German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945
The 116.Panzer-Division was formed in Rheine, Wehrkreis VI (HQ in Münster, comprised of Westphalia and the Rhineland, later incorporating the lower part of Belgium) on 28 March 1944 from remnants of the 16.Panzergrenadier-Division. In May, the division also absorbed the 179.Panzer-Division (Reserve) from Weimar (Wehrkreis IX), which had been deployed to the Laval area of western France in 1943.
Upon formation, the 116.Panzer was immediately sent to the Pas-de-Calais for an expected Allied amphibious invasion, and it was on the north bank of the Seine on 6 June, 1944. It was not sent to the front until later in July. Assigned to the 7.Armee, XLVII.Panzerkorps, part of Generalfeldmarschal Erwin Rommel's Armeegruppe "B", the division participated in Operation LÜTTICH, the German counteroffensive at Mortain, which resulted in the largest tank battle of the Normandy campaign. Commencing 6 August 1944, it was unable to halt the US Third Army in Brittany and was consequently encircled at Falaise, breaking out with tremendous losses when Hitler finally gave the order for a general withdrawal on 16 August 1944.
By 21 August 1944, the "Greyhound Division" was down to 600 men, 12 tanks and no artillery. It was the only German unit garrisoning Aachen on 13 September 1944 when the US 3rd Armored Division began its assault on the Westwall and by 22 September 1944, the US First Army's initial attempt to breach the German defenses had been thwarted. Shortly before the fighting began, the divisional commander, Generalleutnant Gerhard Graf von Schwerin-Krosigk, was relieved of his command by Hitler for ordering an unauthorized withdrawal from the city.
From late September through October, the 116.Panzer-Division was in Düsseldorf reforming and was refitted to a total strength of 11,500 men and 41 tanks. Returning to the Aachen area from reserve, assigned to Georg Keppler's I.SS-Panzer-Korps, the division made an unsuccessful attempt to stop the US XIX Corps on 10 October 1944 and subsequently withdrew before the city fell to the Allies on 21 October 1944.
In late October, the US 28th Infantry Division was holding Schmidt when Generalfeldmarschal Walter Model committed the 116.Panzer-Division to re-capturing the city. From 4 November to 8 November 1944 the division sustained a loss of only 15 tanks while successfully seizing Schmidt in what became known as the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest. The 116.Panzer was then sent to Cologne later in the month.
Assigned to 5.Panzer-Armee, LVIII.Panzer-Korps, the 116.Panzer began preperations for Operation WACHT AM RHEIN, subsequently re-named AUTUMN MIST, on 16 December 1944 when it was sent to the Ardennes assembly area. Enroute, the Greyhound Division had participated in the fighting which resulted in the St. Vith salient. Sweeping past the city to the south, St. Vith fell to the 5.Panzer-Army on 23 December 1944, creating the "Bulge". It then spearheaded the southern prong of the Ardennes offensive, which became known as the Battle of the Bulge, in December 1944, again suffering heavy casualties, and was withdrawn to Kleve, along the border with Holland/Netherlands, in January 1945.
The First Canadian Army and British XXX Corps commenced Operation VERITABLE on 8 February 1945, facing the division as it defended the damaged Roer River Dams and by 3 March 1945, the US Ninth Army had linked up with the British and Canadians, trapping the 116.Panzer-Division inside the Wesel Pocket. On 5 March 1945, the division withdrew across the Rhine and detroyed the bridge behind it. Now part of the XLVII.Panzer-Korps, under General Blaskowitz's Armeegruppe "H", the division was ordered to halt the advance of the US 30th Infantry Division south of the Lippe River on 24 March 1945. Positioned near the Dutch-German border, the Greyhound Division's Panzergrenadier-Regiment 60 commenced its assualt the next day and by nightfall of 26 March 1945, the division had thwarted the US 30th Infantry Division's breakout attempts. By 28 March 1945, the division held Dorsten, but was outflanked when the British 6th Guards Armoured Brigade bypassed the city. By 4 April 1945, the division had been ordered to hold a new defense line facing north behind the Rhine-Herne Canal, in order to reinforce the north face of the Ruhr Valley. By 18 April 1945, all resistance in the Ruhr Pocket ceased, and the remnants of the division, along with their commanding officer, surrendured to the US Ninth Army.
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