German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945
The 31.Infanterie-Division was formed in October of 1936. The division was composed of recruits from the regions of Brunswick and Brauschweig in north-central Germany.
The 31.Infanterie-Division was engaged in Poland in September, 1939 in the southern sector of the front where it aquitted itself well with minimal losses.
In May, 1940 during the campaign against France the 31.Infanterie-Division was part of Heeresgruppe B. 6.Armee, XI.Armeekorps, where it was engaged in heavy fighting in Belgium and France during the initial breakthrough period of the offensive, eventually making its way to the Loire demarcation line by the end of hostilities.
An extract of the divisional war diary commending the engineering unit of the division mentions "...six pionere-kompanien of Pionere-Abteilungen 31 u. 45, plus a kompanie from Pionere-Abteilung 2, bridged the Loire near Ancenis on June 22-23. In 22 hours, using the equipment of 14 bridge columns, a 375-meter 16-ton bridge was erected..."
The 31.Infanterie-Division followed the 2.Panzergruppe as part of the XII.Armeekorps in the central sector of operations during the June, 1941 offensive against the Soviet Union. It endured prolonged bitter fighting in the attempt to encircle Tula southeast of Moscow in late 1941, suffering heavy casualties.
A report which indicates the bitter fighting in the sector of Suchinitzki from Kampfgruppe von Gilsa during the winter of 1941/42 relates "...at the beginning of January, 1942 the fighting in the Yuchnow area went on with the greatest bitterness and with no pardon. Panzerjager-abteilung 31, for example, defended the village of Kostino as rear-guard On January 21, 1942, at 2:55pm, the last radio report from it came in - right side of town lost - then nothing more was heard from the unit..."
The 31.Infanterie-Division remained in a mostly defensive posture in the central sector of Heeresgruppe Mitte for most of 1942. As part of 9.Armee, XLVI.Panzerkorps, the Division next found itself engaged in the critical battles at the Kursk salient taking part in bitter rear-guard skirmishes at the middle-Dneiper. Subsequent fighting retreats west, barely at Kampfgruppe strength, took place by October 1943.
The heavy losses to the 31.Infanterie-Division in the Fall of 1943 are indicated a memo from Grenadier-Regiment 17 which included accounts of 28 major battles. During this period 35 of the regiment's 70 officers fell and the total strength of the unit sank from 1400 to 70 men.
In June of 1944 this veteran unit was almost completely anihillated during the Soviet summer offensive as part of 4.Armee, XXXIX.Panzerkorps. The commanding officer, Generalleutnant Ochsner was taken prisoner along with the bulk of his remaining men.
A cadre of 31.Infanterie-Division veterans who had escaped destruction provided the basis for the formation of the 31.Grenadier-Division.
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