This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
SS-Panzer Division "Das Reich"
The origin of the division Das Reich was the SS-Verfügungstruppe, formed before the outbreak of the war. During the campaign in Poland 1939, the SS-VT fought as separate regiments, but in France it saw action as a division. It also took part in the campaign in Yugoslavia 1941. When operation Barbarossa was launched the division was part of 2. Panzergruppe, commanded by Heinz Guderian. Later Das Reich played an important part in von Manstein's counteroffensive at the end of the winter 1942-3. It was one of the spearheads in the German offensive against Kursk in July 1943. From then on the division was almost constantly engaged on the southern sector of the eastern front. It gradually became more and more depleted. On 1 December 1943 the division was short of 7 972 men.1 At the end of December 1943 elements of the division were withdrawn from the eastern front and two months later they were transported to the Bordeaux area in southern France. However a Kampf-gruppe remained on the eastern front. It was not until late April these units arrived in southern France.2 The structure of the division was:
Actually the Werfer Abteilung was not an organic part of the division, but a corps unit, intended for the II. SS-Pz.Korps and given the number 102. During the Normandy campaign it was with 2. SS-Pz.Div.3 It was then also called SS-Werfer-Abteilung 2. It seems that it left Das Reich before 21 July.4
The process of rebuilding the depleted division involved training of about 9 000 new recruits.5 Also the need for new equipment was urgent, particularly vehicles. On 15 May the division reported the following equipment situation6:
On hand 7,5 cm IG 15 cm IG 10,5 cm le.FH 10 cm K 15 cm s.FH 7,5 cm Pak 40 2 cm Flak 36 2 cm Flakvierling Motorcycles Cars Trucks Towing Vehicles SPW SP AT Guns PzKw IV PzKw V StuG Command Tanks 18 12 6 4 9 21 36 2 124 374 1821 62 0 0 45 39 41 0 Shortage 7 0 31 0 9 9 14 8 1671 1237 1974 320 326 26 90 72 4 13
The situation had improved somewhat on 1 June. Das Reich now had 235 combat ready SPW and 14 in workshops. It had 22 towed artillery pieces and six Wespe and five Hummel SP Artillery. Also the tank situation had improved somewhat. The division now had 54 Pz IV, of which 44 were combat ready, while the number of Panthers and StuG remained unchanged. The training was however severely hampered by the lack of ammunition and spare parts. The latter was a considerable problem for the trucks. The division only had 617 trucks in running order, the remainder were in need of repairs.7
Further deliveries of tanks were arriving at the division in June8:
Panzer IV 24 May 25 May
27 May 4 June 16 June 0 0 0 0 24
8 8 8 17 0
The dates indicate when the trains departed, not when tanks arrived at the division, usually it took at least a week. No tanks were sent to the division during July and August, except five Pz IV (Bef.Wg.) shipped on 6 July.9 Altogether this resulted in the division employing 83, Pz IV, 80 Panther and 45 StuG III in Normandy. On the morning of 7 June the division was ordered to be ready for march and vehicles were commandeered to improve the mobility of the division.10 One day later parts of the division were ordered to the Limoges Tulle area to perform "Bandenbekämpfung", i. e. anti-partisan actions.11 It was these units that massacred civilians in Oradour and Tulle. The division was subordinated to Hgr B on 11 June and one day later it was ordered to move to Normandy.12 The elements on wheels moved by road while tanks and other full-tracked vehicles moved by rail. Already at 19.00 13 June did the division reach Domfront.13 On 16 June the elements on wheels had assembled in the Mortain area.14 The trains with the tracked vehicles had reached Saumur-Angers and were on their way to Laval.15 Two days later some of the tracked vehicles had reached the area west of Vire.16 Of the Panther battalion four trains were in La Fleche and two trains were south of Tours.17 On 19 June five trains carrying the Panther battalion were in Le Mans.18 The major problem with moving the division to Normandy was not allied air power or the French resistance. Those elements that moved by wheel marched quickly to the assembly area. Movements by rail caused greater problems. But the greatest problem was lack of vehicles and spare parts. Quite simply, a large part of the division did not move at all from its original area in southern France. It was not until the last days of June that the following components of the division began moving19: One Kp. Pz IV, one Kp Pz V, 2./SS-Pz.A.A. 2, 2./SS-Pz.Pi.Btl. 2, one 3,7 cm Flak-Bttr, Stab/SSPz.Gren.Rgt. 3, 14. (Fla)/SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 3, 16. (Pi)/SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 3, SS-Feldgend.Kp. 2. At the end of June the following parts still remained in southern France (because of lack of vehicles)20: II./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 3, main part of Div.Begleit.Kp, part of Stabs-Kp./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 4, 1./SS-Pz.A.A. 2, one Battr. le FH 18, one Bttr. s.F.H., le. Pz.Br.Kol. and SS-Pz.Pi.Btl. 2 (except 2. company, part of SS.Pz.Nachr.-Abt. 2, Stabs-Kp/SS-StuG.Abt. 2, part of Stabs-Bttr. and. le. Kp./SS-Flak-Abt. 2. On 1 July the III./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 3 began moving to Normandy.21 It was not until late July that the last elements began moving. On 20 July it was reported that five of the last seven trains had departed22, and on 26 July six trains had finally unloaded23. The late arrival of many components of the division is also reflected in the manpower strength of the division. On 1 July the division had a manpower strength of 17 283 men24, but only 11 195 of these were among the elements sent to Normandy25.
The division still had a large part of its tanks in workshops on 1 July. Also it only had 768 trucks in running order, while the number of SPW operational was 227. The division had 22 towed artillery pieces, six Wespe and five Hummel, while 21 heavy antitank guns were combat ready.26 During June a Kampfgruppe Weidinger was committed to combat. This consisted of I./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 3, I./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 4, 13. /SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 4, 14. /SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 4, 15. /SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 4 and 16./SSPz.Gren.Rgt. 4. It was comitted with the 9. SS-Pz.Div. during the British Epsom operation. The Kampfgruppe lost (until 1 July inclusive) 108 killed, 408 wounded and 126 missing.27 Das Reich was one of the few panzer division sent to the sector where American forces fought during July. During the period 3 - 10 July the division (minus Kampfgruppe Wisliceny28) lost 119 men killed, 457 wounded and three missing.29 Altogether this means that the division suffered at least 1221 casualties until 10 July. This can be contrasted to the fact that until 17 July it received only 200 replacements.30 On 21 July the division had the following artillery available31: I./SS-Art.Rgt. 2: 1. Bttr with five Wespe and 3. Bttr with five Hummel II./SS-Art.Rgt. 2: batteries 4 - 6 with four 10,5 cm howitzers each IV./SS-Art.Rgt. 2: 8. Bttr with four 15 cm howitzers and 10. Bttr with four 10 cm Guns II./Art.Rgt. 275: 4. Bttr with four 10,5 cm hoitzers and 6. Bttr with three 10,5 cm howitzers II./Art.Rgt. 191: Altogether five 7,5 cm guns, four 7,5 cm le.IG and two 15 cm s.IG. Also the H.Art.Pak.Abt. 1041 was subordinated to the division with its three batteries, each equipped with five 8,8 cm AT guns.32 Two days later the artillery of the division had been reduced by one battery (probably subordinated to some other division). The division had one strong, one medium strong and one average battalion. Also one strong battalion was in transit to the division. It also had two weak battalions from 6. Fs.Rgt. subordinated, while one battalion was lent to Pz.Lehr. The division was rated to have combat value I (the highest rating), but its mobility was only 60 %. The H.Art.Pak.Abt. 1041 was still subordinated.33 The division took part in the Mortain counterattack but it seems to have been in relatively good shape even after that engagement. Not including the SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 3, SS-Flak.Abt. 2 and III./SS-Art.Rgt. 2 the division had a strength of 12 817 on 9 August.34 Why those units are not included in the report is unclear. Either no information was available, or they were subordinated to some other unit. Das Reich was not surrounded in Falaise, rather it counterattacked towards the pocket to enable the surrounded units to escape. On 4 September it was reported to be short of 7 000 men, but this report seem to have been made in a haste, without a complete picture of the situation.35 Nine days later it had 12 357 officers and men.36 This did not include the tank regiment.37 Thus it seems that the division was far from destroyed after the battles in Normandy. This is in stark contrast to the statement by Max Hastings, that only one man of three in Das Reich escaped from Normandy.38 Possibly certain components of the division suffered such a loss rate, but certainly not the division as a whole. Rather it seems that at most one man of three did not escape from Normandy in relatively good physical health. The tank strength of the division varied during the campaign:
Date 1 June39 1 July40 23 July41 11 August42 13 August43 20 August44 21 August45 28 August46 Panzer IV combat ready 44 50 37 4 5 Panzer IV Panther Panther in short term repair combat ready in short term repair 11 25 12 23 26 46 ? 41 ? ? 1 ? 5 3 ? Four operational tanks of all types Fifteen operational tanks of all types Six operational tanks of all types StuG combat ready 33 36 25 6 8 StuG in short term repair 9 3 ? ? 9
To Main Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Status report to the Inspector-General of Panzer Troops, Stand 1.12.43, BA-MA RH 10/313. O. Weidinger, Division Das Reich 1943-45 (Munin Verlag, Osnabrück 1982) p. 120-9. See Gliederung II. SS-Pz.Korps 1.3.44 (BA-MA RH 20-7/136). See also Weidinger, op. cit. Whose descriptions of the fighting in Normandy include the Werfer battalion. However he does not mention it after mid-July. It is not mentioned by Gen.Kdo. LXXXIV A.K. Ia Nr. 035/44g.Kdos 22.7.44, Taktische Glederung der Artillerie, Stand 21.7.44, T314, R1604, F001388. Neither is it mentioned by Gen.Kdo. LXXXIV. A.K. Ia 048/44 g.Kdos. T314, R1604, F001373 which gives the condition of Das Reich on 23 July. Ibid, p. 130. BA-MA RH 10/112 Status report to the Inspector-General of Panzer Troops, Stand 1.6.44, BA-MA RH 10/313. Verteilung der Panzerfahrzeuge, Bd. ab Mai 43, BA-MA RH 10/349. Ibid.
10 Weidinger, op. cit. p. 137. 11 Ibid p. 138. 12 Ibid p. 163 & 176. 13 Ibid p. 177. 14 OB West Ia Nr. 4648/44 g.Kdos, 16.6.44, T311, R25, F7029598. 15 Ibid. 16 OB West Ia Nr. 4739/44 g.Kdos, 19.6.44, T311, R25, F7029652. 17 Ibid. 18 OB West Ia Nr. 4784/44 g.Kdos, 20.6.44, T311, R25, F7029690. 19 OB West Ia Nr. 5135/44 g.Kdos. 1.7.44, T311, R28, F7034111f. 20 Ibid. 21 OB West Ia Nr. 5157/44 g.Kdos. 23.6.44, T311, R25, F7030017. 22 OB West Ia Nr. 5862/44 g.Kdos vom 20.7.44, T311, R28, F7034667. 23 OB West Ia Nr. 6074/44 g.Kdos, 26.7.44, T311, R28, F7034822. 24 Status report to the Inspector-General of Panzer Troops, Stand 1.7.1944, BA-MA RH 10/313. 25 K.G. Klietmann, Die Waffen-SS, eine Dokumentation (Osnabrück 1965) p. 508. 26 Status report to the Inspector-General of Panzer Troops, Stand 1.7.1944, BA-MA RH 10/313. 27 See Weidinger, op. cit. 178-196 and 9. SS-Pz.Div. Ia/Nr. 2400/44 geh., den 2.7.1944, BA-MA RH 19 IX/3. 28 This consisted of the SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 3, except III. Btl. which still was on its way to the division in Normandy. 29 Weidinger, op.cit. p 217. 30 H.Gr. B Ia Nr. 4924/44 g.Kdos., 18.7.44, T311, R3, F7002570. 31 Gen.Kdo. LXXXIV A.K. Ia Nr. 035/44g.Kdos 22.7.44, Taktische Glederung der Artillerie, Stand 21.7.44, T314, R1604, F001388. 32 Ibid. 33 Gen.Kdo. LXXXIV. A.K. Ia 048/44 g.Kdos. T314, R1604, F001373. 34 Der Reichsführer-SS Adjutantur, Kdo.Stab RF-SS Tgb.Nr. Ia/3530/44 g.Kdos den 7.9.44, Stärkemeldungen Stand vom 5.9.44, T175, R141, F2668961.
35 Status report to the Inspector-General of Panzer Troops, Stand 4.9.1944, BA-MA RH 10/313. 36 Stärkemeldungen vom 20. September 1944, T175, R141, F2668948. 37 Ibid. 38 M. Hastings, Das Reich (Pan, London 1983) p. 237. 39 Status report to the Inspector-General of Panzer Troops, Stand 1.6.1944, BA-MA RH 10/313. 40 Status report to the Inspector-General of Panzer Troops, Stand 1.7.1944, BA-MA RH 10/313. 41 Gen.Kdo. LXXXIV. A.K. Ia 048/44 g.Kdos. T314, R1604, F001373. 42 Tagesmeldung LVIII. Pz.Korps Ia an AOK 7 11.8.44, T314, R1496, F001037f. 43 Tagesmeldung LVIII. Pz.Korps Ia 13.8.44, T314, R1496, F001069. 44 OB West Ia Nr. 7050/44 g.Kdos. 20.8.44, Fernschreiben an OKH, T78, R313, F6266029. 45 HGr B Ia Nr. 6388/44 g.Kdos. 21.8.44., T311, R4, F7004565. 46 BA-MA RH 19 IX/88.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.