SS Panzer Divisions

The SS Panzer Divisions were the armoured units of the Waffen-SS. They were among the most powerful German ground forces in World War II as they were equipped with the best tanks and most powerful anti-tank guns. They fought bravely both on the Eastern and Western Fronts, as well as in Italy, participating in the Balkan Campaign, Operation Barbarossa, the Battle of Kurks, and the Third Battle of Kharkov.

The first SS Panzer Division was the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, which was created in late September 1943 as an upgrade from the 1st Leibstandarte SS, the Führer personal body guard unit. Other SS Panzer Divisions were: the 2nd SS Das Reich, 3rd SS Totenkopf, 5th SS Wiking, 9th SS Hohenstaufen, 10th SS Frundsberg, and 12th SS Hitlerjugend.

The troops that compose the SS Panzer Divisions were volunteers not only from Germany, but from other European countries, such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Holland; even men from Spain and Ukraine were also drafted into the Waffen-SS units. They were fervent, highly-trained soldiers that fought tenaciously on every front of the war.

SS Panzer Divisions in Action

US Special Forces in Syria

On October 30, 2015, the Obama Administration authorized US Special Operations Forces to carry out secret and risky missions against ISIS targets in Syria, which include the insurgent headquarters, facilities, ammo depots. The US elite units that would be shipped to the Middle East are the US Army’s 1st Special Forces Group (Green Berets), the 2nd Ranger Battalion (75th Ranger Regiment), and one US Navy’s SEAL Team. They would attack Islamist targets located deep within Syrian territory, operating from bases in southern Turkey and northern Iraq and Jordan. The decision to send Special Operations Forces units to the war-torn region came as a result of the American failure to effectively support secular rebel groups that fight against al-Assad regime and to wipe out ISIS network in Syria at the same time.

The US Defense Department is working in coordination with Iraqi and Turkish governments to successfully cripple ISIS military capability and recruiting ability. The original objective of the Obama Administration had been to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime by supporting rebel groups, but somehow things got out of control as many Syrian “freedom fighters” that had been trained by US military advisers switched sides and joined the ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups. Al-Assad did not fall as had been expected because he is strongly backed by Russian president Vladimir Putin and now the American elite troops will be operating undercover alongside Russian Special Forces fighting against a common enemy: Islamist terrorism.

usspecialforcessyria

2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich

The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was one of the thirty-eight divisions of the Waffen-SS. It fought extensively alongside the regular German Army during World War II, taking part in several major battles on the Eastern Front, particularly at the titanic Battle of Kursk. The SS Das Reich also fought in Normandy, at the Battle of the Bulge and in the Hungarian and Austrian theaters of war.The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was one of the thirty-eight divisions of the Waffen-SS. It fought extensively alongside the regular German Army during World War II, taking part in several major battles on the Eastern Front, particularly at the titanic Battle of Kursk. The SS Das Reich also fought in Normandy, at the Battle of the Bulge and in the Hungarian and Austrian theaters of war.

2ndSSPanzerDivisionDasReich

The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was created in October 1939 by putting together the Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer regiments of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) into one divisional-strong military unit. However, in 1940, as the SS Panzer Division Das Reich swelled with new recruits, the regiment Germania was removed from the division to form the Wiking division. The symbol for the Das Reich division was the wolf’s hook or Wolfsangel rune.

Combat History

The SS Panzer Division Das Reich first saw action during the invasion of France in May 1940. After spending some time guarding the border with Vichy France it was sent to the Netherlands. In April 1941, the Division fought in the Balkans campaign where a small detachment led by SS-Hauptsturmführer Klingenberg managed to get the mayor of Belgrade to surrender the city without a fight. From the Balkan Peninsula, the SS Panzer Division Das Reich was transferred to Poland to be refitted, and on June 22, 1941, it participated in the invasion of the USSR and fought on the frontlines until August. Between October and December, it fought in the failed offensive against Moscow. In March 1942, it was transferred to France to be sent back to the Eastern front again in January 1943, taking part in the capture and recapture of Kharkov. In July 1943, it fought at the Battle of Kursk.

After the D-Day, the SS Das Reich took part in several battles near Caen and St Lo to stop the Allies, alongside the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and the elite German Panzer Lehr Division. Das Reich panzer commander Ernst Barkmann destroyed numerous American tanks in small skirmishes. Although the Division recaptured Mortain, it was forced to retreat when it became apparent the Allies were going to encircle the Division along with a large number of other German units in the Falaise pocket. Because of the efforts of Das Reich along with the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen, a large number of German forces were able to escape the pocket and retreat to the east.

After the Battle of the Bulge, the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was transferred into Germany to refit, and to take part in the last German offensive of the war in Hungary in an attempt to break the siege around Budapest. However, this offensive ground to a halt, and Das Reich spent the rest of the war performing a fighting retreat from Dresden, to Prague and finally to Vienna. At the end of the war, most of the Division managed to escape to the West to surrender to the Americans in May 1945. The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich won 69 Knight’s Crosses and 151 German Crosses in Gold fighting ferociously on the battlefield.

1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler

The 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was a military unit of the Waffen-SS, which had originally been created as Adolf Hitler’s personal Bodyguard SS Regiment. In 1939 the Leibstandarte SS became a detached unit aside the SS-VT, participating in the Invasion of Poland in September 1939 as an independent unit. In September 1941, after Operation Barbarossa had been launched, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was increased in size from a regiment to an army division. By mid 1943, during its deployment in Italy, this unit would be upgraded into a full armoured division, being redesignated the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.

1stSSDivisionLeibstandarteSSAdolfHitler

Combat History

In March 1933, Josef “Sepp” Dietrich had organized the Sonderkommando Berlin, a 120-men unit, which consisted of the most faithful and fittest SS men. In November 1933, the Leibstandarte was an 800-men strong regiment which swore allegiance to Hitler at a remembrance ceremony in Munich for the tenth anniversary of the Munich Putsch. In January, 1934, the SS commander in chief, Heinrich Himmler, had renamed it Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.

When World War II broke out, it was an SS regiment that would participate in the German invasion of Poland. In 1940, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler would also fight in the Battle of France. In April 1941, it would take part in Operation Marita, which was the invasion of Greece. Deployed on the Eastern Front, the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler would see fierce combat action during Operation Barbarossa from June to December 1941. Under the command of Paul Hausser, it participated in the Battle of Kharkov and the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. Then, it would be redeployed in Italy and later in France, on the Western Front. Attached to the 1st SS Panzer Corps, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler would fight ferociously in the Battle of Normandy.

From July 18 to July 20, 1944, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler fought fiercely against three British armored divisions during Operation Good Wood in which the British sustained heavy losses. Attached to the I SS Panzer Corps, the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte participated in the Ardennes counteroffensive, fighting against American units. On January 30, 1945, the Leibstandarte was transferred to Hungary along the I SS Panzer Korps to bolster the crumbling situation there. After participating in Operation Spring Awakening (Frühlingserwachen), the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler moved to Zossen, near Berlin, and from there, to the area of Mürwik, in northern Germany, near Denmark, where they surrendered to the advancing British forces in May 1945.

Weapons

The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler used a wide variety of armament. Aside from the infantry weapons used by the Wehrmacht troops, it was equipped with the best tanks, tank destroyers, and anti-tank guns.

Tanks: Panzerkampfwagen III, IV, V (Panther), and VI (Tiger).

Tank Destroyers: Marder II and III, Panzerjäger I, Nashorn, Elefant.

Anti-tank Guns: 8.8-cm Flak 18/36 (an 88mm AA gun used as a tank destroyer), and the 7.5-cm Pak 40 (a 75mm anti-tank gun).

5th SS Panzer Division Wiking

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.

5thwaffen-ss_Wiking

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

3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf

The 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf was an elite armoured division of the Waffen-SS that fought in World War II, participating in Operation Barbarossa and the Battle of Kursk. The division was created in October 1939, with SS units that had fought in Poland, as a motorized infantry unit. It was first used in combat in the Battle of France, May-June 1940, being upgraded into a Panzergrenadier division in early 1942 as it was refitted with Panzer II, III, IV tanks during its stay in France. It was famous because of its insignia, which was the skull and cross bones (Totenkopf in German) and the fact that most of the initial enlisted men were SS concentration camp guards (SS-Totenkopfverbände). Being one of the 38 Panzer divisions of the Waffen-SS, its men fought on the Eastern Front until the end of the war.

3rdSSTotenkopf

Equipped with ex-Czech weapons, the Waffen SS Division Totenkopf had been held in reserve during the first phase of the Battle of France and the Low Countries. But on May 16, 1940, they were sent to the Front in Belgium. The Totenkopf men were audacious soldiers who fought with boldness and resolution. Totenkopf saw action several times during the French campaign. To the north-east of Cambrai the division took 16,000 French prisoners as they pushed back the Anglo-French forces who ran into panic when confronted with these fanatical and ferocious German Waffen-SS troops.

During Operation Barbarossa, which began on June 22, 1942, the Waffen SS Division Totenkopf joined Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb’s Army Group North, which had the mission of advancing on Leningrad and forming the northern wing of the front line. The Waffen SS Totenkopf fought in Lithuania and Latvia, and, by July 1941, had punched a hole in the vaunted Stalin Line. The division then advanced by Demjansk to Leningrad where it was involved in heavy fighting from July 31 to August 25. In December 1941, the Soviets launched a counter-offensive against the German lines in the Northern sector of the Front. During one of these operations, the Waffen SS Totenkopf Division was encircled for several months near Demjansk, which came to be known as the Demjansk Pocket. The division was involved in ferocious fighting to hold the pocket. SS-Hauptsturmführer Erwin Meierdress of the Sturmgeschütze-Batterie (Assault Gun) Totenkopf formed a Kampfgruppe of about 120 men and held the strategic town of Bjakowo despite repeated determined enemy attempts to capture the town. During the fighting, Meierdress personally destroyed several enemy tanks in his armored fighting vehicle. Finally, in April 1942, the division broke out of the pocket and reached the German lines.

As the Waffen SS Totenkopf unit had suffered heavy losses at Demjansk, the Division were pulled out of action in late October, 1942 and sent to France to be refitted. In France, the SS Totenkopf Division was supplied with a Panzer regiment and redesignated 3rd SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Totenkopf. Then, the Division participated in Case Anton, which was the takeover of Vichy France in November 1942. In Early February 1943 Totenkopf was transferred back to the Eastern Front as part of Erich von Manstein’s Army Group South. The division, as a part of SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser’s SS-Panzerkorps, took part in the Third Battle of Kharkov, blunting the Soviet General Konev’s offensive. During this campaign, Theodor Eicke was killed when his Fieseler Storch spotter aircraft was shot down while on final approach to a front line unit. The division mounted an assault to secure the crash site and recover their commander’s body, and thereafter Eicke’s body was buried with full military honours. Hermann Priess succeeded Eicke as commander.

SS-Panzerkorps, including Totenkopf, was then shifted north to take part in Operation Citadel, the great offensive to reduce the Kursk salient. It was during this period that The 3.SS-Panzerregiment received a company of Tiger I heavy tanks. (9./SS-Panzerregiment 3). The attack was launched on 5 July 1943, after a massive Soviet artillery barrage fell on the German assembly areas. The SS-Panzerkorps was to attack the southern flank of the salient as the spearhead for Generaloberst Hermann Hoth’s 4.Panzer-Armee. The Totenkopf covered the advance on the SS-Panzerkops left flank, with the Leibstandarte forming the spearhead. Despite encountering stiff Soviet resistance, the Totenkopf’s panzers continued the advance. Hausser ordered his SS-Panzerkorps to split in two, with the Totenkopf crossing the Psel river northwards and then continuing on towards the town of Prokhorovka. After fierce fighting, the SS-Panzerkorps had halted the Soviet counteroffensive and inflicted heavy casualties, but it had exhausted itself in the process and was no longer capable of offensive action.

From October to December 1943, 3rd SS Panzer-Division Totenkopf held the Kremenchug bridgehead for several months, but the Soviets finally broke out, suffering heavy losses. Outnumbered, the Totenkopf and the other axis divisions involved fell back towards the Romanian border. Then the Totenkopf was engaged in fierce fighting against Soviet attacks over the vital town of Krivoi Rog to the west of the Dniepr. The high casualty rates meant by late 1943 virtually none of the original cadre were left. However, while the division’s record in the brutal Eastern Front fighting to follow is quite clean, its reputation lingered. After surrendering to the US 11th Armored Division, Third Army, at Linz in May 1945, the members of the division were marched to Pregarten where they were turned over to the Soviets. The senior officers were executed by the NKVD, others were also executed as they were shipped to Siberia. Only few of them survived captivity to return to German.