6th Panzer Army

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The 6th Panzer Army (6. Panzer-Armee) was a formation of the Wehrmacht Heer, formed in the Autumn of 1944. The 6th Panzer Army was first used as an offensive force during the Battle of the Bulge, in which it operated as the northernmost element of the German offensive. The army was subsequently transferred to Hungary in early 1945 and used in both offensive and defensive actions there. The final battles of the 6th Panzer Army were fought in Austria until the collapse of Nazi Germany, at which point the army was completely demoralized. The remnants of the army eventually surrendered to the United States Army. Army commander throughout the army's existence, SS-Oberstgruppenführer Josef Dietrich said in early 1945:

"We call ourselves the "6th Panzer Army", because we've only got 6 Panzers left".

Unit history[edit]

The 6th Panzer Army is best noted for its leading role in the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945). On April 2, 1945, it was transferred to the Waffen-SS. The 6th Panzer Army then became known as 6th SS Panzer Army (6. SS-Panzerarmee).

Although it didn't receive the SS designation until after the Battle of the Bulge, the SS designation came into general use in military history literature after the Second World War for the formation as assembled prior to that campaign. After the Ardennes Offensive, the 6th SS Panzer Army was transferred to Hungary, where it fought against the advancing Soviet Army.

The attack of the 6th Panzer Army into the Ardennes in December 1944 failed to swiftly break the American defensive line and lost valuable time because of U.S. defensive efforts at locations like Monschau. Despite the allocation of SS panzer divisions, the 6th Panzer Army only managed a minor penetration into the northern defensive sector of the U.S. VIII Corps and its advance was thereafter checked by U.S. reinforcements arriving on the northern flank of the offensive.[3] After the Ardennes Offensive, the 6th SS Panzer Army was transferred to Hungary, where it fought against the advancing Soviet Army.

In March 1945, after the fall of Budapest, the 6th SS Panzer Army launched one of the final German offensives of the war, Operation Frühlingserwachen around Lake Balaton. This was an attempt to protect the last sources of petroleum controlled by the Germans. The offensive took the Red Army by surprise and made an impressive advance for such a late stage in the war. However, once the Soviets became aware of the presence of elite SS units (Hitler's personal unit, the 1st SS Panzer Division took part in the operation) they counterattacked in strength. By March 14, the operation was in serious trouble with Joseph Goebbels admitting in his diary that failure was likely; three days later, the Germans were back at their original starting positions. Among the 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 12th SS Panzer Divisions, each division still had 31 or more operational armored fighting vehicles on March 15, 1945,[4] while Army Group South as a whole still had 772 operational tanks and assault guns as of March 16, 1945.[5]

The remaining German forces withdrew under Soviet pressure into Austria in order to defend Vienna. In April 1945, the 6th SS Panzer Army defended Vienna against the advancing Soviets, but was unable to prevent Soviet conquest of the city. When the war ended on May 8, 1945, the 6th SS Panzer Army was in Austria between Vienna and Linz, in which area it subsequently surrendered to forces of the U.S. Army.

Surrender of 6th SS Panzer Army formations (order of battle as of May 7, 1945)
Source 1: Rolf Stoves, Die gepanzerten und motorisierten deutsche Grossverbände 1935–1945
Source 2: Georg Tessin, Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS 1939–1945 Volume 3
Unit Date of Surrender Surrender Location To which forces
1st SS Panzer Division May 8/9, 1945 SE of Linz, Austria U.S. Army
3rd SS Panzer Division May 8, 1945 S of Linz, Austria U.S. Army
12th SS Panzer Division May 8, 1945 near Enns, Austria U.S. Army
Führer Grenadier Division  ? May 1945 Zwettl, Austria U.S. Army
117th Light Infantry Division  ? May 1945 Steyr, Austria U.S. Army
356th Infantry Division  ? May 1945 Wiener-Neustadt, Austria U.S. Army
710th Infantry Division  ? May 1945 Steyr, Austria U.S. Army
10th Parachute Division  ? May 1945 Jihlava, Czechoslovakia Red Army

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bruce Quarrie, The Ardennes Offensive VI Panzer Armee, p. 21, Botley: Osprey, 1999, ISBN 1-85532-853-4
  2. ^ "Axis History Factbook: 6. SS-Panzer-Armee". 
  3. ^ Hugh M. Cole, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, pp. 669–670, Washington: GPO, 1965. Available online here
  4. ^ Thomas Jentz, Panzer Truppen, Vol. 2, p. 247, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 1996
  5. ^ Krisztián Ungváry, Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. 8, p. 945, München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2007

Additional reading[edit]

  • Trevor N. Dupuy; David L. Bongard; Richard C. Anderson Jr. (1994). Hitler's Last Gamble, The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945. Harper Collins. p. 504. ISBN 0-06-016627-4.