352nd Infantry Division
|352nd Infantry Division|
|Active||November 1943 – 8 May 1945|
The 352nd Infantry Division (352. Infanterie-Division) was a formation of the German Wehrmacht during World War II. A western front outfit, the 352nd became notable for its tenacious defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day, 6 June 1944.
Formation and strengths
The 352nd was formed in November 1943 in France, commanded by Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiss from 6 November 1943 until it was destroyed in July 1944. Organizationally, the 352nd was better off than most German divisions in 1944 although other divisions too were very powerful. At that time, as a result of severe personnel losses, German infantry divisions were generally reduced to six battalions. The 352nd, however, retained its full complement of nine battalions.
The 352nd began its coastal duty by improving the beach obstacles, emplacing mined stakes and timber structures. This involved not only cutting and hauling timber from miles inland, but also driving stakes and piles deep into the sand. To fully cover the sector, the soldiers needed 10 million mines, but a scant 10,000 were available. The first band of obstacles - about 250 yards (750 ft) out from the waterline at high tide - consisted of 'Belgian Gates' - reinforced iron frames with supports that were built atop rollers. Next came a band of mined stakes and log ramps, meant to tear the bottoms out of landing craft or tip them over. Finally, there was a row of metal obstacles, including 'hedgehogs', made of steel rails. Although the Germans had attached mines to many of the obstacles, few of them were waterproofed, and corrosion had long since taken its toll of many of the explosive devices.
The soldiers of the 916th and 726th regiments occupied slit trenches, eight concrete bunkers, 35 pillboxes, six mortar pits, sites for 35 Nebelwerfers, (multi-barrel rocket launchers) and 85 machine-gun nests. The defenses were clustered in strongpoints.
Early on 6 June 1944, a Kampfgruppe (battle group) from the 915th Grenadier Regiment, which was the only reserve element of the 352nd Infantry Division, was diverted away from Omaha and Gold beaches and the 101st Airborne Division's drop zones. The unit spent the morning of 6 June searching the woods for parachutists, believing an airborne division had landed in the area but which turned out to be dummies dropped as part of Operation Titanic.
The 916th Grenadier Regiment saw action during D-Day (Operation Overlord), opposing the US 1st and 29th divisions at Omaha Beach. The 352nd gave a good account of itself, causing many casualties and defending the bluffs above the beach for several hours before being overwhelmed. The 916th retreated in the morning hours of 7 June after the commander, Colonel Ernst Goth, could no longer hold the positions retaken in the night of 6/7 June.
After the invasion
The 352nd was destroyed in the fighting following the invasion; on 30 July it was declared abgekämpft, meaning it was no longer fit for combat. It was reconstituted as the 352nd Volksgrenadier Division in September and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Thereafter, it fought defensively around Trier and the Moselle until it was destroyed again in mid-March 1945, with only a small remnant escaping across the Rhine at Worms. It was partially reconstituted one last time as a battlegroup in mid-April and ended its career near Darmstadt.
Major Werner Pluskat, who was featured in Cornelius Ryan's book The Longest Day, was in the 352nd Artillery (Artillerie Abteilung) and fired his guns on Omaha Beach until he ran out of ammunition. He was forward observer on 'WN60 - Resistance Point 60'  above the beach on the Eastern flank.
Order of battle
The 352nd's order of battle on the eve of the Allied Invasion was as follows (NB: the artillery component is also shown):
- 915. Grenadier Regiment
- 2 x 15 cm sIG 33
- 6 x 7.5 cm leIG
- 3 x 7.5 cm PaK 40
- 916. Grenadier Regiment
- 2 x 15 cm sIG 33
- 2 x 7.5 cm leIG
- 3 x 7.5 cm PaK 40
- 352. Panzerjäger Abteilung
- 352. Artillerie Regiment
- 1-9.Batterie - 36 x 10.5 cm leFH 16
- 10-12.Batterie - 12 x 15 cm sFH 18
- 352. Fusilier Battalion (1. Kompanie was bicycle mounted)
- Feld-Ersatz Battalion
- 6 x 8 cm Granatwerfer 34
- 1 x 5 cm PaK 38
- 1 x 7.5 cm PaK
- 1 x 10.5 cm Feldhaubitze
- 1 x Infanterie Geschütz
- 2 x Flammenwerfer
- Supply Train / Signals Troops
- Ramsey, p.253
- Barbier, p.113
- Wendel, Marcus (2004). "352. Infanterie-Division".
- "352. Infanterie-Division". German language article at www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de. Retrieved 3 April 2005.
- Barbier, Mary (2007). D-day deception: Operation Fortitude and the Normandy invasion. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-99479-2.
- Ramsey, Winston G (1995). D-Day then and now, Volume 1. Battle of Britain Prints International. ISBN 0900913843.
- Martin-Robert Galle. Retrieved 9 January 2006.
- 352nd Infantry Division Reenactment Unit
- 914th Grenadier Regiment 352nd Infantry Division
- 916 Infanterie Regiment, 352 Infanterie Division