Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

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FMModel
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by FMModel » 28 Nov 2008 19:09

Excellent thread. I thought this would be another "Which is the best...?", but this turned out to be very interesting!

Qvist, who determined the rating for divisions? The training establishment, the Inspectors of each branch?

Also, I have a strong interest in the 29th Motorized Division - how do they rate on that scale for Barbarossa? Case Blue? Guderian mentions them in his memiors as having first rate leadership and being an excellent division. That is noted in his section on the Smolensk battles. I know that post Stalingrad that rating would probably fall far, after incorporation of 345.ID and transfer to Italy, despite still having some veteran cadre.

On the Sturmpionier - did not the Germans have a different theory on their deployment? I was to understand that the Germans viewed their Pionier as elite Infantry with engineer capabilities. Of course their first mission was engineer work, but there was little hesitation to deploy them as assault infantry. Perhaps this was the case with battalions assigned to divisions and not the heavy construction units or Korps, Armee assets. I may be mistaken and would like to see what others have to say.

Thanks,

Mark

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 29 Nov 2008 11:12

Qvist, who determined the rating for divisions? The training establishment, the Inspectors of each branch?
Hello FM Model, the ratings were formulated by the Corps command to which the division belonged, and then approved with or without alterations by the army command.
Also, I have a strong interest in the 29th Motorized Division - how do they rate on that scale for Barbarossa? Case Blue? Guderian mentions them in his memiors as having first rate leadership and being an excellent division. That is noted in his section on the Smolensk battles. I know that post Stalingrad that rating would probably fall far, after incorporation of 345.ID and transfer to Italy, despite still having some veteran cadre.
The system of grading the ”inner quality” of the divisions was instituted on Zeitzler’s orders only in late 1942 (There is a surviving facsimile of the HG A order to institute it in the files of AOK 17). Zeitzler writes (loosely translated/summarised):

The duration of the war has brought with it a great difference in the combat value of the army’s divisions. While the Zustandsberichte (ie, the reports assigning each division a current capability rating and describing the overall condition of its units) gives a picture of the personnell and materiel state of the divisions, they do not fully take into account a number of other factors, specifically the Landmannschaftliche Zugehörigkeit (ethnic/Regional makeup), the hardness of the leadership, the confidence of the command echelons in the division’s performance etc. However, the more difficult the position, the more necessary it becomes for the higher command to possess a clear picture of the quality of the divisions, so that they can be distributed according to need. Hence, the HGs are to grade their divisions according to the I-IV scale familiar from the Zustandsberichte.

The reports are to reflect mainly the hardness of the troops, their morale, the determination and steadfastness of the command, the level of trust between troops and leadership and toughness and stamina in cases of combat of long duration. Personnel and materiel situation are to be taken into account, but not to be overvalued. Each Div to be accompanied by a brief description of 2-3 lines. He stresses that these are not to be taken into account at Personal-Amt, presumably to encourage a forthright assessment, especially of the divisional leadership.
On the Sturmpionier - did not the Germans have a different theory on their deployment? I was to understand that the Germans viewed their Pionier as elite Infantry with engineer capabilities. Of course their first mission was engineer work, but there was little hesitation to deploy them as assault infantry. Perhaps this was the case with battalions assigned to divisions and not the heavy construction units or Korps, Armee assets. I may be mistaken and would like to see what others have to say.
Certainly the Germans tended to view the divisional Pi.Btl. as an additional infantry batallion. It is normally included in anything that deals with infantry strength.

I'll see if I have anything on 29.mot. But for that division there is something equally good. It's included in TDI's Italian database, and is scored on the basis of that (using QJM). As I recall, it actually does not come out of it well - one of the lowest scores among the German Divisions on the Italian front.

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 29 Nov 2008 11:36

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.
However, the Kampfwert is not essentially a quality rating. It does seem to also take into account general qualitative factors, but it is nevertheless a measure of the present capabilities of the Division which also depends on such things as its strength levels, freshness and equipment and supply state. It was fully possible for even the best divisions to be assigned a Kampfwert of III or IV if the circumstances were particularly unfavorable. I agree you can make inferences about quality from them, if you have many reports over a long period, but only tentatively.

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 29 Nov 2008 11:45

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.
As far as the Bewertungen des Inneren Wertes is concerned, the reality was the exact opposite of this - it attempted to describe the Division's quality with a wider reference than just the current condition, and in doing so, the Division's past was exactly what it took into account. What you write describes rather the Condition/Kampfwert/Zustand reports that were usually worked out weekly by the armies, and which assess exactly the present capabilities of the Division on that date. And actually, FHH did have a rating of Kampfwert IV immediately prior to Bagration.
Generally to say, if a division has full strength according to ToE, it should be evaluated as grade I,
This is not the case for either of the two rating systems. Inneren Wertes did not take into account strength levels at all. And, there are many, many cases of Divisions who were in tip-top shape strength-wise, but nevertheless got a II or even a III Kampfwert rating. (The Kampfwert ratings were I- capable of all offensive missions, II- conditionally capable of offensive missions, III- fully capable of Defensive missions, IV - Conditionally capable of defensive missions). As expressed above, that system took into account all relevant factors affecting the capabilities of the division, Material as well as non-material.
the reason as " not fully tested" doesn't mean it must fail in soon coming battles.
No, it just means that the Division, in the opinion of its commanders, has not yet earned a higher rating. So?
And people tended to be hard to those already earned their elite status.
What a truly nonsensical statement. You mean that divisions who had already performed well were systematically rated too low by their commanders? On what basis?

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 29 Nov 2008 12:09

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.
...And this assumption is based on what, exactly?

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 29 Nov 2008 12:21

Again and again with these "elite" threads - we need to define exactly what "elite" means...
Or better still, come to terms with the fact that it is a term of severely limited usefulness that is usually only appealing to those who are still not out of the adolescent stage of hero worship. The only use for it as far as I can see is to describe a unit that possesses some systematic and permanent trait that gives it a perpetual advantage in quality - such as consistent access to particularly high-grade manpower or particularly extensive and arduous training - this in addition to demonstrated high performance over a long period of time. By this measure, one could describe the Brandenburgers as elite in the same sense that special forces everywhere are so, and also the FJ Divisions, at least prior to the last year of the war. Up to a point , also at least some of the W-SS Divisions, and GrD. But it is a pointless term to apply to infantry divisions, none of whom enjoyed any such systematic advantages.

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by trollelite » 29 Nov 2008 17:53

What assumption? If you mean the state that people from certain provinces cannot fight as well as others, this is really no clear evidence from any certain book. People don't tend to write replacement from certain area are of lower quality. I think this is well understandable. However, generally to say people from rural and henceforth lower populace density area make better infantry or light infantry. Is that so strange?

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by trollelite » 29 Nov 2008 17:55

Either original wehrkreis provides 3 active divisions, and none of any other combination could beat 1st, 11st and 21st from East Prussia.

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 29 Nov 2008 20:04

What assumption? If you mean the state that people from certain provinces cannot fight as well as others, this is really no clear evidence from any certain book. People don't tend to write replacement from certain area are of lower quality. I think this is well understandable. However, generally to say people from rural and henceforth lower populace density area make better infantry or light infantry. Is that so strange?
That is, at best, a broad generalisation of doubtful applicability to the matter at hand. At worst, it is an old assumption with little or no applicability to the second world war. After all, if it was always true, Bulgaria and Romania would have had the world's best infantry, Soviet infantry would be superior to German, the infantry of poor and backwards countries would be superior to that of highly developed countries and the best divisions in the Italian army would be those raised in Basilicata and Campania. Even if we accept the generalisation that districts with a more rural character produce men with a higher general level of physical fitness and familiarity with outdoor life (which is the traditional argument for this generalisation, and which was much less true in the 1940s than 50 years previously due to the generally improved standards of living and health in urban areas compared to rural in the intervening period), it is by no means clear that these characteristics were still the most important ones for a good infantry division. It would seem to me that effectiveness was more a question of organisational coherence, capacity for complex interaction and technical skills - characteristics which urban regions tended to foster in its population to a greater degree than rural ones.
Either original wehrkreis provides 3 active divisions, and none of any other combination could beat 1st, 11st and 21st from East Prussia.
I have yet to see any meaningful criteria or argumentation for that judgment. Even if it was valid, it would not be much of an argument.

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by FMModel » 29 Nov 2008 22:41

Perhaps this strays from the original topic of "Elite Divisions" but I think it is in keeping with the flow of the thread in that it is a discussion of one Division's effectiveness. So forgive me trollelite if this goes too far from your topic.

I have had an interesting (IMO) discussion with Qvist by PM. We were discussing the 29.PzGren in particular. As stated above, 29.ID (mot), was declared by Guderian to be a premier division with excellent leadership. However, the division was destroyed in Stalingrad. The division was reformed in southern France and combined with the 345.ID which for all intents and purposes, raised in Nov 42. That said, the new 29 PzGr Division did not retain the previous reputation.

Certainly a division that was destroyed in Stalingrad or Eastern Front in general, would never recover fully, but there are always a considerable number of personnel that are not with the division at all times, ie training schools, NCO/Officer candidate schools, specialty schools, wounded recovering, on leave (some of these certainly would not have been returned to the pocket in the later phases of Stalingrad). Qvist advised me that by 23 February 1942 1,618 men had been withdrawn from the Stalingrad pocket to form the core of a new 29 Division. That is above and beyond the personnel that certainly were recovering in hospitals and would return to service, plus, if I am right, those still in various training schools.

That number, especially the 1,618 (who I presume were specialists, experienced NCO's and Officers) would seem to provide a core of personnel that would increase the status/rating of the division - perhaps over 10% of the men would have been veterans or have had some level of combat service.

So how did the division status sink (as of yet I do not have a rating for the division post-Stalingrad) to the level of one of the lowest rated divisions on the Italian front? Why did the number of veterans NOT promote a better "inner quality"? Could quality of training during reconstitution and prior to deployment have had a bigger influence? Shortfalls in equipment? Status of the division from motorized to panzergrenadier - differences in tactics/deployment?

This is only one division, but I think a good representation, mid-war, of a division reforming after combat on the Eastern Front. Or are my assumptions completely wrong and this is way off topic...?

Thank you,

Mark
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Inselaffe » 29 Nov 2008 23:24

Qvist wrote: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.


...And this assumption is based on what, exactly?
Hello,

Yes, it does seem an odd assumption. However, Qvist, further up the thread you provided a summary/translation of the Zeitzler order of 1942,
Qvist wrote:While the Zustandsberichte (ie, the reports assigning each division a current capability rating and describing the overall condition of its units) gives a picture of the personnell and materiel state of the divisions, they do not fully take into account a number of other factors, specifically the Landmannschaftliche Zugehörigkeit (ethnic/Regional makeup), the hardness of the leadership, the confidence of the command echelons in the division’s performance etc.
(my emphasis)

This seems to lump ethnic/regional makeup in with other qualitative factors such as 'hardness of the leadership.' Or have I misinterpreted that (which is not at all unlikely!)? Did sterotypes about the relative superiority or inferiority of people from certain regions as soldiers exist among some senior (maybe older?) officers? Possibly reflecting the marked gap in general health and fitness between the rural and urban populations which was seen during the Great War in both Britain and Germany which you allude to later. A no doubt formative period for said officers.

Such beliefs, regardless of their lack of foundation in the circumstances of the 1940s, might still have carried some weight amongst those who still held them.

Cheers.
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 30 Nov 2008 07:27

Perhaps this strays from the original topic of "Elite Divisions" but I think it is in keeping with the flow of the thread in that it is a discussion of one Division's effectiveness. So forgive me trollelite if this goes too far from your topic.

I have had an interesting (IMO) discussion with Qvist by PM. We were discussing the 29.PzGren in particular. As stated above, 29.ID (mot), was declared by Guderian to be a premier division with excellent leadership. However, the division was destroyed in Stalingrad. The division was reformed in southern France and combined with the 345.ID which for all intents and purposes, raised in Nov 42. That said, the new 29 PzGr Division did not retain the previous reputation.

Certainly a division that was destroyed in Stalingrad or Eastern Front in general, would never recover fully, but there are always a considerable number of personnel that are not with the division at all times, ie training schools, NCO/Officer candidate schools, specialty schools, wounded recovering, on leave (some of these certainly would not have been returned to the pocket in the later phases of Stalingrad). Qvist advised me that by 23 February 1942 1,618 men had been withdrawn from the Stalingrad pocket to form the core of a new 29 Division. That is above and beyond the personnel that certainly were recovering in hospitals and would return to service, plus, if I am right, those still in various training schools.

That number, especially the 1,618 (who I presume were specialists, experienced NCO's and Officers) would seem to provide a core of personnel that would increase the status/rating of the division - perhaps over 10% of the men would have been veterans or have had some level of combat service.

So how did the division status sink (as of yet I do not have a rating for the division post-Stalingrad) to the level of one of the lowest rated divisions on the Italian front? Why did the number of veterans NOT promote a better "inner quality"? Could quality of training during reconstitution and prior to deployment have had a bigger influence? Shortfalls in equipment? Status of the division from motorized to panzergrenadier - differences in tactics/deployment?

This is only one division, but I think a good representation, mid-war, of a division reforming after combat on the Eastern Front. Or are my assumptions completely wrong and this is way off topic...?
Hi Model,

To clear up one misunderstanding, those 1618 men were not withdrawn from the Stalingrad pocket. For the 29th as for all divisions inside the pocket, there were a considerable number of soldiers belonging to the division who were not in Stalingrad when the pocket was closed. It could be divisional units which for some reason happened to be away from the main body of the division, and there was a considerable number of Abkommandierte, men on leave and sick and wounded set to return between late November and late February. Most of the divisions willl have had a very considerable number of Genesene, since the losses had been consistently very high all the way since July. Consequently, Divisionsgruppen of such personnel, often of several thousand men, were collected and used as Alarmeinheiten along the Don Front in December and January, or simply distributed among other divisions. Then, in February, they were systematically collected again, and sent home to serve as personnel cadres for the re-raised Stalingrad divisions, together with any personnel who for one reason or another had not been sent back to the East, and any recovered wounded who had been flown out of Stalingrad.

The performance of the rebuilt 29.Pz.Gren.D. is not so much a question of reputation - the QJM scoring is based on measured performance in a significant number of actions. This is something distinct from the German wartime reporting system - it is a scoring system used post-war by the Trevor Dupuy Institute and applied to its historical databases in order to obtain a quantified expression of the battlefield efficiency of various Divisions on both side. I don't have my copy of "Numbers, Prediction and War" available unfortunately, so cannot look up the score but I believe it is mentioned in an article by Christopher Lawrence (head of the institute) that the 29th scored lowest of all the German divisions in Italy. I have no idea how the division was rated in Italy, that campaign is not my area of inquiry unfortunately.

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 30 Nov 2008 07:37

Hello,

Yes, it does seem an odd assumption. However, Qvist, further up the thread you provided a summary/translation of the Zeitzler order of 1942,

Qvist wrote:While the Zustandsberichte (ie, the reports assigning each division a current capability rating and describing the overall condition of its units) gives a picture of the personnell and materiel state of the divisions, they do not fully take into account a number of other factors, specifically the Landmannschaftliche Zugehörigkeit (ethnic/Regional makeup), the hardness of the leadership, the confidence of the command echelons in the division’s performance etc.

(my emphasis)

This seems to lump ethnic/regional makeup in with other qualitative factors such as 'hardness of the leadership.' Or have I misinterpreted that (which is not at all unlikely!)? Did sterotypes about the relative superiority or inferiority of people from certain regions as soldiers exist among some senior (maybe older?) officers? Possibly reflecting the marked gap in general health and fitness between the rural and urban populations which was seen during the Great War in both Britain and Germany which you allude to later. A no doubt formative period for said officers.

Such beliefs, regardless of their lack of foundation in the circumstances of the 1940s, might still have carried some weight amongst those who still held them.
Hello Inselaffe. Well, this was an OKH order, so it would have had to carry weight with Zeitzler. But you make a good point about the Landmannschaftliche Zugehörigkeit, which I am unsure what exactly means in this context. It is brought up, for example, with regard to 24.ID in spring 1944, as something that limits its reliability (in a report of "inneren Wertes"). It is possible that it alludes also to differences between preconceived "good" and "bad" regions of Germany, but I think a far more plausible reading is that it alludes to the presence of Volksdeutsche, Volksliste III-men, Luxemburgers, Alsatians and other personnel considered intrinsically less reliable than Reichsdeutsche. But I can't be sure. I'd be happy to hear from anyone who has any experience with the use of the term.
This seems to lump ethnic/regional makeup in with other qualitative factors such as 'hardness of the leadership.' Or have I misinterpreted that (which is not at all unlikely!)?
No, you are absolutely right.

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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Urmel » 30 Nov 2008 11:40

But it is only one factor amongst many.

Also, when getting all excited about the greatness of 1., 11., 21. ID, one should not forget that these divisions spent most of the war in HG Nord, which was blessed with being relatively static, close and well-connected to its supply base, and as is shown in Newton's "Retreat of Army Group North" (books in storage, so I can't look it up now), received relatively speaking far more replacements than other Army Groups. So these three divisions have a range of quite important factors working for them in terms of their combat performance, before we get anywhere near the Landsmannschaft.

Also, in 1942 or 43 the OKH allegedly rated its infantry divisions, and the 6. came out as one of the top three, according to a book by one of its commanders on Rhzev, if memory is not playing tricks on me. Could this be the rating you refer to Qvist?
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Re: Elite infantry division of Wehrmacht

Post by Qvist » 30 Nov 2008 11:54

and as is shown in Newton's "Retreat of Army Group North" (books in storage, so I can't look it up now), received relatively speaking far more replacements than other Army Groups.
That's an interesting and surprising claim by Newton, which I do not think is correct. But it depends on relative to what. Do you remember any more detail about this?
Also, in 1942 or 43 the OKH allegedly rated its infantry divisions, and the 6. came out as one of the top three, according to a book by one of its commanders on Rhzev, if memory is not playing tricks on me. Could this be the rating you refer to Qvist?
No, certainly not. The ratings I am talking about here were carried out weekly (Condition) and monthly (Inneren Wertes), and as mentioned by each army separately. I have never heard of a general ranking of infantry divisions, but who knows?

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