Best division in the Waffen SS??

German SS and Waffen-SS 1923-1945.
Kelvin
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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by Kelvin » Thu Dec 30, 2010 1:23 pm

Yes, Charles, the structure of Waffen SS Panzer division were the best. With six infantry battalions and additonal assets ( eg. Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler had fourth pioneer kompanie in its panzer pioneer batailon and additional rocket battalion in mid 1944, all panzer divisions had fourth artillery battalion and bigger logistices like supply column). They had enough staying power for defence and adequate manpower for breakthrough and exploitation. e.g Totenkopf normally maintained 20,000 men in the second half of 1944. On the other hand, even panzer Lehr division at its peak in June 1944, numbering only about 14,000 men and when on the eve of Ardennes offensive, about 12,000 men.
BTW, as you mentioned GroBdeutschland, Jan-Hendrik say about only both Totenkopf and Wiking were up to performance of old Heer Panzer division in 1944. How about GroBdeutschland among Heer panzer divisions ? she was relatively new Heer Panzer divsion ( only formed in 1942) if you compared with old Heer panzer division, did GroBdeutschland was better than Totenkopf and Wiking in the later period of war ? :?: ( I also always think Grossdeutschland was better or the first three panzer divisions better ? (1,2, and 3.Panzer divisions)? A little bit off from thread. :roll:

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by Charles Trang » Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:17 pm

Yes, it's off thread that is why I won't write too much about it : I think Grossdeutschland was the best Heer division. Its performance at Targul Frumos was certainly one of the best ever by a single unit. I would also rate the schw.Pz.Rgt. "Bäke" performance during the winter of 1944 as one of the most outstanding of the whole war. In my opinion, the best WSS actions were :

1) Totenkopf in the Demjansk pocket
2) Das Reich during the defensive battles west of Charkow in August and September 1943
3) Leibstandarte drive along the sea of Azov in 1941
4) Leibstandarte east of Jitomir in November and early December 1943
5) Das Reich counter attack in the Krasnograd - Pawlowgrad area in late February 1943

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by Kelvin » Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:48 pm

Maybe Totenkopf and Wiking 's performance in Warsaw in August 1944 and Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and Hitlerjugend 's achievement in Sudwind in 1945 , Totenkopf in Targul Frumos in May 1944 were also needed to be mentioned.

Das Reich and Wiking had some good officers. Regarding Josef Dietrich of Leibstandarte , some people commented that he lacked some tactical skill for warfare but was very brave and for Totenkopf %E , Theodor Eicke, perhaps had same problem but he was very cruel and this personality affected his soldiers greatly.
As Hitler overused his favoured Waffen SS panzer divisions in the late period of war, they always lacked the time to train and enhance cohesion of units.They took part in many operations as spearhead like Kursk, Mortain, Ardennes, Konrad, Sudwind and Fruhlingserwachen and too little time for rest. Hitler probably had his political consideration. But their tough performance gave great impression on many people. In this way, the formation of Waffen SS panzer divisions was Hitler 's wise move. :up: And also included Nordland and Gotz von Berlinchingen. But the formation of many Waffen SS Grenadier divisions , I think is very very wrong and were useless. :roll:

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by TimoWr » Sat Jan 01, 2011 10:50 am

Reb wrote:As an example: LAH had bee reconstituted several times and lost more men as cadres to HJ, when it got to Belguim in '44 for a refit. It then absorbed thousands of men and much new equipment.

The core of the div was still good and did a remarkable job of pulling the new guys together to form units. The huge problem IMHO is the lack of junior leaders - they were desperately short of the men leaded to lead at the small unit level. They had men of that quality but not with the training. Same deal with armoured vehicle crews - good men, often didn't get their gear to the last minute plus petrol shortages that limited training. They went back into battle prematurely, got beat up badly again, and repeated the whole process in time for the Ardennes.

9 and 10 SS looked pretty good in their 'blooding' at Tarnopol. Then to Normandy where they were hacked up pretty badly. Plus they were made up largely of VolksDeutch but officered by good men who largely had won their spurs with the original SS divs. In '44 they probably were in better shape in some ways than LAH and DR. They hadn't been in battle yet (until UKraine) and hadn't lost their original caddre of junior leaders.

By Dec '44 they were in the same shape as LAH in my example above. Frundsburg never even got their panthers until Jan '45. The trained men and officers weren't there, and while they were still receiving equipment, it ain't about the tank with the man, its about the man in the tank.

But to answer your question about 9 and 10 SS - they were late to the party. LAH and the other 'original' divs had photographic crews with them and participated in key battles, particularly the early victories. The second wave of SS Pz Divs was represented by HJ and you can have only so many media heroes.

Near as I can tell, both divs gave a good accounting of themselves right up the end.

cheers
Reb
Regarding the LAH, I guess the late SS-Obersturmführer Hans-Martin Leidreiter summed it up quite nicely in one of the appendix for Tiemann...
"Eine Vorausabteilung oder Schnelle Gruppe, wie man uns später nannte, das muß mindestens ein wenig so etwas sein, wie eine Meute fiebernder Jagdhunde, hoch trainiert. Mindestanforderungen an Ausbildung und Ausrüstung aber auch an Einsatzgeist und Mut, jeder Gruppe, jeder Zug, jeder Kompanie fest in der Hand ihrer Führer…So, wie wir vielleicht noch in der Offensive von Kursk und Bjelgorod antraten. Da waren wir noch die LAH. Aber als wir dann dort in dem unwahrscheinlich tiefen Stellungsystem, in den Großen Panzerschlachten der russischen Führung und ihren tapfer kämpfenden Soldaten mehr oder weniger ins offene Messer liefen, da war das doch so etwa wie unser Stalingrad. Und jetzt in Dezember 1944 hatten wir die Invasion hinter uns. Wir kamen aus dem Kessel von Falaise und Argentan. Wir hatten die zerbombten deutschen Städte gesehen, den Bombenangriff auf Düren miterlebt. Im Herbst 1944 waren die Russen in meiner ostpreußischen Heimat zum ersten Mal auf deutschen Boden. Man brauchte nicht der größte Feldherr aller Zeiten zu sein, um sagen zu müssen, daß eine neue russische Großoffensive unmittelbar bevorstand. Bei uns herrschten Wut und Verzweiflung; wenn wir weiter dachten, als an der nächsten Tag - was wir nach Möglichkeit vermieden - dann hatten die Alliierten dafür gesorgt, daß wir an unser armes Deutschland und die geforderte bedingungslose Kapitulation denken Mußten. Von der Division stammte die Information, daß das, was wir an Material während der Aufstellung erhielten, das letzte sei, was das deutsche Reich und unser Volk produzieren konnte. Das glaubten wir, wir mußten es leider glauben. Aber ob es ein gute Motivation war?"

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by Marc Rikmenspoel » Sat Jan 01, 2011 6:45 pm

Grossdeutschland spent the last 6 months of the war as basically an infantry division. Most of its armor was detached to give firepower to newly-created offshoot units (PGD Brandenburg, PGD Kurmark, FGD, FBD). The GD Verbände went from one strong division to five weak ones. The core, parent, PGD GD also lost most of its recovered wounded and various experienced cadre elements. It was left the weakest of the GD units, with only a few Tiger I for armored firepower. This was more extreme than the weakening of the Waffen-SS units through spreading their resources around, though the leadership/officer situation was probably similar.

In discussing the latewar Waffen-SS, it must be realized that many of the replacements the various divisions received had no interest in dying in the final days of a lost war. They came from far-safer duty in the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, and were not pleased to now be Panzergrenadiere at the hottest spots (though, of course, individual soldiers kept a strong motivation). In this regard, I think often on one of Werner Wolff's last letters to his wife, after the successful elimination of the Gran Bridgehead in late February 1945. "The last few days have been hard and difficult. But they have lightened our hearts, because we have been able to hit the enemy a destructive blow and all those soldiers who thought they were tired out and who believed that the enemy was unconquerable have lost those beliefs and gained some backbone."

That backbone was gone a few weeks later, and Wolff was dead. Many units never got to experience any latewar success, and simply were tired out and full of the belief that the Red Army was unconquerable. "Elite" was a relative term in the circumstances of 1945.

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by Kelvin » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:32 pm

When 6. Panzerarmee came to the Eastern Front, their equipment status were terrible. On the eve of Fruhlingserwachen, four Waffen SS Panzer divisions totally had less than 300 tanks, really hard job for their soldiers. I always think if Hitler refit this crack unit and give them six months rest and training and adequate equipment ( from Oct 44 to March 1945), that mean no Ardennes offensive, that unit will be very useful in early 1945. On the eve of Ardennes, after two months refitting, the equipment status of 6. Panzerarmee was hardly satisfactory. For example, I./SS. Pz.Gren.Rgt.3 Deutschland of 2.SS Das Reich panzer division used bicycles for transport. both 3./SS. panzer Aufklarung abteilung 1 and 12 of 1.SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and 12.SS Hitlerjugend Panzer divisions used Schwimmwagens for transport instead of sd.kfz.250 leSPW and both 1./ Panzer Aufklaruang abteilung of Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and Das Reich were missing and waited for the arrvial of sd.kfz.250/9.Apart from Hohenstaufen, all lacked self-propelled guns like Wespe and Hummel. Regarding soldiers, many came from navy and luftwaffe, lacked adequate training and capable officers and time for enhancing cohesion of units. Should 6. Panzerarmee be strengthened for a longer period and the Ardennes offensive was cancelled, Hitler might have chances to rout 3rd Ukrainian Front in March 1945. :wink:

Looking back, just my opinion, prior to Normandy, if Hitler reduced the number of Heer panzer divisions and transfered more resoucres on individual Heer panzer divisions and all Waffen SS Panzer divisions, his chance of success would be higher.
At least give one additional infantry battalion to each panzergrenadier regiment of Heer Panzer divisions to reinforce their staying power. For elite Waffen SS Panzer divisions, it was of vital importance to equip all their six infantry battalions on SPW,like Leibstandarte and Reich for offensive and equipped one more battalion on SPW in another divisions, like Totenkopf, Wiking, Hohenstaufen and Hitlerjugend.(thus give them two armored infantry battalions in each division). Some SPW level in Aufklarung abteilung and panzer pioneer bataillon must be reinfored highly.
For Heer, like Marc mentioned, it was wrong to weaken GroBdeutschland PanzerGrendier Division. There were no need to build Brandenburg, two Fuhrer divisions. This experienced strong units and plus good units like Panzer Lehr division which was consisted of armored school instructors,and some well performance division like 2,4 and 5 and 116. Panzer division should be reinforced. Let see crack 6. Panzerarmee, strong IV. SS Panzerkorps, elite GroBdeutschland PanzerGrenadier division with a handful of adequately reinforced Heer Panzer divisions, the prospect of war should be better, at least defeated Russian either in Hungary or the Oder and got the better term for peace :up:

Just my 2 cents

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by TimoWr » Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:05 am

Kelvin wrote:both 3./SS. panzer Aufklarung abteilung 1 and 12 of 1.SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and 12.SS Hitlerjugend Panzer divisions used Schwimmwagens for transport instead of sd.kfz.250 leSPW and both 1./ Panzer Aufklaruang abteilung of Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and Das Reich were missing and waited for the arrvial of sd.kfz.250/9.
On the other hand 2./AA LAH was usually a Schwimmwagen-Kompanie but was now fully equipped with le.SPW. 2. and 3. simply switched numbers. Basically an unnecessary change carried out by Wawrzinek which created confusion with Knittel when he returned to the AA. 1./AA wasn't missing but that's another story.

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John W. Howard
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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by John W. Howard » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:03 pm

Hello Gents:
I hate to interrupt this thread, but I have to say that I have learned more about the Waffen SS while reading the last several posts than I have in reading numerous mediocre books. Thanks guys and keep it up. Best wishes. (Hi Timo).
John W. Howard

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by John P. Moore » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:25 pm

John Howard - I am quite surprised by your comments. Could you please identify the "mediocre" books that you are referring to? Especially when there are such a variety of well-researched books by Feldgrau authors. Most of those books are reporting facts than can be verified from multiple period documents or eye-witnesses that should enable an intelligent reader to form their own conclusions.

Personally, I would not vote for any particular SS division as being the "best", but many divisions had some highly competent and effective members who managed to avoid being involved in war crimes.


John

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by Mark C Yerger » Sun Jan 16, 2011 4:46 am

"Best" is a wide term with different answers depending on parameters and a long list of other variables. All units of any military have success and failures. If I said only three or four men of six dozen plus formation commanders were highly competent, fully capable, and superior skilled I'd be basing my opinion on ignorance or denial, just as I would be saying 38 divisions and numerous corps formations had no upper level skilled senior staff officer. Were that the case all the formations would have been slaughtered with no list of offensive or defensive successes resulting in the reputation the branch attained. I doubt Keppler would have had the most divisional and corps commands of any Waffen-SS formation commander without highly obvious capabilities, just as the early wartime year's success of the "Leibstandarte" under a commander with a charismatic personality but no formal military officer or tactical training transpired because Lehmann possessed a lack of highly capable skills and ability as a Ia. Hausser had the choice of any SS/VT officer as his divisional Ia and chose the same man as his Corps Chief of Staff. I somewhat doubt he selected Ostendorff for his lack of superior tactical knowledge or staff function ability but for his ability to make a good cup of coffee, just as Bittrich didn't successfully command three divisions and a corps in operations simply due to making lucky guesses. The list obviously goes on to anyone knowledgeable beyond the superficial and more importantly having any depth of knowledge on the specific individuals involved. Gille's success commanding "Wiking" that resulted in his promotion and continued success as commander of IV.SS-Panzer Korps probably didn't come about from his use of a weegie board to make tactical decisions. Most can't name half the men who commanded Waffen-SS formations and even less of those in senior staff positions, much less having any original research based in depth knowledge of the specific individuals. So with most rarely going beyond "Leibstandarte", "Das Reich," "Totenkopf," and "Wiking" in a discussion, and even those in an incomplete way, it negates the accomplishments and documented capabilities of many. Capable element commanders operating independently isn't how a formation functions and survives or obtains an objective. Inferring that is the case without a highly skilled formation commander and/or senior staff officer displays no grasp of how a unit operates in the field in the tactical or strategic sense. That would be the same as saying a unit gained an excellent four year reputation and consistent combat record by the commander and senior staff drawing straws or flipping a coin to make decisions due to a lack of superior skills. Obviously that isn't the case. Number of awards or a numerical accounting of enemy amour destroyed is a pair of possible parameters for measuring a Panzer Division, in which case "Das Reich" qualifies as best in the former for SS and among all for the latter. But opposition quality, unit condition, theater, specific scenario, all make such a "best" statement totally subjective. One can pick and selectively chose the examples and time frame that form their opinion. The fact a superior tactician or unit can't win in an overwhelming situation doesn't negate the quality or skills of either. Just as a defensive success is different than an offensive one in garnering a reputation. Even if only taking into account the 13 formation commanders I've known personally ,I feel somewhat confident in expressing the opinion there were more than three or four highly capable Waffen-SS formation commanders with superior skills, some of whom commanded units with amour components. And that's without delving into the dozens of others in specific or an even numerically higher number of senior staff officers, many of whom received General Staff training from the Army that obviously by parameters necessitated a superior skill level to to even be recommended for or graduate from the training alone.

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by John W. Howard » Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:46 am

Hello John:
Rest assured John, I was not referring to any of the authors who are members of Feldgrau; I know their works are of good quality thanks to the reviews posted here and elsewhere. The problem is getting them purchased and read!! Most of what I have read so far about the Waffen SS has been general overviews, lacking in detail. So rather than call them mediocre sources I should call them non-specific. Best wishes.
John W. Howard

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by TimoWr » Sat Jan 29, 2011 2:22 pm

Kelvin wrote:both 3./SS. panzer Aufklarung abteilung 1 and 12 of 1.SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and 12.SS Hitlerjugend Panzer divisions used Schwimmwagens for transport instead of sd.kfz.250 leSPW
I repeat: there was nothing odd about those Schwimmwagen apart from the fact that 2./AA used to be a Schwimmer-Kp and 3./AA used to be the le.SPW-Kp. Wawrzinek simply renamed 2. to 3. and 3. to 2. Indeed, those should both have been le.SPW-equipped at that time but if the company commanders had anything to say at that time they would want TWO Schwimmer-equipped companies! Manfred Coblenz (2./AA) had a long career in motorcycle and Schwimmer-equipped companies and very much disliked the poor combat strenght of his le.SPW-Kp. Leidreiter (3./AA) complained about the m.SPWs he had to use in Normandy as he considered the Schwimmwagen the ideal vehicle for the tasks his men had to perform. He did however complain about the number of Schwimmer he recieved and especially about the quality of the recruits he had to work with.
Kelvin wrote:and both 1./ Panzer Aufklaruang abteilung of Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and Das Reich were missing and waited for the arrvial of sd.kfz.250/9.
In the case of the 1./SS-Pz.AA1 LSSAH this did not mean they were missing. This company was deployed both in Normandy and in the Ardennes just not in its intended role.

Hi both John's :wink:

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by Kelvin » Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:24 pm

Perhaps Waffen SS Panzer unit like to use Schwimmwagens. Not only Liebstandarte and Hitlerjugend, 2. and 3./SS. Pz.A.A.17 of 17.SS PanzerGrenadier Division Gotz von Berlinchingen were equipped with Schwimmwagen, on Nov 1 1944, 2. and 3. kompanies had 36 and 41 Schwimmwagen. But did other SS PanzerGrenadier divisions were equipped with Schwimmwagen ?

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Re: Best division in the Waffen SS??

Post by zeigler » Fri Jun 24, 2011 5:22 pm

Kelvin wrote:But did other SS PanzerGrenadier divisions were equipped with Schwimmwagen ?
Indeed. I know that Nordland used them as well as other divisions.
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