The 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking was an elite armoured unit of the Waffen-SS. Deployed on the Eastern Front, it fought ferociously during World War II, taking part in Operation Barbarossa and other military campaigns. The 5th Panzer Division Wiking was created in January 1941 from the SS Infantry Regiment Germania, which was a motorized regiment. It was beefed up to a divisional strength by adding armored vehicles and then blending two other SS regiments into it; the SS Westland, which was composed mainly of Dutch volunteers, and the SS Nordland, which consisted of Scandinavian volunteers.
The 5th Waffen-SS Panzer Division Wiking was made up of 19,000 highly-trained men. Its first and most notable commanders were Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner, Obergruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille, and Oberführer Eduard Deisenhofer. The 5th SS Panzer Division participated in Operation Barbarossa from June 22, 1941, gaining a lot of war experience as they fought their way eastward. The Division tenaciously held the line in the winter of 1941–42, and then was ordered to recapture Rostov and advance into the Caucasus to secure the vital oilfields. By November 1942, the 5th Panzer Division Wiking had gained reputation and the respect of the regular army commanders, and at the end of that month the Division was redesignated the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking. In January and February 1943, it successfully held off a fierce assault launched by the Soviet Armored Mobile Group Popov which tried to break through to a vital rail line near Kharkov.
In 1944, the 5th Panzergrenadier Division Wiking was ordered to enter the city of Kovel to defend it from a strong Soviet force. As soon the SS men began setting up the defensive perimeter, they got trapped in a Soviet encirclement. Nevertheless, the SS Panzer Regiment 5 Wiking, which had just been beefed up with Panther Tanks, along with the III.Battalion, SS Panzergrenadier Regiment Germania, under the command of Obersturmführer Karl Nicolussi Leck, arrived at the front from Germany and began to attack ferociously and relentlessly at a point in the Soviet encirclement, using five tanks as spearhead, until the SS men punched a hole. This corridor gouged out in the Soviet lines allowed the 5th Panzergrenadier Division Wiking to withdraw almost unscathed.
In August, 1944, with the help of the Luftwaffe’s Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring, the SS Division Wiking completey destroyed the Red Army 3rd Tank Corps on Vistula River, near Warsaw. In January 1945, in order to relieve Budapest from encircling Soviet forces, 5th SS Division Wiking launched an surprise and vicious assault against the Soviet Fourth Guards Tank Army. As a result, the 5th SS Division Wiking and the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf destroyed many of the Red Armies tanks, driving a 30-mile wedge deep into Soviet-held terrain. On May 9, 1945, after having fought their way westward into Czechoslovakia, the 5th SS Division Wiking surrendered to the American forces.
5th Waffen-SS Division Wiking in Action