1st Infantry Division (Wehrmacht)
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German 1st Infantry Division
|Active||October 1934 – 8 May 1945|
|Engagements||World War II|
Originally formed as the beginning of Germany's first wave of rearmament, the division was first given the title of Artillerieführer I and only later called Wehrgauleitung Königsberg. These names were an effort to cover Germany's expansion of infantry divisions from seven to twenty-one. The division's infantry regiments were built up from the 1.(Preussisches) Infanterie-Regiment of the 1.Division of the Reichswehr and originally consisted of recruits from East Prussia. The unit's Prussian heritage is represented by the Hohenzollern coat of arms that served as the divisional insignia. Upon the official revelation of the Wehrmacht in October 1935, the unit received its title of 1.Infanterie-Division. In February 1936, the headquarters of the division was moved from Insterburg to Königsberg.
With the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the 1st Infantry Division advanced toward Warsaw as a component of the XXVI Army Corps in von Küchler's 3rd Army. It engaged Polish forces near the heavily defended town of Mława (see Battle of Mława) for several days, then crossed over the Bug and Narew Rivers. It fought again near Węgrów and Garwolin and ended the campaign east of Warsaw.
Playing a minor role in the invasion of France, the division returned to East Prussia in the autumn of 1940. With the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the 1st Infantry Division participated in the Baltic Operation as part of the 18th Army with Army Group North, advancing on Leningrad. It remained and fought in the area of Leningrad and Lake Ladoga through December 1943. (See Siege of Leningrad.) Transferred to the 1st Panzer Army, the division fought at Krivoy Rog and broke out of an encirclement in March 1944.
The 1st Infantry Division returned to its native East Prussia in the summer of 1944. Except for participating in the urgent and temporary link-up with the now-isolated Army Group North in Lithuania (Operation Doppelkopf), the unit remained to defend the easternmost German province from the advancing Red Army. Alternating between 3rd Panzer and 4th Armies, the division was trapped in the Königsberg/Samland area after it was cut off from the rest of Germany by the end of January, 1945.
At 0400 hours on February 19, 1945, elements of the 1st Infantry, led by a captured Soviet T-34 tank, spearheaded a westward offensive from Königsberg intended to link with General Hans Gollnick's XXVIII Corps, which held parts of the Samland peninsula, including the vital port of Pillau. Capturing the town of Metgethen, the unit opened the way for the 5th Panzer Division to join with Gollnick's forces near the town of Gross Heydekrug the next day. This action re-opened the land route from Königsberg to Pillau, allowing for the evacuation of civilian refugees via the port and solidifying the German defense of the area until April.
With the capitulation of Königsberg on April 9, 1945, the surviving elements of the division retreated to Pillau where it later surrendered to the Soviets.
The 1st Infantry Division was a "Wave 1" division, meaning it existed prior to the outbreak of the war. It was equipped and organized along standard lines for a German infantry division. Its original form in 1934 consisted of two infantry regiments, an artillery regiment, a pioneer battalion, and a signals unit.
The division invaded Poland with the following units under command:
- 1st Infantry Regiment
- 22nd Infantry Regiment
- 43rd Infantry Regiment
- 1st Artillery Regiment
- 37th Artillery Regiment
- 31st Machine-gun Battalion
- 1st Anti-tank Battalion
- 1st Reconnaissance Battalion
- 1st Engineer Battalion
- 1st Signals Battalion
- 1st Medical Battalion
The following officers commanded the 1st Infantry Division:
- Oct 1, 1934, to Apr 1, 1935: General Major Georg von Küchler
- Apr 1, 1935, to Jan 1, 1938: General Lt. Walther Schroth
- Jan 1, 1938 to Apr 14, 1940: General Lt. Joachim von Kortzfleisch
- Apr 14, 1940, to Jul 12, 1941: General Lt. Philipp Kleffel
- Jul 12, 1941, to Sept 4, 1941: General Major Dr. Friedrich Altrichter
- Sept 4, 1941, to Jan 16, 1942: General Lt. Philipp Kleffel
- Jan 16, 1942 to Jun 30, 1943: General Lt. Martin Grase
- Jul 1, 1943, to May 10, 1944: General Lt. Ernst-Anton von Krosigk
- May 10, 1944, to Jun 8, 1944: Oberst Hans-Joachim Baurmeister
- Jun 8, 1944 to Sept 30, 1944: General Lt. Ernst-Anton von Krosigk
- Oct 1, 1944, to Feb 28, 1945: General Lt. Hans Schittnig
- Feb 28, 1945 to Apr 26, 1945: General Lt. Henning von Thadden
A total of 31 personnel of the division were awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
- Polish Campaign as part of Army Group North:
- French Campaign as part of Army Group B:
- Russian Campaign as part of Army Group North:
- Jun, 1941: Invaded Russia with 18.Armee under Army Group North
- Jul, 1941: Transferred to XXVI.Armeekorps under 18.Armee
- Aug, 1941: Transferred to XXXXI.Armeekorps of 4.Panzergruppe
- Sept, 1941: Transferred to XXXVIII.Armeekorps of 18.Armee near Peterhof
- Nov, 1941: Reserve division of 18.Armee near Leningrad
- Dec, 1941: Joined XXVI.Armeekorps near Leningrad
- May, 1942: Rejoined XXVI.Armeekorps near Volkhov
- Jun, 1942: Rejoined I.Armeekorps near Volkhov
- Jan, 1943: Rejoined XXVI.Armeekorps near Ladoga
- Feb, 1943: Joined LIV.Armeekorps near Ladoga
- Apr, 1943: Rejoined XXVI.Armeekorps near Ladoga
- Sept, 1943: Rejoined XXVIII.Armeekorps near Tigoda
- Ukrainian Campaign as part of Army Group South:
- Ukrainian Campaign as part of Army Group North Ukraine:
- Defense of the Reich:
- Christopher Duffy. Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945. New York: Atheneum, 1991. pp 164,165,207 ISBN 0-689-12092-3
- Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. Crumbling Empire: The German Defeat in the East, 1944. Westport: Praeger, 2001. pp 66,141 ISBN 0-275-96856-1
- Burkhard Müller-Hillebrand: Das Heer 1933–1945. Entwicklung des organisatorischen Aufbaues. Vol.III: Der Zweifrontenkrieg. Das Heer vom Beginn des Feldzuges gegen die Sowjetunion bis zum Kriegsende. Mittler: Frankfurt am Main 1969, p. 285.
- Georg Tessin: Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg, 1939 – 1945. Vol. II: Die Landstreitkräfte 1 – 5. Mittler: Frankfurt am Main 1966.