June 26, 2014

Achtung - Panzer!




“If the fundamental principles of combat
are identical for all arms of service,
their application is strongly conditioned
by the technical means that are available”
General der Panzertruppen Oswald Lutz

“Achtung – Panzer!” was written in 1937 by Generalmajor Heinz Guderian and was published by “Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft”. At the time Guderian was commanding the 2nd Panzer-Division and as he says he was encouraged by his many years superior General Lutz to write the book. General Lutz, who was one of the founders of the German panzer troops, saw the book as an opportunity to gain more support for his cause. The book became a bestseller and Guderian earned enough money to buy his first car.

June 25, 2014

Raate road

Soviet destroyed tank

On 30 November 1939 the Red Army invaded Finland. The Soviet Ninth Army had the mission to advance towards the city of Oulu, at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia, thus cutting off the northern part of the country. The Ninth Army advanced with three divisions, widely separated one from the other. In the centre the 163rd Rifle Division was halted around the village of Suomussalmi by the Finnish 9th Division. The Ninth Army decided to reinforce the 163rd with the 44th “Kievan” Motorized Rifle Division.

On 13 December the advanced elements of the 44th entered the Raate – Suomussalmi road. The fifty tanks and numerous motorized vehicles of the Division were confined to a single road through a pine forest. In the next days experienced Finnish ski troops performed countless hit-and-run attacks, along the flanks of the 44th which stretched twenty miles across the Raate – Suomussalmi road.

June 24, 2014

Mława, Bending the Panzers

Reenactment of the battle for Mlawa

Mława is a town in today’s north-central Poland of some 31,000 inhabitants. But, in 1939 it was close to the East-Prussian – Polish border and it was situated on the main approach route towards Warsaw from the north. The Polish High Command decided to construct a system of fortifications north of Mława so as to form a first line of defense and to stall a possible German advance. The main defensive battle would be fought along the Vistula – Narew rivers. 

June 23, 2014

The Marcks Plan

On 21 July 1940 Hitler asked Generalfeldmarschall Walter von Brauchitsch, the Commander in Chief of the German Army, to study the Russian problem and submit plans for a campaign against the Soviet Union. The following day, Brauchitsch asked Generaloberst Franz Halder, Chief, Army General Staff, to study the various problems involved in an operation against Russia. Halder thereupon requested Oberstleutnant Eberhardt Kinzel, Chief, Eastern Intelligence Division, to brief him on Russian troop dispositions and asked Oberst Hans von Greiffenberg, Chief, Operations Division, to assign a special assistant to the preparation of a tentative plan for a campaign against the Soviet Union. On 29 July, Generalmajor Erich Marcks was temporarily assigned to Army High Command headquarters to draw up a campaign plan against the Soviet Union. Marcks was chief of staff of the Eighteenth Army.


The Marcks Plan


June 20, 2014

Franz Halder and the Military History Program

1. S.L.A. Marshall
2. Franz Halder
Samuel Lyman Atwood “Slam” Marshall was a journalist and a military historian. He enlisted in the army in 1917 and served in France. He joined the army again in 1942, as a major, and in 1943 he was transferred to the Historical Division of the General Staff. In June 1944 he was sent to Europe, where he was attached to the Historical Section of the U.S. Army European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA). He remained there until the end of the war. Marshall came up with the groundbreaking idea of recording the German views of what had happened in the European battlefields. For the first time the winner had access to the senior commanders and the archives of the defeated. Marshall had to use “unofficial” methods to get his project running, as it was met with skepticism from his superiors. The project began with four participants: Fritz Bayerlein; Heinrich von Lüttwitz; Heinz Kokott and Meinhard von Lauchert.

June 19, 2014

Montgomery’s Master Plan

Montgomery’s Master Plan

Many have questioned whether Montgomery, in Normandy, was following his master plan or had claimed so in his memoirs to justify his inability to penetrate the Caen front in time.

June 18, 2014

“The Art of Modern Warfare”


Hermann Foertsch
In 1939 Oberst Hermann Foertsch published a book with the title: “Kriegskunst heute und morgen” which roughly means: “The Art of War Today and Tomorrow”. At the time Foertsch was an instructor at the War Academy in Berlin. The book was translated in English in 1940, by Theodore W. Knauth, and published under the title: “The Art of Modern Warfare”. It was highly esteemed by the U.S. Army.


In his book Foertsch proved to be a true disciple of the Schlieffen school. He envisioned victory in the battlefield as the annihilation of an encircled enemy. To make sure that the enveloping wing would succeed in this purpose, he suggested that the enemy had to be threatened simultaneously with a breakthrough at his front and envelopment at his flank. Only then the enemy cannot decide where to commit his reserves, looses time and when he finally acts it is too late. The double threat paralyzes the enemy’s decision circle.

June 17, 2014

A Russian Tank Trap

The seizure of Zhlobin

Žlobin is a city in Belarus on the Dnieper river. On 6 July 1941 the city was reached by the 10th Infanterie-Division (mot.), which belonged to the XXIV Pazerkorps, part of Guderian’s 2nd Panzergruppe. The Division was reinforced with 3rd Panzer-Division’s Panzer-Regiment 6 (minus the 3rd Battalion). The terrain around Zhlobin was gently rolling grassland alternating with swampy ground. The weather was warm and sunny.

June 16, 2014

A Platoon Commander’s View of an Armored - Infantry Assault

Armored infantry

In an Intelligence Bulletin, issued by the Military Intelligence Division of the U.S. War Department in October 1943, we find an interesting and vivid description of a Panzer-Grenadier assault, against Russian troops holding an Ukrainian village, presented by a German Lieutenant.

A Russian force had been encircled, and the task was to drive through the center of the pocket and divide the Russians into still smaller groups, which could be destroyed separately. No rounds had been fired yet, but the tanks ahead of us could come upon the hostile force at any moment.

June 13, 2014

An Early Evaluation of StuG’s Battle Performance

StuG III assault gun

On December 23, 1941 the U.S. War Department issued an information bulletin concerning the employment of an assault gun battery in support of an infantry unit. The bulletin was based upon the report of a non-specified American official observer in Berlin. In essence the report was a translated article which appeared in the German magazine “Die Woche”.

During the French Campaign Infanterie-Regiment “Grossdeutschland” was part of Guderian’s XIX Armeekorps (mot.). The Regiment was reinforced with an armored assault artillery battery. At the time there were only four such batteries (640, 659, 660, 665), because only twenty four StuG III assault guns were available. Each battery had six StuGs in three platoons. 640 Battery was given to “Grossdeutschland”, where it was renamed as the 16th Sturmartillerie.

Train Ambush

Insignia VII Corps

James Howard Wellard was a journalist and a writer who, during WWII, served as a combat correspondent, attached to Patton’s Third Army. While following General Collins’ VII Corps, in late August 1944, he became aware of an episode characteristic of Patton’s rapid advance.

In his own words: “General Collins advised us to go to a little town called Braine to see two German trains his troops had ambushed. The ambushed trains were typical, he said, of what had been happening to the Germans in the last week. So we went to Braine, and pieced together the story of the ambushed trains.

In the little station at Braine stood one train of forty cars. Further along the line was a second train, of thirty cars. Both were still smoking.

The station master at Braine told us what had happened. The two trains, he said, were loaded with hundreds of the German Paris garrison, who had left the capital the night before the city fell. They brought with them their women, children, and loot. Also, the freight cars were loaded with Tiger tanks and anti-aircraft guns.

June 11, 2014

A Driver’s Luck

M4 Sherman driver’s seat

In the above picture we see the driver’s seat of an M4 Sherman. During the battle of Singling Lieutenant William F. Goble’s Sherman was hit by two Armor Piercing rounds. The first round set the tank on fire and wounded the commander, Goble, and the gunner Corporal Therman E. Hale. The second round ricocheted inside the turret until it finally landed in the lap of the tank driver, Technician Fifth Grade John J. Nelsen. Nelsen dropped the hot shell and with the loader, Private Joseph P. Cocchiara, got out of the burning tank. 

June 10, 2014

Morąg

PATRIOT missile battery

Morąg is a town, located in northern Poland. The place was inhabited for many centuries. The Old Prussian settlement that existed there was razed to the ground by the Teutonic Knights. A new town was built by the Knights under the name of Mohrungen.   

June 9, 2014

A General’s Death

Rommel’s funeral at Ulm

Erwin Rommel’s funeral at Ulm, on October 18, 1944. An interesting question may be how many German generals died during World War II. According to French L. MacLean’s “Quiet Flows the Rhine”, J.J. Fedorowicz, 1996: 
  • Two hundred twenty three were killed in action or died of their wounds; 
  • thirty died due to accidental reasons; 
  • sixty four committed suicide; 
  • twenty were executed by the Nazi regime and 
  • thirty two were listed as missing in action.

June 6, 2014

Diamond Knights

The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was reintroduced by Hitler on 1 September 1939. The Iron Cross, as a military decoration, was established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia in 1813 and was awarded to soldiers who fought against Napoleon. In Hitler’s Reich the Iron Cross had eight grades: second class; first class; Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross; Knight’s Cross with oak leaves; with oak leaves and swords; with oak leaves, swords and diamonds; with golden oak leaves, swords and diamonds (awarded only once to Hans-Ulrich Rudel) and the Grand Cross (awarded to Göring). The Knight’s Cross with oak leaves, swords and diamonds was bestowed on twenty seven individuals. Of them 

eleven belonged to the Luftwaffetwo to the Kriegsmarinetwelve to the Army (Heer) and two to the Waffen-SS.