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Author Topic: 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf"  (Read 8561 times)
stoffel
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« on: 2 November 2008, 08:32:49 »
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This division the 'Totenkopf' emerged from two different significant interrelated forces in the Third Reich.
These forces were personal and individual on the one hand, and institutional and ideological on the other.
Individually the division was in a real sense the personal creation of its commander Theodor Eicke.
Ideologically the division was the institutional outgrowth of the sinister SS deaths head units 'SSTV', the military SS formations created by Eicke to guard the concentrationcamps.

Its name was for ever tied to military successes, ruthness, crimes against humanity but also of honour and devotion to the Reich.
At the Reichsparteitag in Nuremberg in september 1935 Adolf Hitler made the first move for the birth of the division.
Eicke was granted funds for training and maintaining his units at the cost of the Reich as a reward for its services to the Reich.
In March 1936 (at Eickes request) Himmler authorised the increase of the size of SSTV from 1800 to 3500 men.
First recruits who entered service had to comply to several demands.
They had to be 17 to 22 years old, at least five feet and ten inches tall, in perfect shape and racially pure.
Many of the officers were like Eicke veterans of WW 1, many served with the SA and drifted through the Algemeine SS before ending up in the SSTV.
Enlistment time changed from 2 years in 1938 to 12 years.

In 1937 Eicke ordered the second enlargement of the SSTV, the 5 original SS batallions were transformed into 3 regiments. Each with a name and number.
Each regiment was posted in one of the 3 big concentrationcamps.
SS Totenkopfstandarte I `Oberbayern` at Dachau.
SS Totenkopfstandarte II `Brandenburg` at Sachsenhausen.
SS Totenkopfstandarte III `Thuringen` at Buchenwald.

The anschluss 'anexation of Austria' enabled Eicke to create a 4th regiment.
SS Totenkopfstandarte IV 'Ostmark' at Mauthausen Linz.
In 1938 the last expansion took place.
In that year Hitler made the SSTV units legal and defined the parameters for their usage.
This allowed Himmler to enlarge the unit even more.
This meant that the entire SS would get a special status.
They were under direct control of the party and not the Wehrmacht.
They also were to be armed ,trained and used as military units under wartime periods.

This degree meant that the division now fielded 4 regiments of 3 battallions each, each bn with 3 companies and a machinegun company.
And the division should be equiped with enough transports and vehicles to make it fully motorized.
In 1939 Himmler used this degree to strengthen the division even more during the Tsjechian crisis.
During this period the division strenth was 22.033 men including 755 officers, 5005 NCOs and the rest enlisted men.
The division further had pistols and gasmasks for every man, 19643 carabines, 325 and 486 light machineguns and 1458 machinepistols.

In september 1939 the Division was to fullfill security tasks in the rear area of operations of the Wehrmacht armies.
The regiments were committed to the rear area as Einsatzgruppen.
Oberbayern and Thuringen were sent out to follow the path of the German 10th army,Thuringen followed the 8th army.
Their main task was killing of enemies of the state, jews, political opponents gays and other people who formed a `threath´ to the Reich in these newly "liberated" parts of the Reich.

After this campaign the SSTV and other SS formations were transformed into divisions, and they had to begin preparations for the coming war in the West.
Eicke took over command of the SSTK division in october 1939.
Now SSTK was served as a normal infantrydivision.
It fielded a division staff, 3 motorized infantry regiments, an artillery regiment with 105 and 150mm field guns, a signal-communication battallion, an engineer batallion, a tankdestroyer battallion with 16 Pak 36, a recon battallion and a supply-administrative-transport and a medical battallion.
« Last Edit: 8 November 2008, 07:49:12 by Koen » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: 3 November 2008, 19:50:43 »
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1940-41 periode

In the western campaign Eickes divivsion saw limited action.
However his unit took the full might of a British armored counterattack.
Here the Germans experienced for the first time their 37 mm AT guns were useless against heavier armor.
But with the help of Stukas and artillery the crisis was overcome.
The division however made the first major criminal acts in the war, shootings of prisoners , most of them Moroccans and other African soldiers and some British troops.
The rest of the year saw actions from Himmler to break Eickes power over the SS units.
Eicke had a lot of friends in the camps and among other agencies, therefore he controlled reserve-units and supplies .
Himmler wanted control over the reserve-units and vital supplies.
A heavy powerstruggle emerged, which lasted untill 1941, in the end Himmler got what he wanted.
On the other side he ordered another enlargement of the division too.

First task Eicke had was to increase mobility, this was done by searching for better trucks among the captured vehicle depots.
Scores of British and French trucks and armored vehicles found their way to the SS division.

Second task was enlarging the offensive power of the division.
This was done by forming two major Kampfgruppen formed out of engineer/infantry/artillery and AT units.
When deployed into action the division should advance with these two gruppen while in the rear a reserve regiment and other remaining combatunits would follow.
In december the Division aquired 500 tripod mounted MG34 from the army depots.

And in 1941 Eicke also received a FLAK batallion.
This bn had 12 x 20 mm and 12 x 37 mm AAA guns, and 4 x 88mm FLAK guns.

Finally in May 41 the division was granted the last 12 pieces of 150mm field artillery guns.
The time until the invasion in Russia was spend with exercises.
Mainly in coordinated fire drills, how to take over fortified positions, MOUT and practicing camouflage techniques.
The engineers were kept busy with building bridges and demolishing jobs.
Finally the artillery was drilled to cooperate with the luftwaffe, especially forward observing tasks.

On June 9th 1941 SS division Totenkopf got the order to entrain to the east, objective: Russia
« Last Edit: 3 November 2008, 20:04:40 by Koen » Logged

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stoffel
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« Reply #2 on: 3 November 2008, 20:21:07 »
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1941- War in Russia

On June 19th Eicke was ordered to move the division to the assembly area of the 4th Panzer Group on the border of Eastern Prussia.
Unfortunately and to the anger of the men the division remained reserve for the following days.

The first assignement came on June 24th, the division had to go east to close the gap on  Mansteins right flank and Busch left flank.
There they mopped up stragglers in the forests of Lithuania.
It was here the men got a first taste of Russian suicide infantry attacks, albeit on a small scale.

When the division left the Dvisnk area they met the first real heavy counterattacks in the war, help of the artillery and the stukas restored the situation.
The division slowly moved on towards the east, dealing with counterattacks and heavy Russian opposition.

At the end of 1941 and far into 1942 the division got almost  annihilated in the swamps of Demyansk.
In the freezing winter the German lines were penetrated by an enormous juggermaut of fresh infantry and new T34 tanks.
The Totenkopf got surrounded but managed to hold on until they were relieved in June 42.
But the cost was terrible, 80% of the division was destroyed and the remaining men were not fit anymore for action.
In april the remnants of the division managed to break through the encirclement.

The division had to be sent back to France to refit and retrain.
In a private conversation with Hittler Eicke was promised a new tankbatallion and a return to France.
But the Russians had other plans and a new massive attack forced the division to stay in line and suffer even more casualties.
And in the end of august 1942 both infantry regiments only had 1000 men left.
October 1942 saw the retreat of the remnants back to France for rebuilding.

« Last Edit: 3 November 2008, 20:39:33 by Koen » Logged

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stoffel
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« Reply #3 on: 25 September 2010, 13:19:09 »
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1942-43 period.

Early in may 1942 Hitler promised Eicke an additional tankbn with 2 coys MK III and 1 coy MK IV tanks, named panzerregiment 3.
In october the regiment was enlarged from 1 to 2 bns and the regiment also received a Tiger I company.
The men for this new unit came from the SS Wirtschaft und Verwaltungsamt and the guards at Buchenwald (also the training area)
The core for the Tigercompany came from survivors of SS mountain division Nord and the guard units.

In October 1942 the division was finally taken out of action, but at that time it was nothing more than a depleted batallionstrength unit with weary,sick and underfed men.
Hitller ordered the rebuilding of the division.
Hitler ordered the remnants (500) of infantry regiment Thule to be transferred to SSTK, together with new units in training at Sennelager.
The regiment was rebuild into a fast regiment with: 2 motorcycle batallions, a reconaisance batallion and machinegun companies.
An extra addition was a heavy bridge construction company.
Eicke received orders to form 2 new infantry battalions with 6 new motorized infantry companies, an assault gun batallion of 10 platoons strong and a new antitankunit with the newer 50 mm Antitankguns and antitankrifles.
In the end of that summer Eicke also received scores of new 88 and 37 mm FlaK guns to form a FLAKbn with 3 batteries and 12 x 20mm cannons.
In august 1942 the tankdestroyerbn was re-equiped with 18 new 50 mm PAK 38 guns (2 companies) and 1 company with 9 of the brandnew PaK 40's.
The men for these new units came from all the SS agencies, the concentrationcampguards and reserve-units throughout Germany and Poland.
Eicke soon started a rigorous training program but the allies intervened.
Operation Atilla launched in november.
The Allies landed in French Morocco and Algeria.
Atilla was launched to occupy Vichy France and seize the French naval units in Toulouse and Marseille.
During the occupation and the tasks in France Eicke could not train the division as he would like to.
Constant plees to Hitler finally saw the return of SSTK to Bordeaux, The Reichsfuhrer SS managed to give Eicke an extra 4 weeks for training purposes before the division was sent back to Russia.
Eicke send out raiding parties through the country to take over all forms of trasport, stocks of winterclothing and other important supplies.
Than in January 1943 the division was send back to Russia, just in time to play a major role in the Kharkow battles.
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« Reply #4 on: 3 October 2010, 15:46:16 »
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February and march 1943

February and march 1943 saw two victories for SSTK but also a huge loss.
Following the Russian counterattack at Kharkow the Germans planned a counteroffensive.
Overall command was in the hands of Von Mannstein.
Haussers SS corps was ordered to link up with Hoths army near Pavlograd.
With this manouvre the Germans could envelop and destroy the soviet 6th army and eventually take Kharkov back.
But Hitler denied, he wanted to take Kharkov right away for political reasons, he wanted the SS divisions to assault the town.
Fortunately Eicke made a huge blunder.
He ordered his units off the road to take a faster route (irritated by slow movement), a decision which caused the entire divsion to standstill in the mud.
When he moved the roads were frozen, but early in the morning thaw changed the ice into mud.
This gave Manstein the excuse he needed to follow up on the original plan, and Hitler finally agreed.
In another classic pincer move the Germans enveloped the 6th army, in the process destroying 2 corps, 3 infantrydivisians and the 25th tankcorps.
But it wasnt over in the februari 28th-march 3 period the Germans had more succes.
Arriving Russian reinforcements were quickley cut of by Haussers corps.
SSTK destroyed the Russian units in a classic hamer and anvil action with Das Reich acting as the anvil.
In this action the 3 SS divisions captured 615 T34s, 600+ AT guns and over 400 artillerypieces.

But it was the same week the division lost its commander, Eicke.
Eickes plane was shot down killing him and the pilot.
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