Only with the support of the 8.8 cm Flak artillery, deployed in an anti tank role, were they able to repulse the Soviet forces. [36]

During the Battle of Uman (15 July – 8 August 1941) Strachwitz received a head injury on 29 July and was hit again by shrapnel in the arm the next day. He received first aid in the field and stayed with his men. [37] The injured arm became infected and he had to receive medical attention in a field hospital on 10 August. He released himself again on 12 August returning to the regiment which had been led by Oberleutnant von Kleist during his absence. [38] Strachwitz, advancing his Panzer III ahead of his troops, engaged a Soviet supply convoy, destroying a large number of soft-skinned vehicles and several artillery batteries. Strachwitz was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his part in this action on 25 August 1941. The presentation was made by Hube in the field on 5 September. [39]

Following the Battle of Uman Panzer-Regiment 2 was given a rest. On 8 September the attack resumed and the regiment crossed the Dnjepr on the night of 11/12 September. Together with the I. battalion of Schützen-Regiment 79 they started their attacked on Lubny and ambushed and destroyed a Soviet supply convoy. The attack on Lubny ended on 14 September. The Kiev pocket was sealed when panzers of the 3. Panzer-Division linked up with Panzer-Regiment 2 on 15 September 1941. The spearhead of Panzergruppe 2, under Guderian and Panzergruppe 1, under Von Kleist had captured 50 Soviet Divisions. Panzer-Regiment 2 was then dispatched to prevent Soviet troops from escaping the pocket. For Panzer-Regiment 2 the battle of Kiev continued until 4 October 1941. [40]

Towards Stalingrad Edit

Strachwitz was promoted to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) of the Reserves on 1 January 1942. He had left the Eastern Front at the end of November 1941, returning home to receive treatment for the numerous injuries he had sustained over the year. From 1 December 1941 – 9 January 1942 he stayed at hospitals in Oppeln and Breslau. He then went on an extended leave, staying in Groß Stein and Alt Siedel, before returning to the Eastern Front in mid-March 1942. He received the 1939 version of the Wound Badge in Silver on 17 March 1942. [41]

Throughout the summer of 1942 Strachwitz led his tanks in the advance to the Don River and across it to Stalingrad. At Kalach on the Don his regiment claimed the destruction of more than 270 Soviet tanks within 48 hours. His unit was the first to reach the Volga River north of Stalingrad on 23 August 1942. According to Williamson, it was during this campaign that Strachwitz gained the nickname der Panzergraf (the Armoured Count). By late August, the 16th Panzer Division was assigned to General der Panzertruppe Friedrich Paulus' 6. Armee, and Strachwitz had been promoted to command the entire Panzer-Regiment 2. During one engagement on the northern flank of the Kessel, his unit claimed to have destroyed 105 T-34s. [42]

Strachwitz and his driver, Feldwebel Haase, were severely wounded on 13 October 1942, requiring immediate treatment in a field hospital. A direct hit on their command Panzer caused severe burns. Strachwitz had to hand over command of his I./Panzer-Regiment 2 to Hauptmann Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven. [43] He then had to be flown out and was treated at a hospital at Breslau until 10 November 1942. He received further treatment at the Charité in Berlin from 11 to 18 November 1942. During this stay he received news that he had been awarded the 144th Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He was ordered to the Führerhauptquartier in December 1942 for the presentation of the Oak Leaves by Hitler himself. He then went to Bad Gastein for a period of convalescence before spending his vacation at home in Alt Siedel. Strachwitz was promoted to Oberst (colonel) of the Reserves on 1 January 1943. He then learned that Hube had been ordered to the Führerhauptquartier for the presentation of the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Strachwitz took the opportunity and reported to Hube, volunteering for service in the Stalingrad pocket. Hube rejected this request, stating that Strachwitz would be better deployed somewhere else. [44]

Großdeutschland Panzer-Regiment Edit

At the end of January 1943 Strachwitz was ordered to the Führerhauptquartier. Talking to General Rudolf Schmundt and Kurt Zeitzler, the Chief of Staff of the Oberkommando des Heeres, he was tasked with the creation of the Panzerregiment "Großdeutschland". The regiment was subordinated to the Infantrie-Division (motorized) "Großdeutschland" then under the command of Generalmajor Walter Hörnlein. [45] He led the regiment when it took part in the Third Battle of Kharkov, fighting alongside SS-Gruppenführer Paul Hausser's II SS Panzer Corps. [46] Strachwitz was awarded the Wound Badge in Gold on 16 February 1943 and on 28 March 1943 the Swords to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. He received the latter for his leadership at Kharkov and Belgorod. [47] He received the award together with Georg-Wilhelm Postel who had been awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. [48]

On 5 July 1943, the first day of Operation Citadel (5–16 July 1943), the German code name for the Battle of Kursk, in the Großdeutschland area of operations, the Panther battalion got bogged down in the mud near Beresowyj and failed to support the Füsilier ' s attack. Nipe indicates that often Oberst Karl Decker and Oberstleutnant Meinrad von Lauchert have been made responsible for this failure. However, Nipe argues "that it can safely be assumed that Strachwitz was present thus, any responsibility regarding actions of Großdeutschland ' s Panzers belongs to the Panzer Count." [49] Following the battle, Decker wrote a letter to Guderian complaining about the unnecessary losses incurred by the Großdeutschland division. In this letter Decker stated that how Strachwitz led his tanks on the first day of Kursk was "idiotic". [50] Strachwitz was wounded again on 10 July. His battle group had been ordered into combat by Hörnlein. The objective was to capture Hill 258.4, about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) west of Werchopenje. The battle group encountered roughly 30 Soviet tanks on evening of 9 July. An attack proved unfeasible due to the settling darkness. During these events he received news that his son, Hyacinth, had been severely wounded. At dusk on 10 July he ordered the attack on the Soviet tanks. The first T-34s had been destroyed and Strachwitz was directing the attack from his command Panzer and had ordered his gunner to hold fire. Strachwitz was carelessly resting his left arm on the gun-breech. The gunner, without orders, fired the gun, causing the recoiling gun to smash his left arm. Strachwitz was immediately evacuated to a field hospital. [51] Strachwitz's arm was put in a cast and against medical advice he returned to his regiment. When Hörnlein learned of this he gave Strachwitz a direct order to return to the field hospital. [52]

In November 1943, Strachwitz left the "Großdeutschland" on grounds of ill-health, ostensibly due to his injuries. [53] Röll speculates, however, that tension between him and the division's commander, Hörnlein, may have been the true reason for Strachwitz's departure. [54] Otto Carius stated that:

"Gossip mongers maintained that the Großdeutschland Panzer-Regiment was taken away from Strachwitz because he had too many losses. I had justifiable doubts concerning this claim. Graf Strachwitz and his staff were always employed at hot spots on the front, where they had to carry out extremely pressing operations, for which every form of support was provided to them. Painful losses couldn't always be avoided during those types of operations. But it was through these losses that the lives of many soldiers from other units were saved." [55]

Battle for the Narva Bridgehead Edit

The severe injury to Strachwitz's left arm forced him to retire from the front line. [53] After a stay in the hospital at Breslau and a period of convalescence at home he received a teleprinter message commanding him as "Höheren Panzerführer" (higher tank commander) to the Army Group North. Strachwitz reported to the commander-in-chief of the 18th Army, Generaloberst Georg Lindemann, who was tasked with the leadership of Army Group North. [54]

On 26 March 1944, the Strachwitz Battle Group consisting of the German 170th, 11th, and 227th Infantry Divisions and tanks, attacked the flanks of the Soviet 109th Rifle Corps south of the Tallinn railway, supported by an air strike. The tanks led the attack and the East Prussian grenadiers followed, penetrating the fortified positions of the Soviet rifle corps. By the end of the day, the Soviet 72nd and parts of the 109th Rifle Corps in the Westsack (west sack) of the bridgehead were encircled. The rest of the Soviet rifle corps retreated, shooting the local civilians who had been used for carrying ammunition and supplies from the rear. [56]

As Strachwitz had predicted, the rifle corps counterattacked on the following day. It was repelled by the 23rd East Prussian Grenadier Regiment which inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviets. Two small groups of tanks broke through the lines of the rifle corps on 28 March in several places, splitting the bridgehead in two. Fierce air combat followed, with 41 German dive bombers shot down. The west half of the bridgehead was destroyed by 31 March, with an estimated 6,000 Soviet casualties. [57]

The Ostsack (east sack) of the Krivasoo bridgehead, defended by the Soviet 6th and the 117th Rifle Corps, were confused by the Strachwitz Battle Group's diversionary attack on 6 April. The attack deceived the Soviet forces into thinking that the German attack intended to cut them out from the west flank. The actual assault came directly at the 59th Army and started with a heavy bombardment. The positions of the 59th Army were attacked by dive bombers and the forest there was set afire. At the same time, the 61st Infantry Division and the Strachwitz tank squadron pierced deep into the 59th Army's defences, splitting the two rifle corps apart and forcing them to retreat to their fortifications. Marshal of the Soviet Union Leonid Govorov was outraged by the news, sending in the freshly re-deployed 8th Army. Their attempt to cut off the Tiger I tanks was repelled by Lieutenant Günther Famula, who received a posthumous Knight's Cross for these actions, keeping their supply lines open. On 7 April, Govorov ordered his troops to switch on to the defensive. The 59th Army, having lost another 5,700 troops from all causes, was withdrawn from the bridgehead. For these successes Strachwitz received the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds on 15 April 1944. News of the award had reached his headquarters on the early morning of 15 April via teleprinter message. [58] The official presentation was made a few weeks later by Hitler. [59]

The advance brought the Strachwitz Battle Group hope of destroying the entire bridgehead. However, the spring thaw meant that the tanks were impossible to use. The 8th Army repelled the German attack, which lasted from 19 to 24 April 1944. The Germans lost 2,235 troops, dead and captured, in the offensive, while the total of German casualties in April, from all causes, was 13,274. Soviet casualties in April are unknown, but are estimated by Mart Laar to be at least 30,000 men from all causes. The losses exhausted the strengths of both sides. The front subsequently stagnated with the exception of artillery, air, and sniper activity and clashes between reconnaissance platoons for the next several months. [60]

Final battles Edit

Strachwitz led an ad hoc formation in Operation Doppelkopf (double-head) as part of Dietrich von Saucken's XXXIX Panzer Corps counter-offensive following the major Soviet final stages of advance in Operation Bagration. Von Saucken's goal was to relieve the encircled forces in the Courland Pocket. Strachwitz's attack on 18 August 1944 was preceded by a heavy artillery bombardment from the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen forces inside the pocket attacked to link up with Strachwitz's force. His troops reached the 16. Armee at Tukums by midday. [61]

This previous paragraph is inconsistent with the factual events, although the fog of war surrounds the circumstances of Graf von Strachwitz's formation which was known as Panzer verbande Strachwitz the following facts are clear. The formation consisted of PZ Brigade 101, Waffen-SS Kampfgruppe Martin Gross and was led by Graf Strachwitz and his Panther and Grenadier force between 15 August and 23 August. Their mission as the far northern arm of operation Doppelkopf was to clear a land line between German Army forces located in the Kurland Peninsula and isolated by two Soviet Divisions. The salient was some thirty miles wide existing from west of Tuckum east to the western side of Riga. Soviet forces had seized Tuckum and up to the Baltic coastline after clearing German forces from Mitau and Schaulen 26 July through 31 July. Although vastly smaller than the other Panzer forces of Doppelkopf, which were division sized the Strachwitz force was limited to some 80 armored vehicles. It would be the only successful force of the offensive however through the bold and daring field leadership Strachwitz displayed. This attack is launched on 19 August and is supported by the formations own attached artillery west of Biksti, the multi-stage operation takes Tuckum 20 August where that attack has naval artillery fir support from 2nd Baltic Task Force. (Prinz Eugen, three Destroyers and attached torpedo boats. The successful link up of Graf Strachwitz's Panther tanks takes place between 11 and 12 pm just before 21 August in Riga. The isolated Army Group North is no longer cut off. [62]

During a visit to a division command post on 24 August 1944 Strachwitz was badly injured in an automobile accident. The vehicle rolled over and the other occupants were killed. He sustained a fractured skull, and broken ribs, legs, arms and hands, and he was in critical condition. He was immediately taken to a field hospital, before being transferred to a hospital at Riga. He was then flown to Breslau in a Junkers Ju 52 for further treatment, where he was visited by his son, Harti. The doctors informed him that it would take him eight months to recover fully. Refusing to accept this, he worked out his own rehabilitation plan, and after seven days, Strachwitz signed himself out of the hospital, officially having himself transferred to the hospital at Oppeln. On the drive back he lost consciousness at almost every turn, arriving at his manor in Alt Siedel on 28 November 1944. Here he convalesced until 23 December 1944. [63]

The Red Army started the Vistula–Oder Offensive on 12 January 1945. The attack began with an intense bombardment by the guns of the 1st Ukrainian Front against elements of Army Group A, initially under the command of Generaloberst Josef Harpe. Within a matter of days the Soviet forces involved had advanced hundreds of kilometres, taking much of Poland and striking deep within the borders of the Reich. The offensive broke Army Group A, and much of Germany's remaining capacity for military resistance. The Soviet forces crossed the Silesian border on 19 January and Harpe was relieved of his command and replaced by Generaloberst Ferdinand Schörner on 20 January. [64] Schörner established his headquarters at Oppeln. Here Strachwitz, on crutches, went to see Schörner, requesting a front command to defend his homeland. Schörner declined the offer and Strachwitz insisted on another assignment. Bending to the request, Schörner initially kept him in his staff where Strachwitz conceived the plan of creating a specialized Panzerjagdbrigade (tank-hunting brigade). [65] The 3rd Guards Tank Army conquered Groß Strehlitz on 23 January 1945. The following day Groß Stein fell into the hands of the advancing Red Army and Strachwitz's palace and entire estate were confiscated. [66] Schörner yielded to the demands of Strachwitz, and authorized the creation of the Panzerjägerbrigade. These brigades were not mechanized units but rather infantry soldiers deploying hand-held weapons such as the Panzerfaust. [67] On 30 January 1945, he was promoted to Generalleutnant of the Reserves and organized his staff of the Panzerjäger-Brigade Oberschlesien at Bad Kudova—present-day Kudowa-Zdrój in Kłodzko Land. [68]

His staff searched for volunteers in the Unteroffiziersschulen (non-commissioned officers schools) and supplementary units. They were able to bring together roughly 8,000 volunteers, mostly from the threatened territories of Pomerania, East Prussia and Silesia. Strachwitz's tactics quickly made news within the Wehrmacht, and even Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, Commander-in-Chief, West as of 11 March 1945, expressed an interest. Strachwitz subsequently had one of his officers transferred to Kesselring's staff. [67]

Following a visit of the commander of the Panzerjagdverbände (tank-hunting detachment) of Army Group Vistula, Oberst Ernst-Wilhelm Freiherr Gedult von Jungenfeld, all of the Panzerjagdverbände were to be centralized under Strachwitz' command. In April the Panzerjagdeinheiten (tank-hunting units) of Army Group Centre were all put under his command, this included Panzerjagdverbände A, B and C (Wehrkreis VIII), the Heeres-Panzerjagdbrigaden 1 and 3, two Volkssturm-Panzerjagdbrigaden and the Panzerjäger-Brigade Niederschlesien (Lower Silesia) and Free Ukrainians. Strachwitz deployed his men in small combat groups, sometimes operating behind Allied lines, which lured Soviet tanks into traps and attacked them with Panzerfausts. Combat reached its peak in April 1945, and some of his men were credited with more than ten enemy tanks destroyed each. The German front line of Army Group Centre at the time was in mid-Silesia along the Zobten, and via Schweidnitz and Jauer to Lauban. The main Soviet thrust was towards Berlin and Dresden, threatening the German troops in Silesia with encirclement. Strachwitz and his men fought under the command of Schörner until the German capitulation on 8 May 1945. [67]

In the aftermath, Strachwitz led his men in a successful breakout from their encirclement in Czechoslovakia to the U.S.-held region of Bavaria, where they surrendered to U.S. Army forces near Felgen. [Note 6] Strachwitz was taken to the prisoner of war camp at Allendorf near Marburg, where he was interned together with Franz Halder, Guderian and Adolf Galland. [69]

In 1969, Peter Hoffmann, a Canadian historian of German descent, published a book with the title "Widerstand, Staatsstreich, Attentat — Der Kampf der Opposition gegen Hitler" [Resistance, Coup d'etat, Assassination — The Battle of the Opposition against Hitler]. This work lists Strachwitz as being part of the German military resistance to Nazism. With Generals Hubert Lanz, Hans Speidel, and Paul Loehning [de] he is shown as being associated with "Plan Lanz", as testified by General der Gebirgstruppe Hubert Lanz. According to Lanz, the plan was to arrest or kill Hitler in early February 1943 during Hitler's scheduled visit to Armeeabteilung Lanz. In his account, Strachwitz's role was to surround Hitler and his escorts shortly after Hitler's arrival with his tanks. Lanz stated that he would have then arrested Hitler, and in the event of resistance, Strachwitz's tanks would have shot and killed the entire delegation. Hitler cancelled the visit and the plan was dropped. [70] Author Röll casts doubt on this account citing that Strachwitz's cousin, Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff, who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1943, had recounted that Strachwitz had expressed the belief to him several times that killing Hitler would have constituted murder. Röll concludes that Strachwitz was too much a Prussian officer to consider assassinating Hitler. [71]

Strachwitz was released by the Allies in June 1947. He had lost his wife, his youngest son and his estate during the war. Alda had been killed on 6 January 1946 in a traffic accident with a US military truck in Velden an der Vils. Strachwitz, still a US prisoner of war in camp Allendorf near Marburg, was denied permission to attend the funeral. [69] Harti, who had lost a leg, was killed in action shortly before the end of the war on 25 March 1945 near Holstein. Strachwitz married again on 30 July 1947 in Holzhausen. With his new wife Nora, née von Stumm (1916–2000), he had four children, two daughters and two sons, born between 1951 and 1960. [72]

He and his wife accepted the invitation of Husni al-Za'im to move to Syria to work as an agricultural and military advisor to the Syrian Armed Forces. This he did from January to June 1949, a period during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (15 May 1948 – 10 March 1949), in which Syria fought. [73] Strachwitz, bragging about his military successes in the Soviet Union, had a very difficult time with the Syrian officers, and his agricultural suggestions were ignored as well. When Adib Shishakli seized power, Strachwitz and his wife left Syria. In the meantime, they had received a visa for Argentina, where they hoped to find another advisory position. Via Lebanon, they arrived in Livorno, Italy, where they changed their plans and ran a winery. They returned to Germany in 1951 with a Red Cross passport. Strachwitz settled on an estate in Winkl near Grabenstätt in Bavaria and founded the "Oberschlesisches Hilfswerk" (Upper Silesian Fund) supporting fellow Silesians in need. [72]

Strachwitz lived out his final years quietly and died on 25 April 1968 of lung cancer in hospital in Trostberg. [72] Der Panzergraf was laid to rest in the village cemetery of Grabenstätt, beside his first wife. [74] The Bundeswehr provided an honour guard as a mark of respect. Heinz-Georg Lemm delivered the eulogy. [75]

Awards Edit

    (1914)
    • 2nd Class (1914) [76]
    • 1st Class (1914) [76]
    • 2nd Class (5 October 1939) [77]
    • 1st Class (7 June 1940) [77]
    • in Silver (1941) [76]
    • in Gold with engagement numeral "100" (1943/1944) [76]
    • in Black (1941) [76]
    • in Silver (17 March 1942) [76]
    • in Gold (16 February 1943) [76]
    • Knight's Cross on 25 August 1941 as Major of the Reserves and commander of the I./Panzer-Regiment 2 [78][79][80]
    • 144th Oak Leaves on 13 November 1942 as Oberstleutnant of the Reserves and commander of the I./Panzer-Regiment 2 [78][81][82]
    • 27th Swords on 28 March 1943 as Oberst of the Reserves and commander of the Panzer-Regiment "Großdeutschland" [78][83][84]
    • 11th Diamonds on 15 April 1944 as Oberst of the Reserves and commander of a Panzer-Gruppe with the Heeresgruppe Nord [78][85][86]

    Strachwitz is often credited with the German Cross in Gold awarded on 29 May 1943, this however was awarded to his son, also named Hyacinth, who received this award as Oberleutnant in the 4./Panzer-Regiment 15. [87]


    Establishment of the Panzertruppe after World War I and the Formation of Panzer-Regiment 5

    1. 1920–26: The Seeckt Era

    The military defeat of the Germans in 1918 also meant the end of the numerically very small German armor branch, which consisted of only nine battalions, each with five tanks. Independently operating armored formations—a separate armored force—did not exist in the First World War.

    The lack of a sufficient number of German armored vehicles contributed in part to the defeat of the German forces during that conflict, especially in the face of the masses of tanks employed on the Allied side.

    According to Article 171 of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was prohibited from having any armored vehicles or any similar such materiel that could suit the purposes of war. Those provisions were monitored by an Inter-Allied Control Commission that was in force in Germany until February 1927.

    In order to train for an armored force, which was vitally necessary in modern warfare, the German armed forces were reduced to using wheeled dummies that were pushed by soldiers or mounted on the chassis of light automobiles. The picture presented to the soldier on the ground by such displays was not well suited to conveying the elements of firepower, mobility and armor that defined the values of an armored vehicle or convincing them of the power and lethality of that new and modern type of weapons system.

    From 1920 to 1926, Generaloberst Hans Seeckt was the Chief-of-Staff of the Army. Seeckt made the German Army into a gigantic school of leadership, which later proved itself immensely¹ and which attempted to do its bidding in the establishment of a modern army with special emphasis on technical proficiency and the mastery of weapons under the watchful eyes of the Inter-Allied Control Commission. Under Seeckt’s authority, German soldiers and aviators received training on aircraft and fighting vehicles, under the strictest of secrecy, in the Soviet Union.

    Following the disestablishment of the Panzerwaffe in the wake of the First World War, the tradition of combat vehicles was maintained in the Kraftfahr-Abteilung of the Reichswehr.² The motorized force consisted of seven battalions, which all reported to one of the seven divisions for mobilization purposes. The main mission of the battalion was to assure the flow of supplies for the divisions.

    Supervisory responsibility for the motorized battalions fell to the Inspektion der Kraftfahrtruppen³ in the Ministry of Defense.

    2. 1927–33: From Motorized Forces to Motorized Combat Forces

    At the end of the 1920s, the Inspector General of the motorized forces at the time, General der Artillerie Vollard-Bockelberg, who has been called the "trailblazer for the Panzertruppe,"⁴ gradually had the motorized battalion reorganized with motorcycle infantry companies and combat vehicle training companies (armored cars and dummy tanks). These would prove to be the nucleus of the future Panzertruppe. Thus, an increasingly motorized and combat-capable force evolved from what was once a transportation element.

    In 1922, Hauptmann Guderian was transferred into the Motorized Forces Directorate from his light infantry battalion in Goslar. He was tasked with exploring the usage of motorized and armored forces and developed concepts for their employment, which later led to the idea of operational-level employment. He wrote in his memoirs:

    By studying military history, the exercises in England and our own experiences with our dummy tanks, I was reinforced in my belief that tanks were only capable of their best performance if the other branches, on whose help they always relied, were brought to the same status in terms of speed and cross-country mobility.

    In that formation, the tanks always had to play the most important role the other branches had to orient on the tanks.

    One could not put the tanks in infantry divisions instead, one had to establish armored divisions, in which all of the branches that the tanks needed to be combat effective were present.

    Thus, the development of modern armored forces was based on the concept of fast armored formations capable of large-scale actions at operational level, could accomplish missions independently and were capable of fighting as combined arms.

    That concept became the basis for the command and control and doctrine of the Panzertruppe in the Second World War. It proved itself without reservation, and it still enjoys validity to this day in all modern armies. Guderian was the father of that concept.

    After Guderian was promoted to Oberstleutnant in 1930 and assumed command of a motorized battalion, he returned to the Directorate of Motorized Forces on 1 October 1931 as its Chief-of-Staff. He reported to Generalmajor Oswald Lutz, who had been designated the head of the directorate on 1 April 1931. On 1 May 1933, the motorized battalions of the armed forces were redesignated as motorized combat battalions.

    Both men complemented each other well, with Lutz eventually becoming known as the father of army motorization and Guderian as the "creator of the Panzertruppe."⁶ One of Guderian’s closest staff officers was Major i.G.⁷ Walther K. Nehring, who was assigned there in January 1932.

    After four years of hard work—often against the resistance of higher levels of command that were not prepared to accept armored vehicles as a separate branch—they created the prerequisites for the establishment of the first three armored divisions in October 1935.

    3. The Armored School at KAMA

    Following negotiations with the Soviets, an armor school for German personnel was established with the code name of KAMA. It was located at a former artillery base with a gunnery range about five kilometers from the city of Kasan, about 750 kilometers east of Moscow. In addition, there was an aviation school at Lipezk and a gas-warfare school at Saratow.

    Starting in 1928, the Soviet Union provided training lands, living quarters, equipment (including armored vehicles under development for the Soviets) and about 60 personnel. In return, Soviet officers were permitted to attend courses and exercises in Germany.

    The instructors, engineers, technicians and course participants who went to the Soviet Union were temporarily discharged from the military for the duration of the courses. Soviets also attended courses at KAMA. In July 1929, the first prototypes of German armored vehicles arrived at the school, which still bore the code name of agricultural tractors to hide their true intent.⁸ In addition to the training conducted, technical trials with the six heavy and four light tractors were given great emphasis.

    The first course of instruction was given in 1929–30, followed by a second one from 1931 to 1932 and a third and final until September 1933. The school was dissolved in the fall of 1933, after German-Soviet relations worsened.

    As a result of technical and tactical knowledge gained there, the approximately 30 officers who were trained there later formed the nucleus of the first German armored training units. The school had enabled the creation of the first batch of trainers and instructors, without which the rapid establishment of the first training formations in 1934–35 would not have been possible.

    Many of those who attended or taught at the school were later to be found in leadership positions within Panzer-Regiment 5. Among them were Major Harpe (school director, 1932–33), Hauptmann Conze (tactics instructor), Oberleutnant Volckheim (tactics instructor), Oberleutnant Kühn (gunnery instructor), Hauptmann von Köppen (class advisor), Oberleutnant Thomale (course participant) and Oberleutnant Mildebrath (course participant).

    As a result, the armor school in the Soviet Union yielded significant importance for the development of operational doctrine, exerted influence on the organizational basis for the establishment of the first German armored formations that followed soon thereafter and influenced the initial construction of German armored vehicles.

    Another course participant was Oberleutnant Klaus Müller, who wrote of his experiences in May 1972 in an article entitled So lebten und arbeiteten wir 1929 bis 1933 in KAMA.¹⁰ Here are some excerpts:

    Second Part of the Course: 1931–1932

    As usual, the technical preparatory work started in the middle of January. All of the tractors received new experimental tracks, with and without rubber pads. The heavy tractors also received track pins with grease. It was soon determined that the tracks with rubber pads encountered too much resistance when steering. The greased track pins did not work out at all, since water and sand entered through the pin gaskets, thus providing an extremely effective abrasive leading to premature wear. The desired larger roadwheels could not be mounted on these tractors.

    The larger roadwheels, double sprockets for driving the track and open track with ungreased pins were therefore slated for future construction.

    Starting on 10 May 1932, the German course participants started on their way home by land via Dünaburg and the frontier at Bigossowo . . .

    Since the rations the previous year provided enough calories but lacked in vitamins, Hauptmann Conze arranged for seeds to come from Germany. As a result, the camp garden was able to provide considerably more fresh vegetables than previously . . .

    In July 1932, Oberstleutnant Guderian visited so as to be able to form an opinion on further developments after taking rides in both the small tractors and the heavy ones. He dictated that the development of the heavy tractors was to be emphasized.

    At about the end of July, additional tactical and technical training followed for the German participants. Gunnery aids consisting of sub-caliber devices, air guns and firing at film (gunnery movies) were tested. For the gunnery movies, Hauptmann von Köppen received instruction at the weapons directorate and at the Ufa studios in Neubabelsberg. In addition, improved firing devices were tested, which could be operated mechanically or electrically by the foot or the knee. There was an assortment of periscopes, sighting devices and different types of ammunition. The advantages and disadvantages of mechanical or electrical turret traversing mechanisms had to be determined, as well as sucking out or blowing out remaining gunpowder fumes. Since communications between and among members of the crew had to function without question, it was necessary to procure our own intercom system. There were difficulties in transmission from the non-moveable part to the moveable part, the turret. The construction of the collector ring was no easy matter . . .

    In the middle of August, the Russian course participants—some 100 commanders from all branches, as well as Red Army engineers—arrived. They remained until the middle of October. The Russian participants arrived without rank insignia, just as they had the previous year, so no one know who they were dealing with. All of the course participants were inquisitive and industrious. They placed special value on having a template for every type of order, which, it should be mentioned, could lead to a certain degree of rigidity. Camaraderie between the German and Russian participants was advanced by a weekly meal taken together . . .

    The degree to which solidarity was fostered with the Russian forces is demonstrated by the invitation of all of the German course participants to a company function by the training company of the armor school in Leningrad. The political advisor of the company had issued the invitation and directed the evening affair, with the company commander practically functioning as a guest. When the Germans appeared, the Russians stood up, followed by a cheer that was given three times . . . despite beer and a lot of vodka, there were no drunk soldiers. The discipline was good.

    We noticed whenever the Russians conducted combat gunnery that the targets were more lifelike than the ones we used, for example, Polish or Czech uniforms were portrayed. Russian exercises were also conducted with amphibious tanks, whereby an engineer company participated. The gunnery training continued. The ranges had to be laid out there were no plans. Since there were no barriers, warning devices or telephone bunkers, the range safety duties had to be carried out by cavalry. The Russian translator was clear and simple: Whenever it’s booming, everyone goes away they know, after all, that it’s a gunnery range here.

    Once a Panje cart¹¹ was hit by an armor-piercing round the horse was able to escape!

    Somewhat more awkward was the occasion when a Söda machine gun was being loaded—which had to be done at maximum elevation—and the Russian course participant accidently stepped on the foot trigger and placidly emptied both magazines with a total of 1,000 rounds. In a neighboring factory, one worker was hit in the shoulder, another in the upper thigh. How the matter was handled remained a mystery . . .

    Besides General Lutz and Oberstleutnant Guderian, General von Hammerstein-Equord¹² visited us for a short while that year. Even if all of the higher-ranking officers traveled in civilian clothes and used code names, the actual secrecy as a practical matter was somewhat different. Whenever groups—always of the same size—always traveled from the Berlin-Zoo station at certain times of the year and always had additional baggage with them—all the same size and all numbered consecutively—then the rail officials and baggage handlers smiled in a friendly manner, wished them a good journey and a quick return. It was a bit stickier for a course participant whenever a wife, who was spending the time with relatives in a smaller town, was regularly visited by a Herr Schulz from Berlin with a payroll and the husband had completely disappeared from the picture. In another case, people were upset when a wife gave birth to a son shortly after the husband’s departure, and he had apparently left her in the lurch. The same people were even more amazed when the husband reappeared half a year later . . . In summary, 1932 must be considered a year of considerable progress in training and cooperation with the Russians.

    1933 Course

    As a result of the political changes in Germany, we no longer counted on a detail of participants from the Russians, which was, in fact, what happened. As a result, the training of the German participants could continue as planned without any interruption. Extensive driving exercises alternated with live-fire exercises with machine guns or 3.7-centimeter cannon, even though the gunnery range was not often made available as a result of the worsening of relationships . . . In addition, there were no more exercises with Russian forces. In the middle of the intensive training came the news that the training and testing base of KAMA was to be closed by 15 September.

    The preparations for the departure started in the middle of August . . . what, whether and how everything would be brought back was left to the clear directives of Major Harpe, who certainly had no easy time of it in negotiating. In a cooperative effort involving all of the Germans and the Russian employees, all of the weapons, ammunition, tanks—tractors, that is—and military equipment, as well as the library, were removed. Everything had to be packed in crates and sealed. The crates for the tanks had to be enlarged, since the vehicles had taken on other dimensions in the meantime. Special lifting devices had to be fabricated for the transfer in Leningrad. Everything had to get to the railhead at Kasan under its own power or towed. The freight cars that arrived had to be thoroughly inspected and greased for the 14-day trip to Leningrad, since none of the axles could be allowed to overheat during the trip . . . The equipment was taken under Russian guard on two trains to Leningrad. The movements all took place without incident, including Leningrad. The relationships with the Russian leadership were proper and irreproachable to the very end. In the meantime, all of the Germans had either departed from Kasan by train via Moscow or by ship via Leningrad. The last one to leave the camp was Major Harpe. Our leaving was not easy for the Russian workers. The initial period in the rebirth of the Panzertruppe was ended.

    German Training Sites and Schools in the Soviet Union,1922–33

    4. 1933–34: Establishment of the Motorization Training Command

    The military and political situation in Germany changed fundamentally in 1933, when Adolf Hitler became the Reich Chancellor. Hitler recognized the operational possibilities of modern weapons systems, especially the importance of the new Panzertruppe.


    History

    Use in North Africa

    On August 1, 1941, the 21st Panzer Division was created in the Africa campaign through the reclassification of the 5th light division. She was part of the German Africa Corps under General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel . In the second battle of El Alamein and the retreat through Libya to the west in late 1942, the division suffered great losses. In the Tunisian campaign, she led the attack at the Battle of the Kasserin Pass , together with the 164th Light Africa Division and Italian allies, in March 1943, unsuccessfully defended the Narrows of Tebaga, which had already been fortified in Roman times, and became - like most German units - in May Destroyed near Tunis in 1943 .

    Formation in France and struggle in Normandy

    The Rapid Brigade 931 was reclassified on July 15, 1943 in the Rennes area in occupied France and was given the now vacant name of the 21st Panzer Division . In Operation Overlord or Operation Neptune in June 1944, the 21st Panzer Division, which had been commanded by Lieutenant General Edgar Feuchtinger since May 8, 1944 and had around 20,000 soldiers, was south of the city of Caen near Falaise near the eastern landing zone Sword . Feuchtinger's command post was in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives . It was the only German tank unit that could have attacked immediately after landing. However, the division could not be deployed immediately because it was “ v. Rundstedt ( Commander-in-Chief West ) in operational reserve (held), but he had strict orders not to dispose of them without the approval of the OKW, i.e. Hitler's. ”Feuchtinger was able to take the infantry and reconnaissance troops assigned to the division on June 6th shortly after 1:00 am deploy, "but his tanks were condemned to immobility in the hours of darkness, during which they could have marched unhindered from Falaise to Caen, because Army Group B had not received any orders for their use." The 7th Army was only able to do this at 6.45 cause a clearance, "but since the communication links were broken, another two hours passed before Feuchtinger [. ] received an operational order." The landing of the 3rd British Infantry Division in Sword could no longer be affected by the delay, the German defense succeeded however, to prevent the planned rapid intake of Caen. The 21st Panzer Division remained in action in the battles for Caen until the loss of the Battle of Normandy , but was weakened considerably in the battle and due to a lack of supplies and destroyed by Allied forces in the Falaise pocket.

    The end of the war

    In September 1944, the third new formation took place in Lorraine. The Panzer Brigade 112 was now named and gradually expanded into a division . From the end of September 1944, the division fought in Alsace and on the Saar . At the beginning of 1945 the division was moved to the Eastern Front, where it fought in East Germany and Poland from February to May 1945 . Shortly before the end of the war, the remnants of the division were taken prisoner by the Soviets on the Lusatian Neisse and were largely used in the Silesian coal mines. The few survivors were not released until the early 1950s.


    Historie

    Brug i Nordafrika

    Den 1. august 1941 blev den 21. Panzerdivision oprettet i Afrika-kampagnen gennem omklassificeringen af ​​5. lysdivision. Hun var en del af det tyske Afrikakorps under feltmarskal Erwin Rommel . I det andet slag ved El Alamein og tilbagetrækningen gennem Libyen mod vest i slutningen af ​​1942 led divisionen store tab. I den tunesiske kampagne ledede hun angrebet i slaget ved Kasserin Pass sammen med den 164. Light Africa Division og italienske allierede, i marts 1943, uden held forsvarede Narrows of Tebaga, som allerede var befæstet i romertiden og blev - som de fleste tyske enheder - i maj ødelagt nær Tunis i 1943 .

    Dannelse i Frankrig og kamp i Normandiet

    Rapid Brigade 931 blev omklassificeret den 15. juli 1943 i Rennes-området i det besatte Frankrig og fik det nu ledige navn på den 21. Panzerdivision . I Operation Overlord eller Operation Neptune i juni 1944 var den 21. panzerdivision, som var blevet befalet af generalløjtnant Edgar Feuchtinger siden 8. maj 1944 og havde omkring 20.000 soldater, syd for byen Caen nær Falaise nær den østlige landingszone Sword . Feuchtingers kommandopost var i Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives . Det var den eneste tyske tankenhed, der kunne have angrebet umiddelbart efter landing. Opdelingen kunne imidlertid ikke implementeres med det samme, fordi den var “ v. Rundstedt ( øverstkommanderende West ) i operationel reserve (holdt), men han havde strenge ordrer om ikke at bortskaffe dem uden godkendelse fra OKW, dvs. Hitlers brug, "men hans kampvogne blev dømt til immobilitet i mørketimerne , hvor de kunne marchere uhindret fra Falaise til Caen, fordi hærens gruppe B ikke havde nogen ordrer til deres brug. "Den 7. hær kunne kun gøre dette kl. 6.45, hvilket medførte en godkendelse," men da kommunikationsforbindelserne blev brudt, blev yderligere to timer gik før Feuchtinger [. ] modtog en operationel ordre. "Landingen af 3. britiske infanteridivision i sværd kunne ikke længere påvirkes af forsinkelsen, men det tyske forsvar lykkedes dog at forhindre den planlagte hurtige indtagelse af Caen. Den 21. panserdivision forblev i aktion i slagene om Caen, indtil slaget ved Normandiet gik tabt, men blev betydeligt svækket under slaget og på grund af manglende forsyninger og ødelagt af de allieredes enheder i Falaise- lommen.

    Krigens afslutning

    Den tredje nye formation fandt sted i Lorraine i september 1944. Panzer Brigade 112 blev nu navngivet og gradvist udvidet til en division . Fra slutningen af ​​september 1944 kæmpede divisionen i Alsace og på Saar . I begyndelsen af 1945 divisionen blev flyttet til den østlige front, hvor den kæmpede i Østtyskland og Polen fra Feb-maj 1945 . Kort før krigens afslutning blev resterne af divisionen taget til fange af sovjeterne på den lusatiske Neisse og blev stort set brugt i de schlesiske kulminer. De få overlevende blev først løsladt i begyndelsen af ​​1950'erne.


    Technical issues of German tanks 1941

    In previous posts (see here, and here), I have written about the problems faced by the Commonwealth in terms of tank reliability.

    While much has been made of the lack of mechanical reliability of the British tanks, I feel it is important to note that the Germans had similar issues with their tanks. A report published in the history of Panzerregiment 5 by Bernd Hartmann (published in English as Panzers in the Sand) has some detail on this. The short answer seems to be that the desert was a pretty unforgiving environment to tanks.

    • The driving distance of 700 km (presumably from Agedabia to Tobruk) had a very negative effect on the tanks, and led to a large number of them having to be handed into the workshops for damage to engines and drive assembly.
    • Air filters were useless in desert conditions.
    • General flaws of springs and shock absorbers were not just caused by using inappropriate high speeds during operations across poor terrain (especially the high-speed advance along the Trigh el Abd towards Tobruk), but also by mine damage.
    • Brake pads were faulty, and this led to greasing problems with the secondary brakes.

    Engine seizures in Panzer III/large command tanks

    The fault and cause was always the same. The engine stopped and oil pressure went to zero, stopping the tank. When the attempt was made to drive on after changing oil, the cylinders and piston seized. The cause was always the same. The crank shaft housing clogged up with the paste-like fine dust, and this stopped the oil from circulating. Cylinders and pistons were abraded down to 6 mm.

    Utility of air filters

    The originally issued air filters were completely useless for desert use, since they did not keep out the fine dust which lead to the clogging up of the crankshaft housing. The use of a dry felt filter, such as is being used in British cars, trucks, and tanks, was proposed to remedy this.

    Observations

    What is astonishing is that the Germans were so unprepared for this. One would have presumed that it would have been relatively simple to get the required information about the air filters in particular.

    It is of note that the faulty inspections seem to have continued in the factories for a long time, since break-downs of factory fresh tanks affected the 56 tanks which were delivered by the convoy of Jan. 5 1942.


    Nomenclature Panzer-Regiments Help

    Post by martinksk88 » 19 Apr 2020, 22:44

    Just another small question:

    While reading the book: "Panzers in the Sand. The History of Panzer-Regiment 5 1935-1941" By Bernd Hartmann i came across a nomenclature i'm not familiar yet. The abbreviation is what i can't figure, althoug the book is about the 5th Panzer Regimen issued in Afrika, the position of the numbers, some times letter, i.e (I, II) confuses me, let me show you.

    I./Pnzer-Regiment 5
    II./Panzer-Regiment 5
    7./Panzer-Regiment 5
    2./Panzer-Regiment 5
    etc,

    So my question is how can i read those? are from battalions? companies? Please help.


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