9 SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen failure at Tarnopol

German campaigns and battles 1919-1945.

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9 SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen failure at Tarnopol

Post by Igorn » Fri Nov 25, 2005 5:30 am

The German troops encircled in Tarnopol created defense belts and transformed some buildings into strongholds. The city was declared as a “fortress”. Soviet troops announced an ultimatum to besieged garrison of Tarnopol but it was turned down.

German command tried to salvage besieged Tarnopol garrison in the mid April 1944. Three infantry divisions forced crossed Strypa river in 20 kilometers to the west of city and captured a bridgehead. The 9 SS Panzer division Hohenstaufen was committed to a bridgehead to develop a breakthrough. The Russian command realized a threat and engaged the 6th Guards Tank Corps of General Panfilov, 91st Tank Brigade, additional artillery and 11th Guards Tank Regiment equipped with 22 (twenty two) JS-2 tanks from the front reserves. The fresh formations managed to arrive in time and organized skillful defense on the path of the German blow along the motorway and railroad to Tarnopol. Anti-tank guns were well entrenched, tanks were dug in and mine fields were prepared.

“The German attack began on April 15th 1944 afternoon. SS units didn’t expect to face a strong anti-tank defense and were marching as on a parade.

Russian General Arkhipov is witnessing: “that was an impressive picture. On the front of 2-2.2 kilometers between motorway and railroad about a hundred tanks and SP guns were advancing on us. They were moving forward in columns of 15-17 tanks each. Tigers were advancing in front of columns followed by Panthers, Pz-IV and StuG. SPW's with infantry were moving at the tail of each column. Very rarely I could see such combat order in assault. German infantry was usually walking behind tanks but here infantry was carried in SPW even not scattered. Maybe it was done to allow infantry to break in our defense along with tanks or maybe 9th SS Panzer Division, which just arrived from France, did not understand realities of the Eastern Front in 1944?

In any event such combat order of German attacking troops was killing for themselves. When they approached us on the distance of 400-500 meters I ordered to open fire and combat began. We were covered by low-flying IL-2 aircrafts, which started combing German tank columns. AP shells of 122mm tank guns of JS-2 were crushing armor of German panzers including Tigers. Many panzers SP guns were in flames. After some confusion German panzers began to scatter some to the right side some to the left and some were moving somewhere down hiding in ravines. But they were met there with entrenched anti-tank guns fire or mine fields. The battle lasted for 24 hours. The soldiers of 6th Guards Tank Corps of General Panfilov fought off all German assaults.

On April 16th 1944 Tarnopol was captured by decisive storm. General Neidorf the commander of the “fortress” died and major part of the besieged Tarnopol garrison was wiped out. In the evening of the April 16th 1944 9th SS Panzer Division under artillery coverage was withdrawn with its positions and was moved behind Strypa river.”

Vladimir Beshanov, The Ten Stalin’s Blows, Minsk, 2004

Wielhelm Tieke in his book confirms that the Tarnopol relief attack of 9 SS Panzer division and Panzerverband Friebe included 9 units of Panzer VI (Tiger), 24 units of Panzer V (Panther), 30 units of Pz-IV, 30 units of StuG and 101 SPW

The relief attack had cost 9 SS Panzerdivision and Panzerverband Friebe 1200 dead and wounded 18 panzers (3 Tigers, 4 Panthers and 11 Pz-IV) and 24 units of StuG. A shocking outcome!

The Tarnopol defenders, who had, on November 3 1944, numbered 94 officers, 677 non-coms and 3592 enlisted men, had melted down by April 16th to approximately 1500 men, and only 55 reached the German lines. Out of three groups that had broken out of Zagrobela, all of the officers were killed.

Wielhelm Tieke, In the Firestorm of the Last Years of the War

Best Regards from Russia,
Igor

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Post by CaptainSensible » Tue Dec 20, 2005 4:30 pm

I've read about this battle some yearsa ago.

It was used to contrast the effectiveness of both the Wehrmacht and the Red army with that of 1941. The Germans had deteriorated somewhat after three exhaustive years, while the Red army had got it together and were beating the germans at their own game.

Not suprising considering who had the longer purse...

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Post by jhalcli » Sun Feb 12, 2006 2:47 pm

In order to evaluate the performance of a unit, one must be careful to present both sides of the picture. A balanced approach must be taken. The fact is 9 SS Division and Panzerverband Friebe failed in their mission to relieve Tarnopol. But other factors such as poor weather, supplies, and the strength of the defense as well as strength of the unit are factors to consider when judging German performance in this battle. Was the assigned mission impossible due to these other factors? In spite of these problems, 9 SS and Panzerverband Friebe pushed to within 11 km of Tarnopol. This was roughly half way to their objective.

The timeframe for the final relief attack was 11 Apr to 16 Apr 1944. It appears a Guard Tank Corps (with extra attached armor) reinforced the existing defenders to stop the German relief attempt. Buchner in Ostfront 1944 says that the Germans lost 18 tanks and 1200 casualties in the relief attempt. Tieke states the same.

On 17 Apr, 48 Panzer Korps reported that in the last 4 days fighting 74 Russian tanks, 24 guns, and 26 Pak (antitank guns) were destroyed or captured. Their Panzerlage states that 48 Pz Korps had 6 StuG, 18 Pz IV, 20 Panther, 6 Tiger. These were taken from Pz Armee 4 Kriegstagebuch. So the ratio was 4 Russians tanks destroyed for every German tank if only the 13-16 Apr are considered. The Russians paid a high price to stop the Germans, but they accomplished their objective.

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Post by Michate » Mon Feb 13, 2006 8:59 am

The topic has been dicussed at axis history forum:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... t=tarnopol

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Post by Igorn » Mon Feb 13, 2006 10:38 am

jhalcli wrote:In order to evaluate the performance of a unit, one must be careful to present both sides of the picture. A balanced approach must be taken.
This is exactly what I did. I presented the Russian view on this events first and I then showed you the German view (Tieke)

Here is also what Ziemke wrote on the subject in his Stalingrad to Berlin:

"All that was left was one last, small, and, rather minor tragedy. In the "fortified place" Ternopol over 4,000 men, had been encircled since 21 March. On the 25th a tank force had nearly fought its way through with a supply column, but permission to evacuate was not given, and the armor was not strong enough both to guard the trucks and to carry the attack over the last five or so miles. The next attempt was delayed until 11 April, when the 9th SS Panzer Division could be spared from the relief of First Panzer Army. The SS-men set out in rain and deep mud... The 9th SS Panzer Division, as almost always the case with new SS divisions, was a splendidly outfitted aggregation of raw troops and inexperienced officers. On the morning of the 14th April Model took the tanks away from the SS division's staff and put them under an Army officer. The attack then carried several miles before being stopped again at the end of the day. By that time the Ternopol garrison was pushed into a small area on the western edge of the city and under incessant air and ground attack. On the 15th the commanding general was killed. That night the senior officer in the pocket gave the order to break out. Fifty-three men reached the Fourth Panzer Army line."


Earl Ziemke, PP.288
jhalcli wrote:The fact is 9 SS Division and Panzerverband Friebe failed in their mission to relieve Tarnopol. But other factors such as poor weather, supplies, and the strength of the defense as well as strength of the unit are factors to consider when judging German performance in this battle. Was the assigned mission impossible due to these other factors?.
As you said the fact is 9 SS Division and Panzerverband Friebe failed in their mission to relieve Tarnopol and don't look for excuses. Period. Germans like to explain their failures and defeats by the "bad wheather", "terrible muddy or winter terrain", "impossible missions", "supplies", "great numerical superiority of the Red hordes" etc.

I have neer seen them to give a credit to the Russian solders and the Russian Army who defeated them in the battlefield.

jhalcli wrote: In spite of these problems, 9 SS and Panzerverband Friebe pushed to within 11 km of Tarnopol. This was roughly half way to their objective.?.
And what? Did they salvage the "Tarnopol Fortress" ?
jhalcli wrote:The timeframe for the final relief attack was 11 Apr to 16 Apr 1944. It appears a Guard Tank Corps (with extra attached armor) reinforced the existing defenders to stop the German relief attempt. Buchner in Ostfront 1944 says that the Germans lost 18 tanks and 1200 casualties in the relief attempt. Tieke states the same...?.
Let's be candid. According to Tieke the relief attack had cost 9 SS Panzerdivision and Panzerverband Friebe 1200 dead and wounded 18 panzers (3 Tigers, 4 Panthers and 11 Pz-IV) and 24 units of StuG.. The Tarnopol defenders, who had, on November 3 1944, numbered 94 officers, 677 non-coms and 3592 enlisted men, had melted down by April 16th to approximately 1500 men, and only 55 reached the German lines. Out of three groups that had broken out of Zagrobela, all of the officers were killed.

Wielhelm Tieke, In the Firestorm of the Last Years of the War

The newly released book of Velimir Vuksic, SS Armor on the Eastern Front 1943-1945 gives a comprehansive coverage of the combats at Tarnopol including never published 24 photos: " The losses in the (9.SS)division were significant. In three days, 1,383 men were lost. Only 53 of the 4,000 surrounded Germans succeded in breaking out of Tarnopol through the Russian positions."

Velimir Viksic, SS Armor on the Eastern Front 1943-1945, P.102.


jhalcli wrote:On 17 Apr, 48 Panzer Korps reported that in the last 4 days fighting 74 Russian tanks, 24 guns, and 26 Pak (antitank guns) were destroyed or captured. Their Panzerlage states that 48 Pz Korps had 6 StuG, 18 Pz IV, 20 Panther, 6 Tiger. These were taken from Pz Armee 4 Kriegstagebuch. So the ratio was 4 Russians tanks destroyed for every German tank if only the 13-16 Apr are considered.
Do you want me to believe this BS? Would it be to much to ask for confirmation of the loss figures and also the number of Russian tanks damaged but not destroyed? Perhaps it should be noted that raw claims were reduced by 50% for collation purposes so is this 74+ figure the raw claim or the adjusted one?

Best Regards from Russia,
Igor

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Post by Michate » Tue Feb 14, 2006 2:04 am

jhalcli,

the whole fighting around Tarnopol is well described in the booklet by Gert Friebe, "Fester Platz Tarnopol" (this is actually the source Buchner basically relies on).

BTW, perhaps it should be noted that during the specific time (spring 1944) raw tank kill claims by the German units were reduced by 30%, not by 50% (the latter rate applying to summer/autumn 1943 as well as summer 1944, but not spring 1944), and that the adjusted figures were a little bit lower than published figures on Soviet AFV losses.

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Post by ThomasR » Sat Feb 18, 2006 1:17 am

Hello,
" The losses in the (9.SS)division were significant. In three days, 1,383 men were lost. Only 53 of the 4,000 surrounded Germans succeded in breaking out of Tarnopol through the Russian positions."
Just as a mean of comparison, the losses of the 10.SS for the
5 April - 20 April timeline were 1.900 casualities among which 401 killed. 56 officers laid among dead and wounded.

Source is 10.SS-Panzer-Division by Jean-Luc Leleu, Heimdal ed.

Cheers

Thomas

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Post by Marko » Sat Feb 18, 2006 5:01 am

Can anyone confirm that those Panthers from I./Pz.Rgt.11 really participated in the (2nd) relief attempt? Thanks!

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Post by xausa » Sun Feb 19, 2006 3:58 pm

I'm not sure I understand the point of this post, I don't know (maybe I've missed something) but I don't think anyone questions the fact that by mid 1944 the red army had become quite a menacing force.

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Post by jhalcli » Mon Feb 27, 2006 12:39 pm

Since we have dicussed the German losses, does anyone know the losses
for the Russian side?

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Post by jhalcli » Mon Feb 27, 2006 12:46 pm

Igorn
I have some questions. In another post, you said that you used
archives and primary sources for your reference materials. Are the
archives you have access to the Osoby (Special) Archive in Moscow or Russian State Military Archive (RGVA or Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi voennyi arkhiv) or another archive? If so, can you describe what type of documents are there? I always wondered what the Russians had captured with respect to German unit records also called Kriegstagebuch (KTB). The US National Archives as well as the Bundesarchiv have a large collection of these documents but for Russian front battles most are missing beginning from December 1943. I do not know if the documents were destroyed or if the Russians captured them.

Also, are there any Russian studies on Tarnopol that have events, order of battle, and unit strengths? David Glantz obtained a formerly classified Russian General Staff study on the Kharkov operation of 1942. He turned it into a book and added additional details from both German and Russian
sources. It is very interesting.

I am interested in the Battle of Velikie Luki in 1942. Do you have
any good Russian sources for this battle? I have seen "Vsegda V Boyu"
by A P Beloborodov and "Nastupaet Udarnaya" by G. Semonov, which are
insightful. I have heard that the Russian book "The Battle of Velikie Luki" by A. Kronik is the standard reference book for this battle.

I seek a balanced understanding of the war. There are always two sides to a story so perhaps you can share the Russian perspective. Do svidaniya.

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Post by jhalcli » Mon Feb 27, 2006 12:59 pm

Michael,
I should have reviewed the posts you wrote about earlier regarding the Axis History Forum before asking my question about Russian losses! Maybe somone here will have some insight into the Russian losses. Tchuß!

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Post by Michate » Tue Feb 28, 2006 1:27 am

Hello Jhalcli,

it is indeed my hope, too, that someone will provide some good material on the Soviet forces, their strength and losses etc., in that particular battle.

Unfortunately noone has done so until now, so for this question basically we are left with unsubstantiated figures from claims of the German forces.

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Post by Igorn » Sun Dec 10, 2006 8:50 am

Michate wrote:it is indeed my hope, too, that someone will provide some good material on the Soviet forces, their strength and losses etc., in that particular battle.

Unfortunately noone has done so until now, so for this question basically we are left with unsubstantiated figures from claims of the German forces.
Michate, I was re-reading the Radzievsky book and found an interesting document signed by the Commanding General of the Soviet First Ukrainian Front Marshal Konev on May 29th 1944 summarizing the combat experience of the Heavy Guards Tank Regiments equipped with JS-2 (JS-122) tanks and Heavy Guards Self-Propelled Regiments equipped with JSU-152 SP guns. This document shed light on the Soviet tank forces involved in the combats in the area of Tarnopol and I hope will be interesting for you.

"Examples of combat engagement of JS-122 tanks and JSU-152 self-propelled guns.

From April 14th 1944 onwards the enemy repeatedly attacked formations of 135th Rifle Division and 53rd Guards Tank Brigade with the mission to breakthrough from the area of Gorodiche and Kupchintse towards the encircled Tarnopol grouping.

At night to April 16th 1944, Eleventh Guard Heavy Tank Regiment equipped with JS-122 arrived in the area of 53rd Guards Tank Brigade. Its three companies took a defense on the south-western and western ridges of Pochapintse. One company was attached to the command of the 53rd Guards Tank Brigade commander and was placed behind the area occupied by medium tanks with the mission to support the actions of medium tanks.

On April 16th 1944 at 10.30 up to 25 enemy tanks and two grenadier battalions attacked our units and at 16.00 of the same day about 40 enemy tanks attacked our units again. Suffering heavy losses the enemy managed to push combat lines of 53rd Guards Tank Brigade.
Heavy tanks (one company) located behind combat lines of medium tanks opened sudden fire from ambushes to the distance of 1500-2000 meters against enemy tanks. As a result of this combat 13 (thirteen) enemy tanks including three Tigers and ten Panthers were knocked out. The JS-122 crew of Guards Lt. Comrade Vovk especially distinguished themselves by destroying four enemy tanks including one Tiger. The crew of Guards Lt. Timokhin knocked out three tanks including one Tiger.
The enemy attack was halted and the remaining tanks retreated to their starting position.

The 72nd Guards Heavy Tank Regiment attached to Eleventh Guards Tank Corps received a mission to act from ambushes in the second echelon in 1,5-2 kilometers from the first defense line in the area of Gerasimuv.
On April 20th 1944 the enemy broke our defense in the area of Podvertse, Zhivachuv and its heavy and medium tanks kept advancing to the south-east. Our JS-122 tanks opened a direct fire from the distance of 1500 meters. As the outcome six enemy tanks were burnt and 3 damaged including six Tigers.

At the dawn of April 21st 1944 tanks took a stand in the first defense line behind the slopes on the semi-closed positions prepared in advance. Tanks were covered by the infantry belonging to the 40th Guards Tank Brigade armed with submachine guns. During two days of combat the Regiment destroyed and damaged twenty five enemy tanks.
399th Heavy Self-Propelled Regiment was attached to the Eleventh Tank Corps in Nazviska and on April 20th 1944 at 7.00 took a defense in the sector of 27th Mechanized brigade with the mission not to allow enemy breakthrough from the areas of Zhivachuv towards Nazviska and Gerasimuv.

On April 20th at 12.00 after the artillery barrage seven enemy tanks attacked the defense lines of 27th Mechanized brigade and a rifle regiment. JSU-152 self-propelled guns opened fire from 1400-1500 meters. Several enemy tanks were knocked out by the first shots. The remaining tanks despite SP guns fire and losses were trying to outflank our forces.

Ten more enemy tanks appeared on left flank with the aim to bypass the SP-guns batteries. In order to liquidate this threat the reserve SP guns battery was moved on the left flank and with the first shots destroyed three enemy tanks. The remaining tanks retreated.

During seven hours the Regiment was engaged in heavy combats to withstand enemy’s tank and grenadiers assaults. Finally the German attack failed and enemy was halted in the area of Zhivachuv-Nazviska highway. The enemy losses were as follows: 13 tanks (6 burnt and 7 disabled) and about 100 killed soldiers and NCO. The heavy tank and SP guns regiments protected by the infantry and medium tanks during four days of combats inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy by destroying and disabling about 85 enemy tanks."

May 29th 1944, the Commanding General of the First Ukrainian Front Marshal of USSR Ivan Konev

Best Regards from Russia,
Igor

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Tarnopol

Post by Martin Block » Sun Dec 17, 2006 12:58 pm

Regarding the tank losses of 9. SS-Pz.Div. in April 1944:
Unfortunately the status report for 1.5.1944 is missing. But the ones for 1.4.1944 and 1.6.1944 are available in the BA/MA Freiburg and since the attempt to relieve Tarnopol was practically the only major engagement of the division in April/May 1944 it is pretty save to assume that almost all tank losses can be attributed to this battle.

On 1.4.1944 SS-Pz.Rgt. 9 had (figures reflect totals)
3 Bef.Pz. III
12 Flakpz. 38
49 Pz IV L/48
44 StuG III L/48

On 1.6.1944 SS-Pz.Rgt. 9 had (figures reflect totals)
1 Bef.Pz. III
0 Flakpz. 38 (all had been handed over 1. SS-Pz.Div. in the meantime)
48 Pz IV L/48
42 StuG III L/48

Replacements during April/May 1944: 8 Pz. IV L/48

=> Total losses during April/May 1944
2 Bef.Pz. III
9 Pz IV L/48
2 StuG III L/48

Can't add any specifics about personnel losses of 9. SS-Pz.Div. during April 1944 since as I said I do not have the 1.5.1944 status report.

The tank element of Pz.Verband Friebe consisted of I./Pz.Rgt. 11 (Panther) and elements of s.Pz.Abt. 507 (Tiger I):

The I./Pz.Rgt. 11 had been fully equipped with 79 new Panthers during Jan, Feb and March 1944 in Mailly le Camp (France). It arrived on the Eastern Front in mid March 1944 and was attached to Pz.Verband Friebe. Its first combat action took place on 22. or 23.3.1944 in the Brody area. I do not have the status report of 1.4.1944 but the one of 1.5.1944. By that date the Abteilung still had 77 Panthers available. Since 16 Panthers had been sent as replacements in late April 1944 the total losses between 22./23.4. and 1.5.1944 amounted to 18 Panthers.

With regard to s.Pz.Abt. 507 I have to rely on the detailed research work of Wolfgang Scheider (Tigers in Combat) according to which the Abteilung lost 13 Tiger I between 1.4. and 7.6.1944, but at least 8 of them in Brody and not at Tarnopol.

I do not have any data about any possible Heeres-Stu.Gesch.Brig. in the area and their losses.

Martin Block

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