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|15.Infanterie-Division by Jason Pipes|
The division was surrounded east of Prague in May of 1945 and surrendered to the Soviet Army.
The 15.Infanterie-Division was formed in October 1934 in Würzburg. It was originally known as Wehrgauleitung Würzburg*. Shortly after the unit was established it was given the cover name Artillerieführer V**.
The organic regimental units of this division were formed by the expansion of the 13.(Württemburgisches) Infanterie-Regiment of the 5.Division of the Reichswehr. The 15.Infanterie-Division partially consisted of troops from the Main-Franconia region, and after the 1938 Anschluss, included draftees from Austria.
With the formal announcement of the creation of the Wehrmacht (which had covertly been in place for over a year) on October 15th, 1935, the cover name Artillerieführer V was dropped and this unit became offically known as the 15.Infanterie-Division.
The 15.Infanterie-Division did not take part in the Polish Campaign, during the operations it was situated along the Western Front in the Saar Region between Saarlautern and Saarbrucken. Although the Western Front was for the most part quiet while the bulk of the Wehrmacht took part in operations in Poland, the French did in fact launch a limited and initially somewhat successful offensive against the German frontier which managed to occupy about 200km of German soil and 50 German villages. This was the French Saar Offensive and it was launched on September 7th, 1939. The French attacked the lines of the German 1.Armee in an arc to the south of Saarbrucken, noteably occupying the Warndt Salient, among other areas. When the French launched their attack Germans units pulled back to the Siegfried Line in the North along the Saar River and the French quickly took the ground they gave up. But soon after the offensive was launched the French began to realize the futility of holding German territory in the region unless additional operations were launched. Poor French planning and a lack of French offensive spirit precluded a wider offensive so in less than a few weeks German units retook much of the ground they had lost initially. French operational losses were light, about 28 KIA. During these operations the 15.Infanterie-Division was involved directly, initially pulling back to the Saar River against the French advance and soon after moving forward again to reoccupy their lost ground.
When the Germans attacked France on May 10th, 1940, the 15.Infanterie-Division had moved from the 1.Armee sector to the 16.Armee sector, and was at the time in Armee reserve. As soon as the 16.Armee pushed into Luxemburg, the 15.Infanterie-Division began to move forward, and by the evening of the 11th had itself crossed completely through Luxemburg. On the 12th, the 15.Infanterie was at the front line at in the region of Virton in Belgium, and stayed in this region under the XIII.Armee-Korps until the 25th when it was pulled from the line and transfered to the 2.Armee sector, arriving in position along the Aisne River on or about June 1st. On June 9th, it attacked across the Aisne directly against the 45th French Infantry Division, where it was held until the French were gradually and then completely pushed back. It then moved over the Vesle River, the Marne River, and finally the Aube River in region of Vinets. On June 18th it arrived along the Loire River, once again opposite the now crushed remains of the French defenders. The 15.Infanterie-Division ended the Campaign against France stationed in and around Nevers along the Loire River in central France.
Between July 1940 and July 1941, the 15.Infanterie-Division was located in the region of Dijon in France under the 12.Armee. In July of 1941 it was transfered to the Eastern Front where the bulk of the Wehrmacht had already launched across the Soviet border and punched its way inland. The 15.Infanterie arrived at the front and came under the control of Heeresgruppe Mitte. There it advanced north of Minsk to the region of Mogilew where it entered combat against the Soviets. It then took part in attack and defensive combat in the Jelna Bend at Tokarewo and between Ustrom and the Dnieper River. Shortly there-after, it fought near Wjasma, and then advanced to Nara and took part in defensive fighting near Tarutino and Iklinskoje and fighting on the Schanja where it later fought defensive combat in the region Wjasma between the start of 1942 and April of that year, when it was transfered back to France for rest and refitting.
The division remained in France throughout the rest of 1942 in the region of Bordeaux on coastal defense operations between Loire and Girondemundung.
The 15.Infanterie-Division was once again transferred to the East on Feburary 9, 1943. By Feburary 18, the division was once again heavily committed fighting west of the Donets as a component of the 4.Panzerarmee. It suffered heavy losses duiring the Battle of Dnepropetrovsk in the summer of 1943, and later participated in the grueling defensive battles of the southern Ukraine. In August 1944, the division was encircled west of the lower Dnestr, managing to break out, but only after suffering serious losses to it's establishment. After a small time in reserve it returned to the front at kampfgruppe strength to help oppose the Soviet breakthrough into Hungary in October, 1944. Battered, and only a burnt-out shell of it's former strength, the division was surrounded in the large pocket east of Prague in May of 1945 where it surrendered to the Soviet Army.
* In 1934 the German armed forces were still known as the Reichswehr and the restrictions of the treaty of Versallies were technically still in place. These restrictions limited the number of German divisions to 7 but almost from the start in 1921 there were plans to expand that number. Shortly after the NSDAP came to power in 1933 the number of divisions was indeed expanded from 7 to 21. The Reichswehr divisions didn't transition over during the reforming and expansion period, they were used instead to help provide a basis for the newly forming units. The commanders of the 7 divisions of the Reichswehr also served as the head of a regional Wehrkreiskommando of the same number as the division, thus serving a duel role. During the transition period the Reichswehr Wehrkreiskommandos were upgraded into Korp formations and the commanders were transfered to serve as their new commanding officers. Through this move the staff of each of the Reichswehr divisional units was lost making it unwieldy to transfer entire divisions into the newly forming Wehrmacht. From here the first step in the expansion from 7 to 21 divisions was the formation of 3 Wehrgauleitung in each region previously controlled by the Reichswehr divisions,creating 21 Wehrgauleitungen (7x3=21). Each Wehrgauleitung was named according to the city it was housed in. The 21 Wehrgauleitungen were the true foundation for the first divisions of the Wehrmacht. The regimental units of the former 7 divisions were shifted about and used to form the organic units of the new divisions.
** The german armed forces expanded from 7 divisions to 21 in 1934. In an effort to hide the expansion for as long as possible, all new divisions were given cover names. The cover names given to each of the 21 new divisions corresponded to the title of the commander placed in charge of the unit in most cases. As there was an Infantry and Artillery commander in each of the 7 divisions of the Reichswehr (known as Infanteriefüher I-VII and Artilleriefüher I-VII, depending on the number of the division in question) they took command of 14 of the newly formed divisions (2x7=14). When the various Infantry and Artillery commanders took command, their new divisions existance was hidden by the use his previous title as the cover name for the unit. The remaining 7 new divisions not commanded by one of the previous Infantry or Artillery commanders were taken over by newly appointed commanders and given cover names such as Kommandant von Ulm, or Kommandant von Regensburg.
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