6th Panzer Army
|6. Panzer Armee|
6th SS Panzer Army
|Josef "Sepp" Dietrich|
The 6th Panzer Army (6. Panzer-Armee) was a formation of the German Army, formed in the autumn of 1944. The 6th Panzer Army was first used as an offensive force during the Battle of the Bulge, in which it operated as the northernmost element of the German offensive. The army was subsequently transferred to Hungary in early 1945 and used in both offensive and defensive actions there. The final battles of the 6th Panzer Army were fought in Austria until the collapse of Nazi Germany, at which point the army was completely demoralized. The remnants of the army eventually surrendered to the United States Army. Army commander throughout the army's existence, SS-Oberstgruppenführer Josef Dietrich said in early 1945:
"We call ourselves the "6th Panzer Army", because we've only got 6 Panzers left".
The 6th Panzer Army is best noted for its leading role in the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945). On April 2, 1945, it was transferred to the Waffen-SS. The 6th Panzer Army then became known as 6th SS Panzer Army (6. SS-Panzerarmee).
Although it didn't receive the SS designation until after the Battle of the Bulge, the SS designation came into general use in military history literature after the Second World War for the formation as assembled prior to that campaign. After the Ardennes Offensive, the 6th SS Panzer Army was transferred to Hungary, where it fought against the advancing Soviet Army.
The attack of the 6th Panzer Army into the Ardennes in December 1944 failed to swiftly break the American defensive line and lost valuable time because of U.S. defensive efforts at locations like Monschau. Despite the allocation of SS panzer divisions, the 6th Panzer Army only managed a minor penetration into the northern defensive sector of the U.S. VIII Corps and its advance was thereafter checked by U.S. reinforcements arriving on the northern flank of the offensive. After the Ardennes Offensive, the 6th SS Panzer Army was transferred to Hungary, where it fought against the advancing Soviet Army.
In March 1945, after the fall of Budapest, the 6th SS Panzer Army launched one of the final German offensives of the war, Operation Frühlingserwachen around Lake Balaton. This was an attempt to protect the last sources of petroleum controlled by the Germans. The offensive lacked operational surprise, but Soviet Front commander Fyodor Tolbukhin's awareness of the presence of elite SS units (Hitler's personal unit, the 1st SS Panzer Division took part in the operation), under direct orders from STAVKA Tolbukhin was ordered to use minimal forces against the SS until a counteroffensive could be made in strength north of Lake Balaton. On March 16 the 3rd Ukrainian Front launched its major counteroffensive and Joseph Goebbels admitted in his diary that failure was likely. Three days later, the Germans were thrown back at their original starting positions. Despite losses, among the 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 12th SS Panzer Divisions, each division still had 31 operational armored fighting vehicles on March 15, 1945, while Army Group South as a whole retained 772 operational tanks and assault guns as of March 16, 1945.
However, the German forces broke under the Soviet Red Army counteroffensive and retreated towards Austria to defend Vienna. In April 1945, the 6th SS Panzer Army defended Vienna against the advancing Soviets, but was unable to prevent a Soviet conquest of the city. When the war ended on May 8, 1945, the 6th SS Panzer Army was in Austria between Vienna and Linz, in which area it subsequently surrendered to forces of the Soviet and U.S. Armies.
|Surrender of 6th SS Panzer Army formations (order of battle as of May 7, 1945)|
Source 1: Rolf Stoves, Die gepanzerten und motorisierten deutsche Grossverbände 1935–1945
Source 2: Georg Tessin, Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS 1939–1945 Volume 3
|Unit||Date of Surrender||Surrender Location||To which forces|
|1st SS Panzer Division||May 8/9, 1945||SE of Linz, Austria||U.S. Army|
|3rd SS Panzer Division||May 8, 1945||S of Linz, Austria||U.S. Army|
|12th SS Panzer Division||May 8, 1945||near Enns, Austria||U.S. Army|
|Führer Grenadier Division||? May 1945||Zwettl, Austria||U.S. Army|
|117th Light Infantry Division||? May 1945||Steyr, Austria||U.S. Army|
|356th Infantry Division||? May 1945||Wiener-Neustadt, Austria||U.S. Army|
|710th Infantry Division||? May 1945||Steyr, Austria||U.S. Army|
|10th Parachute Division||? May 1945||Jihlava, Czechoslovakia||Red Army|
- Mitcham, Samuel W. (2006). Panzers in Winter: Hitler's Army and the Battle of the Bulge. p. 166.
- Bruce Quarrie, The Ardennes Offensive Virgin Islands Panzer Armee, p. 21, Botley: Osprey, 1999, ISBN 1-85532-853-4
- Hugh M. Cole, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, pp. 669–670, Washington: GPO, 1965. Available online here
- David Glantz, When Titans Clashed, p. 253, United States: University Press of Kansas, 1995
- Thomas Jentz, Panzer Truppen, Vol. 2, p. 247, Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 1996
- Krisztián Ungváry, Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. 8, p. 945, München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2007