The 7th Panzer Division, known in German as the “Gespensterdivision” (Phantom Division), was a special armored army unit of the Wehrmacht. It was created in late 1939, after the German Polish Campaign, with elements of the Panzer Corps that had successfully participated in the invasion of Poland. On February 15, 1940, Adolf Hitler named Erwin Rommel commander of the 7th Panzer Division. From May 10 to June 20, 1940, it would take part in the Battle of France. It was during this military campaign that this unit became known as the Phantom Division since it advanced so rapidly, tearing out gaps in the French defensive lines as it went, that the German High Command lost contact with its commander and almost nobody knew exactly where the 7th Panzer Division tanks were.

In August 1943, right after the Battle of Kursk, the Gespensterdivision would be redeployed on the Eastern Front, under the command of Hasso von Manteuffel. It ferociously fought against Soviet forces in the Ukraine, taking part in the Fourth Battle of Kharkov as its tanks would attempt to stop the Soviet offensive under Zhukov in Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev. Although the 7th Panzer Division was forced to retreat from Kharkov, as it was overwhelmed in number, it did succeed in bringing the Russian Army to a halt for a while. In January 1944, Manteuffel would be replaced by General Adelbert Schulz as commander of the Phantom Division, which would continue to take part in the fierce fighting on the Eastern Front. The Division’s last commander was Colonel Hans Christern, from March 26, 1945, to May 8, 1945.

7th Panzer Division’s Weapons

During the Battle of France, this unit was equipped with Panzer I, II, III tanks, Marder II and III tank-destroyers, and Schützenpanzerwagen SdKfz 250 and 251, and other halftracks. When the Division was transferred to the Eastern Front, in 1943, it was issued with Panzer IV and the new Panzer V (Panther) tanks. The latter was armed with the powerful 7.5-cm KwK 42 L/70 tank gun. Hetzer and Jagdpanzer IV tank-destroyers were also issued to this unit in late 1943. In 1944, the 7th Panzer Division would be augmented with Tiger I tanks.

PhantomDivision

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