7th Panzer Division (Wehrmacht)

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German 7th Panzer Division
7th Panzer Division logo.svg
Active 18 October 1939 – 8 May 1945
Country Nazi Germany Deutsches Reich
Branch Heer
Type Division
Role Panzer
Nickname "Gespensterdivision"
Engagements World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Georg Stumme
Erwin Rommel
Hans Freiherr von Funck
Hasso von Manteuffel
Insignia
1940 7th Panzer Division logo.svg
1941–1945 7th Panzer Division logo 2.svg
at Kursk 7th Panzer Division logo 3.svg

The 7th Panzer Division was an elite armored formation of the German Army in the Second World War. It participated in the Battle of France, the invasion of the Soviet Union, the occupation of Vichy France, and the defensive battles on the Eastern Front till the end of the war.

The division met with great success in France in 1940, and then again in Russia in 1941. In May 1942 the division was withdrawn from Russia and sent back to France to replace losses and refit. It returned to southern Russia following the defeat at Stalingrad, and helped to check a general collapse of the front in a series of defensive battles as part of Army Group Don, and participated in General Erich von Manstein's counter stroke at Kharkov.[1] The division fought in the unsuccessful offensive at Kursk in the summer of 1943, suffering heavy losses in men and equipment and was further degraded in the subsequent Russian counteroffensive.[2]

Through 1944 and 1945 the division was markedly understrength but nevertheless was continuously engaged in a series of defensive battles across the eastern front. It was twice evacuated by sea, leaving what was left of its heavy equipment behind each time. After fighting defensively across Prussia and northern Germany the surviving men escaped into the forest and surrendered to the British army northwest of Berlin in May 1945.

Creation of the division[edit]

Rommel reviews position with staff

Following the completion of the invasion of Poland the limited effectiveness of the light divisions caused the German High Command to order the reorganization of the four light divisions into full panzer divisions.[3] In October 1939 the 2nd Light Division became the 7th Panzer Division.[4] The reconnaissance regiment from the 2nd Light Division was split into two parts, forming the new 37th Reconnaissance Battalion and the 7th Motorcycle Battalion. The 25th Panzer Regiment with its 2 panzer battalions was added to give the division more striking power. With the division's 66th Panzer Battalion, the total armoured strength rose to 3 battalions. The division also possessed two regiments of motorized infantry, an artillery regiment of three battalions with twelve guns each, an anti-tank battalion and a pioneer battalion.[5]

The new commander of the division was Erwin Rommel. A highly decorated infantry officer from the First World War, he had been chosen by Hitler to command his personal guard unit. Such duties were not to his liking during a time of war. Although Rommel had no training or practical experience in tank warfare, he had witnessed the effects of the panzer forces with Hitler in Poland. Their speed and mobility had appealed to him, and were well suited to his own aggressive style.[3] He prevailed upon the Führer to transfer him to a command in the new panzerwaffe. On 15 February 1940 Rommel received his request and was given command of the 7th Panzer Division.

Combat History[edit]

France[edit]

An eight wheeled Sd.Kfz 232 in the Ardennes, May 1940

Reaching the Meuse[edit]

On 10 May 1940 the Germans invaded Belgium, with von Bock's Army Group B moving into northern Belgium while von Runstedt's Army Group A with seven panzer divisions drove the hammer blow by coming through the rugged Ardennes forest. The French and British responded by moving their forces into Belgium as well. General Hermann Hoth's XV Army Corps, comprising the 5th and 7th Panzer Divisions and the 32nd Infantry Division formed the right wing of the Ardennes offensive and was intended to protect the northern flank from counterattack from the strong allied forces moving into Belgium.[6] By May 13 the 7th Panzer Division had reached the River Meuse near the Walloon municipality of Dinant. There the attack into France briefly stalled due to destroyed bridges and determined artillery and rifle fire from the Belgian defenders across the river. Present with the forward units, Rommel brought up tanks and flak units to provide suppressive counter-fire.[7] Several houses nearby were ordered set afire to improvise a smoke screen.[8] Under cover of the smoke, infantry were sent across the river in rubber boats. Rommel appropriated bridging materiel from 5th Panzer Division and aided the engineers in lashing together the borrowed pontoons to construct a light bridge.[9] With the Meuse crossed the division moved out of the Ardennes and into France, with Rommel moving among his forces, pressing forward their advance.

Battles of Arras and Lille[edit]

25th Panzer Regiment commander Karl Rothenburg, second from left, and division commander Erwin Rommel during the campaign for France, June 1940.[N 1]

On 20 May the 7th Panzer Division reached Arras. Here the Division attempted to cut off the British Expeditionary Force from the coast. Hans von Luck, commanding the reconnaissance battalion of the Division, was tasked with forcing a crossing over the La Bassée canals near the city.

Supported by Stuka dive bombers, the unit managed to cross. The following day the British launched a counterattack using two columns of infantry supported by the heavily armored Matilda Mk I and Matilda II tanks in the Battle of Arras. The standard German 37 mm anti-tank gun proved ineffective against the armour of the Matildas. A battery of 105 mm howitzers stopped the first column. The second approached within 1,000 metres of where Rommel was attempting to rally his division. All weapons were used in a desperate attempt to stop the British attacks, as well as artillery pieces, a battery of 88 mm anti-aircraft guns against the attackers.[11] As the losses in the tank force mounted, the attack was broken off. This was one of the first times the 88 mm Flak gun was used in an anti-tank role.[12]

After Arras, Hitler ordered his forces to hold their positions and the 7th Panzer Division was afforded a few days of much-needed rest. On 26 May, 7th Panzer Division finally renewed its advance, reaching Lille the next day. Combining the 5th and 7th Panzer divisions under Rommels command, General Hoth ordered him to push into the city. By the evening of 28 July the remnants of the 1st French Army were surrounded in the city, and surrendered two days later.

Drive for the English Channel[edit]

Resuming the advance on 5 June, the division drove for the River Seine to secure the bridges near Rouen. Advancing 100 kilometres (62 mi) in two days, the it reached Rouen only to find the bridges destroyed. On 10 June, the 7th Panzer Division was the first German unit to reach the channel near Dieppe, Rommel sending his "Am at coast" signal to the German HQ and linking up with fellow Panzer commander Heinz Guderian.[13]

On 15 June, 7th Panzer started advancing on Cherbourg. On 17 June, the Division advanced 35 kilometres (22 mi), capturing the town on the following day. The Division then proceeded towards Bordeaux but stopped when the armistice was signed on 21 June. In July, the Division was stationed in an area northeast of Chartres, south of Paris, to start preparations for Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion), the planned invasion of Britain.

"Ghost Division"[edit]

The 7th Panzer Division moved with great speed through France and covered vast distances. During the Battle of France, the 7th Panzer Division earned the name of the Ghost Division (German:"Gespensterdivision") because its rapid movements led to few knowing exactly where the division was, including the German High Command. Rommel took the Panzerwaffe's "lead from the front" concept to heart. The small unit leadership and daring he displayed in the First World War translated well to the command of a panzer force, especially since Guderian had set up the communication system of the panzer divisions to allow command and control from any unit in the division. Rommel was able to drive the pace of operations of the Division, be present where ever the crucial point might be, and found protection for his forces in the speed of his operations. The commanders of the German panzer forces were able to operate much faster than what a commander issuing orders from his headquarters could achieve.[14][N 2] He believed that the best place for a commander was near the point of action. In addition, he would sometimes deliberately 'lose' communications with the High Command if he felt it necessary. His fearless command of the 7th Panzer Division showed his confidence and understanding of blitzkrieg concepts. The success they experienced and his favor with Hitler prevented any repercussions from the High Command, some of whom criticized Rommel for being difficult to contact and locate. Rommel described the French Campaign in his letters to his wife as "a lightning Tour de France".[15]

Timeline - 7th Panzer Division in Belgium and France[edit]

  • 10 May 1940 - Fall Gelb, the invasion of France, is launched. 7th Panzer advances through the Ardennes.
  • 12 May 1940 - 7th Panzer Division reaches Dinant on the Meuse.
  • 13 May 1940 - Crosses River Meuse after heavy fighting.
  • 15 May 1940 - Reaches Philippeville and continues Westward passing Avesnes and Le Cateau.
  • 21 May 1940 - Reaches Arras where counterattacked by two British Tank Regiments. British tank advance stopped by 105 mm Howitzers, light anti-aircraft weapons and finally a battery of Flak 88 anti-aircraft weapons.[16]
  • 5 June 1940 - Positioned near Abbeville.
  • 8 June 1940 - Reaches outskirts of Rouen.
  • 10 June 1940 - Reaches English Channel West of Dieppe.
  • 17 June 1940 - Reaches Southern outskirts of Cherbourg.
  • 19 June 1940 - Garrison of Cherbourg surrenders to Rommel.
  • 25 June 1940 - Fighting ends for 7th Panzer Division in France.

Following the end of the campaign the division remained in the Somme area of northern France while the Battle of Britain was fought. In February it was placed in reserve and returned to Germany. General Hans von Funck took over command of the Division. The unit was stationed near Bonn while preparations were being made for an invasion of the Soviet Union. For reasons of deception and security it remained in Bonn up until 8 June 1941, when the division was loaded onto 64 trains and transported by rail to the eastern frontier. The Division assembled in East Prussia southeast of Lötzen in preparation for the invasion of Russia.[17]

Eastern Front - June 1941 to May 1942[edit]

Operation Barbarossa began in the early morning hours of 22 June, at 0305. Resistance at the border was weaker than expected and brushed aside, the tanks of the Division raced forward, covering the 60 km to reach the Neman River at Olita (Alytus) by midday.[18] The Soviet 5th Tank Division stationed on the east bank of river at Alytus was completely taken by surprise, and the Germans were able to capture two bridges and establish bridgeheads across the river. Shortly thereafter the Soviets initiated a series of fierce counter-attacks, bringing the German advance to an abrupt halt.[19]

A Panzer 38t in Russia, 1941

The Soviet unit was well equipped with 300 tanks, of which 55 were of the new T-34 and KV-1 types.[20] Firing from hull down positions on the reverse slopes of hillsides, they caused the panzer forces their first combat loses. But soon joined by tanks from 20th Panzer Divisions 21st panzer regiment in the afternoon, General von Funck now had sufficient combat power to dominate the position the east bank, and fend off the probing attacks from the Russian tanks, but decided to hold further advance until supplies caught up with the forward units.[21]

The 5th Tank division, diminished, having lost of 80 tanks in its probing attacks against the bridgeheads,[22] withdrew in the night to the north-east.[18] The path now clear, the 7th Panzer Division launched forward to the outskirts of Vilnius, another 100 km, and its motorcycle battalion captured the city the next day.[21] Consolidating its position in and around Vilnius, the Division then handed responsibility for the city over to the 20th Motorized Division and resumed its headlong advance to the east. Though Russian positions were outflanked and troops cut off, Russian soldiers frequently continued to fight rather than surrender, even though their situation was hopeless. Unlike the campaign in France, the stubbornness of the Soviet defenders frustrated the attackers and cost greater casualties. Though meeting stiff pockets of resistance, the Soviet command were unable to mount a linear defense,[18] and the vital road and rail communications north east of Minsk was cut on 26 July, only four days into operation Barbarossa. The following day the division linked up with 18th Panzer division from Panzer Group 2, trapping the bulk of three Soviet Armies, the 3rd, 10th and 13th, in a vast pocket west of Minsk.[23]

Campaign map used by reconnaissance battalion commander Hans von Luck of the 7th Panzer during approach north of Moscow

In a 3 day dash, the division reached the town of Jarzevo, out flanking Soviet positions around Smolensk and threatening the Soviet 20th Army with encirclement. Meanwhile the 29th Motorized division had captured the city of Smolensk from the south, but with substantial elements tied down at Enlya 2nd Panzer group lacked the strength to link up again with 7th Panzer positions.[24] The gap between the two groups remained open, and the Soviet command was able to move forces both ways through the corridor. On 26 July, together with 20th Motorized division, the 7th Panzer division lunged southwards another 20 kilometers[24] but still could not entirely close the noose of the trap. In another week however, pressure from all sides had squeezed the pocket out of existence and the division was finally relived by infantry units, and taken out of line for refitting and rest.[24]

At the farthest point of the offensive, units of 7th Panzer Division crossed the Moscow-Volga Canal to the north of Moscow, and held a bridgehead across the canal for about a month, before having to withdraw with the onset of winter.[25]

The 7th Panzer Division started the campaign with 400 officers and 14,000 men.[26] By January 1942, six months from the start of the offensive, the division had suffered 2,055 killed, 5,737 wounded, with 313 missing and another 1,089 sick with frostbite and louse bound diseases. Total casualties were 9,203.

In late winter the division took up positions along a defensive line running Juchnoff-Gshatsk-Subsoff. On 15 March it was pulled out to engage in fierce fighting against a series of Soviet counteroffensives in battles fought near Rzhev. By 4 April the division was moved to Vyazma.

Timeline - 7th Panzer Division in Operation Barbarossa[edit]

  • 22 June 1941 - Operation Barbarossa begins, 7th Panzer advances to the River Neman and defeats the Soviet 5th Tank Division.
  • 27 June 1941 - Closes the pocket at Minsk trapping 3 Soviet Armies
  • 10 July 1941 - Defeats the counter strike by Soviet 7th Mechanised Corps at Vitebsk
  • 27 July 1941 - Comes close to closing another pocket at Smolensk.
  • 6 August 1941 - Relieved by infantry, withdrawn to rest and refit.
  • 21 August 1941 - Counter attack penetration in 161st Infantry division sector, but loses heavily in tanks, and attack only partially successful.
  • 2 October 1941 - Operation Typhoon begins
  • 7 October 1941 - Closes the pocket at Viazma, trapping hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops.
  • 8 October 1941 - Autumn rains begin, terrible road conditions slow the advance towards Moscow
  • 28 November 1941 - Reaches Moscow Volga Canal at Yakhroma, 65 km north of Moscow

By May 1942 the division was at a strength of 8,589 men and officers, most of whom had not been with the unit at the start of the campaign. As a result the division was withdrawn to rest and refit in southern France.[26] In mid-May the division was transported by rail to western France to the region between Nantes and Bordeaux.

France - May 1942 to Feb 1943[edit]

In southern France the division was assigned to coastal protection duties with the 1st Army. The division commander, Generalmajor Hans Freiherr von Funck, instigated a program of intense training, and the division was quickly brought up to full strength in manpower,[27] but equipment was slower to arrive. Even though the division was to be ready for 1 September, the II/Panzer Regiment 25 was temporarily equipped with French tanks.[28] However new equipment was issued, including 35 Pz III(J)s, 14 Pz III(N)s and 30 Pz IV(G)s, and the division's two Rifle Regiments were re-designated Panzer-grenadier regiments.[26]

The division's motorized pioneer unit drives along the warf in Port-Vendres

Hitler had been concerned of an Allied invasion of the continent. Following the 8 November Allied landings in West and North Africa his anxiety rose greatly. On 11 November the Division was sent to enter previously unoccupied France to reach the Mediterranean coast between Pergignan and Narbonne. Assembling in a staging area around Aix-en-Provence, the Division prepared for Operation Lila, the seizure of the large French fleet at the naval port of Toulon. Hitler was very concerned that these warships would fall into Allied hands.

The crew of a Panzer IV watch a burning French warship, probably the cruiser Colbert.

For the mission the division was augmented with units from other divisions, including two armoured groups and a motorcycle battalion from the 2nd SS Panzer Division and a marine detachment called Gumprich after its commander. Marine Detachment Gumprich was assigned the mission of seizing the French ships before they could sail or be scuttled.[29] The combat groups entered Toulon at 04:00 on 27 November 1942 and made for the harbor. Units coming from the east captured Fort Lamalgue, the headquarters of Admiral Marquis, and the Mourillon arsenal. A second group came in from the west, capturing the main arsenal and the coastal defences. However as the German forces were attempting to gain control of the vessels the French navy scuttled nearly all of their fleet.

After the mission was completed the Division was stationed in a region between Marseille and Avignon. It remained there until January 1943 when deterioration of the German front in southern Russia necessitated its return to the Eastern front.[30]

Eastern Front - Feb 1943 to July 1944[edit]

Upon transfer to Army Group South the division fought to stem the Soviet effort to cut off the 1st Panzer Army in the Caucasus. The division checked the Soviet advance upon Rostov, maintaining an avenue of escape for the 1st Panzer Army. It continued in actions along the Don and Donetz river lines, and in the Third Battle of Kharkov.

Adelbert Schulz, commander of 25 Panzer Regiment, the main striking force of the 7th Panzer Division, speaks with an officer near a Panzer III just before the Battle of Kursk

In the summer of 1943 the division took part in the offensive at Kursk, serving as part of the armoured formations of Army Detachment Kempf as they attempted to screen the eastern flank of the southern German pincer. The division suffered heavy casualties in this battle, and by the end of the battle 7th Panzer was down to 15 tanks and had an infantry combat strength equivalent to three battalions.[30]

Following the end of the German offensive at Kursk the division was transferred to the XLVIII Panzer Corps. On 20 August 1943 Generalmajor Hasso von Manteuffel took command of the division. The Soviet Steppe front launched a massive attack spearheaded by two tank armies on 3 August 1943.[31]

The German front west of Belgorod was pierced and forced back. The 7th Panzer division, attached to the 4th Panzer Army, gradually gave way battling against the Soviet 40th Army. The division was relieved at the front enabling it to form a shock group with the Großdeutschland division, which would drive into the Soviet flank and join with reinforcements arriving in the Kharkov region, and blunt the Soviet advance. The counterstroke was led by Großdeutschland, with the 7th Panzer, operating with its 23 remaining operational tanks, covering the left flank. By nightfall the attackers had driven 24 kilometers into the Russian flank[31] and isolated the forward elements of the Russian offensive. Success was short lived, however, as further Soviet reinforcements advancing behind the lead elements confronted the German counterattack and reduced the combat effectiveness of the Wehrmacht formations. With this Army Group South withdrew to the line of the Dnieper.[31]

Personnel Loses in August for the 7th Panzer division were even higher than in July. The replacement battalion was disbanded as all capable leaders were needed at the front. Losses in heavy infantry weapons and motor vehicles reduced the division's combat value. Remaining operational tanks were amalgamated into a single company.[32] The battered division withdrew to the Dnepr position, crossing the river at Kremenchug.

The Division then fought in the defensive Battle of Kiev and the German counterattack at Zhitomir. During these battles the division was twice cited for distinguished conduct.[30] After this the Division fought in a series of heavy defensive battles during the long retreat across the Ukraine.

Courland - July 1944 to November 1944[edit]

In July 1944 the division was transferred north to the Baltic states and the northern area of Army Group Center in response to the Soviet Baltic Offensive. The division participated in defensive fighting in Lithuania. Late in the autumn the 1st Baltic Front attempted to reach the Baltic sea through the Third Panzer Army. On 21 September the division moved more than 100 km north to an area east of Memel where there was heavy fighting. The German forces were forced to fall back during the follow-up Memel Offensive, to a defensive perimeter around the coastal town of Memel. With the Memel bridgehead isolated, the Division was relieved by an infantry division and was loaded onto ships and transported by sea out of the pocket, leaving its heavy equipment behind with the German forces still holding. On 7 November 1944 the remainder of the division was gathered at the training area Aryes in East Prussia and the division was partially reorganized. Here it formed a reserve for the 2nd Army of Army Group Center.

Germany - November 1944 to May 1945[edit]

7th Panzer Division commander Karl Mauss at Gdynia

In January the Soviet 2nd Belorussian Front mounted a massive attack and broke through the defenses of the 2nd Army, which was forced back north and west. The kampfgruppe of the 7th Panzer fought a rearguard action through north Poland at Elbing and to the east of Graudenz. The Division crossed the Vistula and then continued in defensive battles for and around Konitz. In mid-February 1945 the Division was pushed back into northern Pomerania. In March 1945 the division was fighting a delaying action at Gdynia, north and west of Danzig. On 19 April 1945 the surviving men were again taken off by sea, evacuating from the Hel Peninsula. Only a small remnant of the Division came back from the Hel Peninsula. The remains assembled at the Baltic Sea island of Usedom in western Pomerania. The remnants of the division retreated west through Prussia until finally surrendering to the British Army at Schwerin north and west of Berlin in May 1945.

Organization / Order of Battle[edit]

May 1940[edit]

  • 25th Panzer Regiment (I & II Battalions), under command of Colonel Karl Rothenburg
  • 66th Panzer Battalion, under command of Major Rudolf Sieckenius
  • 6th Motorized Rifle Regiment (I & II Battalions), under command of Colonel Erich von Unger
  • 7th Motorized Rifle Regiment (I & II Battalions), under command of Colonel Georg von Bismarck
  • 37th Reconnaissance Battalion, under command of Major Erdmann (KIA 28 May)
  • 7th Motorcycle Battalion, under command of Major Friedrich-Carl von Steinkeller
  • 78th Motorized Artillery Regiment (I & II Battalions), under command of Colonel Frölich
  • 42nd Antitank Battalion, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Johann Mickl
  • 58th Combat Engineer Battalion, Motorized, under command of Major Binkau (KIA 13 May)
  • 59th Light Anti-aircraft Detachment, under command of Major Schrader

Equipment

Panzer 38(t) used by the 7th Panzer division on display in the Munster tank Museum. These Czech built light tanks were the main combat vehicle of the division's panzer regiment from 1940 through 1941.

The divisional artillery consisted at this time of 24 towed 105 mm LeFH (Light field howitzers). The divisional Anti-tank battalion and the Infantry Anti tank platoons all contained towed 37mm PAK 36. The infantry all traveled by truck or by motorcycle.[33] Both the Panzer Regiment 25, and the Panzer battalion 66 had gone into action in Poland with only light tanks, Mk I & II. Upon assignment to 7th Panzer division these units were to adopt the Czech 38t in their organization as main battle tank in the light companies along with Mk IV in the middle companies.[34] However this process was not complete by the start of the battle with France and the division went into action with 34 Mark I, 68 Mark II, 91 38t and 24 Mark IV in May 1940, a total of about 225 tanks.[35]

July 1941[edit]

  • 25 Panzer Regiment (I, II & III Battalions)
  • 7th Infantry Brigade
    • 6 Motorized Rifle Regiment (I & II Battalions)
    • 7 Motorized Rifle Regiment (I & II Battalions)
    • 7 Motorcycle Battalion
  • 37 Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 78 Motorized Artillery Regiment (I, II & III Battalions)
  • 58 Motorized Combat Engineer Battalion
  • 42 Antitank Battalion
  • 58 Field replacement battalion
  • Divisional services

[36]

The 25th Panzer Regiment had absorbed the 66th Panzer Battalion, which had been the panzer force of the original 2nd Light Division. By 1941 this unit had become the 3rd Battalion of the 25th Panzer Regiment. On the eve of operation Barbarossa the tank strength of the division had risen to 53 Mark II, 167 Panzer 38t, 30 Mark IV, & 15 French Char B, for a total of 265 tanks. The artillery regiment had added a 3rd battalion of heavy guns, with 2 batteries of 150 mm sFH, and 1 battery of 100 mm guns.

Each panzer battalion comprised 4 companies instead of 3, and a 3rd company had been added to the antitank battalion. A field replacement battalion of 3 companies had also been added.[37] The division totaled 400 officers leading 14,000 men at the start of the Russian campaign.[38]

June 1943[edit]

A Sd.Kfz. 251 of the 7th Panzer in southern France, November 1942

In May 1942 the division was withdrawn from Russia and rebuilt and reorganized in France. The Panzer Regiment now consisted of 2 battalions equipped with German tanks. The infantry regiments were now renamed Panzer Grenidier and the II / Panzer Grenidier Regiment 6 was equipped with armored half trucks. The motorcycle battaluion was merged into the reconnaissance Battalion and contained an armoured car company, a half track company, 2 motorcycle companies and a heavy company.

On its return to Russia in December 1942 the Panzer Regiment was now equipped with 21 Mark II, 91 Mark III (50mm long), 14 Mark III (75mm), 2 Mark IV (75mm), 18 Mark IV (75mm long), 9 Befehl (command), a total of 155 tanks.[39]

  • 25 Panzer Regiment (I, II Battalions)
  • 6 Panzer Grenadier Regiment (I & II Battalions, I Battalion Armoured)
  • 7 Panzer Grenadier Regiment (I & II Battalions)
  • 7 Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 78 Motorized Artillery Regiment (I, II & III Battalions)
  • 58 Armoured Combat Engineer Battalion
  • 42 Antitank Battalion
  • 296 Anti-aircraft Battalion (attached Army troops)
  • 58 Field replacement battalion
  • Divisional services

Commanding officers[edit]

Hasso von Manteuffel's success during his time as commander of the 7th Panzer Division brought him to the attention of Adolf Hitler
  • Generalmajor Georg Stumme (18 October 1939 – 5 February 1940)
  • Generalmajor Erwin Rommel (5 February 1940 – 14 February 1941)
  • Generalmajor Hans Freiherr von Funck (15 February 1941 – 17 August 1943)
  • Oberst Wolfgang Gläsemer (17 August 1943 – 20 August 1943)
  • Generalmajor Hasso von Manteuffel (20 August 1943 – 1 January 1944)
  • Generalmajor Adelbert Schulz (1 January 1944 – 28 January 1944)
  • Oberst Wolfgang Gläsemer (28 January 1944 – 30 January 1944)
  • Generalmajor Dr. Karl Mauss (30 January 1944 – 2 May 1944)
  • Generalmajor Gerhard Schmidhuber (2 May 1944 – 9 September 1944)
  • Generalmajor Dr. Karl Mauss (9 September 1944 – 31 October 1944)
  • Generalmajor Hellmuth Mäder (31 October 1944 – 30 November 1944)
  • Generalmajor Dr. Karl Mauss (30 November 1944 – 5 January 1945)
  • Generalmajor Max Lemke (5 January 1945 – 23 January 1945)
  • Generalmajor Dr. Karl Mauss (23 January 1945 – 25 March 1945)
  • Oberst Hans Christern (26 March 1945 – 8 May 1945)

War Crimes[edit]

During the fighting in France, the division, alongside troops from 5th Panzer division, committed numerous atrocities against colonial French troops including the mass murder of 50 surrendering Non-commissioned officers and men at Quesnoy and Airaines[40][41] The division is also considered by Raffael Scheck to be responsible for the execution of PoW's in Hangest-sur-Somme,[42] but were too far away to be involved in the massacre at Aiains.

Popular culture[edit]

Swedish Heavy Metal group Sabaton have a song on their 2008 album The Art of War titled "Ghost Division", which is about the 7th Panzer Division's advance into France in 1940.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Note the Panzer 38(t)s in the background. These tanks were Czech built, and were absorbed into the service after the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Though a light tank, they were effective in 1940 and were used to fill out the new panzer regiments. 7th Panzer, being a new formation, used these as a main battle tank, supplemented by Pz Mk Is and IIs, and a handful of Pz Mk IVs.[10]
  2. ^ Quote from Rommel: "A tight combat control west of the Meuse, and flexibility to meet the changing situation, were only made possible by the fact that the divisional commander with his signals troop kept on the move and was able to give orders direct to the regimental commanders in the forward line. Wireless alone - due to the necessity for encoding - would have taken too long, first to get the situation reports back to Division and then for Division to issue its orders. Continuous wireless contact was maintained with the division's operations staff, which remained in the rear, and a detailed exchange of views took place early each morning and each afternoon between the divisional commander and his Ia. This method of command proved extremely effective."[14]
Citations
  1. ^ David M. Glantz, From the Don to the Dnepr, Chapter 4, Operation Star.
  2. ^ Kamen Nevenkin, Fire Brigades: The Panzer Divisions 1943-1945, p 214-239, Theloses for July were 3,231, and in August almost as many 3,035 (p 233)
  3. ^ a b Rommel 1953, p. 6.
  4. ^ Mitcham 2001, p. 80.
  5. ^ Rommel 1953, p. 5.
  6. ^ Lewin p. 12
  7. ^ Lewin 1968, p. 14.
  8. ^ Rommel 1953, p. 8.
  9. ^ Young 1950, p. 49.
  10. ^ "7th Panzer Division, 1940". 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine. 
  11. ^ Pier Paolo Battistelli , Panzer Divisions: The Blitzkrieg Years 1939-40 p88
  12. ^ Lewin p. 21
  13. ^ Churchill Vol. 3 p.
  14. ^ a b Lewin pp. 14-15
  15. ^ Rommel 1953, p. 85.
  16. ^ Stolfi 1991, p. 36.
  17. ^ Stolfi 1991, p. 46.
  18. ^ a b c David M. Glantz, The Initial Period of War on the Eastern Front, p 173, the tanks of the Panzer Regiment literally raced each other during the first days advance
  19. ^ Robert Kershaw, War Without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942 (Kindle Location 2054).
  20. ^ David M. Glantz, The Initial Period of War on the Eastern Front, p 35
  21. ^ a b Stolfi, Russell, A bias for action, 52
  22. ^ Manteuffel, Die 7. Panzer–Division im ZweitenWeltkrieg, p135–6.
  23. ^ David M. Glantz, The Initial Period of War on the Eastern Front, p 179
  24. ^ a b c David M. Glantz, The Initial Period of War on the Eastern Front, p 389-392
  25. ^ Luck 1989, p. 78.
  26. ^ a b c Mitcham 2001, p. 81.
  27. ^ Franz Kurowski, Panzergrenadier Aces
  28. ^ Thomas L. Jentz ,Panzer Truppen: 1933-1942 v. 1, p 219
  29. ^ Diest 1990, p. 827.
  30. ^ a b c Mitcham 2001, p. 82.
  31. ^ a b c David M. Glantz, From the Don to the Dnepr: Soviet Offensive Operations, December 1942 - August 1943, p350-60, The tank armies were the 1st Tank Army and the 5th Guards Tank Army
  32. ^ Kamen Nevenkin, Fire Brigades: The Panzer Divisions 1943-1945, p216
  33. ^ George F. Nafziger, The German Order of Battle: Panzers and Artillery in World War II, p 64-69
  34. ^ Thomas L. Jentz, Panzer Truppen: 1933-1942 v. 1, p 106
  35. ^ Thomas L. Jentz, Panzer Truppen: 1933-1942 v. 1, p 120
  36. ^ http://niehorster.orbat.com/011_germany/41_organ_army/41_div_pz-07.html
  37. ^ George F. Nafziger, The German Order of Battle: Panzers and Artillery in World War II, p 64-69 & 216
  38. ^ Samuel W. Mitcham, Panzer Legions: A Guide to the German Army Tank Divisions of World War II
  39. ^ Panzer Truppen: 1943-1945 v. 2, p32
  40. ^ How Fighting Ends: A Martin Alexander ‘French surrenders in 1940: soldiers, commanders, civilians’, in Hew Strachan and Holger Afflerbach (eds.), How Fighting Ends. A History of Surrender (Oxford University Press 2012, page 332 Indeed, the soldiers of the 'Ghost Division' and its partner in crime, 5th Panzer Division, committed numerous atrocities against French colonial troops in 1940, murdering fifty surrendered non-commissioned officers and men at Airaines
  41. ^ David Stone "Hitler's Army: The Men, Machines, and Organization: 1939-1945" MBI Publishing Company 2009 page 103, "On 7 June, a number of soldiers of 53eme Regiment d'Infanterie Coloniale were shot, probably by troops of the 5th Panzer Division, following their surrender after a spirited defense in the area of Airaines, near Le Quesnoy. Similar acts had also been perpetrated by soldiers of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division on 5 June against the defenders of Le Quesnoy. Rommel noted in his own account that "any enemy troops were either wiped out or forced to withdraw"; at the same time he also provided the disparaging (but possibly somewhat contradictory in light of his first note) observation that "many of the prisoners taken were hopelessly drunk."
  42. ^ Hitler's African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940: The German Army Massacres of 1940 Raffael Scheck - 2006 page 26 20 In Hangest-sur-Somme, some captured Tirailleurs and a French second lieutenant were shot by Germans in black uniforms, most likely members of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division
Bibliography
  • Deist, Wilhelm; Klaus A. Maier et al. (1990). Germany and the Second World War. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822884-8. 
  • Lewin, Ronald (1998) [1968]. Rommel As Military Commander. New York: B&N Books. ISBN 978-0-7607-0861-3. 
  • von Luck, Hans Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck. New York, Dell Publishing of Random House (1989) ISBN 0-440-20802-5
  • Rommel, Erwin (1982) [1953]. Liddell Hart, B. H., ed. The Rommel Papers. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-80157-0. 
  • Mitcham, Samuel The Panzer Legions: A Guide to the German Army Tank Divisions of World War II and their Commanders Westport, Conn. Greenwood Press, 2001.
  • Stolfi, Russell A bias for action : the German 7th Panzer Division in France & Russia 1940-1941 Marine Corps University, Quantico, VA : Command and Staff College Foundation, 1991.
  • Young, Desmond (1950). Rommel The Desert Fox. New York: Harper & Row. OCLC 48067797. 

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