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|46.Infanterie-Division by Jason Pipes|
Destroyed by Soviets in and around Deutsch-Brod in the Czech Republic May 1945.
The 46.Infanterie-Division was formed in late 1938 from Sudetenland recruits. This 1st Wave division saw action in the region of Southern Poland under Generalmajor Paul von Hase, moving through and fighting in the areas of Tschenstochau, Radom, Weichsel, Grabow, Kozienice, and Warka, finally seeing action in the tough fighting outside the approaches to the Polish Capital of Warsaw.
The 46.Infanterie-Division was initially held in OKH reserve at Beverungen on the western frontier for the beginning of the 1940 invasion of France on May 10, 1940. Released on May 13, 1940 for combat operations, the division was a part of XXXVIII.Armeekorps/4.Armee/Armeegroup B where it saw action from the Somme all the way to the Loire covering 400 miles in 13 days before the end of the fighting in France.
Employed as part of 11.Armee, the division would be on the extreme right wing of Heeresgruppe Süd for operations through the Ukraine in the Summer of 1941 as part of General Hansen's LIV.Armeekorps. Skirting south of the great Kiev encirclement battles of the summer of 1941 the 46.Infanterie-Division was among the units of the LIV.AK (along with 73.Infanterie-Division) driving on the Crimea to force the great Tartar Ditch at the approaches to the Perekop peninsula.
After 3 days heavy fighting, the 46.Infanterie.Division and 73.Infanterie.Divison overcame the 4 mile wide obstacle capturing the heavily fortified town of Armyansk and thereby allowing the second phase of 11.Armee Oberbefehlshaber Manstein's offensive. The second phase of operations was the infiltration of the Crimean peninsula by elements of General Kubler's XLIX.Gebirgskorps which included the well equipped SS-LAH motorised division. These units were to march south and quickly invest the remaining precincts up to and around the major Soviet Black Sea naval base of Sevastopol upon whose heavily defended ramparts they would then lay a long and protracted siege (although at the time it was intended to quicky take the Soviet naval fortress). The 46.Infanterie, as part of XLII Armeekorps continued south and then east along the Kerch peninsula toward Feodosiya. As Paul Carell describes "Generalleutnant Count von Sponeck, commanding XLII.Armeekorps, had dispatched his 73rd and 170.Infanterie-divisions to Sevastopol and was now left in the [Kerch] peninsula with the 46.Infanterie-Division. But its three regiments had succeeded, by an immediate counter-attack in a temperature of 30 degrees below zero Centigrade, in sealing off the Soviet bridgeheads and, by drawing on their last reserves, in actually mopping some of them up. Manstein had heaved a sigh of relief and had allowed the offensive operations at Sevastopol to continue. But now, on 29th December, the Russians had been inside Feodosiya since 0230 hours."
The 46.Infanterie-Division found itself defending a precarious 185 mile long position as the only full divisonal entity on the Kerch peninsula, (between the Sea of Azov & Black Sea). The Division suffered casualties from numerous Soviet probing counter-attacks on either side of their solitary positions and faced a serious attempt at being cut-off completely from the rest of the Crimean investment. On December 30th Armeekorps Commander General Hans von Sponeck* (who had earlier distinguished himself as CO of the 22.Luftlande-Division during the May 1940 storming of Holland), requested a tactical withdrawl of his forces from the Kerch area to more favorable defensive positions west of Ak Monai and Theodosia (Feyodosia). Manstein refused, urging him to hold a while longer,while he sent the 170.Infanterie.Division, but Sponeck had the 46.Infanterie withdraw anyway to save them from encirclement.
The Division withdrew from Kerch and deployed, in a forced march of 75 miles, to the western outskirts of Feodisiya, intent on stemming the Russian infiltration further west which would have jeapordized all of 11.Armee in the Crimea. When the commander of Heeresgruppe Süd, Feldmarschall von Reichenau, found out about the unauthorized withdrawal at Kerch he had the Divisional commander, Generalleutnant Himer, immediately dismissed and the all of the various regimental traditions and battle honors of the 46th Infantry Division stripped in disgrace. This was the only time such an ignominious fate befell a wartime Heer division during the Second World War. In a matter of only weeks Feldmarschall Reichenau would be felled by a fatal heart-attack and Feldmarschall Fedor von Bock would take over his command. One of his first acts would be to restore honors and traditions to the 46.Infanterie-Division and place them under command of Generalleutnant Haccius for the siege of Sevastopol. Whatever the responisbility of the Corps or Divisional commanders were, von Bock reasoned, the soldiers of the 46th would not suffer the indignity of official disgrace for merely following orders.
During the 1942 campaign the division went south into the Caucasus. The 46.Infanterie.Division would support the XXXIX.Gebirgskorps well into the Maikiop region. It retreated later in the fall of 1942 to the Donets basin and fought at Belgorod in summer 1943. Later it took part in the retreat battles at Dnepropetrovsk in which the Division suffered major casualties and was denuded of much of it's offensive strength. Falling back with HG Sud into Romania and fighting at barely regimental strength on the Slovak-Hungarian border the remnants of the 46.Infanterie-DIvision surrendered to the Soviets in Czechoslovakia in May 1945.
* Count von Sponeck, who was disgraced along with General Himer in the Crimea, was executed post July 20, 1944 by orders of Himmler's RSHA. General Himer was not executed but retired in disgrace after the withdrawal of his division from the Kerch peninsula in winter 1941. The retreat was merely a regrouping in better defensive positions to the west, with the loss of a diminutive parcel of land, by a single division which was overextended and facing encirclement and destrcution at the hands of 2 Soviet Armies (the 44th and 51st) - a movement not unlike that exercised by Manstein himself in the great Don and Dnepr defensive battles he would fight in 1942-43 when also facing onslaughts of numerically superior Soviet forces.
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