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David C. Clarke
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Kustrin!!!

Post by David C. Clarke » 28 May 2002 16:04

Okay Guys, time for a change of perspective. Since the indications are that "Muncheberg" first went into battle during the fight for Kustrin, I thought a little background on the Kustrin battle might be appropriate. Kustrin lies roughly 70 kilometers from Berlin and was regarded by the German General Staff as the key to Berlin . Unlike many of the cities and towns declared "Fortresses" by Adolf Hitler, Kustrin actually was a fortress. Let's see what the opposition had to say about this and the events leading to "Muncheberg's" commitment on March 22nd, 1945. Essentially, Russian forces reached the Oder after the collapse of German lines in Poland and a twenty-two day advance to the Oder.


From Chuikov(Commander, 8th Guards Army) "The End of the Third Reich", pages 154-155:
"The 8th Guards Army reached the Oder on February 1, 1945. Without waiting for reinforcements, I ordered the 4th Guards Rifle Corps (Gen. Glazunov) to cross the Oder in its stride and by nightfall, on February 2nd, to secure a bridgehead on the western bank and occupy Kustrin's southern suburbs–Kietz, Manschow, and Rathstock.
The 28th Guards Rifle Corps was to cross the oder and establish a bridgehead in the sector Hathenor–Podelzig–Klessin.
Further to the left, the 1st Guards Tank Army also reached the river and stopped, having no crossing facilities. On the right, the 5th Shock Army upon reaching the river on February 1st began to cross it using rafting expedients.
At 1000hrs. On February 2nd, I visited the observation post of General Glazunov commanding the 4th Guards Rifle Corps. The OP had been set up on the ruins of a fort outside the village of Zabice, south of Kustrin. The Corps had already deployed alongside a dike between Kustrin and Gorzyca poised to cross the Oder.
On February 2nd, our scouts crossed the Oder, reached the Seelowe-kustrin highway and captured two officers of the German General Staff."


Chuikov's unadorned account hints at several interesting issues. The Red Army advance to the Oder had been so precipitous that bridging materials were not immediately available. He also states quite bluntly that his Army was hindered by Luftwaffe attacks upon reaching the Oder, as his anti-aircraft assets had not caught up with his advance elements. Moreover, Kustrin itself lie in a seam between the individual advancing Russian elements. Thus, Chuikov's 8th Guards Army established bridgeheads south of Kustrin, while Lt. Gen. Berzarin's 5th Shock Army established bridgeheads over the Oder north of Kustrin. This would seem to indicate that neither Army was prepared to storm Kustrin Fortress itself. Zhukov adds to this picture in his "Reminisces and Reflections" vol. 2, pages 321-322:

"Here it is impossible for me not to dwell at some length on the heroic deeds of the 5th Shock Army headed by Lieutenant. General Berzarin and Lieutenant general Bokov, member of the military council.
The advance detachment of the 5th Shock Army played a key role in seizing the bridgehead. The detachment was led by Col. H. F. Yesipenko, Deputy Commander of the 8th guards Rifle division and Lieutenant Colonel D. D. Shaposhnikov, representative of the Military Council of the 5th Shock Army and Deputy chief of the Army's political department.
The detachment consisted of the 1006 Rifle regiment of the 266th rifle division, the 220th Detached Tank Brigade under Colonel A.N. Pachkov, the 8th Detached Heavy Tank Regiment and the 489th Mortar Regiment.
By the morning of January 31st, the advance detachment forced the Oder and seized a bridgehead in the area of Kienitz, Gross, Nuendorf and Rehfeld."


The bridgeheads established by 8th Guards and 5th Shock Army drew immediate, if uncoordinated, counterattacks by German forces. These battles were the very beginnings of the Oder Bridgehead battles. Stubborn and unyielding fighting marked these battles as the Russians attempted to expand their bridgeheads across the Oder while the Germans attempted with equal dedication to push them back over the Oder. Of course, the Germans, by this point, were vastly outnumbered and using scrapped together units, while the Soviets, as each day passed, brought up more and more
of their largely intact rifle divisions and tank brigades. In the center of this devastation, preventing the consolidation of the Russian bridgeheads was the German fortress of Kustrin. We return to Chuikov, pages 166-167:

"In the last week of March, we carried out a series of local operations to link our on flank with the units of our neighbor to the right the 5th Shock Army, west of the Kustrin fortress. Here the gap between our armies, or rather the two bridgeheads on the west bank of the Oder had been about 3 kilometers wide. Using this corridor, the enemy maintained communication with the Kustrin citadel situated on an island in the main channel of the Oder. The citadel itself was the base of the wedge separating our bridgeheads. In order to link the flanks of the two armies we had to cut through the wedge in its narrowest place, somewhere west of Kustrin. Should we succeed, the garrison inside the fortress would be completely cut off.
Our troops had gained control of some of the citadel's forts in the course of the initial fighting for the bridgehead. Now we were going to administer a blow at the enemy defenses from the south and reach the Kietz-Dolgelin railway. General Bezarin's troops (5th Shock Army)
would simultaneously launch an attack from the north so as to join up with us in the Golzow railway junction.
This thoroughly prepared operation was carried out on March 22nd...."

This was, then, the situation that lead to "Muncheberg's " first battles. Very Best Regards, David :D

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Jan-willem van Wijngen
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THANKS!

Post by Jan-willem van Wijngen » 28 May 2002 16:43

many thank for the info
keep on goning

JW :lol: :lol: 8O

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David C. Clarke
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Supplement

Post by David C. Clarke » 29 May 2002 01:35

Thank you Jan. It's funny how a little praise puts fuel into the fuel tank! So Jan, for you I have information to supplement my previous post. From Tony LeTissier's "Zhukov at the Oder", page 78:

By 15 March the 9th Army was masking the Kustrin Bridgehead with the CIst Corps on the northern flank from the Hohenzollern Canal to Kienitz with the 606th, the 309th "Berlin", and the the 303rd "Doberitz" Infantry Divisions. From there the XIth SS Panzer Corps was responsible for the sector down to four kilometers south of Lebus (i.e. the Burgwall) with the 25th Panzergrenadier, the "Muncheberg"; Panzer, the "Kumarck" Panzergrenadier and the 712th Infantry Divisions plus the Kustrin fortress. All these formations, apart from the 25th Panzergrenadier, were newly raised."

From LeTissier, pages 84-85;
"The 5th Shock Army detailed the 32nd Rifle Corps, which in turn detailed the 60th Guards and 295th Rifle Divisions, for the main thrust. The 1373rd Rifle Regiment of the 416th Rifle Division was tasked with the subsidiary thrust, while the other two regiments of that division were to secure the banks of the Warthe opposite the fortress.
The 8th Guards Army detailed the 4th Guards Rifle Corps, whose 47th and 57th Guards Rifle Divisions would be used for the main assault. Two Regiments of the 35th Guards Rifle Division would be used for the subsidiary thrust, while it's third regiment would secure the Oder embankment."

A quick note on the Soviet forces involved. 35th Guards Rifle Division fought the German Army on the approaches to Stalingrad. 47th Guards Rifle Division was one of the assault divisions for 5th Tank Army in Operation Uranus, the Soviet Offensive which surrounded 6th Army at Stalingrad, while 57th Guards Rifle Division was formed in 1st Guards Army for the Soviet offensives immediately after Stalingrad. Likewise, 60th Guards Rifle Division, formed in January of 1943, had seen heavy combat on the Dneiper and in the final destruction of German Forces before Rumania. So, as well as outnumbering the German defenders around Kustrin, the Russian forces weren't, by any stretch of the imagination, 2nd Rate divisions. Best Regards, David :D

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Back To Muncheberg

Post by David C. Clarke » 29 May 2002 02:39

But now back to Muncheberg Panzer Division. From LeTissier, pages 85-86:

"....on the night of 19-20 March the 303rd Fusilier Battalion had relieved troops of the 25th Panzergrenadier Division at the Alt Bleyen manor farm, where the vital road from Gorgast connected with the Kustrin fortress. On their way, they had passed some tanks of the "Muncheberg" Panzer Division in Golzow and a battalion of the "Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler" which had been sent to reinforce that division, about to take up positions on the flanks of the corridor.
The garrison of this pocket between Neu Bleyen and Kuhbucken-Vorstadt now also included the 2nd Battalion of the 1st "Muncheberg" Panzergrenadier Regiment and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 2nd "Muncheberg" Panzergrenadier Regiment."

So, the kettle begins to boil for the brave men of Muncheberg Panzer Division, 12 days after the unit's formation!!!!!!
Regards, David :o

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Jan-willem van Wijngen
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battle arond Kustrin

Post by Jan-willem van Wijngen » 31 May 2002 20:23

Here is my contribution to the Muncheberg div.

The fights around Küstrin in March 1945 was very hard and Included Pz.Div Müncheberg,Inf.Div Döberitz and the 25 Pz.Gren Div.etc
In that area (XXXIX Pz.Korps) were ca 200 russian tanks destroyed in some days in very hard defence battles.
Later in March the I.Pz.Rgt 29 was attached to Pz.Div. Müncheberg.
In April the 1.Komp of the I.Pz.Rgt 29 joined in with their 10 IR -Panthers,but at that time Küstrin was lost.
Pz.Div.Müncheberg had following Inventory strenght :
1.Pz III
1.Pz.IV
1Flak.pz IV
18 Panther
8 Tiger
1.JagdPz.IV
Istandsetzung = 3 Panther.

The info is from Mirko Bayerl (ML forum)

JW

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Hi Jan!

Post by David C. Clarke » 31 May 2002 21:56

Hi Jan, thanks for posting. Don't worry, I'll post more, hopefully this weekend, but it's been a strange week. We'll work on Muncheberg some more real soon. So where is everyone else??? Best Regards, David :D

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Kustrin, March 22-24

Post by David C. Clarke » 04 Jun 2002 17:10

Kustrin March 22-24 1945

Well guys, I wanted to take this a little slow, but not as slow as it has been, so pardon the delay. This description of the battles around Kustrin would undoubtedly make more sense with a good map as a reference. So please bear with me. While the information in this post is taken from LeTissier's "Zhukov at the Oder" pages 86-90, I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing his work at times, to give (hopefully) a more understandable (read simplistic) impression of the fight.

It is clear from LeTissier that the Soviet offensive to encircle Kustrin was a complicated plan involving both an outer encirclement and an inner encirclement. So, while the initial aim of the Soviets–to entirely isolate Kustrin's garrison from German forces outside of it–was accomplished rather quickly, that did not end the offensive. LeTissier writes on page 86:

"The land attack by both Corps then began at 0715 hours on 22 March, and that afternoon the 295th and the 47th Guards Rifle Divisions met on the Forster Bridge over "Der Strom" (Alte Oder) north of Gorgast , thus completing the encirclement of the Kustrin Fortress."

Note that 47th Guards Rifle Division belonged to Chuikov's 8th Guards Army and represented the Southern pincer of the offensive, while 295th Rifle Division was General Bezarin's 5th Guards Shock Army's strike force from the North.

Also on the 22nd of March, page 86:

"By the evening of the same day the rifle divisions operating on the OUTER SWEEP of the encircling operation had reached the line ONE KILOMETER SOUTHWEST OF GENSCHMAR/THE EASTERN EXIT OF THE WILHELMINENHOF/TWO KILOMETERS EAST OF GOLZOW/ THE EASTERN EDGE OF ALTE TUCHEBAND...." (Emphasis added).

On the 23rd of March the Soviet offensive continued, page 87:

"The Soviet offensive was resumed next morning and during the course of the 23rd, their troops reached the line ONE KILOMETER WEST OF GENSCHMAR/ THE EASTERN EDGE OF AMT FRIEDRICHSAUE/1.5 KILOMETERS EST OF GLOZOW/THE EASTERN EDGE OF ALT TUCHEBAND,but then had to go over to the defense as a result of the heavy casualties they had sustained. (Emphasis added)"

So, on the outer sweep of the offensive, despite the power of the attack, Soviet gains were piecemeal, although they achieved their ultimate objective. The inner sweep of the offensive had similar problems. This is from page 86 regarding the fighting on the 22nd of March:

"The Soviet troops on the inner sweep had also been successful, having reached the line ALT BLEYEN/THE GORGAST SCHAFEREI (sheep farm)/THE WEST BANK OF "DER STROM" AS FAR AS GORGAST/THE NORTHERN EDGE OF KIETZ" (Emphasis added).

And, on the 23rd of March, page 87:

"Those on the inner sweep reached the line of the NORTHERN EDGE OF NEU BLEYEN/ONE KILOMETER WEST OF KUHBRUCKEN-VORSTADT/KIETZ RAILWAY STATION by the evening" (emphasis added)

So the Soviet offensive takes on the form, it seems, of an implacable grind forward measured in half-kilometers and farmsteads. Meanwhile, "Muncheberg" exacts a heavy toll of casualties from the attackers. According to LeTissier, on March 22nd, Captain Horst Zobel's 1st Battalion of Muncheberg Panzer Regiment is deployed with the 2nd Company (mixed SPGs and Pz. IVs) at Gorgast, the 3rd Company (Tigers) at Golzow and the 1st Company (Panthers) at Alte Tucheband.
Although one platoon of the 2nd Company deployed at Alt Bleyen is so far forward that it is taken over by the Kustrin garrison, the Regiment claims 59 Soviet tank kills, including Stalin tanks, on March 22nd.
On the 23rd, Captain Zobel and four Tigers hold on to a farmstead 150 meters northeast of the bridge across "Der Strom" and due east of Golzow. In the course of this fighting, Zobel's infantry support is reduced from 200 men to 7 men by "heavy Soviet fire".
In three days of fighting, German units, including Muncheberg and 25th Panzergrenadier claim
200 destroyed Soviet tanks. But still, the Soviets have accomplished what they set out to do. The stage is now set for the German counter-offensive of March 27-28.
Best Regards, David :D

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Jan-willem van Wijngen
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I'm back on line

Post by Jan-willem van Wijngen » 16 Jun 2002 09:12

I'm back on line for the next episode the retrate to Berlin.

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Hi Jan

Post by David C. Clarke » 16 Jun 2002 16:44

HI Jan, I just got back on the site yesterday (Saturday), but I'll add to it soon. It's great to have someone who really enjoys this effort and I'll try not to disappoint you. Very Best Regards, David :D

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Post by Andy H » 21 Jun 2002 19:42

The commander of the Kustrin fortress at the time of the attack was SS Gruppenfuhrer Rheinefarth who was described by Guderian as 'A good Policeman but no General'. Rheinefarth's command amounted to some 4-5 battalion equivalents.

Heinrici blamed Guderian for the losses incurred in the attack (Circa 8,000).

On march 29th between 800-1600men under Rheinefarth broke out of Kustrin and reached German lines the next day, where Rheinefarth was arrested at the command of Hitler-Fate unknown?

:D From the Shire

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Hi Andy!

Post by David C. Clarke » 21 Jun 2002 21:11

Thanks for jump-starting the thread again. I recall that
SS Gruppenfuhrer Rheinefarth was originally in the Heer, won the Knight's Cross and transferred to the SS. Guderian's
assesment of his abilities may have been incorrect, for reasons I'll explain in my next post. Rheinefarth's fate is a mystery at the moment, although I remember reading that Hitler wanted him shot. The entire Kustrin Affair, or at least the portion of it from the Soviet Encirclement to the Final Breakout, was a cause of considerable bitterness and argument between Henrici, Guderian and Hitler. Guderian occupied the unenviable position of being the man in the middle. He was pinioned between Hitler's requirement of a counterattack to relieve the Fortress, whose garrison was itself expected to fight to the end and Henrici who considered an offensive a waste of resources and would have preferred that the garrison pull out. Very Best Regards, David :D

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A Brief Sidetrip to Kustrin

Post by David C. Clarke » 23 Jun 2002 04:56

Hi Folks,
Guderian, in "Panzer Leader" dismisses SS Gruppenfuhrer und Generalleutnant der Waffen SS, Heinz Reinefarth, commander of the Kustrin garrison, with these words:

"The commandant of the fortress, the construction of which dated from the time of Frederick the Great, was the police general Reinefarth, who had made a name for himself at Warsaw; he was a good policeman, but no general."
In fact, according to LeTissier, Reinefarth was known as "the Butcher of Warsaw" for his role in the suppression of the Polish Home Army uprising.
While I'd never argue that Guderian's judgement was incorrect, Reinefarth was quite a remarkable soldier. According to his biography in Mark Yerger's "Waffen SS Commanders", Reinefarth won the Knight's Cross as an NCO during the Western Campaign on June 25, 1940. At the time, a rare event for a soldier of that rank. He was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross on September 30, 1944 while leading Kampfgruppe "von dem Bach" during the Warsaw Uprising. As commander of Kustrin, he controlled a force of no more than 16,800 men, including 900 Volksturm. After completing the encirclement of that fortress, the Soviets threw virtually everything at their disposal at the garrison, including three batteries of 203mm guns which were brought up to point-blank range. Reinefarth would break out of the encirclement on the 29th of March, with 1,318 men of his command, including 118 Volksturm, ultimately reaching German lines. It should be noted that to break out, Reinefarth's force had to pierce both the inner encirclement of the besiegers and the THREE lines of Soviet defenses facing west.
As commander of a "Fortress", Reinefarth was tried for abandoning his post, but never sentenced. While he didn't hold a command afterward, it is an interesting note that after the war he served as Mayor of Westerland--Sylt and as Deputy for the Regional Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein. Heinz Reinefarth died in Westerland--Sylt on May 7, 1979 after achieving probably the most remarkable record of survival and postwar civil service of any of the unfortunate "Fortress Commanders" appointed by Hitler.

But, back to Muncheberg Panzer Division. The Soviet encirclement of Kustrin produced an almost kneejerk reaction from the highest level of German command, Adolf Hitler. He immediately planned a counterstroke which ultimately took place on March 27-28. The plans, goals and fate of this counterattack would have a decisive effect on Guderian's tenure as Chief of the General Staff. In the highly charged political atmosphere of the General Staff's relationship with Adolf Hitler, the counteroffensive at Kustrin was one of the watershed events of the weeks leading to the Battle for Berlin.
For the troops involved, it would be a bloody prelude to future sacrifices and would involve most of what were now the premier German units on the Oder Front. Regards, David :D

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Post by Schmauser » 23 Jun 2002 12:23

Hi David, our paths haven't crossed for awhile, how are you? :P

This thread has really flourished, fraid it's not my interest, make your next one a Waffen SS unit and you've got my backing. :D

How far have you got with it, is Muncheburg rebuilt?

~Regards Schmauser

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Hi Schmauser!

Post by David C. Clarke » 23 Jun 2002 16:16

Hi Schmauser, how have you been? You're right, we haven't seen much of each other lately, but it's always good to hear from you.
My personal estimate is that we're about halfway through it, no more. The problem is completing the chronology in some detail and, of course, dealing with any personalities that pop up. Any contribution is helpful my friend. Best Regards, David :D :D :D

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Well done, David!

Post by Prit » 01 Jul 2002 07:26

I've just read the entire thread over breakfast - quite magnificent!

Prit

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