2nd Light Division (Wehrmacht)
The 2nd Light Division (sometimes described as a Light Mechanized division) was a motorized division created in 1938 during the German rearmament. It participated in the invasion of Poland. After the end of the Polish campaign the division was converted into a panzer division, forming the 7th Panzer Division.
Formation of the unit
The 2nd Light Division created in November 1938 from the region of Thuringia. The light divisions were created under the instigation of the cavalry arm of the Heer, who feared their scouting and screening roles were being taken over by the Panzerwaffe. The division was designed to provide mobility and some armoured protection to its forces, and was composed of the 6th and 7th Mechanized Cavalry Regiments, the 7th Reconnaissance Regiment, and the 66th Panzer Battalion. These were supported by the 78th Artillery Regiment, the 58th Engineer Battalion and the 42nd Anti-tank Battalion. Its single panzer battalion was equipped with the Panzer I training tank and the Panzer II interim production tank. Both these vehicles were small, lightly armed and lightly armoured. In 1939 the division was part of the German 10th Army during the Invasion of Poland.
Campaign in Poland
At the outset of the invasion of Poland 1 September 1939, the 2nd Light Division fought its way through the frontier defenses and overran the Warta district, pushing on to reach the outskirts of Warsaw. It was then wheeled back to help deal with the Polish counteroffensive and helped form the encirclement of the Polish forces at Radom 8 September through the 12 September. Here the bulk of the Polish army was destroyed. The division then drove north to reach the Bzura river before turning east and making a drive for Warsaw and the Vistula. Warsaw surrendered on 27 September. The division remained in Poland until 1 October, when it returned to Germany.
Conversion to 7th Panzer
Following the campaign in Poland the limited effectiveness of the light divisions caused the German command to order the reorganization of the four light divisions to full panzer divisions. In October 1939 the 2nd Light Division became the 7th Panzer Division.
As the 7th Panzer Division it participated in the 1940 Battle of France under the command of Erwin Rommel, earning its nickname Gespenster-Division ("Ghost Division",) because it advanced beyond the French lines that the French command could not determine where it was, and even German headquarters lost track of the divisions position. The division remained in France initially as an occupation force following the end of hostilities, then stayed on as preparations were initiated for a potential invasion of England.
In February 1941 it was transferred to Germany, where it prepared for Operation Barbarossa. In June the division fought with Army Group Center on the Eastern Front until the spring of 1942, when it was shipped back to France for rehabilitation. It returned to the east in early 1943 and was used in the attempt to shore up the front line after the Battle of Stalingrad and continued with Army Group South as the Germans were pushed back through the Ukraine. In July 1944 it was transferred to Army Group Center and moved northward to fight in Lithuania and Courland. The remnant continued to fight in defensive battles across east Prussia, participating in fighting north of Berlin. Finally most of the unit's surviving men slipped away into the woods and surrendered to the British at Schwerin in Pomerania at the war's end in May 1945.
- Panzertruppe, Panzer, Panzer division
- Division (military), Military unit
- Heer, Wehrmacht, List of German divisions in World War II
- 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, 1991.
- Szymon Datner (1974). Zbrodnie Wehrmachtu (Crimes of the Wehrmacht)