II SS Panzer Corps

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The II SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts during World War II.

Formation - Kharkov[edit]

The II SS Panzer Corps was formed from 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich and 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen in July 1942 in Bergen, Netherlands as "SS-Panzer-Generalkommando". The corps served as a skeletal formation, overseeing the reorganization and restructure of Waffen SS combat divisions in the area of Toulon, France.

In early February 1943, the corps was ordered to join Generalfeldmarschall Manstein's Army Group South in Ukraine where it was to become known very simply as the "SS Panzer Corps". SS-Gruppenführer Paul Hausser, the ex-commander of the Das Reich Division, was placed in charge of the corps, and was tasked with defending the strategic city of Kharkov. After defending the city for as long as possible, Hausser disobeyed Adolf Hitler's orders and told his troops to abandon the city to avoid encirclement. In the remaining weeks of February, the SS Panzer Corps was almost entirely responsible for the destruction of Mobile Group Popov, the major Soviet attacking force. The destruction of Mobile Group Popov halted the Soviet offensive which followed the Battle of Stalingrad and stabilized Manstein's front. After regrouping, the SS Panzer Corps became the Schwerpunkt of Manstein's counter-offensive and distinguished itself in the fighting to recapture the city and surrounding area, advancing as far as Belgorod.

Kursk - Italy - Yugoslavia[edit]

The corps was renamed as II SS Panzer Corps in June 1943, after the I SS Panzer Corps was created during that same month. In July 1943, the corps took part in the failed Operation Citadel, spearheading Generaloberst Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer Army attack on the southern pincer aimed at reducing the Kursk salient. The corps' three SS panzergrenadier divisions were involved in mammoth tank battles around Prokhorovka, pushing deeper into the salient than any other unit. After the operation was canceled, the corps was ordered to the Italian front. The coup which deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini caused much confusion, and only one division, the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler ended up being transferred, along with the corps personnel. The remaining combat divisions remained on the Eastern Front. The Leibstandarte took part in operations to disarm Italian troops.

Between 20 September and 20 of November 1943 the corps conducted operations against Slovene and Croat partisans in order to establish firm connection with Army Group F in the Balkans and to secure vital communications east and northwards from Trieste and Rijeka. In these operations, according to the Corps Headquarters' Medical Department, the corps suffered total losses of 936 men.[1] According to Croat authors, in the first phase against partisans on Istrian peninsula (Unterhehmen Istrien), some 2000 partisans and 2000 civilians were killed by German forces, and additional 1200 were arrested, with some 400 transported to concentration camps.[2]

In November, 1943, the Leibstandarte returned to Russia, with the corps remaining in Slovenia, Istria and northern Italy.

In January 1944, the corps was ordered to France to refit, before being sent back into action on the Eastern Front. It took part in the efforts to relieve Generaloberst Hans-Valentin Hube's encircled 1st Panzer Army. The corps two combat divisions, the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen and 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg, provided the spearhead for the relief operation and was the first to effect a linkup with Hube's forces.

Normandy - Arnhem[edit]

In June 1944, the corps was ordered west to take part in the defence of Normandy. It was involved in heavy fighting against Field Marshal Montgomery's British 21st Army Group in the area around Caen. During this period, SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich, veteran commander of the Hohenstaufen, was placed in command of the corps.

After the launch of Operation Totalize and the forming of the Falaise pocket, the corps managed to escape encirclement and took part in operations to hold open the escape route for other divisions trapped in the kessel.

The corps executed a fighting withdrawal across France, engaging in several fierce rearguard actions. In early September, the corps was pulled out of the line to rest and refit near Arnhem in the Netherlands. On 17 September 1944, the allies launched Operation Market Garden, an airborne offensive aimed at capturing the Rhine bridge at Arnhem. The corps was put into action and was involved in heavy fighting against the British 1st Airborne Division in Arnhem and also against the US 82nd Airborne Division and British XXX Corps in Nijmegen. The corps played a decisive role in the defeat of the Allied offensive.

Ardennes - Hungary[edit]

After refitting in October and November, the corps was placed in reserve for SS-Oberstgruppenführer Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army, which was preparing for the Ardennes Offensive in the Ardennes. Only minor corps units were involved in the initial assault. The corps was committed to major action near St. Vith on 21 December 1944. After the northern assault stalled, the corps was transferred south to take part in the attack on Bastogne. The corps' combat divisions suffered heavy losses in the battles against the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. After the failure of the offensive, the corps returned to the defensive, seeing action against American forces in the Eifel region.

In February 1945, the corps was ordered to Hungary to take part in an offensive to recapture Budapest and the Hungarian oilfields. After a brief period of rest and reforming in Germany, the corps arrived near Stuhlweißenburg near Lake Balaton. After the remainder of Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army had assembled, the corps took part in Operation Frühlingserwachen, launched on 6 March 1945. In terrible conditions and against fierce Soviet resistance, the corps managed to advance only a few kilometers. After the failure of the offensive, the corps was involved in defensive battles alongside the I SS and IV SS Panzer Corps, executing a fighting withdrawal towards Vienna. After the Soviets captured the city, the corps broke up and individual units attempted to break out to the American forces to the west. The survivors of the combat divisions, along with the majority of the corps personnel, managed to surrender to the Americans on 8 May 1945.

Commanders[edit]

Orders of Battle[edit]

July 1943 - Operation Citadel[edit]

September 1943[3][edit]

October 1943[4][edit]

September 1944 - Operation Market Garden[edit]

March 1945 - Operation Frühlingserwachen[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]