Research for novel - 4th Panzer Division

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Research for novel - 4th Panzer Division

Post by big_buddha » Mon Mar 17, 2003 9:30 pm

I am currently conducting research for a novel about the crew of a Mark III Panzer of 3rd Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th Panzer Division, XXIV Panzer Corps, 2nd Panzer Group or Army Group Centre. The time period of the novel is from 22nd June 1941, the beginning of Operation Barbarossa to December 1941, when 4th Panzer reached the outskirts of Moscow.

I intend the book to end with the furthest point of the German drive on Moscow, which, I believe was when reconnaissance units of 2nd Panzer Group pentrated the outer suburbs and stood 17 miles from the Kremlin, within the range of long-range artillery.

I would greatly appreciate any and all information anyone can provide, particularly specific information about the activities and locations of 4th Panzer Div from June to December 41, as I am planning to write the novel along the lines of a daily record of the advance to Moscow.

I plan the key points of the book to be incidents such as :

:idea: the first meeting with a KV-1 or KV-2, and the immense difficulty in destroying these heavily-armoured beasts

:idea: witnessing activities of Einsatzgruppen and special police units while behind the lines recuperating

:idea: encounter with Jewish partisans from forests around Minsk

:idea: psychological horror of Soviet human-wave attacks


I plan this book to be more about the five characters in the panzer crew than about the war as a whole, but the accuracy of the descriptions of the war around them are important, as the events are key in how the five young Germans are changed by their experiences.I also plan to publish the novel chapter by chapter to a website, which will also contain much of my research, and the materials and notes I produce (such as character biographies) as a by-product of the research and writing process.

Currently, I have written the biographies of the five men, and have decided that they are all from different regions of Germany, is this accurate or were panzer divisions composed of men from the same region?

I intend to post regular queries to the forum as my work progresses, and I will post notices of when I upload new material to my website, which I will port the URL of shortly.

I would ideally like as many people to contribute their views and information to this project, as I would like it to be as accurate a study of the effects oof war on a small group of young men as possible, as I have discovered that other wartime novels such as the Sven Hassel and Leo Kessler series tend to be pulpy novels which gloss over the psychological aspects of war in favour of blood and guts storytelling.

Thankyou all in advance for your help.

Ian Greenhalgh
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    Christoph Awender
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    story

    Post by Christoph Awender » Tue Mar 18, 2003 2:00 am

    Hello!

    First I would recommend to read reference material about the division. The history of the division by Jochim Neumann (2 volumes) is on of the most complete divisional histories ever.
    The members of the division especially the low ranks came just from one area the so called Wehrkreis.

    \Christoph

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    Post by Jerry » Tue Mar 18, 2003 5:11 am

    Ian,

    The 4th Panzer Division is a good choice as it was the most decorated division in the Heer. However, if your characters are going to fight near Minsk they would need to transfer to the 12th Panzer Division or the 20th Panzer Division, both of Panzergruppe 3, and if they're going to reach that point 17 klicks from the Kremlin they'd have to be on loan to the 2nd Panzer Division, Panzergruppe 4. The 4 PzD did not come within 100 miles of Moscow, the closest they came to Moscow was when they cut the Tula - Serpukov road at Kostrovo on 4.12.41.

    We history types are sticklers for accuracy you know.

    Jerry

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    Post by big_buddha » Tue Mar 18, 2003 9:16 am

    Thanks for the info Jerry, the idea of ending 17 klicks from the Kremlin was to give some kind of irony and to leave them feeling like they had come so far to be stopped at the very last hurdle. I really thought it was scouts of the 4th PzD, maybe I should switch my focus to the 2nd PzD!

    I really intended the book to cover a set time-frame from 22nd June to that point in the suburbs where they could see the onion domes of the Kremlin (does anyone know the precise date?)

    Checking my notes, the 4th PzD cut the Serpukov-Tula highway on the 3rd December. And Guderian reported the following day that the 2nd Pzr Armee's advance was halted as temperatures reached -31 degrees, is this accurate?

    I was wondering when the weather first broke and the cold first became a deadly problem, there was Heavy rainfall reported on the 25th October, and the mud was slowing the Germans, but by 15th Nov the roads were frozen, allowing the Germans to launch the final assault on Moscow. Does anyone know when the freeze started, and when snow first fell?

    I planned to construct a timeline showing the activities and position of 4th PzD from 22nd June to ? December, so I could make the novel as factually accurate as possible.
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    Post by Jerry » Tue Mar 18, 2003 10:42 am

    Ian,

    2PzD got the closest to the Kremlin but several others came reasonably close. The problem with the 2PzD (for your purpose) is that they participated in the attack on Yugoslavia and didn't arrive at the front in Russia until October. Perhaps one of the divisions of Panzergruppe 3 would suite your purposes better. The 7th Panzer Division comes to mind. They participated in Barbarossa as part of Heeresgruppe Mitte from the beginning, they passed quite near Minsk and ended in the northern suburbs of Moscow at Yakhroma, capturing the bridge over the Moscow-Volga canal there on November 27. Additionally, several "famous" names were associated with the 7th..... just a thought.

    In the Heeresgruppe Mitte sector the temperature started dropping and it started snowing on November 6, by the 13th it was -8(F) and dropping.

    Jerry

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    Post by big_buddha » Tue Mar 18, 2003 7:58 pm

    Thanks for the info Jerry, I've been looking at 2nd PzD and indeed discovered the fact they didn't arrive until October, I'll do some research into 7th Panzer, as it sounds it will fit my purposes.

    Checking my notes, 7th PzD was part of Hoth's Pzr group 3, and was grouped with 20th Pzr, 14th Motorised Div and 20th Motorised Div in XXXIXth Corps commanded by Schmidt. Is this correct?

    I've decided to get a website up and running as quickly as possible to share my research with others and hopefully gather contributions from others too. I'm sure some of you will be able to point out errors in my research before I write about events that couldn't have happened! The great thing about the internet is that works such as my book can be contributed to by a number of people easily.

    I'll post the address shortly, and hopefully a few of you will stop by and have a look.

    Again checking my notes, I understand partisan operations by Minsk Jews began in August, is this true? Also, did the Russians employ human wave attacks during this period?

    Finally, I planned to make the tank in my book a Pzr II Ausf. H, were 7th Pzr equipped with this vehicle?
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    Corection and useful Soviet site

    Post by big_buddha » Tue Mar 18, 2003 8:18 pm

    That should be Pzr III Ausf H!

    I've found a very useful site for Soviet Research, http://www.battlefield.ru the info their on the battles and Russian armour is very useful, anyone interested in Soviet military should have a look, they give some interesting views of German forces and armour too
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    Post by Jerry » Wed Mar 19, 2003 8:41 am

    Hello again Ian

    I hate to be the only one providing you with answers, but since no one else has.....what the hell!

    Your line-up for XXXIX Pz.K. is correct. For Operation Typhoon, 7 PzD was assigned to LVI Pz.K.

    The PzKw III would be a problem, 7 PzD didn't have any! At the beginning of Barbarossa they were one of 4 panzer divisions that were equipped primarily with Czech tanks, they did have 3 companies of PzKw IV however. At the start of the campaign in Russia 7 PzD had: 53-PzKw II, 167-Pz38t, 30-PzKw IV, 5-PzBef35t, and 8-PzBef.

    Jerry

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    Post by Paul B » Wed Mar 19, 2003 1:14 pm

    Ian,

    You better switch your focus on another famous divison: The 10th Panzer Division! That sure was a hell of a division!

    It participated in Barbarossa from the beginning, captured Yelnya on July 22, closed the ring around the Russians at Vyazma and came also very close to Moscow. Sometimes the Panzer regiment was also subordinated to the SS-Divison "Das Reich". When the division was finally pulled out of the lines on December 5, it had just a few hundred men left in each regiment.

    The divisional history of the 10th Panzer Division by Schick is fairly detailed.

    Just a thought.

    Paul

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    Post by Commissar D, the Evil » Wed Mar 19, 2003 5:06 pm

    Just a thought, but I couldn't help but notice that 7th Panzer had Panzer 38Ts, a very well-documented tank. You might want to check out:
    " Your Loyal and Loving Son: Letters of Tank Gunner Karl Fuchs, 1937-41".
    As I recall Karl Fuchs crewed a 38T (I've forgotten which division) and was killed outside of Moscow. His letters home certainly will provide you with some insight into the thinking of a young German tanker during this time period.

    Best Regards, David
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    Post by big_buddha » Wed Mar 19, 2003 7:23 pm

    Thanks guys (esp jerry!) for all the advice, it's certainly helped me a lot!

    The choice of tank isn't really important, anyways, the Pz3b(T) and Pzr III Ausf H were about equal in capabilities anyways.

    Tare books available covering the detailed hisory of 2nd, 4th, 7th and 10th divisions, so one of those would seem to be an important purchase soon!

    7th Panzer is the favourite right now, as the book of letters sent home would indeed be very useful! I'll see if I can find it at an online retailer.

    I've been wondering if anyone knows how much the crew of a Panzer would have known about the progress of the war as a whole, how much did the Germans tell their forces fighting at the front? And how did the information get to the troops? in despatches, radio, official newspapers or was everything down to word-of-mouth for the troops on the frontline?

    (I'm assuming the Soviets, especially the peasant infantry knew very little about the progress of the war)
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    Post by big_buddha » Wed Mar 19, 2003 10:12 pm

    After doing some research I've settled on 7th Panzer Division, as I've discovered it had a few notable characters such as Hasso von Manteuffel (who latr commanded the Division) and Gottfried Frolich.

    Also there is a mass of information of the net about this unit, and lots of books about them in my time frame. There is a book by Manteuffel that is a detailed History, I've ordered it from Amazon.

    Also there are a number of wargaming scenario books that give detailed descriptions of the engagements of 7th Panzer from the invasion to Moscow.

    I'm goint to feature a Pz38(t), I'm working on a timeline nw and wil hope to have the website featuring my research up in a few days, it'll be sparse at first but I'll flesh it out as I get further into my research, I hope to include message boards and opportunity for people to post information to the site too.

    Thnaks everyone for being so helpful
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    Post by big_buddha » Thu Mar 20, 2003 5:46 pm

    Does anyone know the identities of the units that made up 7th Panzer Divison during operation Barbarossa in June 1941?

    I was wondering if Panzer. Jäger Abteilung 643 was part of 7th Panzer Division.
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    Website is up

    Post by big_buddha » Thu Mar 20, 2003 7:41 pm

    I've got the website presenting the research online, the timeline of events is there, but there is much more to add, I'll be updating it daily and I'll keep you posted of how it progreses.

    In The meantime, have a look and let me know your comments!

    http://mysite.freeserve.com/Ians_Portfo ... Index.html
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    Compostion of 7.PD 22 June 41

    Post by Michael Avanzini » Thu Mar 20, 2003 9:22 pm

    7.PD
    Kommander General der Panzertruppen Hans Freiherr von Funck

    Pz.Rgt.25 I./, II./, III./
    Schutzen.Bde.7
    Schutzen.Regt.6 (2 btls)
    Schutzen.Regt.7 (2 btls)
    SiG.Kp.705 (sp 15cm bttr)
    Kradschutzen.Btl.7 (5 kps)
    Art.Regt.78 (3 abt)
    Aufkl.Abt.37 (4 kps)
    Pionier.Btl.58 (3 kps)
    PzJag.Abt.42 (3kps, 1 bttr)
    Nachr.Abt.83 (2 kps)

    I can probably help you identify Russian units that the 7.PD fought. I have almost daily situation maps for HG Mitte from 22 June until 15 Dec 41

    Regards
    Michael

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