2nd Panzer Division (Wehrmacht)
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|2nd Panzer Division|
|Active||15 October 1935 – 8 May 1945|
|Engagements||World War II|
Hans-Karl Freiherr v. Esebeck
Arno von Lenski
Heinrich von Lüttwitz
Adolf von Nostitz-Wallwitz
Meinrad von Lauchert
The 2nd Panzer Division (2. Panzer-Division) was a German armored division. Created in 1935, it was stationed in Austria after the Anschluss and then participated in the campaigns in Poland (1939) and France (1940) before it returned to Poland for occupation duties (1940–1941). It took part in the Balkans campaign (1941) and then transferred to the Eastern Front in September 1941. It fought with Army Group Center in the battles of Moscow (1941) and Kursk (1943). After heavy losses on the Eastern Front it was sent to France for rehabilitation (1944). It fought in Normandy and was almost completely destroyed in the Falaise Pocket (1944). It was rebuilt once more and fought in the Battle of the Bulge (1944) and in the defense of the Rhine (1945), surrendering to the Americans at war's end.
- 1 Division history
- 2 Commanders
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Sources
The 2nd Panzer Division was created by the Wehrmacht in the city of Würzburg on 15 October 1935 from two armoured regiments, the 3rd Panzer Regiment and the 4th Panzer Regiment under the control of Oberst Heinz Guderian.
During the Anschluss of Austria by the Third Reich, assisted by Nazi elements within Austria, the division was sent to form a part of the garrison in the Austrian capital of Vienna. At the outbreak of the Second World War the division was bolstered by a contingent of local Austrians, up to the point where the division was nicknamed the Vienna Division.
Invasion of Poland
In early September 1939, at the beginning of the war in Europe, the 2nd Panzer Division took part in the invasion of Poland as a part of the XII Panzer Corps, of the 14th Army, Army Group South. Based in newly formed Slovakia, the objectives of the division initially were the taking of the city of Kraków, where it came against the Mechanized Division under the command of Stanislaw Maczek. The Polish force was made up of the largest Polish tank unit, 10th Cavalry Brigade, light but highly mobile infantry of the Border Protection Corps and the local police. Throughout the campaign the division suffered heavy losses, particularly in a tank battle on 18 September. During the campaign, soldiers of the 2nd Panzer Division committed atrocities against prisoners of the Polish Army. On 5 September, some Polish soldiers who were apprehended near Toporzysko-Bystra were removed from their unit and executed under the pretence that they were attempting to flee.
Battle of France (Fall Gelb and Fall Rot)
In January 1940, the 2nd Division was reassigned to the Western Front, around the area of Eifel. In May, the unit took part in the Battle of France as a part of the XIX Army Corps under the command of Heinz Guderian, their former commander. The Panzergruppe of which the division formed a part was under the command of Ewald von Kleist. The division helped the push through the Ardennes and was involved in fighting in Belgium and the Mosel River valley. On 17 May, along with the 1st Panzer Division, it managed to hold the banks of the River Oise, spearheaded an attack on Moy, and took the town of Peronne in the Somme on 19 May; arriving in the town of Abbeville on the 20th. Later they formed the armoured element which flanked the British Expeditionary Army and forced their extraction from the European Continent in Dunkirk, while engaging the French 2nd Armoured Division led by General Charles de Gaulle who would thereafter lead the Free French forces. The invasion was typical of newly developed Blitzkrieg tactics used by the German army which utilised armoured elements under the support of the Luftwaffe.
After a rest of a week to conduct repairs and to regroup the unit, the 2nd Panzer Division advanced along the River Aisne into the interior of France. At the end of the campaign in the last months of 1940, the Division lost its 4th Panzer Regiment which was used as the basis for the soon-to-be-formed 13th Panzer Division.
Romanian Garrison and Operation Marita
In April 1941 the 2nd Panzer Division was sent to Romania, with the mission of securing the resources of Ploiești from Soviet influence and sidestepping the Romanian authorities, all the time positioning for the planned German invasion of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, an alliance was formed with Bulgaria and this assured protection from the south.
The division was reassigned to the XVIII Mountain Corps of the 12th Army on 6 April 1941 to play a role in Operation Marita, the invasion of Greece. The German army pushed through the south of Yugoslavia, taking the important city of Strumica and then carrying on southward towards the Greek border, where they made contact with the 19th Greek Mechanized Division in the area of Lake Dojran. On 9 April the division took the city of Salonika. Eventually on the same day they forced the surrender of the Greek Eastern Macedonia Army Section which was on the east of the River Vardar.
The division, together with the 5th Mountain Division, the 6th Mountain Division and the 72nd Infantry Division, formed an attack group with the mission of securing the advance into the south of Greece. After the 6th Division had taken Verroia and formed a spearhead, on the other side of the River Haliacmon, the 2nd Panzer Division crossed the river, taking Katerini on 14 April. During an attack on 15 April, the area around Mount Olympus was taken. On the 16th, New Zealand troops that were part of the Anzac force came under attack in the Platamon Valley. Overcoming determined resistance, the Germans broke through, taking Larissa on 19 April. Here they captured a large British supply depot, which the 2nd Panzer Division made immediate use of to allow them to push the attack without waiting any further.
In September 1941 the Division lost some of its units when they were reassigned to the 22nd Panzer Division.
Invasion of the Soviet Union
Before the campaign, the Division had to recover from losses suffered and to make up for the loss of their heavy weapons, which had been sunk in the Mediterranean by Allied submarines; it was shipped by sea to Italy, to be transported from there by heavy railway to the east. In October 1941, 2nd Panzer Division was sent to the Eastern Front, reinforcing Army Group Centre in their push towards Moscow. They became an active component of the XL Panzer Corps of the 4th Panzer Army during the Battle of Moscow.
After being on the defensive, the Division was forced to withdraw following a counterattack of the Red Army in the winter of 1941, taking part in various battles as a component in the 9th German Army during the first months of 1942.
In 1943 the 2nd Panzer Division took part in the Operation Citadel, as part of the XLVII Panzer Corps of the 9th German Army of Army Group Centre. The German offensive was stopped by the Soviet forces, who began pushing the German army back. The 2nd Panzer conducted a fighting retreat where it suffered heavy losses.
France and the Battle of Normandy
As a result of combat fatigue and wear, the Division was sent in late 1943 to France, specifically to Amiens in the Somme, for its restructuring and reorganization. It remained in the area to deal with a hypothetical invasion of France by Allies.
Following the invasion of Normandy by the Allies on June 6, 1944, the 2nd Panzer Division remained in the Somme due to the erroneous assumption that there was to be a second Allied landing in the region of Calais; an idea fostered by the British through their use of double agents for exactly this purpose. Due to the damage and delays caused by the action of partisans and allied air raids, the Division did not reach the front in Normandy until July. When it arrived, it clashed with British troops of the 50th Infantry Division and the 7th Armoured Division. Having participated in various battles, it took part with its last 25 tanks in the failed counterattack at Mortain. It was later enclosed in the Falaise pocket, but broke out with heavy losses in materiel and troops.
Completely dismantled, the Division was sent to Bitburg in Germany to be reorganized again, absorbing the few remnants of the 352. Infantry Division. Due to the shortage in material resources which afflicted Nazi Germany, the Division was significantly reduced its complement of tanks. Some of their companies only had assault guns, although one battalion received Panzer V Panther tanks.
Battle of the Bulge
After the rest period the Division was sent again to the Western Front, being attached to XLVII Panzer Corps, 5th Panzer Army which was preparing an offensive in the area of the Ardennes, Belgium. By the start of the battle, it was well equipped, with 103 tanks and assault guns. During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 - January 1945, the 2nd Panzer Division attacked towards the crucial road junction of Bastogne. However, the town's defences was quickly reinforced by the veteran 101st Airborne Division. Various attacks directed against the town failed, and the 2nd Panzer Division had lost precious time in trying to take down Bastogne's defenders. When it was diverted to the Meuse on December 18, in accordance with the original plan, the division was unable to break reach the river. American reinforcements to the area threatened its flanks and to cut it off from its supply line. Eventually, the vanguard of the division came to reach within 4 km the Meuse River where on the 24 December they were stopped by the British 3rd Royal Tank Regiment. It was forced to retreat by fierce counterattacks conducted by American forces as well as the lack of gasoline for the German mechanized forces.
Finally, most of the 2nd Panzer Division was surrounded by the U.S. 2nd Armored Division on Christmas Day, with very few tanks of the Division able to escape back to German lines. Strikes by ground-attack aircraft hindered attempts by the 2nd Panzer Division to retreat back to friendly lines in large formations.
Battle of the Rhine
Now operating at an extremely reduced effectiveness, in the spring of 1945 the 2nd Panzer Division took part in the Battle of the Rhine. In this, the Wehrmacht tried to halt the passage of the Allies across the River Rhine, and the Division assisted as a component of the XIII Army Corps, of the 7th German Army, Heeresgruppe B.
The final fate of the unit was to defend the city of Fulda in April 1945, along with the rest of the XII Army Corps of the same 7th Army, and surrendered to the American forces on 7 May.
- Oberst Heinz Guderian (Creation - 31 January 1938)
- Generalleutnant Rudolf Veiel (1 February 1938 - 17 February 1942)
- Generalleutnant Hans-Karl Freiherr von Esebeck (17 February 1942 - 31 May 1942) (Vacation)
- Generalmajor Arno von Lenski (1 June 1942 - 30 June 1942)
- Generalleutnant Hans-Karl Freiherr von Esebeck (1 July 1942 - 10 August 1942) (Wounded)
- Oberst Karl Fabiunke (5 September 1942 - 30 September 1942)
- Generalleutnant Vollrath Lübbe (1 October 1942 - 31 January 1944)
- Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz (1 February 1944 - 4 May 1944) (Vacation)
- Generalleutnant Franz Westhoven (5 May 1944 - 26 May 1944)
- Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz (27 May 1944 - 31 August 1944)
- Oberst Eberhard von Nostitz (1 September 1944 - 4 September 1944)
- Generalmajor Henning Schönfeld (5 September 1944 - 14 December 1944)
- Generalmajor Meinrad von Lauchert (15 December 1944 - 19 March 1945)
- Generalmajor Oskar Munzel (20 March 1945 - 3 April 1945)
- Major i.G. Waldemar von Gazen (3 April 1945 - 4 April 1945)
- Oberst Karl Stollbrock (4 April 1945 - 8 May 1945)
- Panzer, Panzer Division
- Division (military), Military unit
- Heer, Wehrmacht, List of German divisions in World War II
- During the French campaign, this division was the first German division to reach the English channel on May 20, 1940. See "The History of World War II", edited by Peter Young, Orbis Publication,1983, vol. 2, p.156.
- Battle of the Bulge 1944 2: Bastogne Steven J. Zaloga p81-84
- Szymon Datner (1974). Zbrodnie Wehrmachtu (Crimes of the Wehrmacht)