15th Panzer Division

The 15th Panzer Division was an armored unit of the Wehrmacht which fought during the Second World War. The 15th Panzer Division was formed in August 1940 from the 33th Infantry Division, which had been created in 1936.

Having taken part in the Battle of France in May and June 1940, the German 33th Infantry Division was restructured and reinforced with armored vehicles, giving shape to the 15th Panzer Division, which was sent to Libya, North Africa, the following year, in February 1941, and became part of the German Afrika Korps under the command of Erwin Rommel.

On June 15, 1941, the 15th Panzer Division was deployed to the south of Bardia, fighting successfully against Western Desert Force units during Operation Battleaxe at Halfaya Pass. It also fought against the British 8th Army in Operation Crusader, the Battle of Gazala, and the Battle of El Alamein in November 1942. Although it surrendered in Tunisia on May 13, 1943, to the Allied forces, the remnants of the former 15th Panzer Division made their way back to Sicily where it was reshaped and reinforced into the new 15th Panzergrenadier Division, commanded by General-Lieutenant Eberhard Rodt. Their men soon saw action again in Sicily, fighting against Allied troops during Operation Husky.

By November 1943, the 15th Panzergrenadier Division had been shipped to continental Italy and was taking part in the defense of the Bernhardt Line in the vicinity of Mignano along Highway 6, fiercely fighting against elements of the US 5th Army. On December 7, 1943, two battalions of the 15th Panzergrenadier, commanded by Captain Helmut Meitzel, held strong defensive positions in the town of San Pietro Infine and on the vitally important and stategic Monte Lungo to the southwest.

By May 1944, the Allies had launched Operation Diadem which finally breached the Gustav Line, leading to the capitulation of the German defenses along the Winter Line. From May 15-19, the 15th Panzergrenadier fought a retreating battle through the Aurunci Mountains, inflicting heavy losses to the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division and 4th Moroccan Mountain Division of the French Expeditionary Corps, commanded by General Alphonse Juin. Later, the 15th Panzergrenadier Division fought the rest of the war on the Western Front, surrendering to the British Army at war’s end.

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