August 7, 2014

Aufklärungsabteilung

six-wheeled SdKfz 231
The Reconnaissance Battalion (Aufklärungs-abteilung) served as the eyes of the Panzer Division. But aside of its recon duties, it was also expected to use its mobility “to attack the flanks and rear of the enemy and achieve surprise, to deliver repeated attacks at different points, to concentrate its forces quickly, to destroy small, isolated enemy detachments, and to employ part of its strength as a mobile reserve or for counterattacks in defense.”

Personnel serving in those battalions were of the highest quality and were considered elite. The desirable characteristics of these men are described in a German manual: “Cunning, versatility, ability to grasp orders rapidly, skill at driving vehicles across any type of terrain, the offensive spirit, resourcefulness under all circumstances and especially at night, cold bloodedness, and the ability to act quickly and independently.”


Organization of the Aufklärungsabteilung (1939 – 1940)


The organization of the Reconnaissance Battalion at the beginning of WW II was as follows:
  • HQ Company,
  • two (2) Armored Car (Panzerspäh) Companies,
  • one (1) Motorcycle (Kradschützen) Company,
  • Heavy Weapons (schwere Waffen) Company and
  • an engineer element.
The Armored Car Company was composed of:
  • six (6) mixed radio and staff armored cars,
  • eight (8) four-wheeled SdKfz 221,
  • four (4) four-wheeled SdKfz 222,
  • three (3) six-wheeled SdKfz 231,
  • three (3) eight-wheeled SdKfz 232.
The Kradschützen were using BMW R75 and Zündapp KS 750 motorcycles.


Sd.Kfz. 221
2. Sd.Kfz. 221.


Sd.Kfz. 222
3. Sd.Kfz. 222.


Sd.Kfz. 231
4. (6-Rad) Sd.Kfz 231.


(8-Rad) Sd.Kfz. 231
5. (8-Rad) Sd.Kfz 231 Schwerer Panzerspähwagen.


Motorcycle troops, armored cars and signals vehicles
6. Motorcycle troops (Kradschützen), armored cars and signals vehicles in the Balkans in April 1941.


BMW R75
7. BMW R75.


Zündapp KS 750 motorcycle
8. Battle reenactment on Adolf Ehmrooth square, during the Finnish Military Flag Day 2014. 
A Messenger on a Zündapp KS 750 motorcycle.

Organization of the Aufklärungsabteilung at the End of the War (1944 – 1945)


As the war progressed the armored wheeled vehicles were gradually replaced by half-tracks. According to the organization of the 1944-type Panzer Division the Reconnaissance Battalion was as follows:
  • HQ Company with two (2) Heavy Armored Car Platoons,
  • three (3) Armored Reconnaissance Companies,
  • Heavy Weapons Company.
The Heavy Armored Car Platoons were equipped with SdKfz 234/1 and SdKfz 234/3 8-wheeled armored cars. The Armored Reconnaissance Companies were of various compositions, but were all equipped with half-tracks. They became more similar to Panzer-Grenadier Companies.


Sd.Kfz. 234/3
9. Sd.Kfz. 234/3 armed with a 75mm gun.


Bibliography
Battistelli, Pier Paolo. Panzer Divisions: The Blitzkrieg Years 1939-40. Oxford: Osprey, 2007.
Battistelli, Pier Paolo. Panzer Divisions 1944-45. Oxford: Osprey, 2009.
Edwards, Robert, Pruett, Michael H. and Olive, Michael. Scouts Out, A History of German Armored Reconnaissance Units in World War II. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2013.
Rottman, Gordon L. World War II Combat Reconnaissance Tactics. Oxford: Osprey, 2007.
U.S. War Department, Military Intelligence Service. Intelligence Bulletin Vol. 01, No. 03. 1942.


Photos attribution
1. неизвестен, в источнике не указан, via Wikimedia Commons
2. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1987-0922-503/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons
3. AlfvanBeem, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
4. Bundesarchiv, Bild 136-B3093/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons
5. Bundesarchiv, CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons
6. Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1987-019-34/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons
7. Jean-Pol GRANDMONT, GFDL or CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
8. MKFI, via Wikimedia Commons
9. Hohum, CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons