Research on the German Armed Forces 1918-1945
The III.ss Panzer-Korps was established in the Spring of 1943. According to
the offical history of the unit, "Tragodie um die Treue; Kampf und Untergang
des III. (germ) SS-Panzer-Korps" (Tragedy of the Faithful; The Struggle and
Downfall of the III. (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps), the unit was established on
March 30th, 1943, and began to form at the Grafenwohr troop training grounds
on April 19th, 1943. The cadre for the Korps was taken from the Training
and Replacement battalion of the SS Germania regiment of the
2.SS-Division Das Reich. The forming units and cadre
were moved from Holland to Debica, Poland and then to Grafenwohr.
The III.ss Panzer-Korps was formed along side two new units of the Waffen-SS, the 11.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland and the 4.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Brigade Nederland. Both of these new units were formed for use under the command of the III.SS-Panzer-Korps.
After about 3 months of formation and training, the Korps was determined to be ready for action. In late August, 1943, the Korps recieved orders to move to Croatia were it would engage Tito's Communist Partisans. Shortly after the order to move, Italy as a nation surrendered to the Allies. This left huge numbers of Italian troops in the field that needed to then be disarmed by Germany to prevent their eventual use by the Allies. Some Italians continued to fight, now under complete control of the Germans, but many other units had to be disarmed and dealt with by German units. Portions of the IIIrd Korps took part in the disarming of numerous Italian units.
Through-out late September, October, and November, 1943, units of the Korps took part in fierce engagements against Partisan forces. Of great significance was the battle to hold the town of Glina where the I./ss-Regiment 24 was stationed. Towards the end of November an overwhelming number of Partisan forces attempted to take Glina resulting in a fierce struggle for the town. Around 300-500 members of the I./ss-Regiment 24 fough nearly 5,000 Partisan troops. On the 23rd of November, another massive assualt was launched by the Partisan forces, this time with the aid of three tanks. Glina was nearly lost when on the 24th and 25th, close combat surged through the town. The German forces then recieved the much needed aid of Stuka divebombers that helped to push the partisans back, allowing Glina to be held.
At the end of November, the 11.SS-Division recieved orders to transfer to the Eastern Front near the Leningrad sector. Later, in December 1943, the rest of the III.SS-Panzer-Korps was moved to the Eastern Front as well. The Korps was stationed under the command of 18.Armee which covered the area from the gulf of Finland to Lake Ilmen. Its task was to cover a portion of the Oranienbaum Salient, a huge bulge behind the German front lines stretching south from the Gulf of Finland. This Soviet bridge-head threatend the German positions around the Leningrad sector.
On January 14th, 1944, the Soviets launched a massive assualt against the German front, both from the East and from the bridge-head out of the Gulf of Finland. The Soviet onslaught overwhelmed the under-manned and under-prepared German forces. Caught smack against enourmous Soviet might were the 170.Infanterie-Division and the 126.Infanterie-Divison, along with the 9.Luftwaffe-Feld-Division and 10.Luftwaffe-Feld-Divisions. These Divisions were holding the German front from the Gulf of Finland south and the eastern ring of the soviet bridge-head behind German lines. All these units were either smashed or completely encircled by the Soviet forces. This disaster broke open the most northen section of the German front, allowing the Soviet forces attacking from the east to meet up with Soviet troops attacking from their bridge-head to the west.
The III.SS-Panzer-Korps struggled against this Soviet offensive with units of the Korps even engaged in desperate frontal assaualts to rescue encirled units, but eventually, the Korps was forced to withdraw against heavy pressure and the entire Leningrad and Oranienbaum Fronts collapsed. The Korps withdrew to the Luga River line where it continued to try and stop the Soviet offensive by taking up positions in and around the city of Jamburg.
Almost as soon as the Germans had reached Jamburg and the Luga River line, the Soviets had managed to defeat the German positions, thus forcing another German pull-back, this time to the Narva River line centered around the vital Estonian city of Narva. From here, the German forces held out against repreated Soviet attempts to break the German line at Narva. Throughout the late Winter and Spring of 1944, the III.SS-Panzer-Korps held.
Then, on June 22nd, 1944, the Soviets launched the most massive and devastating offensive of the war, Operation Bagration. This offensive was launched against the lines of Armeegruppe Mitte, much to the south of the Korps, but so massive was the attack that it tore a 250 mile hole in the German lines and pushed it all the way to the Vistula River along the Polish border. This offensive against Armeegruppe Mitte and the resulting actions in the North against 18.Armee and the units of III.SS-Panzer-Korps forced it to retreat back to new defensive postions along the Tannenburg line in central Estonia. This was done by withdrawing in successive waves, one protecting another, until the protective line was reached.
...To be continued...
Felix Steiner 5.10.43 - 11.09.44
Georg Keppler 11.09.44 - 2.04.45
Matthias Kleinheisterkamp 2.04.45 - 2.11.45
Martin Unrein 2.11.45 - 3.05.45
Joachim Ziegler 3.05.45 - 5.08.45
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