German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945
The 1.Gebirgsjäger-Division was formed on April 9th, 1938 in Garmisch Partenkirchen from the original Gebirgs-Brigade, the sole mountain unit of the German military since 1935 when the Wehrmacht was formed. The Divisions origins stemmed from the traditions of the German, Italian and Austrian Mountain Units of WWI. After WWI ended, because of their record in battle, the Weimar Republic kept a small cadre of mountain troops to use as the nucleus for a future mountain force. In 1935 this cadre of men helped form the basis of the Gebirgs-Brigade, and by April of 1938, it was raised to a Divisional unit, the 1.Gebrigs-Division.
In September 1939, the 1.Gebirgsjäger-Division took part in the Campaign in Poland as part of Armeegruppe Süd where it operated in Southern Poland. Operating out of Slovakia, the 1.Gebirgs crossed the Polish frontier after its sister Division, the 2.Gebirgsjäger-Division, has already crossed the frontieer and started its way inland. The 1.Gebirgs was to the right of the 2.Gebirgs, and once it was through, it headed eastwards, towards the Dulka Pass. The Division fought and captured the Dukla Pass in the Carpathian mountains and thereafter began a race to try and take the well defended city of Lemberg, over 150 miles to the east. Lemberg, or Lvov in Polish, was a crucial point in the much larger advance of the entire XVIII.Korps which was tasked with aiding in the encirclement of all the Polish forces retreating to and already in southern Poland. The race to the city was spearheaded by a Kampfgruppe of the 1.Gebirgs-Division that consisted of four Kompanies of Jäger with artillery, anti-tank and pionieer support. Behind this Gebirgs Kampfgruppe spearhead was the rest of the Division which would advance behind it on the single road leading to Lemberg. The Kampfgruppe reached Lemberg on September 14th and immediately began to establish lines around the city to prepare for the eventual assault to capture the it. The rest of the Division following behind arrived shortly after and from the 15th until the 20th of September, the 1.Gebirgs-Division fought to hold and expand its lines against fierce Polish counter-attacks. The fighting was fierce, and as the Division was literally at a point well ahead of any other German units and facing stiff and determined Polish attacks, the situation became very tense for the Jäger attacking and defending in the lines around Lemberg. So fierce in fact was the fighting leading up to and including the battles for Lemberg that the Division lost 243 men KIA and 400 WIA, an amazingly large number considering the view that Poland is thought of as a virtual German walk-over. In the end, the 1.Gebirgs-Division did not actually storm Lemberg as planned as the Soviet invasion of Poland made this earlier requirement moot. The capture of the city would likely have been bloody for the Division though, and as a result of the fierce fighting at the approaches to the city, the Poles defending it insisted upon surrendering only to the men of the 1.Gebirgs-Division as a sign of their mutual respect. This took place on September 21st, 1939.
After the Campaign in Poland, the Division was transferred to the Western Front to take part in the Campaign in France. In France, the 1st Gebirgs distinguished itself in the crossings of the Maas, Aisine and Loire Rivers. After the Campaign in France, the Division was posted to take part in the planned invasion of Great Britain, and then for the planned invasion of Gibraltar, but in both cases, the planned operations were canceled.
After training for the above two invasions, the Division was transferred to Austria to take part in operations in Yugoslavia. On April 9th, 1941, two years after the Division was formed, it crossed the Yugoslav frontier and fought through central Yugoslavia with the bulk of the German forces.
After the Campaigns in Yugoslavia, the Division took part in the Invasion of the Soviet Union. Moved into the Ukraine as part of XLIX.Gebirgskorps of Heeresgruppe Süd, the Division took part in the encirclement of Soviet forces at Uman and the capture of Stalino in late autumn of 1941. The Division then occupied positions around Mius until May of 1942 when it was transferred to the Donetz region under the control of XI.Armeekorps. In the summer of 1942 the 1.Gebirgs-Division advanced into the Cacausus as part of the German summer offensive. While fighting in this region the 1.Gebirgs-Division was eventually split into two groups, Division Lanz under the temporary command of General Lanz with major portions of the 4.Gebirgs-Division and the other under Oberst von Le Suire alongside the remaining units of 4.Gebirgs. The second ad hoc formation of the 1. and 4.Gebirgs under Le Suire fought in the highest positions held by any unit in all of German military history when the 4300 meter heights of Mt. Elbrus in the deep Caucasus region was held by the Gebirgsjäger against repeated Soviet attacks and the harsh high alpine elements.
The Division took part in the fighting withdrawal from the Caucasus region until it was pulled out and posted to Serbia in 1943. For the next many months the Division was transferred from one region to the next, posting from Serbia to Yugoslavia to Greece and then to Corfu. In April, 1944 the Division was part of OHW/OKH reserve until it was posted to Hungary and then back to the Balkan Region again. In December, 1944 the Division was again moved to Hungary where it took part in offensives against the Red Army, and was then moved to the Austrian Region in 1945 where it surrendered to the Americans in May of 1945.
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