Account: 2 Panzer Division, 17 June - 7 July 1944

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  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Taken from War Diary, 1st Battalion COLDSTREAM GUARDS, Appendix A, August 1944

    Account of 2 Panzer Division Operations
    17 June - 7 July 1944

    326 Inf Division
    Ops No. 2044/44 Most Secret

    Div Battle HQ, 17 July 1944

    Ref: 2 Pz Div Ops no. 675/44 Most Secret, dated 14 July 1944 (only to Div)

    17 Copies
    Copy No. 4.

    Extract from battle experiences from recent operations by 2 Pz Division whose sector is being taken over by 326 Inf Div.

    The fighting of the Div on the invasion front is characterised by

    (a) the special nature of the country of NORMANDY.

    (b) the great material superiority of the enemy, even on so-called quiet fronts.

    (c) the country in which the fighting is taking place consists of meadow and bush land enclosed squarely by hedges, with embankments and sunken roads. This does not lend itself to engagements over large areas. All engagements soon resolve themselves into shocktroop and individual engagements. The possession of ""dominating heights"" is often not as decisive as the possession of traffic junctions. Often the former cannot be exploited because hedges and trees limit visibility and field of fire, whereas road traffic arteries are essential, since it is only by roads that the heavy weapons, artillery and tanks can be brought forward. Nevertheless certain features always retain their dominating role, whereas conversely some traffic junctions can be dispensed with."

    (d) The incredibly heavy artillery and mortar fire (of the enemy) is something new, both for the seasoned veterans of the Eastern front and the new arrivals from reinforcement units. Whereas the veterans get used to it comparatively quickly, the inexperienced reinforcements require several days to do so, after which they become acclimatised. The average rate of fire on the Division sector per day is 4,000 artillery rounds and 5,000 mortar rounds per day. This is multiplied many times before an enemy attack, however small. For instance, on one occasion when the British made an attack on a sector of only two companies they expended 3,500 rounds in two hours. The Allies are waging war regardless of expense. In addition to this, the enemy have complete mastery of the air. They bomb and strafe every movement, even single vehicles and individuals. They recce our area constantly and direct their artillery fire. Against all this the G.A.F. is conspicuous by its complete absence. During the last four weeks the total number of German aircraft over the Division area was six.

    From the operations point of view, our own offensive operations by day, after complete assembly, etc - i.e. attacks prepared all “according to the book”, have little chance of succeeding. The assembling of troops is spotted immediately by enemy recce aircraft, and smashed by bombers, fighter bombers and artillery directed by aircraft; and if, nevertheless, the attacking troops go forward they become involved in such dense artillery and mortar fire, that heavy casualties ensue and the attack peters out within the first few hundred metres. The losses suffered by the infantry are then so heavy that the impetus necessary to renew the attack is spent.

    Better results have been obtained by attacks prepared down to the last details by assault detachments operating by night on a broad front. These penetrate the enemy positions noiselessly and in each individual case surprise and overcome the enemy, without the enemy artillery or air force having a chance to intervene. The primary conditions for this is that each individual assault detachment be fully acquainted with its neighbours, and that the heavy artillery weapons and artillery know exactly when to come into operation (usually only in the case of local failure when the element of surprise has not been achieved). The direction of such operations is less a question of large-scale elaborate planning than that of practical instruction and reminders. The mere fact that “assembly has been completed” before the attack begins is of less importance than the fact that every company and platoon commander has thought of everything necessary to ensure the success of the operation of his assault detachment. It is an essential duty of the staff planning the operation to put everyone down to the lowest-ranking commanders completely in the picture. An attack of this nature attains no far-distant objective, but proceeds only by small stages, night after night. But in the end it reaches its objective without paying a heavy toll in man-power. The more cunning and variable the fighting, the more successful the operation. This “infiltrations” has proved its worth in every case hitherto, as far as this Division is concerned.

    The fact that modernly equipped Panzer Divisions with two tank battalions and two infantry battalions with armoured half-tracked vehicles is not necessary for such fighting methods is another questions.

    In defence we must reckon with the fact that the attacking enemy simply smashes down the forward battle area with his massed artillery fire and aircraft. Hitherto the enemy has always succeeded, usually after a very short time, in occupying our main line of defence after a heavy barrage of this kind. It is, therefore, essential to maintain reserves in at least every battalion sector, which come forward immediately after the barrage has ended. The enemy infantryman is no fighter in our sense of the term, and consequently only a few machine-guns are necessary to hold him - but these must be there at the right time. The Divisional reserves must be employed immediately without waiting for the “All Clear” in order to throw back the enemy, assault-troop fashion, in lot of smoke from weapons of all calibres, everything is hidden in a blinding pall, and a clear picture is impossible. But once the enemy has brought up his Anti-Tank guns and F.O.Os and dug himself in, it is usually too late. Then the only remedy is to infiltrate on the following night. After several abortive attempts the British become cautious and finally discontinue their attacks.

    Individual arms
    1. Panzer Grenadiers.
    The Panzer Grenadiers must be able to withstand the heavy artillery fire of the enemy. This is the decisive factor. They must therefore be dug-in deeply. Since the enemy use a very sensitive fuze, over-head protection is necessary against shells which explode on striking trees. During the barrage the weapons must also remain under cover, or else they get clogged with mud and rendered useless.

    Our soldiers enter the battle in low spirits at the thought of the enemy enormous material superiority. They are always asking: “Where is the G.A.F.?” The feeling of helplessness against enemy aircraft operating without any hindrance has a paralysing effect and during the barrage this effect on the inexperienced troops is literally “soul-shattering” - and it must be borne in mind that four-engine bombers have not yet taken part in attacking ground targets in this Division’s area. It is, therefore essential for troops to be lifted out of this state of distress the moment the counter-attack begins. The best results have been obtained by the Platoon and Section commander leaping forward uttering a good old-fashioned “hurrah”, which spurs on the inexperienced troops and carries them along. The revival of the practice of sounding a bugle call for the attack has been found to answer the purpose, and this has been made a Divisional order. Moreover the use of the bugle in territory where visibility is restricted enables the troops to know when and where the attack is taking place. An attack launched in this manner is an experience which new troops will never forget and stimulates them into action again.

    The Panzer Grenadiers fight as assault detachments, in this more depends on the N.C.Os than ever before. Only an energetic commander will get his men to go forward. For weaklings there is every inducement and opportunity to hide in the hedges. Close-combat weapons (flame-throwers, anti-tank close-combat weapons, mines and explosive charges) are specially effectively in country of this nature. In defence it may be expedient to deplete the front line in order to maintain sufficient reserves for counter-attack. Specially efficient N.C.Os should be selected for this. The battle outposts and outlaying piquets of all kinds must change their position frequently and at regular intervals. The enemy, especially the Americans, are experts in creeping up under cover of the hedges and making frequent attempts to dislodge our piquets. They then cover their withdrawal with heavy mortar and defensive fire.

    The heavy weapons are compelled by the heavy enemy fire to change their positions frequently. The enemy get their range very soon. It is not unusual to change positions ten times during the day. Therefore heavy and light infantry guns use only their “roving guns” (see para 4). The evaluation and employment of enemy tactics has proved profitable. In one instance a counter-attacking company succeeded in turning the enemy mortars and firing smoke on the enemy, with the result that the enemy was misled into believing that a penetration had been achieved on the breadth of front covered by smoke, and brought down heavy artillery fire on his own troops.

    2. Tanks.
    There is no question of tank employment in the true sense of the term. They can only be employed to accompany infantry. Their mobility is limited by the sunken roads and hedges. They can only penetrate the square areas enclosed by hedges at certain points, and these points are registered by the enemy Anti-Tank guns. Therefore the Anti-Tank weapon must be neutralised before the tanks advance again. Since the country favours close Anti-Tank combat, each single tank must have strong flank protection. It is unprofitable to employ more than one troop of tanks at the time. On sunken roads, which are often the only places where tanks can move, the first and last tanks of the column get knocked out and those in between are wedged in. Therefore the tanks must work in the closest cooperation with their infantry. The tanks must give H.E. and M.G. covering fire along the ridge of the hedgerow until the infantry have reached it by passing along the hedgerow running at right-angles to it. The infantry then mop up, and then the tanks make another bound forward to the next hedgerow and the process is repeated. In this case the actual punch is delivered by the infantry and the fire power supplied by the tanks, and thus the control of the operation lies with the infantry.

    3. Anti-Tank.
    (a) S.P.
    The employment of self-propelled anti-tank guns is extremely limited in country of this kind. Their low structure is a disadvantage, and in many cases they are unable to shoot over hedges and walls. Since the turret cannot be traversed, SP guns are completely helpless in sunken roads. The best method of employing them is to have them in a concealed position at the side of main roads. Therefore SP Anti-Tank guns should be kept back as reserves in order to intercept enemy thrusts along the main roads in the event of an armoured breakthrough.

    (b) Tractor-drawn.
    There are not enough of these available. If it were possible to employ these regardless of loss (see News Sheet for Tank Troops, Issue No. 12, page 19) they would be the best weapon in the main defensive line, since they can be properly camouflaged and dug in and can destroy enemy tanks at closest range and inflict severe casualties on the enemy infantry in the hedgerows by HE fire. But then they cannot get away again, and their loss has to be reckoned with as a matter of course. Losses and damage inflicted by enemy artillery fire must also be taken into account. The enemy uses his anti-tank guns in this way, but the German can no longer afford to do so. Therefore tractor-drawn anti-tank guns have been withdrawn and placed in depth in the main battle area, where they form the backbone of the main defence zone. The only available anti-tank weapons in front line proper are the close combat weapons.

    4. Artillery.
    The highest demands are made on the elastic use of artillery. Since our own artillery can only fire one tenth of the amount fired by the enemy, success can only be achieved by closest concentration and best possible ground observation. Therefore, forward observers must be placed well forward. Ample provision of means of communication are essential. Even in counter-attack the forward observers must be well forward. It is essential to maintain ample reserves of forward observers in order to avoid loss of all forward observers and their equipment during the enemy barrage. The allotment of “sos” tasks which can be brought down automatically during an enemy attack has proved profitable. The artillery must change is positions frequently, since it is spotted very rapidly and engaged with the aid of observation from the air. Good results have been achieved by ‘roving’ guns and ‘roving’ artillery troops which misled the enemy as to the siting and strength of our own guns. Every attempt at harassing fire on the part of our artillery is promptly repaid many times over by the enemy. The artillery must take up different positions by day and night. Here on the Western front, too, the siting of the artillery for all round defence is the chief support for the main battle area.

    5. A.A.
    The Anti-Aircraft cannot protect everything. It is better to concentrate all the light and heavy troops on the point of main effort instead of scattering over the whole Division area in troops and sections. In bad weather the A.A. men can be used successfully in an artillery role. In this case, but in this case only, they are placed under command of the artillery. The siting of light A.A. troops in concealed positions close behind the main line of defence with the sole task of engaging any artillery spotting aircraft. By this means the Division succeeded in shooting aircraft keep a safe distance of approximately three kms from the main line of defence, whereas formerly they used to fly right over it.

    6. Engineers.
    The engineers have been particularly successful in an infantry role in this terrain, thanks to their good training in assault and close combat methods. Since they are limited in their employment as infantry they must, however, be restricted to exceptional cases, since, owing to their numerical inferiority in this close country, their technical engineering tasks in front of and in the main defensive area, and the consolidation of positions, in rear is of special importance. The commander of the engineers must exercise control over all engineers employed, including all engineer platoons. Owing to the limited means available this is the only way whereby points of main effort on the part of the engineers can be created. Since the whole operation in this territory demands special skill, the construction of obstacles must be carried out with resource and variety. In this cut-up territory it is impossible to construct a continuous line of obstacles which can be covered by our own fire from medium and long range. The improvised anti-personnel mine S.150 issued to the engineers has proved unsatisfactory, since the chemical igniter is unreliable. In order not to waste effort of the engineers in purely labour tasks the Division has combed out all surplus personnel from the supply columns to provide labour for consolidating the main battle area and rear positions. This method, adopted from the Eastern front, has also proved successful here.

    7. Recce.
    This is performed exclusively as battle recce. The best results are achieved by bringing back Prisoners of War, even if these scarcely disclose anything. Sigs interception within the Division area scarcely provides any result, since the enemy hardly carries on any WT traffic, and if he does, it is impossible to determine if this is taking place in front of our own sector. Listening in has so far produced no results. It is only done for monitoring our own traffic.

    8. Sigs.
    The principle remains the same. The Division avoids WT traffic as far as possible. No enemy attempts at direction-finding have yet been confirmed, but this must still be reckoned with. There are signs that the enemy is monitoring our WT traffic.

    9. Supplies.
    The entire supply system, including the receiving works by night. The time is very short, with the results that losses are constantly incurred due to journeys made in the daytime (also by moonlight). The supply of ammunition is insufficient. Hitherto it has been out of the question to engage the enemy artillery. The enemy, too, is gradually realising this, and is, therefore, moving up closer and closer in order to take full advantage of the range to disrupt our communications in the rear. Consequently our supply lines are under constant artillery fire, even at night. Our supplies of POL are adequate, since the Division is in a fixed position. THe use of MT traffic is reduced to a minimum. The supplies of food obtained from the land are very good, but those obtained through supply channels are mediocre.

    The question of spare parts and tyres is a serious problem. The Division has to fetch everything over distances of hundreds of kilometres, so that in spite of the Division being engaged in static warfare, its mobility gradually becomes less and less.

    The enemy’s air superiority presents an almost insolvable problem with regard to supplies.

    Signed: Frh von LÜTTWITZ

    Above battle experiences of 2 Pz Div forwarded herewith for information and exploitation.

    Signed: MARCKS, GSO 1, for comd 326 Infantry Division.

    (Source: Second Army I.S. No. 62)
  2. jccalvin

    jccalvin Junior Member


    On my FTP server you will find one NARA microfilm roll on the 2.Panzer-Division (T-315 R-95). It is in German. Look under Microfilm Rolls, then German Units - Divisions, then 2.Panzer-Division. This is the login information for FTP software. Download anything you want.

    Login ID: FTP-User-1
    Password: SKNVr8du


    John Calvin
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi John
    I've tried looking, maybe I'm thick, but I can't find where to log in.
  4. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

    It is on his FTP server. You'll need to download a programme such as Filezilla to access it. The log-in options are then at the top of the Filezilla programme when you open it.
    dbf likes this.
  5. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD


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