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Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Discussions on all (non-biographical) aspects of the Freikorps, Reichswehr, Austrian Bundesheer, Heer, Waffen-SS and Volkssturm.
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Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby trollelite on 18 Nov 2008 05:56

There may be various standards, but generally to say 1.welle are better than others, with quality degrade with each higher welle.

Those division would be always included in elite formation of wehrmacht.

1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 21st, 28th,

those may be not as good as last seven but could still be considered as elite status

12th, 31st, 32th, 35th, 72th, 78th, 101st, 389th


Conclusion: East Prussia, Silesia and Baden-Württemberg provide the best infantry of Germany. Pommern is only slightly inferior. While generally not as good as those peoples, the best of Bavaria is however not inferior to any elite formation that Germany could muster.
Last edited by trollelite on 18 Nov 2008 14:22, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby Christoph Awender on 18 Nov 2008 12:16

Hello

Beside that I do not agree with this generalisation is there a question in your post? Or do you just want to let us know what you think?

/Christoph
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby trollelite on 18 Nov 2008 14:20

No question. I am writting some reviews for various wehrmacht division. Yesterday I worte a review for 258.Division. Someone asked if that one was an elite division. No, I think not. Then I wrote this article. Just for discussion.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby Bjørn from Norway on 18 Nov 2008 17:22

Hello!
Since you write rewievs, I am sure you can say in short what you exactly mean by the term "elité". I am a bit confused.

B.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby trollelite on 19 Nov 2008 07:24

It's quite subjective. For example performance during major battle against heavy odds, number of KC holders, good performance though out the war, etc.

Just as in Waffen SS "Das Reich" , "Frunsberg" , or "GvB" cannot be considered as in same level though all three were of good quality and their soldiers generally fought well.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby trollelite on 19 Nov 2008 07:26

Reading such unit histories just make you familiar with certain units. No one tends to include many failures or defeats into his own division history.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby dgfred on 21 Nov 2008 21:04

I still enjoy reading about which are considered elite and why someone considers them so 8-) .
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby Qvist on 22 Nov 2008 07:46

The German army actually developed a system for rating Divisions - "Bewertungen des inneren Wertes". The system was formalised in late 1942, and evaluated divisions according to a set of fixed criteria such as hardness, endurance, the skill and steadiness of the Divisonal leadership, fighting spirit, training standards and dependability. High ratings were only given to Divisions who had given repeated proof of these things over a sustained period. If a division had been substantially rebuilt, for example by receiving a large number of replacements, it had to re-demonstrate these traits and in the mean time it got a lower rating. It was in other words based not on regarding some divisions as elite but on a constantly updated assessment of demonstrated and observed performance, and the rating acquired was never permanent. It seems to me that such reports are a considerably better basis for having an opinion about the worth of individual divisions than general opinionating about it or counting KCs or honorable mentions in communiques. But unfortunately they are not easy to come by, and do not appear to have been much used in the literature (there are exceptions though, for example Forstmeier in his book on the Kuban bridgehead).

The grading system was: I: Particularly good division, unconditionally dependable. Has proven itself with distinction in crisis situations. II: Dependable division, proven in crisis situations. III: Conditionally dependable division, not or not fully proven in crisis situations. IV: Division of low dependability, not to be relied upon.

Those division would be always included in elite formation of wehrmacht.

1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 21st, 28th,

those may be not as good as last seven but could still be considered as elite status

12th, 31st, 32th, 35th, 72th, 78th, 101st, 389th


Well, some of them turn up in in a 27 December 1943 Bewertung from AOK 18, so that can be checked:

Group I
1.ID first-rate, unconditionally dependable and hard division. Well trained. The firm and secure leadership knows how to keep this particuarly well-tried division in a high condition.
11.ID Fully tested, unconditionally dependable, hard and steadfast Division. New leadership yet to be tested in major combat.
28.JgD Combat-tested, hard division, high morale and good training standard. New leadership yet to be tested in major combat.

Group II
21.ID Experienced Division, with high inner worth. Rating reconfirmed after extensive refilling with Ersatz. Yet to prove if it has retained its old hardness fully. Also Leadership yet to be tested. 6.11.: Experienced Division, with high inner worth. Not fully back to par in hardness and training standards after refilled with young Ersatz.

cheers
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby Simon Orchard on 22 Nov 2008 12:37

I'm glad someone is even making the effort to look more closely at the infanterie divisionen. Even though they made up the bulk of the Heer by far you'd be forgiven for thinking they almost didn't exist given the level of attention given to the SS, FJ and panzerwaffe.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby dgfred on 24 Nov 2008 18:21

Qvist wrote:The German army actually developed a system for rating Divisions - "Bewertungen des inneren Wertes". The system was formalised in late 1942, and evaluated divisions according to a set of fixed criteria such as hardness, endurance, the skill and steadiness of the Divisonal leadership, fighting spirit, training standards and dependability. High ratings were only given to Divisions who had given repeated proof of these things over a sustained period. If a division had been substantially rebuilt, for example by receiving a large number of replacements, it had to re-demonstrate these traits and in the mean time it got a lower rating. It was in other words based not on regarding some divisions as elite but on a constantly updated assessment of demonstrated and observed performance, and the rating acquired was never permanent. It seems to me that such reports are a considerably better basis for having an opinion about the worth of individual divisions than general opinionating about it or counting KCs or honorable mentions in communiques. But unfortunately they are not easy to come by, and do not appear to have been much used in the literature (there are exceptions though, for example Forstmeier in his book on the Kuban bridgehead).

The grading system was: I: Particularly good division, unconditionally dependable. Has proven itself with distinction in crisis situations. II: Dependable division, proven in crisis situations. III: Conditionally dependable division, not or not fully proven in crisis situations. IV: Division of low dependability, not to be relied upon.

Those division would be always included in elite formation of wehrmacht.

1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 21st, 28th,

those may be not as good as last seven but could still be considered as elite status

12th, 31st, 32th, 35th, 72th, 78th, 101st, 389th


Well, some of them turn up in in a 27 December 1943 Bewertung from AOK 18, so that can be checked:

Group I
1.ID first-rate, unconditionally dependable and hard division. Well trained. The firm and secure leadership knows how to keep this particuarly well-tried division in a high condition.
11.ID Fully tested, unconditionally dependable, hard and steadfast Division. New leadership yet to be tested in major combat.
28.JgD Combat-tested, hard division, high morale and good training standard. New leadership yet to be tested in major combat.

Group II
21.ID Experienced Division, with high inner worth. Rating reconfirmed after extensive refilling with Ersatz. Yet to prove if it has retained its old hardness fully. Also Leadership yet to be tested. 6.11.: Experienced Division, with high inner worth. Not fully back to par in hardness and training standards after refilled with young Ersatz.

cheers


Thanks for posting that information, very interesting.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby joe cleere on 24 Nov 2008 20:37

The term elite should be reserved for the very best of any category. In the case of German military formations I would reserve that for the Brandenburgers, Fallschirmjaegers, and Gebirgsjaegers, as well as Sturmpioniere.

However, the infantry divisions of the first wave were very good. You would usually find them cateorized as Kampfwert (Combat Value) I, but sometimes Kampfwert II if they had just been rebuilt. As for the rest of the German infantry divisions, it could vary. Some were categorized as Kampfwert I. As the war went on, many divisions fell from the Kampfwert I category to II and III. But you have to look at the records to find out. For example, when I did some research in the German military records for a thesis on the Normandy campaign, I found that 2nd Panzer Division had a Kampfwert of I, the 352nd Infantry Division a Kampfwert of II, while the majority of the forces stationed in France, especially the static divisions, had a Kampfwert of III. The Ost battalions were universally given a Kampfwert of IV, the lowest. As an aside, the 1st and 2nd SS both had a Kampfwert of II just before the Normandy invasion, probably because they were in the process of rebuilding after having incurred heavy casualties in Russia.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby trollelite on 25 Nov 2008 16:00

Let's say the bewergungsystem only dealt with the division's current condition. First, after the hard winter campaign of 43/44 there are very few division that could still be list as grade I. Second, the system doesn't care about the division's past history, so we could see division FHH fall to category IV just before soviet 1944 summer offensive.

Generally to say, if a division has full strength according to ToE, it should be evaluated as grade I, the reason as " not fully tested" doesn't mean it must fail in soon coming battles. And people tended to be hard to those already earned their elite status.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby trollelite on 25 Nov 2008 16:05

And you must consider those divisions from lower populace denstity province tended to draw more replacement recruits from western provinces, such as today NRW, Rhein-Pfalz or niedersachsen, which generally degrade their combat value.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby Rob - wssob2 on 26 Nov 2008 00:32

In the case of German military formations I would reserve that for the Brandenburgers, Fallschirmjaegers, and Gebirgsjaegers, as well as Sturmpioniere.


This is an interesting list - but a bit strange.

The German Army didn't take well to the idea of special forces, which is one reason the Brandenbergers were eventually used up a regular infantry.

As for the paratroopers - same thing. After Crete, and with the exception of Dravar, the paratroopers didn't paratroop.

Gebirgsjaegers I can understand because of their specialized equipment and training, but can we make generalizations about their performance and point to notable successes?

As for Sturmpioniere (assault engineers) which is more of a branch of service, why would they qualify and what criteria are we using? And what about comparing them to US Army engineer units - how would they hold up? (my guess is that overall the US Army engineers were better)

Again and again with these "elite" threads - we need to define exactly what "elite" means...
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Postby Dietrich March on 27 Nov 2008 22:15

Discussing which infantry division(s) of the Wehrmacht can/could be considered "elite" is apt to be unduly speculative without a clear understanding of what we (those discussing this topic) mean by "elite."

For one thing, the Wehrmacht includes not only the Heer but also the Luftwaffe (the aforementioned Fallschirmjäger as well as the Herman Göring Division and the Luftwaffe Field Divisions), the Kriegsmarine (someone else could probably enlighten us about the ground troops this branch fielded), and, nominally, the Waffen-SS. Perhaps the discussion could be helpfully narrowed down by focusing on the Heer, since, as has been pointed out, the Waffen-SS and FJ get labelled "elite" enough already.

My opinion is that to call an entire division "elite" is to water down what "elite" is generally regarded to mean. (Especially in glib pop-history phrases like "Hitler's elite Panzer divisions" or "crack German paratroops".) I think elite-ness is in part due to the small-ness of a unit relative to typical formations in a given military. For example, the eighty-plus glider-borne Fallschirmjäger of Sturmgruppe Granit (led by Oberleutnant Rudolf Witzig) who attacked the fort of Eben Emael, compared with the 7th Flieger Division (from which these men were drawn) as a whole. While the Fallschirmjäger in general are thought of as elite (and were considered formidable opponents by the Allied forces who faced them), I think it's the smaller units, like the platoon- or company-sized paratroop units and the Brandenburgers, which are more truly elite.

In light of the comments thus far (the Waffen-SS, Panzerwaffe, Fallschirmjäger, etc., get enough praise as it is), I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned the largest and best-equipped (not to mention all-volunteer) division which was neither Waffen-SS nor strictly Panzer -- namely, Panzergrenadier-Division "Großdeutschland".
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