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Achtung

Panzer, Marsch!
With the 1st German Panzer Division:
Formation to the Fall of France, 1935-40
by
Gary Schreckengost

Das Panzer Lied


Ob’s stürmt oder schneit,
Ob die Sonne uns lacht!
Der Tag glühend heiß,
Oder eiskalt die Nacht!
Bestaubt sind die Gesichter,
Doch froh ist unser Sinn, ja unser Sinn!
Es braust unser Panzer im Sturmwind dahin!
The Armor Song
Whether it storms or snows,
Whether the sun smiles upon us!
The day burning hot,
Or the night freezing cold!
Dusty may be our faces,
But happy we are in heart! Oh yes we are!
Our tanks roar ahead into the heavy action no matter what!
Preface, 4.
Chapters
1. The Beginning, 7.
2. Hitler and the Nazis Come to Power, 22.
3. I Join the Panzerwaffe, 32.
4. The Empire Grows, 44.
5. War with Rump Poland, Sept, 1939, 67.
6. We Attack, 82.
7. Sitzkrieg, 119.
8. We Take Sedan! 155.
9. The Weygand Line, 173.
10. Our Big Tank Battle, June 10, 1940, 186.
About the Author, 206.
Preface
For most of World War II, 1939-45, Germany’s
armored forces or Panzerwaffe ruled the battlefields of
Europe through superior tactics, training, and will
power. Their primary function was to break through
enemy lines along a narrow front “hitting with fist
and not feeling with the fingers,” encircle the enemy,
cutting him off, and setting up their subsequent
annihilation by regular infantry and artillery units.
Speed and shock were the Panzerwaffe’s friends.
In 1935, the first four Panzer divisions were
formed and developed under the watchful eyes of
officers such as Heinz Guderian, Ewald von Kleist,
Erich Höpner, and Hermann Hoth. By 1939, on the
eve of the war with Poland, Das Deutsches Panzerwaffe (German Armored Forces) had
grown into ten
divisions, spearheading the German assault into
several surrounding countries.
This is the historically accurate but fictional
story of Gunter Prehm, a young Saxon who joined
Panzer Division 1 in 1935. Read what training and life
was like for him and his buddies in Kompanie 5,
Panzer Reglement 1, about their uniforms and
equipment, about the Panzerkampfwagons (armored
fighting vehicles—tanks) that they operated and
lived in, about the new Panzer tactics that they
learned, practiced, and honed, and about their first
campaigns in Poland in 1939 and in France in 1940,
which proved to the world the decisive punch of
revolutionary Panzer division concept, elevating the Panzerwaffe to become the
undisputed champions of
the battlefield.
The Federal Republic of Germany ( Bundesrepublik Deutschland) after the Treaty of Versailles, 1919-1935. Also called
the “Weimar Republic” because that’s where the capital was. Several traditional German provinces were taken and given
to France, Belgium, and the new rump states of Czechoslovakia and Poland. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, our
borders were eventually restored.

Chapter 1
The Beginning, 1919-1932
I am Gunter Prehm and I was born in the Saxon city
of Dresden in 1913, the year before my father went
off to fight the Russians in World War I with the 3rd
Saxon Infantry Regiment. In 1918, when the
Russians dropped out of the war, my father’s
regiment was transferred to the Western Front to
fight the British in Belgium.
By October 1918, with the failed German
offensives to drive the British into the sea and to
whip France before the greasy Americans arrived,
Germany was starving. Our once stalwart allies,
Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey had already
dropped out of the war and all of our colonial possessions had been stripped by the British,
the
French, or the Japanese. Even worse, British,
French, American, and Belgian armies had driven us
back almost to our borders in the west and we were
standing alone against them.
Faced with internal insurrection, led mostly by
anti-war and anti-German Communists (the Red
Front) or Social Democrats, our beloved emperor,
Wilhelm Hohenzollern II, the King of Prussia,
vacated the thrown and turned the government over
to the babblers of the German Congress, led by
Friedrich Ebert of the Social Democratic Party.
The traitor Ebert immediately began cease fire
negotiations with the Allies and on November 11,
1918, he agreed to an armistice with them that were based on U.S. President Woodrow
Wilson’s
“Fourteen Points,” most of which I have shared
here:
-Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas,
outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war,
except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part
by international action for the enforcement of
international covenants. This was in reaction to our
almost-successful U-Boat campaign against the British and the
Americans.
-The removal, so far as possible, of all economic
barriers and the establishment of equality of trade
conditions among all the nations consenting to the
peace and associating themselves for its
maintenance. Sounds good.
-Adequate guarantees given and taken that national
armaments will be reduced to the lowest point
consistent with domestic safety. As long as it applies to
all sides; which it didn’t.
-A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial
adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict
observance of the principle that in determining all
such questions of sovereignty the interests of the
populations concerned must have equal weight with
the equitable claims of the government whose title is
to be determined. In other words, we Germans lose all of
our colonies.
-The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a
settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will
secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her
an
unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the
independent determination of her own political
development and national policy and assure her of a
sincere welcome into the society of free nations
under institutions of her own choosing; and, more
than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that
she may need and may herself desire. The treatment
accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months
to come will be the acid test of their good will, of
their comprehension of her needs as distinguished
from their own interests, and of their intelligent and
unselfish sympathy. This is outrageous! The Russians
already surrendered to us and gave us everything west of Brest
Litovsk! And now the Western allies, who fought nowhere
near here, want it back!? No way!
-An independent Polish state should be erected
which should include the territories inhabited by
indisputably Polish populations, which should be
assured a free and secure access to the sea, and
whose political and economic independence and
territorial integrity should be guaranteed by
international covenant. Ah-ha! See above. What they
want are our ancient provinces of Posen and West Prussia to
be taken away and be given to an entirely new state. No way!
-Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be
evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit
the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all
other free nations. No other single act will serve as
this will serve to restore confidence among the
nations in the laws which they have themselves set
and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this
healing act the whole
structure and validity of international law is forever
impaired. Okay, you cry babies can have Belgium back. Our
occupation was payback for their rape of the Congo.
-All French territory should be freed and the invaded
portions restored, and the wrong done to France by
Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine,
which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly
fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may
once more be made secure in the interest of all. Saw
that one coming. Fine, they can have them back, they’re no
good anyway!
-A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be
effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality. In other words, Austria will lose
some of its
Tirolian counties in the south.
-The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place
among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and
assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity
to autonomous development. No way! Bohemia and
Moravia were always part of the German Empire and now
they are to be stripped away!? Why? For what!?
-Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be
evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia
accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the
relations of the several Balkan states to one another
determined by friendly counsel along historically
established lines of allegiance and nationality; and
international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial
integrity of
the several Balkan states should be entered into.
Who cares?
-The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman
Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but
the other nationalities which are now under Turkish
rule should be assured an undoubted security of life
and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of
autonomous development, and the Dardanelles
should be permanently opened as a free passage to
the ships and commerce of all nations under
international guarantees. Who cares?
-A general association of nations must be formed
under specific covenants for the purpose of
affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and
small states alike. Will never work.
When Ebert agreed to these egregious terms
and much more with the infamous Treaty of
Versailles in 1919, my entire generation was set on a
course to inevitable National Socialist revolution and
a subsequent defensive war to regain what we had
unjustly lost to the traitor Ebert and his communist
confederates.
In short, the Treaty of Versailles pushed
Germany to the breaking point and humiliated her.
In the treaty, we were treated like a conquered nation
in that we had almost a third of our country taken
away from us, our army and navy was laid low, and,
to add insult to injury, we had to pay France and Britain large sums of money, which
hurled us into an
economic depression of Biblical proportions. My
father, who had served on the front, could not
believe it! He felt so betrayed by the wealthy bankers
and war profiteers who not only refused to serve in
the war and made money from it, but who then sold
us out to the allies.
My earliest recollections of Ebert’s so-called
Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of
Germany) or the “Weimar Republic” (where the
national capital was), the lap-dog government that
we lived under from 1918-33, were the massive
street brawls between the left-wing Communists
(“Cozis”) and Social Democrats (“Sozis”) who
basically ran the new government, and a bunch of
right-wing radicals, the largest being the National Socialist German Workers Party, or
“Nazis” for
short. I also remember that my father was without a
job and some nights, we didn’t eat.
My childhood was therefore pretty tough and
was wrapped in political intrigue, economic distress
and dealing with my angry, shell-shocked, and heart
broken father who became a member of the Nazi
Party in 1925 along with millions of other war
veterans. His job was to protect local Nazi-owned
businesses from fat capitalists, criminals,
communists, or Jews, people who we now saw as
foreign enemies living in Germany. I wouldn’t call
him a hard-core Nazi, but he was Nazi enough. And
because he was a Nazi, I was raised to become one,
too. Nazis basically believed that all Germans
were equal—that there should not be an extreme
upper or lower class in Germany—that all Germans
should be solid middle class people, all working
together toward a common goal: a better Germany
(that’s the socialist part). Nazis believed that the
Social Democrats, led by the Jewish internationalist
communists, betrayed the German people when they
freely gave West Prussia, Posen, Bohemia, and
Moravia to the new “Rump” or “fake” states of
Poland and Czechoslovakia (which we spelled
Tschechoslowakei). Nazis believed that Germany
needed a strong leader to staunch the stupidity,
corruption, and inaction of the German Congress
and that the Congress was useless. Nazis also
believed that Communists and Jews were a threat to Western civilization and that
“undesirables” such as
Jews, gypsies, Communists, Social Democrats, and
the mentally and physically infirm should be
removed from German society.
They especially hated the Jews who were
equated with vermine. Personally, I didn’t have a
problem with Jews (Juden) but I also didn’t have a
problem with them being deported either, especially
if our country got better under the Nazis. And it
did—at first.
My father was especially drawn to the Nazi
ideal that all Germans were equal, that the emperors,
kings, dukes, and fat capitalists who had kept us
down for so long, had to go. He was also for
regaining the lost parts of our country and outright despised the Slavic people of the east
who he saw as
being less-than-human (called Untermensch). As a
future member of the Panzerwaffe, being a Nazi
actually wasn’t a large part of my life because I
wasn’t into politics much nor was I an elected party
member. After 1933, however, when the Nazis took
total control of the government, they blended the
party with the state—making it one and the same.
Therefore, my eventual actions in the Panzerwaffe,
which increased the boundaries of Germany, spread
Nazi Party control. My entire generation, therefore,
lived under the shadow of our fathers and my life in
the Panzerwaffe was a direct result of it.
Chapter 2
Hitler and the Nazis Come to Power
By 1931 Adolf Hitler, a decorated enlisted veteran of
the Great War, finally led his Bavarian-based
National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis) to
national victory, winning the majority of the seats in
the German Federal Congress (Bundestag), Hitler
himself becoming elected as the Federal Chancellor
(Bundeskanzler), second only to the German
president. In 1932, as Bundeskanzler, Hitler ran
against President Paul von Hindenburg, an army
field marshal, Prussian duke, and World War I hero
for the office of German President. Hindenburg was
the incumbent. Running on the platform of the common
man, of modernity, of economic recovery, and of
returning Germany to greatness, Hitler almost beat
the popular Hindenburg. Fate would intervene in
1933, however, when Hindenburg died in office. In a
series of cunning and unconstitutional moves that
were actually supported by most of the people, who
were at this point quite desperate, Hitler combined
the offices of the president and prime minister,
declaring himself the benevolent Leader (Führer) of
the new Third German Empire (the first was from
962-1806 and the second was from 1871-1918),
ending the hated Weimar Republic.
All political parties, except the National
Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazis), were
forbidden and political dissidents like the Communists or Social Democrats were sent to
reeducation camps like the one at Buchenwald, near
Weimar, Saxony, or Dachau, Bavaria, which was
north of Munich.
I was twenty-years-old in 1933, the year the
Third Empire (Drittes Reich) was proclaimed. And
like my father, who now had a job at a local metal
fabrication facility because of the Nazis, I too joined
the Nazi Party. I wanted to be part of the solution
for a better Germany. Over the next few years,
“Papa Hitler” took out the nation’s credit to put
common German people like me to work. Under the
old regime, the wealthy lords cared nothing about us
commoners. Now, under Papa Hitler, the
government was there for us and helped us find
jobs, get an education, build modern infrastructure, and, most importantly, regain our
national pride.
During the 1930s, in fact, the Nazi Party could do
no wrong in the eyes of most Germans.
I was given work on the new German
Highway, called the Autobahn or “Adolf Hitler’s
Road,” which connected das Reich from north to
south and from east to west. The other thing we
noticed in Dresden, Saxony, the city where I lived,
was that the Nazis were orchestrating boycotts
against Jewish businesses and were putting pressure
Jews to leave.
“Germany for Germans!” we’d say.
Most Jews who left went to the rump state of
Poland, which held the largest percentage of Jewish people in the world at the time. In my
view, it was
good riddance.
In 1935, the year I joined the Panzerwaffe, the
government passed the infamous Nuremburg Laws
which officially defined German citizenship along
racial lines. In short, anyone who was considered to
be Jewish (which was now considered a separate race
and not simply a religious denomination) or whose
family was not of German descent could no longer
enjoy German citizenship. As such, all non-citizens
would not be protected by the government. In other
words, it was open season on Jews or other
Untermenschen.
This measure was of course intended to spur a
volunteer emigration of non-Germans from the Reich. We wanted our country to be
ethnically
cleansed of non-Germans because we, at the time,
believed that they were burdens on our society or,
even worse, that they were Trojan Ponies just
waiting to rise up and help our enemies like that
traitor Friedrich Ebert did in 1918-19.
From time to time, Nazi Party thugs from the
brown-shirted Storm Battalions (Sturm Abteiling or
S.A.) would commit acts of terrorism against Jews
and other non-Germans such as beatings, arson,
rape, or theft in order to spur further emigration. All
of this was acceptable in the eyes of the law, as well
as the majority of Germans, as these people held no
rights to live in Germany. As for me, I never
participated in such barbarity. But I did nothing to
stop it, either.
Symbol of Panzer Division 1.
Generalleutnant der Kavallerie Maximilian von Weichs, original commander, Panzer Division 1, 1935-37.
Panzer 1s.
Panzer 2s.

Early uniform of the Panzerwaffe: black jacket and trousers, pink piping, death’s head device, and large black beret.
Standard uniform of regular infantry and artillery units: field green tunics and trousers with helmets. While the infantry
had white piping, the artillery
had red.

Chapter 3
I Join the Panzerwaffe
At the age of 22, I enlisted into the German Army’s
new Panzerwaffe (Armored Force) in April 1935, soon
after the Leader authorized the formation of four
experimental Panzer divisions. After completing my
basic training at the Dresden Barracks, I was
transferred to the Weimar Barracks, the home of
Panzer Division 1, which was commanded by
Generalleutnant der Kavallerie Maximilian von Weichs.
Weichs, a minor lord from Anhalt, was 54
years old at the time and was a decorated veteran of
the Great War from the Bavarian cavalry. The other
three Panzer divisions were located in Würtzburg, Bavaria (the 2nd and 4th divisions), and
Berlin,
Brandenburg (the 3rd Division).
While the standard divisions of the time
consisted of three infantry regiments of three
battalions each, one artillery regiment of three
battalions each, and a series of support battalions
like engineers, signal, transportation, and supply, the
new Panzer division was organized around the
combined arms concept.
What I mean by this is that it contained two
tank regiments of two battalions each, one
motorized infantry regiment of three battalions each,
one motorized artillery regiment of three battalions
each, a motorized reconnaissance battalion, a
motorized engineer battalion, a motorized tank destroyer battalion, and a motorized anti-
aircraft
battalion, a signals battalion, and a motorcycle
battalion. Even more importantly, during time of
war, these regiments would be organized into battle
groups (Kampfgruppen) that contained all arms.
Weich’s Panzer Division 1 consisted of entirely
new regiments: the 1st and 2nd Tank Regiments
(Panzer Reglementen 1 and 2), the 1st Armored Rifle
Regiment (Panzer Schützen Reglement 1), the 73rd
Armored Artillery Regiment (Panzer Artillerie
Reglement 73), the 4th Armored Reconnaissance
Battalion (Panzer Aufklärungs Abteilung 4), the 37th
Armored Engineer Battalion (Panzer Pioneer Abteilung
37), the 37th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Panzerjäger
Abteiling 37), the 299th Armored Anti-Aircraft
Artillery Battalion (Panzer Flugabwehrkanone Abteilung
299), the 37th Signal Battalion (Nachrichten Abteilung
37), and the 1st Motorcycle Battalion (Kradschützen
Abteilung 1).
I was assigned to the 3rd Section, 5th
Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Panzer Regiment (Zug 3,
Kompanie 1, Abteilung 2, Panzer Reglement 1) which was
commanded by Feldwebel der Panzertruppe (Sergeant of
Armored Troops) Marius Vogt, and consisted of two
brand-new Sonderkraftfahrzeug 101 (Sdkfz-250 or
“Special Ordnance Vehicle-101”) more popularly
known as the Panzerkampfwagon 1 (Armored Fighting
Vehicle, Model 1) or Pzkpfw. 1.
The Panzer 1 was the first tank built by the
Third Empire, breaching the terms of the Treaty of
Versailles (we Germans weren’t allowed to have tanks—but everyone else was). Made by
the
Rheinmetal, Krupp, Deutsche Machine Fabrik, Henschel, or
Daimler-Benz corporations, the Panzer 1 sported two
7.92 machine guns, had a crew of two (commander
and driver), had an operational range of about 290
kms (meaning it could go 290 kms before it ran out
of gas), and could roll 40 K.P.H. on flat, smooth
surfaces or 30 K.P.H. off road on flat surfaces. It
had a measly 10mm of frontal protective armor. It
was, in essence, an armored car; a vehicle for the
Panzerwaffe to train on until we got real tanks. It was
Feldwebel Vogt’s job to teach me everything about
being a tanker in the Deutsches Heer (German Army).
I liked Vogt. He was in his late-thirties, was
from Swabia (meaning he had a weird accent to me),
and was a veteran of the Great War and the Weimarera army. His Zug consisted of four
men, himself,
Gefreiter der Panzertruppe (corporal) Anton Fischer,
and Schützen der Panzertruppe Otto Nadel and I
(private soldiers).
The other tank in service was the new
Sonderkraftfahrzeug 121, more popularly known as the
Panzerkampfwagon 2 or Panzer 2. First built in 1935 by
the Rheinmetal, Deutsche Machine Fabrik, Krupp,
Henschel, or Daimler-Benz Corporations, the Panzer 2
sported one 20mm main gun, one 7.92 machine gun,
had a crew of three (commander , driver, and
gunner), had a range of about 240 kms, and could go
40 K.P.H. on a road or 25 K.P.H. off road on flat
surfaces. It had 15mm of frontal protective armor. Our new uniforms consisted of black
wool
trousers and jackets with pink piping. We also had
large black berets so we could comfortably wear our
head sets in the tanks. Aside from the pink piping,
we also had silver thread skull and crossbones of the
cavalry forces.
It was a sharp uniform and set us apart from
the other branches of the Army, which wore “Field
Green” uniforms, caps, and helmets. The piping of
the infantry was white and the piping of the artillery
was red.
Panzer 3s.
Panzer 1.

Panzer 2.
Panzer 3.
Sonderkraftfahrzeug 250, also known as a Schützenpanzerwagon or “S.P.W”

Kubelwagon.
Generaloberst der Panzertruppen Heinz “Schneller Hans” Guderian.
The Empire in 1938. The Leader was slowly, but surely retuning Germany to its historical boundaries. The last pieces:
the rest of West Prussia, all of Posen, and all of Lorraine.

Bohemian T38 tank that the Germans


called the Panzer 38.
Chapter 4
The Empire Grows, 1936-39
On March 7, 1936, against the terms of the Weimar
era Treaty of Locarno, Switzerland, the Leader
ordered several battalions of German Army soldiers
to reoccupy the Rhineland—the area between the
Rhine River and France and Belgium that had been
occupied by the allies from 1919-1930. With
Locarno, Britain and France agreed to pull out of the
Rhineland and to reduce Germany’s war reparations
if we agreed to keep the Rhineland demilitarized.
But Hitler, exhibiting his, and thus our,
sovereignty, thumbed his nose at the treaty, correctly
guessing that not only would the French and British
not do anything about it, but that he’d also score political points at home. As for me, I was
all for it,
and the Leader grew even more popular more points
in my book. The Rhineland had always been
disputed territory between France and Germany and
all knew that the French considered everything west
of the Rhine to be theirs. With German troops now
back in the Rhineland, however, it was a statement
to the world that it was part of the Empire and that
its citizens would be protected by German law.
On March 12, 1938, the Austrian provinces of
Ober und Nieder Donau (Upper and Lower Danube),
Saltzburg, Steiermark, Kärnten, und Tirol were officially
annexed into the German Empire at Austria’s
request. This also flew in the face of the Treaty of
Versailles which specifically forbade the combination
of Austria with the rest of the Empire. It was another attempt to keep us Germans weak,
and the
Leader, who was born and raised in Ober Donau in a
town called Braunau, understood full well the desires
of his native people.
With the union (or Anschluss), the German
military (or Deutsche Wehrmacht) gained all of Austria’s
armed forces, including its crack Mountain (Light
Infantry) (or Gebirgsjäger) divisions. Some were afraid
that Britain and France, this time, would re-occupy
the Rhineland and hold it hostage until German
forces withdrew from the former Austrian
provinces. I didn’t think they would—in fact, I
hoped that they would so we could drive them out.
In the end, like in 1936, they did nothing, stating that
it was a “natural union.” They were right. Die Deutsche Wehrmacht consisted of the Army
(Heer), Navy (Kriegsmarine), Air Force (Luftwaffe) and
the Armed Protection Squad (Waffen Schützstaffel or
S.S.). The Army, of course, was the base of German
defensive power and as the 1930s progressed,
became more and more integrated with the Luftwaffe,
which built small or medium bombers to facilitate
the advance of the Panzerwaffe.
The Waffen S.S., which we Army men looked
down upon as a bunch of political zealots, started as
a motorized Guard regiment called Leibstandarte Adolf
Hitler. As time went by, however, and after war was
declared upon us by France and Britain, it slowly but
surely showed its mettle and became a force to recon
with—in and out of the Empire. The things that separated the Waffen S.S. from
the Heer were its rank structure, which was more
democratic, it uniforms, and its training ideology.
While we Army men were taught soldier skills,
tactics, and loyalty to Germany and the Leader, the
S.S. was fully indoctrinated in Nazi ideology.
The next year, in March 1939, the Leader
ordered the invasion of Bohemia and Moravia,
erasing the rump state of the Czech Republic, and
annexed them back into the Empire. Neighboring
Slovakia was granted its independence and it quickly
signed a treaty of friendship with the Empire as a
gesture of gratitude. The people of Bohemia and
Moravia who were not considered to be German
citizens as per the Nuremburg Laws had their
possessions stripped and were either forced to work in slave labor camps or were given the
ability to
leave the country.
This time, the British and the French
protested “forcefully” but did nothing to stop us.
Why should they? It’s none of their business. They
have their fleets and their empires. Let Germany
have Central Europe and our place in the sun.
Besides all of the provinces had once been
part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German
Nation (The Empire). We were simply trying to
restore our ancient and natural country.
The one thing we really got from Bohemia
and Moravia were their fine 38t tanks, which were
quickly absorbed into the Panzerwaffe (“T” stood for
Tschechoslowakei or Czechoslovakia). Later, the Leader had the 38T factories taken apart
and moved to
Linz, Austria.
Soon after we annexed Bohemia and Moravia,
Panzer Regiment 1 turned in its Panzer 2s and received
brand-new Sonderkraftfahrzeug 141s, also called
Panzerkampfwagon 3s (or Panzer 3s for short). The
Leader didn’t give his top-of-the-line equipment to
just anybody and we knew that he had something in
mind for us. Built by Daimler-Benz of Bavaria, the
Panzer 3 sported one 37mm main gun, two 7.92
machine guns, had a crew of five (commander,
driver, gunner, loader, and bow machine
gunner/radioman), had a range of about 200 kms,
and could go 40 K.P.H. on a road or 25 K.P.H. off
road on flat surfaces. It had 50mm of frontal
protective armor. Because each tank crew was almost doubled,
it meant promotions for all of us old hands. I was
promoted to Feldwebel der Panzertruppe and was given
command of a Panzer 3, which I promptly named
“Hilde.” My gunner was my buddy Gefreiter der
Panzertruppe Otto Nadel, my loader was Oberschütze
der Panzertruppe Gerhard Bachmeier, my
radioman/bow gunner was Schütze der Panzertruppe
Ernst Krueger, and my crazy driver was Schütze der
Panzertruppe Bernd Ziegler, “the kid.” Only Nadel
and I had any real experience in the Panzerwaffe as the
rest were fresh out of Panzerschule. This would be the
crew that I fought “Hilde” with in Poland.
In fact, the entire Panzerwaffe was being
expanded into ten full divisions. With the cajoling of
Schneller Heinz and the General Staff, the Leader ordered the conversion of six infantry or
cavalry
divisions in 1938-39 and armed them with our old
Panzer 1s and 2s. Panzer Divisions 1-4 therefore got
all of the new Panzer 3s, making us the tip of the
spear of any ground assault. The Leader also
promised us more tanks, including the new Panzer 4,
which was set to be fielded in 1940.
We were moved east to the plains of Silesia
and training resumed in earnest. The first week we
spent on crew drills: driving, communicating, living
together on “Hilde,” conducting maintenance on
“Hilde,” firing the weapons, getting to know one
another, etc. During week two, we maneuvered
together in tank platoons, practicing formations,
communicating between tanks, and whatnot. During
week three, our company conducted gunnery, firing our 37mm main gun that could hit
targets out to
some 1,000 meters. Nadel, of course, was an
outstanding gunner, but Bachmeier needed
improvement in loading. At first, Bachmeier was far
too slow.
The first order we usually gave in a tank was:
“Achtung! Panzer, marsch! ” or “Attention! Tank, Go!”
“Attention” was directed to the crew to let them
know that the tank commander was going to issue
an order.
During this phase, I, as the tank commander,
was responsible for navigating the tank and finding
targets. Once I found a target, I’d yell something
like: “Tank, two o’clock!” and turn the turret in the
direction of the target, waiting for the gunner to yell, “Got it!” When I wanted him to
engage, I’d yell
“fire!” and when Nadel pulled the trigger, he’d yell,
“On the way!” or “Los!” to warn the rest of us.
When the gun went off for the first time, recoiling
back through the turret, it scared Bachmeier to
death. I told him to just stay in his seat, concentrate,
and reload once the gun was fired. After a few more
shots, Bachmeier, a farm boy from Holstein, got
much more comfortable. By the end of the week,
Hilde was a moving killing machine with three guns
and two treads running at the same time.
During week four, we started training as a
company Kampfgruppe (battle group) with some
armored infantrymen from Panzer Schützen Regiment 1.
“This is the future of war,” Max Glon promised us
few years back. The future, I guessed, was now.
While we gave up one of our platoons to
Schützen Regiment 1, they gave us one of theirs. Our
new company Kampfgruppe for training consisted of
two platoons of tanks and one platoon of armored
infantry. The infantry were organized into squads of
eight to ten infantrymen that revolved around a
7.96mm Machinengewehr 34 (Machine Gun Model 34),
or M.G. 34, which much like our machine guns but
for dismounted use.
The M.G. 34 had a crew of two, a gunner and
an assistant gunner. Everyone else in the squad,
except for the squad leader who was armed with a
brand new Machinepistole 38 (M.P. 38) sub-machine
gun, were also ammunition bearers for the M.G. 34 and as such were armed with sturdy
and accurate 98
Karabiner Mauser bolt-action 7mm rifles (98Ks),
Walther 9mm Polizeipistole Kriminellmodell (Police Pistol
Detective Model) pistols (P.P.K.s), and ball or stick
hand grenades.
In order to keep up with us, the riflemen were
transported across the battlefield in
Sonderkraftfahrzeug 250s (Sdkfz-250 or “Special
Ordnance Vehicle-250”), which were open air “half
tracks” that sported at least one 7.92mm mounted
machine gun. We also called them
“Schützenpanzerwagons” (protective armor vehicles) or
S.P.W.s. They could go about 40 K.P.H. and had an
operational range of about 320 km. Some of the
grenadier battalions were also getting newer
Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251s (Sdkfz-251), which were heavier, more protected half tracks
that were
preferred by the infantrymen. Also included with
each rifle company was a Panzerabwehr Kanon 36
(Pa.K-36), a small wheeled 37mm anti tank gun was
that designed and produced in 1936 by the Rheinmetal
Corporation. During this training exercise, we had
one Pa.K. with us.
Our Kampfgruppe commander, Hauptman der
Panzertruppe Lorenz Probst, decided to keep the
platoons pure (which we called Judenfrei as a joke),
and lead the march with one Kübelsitzwagon scout
vehicle (“Bucket-seat-car” that was designed by
Ferdinand Porsche and built by Papa Hitler’s famous
Volkswagon company, which built affordable cars
for average Germans), followed by one tank platoon,
then the mounted infantry, then by the second tank platoon. Basically, the scouts and
Panzer Peleton 1
would lead, scooting up the road and blasting
anything that came in their way. If they ran into
tough resistance, they would stop, ask the battle
group commander to deploy the riflemen, the half
tracks, and the Pa.K.s into a defensive line, call in
artillery or close air support, hammer the objective
with overwhelming fire, and then flank it with the
Kampfgruppe’s remaining tank platoon, the already
deployed tank platoon offering support if needed.
Once the objective was overrun by the fast
moving Panzers, the riflemen would remount and
move to secure the objective, ensuring that our
tanks’ flanks and rear were covered from infantry
fire (that’s the reason why the riflemen were called
“Schützen,” which means, “protection”). And once the tanks were through, the
infantrymen would
move back up into the column behind the leading
tank platoon and do it all over again.
Above all, we were taught that Panzer
Kampfgruppen were not to fight it out to the last man.
We were to instead punch through the enemy by
hitting with the “fist and not feeling with the
fingers,” infiltrate into his rear like Saxon General
Oskar von Hutier’s famed Stosstruppen (storm troops)
did during the Great War against the British and the
French in 1918, surround him, cut him off, and let
the follow-on regular infantry and artillery reduce
him to ashes in our wake.
As General der Panzertruppen “Schneller Heinz”
Guderian would say: “Go! Go! Go! Speed! Speed! Speed! That is what will kill them!” Or
my favorite:
“Faust; nicht Fingers!” (Punch through with a fist; and
don’t feel with the fingers!)
If we outstripped our own artillery, which
were pulled by massive Sonderkraftfahrzeug 6s, I
remember him saying, then call Luftmarschal Göring’s
Luftwaffe and let the Stuka dive-bombers take care of
it!
During our hands-on training, we also learned
not to leave the panzer grenadiers in the lurch—that
we needed their eyes, ears, and special equipment
and skills to better protect our tanks—to prevent us
from walking into an ambush—that we were a team.
Fedor von Bock, commander
of Army Group North.
Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of Army Group South.

Junkers 87
Sturzkampfflugzeuge dive
bomber. Also called a “Stuka.”
Junkers 88 medium bomber helped clear the way for the Panzerwaffe.

Heinkel 111
medium bomber.
Messerschmitt 109 fighters protected the bombers and gain aerial supremacy over the battlefield, enabling the
Panzerwaffe to advance.

Messerschmitt 110 , although slower than a 109, had three nasty 20mm guns in its nose, making it deadly to enemy
bombers or armored columns.

K.M.S. Tirpitz.
K.M.S.
Scharhorst.

The liberation of West Prussia and Posen consisted of a series of concentric circles or “sickle scythes” led by the
Panzerwaffe.
Generalmajor der Panzertruppe Rudolf Schmidt, commander of Panzer Division 1 during the liberation of Posen.

The Empire after West Prussia and Posen were liberated and returned to the Empire. The only remaining claim would be
on Lorraine, Luxemburg, and parts of Belgium, which were, at one time, also part of the ancient German Empire.
General der Panzertruppe Erich Höpner, commander of Korps XVI.

Dornier 17 Medium Bomber.


Chapter 5
War with Rump Poland, Sept., 1939
We Germans never recognized the Rump (fake) state
of Poland that was created by the treacherous Treaty
of Versailles in 1919. To us, at least a quarter of
“Poland” was in fact Germany, namely the provinces
of West Prussia and Posen. And the rest of it, east of
the Bug River, actually belonged the Soviet Union as
per the February 9, 1918, Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
between Germany and the Soviet Union. The treaty,
which led to the Soviets’ exit from the Great War,
enabled us to send hundreds of thousands of troops
to the Western Front. The treaty stated that
Germany would have everything west of the Bug
River (including captured Russian Imperial land) and that the new Soviet Union would
have everything
east of the Bug River, including Latvia, Estonia, and
Lithuania. In 1919, with the Treaty of Versailles,
however, the British, French, and the Americans got
it in their skulls to ignore our treaty with the Soviets
and to create an entirely new state, called “Poland”
that stripped parts from both Germany and the
Soviet Union.
For years, Papa Hitler negotiated with the
illegitimate Polish government to return the stolen
German provinces. Backed by France and Britain,
however, the puppet regime in Warsaw refused.
Finally, by the fall of 1939, the Leader had enough
and gave the rump government an ultimatum:
renounce its possession of the hostage German
states or Germany will free them and more by force. Of course, the Poles refused and
Hitler decided to
go to war.
In the plan, coded-named Fall Weiβ (Plan
White) die Wehrmacht would attack Poland from the
north and the south with two great army groups
moving in concentric circles. From the north,
Generaloberst (General) Fedor von Bock’s Army
Group North would attack down from East and
West Prussia. From the south, Generaloberst Gerd von
Rundstedt’s Army Group South would attack up
from Silesia in conjunction with our great ally
Slovakia, totally encircling the main Polish defensive
forces in the west.
The two army groups, led by the panzer divisions,
would then meet in the heart of the country at Warsaw, bomb the city into rubble with the
help of
the Luftwaffe, and then topple its western-puppet
government. As we did so, in the east, the Soviets
would retake everything east of the Bug River and
would reoccupy the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania,
and Estonia—putting everything where it should
have been according to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
All told, we would attack with sixty divisions,
numbering roughly a million-and-a-half men,
spearheaded by the Panzer divisions, punching
through the rump Polish lines with fists and not
fingers along a narrow front, encircling them and
cutting them off for annihilation by our regular
infantry and artillery forces. In support of the operation flew some 900
light or medium bombers, mostly Junkers 87s
(Sturzkampfflugzeuge or “Stukas”) or 88s, Dornier 17s,
or Heinkel 111s and almost 400 fighter aircraft,
mostly Messerschmitt 109s or 110s. And along the
Baltic coast, at Danzig West Prussia, several of our
battleships and cruisers, such as the Kriegsmarine Schiff
(K.M.S.) Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau
bombarded enemy targets in order to secure the port
facilities—our port facilities that had been taken
from us by the whisk of a pen.
Hitler gambled that France and Britain would
stay out of the conflict, keeping it a regional dispute
among three powers—that “what happens in the
East, stays in the East.” If Britain and France did
choose to escalate by declaring war on us and the Soviets to enforce their unjust Treaty of
Versailles,
however, Hitler hoped that our thinly-held West
Wall defenses, code-named Siegfried, would hold out
long enough until the majority of our army, which
was fighting in Poland, was moved west across the
Autobahn to help reinforce the line. After that, we
would finally get our revenge for the humiliation of
1918 and regain all of Lorraine, Luxemburg, and
parts of eastern Belgium, which had once belonged
to the Empire.
Generalmajor der Panzertruppe Rudolf Schmidt’s
Panzer Division 1, my division, was assigned to General
der Panzertruppe Erich Höpner’s 16th Corps of
Generaloberst Walter von Reichenau’s 10th Army of
Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt’s Army Group
South. Included in Höpner’s 16th Corps was
Generalmajor der Infantrie Peter Weyer’s Infantrie
Division 14 (Infantry Regiments 11, 53, and 116) and
Generalmajor der Infantrie Rudolf Kämpfe’s Infantrie
Division 31 (Infantry Regiments 12, 17, and 82).
In the German Army, one-star generals, those
who were usually junior division commanders, were
called Generalmajors; two-star generals, those who
were usually senior division commanders, were
called Generaleutnants; three star generals, those who
usually commanded corps, were called General der
Infantrie, der Panzer, der Kavalrie, der Artillerie or
whatever their branch was; four-star generals, those
who usually commanded field armies, were called
Generalobersts; and five-star generals, those who
usually commanded army groups, were called
Generalfeldmarschals. At this particular point, our army group commander,
Generaloberst Gerd von
Rundstedt, had not yet been awarded his field
marshal’s baton by the Leader.
Höpner’s 16th Corps held the south center of
the German line and we in Panzer Division 1 were
responsible for exploiting the breech made by
Infantry Divisions 14 and 31 and then swing south
to meet up with Generalmajor der Panzertruppe George
Hans Reinhart’s Panzer Division 4, which was coming
up from the south with Generalmajor der Panzertruppe
Gustav von Wietersheim’s 14th Corps, 10th Army.
As per tactical doctrine, the infantry divisions,
backed by massed artillery, would punch a hole
through the main enemy resistance line along a
narrow front, opening the way for the panzer battle groups to exploit the breach, heading
deep into the
enemy rear.
As the panzer battle groups advanced, the
infantry would reassemble and follow us up our axis
of advance, flattening by-passed enemy units. To
facilitate the advance, General Schmidt organized
our division into four battle groups: Kampfgruppe
Aufklärungs, Kampfgruppe Schützen Regiment 1, and
Kampfgruppen Panzer Regiments 1 and 2. Kampfgruppe
Aufklärungs acted as the division’s advance element
with the motor cycle company and Recon Battalion
4 (equipped with Pzkpfw 1s). Behind it were Panzer 2s
and 3s, the main effort, each containing two tank
battalions from the parent regiments, one artillery
battalion from the 73rd Artillery Regiment, one
engineer company from the 37th Pioneer Battalion, one company from the 37th Tank
Destroyer
Battalion, as well as anti-aircraft artillery platoons,
signal platoons, etc. Kampfgruppe Schützen Regiment 1
with assigned artillery, pioneer, anti-aircraft artillery,
and tank destroyer units would bring up the rear of
the column, being used to storm the towns and
villages while the Panzers cordoned them off.
The week before the big attack, our
regimental Kampfgruppe commander Oberstleutnant der
Panzertruppe (lieutenant colonel of Armor Forces)
Johann Nedtwig spoke to our company explaining
that this was to be a war of annihilation—that the
Jews and the Poles who currently occupied the illegal
rump state were “undeserving to live” and “were
beasts in human form.” As such, we were authorized
to shoot anything or anyone that got in the way of obtaining our objectives; that gaining
our
objectives—encircling enemy forces for future
eradication by the regular infantry and artillery
units—was paramount. “Immer weiter, Menner! Immer
Weiter!” (Always forward, men! Always forward!), he
proclaimed. We answered in kind: “Immer weiter!” and
started to sing the Panzerlied.
Ob’s stürmt oder schneit,
Ob die Sonne uns lacht!
Der Tag glühend heiß,
Oder eiskalt die Nacht!
Bestaubt sind die Gesichter,
Doch froh ist unser Sinn, ja unser Sinn!
Es braust unser Panzer im Sturmwind dahin!
Most of our enemy were Polish soldiers behind French-made Pa.K.s.

Polish infantry soldiers on the march. They are equipped with French uniforms and Russian helmets.
A captured Polish Renault F.T. in German service. It was armed with 37mm gun and equitable to a Panzer 2.

A captured Polish Renault R35 in German service. It had 42mm of frontal armor and was armed with a 37mm gun and
was equitable to a Panzer 3.
A German Panzer 3 had 50mm of frontal armor, a 37mm main gun, and could roll 20 K.P.H. off road.
Chapter 6
We Attack
By the last week in August 1939, the 16th Corps was
lined up along the main road at the Silesian border
town of Wielstadt with the Infantrie Division 14 on the
left and Infantrie Division 31 on the right. We in the
Panzer Division 1 were lined up along the main road
pointed northeast toward our first objective:
Szczercow.
The area that we would be attacking through
was mostly Slavic and thus it had weird,
unpronounceable names. Once we conquered it,
however, we’d no doubt rename them. Some of us
joked that the new towns and villages should be
named after the German soldiers who took the area, for example, one should be called,
“Prehmsdorf”
(Prehm’s Village).
Our ultimate objective was to encircle the city
of Czestochowa where most of the rump defenses in
the area were located. While we would swing wide to
the north, pushing to the rump city of Radom,
Generalmajor der Kavalrie Gustav von Wietersheim’s
Korps 14 (the 4th Panzer and 13th and 29th Motorized
Infantry Divisions) would swing up from the south
through Kielce, meeting us at Radom.
In the meantime, Generalmajor der Infantrie
Viktor von Schwedler’s Korps 4 would attack
Czestochowa directly from the west with Infantrie
Divisionen 4 and 46. Panzer Division 1’s axis of
advance to Radom was as follows: Wielstadt, Szczerow, Belchatow, Piotrkow, Sulejow,
and
Opoczno. It was about 200 kms or less than a tank
of gas if we didn’t have to do a lot of fighting. We
thought that we should get there in one or two days.
Our biggest threats would be anti-armor ambushes
set up in the towns. That’s where our protective rifle
(or Schützen) companies would come in quite handy.
While tanks are masters at fighting in the open
country, the infantry are the undisputed champs of
closed country or close quarter fighting.
On our topographical map, we could see that
the area in which we were to operate was generally
flat with little vegetation—therefore we would
probably be able to easily spot our enemy. That’s
why General Schmidt chose not to mix the infantry
battalions with the tanks battalions, keeping us “Judenfrei.” This could change, however,
depending
on the tactical situation.
After the rump state refused the Leader’s our
last ultimatum, we were ordered to execute Plan
White in the early morning hours of September 1,
1939. The artillery of Korps 16 opened up first,
blanketing the area in front Infantrie Divisionen 14 and
31, and, after a half an hour, they crossed the border
in teams of Stosstruppen. About an hour later, we got
the word to move out, and led by Kampfgruppe 4, we
headed up the narrow road toward Szczercow,
passing the elements of the infantry divisions.
This was the first time that I saw combat
deaths: three horses and four rumps laying along the
road with their blood and guts spilt out. As we continued our advance, we noticed
companies of
infantry establishing blocking positions to the north
and south to guard our flanks. This would be a team
effort and we owed it to the infantry who had
sacrificed their lives to punch through to reach
Radom as soon as humanly possible.
What I remembered the most about the first
day were the fighters and bombers roaring ahead of
us, spotting and blowing the hell out of enemy
concentrations even before we go there.
When we did get “there,” which was usually a
crossroads or a village, we were mostly opposed by
dug-in rump infantry with a couple of Pa.K.s. The
rumps got most of their uniforms and equipment
from the French, and to us, that’s pretty much who we thought were fighting. The only
thing that
differed were their Russian helmets. As such, we had
to engage their French Hotchkiss M.G.s, their
P.a.K.s and their 75mm artillery.
The biggest worry was their formations of
French-made tanks, like the Renault F.T.s or the
Char léger Modèle 1935. While the F.T. was like our
Panzer 1s and 2s, the Char 1935 was like our Panzer 3
as it had 43mm of frontal armor, a 37mm main gun,
and rolled at 20 K.P.H. off-road.
We thought that our Panzer 3s were better,
however, because our drive train was more powerful,
our silhouette was smaller, and we had several escape
hatches in case of a direct hit. Tank crews are extremely valuable. Tanks can be easily
replaced by
working tank crews take months to recreate.
We generally fought four different types of
engagements: (1) deliberate attack against infantry
and Pa.K.s, (2) hasty attack against enemy tanks, (3)
deliberate attack against enemy tanks, and (4) react
to ambush.
You’ll note that we were rarely on the
defensive during the liberation of Posen.
As I said before, my battle group was usually
led by the reconnaissance battle group that identified
and then by-passed targets. They would call for
artillery on their wireless radios and as the artillery
suppressed the target, we would come up with one platoon of Panzer 2s, one platoon of
Panzer 3s (my
platoon), and one platoon of infantry in half tracks.
When we knew where the target was, we
called this a deliberate attack. A deliberate attack is one
that is pre-planned—even if by radio from the
company commander. Usually, we’d come up to a
village with a company of Polish infantry dug-in with
one or two Pa.K.s. The enemy had already been hit
by Stukas or artillery and smoke marked where they
were from burning buildings.
Usually, our company commander, who was
in a Panzer 3, would order our mortars to deploy and
lay smoke on the target—blinding it. He’d then
order the platoon of Panzer 3s to roll up in front with their thick armor pointed toward the
enemy to seek
and destroyed the enemy Pa.K.s.
In this role, I’d usually sit up in my
commander’s hatch with binoculars to my eyes
searching for the report of Polish Pa.K. fire. The
reason why we deployed our Panzer 3s in this fashion
is because Panzer 2s only had 10mm of frontal armor
(as opposed to 50mm on Panzer 3s). The Panzer 2s,
however, could move a little faster than the 3s and
that’s the attribute we exploited.
As the artillery, the mortars, and the Panzer 3s
suppressed or “pinned” a target, the company
commander, in his Panzer 3, the platoon of Panzer 2s
(four tanks), and the platoon of half-tracks would swing around the left or right flank of
the objective,
attacking it in flank or rear.
As the company commander neared the
decisive position with his flanking element, he shot
up red flares ordering the artillery, the mortars, and
the Panzer 3s to cease fire. After that, the company
commander ordered his element to charge like a bat
out of hell in conjunction with the platoon of Panzer
3s.
Once an enemy position was over-run, the
infantry would dismount from their S.P.W.s, and
covered by M.G. 34s, would sweep through the
objective, securing it. In the meantime, the Panzer 3s
would face toward where the enemy retreated and
prepare for a counter-attack while the Panzer 2s guarded the flanks and rear of the
company,
completing the 360˚ perimeter around the infantry.
After this, we’d usually move a kilometer away
to reconsolidate, understanding that the enemy
probably had their strong point zeroed-in for
defensive artillery fire.
On some occasions, we had to fight a
“deliberate attack against enemy tanks.” For the life
of us, we didn’t understand why the French and
Poles did not read Guderian’s book that was entitled
Achtung Panzer! Unlike us Germans, who massed our
tanks, using speed and firepower, the French-trained
Poles usually spread their tanks out piecemeal in
fortified defensive positions with the infantry to act
like simple armored P.a.K. guns. What a waste!
As such, their tanks were just sitting targets!
To kill these stationary tanks, we generally
used the same battle drill that we used against
infantry—maybe just more artillery or Stuka strikes
because a tank is a harder target to kill.
On a rare occasion, the Poles actually attacked
us with their tanks in front or in flank. This was
called “hasty attack against enemy tanks.” For us, we
only had to deal with a lone platoon of Char 35s.
They hit our Panzer 2s in front—charging straight
out of their defensive position in a small rump Dorf
while the Panzer 2s and the half-track were
conducting their flanking maneuver. Charging Char 35s, if properly deployed, can
do a lot of damage—especially against Panzer 2s or
S.P.W.s. During their attack, they took out two of
our Panzer 2s while the company commander ripped
the turret off one of theirs with his main gun.
Because Panzer 2s really can’t face Char 35s, der
Hauptman ordered his Panzer 2s and his half-tracks to
break contact while we in the Panzer 3s were to hit
them in flank.
Remember, the company commander rode in
a Panzer 3.
The key to attacking another tank is to always
face front with your strong frontal armor and to try
to hit them in their flank or rear, where the armor is
weaker. The only worry is that as you go for their flank, an enemy tank or Pa.K. could be
looking to
shoot into yours, too.
During this particular engagement, we saw the
burning village to our front, the tops of the Char 35s
about one km to our right front, and further to the
right, the smoke cloud from a burning Panzer 2.
This meant that there was a little “rise” in
front of us where we could go into “hull defilade.”
Hull defilade means that the tank hull is covered by a
rise in the ground while the turret is above it,
enabling it to engage a target while being protected
from enemy fire.
Turret defilade is when the entire tank is
covered. Once you fire from hull defilade, the tank
commander can order the tank to back up into turret
defilade while the loader reloads. In this way, his
tank is under full cover.
During this particular engagement, our
platoon leader split the unit. While his tank and mine
went after the Polish tanks, the other two tanks
turned to face the village, using their frontal armor
to protect out flanks.
The platoon leader led us to the edge of the
rise where we took a turret defilade position. In
front of us, about 600 meters away, were three
moving Char 35s, moving from left to right, at about
15 K.P.H. As of yet, the rump tanks had not seen us
because they were totally buttoned up (their hatches
were closed). The platoon leader got on the radio
and said: “Prehm, you take the rear Panzer and I’ll
take the front!”
“Jawhohl, mein Herr!”
With that, I trained the main gun to the left
and commanded: “Gunner! Panzer!”
The gunner yelled, “Got it!”
Using the sighting scope, and looking
carefully through the smoke and the sweat on his
brow, the gunner took sight, led the rump tank by a
few feet, and fired.
“Los!”
BOOOM!
Direct hit on the flank of the Char 35.
Its gun dropped and it began to smoke.
“Again!” I commanded.
“Jawohl, Feldwebel!”
BOOOM!
Another hit! This time, the Char 35 broke into
flames.
I then peered my head further up from my
command cupula to find the remaining Char 35. I
saw that the platoon leader had killed the first one,
but I could not find the middle one. At that moment, an enemy Pa.K. round hit
my left rear guide wheel. None of us were hurt, but
“Hilde” was immobile—and in the open.
I did have a full view of what happened next,
however. The company commander and my platoon
leader charged forward through the smoke to seek
and destroy the remaining Polish tank. As they
approached one of our burning S.P.W.s, they found
the errant enemy tank just sitting there. Der
Hauptman shot it in its front, doing little damage.
One of our infantrymen, who had dismounted from
the S.P.W. then ran up, waved to the captain, and
volunteered to mount the tank and throw a grenade
into it. It was a risky move but he later admitted that
he was very upset by the death of some of his
brothers at the hands of the Polish tanks and that
German infantrymen were always taught to attack.
Apparently, the last Polish tank was left
abandoned because when the Schützer threw his
Stielgranat (stick grenade) into the hatch, there were
no screams.
When he looked in—the tank was empty.
We never did find that Polish tank crew.
In the end, my Panzerkampfgruppe took the
village at a loss of two Panzer 2s, one S.P.W., and
three soldiers. My tank, “Hilde,” was fixed the next
night. The most dangerous type of engagement we
fought was “react to ambush.” This usually
happened when we were on a road and got hit in the
flank by the rump forces.
We were only ambushed once during the
liberation of Posen and due to our high level of
training, we were able to overcome it with very few
casualties.
Generally, the enemy would set up “L”
shaped ambush along a road. In front would be a
Pa.K., tank, M.G., and/or mines and on the flank
would be other Pa.Ks, tanks, or M.G.s.
Once the front vehicle was stopped by a mine
or Pa.K. round, the rest of the ambushers would
open up into the flanks of the ambushed unit. This area is called “the kill zone.”
The key to a successful ambush is gaining and
keeping fire superiority and totally overwhelming the
enemy with it like a fire hose overwhelms a fire.
If you’re caught in a kill zone, you have but
three choices: die in place, get out, or counter-attack.
As per German tactical doctrine to always
attack, we were taught to use an ambush as an
opportunity to kill the enemy.
We would ambush the ambushers!
Once an ambush was triggered, we considered
the units caught in the kill zone to be pretty much
hors de combat. They were on their own to try to avoid
being killed by fighting in place or by getting down. Those not in the kill zone, however,
were expected
to hit the ambushers in flank and roll up their line.
The key to this is speed and audacity.
The biggest risk to this course of action is that
the ambushers have laid out a secondary kill zone
that was festooned with mines and covered by other
Pa.Ks.
This is what happened during our particular
ambush which happened about a week into the war.
On this particular day, our Kampfgruppe was
behind the recon element of the battalion, driving up
a road in central Posen. Usually, it was the fast, but
light-skinned recon element that got ambushed and
they were very good at reacting to it. This time, however, the enemy chose to let
our recon element pass and waited for us to enter
their kill zone, which was a simple linier one. What
this means is that there was nothing to stop the lead
element of our company—that it was a fight on one
flank.
We were traveling with the company
commander’s Panzer 3 in front, followed by one
platoon of Panzer 2s, followed by the S.P.W.s,
followed by my platoon of Panzer 3s. The ambush
was triggered on the left with a Polish Pa.K. firing at
the lead Panzer 2 at a range of 1,500 meters.
CLANK! BOOM! When an anti-tank round hits armor, the first
thing you hear is metal hitting metal and then the
explosion of the charge.
It’s the same with mortar rounds.
The hit was mortal and the Panzer 2 careened
off the road to the right.
It’s what followed that was bad as at least
three Pa.Ks and five Hotchkiss M.G.s open up on
us, followed by a mortar strike (which, luckily for us,
overshot the road and landed about 200 meters to
our right).
The entire area was wide open except for the
tree line from which the Rump company was
located. On the radio, we all heard, “Action left!
Action left!”
Because we were well-trained, we did not
need direct orders from the captain. In fact, he
simply issued orders “by exception.”
What this means is that once the drill “React
to Ambush, Action Left” is initiated, a company
commander or platoon leader doesn’t say anything
unless it was in the negative, such as “Stop there!” or
“Move to that point, etc.”
If his subordinates are doing their job and
going after the ambushers, watching for mines, etc.,
the company commander will be able to get on the
radio to call in a situation report to the battalion commander who will order in an artillery
strike to
help the pinned company.
During an ambush, we are taught to turn the
front of our tanks, where the armor is the thickest, at
the enemy and charge. The infantry and the S.P.W.s
would watch the tanks’ flanks and rear.
Being outside of the kill zone, it was our job
to dart across the open fields that separated the
ambush site and the Polish Pa.Ks. This in and of
itself wasn’t a problem until we ran into mines.
The lieutenant’s Panzer 3, leading our platoon,
which was in a modified “V” formation, rolled over
a mine and lost a track.
Mobility kill! He stuck his head further out of his command
cupula when he was splattered by Hotchkiss M.G.
fire at about 500 yards.
We still had radio communication with him
and it was decided to continue the attack against the
Polish company in the trees until one other tank got
hit.
And it did—by another mine.
BA-WOOM!
Our Number Two tank was hit—also losing a
track and the driver being wounded.
With half of the platoon now hors de combat,
our platoon leader told his remaining two tanks, (his and mine), to back up and simply lay
rounds into the
wood line.
We did this and about five minutes later, three
Stukas dropped their bombs into the wood line,
ending the rump threat.
That’s pretty much how it went for us day in
and day out, understanding that we’d probably lose
one or two men in the company to enemy fire.
On September 3, as we advanced further into
Posen, Britain and France did indeed declare war on
us for breaking the Treaty of Versailles and slowly
but surely mobilized their forces to invade Germany
and depose our beloved Leader. On September 17, the Soviets invaded the
rump state from the east and what remained of the
Polish government fled to Romania, a nominal
German ally, where it was immediately arrested.
After eighteen days of vicious, no-holds
barred combat, it was over.
The Poles lost a half a million men to us in
killed, wounded, or captured. Those who were
captured, about 300,000, were immediately interred
in slave labor camps that later evolved into
“Concentration Camps.” Their sole existence from
here on out was to work for the Empire, to help
build and maintain our military power. Most of them
did not last two years in the camps. To add insult to
injury, the rump Poles lost another 350,000 to the Soviets. As for us, we lost 11,000 killed,
30,000
wounded, and 3,400 missing in action, enlarging our
Empire and thus Living Space (Lebensraum) for
future generations.
We thought that it was very hypocritical for
France and Britain to declare war only on us and not
the Soviet Union for invading the rump state. What
is even more interesting is that once the Soviets
occupied their zone of Poland (we did not call the
area we held “Poland,” as we called it Posen or West
Prussia)—they also invaded the Baltic countries of
Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and even Finland!
Any peep from Britain or France about that?
None. Not one word.
First attack of the British Empire
against the German Empire was on Sept. 4, 1939, against the K.M.S. Admiral Scheer.

British aircraft carrier H.M.S. Courageous is sunk by one of our U-Boats on Sept. 17, 1939.
Generalfeldmarschal der Heer Walter von
Brauchitsch, General-in-Chief of the Army with the Leader.

Grossadmiral der Kriegsmarine Erich Raeder, Admiralin-


Chief of the Navy.
Generalfeldmarshal der Luftwaffe Hermann Goering, commander of the Air
Force.

Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler on parade in Berlin.


Kapitänleutnant der Reichsmarine Günther Prien, commander of U-47 which stuck it to the Royal Navy at Scapa Flow.

Günther Prien’s U-47 heading out into the North Sea. The H.M.S. Royal Oak is sunk by Prien’s U-47 at Scapa Flow.
The new Panzer 4. It had a crew of five (commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator/bow machine-gunner), 80mm
of frontal armor, and a 75mm main gun.
Panzer 3 (above) and Panzer 4 (below).

The K.M.S. Admiral Graf Spee is scuttled by its own crew off the coast of South America on Dec. 17, 1939 after
suffering severe damage at the hands of the Royal Navy.

Chapter 7
Sitzkrieg
As we battled to free West Prussia and Posen from
the rump government, the Germany and the
Western Allies fought several engagements. On Sept.
3, the day that France and Britain declared war on us
for example, Unterseeboot-30 (Submarine), operating
off the west coast of Ireland, torpedoed the
S.S. Athenia, a British cruise ship that was en route
from Glasgow, Scotland to Montreal, British
Dominion of Canada. All told, 112 passengers and
crew were lost.
The next day, on Sept. 4, the British Royal Air
Force unsuccessfully struck back when it launched a
failed raid on the Imperial battleship Admiral Scheer, which was anchored off
Wilhelmshaven at the
western end of the Kiel Canal. Several British aircraft
were lost in the attack and although the Scheer was hit
three times, all of the British bombs failed to
explode.
On Sept. 7, France began its war expedition
against the Empire when its army crossed the border
near Saarbrücken, which is in the Rhineland, with a
few scattered motorized infantry units. This began
what was called the Saar Offensive of 1939.
The French had an entire army group (some
thirty divisions) massed in the area and the Saar was
defended only by the German 1st Army and some
ten divisions. In the Warndt Forest on Sept. 16, however, the French were stopped cold
and thrown
back!
Our West Wall defenses were just too strong
for them!
On Sept. 17, the British aircraft carrier H.M.S.
Courageous is torpedoed and sunk by U-29 on patrol
off the coast of Ireland.
On Sept. 19, units from the German and
Soviet armies linked up near Brest-Litovsk in the
rump state and the Russians began their operations
against the Baltic States by initiating a naval blockade
of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. On Sept. 27, artillery from the German 1st
Army shelled French villages along the border in
retribution for their attack into the Fatherland.
On Oct. 3, reminiscent of 1914, the British
Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) moves to the Belgian
border with Germany in preparation for an expected
attack into the Empire in conjunction with the
French. The bulk of the German Army is still tied up
in Posen or West Prussia.
On Oct. 6, Polish resistance officially comes
to an end in West Prussia and Posen and the Leader
speaks before the Reichstag (the Imperial Congress),
declaring a desire for a conference with Britain and
France to restore peace.
The French and British refuse. They want us out of their rump state.
Good luck with that.
Most of us never really understood why the
British and French were mobilizing their armies and
navies to attack us from the west. They both had
vast colonial holdings across the globe and had
expanded their empires over the past one hundred
years. If they could, why couldn’t we live in a
country where all Germans were safe and secure?
The Leader hoped for a negotiated settlement based
on reason, fairness, and pragmatism, assuring France
and Britain that our territorial desires had been met.
In essence, that we had already won the war
as we had achieved our national objectives. What we
needed to do now was to secure the peace and that could only be found through England.
If England
would simply let us alone, war would be avoided.
But, if they wanted war, the Leader promised, they’d
get one—one that they would pay dearly for. In fact,
we in the Army saw it as an opportunity to regain
the lost western provinces.
I actually came to hate the English more than
any other group. I hated them more than I hated the
Slavs and their Jew masters because the English are
an arrogant people—always thinking that they were
morally superior. What hypocrites! They got rid of
our kings and Emperor in 1918 but kept their own
king—they complained about our territorial
“growth,” yet still controlled almost half the world
through their commonwealth or colonies. I think that they were simply afraid of us—
that if they didn’t stop us soon, then we’d conquer
their petty little island, assimilate their empire into
our own and show the world how to really lead!
By Oct. 7, the Baltic States of Latvia,
Lithuania, and Estonia agreed to Soviet demands for
bases and for all intents and purposes, were
occupied.
On October 9, 1939, still aglow with our great
victory in the east, the Leader told the department
heads of die Wehrmacht that we would have to attack
the Western Allies if they refused to compromise.
This operation was called Fall Gelb or “Plan
Yellow.” The Leader believed that if we didn’t hit the
French and British first with decisive results, the war
would become a long-drawn out conflict that we
could not win. As Frederick the Great, Elector of
Brandenburg, King of Prussia once said: “Our wars
must be short and lively!”
The heads of the Imperial Army and Navy
warned the Leader that the liberation of West
Prussia and Posen had used up too many resources
and that the Empire would need at least two years to
reach the production levels it needed to match the
strong Western allies whose armies out-numbered us
by three-fold.
But the Leader was unmoved. “Our Empire will only be secure once the
French and the British accept who we are and when
the Russians are exterminated” he proclaimed. He
also assured the department heads that the French
and the British had lost their penchant for war—that
our Luftwaffe and our Panzerwaffe would destroy them
in a lightning campaign, one like those fought by
Frederick the Great of Prussia during the 1740s-60s
or by the Willemine army of the 1860s-70s, or by the
Panzerwaffe in the rump state, September 1939.
“But my Leader,” interrupted
Generalfeldmarschalder Heer Walther von Brauchitsch,
commanding General of the Army, “They are not
rump Poles. They have sophisticated armies, navies,
and air forces that outnumber us and that are more
technologically advanced than us. Our tanks have no chance against theirs. Give us just a
few more years
to build.”
“But we don’t have a few more years, field
marshal!” answered the Leader. “As we speak the
Reds are occupying the Baltic States and are
preparing to invade Finland! We must hit the British
and the French now so we can defend ourselves
against the Russians before they have a few years to
recover. I don’t trust that Stalin. He is cunning! Just
like all those Jews and Mongols of the East! They are
animals who need to be put down! Our future lays in
the East! We will only be safe once those mongrel
hordes are destroyed once and for all!”
“But mein Führer, we need more time!” “They told me that with the Rhineland, then
with Austria, then with Bohemia and Moravia!
Wasn’t it you, Brauchitsch, that said that freeing our
fellow Germans in Posen and West Prussia would be
too risky!? And look at us now!”
“Mein Führer.”
“Yes Admiral Raeder.”
“Sir, our Navy is not yet ready to defeat the
British and French navies—we will be stuck in the
Baltic for the next few years…”
“My Leader!”
“Yes, Air Marshal Göring!” “Sir, our Air Force will crush the British
Navy! Let them come! We will land our airborne
forces in Norway, gain airfields, and bomb their
dreadnoughts into pieces!”
“Now that’s what I want to hear from my
commanders! Willpower and ideas! Not excuses!”
“Norway!?” belched Brauchitsch. “This is
madness!”
“That’s why I like it!” said the Leader. “Hit
them where they aren’t! Think big! I remember when
we real soldiers were in the trenches, up at the front
lines, unlike you aristocratic officers who stood far
behind the lines pointing at maps! If we hit them like
Stosstruppen and if the German people remain
unwavering, we shall beat them! We must beat them if we are to survive as a people!
Gentlemen, work up
a plan!”
“Still gestanden!” shouted one of the guards
from Leibstandarde Adolf Hilter, and the general
officers stood to attention while Hitler left the
meeting hall with Göring.
“The man is so mellow dramatic” Raeder said
to Brauchitsch.
“Yes, but he is in charge—we took an oath.
It’s our responsibility to advise him, like we just did.
But once he makes the decision, we are duty-bound
as German officers to follow him.”
“I don’t question that, Walt, I just question if
this is the right tactic. I think Ribbentropp (the German foreign secretary) will talk some
sense into
the British. And once they back down, the French
will, too. Peace runs through White Hall, you know.”
“But you know the British. They’re an
arrogant people. They think they rule the world with
their king and their navy. We’ll no doubt have to
give them a bloody nose first. It is you, admiral, who
is in the best position to do it. Hit them with your
U-boats and send your battleships out into the
North Atlantic to wipe out their merchant fleet. My
boys will hold the West Wall defenses. Hopefully, by
spring, we’ll bring the British to their senses.”
“Alright, field marshal, I’ll do it and tomorrow
we’ll assemble the staff to begin planning the attack.
But I need your army to hold the West Wall.” “It will, admiral. I’m shipping my Panzer
divisions into assembly areas in the Rhineland to act
as a mobile defense just in case the French actually
have the guts to come out from behind their
Maginot Line and break through Siegfried (one of the
code-words for our West Wall defenses)!”
“And I’m slowly slipping U-Boats into the
North Sea from Cuxhaven and Bremerhaven to let
the English know that we still owe them from the
last war!”
One of these submarine raids culminated
during the early morning hours of October 14, just a
few days after Hitler’s directive. Kapitänleutnant der
Reichsmarine (1st Lieutenant of the Imperial Navy)
Günther Prien, commander of U-47, was able to pilot his submersible patrol boat
(submarines of the
day could only stay under water for a short period of
time—they mostly scooted across the surface) into
the British naval base at Scapa Flow, Scotland, which
lay several nautical miles west of the great 1916 sea
battle that effectively knocked the German surface
fleet out of the war. Prien steered his boat through
the harbor’s opening and slammed five torpedoes
into the side of the British battleship H.M.S. Royal
Oak, sinking her in thirteen minutes. Prien then
kicked his engines in reverse, sailed back out of the
harbor and across the North Sea to the sub pens of
Wilhelmshaven. Prien was awarded the Ritterkreuz
(Knight’s Cross) and became one of the German
Empire’s first war-time heroes. I thought that the U
Boatwaffe, along with the Panzerwaffe and the Luftwaffe,
would win the war.
Once the newly-freed provinces of West
Prussia and Posen were liberated from the rump
government, our civilian authorities moved in to
organize their local governments and to enforce
German laws. Those who were not deemed to be
German (Poles, Jews, etc.) were immediately shipped
east to slave labor camps to the new “Imperial
Territory” (Reichsland) or the “General Government”
that stretched from Warsaw in the north, Krakow in
the south, and Lublin and the Bug River in the east.
The Reichsland was controlled by the Nazi official
Hans Frank. He was not only responsible for the
running of the slave labor camps and the liquidation of non-Germans, but was also
responsible for
facilitating the colonization of ethnic Germans.
By 1950, we hoped, the entire area would be
100% German. We did this not only because of our
own ethnocentrism and xenophobia, but also
because the Treaty of Versailles had stripped parts of
our empire in 1919, claiming the sovereignty of
certain ethnic groups like Czechs or Poles who we
had allowed to live in Bohemia, Moravia, Posen, and
West Prussia. But if these areas were 100% German
it was thought, no one could ever question their
place in the Empire again.
On November 8, at the Bürgerbräukeller, the
famous beer hall where the Nazis had assembled
before their failed 1923 coup attempt against the Social Democratic government of
Bavaria, Hitler
delivered a resounding speech to assuage the fears of
the German people about the current unpleasantries;
that Papa Hitler and his proven Wehrmacht would
defend Germany against France, Britain, or
whomever else—that never again (Nie Wieder) would
we suffer the pains, degradation, and humiliation of
1919-1933.
Soon after he left the beer hall, however, a
bomb ripped through the place, killing eight and
wounding sixty. It was his first known assassination
attempt—one that he publicly blamed on the British
secret service (after the war I found out that it was
done by a Bavarian Social Democrat, acting alone). On Oct 20, the Luftwaffe and U-
Bootwaffe begin
mining the Thames estuary, cutting London off from
the sea. We could not believe how the French and
the British, who outnumbered us three-to-one and
who declared war on us, just sat there on the border.
During this time, Panzer Division 1 had
completed its move from Reichsstaat Posen (Imperial
State of Posen) to Reichsstaat Koblenz-Trier in the
Rhineland to act as a mobile reserve against any
French thrust. We were posted in Cochem Barracks,
along the majestic Mosel River—wine country! It
was a great time for us—a time that we called the
“Sitzkrieg” because we just sat there. We trained, drank good Mosel wine, and, in
early November, Panzer Regiment 1 turned in some of
its Panzer 3s for brand new Panzer 4s.
The new Panzer 4 had a crew of five
(commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio
operator/bow machine-gunner), has 80mm of
frontal armor, a 75mm main gun, and two M.G.s.
I was assigned as a tank commander in one of
the new Panzer 4s.
Lucky me.
The biggest difference between the Panzer 3
and the Panzer 4 was the speed, the improved armor,
and the main gun. Like the Panzer 3, the Panzer 4 was very easy to drive and maintain
(unlike the Panthers
and Tigers that came out later in the war).
The big-mouthed 75mm main gun was
designed to mostly to take out fortified infantry
targets or Pa.K.s. Could it engage enemy tanks? Yes,
but not as well as the Panzer 3 with its smaller
caliber, high velocity main gun.
To kill a tank—it’s the velocity of the
projectile and not the size of the projectile that
matters.
The other peculiarity of the Panzer 4’s gun was
that it was short. We actually preferred this because
if we got stuck in city fighting—and we would—we
could rotate the turret 360˚ in almost all occasions. If
we would have had a longer barrel (like later in the war), then adjacent buildings would
have stopped
the gun.
Having a short gun almost meant that our low
armored vehicle was easier to camouflage.
Unlike before, when our company Kampfgruppe
had a mixture of Panzer 2s and 3s, we would now
have a mixture of Panzer 3s and 4s. That means that
we had one platoon of Panzer 3s for anti-tank work,
one platoon of Panzers 4s for anti-Pa.K. work, one
platoon of infantry in S.P.W.s, and one platoon of
mortars.
Our company commander had a Panzer 3 and
my platoon operated in Panzer 4s. On Nov. 30, the Soviet Union invaded
Finland and unlike with us, Britain and France said
nothing to Stalin’s Red hoard. The Soviets were
looking to gain more access to the Baltic Sea to
better support their bases in Estonia, Lativia, and
Lithuania.
Our question was, why?
On Dec. 17 one of our great battleships, the
K.M.S. Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled by its crew by
the off the coast of South America after it was
severely damaged by the Royal Navy. We in the
Panzerwaffe never understood why our Kriegsmarine
always seemed to send our battle ships out so far and
alone to be bum rushed by the more numerous
Royal Navy. Wouldn’t it have been better to mass them and keep them under our air cover,
just like
our Panzerwaffe?
On Dec. 18, for example, in the first real air
to-air fight of the war, the Luftwaffe beat the R.A.F.
over the North Sea. This is where the Graf Spee
should have been operating.
On Jan. 10, 1940, Major der Luftwaffe Erich
Hoenmanns’s plane, in a strange twist of fate, flew
off course and crash-landed in eastern Belgium. This
in and of itself isn’t bad except for the fact that
Hoenmanns was carrying Fall Gelb, which outlined
the invasion of Luxemburg, France, Holland, and
Belgium for the spring of 1940.
The enemy just got wind of our plans! In the end, however, it worked for us because
with Fall Gelb now in the hands of our enemies, the
Leader insisted on a new plan—one that was not like
the original Fall Gelb, which was a lot like our attack
strategy into France in 1914 anyway.
But more on that later.
On Jan. 27, the Leader ordered the General
Staff to develop plans for the invasion and
occupation of Denmark and Norway. He wanted
Norway for its mineral resources (including the
heavy water chemicals which could help us build a
super bomb) and to deprive Britain a staging area for
its navy and air force. As for Denmark, the Leader
needed it to get into Norway. On March 5, the Soviet Union and Finland
agreed to an armistice. In it, Finland only lost small
parts of its country to enable the Russians full access
to the Baltic Sea. The Red Army, it seemed, was not
as good as it thought it was.
On March 28, Britain and France made a
formal agreement that neither country will seek a
separate peace with the Empire.
On March 29, the Soviets talked about “an
unsettled dispute” with Romania over its rich
province of Bessarabia. The Reds believed that
Bessarabia belonged to them while the Romanians
believed that it belonged to them. The Leader had
already made a defensive alliance with Hungary and
with this saber rattling by the Soviets, began to think of one with Romania and Bulgaria as
well. He knew
full well that although we were currently at war with
Britain and France—it was the Soviet Union that
was actually Germany’s biggest threat.
On April 9, we invaded Denmark and
Norway. Because the Danes had no choice (and
wanted to be part of the Empire?) they surrendered
that day. The Norwegians were different, however,
and the British and French started landing troops to
help them defend themselves.
This is where the K.M.S. Admiral Graf Spee
would have come in handy!
Again, why they did not invade the Empire
right then and there, is beyond our level of understanding. How were they going to force
us
from their rump state by staying of the defensive?
By May 1, the Western Allies were driven
from Norway and we in Panzer Division 1 were
getting ready for our next mission: the invasion of
France, a country which declared war upon us.

Panzer Division 1 commander for France, Generalleutnant der


Panzertruppen Friedrich Kirchner.
Generalleutnant der Infantrie Erich von Manstein of the General Staff came up the with the “sickle cut” idea through
northern France.
The famous “sickle cut” through France and Flanders that came behind the main British and French armies in Belgium
and took the Channel ports of Dunkirk and Calais.
German 105mm howitzer.
Guderian’s Panzer Group A takes Sedan! Squad
of French soldiers, May 1940.
German infantry and engineers cross
the Meuse near Sedan, May 1940.

German infantry assault squad clears an


objective of enemy troops.

Our pontoon bridge north of Sedan. Note the


French prisoners.
Paul Reynaud, the new Premier of France.

Maréchal de France Henri Phillipe Pétain.

Maréchal de France Maurice Gamelin.


Genéral de France Maxime Weygand.
Chapter 8
We Take Sedan!
We were in the heavily wooded Eifel Mountains just
east of Luxemburg in the month of May 1940. Our
division commander was Generalleutnant der
Panzertruppen Friedrich Kirchner. The rank alone
shows how far the Panzerwaffe had come since its
austere beginnings: we were now a bonafide branch of
the Imperial Army.
And a very proud one, too.
According to the new plan, which was created
by Generalleutnant der Infantrie Erich von Manstein of
the General Staff in conjunction with General der
Panzertruppe Heinz Guderian, the sweep into the Netherlands and Belgium was to be
secondary.
Knowing that the British and French, especially with
Fall Gelb in their hands, expected it to be our main
effort, they would no doubt send the bulk of their
forces there to stop us.
During the Great War, both France and
Germany fought in Lorraine during the early stages
of the war and the Germans surprised everyone
when we invaded Luxemburg and Belgium and
swept down behind the main French armies in
Lorraine.
The only thing that stopped us was that the
Emperor’s commanding general, Helmut von
Moltke, weakened the right wing so much that we were stopped cold along the Marne
River between
Paris and Verdun.
Because of this, we were forced to pull back
and dig in until we beat the Russians and their allies
in the East.
And we know how that turned out by 1918.
This time, we would storm into Luxemburg,
Belgium, and Holland with two army groups while a
third one held the boundary with Lorraine. Once the
British and French committed the bulk of their
forces against the northern army group, Generaloberst
Fedor von Bock’s Army Group B that was operating
in Holland and northern Belgium, the middle army
group, the main effort, Army Group A under
Generaloberst Gerd von Runstedt, would charge through the Ardennes Forest of
Luxemburg and
southern Belgium, take the French fortified city of
Sedan that guarded the Meuse River crossings, and
then sweep like a “sickle scythe” behind the French
and British Forces by charging to the sea, bypassing
enemy strong points as we went. Generaloberst
Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb’s Army Group C would
hold the French in Lorraine while Army Groups A
and B destroyed the bulk of the French and British
forces in Belgium and northern France.
We in Panzer Division 1 were in General der
Panzertruppe Heinz Guderian’s Panzer Group A of
Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt’s Army Group A.
Our division had 52 Panzer 2s, 98 Panzer 3s, 58 Panzer
4s, and 40 Panzer 35(t)s.
On order, we were to cross the Our River
behind the infantry into Luxemburg, move as fast as
we could up the narrow dirt roads of the Ardennes
Forest and get to Sedan, seizing the Meuse River
crossings there.
Once we crossed the Meuse River at Sedan,
we were to go hell-bent-for-leather for the English
Channel, by-passing enemy strong points—just like
we had in Posen.
On May 10, 1940, the great offensive began
when Army Group B invaded Holland and Belgium.
The most extraordinary event of that extraordinary
day was our parachute landings behind the enemy
lines—especially the one directed against the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael. Never
before had
parachutists taken an objective this big.
While our Air Force had “parachute infantry
regiments,” our Army had “air landing” regiments.
Generally the Air Force’s parachute infantry
regiments landed first by parachute and secured air
fields while the Army’s air landing regiments were
taken in directly by aircraft which landed on those
seized air fields. The Panzerwaffe would then charge
forward through the enemy lines to relieve them,
followed by the regular infantry and artillery.
On May 11, seeing that the Western Allies had
taken the bait and were in fact driving further north
into Belgium, Rudstedt’s Army Group A invaded Luxemburg and was in Belgium by mid-
afternoon,
fighting only scattered infantry forces.
Again, for us at the company level, the war is
very small. Our Kampfgruppe had one platoon of
Panzer 3s to face enemy tanks, one platoon of Panzer
4s to take out enemy Pa.K.s or dug-in infantry, one
platoon of armored infantry, and one platoon of
mortars.
It is very straight forward—almost routine.
Today, we will go up this road and get to that point.
At that point, we will rest and refit and move to the
next point, dealing with any enemy forces that come
in our path.
What I remember the most about the first few
days of combat in Luxemburg and France is how different the terrain was from Posen. In
Posen, it
was very flat with very thick, wild forests. In
Luxemburg and northern France where we were
operating at least, it was very hilly and had beautiful
woods and well-built villages.
I in fact remember waiting for the column to
move forward several times while still in the
Ardennes and feeling that I was on a nature
expedition.
Besides sweeping aside a few French infantry
strong points, which I’ve already discussed how we
generally fought through them in Poland, our biggest
engagement, by far, was the battle for Sedan.
This battle, without doubt, was the most
strategically significant battle in German history. If we won it—if we crossed the Meuse
River and got
behind the main French and British armies, this time
we would have them!
On May 10, my Kampfgruppe showed up along
the western shores of the Meuse River just north
Sedan with other elements of Guderian’s Panzer
Gruppe A, which consisted of Panzer Divisionen 1, 2,
and 10. The situation was simple, on the other side
of the river were several strong French forts—yes
forts—whose direct fire guns controlled the entire
valley. Several km behind the forts were French
artillery battalions—also positioned in fortified
defensive positions.
Our artillery, mostly 105mm howitzers, were
not strong enough to break the strong French forts—not even “bunker buster” bombs
dropped by
Stukas.
We had to take the forts by frontal assaults.
For this mission, we in the Panzerwaffe acted
purely in a support role while the infantry and
engineers made their way across the river, secured
the forts, and built a pontoon bridge.
Once those things were done, then Achtung,
Panzer, Marsch! would be ordered and off we’d go
driving as far into the enemy rear as we could.
Guderian reinforced our division with the
Motorized Infantry Regiment “Greater Germany”
(Grossdeutschland), which consisted of men from every
province of the Empire. This regiment was entrusted to conduct the “river crossing under
fire” mission
north of Sedan. Under cover fire from the artillery
and our tanks, especially big-mouthed Panzer 4s, the
infantry and engineers of Panzer Division 1 and the
Reglement Grossdeutschland crossed the river, under fire,
in inflatable rafts.
The laying of enough smoke is critical to a
successful river crossing.
After sustaining heavy casualties, the
Stosstruppe Infantrie stormed up the hill and took out a
line of fortified French trenches that defended the
flanks of the strong points!
Once the trenches were taken, the strong
points and forts fell, the bridges went up, and we
crossed the Meuse River on May 15! We did it!
For the next three days, we rolled west with
very little sleep. I could tell that the French were in
total disarray because their defenses were few—not
near enough to write about. In fact, during this
phase, I think that the Luftwaffe killed far more
Frenchmen who were stacked up along the roads
than we in the Panzerwaffe.
On May 16, elements of Guderian’s
Panzergruppe made it to the French town of Arras,
which was near the coast, and our regular infantry
and artillery were coming up behind us, guarding the
northern and southern “shoulders” of our bulge in
their line. This is when we were the most vulnerable
because without food, fuel, or ammunition, we are
useless. We thought for sure that the French would
drive up from Paris, cut our supply lines back to
Sedan, and then bomb us into oblivion.
My Kampfgruppe was in a small village resting
and recuperating, waiting for said resupply, and we
were always on watch, waiting for the French to
attack us from the south or the British from the
north.
They never did.
On May 17, Army Group B took Brussels and
Antwerp, Belgium, and Paul Reynaud formed a new
French government with 84-year-old Maréchal de
France Henri Phillipe Petain, the Allied general-in chief during the Great War. They
replaced Maréchal
de France Maurice Gamelin with Genéral de France
Maxime Weygand to command the French armed
forces.
Their goal was to defend Paris and everything
south, including their vast colonial possessions in
Africa, Asia, America, and the Pacific.
Dunkirk
evacuation, May 27-June 4, 1940.

Generaloberst der Panzertruppe Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist, commander of Panzer Gruppe B.
Benito
Mussolini, the Leader of the Italian Empire, one of our allies.

The K.M.S. Gneisenau.


The K.M.S. Scharnhorst.

The British H.M.S. Glorious, which was sunk by the K.M.S. Gneisenau and Scharnhorst off the coast of Norway on June
7, 1940. Hit with the fist and don’t feel with the fingers!

Chapter 9
To the Weygand Line
On May 25, the Allied forces north of our Sickle
Scythe retreated to Dunkirk before they got totally
cut off by Guderian’s Panzer Group A.
But we were in bad shape, too.
We really were.
After the war, many have called it a “blunder”
that Guderian’s tanks weren’t sent into Dunkirk to
end it all.
To be honest with you, I’m not sure if we
could have done it even if we had been ordered to
do so. Let me rephrase that, we probably could have taken the beachhead, but at the loss
of most of our
units.
And the Panzerwaffe was the Leader’s proven
arm of decision.
The Leader therefore ordered a halt to the
advance of the Panzerwaffe toward the Allied
beachhead and directed Hermann Göring Luftwaffe
to attack the Dunkirk Pocket and the British and
French ships in the Channel while the regular
infantry and artillery moved up to finish the job.
To me, this was a reasonable and rational
decision. To date, our Luftwaffe had been dominating
the skies and the Panzerwaffe was not good at
breaching strong enemy defensive lines—that was
the job for regular infantry and artillery. The problem was that by the time our regular
infantry and artillery arrived, which relied upon foot
and horse power, the enemy had already evacuated
some 350,000 troops from the Dunkirk Pocket (May
27-June 4, 1940).
Although this became a great “what if” of the
war, the fact that the British and French troops
escaped to England without their heavy weapons
and equipment, does mean something. We
eventually put that equipment to good use to build
our Atlantic Wall or during our defensive war against
Soviet Russia in 1941.
Besides, we still had the bulk of the French
Army to deal with and all in the Panzerwaffe knew
that once the Luftwaffe was pulled away from the Dunkirk Pocket, we would be sent south
to defeat
the French who, remember, declared war on us and
then just sat there.
On May 28, Belgium formally surrendered to
the Empire and King Leopold III of Belgium was
interned. We Germans always found it hypocritical
that the Allies had removed our Emperor, Wilhelm,
in 1918, but maintained their own monarchies
(except France and the rump United States, of
course). With Adolf Hitler now fully in charge of the
Empire, we wondered how he would be replaced
once he died.
Would it be a party choice (only one political
party or movement in the Empire as too much political competition causes unneeded
friction)?
Would it be the Leader’s personal designate?
Who knew? But at this point, nobody really
cared, either, as we still had France and Britain to
beat.
On June 3, we in Guderian’s Panzer Gruppe A
were ordered back toward Sedan where we went into
an assembly area behind the 2nd and 12th Imperial
Armies of Army Group A. To our right, out towards
the Channel, was Army Group B (Imperial Armies 4
and 6), which had swept down from Holland and
Belgium.
The French, now under Weygand, had
established a strong defensive line north of Paris along the Aisne River—just like they had
in 1914.
While they had eight field armies, we had but six.
In the attack, it is generally believed that one
needs a three-to-one advantage over the enemy.
That doesn’t necessarily mean in total force,
but at least somewhere on the battlefield.
We intended to gain that three-to-one
superiority by synergizing all of our forces at the
same place and time. As such, Army Group
commanders A and B designated a point of decision
(Schwerpunkt) in their sectors where regular infantry
and artillery would breach the French line, which
was called “The Weygand Line.” Once the line was
breached in two places, Panzer Groups Kleist and
Guderian would exploit the breaches and head for the rear, shooting up enemy artillery
and support
units while Stukas cleared the way of enemy tank
formations.
It was the Mediterranean or bust!
Unless Mussolini, our supposed ally got
involved first, that is.
If Weygand was smart (and he wasn’t), the
French would have defended in depth, the farther
forward—the weaker the line. If Weygand was smart
(and he wasn’t), he should have massed his tanks (he
had twice as many tanks as we did and their Char-Bs
could out-fight our Panzer 4s), and kept them in
reserve, staunching any German breach. What Weygand did do, as we expected, was to
have a strong front line of regular infantry and
artillery with tanks interspersed among the dug-in
infantry companies and each infantry division had a
battalion of tanks in reserve.
A battalion!
As such, we would end up not fighting a large
mass of French tanks, but platoons, companies, or
maybe battalions.
My company Kampfgruppe, ended up fighting
an entire battalion of Char-Bs, and they put a hurtin’
on my unit.
On June 7, German battleships Gneisenau and
Scharnhorst sank the British aircraft carrier H.M.S. Glorious and two destroyers off the
coast of Norway.
This was the way to use our battleships! Under the
cover of the Luftwaffe.

French Char-B, 40mm armor, two main guns, on 47mm in the turret and one 75mm in the armored hull.
An abandoned and captured Char-B, just
south of the Weygand Line.
The
French surrender to we Germans at Compiègne, which is between Soissons and Paris, on June 22, 1940. The French
agree to the Leader’s surrender terms in the railway car at Compiègne.
The Empire as of Aug., 1940. It stretched from Norway and Denmark in the north to Bavaria and Austria in the south
and from East Prussia in the east to Brittany in the west. Our allies were Italy, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria,
Yugoslavia, and Vichy France. We were at peace with the Soviet Union, at war with Great Britain, and Switzerland, and
Finland, Sweden, and Spain were neutral.

Chapter 10
Our Big Tank Battle, June 10, 1940
On June 8, 1940, the regular infantry and artillery
forces of Army Groups A and B began their
breeching operations of the Weygand Line along the
Aisne River (pronounced “eyen”). The heaviest
fighting for us in Army Group A was between the
French cities Soissons and Rheims, just like during
the Great War.
But this time, we Germans would not be
denied!
After but two days of fighting, the Wegand
Line was breached in our sector and Guderian’s Panzer Gruppe A was sent across the
Aisne River, led
by the Stuka, Heinkel, and Junker bombers!
On June 10, as we drove toward Château
Thierry and the Marne River, we got hit by a
battalion of French Char-Bs, which was considered to
be one of the best tanks in the world at the time.
The Char-B has 40mm of frontal armor and two
main guns—one 47mm on a turret and one 75mm in
the armored hull. It could maneuver at 25 K.P.H.
and had a height of 2.79 meters.
Compared to a Panzer 2, the Char-B was
overwhelming but compared to a Panzer 3 or 4, not
so much. A Panzer 4, for example, the type of tank I
was in during the war in France, had 80mm of frontal armor, a 75mm main gun, could roll
at 38
K.P.H., and had a height of 2.68 meters.
We intended to leverage our speed, superior
frontal armor, our turreted 75mm gun, and our
native Germanic superiority and training over the
French tanks and their crews.
But again, the gun on the Panzer 4 wasn’t high
velocity, like the 37mm gun on the Panzer 3.
The problem was, however, the 37mm high
velocity gun wasn’t big enough to pierce the frontal
armor of a Char B past 500 meters.
For us, the battle started much like our tank
battle in Poland—we got hit in the flank. Our Kampfgruppe was in the center of our
battalion which was leading the advance of Panzer
Division 1 after the reconnaissance Kampfgruppe. The
order of march was the company commander, the
Panzer 3s, the Panzer 4s, the infantry platoon in
S.P.W.s, the mortar platoon in S.P.W.s, and the H.Q.
platoon, which rolled in trucks.
The Char-Bs charged at us from the right or
west—from the direction of Paris. We were on a
nice two-lane paved road (which was rare to find in
Posen) that was lined by large old trees.
The Char-Bs fired their first volley at us—if I
remember right, about 25 tanks fired 50 main gun
rounds into us at a range of 1,000 meters.
CRRACK! CRRACK! BOOM! The company commander’s tank was hit and
disabled as well as five other tanks in our company.
None were totally knocked out, but were
either immobilized or had their main guns knocked
out.
Just like that, we were down to half strength.
I’m just glad that the French didn’t call
artillery on us as well or else I think we would have
all been killed.
If we would have done it, we would have
called in the artillery and mortars first, causing panic
in the column, and as the vehicles moved to escape
the artillery, we’d open up with our direct fire guns
advancing while we loaded. Because of the trees that lined the road and
the disabled tanks, it was hard for the rest of the
tanks to maneuver from road. If we pivoted left to
take cover on the east side of the road, we’d show
our rear to the enemy.
Bad move.
If we just stayed in flank to the enemy, side
armor does not hold up well to 75mm tank rounds.
To stay put, then, wasn’t a good option,
either.
The only option we had was to pivot to the
right on the road and fight it out with frontal armor
facing the enemy. Our infantry in S.P.W.s, at the rear of the
column, wasn’t currently in the kill zone and their
platoon leader boldly ordered them to pivot to the
right, between the trees, and to head toward the
Char-Bs’ flank and rear.
As I pivoted my tank to the right, I could see
at least three Char-Bs firing from an opposing tree
line. Between us was 1,000 meters of open ground.
It was farm land with something growing in it
(I’m not a farmer).
As I got my bearings, I saw flashes from the
muzzles of the French tanks and then heard a
“CRRACK!” A mili-second later, my tank was hit in the
front by a 47mm round.
CRRACK! BOOM! WHIZ!
The round bounced off my frontal armor but
temporarily blinded my bow gunner/radio operator
Otto Schultz from Bavaria.
Good man, Otto Schultz.
I quickly trained our main gun on a target and
ordered: “Gunner! Tank! Fire!”
When the gunner, Hans Diefendorf of
Westphalia got his sights on the Char-B he yelled
“Los!” before he fired the gun.
“BOOM!” The loader, Albert Martin, then grabbed
another 75mm anti-tank round, slapped it into the
breech, and then closed the breach block with a
great metallic clank.
“Ready!”
CRRACK! BOOM! WHIZ!
Again we got rocked! This time by a 75mm
round which snapped across the top of our turret,
removing the radio antenna.
It was a good thing I had my head down in
the command cupula (I never liked to be up once
the firing started).
At this point, I closed the commander’s hatch,
which really limited my view. And because our radio was out, we were all
alone.
I had to think of something fast.
I could back up, but we might hit a tree.
I could stay where I was and probably take a
fatal shot (the enemy clearly has the range on us).
I could order my crew to “abandon ship” in
order to fight another day in another tank.
Or, I could advance. I could charge across
that field and take my chances against a battalion of
enemy tanks.
I chose to back up. If a tree stopped me, then
that would just be my bad luck. I’d at least have to make a French gunner
adjust his sights and the mere thought of me
abandoning the tank without solid damage was
equitable to cowardice.
My driver, Gunter Junge, reversed across the
road, did not hit a tree, and we sloped down to the
other side of the road.
Gott Sei Dank!
I looked through the window slots of my
command cupula (called periscopes) and beheld a
very bad sight. Fallen trees, disabled tanks, black
smoke, and a few fellow tank crewmen who were
dead.
I took a few minutes to collect myself. What should I do next?
In combat, because one’s senses are so
heightened, time really slows down. What may have
taken just a few seconds seemed like a minute or
two.
I was too afraid to stick my head out of the
command cupula and I had no radio.
I thought that we were relatively masked by
the backside of the road.
That’s good.
But, as what usually happens in combat, you
wait long enough and something new will present
itself. What presented itself was that the French
tanks began to charge across the field.
At that instant, I resolved to stand and fight,
understanding that the rest of my Kampfgruppe and
battalion would, too.
I ordered the gunner to fire at will at any
French tank that came into his view.
“Jawohl Feldwebel! ”
He trained the shorty onto a French turret
and yelled, “Los! ”
“WOOM!” Pur tank rocked backwards from the recoil of
the gun and the turret filled with more smoke from
the propellant of the round.
The loader then opened the breach block and
reloaded another high explosive round.
“Cha-Clank!”
“Fertig!”
Again the gunner fired.
“Los!”
“WOOM!”
At this point, I noticed that a platoon of
Panzer 3s from Kompanie 6, Panzer Reglement 1 had come into the field across the road
to our left and
began to fire into the right flank of the Char Bs !
Gott Sei Dank! We would live!
Just then, we got hit one more time, right in
the gun.
All I remember is a big orange and yellow
flash because I was knocked out cold.
The loader, gunner, and bow gunner were
killed and the driver and myself were wounded.
The next thing I remembered was being laid
out near an S.P.W. being taken care of by some of
our battalion medics. While I was out, the French were driven back
at a loss of ten Char Bs. While most of the kill shots
came from Panzer 3s firing into their flank, the rest
came from a Stuka strike and totally annihilated the
tree line where they emanated.
With my tank pretty much destroyed and
most of my crew dead, the battle of France, for me
at least, was over.
Unlike 1914 and 1918, when we were stopped
by the French along the Aisne and Marne Rivers,
this time we would not be denied.
Why?
In 1914 and 1918 when our infantry broke
through, it could only move at a pace of 2 K.P.H. Now, with the Panzerwaffe, we could
move at least 20
K.P.H. This speed prevented the French from
establishing another strong line and at Château
Thierry, Panzer Gruppe Guderian crossed the Marne
and sliced into the French Army’s deep rear, making
it all the way down to the Swiss border by June 17
As the Panzers advanced further south, Italy,
one of our allies, finally declared war on France and
attacked land and naval targets in southeastern
France and across the Mediterranean, pretty much
collapsing French resistance.
On June 13, Paris fell to Army Group B and
on June 16 Reynaud resigned as the French premier.
He was replaced my Maréchal de France Philippe
Pétain who moved the French capital to Vichy, a popular resort town with lots of hotels (to
house the
government offices) in southwestern France.
On June 17, the British troop-transport
Lancastria was sunk off the coast of St. Nazaire,
France, and at least 3,000 British soldiers were killed.
On that same day, the Soviet Union officially
annexed the Baltic States into the Soviet Union.
On June 20-21, Marshal Pétain negotiated an
armistice with the Germans and the Italians and an
agreement was formally signed with the Leader on
June 22 in the same railroad car that the Germans
surrendered to the French in 1918 at Compiègne,
which is between Soissons and Paris.
In the surrender terms, Petain’s “Vichy
Government” would remain in place and would continue to control southwestern France,
the French
fleet, and French Empire. Northern and western
France as well as Belgium and Holland, however,
would be occupied by units of die Deutsche Wehrmacht
until Britain agreed to an armistice.
Lorraine, Luxemburg, and parts of eastern
Belgium were officially returned to the Empire,
ending all outstanding territorial claims of the
Empire.
Of course we all hoped that Britain would
finally come to its senses and agree to an armistice as
well.
We did not see the English as our natural
enemy like the Red Soviet—we in fact saw them as
“German brothers.” But the new British Prime Minister, Winston
Churchill, informed our Leader that Britain would
indeed fight on.
To come and get them.
But that is another story.
After I healed up in a Mannheim Army
hospital (I really like Mannheim and the Rhine
River!), I returned to my regiment which was once
again posted in Posen to help protect it from the
aggressive Soviets, who were just on the other side
of the border, massing their forces.
But for what?
About the Author
A Cold War, Homeland, Bosnia, and Iraq War veteran, Schreckengost is the author of
Wheat’s Tigers: The 1 Louisiana Special Battalion in the Civil War, The 80 Division in
st th

World War I (Vols. 1 and 2), Bloody Saipan, June 1944, The Battle of Falling Waters: The
Forgotten Campaign of the Army of Pennsylvania, 1861, Defense of the Peach Orchard at
Gettysburg With the Philadelphia Zouaves, and I Was a Hessian Grenadier at the Battle of
Trenton, 1776. His other works have been published in America’s Civil War Magazine,
World War II Magazine, Field Artillery Journal, and Armor Magazine.
Also available on
Amzon.com