Research on the German Armed Forces 1918-1945
WW2 German 48th Panzer Army Corps / XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps
The XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps was originally formed in Germany as the
XXXXVIII.Armeekorps (mot) on December 15, 1940. It was then renamed as
a Panzerkorps on June 22, 1941, but seems to have used both names until
sometime in 1942.
After training and formation, the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps took part in the Invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 as a part of the the southern sector of the front. It took part in offensive operations from Ostrov to Kursk via Lutsk, Dubno, Rovno, Berdichev, Belays Tserkov, Novo-Arkhangelsk, Novaya Odessa, Nikolayev, Kherson, Kirovograd, Kremenchug, Lubny, Romny, Putivl, Rylsk, Lgov, and Dmitriyev-Lgovski.
From late 1941 to May, 1942, the Korps took part in defensive operations in the Kursk area, and from June of 1942 to November, 1942, it took part offensives in the Shchigry, Khokhol, Plodovitoye, Peregruznyy, Nizhne Chirskays, and Aksai areas near Stalingrad.
From Late 1942 until the Spring of 1943, the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps took part in Aksai, Kuteynikovo, Kalinov, Nizhne Chirskays, Tormosin, and Morozovsk areas and the defense of the Donets River sector near Voroshilovgrad.
In April, 1943, the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps withdrew to Voroshilovgrad and then moved northward via Lozavaya and Merefa where it was to take part in operations against Kharkov.
In June, 1943, the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps moved via Belgorod to the Oboyan area to take part in the massive operations against the Kursk Salient.
From August to December, the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps withdrew to the Radomysgl area.
From January, 1944 to September, 1944, the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps took part in defensive operations and withdrawls from Berdichev to the Busko Zdroj area near Krakow via Stro-Konstantinov, Kremenets, Brody, Lvov, Dubno, Rovno, Lutsk, Vladimir-Volynski, Zamosc, and Statszow.
From October to December, 1944, the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps took part in more defensive operations, this time in the Busko Zdroj area. The Korps then withdrew in January, 1945 to Kranstadt, south of Ratibor via Bogucice, Okradzinow, Slawkow, Michaldowice, and Rogau.
In February, 1944, the Korps was in the area of central Silesia.
In April, the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps took part in defensive operations in along the Elbe River, where it finally surrendered in May, 1945.
The following is a detailed account of the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps operations along the Elbe from April - May, 1945.
Operation of the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps from April 11 - May 3, 1945
This information was taken directly from the National Archives Microfiche publication M1035 Foreign Military Studies B-Series (B-219) XXXXVIII.PANZER KORPS on the Saale and Elbe (11 April - 3 May 1945), by General der Panzertruppen Maximilian von Edelsheim, researched by Russ Folsom, edited by Jason Pipes.
Freiherr M.von Edelsheim
General der Panzertruppe
Allendorf (Suelzenfuss),12 July, 1946
MS # B-219
Activity of the German XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps in the American Campaign against Central Germany from 11 April to 3 May 1945.
In the evening of 10 April 1945 the XXXXVIII.Armeekorps (Staff of the Corps and Troops) was urgently transferred from the east front (district Goerlitz) to the west front (district Riesa on the river Elbe) by motorised movement by road in order to be committed under the command of the 12.Armee.
The commanding General together with the Ia advanced to the Hq of the 12.Armee at Dessau/Rosslau in the night of 11 April. From the Commander-in-Chief of the Armee (General der Panzertruppe WENCK) he was given the following orientations and orders:
"In consequence of failure (encirclement) of the Heeresgruppe Model in the Ruhr low country, and of the 11.Armee in the Harz (mountainous district in Central Germany) there exists a front gap between the West of Ritterfeld - west of Halle - Merseburg and south of it.
Several American motorized infantry divisions are advancing toward the East and may reach the river Salle on 12 April.
The XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps assumes the command of the sector Torgau-Riesa. The right neighbor is the XX.Armeekorps (Division 'Ulrich von Hutten'), the left neighbor is the deputy IV.Armeekorps (Dresden) which primarily has the lead.
Mission: The sector is to be defended by holding Halle and Leipzig. The sectors on the river Mulde and the river Elbe are to be prepared for defense facing the West. It is important to protect the south wing and the south flank of the German 12.Armee which is assembling around Dessau. After the assembly is complete, this Armee is to begin the attack toward the West as soon as possible.
All troops being in the combat zone are subordinated to the Korps. The course of the river Schwarze Elster (the localities situated there are assigned to the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps) is the rear boundary between the deputy IV.Armeekorps, the deputy III.Armeekorps and the rear Heeres-area of the Heeresgruppe Schoener.
The CP of the Korps and the advance message center are primarily to be located in the district of Torgau. The radio communication is to be secured.
Supply: Rations will be provided by the Heeres ration supply offices at Leipzig, Torgau,and Riesa;
Ammuntion: from the ammunition depot at Torgau;
Fuel: from the fuel dumps at Halle and Leipzig;
Wounded and sick soldiers are to be provided for in General Hospitals east of the river Mulde. It cannot be reckoned with the bringing up of arms and motor vehicles by the Armee."
At midday of 11 April the commanding General drove to Torgau and established there his preliminary CP. The definitive CP was being prepared at Graditz (four kms. southeast of Torgau.)
For the execution of the combat task the Korps had no experienced and trained divisions at its disposal, but mostly battalions which the town and combat Commanders had composed of convalescents, men on leave, training personnel and recruits of the replacement Heer, the air forces and Volkssturm.
With the bringing up of fully-trained troops by the Armee could not be reckoned. Only fifty per cent of the soldiers available could be armed for want of fire-arms (machine-guns, machine-pistols, guns). For a great number of guns of non-German make the corresponding ammunition was wanting. Heavy infantry weapons were almost entirely absent. There was an abundance of bazookas on hand so that numerous mobile tank destruction-parties were available.
At Halle (several antiaircraft batteries) Generalleutnant Radtke was the combat commander. He had formed his command Staff after the fashion of a small divisional Staff, which fully stood the test in the coming battles. The Heeres and Air-Force signal schools in the strength of one regiment which were committed there for defense, were fit for this task. The other units were only conditionally to be committed for defensive problems.
At Leipzig (several antiaircraft batteries) Oberst von Poncet was combat commander. The composition of the command Staff was like that at Halle. But as compared with Halle, the defense of Leipzig was more difficult on account of the largeness of the town. Here, a broad sector was wanting, to which the defense could cling, as the river Saale made this possible at Halle.
Neither Halle nor Leipzig were improved in respect of the local defense. The troops of the defender were not trained for the combat in towns. The military command was lying in experienced and reliable hands at Halle and also at Leipzig.
On both sides of the river Saale in the area of Halle-Schkoppau-Leuna and south of it, the main-body of an antiaircraft artillery division had emplaced its mostly fixed antiaircraft guns for air defense (its Staff was located at Leipzig). Therefore, only part of these were employable for the ground combat. The tactical cooperation with the antiaircraft artillery had been locally secured by the combat Commanders of Halle and Leipzig. Moreover, the anitaircraft artillery surveyed the Saale-sector from the South of Halle up to the West of Leipzig.
The boundary of the sector as regarded reconnaissance, security and fighting, between the combat Commander of Halle and the combat Commander of Leipzig was almost along the line Querfurt-Eilenburg-Torgau.
At the Mulde-sector, Dueben, Eilenburg, Wurzen and Grimma were secured by replacement units of the Heer and Air Force quartered there. As to the fighting strengths of these, see sketch 1. Their armament was insufficient and their fighting qualities, therefore, also for the defense relatively low. Delitzsch - extended in front of the Mulde to the West - was occupied by one artillery replacement battalion (without any artillery pieces). At Oschatz were beside the soldiers of a military riding and driving school an engineer instruction unit (the fighting strength of which was one battalion); the latter was of a good fighting quality.
The Elbe-line was locally well secured because of Torgau and Riesa (as to the fighting strengths within these towns refer below. Both of these localities were reinforced by stationary and mobile antiaircraft artillery. The aforementioned statements referring to the units within the combat of some of the Korps, and the further supplements thereto, part of which were only known to the commanding General by personal orientation and through officers of the Korps-Staff on 12 and 13 April. The operational reserves of the local combat Commanders of Halle and Leipzig had been withdrawn. Instead of these, the units lying between the river Mulde and the river Elbe had - in case of need - to be set in march on foot.
On the east bank of the Mulde the construction of field-fortifications at the main crossings had been started. Around Eilenburg a bridgehead-position was built on the west bank. On the Elbe, the defensive installations facing the West were still at the very beginning and consisted in the beginning construction of field-positions at the crossings. The weather was bright and there was mostly sunshine. The American Air Force kept very active. It observed and fought all movements west of the Elbe, and even those of single vehicles. Bombing attacks against major localities frequently took place. Against these attacks we had no air force at our disposal.
The estimate of situation by the commanding General at Torgau in the evening of 11 April follows here:
"The objective of the American large-scale attack thrust forward between the Harz and the Erzgebirge was probably lying in the area of Berlin. The spearheads of the enemy forces advancing over the line Eisleben - Naumburg (at least three to four motorized divisions) are to be expected before Halle and the Saale-sector south of Halle on 12 April. It will be of importance to the enemy to soon get hold of Halle and Leipzig in order to open there the roads leading via Bitterfeld to Wittenberg, and via Eilenburg to Torgau. With the enemy forces which will attack Halle, later on also Bitterfeld, Delitzsch and Dueben will also have to reckon. The forces which advance across the Saale toward Leipzig, may later appear at Grimma, Wurzen and Eilenburg. One main thrust of the enemy is to be expected in the Korps-sector, and that in the direction of Eilenburg - Torgau. The fast advance of the enemy gives cause to suppose that he will try to take the river crossings and localities by surprise, or, in case of strong resistance, he is deemed to bring about an encirclement. "
(end of estimate).
The center of gravity of the defense was in the Korps-sector on the right side (in the North); for principally the forcing away of the Korps from the 12.Armee had to be prevented in order to be able to execute the task of protecting the wing and flank of that Armee. The local defense of Halle in connexion with the antiaircraft artillery positions at the Saale-sector could first of all detain the enemy advance, but not parry a systematic attack of superior enemy forces for a prolonged period. The defensive power of Leipzig was not to be judged any higher, all the more as Leipzig was easily to be out-flanked. A complete circular defense was neither possible in respect of the forces available, nor were the necessary defensive installations provided for such a purpose. A decisive improvement of the defensive of the defensive power within the combat zone of Halle-Saale-line-Leipzig could no more be thought of before the imminent battles, since it was too late for that. Therefore, the above forces had to be looked upon as lying in an advanced position and having the task to delay the enemy advance by defense.
Useful lines of defense east of the Saale-sector could then only be sought for at the Mulde and Elbe-sector. It was of importance for the Korps to improve with all means available and under the protection of the advanced positions, the defense at the Mulde-sector. Moreover, the setting up of the Elbe-defense had to be carried on. At the same time we had to keep in view:
The combat Commanders of Halle and Leipzig were directly subordinated to the Korps. For the Mulde-defense, the korps artillery Commander - Oberst Koehler - (Arko) was inserted. To him were subordinated the station Delitzsch and all units at the Mulde-sector and east of it as far as to the Elbe (troops at the Elbe excepted). On the Elbe, the superior engineer Commander at Torgau - Generalmajor Hermann - became the authority as to tactics and technics. This authority of command became effectual on 12 April after the Staff of Arko had occuppied his C P at Schildau.
As expected, the enemy attacks against the Saale-line on both sides of Halle and as far as the south of Merseburg, began on 12 April. Through these, however, not any decisive change had been brought about within the Korps-sector till the evening of that day. The defense had done a good job. Northwest of Halle the enemy had apparently formed a bridgehead across the Saale. There we had to reckon with his intentions of envelopment. At Camburg (fifteen kms east of Apolda) the enemy had crossed the Saale and his armored forces had thrust forward via Weissenfels and as far as the area Pagau - Zwenkau. Now, Leipzig had also to reckon with attacks against the south and east boundary of the town. Accordingly, the combat Commander ordered certain regroupings. It was also possible that the enemy - on thrusting further toward the East - would try to force his way across the Mulde at Grimma or south of Grimma in order to advance then in the East of the sector toward the North. The reconnaissance of a switch position: Wurzen - south border of the forest Warmsdorf and Hubertusburg - south and east of Oschatz - Riesa, was carried through tactically and engineer-technically. Grimma, Wurzen and Oschatz were ordered to prepare their defense facing the South.
The formation of tactical reserves: Torgau and Riesa had to concentrate each one battalion for placing at the disposal of the Korps. The engineer battalion Oschatz and the battalion Schildau were also reserved for the tactical disposal of the Korps. At Torgau a regimental command Staff was set up. Motor trucks siezed by military and civilian service offices now had to serve as a means of rendering the troops mobile. A battery at Riesa (heavy howitzers ?) was motorized.
From 13 to 17 April fighting took place for the advanced position Halle - Saale-sector as far as south of Merseburg and Leipzig. During heavy and eventful infantry fighting the Saale-sector at the west boundary of Halle was lost bit by bit. The town was also attacked from the North. There, the few reserves had to be committed. The enemy strength around Halle was estimated as being at least one divison. On 16 April the last German defenders were thrown out of the east half of the town. There we had not succeeded in joining the antiaircraft artillery group. The Commander, Generalleutnant Raftke, along with the remaining occupation of about 600 men, had to fight his way by night toward the East and to our Mulde-position. By that time also Delitzsch was lost without any noteworthy combat.
The antiaircraft artillery group between Halle and Merseburg (east of the Saale) had continued fighting on its own account. When fighting for Leipzig, enemy armored and infantry attacks were parried in the foreground and in the town on 13 and till 15 April. The center of gravity of the enemy movements and attacks increasingly enveloped the town in the South, Southeast and East. Beginning on 17 April, the access to Leipzig was blocked by the enemy also in the East. This day the Americans succeeded also in decisively penetrating into the center of the town which could no longer be defended. The combat Commander, Oberst von Poncet, together with his Staff became implicated in the battles near Liebertolkwitz and was enveloped there at the monument of the Battle of the Nations. Thereby the connection with Leipzig was definately lost. None of the defenders was any longer able to battle through to the East. Two to three American divisions had fought for Leipzig. On 17 April American troops (tanks and infantry) thrust forward also east of Leipzig to the Mulde at Grimma and Wurzen. There, they were parried.
The perservering defense of the advanced position (Halle-Saale-sector - Leipzig) had yielded a gain of time of about six days, thereby the preparation of the defense of the Mulde-sector could profit. Unfortunately only a few of the defenders of Halle had come back, but none whatever from Leipzig. The soldiers in point and the weapons as well were missing in the coming battles.
On 15 April the XC.Armeekorps had assumed control of the southern neighboring sector. The commanding General of this Korps was General der Infanterie Petersen. Primarily the C P was southeast of Waldheim. This Korps along with the Division on special assignment 464 (CP at Geithain) had established the contact with the XXXXVIII.Armored Korps standing south of Grimma.
Organization : Under a combined Staff, all non-armed soldiers from the Korps-sector at Zeithain (near Riesa) had been assembled on a troops' training ground in order to further their training and complete their armament. Until 18 April, two new battalions were set up and armed at Zeithain. One Staff for initial organization - of the replacement Heer - along with two infantry battalions and a regimental Staff ( near Prettin), and two batteries (light howitzers) without any prime movers were found training near Annaburg. The subordination of the troops around Annaburg, which was then proposed by the Korps, had primarily been rejected.
From 18 to 21 April :
On 18 April the effects of the Russian break-through to Berlin became perceptible. We would soon have to reckon with an increasing pressure of the Russian south wing on the line Bautzen-Ruhland-Wittenberge against the Elbe. The Korps, therefore, was imparted the order by the 12.Armee, to set up a new east front in the line following the course of the river Schwarze Elster. For the command of the new east front Generalleutnant Scherer from the high command of the 4.Panzer-Armee was subordinated to the Korps together with a small Staff (thier CP was located at Bad Liebenwerda.)
Situation of the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps on 18 April:
After the loss of Halle and the end of the fighting in Leipzig - which could not last much longer - the systematic attack of about four American motorized divisions across the river Mulde was to be expected from 20 April on. According to the grouping of the enemy forces as observed up to now,we had to count on a probable main effort of two to three enemy divisions coming from the area east of Leipzig, via Eilenburg - Wurzen and south of it. The forces of the German defenders were not sufficient for the occupation of the entire line following the course of the Mulde as main combat line. We had, therefore, to confine our defense to the points of support at the main crossings. The non-occupied front sections were being surveyed (guarded). On a width of seventy kms of front only five battalions and two batteries were employed in the forward line. The reserves available were sufficient to reinforce the local defense or secure against penetrations (primarily one battalion at Oschatz and two battalions at Schildau). Later on, there were two more battalions at our disposal near Mockrehna, where Generalleutnant Radtke assembled and newly organized his troops from Halle. The river Mulde,the crossings of which were either blocked and defended or blown up, offered an advantageous obstacle to enemy tanks. Thus, a suprising tank attack by the enemy was not practicable and therefore not to be expected. First of all, he had to attack by infantry in order to establish bridgeheads. A systematically led enemy attack by infantry on a large front could - considering the high enemy superiority - bring about the penetration. But hitherto there were no likely forebodings as to such an attack.
The Russian troops advancing to the Northwest by Cottbus, were attacking in the direction of Berlin. We had to reckon with the prospect that the south wing of this enemy group of forces on both sides of the river Schwarze Elster would strive to gain a flank protection by the river Elbe via Grossenhain - Ruhland. The Russian assault over the Koenigsbrueck threatened the south flank of the defense on the river Schwarze Elster, which was under construction. On the whole we considered that our positions on the Schwartze Elster, could be lost in no time, and their local occupation then had to be withdrawn to the Elbe. In consequence of the bad course the fighting had taken at the German east front, the situation of the Korps had now become difficult. It had to fight against two fronts which were about fifty-five kms distant from each-other,but would draw closer - to a distance of thirty kms between them - in case the position at the Schwarze Elster was lost. It was all the more important to hold the Mulde-position in the West so as not to get crushed on the Elbe.
In virtue of this estimate of situation the Korps resolved on not withdrawing any forces from the west defense toward the East, but to go on fighting in the East with the troops standing on the Elbeand east of it. There we had even to expect reinforcements, since portions of the east front which had encountered the Russian penetration, were pressed back against the Elbe and caught (or reassembled?) for reorganization and new commitment in the line Ruhland - Herzberg on the Schwarze-Elster. For this purpose the military police of the Korps was placed at the disposal of General Scherer.
The Elbe-line then was again prepared for defense, its center of gravity facing the East:
In the afternoon of 20 April, an Armee field order arrived which created a new situation for the Korps. The XX.Korps (our right neighbor) was extracted from the front by the Armee in order to be assembled in the area of Belzig for an attack against Berlin. The XXXXVIII.Armored Korps was to cross the Elbe at Wittenberg and Coswig toward the North so as to again protect there the flank of the 12.Armee. The movements of the XX.Armeekorpsb were to be executed as fast as possible and without awaiting the arrival of the XXXXVIII.Armored Korps. Up to its departure from the westfront, the XX.Armeekorps was standing on the Elbe from the river bend west of Dessau up to Rosslau, and on the Mulde from Dessau to Dueben (exclusive), whre it joined the XXXXVIII.Armored Korps. It was fighting in defense agianst Russian troops - which permanently increased in number - east and northeast of Wittenberg. Consequent on the departure of the XX.Armeekorps to the North, its south wing was shifted at the east front nearly to the district of Niemegk (twelve kms southeast of Belzig).
Estimate of situation of the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps on 20 April after reception of the Armee field order: On and after 22 April, when the main body of the XX.Armeekorps had marched off to the North, the enemy - who was standing at the west and east front of this Korps - felt free in his actions against the weak securities left behind there. The enemy pressure at the east front (in the area of Wittenberg and north of it) was higher than at the west front, where the Mulde and particularly the Elbe as obstacles still had a misleading effect. American bridgeheads were there, of course, already existing at Dessau and near Barby. The Russian attack near Wittenberg and north of it threatened with interrupting directly the connection of the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps on the Elbe with the 12.Armee before this river was crossed to the North. The main body of the Korps units had to march on foot a distance of about 130 to 150 kms in order to reach the new combat front, being thereby forced to disengage from the enemy and to carry through a difficult crossing of the Elbe by ferrying operations, since the bridge at Wittenberg was no longer passable on account of the developing situation there. As the Korps did not have an adequate number of trucks available and the gasoline supply was scarce, only most urgent transportations could be effected. Moreover, the roads to be used by the troops marching to the North, were partly very bad and orientation was rather difficult there. The units of the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps were newly activated, they had neither train nor field kitchens, nor medical installations and were only inadequately provided with zone maps. The march performances to be expected could, therefore, not be highly estimated. The departure (on foot) of the Korps could only ensue from the South, and that part by part, whilst the implicit defense of the Mulde and Elbe front was the precondition for the smooth passage of all units marching off in the South. On taking into account that the Elbe had to be crossed, the main body of the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps could be ready for commitment north of Coswig in three to four days, i.e. on 24 or 25 Arpril. Everything which might be indispensable over there before that, had at least to be brought there in advance. Therefore the following points were carried through according to their individual urgency in the afternoon and evening of 20 April:
In the afternoon of 27 April the assault of a strong American armored force unit over Zerbst toward the East was reported. Despite a tank warning immediately passed to our units and the committment of a few of our tanks, the armored enemy succeeded in rather freely driving about in the rear area of our desperately fighting east front, where he captured part of a reserve regiment (Oberst Conti) at Hundeluft (twenty kms east of Zerbst) and scattered its remnant for the time being. In addition, the Staff of the combat group Generalleutnant Radtke was attacked at Buko and driven out there. In order to relieve this situation, the Korps requested the Armee to withdraw the south part of the front to the line Pretzin (sixteen kms south of Magdeburg) - Lindau - Krakau - Bergfrieden - Grochewitz - Cobbelsdorf - Gr.Marzehns. The request was granted and the movement was accordingly carried through without any disturbance during the night of 28 April. The adjacent unit to our right was the combat group Magdeburg (Generalleutnant Regener). Our left neighbor at the east front remained the XX.Korps (General der Kavellerie Koehler). Since the attack of XX.Korps against Berlin had come to a stop south of Potsdam on account of the superior enemy, this Korps had to be withdrawn. The Armee resolved to evade from the tight envelopment east of the Elbe toward the North. The XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps - as the last unit of the Armee - was to withdraw by bounds over the line Magdeburg - Moeckern - Troops-training-ground Altengrabow to the line Zerben - Northborder Fiener Bruch - Kirchmoeser (eleven kms southwest of Brandenburg) in order to cross the Flauer Canal at Genthin toward the North behind the XX.Armeekorps. These movements were carried through by the XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps without any fighting. In the early morning of May 3 the Korps was nearly at the line Zerben (twenty kms southwest of Genthin) - Northborder Fiener Bruch - Grosswusterwitz (fifteen kms southwest of Brandenburg); the Korps Staff was at Miltzel (south of Genthin). The Russian enemy advanced in the area evacuated by German troops south of the line Burg - Ziesar to the Elbe.
[By this time General von Edelsheim was recalled by the Korps command to the 12.Armee (the successor to the command of XXXXVIII.Panzerkorps was Generalleutnant Hagemann) in order to request the American 9th Army for capitulation negotiations and to conduct these negotiations for the German side. (see Special Report)*]
signed: Freiherr von Edelsheim
Corps Signal Battalion
1 telephone company
1 radio company
1 operating company
Corps Signal Company
1 workshop company
Corps Military Police
Staff of the Corps Engineer Officer
Staff of the Corps Artillery Commander
Otto von Knobelsdorff
Dietrich von Choltitz
Otto von Knobelsdorff
Dietrich von Knobelsdorff
Maximilian Reichsfrhr. von Edelsheim
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