Destroyed by Soviets in and around Deutsch-Brod in the Czech Republic May 1945.
The 46.Infanterie-Division was formed in late 1938 from Sudetenland recruits. This1st Wave division saw action in the region of Southern Poland underGeneralmajor Paul von Hase, moving through and fighting in the areas ofTschenstochau, Radom, Weichsel, Grabow, Kozienice, and Warka, finally seeingaction in the tough fighting outside the approaches to the Polish Capitalof Warsaw.
The 46.Infanterie-Division was initially held in OKH reserve at Beverungenon the western frontier for the beginning of the 1940 invasion of France onMay 10, 1940. Released on May 13, 1940 for combat operations, the divisionwas a part of XXXVIII.Armeekorps/4.Armee/Armeegroup B where it saw actionfrom the Somme all the way to the Loire covering 400 miles in 13 days beforethe end of the fighting in France.
Employed as part of 11.Armee, the division would beon the extreme right wing of Heeresgruppe Süd for operations through theUkraine in the Summer of 1941 as part of General Hansen’s LIV.Armeekorps.Skirting south of the great Kiev encirclement battles of the summer of 1941 the46.Infanterie-Division was among the units of the LIV.AK (alongwith 73.Infanterie-Division) driving on the Crimea to force the great Tartar Ditch at theapproaches to the Perekop peninsula.
After 3 days heavy fighting, the46.Infanterie.Division and 73.Infanterie.Divison overcame the 4 mile wide obstacle capturing theheavily fortified town of Armyansk and thereby allowing the second phase of11.Armee Oberbefehlshaber Manstein’s offensive. The second phase of operations was the infiltration of theCrimean peninsula by elements of General Kubler’s XLIX.Gebirgskorps whichincluded the well equipped SS-LAH motorised division. These units were to march south andquickly invest the remaining precincts up to and around the major SovietBlack Sea naval base of Sevastopol upon whose heavily defended rampartsthey would then lay a long and protracted siege (although at the time it was intended to quicky take theSoviet naval fortress). The 46.Infanterie, as part of XLIIArmeekorps continued south and then east along the Kerch peninsula toward Feodosiya. As PaulCarell describes “Generalleutnant Count von Sponeck, commanding XLII.Armeekorps, haddispatched his 73rd and 170.Infanterie-divisions to Sevastopol and was nowleft in the [Kerch] peninsula with the 46.Infanterie-Division. But itsthree regiments had succeeded, by an immediate counter-attack in atemperature of 30 degrees below zero Centigrade, in sealing off the Sovietbridgeheads and, by drawing on their last reserves, in actually mopping someof them up. Manstein had heaved a sigh of relief and had allowed theoffensive operations at Sevastopol to continue. But now, on 29thDecember, the Russians had been inside Feodosiya since 0230 hours.”
The 46.Infanterie-Division found itself defending a precarious 185 mile longposition as the only full divisonal entity on the Kerch peninsula, (betweenthe Sea of Azov & Black Sea). The Division suffered casualties from numerous Sovietprobing counter-attacks on either side of their solitary positions andfaced a serious attempt at being cut-off completely from the rest ofthe Crimean investment. On December 30th Armeekorps Commander General Hans vonSponeck* (who had earlier distinguished himself as CO of the 22.Luftlande-Division during the May 1940 storming of Holland), requesteda tactical withdrawl of his forces from the Kerch area to more favorabledefensive positions west of Ak Monai and Theodosia (Feyodosia). Mansteinrefused, urging him to hold a while longer,while he sent the 170.Infanterie.Division, but Sponeck had the 46.Infanterie withdraw anyway to savethem from encirclement.
The Division withdrew from Kerch and deployed, in a forcedmarch of 75 miles, to the western outskirts of Feodisiya, intent on stemmingthe Russian infiltration further west which would have jeapordized all of11.Armee in the Crimea. When the commander of Heeresgruppe Süd, Feldmarschall vonReichenau, found out about the unauthorized withdrawal at Kerch he had the Divisional commander, Generalleutnant Himer, immediatelydismissed and the all of the various regimental traditions and battlehonors of the 46th Infantry Division stripped in disgrace. This was theonly time such an ignominious fate befell a wartime Heer division duringthe Second World War. In a matter of only weeks Feldmarschall Reichenauwould be felled by a fatal heart-attack and Feldmarschall Fedor von Bockwould take over his command. One of his first actswould be to restore honors and traditions to the 46.Infanterie-Division andplace them under command of Generalleutnant Haccius for the siege ofSevastopol. Whatever the responisbility of the Corps or Divisionalcommanders were, von Bock reasoned, the soldiers of the 46th would not sufferthe indignity of official disgrace for merely following orders.
During the 1942 campaign the division went south into the Caucasus. The 46.Infanterie.Divisionwould support the XXXIX.Gebirgskorps well into the Maikiop region.It retreated later in the fall of 1942 to the Donets basin and fought atBelgorod in summer 1943. Later it took part in the retreat battles atDnepropetrovsk in which the Division suffered major casualties and was denuded ofmuch of it’s offensive strength. Falling back with HG Sud into Romania andfighting at barely regimental strength on the Slovak-Hungarian border theremnants of the 46.Infanterie-DIvision surrendered to the Soviets inCzechoslovakia in May 1945.
* Count von Sponeck, who was disgraced along with General Himer in the Crimea, wasexecuted post July 20, 1944 by orders of Himmler’s RSHA. General Himer wasnot executed but retired in disgrace after the withdrawal of his divisionfrom the Kerch peninsula in winter 1941. The retreat was merely a regroupingin better defensive positions to the west, with the loss of a diminutiveparcel of land, by a single division which was overextended and facingencirclement and destrcution at the hands of 2 Soviet Armies (the44th and 51st) – a movement not unlike that exercised by Manstein himselfin the great Don and Dnepr defensive battles he would fight in 1942-43 when alsofacing onslaughts of numerically superior Soviet forces.
Knights Cross Holders