Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring
|Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring
1st Paratroop Panzer Division Hermann Göring
World War II
The Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring (1st Paratroop Panzer Division Hermann Göring - abbreviated Fallschirm-Panzer-Div 1 HG) was an elite German Luftwaffe armoured division. The HG saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and on the Eastern Front. The division was the creation of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring and increased in size throughout the war from an Abteilung (battalion) to a Panzer corps.
- 1 Creation and early history
- 2 Luftwaffe control - early campaigns
- 3 Barbarossa and North Africa
- 4 Panzer Division - Sicily - Italy
- 5 Transfer to the east
- 6 East Prussia - defeat
- 7 War crimes
- 8 Commanders
- 9 Unit lineage
- 10 Orders of Battle
- 11 See also
- 12 Citations
- 13 References
Creation and early history
When Adolf Hitler's NSDAP swept to power in Germany in 1933, World War I fighter ace Hermann Göring was appointed as Prussian Minister of the Interior. In this capacity, all Police units in Prussia came under Göring's control.
On 24 February 1933, with the intention of creating a police unit of unswerving loyalty to the NSDAP regime, Göring authorized the creation of Polizeiabteilung z.b.V. Wecke ("Police Battalion for special purposes Wecke"). The unit was named after its commander, Prussian World War I veteran and early NSDAP member Major der Schutzpolizei Walther Wecke. The Abteilung was based in the Berlin-Kreuzberg neighbourhood, and quickly began to build a reputation as a ruthless and brutal Nazi enforcement unit. Working in conjunction with Göring's secret police, the Gestapo, the unit was involved in many attacks against Communists and Social democrats, and was responsible for the capture and arrest of many of those opposed to the Nazis.
In June 1933, Göring expanded the Abteilung and transferred control of the unit from the Berlin Polizei to the newly reformed Landespolizei (State Police). The unit was correspondigly renamed Landespolizeigruppe Wecke z.b.V..
In January 1934, under pressure from Hitler and Himmler, Göring gave Himmler's SS control of the Gestapo. To reinforce the position of his remaining unit, Göring increased its size and created the requirement that all members must pass a military training program. The reformed unit was called Landespolizeigruppe General Göring ("State Police Group General Goering"). When Ernst Röhm's SA began to make demands to the NSDAP leadership, Hitler ordered Göring's LPG Wecke and Himmler's Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler to take action. During the Night of the Long Knives, LPG Wecke and the Leibstandarte executed many major SA leaders, removing the formation as a threat to the NSDAP.
Luftwaffe control - early campaigns
In 1935, Göring was promoted to command of the Luftwaffe. Unwilling to leave his favourite unit behind, he ordered it transferred to the Luftwaffe, renaming the unit Regiment General Göring in September 1935.
The unit was now sent for re-training and re-equipping as a Luftwaffe unit. During this period, the I.Jäger-Bataillon and 15. Pionier-Kompanie were sent to Döberitz for parachute training. These units were separated from the regiment in March 1938 and redesignated I./ Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1, the first of the Fallschirmjäger (airborne) units.
By early 1936, the regiment was again ready for action. By this time, all organised resistance to the NSDAP had either been crushed or left Germany, and so the regiment was put to work as a personal bodyguard for Göring and providing flak protection for Hitler's Headquarters.
When Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss of March 1938, the regiment was one of the first units to cross the border. Similarly, during the invasion of the Sudetenland in October 1938 and the occupation of Prague in March 1939, the General Göring was among the first units in the German occupation force.
During the invasion of Poland, only a small part of the regiment was involved in the fighting. The majority of the unit was to stay in Berlin to continue their duties providing flak protection and guards for Göring and the NSDAP leadership. During the invasions of Denmark and Norway, elements of the regiment (a guard battalion, a motorcycle company and a flak component) took part in the campaign and acquitted themselves well.
The main body of the regiment had been moved west to the German-Dutch border using the cover designations FlaK-Regiment 101 and FlaK-Regiment 103. During Fall Gelb, this force took part in the invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium. The imposing fortress of Eben Emael was captured and neutralised by Fallschirmjäger, many of whom had previously served in the General Göring.
After the capitulation of the Netherlands, the regiment was broken up into several small Kampfgruppen and these were attached to the Panzer divisions spearheading the advance. The regiment again acquitted itself well, especially the flak troops, who often operated in an anti-armour capacity. In an engagement at Mormal Wood, heavy 8.8 cm FlaK 18s engaged French tanks at ranges of only a few metres. During this battle, the regiment gained a reputation for steadfastness under fire.
After the surrender of France, the regiment was stationed on the Channel coast, before being moved back to Paris to provide flak protection for the city. Late in 1940, the regiment was moved back to Berlin to resume its former duties as honour guards and flak protection.
Barbarossa and North Africa
In early 1941, the regiment was reorganized as a motorized regiment. During this time, it was redesignated Regiment (mot) Hermann Göring, as Göring had been promoted to Reichsmarschall. After this restructuring, the regiment was moved east to take part in the invasion of the Soviet Union.
When Benito Mussolini's disastrous invasion of Greece caused the delay of Barbarossa and the German invasion of the Balkans and Greece, the regiment was stationed in the Romanian oilfields near Ploieşti to provide flak protection.
Barbarossa got underway on 22 June 1941, and during the campaign, the regiment was attached to the 11.Panzer-Division, a part of Army Group South. The regiment saw action around the areas of Radziechów, Kiev and Brjansk, destroying many Soviet tanks with their 8.8 cm flak guns. At the end of 1941, the regiment was returned to Germany for rest and refit, having suffered moderate casualties in the campaign. The Schützen-Bataillon Hermann Göring remained at the front until May 1942.
In July 1942 the regiment was upgraded to brigade status and redesignated Brigade Hermann Göring. In October 1942, while the brigade was still being restructured, it was decided to further upgrade the status of the Hermann Göring to a full division. The division would be organized along the lines of a Heer Panzer division. Göring arranged for veteran Heer panzer crewmen to be transferred to his division, and brought the mechanized infantry component up to strength with the addition of the 5. Fallschirmjäger-Regiment.
While the division was in formation, the Second Battle of El Alamein had forced Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps to retreat from the Egyptian-Libyan border back towards Tunisia. Still not fully formed, the Hermann Göring, under the banner of Kampfgruppe Schmid, under the command of Generalmajor Joseph Schmid, was sent to Tunisia piecemeal in an attempt to bolster Rommel's force. KG Schmid surrendered along with the rest of Panzer Army Africa. With this action, the division lost all of its combat units and many of its command units. Göring immediately ordered the division to be reformed.
Panzer Division - Sicily - Italy
Several units of the Hermann Göring Division which had been completing training or awaiting transfer to Tunisia were to be used for the basis for a reformed Division. The division was to be designated Panzer-Division Hermann Göring. By mid-June, the new division was ready for combat, and was shipped to Sicily to defend against the expected Allied invasion. When the Allied invasion of Sicily was launched on 10 July 1943, Hermann Göring was in place to defend the island. The division was engaged at the Amphibious Battle of Gela, at Priolo Gargallo and at Centuripe, but heavy Allied air and naval superiority forced the German divisions to retreat to Messina. During Operation Lehrgang, the German evacuation of Sicily, the Hermann Göring formed part of the rearguard, being one of the last units to leave Sicily for the mainland.
When the Italian government agreed an armistice with the Allies, the division took part in the operations to disarm Italian troops. When the Allies landed at Salerno on 9 September, the division, being stationed in the Salerno area, was thrown into the fight. When the German defence began to yield, the division executed a fighting withdrawal towards the Volturno–Termoli line. After holding the line for as long as possible, the division fell back to the Gustav Line, where it was finally pulled out of the line for rest and refit.
Art rescue controversy
As the Allies pushed further north, towards the abbey of Monte Cassino, the division's workshop detachment, under the command of Oberstleutnant Julius Schlegel, volunteered their services to the monks to remove the abbey's precious artworks. The monks agreed, and the division's vehicles were used to transfer the irreplaceable and valuable works of art, including paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and Raphael and the remains of St. Benedict himself. The cargo was deposited at the Vatican and was so spared destruction in the Battle of Monte Cassino. Because of Göring's reputation as a looter of artworks, a detachment of SS military police were sent to the abbey to arrest and execute Schlegel. It was only through the persuasion of the monks and the intervention by the divisional commander on his behalf that Schlegel escaped punishment, and the operation continued. In thanks, the monks of Monte Cassino celebrated a special mass, and presented Schlegel with an illuminated scroll recognizing his efforts. After the war, Schegel was arrested as a suspected war criminal and looter, and it was only after the personal intervention of British Field Marshal Harold Alexander that he was released.
When the Allies landed at Anzio in January 1944, the division was rushed to the area and took part in the battles against the invasion force, and for a time was employed opposite the 1st Special Service Force. From February to April 1944, the division saw fighting at Cisterna, on the Rapido River and at Minturno.
Transfer to the east
In April 1944, the division was pulled out of the line to the area around Toscana to be reorganized as Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring (1st Parachute-Panzer-Division Hermann Göring). The change resulted in no major change in the organization of the division, however during this time away from the front the division was refitted and received replacement troops and vehicles, bringing it back up to strength after over 8 months of continual combat. Arrangements were made for the division to be shipped to France to prepare for the expected allied invasion.
The allied offensive towards Rome that began on 12 May meant that these plans were canceled and the Hermann Göring was thrown back into the line. Executing a fighting withdrawal towards Rome, the division held off the allied forces while the last German troops were evacuated, and on 4 June fell back behind the Italian capital, which fell on that same day. The Hermann Göring settled in, defending against allied probing attacks towards Florence. On 16 July the division was ordered out of the line to prepare for transport to the Eastern Front.
During this period, several veteran cadres were drawn from the division for the formation of Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier-Division 2. Hermann Göring, the division's sister formation currently being formed in Radom. Also, the majority of the division's supply units were removed, as were many of its staff officers. These units were to go towards the creation of Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring, under which the two Hermann Göring divisions were to operate.
The division arrived at the Vistula front in late-July and was immediately thrown into action, fighting alongside the veteran 5th SS Panzer-Division Wiking and the 19th Panzer Division on the Vistula River between Modlin and Warsaw. In August, its counter-attack against the Magnaszew bridgehead, defended by the 8th Guards Army, failed after many days of heavy fighting. The advent of the Warsaw Uprising brought the Soviet offensive to a halt (probably intentionally on Stalin's order for the rising to fail), and relative peace fell on the front line as the underground Armia Krajowa defended the town alone against German forces throughout August and September 1944. In this period the division was notorious for using captured Polish non-combatant civilians as human shields when attacking the insurgents' positions in Warsaw. Following the destruction of the town, the division was attached to the newly formed Army Group Vistula formed 24 January 1945, defending the ruins of Warsaw in what Hitler termed "Festung Warschau", or Fortress Warsaw.
East Prussia - defeat
The Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring was activated in early October 1944, and the Hermann Göring Panzer Division, along with its sister Panzergrenadier division, was transferred to the command of the corps. The Panzerkorps was then transferred to the East Prussia–Kurland region to halt the Soviet offensive which had already achieved the isolation of Army Group North in the Kurland Pocket and was now aimed at the capture of East Prussia. The Panzerkorps was involved in heavy defensive fighting near Gumbinnen, and when the Soviet assault petered out in late November, the Panzerkorps set up static defensive lines.
The massive Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive trapped the Hermann Göring Panzerkorps in the Heiligenbeil Pocket along with the rest of the 4th Army. In February, the Heer's élite Großdeutschland Panzergrenadier Division was attached to the corps.
Despite several breakout attempts, the Panzerkorps had to be evacuated by sea to Swinemünde in Pomerania. Upon landing, it was thrown back into combat, defending the Oder-Neisse line against Soviet attacks through mid-March. To bolster the corps' strength, the elite Brandenburg Panzergrenadier Division was attached to the unit.
In April, the remnants of the Hermann Göring Panzerkorps was sent to Silesia, and in heavy fighting was slowly pushed back into Saxony. On April 22, the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring was one of two divisions that broke through the inter-army boundary of the Polish 2nd Army (Polish People's Army or LWP) and the Soviet 52nd Army, in an action near Bautzen, destroying parts of their communications and logistics trains and severely damaging the Polish (LWP) 5th Infantry Division and 16th Tank Brigade before being stopped two days later.
By early May, the Panzerkorps was positioned near the Saxon capitol of Dresden. The remains of the corps began breakout attempts to the west, in order to surrender to the Americans who were currently halted on the Elbe. Despite valiant breakout attempts, the corps was encircled, and although several small groups successfully made it through to the west, the majority of the corps surrendered to the Soviets on 8 May 1945.
According to a British Government report, the Hermann Göring Division was involved in several reprisal operations during its time in Italy . One of these occurred in the surrounding area of the village of Civitella in Val di Chiana on 6 June 1944 where 250 civilians were killed.
Around 800 soldiers from the division took part in fighting during the Warsaw Uprising in the Wola district, where mass executions of civilians occurred in connection with Hitler's orders to destroy the city. The units were:
- II./Fallschirm-Panzer-Regiment "Hermann Göring" (20 PzKpfw IV tanks)
- III./Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 2. "Hermann Göring"
- IV./Fallschirm-Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment "Hermann Göring"
Polish sources claim soldiers of the Hermann Göring Division used civilians as human shields in front of its tanks.
- Oberst der Landespolizei Watlher Wecke, 23 February 1933 – 5 June 1934
- Oberstleutnant der Landespolizei Friedrich Wilhelm Jakoby, 6 June 1934 – 12 August 1936
- Major Walther von Axthelm, 13 August 1936 – 31 May 1940
- Oberst Paul Conrath, 1 June 1940 – 14 April 1944
- Generalmajor Wilhelm Schmalz, 16 April 1944 – 30 September 1944
- Generalmajor Hanns-Horst von Necker, 1 October 1944 – 8 February 1945
- Generalmajor Max Lemke, 9 February 1945 – 8 May 1945
Fallschirm-Panzer-Korps Hermann Göring
- Generalleutnant Wilhelm Schmalz, 4 October 1944 – 8 May 1945
- Polizeiabteilung z.b. V. Wecke
- Landespolizeigruppe Wecke z.b. V
- Landespolizeigruppe General Göring
- Regiment General Göring
- Regiment (mot) Hermann Göring
- Brigade Hermann Göring
- Division Hermann Göring
- Panzer-Division Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring
Orders of Battle
Regiment General Göring, 1939
- I. (schwere) Flak-Abt.
- II. (leichte) Flak-Abt.
- III. Scheinwerfer-Abt.
- IV. (leichte) Flak-Abt.
- 9. Kompanie
- 10. Kompanie
- 11. Wachkompanie
- Ersatz- Abteilung
- (schwere) Eisenbahn Flak-Batterie
- (leichte) Flak-Batterie
Division Hermann Göring, November 1942
- Panzer-Regiment Hermann Göring
- Panzergrenadier-Regiment 1 Hermann Göring
- Panzergrenadier-Regiment 2 Hermann Göring
- Panzer-Aufklärungs- Abt. Hermann Göring
- Flak-Regiment Hermann Göring
- Panzer-Artillerie- Regiment Hermann Göring
- Panzer-Pionier- Btl. Hermann Göring
- Panzer-Nachrichten- Abt. Hermann Göring
- Feldersatz-Bataillon Hermann Göring
- Divisionkampfschule Hermann Göring
- Nachschub-Abt. Hermann Göring
- Instandsetzung-Abt. Hermann Göring
- Verwaltungstruppe Hermann Göring
- Sanitäts-Abt. Hermann Göring
Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1 Hermann Göring, May 1944
- Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 1 Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 2 Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Regiment Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 1 Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Füsilier-Bataillon 1 Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 1 Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Pionier-Bataillon 1 Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Nachrichten-Abteilung 1 Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Feldersatz-Bataillon 1 Hermann Göring
- Feldpostamt 1 Hermann Göring
Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring, November 1944
- Stab der Korps
- Fallschirm-Flakregiment Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzersturmbataillon Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzerkorpspionierbataillon Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzerkorpsnachrichtenabteilung Hermann Göring
- Nachschubabteilung Hermann Göring
- Instandsetzungsabteilung Hermann Göring
- Verwaltungsbataillon Hermann Göring
- Sanitätsabteilung Hermann Göring
- Korpsfeldpostamt Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring
- Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier-Division 2. Hermann Göring
- Erickson, John: "The Road to Berlin", page 591. Yale University Press, 1999.
- D. F. Ustinov et al.: "Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges" (Volume 10), page 399. Militärverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1979.
- von Ahlfen, Hans: "Der Kampf um Schlesien 1944/1945", pages 208-209. Motorbuch Verlag, 1977. v. Ahlfen quotes the April 27, 1945 war diary entry of Luftflottenkommando 6, noting that for all operations between Görlitz and Bautzen, involving multiple German divisions, during April 20–26, that the Soviet 94th Rifle Division was destroyed, and that the Soviet 7th Guards Mechanized Corps, the Soviet 254th Rifle Division, the Polish 1st Tank Corps (LWP), the Polish 16th Tank Brigade (LWP), and the Polish 5th, 7th, and 8th Infantry Divisions (LWP) took heavy losses. The war diary goes to state that 355 enemy tanks were destroyed, 320 enemy guns of all kinds were destroyed or captured, about 7,000 enemy dead were tallied, and that 800 prisoners were taken.
- Grzelak, Czesław et al.: "Armia Berlinga i Żymierskiego", pages 275 and 279. Wydawnictwo Neriton, 2002. As described here, after penetrating the inter-army boundary, the German attack struck the Polish 5th Infantry Division and 16th Tank Brigade (LWP) in the rear, practically destroying both units and killing the commanding general of the 5th Infantry Division. Losses for the Polish 2nd Army (LWP) in the area of Bautzen and Dresden are noted as approximately 5,000 KIA, 2,800 missing or taken prisoner, and 10,500 WIA. Overall the Polish 2nd Army lost 20 per cent of its personnel and material strength. Among these losses were 170 tanks, 56 self-propelled guns, 124 mortars, 232 guns of all calibers, 330 vehicles, and 1,373 horses.
- Michael Geyer:Es muß daher mit schnellen und drakonischen Maßnahmen durchgegriffen werden in: Hannes Heer, Klaus Neumann (Hrsg.): Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-930908.04-02, S.208ff.
- ^ Report of British War Crimes Section of Allied Force Headquarters on German Reprisals for Partisan Activities in Italy
- ^ Polish government page
- ^ Professor Peter K. Gessner State University of New York at Buffalo
- Bender, R.J. and Petersen, G.A. Hermann Göring: From Regiment to Fallschirmpanzerkorps
- Kurowski, Franz. The History of the Fallschirm Panzerkorps Hermann Göring: Soldiers of the Reichsmarschall. Winnipeg: J. J. Fedorowicz, 1995 ISBN 0-921991-25-8
- Otte, Alfred. The HG Panzer Division. Atlgen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer
- Luftwaffe Field Divisions 1941-45 By Kevin Conley Ruffner
- The Hermann Goring Division, Volume 385 By Gordon Williamson, Stephen Andrew